Just a Game

BY : escapeasy
Category: +M through R > Mass Effect
Dragon prints: 904
Disclaimer: I do not own anything pertaining/related to Mass Effect and I’m not making any profit from this work.

[Original post date: June 2013]

Just A Game

There definitely is a difference between hearing about Commander Shepard and seeing her in action.

An empowered woman with the fate of the galaxy in her hands, she wields the strength of a small army and the resolve of someone who had the meaning of sacrifice built into their very being. She’s smart and sensible – but provoke her and she’ll unleash the ferocity that precedes her; mocked in jokes and resented by her enemies. She has more than enough bite to back up her bark that only sheer stupidity or helpless indoctrination would push anyone to cross her. Courageous and tenacious, only those who wish to foil the Commander would dislike her. Idiots. Reaper slaves.

Commander Shepard might not be perfect, but she is the perfect force for the galaxy’s survival.

She’s the perfect woman for Traynor to look up to.

She doesn’t worry about her reputation seen through the eyes of others – a rough hero, a deluded Spectre, a living legend – as she focuses on charging into every challenge like a krogan. Aware of her accomplishments, yes, but grounded – she has to be while trampling the enemy under her boots as she struggles against the skies that finally began to fall. Commander Shepard fights as if born for this fight.

Considering she was in a sense reborn, perhaps that’s not too off base…

Not necessarily one for formalities, the Commander welcomes Traynor like an old friend – allies are always welcome, be they rachni, ex-Cerberus or even artifical. She chats with Traynor and smiles with that charming smile. Shepard takes the time to make her new Communications Specialist feel like a real, integral part of the team despite the Reapers living up to their name outside the safety of the stealthy Normandy – and Samantha nestles in the embrace with elation. To be acknowledged and accepted by the amazing Shepard… it’s not something that would happen in her wildest dreams.

(She doesn’t even realize she’s swooning at first—)

Samantha fits into the Normandy soon enough as if the spot by the galaxy map was made just for her. She earns praise from Shepard on each catch that others would have missed or overlooked, she earns appreciation for her skills, earns Shepard’s friendship for who she is. For fighting this fight together and being damn good at it.

(—A smooth but swift swipe to her feet that throws her heart above her brain as it warns her against falling head-first.)

Major Alenko appears (is he a knight… or a—?); the second human Spectre challenging the first through a gun loaded with confusion and suspicion wrestling his loyalty, his mind—

But Shepard being the amazing Commander she is, the only casualty she takes is the guilty human councilor.

Then he boards the Normandy with sheepish strength and reserved demeanor, observing the other crew members who pretend to not notice the tension hanging from him; effects of the past still trying to pull him down—

His warmly guarded eyes watching his Commander—

While Shepard watches him in return, subtle but sharp as if scoping the battlefield.

And all things considered, it makes sense. Cerberus. They have a way of making matters worse and warping what people think they perceive even between old friends—

But that’s when Samantha learns that Shepard’s history with Alenko is close but far from perfect; intimate once but a galaxy apart now.

Samantha isn’t worried.

(She believes she’s not worried.)

Because Shepard is still Shepard – resilient and stunning. She still smiles at Samantha in between fighting the bad guys. She still charms.

(Foolishly, naively, Samantha thinks she has a chance at victory.

The part of her wanting to keep history from repeating is quashed when her back hits the floor – but it already dwindled in Shepard’s bright eyes, in the heat that evolved from admiration to attraction by just being around her.

By all accounts, Samantha’s perception of the situation points to success. Points to what’s beating beneath Shepard’s inviting lips.)

An old-school approach through messaging Shepard is Samantha’s first move; a foot in the door, an excuse to be alone. She is given a passing, pleasant note of anticipation about the chess match from Shepard before she leaves for a brief visit to the Citadel—

(Unbeknownst to Traynor, their rendezvous is delayed by the Major.)

But when she returns, it’s with a glint in her eyes that’s unlike anything Samantha has seen directed at her.

Alenko is confidently at Shepard’s side.

Their lips are coupled by a mutual grin but they don’t kiss or even touch as they walk through the ship together, chatting and maintaining an understated, professional, relationship in front of the crew – but they can’t hide the obvious. The weight and shrapnel of the past appears to be purged from both of them; their bodies are relaxed and connected in a soft, yearning language as they board the lift together (ready to break the stasis of confliction that froze their relationship) while the Normandy shoves off for another battle.

Samantha merely informs of unread messages, but she isn’t sure if their fearless leader hears the news.

(Because the queen found her king.)

Traynor feels defeated before she’s even called up for the game – a great amount of time after they strolled right by her. The window of opportunity that once seemed large enough to walk through shrinks in the blink of an eye – now she can only peek through a crack to see what she thought she gained.

Traynor is disappointed and tells herself she isn’t hurt, pretends everything is fine and acts like her usual self (because she can’t be hurt, because her head warned her. She just didn’t want to listen.), but she almost wishes the Commander wouldn’t continue to be so friendly after reacquainting with the Major on the Citadel, in her cabin…

It only proves the part of Traynor that she ignored to be right.

In the end, this was all it was ever meant to be – another game Traynor misread. A hope lost, blurred, between black and white until he cleared the misleading gray from her eyes with a bond she could never match, and she realizes she was always on the sidelines. Kind of feeling like she believed Earth was the center of the sol system when it was really always the sun.

All she really gains is a painful crash from her blind fall.

Ultimately, she’s just a friend who wins a game of chess and nothing more.

(But at least there’s a pretty news reporter onboard to bolster Traynor’s morale…)

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