Kaidan had never liked elevators. Too closed-in, too vulnerable. Power conduits could be fried, cables could be cut. No cover. No room to maneuver. Tactical disadvantage. The elevators may have been the fastest way out of this hellhole, but he was quickly coming to regret his decision to use them.
The sound of gunfire echoed around them, screams of panic and terror fading away as quickly as they sounded. Kaidan barely kept himself from reaching for his pistol, straining to hear any noises that stood out against the chaos. Councilor Tevos shifted next to him and Kaidan saw her turn to give Councilor Sparatus a meaningful glance. Flexing his fingers, Kaidan shifted his stance; all they had to do was make it to the shuttle pad and they could be out of this mess.
All he had to do was-, a loud metallic bang tore Kaidan from his scattered thoughts. His eyes shot upwards as the sound shifted across the ceiling of the lift.
“That was a person,” Tevos stated with conviction, shifting her gaze from Kaidan to the roof in concern.
Kaidan’s mind was racing, his priority was keeping the councilors safe and with Cerberus running amok all over the station he couldn’t take any chances. “Gunman,” he snapped, flinging out his left hand, pushing Tevos into Sparatus and away from the center of the lift while snatching his gun from his hip and bringing it up. “Get down.”
His first shot was placed at random but the next three followed the wild scraping as the assassin scrambled to the left. He felt the lift come to a stop and heard the doors slide open. “Go!” he shouted, keeping his gun trained on the ceiling as he reached out a hand to Tevos and Sparatus, gesturing for them to follow Udina as he ran down the corridor.
Kaidan held his aim steady on the empty space as he backed out of the elevator, following the councilors’ fading footsteps. He figured he had enough time to get to the shuttle before the assassin got through the panels on the roof and turned, sprinting after the councilors. He heard the panel fall to the ground with a crash as he passed through the doorway leading to the shuttle pad.
The sight of the Kodiak in flames made him freeze. Fuck. His mind raced for a solution, but came up lacking. God dammit, I wish Shepard were here. But he pushed the thought away. “Cerberus took out the shuttle,” he called as the councilors turned back to him. “Everybody back to the elevator!” he shouted, turning around. “Move!”
His eyes caught movement at the door and his heart leapt into his throat. He brought his gun up, preparing to fire. He paused at the sight of two figures in dark armor--not Cerberus, then--moving through the doorway. He watched, finger tense on the trigger of his pistol, as the dark skinned human sidestepped to the door control, activating his omni-tool. They’re blocking our only way out of this mess! His arms braced and his finger danced over the trigger, ready to take the shot. The third figure to advance through the doorway brought Kaidan up short. Oh thank god. “Shepard, what’s going on?” For a split second he wasn’t in charge, for an instant he was looking to his commanding officer for orders.
“Shepard’s blocking our escape! He’s with Cerberus!” Udina cried. Kaidan’s eyes trained on Shepard, whose focus was behind him. Protective instinct kicked in and he sidestepped, putting himself between Shepard’s squad and the councilors. This situation was getting out of hand and Kaidan wasn’t sure if he could defuse it. What was Shepard even doing on the Citadel? Was he after the council? He glanced back at the councilors, taking in their positions; Tevos was drawn in on herself behind Sparatus, whose hands were raised placatingly. Udina stood in front of them and a slight distance to the side, his expression angry.
“Just, hang on-” Kaidan urged, his gaze snapping back to Shepard. His focus is on Udina. “I got this,” he muttered, securing his position in front of Udina, blocking Shepard’s angle. “Everyone just calm down.” He’d never been great at negotiations.
Shepard’s gun lowered off aim, arms still tense and ready to pull back up at a moment’s notice. “I can explain this, Kaidan.” His voice was calm, steady, everything this situation really wasn’t. The human in Shepard’s squad -he was the Lieutenant that had been in their squad on Mars, Kaidan was sure of it- raised his shotgun, face grim.
Kaidan shifted his stance, he had to fix this. Fast. “Come on, Shepard. Gun drawn on a councilor...” he shook his head - this couldn’t be Shepard, he wouldn’t stoop this far- “Kinda looks bad.” A shift of movement to Shepard’s right brought Kaidan’s attention to Garrus. The turian flexed his fingers around his raised gun. Both Shepard and the Lieutenant followed his gaze, their expressions troubled. Shepard turned back to Kaidan his mouth open to reply.
Before he could, Udina’s harsh voice broke through the uneasy silence. “Shepard admitted to working with Cerberus! For all we know, he’s still with them!” Kaidan tilted his head, it all sounded plausible, just...
“But I watched Shepard fight Cerberus troops on Mars. Now explain that.” His eyes narrowed as Shepard lowered his gun completely and took a quick step forward. Then Udina was stepping up to Kaidan, his omni-tool flickering to life.
“Observe,” he stated, tapping away at several buttons. “Here is Councilor Valern being shot in C-sec Headquarters. Here is Commander Shepard pulling the trigger.”
Kaidan lowered his gun to his side and turned to Udina as a video screen expanded, showing Shepard circling behind the salarian councilor. “You’re gonna pay for that.” The commander’s voice on the video was filled with rage and not a second later his gun went off and Valern collapsed to the ground. Kaidan’s chest tightened and he felt as if he couldn’t breathe properly. The evidence was right in front of him. He couldn’t have imagined Shepard ever doing something like this but there was no denying what was laid out before him.
Udina’s omni-tool flicked off and he lowered his arm. “What more do you need?” he asked disparagingly. Kaidan brought his gun back up, trying to organize his thoughts. This wasn’t the Shepard he knew.
“Shepard?” His voice came out low and uncertain and Shepard’s face tightened with an emotion Kaidan couldn’t describe, something between rage and desperation.
Shepard turned, throwing his hand out in exasperated anger, gesturing at the jammed door. “There are Cerberus soldiers in the elevator shaft behind us. If you open that door they’ll kill you all.” His voice was hard, filled with frustration as he turned back to face them, his stance confident.
“What Shepard says is possible. Unlikely, but possible.” Tevos had moved between Udina and Sparatus, her expression skeptical and calculating as it shifted between the men.
Kaidan heard Udina let out a harsh breath, “We don’t have time to debate this! We’re dead if we stay out here. I’m overriding the lock.” Kaidan watched as Shepard’s eyes tracked Udina’s movements and the Commander took a step forward, gun raising, this time both Garrus and the Lieutenant following him. This wasn’t right, his former commanding officer, the man he had idolized and looked to as a leader, a friend, a ...something more.... What was he doing? Shepard’s movements brought Udina into his scope and Kaidan rapidly maneuvered himself between them again. This couldn’t get worse, Kaidan had to fix this, but Shepard was still aiming at Udina. He had to do something, anything. He was surprised his voice came out steady and strong. “Shepard. Look at us.” The Commander’s attention shifted from Udina to Kaidan and the sentinel felt himself falter, his breath came out in a shaking gasp. “This can’t end well.”
Shepard’s expression didn’t shift, his gun didn’t lower and Kaidan felt despair clawing at his throat. He didn’t have anything left to bargain with. “Just... Put. It. Down.” his voice sounded faint in his ears.
The Commander’s head tilted to the side, his eyebrows drawing together in anger. “Ball’s in your court,” he snapped, face grim. His eyes flicked to the side, never meeting Kaidan’s desperate gaze full on. “Open that door and the council is dead.” His focus kept shifting, analyzing the situation, like he was looking for a way to get around Kaidan. Like he’s looking for a way to take me out. The next words out of the Commander’s mouth made Kaidan’s stomach clench painfully. “I may regret gunning you down for the rest of my life, but I will do it.”
His job, his only job right now was to protect the council against any and all threats. The man in front of him right now was definitely a threat. His focus centered on Shepard’s hand wrapped around his gun, he could see the man’s fingers tighten, and he reacted instinctively.
The crack of his Carnifex didn’t make Kaidan flinch; he’d been trained to not be affected by things like that soon after he’d enlisted. Nothing, though, could have prepared him for the look of utter shock on Shepard’s face. A faint purple light flickered around him, instantly disappearing, and Shepard jerked slightly. Oh god, his barrier wasn’t up.
Shock quickly morphed to pain as Shepard’s knees gave out and Garrus scrambled to catch him, omni-tool already activating. He didn’t shoot. He thought I was going to back down. Kaidan felt a chill run down his spine. He heard a snarling shout come from the Lieutenant but couldn’t make any sense of it. Did he think I was going to back down? Did he think I was going to listen?
He’d been wrong, of course he’d been wrong, all he ever did was mess things up when he doubted the Commander. What had he done? What had he done?
A series of electronic pings from behind him caught his attention and everything came rushing back. Udina! He turned to the Human Councilor to see him at the control pad by the shuttle, tapping incessantly. Tevos had taken several steps towards him, placing a hand on his shoulder, her face grim. Kaidan moved forward, attempting to get a better angle, one that didn’t risk hitting the Asari councilor. Heavy footsteps followed him but he ignored them.
At Tevos’ touch Udina snarled and pushed her backwards, making her stumble and fall to the ground. The gun came out of nowhere and Kaidan didn’t hesitate. Another loud crash of sound and Udina fell to the floor, a hole already oozing blood from between his eyes.
There was silence for a moment and Kaidan watched as Sparatus helped Tevos to her feet. Suddenly a hand grabbed his shoulder and a heavy boot crashed into the back of his left knee, bringing him to the ground.
“Te matará!” The cold pressure of a large gun muzzle pressed painfully against the base of Kaidan’s amp. Armored fingers slid into view, gesturing to his gun angrily, and it took Kaidan several moments for his muddled brain to register what the Lieutenant was growling from where he stood behind him. “The gun, cabrón, drop your gun or I will put a bullet in your goddamn head.”
Kaidan’s brow furrowed. Why did he need his gun? He wasn’t going to use it. That much should be obvious. It wasn’t going to make a difference, anyway. They were going to eliminate him, just as they should, just as he deserved. The more seconds that passed the more agitated the marine got, pushing his shotgun harder into the back of Kaidan’s head.
“You got ‘til three, mulo, or you’re finished.” The pressure on the back of his head was so painful that it was making Kaidan’s eyes water. “One.” Or that could be the shock from the whole situation. “Two” Or the fact that he’d just shot the closest thing to a partner he’d ever had without thinking twice about it.
“James.” He could recognize that voice anywhere; that calm, controlled, makes you stand to attention before you’re even aware you’ve saluted, voice. It was quiet and had an odd hitch to it but the power behind it was unmistakable. The pressure on his amp lessened just slightly as the Lieutenant shifted to acknowledge his CO. “The council is more important right now.”
“But Commander, he--” The man started to protest before he was cut off.
“The door, Lieutenant. Protect the council.” The pressure at the back of his head suddenly increased, sending Kaidan forward to catch himself on his hands, sharp blots of pain shooting up both his arms.
“Chilito.” The obvious insult was thrown over the Lieutenant’s shoulder as he stomped over to the two remaining councilors, its implications hitting Kaidan squarely in the chest. He could hear the marine talking quietly to Tevos but couldn’t bring himself to move. Shepard had just spared him. The man he had just taken out had seen fit to make sure the Lieutenant didn’t take the shot he seemed to crave for.
A loud crackling came from the doorway, sparks flying from the seal. “The door!” Sparatus cried from where the Lieutenant had shoved the turian behind him. Kaidan felt as if he should get up, do something, help somehow. Yeah, they’d all seen how well that had worked. Out of the corner of his eye Kaidan saw Garrus move closer to the door, standing protectively in front of Shepard, assault rifle focused on point. He could see the orange glow from Shepard’s omni-tool resting over his abdomen. Relief poured over him, making him feel weak.
“Oh, hell,” The Lieutenant muttered, adjusting his shotgun and stepping fully in front of the councilors. The door slid open with a loud hiss and Kaidan waited.
“Commander Bailey?” Garrus’ surprised question made him blink slowly.
“Made it as quick as we could, looks like it’s a bit of a mess over here.” Bailey’s voice was slow and calculating. Kaidan could hear the C-sec officers moving over to the two councilors. “Cerberus beat feet into the tunnels when they figured out we were coming. I need principals evacuated and a medical transport prepped.” Kaidan’s fingers dug into the welded steel flooring but still he couldn’t find the strength to pull himself together and stand up.
“Scars,” The Lieutenants voice was harsh and Kaidan could hear him making his way back over to where he was still collapsed on the ground. “What do you want me to do with him?”
“Nothing Vega,” Garrus said, his voice calm. “Go with Shepard, make sure he gets to Huerta safe.”
“Right,” Vega said, sounding uncertain. Kaidan could see several C-Sec officers move Shepard out of his view and took a slow breath. They were going to take care of him, fix the wrongs that he had created. They could make sure he survived. The door hissed closed behind the officers, leaving Kaidan in silence, the only sound the awkward shuffling of the turian's feet as he approached.
“What were you even thinking?” Garrus had moved to lean against the railing, still a distance away from where Kaidan had pulled himself back into kneeling position on the platform. What had he been thinking? It had all seemed so clear when their guns had been drawn and the situation had been tense. Now though, he could see where he had been wrong, every memory of the emotions on Shepard’s face shifting in response to what Kaidan had said a clue to how wrong he had been.
“You know,” Garrus said when he didn’t reply, his voice light, and Kaidan could hear him shift against the railing, “Shepard’s probably never going to let you live this one down.”
Kaidan swallowed hard, his eyes stinging. Would Shepard even be able to look him in the eye after what he had done? How could he? He’d crushed any trust they had started rebuilding on Mars and during Shepard’s visits to see Kaidan at the hospital. How could he even think to begin to forgive him?
His cheeks felt wet and his breath hitched painfully in his throat. “How could he? I mean, look at what I did. I betrayed him, I shot him. I didn’t help. How could he forgive me for this?” His voice cracked and he cleared his throat. His eyes burned as he tried to clear his thoughts. Shaking his head in an attempt to regain his composure, he swiped his hand over his face, rubbing harshly at his eyes.
Pushing himself unsteadily to his feet, Kaidan turned to face Garrus. “There’s no way to fix this, Garrus. There’s no way he could even look me in the eye after what I’ve done.”
“Oh, hey.” Garrus shifted, looking uncomfortable. “I didn't mean, no, come on,” he said, taking several short steps towards Kaidan. “He'll be fine. He’ll understand why-”
Kaidan scoffed, cutting Garrus’ protests off. “I shot him, he trusted me to follow him and I shot him, Vakarian. How could he trust me?”
Garrus paused for a long moment obviously thinking this over, Kaidan sniffed loudly, rubbing his hand under his nose waiting for him to reply. Finally Garrus took another step closer to Kaidan still looking uncomfortable but distinctly determined. “Kaidan, I’ve shot him my fair share of times. Remind me to tell you about the time I nearly scratched him while he was taking down the squads of mercenaries that were working together to take me out.” Garrus paused for a second, then shook his head slightly and continued. “My point is, he’s the kind of human who thinks about things, about the outcomes, even if it takes a while or the outcome seems obvious.” He gave Kaidan a meaningful look. “Come on Alenko, you know Shepard, we always used to think he over analyzed everything. Picked apart every little thing looking for something we were sure wasn’t there.” He raised his hand, pointing at Kaidan, “Whatever he’s gonna be looking for? He’ll find it, and I’ll wager you’re not gonna be left out for the varren.”
Kaidan blinked slowly, letting what Garrus had said sink in. He didn’t move as Garrus collapsed his assault rifle and swung it into its holder. His mind was spinning as he watched the turrian move to the open door that led to the elevator and he met Garrus’ eyes as he turned back to him.
“You know, come to think of it, I wouldn’t take that bet,” Garrus said, his mandibles twitching in the approximation of a grin. “I couldn’t just take your money like that.” With that the turian disappeared down the hallway, his footsteps echoing into silence, leaving Kaidan standing on the platform, his mind numb.