Joker was biding his time. He knew it was unlikely he'd actually be able to lull Shepard into a false sense of security, but he wanted her at least a little off-balance before he made his next move. Plus, it gave him plenty of time to set his latest plan in motion. Fortunately his tech skills were slightly better than he let on and since Shepard's retaliation for the prank had been aimed solely at him, Kasumi was back on board to help out with the difficult bits - particularly since they were going to be able to get this little gem on the vid feed. He'd decided not to try any more pranks in her quarters, especially after her reaction to the last one. Well, unless it was just too good to pass up.
He noticed Shepard had started popping in on him during his shift like she expected to catch him monologuing or something. Then she'd just loiter in the cockpit. Like he wasn't going to recognize her usual strategy for gathering intel on anyone she couldn't just point a gun at. She just hangs around and chats until all of a sudden you found yourself admitting things you haven't even told your shrink. Might be more effective if I hadn't seen her pull it on every crew member from both Normandys. He distinctly remembered how well it had worked on him when they'd first met. Shit, he'd told her more than he ever meant to about his Vrolik's and how difficult flight school had been. He never told his commanding officers that crap. It made him look incompetent, and more than enough of his pathetic back story was in his file already. The fact that it hadn't even phased Shepard was a first. She'd just absorbed the information, asked him a couple of questions, and then treated him exactly the same. No sidelong glances of pity, no asking him if he needed shorter shifts. It was the first time in his life he felt like someone saw him as an Alliance officer who was good at his job instead of a cripple who'd gotten lucky. That was the moment she earned his loyalty – and not just as his commanding officer.
Unfortunately for him that meant he'd let his walls down around her just a little more than he usually did – especially after her Cerberus-funded resurrection – and now she had way too much ammunition in their current conflict. He'd spent more time over the last few days than he'd like to admit thinking about every single time he'd complained to her about something that bugged him. He had a feeling too many of those complaints were going to come back to bite him in the ass.
"EDI. Time," he snapped at the AI.
"Your shift ends in seventeen minutes, Mr. Moreau." EDI responded.
He flipped through the external feeds quickly, grimacing at Shepard's handiwork again. When the fuck did she find the time to go crawling all over the Normandy, anyway? He'd had EDI check and she hadn't paid the workers to do it. No, every single print belonged to her. She really believes in going above and beyond. He paused for a moment, doubt creeping in as to the wisdom of poking that sleeping bear again, but he and Kasumi were almost done and it was going to be more than worth whatever she came back with.
It had been two weeks since the incident at Illium and Shepard was starting to wonder if Joker was still planning to make good on his threat. As far as she could tell without breaking the rules of engagement and flat out getting EDI to spy on him, everything was business as usual.
She sighed and stepped up onto the platform that accessed the galaxy map. As she started to input new coordinates, Joker broke in over the intercom.
"Commander, incoming transmission from the Illusive Man."
"Patch it through, Joker," she said turning to head for the briefing room.
As soon as she rounded the corner, Kasumi decloaked in the cockpit and leaned over to watch the vid feed Joker had already pulled up.
Shepard stepped onto the holographic transmitter expecting the Illusive Man's headquarters to materialize around her. She nearly jumped backward off the pad at what she saw, but she schooled her features immediately knowing that Joker was probably watching over the vid feed. She ground her teeth to keep from laughing out loud as the Illusive Man turned toward her. Joker, probably with Kasumi's help again, had somehow managed to reprogram the incoming feed. What she was looking at was so ridiculous even she was impressed with her ability to hold a straight face so far. The entire projected room looked more like the inside of Chora's Den than the immaculate observation deck where these conversations usually took place. To top it all off, the Illusive Man's face stared at her sternly from atop the shoulders of an impressively well-endowed asari dancer.
She tried to focus on his face, on the movement of his lips, trying to make sense of whatever he was droning on about, but all she could do was hope that EDI was recording the conversation for later review since she hadn't understood a word he'd said. As she watched, the asari's hips gyrated and a blue hand raised a cigarette to the Illusive Man's mouth before dropping down to her bra and beginning to flick the clasp open. Suddenly she realized the Illusive Man had paused, obviously waiting for her to respond to something he'd just said. The corners of her mouth twitched and she just managed to choke out, "I'll have to get back to you about that," and step off the pad before she embarrassed herself any further.
"Helmsman, you are in big trouble," she said through tears of laughter.
General disclaimer: Obviously, I don't own Mass Effect or any of the characters here depicted. I just love them. Waaaaay too much.
This chapter is officially beta'd so there've been a few small changes. Big thanks to Brooke! You're the best!
Also, fair warning, the more I write, the more I think that this story is going to skew in a Shoker direction.