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Ruminations and Conversations

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Kaidan wasn’t sure what the regs meant anymore during times of conflict, but he highly doubted they would be court martialed for fraternization during a Reaper war. As far as he was aware, it was an open secret on the Normandy that they were together.

As expected, Joker had given him the 'big brother' talk, never mind that Jane Shepard was older than him.

"The years on the ice still count," Joker had said. "She's technically two years younger than me now. But that's besides the point; should you hurt Jane, I will shove you out the airlock. Reaper war or not.”

It was like everyone had personally taken a moment of their schedules to give the same talk to Kaidan. With Garrus, it had been at the shooting range, where the turian had accurately hit the target afterwards, almost to prove his point. Liara had said it over lunch between the two, of course not direct quoting. Anderson didn't word it, but did say to take good care of Shepard. Hannah Shepard too. And he couldn't forget James; Vega and Jane, who shared a love for chilaquiles and sparring, were inseparable. He said that he trusted Kaidan would take care of Jane.

"Not that she needs any taking care of, she's perfectly capable of that herself," he had said before going back to his pull-ups. 

Tali's talk was just a direct threat.

And Kaidan was okay with it.


 

When Kaidan retreated from his rarely used quarters with a bottle of whiskey he had been saving, he wondered how he’d find Shepard.

She had a tendency to overthink just about everything. It was never during combat. It was almost always in private, during the in-between moments of the big moments of high pressure. 

It was a cycle Kaidan witnessed her in a few times. Sometimes, she'd pace in perfect circles. Other times, it would be back and forth. She'd mutter to herself, so deep in thought that she couldn't notice the world around her. It was a challenge she found herself in and she was always apologetic about it after it happened. Not that she needed to be; it wasn't her fault. It was out of her control. She was trying her best.

Especially during a galactic war. 

Shepard didn't need to be taken care of, but it didn't hurt to have someone watch her back.

Shepard was at her bed on the lower level of her quarters. She was surrounded by at least eight holopads and datapads, all a collection of information and graphs that Kaidan couldn’t read from his spot on the stairs. Her portable email terminal had been moved from the upper level to the vanity desk behind her, seemingly running the same numbers and graphs all at once on the same screen.

Kaidan sighed inwardly. 

Shepard didn’t comment on his arrival. Or maybe it was because she didn't notice it. She stood at his side of the bed, her left thumb resting on her cheek and her index and middle finger covering her muttering lips, the universal sign of being deep in thought. Kaidan couldn't decipher what she was saying. 

Kaidan went to the coffee table and set down the whiskey bottle. “Hey, what’s the matter?” he asked. His voice seemingly startled and snapped her out of whatever thought she was in.

“Hey!” she exclaimed, recovering from the surprise. “You startled me.”

“Sorry about that,” Kaidan crossed the small space between the sitting area and the spot where she stood. He wrapped an arm around her waist and kissed her temple.

Shepard leaned into the touch.

“What’s the matter?” he asked again.

Shepard frowned, bright green eyes looking towards the bed filled with data. “I don't know. I’ve gone over the numbers at least six times by now,” she said, concerned.

“What numbers?”

“All of them. Our odds of success,” Shepard said. “Our weapons, our people on the ground, the wins, the losses, what sectors of the galaxy are still present and which ones are invaded. I keep running the numbers to see if I missed something.”

She looked like she was ready to leave his arms and go right back to it. 

“You do know you’ve done everything you’ve can, right?” Kaidan asked.

The thought seemed to have crossed her mind already. “Yeah,” Shepard bit her lip. “But is it enough?”

It is to me.

Of course it was enough. It was more than enough. Jane Shepard was the most important woman in the galaxy, quite literally the catalyst for this entire war. She knew the war was coming and warned everyone, and stuck through it instead of fleeing. She could have given up on pushing it, on warning everyone, but she didn't. 

“Jane Shepard, you’re doing it again,” Kaidan said.

“Doing what again?”

“Overthinking it. Stressing out over the numbers won’t change them. And remember the most important thing: we’re taking Cerberus as a battalion, not just you alone.”

Shepard sighed and let go from his embrace. She walked over and sat down on the couch, seemingly ignoring the bottle and glasses.

“Jane,” Kaidan began and followed her path. He took a seat next to her.

Talking her down from a rumination episode was always hard, but he didn’t blame her whenever it happened.

“You make it sound so easy,” Shepard said.

“This is out of your control, Jane. Don’t overthink it much.”

“That’s the thing; I’ve already done that. I’ve overthinked it, thought about overthinking it, overthinked that again—” Shepard let out a shaky sigh. She rubbed her eyes with her palms and then rubbed her temples. She was worn out and continuing to ruminate would have only made it worse.

“Jane.”

“Is ‘overthinked’ even a word? Or is it overthought?” Shepard tossed her hands up. “Ugh, why does it matter? I should be looking at the data.”

“You’ve already done that. Six times, you’ve said it yourself.”

“It won’t hurt to double-check again,” Shepard began to stand up but was stopped by Kaidan.

“Jane, sweetheart, please take a breather. And please, listen to what I have to say; like I said, we’re taking on Cerberus and the Reapers as a battalion, as an army, not just you alone. You don't have to take the weight on. You have me. You have Jeff. You have your crew, the entire galaxy. We're all sharing the weight of battle,” Kaidan said. 

Shepard sighed. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. 

“Jane,” Kaidan began.

“No, you’re right. I’m sorry. Like you said, it’s not just me. You're right. I'm just overthinking everything. There's nothing left to do but think," she said. "This shitshow will be over soon. We’ll get to hit the Illusive Son of a Bitch where it hurts.”

“But at what cost?” Shepard asked. “God, it cost the galaxy so much. And we haven't even gone back to Earth yet.”

“And we will, in due time. One fight at a time. Look at all you've done. You’re not just the girl who cried reaper, Jane. You’ve achieved all of this in the matter of a few months. You did the impossible. You managed to get everyone to set their problems aside and work together as one army. You united the galaxy. All thanks to you.”

Shepard sat in silence, taking it all in.

“Honey,” Kaidan reached down to hold her hand. “Honey, you did it.”

Ever so humble, Shepard shook her head. “It wasn’t all me,” she said. “Everyone had a hand in saving the galaxy.”

Humility. A virtue, so good, so human, that she showed and held as her strongest suit.

“You’re so humble,” he said, maybe a little more than dreamily.

Shepard blushed and tucked some of her hair behind her ear. “Guess it’s the Alliance in me,” she said sheepishly.

“No, Jane,” Kaidan kissed her knuckle. “It’s all you.”

Saying it was going to be fine would only make her nerves worse. She’d start negating it, and would probably end up going back to the piles of datapads that cluttered their bed. 

“It's going to be...what it's going to be. And it's out of our control right now. Ruminating will only make it worse."

"That's true."

"Take the night off, okay?” Kaidan asked. “We can look at all the data pads and holopads you want after we kick Cerberus’s ass. Plus, I brought the best bottle I’ve found in the galaxy and it isn’t going to drink itself.”

Shepard smiled and pressed a small kiss against his lips. “I’ll get the glasses.”