Mass Effect: Milieu

Poker Face

James Vega stared over the top of his cards. Three jacks and two aces…this was a good hand. His eyes found Kaidan's. "Well, Major, what will it be…?" The Major's eyes darted across his own hand. His brow furrowed in concentration. "Come on, it's your call. You in or out?" James asked maybe a little too hopeful. He choked back the timbre of excitement in his voice. But, the Major probably didn't notice it. At least he hoped Kaidan didn't notice. The man had an uncanny knack for picking up on random little nuances.
"James, Kaidan," Shepard's voice rang out across the intercom. Both looked up in response to the voice.
"Go ahead, Shepard." Kaidan replied first. James stared at his hand. Dammit.
"Both of you grab your gear and meet me in the hangar. Shepard out." Short and sweet.
Kaidan stacked his cards together and started to gather up the cards scattered across the table in front of him.
"Whoa, hold up there, Major. There's no reason we can't play this hand out." James suggested, holding onto his own hand. "I mean it be a shame too…"
"Shepard's not in a good mood." Kaidan replied standing up. He left the cards in a neat pile on the table.
"Huh?" He regarded Kaidan as he started walking away.
"Dammit, how in the hell do you know that?" He stood up hurriedly, following Kaidan out through the door and to the elevator.
"Trust me. After working with Shepard long enough you learn little things." Kaidan said pressing the control panel's orange glowing light to summon it.
"What little things?" James crossed his arms and studied the Major. Since coming back on board the Normandy after his near death experience on Mars, something about Kaidan had changed. Escaping from Earth had them all on edge, the way Kaidan had questioned Shepard on Mars about her affiliations with Cerberus had put James on the defensive around him. But all of that changed with Udina's coup on the Citadel, Kaidan trusted Shepard. After his little talk with Shepard the other day, James knew there was much more than friendship between the two of them. He wasn't blind. Most people on the ship could see the way the two danced around each other. But, they were like one on the battlefield. The elevator doors slipped open, Kaidan and James entered. James pressed the button for the hangar.
"Little things, like how short and clipped her orders were to us." James raised an eyebrow at him. Kaidan sighed, continuing, "And I bet that when we get down to the hangar, she'll be geared up, Lieutenant Cortez will be in the pilot seat and Shepard will be pacing waiting for us."
James narrowed his eyes. Uncrossing his arms, he swung them back and forth stretching muscles. "You got all that from the way she said her orders."
A laugh escaped from James. "That's loco. There's no way, you could know that's what's she doing."
Kaidan shot him a knowing look. "We'll see."
The elevator stopped moving and the doors opened. Revealing a very pissed off Commander Shepard. Her eyes were glowing green in the dim hangar lighting. She stopped in mid-stride to glare at them.
James started looking around for Esteban, but he was nowhere in sight. Kaidan exited the elevator and headed directly for the lockers up along the left wall. "What's the situation?" He asked calmly, seeming completely unfazed by the daggered looks Shepard was throwing around.
"Cerberus." She hissed. James joined the Major by the lockers. He opened his and started cinching on his armor. Kaidan nodded.
"Well, that would explain a lot."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Shepard snapped crossing her arms. Sighing, Kaidan stood up and turned to regard Shepard with a cool expression.
"You're venting at the wrong people, Shepard." Kaidan responded just as cool. James blinked at the Major. Shepard usually didn't get heated over nothing, so Cerberus was up to something big. This must be an N7 mission. He stifled a groan. This meant she was on direct orders from Admiral Hackett to investigate Cerberus activity; it was no wonder she was on edge.
She hated Cerberus and after the Citadel debacle…she was gunning for them. Especially Kai Leng. But, the Major must have had some huge balls, because most people steered clear of Shepard on Cerberus N7 missions. He had been on a few now, and on those missions was she ruthless. She was a witch-hunter. Harsh, brutal and also unforgiving. It was a different side of Shepard, slightly disturbing.
Vega glanced over his shoulder at Kaidan and Shepard. Kaidan wasn't taking his time about pulling on his armor, but he was focused while doing so. Even then his eyes stayed locked with Shepard's. She huffed out a breath turning away. "I'll meet you in the shuttle." She said.
James hit a brick wall. It wasn't the Cerberus attack on the Citadel that had prompted the anger in Shepard toward Cerberus, no, the little ticks had been there since…Mars. Mars. James stared at Kaidan's back as he put on the last pieces of his armor.
The Major reached into his locker and grabbed out his rifle and pistol. Clicking the guns onto his side and across his back. Huh, he should have seen it. Shepard was protective and aggressive when it came to those that she considered hers. The Illusive Man going after Major Alenko, almost killing him in front of Shepard…bad, move dude.
"Man, I can't believe you were right." James shook his head. These two were going to drive him loco, before it was all over.
"What that she would be pissed or that she would be pacing?" Kaidan asked though his eyes flickered back to the shuttle were the Commander was waiting.
"Both." He hooked the last piece of armor in place and grabbed the rest of his gear. "You got all that from her message. That's impressive, Major."
"Not really, Shepard thinks she has a good poker face, truth is, she has little tells."
"You've played poker against the Commander?" James had never seen Shepard play. Mostly his guard duty time had been spent talking with her and playing other card games, but never poker.
"Yeah, had to lose a few hands to her before I picked up on them. She plays the same way she leads." Kaidan moved away heading toward the shuttle. Vega scratched his head and them shrugged following after him.
Well, now he had to play poker against the Commander, because for the life of him he couldn't figure out her thought process. She was fearless and could be reckless as well, but other than that…he had no clue. "So tell me, Major, how much did you lose playing cards against the Commander?" James asked as he hopped into the shuttle. Shepard was up front with Steve going over mission details.
Kaidan took a seat and crossed his arms over his chest. He met Vega eye for eye before answering. "I lost everything."
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