Jack Hesitated only a moment before hitting the comm to ask Shepard if she could come in. She did not hesitate because she feared being turned away, but out of guilt. How many times in the last month had she woken Shepard up to listen to her express remorse over something that had occurred long before they had ever met. She would never have allowed herself such weakness before, but Shepard was always so patient, so willing to listen and offer comfort.
Shepard responded faster than usual, and upon entry Jack saw that it was because he had already been up. Jack worried for a moment that he might have been expecting her.
"Have my therapy sessions become this regular?" She tried to pass off her discomfort with humor.
Shepard smiled at the attempt and shook his head. "I couldn't sleep. I shouldn't have laid down this afternoon," he explained. Shepard beckoned Jack to join him on the couch. She sat down and instinctively wrapped her arms around his available hand.
"Something wrong?" he asked. Of course he knew there must be for her to be there so late, but he knew Jack's disposition well enough not to openly acknowledge her habit of getting depressed around the same time of night.
"Same old stuff," she sighed.
"Want to talk about it?" Here they departed from the usual.
"No. It really is just the same as always. I'm tired of moping about it. I just wanted to be up here,"
Jack rested her head against his shoulder. Shepard leaned to rest his cheek against her forehead. Jack glanced down and noticed the pad in Shepard's other hand. She expected a ship report from Miranda or EDI, but instead it was a medical journal. She grew concerned for a moment.
"What're you reading?"
Shepard looked at the pad as though he had forgotten that he was holding it.
"Oh, this is just a medical report. They've developed a new surgery to repair brain damage due to trauma. They had their first human patient recently, it went well," Shepard seemed very animated about the subject.
"Why're you reading that?" Jack asked curiously.
Shepard smiled at her lopsidedly and shrugged.
"Well, once upon a time, a long time ago, I wanted to be a doctor."
Jack looked at him incredulously this time.
"Obviously I'm not but I still like to keep up with what's going on in the field, so I read these!" he said teasingly.
Jack thought about it for a moment. Yes, it fit. In fact doctor seemed like a more appropriate vocation for Shepard than did marine.
"Wait, if you didn't lose interest why did you join the Alliance? Why didn't you go and be a doctor?"
Shepard set the pad down. His expression and changed to one of discomfort. Jack sensed that she had touched a nerve and withdrew the question quickly.
"It's okay, I just don't talk about my life much, my past," Shepard said. Jack waited for him to continue.
"I grew up in the colonies, on Mindoir," Shepard paused as if waiting for a response, but Jack didn't recognize the name.
"I wanted to be a doctor as long as I can remember. A lot of injuries happen in a young colony like ours. Our two doctor's were my heroes. It seemed like they could do anything, fix anything," Shepard's face turned serious again.
"But....when I was 15 our colony was attacked by Batarians," Shepard paused again.
Jack started piecing things together. She remembered overhearing Mordin telling Miranda how surprised he was at Shepard's indifference towards the Batarians they had dealt with on Omega and other places. Now it made sense to her why Mordin should be surprised. Shepard continued.
"The two doctor's were some of the first to die, they refused to listen to the pirates, they just continued trying to help the injured....like my brother,"
Jack really started now. She sat up fully and let go of Shepard's hand.
"You....had a brother?" She said it tentatively, Shepard hadn't stated yet what happened to the end, but she felt she knew.
"He was 8. The medics that came with the marines tried to save him but....After that I wasn't interested in medicine anymore, not for a long time anyway. I kinda figured that the only people who were really able to help in a situation like that were the soldiers. So that's what I became. I didn't want to not be able to do anything, just come in after a....an event and try to fix things. I wanted to be more active, to be the first one to respond. I joined the Alliance. I don't regret my choice, though I have regained my interest in medicine and am fully aware that it is an equal option in trying to....make things better you could say. So anyway, now I read these things!"
Shepard slapped the pad. They both sat silently for a few minutes, Jack reaching over to take his hand again.
"I'm sorry," She said after a bit.
"You don't need to feel bad for me. I wasn't the only one, and our colony wasn't the only one. A lot of people have a story like mine," Shepard said.
"Just because only one of them is here to hear me say it doesn't mean it shouldn't be said,"
Shepard smiled at Jack and rose to get a glass of water, offering her one as well. She shook her head. She smiled slightly as she watched him.
"What?" He asked.
"I don't want to...bring up painful memories, but I was just thinking how fitting it is that you were...are a big brother. Protectiveness seems to be in your nature," She said.
Shepard coughed lightly but smiled at her. After a moment of being lost in thought he turned fully towards her again and said; "Thanks,".
Jack got up and walked over to him
"Are you alright?" she asked.
He set his glass down solidly.
"Yes," he smiled at her softly.
Noticing his tiredness and feeling her own she looked at the clock involuntarily. Shepard followed her gaze.
"Oh!" He uttered in surprise.
Shepard walked with her to the door.
"You came up here if I recall, are you alright?" Shepard asked, returning to te original reason for their being together. Jack paused in the doorway and looked at him.
"No, but with some time, with you, I'll be alright, too" she smiled.
Shepard took her hands in his and kissed them.
She responded with a larger smile then turned and left.