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COLLECTOR

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Kaidan didn’t understand Shepard’s model ship collection until a long time after it’d been finished. Well, as finished as it was ever going to be.

There was usually enough going on that Kaidan just didn’t think twice about something like that. And sure, maybe that meant he’d been too caught up in his own head—whether it was hurting or not—to appreciate something small for a change, small enough to line up on a couple of shelves and point to when you needed order. He didn’t have pets, either, something in the background like fish swimming away and never at rest until they were dead, although sometimes he thought about getting a dog.

Someday. Maybe someday.

There was still too much going on, but it was starting to feel like that was the one thing they could count on. So maybe Kaidan needed to think about it like always.

He hadn’t meant to start a collection of his own, the kind of hobby you didn’t bring up with anybody. It was a kid thing, even, what you did when you were younger, and the whole young at heart explanation… Kaidan didn’t know if he bought it himself, much less if he was willing to sell it to other people.

It was what it was.

He’d been saying a lot of that lately.

The cards had Shepard’s face on them, the most popular ones, though some were full body shots to show off different armor. They varied from the simple to the holographic, though most of those were from before the invasion. Kaidan had even seen a couple of refugee kids with them back on the Citadel, holding on tight like it was the last thing they knew could keep them safe. Going over to them, crouching down to eye-level, asking to take a look at what they had there and saying ‘Hey, where’d you get that? You know, that’s the rarest one of those I’ve ever seen?’ wasn’t a formality. It was the right thing to do and their place, a soldier’s place, was knowing there weren’t many left to do it.

And it wasn’t as though Shepard could be the one behind this small mission. He’d cause quite a scene if he tried, the face on the card showing up in real life. Almost like magic, even.

‘Don’t let go of that,’ Kaidan told one of them, clapping her on the shoulder. ‘Because it’s gonna be worth a whole lot someday.’

Someday; maybe someday.

They’d be selling them by the deck soon enough—commemoration was just like collection, in a way—and the old ones from before the invasion would end up in frames in a museum, or on somebody’s wall, or kept locked away so they’d always be in mint condition. The newer ones had quotes on them, buttons to push to make them talk in a voice that came through all tinny, and as far as Kaidan knew, You big, stupid jellyfish was one of the most popular ones.

He liked to think that had some carryover from the Blasto days.

I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite store on the Citadel.

I couldn’t do this without you, Garrus.

Here’s another saying: go to hell!

We fight or we die! That’s the plan!

Kaidan pulled the first card he’d picked up out of his back pocket, so far from mint condition there was no point trying to return it to its glory days. It’d been right there in a collection of personal items lost because the people who’d owned them had died. It was also one of the holographic ones so it caught the light, blinding Kaidan where he stood—if only for a few, short seconds.

Before he knew it, he was asking, ‘You think I could have that?’ There was nobody else it belonged to, no protocol set up for claiming any of that stuff.

And, according to the salarian in charge of the ward, it was just a holo-piece. Barely noticeable. I see no reason why not. If you wish to keep it rather than dispose of it, that is your prerogative.

There were plenty of reasons, only Kaidan didn’t have to name them all. He held onto the card not because it might be worth something someday but because it was worth something already.

There was too much sunlight for the effects on the card’s surface to shimmer much by comparison. It was that small against a big sky. It was one face—one face out of millions—and Kaidan’s thumb against the scar on its cheek, a tear in the corner to match the flesh on a bad day.

‘Hey,’ somebody said, a short somebody, only coming up to Kaidan’s shoulder while he was sitting. ‘Where’d you get that? That’s one of the rarest ones I’ve ever seen!’

The kid next to him fished something out of her back pocket, a newer one that said the jellyfish line twice when her thumb hit the button accidentally.

‘You have one of these?’ she asked.

‘Yeah,’ Kaidan replied. ‘I mean, I used to.’

‘Well, you’d better hold on to that one,’ the kid told him. ‘You know it’s gonna be worth a lot someday?’

The rebuilding zone was quiet, a good place to catch up with your thoughts when you wanted to be as alone as you felt. But at least there was sunlight, a glint from the surface of the card like the wink of a bright blue eye.

You big, stupid jellyfish.

‘Someday,’ Kaidan agreed. 

END