Title: the uses of heroes
Game: Mass Effect
characters: Kaidan, Shepard, Joker
Disclaimer: If I owned Mass Effect things would be different.
"Did you know they used you in the recruitment ads?"
"Give me a minute."
"Okay." And Joker sat down next to one of the railings keeping the stars at bay and closed his eyes because he'd seen her too. He didn't need a second look.
Kaiden needed the second look. (He hadn't gotten it over Alchera, after all.) Joker watched Kaidan's boots walk away. Poor lovestruck biotic.
Not that it wasn't weird seeing her face up on that hologram, advertising Honor and Duty and the Alliance. Not that there wasn't something wrong about the fact that the recruiters were using her. She'd sold her body to them and they had the rights to her face, to honoring her for saving them all, to plaster her all over the Citadel on movie posters and fuzzy mockups so ripped-off you could barely tell what her face looked like.
(It was the second anniversary. One year ago, Sovereign had crashed twenty klicks from here. Everyone paid their respects, although usually it was separate. Garrus hadn't been heard from in months. But Joker hadn't left the Citadel in a long time, and having Kaidan around had been a good excuse for him to wander the wards with some measure of safety.
And it was nice not to have to mourn alone.)
Joker looked up. Morbid curiosity. Also am I going to have to keep him from making a scene
Not a scene, really; more a tableaux, and one Joker wouldn't have interrupted for the world.
Kaidan slumped, folded, sighed out one weary shipwreck breath and grasped for the hologram like he could hold it, like he could touch her hair posed as she was with a stiff salute and a stony set to lightly painted lips. He was trying to catch light in his fingers, he was bracing himself on the silver screen of projector like maybe he could fall into the image, and people were walking past like nothing was happening. Like it was a year ago it happened and she's gone and there's nothing we can do and stupid lovesick biotic
In the time it took Joker to stand up, Kaiden had broken. His shoulders slumped like they never had on the battlefield.
Joker shuffled over and put a hand on his elbow. "Come on." He couldn't meet Kaidan's eyes; the purple evening of the Citadel was nice and distracting instead. Kaidan didn't resist.
Two faltering steps from both of them, and then Joker felt the hairs on his arms stand up as a blue corona cracked around Kaidan, just for a second in which a few heads turned to stare. Joker stopped and stood there. He wasn't sure why he wasn't afraid of the biotics except that there were other things to be more afraid of right now. Shepard was still staring patriotically at a spot above their heads, visible from every angle. Serious and emotionless like she'd been on the Normandy (sometimes.) Joker waited. The haze crackled, and then faded, leaving the air feeling clean and empty behind it.
Kaidan pressed his left hand to his forehead and rubbed. At the L2 ache, or maybe he was hiding tears. Joker looked away again. He wasn't here for moral support.
(He sure wasn't here to be leaned on either, but then what did that leave?)
Clear of biotic cloud and back to his unbroken soldier walk, Kaidan progressed slowly down the promenade. They'd go somewhere else and remember her. (They'd probably go somewhere else and drink.)
Left a step behind with one hand free and the other on a crutch Joker turned to the hologram, distorted as it was now by the static of a wrong angle. He straightened up and gave honorable, dutiful, dead Alliance Commander Shepard a crisp salute. He blinked and shook his head and blinked his eyes, because the static was making them water with the strain; same thing must have happened to Kaidan.
He turned and moved on, following the biotic's squared shoulders.