plutokitty: lost: juliet and sawyer by icequeen3101 (Default)
[personal profile] plutokitty
Argh, serious apologies to everyone who requested a fic. I'm not going to be able to do this quickly, apparently. This one took me all day and I have things I have to do this weekend. :(. Maybe the others will go quicker?

Title: To Catch a Thief
Fandom: Mass Effect
Rating: G
Warning: Spoilers through the end of the game
Relationships: Jondum Bau/Kasumi Goto (implied)
Summary: There's a Spectre after Kasumi, but she doesn't seem to mind. For [livejournal.com profile] firstblush.
Author's Note: For the purposes of this story, I've made assumptions about the timelines re: Keiji's death.

Fic requests index


To Catch a Thief

The message came from Keiji, one of his last.

"Getting sloppy, Kasumi? Word is there's a Spectre interested in you."

Kasumi listened to the message hanging upside down above a priceless vase, and mostly dismissed it with a snort. She had more immediate worries than a curious Spectre. Chief among them, replacing aforementioned priceless vase with a worthless lookalike, without setting off any of the multiple systems set up to prevent such a trick. She had already hacked through most of them, but the last was purely mechanical. She was going to have to be quick, and she'd only have one chance at it.

Delicately, she extracted a replica vase from the pack on her hip.

The real vase was displayed on a velvet-lined wooden platform. The trick would be to keep the platform at exactly the same level while she switched in the fake; the platform would rise if the weight on it changed, and sensitive triggers would set off an alarm. Not an impossible task, not for someone who could pick a Spectre's inner pockets if she cared to, but still, a pleasant challenge.

Letting her breath out slowly, Kasumi lowered the fake just beside the real vase until it just touched the velvet surface. She had set her omni-tool to monitor the platform below: so far, so good. She slowly slid the real vase aside while moving the fake in place, using both to keep the platform beneath from rising or lowering. Easy peasy.

She lifted the real vase away and stowed it in her pouch one-handed. As she was fighting the closure on the pouch, something tumbled free. She caught it with a curse. Raising it up to the light, she saw it was a tube of lipstick.

A smile twitched over her lips.

Kasumi burned off the end of the lipstick with her omni-tool--no sense in leaving DNA behind--and drew a stylized rose on the inner lip of the vase. Gingerly, she lifted her fingers away from the fake, watching her omni-tool readout closely. The platform stayed steady. Even better, against the black glaze, the fuchsia lipstick all but disappeared, and wouldn't be discovered for a while. Days, at least, which was all her client required.

"A little present for you, Mr. Spectre," she whispered, laughing as she pulled herself up.

#

Kasumi didn't think of the Spectre again for nearly three months.

Keiji's death took her out of commission for a while. Not just the grief--even though that was bad, so bad she almost bungled a job. Nearly got caught by C-Sec, of all the clowns in the galaxy. But she lost most of that time trying to retrieve Keiji's greybox. Donovan Hock was a wary bastard, though, and it was the kind of job where she could've used a partner; but there was no one she trusted now that Keiji was gone.

She on the Citadel contemplating her next attempt when her omni-tool came up with an alert. Kasumi kept various monitoring VIs on every channel she could hack into, of course, but she rarely ever got anything from the Spectre private channels. So her eyes widened as she opened the alert: her name, and a terrible old photo, on a Spectre bulletin listing her as a person of interest. No reason given. Information on her whereabouts to be reported to one Jondam Bau.

"Well well," she murmured. "So that little rumor is true. I'm flattered."

She called up Bau's profile. A stern salarian face looked out at her. Glancing over his dossier, she saw a long list of accomplishments, but nothing particularly notable for a Spectre. A little more effort got her his report three months ago on her little vase heist. There was an image, even, of her lipstick present for him.

Kasumi couldn't help but smile.

"Glad you got it, Mr. Bau." She flicked the search away and opened up a location finder. Spectre movement was not officially tracked, but there were always ways to find anyone, if you were good enough. And if he was looking for her, she might as well take a peek at him.

Kasumi's smile widened. He was on the Citadel, right now. In fact--

Her omni-tool flashed another alert just as she got to her feet, hastily cloaking. Her remote tracking VI was shut down, and she barely broke her connection before the sniffer VI came after her.

"Damn!" She whirled around, sweeping her eyes over the busy commons around her, searching every salarian face. Then she saw him, a grey salarian in black-and-gold light armor, moving hastily. His omni-tool was up even as he maneuvered his way through the throng of bodies, fingers flying over the interface. He passed the café and then turned back, heading straight for her.

Kasumi cursed again under her breath and slipped up the stairs to a higher level. When she looked back, he was standing not five feet from where she'd sat.

"You're better than I gave you credit for, Mr. Bau," she said, leaning over the rail to watch him. He scanned the area in a circle, then shut his omni-tool down, shaking his head. She had almost decided to linger there and laugh when he turned to face her direction, opening his omni-tool again.

Her own came to life, displaying his face.

"Kasumi Goto," he said. "I am Jondum Bau. As a Spectre empowered by the Council, I must ask you to surrender yourself to my custody."

Her pulse racing, Kasumi still managed a dazzling smile. "Oh? For what?"

"Suspicion of theft on Eden Prime, Vastros Colony, Picard Station, Omega…"

She showed him her dimples. "I don't think I've ever been to those places. Run a check on the records. I'm sure you won't find me."

"Yes, curiously, visitation records were erased for the occasions mentioned."

"Then I'll politely decline your invitation to surrender, if you don't mind."

"Kasumi Goto--"

"Lovely meeting you, Spectre."

"I--"

She cut him off, and on a whim, waved to him from her perch on the upper level. He started. Grinning like a maniac, adrenaline pumping, she fled, cloaked, for the commons-level elevator.

Leaning against the side of the lift, breathless, she laughed. And then she stopped, marveling a little.

For the first time since Keiji's death, she felt fully alive.

#

Bau almost caught her again on Illium.

It was half-deliberate on her part. She "forgot" to clean up after herself while hacking into a transport log, hunting for transports going to Bekenstein and Donovan Hock's fortified home. Forgot, or was just too lazy, or was curious if Bau would pick up on it.

Kasumi had been a little lonely without Keiji; without his always amusing, over-the-top reports on his latest heists; without their passionate and hasty rendezvouses between jobs; without his smiling face beamed to her nightly across the galaxy. And Bau was good sport: she had managed, thus far, to always keep one step ahead, but he was always making that step shorter and shorter.

It was improving her technique if nothing else. She'd developed a way to de-encrypt even the highest level communiques on Spectre channels, and she'd cleaned up her intrusion techniques so that her access time had decreased by 50%.

Jondum Bau was making her a better thief.

The thought made her laugh out loud whenever it entered her head. She told herself that she hoped he wasn't improving as a Spectre at an equal rate, but that wasn't true. It was far more fun if he was keeping up.

Still, even if she had been hoping that he'd pick up on her little trail, she never expected him to move so fast or get so close. So close, in fact, that they ended up staring at each other across a taxi stand, where she'd just come from Baria Frontiers and he from a taxi.

She might have missed him entirely if it wasn't for Bau calling out "Kasumi Goto!" She even stared at him without recognition for several long moments before she laughed and cursed herself for forgetting her cloak.

"Sorry," she called back, "You've got the wrong girl."

"By authority of the Council…"

"Oh, right." She touched her fingers to her lips. "Jondum Bau, wasn't it?"

"If you will please stay where you are--"

She smiled coquettishly. "I'd love to dance, but you know. Previous engagements."

Bau took a step towards her. "You are looking for Donovan Hock. If you would allow me to take you into custody, perhaps I can assist in the retrieval of--"

"Nice try," she said. "Until next time?"

Kasumi saw the orange glow of his omni-tool and brought up her own, barely cloaking before he sent a drone her way, and an aggressive VI to infiltrate her hacking tool. It was hard to flee and fight off a cyberattack but she found herself laughing anyway. She might even have been giggling.

Kasumi made it to a car before the drone caught her with a shock attack and destroyed her cloak. She returned the favor, destroying the drone. By then, Bau was nearly to her. She pulled up her omni-tool to hack the car controls and cursed. Bau had managed to download some of the data she had acquired on Hock. She cut him off, then punched her thumb on the door controls.

As the door came down, she locked eyes with Jondum Bau again. He shouted,

"Wait!"

Kasumi blew him a kiss as he stared up at her. He looked almost forlorn, a lone salarian standing by the taxi stand, and she felt suddenly sorry for being such a tease.

Then car lurched under her and she discovered that he'd hacked her hack of the controls.

"You bastard," she said, laughing, and reasserted her control; but it was a fight for it. His record hadn't told the whole story, she thought. He was good, really good. Her grin turned fierce and delighted.

She didn't even mind that her getaway was a lurching, ungraceful ride until she was out of range of his omni-tool.

That night, she logged onto her private terminal and found two of the strangest messages she'd gotten in her storied career: a job proposal from the infamous Illusive Man himself; and an anonymously forwarded invitation to a private party, being held by one Donovan Hock.

#

And then there was Shepard, and the Collectors, and Keiji's greybox at last.

Outwitting Bau on the Normandy wasn't a problem. The Council barely wanted to acknowledge the existence of the SR-2, and Shepard, so her crew was all but invisible. There were pleasant distractions (Jacob) and not-so-pleasant distractions (suicide missions) and Kasumi only missed her personal Spectre a little.

Her first job after the Normandy was a good one, a big heist where she helped herself to a whole lot of priceless fossils from Thessia and a one-of-a-kind archaeological omni-tool for her client. But on the flight back, she found herself feeling off, unsatisified.

"Dammit, Keiji," she sighed. "Don't tell me it's time for me to retire. One suicide mission is all it takes?" She touched his greybox in its place at her hip, where she always kept it close. "I'm too young." She sighed. "But it just isn't the same anymore. And Bau didn't even show up."

Maybe, she thought, her long silence while she'd been on the Normandy had convinced him she was dead.

The idea leeched a little more pleasure out of the heist.

It had become her habit to access Keiji's memories whenever she needed comfort, and this time was no different. Usually she lost herself in the lost sweet moments between them: their first kiss, the painting they'd stolen together, the heist on the hanar homeworld and their celebrating afterwards. But this time she was drawn elsewhere. She found herself poking through the places he had never let her in, his old, sad secrets.

And his final secret.

She read over his shoulder the account of the Alliance massacre of the batarian lab. Watched the dawning horror on his face, the grim realization of what he'd just stolen. Saw the knowledge of his death creep into his eyes. She raised a hand to touch the memory of his face, ached when they passed through him like a ghost.

Kasumi wept.

Once, before Shepard, she would have done the same as Keiji. Tried to bury that knowledge, destroy it. Pretend it never existed.

Instead, she pulled up the private address of Jondum Bau.

#

Somehow Kasumi survived the Reaper war, and mourned when she heard that Shepard hadn't. There were rumors, of course; there were always rumors, and Kasumi liked to believe them. But the galaxy felt a little emptier.

After the war she helped with the rebuilding efforts. She stole from the rich and gave to the poor: from those who thought hoarding their goods and selling them at exorbitant prices was merely good business practice, giving her hauls to what was left of the Alliance and the Council to distribute.

It was fulfilling enough, but sometimes, as she hacked a door lock or decrypted a shipping manifest, she wondered what happened to Jondum Bau.

#

And then one day, setting up her latest heist, her home VI came to life.

"Someone to see you, Ms. Goto."

She looked up at the infodrone. "Who is it?"

A salarian stepped into her doorway.

"Jondum Bau."

Kasumi's eyes widened. She swallowed a sound that was suspiciously like a squeal of delight. "How may I help you, Spectre?"

"Should arrest you," Jondum said, turning slightly away from her, crossing his arms over his chest. "Spent three years looking for you. Four, now."

"'Should' arrest me," Kasumi repeated. "So why aren't you?"

The salarian's lower lids raised, narrowing his eyes. "Have come to… admire your work."

"What?" Kasumi laughed. "The whole Robin Hood thing?"

"Robin… hood?"

"Nevermind," Kasumi said. Her eyes brightened. "But I knew you didn't think I was dead!"

"No." Jondum tilted his head. "Knew it was a ruse, but allowed you to believe I believed it. Thought it would make pursuing you easier. And then… there was the war."

"Yes," Kasumi said. Her smile became shadowed.

Jondum nodded. "Still. Have missed the chase."

"I'm still a master thief," Kasumi said, cheeks dimpling. "And I assume you're still a Spectre?"

Jondum shook his head. "No. New Council is not as effective as hoped. Would prefer to assist you. Have come to propose this. If you are interested in a partnership, of course."

Kasumi grinned. "A partnership?"

"Ah… yes?"

She stood up, and kissed him on the cheek. "I admire your work as well. I would be honored to have your help."

The salarian looked genuinely flustered. "Good," he said, at last.

"And maybe when things are a little more back together again…" Kasumi arched her brows. "… We can resume our former arrangement?"

Kasumi had never seen a salarian look so pleased, and she had been around Mordin Solus for months.

"Yes," Jondum said. "Would like that, very much."

She hooked her arm around his and grinned. "This is going to be fun."

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October 2012

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