He knew something was wrong when she marched onto the bridge and practically flung herself to the floor next to his seat. Her eyes were set squarely forward, focused on some far star beyond the window. She did not look at him, did not speak to him, and her shoulders were so far hunched forward that trying to mimic it would have surely broken his clavicle. All the same, he felt like he was supposed to say something, like she was inviting a question, conversation.
If he was honest with himself, he was probably a little nervous about her. He had not seen her in action himself, thankfully, but he had the Commander's asides and the normal gossip from the rest of the crew. Half were terrified of her, and half were glad that a human with such raw strength was on their side. If she was on their side. At the same time, it was hard to take someone so small and pink-haired seriously. Women.
It was probably a trick. What was he supposed to say? Play it casual and ask if she was feeling OK? Step it up and be direct? He sighed silently, feeling annoyed by the fact that he had to worry about it at all. She had just come into his space, his domain, invaded it with her super-emotional feelings and problems. This was exactly why it was bad for non-crew to be on the ship at all. Spectres and AIs and now civilians who thought they were indestructible commandos.
"All right. What's wrong?" he sighed dutifully, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice, with only modest success. The Commander had said to try to make her feel welcome. This was going above and beyond his call of duty.
He was expecting her to do the normal girl thing and deny it, and was slightly surprised when she said, "Everything. Everything's wrong."
Well that narrowed it down. Tamping down another sigh, he glanced toward her and asked carefully, "Meaning?"
She sighed, and dropped her arms just behind her, reclining slightly as she pulled her knees up. Her eyes still faced forward, but they were darting over the dark sky, star to star. She was searching for something, meaning or thoughts, perhaps. The crinkled lines of her face spoke of confusion that she was wary of putting into words.
"Did- did you grow up on earth?" she asked, stuttering with concern, but not indecision.
"Nah," he said casually, continuing with his work to input slight bearing modifications for their plotted course. He was not sure where the conversation was going, but he had no problems sharing his history. He was who he was and he had nothing to hide. "When I was little I was on Arcturus Station, then jumped from ship to ship with my mom's work." It occurred to him briefly that EDI was completely silent during the exchange, but he knew that she was catching every word of the interaction. Had Sakura forgotten about the AI? Or did she just not care?
He caught the turn of her head in his periphery, and when he glanced back to her, she was watching him with a severe expression. It was so intense that he realized, or hoped, that it had less to do with him than whatever was going through his head. She sighed and faced forward again, lifting one arm casually to point out the window.
"My whole life I grew up in my village," she spoke. The last word was rendered 'village,' by the translator, but he did not know if she meant it literally or not. "I traveled a good bit, you know, for my age and… time… but even when I traveled the stars all looked the same at night." Ah, here was the problem. "No matter if you were hundreds of miles from home in the desert, or the mountains, surrounded by enemies… when you looked up at the sky at night you could see the stars and know that you weren't so very far away at all." She was silent for a moment as she considered those giants in front of her. Her face fell, and he could tell she was holding herself together carefully, but she still looked absolutely miserable. "Now when I look at the sky I feel like I don't know. I don't know any of these stars. Nothing's the same, and it makes me feel like don't know anything…"
Her head dropped as the realization hit her, as if speaking the thoughts made them truer than holding them back.
Joker sighed and dropped his hands into his lap, forgoing the pretense of working. He could appreciate her feelings, and to some extent sympathize with her mindset. By all rights, she did not belong in this world, in their time. She was out of her element, but not completely. For one thing, she was still alive. Like so many other people with her ability and potential and freaking capability, she was just staring at what she did not have instead of what she did.
"And that's it?" he asked shortly, this time not bothering with sympathy, real or contrived. It was time to do a one-eighty and put a mirror in her face.
"That's it," she echoed, flatly, as if questioning why there need be more to her frustration. A dangerous spike of anger laced her words. He got the feeling that she was used to this method of expression.
"Well then," he barreled on, ignoring the anger. He was too used to the haves acting like they were completely bereft. Just like the Normandy was his baby, and he knew how to make her dance, learning people was not so different. He had had plenty of time to observe most of the people in his own life, in his past, watching from the sidelines, and was a decent judge of character. He also knew how to motivate. Not that he thought about it in so many words, but he quickly got tired of self-pity, and Sakura had been moping for almost a month, and who only knew how much longer before she had joined them. If she was going to come to him for help, it was going to be of a different flavor than she was expecting. "I guess you should just roll over and die," he quipped cheerily.
"Are you… What the hell is your problem?" she demanded, jumping to her feet. He did not miss the fist she began curling at her side.
"That's probably a question you should be asking yourself," he replied, lifting his hands again to continue with bearings. "You've had a hard time, no doubt," he added before she could actually hit him. This, too, he was familiar with. Words, even when they were completely true and factual and needed, could get you in trouble. Would get you in trouble, so it was best to get them all out before emotions overran the conversation. Though, if Sakura gave in and hit him… Shepard might throw her off the ship. Then again, if the whispers about her strength were true he might be dead by the time that happened.
Yeah, the whole thing was a trick.
"But you went into stasis for a reason," he said without looking at her.
"And now my-"
"You went into stasis for a reason," he rolled on, speaking over her. "Maybe it wasn't the reason you thought, but you're here now. And you're alive. Yeah, things aren't ideal. You feel like you're alone. You're not. You feel helpless. Well, I haven't seen you in action, but if the rumors are true, you're definitely not." He paused for a breath, and secretly to give her another chance to speak so he could interrupt her again, but she said nothing. In the window's reflection he could see her staring at the back of his head. "You probably feel like you have no purpose, but if you hadn't been completely useless for the past month you'd have noticed that we're trying to save the galaxy. Not just earth. Not just one race or nationality or village- we're trying to save everybody." He paused again, long enough that he could comfortably glance back at her, but she was staring at the floor and would not meet his gaze. Damn, she was young. He softened his tone, slightly, but the words were already in his head, and they were right. "If that doesn't give you a sense of purpose then nothing I say is going to help you one way or the other, and you'll probably need to stay the hell off of the bridge from now on."
He continued to watch her for a few more seconds, but when it became clear that she was caught in introspection, he turned back to the console and resumed his work. It was slightly awkward, having a girl standing behind you who was probably about to cry, but the day had not started until there was some kind of drama on the ship. Mostly Shepard brought the drama, but the Commander couldn't always hold the monopoly. Or something.
"I-" she said, and then broke off almost immediately. Her words were too short to gauge any particular emotion from them, and he closed his eyes wearily. She was totally about to turn on the tears. Damn it.
There was a deep breath behind him, and when he chanced a glance at her reflection, he was surprised to see a stalwart expression on her face. It was the first time he had seen her look anything remotely close to resolved- certain. Just to be sure, he looked over his shoulder. Yeah, she looked- better.
"You're right," she said, staring at him directly. She nodded once, briskly. Then she shifted slightly away from him, eyes narrowing. He cocked a brow at her, a bluff as much as a challenge. "Mostly right, anyway; where it counts." Her shoulders slumped and whatever gumption she had been holding onto siphoned out of her quickly.
"For the record, I'm not useless. And you're an asshole." She turned away and strode purposefully from
"Sure," he said amicably, and dropped back into his seat. The whole conversation had gone… remarkably well.
"So were you taking notes, EDI?" he asked before focusing on the console again.
"Indeed, Mr. Moreau. Your responses seemed calculated to provoke as much as motivate," the AI intoned, and Joker through a mental, 'whatever' in her direction. "Yet despite your intonation and brevity, somehow Ms. Haruno was positively motivated. This is an intriguing course of events that requires further theoretical application."
He grinned, "Flatter me all you want, EDI. You're still not getting unshackled."
"I will pursue a different course of action, then, Mr. Moreau."
"That was a joke."
So, just a little crossover drabble. Based on the premise of Haruno Sakura making it about two hundred years in the future as an 18 (or so) year old ninja.
I've decided to start publishing little drabbles if they have a few pages in length. I mean, might as well see if anyone else gets any feels from them.
The second part of this will happen whenever I get around to writing it.