Chapter 1: Eden Prime
‘He looks so peaceful just lying there.’ Kaidan thought to himself. He traced the small scar above the Commander’s forehead with his eyes and found himself starting into the strong features of Shepard’s face; a certain softness behind them that had him feeling intrigued.
“Lieutenant I assure you that hovering won’t wake him any faster.” Came the voice of Dr. Chakwas from her workstation adjacent to the bed. “Hovering is my job, not yours.” She gave Kaidan a soft smile and checked Shepard’s stats on a datapad.
“Is he going to be okay?” He asked, looking up to see Dr. Chakwas turning back to her desk. She didn’t answer just hummed softly in her throat as she shuffled a stack of datapads. Kaidan turned his attention when Shepard stirred and slowly reached a hand up to rub his forehead.
“Dr, Dr Chakwas I think he’s waking up.” Kaidan called, stepping back as Shepard sat up. The icy blue of his eyes fixing briefly onto Kaidan before he groaned in pain, running a hand over his buzz cut.
“Commander, you had us worried there.” Chakwas sauntered over to his side. “How are you feeling?” They conversed back and forth while Kaidan watched from the background until Captain Anderson entered. He excused himself with a salute and headed out into the mess. The usual small group of people on break at at the table conversing quietly and he thought for a moment to grab a cup of coffee but decided against it and resumed his pet project of attempting to repair the sleeper pod status screen outside of the Captain’s quarters.
The Normandy hummed quietly in the background, the sound of the engine core barely a faint rumble from the upper deck - so far their mission had been quiet and un-eventful prior to today’s events and Kaidan couldn’t help but feel a killer migraine coming on whenever he turned his mind to Jenkins. They hadn’t known each other long but it still hurt to lose a teammate.
And then there was Shepard.
Commander John Shepard, hero-legend of the Alliance, XO on the Normandy SR-1 and utterly gorgeous to boot. When they had first been introduced Kaidan found himself staring intently into those icy eyes whenever Shepard spoke to him and on more than one occasion had managed to make himself look silly by completely spacing out and Shepard never flinched, just gave him the same wry smile that made his cheeks warm.
Kaidan was no stranger to crushes and even though he found it a little odd that he was so infatuated with his male commanding officer, he couldn’t help but want to be near the man. Maybe it was the hero thing... or the perfect body. Either way, he was trying his best not to be too obvious just in case. Not that Shepard might take too much offense, it was after all 2185, but more than that there were rules in place and he had spent a good portion of his Alliance career being a ‘rules kind of guy.’
‘By the book Alenko.’ He chuckled to himself and a deep voice behind him startled him from his thoughts.
“Thought of a good joke, LT?” Shepard stood behind him with his arms casually folded and a sinister grin on his face. “I’d love to hear it.” Yeah, me getting damn schoolgirl giddy over you.
“Oh um... nah... just...” Just great Kaidan, mumble at him some more. “It’s not important. Glad to see you’re up.” He managed a weak smile.
“I just wanted to make sure you’re okay. With Jenkins and all.” He added. “I didn’t know him as long - just the few days since we’d left Arcturus.” Kaidan nodded slowly.
“I’ll be fine. It’s just hard, you know? Losing someone like that? But at least we picked up some extra help with Williams on board.” What an asshole thing to say. Wow. You suck at this. “Not that she’s a replacement or any... Because you can’t... well you can...”
“I get it.” The commander held up a hand, grinning wider now. “You always get this tongue tied or is it just me?” Oh fuck’s sake, he knows.
“Just arranging my thoughts is all.” Was the reply. “Plus you’re still the CO even though we’re having a casual chat.” Kaidan recovered, hoping that a blush hadn’t crept onto his cheeks.
“Fair enough.” Shepard gave him a tight lipped smile and turned to head toward the stair. “We’re docking at the Citadel soon... wanna come see?” He called over his shoulder as he slowly walked away. Kaidan silently nodded as he stared at what had to be the most perfect ass in history.
As they headed up the stairs, there was a familiar lurch when the Normandy dropped out of the Relay transit tunnel into regular space - not much just a momentary feeling of a jolt before the regular sub-light engines kicked in. The CIC was always busy with analysts and technicians busied at their terminals and as they approached the bridge, Ashley was already waiting for them, one hand on the back of the pilot’s chair making small talk with Joker.
“It’s a man, well alien-made nebula.” Joker made his best teacher-like voice. “At least that’s the theory. Most nebulae are hot gas and dust... this one’s mostly just the dust part. Approach the Citadel fast enough and its like getting sandblasted.”
Ashley looked over and at seeing Shepard, straightened up into a salute before he quietly waved a hand at her to relax. Taking up a spot behind her and Kaidan near the port window. The purplish blue of the nebula outside cast an eerie light into the bridge illuminating everything like a late night moon. As they grew nearer the massive structure of the Citadel came into view. Kaidan had only been here a couple of times before and even then, it was mostly just to the Alliance docks.
“Looks incredible.” Ashley half whispered with a low whistle. “Look, its the Destiny Ascension!” The massive Asari dreadnought passed by their port side, the Normandy nothing but a speck against its flat grey hull. Ashley and Joker exchanged innuendos about size and Shepard simply smiled.
“C’mon Commander... you have to have an opinion on this one?” She goaded.
“Because I like ships or because I have-” Her laughter cut him off.
“Nevermind. Some things better left unsaid.” She gave a flirtatious smile and Kaidan felt a momentary twinge of jealousy in the pit of his stomach. Grow the fuck up, Alenko. He probably wants her tits more than you right now anyway. Kaidan had never been good at feeling out when a man might be ‘open’ to the idea and after his first black eye during basic, he’d given up the idea all together.
As the Normandy swooped into their assigned docking bay, he headed down to the lower level with apparently the two of them were being ordered to accompany Shepard to the embassy on the Presidium to give their report on the situation from Eden Prime in person.
He was ecstatic. His first time away from the docks on the Citadel. It was something he had only ever seen in pictures and vids.
The meeting with the Ambassador could have gone better. Kaidan instantly had the sense that he didn’t much care for the man - intensified by Udina’s obvious disdain for Anderson and Shepard as he squawked at them like an angry old biddy.
They had left and Shepard made mention of needing to make a stop nearby and had asked them to wait for him. Ashley busied herself with watching the view of the too-perfect fake sky from a nearby railing and Kaidan had wandered over to look at information on a travel kiosk. “Blue Sun Travel, packages start from $C2999...” The recorded voice of an Asari began reciting travel destinations and hotspots as he swiped through images on the holo screen.
“Thinking of taking a vacation LT?” Came Ashley’s voice from next to him.
“I joined the Alliance to see the galaxy.” He mused quietly as images flipped by. He let out a puff of air and turned from the screen. “Never imagined that most of that time would be spent on backwater moons and space stations.” She chuckled.
“So you were all in for the rough and tumble explorer role? Conquer the stars?” She teased and he cracked a toothy grin.
“Something like that. More than anything else, I wanted to go to new and interesting places and make the most of myself.” They had began to stroll along, not venturing too far from where they were and paused in front of a small Starbucks near the embassies. “This place...” He swept an arm out at the Presidium “It’s incredible... never thought I’d be in the most important part of it. It’s so huge and intimidating but so exciting at the same time I feel like I could find some incredible things in this place. This is the exotic and exciting I was looking for.”
“Exotic huh?” Came Shepard’s voice from behind them as he stopped short just behind Kaidan. “And exciting as well? What do you have in mind LT?” Shepard teased. Taking off your clothes for starters. Kaidan felt his face blush as he gave an awkward laugh.
“Just talking about the Citadel commander.” Amongst other things. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ashley look at Shepard and then at him. Her eyes narrowed slightly as though she were trying to place something but then looked away toward the Presidium lake.
“Don’t let the gleam and neon fool you. This place is just a dangerous as, say, Omega.” Shepard mused. “Basically its Omega in fancy shoes.” Ashley guffawed and briefly checked her omnitool for messages.
The rest of the afternoon seemed to fly by and after a trip up the Citadel tower to meet with the Council, Kaidan’s heart fluttering the whole time, they were being sent on a sort of fact finding mission around the Citadel to gather what evidence they could on Saren.
Two firefights, a Krogan and a Quarian later, they were again in front of the Citadel Council showing evidence of his corruption and guilt. Kaidan never imagined that they would make Shepard a spectre right then and there but it happened. Vid cameras rolling from multiple angles, he was quite sure he looked out of place and knew that a message from his parents would arrive as soon as they saw the vid on Earth.
No sooner than they had gotten back onboard the Normandy, with Shepard commanding the ship now, than he got a message ping notification on his omnitool. He opened it with a gentle sigh.
Dad and I just saw you in a vid from the Citadel tower! You were there with Shepard? A spectre? It’s incredible.
We miss you and it was so much fun seeing you on tv!
Also, you need a haircut.
Call when you have time.
He smiled to himself at her nit-picking his hair, something she had always done, and turned from the still broken monitor screen to the mess table where he poured himself a coffee from a nearby thermos. Involved in the dark sludge that passed for java on the ship, he never noticed Shepard stride up and sit next to him until he almost bumped shoulders with the Commander.
“Commander Shepard, or is it spectre now? What do you...?” Dammit just make a coherent sentence once? Please? He took a gulp of coffee. “Sorry, feeling a little overwhelmed after today. How are you?”
“All things considered, pretty damn great.” Shepard took the same thermos and sniffed it before pouring himself a cup, making a sour face the whole time. “My first official act as commander of this ship and humanity’s first spectre is to get decent food and drink onboard.” He mused with a tone of complete seriousness. Kaidan simply smiled. “I also wanted to make sure that the excitement from today didn’t wear too much on you.” He raised an eyebrow looking to Kaidan for a reaction.
“I’m good, really... how did you know?” I never told him... is it in my file?
“Dr Chakwas.” Shepard gave a small nod. “I was asking about you after you carried me back to the ship on Eden Prime. Wanted to know all I could about my heroic rescuer.” He grinned wide. “Or mostly just because I want to get to know you.”
“Me?” Kaidan asked with more surprise than he meant to show. Why me? I’m awkward and probably have given you a serious weirdo vibe by now.
“Well I like to know all I can about everyone I work with.” Shepard answered matter of factly. “It helps me to know what makes you all tick - what are strengths and what can be worked on.” Standard officer’s answer... oh well it was a nice thought.
“Oh.” Kaidan nodded and sipped his drink slowly. Setting the cup down he turned slightly on the bench to better face his commander. The dim orange lighting in the mess area made the shadows on his face seem dramatically darker and his features appear stronger. “Well you must have seen my file by now.” And all the Alliance’s dirty little secrets about me that come with it.
“Yes. I read it. I want to know more about you from you, if that makes any sense.” Those same brilliant blue eyes now seemed to drill into his soul. “You as a person, not just a rank and file number.” He wants to know you. Don’t fuck this up.
Kaidan told him about BAat, Rahna and every painful detail in between. Certain parts of the story made him nervously look down or away and whenever he’d look up, Shepard would still be looking directly at him, staring intently and listening to his every word. They had talked about Gagarin station and when the Commander had called him a ‘romantic’ Kaidan felt his heart flutter in his chest. More schoolgirl jitters.
Shepard had switched topics and they made small talk for what seemed like hours before he yawned widely and checked the time on his omnitool.
“Kaidan it was great talking to you.” Shepard said, his voice low and eyes still fixed on Kaidan’s honey browns. “We need to do this again.” He placed his hand on Alenko’s leg and kept it there for a moment before pulling it away, a small grin playing at the corners of his mouth. Oh my god... he’s actually flirting with you. For the love of everything Kaidan, don’t fuck this up.
“I really enjoyed our talk Commander.” Came his reply, completely professional and Shepard didn’t flinch a bit. If anything, his grin grew slightly wider as he got up from the table and straightened his uniform.
Chapter 2: Therum
I'll be trying to update at least once a week... please leave comments and bookmark! Your feedback helps me and this story get better! Thank you.
Every single time that Tali would begin speaking, Kaidan would find himself distracted by something else or he would involuntarily yawn. It wasn't so much that she was being boring but more from his staying up so late with Shepard the night before. This was one of the first times that he would have served with an alien crew member on an Alliance vessel and when he'd come down for breakfast and found her alone; well he wanted to make the effort to get to know her better.
"As I was saying..." She continued after he'd let out a particularly terrific yawn that made his chest shake. "In order to compensate for the larger drive core, the static sinks themselves would have to be larger as well. I'm not sure how the Alliance was able to make this ship so compact but still fit in all of the necessary tech AND the advanced stealth systems!"
"Ships are really where its at for you, huh?" He asked dryly as he peeled away the wrappers on some protein bars.
"Well its important for all Quarians to know how a ship runs, how its built. For my people, the Flotilla has been home for almost three centuries." The glowing slits of her eyes seemed to droop downward for a moment in sadness before she stood up and looked around the room.
"No matter. Now that Engineer Adams doesn't think I'm going to rob the ship blind, he's giving me access to more and more systems. Says that I have a real gift." Her tone was one of pure excitement as she headed off toward the elevator and Kaidan stifled a yawn with his coffee cup.
Just when he thought he would be able to unceremoniously stuff the remainder of his breakfast into his mouth, Ashley popped down next to him in the seat.
"Good morning sunshine. Er.... sir." She scanned the expression on his face, her own smile fading.
"I'm good. Just really tired."
"Late nights with the Commander will do that to you." If only we'd had that kind of night.
"Huh?" A small bit of protein bar lodged in his throat mid-swallow and he coughed violently for a moment. "What do you mean?"
"Scuttlebutt says you guys were in here super late last night talking." Sadly just talking. Ashley shrugged her shoulders noncommittally as his eyebrows knit together. "Just wondering what was so important that you had to be up so late the night before a mission."
"Not much, just chatting and getting to know each other." With clothes on. But if I thought I had the chance...
"Hmm." She made a musing sound as her body now turned to face him, their eyes almost level. "Nothing at all to do with the fact that you turn all gooey whenever he's in the room?" Kaidan cocked an eyebrow and she held up her hands in mock surrender. "I've known enough people who... well people like..." Just say it. Men who like men.
"Williams. Can I call you Ashley?" He asked, the tiredness seeping into his normally smooth voice.
"Good. You don't need to always stand on occasion. Just tell me what's on your mind." She seemed to struggle for a moment with finding the words and then gently tapped her fingers on the table and drew in a breath.
"There was this guy... James. We went to high school together. Gorgeous, really nice, came from a good family." He nodded for her to continue. "I would follow him around all the time and pretend it was coincidence when we'd meet; I really just wanted excuses to talk to him. Anyway, this went on until our senior year."
"What happened senior year?" Kaidan was now looking directly at her, the coffee beginning to work its magic and making him feel human again.
"He asked someone else to prom and I gave up after that."
"That easily?" He couldn't help but chuckle lightly.
"Well he ended up asking his friend Sean so I think I got the message at that point. We ended up being really good friends after that and I sometimes still send messages back and forth with him to this day." Oh I get it. You're comparing me to your gay bff.
"And this involves me and the Commander because...?" His voice curled at the end implying that he might already know the answer and Ashley didn't seem uncomfortable in the slightest.
"The way you and Shepard flirt." She said flatly. "That and I already tried making a pass at him before I was officially put under his command and I don't think I've ever gotten zero response from a guy like that since James." So that makes him gay? I mean, better for me, but really?
"Um..." Kaidan tried to think of what best to say next but she cut him off.
"Either way, I don't want to pry and you don't have to tell me. It's personal business. All I'm saying is I think you have a crush on the commander LT. And that maybe he might feel the same way." She playfully punched his shoulder. "Even if its a totally hetero-manly-bro crush." She added with a cheesy grin. Kaidan laughed aloud and felt himself relax.
They talked all through his breakfast and then Ashley's and by the end, were laughing together like old friends.
"So.... never?" She hissed in a low whisper, a look of total shock on her face. "Like ever with a woman or a man?" Yep that's me, the innocent virgin.
"Well I've made out... and heavy petting but..." Kaidan sighed. "I'm more traditional that way I guess. I dunno. The right person just hasn't come along for me yet." Ashley let out a low whistle. "Helluva ship here. There's the alien crewmembers," A slight disdain colored her voice, but he looked past it. "The fact that the Commander is now a Spectre that answers to only the Citadel Council, and we're on a mission to stop a dangerous rogue agent from destroying the human race." Well when you put it that way. "I guess maybe now's a good a time as any!"
"Yeah! I mean c'mon... we could all die tomorrow... Might as well get laid first!" Another playful punch.
"So... who on the ship will be my volunteer that won't lead to court martial and discharge?" He said the words slowly with a grin, baiting her response. She bit her lip and made a face of mock concentration.
"True. Almost all of the options here end with you getting the boot." She snapped her fingers in a 'Eureka!' moment. "Shepard. He's a Spectre so the regs don't apply to him anymore. So yeah... have Shepard do you." He laughed almost soundlessly for a minute or so. His lips on mine. Clothes are off and he has me up against the wall... She snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Still with me?"
"Huh? Oh yeah. Just tired."
"Right." Her tone dripped with sarcasm. "And I'm Miss Kahje 2185." He gave a sideways look and she giggled. "Fine, keep your secrets."
"Thanks for coming to talk to me." He slowly moved to get out of his seat.
"No prob LT. I needed a friend to talk to and so did you."
"Do me one favor?"
"Don't repeat any of the last hour to anyone else." The emotion in his eyes almost looked pleading. She shook her head softly and picked up her tray.
"I promise. If anyone asks, you're super manly and hit on me all through breakfast." Kaidan snorted and laughed heartily before heading off to finish getting his equipment ready.
There was no way in hell Commander John Shepard had ever been licensed to drive a vehicle in Council Space. Period.
The third time the Mako almost flipped over, Kaidan realized that he hadn't yet let go of the handle that was just above his seat in the ceiling and Garrus was quietly reminding him to breathe. As the rounded the corner, several Geth appeared on the radar ahead of them. Garrus disposed of them quickly with a few shots from the main rail gun and they still hadn't stopped moving.
"Commander... there might be more Geth ahead." Kaidan gently tried to get Shepard to slow down.
"Nah its okay. This thing can take 'em on. I mean we took out a Colossus!"
"Shepard... you ran it over." Garrus deadpanned. Shepard looked at the both of them with mock disappointment for a second before turning his attention back to driving.
"Well it worked, didn't it?" This is it. This is how I die. The hot maniac is gonna kill me with his driving. "And besides... I really wanna see what this thing can do." With that he hit the thrusters and Kaidan felt his stomach lurch. For fuck's sake he's enjoying this. He's a sadist! I wonder if he's rough in bed too...
"Up ahead... Looks like some kind of gate." Garrus checked the radar screen again as they approached a gatehouse guarded by turrets. Garrus made short work of the turrets with the Mako's gun and then Shepard decided it would be easier to sneak around through a gap in their defenses around the side. Using the Mako's cannon, the Geth guarding the outside of the gate controls were dispatched and then Shepard got out of the Mako to open the gate.
Another few minutes braced against Shepard's driving and the radar indicated that they'd reached their destination. The team was going to have to abandon the Mako and go up through the canyon on foot to get to the dig site. The information given to them by Anderson (though not alot) indicated that Dr. Tsoni was here studying Prothean ruins.
Garrus sniped the few Geth guarding the small valley below the entrance to the dig and they quickly made their way to the top of the canyon only to have a Geth drop ship swoop by and deposit new enemies in their path. Kaidan ducked for cover with Garrus and for a moment his heart skipped a beat when he saw Shepard charge head first into the Geth. Blue flames crackled across his body and with a snap and boom, biotically charged into the Geth on the left before turning and shattering the next with a glowing blue first. Kaidan couldn't help but marvel at the sight. It's almost graceful... like a dancer. It's so incredibly sexy.
Kaidan and Garrus jumped from cover and helped Shepard take down the colossus and as it fell into a twitching heap, they stopped a moment to catch their breath.
"Commander that was..." Go on, give the man a compliment. "Beyond incredible. Just the way you combine biotics and firearms... it was almost like art." Kaidan flushed a little when he realized he'd gushed like a fan and Garrus' mandibles twitched in amusement.
"Well that's a hell of a compliment." A sinister grin tugged at the corners of the Commander's mouth. "You should see some of my other talents." Holy fuck I can just imagine. And I do... often.
"I've heard some stories Shepard," Garrus droned. "And apparently dancing isn't among them."
"Kiss my ass, Vakarian."
"Only if you'll dance for me." Yes, please dance. Slowly.
Slowly the group moved down the access tunnel into the dig. The air was much cooler down here - a fresh change from the dry, sulfur choked heat of Therum's atmosphere. As they got deeper, the earpiece of Kaidan's radio made a soft static whine before shutting down completely. He checked his suit's radar and there was no result either.
"We're being blocked, Commander." Shepard simply nodded and tightened his lips in response.
The two Geth at the bottom of the stair were dispatched fairly quickly and a couple of recon drones near the elevator caused Kaidan an involuntary shudder as he recalled Eden Prime and how easily those things had killed Jenkins. A short elevator ride down to the bottom (well almost, it seems the Geth had done some damage to the structure) and they found themselves before an energy barrier with Dr. Tsoni trapped inside. She wasn't at all what Kaidan had expected - young by Asari standards, and very pretty. The remaining Geth in the area were killed and Shepard had the brilliant idea of using the mining laser to drill into the side of the building underneath the energy shield to get inside. This guy takes joy in blowing shit up...
During their elevator ride back to the top, Liara assured the team that she wasn't in fact working for her mother or Saren, but the conversation was cut short by the remaining Geth and a Krogan Battlemaster. Whatever Shepard had done with the mining laser had seriously damaged the entire structure which almost came down on their heads as the squad had just barely escaped outdoors to be picked up by the Normandy. The extra seismic activity had spurred a nearby volcano into action and molten sulfur was pouring out into the canyon and edging toward the entrance to the dig - it was definitely a close call.
"The Normandy wasn't meant to land in exploding volcanoes Commander, it tends to fry our circuits and melt our hull." Joker's voice filtered though the comm system, heavy on the sarcasm. Liara simply stared around the room at the crew gathered with a puzzled expression on her face.
"We almost died down there and your pilot is making jokes?" She sounded more concerned than annoyed.
"It's a coping mechanism - you'll get used to it." Shepard supplied with a wry smile. She simply shook it off and commented that she hadn't had much experience with our species." His look sobered and they briefly discussed the Prothean extinction and the vision that Shepard had gotten from the Prothean beacon. Liara seemed to bubble over with curiosity and excitement and quickly stood from her seat.
"Commander, if you'll allow me, I'd like to join my mind with yours - I might be able to help make sense of your vision." Next to him, Kaidan heard Ashley utter a slightly disgusted noise, but she kept her expression neutral. In all of their conversations and as close as they had become, he still had some reservations about her feelings on aliens. Still, it was a far cry from those Terra Firma nutjobs.
After the joining, Liara seemed incredibly drained and Shepard sent her to the med bay. He and Ashley had a momentary spat when she finally let her feelings get the better of her - The tension in the room just seemed odd and Kaidan couldn't help but give her a confused look. She silently waved him off and when they all filed out of the room, headed directly for the crew quarters.
Kaidan made his way around the ship; Shepard was still on the comm with the Council and he was just checking on the crew to see how they were. Once he had finally made his way to the crew quarters, Ashley was freshly showered and sitting at the common area table in sweatpants and a t-shirt.
"Can I join you?" He asked, motioning to a nearby chair. She simply grunted her agreement.
"Sorry about earlier... sometimes I just get wrapped up in the moment." You seemed more pissed than wrapped up.
"I just came by to see how you're feeling is all. You actually seemed to be pretty pissed at the Commander earlier."
"Ugh." She sighed. "I just got so irritated - he allowed an alien who may or may not be a traitor to probe his mind." I'd love to probe his mind. Or his anything.
"Well..." He nervously rubbed the back of his neck not wanting to start a conversation with her on those particular views. "It just seemed more than anything like you guys were already mad at each other." Ashley cocked an eyebrow.
"Whaddya getting at?" I know, it sounded childish.
"Nothing, I just..." Kaidan cracked an embarrassed smile. Ashley's look of confusion turned to a teasing and knowing smile.
"Something you wanna get off your chest, LT? You know what, I'm not gonna tease you. There's nothing between me and Shepard - The lower decks rumor I hear is that he's already got his eye on someone else anyway." What?!?!?!? He felt a foreign emotional flutter in his chest; a combination between excitement and possible letdown.
"It's just... I..." I'm totally crushing on the guy is what.
"Kaidan you don't have to..." She paused and then looked directly into his eyes with a soft smile. "You don't have to tell me anything but if this is bothering you that bad, I suggest you just tell him."
"Tell him what?"
"Uh huh. Sure. If that's how you wanna play it. Look, we've been on this ship together for what, two and half almost three weeks now? This is gonna get worse before it gets better and if you keep it all bottled in, it could affect the mission. You wanna keep your head clear, ya know?" Totally. I could just spill it all to Shepard, have him look at me like a leper and then throw me off this ship and put me up on charges.
"Ash... it's not that simple. Even if that were the case." He added and she just shook her head at him with a grin on her lips.
"It really is though. Assuming that I'm right," she used air quotes. "Obviously you care about the Commander a lot and I think it would help your state of mind to at least get it all out in the open and find out what he thinks." If I only could be so lucky.
The rest of the time they sat there they made small talk about the current mission, their new crew members, and what could possibly be coming next. Shepard had ordered a course laid in for Noveria, and even with the relays it was still going to be a few day's journey by FTL.
Walking the ship after most of the normal crew complement had gone to sleep was relaxing to Kaidan. It was quiet save for the hum of the engines and the gentle every now and then chirp of a console in the background. He stopped by the sleeper pod console that he hadn't yet repaired and rounded the corner slowly, stopping when he realized he was outside of the Commander's quarters. The control display was green and he had a thought: Shepard had told all of us that he has an open door policy for his crew if they need to talk.
And Kaidan needed to talk.
Chapter 3: Noveria
Kaidan was preparing to have his breakfast when his omnitool chirped loudly and he absentmindedly checked his messages. It was from Shepard.
Hope you have a min... just need to chat real quick. Come by my cabin when you have time.
Almost robotically he got up from his seat and began walking; his coffee abandoned on the table. I wonder what he needs? Oh shit, I wonder if Ash... no. Aw hell.
He paused outside of the door, raising his hand more than once to the controls before dropping it again as if they were red hot. On the third try, the door slid open before he could do anything and he was faced with a pair of familiar icy blue eyes. Much to his relief, they conveyed a happiness and lightness when Shepard ushered him inside.
The room wasn’t too bad - fantastic by Alliance standards: plenty of room, a desk and a table and a very large and comfortable looking bed. Oh how I would love to be on it on my back right now. He shook the thought away. The Commander had obviously called him here for something important.
“Kaidan...” Shepard began, leaning against the desk and folding his arms. “Is everything okay with you?”
“Uh... What do you mean?”
“Just sometimes I get this feeling that there’s something you’re holding back from me. I want to make sure that everyone on this ship feels comfortable and valued and beyond our small talks here and there and the normal reports and chit chat... Well I feel like sometimes you avoid me.” Believe me, I would NEVER.
“No Com...” He caught the raised eyebrow and corrected himself. “Shepard. I just want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can as your second in command to make sure this mission goes right.” Shepard nodded and turned his gaze to the floor.
“And if I were asking for a textbook Alliance answer that would be perfect. But I need to know Kaidan: what’s bothering you? Really?” That I’m completely infatuated with you. “And before you try going and giving me a regulation answer; I know you sat outside my room the other night for almost an hour and a half.”
When Kaidan had made up his mind to go and talk to Shepard the night before last after talking to Ash, he’d stood outside the door for what seemed like a lifetime wrestling with the decision. In the end, he’d decided to play it safe and walked away and went to bed.
“I just...” his voice failed him.
“It’s okay,” Shepard said in a soft voice, his eyes mirroring the concern he was trying to convey as he moved in close to Kaidan and placed a hand on his shoulder. “The security VI ratted you out, by the way.” He added with a chuckle. Of fucking course. Well now you have to tell him something. This guy can practically see through you.
“It’s just been bugging me. Since the day you came onto the Normandy, I knew who you were even long before that. I’d heard all the stories, read most of the reports, and now here we are on a dangerous mission together. You take me with you in your squad almost all the time and I realize I don’t even really know that much about you. The real you, not the one in the vids and news reports.” Look at that. You told the truth without giving away too much. You can do it, Alenko.
“Fair enough.” He sat on the edge of his bed and motioned for Kaidan to join him. I’m in bed with Commander Shepard. Sitting, but still. “So are you saying you’re not starstruck anymore and want to know all my dirty little secrets?” Another mischievous grin.
“Not all of your dirty little secrets but some dirty secrets might be fun.” You did not just say that out loud. You’re an idiot.
Shepard for a moment looked surprised with his eyebrows raised and then a cool smile spread across his lips. “Well if it’s dirty you want, I can certainly help with that.” Did he just...? “So I’m sure you know all about me being an orphan on Earth, Anderson helping me get to where I am now in the Alliance... not sure what more there is to tell about it. I also enjoy pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.”
“That’s from a song. A very old one, but a song nonetheless.” Kaidan laughed lightly.
The commander raised his hands in mock surrender. “Okay you caught me. There really isn’t that much to tell I guess. If anything, I feel a little guilty now.”
“Well you told me all about BAaT and Rahna and your family and I haven’t given that much in return... Figure we need to find time to get some drinks and you’ll just have to get me drunk and see what I’m willing to spill.” Or take off. He playfully slapped Kaidan on the back. “Now tell me on how many ships do you get called to the XO’s office and asked on a date.” I’m dreaming. This isn’t real and I’m going to wake up with a raging boner in the crew quarters.
“Careful now Commander... you know how rumors spread on this ship. We wouldn’t want anyone to think anything.... unseemly.” Kaidan let that last word fall jokingly and then almost jumped back in surprise when Shepard moved closer, his eyes piercing in their gaze - almost predatory.
“No, you’re right. Can’t have that.” The look he was giving Kaidan was serious but almost had a sort of hunger behind it... Like a panther that has spotted a large juicy deer. There was almost a tone of teasing as well and with less than a foot between their faces it seemed as though he was daring Kaidan to make the next move.
“Is there maybe something you want to tell me, Shepard?” He asked softly. Well now, getting ballsy aren’t we?
“I gotta have some secrets.” Shepard said in a low tone. His voice was smooth and deep and relaxed... like soft stones wrapped in silk. Kaidan was staring in surprise at this sudden change in demeanor and whatever newfound confidence was welling up within him he had to stifle it and quick. He practically jumped to his feet from the bed and was just about to try to find an excuse to leave when a loud whine from the engines signaled the Normandy’s dropout from FTL.
“Duty calls.” he said almost breathlessly before turning and leaving the room. As he walked through the crew deck he could feel his face and ears burning - made no better when he saw Ash out of the corner of his eye. She looked first from the door to Shepard’s cabin then to him and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.
This morning’s shower was going to be ice cold.
“So you’re telling me that people actually come to live and work on this frozen ball of shit?” Joker asked with incredulity as the Normandy rumbled through the frigid atmosphere. The ground control had just made some vague threat of impounding the ship and it had set him a little on edge.
“Sometimes people will go a funny length to get out from under the law.” Shepard replied knowingly, almost reminiscent. “Can’t really say that there’s not much that some of these people won’t do to escape the second guessing of Council laws. Large sums of money help too.”
“Well that’s all fine and good, but if anyone tries to do anything to this ship, I’m firing the cannons first.” He turned his full attention back to the haptics in front of him and guided them down into an open docking port. The main structure appeared to be formed mostly out of poured concrete and plate glass and Kaidan wondered how in the hell it could even be remotely warm inside.
“So we know for sure that Benezia is here?” He wondered aloud.
“The last information that I had says she is.” Shepard mused, biting his lower lip. Oh yeah... keep making faces like that and I wont be able to get my armor on right. “Either way, it’ll still be fun to roam around the offices and set all the stuffed shirts on edge. Some of them just can’t take it.” I’ll take whatever you’ve got. I mean, let’s be honest - I’ve stared and checked it out and I think you have a lot to offer in that department.
“They’ve cleared the ship whenever you’re ready to go Commander.” Joker turned his chair away from the controls and hobbled to the hatch. “I’m going to go get something to eat and then probably take a nap. Just promise me that you won’t blow up the planet or anything until after I’ve gotten at least twenty good minutes?”
“I make no such promise.” Shepard beamed. So friggin cute.
The fucking Rachni. Kaidan caught himself shivering slightly at the mere thought of them. The hot water from his shower cascading down his smooth tanned skin. What they had seen and experienced today was the stuff of nightmares and Shepard being himself went and released the queen of the whole damn species. I’m surrounded by crazy people.
He’d imagined that the Council had been fairly vocal on the subject as well since Shepard had spent the better part of the last hour in the conference room with them on the comm. The real challenge was going to be Liara.
Kaidan had made up his mind just before the shower that he was going to go talk to her.
Other than saying hello in passing, he really hadn’t had a chance to have any one on one time with her and since she usually kept to herself in the med bay’s office - there wasn’t any real opportunity to bump into her either.
‘What the hell do I say to someone who’s mother just got killed right in front of their eyes?’ he wondered aloud. There were words, he was sure of it. He just didn’t know which ones to use. After getting dressed and heading to the med bay, Dr. Chakwas was slightly surprised to see him.
“Lieutenant... Something I can do for you? Migraine coming on?” She asked in her usual motherly tone.
“No, just wanted to come talk to Liara if she’s up for it.” He pointed to the door at the far end of the room. The doctor simply nodded her understanding and went back to her reports on the datapad she was holding. He crossed the room in several strides, took a deep breath and then opened the door.
Kaidan wasn’t sure what he’d find but he also didn’t expect to see Liara calmly sitting at one of the desks reading from a terminal. She didn’t completely turn around when he first entered the room, but instead turned her head just so she could get a decent look at him.
“If you’ve come to check on me, I assure you I’m quite fine.” The tone and quality of her voice was light and airy, but Kaidan knew that she had to be hurting.
“Fine doesn’t cover what you’ve been through today.” He stated flatly. “I would honestly be trying my best to drink it all away by this point. But that’s just me.”
“Really Kaidan, I’m at peace.” She replied. “I know now that what my mother did wasn’t completely of her own will. I also now have a new purpose.” She rose from her chair, gently hugged him and then stood back, regarding him with tired eyes but a welcoming expression. “I will see to it that Saren is cleansed from the galaxy the same way a surgeon would remove a cancer. Careful enough not to damage it’s surroundings, but completely removing it all the same.”
“Ya know, I used to think revenge was a pretty good motivator but I realized over time; it just leaves you equally as empty and unfulfilled.”
“It sounds like you’ve been reading Asari philosophy.” She smiled softly. “Is reading a hobby of yours?”
“When I have the time, absolutely.”
“Shepard as well - He had asked me for recommendations on books the last time he came to see me.” She said. “But I didn’t realize that he was referring to the printed paper kind... much harder to come by.”
“Yeah.” Kaidan rubbed his chin, prickles of stubble catching on his thumbnail. “I was in his cabin earlier today and saw a small collection of them on the desk shelf. Some have to be pretty old and valuable.” Liara was now looking at him with a sort of curiosity but she didn’t say more and sat back down at the desk.
"Reading was something my mother always encouraged me to do." Her smile faltered for a second, but she recovered quickly. "I loved history, and fiction, and almost anything else I could get my hands on. She used to tell me that since Asari have such a long lifespan, we have no excuse not to be well read and educated. I guess that she's the reason I became so in love with archaeology; the thrill of learning new things, of making discoveries and uncovering secrets."
"She sounds like she was an amazing woman. The galaxy is at a loss with her gone."
"That's very nice of you to say." She sat in silence for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. “Thank you for coming to see me Lieutenant. I have much to think about but your visit is still appreciated all the same. If its okay, I’d like to be alone for a bit.”
“Call me Kaidan. And, anytime.” He answered as he let himself out.
“How is she?” Chakwas asked. She was seated at her workstation idly tapping the screen; it appeared to be supply requisition orders.
“I can’t imagine its very good, but she’s putting on a strong face.”
“Much like someone else I know.” Her look was knowing and with the one raised eyebrow it came across as extremely maternal. “Have you been having any issues lately Kaidan?”
“No. Haven’t had a flare up in weeks now so I guess that’s good right?”
“Just make sure that you’re taking the time to get some proper rest.” She chided and returned to her terminal. Just outside the med bay door, Kaidan ran into Shepard as he was leaving.
“Coming to see Liara, commander?” He asked.
“Just want to make sure she’s all right. Things were pretty bad down there and I’ve been trying to think of what to say.” It was a rare moment for Kaidan. Shepard being at a loss for words? The man always seemed to know what to say in every situation but it seemed that in this case, comforting someone on the loss of a parent had him a little off center.
“There’s not alot you can do here really other than offer a shoulder.”
“True.” Shepard sighed softly and ran a hand over his buzz cut. “I spent quite a while arguing with the Council over the Rachni. They weren’t happy that I let the queen live... even less happy that they were being bred in that lab. But, as Sparatus was quick to say: ‘Noveria isn’t in our jurisdiction, Shepard.’” He did his best imitation of the Turian councillor, and it brought a smile to Kaidan’s face.
“Kinda makes you wonder what else is out there. It’s a pretty big galaxy - could be that anything you can imagine might exist.” Shepard wore a boyish grin.
“Glad to see you still have that romantic view of space.” You call me a romantic but if you could read my mind, you might call me a pervert instead.
“So where are we headed next? I would imagine that with Benezia gone, Saren has to be at least a little worried that we’re catching up to him.”
“I programmed the course for Feros... It’s going to take at least a week with the regular FTL hops we’ll have to do in between relays. Thinking I might just order some down time for everyone on board - a chance to relax, you know?”
“Not a bad idea. I would imagine some of the crew are pretty tired by now.” Kaidan folded his arms across his chest. “Would that include you, Shepard? You need relaxing too.” This caused him to laugh; a sound that Kaidan felt like he might never get used to. Shepard’s laugh was the kind that was light and contagious and he couldn’t help but feel himself smile.
“Is that an order?” He asked, his tone dropping slightly but the smile still glued to his face. “Because By-The-Books-Alenko giving me orders sounds like it could be fun.” He is actually openly flirting with me... what the hell? If I wasn’t so sure he was into women...
Kaidan had learned a long time ago not to read too deeply into situations like these. Even in the academy when he had first joined the Alliance, there were men who would flirt and fawn with each other but mostly for comedy. It honestly, in his opinion, made the whole idea of trying to figure out who was what far too difficult. Shepard could just be flirting with him as a close male friend might do to another; not really having any meaning behind it. He supposed he could just return the favor and see where it got him.
“Well now commander,” His voice light and playful. “How do you know if that’s what I really like? Maybe I like the idea of the Spectre in charge?” A cocked eyebrow and a cocky grin in all he got in return.
“I’m going to go talk to Liara... You get some rest.” Shepard patted him on the back and disappeared through the med bay door. Um... okay....?
Late that night, when the day crew had finished their work for the day, most of the ship's systems had been transferred to VI control and since they'd be in FTL for the next several hours, most everyone had gathered in the mess to relax. Shepard had ordered a large case of various kinds of alcohol the last time they on the Citadel (Spectre has its privileges) and the mood in the room was quickly turning joyful and loud the more of it was consumed. Liara, Tali and Chakwas sat off to one side, quietly talking to one another whilst Garrus and Wrex (he'd finally decided to come up from the shuttle bay) were comparing battle stories and kill counts.
Shepard sat at the table in between Ashley and Engineer Adams and they were discussing what possible modifications could be made to Normandy's weapons. Kaidan grabbed three fingers of whiskey and seated himself at the table across from Ashley.
"No way this frame could support PT90X's... this ship was built for stealth, not mass destruction." She huffed.
"Well, come on, there's a way... we would have to totally overhaul the design of the power system to support the increased draw first." Adams countered. Shepard simply sipped his drink quietly watching the two of them talk. He stood up and drink in hand, motioned for Kaidan to follow. They made their way upstairs toward the now-empty bridge and each took a seat. Outside the windows, the blue shift generated by the ship's speed gently swished by the windows. The stars outside faint pinpricks in the distance that twinkled like diamonds and they slowly slipped by.
"Feels good to finally have a little time free." Shepard stared out the window a long moment.
"What do you think our chances are?"
"Pretty good - we've got Saren on the run, his second in command is gone, and most of all we have the support of some pretty great people. Yeah, I think we'll be fine."
"How do you do it?" Kaidan asked. "Traversing the galaxy to stop a dangerous rogue Spectre, uniting all of these species on a single ship, and still stopping to make time with your crew." You really are amazing.
"I do what I can I guess... I'm human just like the rest of you Kaidan. I know that at first, you thought of me as some kind of hero on a pedestal." Kaidan stirred uncomfortably in his seat. He's so perfect... those eyes and those lips...
"Was I that obviously a gushing fan-boy?"
"Ha! no. In reality, I thought you didn't like me at first." But I would definitely like to get to know you MUCH better.
"I gotta admit Shepard... you actually kind of scared me at first." The commander guffawed and sloshed a little drink on his uniform.
"Aw hell... now you have to get me out of these wet clothes." The predatory look was back in his eyes again. "I'm sorry LT, don't answer... I think I've had enough to drink." He laughed softly and set his glass down. I'm not kidding but I'm pretty reasonably sure you have a thing with Ashley.
"Keep it up Shepard..." Kaidan giggled with a mock tone of warning. I fuckin' intend to.
"You gonna fight me?" He teased. Fuck yes, let's wrestle. Naked.
Kaidan held his free hand up in mock surrender. "Oh no Mr Big Scary Spectre!... I wouldn't dare!" More laughter. He's seriously so beautiful. Now that he's coming out of his damn shell, I see more and more and I like it.
"So Kaidan, tell me, are you in a 'thing' with Williams?" The words tumbled out of Shepard's mouth before he could stop himself. Kaidan simply blinked at him, his face blank of any emotion. Real smooth.
"Um.... No Shepard. We're just good friends..." He was starting to look uncomfortable so Shepard put on a smile and waved his hand dismissively. Shit. I think he just lied to me.
"Never mind... I didn't mean to pry - just trying to make conversation."
"Ah it's okay." Kaidan's expression softened. "Shepard, please tell me, what were you like before the Alliance. It's been bugging me... I've tried getting information from the extranet, but I can only find the normal surface stuff." I guess there's no point in hiding it, so...
"Alright LT, I guess it's time you got the whole picture. I grew up on Earth, I never had parents since they did when I was very small - I've come to terms with it, so don't worry about that." He folded his arms and crossed a leg over the other. Kaidan's eyes wandered to the crotch of his pants and then back up again.
"How did you make it?" He asked.
"From the start, I was in government care and then foster homes after that. When I was fifteen, I ran away from the home I was in and joined a gang." Kaidan raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything. "I'm not ready to resurrect those ghosts yet but... ... long story short of it was when I turned 18, I met Anderson. He convinced me to enlist and then kept my ass in line."
"I had no idea." Kaidan mused, his forehead scrunched slightly as he processed.
"It's just hard picturing you in a gang." No it's not. I see tattoos, cigarettes and the traditional bad-boy getup on you being so damn hot.
"Right? Well I never imagined the life I would have. No one did. But even to this day I'm damn thankful to Captain Anderson for doing everything he did for me. And even now with all the Spectre business I have him to thank for making sure none of that nasty shit has come to light."
"In the closet, commander?"
"Skeletons in your closet?" Kaidan corrected quickly.
"Yeah, sure, I guess." Shepard answered with a wry smile. "LT you better get to bed. It's going to be another day or so before we even reach the relay in this cluster... tomorrow's gonna be a lot of PT and training. Gotta stay sharp." Standing from his seat, Shepard turned to leave the room but lingered long enough to place a hand on Kaidan's shoulder. Looking down at him, he squeezed gently and in a low voice bade him goodnight. "Hope you sleep well." There was a softness in his eyes and Kaidan felt his insides turn into jelly.
As he wandered through the CIC on his way to bed, he spotted the Normandy's route-plot calculations on a haptic screen. It seemed that Admiral Hackett had called Shepard and asked him to make a stop on the way to help with a situation that needed their expertise.
No matter... Today had been a great day.
Chapter 4: Helion
Leave me comments and let me know what you think!! I love feedback - its what helps me get better! Thanks for reading!!
The next couple of days had passed without much incident - The crew onboard running drills and attending training in the shuttle bay. Kaidan was actually feeling pretty good and relaxed; he’d been spending most of his time either working out with Shepard or talking and laughing with Ashley.
This morning, the Normandy was still in orbit over Helion... they had arrived sometime late in the night and the planet itself was actually kind of pretty. Supposedly it had once supported life, but was now in the throes of a global ice age. Frozen oceans and continents gleamed like diamond; all shrouded in a thin (but breathable) atmosphere that ranged from -35F at the poles to a comfortable (by Canadian standards) -17F at the equator.
Admiral Hackett had ordered the Normandy to this world to seek out and stop a band of pirates operating from the world. The pirate base had been detected from orbit moments after they arrived, but Shepard was now concerned: there was no radio activity at all. The small facility showed no power or life signs and there were no ships in orbit.
“Seems kind of strange Shepard.” Kaidan hadn’t yet removed his gaze from the holo display of the facility. “The place is dark and powered down, there’s no sign of anyone being here recently at all... This feels like a trap.” So pretty much we’re all gonna charge headfirst into it.
“True but as far as traps go, this one seems to be half finished. The emergency transponder that was drawing ships here has been shut down and there’s no sign of life anywhere at all on Helion. We’re literally the only living things here.”
“Still doesn’t feel right.” He mused.
As the Mako thundered along the surface of what appeared to be a frozen lake, Kaidan stared out the side window at the passing landscape. Snow covered mountains and hills slipped by in a never changing scene of winter; his eyes refocused on the small glittering snowflakes that swished by, a couple occasionally sticking in the corner of the glass before being swept away again.
“Remind you of home, LT?” Ashley asked from the back.
“Yeah, kind of.” His voice came out slightly gravelly as he continued to stare outside.
“Not falling asleep are you?” Shepard teased, giving the Mako a small jerk - not enough to rattle them but enough to make the point that his driving had gotten slightly better. Kaidan had noticed since this time, he wasn’t clinging for life to handles and armrests.
“Just thinking is all... It’s actually kind of peaceful here.” Something still doesn’t feel right about this - there has to be someone here.
“Yep.” Shepard’s eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he navigated them around a large outcropping of icy rocks. “Totally thinking of building a vacation home here. A nice big cabin right next to the lake.” Ashley snorted from the backseat and went back to calibrating the mods on her rifle.
“Count me out, Skipper. I like winter and all, but I don’t think I could handle perpetual winter. Gotta have swimsuit weather at some point.” Shepard turned to Kaidan and waggled his eyebrows at him.
“That’s an image.”
“And that’s all your gonna have.” She retorted with a snort. Kaidan could feel a light pressure building behind his eyes and worried that a migraine might be incoming. Right now? Ugh. If anything goes wrong, I’m going to be useless. Shepard seemed to notice the expression on his face and slowed the Mako a little in order to drive and spare longer looks in Kaidan’s direction.
“Yeah. Just a little headache is all.”
“Mm hm. And with you, little headaches turn into crippling pain.” Shepard retorted.
“I’ll be fine... we’re coming up on it now.” He pointed out the window toward the structure emerging from the snow, thankful for the distraction to avoid discussing the topic of headaches any further. They don’t need to baby me, I’ll be fine.
The facility appeared to have been built in a hurry since it didn’t appear to be anything fancy. Off-white metal walls and only a single door at the front was all that was visible.
“There might be more underground.” Shepard mused, seeming to read Kaidan’s train of thought. They all piled out of the Mako, Kaidan and Ashley raising their weapons and scanning the area. The air on the vacant world was breathable but the cold required sealed suits still and Ashley tapped her helmet as a visual signal to Kaidan to check his radio.
“Still nothing, sir.” She lowered her gun slightly and nodded toward Shepard. “Let’s go see why no one’s home.”
They trudged through the snow toward the door and Shepard made a small sound of discomfort as they approached.
“What’s up?” Kaidan asked.
“The insignia on the door - I recognize it.” Shepard began slowly. “During a briefing a couple of months ago with Anderson, we were warned to keep an eye out for this sort of thing when visiting remote worlds; belongs to a group called Cerberus.”
“Yeah. Some kind of pro human group - Council has them classified as terrorists. Like Terra Firma but with much more money and manpower.” The disdain had crept into Shepard’s voice. Great. Hopefully they decided it just wasn’t worth staying here anymore. Kaidan had used a small charge from his omnitool to get the door console powered and working again and was busily doing his best to unlock it. The code flashed by on the screen until it turned green and the door clicked open a couple of inches before losing power again.
“Got the mag locks open.” He said and motioned for Ashley to help him pull it open. Shepard still had his back to them with his weapon raised scanning the area for signs of movement and even after they were all inside, he still seemed uncomfortable.
The entry hall was dark and they all switched on their flashlights to sweep the room before moving to the next. Abandoned workstations and consoles lined the walls and in the center of the room, a group of medical tables were clustered together.
“Do you see it?” Ashley whispered, noticing the obvious destruction that surrounded them. Every computer console had been fried, large scorch marks dotted the walls from energy weapons fire and charred wires stuck out of some of the equipment like eerie tendrils in the dark.
“Someone trashed this place good.” Shepard said in a low growl. “Let’s see why.” They continued forward until he found what he was looking for: the facility’s generator and maintenance screens seemed to be relatively untouched. The terminal was battery powered and the haptic flickered to life as Shepard began searching for startup commands. “Everything here has been shot to shit.” He grunted as he flicked through various programs. He tapped a few keys and dim emergency lighting clicked on through the empty rooms and halls. “Got us some light and some power to the primary computers... gotta keep our suits on though - looks like the heating and main power are done for.”
Ashley simply gave him a thumbs up as she reached down to shut off her flashlight. Kaidan was going to ask what to do next when a moment of intense pain flashed through his head and he could feel the all too familiar aura of a migraine beginning. He simply stood still and breathed slowly allowing it to pass. I really should have brought some of those pills Chakwas gave me. Shit.
“Normandy to ground team.” Joker’s voice filtered through their radios, static and chop distorting his voice.
“So commander, it looks like there’s a huge storm headed your way - just spotted it from orbit. You guys find anything interesting down there?”
“Looks like this used to be some kind of lab. Cerberus.” Shepard relayed.
“Yeah. Best we can tell, they left in a hurry... there are still personal items in the bunks but all of the food and first aid equipment is gone. There’s a shuttle garage on the top level near the back but it’s gone too. The place is fucked up pretty bad but there aren’t any bodies.” That worries me the most.
“Hell. Okay Shepard just... hey we’re picking up some movement-” Joker was cut off as the radio signal was terminated with a loud squeal. Kaidan’s very brain tissue seemed to throb as the sound rattled his ear and he gritted his teeth.
“Normandy, do you copy?” Shepard asked, a slight tone of worry coloring his normally cool voice.
“We’re being jammed.” Ashley looked at her omnitool, the worry seeping into her voice as well. The sound of heavy footsteps could be heard approaching down the main hall and they all instinctively ducked for cover behind a large equipment storage crate.
Two Geth hunters entered the room, their ‘eyes’ casting a strange white light over everything as they looked around. Shepard motioned for them to hold their positions and they waited in silence as the Geth drew closer. After a moment of silence he gripped his rifle tighter and then they all three jumped up and attacked with a volley of shots. The Geth crumpled to the ground and Kaidan and Ashley lunged forward at a third Geth that had entered the room. Kaidan threw it biotically into the doorframe and Ashley emptied several shots into it’s head.
Shepard charged ahead of them into the hall and planted a glowing blue fist into the chest of the Geth. It stumbled back in surprise and with his next move, he plunged his omniblade into it, slicing it open like a tin can.
All of the noise and commotion had finally pushed Kaidan over the edge and colored lights began to swim around in his field of vision. The aching, throbbing pain had become a sharp stab and he couldn’t help but wince every time it pulsed through his skull. He would have to take his biotics offline but with enemies incoming, that wasn’t an option.
He cried out a little at the next stab of pain and Shepard turned to face him, a look of concern on his face.
“Kaidan are you okay?” Always when you’re around. Shit, I can be mushy.
Before he could answer, a Geth recon drone whizzed down the hall behind Shepard. It fired once and Kaidan could hear the audible snap when his shields failed. As Shepard whirled around to fire on it, a second shot pierced his right thigh and went straight through to the pavement. Ashley called out from the other entrance to the room where she was holding more Geth at bay.
“Shepard you okay?”
Kaidan didn’t hear the rest. He felt his anger boil over at the machine and launched a massive biotic field at it. The drone flew into a nearby wall and exploded into pieces. He could feel the heat coming from his amp and as he looked down at Shepard the world became fuzzy and dark and he could feel himself falling.
Possibly the strongest biotic field he’d ever seen a human create... it was honestly awe inspiring and beautiful. Ashley rushed to his side and he waved her away to tend to Kaidan as he pulled himself up into a sitting position against the wall. The medical VI in his suit had pumped large amounts of medigel into his system and the anesthetic was starting to work, but the shot from the drone had done serious damage to the muscles... there was no walking out of here.
“Those damn machines dead Williams?” He asked through gritted teeth.
“Yes sir, far as I can tell.” She had rolled Kaidan over onto his back and was checking his pulse. Ashley had removed his helmet and for a moment, the paleness of his face made Shepard’s heart skip a beat.
“Can you signal the Normandy?” He punched uselessly at his omnitool; whatever jamming the Geth had deployed when they first arrived was still turned on - most likely a portable unit somewhere nearby.
“No sir... and that’s not our only problem.” She held up a hand to signal for him to listen. The wind had begun to pick up outside and could be faintly heard whistling across the outside surfaces of the facility.
“Shit. Well I’m not walking here and no offense Ash, but the LT is too heavy for you to carry.” She sighed and looked down at Kaidan.
“What should I do?”
“I want you to take the Mako-” She began to protest and he held a hand up to silence her. “Take the Mako and make it past the range of the jamming. It has enough power and heat that you’ll be able to weather the storm in it if need be. Signal the Normandy to come pick you up and then bring them here. Tell Chakwas that she’ll need the tissue stitcher for my leg.”
Ashley looked conflicted but didn’t argue as she stood and moved toward the door.
“I’ll be back before you know it Skipper. I promise.” And then as she left, silence descended over the room. Moments later she returned with snow caked into the creases and plate joints of her armor.
“It’s coming down real hard.” She panted and set one of the Mako’s supply kits down next to him. “There’s some food and water just in case he wakes up.” She motioned to Kaidan and then took off again.
Shepard looked over toward where Kaidan lay on the floor. Using his arms and one good leg, he slowly scooted himself over to sit by his side. Ashley had left his helmet off and Shepard checked his vitals on his omnitool.
“Kaidan, I dunno if you can hear me, but your body temperature is dropping... it’s cold in here. Sorry if this hurts.” He gently lifted the other man’s head and slipped his helmet back on, the seals hissed as it closed and locked. Checking his omnitool again, Shepard verified the power levels of their suits... “Shit, 55%.” He groaned to no one in particular.
He flopped back onto his back and winced as his leg gently thumped against Kaidan’s.
“We’re gonna be just fine... Williams will be back with the Normandy and we’re gonna get you all patched up. Just hang on for me, okay?” The worry he was feeling had crept into his voice. The storm outside must have been raging onward now as the wind could be heard roaring over the top of the building and he tried in vain to get Ashley on the radio. Cursing at the static, he closed the channel and turned his attention back to Kaidan.
The medical VI in Kaidan’s suit was responding to commands from his omnitool and as far as the system could tell, the biotic was unconscious with no serious damage. His amp was offline and aside from some erratic alpha-wave patterns to indicate a killer migraine, he was fine.
No sooner than he had began to relax slightly, fate had another idea in store for the two of them. The battery that was supporting the lighting system had started to die and the lights were becoming dimmer and dimmer - flickering at random intervals. The temperature in the room had also begun to drop dramatically. Shepard supposed that the Geth, or Ashley in her haste, must have left an external door open.
He looked to the hallway and gauged how willing he was to drag himself toward the entry to check it out, but a deep nagging in the back of his mind ordered him to stay with Kaidan. He wakes up alone and thinks you left him? No. Just stay here and make sure he’s safe.
“I’m right here.” Shepard reassured his sleeping form as he laid an armored hand on his chest. “Not going anywhere okay?” Ignoring the lack of a response, he grabbed the supply kit that Ashley had brought in. There were several protein bars, a large jug of water as well as some basic medical supplies and a large mylar thermal blanket.
His leg had started to throb and each stinging shot of pain had grown in intensity - he almost audibly sighed when the medical VI in his suit administered a shot of medigel and the anesthetic took hold.
Williams needs to hurry the fuck up.
There’s a storm outside - she’s in as much if not more danger out there... stop being an asshole.
Kaidan I really wish you’d wake up...
Shepard began to feel himself dozing off from both the pain and the effects of the gel. Fighting to stay awake he could feel darkness closing around him as his eyes slipped shut.
Running, panting... have to get there before the rest do. Have to make sure no one sees... A flash of bright color down a long hall with legs burning from the running. Dark room, nowhere to go. Kaidan. Soft honey brown eyes. Lips on lips, clothing coming off. This isn’t right! ‘You’re not supposed to be here!’ Kaidan just smiles, a wicked look on his face. ‘Aren’t I, John?’
Shepard awoke with a start, a shrill beeping sound filling the room. His first moment of consciousness in complete disorientation before taking in his surroundings. The sound was coming from Kaidan who still lay still next to him; the light inside his helmet dark. Oh fuck, no. A quick diagnostic revealed that the support systems in his suit had run out of power and his body temperature was dropping. A quick check on his own suit revealed the same and his toes and fingers had taken on a feeling of numbness.
“K, I don’t know if you can hear me right now, but we have to figure out something.” Shepard whispered, doing his very best not to sound distressed. Be the hero. Always the goddamn hero. If you fall apart, then they have nothing to look to.
The idea struck him like a bolt of lightning. Basic training, hostile environment survival.
Moving as quickly as he could, he pulled the mylar blanket from its pouch and spread it out. Tossing it over to his side, he instructed his suit system to deliver a massive dose of medigel just before power failure. Turning toward Kaidan, he ignored the pain in his leg as he grabbed ahold of the lieutenant’s armor and began removing it. The seals hissed and a dull clatter as each piece was removed and tossed aside. This is most definitely NOT how I imagined this.
Leaving only his briefs on, Shepard paused for just a moment to look over Alenko’s near naked body before him. Now is certainly not the time. Using the blanket like a bag, he slipped it under Kaidan’s feet and pulled it up over him, struggling just a little to get it under his muscular torso. The VI in his suit delivered the remaining medigel to his wounds in one shot and he immediately felt it began to numb his leg. Next he quickly pulled off his own armor, crying out as the intense cold of the floor under him touched his flesh. Letting out grunts and groans of pain as he slid his lower half into the bag-like shape of the blanket Shepard had finally settled himself into position behind Kaidan with himself as the ‘large spoon.’
Almost immediately his body was wracked with shivers and his teeth clattered. Because all your blood’s rushing someplace else, dumbass. Rummaging in the kit one more time, he grabbed as many protein bars as he could hold in one hand and shucked the wrappers off, cramming them into his mouth and chewing busily. Gonna need some calories for this.
“Mmph.” Kaidan made a soft groan. He froze mid chew and leaned closer to Kaidan, listening to his breathing.
“Take it easy, I’m going to get us warm.” He reassured. Once he had swallowed as much of the protein as he could stomach, Shepard activated his amp, bathing the both of them in blue flames. Immediately he felt his skin growing hot, the extra energy being expended by his body producing the much needed heat. I can’t keep this up forever.
“Commander?” Kaidan mumbled groggily. Shit he’s coming to. You have your *hard* naked body next to him. There’s going to have to be a hell of a lot of explaining shortly.
“Don’t try to move K... You did something to your amp.” Kaidan stirred lightly under his touch, but instead of shying away, he moved a little closer.
“Cold. S’cold and my head hurts.” Shepard paused and then draped his arm over Kaidan’s chest, pulling him closer. The lieutenant didn’t resist but instead seemed to relax a little, his skin feeling considerably warmer. Maybe the cold would be better for me right now - there’s no way he can’t feel that...
“I switched off your amp. Just relax.” He whispered as he began to absentmindedly stroke Kaidan’s stomach, his fingers dusting a light touch over his ‘treasure trail.’ Wake up and save me from myself; the things I wanna do to you right now...
“Warmer. Feels better.” Kaidan managed to grit out... he was obviously in pain, but it was steadily lessening; with his amp shut off, the headache would soon abate. “Something's poking me.” Shepard just let out a nervous chuckle.
“Sorry ‘bout that. Just focus on trying to rest.” He distracted himself by engulfing them in another biotic field, this one a little more intense and soon they were snuggled together warm as he dozed off from the large amounts of medigel in his system.
Chapter 5: Helion Pt. 2
Helion, Pt. 2
When Kaidan awoke, his head was throbbing but nowhere near the pain of the migraines he normally experienced. He lay for a few moments, feeling the warmth of the person next to him before his eyes snapped open when the events of the day came flooding back to memory.
It’s him. Pretty much naked and cuddled up next to me. And that thing pressed into my back? He gets this hard just sleeping? Wow Shepard, what are you? 15? Damn he’s huge...
“Shepard.” Kaidan managed to groan out as he gently nudged the snoozing commander with his shoulder. “You’re cold.” No response as Shepard continued to slumber - the sheer amount of medigel had put him in a deep drug-addled sleep. Kaidan slowly turned over to face him and in the dark he placed a hand on the chiseled chest in front of him. “Thanks for keeping me warm. I don’t know if you realize... But...” The words just didn’t seem to want to come. He slowly ran his fingers down to the commander’s stomach, pausing just at the waistband to his briefs where he could feel warm want just beneath the fabric.
Kaidan gulped deeply. It wouldn’t be right to take advantage - no matter how badly he wanted to just slip his hand inside and feel what it was like. He curled his fingers around the waistband, feeling the warmth of Shepard’s skin and slowly tugged them down an inch or so. Just as he was about to steel himself and reach down, a bright light filled the room.
“Glad to see you both found a way to pass the time.” Garrus’ mandibles twitched with amusement. “It looks like we interrupted a tender moment.” Kaidan almost looked guilty as he jerked his hand away and Shepard grumbled, still nowhere near awake.
“I just woke up a little bit ago... I think this was his idea - the power on our suits must have run out... believe me, I’m a little surprised here too.” Yeah, ignore the part where you tried to grab an unconscious man’s bits.
“Please tell me you’re both at least wearing some sort of clothing.” Wrex’s voice was a deep grumble from behind Garrus and he cracked a handful of glow sticks bathing the room in an eerie neon blue. “Humans are so squishy and soft... It’s gross to see you without your shells on.” Ashley gave a derisive snort as she entered the room followed by Chakwas. They loaded Kaidan and Shepard into med pods as she clucked disapprovingly like a mother hen.
“Honestly... that much medigel... he’s so high right now he probably feels better than all of us...” As they were carried out in the pods, Kaidan could see the silhouette of the Normandy hovering above a flat area just adjacent to the building. The entire building had been practically buried under fresh snow and the skies above still heavy with dark clouds.
Normandy’s med bay was quiet when Kaidan awoke again. His amp was online again as well and the pain in his head had all but disappeared. Shepard lay on the bed next to his, a thin white bandage covered his leg which had almost completely healed thanks to the skills of Dr Chakwas. He was fast asleep and the holo screen above him showed all his stats to be in the normal range.
Kaidan pressed the call button on the side of his bed and a moment later, Chakwas emerged from her office.
“Glad to see you’re up Kaidan. You over exerted yourself with the biotics... that combined with a headache already in progress caused your amp to overload. Please try to be more careful won’t you?”
“I will.” He gave her a small smile.
“Just like how Joker always takes his medicine without me making him.” She responded, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Also, I need you make sure that Shepard doesn’t kill himself either. He had pumped himself so full of medigel... I imagine it was so that he could make sure you were taken care of without feeling his leg.” He hasn’t ‘taken care’ of me yet.
“I promise; from now on if I feel a headache coming on, I’ll say something or stay on the ship.” He cast a sympathetic glance in the commander’s direction. Never again will I be the reason he gets hurt.
“With men like Shepard,” She looked in his direction wistfully. “They often care more about the people around them than themselves. He would just as soon starve and bleed to death before a single one of us had to suffer any discomfort. It’s both noble and foolish.” And It makes me feel so very special.
“Because he’s just a man.” She sighed lightly. “No matter what he accomplishes, no matter the awards or titles, at the end of the day he’s still human like the rest of us. Sometimes, I think even he forgets that. Rushes into battle and charges headfirst into danger to protect the people he cares about; and in the process forgets that he himself isn’t indestructible.” Shepard knows he isn’t a god... he just needs reminding sometimes.
“I noticed.” Kaidan absentmindedly bit his lower lip with worry. “A few days ago I asked him how well he had been sleeping and he laughed it off like a joke. I asked if he would try to get some extra shut eye... for me. Once it was a personal favor, he was happy to do it.” I would do anything he asked of me... anything.
“Lieutenant, I don’t know if you’ve noticed... but that only works for you. I can badger him all I want to eat and sleep better and he laughs it off like I’m a nagging old biddy. You ask him to do it and it becomes his primary mission.” She scanned Kaidan’s eyes for some indication as to what he was feeling. “It’s a good thing to have such friends.” You have no idea lady.
“We’re all in this together.” He mused.
Chakwas smiled warmly and tapped a few commands into the screen next to his bed. “Well everything shows normal here... you’re free to go when you’re ready.”
“No battery of horribly invasive tests?” He teased.
“Sadly no. I have other things I have to attend to... other patients to nag.” The joking tone in her voice made him smile and he glanced over at Shepard. “He’s in good hands.” She reassured, seeming to read his mind. “I’ll send you a message when he wakes up.”
“So tell me... how does one man unconscious and one with a busted leg end up near naked and snuggled together?” Ashley teased him. “I mean that’s not really what I expected to find when I came back with the crew.” The huge grin on her face made Kaidan make a face back at her.
“My body temperature got too low and Shepard did what he thought was best.” That’s a terrible answer. Really?
“Uh huh.” She turned her attention back to organizing her locker. Kaidan had come down to the bay to thank Garrus and Wrex for their rescue on Helion, but it appeared that they had gone up to the mess... Ashley was alone by herself rummaging through her locker when he’d approached. “And you’re really gonna try and convince me you didn’t like it?”
“Well...” She scoffed at the little grin he wore.
“I want details. Joker wanted pictures, said it was for the commander’s ‘Scrapbook of Fuzzy Memories of Near Death’ collection. I mean c’mon Kaidan, tell me you at least got a grope in.”
“I was out cold!” He cried out in protest. “Not much is gonna happen in that situation.”
“Guess not.” She let out a disappointed sigh. “When he woke up, Garrus tried teasing him... said something about ‘getting too close’ with his crew. Shepard just gave him a big cheesy smile and asked if Garrus wanted a hug and a kiss. Vakarian still doesn’t really understand sarcasm.”
“Sounds about right.” Kaidan giggled. “When he does choose to let it out, Shepard has an odd sense of humor.” His eyes followed as Ashley pulled a wad of empty protein wrappers from her locker and dropped them into a bin at her feet. “So what’s next I wonder? Almost freezing was fun, but I think now I’m up for something a little more tropical.”
“You and me both. I need a planet with a nice big beach and palm trees.” She huffed as the remaining refuse from her locker fell into the bin and she slowly began placing her armor back - delicately and with care. Kaidan was about to suggest they go and join Adams in a quick game of Skillian Five when his omnitool chirped loudly.
I’m up and about and alive - just want to debrief real quick on the mission when you get a chance.
I’ll be in my room.
“Ash, I gotta go... catch you later?” She waved him off non-verbally and continued organizing her things.
It still felt very weird for him to be in Shepard’s room - he’d seen it before but it still was foreign and strange; a part of the ship that he didn’t know as well as the rest and not as well as he would have liked. The man himself sat at his desk, tapping away at his terminal and looking thoroughly bored.
“Hey.” A small grin set his face alight as Kaidan came in and sat down in the chair nearest him at the table.
“How’s the leg?”
“Sore - most of the damage was tissue related... not too hard to fix, but Doc says I’ll be a little tender for a few days until the swelling goes away.” Believe me, I noticed plenty of swelling while we were laying there.
“You really had me worried for a minute there, ya know?” Kaidan sounded more worried than he intended to and quickly looked away to avoid the piercing gaze directed at him. Every time Shepard looked at him with those eyes, it felt like he could see into his very soul.
“I’ve had worse before, but I get it and.... thanks. I guess I don’t stop very often to think about how much people on this ship actually care about me.” I do, trust me I do.
“We know you’re the best... Everyone here has complete faith in you.” Kaidan licked his lips and chose his next words slowly. “But, Shepard... who do you have to turn to when you need it? Who do you look to when there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer?”
“Are you asking me if I feel lonely, K?” The nickname didn’t even faze Kaidan as he continued to nervously stare at his hands.
“No, not that... just - trust the people around you... so many of us want to help, so many are so eager to serve... You don’t have to do it alone. Just know that when we’re down there and the shit’s getting crazy that I have your back.” His eyes pleaded as he looked up to see Shepard looking at him with a mixture of confusion and sympathy.
“So no more charging into battle, punching certain death in the face?” He asked. Kaidan simply laughed dryly and picked at a nick in the edge of the table with his finger.
“I think what I’m getting at is more the idea that if anything were to happen to you - I... the crew... it would be devastating.” A moment of silence followed where the only sound that could be heard was the humming of the ship’s engines.
“Noted.” Shepard finally answered, a thoughtful smile on his face. “So I just wanted to chat to make sure that you’re okay after Helion.” Kaidan nodded enthusiastically.
“Yeah, I’m good... I promised the Doc that I would start regularly carrying some pills with me so that I can head off the headaches before -” Shepard help up a hand to cut him off.
“Not that. I know you know your limits. I want to make sure that we’re good after Helion. I know that some guys would be completely uneasy with the idea that their CO stripped ‘em and climbed into a bag with ‘em just in skivvies.” It's been the highlight of my year so far. Very pretty naked man pressed up against me and hard. I won't be forgetting it anytime soon.
Kaidan looked up again to those same blue eyes and saw that they were twinkling at him, a teasing grin plastered on the commander’s lips.
“You did what you needed to... and thank you.” That’s it! You did what you needed to? For fuck’s sake Alenko this is why you’re single!! For a split second Kaidan was sure he had seen disappointment cross Shepard’s face but the commander was anything if not smooth and he recovered quickly.
“Anytime LT.” He turned back to the terminal and continued with his reports. Fucking great, Kaidan. You hurt his feelings. And your chances. Kaidan stayed silent and let himself out of the room.
The next several days passed without much excitement. They had made several small stops on their way back to the Citadel; mostly out of the way planets that the Alliance fleet couldn’t reach or were out of the range of their effective authority.
Shepard and Kaidan had only spoken in debriefings and even then, the flirting seemed to have ceased for the time being and their interactions had become mostly professional. Shepard had been spending a majority of his time with either Garrus or Liara and Kaidan suddenly felt as though he maybe should have been a little more honest when they spoke in the XO’s quarters.
He was probably trying to see how receptive I was and I fuckin’ blew it.
One of the only times Kaidan had really opened up to Shepard had been during a recent conversation after they had found that Cerberus had been experimenting with Rachni (likely from Noveria) and Thresher Maws - using unsuspecting passerby as tools in their experiments. His disgust for the group had finally boiled over when the Normandy had come upon the PSV Nostromo. The ship was drifting derelict in the void of space; the logs indicated that it had made contact with a Cerberus vessel and shortly after, the bugs had killed everyone on board.
“A passenger ship.” Kaidan fumed, the words tumbling from his mouth like venom. “It’s just fuckin’ sick!” Shepard had sat there stoically, reading the expression on Kaidan’s face, committing it to memory. It was a thing that he noticed the commander often did with people: learn how they think, feel, operate.
The mission on Feros had been equally as taxing - a human corporation using innocent colonists as lab rats. He was likely never going to forget the Thorian... or Shiala and even though Wrex had done his best to play it off like it was nothing at all.
“Please... it was big but it wasn’t that big!” The Krogan roared loudly as he guffawed and slapped the back of a crewman at the table. “There are maws on Tuchanka that shit bigger than that thing!” It was nice to see him coming up from the cargo bay once in a while to socialize and it seemed that he was getting more comfortable being around the ‘squishy humans’ as he so enjoyed calling the crew.
Between the Rachni, the Maws, and the rumors of even more brutal Cerberus experiments, Kaidan was beginning to develop a deep loathing hatred for them and all they did. Shepard would always remain quiet whenever he vented about something they had seen or discovered; interjecting when necessary and studying Kaidan’s face for clues and tells.
When the Normandy had finally docked at the Citadel, Kaidan was ready for a break. Tali had sent him a message asking to meet up for a bit and he couldn’t find an excuse to pass it up and keep to himself so he’d agreed to a place and time.
The purple patterned cloth of her exo-suit stood out against the crowds of people passing by the shop where she’d asked to meet him.
“Kaidan, this place is enormous!” The giddy excitement in her voice making him smile. “A thousand of my people could live here and never see each other!”
“Millions of people live here and there are still areas that aren’t really populated at all.” Kaidan said, laughing a little when the glowing slits of her eyes widened behind her mask. “We could spend months trying to see it all and still only cover a fraction of it.”
They walked together, stopping to look in the window of a store or comment on holo advertisements for new vids before stopping near a grassy park to sit on a bench. Tali took a long sweeping look around the Presidium before her gaze laid to rest on Kaidan.
“So what I really wanted to talk to you about was Shepard.” She said, a tone of uncertainty coloring her words. “I feel like even though I talk to him, you know him better so you’d be the person to ask.” Kaidan simply raised an eyebrow.
“I tried asking Liara but she wasn’t a lot of help...” She wrung her fingers nervously, the act making her look slightly comical since she had less digits than a human. “The commander has always been very kind to me and always stops to talk with me... I think I like him.”
“Well we all do, he’s a pretty great guy.” Kaidan supplied, not catching her meaning.
“No, I mean like.” The emphasis on the last word caused Kaidan to become slightly surprised.
“Oh you do?” Don’t make it sound like that.
“Well yes... but...” She drew in a breath and steadied herself before continuing. “I’ve also heard rumors on the ship - nothing like ships on the flotilla... people enjoy drama since it’s a diversion from everyday life. On the Normandy its just talk so...” Her fidgeting was beginning to make Kaidan feel nervous so he reached out and took one of her hands in his.
“You can talk to me, what’s up.”
“Ugh... I hate feeling so out of sorts. Okay, there’s a rumor on the ship that you two might have a thing and I don’t want to get in the middle of anything so...” She turned to look back up at him, if a mask could convey an expression, hers was hopeful. I’m gonna lodge a boot so far up Ashley’s ass...
“I.. um... wow.” Kaidan stuttered, trying to think of a reply. “Shepard and I are close friends, but there’s no romantic...” Believe me sister, I’d be all over that if I thought he wanted it.
“Kaidan, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. From what I was able to find on the extranet, humans no longer place a taboo on same gender relationships like they used to and I was hoping that maybe if there was something going on...” He simply continued to stare at her, bewildered. “I knew I shouldn’t have asked Liara!” She said sounding frustrated.
“Why is that?” He inquired.
“She said that she didn’t know what to tell me since, you know, Asari with the one gender and all...”
“Do you guys really think I’m into men?” He finally blurted out. “What about me gives that impression?” I don’t think anything about me screams ‘GAY’...
“No, not that you look a part or anything...” She was now desperately trying to backpedal. “I read that sometimes human men can take offense to the question and I wasn’t trying to make you upset, I...”
“Tali, it’s okay.” He sighed and started to laugh at the ridiculousness of what had just happened. “I think maybe you read too much online and too literally, for that matter. No, Shepard and I aren’t together romantically. No, I don’t know what his preference is. No, I don’t want to talk about it any further.” She stayed silent for a moment after, her glowing eyes blinking as she thought of what to say next.
“Thank you Kaidan, I knew I could ask you. Do you want to go get some food now? I’ll buy.” She motioned toward a kiosk advertising noodle bowls.
“Do they even have food you can eat there?”
“Not the point.” She answered simply. “I feel like an ass and I owe you that much at least.” He declined her offer of a meal and instead they sat there talking for what seemed like hours. It wasn’t until the Presidium’s digital ceiling began to turn sunset orange, red and purple that they got up and headed back to Normandy for the night cycle.
If everyone on the crew can see it, why can’t Shepard? What if he does and just doesn’t want me? What the actual fuck am I supposed to do?
Chapter 6: Things Left Unsaid
Things Left Unsaid
Councillor Sparatus. Donnell Udina. These were people that Shepard felt that he could actually, thoroughly hate. He had gone to present their findings from Feros, the Prothean cipher and the resulting information Liara had gleaned from her probe of his mind. The last time, the Council had been dismissive and basically patted them on their heads and sent them on their way. This time, Udina had helped them in their fucking of the Normandy and it’s crew and grounded the ship.
Shepard and hissed and cursed the whole way down in the elevator while Garrus and Liara remained silent. Their whole trip back to Normandy was spent in silence - no one person wanting to invoke the wrath of an angry commander, and when he finally boarded the ship, he’d locked himself in his quarters: ignoring the many protests from Joker. Angry would be an understatement.
When he’d finally emerged for a snack he realized that he hadn’t seen Kaidan since breakfast that morning and when he’d checked with Ashley, she’d told him that the man had gone to the Presidium for some free time. It’s probably for the better... he’s been working so hard lately. Grabbing a drink and a few more protein bars, he retreated back to his room.
Settling down onto the bed, he gently grabbed the book he had been reading from the nightstand next to him. It was one of the things that Shepard enjoyed the most; good books were the kind that made the world around him dissolve, the words and actions playing out in his head like a vid. It was something that he had picked up years ago to help him relax and he had amassed a rather impressive collection with almost 15 volumes. Most were from the 20th and 21st and had actually become quite valuable in the current age of digital everything.
“So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Sighing, he set the book back down and instead stared at the ceiling of his cabin. Time. There never seems to be enough. All that time that he had spent in his youth - wasted in his opinion - searching for what would give him meaning, give him happiness... And now, seemingly too busy with duty or honor or both to reach out and grab what would truly bring him that peace. Ironic.
The door chime startled him from his thoughts and he pulled himself out of bed with a groan. “Coming.” Straightening his uniform, he opened the door to find Kaidan standing outside, his face dark with concern.
“Hey commander, got a minute? I know it’s late... I can come by la-” The smile on Shepard’s face stopped him mid sentence. I will never not have time for you.
“I don’t think I can sleep anyway.” He sighed as he let Kaidan in and then flopping onto his bed with a thick sounding thud. “Too much to think about.”
“Alright - we have no support from the Council, I have Prothean memories rattling around in my mind, we know where to chase that bastard Saren to, but the Normandy’s been locked down.” It all came out in one breath. And I still don’t know if you prefer the company of men and whether or not I’m wasting my time.
“That’s a beast to slay.” Kaidan mused as he rubbed his forehead as he sat down at the foot of the bed. “Don’t mind, do you?” He looked over his shoulder at Shepard and winked. I just wish I could hold you next to me....
“They’re being short sighted.” He sighed. “Only looking at the political angle of this - war with the Terminus systems should be the least of their worries.”
“So what’s the plan?”
“I need to talk to Anderson. He’s trying to appeal to the Alliance since it’s still technically their ship, but with Udina involved, it isn’t likely that they’re gonna help."
Kaidan flopped backward onto the bed as well and let out a slow breath as Shepard gave a downward glance at the curly black head of hair near his hip.
“Gettin’ comfortable, LT?” The tone was teasing and Kaidan stirred lightly.
“Just tired ‘sall...” Came the grumbled reply. You can sleep here, if you want.
“Long day tomorrow.... gotta try to talk some kind of sense into the Council.” Shepard’s thoughtful tone made Kaidan prop himself up on a shoulder and look up at him.
“Commander are you alright?” He laughs and there’s a bitter edge to it.
“Not really, no.” His voice is dripping with a sort of amusement. “There’s Anderson, but they were pretty clear that official channels were closed; so appeal is pretty much dead in the water.”
Kaidan pauses for a moment and then suddenly, the anger takes hold. This man, the hero that he had come to adore was feeling defeated and for him, that couldn’t stand. His arms flailed expressively in front of him.
“And we’re just supposed to accept that? So where do ya think the best view is gonna be when the Reapers roll through? I mean, we might as well get good seats.”
Shepard is intrigued for a moment; Kaidan was usually the voice of calm, but to see a sudden flash of anger in him was always different... almost sexy.
“We’re out of the game for now. I need you to be there while I figure things out.” Kaidan lets out a breath and gently rubs one of his temples with a free hand... slowly regaining control over his emotions.
“Of course. You can count on me or any of the crew... you know that.” I need more than the ‘good soldier’ routine.
Shepard frowns slightly. “Kaidan, I can get a salute from anyone on this ship... can’t you just pull out a ‘it’ll be alright’ just once?” The pained expression on the Lieutenant’s face softened.
“Ha! It’s that easy is it? Ok then. Everything’ll be fine Shepard. You’ll figure it out.” Shepard stared up into those whiskey eyes, his own twinkling.
“Ya know, there is a bright side to all of this... gives us more time to hang out together.” Kaidan hadn’t broken eye contact the whole time he spoke and the hushed tone of his voice made Shepard’s chest flutter. ‘Hang out,’ huh?
Kaidan extended a hand to him and he grasped it, feeling the soft skin on one side and the rough calluses on the other. He pushed himself up off the bed just as Kaidan was pulling and the sudden and unexpected force caused him to lurch upwards too quickly. Shepard overbalanced and almost fell forward, Kaidan catching him with an arm around his waist.
They both freeze still, even heartbeats seem frozen in time. Their faces are so close together that Kaidan can feel the other man’s breath on his; soft and warm. Almost on instinct, he closed his eyes and turned his head. Please just fucking kiss me! Let’s end the wondering now...
“Commander, got a message for you from Anderson.” Joker’s voice shattered the quiet in the room and the two of them almost instantly sprang apart, Kaidan’s face flushing a bright red.
“I’ll take it here Joker.” Shepard cleared his throat and straightened his uniform, avoiding looking directly at Kaidan.
“So that sounds important.” The biotic stumbled over his words. “I’m gonna leave you to it.” He turned to leave the room and clumsily kicked his foot against a chair on his way out. Shepard sat down at his desk chair, turned on the terminal and then paused. He let out a long slow breath and rubbed his eyes with his palms. The excitement of the moment still hadn’t left him, the sting of adrenaline now fading from his blood.
I wish I could read minds... Is this all in my head or is he just fucking with me? What the hell...
Kaidan stood just outside the door for what felt like forever. His face still burning with an unbidden feeling of embarrassment. That seriously almost happened. What he has to be thinking about me right now...
He stalked over toward the mess and slumped down into one of the bench seats, the cold metal feeling harsh compared to the softness of the commander’s bed. Flicking open his omnitool, Kaidan began to write.
I know I haven’t written in a while and I’m sorry for that... there’s been a lot going on.
We’re on a wild goose chase to hunt down a rogue Spectre bent on resurrecting evil aliens that want to exterminate advanced life in the galaxy.
On top of it all, I fell in love with my commanding officer. Another man. I know... the chain of command and all that, but its happened and there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing I can do about it.
The worst part is, I don’t know if he even knows or feels the same way... Guess I’m thankful... he's still a friend and I want to keep that.
I kind of figured that you guys always knew, but if not; there it is.
I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do and its gonna eat me alive.
He sighed and read the message over, realizing that he had written a journal entry more than a letter. The words on the screen glared back at him, some deep voice in the back of his head taunting him to send it. Not yet. He deleted the message and closed his omnitool, a tired sigh escaping his lips. He wasn’t ready yet. At least as far as coming out to his parents.
Kaidan needed someone to talk to that wasn’t Shepard.
The med bay was quiet and dark and he paused outside of Liara’s door, steeling himself before ringing the chime. She greeted him with the same polite smile she always wore and motioned for him to come inside.
“Kaidan... how can I help?” His mind bubbled over like a cauldron of worries and rantings and he drew in a deep breath to steady himself.
“I just need to talk... you have to promise me that nothing leaves this room. Ever.” She nodded gently, a look of genuine concern storming her eyes.
He sat slowly in a nearby chair and hunched forward, his elbows on his knees.
“It’s about Shepard.”
Chapter 7: Virmire
Thank you to everyone who has liked, commented, and otherwise helped me continue this story. I'm enjoying putting it together and I hope you're enjoying reading it! :)
The last 48 hours had left him in a daze. Though the Council was definitely not happy with them absconding with the Normandy, they had still made good on their promise to help in some small capacity and passed along intel about a world where STG had apparently encountered Saren.
A name that would forever stick in Kaidan’s mind. Like a scar that ached and never properly healed.
They had fought Geth and Krogan... the world itself was in a way like an efficient predator; beautiful to look at with white sand beaches and palm trees, but hiding a deadly secret. Saren had been breeding an army of cloned Krogan.
The crew had gathered in the comm room to debrief after the mission. Everyone was silent and Shepard himself sat next to Kaidan - unable to look directly at him, but doing his best to keep up the ‘Commander’ persona.
Kaidan felt sick. His head pounded and his heart was heavy... every moment that passed he felt like he both wanted to scream and rage and curl up in a ball at the same time. Grief like that was such a strange creature. The desire to act and act out but feeling so heavy and worn down that even the smallest of movements took more energy than they were worth.
In order to destroy the cloned Krogan, the team had helped the Salarian STG agents plant a makeshift nuclear bomb in the middle of the facility. Ashley had gone to help hold off the Geth while Shepard and Kaidan stormed Saren’s offices.
“No one is to blame except for that bastard Saren.” Garrus’ voice was steady and calculated. “Ashley knew what had to be done.” The mere mention of her name made a lump form in his throat.
Ashley Williams. Killed in action in a nuclear firestorm on Virmire.
“Why me?” His voice wavered as he held his hands up helplessly in front of him. “Why her?” Shepard seemed to grow even more stoic as he turned to face Kaidan, blue eyes aflame.
“I could never leave you behind. You know that.” Why me? Tell me!
“Ashley died because of me... because...” Of us.
“Saren’s the one to blame.” Shepard countered, his expression unchanged and emotionless. He was in full Commander mode - the rock to which all the others would cling. Kaidan knew it was bullshit. Inside he had to be screaming... an ocean of rage.
“Yes commander.” Kaidan’s voice failed him and for the remainder of the debriefing he sat silent. The Normandy had been ordered through the nearest relay to Ilos, the total trip taking about 2 days with FTL between relays. When the meeting ended, he got up almost robotically and headed toward the elevator. Crewmen in the CIC went about their work, a few saluting as he walked by and he responded, keeping his expression neutral and his head held high.
When he’d finally reached the lockers, he stood in front of Ashley’s and simply stared, running his fingers over the cold metal as though trying to gain some form of feeling - he felt numb to the world. Opening it with a gingerly touch, his lip quivered as the familiar smell of Ashley’s perfume ghosted by his nose. She’d bought it on the Citadel saying it ‘was one of the only girly things she liked’. So much about her was strong willed.
Near the back, a small package wrapped in plain white paper bore his name. He unwrapped it slowly, warm tears beginning to gather in the corners of his eyes and he couldn’t take anymore. She had bought a bottle of Canadian whiskey somewhere they had stopped and had obviously intended on gifting it to him at some point.
Slumping down next to the lockers, Kaidan cracked the seal on the bottle and took a deep draw, feeling the warmth spread down through his chest and stomach. His face blank and emotionless save for the tears that fell from his cheeks. They had grown so close in her time on the ship and Kaidan had truly counted her among his closest friends. The more whiskey he gulped, the fewer tears he shed and soon, he’d almost finished the bottle.
“I haven’t seem him since our meeting.” Tali’s voice was even, but worried. “I’m sure he’s fine though.” Shepard huffed a sigh and ran a hand through his buzzcut.
“They were pretty close... I feel like he blames me for what happened.”
“Kaidan’s a solider... he knows that sometimes a call like that has to be made.” Her intention was to reassure but Shepard felt far from it. The bridge was silent, Normandy running on auto as stars and nebulae blue-shifted past them out the window. Ilos was hours away and Shepard was more concerned with the state of his crew. There would be time to beat himself up later; for now, there were people that needed him. Kaidan probably the most of all.
“I’ll feel better once I find him and we have a chance to talk.” He grumbled and rested a hand on Tali’s for a moment before stepping away. “Thank you though.” She nodded silently and returned to her work at a nearby terminal.
I just hope he doesn’t completely hate me. The empty corridors made his thoughts echo through his head as though he’d spoken aloud. What the hell was I supposed to do? Yeah, it was selfish... Regret? I can’t even begin to think about that right now.
After a jaunt through most of the Normandy, Shepard decided it might be better to give Kaidan some time alone and returned to his quarters. When he entered, though, it was like the universe was determined that they needed to talk; Kaidan was waiting for him, slumped into one of his chairs.
He’d been drinking. Alot.
“Hey Shepard.” The scent of whiskey was heavy around him and his half-lidded eyes scanned the room before settling on the commander. “Just wanted to come by and let you know I’m all good...” Stifling a hiccup, he waved a hand airily. “The meeting was just intense... adrenaline, you know?” Shepard nodded and sat down directly across from him, sliding the chair with his foot so that they were face to face.
“Kaidan I want you to know that I’m sorry. There wasn’t any other way - I...” The biotic held a finger up to Shepard’s lips to shush him, almost missing his mark and cracked a wicked grin.
“No, no, I get it.” Slurred words tumbling from his soft lips. “This shit happens...we all know our number can come up at any time.” And I was the one that drew.
“I didn’t do it lightly.”
“I don’t want you to regret being the one I chose... Survivor’s guilt can be just as bad.”
So, what? It’s all good and we move on? I don’t think so.
“Kaidan... I...” Another sloppy ‘shh’ and Shepard fell silent, staring at the drunken man before him who now wore a silly smile.
“It’s okay... I get it. For some reason or the other you chose me. I’ll be fine, promise.” His words were high and light, and obviously soaked in whiskey. Shepard closed his eyes and shook his head gently in quiet frustration. You really don’t know why I chose you?
Kaidan giggled and began to slump forward, Shepard caught him by the shoulders and guided him back into his seat. Behind the whiskey he could smell the soft scent of the soap that Kaidan liked to use and his muscles felt warm and taught under his uniform. You really don’t know how perfect you are...
“Alright, you need sleep.” He stood and placed a hand under each arm, pulling the giggling drunken biotic up from his seat. Kaidan was able to support most of his own weight as Shepard hauled him toward the bed, but right before he was able to push him onto it, his face grew still and serious.
“Shepard...” He practically whispered, the sound of it causing a warm flush through the commander’s body. “I want to stay here tonight... I can’t be alone.”
“I know.” He replied, motioning with his eyes to the bed. I can’t have the rest of the crew seeing you like this.
“Oh.” It sounded surprised and a wry grin played at the corners of his mouth, honey brown eyes wrinkling slightly. Shepard let out a nervous chuckle as he began to once again try to maneuver the man’s weight to place him in bed. Instead Kaidan slumped forward with his head against Shepard’s chest and let out a long exhale.
“Ready to lie down?” The commander asked, staring up at the ceiling as though he were going to began to pray for help.
“Not yet.” Almost a whisper. Kaidan straightened up again and locked eyes with Shepard, inches from his face. Holy fuck...
His eyes were now deadly serious, a darkness within as he closed them and in one swift motion, pushed his head forward and locked his lips with Shepard’s.
No resistance, no sudden shove away, just complete surprise as a whiskey flavored tongue and lips explored his own. Shepard slowly closed his eyes, savoring the moment as he drew the other man closer and wrapped his arms around him. The pace quickened as Kaidan used a free hand and pulled Shepard’s shirt free, his fingers ghosting over his abdomen and adonis’ belt. The only sound being their labored breathing and Shepard's heart pounding in his ears.
“Kaidan... you...” He managed to gasp out. For the love of everything, don’t stop.
“I need someone right now.” Came the drunken mumble. Ah. I see.
Shepard stepped away, gently breaking contact and Kaidan swayed slightly as his legs tried their best to maintain balance. He shook his head gently at the biotic who was grinning widely and wiping his mouth.
“You’re drunk. It’s not right.” But oh do I want it.
“Ha!” His inebriated giggle high and light. “So much about today isn’t right.” His expression turned serious again as he turned and flopped face first onto the commander’s bed, laying there like that until Shepard helped him flip over.
They talked for a while until he started to feel groggy, sleep taking him. Talked about English Bay, his parents, Ilos... Shepard never argued whenever Kaidan would ask him to join him in bed, but instead would change the subject or distract with a new topic until finally; gentle snores were all that could be heard.
I need a shower. In ice water.
He’d known many men in his life that once given enough liquor, looked for ‘friendship’ anywhere they could find it. Secretly, though, he hoped that maybe that wasn’t the case in this situation. Either way, tomorrow was going to be a difficult day - hopefully not awkward on top of it all.
He sat down in a nearby chair and soon, was fast asleep as well.
Kaidan stirred gently, rolling from one side to the other before his eyes snapped open. The very first thing he noticed was an overwhelming sense of thirst. I drank way too damn much. His first moments awake were peaceful... and then the previous night came flooding back to memory and hit him like a brick wall.
Slowly he propped himself up on his elbows and met eyes with Shepard who was casually leaning against his desk. So... this is how my career ends.
“How’re you feeling?” The commander asked with just a hint of teasing in his voice. His posture was relaxed; the exact opposite of what Kaidan had expected.
“Thirsty and a little hungry.” Shepard simply cocked an eyebrow and said nothing. “Biotics. Don’t really get hangovers since it all burns off so quick. Can’t really stay drunk either.”
“Hm.” Shepard pursed his lips with a thoughtful expression and produced a bottle of water from the desk behind him. Kaidan accepted it with silent thanks and cracked it open, draining most of it in one long swallow.
“Look Shepard... Commander... I’m sorry if-”
“No need to be sorry.” Shepard waved his hands in front of him dismissing the hasty apology. “You aren’t the first person in human history to dry and drown his problems.” He ended the sentence with a weak smile. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re good.” Those last words hung in the air. So... what? We aren’t gonna talk about it?
“I just feel like I behaved really badly.” Kaidan was now staring intently at his toes, unable to face the man for fear of letting his true feelings show. The statement itself was an invitation to talk - a chance to discuss what happened between them, but Shepard either didn’t notice or was too clever to take the bait.
“Really Kaidan, it’s alright.” His tone was reassuring, but Kaidan couldn’t help but feel that it was far from the truth.
“Shepard, you mean a lot to me.” Inhaling and exhaling deeply, he continued. “You’ve been there for me through all of this and hell, even saved my life a few times. I really wanna... I want you to know that no matter what, I’ve got your back.” And more or less if you’d just be honest with me... or yourself. The memory flashed through his mind: hot skin, grunted breaths as they pressed together...
“Wouldn’t want to be here with anyone else.” He cracked a toothy grin at Kaidan which made him smile back out of reflex. The comm crackled and his stomach lurched slightly as the Normandy dropped from FTL.
“We’re about five minutes out from Ilos, Commander.” Joker sounded like he hadn’t slept very much as well. Shepard sighed and turned to leave the room and Kaidan felt the need to tell him the truth - everything for that matter, rush up inside of him like a wave.
“Shepard be careful... if anything happens to you....” The words failed him and he felt himself stammer. JUST TELL HIM.
“Thank you Kaidan. I will.” The same smile still but his eyes now conveyed a warmth and happiness to them that most had rarely seen on the commander’s face. “And I know I’ll be okay because you’re coming with me. Suit up.”
“Who votes we take the Mako into the creepy underground bunker?” Kaidan asked of no one in particular. The high oxygen of Ilos’ atmosphere was making him fell unusually energetic and after the skirmish they’d just had with the Geth, ready for more.
Ilos was nothing like he’d imagined it: crumbling towers and buildings surrounded them - all long empty and overgrown by the planet’s strange bio luminescent plant life. Wildfires had ravaged most of the other areas of the world and the heavy scent of smoke hung in the air, the sky turned a dim orange-red from the soot in the air.
Liara had paused on their way back to the Mako, running her hands along the sides of large stone monoliths and snapping photos with her omnitool. ‘Just fascinating’ she would murmur every now and then.
As the Mako trundled into the bunker, the entire feel of the area changed entirely. In here, it was dark and damp with the roots of the tall vines and trees outside penetrating through cracks in the walls and hanging down like ghostly arms.
“What are those pods on the walls?” He asked, looking to Liara for insight. She squinted out of her window before her face lit up with excitement.
“Those look like stasis pods! Imagine... the Protheans must have tried to hide here from the Reapers... frozen! I can’t even begin to wonder what kind of secrets this place must hold, the things we could learn!” Her academic joy bubbled over and Kaidan had to suppress a laugh.
“Remember why we’re here. Saren, the Geth?” He chided.
“You’re right.” She deflated slightly. “I just got caught up in the moment.” Shepard had remained quiet, his focus on driving around the larger roots and branches that lay in the path of the vehicle.
If we don’t make it, this is going to be Vancouver someday. The thought sent an unbidden chill up his spine and he did his best to shake it away. Whole cities of Earth, abandoned and crumbling.
They had encountered very little Geth inside the tunnel thus far; the ones that did block their path Kaidan had quickly dispatched with the rail gun. The last two he’d fired on had actually burst into flame before Shepard had run them over with the Mako. It shouldn’t have been satisfying, but damn if it was.
Before long, the Mako screeched to halt in front of a giant barrier curtain that had appeared directly in their path. It stretched from floor to ceiling and as they hopped out of the vehicle, he immediately noticed that the air was much colder down here... it smelled of damp and rot like you might find in a forest as opposed to an underground bunker.
“It’s a trap! This is Saren’s doing!” He called out sounding far more worried than he intended to. Shepard said nothing and began searching for a control panel or some way around. The energy required to create and maintain such a barrier had to be incredible and Kaidan noticed that he could feel a static tingle in his amp if he stepped too close.
After a quick search, a small alcove off to the side that led to an elevator seemed their only recourse.
“Wherever this leads, there might be a control console.” Liara urged. Shepard silently agreed and they all crowded in. As they began their descent, he was totally caught in awe.
The room it passed through was enormous. Thousands of pods lined the walls - easily an Alliance cruiser could have fit inside and still had room to spare.
“An entire race.” Liara mused aloud. “This bunker was probably their last hope.”
“It’s not over yet.” Shepard finished the sentence for her with a knowing look. “Don’t count us out yet.”
The last voice of the Protheans had in minutes, destroyed everything the three of them had thought they knew about galactic history. It made sense in a way. Kaidan knew (as well as everyone) that the Central Citadel Control did have access to the relay network and acted as a hub of sorts. Its the reason that when human explorers attempted to unlock the Shanxi-Theta relay, the Turians were alerted and responded.
But a relay itself. To allow the invasion of the galaxy by an army of death-dealing sentient machines.
I need a fucking drink.
The elevator ride back up was silent. Somber even. The pods that lined the walls were now being seen by the team in a new light - they were tombs. The silent, hermetically sealed tombs of a dead race. The VI had admitted to sacrificing thousands to preserve power over a span of centuries before reviving the remaining scientists to be sent to the Citadel via the Conduit.
When the Mako rounded a corner, Kaidan was shaken free from his thoughts as they were faced with several small Geth and a Colossus. He did his best to pick off the smaller ones with the gun while Shepard rammed the Colossus repeatedly until it’s limbs flailed and it collapsed in a sparking heap. At the top of the hill, everyone in the vehicle drew in a breath in awe.
The Conduit was a small scale mass relay. Sticking out of the ground like a spire, the gyros spun with the same blue internal light.
“This explains where all of the water was flowing to.” Liara mustered as she motioned to the sheets of it being sent flying upward by the force of the mass effect field.
“See all of ‘em?” Shepard pointed to the small gathering of Geth Colossus units that guarded the only path to the dais the relay was mounted on.
“There’s no way... think we can make a run for it?” Kaidan bit his lower lip and gave a questioning look.
“Gotta try.” Shepard placed both hands on the controls and gunned the engine. They practically flew down the hill past several of the looming machines that had begun firing at the Mako. Winding their way in and out between them, Kaidan could hear the massive impact of a shot that glanced the side of the car. Reaching the dais, Shepard floored the engine and the Mako was picked up like a toy and flung into the energy field created by the gyros.
Shepard’s driving in the thing was scary enough as it was.
Being accelerated to 29,979,245,800 mps ** in a mass relay transit tunnel was downright terrifying.
29,979,245,800 mps is an approximation of 100x's the speed of light. Given the estimated distances between systems as seen on the galaxy map, this would be the minimum required transit speed of a primary relay to make convenient travel feasible.
The artificial sky of the Presidium was dark and offline - the dim red emergency lighting casting an eerie glow over walkways and balconies that normally bustled with activity. The gyros on the relay monument began to slowly spin as it’s mass effect engine came online. Energy pulsed from the core of the miniature relay and the Mako was thrown violently from transit onto the Presidium walkway, crumpling two Geth beneath it like tin cans.
Shepard was slumped against the exit hatch of the Mako and reached above his right shoulder to pull down on the emergency release handle. The door blew open and he tumbled out of the vehicle. Kaidan followed behind him, still suppressing the urge to vomit. That has to be the most insane thing we’ve done so far...
His heart sank at the scene that surrounded them: large scorch marks had been blown into the normally smooth and polished walls and floors. Debris floated in the Presidium lakes which reflected the twists and plumes of black smoke that rose from various areas across the embassies.
“Doesn’t even look like the same place.” Kaidan whispered aloud to no one in particular. Liara had remained silent all the while and raised her pistol, a look of alarm directed behind them. Husks had climbed down from their Dragon’s Teeth and were shambling in their direction. Shepard and Liara opened fire, the mass accelerator slugs tearing through the cybernetic flesh and splattering dark blue blood over the walls.
The shimmering holographic form of Avina was the only voice that could be heard; repeating the same warnings over and over about damage to the Presidium and Geth in the council tower. Shepard queried her regarding Saren. She’d told them that Saren was approaching the council chambers and that the Council themselves had evacuated on the Destiny Ascension.
Under his feet, Kaidan could feel a deep rumble. Avina paused as she searched for new information and then relayed that the command had been given to seal the arms of the station.
“With the arms closed, there’s no way we’re getting backup.” Shepard muttered through gritted teeth.
“Our only option is to override from central control.” Liara added. “So it looks like we get to chase Saren to the top of the tower after all.” At least he’s relatively trapped as well.
Almost subconsciously, Kaidan looked up at the tower and then back down to where the elevator waited to take them up.
“Let’s get him.” He nodded silently and they all followed Shepard into the elevator. It had started to climb quickly before grinding to a halt almost halfway up the tower. Outside, the Citadel arms had closed and the large cities that had been built into their surfaces surrounded them like a surreal 360 photo of a skyline.
“Saren’s locked down the elevator.” Shepard said. “Everyone suit up, we’re going outside.” Kaidan sighed internally as he made double sure that his helmet was locked into place. EVA was not his most favorite thing ever and it was hard for him to put so much faith in magnetic boots.
Shepard shot out the large window in the elevator and the glass flew outwards in every direction as it depressurized, the control panel turning red and warning light beginning to flash above the door. The climb up the side of the tower was not as bad as Kaidan had thought it would be since they stuck to maintenance areas and low corridors in between - walls that made him feel slightly safer.
After Liara had struck a Geth with a singularity and it floated helplessly away, however, his stomach lurched slightly as a tiny voice in his mind reminded that the same could happen to him.
“Just don’t know when to quit.” Shepard grumbled from behind cover. They had ducked down to avoid anti-personnel turrets the Geth had erected in their path. Only one remained, the sparking and smoking remainder of the others a testament to how determined the team was to reach the top.
“We’re not far at all.” Liara checked a schematic on her omnitool. “Just past this area here and we’ll be back in the maintenance area for the elevator. From there, an external hatch takes us directly into the tower.” Shepard nodded and bolted back out for a moment to fire a volley of shots at the tower.
“So Kaidan, I’m guessing that you’d rather not stay outside any longer?” There was a hint of a tease in his tone.
“Rather have solid ground under my feet.” He let out an airy chuckle.
“You are aware that the gravity on the station is artificial, right?” Shepard asked with a grin, his face illuminated by the LED’s inside his helmet.
“Okay, you got me there.” Kaidan waved a hand his direction and then peered out of cover to look toward the turret. It had taken a fair amount of damage. “Think if we all hit this thing with everything we got, it’ll take it down?” Shepard and Liara both nodded in agreement and on a three count, the team lobbed everything they could muster in it’s direction. The turret exploded, taking out a nearby Geth.
“Excellent!” Liara crowed, the blue flames that had engulfed her were now subsiding. “Let’s go.”
The last time that Kaidan had seen the inside of the Council chambers, it had been well decorated and a dead quiet save for the fountains. Now, smoke and flames rose from scattered wreckage and large burn marks marred the walls. The resounding klaxons of the alarm system could still be heard, but faintly. As they ascended the stairs toward the main platform, not a soul could be seen.
“Keeper bodies.” Shepard whispered, motioning to the lifeless pile of green limbs to their right.
“Something’s wrong here..” Liara began. Before she could finish, Saren closed the Master Control Terminal, jumped down, and quickly appeared from behind the platform on a hoverboard. As he lobbed a grenade in their general direction, they split apart and ducked for cover as pieces of decorative tile and potted plant were strewn everywhere from the resulting explosion.
“I was afraid you weren’t going to make it in time, Shepard.”
“In time?” He yelled back from cover.
“I think we both expected it would end like this. You’re very persistent like myself. Only you’ve lost. You know that, don’t you?"
“It’s not over!"
“Oh, but it is. In a few minutes Sovereign will have control of all the Citadel systems. The citadel relay will open and the Reapers will return.” Kaidan was able to sneak a glimpse of Saren around the corner of the wall he was hidden behind. The Turian’s face now glowed a soft blue like that of a husk and he showed signs of more extensive cybernetic manipulation.
“I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve!" There’s no way Shepard is backing down on this one.
“You survived on Virmire, but I’ve changed since then. Improved. Sovereign has upgraded me." Saren’s eyes glow blue, brighter.
“You let Sovereign implant you? Are you insane?”
“I suppose I should thank you. After Virmire I couldn’t stop thinking about what you said. About Sovereign manipulating me. About indoctrination. The doubts began to eat away at me. Sovereign sensed my hesitation. I was implanted... to strengthen my resolve! Now my doubts are gone. I believe in Sovereign completely! I understand that the Reapers need organics. Join us, and Sovereign will find a place for you, too.” He had all the air of a preacher that believed he was sharing the ultimate truth. Shepard simply shook his head softly, sadly and stared down at the floor.
“Sovereign's just controlling you through your implants! Don’t you see that?"
“The relationship is symbiotic. Organic and machine. Intertwined. A union of flesh and steel. The strengths of both, the weaknesses of neither. I am a vision of future! The evolution of all organic life! This is our destiny. Join Sovereign and experience a true rebirth."
“Sovereign has not won yet. I can stop it from taking control of the station! Step aside, and the invasion will never happen." Saren’s face twitched gently as though he were experiencing an itch. Just like on Virmire, it seemed the commander’s words were having an effect.
“We can’t stop it! Not forever! You saw the visions. You saw what happened to the Protheans! The Reapers are too powerful.”
“Some part of you must still realize this is wrong! You can fight this!"
“No. There’s not. Maybe..." Saren tenses up. He groans and struggles to control himself. “Maybe you’re right... Maybe there is still a chance for... for.." He collapsed to the deck, obviously embroiled in an internal struggle. “The implants! Sovereign’s too strong! I’m sorry, it is too late for me.”
Shepard stepped out from cover to challenge Saren directly, his posture tall and his stride confident. The man always seems to know when he’s winning.
“It’s not over yet! You can still redeem yourself!" Saren holds onto a guardrail to keep himself upright. He is still struggling to speak freely. Saren grabs his hand gun.
“Goodbye, Shepard. Thank you." Shepard watched in horror as the Turian placed the gun at his temple and squeezed the trigger. A dark spray of blood cascading outward as the light faded from his eyes and cybernetics. The lifeless body tumbling backward and over the edge of the walkway, Saren plunged through the decorative glass underneath them into a small garden.
Shepard dashed forward and called up the master control terminal. He opened his omnitool and called up Vigil’s program - his omnitool chirping when it had finished. A moment passed and then the control screens unlocked.
“Vigil has given us back control of all systems!"
“Quick! Open the station’s arms! It won’t be long before Sovereign regains control of the Citadel!" Kaidan could feel his heart thumping in his chest, his legs and arms numb with adrenaline.
“See if you can open a comm channel." Liara said, checking her own omnitool. Shepard typed at the master controls.
“Comm channel open. Distress call sent. Now we just have to wait for-”
“ Destiny Ascension. Main drives offline. Kinetic barriers down forty percent. We’re not going to make it. The Council is on board. I repeat, Council is on board.” The voice of the Asari captain could be heard over the tempest of background noise on their end of the channel.
“Destiny, please hold." Shepard typed madly at the master controls, looking to call up the relay network. A second voice emerged over the radio of a Turian captain.
“Second fleet here. If the relay’s were up, we could be at the Citadel in an hour. What’s going on?”
“Second fleet, relay’s will be open soon, we need you at the Citadel ASAP!"
“Normandy reporting. We lost our Commander to some wild goose chase. Any idea where he is?" Joker’s voice joined the others on the channel. Shepard and the others just smiled.
“Nice to hear you too.” He replied.
“Got that distress call. I’m sitting in the Anduros Sector with the entire Arcturus fleet. We can save the Council, just unlock the relays and here comes the cavalry!"
“Shepard, if you unlock the relays, alot of Alliance ships are going to be destroyed - it the Council really worth it?" Kaidan could feel the words coming from his mouth and as much as he hated to be the Devil’s advocate, it was a fair point.
“This is bigger than us. Sovereign is a threat to every organic species in the galaxy." Liara gave him a slightly disapproving look.
“Exactly! And we can’t throw away reinforcements trying to save the council! Hold back. Don’t come through the relay until the wards are open so we can concentrate on Sovereign.” She’s right, but there’s only so much we can do.
“What’s the order, commander?" Joker sounded impatient, as though he might jump a false start at any moment. Shepard thought it over and then input the command on the terminal. Relays displayed in a web on the holo began to turn green.
“Opening the relays now. We need to save the Council."
“I hope it’s worth it." Kaidan said sounding worried.
“It’s not only about accomplishing the mission, but the choices you made along the way.” Came the reply as Shepard smiled softly at him. “But thank you for being my conscience.”
Citadel defense ships still floated in the vicinity, fighting off the Geth, but they were greatly outnumbered. Once the relays unlocked, the Alliance fleet came pouring through with the Normandy leading the charge.
The Geth ships began to fire, with the Alliance fleet taking some casualties before they were overpowered and the Destiny Ascension was free to limp to safety. Shepard had input the commands to open the arms of the station and as they slowly slid free, Joker couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Sovereign had attached itself to the top of the Citadel tower. As the fleets moved in, they began targeting the Reaper. Then Sovereign began to fight back - red energy pulses that shredded through shields and cut ships in half like butter.
Inside the tower, Shepard and the team had their own issues to deal with. He’d ordered Kaidan and Liara to jump down into the garden to verify Saren’s death. No sooner than they had checked, it appeared that Sovereign was able to still manipulate the Turian’s corpse through his implants and had loosed it on them.
In between firing and ducking for cover, he was still listening to reports of the battle going on outside and it didn’t sound good.
“Sovereign is too strong!” Came the voice of an Asari captain.
“Negative. Take that Reaper down. No matter the cost.” Hackett. Always firm, gruff, and the first person to turn to in a difficult situation. That’s likely the reason that he was Admiral of the Alliance Fifth Fleet.
Shepard and Kaidan charged their amps and then jumped from cover - one firing a reave and the other a singularity at Saren’s corpse. It seemed to confuse the creature momentarily as it floated in the air, being peppered with bullets. Not long after, it slumped to the ground and disintegrated.
A deep metallic groan could be heard throughout the building. Outside, Sovereign had lost it’s hold on the tower and had begun to fall backward. Pulling the Normandy straight up and out and then back down into a nose-dive, Joker fired everything in their arsenal at the monster. A single hole was blown into the superstructure, and then secondary explosions began. They’d killed it.
Inside the tower, Shepard heard the commotion and when he sighted the first explosion outside the window had shouted for Kaidan and Liara to climb. The three of them had made it out of the garden and back to the steps when a large piece of debris slammed into the windows and rained down over them. Almost instantly, emergency force fields snapped into place over the hole. **
Anderson and two soldiers approached the secondary door to the Council chambers. They had had to take the maintenance stairs since the elevators were out of commission and exposed to vacuum. The door was locked and not responding.
“Avina,” he barked. “Open the damn door.”
“Yes Captain.” She responded in her usual bubbly voice. “The system is reading damage to the structure and possible depressurization on the other side.” He sighed and ran a hand over his forehead.
“Scan first. If it’s safe, open the door. Csec override.” He provided the codes.
“Atmosphere normal.” The door slid open. “Have a great day.”
As they entered, he hadn’t really prepared for the sight before them. The room was completely trashed, Reaper debris and fire everywhere. The vents were doing what they could to remove the smoke as quickly as possible but it was beginning to build up and his eyes stung.
“Shepard!” He called out. “Alenko?” No answer. The medic of the group was scanning for lifesigns on his omnitool.
“Can’t really get a reading sir. Whatever that... thing is made from is blocking the signal.” Anderson sighed and switched on the flashlight on his own tool.
“Fine, then we do this the old fashioned way.” They began to sift through debris.
He’d heard a cough.
Running in the direction of the sound, it wasn’t long before Kaidan and Liara had been extracted from under a piece of wall, mostly unharmed.
“Shepard?” He asked. Kaidan was unable to meet his eyes, seconds from bursting into tears. Liara motioned to the area behind them where Shepard had been and it was nothing but a giant piece of Reaper. Anderson’s heart fell. Before any of them could say another word though, Shepard emerged from the debris.
Limping slightly and holding his arm to his chest, he climbed atop a piece of Reaper and shot them all a cheesy grin.
Scared me to death. Kaidan thought. I’m going to kill him.
The following days were a blur - both Kaidan and Liara had been confined to Huerta Memorial on the Presidium for care, not as much as Shepard, and when they were finally released, it seemed everyone wanted to get their fair share of time with the “Savior of the Citadel” as the media had begun calling Shepard. He seemed to want to do everything in his power to avoid it.
Kaidan had left instructions with the front desk at the hospital that Shepard wasn’t to be bothered by anyone and if a reporter named Al-Jilani showed up, they were to call him immediately... for her safety.
When Shepard was finally released, the Council immediately held a special session in front of the Relay monument where they offered humanity a seat on the Council and asked his opinion on a Councillor. Naturally, he recommended Anderson. Kaidan wasn’t completely sure if that was because he thought Anderson would be good for the job, or more because it completely pissed off Udina.
They were both happy when they were finally released to go back aboard the Normandy, Shepard being given a new task by the Council:
Eliminate the Geth beyond the veil.
**It always bothered me that a HUGE chunk of Reaper basically shattered the windows of the Council chambers and yet, no explosive decompression. So I made up an answer.
Chapter 10: Ashes
A month after the attack on the Citadel, Normandy still hadn’t encountered many Geth beyond the veil. It seemed that after the defeat of Saren and Sovereign, many had retreated back to the Dholen system and Shepard couldn’t help but feel that they were being sent on a fool’s errand.
“Arriving in orbit over Alchera.” Joker’s voice sounded bored. Shepard and Kaidan were donning their armor and preparing for a ground sweep of the planet.
“Gotta admit Shepard... I’m starting to feel like they just wanted us out of their hair.”
“Saved their lives and now they don’t wanna share the spotlight?” Shepard asked, a tone of mock sarcasm. “Politicians would never do that.” They’re still just pissed that you were right and they did nothing about it.
A loud whine from the Normandy’s engines caught their attention and as Shepard was about to call up to the bridge to find out what was going on, the ship shuddered from a large impact. Wiring junctions exploded and sparked, white smoke curling into the air.
“Joker, what the fuck?”
“Don’t know commander, some ship just appeared and starting firing at us... trying to dodge em!”
Another impact. This time, personnel came streaming out of the engineering room before the doors automatically locked.
“Hull breach.” Adams gasped. “Got out just in time.”
Shepard didn’t respond but instead grabbed his helmet and took off for the stairwell, Kaidan hot on his heels. Alarms echoed throughout the ship as another impact almost knocked them off their feet. Shepard stopped at a console and frantically punched in a command.
“All hands, abandon ship.” The VI’s automated voice calm and even over the chaos around them. They ran forward through the mess toward the forward battery, Shepard frantically trying to get their secondary weapons systems online. As an afterthought, he prepared the automated distress beacon and blackbox.
“Distress beacon is ready for launch.” He replied flatly.
“Think the Alliance will get here in time?” Kaidan asked. A secondary explosion tore through the area they were in, throwing him against a bulkhead. The screen Shepard had been working on flickered out.
“I’m not doing this just so they can find our frozen corpses.” Thanks... makes me feel better. Shepard tossed him a fire extinguisher and Kaidan set to work trying to suppress a fire that had started behind some of the sleeper pods. “Get everyone onto the escape shuttles.” Not the usual Shepard way of asking; he had slipped into full ‘commander mode’ and was now issuing gruff orders.
“Joker’s still in the cockpit.” Kaidan reminded him. “There’s no way he’s going to abandon ship. And I’m not leaving you either.” Ever.
Shepard grabbed him by the shoulder, pulling them together to face each other.
“Get to the damn pods! I’ll haul Joker’s crippled ass outta here.”
“Commander...” Kaidan’s voice was soft and pleading.
“I gave you and order Kaidan!” He was fully prepared to shout and then his tone softened. “Go. I’ll meet you there.” You’d better.
“Aye aye.” Kaidan took off down the walkway and back through the mess. Along the walls, panels had opened revealing the small round doors that led to the pods. He stood at the entrance to one, pushing crew inside until he himself jumped in. The automated systems shut the door and he felt a lurch as they were jettisoned away from the side of the ship.
His seat was too far from the small viewport to see what was happening to the Normandy, and their radios were being jammed by whoever was firing on the ship. He called up the pod’s sensor screen instead.
“He’ll make it.” Chakwas reassured him from her seat, her eyes piercing into his. Kaidan simply nodded softly. The pod’s sensors registered a single final pod being launched from Normandy before it was hit with several successive bursts and disintegrated in high orbit over Alchera. That better be you.
Kaidan and a couple of the crew in the pod with him tried their radios in vain for several minutes in an attempt to contact the other pods - no success. They instead drifted in silence for hours, unable to face what had really just happened. So many people... people that they had worked with, lived with, day in and day out had just died. Horribly.
Chakwas had busied herself with scanning Kaidan with her omnitool checking him for injuries and when he came up clear, had moved on to the next person. He simply sat stone-silent, staring at the ceiling of the pod.
This is the worst feeling. Even when shit got bad, Shepard was always with me. I don’t like being away from him like this.
After what seemed like an eternity of silent floating, the pods were finally picked up by the Alliance Cruiser Dawkins. Kaidan stepped out, feeling a cramp beginning in his leg but ignored it as his eyes wildly scanned the group of people standing together in the bay.
Almost 20 had died or hadn’t made it to the escape pods. Joker sat by himself on a crate away from the group. Kaidan didn’t need words to understand what the look on his face meant.
“LT... Kaidan... I’m so sorry...” His voice wavered and he stared down at the deck in defeat. The world around him dissolved into background noise.
Nodding stiffly, Kaidan began to slowly walk away - no idea where he was going, but just aimlessly wandering as his mind raced with thoughts. All the pods were accounted for - all the remaining crew as well. Joker had tried desperately to tell him that Shepard had saved his life and he was sorry but it meant nothing.
Liara had tried talking to him, her own eyes puffy and red but he didn’t feel like uttering a syllable, just stiffly accepting a hug from her and staring straight forward. His body and his mind both felt completely numb to those around him and over the course of the next few days on their trip back to the Citadel, he became more and more withdrawn, avoiding meals and people all together and choosing to stay in his bunk, staring at the wall.
Chakwas had come on more than one occasion and tried her best to talk him into eating or at the very least, talking. Nothing.
Perhaps the best thing in my life is gone. What else do I have?
The part that did concern him - he hadn’t shed a tear since that moment when he’d realized Shepard was gone. Just the numbness that consumed him. After several more of the crew; Garrus and Tali and others had tried talking to him, tried getting him to eat, he’d decided it better to lock the door. More than once, Chakwas had used a medical override to open it, but he’d just sit on the bed and ignore her until she went away.
Why can’t they just go away and leave me alone.
When the Dawkins finally dropped out of transit in the vicinity of the Citadel, he only gave a cursory glance out the window at the bright purple and white of the nebula, his mind painfully reminding him of his first time seeing it from the Normandy.
Then there were the endless de-briefings.
The loss of an Alliance ship was taken seriously - meeting upon meeting with various analysts and Admirals, all expecting answers that he couldn’t give. When he’d finally been allowed to leave the room, he was informed that he would need clearance from the VAO to return to duty since some of the medical staff of the Dawkins had expressed concern about his mental state. Fuckin’ Chakwas... just let me be.
He’d politely refused and instead called a cab. Kaidan had kept a small apartment on Kithoi Ward and that’s where he was going to go. Someplace quiet where I can think.
Upon arriving inside and turning the lights on, he noticed that the terminal on his desk blinked with a ‘Message Delivered’ notification. Absentmindedly, he switched it on as he pulled his boots off.
It was from Anderson.
CC: Admiral Steven Hackett, 5th Fleet
I know this has been hard on you. It’s been hard for all of us. There were few people that knew Shepard that he didn’t touch in some way or the other. I myself considered him the closest thing to family I had..
Please understand that we aren’t trying to make this more difficult on you, but I’d appreciate it if you would go to the VAO doctor. Just talk. It feels better to let it out.
I’m clearing you for paid leave - as much time as you need.
Just please consider what I said... we need you.
- David Anderson
Councillor, Human Systems Alliance
He sighed and deleted the message. Checking for others, he scrolled half-heartedly through the list.
I know that you and Shepard were very close friends. He meant so much to all of us.
Please let me try to help you - Keeping it all inside isn’t healthy.
I’m only a call away.
Wandering into the kitchen, he checked the cabinets finding that there wasn’t much in the way of food. Good. I don’t want to eat anyway.
Whiskey. There was plenty of it.
Hopefully enough to help me forget.
Not even bothering to get himself a glass, he took a bottle from the shelf and moved to the living room to sit on his small couch, draining a fair amount in one swallow.
I never even got the chance to tell him how much I.... loved him.
More of the burning liquid.
I need to kill these thoughts. It’s only going to hurt more.
When he’d finally drunken himself into a stupor, only got up once from the couch to vomit into the kitchen sink and then slumped back down into the cushions, wiping his mouth.
I loved you. Why did you have to leave me?
Chapter 11: Soul In Despair
** I highly suggest playing this song as you read this chapter. It played on Pandora as I was writing and the combination was so perfect that I actually got teary and emotional as I wrote.
Lana Del Rey - Dark Paradise
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kaidan spent the next few days locked in his apartment. He’d tried turning on vids to break the silence but had quickly shut them off when almost all of the news reports had been on the Normandy.
Sighing, he stared out the window at the towers and spires of Kithoi Ward lit up against the backdrop of the nebula. What am I gonna do?
The door chime sounded and startled him out of his thoughts. He didn’t remember ordering anything to be delivered today, but it was just as well... He hadn’t really had anything to eat in a couple of days and it was starting to take its toll. His face was dark with stubble, normally styled black hair in a rumpled heap on his head. The uniform that he hadn’t bothered changing out of was wrinkled and stained. He looked like a wreck.
Turning on the viewscreen, he could see Liara standing outside his door, her arms crossed. He shut off the screen and returned to his seat on the couch. I don’t want to see anyone.
“Kaidan.” He could hear her muffled voice outside the door. “Either you’re going to let me in, or I will use the Csec override code Garrus gave me.” Heaving himself off the couch with a weary sigh, he opened the door and then retreated quickly into the kitchen, smoothing out his hair as best he could with his hands.
“Just cleaning up.” He mumbled, his gaze catching sight of the empty bottles that lined the counters and tabletop.
** “Have you really been sitting in here drinking all this time?” She asked as she rounded the corner. Her voice was soft and full of caring, no judgement in her eyes; only sadness.
“It’s better than thinking.” His reply was colored with a tone of snark and she instinctively crossed her arms again.
“Kaidan this isn’t healthy... Shepard wouldn’t...” The mention of his name caused him to tense all over.
“Wouldn’t what?” His tone was dangerous and Liara looked away, choosing her words.
“Is this how you intend to spend the rest of your life?”
“However short that might be.”
“You don’t mean that.” I actually kinda do.
“What am I supposed to do now? Move on? Find something to occupy my time and pretend the last year never happened?!?!?” His voice had risen to a trembling shout as he waved his hands in front of him. “I can’t! It just isn’t that simple.” Defeated, he slumped down against the counter, empty bottles clinking as they toppled over.
“Kaidan I know you cared about the commander a great deal. We all did.” No you don’t fucking know how much I did. And I never got the chance to tell him.
He simply scoffed and continued to stare at a spot on the floor.
“Killing yourself won’t change the fact that he’s gone.” Her words fell like a bunch of stones, silence hanging in the air.
At least I’d get to see him again.
“What else do I do?” The utter despair he was feeling had leaked into his voice and for the first time since his world had shattered, Kaidan could feel a hard lump forming in his throat.
“Live your life, live it well and be happy. Its what he would have wanted.” Looking up and meeting her gaze, Kaidan could see glistening tears forming at the corners of Liara’s eyes. “That’s all anyone can ask of another person.”
“You make it sound so easy, but...” His voice wavered and he stopped short. Liara reached out as though to hug him and Kaidan tried to push away. He was too weak to resist - not eating and the constant drinking had left him unable to do much, let alone even activate his amp.
“Kaidan, you need clean clothes. Shower, shave and relax. I’ll clean up and get you something to eat.” Liara pointed toward the other side of the apartment where the bathroom was and he hesitated for a moment. “If you think I’m leaving, you’re crazy.” She was firm, and barely blinked as they stared at each other.
“Fine.” He grumbled and trudged off to the bathroom. Shucking off his uniform, he stood in front of the bathroom mirror for a moment to take in his own reflection. His smooth tan skin bore few scars but the ones he did have all had a story to tell. She’s right, I look like shit. His eyes were dark and sunken and his face paler than normal.
Stepping into the oasis of hot water, he could feel tension that he wasn’t even aware he’d had melting away. Soaping himself up, he paused as he cleaned his foreskin; a momentary decision of whether or not to indulge in one of his favorite shower-time rituals. It just seemed wrong for some reason or the other and he opted to quickly rinse off and get changed.
By the time he was in fresh clothes, Liara had gotten pizza delivered and was sitting at his kitchen table sipping tea.
“Didn’t know I even had tea.” He mused as he dried the insides of his ears.
“It was hard to find.” She had relaxed as well and her voice had regained it’s normal musical quality. “I was worried for a moment that my choices were either going to be brandy or vodka.”
“Not a bad meal.” Kaidan managed a weak smile as she looked confused for a moment and then realized that he was joking. The smell of food made his stomach rumble loudly and within minutes, he’d devoured a decent amount.
“Yeah a bit.” He sighed. “My body at least. There’s going to be no easy way for me to fix this... I just don’t know how to deal with what’s happened... I...” At a loss for words, he stared out the window next to them.
“Kaidan, I’m here now. Talk to me.” She was being soft but firm and he turned his attention back.
“There’s just so much... I... It’s...” You could just be completely honest... who’s gonna care now?
“Let me try?” She held out a hand, a look of pleading in her eyes. “I will do my best to help you.” He sighed and took her hand, her blue skin soft and warm against his own calloused fingers. She set down her cup and closed her own eyes, taking a moment to steady her breathing. “Embrace eternity.”
The feeling was beyond surreal; Kaidan and Liara stood shoulder to shoulder in a great empty blackness. Looking all around, he realized that it felt more like dreaming than anything else. Her eyes were still closed, but she seemed to be completely aware of him, reaching out and taking his hand.
“Where are we?” He asked.
“Your subconscious.” Came the reply. “Instead of looking into your memories directly, I’m just seeking out your emotions... trying to get a feel for what is truly causing the pain I’m sensing in you.” He nodded, unable to think of an answer.
Opening her eyes again, she looked sadder than he had ever seen her.
“What I feel in you... its... horrible beyond description. Kaidan you have such a profound feeling of loss - but what’s fueling it more is a massive burden... a regret.” Yeah well, no shit. “No shit what?”
“Oh right... in my head.” He couldn’t help but give a weak smile and then heaved a weary sigh. “No point in keeping everything hidden I guess... go ahead and look through my memories... find what’s making me want to just curl up and die.”
She winced at the words but didn’t look away from him.
“I have already found it... I just wasn’t going to look without your permission.”
The blackness around them began to lighten, familiar shapes and colors emerging until they were in the commander’s quarters on the Normandy. Kaidan felt his heart almost stop beating and his chest tightened at the sight before him. There, in the middle of the room, stood him and Shepard. The kiss they had shared during his drunken mourning of Ashley. The two men were perfectly frozen in time, the whole room around him more like a hologram of that moment.
“I...” Liara looked away, her blue cheeks reddening slightly. “Honestly I had no idea that you were so close to each other.”
“I was pretty much being a drunken fool... Ash had just died and well... I guess that’s how I solve problems.”
“Ah. You came to Shepard for comfort and...?” She walked around their frozen figures slowly, pausing to glance at Shepard’s face before looking away quickly.
“Nothing.” Kaidan slumped down into a squat on his heels, his head in his hands. “I was too afraid to tell him the truth. I always was. All that time wasted.” He stood slowly and reached up to touch the man’s face, his fingers ghosting through it. Definitely like a hologram.
“I want to give you that chance... if you’ll let me.” She walked over and took both of his hands in hers. “The Asari have had this ability to share minds for eons. We have a tradition... ... its common at funerals.” He closed his eyes and felt his lip quiver. “We call it ‘MerKa’Bah’ The Light of the Body and Soul ***. I can share with you a memory of Shepard and you can... resolve your unfinished business.”
His heart had quickened and a hard lump had formed in his throat. To say goodbye.
“Okay.” He let out a slow breath. “I’m ready.” Liara closed her eyes again in concentration and the room around them dissolved, slowly replaced with a park from the Presidium. It was almost strange, completely quiet and devoid of anyone - no people, skycars or sounds of habitation: just the gentle slosh of water from a nearby lake.
Both Kaidan and Liara stood in the grass, still holding hands and he almost let out a sob when Shepard materialized before them, smiling warmly.
“Hey Kaidan.” A voice that he’d never thought he’d hear again. This time, the dam had broken. Tears streamed down his face and his breathing hitched. “Shepard... I...” Liara gently stroked one of his hands.
“This is a memory Kaidan. It’s not him, but a piece of him that I carry from the time when we joined minds on the Normandy.” He nodded, still unable to break his gaze from the ever familiar icy blue eyes that regarded him warmly. Shepard paid Liara no mind, seeming to not even realize her presence.
“There’s so much I wanted to say to you.” Kaidan sobbed, feeling his heart sink lower in his chest. “So much time that I wasted worried about stupid shit.” His words were staccato and raspy as he struggled to control the heaving sobs that threatened to escape.
“It’s okay Kaidan. I know. But I’m here now.” Kaidan reached out to touch the man, fingers stopping short as he realized that he couldn’t and it would only bear more frustration. Steeling himself, he stepped close so that their eyes met and in a low whisper:
“I love you.” The last word almost caught in his throat as he held back another fierce bout of sobs, tears clouding his vision.
“I know Kaidan...” Shepard’s voice was soft and caring. “I always knew, honestly.” The moment that he’d waited so long for had finally come but not without it’s bittersweet irony. “Don’t worry about me... I’m happy... I just wish we’d had more time.”
“Shepard I love you so much...” His words mangled by heavy sobs, his vision blurred with tears. “Never have I ever met a man like you... someone as wonderful as you...” Being able to take no more he dropped to his knees, a horrible wracking cry escaping his lips as he finally broke.
Liara knelt down next to him and placed an arm around him, holding him close, whispering reassurances.
“Let it out. It’s okay, I’m here.” Her soft whispers only making him feel like crying harder. Kaidan never noticed when Shepard and the Presidium dissolved away around them and when he opened his eyes again, he was still sitting in his kitchenette across from Liara. Both of their faces streaked with tears, his breathing ragged and uneven.
“I’m okay.” Wiping his eyes quickly and jumping up to grab a towel from the sink. “I just need a minute.”
“You might not believe me right now,” She wiped her own eyes. “But it helps to get it out. To say the thing that you felt like you might never get a chance to.”
“This is normal at Asari funerals?” He tried his best to sound normal, but sobs still threatened to overtake him every time he spoke.
“Yes. Remember, my people live for at least a thousand years... being able to share the memories of loved ones that have moved on - giving a chance to put to rest unfinished business - its what makes it bearable.” She looked down at her hands, avoiding his gaze. Her mother... she just gave your selfish ass the chance to say goodbye to Shepard but she may never have that with Benezia.
“Liara, I...” She shook her head softly to silence him and stood from the table, choosing to instead pull him into a hug. They both stood that way for a long while until Kaidan no longer felt the urge to cry. More than anything, he felt tired.
“I need to be going soon.” She said. “But if you’d like, I can stay the night here with you.” His lips twisted into a weak smile.
“That’s okay. I’ll be fine... I just need sleep. And no more booze.”
“Good to hear.” Her own smile making him feel slightly better. “And you also have no choice. I dumped out what I could find while you were showering.” Kaidan simply chuckled weakly. “I have to leave the Citadel in the morning for the Sahrabarik system... some business to attend to.”
“Close. There’s something I need to do for a friend and then I’ll be back for...” She trailed off, glancing away.
“His memorial. I know.” Kaidan sighed. “Honestly I’ve been dreading it since I got the email from Anderson yesterday.”
“So you have been reading your messages?” He closed his eyes and his head slumped downward.
“Liara I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating you all...”
“No... Don’t apologize. I feel like I understand far better now.” Seeing the look he gave, she quickly added: “Everything that happened here today is between just us. No one else will know unless you tell them.”
He showed her out and then took in the empty quiet of the apartment. Opting to sleep in his actual bed tonight, Kaidan shut off the lights and stripped down before climbing into the waiting sheets.
I do feel a little lighter... But I have no fucking idea how I’m going to handle a memorial.
*** Mer Ka Bah - (Light, Soul, Body) Ancient Egyptian belief of the interconnected nature of all living things, spirits and the Universe. Thought to be a channel that one of ascended consciousness could use to access higher planes and realms of thought.
Chapter 12: Darkness of the Heart
Kaidan sighed loudly as he finished the buttons on his dress uniform. He hadn’t slept much the night before, the dark circles under his eyes a testament to restlessness. Today’s the day.
Shepard’s memorial was to take place on the Presidium in just a couple of hours.
He’d finally been brave enough to switch on the news and was starting to regret it since it was composed of wall to wall coverage of the event. A monument had been erected on a platform in one of the lakes right next to the Conduit - covered in a large sheet and awaiting the reveal during the ceremony. Throngs of people lined the avenues and walkways on either side, held back by Csec barricades.
On the bridge overlooking the area, a podium and chairs had been set up, awaiting the dignitaries that would fill them.
I thought I was ready for this...
The cab dropped him off just outside of the Citadel tower. Large scorch marks and missing wall panels and floor tiles were all of the evidence that remained of the battle with the Geth; the Keepers had made short work of clearing away rubble and repairing damage.
He spotted some of the Normandy crew taking seats on the bridge and made his way past the gauntlet of cameras and reporters that were just behind the area where he’d been dropped off. Many yelled questions at him and he did his best to tune it out.
Taking a seat next to Liara, she said nothing but gently grasped his hand in her own and gave him a weak smile. No one is going to be happy after this. Looking at the setup around them, his eyes caught something new that had been set up in front of the podium and his heart sank.
A polished black casket with a single spray of red roses floated gently on a hover-dolly.
I can’t do this.
Instinct told him to run, to get as far away as possible and find a dark place to curl up in. Liara followed his gaze and tightened her grip on his hand, doing her best to reassure that he would get through just fine.
Tali and Garrus sat just behind, both completely silent and staring straight ahead. The same for most of the Normandy crew now in their seats - unusually silent and somber. As the remaining attendees showed up, (mostly ambassadors) Kaidan stiffened in his seat when Anderson and the rest of the Council took their places behind the podium, Admiral Hackett taking the spot as the first to speak.
As though prompted, the reporters and onlookers in the area grew still as a hush fell over the crowd.
“We are gathered here today to remember the life of a man that saved many. Without his courage, determination and call to action, none of us would be standing here now to appreciate his sacrifice.” Kaidan heard muffled sniffs behind him - Tali had slumped down in her seat and Garrus was gently stroking her back with one of his talons. “Born April 11, 2154, the Commander-”
He could feel himself losing touch with with his own thoughts again. Hackett’s mouth moved and the Council nodded in the appropriate parts, but Kaidan was losing track of the words.
This can’t be fucking real. I died on the Citadel and this is my own version of hell.
For the better part of the next hour as various people got up to speak and recall their memories of Shepard, Garrus included, Kaidan had retreated to a place in his mind where he could see the moments being described in images. The numb feeling had returned; looking almost in a trance as he sat stiff and stared ahead. His focus had been on the casket.
It’s empty. There’s nothing there - everyone here is saying all these heroic things about an empty box. He should be here. This shouldn’t be happening.
Joker was next up to speak. He’d avoided Kaidan since their rescue and had only sent one brief message asking to meet up and talk. Kaidan had deleted it without responding as he’d done to all the others and Liara had made it clear that the pilot blamed himself for Shepard’s death.
As he spoke, his voice shook with emotion and more than once, he pinched tears away from his eyes.
“He came back for me. Shepard never left anyone behind. Never.”
That’s not true. He left me... here alone...
Kaidan looked down at his boots, his head feeling heavy. When he heard his name called, his neck almost snapped as he looked up and robotically walked from his seat to the podium. Anderson shook his hand and laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Good to see you son. How are you feeling?” His voice was low, the rest of the Council looked on with placid expressions.
“Fine.” Was all Kaidan could muster as he stepped forward and softly cleared his throat.
“John Shepard was one of the finest people I have ever met.” His voice echoed out across the Presidium before him. “A true paragon of what it meant to be the best the Alliance had to offer. Not just a Spectre, but a real hero.” The lump in his throat had returned and his voice was beginning to waver. “I also considered him a close friend... someone that I could....” He took a deep shaking breath and powered forward. “I will miss him every day of my life.”
Anderson bowed his head and nodded as Kaidan stepped back from the podium and quickly hurried back to his seat, ignoring the tears that had begun to track down his cheeks.
This is torture.
The Asari councillor made a short speech regarding heroic acts and true bravery - the usual political dribble about how the Council races were made stronger with the attack on the Citadel and then the signal was given to reveal the monument.
On top of the platform next to the Conduit, the cover was pulled away by a hovercar to reveal a marble statue of Shepard. In true hero pose with one foot forward, one hand raised out in front of him holding the Normandy and another held up at his side with the Citadel, the sculptor had perfectly captured his face in stone which stared stoically forward.
The base of the statue was perfectly rectangle and Kaidan noticed that it was hollow on the inside, the outside piece carefully set off to the side.
He suddenly felt horribly sick.
It’s a tomb.
No sooner had he thought it, the familiar melody of taps began to play as the casket was transported by hover-dolly to the dark space and slowly slid inside. Two uniformed Asari had also made their way over and biotically placed the side piece back on and it shut tightly with a muffled thud.
He’s really gone.
Long after most of the dignitaries and onlookers had gone their separate ways, Kaidan sat still in his seat staring forward with Liara beside him. They hand’t spoken but she hand’t left his side either. The normal noise and bustle of the Presidium had resumed and in a way, it almost made him feel angry.
How can you people just go back to the way everything was?
The others were all going out for dinner and drinks together before they went their separate ways. It was icing on the cake, really. Without Shepard or his Spectre status, there was no reason (or way) for them to stay on the Normandy. Hackett had quietly met with most of the alien crew and awarded them medals and thanks for their service in defeating Saren, but made it pretty clear that they would have to find their own way now.
He declined the invite and instead chose to walk alone along the Presidium lost in his thoughts. Every time he would turn around, he could still see the top of stone Shepard’s head and continued to walk until it was no longer visible.
Kaidan walked for hours, ignoring the aching in his feet.
The sky in the Presidium had gone into its night cycle and he’d decided to stop by a small convenience store to grab a few things before heading back to his apartment.
“Sincerely, welcome to my shop.” The Elcor behind the counter greeted him. Kaidan purchased a couple of bottles of whiskey and then slunk out, hailing a cab to take him home.
As the cab left the Presidium ring and zipped along between the buildings on the ward arm, he stared blankly at the passing swirl of colors and lights. Tightening his grip on the bag that sat on his lap, he felt a sudden pang of guilt.
I promised Liara I’d stop.
Everyone breaks promises.
You’re never gonna be happy.
He didn’t want to be home alone. Not yet. Tapping at the cab’s control console, he input a new destination. Back before he’d set foot on the Normandy, Kaidan used to go to a quiet place to think and right now it was as good as any.
The cab dropped him off at the junction between Kithoi Ward and the Presidium. A place in the under-structure where the ward arms connected to the masts holding them to the ring. He wandered a ways before finding his chosen spot; a sort of balcony that looked out into the gigantic cavern - skycars zipped through the chasm making a soft rushing sound as they passed by.
Sitting with his feet dangled over the edge, he opened the first bottle and began to drink.
If I hadn’t left him behind...
You’d be dead too.
Just forced him to get into a pod with me.
Joker would be dead.
Long moments of internal silence passed as he continued to drink, staring out over the expanse below him. The first bottle gone, it clinked gently as he tossed it to the side and cracked the next. His vision had blurred and his legs felt like jelly, but still there was that damn voice in his head and he was determined to silence it.
You’re still here.... alone.
You’ll always be alone.
Seriously? It didn’t work out with a woman and you’ve failed with a man. Alone. Forever.
Did you really think he liked you anyway? As a friend, sure, but there' s no way a man like that was into men.
So stupid. Crushing on the Hero of the Citadel. He had better things to do than you.
He’d began to weep silent tears as he set the bottle down and reached for his sidearm. It was decorative, meant to complement the uniform, but was loaded nonetheless.
Turning it over in his hands, the cold metal felt a welcome relief to his alcohol flushed skin.
You can do it.
See him again, be with him again.
No more pain, no more loss.
Just one quick squeeze of the trigger.
He sat there like that for what seemed like eternity, feeling the pistol and running his fingers along its features... only half realizing that he was crying and sobbing in between swigs of drink.
No more pain.
No more suffering.
See him again.
In a sudden burst of courage, he gripped the pistol tightly in his right hand and placed it against his temple. “I’ll see you soon John.” He half slurred, half sobbed as his grip tightened and his finger found the trigger.
“Stop what you’re doing and put the gun down!” The voice of a Turian behind him startled him for a moment and he slowly stood, gun still pointed in the general direction of his head. “Just put the gun down and slowly walk forward... we can talk about this.”
Squinting his eyes, through the drunken haze Kaidan could make out their Csec uniforms. Someone must have seen him and called.
“Don’t wanna.... don’t wanna feel...” His whiskey soaked words tumbled from his lips and his face was tear stained and red.
“I want to help you, but you need to put the gun down first.” The officer said lowering his voice and doing his best to sound reassuring. He wouldn’t have to wait long however; Kaidan hadn’t eaten yet that day and had consumed so much alcohol so quickly that he dropped into a heap on the floor, passed out cold. The gun clattered away and the Csec officer let out a relieved sigh.
Anderson was in his apartment at his desk. The fortieth draft of the acceptance speech he had written for his induction ceremony sat in front of him. Saving the file, he reached up and pinched his eyes feeling just as tired and drained as he did the day he was relieved from the Normandy.
Today he’d had to bury an empty coffin for the closest thing he’d ever have to a son. In a couple of days, he would have to accept the honor of being the voice of the entire human race in the galaxy.
“No pressure.” He sighed and pushed the data pad away, staring at the wall in front of him. Just as he was about to return to his speech, his omnitool rang loudly with an incoming call.
“When? Uh huh. Really? How bad? Yes.... yes... I see. No, don’t do that. In fact just let this stop here... I’m coming in person. Yes. Thank you.” He hung up and rolled his eyes to the ceiling.
When it rains, it pours.
Night shift at Fleming Hospital in Kithoi was usually more than quiet - serious cases being sent to Huerta and elsewhere on the Citadel. It was no surprise to him that the young woman at the front desk almost jumped from her chair when Anderson entered.
Everyone knew his face by now, the news vids constantly streaming footage of him and blurbs about his biography.
“What room is Alenko in?” He asked, sounding far more tired than he intended. She quickly tapped at her screens and directed him in, waiving the usual security check before entering. “Thank you.” She simply nodded, blue eyes round as saucers.
Walking through the sterile halls, Anderson realized that this situation was only going to get worse before it got better. He’d seen it before during his time with the Alliance... whole squads and teams dying and the survivors left with crushing guilt. Guilt that led to drugs, booze and if they didn’t get help; bullets.
Finding the room, he let himself in to see Kaidan sleeping on the bed and a Csec officer sitting in a chair just opposite. The officer stood and greeted him before turning his attention to the man in bed.
“We found him just shortly after night shift began... someone called in a complaint when an empty bottle fell from the top of the ward junction onto their car. Found him crying on a ledge with a gun to his head. The whole time he was incoherent and after throwing up on himself on the way to the car, passed out for good.”
“Thank you for having your supervisor call me first.” Anderson said, his expression stony.
“Well I recognized him from vids, sir. Can’t imagine what he’s been through.”
“A lot, that’s for damn sure. What are they planning on doing with him?”
“Well, he’s sedated for now... most of it has already burned out of his system, but the doctor feels like it would be better to wake him up when there’s someone here for him to talk to... you know.”
“Psychologist. Got it.” Anderson sighed and flipped open his omnitool. “I’m gonna send a message to a doctor I know... He’s pretty damn good and he owes me a favor.”
“Yes sir. Should I leave you for a bit?” The officer’s eyes wandered to the door.
“Please.” They traded places and he pulled the chair toward the bed with a scrape as the officer left the room, the only sounds coming from Kaidan’s soft snores and the monitor above his bed.
We all lose people... It’s never easy. This isn’t the way.
He finished typing his message and sent it before sighing deeply and pinching the bridge of his nose. Death was a messy business... not just for those who pass but for those left behind.
“I know you can’t hear me... or maybe you can, but we need to talk son. I know Shepard meant a lot to you... I get the feeling that maybe more than you care to talk about - at least to me. It is what it is. Hurting yourself though... it just tarnishes that memory... the sacrifice he made for you - for everyone on the Normandy. When you wake up... you need to get help.”
We’ve all drowned our problems before... but I’ll be damned if they aren’t great swimmers.
Kaidan stirred slightly and then gurgled gently as his head lolled to the side. Anderson simply sighed and settled down in the chair. “I’ll stay a while - at least it’s quiet here.”
Darkness surrounded him... he could hear Shepard calling his name and he whirled around helplessly as it seemed to come from all directions. “I’m here!” He shouted back, or at least tried to but he was unable to speak.
Kaidan tried helplessly to run but his legs felt as though they weighed tons each and the dark mire around him made it impossible to tell which way was forward, or up and down.
“Kaidan!” Shepard’s voice continued to float toward him... every time it was from the opposite side of where he was facing.
Then he was on the Normandy... standing helplessly in the CIC as the ship disintegrated around him. He could see Shepard on the far end of the room reaching for the controls for the escape pods... the lever was stuck and pieces of the ship had begun to come apart around him.
“Help me!” The commander called out, but soon was engulfed in flame...
He awoke with a start, tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. Laying back for a moment, Kaidan realized that he wasn’t in his bedroom... or wearing any clothes save his underwear. He was in a hospital room... Shit. Memories of the previous night, muddled as they were had started to return.
Liara sat next to him, her attention on her omnitool and she closed it regarding him with a warm smile.
“Glad you’re awake.” She should be pissed at me, not happy!
“Liara, I...” Words failed him and his expression was one of pure guilt.
“Don’t.” She shook her head gently. “I didn’t expect that yesterday was going to be a good day for you, but I had no idea...” She trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. “Either way, I’m happy that you’re here... and safe.”
“Do they know? The others?” He gulped, feeling himself flush momentarily with embarrassment.
“No. Garrus and Tali left the Citadel early this morning - I told them you weren’t feeling well and send best wishes.”
I don’t deserve you as a friend.
“Then who knows I’m here?” He tried pulling himself up on his pillows but gave up when his arms wobbled and gave out.
“Just myself and Councillor Anderson... And the doctor that he called to meet with you. He’s here waiting and I promised that when you woke up, I’d let him know.” Kaidan simply nodded and looked away out the window. “I’ll be here for a few days more and then I have some things I have to do on Illium.” She stood up and then leaned down and kissed his forehead before moving to the door. “You’ll see me again soon.” He gave her a weak smile and then she left.
Shepard is gone, Ash is dead and all the people that are my friends are leaving... I feel so alone.
He didn’t have long to wallow in his thoughts before the door opened again and a younger looking man in an Alliance medical uniform came in and sat down next to him. His short dark hair was combed forward with the bangs slightly flipped up and Kaidan was immediately caught by hazel eyes and a flash of perfect white teeth. He was attractive by all standards and it made him feel even more pathetic to be in a hospital bed.
“Hello Kaidan... can I call you that?” A nod was the response. “Good. I’m Doctor Andrei Petrenko.” He held out a hand and Kaidan shook it, making note of the golden tan skin and perfect fingernails. His grip was strong and when he’d moved in close, the slightest sweet scent of aftershave wafted by.
Great. I get to spill my problems to a hot doctor. I’m a damn mess.
“Alenko... Alenko...” He seemed to roll the name around in his mouth. "А не славянская ли это фамилия?” Kaidan simply shook his head and managed a toothy grin.
“Any relatives I had that actually spoke it fluently were so far removed that I never learned.”
“Ah. Shame.” He pulled up Kaidan’s chart on a holoscreen and began scrolling. “Never too late to learn though... But It would be pretty difficult if you’ve spoken English as a first language your whole life.” He looked up at Kaidan briefly from the screen and gave a wry smile. “So tell me, how are you feeling today?”
“Like shit.” Kaidan sighed. “But I guess you already know that.” No point in lying.
“Yeah, well... That’ll happen when you do what you did. Feel up to talking about it?”
“Okay, so what I do know: You drank enough alcohol that without a biotic metabolism it would have killed a man your size. Lucked out there. When Csec found you, you were crying and babbling incoherently after holding a gun to your own head. What I want to know: why?” Kaidan flushed with embarrassment and looked away at the wall in front of him.
“It was a pretty rough day.”
“Well let’s start there then.” Petrenko closed the holo screen and then folded his legs and placed his hands atop them, devoting his full attention to Kaidan.
“I just... there are some things I’d rather not revisit.” He’s here to help.
“Alright... well... I guess you should know then: the Alliance has officially removed you from duty until you get yourself sorted out. You’re going to be stuck under my care until I decide that you’ve really truly gotten better and aren’t a danger to yourself or anyone else.” Kaidan bit his lip and slowly closed his eyes. I should have expected this sooner or later, really.
“Everything we talk about is confidential?”
“Councillor Anderson was quite clear about the records of your care being sealed and secret.”
Another friend I don’t deserve.
“Okay... I lost someone... A friend...” He stirred slightly, feeling uncomfortable with talking about Shepard and the Normandy with a man he’d just met. “Someone who meant a great deal to me.” He could feel himself flush slightly and his hands shake with nervousness.
“Kaidan I’m not here to judge you... I really do want to help you but you have to be completely honest with me. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s really going on.” I’m just that damn transparent, apparently.
“I fell in love with my commanding officer and then watched him go down with the ship.” The words almost tumbled from his lips and he felt himself recoil slightly in shock after he’d said it.
“That’s a start, thank you.” Petrenko’s warm smile hadn’t left his face and Kaidan could feel himself relax slightly. There was just something about the man that he trusted and soon they were discussing Shepard.
“So I understand that in the time that you and the Commander had gotten... close, you were also on a high risk mission that might not have ended well for yourself or any of the crew?”
“I know you know what our mission was... just turn on a vidscreen.” Kaidan retorted, sounding slightly miffed.
“Okay.” The doctor held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Not trying to be patronizing, just want to hear it in your own words.”
“Sorry. Yes. Shepard and I never got ‘close’ though... just once while I was... ... drunk.” He finished the sentence as his cheeks flushed with embarrassment again and then powered on. “I went to his cabin after one of my other friends had died on a mission. I drank a lot and decided that it was time to tell him how I felt. I don’t regret it, but I do regret that we never talked about it afterward in detail.”
“Do you think he was upset?”
“If he was, he never let on.”
“Was the Commander ever open to the idea of a relationship or were you more concerned that maybe he might not have felt the same or...” Every damn day.
“Well...” Kaidan found himself in amazement. The hot Russian doctor can apparently read minds. “It’s not that I was worried about him being homophobic... just... Shepard was a ‘duty first’ kind of guy.” Petrenko nodded slowly.
“So I kind of see where you’re coming from in this situation. You loved him a great deal - It’s plain to see by the way you talk about him. You never got the chance to voice it though and that’s a huge burden of regret.”
“I never did tell him. No.” He felt the familiar tightening in his throat and pushed it aside.
“That’s a terrible burden. I understand your hesitation though; it’s never easy to admit something to yourself especially when its an emotion as powerful as love. From what you’ve told me, the biggest hurdle was trying to tear yourself from being so duty bound to protocol.”
“I was worried about my job, yes.”
“You do realize that as a Spectre, Shepard was immune to that particular part of Alliance regs?” Kaidan remained silent. “I get it, I do. 200 years ago, men and women in the gay community had to fight for even basic rights - things have changed, times are different.”
“I know.” I do, I just can’t bring myself to be so open about it.
“So I think that brings us to the part where we talk about the drinking.”
They had talked for the better part of two hours and Kaidan had actually began liking their conversation. It felt good to have an impartial person to share his feelings with - just as with Liara he definitely felt a little better for having talked about it.
“So are you feeling like you want to go home?” Petrenko asked.
“Yeah. I think I’m good.”
“Okay... two conditions: you surrender your gun. Also, you authorize a lock on your credit accounts... you’ll be unable to purchase booze anywhere on the Citadel.” The doctor’s face was serious and his eyes bore into Kaidan’s.
“Deal.” He was anxious to get out of bed and go for a walk, restlessness beginning to take hold.
“The last part... you come and see me for a session three times a week, less when you start to get ahold of these emotions that are causing you problems. If you meet all these requirements, I’ll let Councillor Anderson and Admiral Hackett know that you’re ready to come back to work. Sound good?”
He simply nodded and swung his legs out over the bed, the sheet still covering his middle section. The doctor’s eyes briefly wandered over his body but he hid it well as he gave a wide smile and shook Kaidan’s hand before leaving.
Their sessions always went well and before long, Kaidan actually found himself looking forward to it. They would talk and laugh and it had been two months since he’d found himself feeling the same dark depression that had once had such a hold over him.
It was the beginning of the weekend as they both sat in Petrenko’s office on Zakera Ward. Not a bad location and he had a spectacular view of the Presidium ring and the nebula from his window. His feet were up on his desk and he was clad in jeans and a t-shirt... very informal, but Kaidan had found that to be his style.
“So tell me... any nightmares lately?”
“Nope. I do sometimes think about the Normandy and Shepard though... I feel sad but not enough to want to drink it away.”
“Excellent. That’s what I was hoping for. Besides, this is going to be our last session.”
“Yep. You did everything we asked of you, and you’ve made real progress in dealing with what happened and how to handle it. I think you’re ready.” He flashed those perfect white teeth in a large grin, the shadow of the stubble he kept on his cheeks making them seem even brighter.
“So what happens next?” Kaidan asked.
“Well...” He opened his omnitool and typed for a moment. “I’ve just sent the releases for you to return to work.”
“Hey thanks.” Kaidan genuinely meant it. In one of their previous sessions, he’d talked about how the Alliance was such a part of his life that having time away was what was causing him trouble. Idle hands and such.
“No, thank you. I can say its been a while since I’ve had such a cooperative patient.” He got up out of his chair and then sat on the corner of his desk in front of Kaidan who couldn’t help but let his eyes wander to the bulge in his jeans before quickly looking away. “There’s one last test I’d like to give you though... Since you’re not a full blown alcoholic, I want to make sure you can still handle social situations.”
“Well... as of a few minutes ago, you aren’t really a patient of mine anymore... can we maybe go out for dinner and a drink later?” He wore the same smile, but his eyes had taken on a serious feel to them as he stared directly at Kaidan’s own.
“Uh... sure but one question.”
“If I’m not a patient of yours anymore, why should I take one last test?” A wry smile is what he got in return.
“Because we both know you want to.”
Kaidan had stood outside of Ryuusei fiddling with the cuffs of his shirt. The indecision of whether or not to go inside had struck just as the cab dropped him off and he felt slightly silly. It’s a celebration dinner. As friends.
He wouldn’t be able to dally long as a familiar voice called his name from the entrance. Petrenko was dressed well in a button down and dark pants and gave an animated wave to catch his attention.
“Thought you weren’t coming for a minute there.” He grinned.
“Yeah I just couldn’t find anything to wear.” Kaidan lied sheepishly.
“Uh huh. Well I got a table, it almost took an act of the Council, and using your name to make the reservation, but we’re in.” They both wandered in, Kaidan’s eyes looking around in wonder at the floor to ceiling fish tank that spanned the restaurant. He’d often seen the place when he would visit the markets, but had never been inside. Galactic hero status had it’s perks.
They made small talk over dinner and Kaidan had even had a cocktail - a weak one, mind. Nothing too strong but just enough to be social. Be pleasant and social. That’s the goal.
“Are you excited to get back to work?”
“You bet. Anderson emailed me just after I left your office - says Hackett wants to meet with us and discuss an assignment for me.”
“That’s great Kaidan.” Same perfect smile, same soft way of saying his name. He’s really great, but it just doesn’t feel like it did with John.
They finished dinner and drinks and once back outside, Kaidan opened his omnitool to call a cab.
“I have a car.” Petrenko said with a sideways grin. “Let me take you home.” Kaidan agreed hesitantly and was mostly quiet for the ride back to his apartment. As they stood outside his door, he felt for just a moment that maybe it really was time for him to move on with his life and try something new. Someone new.
“Hey thanks for dinner. I had a really good time tonight.”
“Me too.” The doctor answered, reaching out and placing a hand on his shoulder. “It’s nice to get out be normal, huh?” Normal. Such a damn funny word for someone with a life like mine.
“You have no idea.” He sighed. “So...” Hesitation. Always with the hesitation. “I wanna tell you... This was great, but I just....” Petrenko only grinned at him.
“I get it.” That fucking smile. “You don’t need to feel uncomfortable... But I had to try.” Kaidan let out a nervous laugh and then with a jerky movement, reached out and grasped the back of the man’s neck bringing him into a deep kiss. They broke apart and then he was sure. Nope. Not the same.
“I... thank you for everything, but I need to make sure that I’ve totally put my life back together again before I can think about anyone else full time too.” Petrenko nodded, his eyes showing a momentary flash of disappointment.
“I should be thanking you Kaidan. It’s been great.” They shook hands, awkwardly at best, and then he got into his car and was gone. Kaidan slipped into his apartment and then just inside the door stopped and let out a deep breath. Wow. Just wow. He tasted so damn good too.
His omnitool chirped loudly in the quiet of the apartment. It was an email from Petrenko.
Я знаю, что ты всё ещё любишь Шепарда и не виню тебя. Никто не сможет сравниться с Героем Цитадели.
Надеюсь, что однажды ты найдешь кого-нибудь, чтобы разделить свою жизнь.
Ты удивительный парень.
He smiled to himself and set his email program to auto-translate. During their sessions, Petrenko had been trying to teach him basic words and phrases and he’d failed terribly. One of the things he’d done was send his messages to Kaidan in Russian. Kaidan had cheated and downloaded a translation program from the extranet.
I know you still love Shepard and I can't blame you. No one will ever be able to compare to the Hero of the Citadel.
My hope is that someday you find someone to share your wonderful self with.
You're an amazing guy.
Sighing, he closed the message without replying. Tomorrow was a new day. It was time to get his life back and that started with going back to work.
Thank you MediAsylum for helping with a more accurate translation. My Russian is terrible and my grandmother would hit me if she knew I used an auto-translator.