"Are you planning to sleep tonight?" The softly spoken question surprised her but not as much as the specialist's response when she shook her head apologetically. "Can I stay up with you?" She hadn't wanted that, to be an inconvenience, to disrupt Sam's sleep or routine or... Actually, looking back she wasn't entirely sure what her argument had been against. It was a good thing she hadn't the heart to protest. It had been nice, spending as much time together as possible, just watching vids late into the night. By 0600 however Sam was spent. Shepard smiled down at the woman curled around her, desperately fighting to keep her eyes open and placed a gentle kiss to her forehead.

"Come on, bedtime." She stood slowly, lifting the specialist with her to sleepy protest. Protests that might have been more effective if she hadn't been interrupted by a yawn mid sentence.

"How do you stay up night after night and still have the energy to go out fighting during the day?"

"I'm still working through my reserves, I've got a two year backlog to take advantage of." Sam nodded in understanding and agreement as she was carried up the stairs before her face suddenly scrunched up when the words penetrated her brain.

"Pretty sure it doesn't work like that."

"No? You got scientific graphs and experiment results proving your hypothesis?"

"No, but there's nowhere to store rest, you can't build up reserves without a place to store it. That's silly."

"Not as silly as not believing the evidence right before your eyes. I'm the walking proof that my theory is correct."

"Walking anomaly more like. You're probably the exception that proves my rule. You seem to be an exception to just about every rule ever." Shepard smiled as she laid her down gently on the bed.

"So we're going with 'because you said so'? I think your brain's tired. Get some sleep thandwa, maybe you'll think of a better argument when you wake." Samantha grasped hold of her hand before she could leave.

"What are you going to do?" There was so much hidden concern behind the question, Shepard knew Sam didn't like the idea of her sitting alone with nothing to do but get caught in her thoughts. Truthfully it wasn't something she was keen on either, it's why she avoided sleep in the first place and the reason she always tried to keep busy with something, no matter how trivial. A few weeks ago the idea of someone else knowing that fact would have terrified her.

"Don't worry the others will be up and about soon, I'll go bug them for a few hours, maybe hit the Armax arena. Do you want to meet for lunch?" There was a tired nod, it was clear Sam wouldn't remain conscious much longer. "Ok, message me when you're up." She waited until her partner's eyes drifted shut, placing another kiss to her forehead before leaving the house.

...

The latest distraction lasted even less time than the previous one. She'd done several laps of the arcade but there was still no sign of her lunch date. Giving up Shepard decided to check out the top floor and finally found Traynor sat opposite a salarian at a game table. She stayed silent, watching as Sam typed something on the haptic interface, a holographic ship moving across the board. Her opponent seemed to suffer a shock and while Shepard wasn't entirely sure what was happening her confusion mixed with a smidgen of pride as the more knowledgeable crowd members applauded her partner.

"Brilliant endgame. Excellent use of the Bay-Lucien Gambit." The salarian congratulated and Shepard jumped on the word gambit.

"Is this space chess?" Traynor turned, eyes lighting up at the sight of her partner.

"It's called kepesh-yakshi, Blade of the Night Winds. The Asari have played it since- We were supposed to meet for lunch. I am so sorry," Shepard waved it away with a smile but Samantha didn't seem to notice and continued apologising, "I entered the tournament on a lark, I never thought I'd get this far."

"Oh don't worry, you'll be free to join your friend in twenty moves or fewer." Traynor's annoyance at the familiar condescending voice was tempered slightly by the sight of the commander's mouthed 'friend?' complete with raised eyebrow and self pointing finger.

"T'Suzsa." Shepard could read everything she needed to know about the situation from Sam's body language and the tone of her voice as the specialist turned to face the interruption.

"Traynor." The commander bristled at the dismissiveness in the asari's tone and it was clear her intombi was affected by it. There was a split second of opportunity as the rivals sized each other up and Shepard took it.

"Saren." Both faces snapped round to stare at her. "Oh I'm sorry. I thought we were all naming our mortal enemies." Some of the tension eased off Sam's shoulders as her lips twitched slightly and it was clear she'd got under T'Suzsa's skin.

"Would you like to just give me your frigates now? I always take them sooner or later." The asari trash talked, trying to regain control of the mental battlefield but Shepard was wise to the tactic, it looked like she'd finally stumbled across a worthy mission for the day: ensure her intombi became space chess champion.

"Polgara T'Suzsa. She's knocked me out of four tournaments." Sam was explaining.

"Yeah but that was before you became a super awesome mission controller and data analyst at the helm of the Normandy."

"Joker and EDI are at the helm commander, I'm much further back than that. Don't you know the layout of your own ship?"

"I know the important bits. The armoury, the mess hall, the showers... By the way did I mention how my shower is solely for winners? Can't run the risk of coming into contact with loser-ism if it's contagious."

"Oh that's cold!"

"Not as cold as the crew showers on deck 3." Shepard shot straight back without missing a beat. "I hear the faucets are crap too."

"All right, that's it. She's going down!"

...

They descended the stairs arms wrapped around each other, spare hand clutching the trophy, but Samantha pulled up short when they reached the bottom glancing at the state of the arcade.

"Uhh, Shepard?" She wasn't fooled by the neutral sounding noise that was the reply. "Am I supposed to be impressed or concerned? Did someone challenge you again?"

"No, I was just waiting for you." Sam raised an eyebrow.

"So you decided to whitewash every high-score board in here?"

"That's not true! I left Towers of Hanoi alone. And look over there, someone else got back on the Shattered Eezo scoreboard." Sam shook her head in disbelief but there was a smile on her lips as she stated:

"You're impossible."

"Not impossible." Shepard grumbled self-consciously. "Just a bit unlikely."

...

Author's note:

Sorry for the massive delay on this one. I'll be honest, updates for this story are likely to remain few and far between, most of my creative inspiration at the moment has been for my OC love interest x FemShep story 'First Love' and it's likely to remain my main focus for awhile. I have a couple of half ideas for chapters but I feel that if I tried to force myself to write updates for Badly Titled Adventures at the moment Nikki Shepard would start bleeding through instead of the 'Commander [Redacted] Shepard' that is supposed to be the character in this story. Hopefully you'll get the rest of the story at some point but don't hold your breath.

Translations: All the Zulu in this chapter has been used before but it's been a while so...

Thandwa - dear

Intombi - girlfriend