Nobody could deny the commander had earned the right to a lie-in but, despite her extended stay in bed, she'd actually been awake for quite some time now. She simply lay there, quiet and still, watching her sleeping wife.
The civilian's alarm went off and Nikki smiled as her partner came to with a groan, arm flopping to silence it.
She could practically see the thoughts parading across Trish's face, head twisting over as recent memories hit her. Soft smile smoothing her features as her eyes landed on the soldier beside her.
"Hey you." Somewhere between the two words their hands had become entwined, Nikki's thumb rubbing patterns across the back.
The morning kiss was sweet and tender and left her wanting more but Trish pulled away with a sigh.
"I'm a terrible parent-"
"You're not!" Nikki's protest was instant, only silenced because Trish placed a gentle finger to her lips so she could continue.
"-And I should probably have asked this last night but… who exactly did you leave our son with?"
She hadn't worried too much the day before. Despite the gross stupidity the spectre displayed in fake kidnapping her, she trusted Nikki not to risk their son's wellbeing.
This morning however was different.
It was getting perilously close to the longest amount of time she'd spent apart from him in one go.
That eased some of her concern. A trained medical professional who was used to wrangling marines ought to be capable of handling her son.
"She adores him." The soldier continued and Trish mentally groaned.
"He's going to have her wrapped around his little finger already." She predicted.
"What Chakwas?" Nikki was disbelieving. "Even I've not managed that yet."
"Trust me, it happens every time. Don't ever leave him with someone who thinks he's cute."
"There are people who don't think my son's cute!?" Nikki exclaimed in mock outrage. "That's got to be grounds to start a war."
"We would have to change his name." Trish chuckled. "Nicholas of Troy."
"The face that launched a thousand ships." Nick Senior caught the reference despite her lack of attention at school. Some aspects of human culture seemed to work their way into the collective consciousness via osmosis.
They basked in contented amusement until Trish had to break it.
"I really should get ready for work."
"Or you could spend the day in bed with a sexy spectre." Shepard counter-offered.
"Oh? Where am I going to find one of them on such short notice?" Trish teased.
"Hey! There's one right here! Ready and willing to fulfil your heart's deepest desire."
Trish took the opportunity to straddle her partner. Taking the spectre's unresisting hands and pinning them to the mattress above her head.
"What if I told you that, right now, I desire nothing more than to see my son before I have to leave for work?"
Nikki sighed in defeat. Straining against the pin just enough to raise her head for a kiss.
"I'd tell you you were boring, and to go get a shower while I call Chakwas to drop him off."
"Last chance to change your mind and pull a sickie." Nikki tried once more as they walked away from the CRT drop off point towards the convention centre.
"Can't, my presentation's today."
"But not until the afternoon, you could spend the morning with us on a grand adventure!" The soldier was certainly kitted out for an adventure, a rucksack on her back containing a variety of essential toddler care kit. The toddler in question balanced on her hip.
"Yes, because this mystery illness will magically be cured by the afternoon. You're a terrible influence."
"If I'm such a bad influence, then surely you shouldn't be leaving Nicky alone with me."
"Hmm, good point. I should have asked Karin to chaperone you both while I had the chance."
Nikki chuckled goodnaturedly, she'd known Trish wasn't going to change her mind. It was just a game. Some light banter.
"Will you at least meet us for lunch?"
"I won't have long, it will need to be close to the centre." Trish warned.
"I'll find something, send you the navpoint and a menu. If you message what you want, I can order before you even arrive. Save some time."
They'd nearly reached the entrance, the Nicks wouldn't be able to go any further without credentials. Well, not unless Shepard wanted to start throwing around her spectre status.
They halted. Trish turning for a hug. Nikki twisting slightly so Little Nicky wouldn't be crushed between them.
"Have a good day." The soldier whispered into her hair.
"I will. Try not to get in too much trouble."
"At least try not to overthrow any governments."
"That was one time!"
There was a split second of shock before Trish realised her partner's protest was a joke, not an admission.
"Idiot." She lightly cuffed the spectre's shoulder, before turning to her son. "You have fun with opie."
"Oh you don't tell him to be good."
"I'm managing my expectations."
"Nicky, no." Nick Senior said for what felt like the hundredth time in the last couple of hours. At least he provided plenty of variety for the reasons she had to say it. "You don't need to pick litter off the floor."
She sighed as Nicholas ignored her, instead waddling over with an empty can of tupari and handing it to her.
"Thank you." She praised, despite not wanting the crushed container. Nicholas was both capable and expected to utter a 'ta' when being given anything and Trish had been very clear regarding the consistent and mutual use of manners.
She fruitlessly searched their surroundings for a bin, eyes coming to rest on a familiar purple glow. Making sure she had her son with her, she marched towards it.
"Avina, where's the nearest bin?"
The station's VI helpfully provided detailed instructions that essentially translated into 'ages away'.
Her frustrated sigh turned into a smile when she glanced down and found Nicky staring curiously at the holographic tourist guide.
"Greetings and welcome. My name is Avina, how may I assist you?"
Nicholas chortled and clapped his hands in delight, releasing a stream of babble that Nikki couldn't decipher. Apparently baby speak wasn't one of Avina's 3000 programmed languages either, as it apologised for not understanding the request.
"El-oh." Little Nicky repeated.
"Greetings and welcome. My name is Avina, how may I assist you?"
"That'll be all Avina." The taller Nick interrupted.
"Thank you for using Avina. Please speak with me again if you require further assistance."
"El-" Nicholas cut off when his opie took his hand.
"Come on you, we've got a bin to find. I'm not holding onto this rubbish all day and, thanks to you, if I drop it I'm the one who'll get the fine."
There was a saying: 'one man's trash is another man's treasure', but only one Nick seemed to be fully enjoying their impromptu treasure hunt. The other was floating somewhere around exasperated amusement.
By the time they finally found a bin, their hoard had grown to include a Fish Dog Food Shack takeaway wrapper, an empty packet of crisps, two more drinks cans, a broken bottle and a cigarette butt.
Shepard Senior barely had time to empty her pockets of the assorted crap before Junior was dashing off once more.
She followed him into a nearby shop, groaning as she saw him bend down.
"Again! What are you, part magpie or something? Thank you."
Examining the latest offering, she was surprised to find, not more junk, but a credit chit. Between her omni-tool and her spectre codes, it took only a quick scan to find it was registered to a volus, Kor Tun.
Surveying the store revealed an elcor and asari as the only customers present, so she headed over to the salarian sales assistant.
"Sorry, my son found this, I think someone dropped it."
"No problem, thank yo- ah, Shepard!"
It was still strange sometimes, to be recognised by people she didn't know. Especially when not even wearing her armour or uniform.
The salarian was enthusiastic, but respectful and she found herself enjoying talking to him. Especially when the conversation turned onto tech and software. It was a very different experience to creepy Conrad Verner.
"I think you're my new favourite shop assistant on the Citadel." She joked as she prepared to leave, laden with heavily discounted goods.
She was getting hungry, but a quick glance at her 'tool revealed over an hour before they were scheduled to meet Trish for lunch.
"You hungry mini-me?" She asked the toddler sulking at the end of her arm. He didn't seem impressed by her insistence on holding hands, or how long she'd spent talking to Marab. "Want some ramen?"
"Wa-... wa-..." His face scrunched up as he struggled with the new word before giving up and asking: "ood?"
"Hell yeah, it's food."
"El yeah!" He repeated excitedly, prompting a groan from the commander.
"You're going to get me killed, mini-me."
Little Nicky didn't seem to care, attempting to drag her forward. She let herself be led before realising they were headed towards the Sirta Foundation store.
"Hold up trouble, you're going the wrong way. The ramen stand is this way." She spun him round to face the right direction and he pulled eagerly against her hand.
The glorious smell of ramen was already trailing up her nasal passage when the sounds of an argument reached her ears.
"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to calm down." A C-Sec officer was already dealing with the incident between a volus and a quarian, and Shepard was quite content to let him handle it and enjoy her shore leave until she heard his next words:
"You claim you didn't take his credit chit?"
"No, I was walking by and he just turned on me and started screaming." The quarian woman explained as Nikki adjusted her course a couple of degrees to intercept them.
"Are you sure you're being straight with me. There's nothing you want to admit?"
A flicker of irritation sparked in Shepard's chest at the officer's attitude. Even if she didn't have a sneaky suspicion as to where the volus' credit chit was, her conscience would have forced her to get involved now.
Time with Tali allowed Nikki to catch the mix of righteous indignation and frightened despair mixed in the quarian's body language and original voice, before her omni-tool even finished translating her words.
"What!? Why are you accusing me? I didn't do anything!"
"First, I ask a question, you answer it." C-Sec drawled. "Second, I don't like your tone."
"And I don't much like your tone either." Shepard interrupted, forcefully inserting herself in the conversation. "What's going on here?"
"Ma-am, this doesn't concern you. This is a C-Sec matter, please move along."
"Wrong, injustice always concerns me. Now, let me guess… the volus lost his credit chit and rather than retrace his steps to look for it, he immediately jumped to accusing a random passerby of theft?"
"She must have taken it. When I left the Sirta Foundation store, she ran right into me." The volus immediately accused.
"How does running into you mean she took it?" Shepard asked before she could stop herself. She had meant to end this quickly, but apparently her mouth had other ideas.
"That's how pickpockets work. They bump into you and use that as a cover for rifling your pockets. You can't turn your back on these clanless quarians. Thieves, all of them."
The N7's right hand clenched tight in a fist, and she had to deliberately override the left hand's desire to do the same, keeping it loose so as not to crush her son's still developing bones. His presence was probably the only thing stopping her from laying into the racist bastard.
"You wouldn't happen to be Kor Tun by any chance?" She managed to ask through gritted teeth.
"Yes. Why? What's that got-"
"You dropped your credit chit in Saronis Applications. The clerk is keeping it behind the counter for you."
"Oh…" There was an awkward pause. "Well… She could have taken it."
"I'll close this event report but I'll be watching you." The officer threatened the quarian. "Get a permanent residence or I'll run you in for vagrancy."
"Excuse me?!" Shepard finally saw red, picking Nicholas up and dumping him in the startled quarian's hands with a brief: 'hold him a moment please', before turning, towering over the volus.
"You falsely accuse this woman of theft and all you can say is she could have stolen it." She gave him a none to gentle shove, forcing him back a few steps, before getting in C-Sec's face.
"And you! She gets harassed and insulted by this guy, and you throw in a threat to arrest her for vagrancy? If anybody should be getting arrested it's him! Race hate and wasting police time."
"How about if I run you in for assault and obstruction of justice?" Came the counter offer, but Nikki shrugged nonchalantly.
"Go ahead. I want to see Bailey's face when you try and book a spectre."
The Auburn haired man's eyes darted up to properly look at her for the first time. Face paling as he finally recognised her.
"Damn," Nikki sighed. "And now I've just lost my chance."
The human male stammered an apology but only to her, not to the quarian, as he tried to extract himself from the sticky situation. She made no move to stop his retreat, simply scanning him. A ping on her omni-tool signifying a positive ID.
"Officer Tammert!" She called to his back and he half turned. "You might want to enrol yourself in some 'don't be a dick' classes, or sensitivity training, whatever they call it these days."
A small, satisfied smirk crept across her face as he continued to withdraw. Various onlookers losing interest in the show as her gaze lingered on each of them.
Spinning on her heel, she found the quarian frozen. Holding Nicholas with a hand under each armpit and looking as if someone had handed her a live grenade.
Meanwhile his hands were outstretched, trying to grab at her veil.
"Ah… sorry about that. I didn't want him running off while I was distracted." She reclaimed her child, settling him against her hip. One of his hands instantly grabbed for purchase against her shirt, the other reaching back out to the quarian once more.
"Thank you. I- I wish I could give you something more than words."
"Words are fine." Nikki reassured. "Hey, weren't you in the used ship dealer earlier?"
The two Nicks' own visit hadn't lasted long. They had been kicked out for trying to race the miniature 3D skycar displays from the front desk.
"Yeah, They've got a lot of nice models, I'd like to buy one and take it back to the fleet but…"
"But a decent sized ship, even used, costs hundreds of thousands of credits." Nikki finished for her.
"I know, it's crazy. But I like to dream while I look at the holos. And I could do amazing things to the engines. I'd make them sing like birds."
Nikki smiled. Memory floating back to another young quarian engineer she'd met on pilgrimage.
She debated with herself, contemplating offering the young woman a berth on the Normandy.
A wage. Room and board. It wouldn't be enough to buy a starship but it would be better than her current situation on the Citadel.
On the other hand, it had been made clear to her on Freedom's Progress that Cerberus and the Migrant fleet were NOT on friendly terms. Working on one of their ships probably wouldn't do the young woman's career any favours when she returned from her pilgrimage. And that was without taking into account the high risk nature of their current mission.
She sighed. She wouldn't want this kid's death on her conscience. Instead she settled for pinging across her contact details.
"I'm on the Citadel a couple more days. If you need anything, or C-Sec tries harassing you again, just give me a call. I'll sort it."
"Mama!" The loud, cheerful shout drew Trish's attention and she hurried over to her family's table in the corner of the cafe.
"Oh good," Nikki rose to meet her, placing a quick kiss on her cheek. "I really need a piss."
The soldier withdrew, leaving a bemused Trish shaking her head before bending down to hug her son.
"What've you been doing today?" She asked him as she settled on the chair next to him.
"Ood." Came the enthusiastic response. Trish wasn't sure where he'd picked up the generic word, but it had rapidly become his favourite in recent weeks.
"Food will be here in a moment. What did you do today?"
"Ood." He repeated and Trish wasn't sure if he was distracted or answering the question in earnest.
"You spent all day eating food?" She didn't think that was true, but at the same time she wouldn't put it past her wife.
That was a new one. Trish's brow furrowed as she attempted to work it out.
"You… ate fish?"
He shook his head vigorously.
"We looked at the fish." Nikki Senior explained as she returned. "And we pointed out their colours, didn't we?"
"Yeah." He nodded with enough force that his legs swung in his highchair.
"And then we picked up every bit of litter in all of Zakera ward-"
"You should not be that excited about that." Nicola informed her son drolly before turning to Trish and deadpanning: "There is something very wrong with your child."
"What do you expect?" Trish fired back without hesitation. "We used your DNA, remember?"
Nikki's undoubtedly witty comeback was interrupted as a waitress arrived with their order. The soldier immediately set to work cutting the toddler's food into more manageable sized slices.
He didn't wait for her to finish, grabbing a handful and smashing it straight into his mouth.
Once Nicola once confident she'd done all she could to minimise his risk of choking, she turned to her own plate. Initial glance turning into a disgusted glare.
"What's this supposed to be?"
"I'm guessing millionaire's shortbread." Trish responded.
"Millionaire's shortbread?" The spectre repeated disbelievingly, despite presumably ordering it in the first place. "Hobo's shortbread more like. Where's the caramel? Where's the rest of the chocolate?"
Trish sighed as her wife prodded the thing on her plate with a fork.
"It looks like they started making millionaires shortbread, then got confused and thought the order was for normal shortbread and tried to scrape everything back off again and almost succeeded and this is what they served."
"Nick, either eat it or take it back, but for crying out loud stop moaning!"
"Easy for you to say, I'm pretty sure there's more chocolate in yours than on mine."
Trish took a moment to glance at her strawberry cheesecake.
"Do you want to swap?"
"No." Came the sullen response. Although there was no missing the look sent to the mess Nicky was making with his chocolate cupcake.
Between the residue around his mouth and the crumbs on the table, he was definitely wasting more chocolate than had been on the commander's shortbread.
"Fine!" The raven haired woman pushed herself to her feet, heading back to the counter with her plate.
"And be nice!" Trish called to the retreating form. After all, the front of house staff probably didn't make the cakes and certainly didn't get paid enough to deal with her wife in a strop.
The spectre returned two minutes later with a smile and a slice of black forest gateau.
Her fork slid easily through the layers of cream and cake. Eyes shining with unbridled joy as the flavours hit her tongue.
Unfortunately her good mood was short lived. Omni-tool chiming with an incoming call.
"Commander, it's Captain Bailey from Zakera ward precinct-"
"If this is about Officer Tammert-"
"What? I don't know what you're talking about Shepard." Bailey interrupted back. "However, I have two beings in custody claiming to be part of your crew."
"If it's a heavily tattooed bald woman and a krogan you can keep them for the night. I'll pick them up before I ship back out."
"No… It's a male drell and an asari."
Shepard blinked slowly, brain unable to comprehend his words.
"Thane and Samara?" Out of all the people on her crew, she would have ranked them among the least likely to cause trouble during shore leave.
"What the hell-" She ignored the kick under the table that Trish aimed at her ankle in silent reprimand for the language. "-have Thane and Samara done to get arrested?"
Killed someone according to Bailey. An important, political, possible race riot inducing someone.
She could feel a headache building behind her temple as she agreed to visit the precinct and help sort matters before the justicar's period of cooperation expired.
Fortunately she still had twenty hours before that happened. If she'd had to leave before finishing her cake she would have been very unhappy.
She instructed Bailey to make sure his office was child proofed before she got there and hung up. Head hitting her hands with a sigh.
She took a moment to massage her temples before looking up at her wife. She had expected to see irritated annoyance or concerned sympathy. Perhaps confusion since Trish had only heard one side of the call.
Instead she was attempting to hold back a laugh, lips twitching in amusement.
Shepard frowned. Trying to work out what was so funny about her crew being arrested.
Her attention was caught by another, much more pressing, crime. The culprit caught cream-handed.
"Oi! Mini-me, stop stealing my cherries!"
So yeah, Thane's loyalty mission happened while Nikki was busy. If you want to read about it and how Samara got involved let me know in a comment/review. Otherwise consider it complete and glossed over.
Hope you're all still enjoying.