Across the Universe

Nicknames

Joker and I watched the cameras, making sure that Sabrina had gathered everyone in the conference room before we turned on our comms.

I started. “Hey Shep, that was too close!”

“Yeah, ten more seconds and we would have been swimming in molten sulphur. The Normandy isn’t equipped to land in exploding volcanoes. They tend to fry our sensors and melt our hull,” Joker added, sarcasm dripping off of every word.

“You know, just for future reference Shep,” I finished. The asari that Sabrina picked up frowned, which was noticeable on our cameras.

“We almost died out there and your pilots are making jokes?” the asari asked, sounding irritated.

Oh no she did not.

I could feel the rage bubble in my chest, intense and hot. Like lava, like that lava that could have killed all of us and not just her.

I muted my comm.

“Oh she thinks that they’re the only ones that almost died?! Bitch do you WANT to fight me?” I roared. “How do you think it feels being in charge of not only the lives of everyone on this ship, but your blue ass?!”

Joker’s jaw dropped. “Uhh…”

The Asari’s eyes shot up to look into the camera, flabbergasted. “Excuse me?”

…Fuck. There was a sinking feeling in my belly, dread filling in my chest. I was so, so dumb.

Joker muted his mic while Sabrina attempted to salvage the situation. I could see over the camera that everyone was either horrified or incredibly amused. Wrex was laughing in his seat, Ashley was trying her hardest to hold back her laughter. Garrus’s jaw was hanging open to reveal plenty of his sharp teeth while Kaiden looked noticeably concerned. Tali had a hand on her shaking head, and Sabrina…

Well, I knew that even if she did agree with me I would get a stern talking to.

I hid my face in my hands, feeling the heat coming off my cheeks. Why hadn’t I asked Moreau to mute his mic? I felt so embarrassed. It was like I lost Joker as an enemy and gained a new one right after. But I couldn’t help myself, the tone she used… It was like everyone forgot about the pilots. Like she forgot about all the crew that was on this ship when we flew down to save her. So many lives could have been lost, not just hers. Not just Sabrina, or Garrus, or Wrex.

Sure, I was horrified that she heard me. But I did not feel bad that I said it.

…Okay maybe I felt a little bit bad for saying it. We all still had some tension from the near death situation after all. But I was not going to apologize!

Unless Sabrina made me.

“Well, I hope I never pissed you off that much CP,” Joker commented.

“No Moreau. You did not,” I responded, voice slightly muffled by my hands. “Kill me now. Please Moreau? Anything’s better than Sabrina scolding me. It’ll make me feel guiltier than I already do.”

“Nah, it’s not that big of a deal,” Moreau shrugged. “I mean, I get where you were coming from at least. It’s not like they were the only ones that nearly died. And I know how emotional you get, I just didn’t know that rage was one of your emotions. Irritation? Sure. But man, that was scary. Never thought I’d see you flip out like that.”

I felt ashamed. “I’m sorry.”

“Pssfft. You apologize too much. Cheer up CP,” he told me. He turned his comm on as everyone left the conference room. “Hey Commander, the mission report’s filed. Want us to patch you through to the Council?”

“Yes, and let Officer Kogan know that I’ll be coming to talk to her in a few minutes.”

I let out a whine, curling up in my seat.

I was doomed. Doomed!

“Setting the link up now. And don’t be too hard on her Shepard, I think she feels bad enough already.”

“We’ll see, Joker. I make no promises.”

I could see a flicker of light through the dark abyss my negative feelings had trapped me in. There was now the possibility that Sabrina wouldn’t scold me as harshly as she normally would, and if I didn’t get in too much trouble then I would pay for Joker’s pizza when we went to the Citadel next. I stared at him, tears beginning to pool into my eyes but there was now a hopeful grin on my face. He turned, and started laughing.

“Sorry CP, it’s just… you look so happy,” he said between laughs.

“You asked Sabrina to go easy on me. You’re the greatest,” I exclaimed.

Joker smiled. “Sometimes you remind me of a little kid CP.”

I stuck out my tongue.

“Yup, there it is. You’re like a grade schooler,” the pilot snickered. “I have no idea why no one on the Tereshkova wrote you up for your behavioral issues.”

“I act my age when the situation warrants it,” I told him. “Come on! Do you really think I’d be goofing off when we’re doing something important?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m just messing with you. Hey, you know you never ended up telling me why Shepard can’t drive a mako,” he noted. Joker glanced at his screen as something flashed up. Then, a grin snuck up onto his face. “Communications cut, Commander,” he said into his comm with a small chuckle.

I blinked. “Did Sabrina just… hang up on the Council?”

“That she did CP.”

I broke out into laughter. “Oh my god, she has no patience for politicians! Bravest Spectre: Sabrina Shepard. Hands down.”

Sabrina stepped into the cockpit, standing over my seat and messing up my hair. “You know it Keys. And since hanging up on the Council is considerably worse than you accidentally insulting someone over the comm in front of about…” she looked up in thought, counting. “…like, eight people,” she shrugged. “Well, you’re not in trouble. Just make sure that next time you’re bitching about someone no one can hear you. Okay?”

I jumped out of my seat and tackled Sabrina in a hug. “Yay! Thanks Sabs, you’re the best.”

Sabrina smiled down at me and patted my head. “You’re welcome Keys. Besides, you were kind of right I guess.”

Inwardly I cheered about my victory. If Sabrina Shepard agreed with my pissed off, not very well thought out comment, then obviously Liara was wrong.

“But she doesn’t really understand humans that much, so you gotta go easy on her.”

God damn. “…Fine,” I grumbled finally. Sabrina nodded in approval.

“Thanks Keys.”

Joker looked up at us. “Why’d you call her ‘Keys’?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really Moreau? You’re asking why my nickname’s Keys when your nickname is ‘Joker’ of all things?”

He scowled a bit. “Yeah, but why is your nickname Keys?”

A devilish smirk appeared on Sabrina’s lips, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Oh Kim, you’re not embarrassed about how you got your nickname are you?”

“No!” I denied, crossing my arms. “Sabs, don’t.”

Although some people would think that the skills I gained from my past were useful, I wasn’t all that proud about how I got them. I was happier about where I was now instead of where I was before.

“She used to be a car thief,” Sabrina told him. “The best lockpicker and hacker in Vancouver BC.”

“I was not,” I grumbled. “…Best in the Reds maybe…”

Joker raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Wait, so CP’s a car thief?”

I glowered at him. “Do you have a problem with that, Moreau?”

He shrugged. “Just as long as you don’t try to steal the Normandy.”

I decided to poke some fun at him. “Damn, you’ve figured out my master plan.”

“Like you’d be able to hack into the Normandy’s systems.”

“Now you’re just tempting me to prove you wrong,” I drawled, contemplating the difficulty of hacking into the systems and taking control from the co-pilots panel. All the main controls came from Joker’s console, and normally only the pilot would be able to divert the control. However…

I smirked to myself.

It wouldn’t be impossible. Difficult, yes, but I’d always loved a challenge.

“Really though CP, I don’t know why you’d be embarrassed by that,” Joker told me. “You were in a gang. Of course you’d be stealing things and picking locks.”

“Oh, that’s not the only reason her nickname’s Keys,” Sabrina laughed.

Oh no.

“Sabrina Shepard if you tell him I swear to god-!” Sabrina covered my mouth with her hand and grinned like the Cheshire cat over at Joker, who was now incredibly amused and paying even closer attention.

“One time we broke into this old car, and there was a CD in it,” Sabrina started the story. I tried to pry her hand off my mouth, but damn her and her inhuman strength!

“A CD?! Wow that car must have been ancient!”

“I know! But somehow it survived, and the disk actually worked! Kim worked on it for hours to get the radio to work again so we could listen to some songs, and then she started singing all of them… perfectly! She sang them in perfect key and memorized all of them like right after hearing them once! It was amazing!”

“That must have been adorable, how old was she? Like, ten?” Joker laughed. “It’s official, I gotta hear her sing.” Finally I escaped Sabrina’s grasp.

“Never!” I objected loudly.

“Sorry Keys, it has to happen,” Sabrina beamed. “Next time we have a moment, we’re going to karaoke. We’ll bring the rest of the team, think of it as a way to make get to know Liara after what you did.”

“If she’s bad, I’m going to take vids,” Joker decided with a nod.

I groaned. “I hate you both.”

Those two were evil. Completely and utterly evil.

“So Joker, why does everyone call you Joker?” Sabrina asked him, now turning the tables. I smirked to myself as Joker realized what was happening. And he did not like this topic much.

“Because I love to make little children laugh,” he answered sarcastically.

Sabrina smirked. “I was just thinking about how much you remind me of Santa Claus.”

“Not everyone calls me Joker,” Moreau added.

“Oh?”

Joker’s lips were set in a straight line. “My family for one. And now CP…” his green eyes met mine. “Yeah, you don’t always call me Joker. Why’s that?”

I huffed. “You told me to call you Flight Leauitenent Moreau. I didn’t want to add the Flight Leauitenent,” I explained, saying the last bit teasingly

“Insubordination,” he jabbed back.

“Why’d you call me CP?” I questioned him evenly, a smile dancing on my lips.

“It’s shorter than Co-Pilot.”

I frowned. “Ah.”

At that moment I realized that the nickname he’d given me was basically him rubbing my lower rank in my face this whole time, and I didn’t really like that.

“You never answered my question,” Sabrina cut into our banter with a sing-song voice.

We both snapped our attention back to her, and Joker fixed his hat. “Look, I didn’t pick the name. One of the instructors in flight school used to bug me about never smiling. She started to call me Joker,” his face scrunched up distastefully “and it stuck.”Sabrina glanced at me for confirmation.

“Why so serious?” I quoted, mimicking our instructor’s voice. Joker let out a short laugh, shaking his head at my imitation.

Sabrina stared at the pilot worriedly. The same kind of worried look she gave me sometimes, if only a bit weaker. “Why didn’t you ever smile? Were you unhappy?”

Joker scoffed. “Look I worked my ass off in flight school Commander. The world’s not going to hand you anything if you just stand around grinning like an idiot.” He glanced at me, and I crossed my arms.

“You did not just do what I think you just did.”

He smirked and returned his gaze to Sabrina. “By the end of the year I was the best pilot in the academy. Even better than the instructors and everbody knew it,” he boasted.

“You totally did what I thought you did. Moreau. Not cool,” I remarked, unamused.

Joker laughed at me for a moment before continuing. “It’s not my fault all of you got your asses kicked by the sickly kid with creaky little legs,” he jeered. “One guess who was smiling at graduation.”

I pursed my lips but kept myself from saying anything. Even if I was feeling a bit irritated by Joker at that moment, I was actually starting to get along with him now and didn’t want to ruin that by bringing up things from flight school. Before, his remarks would be rude or non-existent and he showed an obvious dislike for my presence… and that was even worse back when we were in flight school. Now, I didn’t think he meant any harm. And we were, I guess, starting to be friends. He refused to admit that he wanted me as a friend of course, but hopefully that would change.

“Oh and Shepard? I’d prefer gold to silver for our medals,” Joker divulged. “I figured you’d recommend us for one since we uh, pulled your boots out of the fire.”

I wanted to giggle like a little girl when I realized he said ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.

Progress.

Yeah, we had our differences but we were making progress, and I quickly felt my irritation melt away.

...I was too easily swayed.

Sabrina smiled, noticing my mood and expression change at Joker’s words. “If I got the two of you medals you’d end up sitting on stage listening to politicians make boring speeches for a couple of hours.”

“That’s a good point,” Joker agreed. “And they’d probably make me shave too. I spent the last seven weeks working on this baby, no medals worth that.”

“Jeff ‘Joker’ Moreau’s beard, worth more than gold,” I quipped, returning to my seat.

“Do I sense I hint of sarcasm in there Flight Officer Kogan? Does facial hair take away points?” Joker inquired.

I matched his playful tone effortlessly. “Well, I really couldn’t say Moreau. Different girls have different preferences. I prefer stubble for example, while Sabrina likes her men clean shaven.”

Sabrina rolled her eyes. “You two are so weird.”

“Or perhaps you’re the weird one here,” I countered.

“Hey Shepard, do you have any nicknames?” the pilot asked, returning to our previous topic.

Sabrina sighed. “Ashley calls me Skipper.”

I nodded my approval. “I like that. That’s a good nickname. Or, we could call you Crash.”

It slowly dawned on Sabrina that I was getting revenge.

“Crash?” Joker looked puzzled. “Why?”

“Kimberly Anne Kogan, don’t you dare-“

“One time when we were kids, we stole an Alliance official’s skycar. It only took Sabrina five seconds to crash it. Into an Alliance office. And then she proceeded to try and get us out of there, and we ended up just flipping over. And she absolutely refused to let me try and drive, because I was too young,” I went on. “All of the officers were just watching the skycar with guns drawn, and they were basically like ‘Why the hell are two kids stealing a skycar?’ And finally I’d convinced Sabs to move so I could attempt to salvage the situation, and I managed to get us a good five kilometers away before Sabs tried to take the controls away again and we ended up crashing into the ocean.”

“You dared…” Sabrina glowered. I winked at her.

“It was not your finest moment. Luckily, no one got hurt and the Alliance fished us out,” I continued. “Man, were they impressed. A twelve-year-old and a fifteen-year-old managing to cause so much chaos in such a short amount of time.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Joker gaped. “Is this why you always say she shouldn’t drive a mako?”

“Ehh, I say that she shouldn’t drive a mako because Damian told me that during the mako training segment in basic, she decided to complete it she’d completely ignore the guns and instead crash into each target on the course to bring them down. Good thing they were android dummies! But the mako she used did not come back the way it originally was.”

He face palmed. “Yeah. She shouldn’t drive the mako.”

“Not you too!” Sabrina cried.


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