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Similar Deviations
Chapter 1

Let him go!

Nooo!

Hold on, Kaidan...

Don't give up...  saved my life, and I can't...  Oh Goddess...  Please pull through, Kaidan...  We all need you, but Shepard...  I'll go see how he's doing...  be right back...  better not go anywhere...

Hey Kaidan...  Don't know if you can hear me...  take my chances...  Don't die, Kaidan...  You've got to fight...  need you in this...  I could use you...  Come on Kaidan, fight...  that's an order...

Back when...  fought Saren...  glimpse of Shepard's mind...  just the way he looks at you...  seen you look back...  Shepard...  his main reason to fight...  lost so much already...  Please live, Kaidan, for his sake as much as yours...  You're a good friend...  care for you...


They said that hearing was the last sensory faculty to go when people were dying...  Or being near death, anyway.  After the beating he'd taken on Mars, Kaidan figured that he'd been close enough.  He'd overheard some doctors say that his survival had been nothing short of a miracle, and the fact that he'd managed to make a full recovery even more so.  While they were quick to give credit to Dr. Michel and her team's outstanding medical knowledge and skills, they seemed rather impressed with the strength of his physical constitution, as well as his will to live and get better.

Despite the migraines, his ability to adapt to an L2 implant seemed to indicate that he'd been gifted with a mind and body that was more resilient than most, they'd said.  But then, he guessed he'd always been lucky that way.  Now more than ever, he found himself determined to use that strength, and every other advantages he'd been given, to protect others from the Reapers and from anyone else wishing to abuse their own powers.

Though he hadn't exactly come back from the dead as Shepard had, he felt that, in more ways than one, he'd been given a second chance to try to make things right...  Probably one of the reasons why he found himself unable to find sleep tonight and was making his way towards T'soni's quarters.  He hadn't gotten the chance to speak to her ever since the coup on the Citadel...  Last time they'd really seen each other, Shepard and he had been holding each other at gunpoint, while she'd watched helplessly, her own gun trained on him, wordlessly pleading for him to trust them.

While he felt that he had some apologizing to do, that wasn't the only reason he wanted to see her...  Memories of the time he had spent in a coma were very scarce and hazy, but he kept hearing some voices in his head that...  Troubled him?  No, that wasn't the right word.  It wasn't anything negative just...  He couldn't quite figure out if what he'd heard had been real, or simply the product of a dying mind desperately clinging to the hope of something he'd always believed he could never have.

It wasn't an emergency, though...  He would just see if there was still light coming out of her "lair", as the Normandy's crew liked to call it.  If the place seemed dark, he would let her get some much needed rest.  He had to wonder if asaris needed as much sleep as the average human usually did.  Ever since she became the Shadow Broker, he'd been told that Liara spent entire days and sometimes nights going through her information networks.  He supposed that it was a good thing that her VI, Glyph, was helping her out.

Still, he wondered what he was going to say...  If the voices he had heard had indeed been the product of his imagination; a way to give himself a reason to fight through the darkness and make his way back to the living...  Then what?  He knew that he could trust Liara to keep his secret safe.  She was, after all, one of the most sensitive and discrete persons he'd ever met.  Beyond that, he also trusted her.  They both were private people and had very few friends.  But those that they did consider such meant the world to them.  And Liara had been a good friend.  He hoped that after his little stunt back on the Citadel, she still was.

But the matter made him feel incredibly nervous nevertheless, and he had to fight the urge to double back and return to his own quarters when he saw the bright light coming out of Liara's room.  He knew that he was being silly, but part of him felt like a high school kid all over again.  All feverish at the thought that his latest crush might be sharing his feelings, and anxiously trying to gather more information about what said person thought about him through mutual friends.

He gently knocked on the half opened door, and slowly proceeded to take a peek inside.  Liara, who had been working at her console until then, turned around with a surprised look.  She evidently hadn't expected anyone else to be up at this late hour.  However, as soon as the surprise wore off and her eyes found his, her whole face lit up, and she offered him a very happy, almost relieved smile.

"I'm sorry to bother you Liara.  I couldn't sleep and...  Well, if this is a bad time, I could always come back later..."

"No no, please, come in.  Actually, it's really good to see you.  I didn't get much chance to talk to you since you've been released from the hospital, and I'd like to know how you are doing." she said while proceeding to guide him inside.

"Wow...  This...  This is rather impressive, really." he said while taking a look at the high tech surveillance equipments and communication networks.  "Shepard told me about how you managed to track down the Shadow Broker, and took over his operations.  What you've accomplished took some amazing skills.  You must be proud."

"Well, from what I've heard we've all been pretty busy...  Major." she stretched out the last word, clearly meaning it as a compliment.  "But I doubt that you came here to talk about work..." she said, offering him a place to sit on the edge of her bed "At least, I'd much rather talk about you."

"Me?" Kaidan asked, a bit taken aback by her concern.

"I didn't get much of a chance to visit you in the hospital except for that one time...  But you hadn't regained consciousness yet, and the doctors couldn't tell me if you ever would...  Shepard has kept us all updated on your progress following his visits but, after everything that's happened at the Citadel, and with you rushing back into the action like that, I just wanted to make sure that you were feeling alright...  I should've checked on you earlier, actually, made sure that you didn't have any trouble settling back in, I'm sorry, and..."

"Liara, stop." he said, surprised by how worried she sounded.  "Shepard already helped me get settled when I first came in, and EDI showed me around the ship." he paused, offering a brief half-smile "That is, once I recovered from the heart attack she almost gave me.  I appreciate the concern, but I sense there is more to it."

"Back on Mars, when Dr. Eva got out of the shuttle, you immediately pushed me out of the way and positioned yourself between she and I..."

"I was doing my job, Liara..." he gently tried to interrupt, but she only shook her head and put her hand up to indicate that it was important for her that he let her finish.

"I knew you were going to say that.  Actually, I don't know anyone on this team that wouldn't be ready to take a bullet for a friend, or to sacrifice their own life so that the others could get to safety.  But when it comes down to it, it only shows how many noble, brave and dedicated souls we've got on this ship.  That still doesn't take anything away from the fact that you risked your life on that day and probably saved mine.  If she'd grabbed me instead of you, with the very little protection I was wearing, I most certainly would have died." she said, grabbing his hands in hers.

"You may feel that you were only doing your job.  But it's still a job that you chose to do.  You chose to become a soldier, and you chose to put yourself in harm's way to protect a friend.  That's all part of who you are, and I am grateful."

"Then you're welcome..." he said, smiling back at her, and giving her hands a little squeeze.  "Does that mean that you've forgiven me for the rather uncomfortable situation I put you all in with the council back there?"

"Well, you were only doing your job..." she replied, making him chuckle a bit.

"Yeah..."

"Seriously though, I believe that everyone that was there understood.  The Citadel was under attack, Cerberus had assassins going after your elevator, and out steps Shepard, who has not only been collaborating with Cerberus in the past, but was also entirely rebuilt by them...  Not to mention that Miranda did say that they had considered putting a control chip inside of him at some point..."

"See, now you're really easing my mind..."

Liara laughed "Don't worry though, they didn't.  Apparently, the Illusive Man objected to anything that could have altered Shepard's personality in any way.  And I believe that Miranda and Jacob can be trusted on that.  I guess that what I'm trying to say is that I understand why you hesitated.  And I'm sure that the others do to, Shepard included."

"Thanks Liara, that means a lot..." he said, feeling relieved that he hadn't managed to alienate some of the best people he had ever known.  "And just so you know, I promised Shepard that from now on, I'll stop doubting him.  After everything that's happened, I guess I'd rather take the risk and let myself fully believe that it is him, even if I happen to be wrong, than add to everything he must have been through since they brought him back.  The Shepard I know and lo...  I mean...  Uh...  He deserves better."

Smooth...  Real smooth Alenko...  At least, if he was blushing, Liara had the generosity not to comment on it.

"And I'm so glad to hear it!" she said, positively beaming.

"So you and I, we are good, right?"

"You're a good friend, Kaidan.  One of the best I've ever had...  I remember when I first arrived on the Normandy, you were the only human, besides Shepard, that came to see me and made sure that I was feeling welcomed.  And then, you were always so patient and helpful whenever I had questions or needed help.  I care for you...  After everyone we've lost to this war, I'm both glad and very relieved we've got you back."

"Thanks Liara, so am I.  And I'm happy to call you a friend, too." he sincerely said, before his mind wandered to the main reason of his visit...  Well, considering what he'd almost blurted out earlier, and he had no illusions that Liara would indeed have caught that, it should be easier, right?  Then why did his brain refuse to come up with something to say, and why couldn't he stop fidgeting?

"Was there something else?" the asari offered with a knowing smile, coming to the rescue.

"Yeah...  Ummm...  In fact, there was..." he took a deep breath.  Come on Alenko!  You're a 35 years old military Major, not some love struck teenager, for god's sake!  "You mentioned coming to visit me when I was still in a coma at the hospital?"

Liara's smile grew a bit wider. Oh that's great, she's actually enjoying this, isn't she? "What of it?"

"I, uh, have been hearing these things that you said and...  Well, at least I think that you're the one who said them...  It was your voice and..."  Alright, if she keeps smiling like that, I'm running out of here within the next 5 minutes, I swear!

"And you're wondering if I really did tell you that Shepard may have feelings for you?" she offered, apparently taking pity on him.  Good to know that while she still seemed to find the situation rather amusing, she wasn't just plain evil.

"No.  Well yes, I mean...  These weren't the exact words but...  Did you?"  So when exactly have I unlearned how to talk?

Liara couldn't help but chuckle a bit "I may have mentioned something along the lines of you being Shepard's main reason for fighting this war...  Or that I had gotten a glimpse of his feelings for you back when we were fighting Saren, and Shepard and I linked our minds in order for me to help him better understand the information that he had received from the Prothean beacons...  I may also have mentioned that I have noticed the way that both of you look at each other, especially when you think that none of us will notice...  Is that what you were referring to?"

"I...  Yes, but how?"  You have reached Kaidan Alenko's brain.  I am undertaking some heavy maintenance right now.  Please come back later, when I'll have resumed basic functioning.

"How can I be so sure?"  Well, at least Liara's brain was working properly, and even seemed to be reading his.  Perhaps that whole "embrace eternity" thing with the black eyes was just for show after all, and asaris could always get into your mind whenever they wished to.

"Come on, Kaidan.  While the Commander has many friends and people that he cares about, there's no one else that can captivate his attention like you do.  Whenever you're there, it's like he simply tunes in to you...  Actually, so do you.  You two have this kind of chemistry together both on, and out of the battlefield.  This little "extra care" you give to each other's opinions and actions.  And when you got hurt back on Mars and we feared that we would lose you...  That was the only time where I saw him almost giving up hope.  I can't guarantee that Shepard loves you, of course, but I can tell you that his feelings for you do run deep.  You have to decide if the risk is worth taking."

"Nobody ever fell in love without being a little bit brave…" came a voice from the Normandy's communication systems.

"EDI!  Have you been listening to the whole conversation?" Liara asked, her tone disapproving.

"Only parts of it.  I thought that Major Alenko would be glad to know that I agree with Dr. T'Soni's assessment of the situation.  When I asked Commander Shepard his advice on how to provoke Joker into an emotional commitment, he suggested that I create more opportunities for us to spend time together, despite not knowing how he would respond to my…  interest… in him.  His exact words were "Nobody ever fell in love without being a little bit brave…"  I believe that the Major isn't lacking the bravery department".

"Thank you EDI, but I don't know if being brave on the battlefield has anything to do with the kind of courage required when seeking...  to provoke someone into an emotional commitment." Kaidan replied, apparently having found his voice again.

"Nonetheless, time is short…  And both you and the Commander have already defied the odds by surviving this war as long as you have.  I suggest that whatever you choose to do, you do not delay too long before reaching a conclusion."

"Thanks, I will…  And EDI…"

"I won't inform Shepard or any of the crew members that we've had this discussion…"

Kaidan couldn't resist smiling.  He hadn't known her for very long, but he could understand why the Normandy's crew had grown particularly fond of EDI…  The AI showed surprisingly strong humane qualities, including empathy.  A few still felt that they were venturing into the unknown by allowing her to care for the Normandy's systems, and wandering around the ship without any restraints…  But apparently, Shepard had been completely opposed to the idea of imposing any sort of artificial controls on EDI.  He believed that the more he and the crew showed that they believed in and trusted her, the more the AI's thought processes were allowed to grow and individuate.  Thus, helping EDI to understand more complex beliefs and notions, and to acquire a sense of right and wrong.  Allowing an AI to build a strong personal moral compass seemed like the safest and most ethical way to respectfully gain her loyalty, instead of forcing her to remain loyal through the usual coercive methods that most organics reserved for synthetics.

EDI cared for the crew, and fought alongside them not because she was programmed to do so, but because she chose to, because she felt personally invested in their well being.  And in turn, they had become very protective of her, treating her with the same level of respect and consideration that they would show any other member of the team.

He knew that part of it was Shepard's influence, and the thought made him proud.  Shepard approached any issue that he didn't fully understand with a very humble and open mind, seeking to observe and learn instead of judging.  Life was one of the greatest mysteries of all…  So who was to say that a being born through synthetic means wasn't alive as well?  Especially when she had seemed to develop a conscience…  A soul…

Organic cells and tissues were, after all, a very well crafted and complex "machine" that followed specific rules in order to keep the body and mind working.  So if you could reactivate a synthetic without loosing any of the data it had gathered over the course of its life, or altering its personality…  Was it that very far fetched that Shepard could have been brought back to life once they had repaired his body, without altering who he truly was?  Perhaps the Commander was living proof that organics and synthetics weren't so dissimilar after all.  And perhaps both could acquire a conscience, a soul, a living force that was entirely unique to each individual, and seemed to form the very essence of who that person is.  So Shepard...  Really was back…

"That is very much appreciated EDI, thank you…  And thanks to you too, Liara.  You both have given me much to think about."

"It was good talking to you." Liara replied, pulling Kaidan into a heartfelt hug.  He returned the embrace before excusing himself from her quarters, heading towards the lounging area of the ship on the port observation deck.

He would probably come to regret it later in the morning, considering that he could already feel the first signs of a headache coming up, but right now, he needed a drink.

Apparently, he wasn't the only one.  A turian was already seated in one of the couches, holding a glass in his hand.

"Mind if I join you, Garrus?"

"Not at all, in fact, I had meant to come and see you.  Things got...  Pretty tense back there..."

"That's putting it mildly!"  Joker said as he burst through the door, looking mightily pissed.

"Uh.  Hi Joker."

"Oh, so we're your buddies now?  You trust us?  Everything's good?"  Alright, so mightily pissed was an understatement.

"Joker..."  Garrus warned, apparently feeling like this wasn't the time.

"Jeff, the Commander did ask you to go easy on Kaidan."

"Ask all he wants, it won't stop me from speaking my mind!"

"It's okay, EDI, I've got this." Kaidan said calmly, hoping to defuse the situation.

"Of course you do, just like you had the whole situation under control back at the Citadel.  Threatening to shoot the Commander, Kaidan?  Really?"

Wait, was he really suggesting...?  Making a stand to prevent someone from being killed without proof of his guilt or proper trial was one thing.  But actually pulling the trigger?  His temper flared up at the thought that anyone could ever think that he would have been able to kill Shepard.  "I never would have shot!"

"Well DUH, of course you never would have!  You'd just have stood there, between Shepard and his target, to make some grand statement about "not giving in to terrorists and protecting the presumed innocent" or some shit!  And then, poor Garrus here would have been forced to take you down; 'cause of course there's no way that the Commander would ever have been able to pull the trigger either!  Then, it would have been Horizon all over again, except so much worse because Shepard would be left with absolutely no hope of ever making things right between you two.  Garrus would have had to spend the rest of his life with the guilt of having gunned down a friend.  And Liara, Chakwas, I, and every other member of this crew that actually cares about your sorry ass would have been left mourning yet another friend to that goddamn war!"  As he spoke, Joker's tone went from anger, to frustration, to something akin to concern and despair.  They had all lost and sacrificed a lot to this war, and all of them were acutely aware that this was just the beginning.

Listening to Joker's rant, he realised that the pilot was just under as much stress and pressure as anyone else, perhaps even more.  It was clear that Jeff saw the people on board "his" ship as his responsibility.  And that included him, apparently.

"I'm sorry, I hadn't realized you cared so much..."

"Why else would I be so upset and shouting?" he replied, as if it should have been self-evident.  He sounded a lot calmer, though.

Something else in his speech had caught his attention.

"I...  Uh...  Wait...  What do you mean by Horizon?"

" Horizon, also known about "that time Shepard got his heart crushed, and spent the next month mopping around the ship and skipping meals".  Just ask Garrus how hard we had to work to cheer him up and get him to remain focused on the mission."

"Chakwas did consider putting him on antidepressants, but decided against it since she feared it would slow down his reflexes, and put him at risk in combat situations." the turian reluctantly admitted.

Kaidan was shocked.  He knew that what he'd told Shepard on that day had hurt...  And thankfully, they had gotten a chance to open up about it, and work through their issues during the few times that Shepard had come to visit him in the hospital.  He'd never imagined that it had affected him so much, though.

"I...  Had no idea..." he replied, his voice barely over a whisper.

"Yeah, well that time positively sucked.  And since Anderson basically ordered me to take care of him, I'm going to make sure that Shepard isn't being put under more stress than he already is!  After all he's been through, he deserves better."

Joker was right, he really did.  And Kaidan was determined not to add more on Shepard's already overflowing plate.

"He does, really.  And I'm sorry...  I never meant to hurt him, I just...  We both watched him die, Joker...  Organics don't usually come back from the dead and...  Well, I guess that it would have helped if I had met with EDI earlier..."

"Why's that?"

He smiled.  "She's got a kind and beautiful soul, no matter the platform she is operating.  It might have helped me get over the fact that Shepard had been rebuilt, and encouraged me to truly take a look at the person within instead."

"Are you saying this to get on my good side?" Joker asked suspiciously, but you could see that Kaidan's words had deeply touched him.

"No, I mean it.  When Shepard  died...  Well, let's simply say that for a little while there, the world I was in stopped making sense...  Although he ordered me to take care of the crew and get them to the shuttles, I never quite forgave myself for having left the Normandy before he did.  Some part of me always felt like I should've stayed, no matter what..." he looked down, swallowing hard.  Talking about his feelings was a very difficult thing to do, especially without having to relive them.

"I cared for him, perhaps more than I was supposed to.  When I saw him on Horizon, I was still reeling.  I had only begun to accept that he was gone, and suddenly there he was, standing right in front of me.  I can't think of any situation that's ever felt as surreal.  It's like my mind was refusing to cope with it, and let myself hope...  Each time I looked at him, all I could see was his body floating in the vast open space, hopelessly fighting to stay alive.  It sounds terrible, but back then, it was easier for me to believe that all of it was some cruel Cerberus trick to try to gather more Intel on the Alliance and lure us into letting our guards down...  Because letting myself believe that Shepard really was back only meant that I could risk losing him again...  And I don't think I would have been able to survive it this time."

"And now?" Joker asked quietly, urging him to go on.

"Now, I find that in this war, hope is probably the only thing that any of us truly have left.  I've been given a second chance to fight alongside him, and try to make a difference.  No matter what, I'm not going to waste it.  I've got his back, a hundred percent."  It was promise that he was making both to them, and to himself.

"Well, then I'm sorry for jumping on you like that."

"Feeling better now?" Kaidan asked with a sheepish smile.

Joker returned the smile, letting him know that as far as he was concerned, all had been forgiven and dealt with.  "Yeah...  Okay I'm good.  We're good."

"And I'm glad you two kids kept it civil and didn't force me to intervene."

"Come on Garrus, you know that I wasn't actually going to really kick his ass.  I might have broken my foot or something." the pilot replied with a shrug.

"Still, you can be pretty scary sometimes...  Not to mention that you've now got this super hot girlfriend that could easily beat the crap out of me."

"Damn straight!"

Kaidan had to admit, he really had missed it.  The playful banter and good natured teasing that seemed to be the rule on board the Normandy.

"I have no wish to follow in the footsteps of this platform's previous occupant, and can assure you that I would never use this body to harm you, Kaidan."

"I know EDI, that was..."

"...a joke.  Then it is good to know that you can already find humor in these things.  It means that we won't have to worry about the psychological after effects of your previous ordeal."

Surprisingly, they really didn't.  Memories of watching Shepard getting spaced, or watching that bomb detonate on Virmire seemed to have left a stronger imprint on his mind than his own near death experience.  He remembered instinctively pushing Liara out of the way and shooting at Dr. Eva while she'd rushed him with inhuman speed.  Then, the next thing he knew he didn't have his gun anymore, and he was helplessly being suspended in mid-air with the lower part of his helmet painfully pressed against his windpipe, effectively cutting his air flow and leaving him gasping for breath...  And then everything had gone black.  While unpleasant, it had happened so fast and hadn't been more painful or traumatic than any other injuries he'd sustained in the past while fighting.  Also, Kaidan didn't really fear death...  His greatest fear was watching people close to him get hurt or die, while being powerless to do anything about it.

"Don't worry EDI, Kaidan won't curl himself into a ball and start rocking back and forth each time he encounters a mech."

That earned a chuckle from Garrus "Now that would be quite the show..."

"Sorry Garrus, but I fear Joker's right, and I won't start panicking any more than you would if we encountered a gunship."

"Still, I prefer to stay clear of those.  I won't curl into a ball, but you'll sure see me running for cover."

"A very sound plan." Kaidan agreed.  There was, after all, a difference between cowering in fear, and avoiding tempting fate.

"I don't know about you Alenko, but I could really use a drink right now…." Joker said, eyeing Garrus' own glass of turian brandy.  "Think you can grab us some glasses, and a bottle of non-dextro from the bar?"

"Aye aye." he replied, making his way to the bar as Joker took a seat next to the turian.

"And guys, thanks." he said as he plopped down into the couch facing them, uncorking the bottle and pouring both he and Joker a drink.

"What for?"  Garrus wondered.

"I can always yell at you more often, if you'd like." The pilot added with a smile.

"Thanks Joker, but I'll pass.  Though if I start acting stupid again, you can go ahead and bring me back on track." He said, returning the smile.

"You can pretty much count on it!"

"I meant thanks for watching over Shepard, and for the support you've given him ever since he came back.  I know I should've been there for him, but it's good to know that at least, he wasn't alone in all of this." He sincerely told them, feeling the familiar wave of guilt and regret take a hold of him.

"Yeah, well you staying out of that whole suicide mission with the Collectors made us look good."  Joker replied, trying to keep his tone light, though he knew that the whole thing must have been pretty hard on the Major as well.

"Plus, I suppose that having someone with your history of faithful services to the Alliance speaking up on Shepard's behalf during his trials helped make a difference.  The way everything played out was probably for the best."  Garrus added.

Kaidan sighed.  "Yeah..."  Perhaps the turian was right.  Perhaps the fact that he hadn't abandoned his post and his duties to the Alliance in order to follow Shepard against the Collectors had made a difference when it came down to giving credibility to Shepard's claims about the imminent Reapers threat.  His being a well respected officer testifying about what he had seen on Virmire and Ilos, and backing up Shepard's findings and decisions may have made a small difference in the fact that the human council had ultimately begun to believe him, and had been willing to quickly drop most of the charges against the Commander.  And least, he hoped.

"So, when are you going to ask him out?" Garrus asked, pulling him out of his musings.

"Excuse me?" Kaidan replied, momentarily confused.

"Shepard.  Now that you're back and you two have managed to put the past behind you, aren't you going to ask him out?"  the turian clarified, as if it should have been evident.

The L2 was shocked.  Okay, so he'd just admitted to caring about the Commander more than he probably should; and from what Joker had told them, it seemed that Shepard cared a lot about him, too.  But with the war going on, and the fact that they all had to deal with rather pressing matters, "dating" didn't seem to be something that he'd expected to be on anyone's mind, much less Garrus'.

"Come on, Alenko!  It's not like everyone hasn't noticed the sexual tension between you two.  Better act on it while you still can."  Joker said with a roll of his eyes.  This really wasn't helping in making that whole conversation any less surreal.  And what did he mean by…

"Wait...  Everyone?" he asked, now somewhat horrified.  He did feel attracted to the Commander but…  To think that the attraction was mutual, and that other people among the crew had been able to notice it when he himself had been completely blind to it…

"Yeah.  It's difficult to be any more obvious."

Oh god...  He only hoped that he wasn't blushing right now.  Perhaps he could blame it on the drinks.

"And you guys are...  Okay with that?" Having noticed that Shepard and he might be interested in each other was one thing…  But were they really encouraging him to do something about it?

"Sure, why not?"  Garrus answered with a shrug.

"Because we're military.  He's my commanding officer, and last time I checked, there were regulations against that sort of thing."

Joker immediately dismissed the argument with a wave of the hand.  "Pffft!  Aren't you two Spectres?  Allowed to break the law and all that..."

"In order to do whatever must be done to protect people and keep the galaxy safe, sure." He quickly clarified.  He doubted that when the Citadel council had chosen to allow their agents to disregard certain rules to get the job done, two military officers getting it on was what they had in mind.

"My point, exactly."  Joker replied, looking rather smug.

"I'm sorry Joker, but I fail to see how Shepard and I breaking the law to be together fits into the job description."

"I don't.  It makes perfect sense, actually."  Garrus agreed.

"Alright, enlighten me."

"Both Joker and I have been with the Commander long enough to know that the more Shepard feels emotionally invested in a mission, the higher are his chances to succeed.  What could be considered as a distraction for most people, in Shepard's case, becomes his strongest motivator.  The Illusive Man knew this, and this is why he insisted on surrounding Shepard with trusted allies that he would strongly care about.  Each of us represents a connection to what he is trying to save, gives him a personal reason for fighting.  For example, he sees the quarian people through Tali...  The krogans through Wrex...  These individual connections allow him to create a general attachment to these people, and care for their welfare as much as if they were a part of his own family."  The turian began to explain.  And while he could indeed recognise Shepard's behavior and the description, and understand where Garrus was coming from, he still wasn't sure where exactly he fit in.

"And what would I represent for him?"

Garrus smiled knowingly…  Or, at least, it looked like a smile.  "Home.  Safety.  The one place in the universe where he can allow himself to be human, instead of having to live up to the pressure of being the larger than life savior of the galaxy.  Someone with whom he can share his burdens.  Someone that can be there to pick him up, and give him hope when it seems that all hope is lost and the world is crumbling around him.  Someone that would fight with all he's got, and give all that he is to keep him safe." He went on, leaving Kaidan speechless.  Given the chance, there was no doubt in his mind and in his heart that he would indeed gladly be all that for Shepard.  Actually, there was nothing in the world that he would wish more than to be there to love and support him.  Make things easier if he could.

Beyond family, beyond friendship, Shepard was his main personal connection to this war.  The main reason why he'd held onto life so fiercely, and why he'd refused to give up the hope that they could win this.  Shepard's presence gave him strength, and made him believe that anything was possible if they only fought hard enough for it…

"Every hero needs a hero every now and then, Kaidan.  I think you should be his."  Garrus added, leaving him visibly moved.  Garrus and Shepard were brothers in all but blood.  That he'd had such faith in him after all he'd put the Commander through…

"Even though I let him down?" he asked quietly, his voice laced with regret.

"Despite my little outburst earlier, I can understand why you weren't exactly eager to jump on the Cerberus train."  Joker offered compassionately, knowing a thing or two about regrets.  "And as Garrus said, everything turned out to be for the best.  The Commander deserves to be happy, and have someone to live and fight for.  As far as I'm concerned, you're still the best candidate."

"You guys almost make it sound like all that Shepard needs to get through this and succeed in stopping the Reapers is someone that loves him."

"Pretty much." The pilot confirmed "Especially when it's the man that he's been pining for over the last three years."

"Two of them he spent being dead."  The two longest years of his life, Kaidan recalled.

"I'm sure he was still watching over you.  Especially when you were taking a shower..."

"Joker!" Garrus exclaimed in a mock horrified voice, but had to fight to keep himself from laughing.

"What?  Seriously though, if we all died tomorrow, what would you regret?"

Kaidan didn't say anything, but he didn't have to.  The look of pain and longing in his eyes spoke volumes.  The thought of loosing Shepard without ever having told him how he felt…  Ever having known if they could have shared something more…

"I believe you have your answer." Joker stated.

"I...  Think I do..." he acquiesced, still feeling a bit unsure of what to do exactly, but knowing that he couldn't go back to pretending that his feelings for Shepard were anything less than they were.

They stayed in silence for a few minutes, all of them enjoying their drinks and lost in their own thoughts, until Kaidan noticed something that had been bothering him ever since he entered the room.

"Say, do you guys know what happened to all the cushions that used to be lying around here?"

Garrus guffawed, almost choking on his brandy, while Joker turned 3 shades of red.  Wait, what did he miss?

"Joker and I deny any responsibility in the sudden disappearance of these cushions." Came EDI's voice from the com. systems.

"I never implied…  Now why would you two?…"  Oh. OH.  It was Kaidan's time to turn red, much to Garrus' amusement.

"Well, this has been fun."  The turian said, standing up, "But although tomorrow is shore leave, there are a few supplies that I need to go buy from the Citadel, so I don't intend to spend the whole day sleeping in.  I think it's time for me to go get some shut eye."

This was probably a good idea.  Not that Kaidan thought that he would be able to get much sleep after all he'd heard tonight, but at least it wouldn't hurt to rest a bit.  "I think I'll call it a night too.  Thanks for the talk..."

"Anytime."

He quietly made his way back to the starboard observation deck, where he'd elected to sleep since most of the beds that were in the crew quarters had already been taken, and sat down on one of the lounge chairs, checking his e-mails from his private terminal first.

To his surprise, he had received a message from Aria T'Loak requesting…

Oh god...  Kaidan didn't know how long he just sat there, gapping, both horrified and amazed…  But then, he started laughing until his chest hurt.  Wiping out the tears from his eyes and catching his breath, he finally decided that his companions had been right.  He loved Shepard, always had…  With so much being uncertain in this war, now may be the only chance they would ever get to be together.  Perhaps Shepard would refuse, either not returning his feelings or considering sharing an intimate relationship with another crew member a distraction from their mission.

But would it really hurt to, at the very least, give him the chance to make this decision?

He went through his contacts and began writing a message to the Commander:

Hey Shepard,

I don't know about you, but I could sure use a little breather.  Next time you're on the Citadel, let me buy you dinner.  We should try Apollo's.  It's that little restaurant in the courtyard overlooking the Presidium.

Kaidan


Smiling, he pressed "sent".
SPOILERS: Everything up to and including Mass Effect 3’s ending.

SUMMARY: “Give us hope and a fighting chance. Hell, the Reapers better watch themselves.” Every hero needs a hero every now and then. And Kaidan is exactly what Shepard needs.

DISCLAIMERS: All the characters in the story belong to Bioware, and whoever else has the rights on Mass Effect. Some quotes will directly be borrowed from the games.

WARNING: Eventual character(s) death(s).

A/N: For those of you wondering what the e-mail that Aria sent him was, it can be found in my gallery here:
[link]


Chapter 2: [link]

Chapter 3: [link]

Chapter 4: [link]

Chapter 5: [link]

Chapter 6 (The Ending): [link]

Full sized screenshot: [link]
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Chapter 1

The Commander was crazy - completely, utterly crazy.  He'd trained and fought alongside vanguards before, but this… Could this even be called fighting?

It was more like watching a giant freight train striking down everything in its path!  To tell the truth, Kaidan had no idea that biotics could even be used in such a way.

One second, the Commander was standing right next to them, giving his orders and assessing the situation - the next, he was gone!  Vanished!  All he could see was their enemies in the distance flying all over the place as a result of his ridiculously powerful biotic charge, followed by a full blown nova knocking back attackers in a massive arc of biotic energy.

And then, there Marco Shepard was – knee deep in geth and husks, shields depleted, shooting them at close range with his shotgun or delivering a few well placed punches if they ever got too close.

Kaidan had tried to assist him as best he could by raising protective barriers around him to replace his shields, literally pulling a few enemies off his back when things seemed too hot, but there had been way too many close calls for his taste.  

Shepard hadn't only been reckless; he had downright tempted fate down there! He had been engaged in some kind of graceful dance of life and death, as if he felt the need to send a challenge to the Grimm Reaper himself to dare try to stop him.

Still, the absolute abandon with which he fought was both terrifying and oddly beautiful - mesmerizing, even.  Kaidan had found himself deeply fascinated by it, despite his distress.

Shepard wasn't manipulating the dark energy.  He simply was the dark energy.  It came from deep within him and was suddenly unleashed upon the world with no thoughts of control or restraint.  The power he wielded felt very raw, pure, and out there.

It seemed oddly… liberating.  And Kaidan couldn't help but envy him.

It felt as if everything about his life revolved around the notion of control, and maintaining solid boundaries.  Even his own biotic abilities, which he'd been told were among the strongest the Alliance had ever seen, appeared to reflect that.

He could conjure up and maintain incredibly strong barriers, throw people and objects away from him, pull them back, and maintain them floating inside vast mass effect fields.  He could freeze a target, or even go as far as attacking someone else's whole nervous system.

He either put up strong defenses, or found ways to destroy them.  His specialty lay in getting past the many "walls" that other people put up to protect themselves.

But he always needed to feel that he was maintaining perfect control over what he was doing at all times.  Every move was calculated; every intention, deliberate.  He'd lost control once in the past, and he wasn't yet ready to get back there.  Even if that meant having to pull back a little and rely more on his technical skills than raw biotic powers.

However, considering what he'd seen back on Eden Prime, and what they appeared to be up against now, "pulling back" was simply no longer an option… and, to be frank, he didn't want to hold back. Not anymore.

Perhaps he was getting worried for nothing, and Shepard's anger over seeing what the geth had done to the colonists and the troops that had been stationed there was why he'd been acting so recklessly. At least Kaidan understood that notion – once the initial horror of having to shoot down colonists who had been turned into rabid, almost zombie-like forms had passed, all that was left was anger. Anger at the geth. Anger at that damn turian Spectre. Anger at themselves for being unable to prevent this.

Still… he'd been ready to go straight to Captain Anderson and formally request a transfer to another Alliance ship as soon as they'd gotten back to the Normandy. He'd nearly convinced himself; this was for his own sanity, and without that stability, there was no way he'd survive in the heat of battle.

Even then, his personal safety was in question as well. Watching after Shepard had distracted him, dividing his focus and making him forget about properly maintaining his own barriers.  And without Chief Williams' intervention, one of the geth would have gotten to him.

Kaidan was a soldier through and through, and he fully understood that every time they set foot off of the ship, there was always a chance that some of them might not make it back.  It was a reality that he'd long accepted and was fully willing to risk - and perhaps even give his life if it meant protecting others.  That wasn't the problem.

His problem was with the notion of people on his team getting injured or killed because they were following a near suicidal, out of control, reckless leader into battle.

Granted, Shepard had never actually asked or ordered him to watch his back to the point of getting distracted – he'd undertaken that task of his own accord.  But what else was he supposed to do? Let him take a round to the back because he was too reckless to maintain his shields?

Kaidan fought as a part of a team - he simply didn't know how not to.  That meant doing his best to ensure that everyone stayed safe, and that no one was left taking more fire than they ought to.

Having one person on his squad, even if he was their leader, jumping right into the heat of it and drawing all the fire on himself wasn't something that he knew how to deal with other than to instinctively try to "rescue" him.  Stop that damn train from wrecking itself, because it was clear he had no interest in slamming on the brakes.

So, yeah - he'd almost come to the conclusion that asking for a transfer was the best solution, before he ended up completely disregarding the chain of command and trying to knock some sense into a Commander whose sanity he was already beginning to question.

But then… then Shepard had to go and risk his life to keep him safe.  And now, he owed him.

It was more than that.  He'd seen the look in the other man's eyes when Jenkins had fallen before them.  The Commander may be reckless - crazy, even - but he still cared.  For his team, if not for himself. Losing Jenkins like that – a soldier under his command, someone he was supposed to lead and protect at all costs – caused a visible disturbance in the Commander that hadn't been there before. That was when the reckless behavior began, and Kaidan might have been inclined to pull him to a stop and ask if he was okay if they hadn't suddenly been thrown headfirst into a stream of attacking geth drones and rabid husks.

Perhaps Shepard simply didn't fully realize that the risks he was taking could end up affecting his whole squad as well.  Perhaps it was up to Kaidan to make him understand that - tactfully, of course - and preferably when his own emotions had settled down a little, and he could think more clearly.

For now, he'd found himself drawn to the med bay, silently watching over Shepard's unconscious form, waiting for him to awake.  Chakwas had assured him that he would be okay – there was hardly any physical damage beyond some bruising from his impact with the ground after the beacon had exploded.  His vitals were strong and stable; his brain activity didn't suggest any particular damage, besides the presence of atypical beta waves and an REM increase.  Was he dreaming?  And if he did, he had to wonder what about… Hopefully, he wasn't reliving anything from his past.

That was the other reason why Kaidan found himself willing to cut him some slack. At least, for now.  Seeing him looking so young and fragile lying there, it was easy to forget everything that the Commander Shepard had been through. Kaidan had seen his dossier before he'd even set foot on the Normandy – Mindoir born, his entire family slaughtered by batarians when he was only a teenager. An L3 biotic with enough raw power to rival an L2. The lone survivor of the Akuze disaster. N7 graduate. Maybe his fighting style was an indirect result of that.  Having survived so much, perhaps he had a tendency to forget that he was not invincible. Or maybe he just didn't care anymore.  Kaidan could only hope it was the former, because the latter…

'Why did you have to pull me out of the way?' he wondered, angry with himself for having been so careless.  Dr. Chakwas and Captain Anderson had both told him that there was no telling what the beacon really could have done to him if Shepard hadn't grabbed him and thrown him out of the way - if he could've been killed on the spot when it activated, instead.  Still, Kaidan couldn't shake the belief that it should've been him lying there instead of Shepard.  He'd been the one who had accidentally activated the damn thing, after all.  It was unfair that the Commander was the one paying the price for his mistake.

Life was rarely fair though, was it?

Now all any of them could do was wait for Shepard to wake up, and tell them what he could remember about what happened. Because until then, they were flying blind.

He took a few steps closer to the stretcher, resisting the urge to just try to shake him awake, or take his hand or… just do something.  Kaidan hated feeling so powerless.   He hated being forced to wait for things to just happen.  And how could such an unstoppable force of nature on the battlefield appear so small and vulnerable while asleep?  When he'd carried him back to the Normandy, he'd been surprisingly light in his arms, too…

Getting a transfer was no longer an option.  Crazy or not, it seemed that Marco Shepard had somehow managed to gain his allegiance, and that wasn't something that he was able to give lightly.

As Shepard began to slightly move, slowly coming to, Kaidan took a few steps backwards. In retrospect, waking up to find his Staff Lieutenant standing right above him, watching him sleep, wouldn't be the least bit creepy.

"Doctor?  Doctor Chakwas? I think he's waking up!" he called out, but still remained close by, wanting to, at the very least, make sure that he would be fine and get the chance to apologize for what happened with the beacon, before getting back to his other duties.

Shepard seemed to jerk back to life after a moment of shifting about, his eyes drifting open to stare directly up at the ceiling – he immediately winced at the sound of Kaidan's voice, however. Everything within his immediate range of vision was blurry and unrecognizable, a congealed mass of blues and grays. There was a dark shape to his right that he assumed was the Staff Lieutenant – he was fairly sure that was who had just spoken - and another shape was approaching from the far side of the room, footsteps clicking on the steel floor.

He shoved his elbows into the cot he was laying on, lifting himself up into a sitting position so he could swing his legs over the side – the sudden movement made him nauseous, however, and he had to stop himself from going any further. He hunched forward, rubbing his face with his hands and pressing his fingertips into his temples with a soft groan. His head felt like someone had driven a spike straight into the back of his neck and up through his skull, and he had a disgusting taste in his mouth. He swallowed heavily, before removing his hands and finally looking up to see Dr. Chakwas standing in front of him.

"You had us worried there, Shepard. How are you feeling?"

He rubbed the side of his face, trying not to grimace – her voice was just an octave too high for his headache. "Like the morning after shore leave," he finally muttered, lowering his hand and taking a moment to look around the room. He was suddenly and acutely aware of just how sore his entire body felt, like he'd played chicken with a krogan and lost. "How long was I out?"

A sympathetic look crossed the doctor's face as she looked down at him, and she crossed her arms. "About fifteen hours," she replied, before her eyes seemed to drift over his shoulder, towards the man standing behind him. "Something happened down there with the beacon, I think?"

"A little more than something," Shepard grumbled, hand going to rub the back of his head. He wasn't sure what had knocked him out first – the imagery overload, or the back of his head colliding with the ground at top speed. Regardless, he immediately regretted touching his fingertips to the base of his skull and drew them away with a sharp hiss of pain. He probably had a ridiculous bruise showing right through the thin sheen of buzzed hair.

Chakwas immediately reached forward and pulled his hand away from the bruise on the back of his head, clicking her tongue disapprovingly at him. "You'd be better off not touching that one, Commander. You hit your head pretty hard – you're lucky you didn't end up with a concussion, or worse, a broken implant," she said, releasing his hand and stooping down to look directly into his eyes, hand tilting his chin upwards. "Hmm. No pupil dilation. I think it's safe to say you don't have to worry about anything worse than a bad headache for the next few hours."

"It's my fault. I must've triggered some kind of security field when I approached it," came the voice from behind him again, and he had to turn his head to glance back over his shoulder. The movement made his head reel a bit and he blinked a few times to keep from getting dizzy. At this angle he could just barely see Kaidan standing a few paces to his rear, arms crossed and expression too difficult to read. "You had to push me out of the way."

Shepard sighed, closing his eyes for a moment and trying to gauge his response. A small part of him was annoyed with Kaidan for getting too close to the beacon and nearly getting the both of them killed, but the rest of him didn't care at this point. It was done and over with and they were both still alive. Reprimanding the lieutenant wasn't going to accomplish anything, especially when he couldn't truthfully say he wouldn't have done the same thing in his situation.

"You had no way to know what would happen," he finally said, choosing his words carefully, opening his eyes and finally getting a decent look at his lieutenant without his vision obscured by post-head-trauma blurriness. He saw what could have been a relieved look flit across the man's expression, but it was gone as fast as it came.

"Actually, we don't even know if that's what set it off," Dr. Chakwas suddenly said, drawing Shepard's attention away from Kaidan and back towards her again. She reached up to brush a lock of silver-streaked hair behind her ear, looking to the side with a somewhat uncomfortable expression. "Unfortunately we'll never get the chance to find out."

"What?" A genuinely confused look crossed Shepard's face, and he sat up straight when he realized she was looking over his shoulder again, as though expecting Kaidan to elaborate. He turned back to see the staff lieutenant had finally moved, walking around to stand next to Chakwas.

"The beacon exploded. A system overload, maybe," he explained, and seemed to falter when an alarmed look crossed Shepard's face. He didn't even remember the thing exploding. In retrospect an explosion was about the only thing with enough force to hurl him into the ground that hard, but that was the last thing on his mind. He didn't say anything, however, allowing him to continue. "The blast knocked you cold. Williams and I had to carry you back here to the ship."

Well, he did the actual carrying and Williams brought back his helmet and weapons, but that wasn't something that Kaidan felt the Commander really needed to know…

"I…" Shepard struggled for words for a moment – he wasn't sure what to say at this point. The colony had been razed, Nihlus and Jenkins were dead, and now the one thing they'd gone there to retrieve was destroyed. He felt like he was beating his head against a wall just trying to wrap his mind around how exactly this was going to look in a report, so he chose to focus on something else. "I appreciate it."

Kaidan only nodded in response, though Shepard got the distinct feeling he wanted to say more. Chakwas stopped him, however.

"Aside from some bruising, physically you're fine. But I detected some… unusual brain activity. Abnormal beta waves. I also noticed an increase in your rapid eye movement," she explained, pausing to give Shepard a look that was all too knowing. "Signs typically associated with intense dreaming."

Shepard had to cast his eyes downwards, staring at a spot on the floor between their feet – now that they were staring directly at him, waiting for a magical answer that would explain everything that had happened, he found eye contact a bit too difficult to maintain. He sat in silence for a long moment, trying to recall what exactly he had seen – the beacon had grabbed hold of him and lifted him straight into the air like he was nothing more than a piece of paper, and any thought of trying to struggle free was gone when the images hit him.

He couldn't think of a way to put it into words. It was like some kind of twisted, broken film reel burning its images directly into his brain – he remembered the screaming, so much screaming, to the point that he couldn't hear anything but. Blood running everywhere, images stained dark red. Mutilation and death. Just trying to remember summoned the images in his mind again and he had to lean forward, hands going to cover his face as he tried to bring his thoughts back under control again. He could still hear the screaming echoing in his ears. Something about the images was conjuring up this debilitating feeling of despair deep in the pit of his stomach, and it was all he could do not to get sick.

"I saw…" he began, realizing his voice was shaking and taking a deep breath to steady himself once again, lowering his hands and forcing on a straight face. "I'm not sure what I saw. Death… destruction… Nothing's really clear."

Great, now they were both looking at him like he was brain damaged. Maybe he was.

"Hmm," Chakwas hummed, looking him over thoughtfully. "I better add this to my report. It may—Oh! Captain Anderson," her eyes snapped upwards, looking past Shepard as the door on the opposite end of the med bay swished open. Shepard immediately slid into a standing position, straightening his posture as the Captain walked into the room, surveying the three people standing there with his hands clasped behind his back. He turned to Chakwas first.

"How's our XO holding up, Doctor?"

"All the readings look normal," she replied, shooting a slight smile in Shepard's direction. "I'd say the Commander's going to be fine."

Anderson nodded in approval. "Glad to hear it," he said, before turning his attention towards Shepard. "Shepard, I need to speak with you," he said, before his gaze fell on Kaidan and Chakwas, "In private."

Kaidan took the hint immediately, giving the Captain a stiff salute. "Aye aye, Captain. I'll be in the mess if you need me."

He and Chakwas immediately exited the room without a second thought, the door swishing closed behind them, leaving Shepard and Anderson alone in the med bay.

'At least that went well...' Kaidan thought, feeling relieved that the Commander had almost fully recovered, a few bruises and strained muscles aside, and grateful that he didn't appear to hold him responsible for the whole mess with the beacon.  Perhaps he'd sensed that Kaidan was already beating himself over it enough as it was, and had the kindness not to add more to his guilt.

He sat down at one of the tables and rested his head in his hands, closing his eyes and slowly massaging his temples in an effort to make the slowly building headache go away.  Sometimes, it helped…  At other times, there wasn't much he could do.

"I could probably give you something a bit stronger for that, let you sleep it off," Dr. Chakwas offered helpfully, sitting across the table from him. "When's the last time you took any analgesic?"

"Not since a few hours before the mission," he answered, "though I'm not sure that I really feel like getting drugged up right now.  I…  uh…  it'll probably pass if I just wait a bit."

The doctor didn't seem all that convinced, however.  Sometimes, he swore that she reminded him of his mother.  "You've been standing watch in the med bay for the better part of the last fifteen hours.  You should get some rest."

"Yeah well, so have you," he shot back, trying to deflect the attention from the subject.  He really wasn't in the mood to listen to reason right now.

"I'm the ship's doctor, Alenko.  It's my job to watch over my patients," she answered, clearly wondering why she even had to argue with him.  "Besides, I wasn't the one that came back from a long, perilous mission carrying a full grown man in my arms.  You're just being stubborn."

Kaidan let out a tired chuckle.  "Yeah…" he admitted, though he chose not to add that he had way too much on his mind right now to consider being able to get any actual rest.  Thankfully, Karin seemed to pick up right on that.

"How are you holding up?" she asked, her tone a bit softer.  She knew that Jenkins and Kaidan had been close.  His good natured, enthusiastic personality had eventually managed to win the Lieutenant over. He had a way of making him act a lot more relaxed in his presence.

She remembered the time when Jenkins had convinced him to "push him over" using his biotics, and Chakwas had been amazed to watch Kaidan comply - especially given his past history.

Lieutenant Alenko wasn't someone that enjoyed showing off, but he'd done it simply to make the other man happy.  At first, she'd worried that he'd underestimated the strength of his throw and that Jenkins had gotten hurt; but no, he'd been perfectly fine.  Then again, Kaidan had a pretty good grasp of his abilities.  He'd probably made it to look impressive, while actually absorbing much of Jenkins' fall.

Losing Jenkins was obviously hard on everyone, including herself.  She did, after all, care for all these soldiers as if they were her very own children.  But considering how remote Kaidan tended to be, the loss of such a good friend was probably even worse for him.

"As well as can be expected," Kaidan answered truthfully.  "I don't think it has really hit yet, and I'm not looking forward to when it does."  

Worrying for the Commander's safety, and sanity, had actually been a welcomed distraction, all things considered.  It had prevented him from thinking too much about everything else that had just happened.  Let the horror and tragedy of it sink in when the time came.

"I think it's good that we have another biotic around now," Dr. Chakwas said. It was obvious that she was hoping that it would encourage Kaidan to open up to the rest of the crew a bit more.  Perhaps make new friends, especially if he knew there was someone around just like him. He might not be as inclined to section himself off as much.

"About that…  Do you have any idea where the Commander got his training?" he wondered, frowning a bit.  He wasn't ready to share his concerns about Shepard with other members of the crew yet, but he was curious to find out as much as he could about him.

Chakwas shrugged in response. "My understanding is that his abilities manifested pretty late in his teens, after the slaver attack on Mindoir.  Some have even wondered if the trauma of those events is what ended up triggering them."

'Hopefully, they won't start sending batarian slavers after remote human colonies out there to test that theory,' Kaidan briefly thought, remembering the increase in cases of "accidental" in utero eezo exposures once it had been identified as a trigger for the emergence of human biotics.  Of course, Shepard would have needed to develop eezo nodules in his body prior to the slaver attack at some point, possibly by secondary exposure.  But the idea that there could be more "dormant" biotic potentials out there only needing a good shock to their nervous system to activate their abilities would make companies like the late Conatix Industries salivate.

"But I don't believe that he's ever had any formal training to speak of," Dr. Chakwas went on to explain, "He was outfitted with an L3 implant shortly before enlisting in the Alliance, and by the time he became a soldier, had proven already quite efficient at using his biotics in specific combat situations." She frowned, noticing the pensive look on Kaidan's features. "Why?  Is there something I should know?"

The Lieutenant shook his head slowly, trying to avoid provoking another flare up by moving too fast. "No…  I just thought that his display of biotic powers out there was rather…  uh…  impressive."  Well, at least that wasn't a complete lie.  Though perhaps he should have added "just keep the med bay ready and well stocked for more of his post-mission visits" in order to give her a bit of a heads up.  Maybe it would also be a good idea to start carrying a few extra packs of medi-gel, too.  Considering that he had the most field medical training out of all of the marines on the ship, he'd have to remember that.

"Well, I guess that's my cue," Dr. Chakwas said, watching as Captain Anderson and the Commander stepped out of the med bay following their discussion. She rose from her seat, but paused long enough to turn back to Kaidan. "Just tell me you'll try to, at the very least, get some rest before we reach our next destination," she added, her previous concern returning.

Kaidan nodded. "I will…  I just want to see if there's anything that the Commander needs me to do first."

Satisfied with his answer, she made her way back to the med bay with a nod towards the two officers exiting the room, while Kaidan stood up and went to stand by the corridor, waiting to see if Shepard would feel the need to come talk to him.

Shepard paused at the doorway to the med bay, watching as the Captain crossed the crew deck and disappeared into his quarters. He released a heavy sigh after a moment, reaching up with a hand to massage his forehead. The med bay had been dark and fairly quiet, but now that he was out in the main part of the ship, he was suddenly aware of how bright the lights were and how loud the ship was. He briefly entertained the idea of slipping back into the med bay for a few hours, at least until his headache had gone away, but knew he couldn't afford the luxury.

He had too much on his mind right now. Speaking with Anderson had only confirmed his worries – the situation was about as bad as it could get, and most of that was resting on his shoulders. He knew he would need to take responsibility for the mistakes that were made, but he wasn't looking forward to the debriefing at the Citadel. He could only hope that the Council would listen to them and do something about that turian Spectre, Saren. Then the mission might not have been a complete and utter failure.

He was having a hard time wrapping his head around just how disastrous the mission had been. He'd led squads before – hell, his final test during N7 training had been to lead a small squad into batarian territory and rescue a downed civilian transport – so he'd assumed this would be an easy task in comparison. Alenko and Jenkins were trained soldiers who already knew how to take care of themselves, and that was more than what he'd been forced to work with before. And yet here he was, with one crewmember dead and a failed mission on his hands. His N7 program instructors would be shaking their heads at him right about now.

He immediately regretted not actually pausing to get to know the men he'd be working with before they embarked on their first mission together. Personally, he favored speaking with his teammates before heading into battle with them – to get a feel for what kind of people they were, how they viewed themselves and how they fit into the missions to come. The more understanding he had of the people he was supposed to lead, the better he felt he could instruct them and prioritize their movements on the battlefield.

In this case he'd only spoken to Jenkins maybe twice. The first time had been a quick greeting and handshake while waiting for the Normandy to leave the port at Arcturus Station for the first time. The second had been right before the mission. Jenkins had been enthusiastic, gung-ho, and foolhardy. He'd found it amusing to some extent, but had made it a point to warn him to be careful and avoid that enthusiastic stupidity on the battlefield. He'd seen better marines with that "itching for action" mentality go down in a firefight without a sound.

Maybe that should have been a red flag. But, no, he couldn't blame Jenkins' death on his attitude. Jenkins had died following Shepard's orders – he'd been the one to tell him to move forward when they hadn't been entirely sure what to expect up ahead. If the blame rested on anyone's shoulders, it was Shepard's. That thought did absolutely nothing to comfort him.

He looked up from where he'd paused at the med bay doors, eyes sweeping the crew deck. He realized that Kaidan was still standing in the mess hall, leaning against the partition and somewhat deliberately looking anywhere but at Shepard. He knew Kaidan had other duties to attend to beyond standing around in the mess, so he could only assume he was waiting around to speak to someone. Captain Anderson had already gone to his quarters and Dr. Chakwas had reentered the med bay the moment they had stepped out, so he could only assume he was waiting for him.

Breathing out a soft sigh and pausing a moment longer to rub his forehead, he lowered his hand and stepped away from the med bay doors, approaching Kaidan. The lieutenant seemed to straighten up almost immediately when he realized Shepard was walking towards him.

"Waiting for someone, Lieutenant?"

"I just wanted to make sure you were really okay, Commander.  Losing Jenkins was hard on the crew.  And I'm glad we didn't lose you, too," he said sincerely, doing his best to keep an open attitude and not let his weariness show.  Shepard appeared to be just as beat as he was, though.  Apparently, being out of it for a bit over half a day wasn't as refreshing as one might be lead to believe.  Or maybe he'd received some more bad news from Captain Anderson…

A hint of a smile quirked at the corners of Shepard's lips, his weary expression dropping for a moment – he obviously didn't want to worry Kaidan with whatever Anderson had just spoken to him about. After all, he'd done enough worrying for the both of them if his demeanor meant anything.

"I'll survive. But I appreciate your concern," he replied, crossing his arms and trying not to let on that he was surprised his lieutenant had actually stuck around just to make sure he was okay. He had to wonder just how long he'd been standing watch in the med bay. He assumed it had been out of duty or a need to accept responsibility for Shepard's injuries, but he couldn't help but feel at least a little bit grateful. He'd only been on one mission with the lieutenant and he was already showing more loyalty than men he'd spent entire tours with. "Things were pretty rough down there. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, you never get used to seeing dead civilians.  Doesn't seem right, somehow.  But at least you stopped Saren from wiping out the whole colony," he began, only to realize that Shepard still appeared to be looking at him expectantly.  It suddenly occurred to him that the Commander had asked the question on a more personal level, and wasn't looking for a technical assessment of the situation.  "I…  uh…  I'll be fine, sir," he added, shifting a bit.  "And next time we find ourselves in front of some kind of giant alien device, I promise to keep my distance unless instructed otherwise.  I won't let you down again," he vowed.  As far as first impressions with a superior officer went, he'd certainly done better.

Shepard shook his head, chuckling under his breath. "Here's hoping we don't have to deal with any more giant alien devices," he added, reaching up to rub the back of his neck – he was still sore from the impact with the ground, but the pain appeared to be fading for the most part. "All things considered, you were pretty impressive down there, Lieutenant. I know fighting under a new Commander requires a period of adjustment. Especially when his techniques are a bit… unorthodox." He paused for a moment, crossing his arms again and shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "Either way. I couldn't have done it without you."

Seeing Shepard chuckle made him relax a bit.  "We're marines.  We stick together," he replied, trying to make it clear that to him, teamwork and watching each other's back was what being a soldier was all about. "I guess you could say that I've had experience with pretty… uh… unorthodox situations before…" he trailed off, not exactly wanting to elaborate on that thought for now.  "Though I'd really consider it a personal favor if you could try minding your shields a bit more, sir."  

He hoped that he wasn't being too out of line, but he felt like he just had to say something.  "Look, I…  I feel honored to be given the opportunity to serve under your command, but after just losing a friend and nearly getting you killed myself…  I just want to make sure that we're not taking any unnecessary risks."  Damnit Alenko, you're actually making it sound worse! "I trust you, sir.  I'm just sorry we lost Jenkins."

Shepard's eyebrows shot upwards in surprise, clearly taken aback by the boldness of Kaidan's response. "I don't consider any risk unnecessary if people's lives are on the line. That comes with the territory of being a soldier. You've seen how I fight, Alenko. I don't hold back, because I can't expect the enemy to do so. Being a vanguard-class biotic is risky business. I wouldn't have done the training if I didn't expect it to be dangerous," he replied, unable to keep from frowning. This wasn't new to him – he'd had subordinates in the past who were overly concerned with how dangerous his fighting style was. Though he had to admire that Kaidan was one of the few willing to tell him to his face. He could sense that he regretted saying it aloud, however, and immediately changed the subject to clear the awkward discomfort that had suddenly settled between the two. "I didn't realize you and Jenkins were that close. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to save him…"

As Shepard spoke, Kaidan actually found himself having to bite the inside of his mouth to keep quiet.  Of course, the Commander's reaction was to be expected…  And he also knew that the man would never have completed the N7 program if his instructors had believed him to be a public menace.  However, he couldn't shake the feeling deep in his gut that something here wasn't right.  There was a fine line between taking risks, and ignoring the risks; between not holding back, and not caring.

Speaking his mind had gotten him into trouble more than once though, and he was lucky if he hadn't managed to antagonize a superior officer… again.  Some part of him felt like the appropriate response in this situation would be to apologize; yet another part of him still held the belief that he shouldn't have to apologize for speaking the truth.  Maybe he was worrying for nothing.  Maybe.  He actually hoped that he was.  However, he still considered it his duty to make sure that everyone stayed safe.  Sentinels were trained to assess the risks and find ways to minimize them.  Be it by weakening the enemy's defenses, or strengthening their own.

So while he found himself unable to apologize, he had the sense to, at the very least, try to appear respectfully contrite and keep quiet.  That was probably the best he could offer under the circumstances.  After all, Shepard had given him a compliment, and he'd answered by raising doubts regarding his methods.  Things could've gone a lot worse…  After everything that had happened, the Commander didn't deserve this kind of behavior from him.

"I was there, you did everything right.  It was just bad luck," he replied sincerely.  At least that much was true.  When it came to giving orders to his squad and organizing the offensive, or pulling them back on the defensive, there wasn't much that Kaidan could reproach him about.  As far as he was concerned, whatever had gone wrong down there couldn't be blamed on the Commander, and he'd make sure that his own report would fully reflect that.

"It's been a hell of a shakedown cruise," he reflected, realizing that everyone had been kind of thrown right in the heat of it without being given the chance to get acquainted.  Especially Shepard, since Kaidan was lucky enough to have served with some members of the crew before.  "Our first mission ends with one Spectre killing another.  The Citadel Council is not going to be happy about that; probably use it to lever more concessions out of the Alliance."

An impressed look crossed Shepard's face. "You've got a good grasp of the situation," he responded. It was rare to find anyone in the lower ranks that cared in the slightest how the system worked. Most of the men he'd served with weren't exactly "soldiers for life" material. Granted, Kaidan was a Staff Lieutenant, so he had to have some sort of ambition and interest to make it that far. "You a career man?"

"Yeah, a lot of biotics are. People like you and me – we're unrestricted, but we sure don't go undocumented, you know?" Kaidan said, receiving a nod of agreement from Shepard – he knew that all too well. "May as well get a paycheck for it."

Shepard gave a short laugh, shaking his head slightly. "At this point that's about all we can do. I'm starting to think that the Alliance is the only place that even wants our kind," he said, expression faltering for a second before he quickly changed the subject. "But that can't be the only reason why you joined, right?"

For a second there, Kaidan looked troubled.  He didn't know how much the Commander really knew about his past, and if he'd had the time to read his file, or…  Even there, he knew that some of the facts about him had been understandably classified by the Alliance in order to avoid any form of reprisal.  Either way, there were some things that he wasn't quite ready to discuss.  At least, not yet.  

For all the rumors he'd heard about Commander Shepard being some kind of hard ass, the man was surprisingly open and easy to talk to.  He also seemed genuinely interested in his thoughts and opinions.  Kaidan had never been the kind of person to put much faith into rumors anyway.  He preferred to rely on his own observations.  And so far, he'd seen Shepard treat his subordinates with nothing but consideration and respect.  To him, that spoke much louder about the kind of man he was than whatever scuttlebutt had to say about it.

"Just hoping to make a difference, I guess…" he replied noncommittally, looking away and rubbing the back of his neck.  "Besides, my father served.  Made him proud when I enlisted…" he trailed off a bit, trying to chase back painful memories.  "Eventually."

"So, any other particular reason why you're here, besides the career opportunity?" he asked, a bit too eager to deviate the attention from himself…  before immediately realizing that the Commander may not want to be put on the spot, either.  The least he could do was try to offer him a way out. "I mean…  I don't believe that biotically flipping burgers on some Citadel restaurant would carry as much excitement. And last I heard, the asari weren't exactly hiring…" The possibilities for biotics to put their skills to good use professionally were indeed rather narrow.  And even when they chose to have a job that had nothing to do with their abilities, they were often met with distrust.  Sadly, not all of it was entirely unfounded.

Shepard looked away for a moment, seemingly looking at something on the wall to their left and trying to think of a proper response. "I think it was mostly the incentives," he finally said with a slight shrug, smiling a bit. "It's not like I had anywhere else to go at that point." He faltered, before clearing his throat as a means of forcing a subject change once again. "Either way, I'm happy where I'm at. I'm a bit like you; I enjoy making a difference."

"Right," Kaidan said, feeling like they'd reached a bit of a dead end in the conversation.  It seemed like at some point in time, they'd both ended up lost and had eventually found their way to the Alliance, somehow… but neither felt the need to elaborate on that.  And that was okay.  At least, as far as Kaidan was concerned, he didn't mind having to take his time to get to know someone.  Especially when that person seemed to be worth the effort.

"Word is we're heading for the Citadel, sir," he stated, bringing in another topic.  "Can you uh… tell me why?"

Shepard sighed softly, rubbing the side of his neck. There was no point in keeping it a secret. Besides, he was going to have to bring the Lieutenant with him for the hearing so they could get everyone's side of the story that was involved. "The Captain hopes the Ambassador can get an audience with the Council. Tell them what Saren's been up to," he explained, trying to keep the disdain out of his voice. He hated politicians and everything that had to do with them, but Kaidan didn't need to know that. "Right now our priority is to bring down Saren before he causes more trouble. So long as we can do that, then maybe this mission wasn't a complete disaster."

"The Council would probably like to know he's not working for them anymore," Kaidan agreed, though he didn't quite share Shepard's feelings on that last part.  "As far as the mission being a disaster, I'd say we're still a step ahead of where we were a few hours ago, sir.  I don't think that any of us could've been able to anticipate how everything went down back there, including Nihlus, and he is…  was," he corrected himself,  "a Spectre." He found himself feeling the need to make sure that the Commander wouldn't be taking all of this on himself, for some reason.  "Whatever happens, we'll be ready, Commander."

Shepard nodded in response. "We'll be at the Citadel in a few minutes, so I suggest getting prepared for the debriefing," he said, before going to step out of the cafeteria area where they'd paused to speak. He stopped, however, turning back to address the lieutenant. "I enjoyed speaking with you, Lieutenant," he said, a slight smile working its way across his lips.

He didn't wait for a response, however, immediately turning away and walking down the corridor, disappearing up the staircase that would take him to the bridge and leaving Kaidan to stand in the mess, thinking over everything that had just been said.
This story is co-authored with :iconcygnonymous: . Please follow the links at the end of the description to get to the next chapters.

SPOILERS: Everything up to and including Mass Effect 3's ending.

SUMMARY: After the tragic events of Mindoir and Akuze, Marco Shepard has grown so accustomed to the abyss that the idea of falling into it doesn’t scare him anymore. And when someone no longer fears death, being ‘willing to die for someone’ becomes hollow words… But this time, he may just have found someone to live for...

DISCLAIMERS: All the characters in the story belong to Bioware, and whoever else has the rights on Mass Effect. Some quotes will directly be borrowed from the games.

Anything about Marco Shepard that isn't already part of the default character, including his personality and elements of his back story, was created by Cygnonymous.

Oh! And so is that gorgeous cover picture that she drew for our story. That's totally Cygnonymous' artwork. One of the perks for collaborating with a writing partner that has all the talents. ; b

WARNING: Certain chapters may contain more mature situations such as thoughts related to depression and suicidal intent, descriptions of violence, and sex between two loving and consenting adults.

Chapter 1: [link]
Chapter 2: [link]
Chapter 3: [link]
Chapter 4-1: [link]
Chapter 4-2: [link]
Chapter 5-1: [link]
Chapter 5-2: [link]
Chapter 6-1: [link]
Chapter 6-2: [link]
Chapter 7-1: [link]
Chapter 7-2: [link]
Chapter 7-3: [link]
Chapter 7-4: [link]
Chapter 8-1: [link]
Chapter 8-2: [link]
Chapter 8-3: [link]
Chapter 9-1: [link]
Chapter 9-2: [link]
Chapter 9-3: [link]
Chapter 10: Coming soon!
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Commander Shepard looked out the window of the apartment at the Armax Arsenal Combat Arena just across the strip, although not really seeing it. While his eyes scoped the holographic lettering of the building, his mind was combing the bulge of the right pocket of his favorite jacket: an N7-themed black cotton hooded jacket that harkened back to 20th and 21st century fashion. Reaching his callused hand into the pocket, he pulled out what it so contained: a black velvet case that contained one of the most special purchases he hoped he would ever make.

As his fingers unconsciously stroked the soft velvet, Shepard thought about the man the contained was intended for. He had known the man for a few years now, but only recently did he realize he had deep feelings for him. A few weeks ago, Shepard got to sit down with him at Apollo Café on the Presidium so they could relax and talk over lunch and drinks. Before they gave themselves the chance to order, his love said something that made Shepard realize that he loved him too.

“Maybe what I never found or what I want is something deeper with someone I already care about.”

Those words still echoed through Shepard’s mind, every day since that wonderful day. Even in the middle of the galactic war they were all facing, his mind flashed to the smile that his love made when Shepard said very warmly, “You and me…I like that…I like that a lot.”

Shepard knew he had put it so lightly then; he was so overcome with emotion within that it was all he could say. He didn’t just like it; he loved it. Hell, he craved it since their first mission together against Saren and the geth, which would evolve into a war with the Reapers a few years later. Shepard loved him, and it had taken him this long—and nearly losing him against a Cerberus synthetic on Mars early in the war—to realize it. Seeing him lay unconscious and battered in the hospital shook Shepard’s heart; he was scared of losing him. He had lost so much already: he never knew his parents from Earth, he lost his entire squad to thresher maws on Akuze, and nearly lost his own life to a Collector attack. For years, he had known the fear of losing, and it terrified him so much that he was afraid to open up to people. Yet being on the Normandy changed him; he realized he needed people in his life, friends.

And friends he had, a colorful entourage of them: Alliance soldiers, a turian ex-cop, a krogan mercenary now clan leader, a perky but loyal quarian, and the list went on and on. Most might see his circle of friends as a zoo of different alien species, but Shepard could blast any such comment more than his shotgun could. All the friends and colleagues he met on the way were instrumental to get him to where he was today. He could not imagine his life without a single one of them.

He couldn’t imagine his life without the love of his life either. His mind returned to the velvet box, and his heart began to race. He had things planned out for tonight, but his heart quivered at the thought of it. Was it too soon? With the Reapers here, maybe there wasn’t a “too soon.” Would he say “yes?” He imagined he would, he hoped he would. What if he didn’t? Shepard felt his heart skip at the thought. The man who stared down a Reaper was intimidated by a possible answer to a question. The man upstairs had to be laughing at Shepard about this.

A chime at the door snapped his attention back to reality. Shepard’s eyes snapped towards the door while a small smile etched itself on his stubbled-face: he’s here. His omni-tool lit up over his left arm as he typed a few commands to interface with the door’s computers. When it connected, a holographic screen popped up on his omni-tool, revealing who was at the door. “Hey Kaidan, you’re early.”

The man—Kaidan—smiled. “Well, I think I have a good reason to be here early, I hope.”

Shepard’s teeth shone in the light as his grin grew more dominant. “Come on in; it’s open.” Jamming the velvet box deep into his pocket, he turned towards the kitchen in the middle of the apartment to wait for Kaidan to come in. He tried to calm his mind down enough so he could at least speak without tripping over his thoughts about tonight. This was probably the only thing he hated about relationships: it made him more nervous than a hamster on red sand. Thank God it was worth it and so much more.

The front door slid open, permitting Kaidan to come in, carrying a shopping bag full of presently unidentifiable things. As he did, Shepard loved every part of him: his dark hair gathered at the top, his chocolate eyes, and it all came upon the most gorgeous assembly that the masculine side of humanity could offer. Thank the Maker…literally. Kaidan smiled as he saw Shepard; he could tell that Shepard was admiring the view. “Like what you see, Shepard?”

“Always, Kaidan.” Shepard leaned against the buffet cabinet. “Makes me feel so damn lucky that I finally realized that you were the one person in this galaxy that I was missing.”

Kaidan had to look away. “Please, Shepard; you’ll make me blush. I’m just glad we were able to take some time together before the big party for everyone, you know.”

Shepard’s head leaned back as he remembered the massive preparations he—along with Liara’s VI assistant Glyph—was busy trying to assemble. “Yeah, and I need a break from that. Hell, I’m not even sure I’ll ever be a good host.”

“Well, considering the kind of parties you bring us into nearly on a daily basis, I think you’ll do fine.”

“Well, thank you for the vote of confidence.” Shepard stood back up on his feet. “So, how are you feeling?”

“Starving,” Kaidan said abruptly. “What do you got?”

Shepard frowned. Did Kaidan forget? “I thought we were heading out, Kaidan.”

Kaidan didn’t seem bothered by Shepard’s concern. In fact, he seemed ready for it. Walking up towards Shepard, he said, “Well, we’ll just end up back here anyway, am I right?”

Shepard’s and Kaidan’s face were inches from each other, each one could feel each other’s breath. It was wonderful. Leaning in closer, they shared the smallest of kisses. Even that was electrifying. As they withdrew, Shepard sighed warmly as a smile returned to his face. “Damn you, Kaidan. You are just too cute to argue with,” he thought. Aloud, he said. “Well…when you put it that way…”

Kaidan took that as incentive. “Good, because despite how good Apollo’s is or sounds, I’m kind of sick of it at the moment.”

Shepard looked back at Kaidan, and for the first time began wondering what was in the bag. “Well, if that was a problem, I can find somewhere else to go. I hope you don’t have hopes for sushi though…”

Kaidan smiled at the mention of sushi. Earlier that week, Shepard had accidentally smashed up the nearby sushi place when being pursued by a mercenary group out to kill him. Shepard had fallen through the fish tank and several stories down, miraculously surviving. It had been a rough week, and this party they were planning was their way of cooling off from that as well as the war against the Reapers. “No, don’t worry about that.” Placing the bag on the cabinet, he walked past Shepard towards the stove. “Actually, I was hoping I could cook us dinner tonight.”

Shepard’s gaze followed Kaidan behind him and to the stove. “Wait…you’re going to cook?”

Kaidan looked at Shepard. “Come on, what’s that supposed to mean?”

Shepard crossed his arms, looking at the bag near him. “So, you want me to, what, sit there and watch you cook?”

Kaidan laughed. “You’re not going to watch me cook; you’re going to help me drink beer. Now sit your ass down and let me treat you for once.” Kaidan began digging around in the cabinets. “Wow, Anderson kept this well-stocked, didn’t he?”

Shepard wasn’t sure how he felt about allowing Kaidan to cook, but he supposed it had to happen sometime. Looking at the bag, he began digging through it to see what surprise Kaidan brought with him. “I wouldn’t know; haven’t really took the time to take inventory of the cabinets.”

Kaidan pulled out a couple of pans. “Well, with the party less than a week away, you might want to start now. Unless you were planning to just get caterers to do everything.”

Shepard shrugged as his eyes combed the bag’s contents: steaks, garlic, olive oil, bacon... “What’s wrong with that?”

One of Kaidan’s thin eyebrows shot up as a bemused expression carved itself on his face. “Seriously, Shepard? Oh, I know you might want to go safe with food for Garrus and Tali, but I think this kitchen is more than capable to handle more home-cooked food for the party.” As he set the pans on the stove, he began to look thoughtful. “Huh, maybe I’m going to have to make more time with you so we can do something about that.”

Shepard’s mind conjured images of Kaidan’s slaving away at the stove to prepare enough food for the entire guest list. “Kaidan, this party is so you can relax. You don’t have to do anything. I can just call caterers and they can throw something—”

“Shepard, please,” Kaidan interrupted. “Just think of it as an excuse for us to be together beyond just work. I think you’d like that…I know I would.”

Shepard bit his lip; sometimes Kaidan’s logic was hard to argue with. Just another reason why he loved him. “Ok, fine, you win. I guess I could use the help.”

“Good,” Kaidan sighed, turning towards the fridge. “But for now, let me worry about dinner. You just sit back and I’ll take care of everything.” He withdrew a cold beer from the fridge and placed it on the stove where he hoped Shepard would sit.

Shepard took the hint and sat down on one of the bar stools next to the stove. He watched Kaidan busily assemble the utensils, fetch the ingredients and busily start chopping up the garlic. Shepard was impressed; he didn’t see Kaidan as the kind of person who would know how to cook, let alone have the dexterity he exhibited here. He wondered if it was learned, or just a small part of being an accomplished biotic. Looking at the ingredients again, he asked, “So, what exactly are you making? Some sort of Canadian delicacy?”

Kaidan looked at Shepard. “Uh…yeah, you could say that. We have steak, we have bacon…we have some really good beer. Yeah, it’s a delicacy; the food of my people.” Kaidan picked up his own beer bottle. “Wish me luck.”

Shepard and Kaidan struck each other’s bottles in a toast. “If you need luck, I’m screwed, am I?”

Kaidan opened his mouth wordlessly, and then said, “Hey, that hurt, Shepard.”

Shepard smiled, and took another sip of his beer. “I’m sure you’ll get over it.”

“Gee, thanks a lot.” Kaidan smiled himself. He knew Shepard was teasing. “Relax, it will be great.”

As Kaidan poured some olive oil into the pan, Shepard said, “Remember how I saved the Citadel, and then when I went on that suicide mission—you weren’t there—through the Omega-4 Relay? Yeah, all those close calls only to be taken out by steak.”

Kaidan shot Shepard a glance, but said nothing as he poured the minced garlic cloves into the olive oil.

Shepard heard the mixture sizzle as he continued. “Can it be at least quick and painless?”

“Yeah, very funny, Shepard,” Kaidan said. “You think I hauled your ass out of the fire only to kill you with poisoned dinner?”

Shepard shrugged. “You know who I just fought this week. Can’t be surprised by anything after that. And who said it had to be poisoned? Botulism is a hell of a tonic.”

“Huh,” Kaidan said. “Well, look for yourself. You seemed eager enough to look through the bag. So tell me what you think.” Kaidan picked up the pan with the marinade and leaned it enough for Shepard to see inside.

Shepard looked inside, and then at the steaks nearby. “We have hot sauce, right?”

Kaidan put the pan back on the burner. “Yeah, you’re being an ass now.”

Shepard smiled. “I’m sure you’ll do fine, Kaidan. If anything, you’re already impressing me with how dexterous you are with that knife. It’s almost scary.”

Now Kaidan smiled. “Well, don’t worry. The knife is only seeing the garlic. Don’t expect me to biotically fling it at you.”

Shepard blew his sigh out. “I hope I’m not going to have a nightmare from that image. I have nightmares enough as it is.”

At that, Kaidan sobered slightly. “Yeah, I understand that. With the amount of shit you’ve seen already in the past few years, you’re lucky to only have nightmares. Sorry if that doesn’t mean much to you.”

Shepard nodded. “No, I understand. It doesn’t make them any less nasty though.”

“I hear that.” Kaidan used a pronged knife to pick up the steaks and slap them into the pan. At once, they sizzled harshly. “Have you ever tried cooking, Shepard?”

“Funny you say that,” Shepard said as he leaned against the counter. “I had a roommate back at Arcturus who taught me how. He said that eating cafeteria crap 24/7 was bad for morale. Heck, back when the Normandy was still a Cerberus ship, we had a mess sergeant who did all the cooking, Rupert. Thank god I found some better ingredients for the ship; I don’t think I could keep stomaching his ‘chef’s surprise.’”

Kaidan’s eyes widened at that statement. “I’ll just hope I never come across that ‘surprise.’”

“Pray you never will.”

“I’ll put that under advisement.” Kaidan then smiled. “Shepard, is there anything you can’t do?”

“Well, everyone else apparently seems to think I can’t dance,” Shepard said, smiling as he remembered Jack’s unabashed criticism of Shepard’s dancing at Purgatory a month ago. “Who knows? Maybe they’re right.”

“Really?” Kaidan said kindly. “Well, I think you might be pretty good at it.”

“I don’t know,” Shepard said softly.

“Well, you’ll just have to show me at the party then, right?”

Shepard shrugged slightly, taking another sip of his beer. “We’ll see.” Standing up, he crossed over to be beside Kaidan as he chopped up some rosemary and onion. “So, where did you learn to cook?”

“Jump Zero, actually,” Kaidan said as he poured the herb and onion into the pan, and began adjusting the steaks. “There were a couple of classes there. Turns out a biotic kid that didn’t know how risked starving.”

Shepard’s eyes softened at that account. Kaidan had shared his bad experiences at Jump Zero under a tyrannical turian teacher named Vyrnnus some years before. It was a miracle that Kaidan didn’t break at Jump Zero, or worse die like some unfortunate students did. Kaidan had every excuse to let his scars be an excuse from that day forward, but Kaidan rose up to become a new person entirely, and Shepard couldn’t be any more proud of that fact…and couldn’t love Kaidan any more than he already did. “Well, looks like you passed…” Shepard said, but then said. “Whoa, I think the steak’s burning.”

Kaidan looked at the steaks with alarm and hastily flipped them over. Thankfully, the tender steaks weren’t singed badly. “Sorry about that.” Kaidan glanced back at Shepard. “I guess I’m a bit distracted.”

Shepard smiled knowingly. “By?”

Kaidan returned the smile. “I wonder…”

Several seconds passed in silence between the two soldiers. Shepard could see every detail in Kaidan’s face, even the scar where Vyrnnus had stabbed him back at Jump Zero. Not for the first time did Shepard wonder how lucky he was to finally find love with Kaidan. He became increasingly aware of the bulge in his pocket that signified his love for him, and almost pulled it out in front of Kaidan at that moment. He reconsidered that quickly as the poor steaks probably couldn’t handle a distraction of that magnitude.

Shepard smiled as he brushed Kaidan’s cheek tenderly with his rough hands. “When was the last time I told you I loved you?”

Kaidan didn’t move briefly. “Well…I don’t know,” he said smiling. “I guess I forgot.”

“Well, I do. I love you…so much, Kaidan.”

Kaidan raised a hand to Shepard’s cheek. “I love you too, Shepard. More than I can ever say.”

Kaidan looked away—although he didn’t want to—to tend to the steaks. It wouldn’t be long now before they were done, and he wanted them perfect. Shepard came closer and put and arm around Kaidan’s shoulders, and looked at the steaks. “So…hot sauce?”

A couple hours later, Kaidan and Shepard sat on the couch in front of the holographic fireplace, soaking up the heat contently as they enjoyed each other’s embrace. The steaks were sitting quite comfortably in their stomachs, radiating their warmth throughout their respective bodies. They were so in love with each other that they felt like they could melt into each other at any moment, and either one would have loved it.

Kaidan let his head rest against Shepard’s shoulder. “Well…that was great…”

Shepard leaned his head against Kaidan’s hair, enjoying how it felt against his scalp. “Well…I’m still waiting for the botulism to kick in.”

Kaidan started laughing. “Hey, now, I thought I was pretty good.”

“Yeah, I’m just messing with you, K.” Shepard’s eyes darted to his right side were Kaidan was. “Can I call you ‘K?’”

Kaidan snorted. “No.”

“I didn’t think so. You’re too sensitive for that.”

“Or…maybe you’re just being an ass.”

Shepard rose his head up to look at Kaidan, his brow sinking. “Major? Did you just call your CO an ass?”

Now Kaidan rose up to look at Shepard, his brow furrowing. “No, I’m calling my boyfriend an ass. Now who’s sensitive?”

Shepard chuckled at the reversal. “Well, don’t worry, it was more than pretty good. It was great.”

Kaidan smiled as he leaned back into Shepard’s shoulder and watched the faux flames flicker. “Well, thank you, Shepard. I like to think I’m an enigma. I got skills, after all.”

Shepard continued to look at Kaidan, amused at Kaidan’s self-glorification.

“No, I mean it,” Kaidan continued. “For example: fistfight, me and James. I’d win, right?”

One of Shepard’s eyebrows shot up.

“Well…maybe if I fought dirty.”

“Uh-huh,” Shepard finally answered. “And I suppose that would mean biotics?”

“Hey, I said fistfight!”

“Yeah, so?”

Kaidan started chuckling. “Yeah, yeah, make fun of me.”

Shepard shrugged. “Well, seriously, you did great tonight. Thank you. This beat going out tonight.”

“See? I knew you would like it.”

“That I did…” Shepard squeezed Kaidan’s shoulder affectionately.

“Yep, it was so great…”

“What?” Shepard looked back at Kaidan. “Is it over?”

Kaidan rose back up to look at Shepard. “Well, what do you have in mind?”

Shepard smiled. Damn it, he loved his man so much. “Well, as much as I’d love to burn off those extra calories, I think I like what we’re doing right now.”

Kaidan smiled. “Yeah, well so do I…” Kaidan lay back down against Shepard’s shoulder, and closed his eyes. “Although, I am open to the idea to burning the calories later…”

Shepard chuckled. “I’m sure there will be time for it.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

Shepard leaned in and planed a small kiss on Kaidan’s forehead, who moaned quietly in response. Kaidan’s snuggled ever so closely to Shepard, when he suddenly froze. Shepard felt him tense up. “What’s wrong?”

“I think there’s something in your pocket, Shepard.”

Shepard paled. He forgot about the box in his right jacket pocket. “Oh, yeah, sorry about that. Here, sit up a second and let me fix that.”

As Kaidan leaned up, he expected to see Shepard pull out the offending object, but instead he removed his jacket completely and set it beside the couch. Shepard leaned back against the couch, “There we go.” He looked back at Kaidan who had a strange look on his face. “What?”

“You took off your jacket?” Kaidan asked.

Shepard shrugged. “Well, it was getting kind of warm. I thought I might as well.”

Kaidan didn’t look like he bought it. “Shepard?”

Shepard felt his throat constrict. “What?”

“What’s in your pocket?”

“It’s nothing important, Kaidan. Just something I needed to get to EDI. She left it here when she went on her shopping spree earlier today.”

Kaidan looked at Shepard with a suspicious look. “Shepard, if there is something you need to learn in life…”

Shepard didn’t dare breathe.

“…it’s to not hide something from a biotic.” At once, Kaidan’s flesh lit up bright blue as he reached out to the discarded jacket.

The jacket popped up, covered in the same bright blue aura, startling Shepard. “Kaidan, wait!”

Kaidan ignored Shepard as the jacket flew into his hands, and he dug his fingers into the conspicuously bulging pocket. His aura dying, he pulled out the velvet box and looked it over. “Is…is this what I think it is?” He heard no response from Shepard. “Shepard?” He looked over and saw Shepard blushing as red as Wrex’s head-plate, his face buried deeply into his face.

Shepard didn’t move. “Well…now you know.”

“Know what?” Kaidan asked.

“It…” Shepard felt his throat constrict as he tried to ebb the panic in his heart. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. “It’s for you…but I was supposed to give it to you.”

“You were supposed to—” Kaidan started to repeat, but then paled as the implications sunk in. His chocolate eyes shot to the velvet box. “You mean…?”

Shepard nodded curtly, his face still buried.

Kaidan turned the box over in his hands, his fingers beginning to tingle. Trembling, he worked the boxed open and he felt the air in his lungs freeze as he saw what was inside: a band of white gold, decorated simply, bearing a trio of light blue stones in the center band. It was beautiful. “Shepard…”

“Kaidan, I’m so sorry…” Shepard went unglued. “I wanted to do this properly, but…well…you weren’t supposed to—I mean…” Shepard’s thoughts crashed into each other like an old-fashioned train wreck. “Well…with the Reapers here…I thought I might—well—just in case and…” He dared to look over, and saw Kaidan staring at the ring like it captured him in a trance. “I really love you, Kaidan…and I-I want you always...” Shepard winced. “I mean—what I mean to say is…”

Kaidan suddenly turned around and grabbed Shepard’s head with one hand and just mashed his lips against Shepard’s lips. Shepard was shocked briefly, but as he felt Kaidan’s tongue dare to dig deeper into his mouth, he closed his eyes and let his own tongue dance with Kaidan’s. Seconds felt like blissful eternities as they spelled their love towards each other in a romantic dance of tongues.

Finally, Kaidan pulled away, and Shepard could see tears rimming his eyes. “John Shepard, this is probably the best night I ever had. Thank you…”

Shepard felt his lungs quiver as his mind digested Kaidan’s gratitude. He then realized tears were in his own eyes. Slowly, he reached for the ring in Kaidan’s hand and took it wordlessly from Kaidan’s fingers. He then lowered himself to the floor on one knee in front of Kaidan. “Major Kaidan Alenko, would you do me the honor of being my husband, through peace and war, for all eternity?”

Kaidan brought one hand to his mouth, as if trying to keep the tears from pouring through there. Gasping, he said slowly. “I will…Commander John Shepard…most gladly.”

Shepard suddenly felt like his heart grew wings, and he soared into Kaidan’s embrace and wrapped his arms around Kaidan, tears coming at last. “Thank you…thank you…” he whispered.

“I love you, John,” Kaidan said tearfully.

“I love you too, Kaidan…and I always will.”

And there they were, melting into each other, for now they were one…for eternity to witness and far beyond.
Well, it finally happened. After playing the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3--specifically after watching the scenes between Kaidan and Shepard--I felt that I needed to write an adaptation. One of these days, I may write a full-fledged adapt of the Mass Effect Trilogy, but I have other more pressing projects to worry about. Anyway, this was written so I could say thank you to BioWare for allowing me five years to play with Commander Shepard and help save the galaxy from the Reapers. Thank you, BioWare!

Contains spoilers for Mass Effect 3: Citadel.
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Shepard is signing books when the assassin hits.

He sees it out of the corner of his eye-

the flash of a gun,

the curl of fingers.

He's out of practice.

Slower than usual.

But he's been Alliance for longer than he's been retired,

and his reflexes kick in anyway,

turning over the table,

pushing the woman in front of him down,

dropping to the floor himself.

He hears the gun fire.

Once,

twice,

three times.

He rolls, using the table for cover.

Rattled thoughts ram through his brain.

 What the fuck-

 Who the hell-

 Are you kidding me?

He wishes he had his gun,

and as he glances around for something useful,

his thoughts become more orderly.

 There's only one exit.

 If I can find a way to move the civilians out-

 no, not enough time.

 Gotta take him down.

 Fuck, I need backup!

As if in answer to a prayer-

not that Shepard believes in those,

he hears a familiar voice.

"Shepard,

here!"

His hand snaps up before his eyes raise and he catches the pistol as it's thrown his way.

 "Bailey?"

The C-Sec Commander whips around the corner again and fires two quick shots.

"Damn it!

I can't get a clear shot-"

"I've got it!"

And Shepard does.

Whipping up to face his would-be-killer,

firing without hesitation

straight into his forehead.

There's blood and brains all over the floor.

"Nice hit,"

Bailey congratulates him as the janitors clean up

and the onlookers wail.

"How many injured?"

Shepard asks,

handing back the borrowed pistol.

"Five,"

Bailey responds,

"but none of the injuries are fatal."

Shepard runs his hands through his short hair.

Copies of his autobiography lie on the floor,

their pages wet with gore.

"Huh,"

he says.

"I, uh...

wasn't expecting that.

Do you know why-?"

Bailey shakes his head.

"Dunno.

Best guess is grief;

could be that he blamed you for someone's death.

Or maybe it was just insanity."

Shepard doesn't like the sound of either.

"Get some rest,"

says Bailey,

clapping him on the shoulder.

"Thanks,"

calls Shepard as he walks away.

He stares at the assassin's remains

and then turns rather sharply

and takes the back door out

to call for a shuttle.

He wants to go home

and more than that

he wants Kaidan.

-----------------------

Kaidan is with his students when the assassin hits.

He calls for a break and they separate,

tangling into loose groups.

He smiles as he sees them interact-

friendly punches in the arm,

teasing.

It reminds him of when he was younger,

fooling around with Shepard and Ash.

He doesn't wince when her name comes into his mind.

It's been too many years,

and both he and Shepard have moved on from Virmire.

It never hurts to think of the good times they spent together, as friends.

"Sir!"

One of the Lieutenants-

Berkley,

a younger recruit who takes respect to a ridiculous level

but who works hard all the same-

scampers up and snaps to attention.

"Permission to grab a protein bar, sir!"

Kaidan waves a hand.

"Go ahead, Berkley.

But don't eat more than one:

you'll regret it later."

Berkley's brow creases.

"Stomachache, sir?"

Kaidan raises a brow.

"Constipation, Lieutenant."

The recruit's face twists as he attempts to hold off a smile.

"Permission to laugh, sir!"

"Granted,"

Kaidan chuckles,

and Berkley lets out a snicker on his way to the door.

It opens as he hits the lock,

revealing a tall, pale man

with his hands tucked in his jacket.

"Hey,"

Berkley says in confusion

as he sees the man in front of him.

And before Kaidan knows it,

his recruit is on the floor

with a bullet hole through him.

 "Get down!"

Kaidan screams,

seeing Berkley fall

and hit the ground,

amazement written on his young face.

The rest of the recruits pause,

glance towards the scene,

and panic.

Running in all directions.

Making them easy targets.

But all the killer sees is Kaidan.

He raises his gun again

and there's nothing in between them

but empty space

and Kaidan's biotics.

"Bring it,"

he snarls,

blue energy crackling over his body,

and the killer pauses.

"I don't think so,"

he says softly,

eyes hooded and calculating.

He grabs Berkley's body.

The Lieutenant moans,

blood spattered across his right arm-

 still alive,

Kaidan realizes;

 he's still alive-

"Let him go!"

he shouts,

and a couple of things happen at once.

The killer shoves Berkley forward.

Berkley stumbles towards Kaidan.

Kaidan reaches out to catch him without thinking.

And the gun fires again.

-----------------------

The apartment is empty when Shepard arrives, which is strange.

Kaidan was supposed to be home hours ago.

His training sessions up at Alliance headquarters end early on Fridays

and he always greets Shepard at the door.

Splaying one hand against his chest.

Carressing the skin behind Shepard's ear with the other.

Pressing his lips to the scar at his hairline before he whispers into his ear,

the faint touch of breath making Shepard shiver.

 Hey.

It's all he ever says when he greets him but there are always so many other words in that

one

simple

 hey.

Shepard just has to listen;

he can always tell what Kaidan really means,

or what he's holding back.

 Hey,

like

 what's for dinner?

Or

 my head is killing me.

On bad days,

 you left the iron on, Shepard.

On good days,

 are you flirting with me, Commander?

But on most days,

just

 I missed you,

and that's Shepard's favorite.

 I missed you,

three big words crammed into that little

 hey.

It's become a ritual

and Shepard frowns as its consistency is broken.

He flips on the lights.

"Kaidan?"

There's no answer;

the apartment is empty.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Shepard sighs and moves towards his desk,

not looking forward to the email he'll have to write Hackett

addressing his own attempted murder.

It'd be easier with his husband there,

but solitude will have to suffice, for now.

He stretches and flexes his fingers,

but when he turns on his terminal,

he's surprised to find at least twenty messages already waiting for him.

 Hackett.

 Liara.

 Garrus.

 Vega.

 Cortez.

 Traynor.

 Joker...

hell,

he hasn't spoken to Joker in months.

The emails are close in time,

all of them sent just around thirty minutes prior.

Warning bells go off in his head almost immediately.

Thirty minutes prior,

Shepard was watching the blood of his assassin being scraped off the floor.

Something is building in the back of his throat;

something that he hasn't tasted since the last battle in London.

It's bitter

and vile

and makes his throat seize up

and his knees weaken.

It makes him click on the first email,

scanning the words frantically

and feeling his mouth dry up as what he suspected is proved true.

It's nothing more

and nothing less

than fear.

-----------------------

Traynor's hand is gripping Vega's so hard his knuckles are whitening.

"Vega,"

she says,

her dark eyes wide

and wet

and worried.

"Vega, I-"

Vega shakes his head in warning,

crouching to look her in the face.

"Uh-uh.

Don't lose it, reina-

keep it together, now."

He calls her reina,

 queen,

because it fits.

She likes chess,

and she likes having control.

Plus, she likes the sound of the nickname and told him so the first time he said it.

 I'll have to use that more often,

she'd said, winking.

 Maybe it can be my club name.

She's not winking now.

"Oh my god,"

she gasps,

"I wonder how the others are taking it."

He tries to tug his hand out of her grip but she doesn't relent.

"Esteban's on his way,

and so is Doc.

Scars is coming, too.

I haven't heard from China, though."

She's not letting go of him and so he pulls her along,

tugging her through the ward towards the lobby.

They sit on one of the hard-cushioned couches there and Traynor can't stop shaking.

"Where's Shepard?"

she asks,

over and over again.

"Where is he?"

Vega smooths her hair,

rubs her back.

"Any minute, now, reina.

He'll be here any minute."

The doors slide open and Vega jumps to his feet as Traynor's head snaps up

but it's only Cortez.

"Steve,"

says Traynor,

relief spreading across her face.

"Esteban,"

says Vega,

mouth considerably drier.

Cortez moves forward and grips his forearm

and his pulse skyrockets

even though this is most definitely not the place or the time.

"How's he doing?"

the pilot wants to know.

"I came as fast as I could when I heard."

"He's okay,"

says Traynor,

glancing towards the ward.

"But that's all they'll say,

that he's

 okay-

he's been shot in the fucking head, for god's sake,

how on earth  can he be

 okay?"

She looks like she's going to panic again and Vega bends down to cup her cheek in his hand.

"Hey,"

he whispers,

"don't, not now.

Not now, all right?

When loco walks in here, this isn't what we want him to see."

She sucks in a breath

and then nods,

her eyes fixed on Vega's.

He smooths her hair again.

"Why don't you grab some coffee, reina?"

He kisses the top of her head as she turns to leave

and straightens to find Cortez staring at him.

"Hey,"

he says, uncomfortable under the pilot's gaze.

"What's up?"

"Nothing,"

Cortez says, clearing his throat.

I, uh...

just didn't think Traynor swung that way."

Vega blinks,

then laughs.

"Oh.

 Oh.

Uh, nah-

she and I aren't...

nah.

She's definitely not into...

and anyway, she's married.

To a cytologist."

The pilot raises an eyebrow.

Vega shifts his weight.

"She's like a sister to me,"

he adds.

"That's all."

Cortez looks at him carefully.

"A sister,"

he says.

"Huh."

And Vega coughs and flushes and sits back down on the hard-cushioned couch.

------------------------

Shepard drums his fingers on the front desk.

The nurse in front of him scrolls through files.

"Alenko, you said?"

"Yeah."

She hands him a datapad and he takes it, drumming his fingers against the device instead.

"Room number is on there with the list of his allowed visitors.

You've already been cleared for visitation;

just make sure that you put your relation to the patient next to your name."

His fingers still and he scans the list until he finds it.

 Shepard, John.

There's a line waiting to be filled.

He fills it.

 Relation: husband,

he taps out,

throat thickening as he hands it back to the nurse.

She does a once-through and nods.

"The ward they're keeping him in is on your right,"

she says,

and then pauses.

 Sorry for your loss

is what comes to mind.

 Have a nice night

is what comes out of her mouth.

She's not even sure if he hears her anyway.

---------------------------

"Shit,"

says Shepard,

staring past the glass into the room where Kaidan lies.

His friends group behind him,

occasionally reaching out,

touching his shoulder,

clapping him on the back:

Vega,

Garrus,

Liara,

Cortez,

Traynor,

cramming in to provide their comfort.

"Where's Joker?"

he asks,

but no one answers

because no one knows.

"Shit,"

he says again,

resting his forehead against the glass.

"I'm going to fucking kill the bastard who did it."

Garrus chuckles without humor.

"He's already dead.

The students grouped up and took him out after he shot Alenko."

So he's been robbed of his revenge, too.

Traynor tries to hand him a cup of coffee but he shrugs it off and she hands it to Vega instead.

"I'm sure Kaidan will recover,"

says Liara softly.

"That's not the point,"

growls Shepard,

"the point-

the point is-"

but what is the point, really, when the person you love has a bullet wound in their head?

 "Loco,"

says Vega

as Cortez says

"John,"

and it's Garrus who finally asks.

"You think it's your fault?"

Shepard doesn't answer but

 yes,

 of course it's my fault.

"What the hell do you think you could've done to prevent this?"

is his next question,

and Shepard can only shake his head;

 I could've been there,

 I could've stopped it,

 I could've taken him out.

He couldn't have but he wishes he could,

and more than anything he wishes that it was him in the hospital bed

and Kaidan wishing it was different.

"An assassin went after me, too,"

he says.

"Why could I kill him

when Kaidan couldn't?"

But he knows the details of the second attack:

how the killer had played dirty,

gone against rules,

brought in a hostage.

"Why couldn't you kill him?"

he shouts through the glass,

and Kaidan can't hear him but he asks anyway.

He swipes something out of his eye with the back of his hand and grunts.

"I'm gonna see him now,"

he says,

and no one argues.

He says a few words to the armed guard standing watch in front of the door

and is granted access;

Liara moves to follow him but Vega grabs her arm,

stopping her.

She bows her head and consents.

Some things are better left alone,

and right now,

Kaidan and Shepard are two of those things.

---------------------

Vega watches from the window.

One half of the Major's head is swathed in white bandages,

stark and crisp against the black of his hair.

He lies limply in the hospital bed,

the shallow rise of his chest the only movement across his body.

Vega sees Shepard's mouth move,

lips forming his name,

reaching out to touch him

and then jerking his hand back.

His face twists and his knees buckle and he sits,

forehead pressing into the side of the bed,

hands twisting into the sheets.

It hits hard, seeing Shepard like this,

and it hits even harder now because Vega's seen it before,

when the Major was injured on Mars.

Maybe it was even worse then, being a witness to it;

the obvious unspoken emotions that had been building between the two suddenly revealed,

written all over Shepard's face:

not that Kaidan could have known what the Commander had gone through,

back then.

Vega wonders if anyone's ever told Kaidan that the day after Mars,

Shepard got ridiculously drunk,

threw up all over the CIC,

and then cried on Cortez's shoulder for a half an hour.

It seems to be how Shepard deals with things out of his control,

getting drunk.

After Earth,

after Mars,

after Thessia.

He's determined not to let it happen again.

The Major might have Shepard's back most of the time,

but someone's got to take care of him when Alenko can't.

He hears soft footsteps behind him.

"Hi,"

says Cortez.

"Hey,"

says Vega.

The pilot steps up beside him,

letting out a breath.

"Wow.

Shepard really cares about him, doesn't he?"

Vega murmurs in agreement.

Inside the hospital room, Shepard's mouth moves again,

speaking comforting words that Kaidan probably can't hear.

There's a silence that lingers as the two of them gaze at their Commander

and his Major.

Cortez breaks it.

"How've you been?"

he asks awkwardly,

shifting in place.

"I mean, with the whole N7 thing-"

"Good,"

Vega says quickly.

"Yeah, it's good.

Hard work, you know,

but good."

Cortez nods.

"Yeah."

Vega coughs.

"And you?

How've you been?"

"Good.

I'm good, too."

"Good,"

says Vega,

and they both fall silent again.

He can feel the heat working its way up into his cheeks;

he glances at Cortez and then drops his gaze to the floor,

stomach twisting painfully.

It's been two years since the last battle on Earth,

when Vega had picked his way through the remains of Cortez's crashed shuttle,

throwing away the rubble with his bare hands,

cursing frantically,

so desperate that by the time he found him,

wedged between two thick metal bars,

he was almost weeping.

He hadn't meant to kiss him.

Not really.

It had been spurred from the immense relief,

a reckless, surging rush that made him grip the back of the pilot's neck

and jerk him forward,

lips colliding in an awkward, soft mesh of confusion.

He hadn't meant to, not really-

but it had felt good.

And it had felt right.

He remembers the look in Cortez's eyes when it had ended;

surprise mixed with something else-

something gentler,

something warm,

with a spark that had sent Vega's heart working doubletime.

He remembers Cortez's hesitant smile.

And then he remembers the words that had tumbled out of his mouth.

The rushed apologies,

the stuttering excuses.

Ruining whatever it was between them that had begun to grow.

And the way that Cortez's face had fell,

saddened,

hardened,

and set

as he tried to make up for his "mistake"

with a short, barked laugh

and a shake of the head.

His own forced dismissal.

 "Shit- I'm sorry,

 I really didn't mean to-"

Cortez's quiet reply, with a failed attempt at casualty.

 "That's okay, Mr. Vega.

 Just heat-of-the-moment, right?"

Right.

Heat-of-the-moment,

like the animal inside his chest hadn't stirred and woken

when he'd heard what could've been a growl issue from Cortez's mouth

as he kissed him,

like he hadn't almost pinned the pilot down right then and there

and forced him to explain why whenever he was around,

Vega felt weak,

like he hadn't wanted that almost-something

to go on

and on

and last forever.

Heat-of-the-moment.

Nothing more.

Inside the hospital room,

Shepard brushes his mouth over Kaidan's palm.

Outside the hospital room,

Vega thinks about maybes and could've beens and almost-somethings.

Cortez lets out a soft huff and turns,

his boots scraping on the clean tile,

and begins to walk away.

And Vega takes his almost-something,

combines it with his hot-headedness,

his fast reflexes,

not giving a fuck,

and the right amount of stupidity,

and opens his mouth.

"Esteban."

Cortez stops.

Looks over his shoulder.

"Yeah?"

 Hot-headed,

 reflexive,

 no fucks given,

 stupid...

 and almost-something.

"Wanna grab a coffee?"

Cortez turns the rest of the way around.

"I didn't think you drank much coffee, Mr. Vega."

"I don't,"

says the soldier.

"But the Commander and the Major do,

and I'm pretty sure it worked for them."

Something flickers in Cortez's eyes.

Something like realization and caution mixed.

When he speaks next it's slow and uncertain.

"You're saying it'll work for us, huh?"

 "Dios mio,"

Vega exhales,

"I don't know."

Cortez takes a few steps forward.

"What do you know?"

he asks,

bitter

and tired,

face lined with repercussions of war.

"It's been two years,

and do you know anything?

Anything at all?"

Vega looks at him,

looks away.

"I...

I know stuff."

"Stuff,"

repeats Cortez softly.

Vega wipes the sweat off his hands on the sides of his t-shirt.

"Stuff.

Stuff like...

how you like it when I call you Esteban.

How you didn't like it when I talked for too long to the asari dancers at Purgatory.

How you used to watch me out of the corner of your eye when I did pull-ups."

He can hear Cortez moving closer but he doesn't dare look up.

"You blushed when I lost at strip poker

but you looked anyway.

You always double-checked that my locker was prepped before missions

even though you never needed to.  

I'm not that smart of a guy, Esteban.

I know stuff, yeah.

I...

I just dunno what to do with it."

Cortez's voice is close.

Closer than he'd thought.

"You think coffee is going to help, James?"

His name on the pilot's lips is almost too much for him to handle.

"No,"

he says suddenly,

harshly,

head jerking up

and looking Cortez straight in the face,

heart banging hard against his ribs.

"I know it's not gonna help.

But I don't know what will."

Cortez's hand is on his jaw and Cortez's eyes are fixed on his and Vega can't breathe.

"How about this, then?"

Cortez whispers

before he closes the space between them.

The kiss is long

and careful

and sweeter than Vega expected.

And it's less awkward than before,

when Cortez had been bleeding out over the remnants of his ship

and Vega had been out of breath and choking with relief.

But it feels the same.

Good.

Right.

Cortez's thumb skims over his cheek

and Vega feels small

and ridiculously vulnerable.

But when the pilot tries to pull away Vega wraps one thick arm around his waist

and leans forward again.

"I think,"

he says,

words murmured in the smaller man's ear before he presses his lips against his throat,

"that this might be a start."

"A start?"

Cortez asks.

"Yeah,"

Vega tells him.

"And a much better start than coffee would've been."

Cortez's laugh is breathless,

and Vega draws back just enough to see the brightness in his eyes.

"I'm glad you think so, Mr. Vega."

"I'm glad too, Esteban."
Two years after the destruction of the Reapers, Shepard finds himself in the midst of an assassination plot. While he struggles with the repercussions, friendships are mended and bonds are made.

This is my first time writing Cortega; I've meant to get around to it for a while now, since they're so well-suited for one another. FLUFF! :heart:

Sorry for the extra spaces...they're bothering me too but I'm not sure how to get rid of them. FIXED IT. :roll:

And of course Kaidan will recover, you all know that. There's a reason that Ashley has never survived Virmire in ANY of my playthroughs.
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"Kaidan,"

says Shepard,

staticky over the intercom,

and in that one word,

I know something's wrong.

"Kaidan, can you...

can you come down here?"


His voice is quiet.

Shaky

Breathed into the comlink.

And pleading with me.

"Please, Kaidan."

"I'm coming, Shepard."

I'm already moving,

taking the turns through the hallways towards his quarters.

I don't ask what it is.

I already know.

Everyone on the ship knows.

Shepard's locked himself in his room a grand total of one time,

and that was after the destruction of Earth.

This...

this is Earth all over again.

I tried to go to him before.

In the hours after we'd boarded, I'd went to his room,

only to find it locked tight and refusing to budge.

I'd called his name,

banging on the metal with my fist.

I'd tried

Shepard,

and when that didn't work,

I resorted to

John.

He still didn't answer.

I was worried,

but I stopped trying after a few days.

I knew he'd come around eventually.

And I guess I was right.

Because when I reach his cabin now,

the door to his room is open.

Unlocked.

He's waiting for me.

I walk in,

heart banging nervously against my chest-

how is he doing?

What does he want me to do?

What does he want me to say?

I'm not a therapist.


He's curled up against the wall,

arms wrapped around himself,

rocking back and forth-

face dry,

but expression drawn in the most intense pain I've ever seen in him.

"Shepard."

He looks up and his expression cracks further.

"Kaid-"

"I know."

I drop to my knees beside him,

touch his shoulder.

He sucks in a sharp breath.

"Hundreds,

thousands-"

"I know."

"They were screaming, Kaid-"

"I know."

"Just screaming,

and I didn't-"

"You couldn't, Shepard."

He turns to me, stricken.

"I could've."

"You couldn't,"

I repeat.

"You did everything possible."

He shakes his head,

slowly at first,

but then faster,

denying his innocence with everything he has.

"I could've.

I could've and I didn't."

I shake my head.

"You know that's not true-"

"I hear their voices in my head."

He talks over me,

cutting through my sentences like I'm not even there.

"When I'm alone,

when I shut my eyes,

I can hear them screaming.

And they're gone

but they're there in my head,

and they're screaming-"

My hand grips his shoulder tighter,

fingers digging into his skin.

He doesn't notice.

"It's not your fault,"

I say loudly.

I need him to know.

If there's anything bearing on his conscious that shouldn't be, it's this.

"It's not your fault."

But he keeps shaking his head.

Please, Shepard.

Don't do this to yourself.


"Listen to me.

It's not your fa-"

His jaw tightens.

Eyes flash.

I know the signs and I scoot back before he can shove me away.

"Yes it is."

"Shepard-"

"Yes it is."

I catch his chin in my hand.

He tries to push me back again but I stay,

gripping his jaw with my fingers.

Forcing him to look at me.

"It's not your fault."

He can't understand.

I see it in him, that he can't.

There's a question inside of him

that has turned into a wall

and he can't break it down.

Can't see past it.

"Why?"

he cries,

gray eyes tortured.

"Why-

why won't you blame me?"

I speak quietly,

my hand still cupping his chin.

"Because I have faith in you;

I have faith that you did all you could-"

His expression is one of panic

and fear

and the inability to comprehend my words.

"Why?"

"Because I trust you-"

"Why, Kaidan?"

he wails,

his voice begging for the answer he wants to hear.

The wrong answer.

He wants me to say that I don't know.

That I shouldn't have faith in him.

That I shouldn't trust him.

That

okay,

Shepard,

it is your fault.


But that's not the answer I'm giving.

"Why, Kaidan?"

"Because I love you, John."

He freezes.

Caught off guard.

Goes completely rigid.

Silent.

Pupils darting towards mine and shying away again.

Love.

Four letters and so hard to say.

I love you.

Three words and even harder.

I love you, John.

I love him and I said it even if four words are more than three.

I love him and he loves me even if he'll never admit it.

I love him and it breaks him to hear it.

It breaks him and he shatters.

Slams his head back against the wall,

noises issuing from his throat:

soft,

animal-like noises.

Catching in the back,

half-swallowed

noises.

Eyes clamped shut,

whimpering.

He can't help it;

I see his throat jerk as he tries to hold it off

but he can't help it-

he can't stop it,

just like he couldn't stop the Cerberus agent

as he escaped

just like he couldn't stop the Reapers

as they descended

just like he couldn't stop the asari's screams

as they were slaughtered.

He can't stop it but he tries anyway

and hates himself for failing.

"Shepard..."

I move my hand up to stroke his cheek.

But he flinches away.

"Kaidan,"

he whispers,

voice grating against his throat.

"Kaidan, I...

I think we should end this."

It takes a little while for the words to penetrate my brain.

I.

Think.

We.

Should.

End.

This.


Shepard's mouth formed those words.

Mouth that I've watched for years,

wondering what it'd be like to kiss.

Mouth that I did kiss,

over and over again,

just a few weeks ago,

the word

finally

formed in my brain every time my lips touched his skin.

Mouth that, up until now,

belonged in part to me.

We should end this.

It's like I've been punched in the chest.

And the world stops turning,

just for a few seconds,

and resumes spinning long enough for me to manage

"what?"

My voice cracks on that one word.

I stare at Shepard, reeling.

"Maybe we should stop...this.

Whatever it is.

Being...together.

Seeing each other."

The words are forced out,

scraped over his tongue.

He swallows hard.

Not looking at me.

In contrast...

I can't stop staring at him.

He...can't be serious.

He can't possibly.


"All of this emotional....

baggage,

it's...

it's weighing me down.

It's a distraction-

it's too hard, and-"

His face is tight and creased in distress,

and suddenly...

I realize that he doesn't mean it.

He could never mean it.

The pieces fall into place.

He's saying it to hurt himself because I won't hurt him.

He's finding something to blame himself for because I won't blame him.

He wants to take the pain.

And if I won't cause it,

then he will.

"It's too hard.

And-

I don't want-

I don't want to..."

He sucks in a sharp breath.

Trying to say it.

"I don't want to be with you."

He steels himself and meets my gaze, expecting to find anger.

But when he searches my face for expression,

he finds only sympathy.

Sympathy

and an ache that mirrors his own.

His eyes widen and his voice trembles,

echoing his own words,

half-hoping

that I'll change my mind.

That my temper will flare.

That I'll storm out.

That I'll hurt him.

"I don't want to be with you,"

he repeats weakly.

I don't want to be with you,

I don't want to b-"

I move fast.

Hands pressed against his chest.

Pressing him against the cabin wall.

My fingers curl around his collar.

I pull him forward.

Crush my mouth to his.

And he gives in at last.

The wall inside of his mind crumbles

and I see him

and he sees me.

I draw him onto my lap and he lets me,

one hand clutching at the fabric of my shirt,

the other with his fingers curled against my neck.

He sags against me,

too tired to hold himself up,

and after a while I just lie back,

letting his weight carry us both to the ground.

"I'm sorry,"

he gasps as I kiss the corner of his mouth,

the dip above his chin,

the curve of his jaw.

"I'm so,

so sorry, Kaidan..."

I stop his words,

kissing him softer now.

Slower.

Sewing him together with every touch.

I was never very good with needlework.

But I'd like to think that I'm good enough to stitch up Shepard.

It's early morning by the time every tear has been wiped away,

by the time all the shudders that rack his body have eased,

by the time I've finished threading together the splits in his soul.

I lie next to him under the blankets and we're so close

that I can feel his breath on my cheek,

see the flecks of green in his grey eyes,

smell the scent of his skin.

He mumbles my name as his lids grow heavy

and he begins to succumb to dreamless sleep,

curling into my chest,

the top of his head brushing my chin.

"I've got your back,"

I tell him,

words breathed into his ear,

not sure if he can hear me but telling him anyway.

I've got his back

and his heart

and he's got me.

Every part of me.

I'm his.

I'll do anything to keep him.

I'll never let him go.

Whether he's to blame

or not.
We'll both break free if we make it on top
If one should fall, we both will drop
We move together from here on out
What you need is what I'm about

We're tied together
Now and forever.


~Les Friction

Some love for the contest at :icontransgender-shepards:

Ready for the rant? I hope so, cuz here goes.

The theme for this contest was blissfully vague, which I loved. It was basically asking its participants to write/draw their ME couple. Period. Go. Run with it. And I was super excited to start. :dummy:

So I sat down with my trusty laptop and turned on Les Friction and the ME3 soundtrack and started writing. And basically whatever came out turned into sappy shit.

Everything I was writing about was happy. Poker night, Shepard's birthday, blah, blah, blah. It was easy to write and terrible to read and I deleted them all and felt very good about shoving them in the trash because I felt like I was starting to write those stupid fics where everything is great and lovely and adorable.

Which is complete bull, because

KAIDAN AND JOHN ARE NOT A HAPPY-EVER-AFTER.

Their relationship could never have been a happy-ever-after, and that's one of the things that drew me to them in the first place. I hadn't even played the game when I fell in love with them: I was home alone, surfing Youtube, stumbled across the ME3 soundtrack, started watching the ME3 playthrough, and from there I was hooked. Mom came home a couple of hours later to find me sitting on the floor crying my heart out because if there's anything that's ever broken my heart, it was the way that Shepard told Kaidan that he'd be waiting for him and then went and fucking sacrificed killed himself.

Of course once the extended cut came out and Bioware confirmed that Shepard could indeed survive the Destroy option, things got better. But up until that point, the ending was so unfair and horrible and a total shock that Shepard died while Kaidan lived and I hated it so much that I couldn't get it out of my head and couldn't erase them from my mind and one day I just started puking up these poem-based stories. And to my surprise you guys actually liked them.

That means a lot. Like, a lot more than I could ever tell you. And a lot of days, your comments are the only things that get me through the day.

Anyway, back to the point: Kaidan and John's relationship is so much deeper than the shallow jokes and goofy, cross-eyed lover stuff that I was trying to make. And once I remembered that, everything came so much easier.

I sat in a room by myself and closed my eyes and played the ME3 love theme on repeat and thought about what I wanted to write for a long, long time and when I was done I went back to my computer and shat this out.

And I hope you enjoy it.

Much love- and Happy Halloween!

FHL :tighthug:
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Warning, it's a M/M (Kaidan Alenko/M!Shep) FanFic, turn around if you don't like such pairings.
This is the fourth part of my ME fanfic series, the first can be found in the description. Enjoy! :)
_________________________________________________________________________________________

A Chance


They say your life flashes in front of your eyes before you die.


I always wondered if that was true. And what would I see, what scenes would Kaidan Alenko – The Highlights be made of? I don't know if there would be much personal stuff, like spending evenings with my parents in Vancouver, looking at the sun setting and painting the sky in all possible shades of red, a cool Canadian lager in one hand. Maybe I would live through my first kiss again, my first time having sex – although these two might not be considered highlights.


Or maybe there would be my time in the Brain Camp. Rahna and the other kids. Making out hidden in secret spots to avoid the teachers, throwing each other against well padded walls for training. Shared laughs in the mess. Tears being shed because of homesickness and the undeniable truth that there are people who look down on us because we are what we are.


And then the time in the Alliance. The training, the first Missions, the camaraderie. The Normandy. A smile, a name and gray eyes.


I found myself eye in eye with death at least twice in my life. But I never saw any of those flashes. Maybe it was because I didn't die. Or maybe my brain was too occupied with surviving to care.


Or maybe there is no such thing.


I'm not sorry about not having found out yet.


Φ


Sovereign died. He – it – the machine was torn to bits.


We witnessed it through the ridiculously large window of the Citadel Tower, even felt the explosion shaking the building and us with it.


It should have been a time to celebrate. To cheer and embrace each other. A time for congratulations, for medals and speeches and the pure joy of having destroyed the Reaper and saved the galaxy.


But when a fragment of an exploded gigantic machine floats towards your direction, you don't have time to think about anything else but running.


"GO!" Shepard bellowed.


Adrenaline was pumped into my system and activated my frozen body even before my mind was capable of working the situation out. My feet were working on their own and I whirled around to put as much distance as possible between me and approaching death in form of the ship's debris. There was treacherous silence around me, the sound of my fast breaths and heartbeats the only things I could hear. The stress hormone running through my veins blocked out everything, forced me to focus on saving my hide.


Run!


Sovereign's defeat vanished from my thoughts.


Run!


I was alone, there was nothing in the whole universe except for me and the huge metallic arm.


Run!


I stumbled and fell. There was no pain, but there would be. Later. Someone grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. I didn't thank Garrus. No time. Later.


RUN!


The sound of shattering glass. Shards rained down on me and I leaped, threw myself on the ground, buried my head under my arms.


The point of no return had arrived, my fate was taken out of my hands for a higher being or chance to decide about it.


Surviving or dieing. As simple as that.


The tower shook again when Sovereign's arm hit the ground and the scream of metal scraping over metal erupted, setting my teeth on edge. If a synthetic had a death scream, this likely was it. Small pieces of debris fell down on me, tumbled on my back.


Surviving or dieing.


The sound of my approaching death grew louder with every meter the metal put behind itself, and I knew I had been too slow. Even dead – if a machine could die – did the fucking thing manage to end what it had started on Virmire. I saw myself trapped between ground and metal arm, squished to a bloody, unrecognizable mass. My feverish mind painted a picture of a group of tourists, crowding the very spot I was lying on right now, listening to the guide saying, "and this is the spot where Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko of the Alliance was buried under the Reaper's arm after Sovereign was destroyed." Oh, the irony.


See you soon, Ashley.


And then it stopped. The scream ceased, the tremors ebbed away. The citadel's alarm and the crackling of fire were the only sounds remaining.


I allowed myself to lie there for a bit, listening to the sound of my breath calming down. The Adrenaline vanished, pain came, burned in my limbs, in the cuts the shards had left on my skin, and reminded me that I was alive.


Survived.


I could hear a deep voice grunting somewhere on my right and I forced my body to collect the last energy it could offer to check on Garrus. It's over, Kaidan, I reminded myself, you can sleep soon. I stumbled to my feet with great effort and limped towards where the sound had come from. Every time I set my right food on the ground, pain shot through the leg, and I did my best to avoid putting more weight on it than necessary.


"Garrus!" I called the Turian weakly, and he answered me with a low incomprehensible mutter, muffled by a metal plate. I saw his arm sticking out from beneath it, his hand clasped the edge in the attempt to shove it away.


"I'm here," I assured him. "Wait a moment, I'll try to get it off you."


My body was tired, and the helpful Adrenaline was slowly leaving my system. It felt as if I was drained. But the plate was too heavy to move it by myself. I felt a painful throbbing beneath my temples when I concentrated and moved the thing with my biotics. The migraine would not be long in coming.


"I guess we're even now," he mumbled breathlessly when I helped him to his feet.


I opened my mouth to thank him for saving me before, but no sound came out. Something was wrong.


"Shepard..." Garrus voice was strangled.


My ankle roared with pain when I whirled around to face the debris and the aisle of destruction it had left in its wake. There was no sign of him. But there had to be!


"SHEPARD!" I screamed on the top of my lungs, and shoved Garrus' hand away when he tried to hold me back.


"SHEPARD!"


No answer.


I had reached the biggest part of the debris and my hands grasped the nearest piece of it, threw it away, and the next and the next.


Still no sign of him.


"Kaidan..." He hadn't to say it was useless, there was a part of my brain that already knew. But I could not give up. I would not give up until every stone was turned and I'd found him.


"Shepard!" My voice was hoarse and it hurt, everything hurt, my hands, my legs, my ankle, my heart. There was nothing but pain.


I jumped onto Sovereign's remains, blind to the danger until the thing started to move under my weight and I stumbled backwards, thrown off balance. The impact knocked the air from my lungs, and Garrus was there, held me down by my shoulders and screamed nonsense at me, that Shepard was dead, that I could not help him, that I only risked my own life when I searched for him now, and that I was a damn soldier, and so was Shepard, and soldiers died in action. I shook my head violently, ignored the dizziness it caused, and pressed my hands to my ears.


NO! NOOO! NONONONONONOOOO!


There was something wet on my cheeks that made the dust stick to my face.


He is not dead! He can't be dead!


I don't know if I'd said it aloud. It didn't matter anyway, because there was pity in Garrus' eyes when I thrashed in his grip until all energy was drained from my body. He said he was sorry as I laid there, staring at the ceiling, and wished that my heart would stop beating and I could join Shepard where ever he was now.


Why had I always to be the one to survive? My mind traveled back to the evening before – had it only been this shortly ago? It felt like a life time, another life even – when I had asked Shepard the same question; why me? Now I was screaming it inside my head, at a higher being, fate, chance, I don't know. Why me? Whymewhymewhyme?!


Why him?


Φ


Garrus looked up when the plate that barricaded the doors was shoved away. I heard it but I didn't move. There was nothing to move for. To be alive for.


A cone of light brushed over me and Garrus and somebody called for Captain Anderson. I didn't care.


Why can't I stop breathing?


There was relief in the Captain's eyes when he knelt down and leaned over me.


"Take it easy. It's over, you're save now."


Yes, I was. But what was it worth when Shepard wasn't. There was a hole in my chest, shaped like him, and I thought it could never be filled again. Something cold had wrapped itself around my heart like a snake of ice, ready to crush it. I hoped it would, so everything could end and there was no pain any longer. I was nothing more than a husk that had been lucky enough to survive.


Lucky? This had nothing to do with luck. This was torture.


"Where's the Commander?" Realization and dread was taking over and swept the relief away. Garrus turned his head in the direction of the debris, and so did Captain Anderson, his mouth slightly open, brows knitted in disbelief and denial.


Yes, you have lost your precious hero, but there are enough others to crown as savior of the citadel and defeater of Sovereign. You would overcome your grief when the celebrating starts, but I... I would wander down the spiral further, deeper into the darkness of loss, slowly suffocated by its weight.


It was not fair to think so, I knew that, but I didn't care, because burning hate was welling up inside me. I hated the council for not believing in Shepard, I hated the Alliance, because they had been too late, I hated everything, everyone. And most of all I hated me, because I hadn't saved him. I knew there was no reason to hate the Captain... Anderson was a great man, and he had been fond of Shepard, he had helped him, backed him up when ever he could. He had believed him, had never doubted him. He had respected him.


But he had not loved him. Yes, love. That was the right word. It was more than sexual desire. It was the best, and the worst of feelings that had grown inside me.


It was my death. And it was so much crueler than crushed by Sovereign could ever be.


Anderson shook his head in regret and stood up, his face a grimace of grief. A man helped Garrus to his feet and then they dragged me to mine. The Captain put a hand on my shoulder to comfort me, or maybe himself. I didn't know and it didn't matter anyway. There was nothing that could heal the new wound inside me, except for Shepard himself. But he was dead. And so was I.


They turned towards the door when I heard it; the sound of glass being crushed under heavy military boots. But there was no glass in front of us, only back there, behind Sovereign's remains. And this could only mean one thing.


Something stirred awake in my chest, started to pound. Life was pumped through my veins and it felt as if I was born again. The snake was shattered, it's grip faded and I released a breath I didn't know I had been holding. I turned, slowly, torn between the need to see him again and the fear that it was not him I would see climbing out of the rubble.


Metal was loosened under the weight of a grown man. It screamed as if it was offended by it, by him being alive. But he was. There was no doubt any longer when his head appeared at the rim of the debris and I could see his shorter than military-regular hair, the familiar scar at his hairline, right over his left temple. The steel grey eyes; stern, determined and full of life, searching the small crowd of us, for something, someone. And then they locked with my own and my heart stopped, silenced by the sheer strength of his gaze and the emotion within. Relief. Only for a moment, a precious moment, I allowed myself to belief that it was about me. That he was relieved to see me alive and sound, unharmed, and here, by his side.


My feet moved on their own and I climbed the debris as fast as I could without risking to topple down again. Shepard was halfway hanging over its edge, his right hand clutching a metal bar of Sovereign's skeleton to pull himself up. His left arm was hanging limply at his side, blood dropped down from a nasty gash on his upper arm. I sank to my knees next to him and resisted the urge to pull him into a tight embrace, to feel the warmth of his skin and listen to his heart beating with life. Instead, I reached down and grabbed his belt with trembling hands to pull the rest of him over the edge into safety.


"Thank you... Kaidan," he whispered huskily as soon as he'd rolled on his back, his breaths heavy with exhaustion.


"Every time." And I meant it.


"Shepard! Thank God!" Anderson called from the root of the metal pile that had once been the greatest threat to us, one foot already on top of the debris to rush to aid. But his plans were crossed when the plate he'd been standing on gave in and slipped clattering to the ground.


Sometimes, a snowball rolling down a mountain could cause a snowslide. In our case, a plate at the foot of a pile being moved was enough to start an avalanche.  


They screamed a warning, but I already knew what was about to happen. Everybody in my situation would have known as soon as the shudders started and the ear-piercing screech of metal scraping over metal filled the air. It was too late to consider running down the pile an option so I did the only thing that came to my mind. I grabbed Shepard and dragged him to the slope I had climbed before. The ground beneath our feet was moving dangerously already when I turned and pulled him to my chest. He stared at me, wide-eyed and questioningly and opened his mouth to say something, but I interrupted him,"I'm sorry, Commander, but this might hurt."


"Kaidan, what are you--"


He could not finish the sentence, because I gripped the back of his head, pressed it to my chest and flung the other arm around his waist. There was no time for explanation anyway.


I let myself fall backwards.


Time slowed down when we fell. I closed my eyes to bath in the feeling of his body pressed to mine, the scent of sweat, blood, smoke and Shepard in my nostrils, his warmth seeping through the layer of my gloves, the sound of our hearts beating their fast rhythm in unison. For the tiniest fraction of a second all this belonged to me, and only me, to glory in, to treasure it--


My back hit the slope and my head was thrown back against it. The impact shot fiery pain through my body, knocked the air from my lungs for the second time in one day and let stars dance in my view. But I didn't let go of Shepard, grabbed him even stronger to spare him what had happened to me. Tears burned in my eyes and I gulped air greedily. It wasn't over yet.


We slid down the slope further, over a particularly sharp edge that ripped the armor at my back and the flesh beneath it open, and I tried to bite the scream of pain back, whimpered instead. Shepard's fingers dug into my shoulders and he tried to move his head and look at me, but I kept the steely grip on his head. It wasn't over yet.


There was no way that I would risk him being harmed further, even if it meant I was wounded instead. Even if it meant I would die.


The slope ended and we were thrown to the ground. With the last energy my worn-out body could afford, I pushed Shepard off me, only to roll on top of him and shield him with my body, because I was too exhausted to use my biotics for a barrier. Something hit my back, but I didn't move. A large metal bar bore its sharp edge in the ground, inches away from my head and I squeezed my eyes shut.


Φ


Warm breath caressed my ear.
Everything was alright.
I could sleep now.
I give you action and... drama, so much drama...

Seriously, that's a lot of angsty sh-- content. Well, I'm not really happy about it, but that's how it turned out, and I had to get it out of my damn head.

Sorry guys. Don't hate me. :>

Next: [link]

First: [link]


Characters and Setting belong to Bioware, Mass Effect
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“Careful with that,”

says Shepard,

and sets the glass down,

too far for Kaidan to get at it again.

His hand is still on Kaidan’s shoulder

and Kaidan is deathly white

and about to faint.

His lips part,

trembling slightly.

“I must be really drunk,”

he manages,

and Shepard’s amusement morphs into something close to guilt.

“Sorry about that.

I probably could’ve handled this better.

Garrus told me where he thought you’d be, and…

I just thought I’d stop in.

Say hi.”

Kaidan’s still trying to breathe.

He wants to reach out and touch him.

Feel him.

To assure himself that he’s real,

that he’s here.

But he can’t be.

It’s just not possible,

because he’d heard the news,

straight from Anderson’s lips,

that

the Normandy’s gone

and

so is the Commander.

Shepard’s fingers are firm and steady on his arm,

his eyes are the gray that Kaidan remembers so well,

and he can’t help but blurt it out,

the fact that

“You died, Shepard.”

“Yeah,”

the other man agrees quietly,

“Yeah, I did,”

and Kaidan just unloads.

“You died,”

he repeats,

knuckles white as they grip the counter,

“you died;

oh, my god.

You told me to leave and I did because you told me to and you

died,

Shepard-

and you can’t be Shepard,

because he died-

who the fuck are you,

what the fuck do you think you’re-

oh, my god.”

He stops there because he can’t form the words he wants to say.

Maybe if I’d just told you-

told you what you were to me,

then you wouldn’t have gone to the cockpit.

Or maybe if I’d just gone with you-

refused to follow orders,

maybe things would’ve been different.

Maybe if it’d just been me-

me, caught in that final explosion,

maybe it all would’ve been for the better.


Everything he wants to say.

And

“Who the fuck are you?”

is what comes out of his mouth instead.

Shepard flinches,

then smiles a little,

an unsure,

slightly hurt smile

that reaches his eyes

but creases the corners it touches.

“John Shepard,”

he says,

his words familiar

and well-worn,

“with no middle name.

No known parents,

no known relatives.

Born on Earth,

fought off gangs for the early part of his lifetime.

Joined the Alliance at age eighteen.

Trained like any other soldier.

Had his entire squad wiped out on Akuze.

Promoted to Commander for his knack for survival.

Served under Captain Anderson.

Associated himself closely with crewmembers Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams,

C-Sec officer Garrus Vakarian,

Dr. Liara T’soni…

and Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko.”

Kaidan’s mouth is dry.

Shepard’s eyes are earnest.

“Killed in action aboard the SSV Normandy SR1.

Spent the last two years under intense medical procedures

under the care of Dr. Liara T’soni,

former crewmember.

Spent the following year in therapeutic and psychologic treatment-

which was a pain in the ass, in case you were wondering."

His expression shifts to a casual jauntiness.

“Would really love to send the Collectors straight to hell,

and kind of needs a pretty great team.

Like...

maybe one with a reinstated Staff Lieutenant.”

“Shepard,”

says Kaidan weakly,

because if it’s a clone,

it’s a damn good one.

“But we can talk about the galaxy-saving part of everything later,”

Shepard continues,

a grin playing at the corners of his mouth.

“Do you…wanna dance?”

Kaidan stares at him;

his grin widens.

“C’mon, Kaid, gimme a break.

I haven’t danced in years-

literally.”

The biotic sucks in a breath,

deep and long.

“Can’t you even give me a minute?”

he murmurs,

pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.

“To process this all,

to…

to think?

For god’s sake, Shepard…”

Shepard’s breath is warm on his cheek as he leans forward,

laughter in his voice.

“I don’t know if you remember this, Kaidan,

but I am the least patient person in the universe.

So it’d be great if you could dance and process at the same time.”

Kaidan remembers.

He remembers everything.

And that’s part of the reason why he lets Shepard take his hand

and lead him out to the floor of Flux,

asari

and turians

and humans mixed,

bodies pressed up against one another.

Shepard gives Kaidan his space

as they find a spot

and begin to catch the beat of the current track.

It’s fast-paced,

something that Kaidan appreciates.

He needs the adrenaline,

or whatever it is that stimulates him with the lights blazing

and bass pounding,

to understand what this all means.

For the galaxy.

For the Alliance.

For him.

He watches Shepard.

Flailing around hopelessly,

arms waving in the air,

teeth flashing in the darkness as he smiles.

Looking like an idiot.

And having fun.

Just like he would’ve three years ago.

Kaidan wonders if it’s the shard wine slowing his brain

or just the pure shock of it all.

He wonders if his reaction was appropriate.

He wonders if Shepard really wants him on his team.

He wonders how much Garrus told him about the months after the attack.

He wonders how long Shepard’s been looking for him.

And he wonders if he knows

that Kaidan’s been waiting.

For this.

For him.

Somewhere in the back of his mind,

the unwavering hope

that he’d look into the crowd

and see him,

just like this,

with his feet shuffling awkwardly

and his body swaying out of rhythm with the rest of the dancers.

You still suck,

he feels like calling out,

as Shepard shuffles and sways.

But it’s not the right place

or the right time

and Shepard just looks too happy,

dancing in the Flux

after three years of being dead,

and for a moment,

the thought comes to Kaidan

that maybe he’s happy

because he’s here

and because Kaidan is here,

too.

It’s the alcohol.

That’s what he blames it on

as he moves forward,

slides his hands over Shepard’s hips,

looks into his face,

pours his heart out in two words.

“I waited.”

Shepard’s face is unreadable for a few seconds,

and Kaidan nearly falters,

his heart beating hard and quick in his chest.

“I waited,”

he repeats,

needing him to know,

like saying it again will drill it in further.

“Three years and I waited, Shepard.”

The Commander pauses.

His body stills under Kaidan’s hands.

He runs his tongue along his bottom lip,

almost in preparation.

And then his response;

low and soft and in the back of his throat.

“I’m…glad,”

he says,

and it’s honest

and open

and he brushes Kaidan’s cheek with his thumb

and Kaidan’s eyes close at the touch.

“Hey,”

says Shepard suddenly,

like he’s been thinking about it for a long time

but didn’t want to bring it up too soon.

“I think…

I think I’m going to do something stupid.”

“Okay,”

says Kaidan.

Shepard kisses him.

He kisses back.

And it’s the least stupid thing he’s ever done.

He buys a bottle of batarian shard wine a few days later,

after Joker asks him if he’s not too busy to re-teach him poker

and Liara sighs and relents,

admitting that she’d missed witnessing the gradual intoxication of her crewmates.

“You really didn’t have to,”

Shepard tells him,

his smile lighting up his face like the sun

as he sees the bottle.

“I know,”

says Kaidan,

watching Shepard tangle their fingers together

very much on purpose.

“But I wanted to.”
In the end, in the end
There's nothing more to life than love, is there?
In the end, in the end
It's time for us to lose our weary minds

Will you dance with me?
Like we used to dance
And remember how to move together

You are the torch
And it all makes sense
I've waited here for you forever.


- Snow Patrol [link]

Part II of a two part series: what if Kaidan had left the Alliance after the Normandy's destruction at the hands of the Collectors, and Liara had been the one to oversee the reconstruction of Shepard instead of Cerberus?

AHHHH I JUST ABSOLUTELY LOVED WRITING THIS.

Did I say that before? I think I did...

I wish that Liara would've taken the project into her own hands. I'm sure she could've; she's a smart girl. :heart:

Part I here: [link]

It's 2:00AM...I really wanted to finish this. :blushes: Time for sleep! :dummy:

Leave a comment or like on Tumblr ([link]), and I will love you! :tighthug:

And of course, if you want to follow me on AO3...here's the link. [link]
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They tell him that his name is Spectre Major Kaidan Alenko.

That he served the Alliance for a good portion of his life.

That he teaches biotics down at the Alliance headquarters in Canada.

That he's been shot in the head.

Twice.

A few days ago.

Maybe a week.

You know.

The usual.

"Well,"

he says.

"At least I'm up and kicking, yeah?"

He always was positive.

They tell him that, too.

He hasn't forgotten everything.

He remembers the Normandy.

Saren.

The Collectors.

The Reapers.

It's not those things that he's confused over.

It's the people.

Or-

for the most part-

the people

and the aliens.

"Liara,"

she introduces herself.

"Dr. Liara T'soni.

You were a part of the team that rescued me-"

He breaks in eagerly.

"-on Therum, right?

You were on Therum."

She looks surprised,

then relieved.

"You remember me?"

He hesitates.

"I...

remember saving you.

I don't..."

He doesn't know how to explain it.

He remembers saving her.

He remembers the assets she brought to the team.

But he can't,

for the life of him,

remember her laugh.

Or her favorite color.

Or the times they've spent together,

or the jokes they've shared,

or the conversations they've had.

"Sorry,"

he says,

stumbling over words,

trying to make her understand.

"I can't-"

"You remember events,"

she confirms,

a little sad.

"You remember facts.

But you don't remember emotions,

characteristics."

They tell him that his brain has done something really great.

It's saved essential pieces.  

It's preserved his history.

The past.

What's important.

"You're important, too,"

he says, upset,

to Liara.

"If we were friends-

that's important.

More important than history."

But she only smiles.

"Give it some time,"

she says.

"You've only just woken.

Maybe it'll come back to you."

He sees his old Commander in the hallway when he goes to get coffee

and he stops to salute.

"Wow,"

the Commander says.

"You haven't saluted me in years."

Kaidan pulls his hand back down to his side, blushing.

"Right.

Sorry.

They told me you were retired, Commander."

The other man laughs,

expression strained.

"You haven't called me Commander in years, either,"

he says.

Kaidan racks his brain-

then smiles.

"We were friends, weren't we?"

Something flickers over the Commander's face.

So quick that Kaidan's sure he's imagined it.

"Yeah,"

he says.

"Yeah, we were friends."

"Ah,"

Kaidan nods eagerly.

"All right-

well let me re-do this, then-

they told me you were retired,

John."

Kaidan's so sure he's gotten it right.

So damn sure.

He waits for a response,

half-grin on his face,

pleased that he's remembered,

and only grins wider

when Shepard grins back.

"I should go,"

the Commander says.

"Good to see you, Kaidan."

---------------------

"Maybe it'll come back to him,"

Steve says.

"Yeah,"

Shepard says.

"Maybe."

He's not grinning now.

He's got his hands shoved down deep in his pockets,

turned away from Steve

because he can't face anyone

right now,

not now that he's watched Kaidan say

"friends"

in that stupid

ridiculous

fucking happy voice.

"He never called me John,"

Shepard says.

"You know that?

God damn it."

Steve shrugs.

"Hey.

At least it's not a blank slate."

But it is.

They're back to square one:

back to the SR-1,

watching each other from a distance,

friends

and nothing more.

Square Fucking One.

"We've arranged for him to stay with you,"

Steve tells him.

"You can try to get things back to normal this way.

With him around...

well, you never know.

It could be good for him.

He could remember."

It'll never happen.

All those memories,

all those feelings-

the moments that they worked so hard to build towards-

gone.

And there's no bringing them back.

But Shepard's too tired to argue.

And so he says

"okay."

And tries to pretend that it is.

---------------------

"You've sure got a big apartment,"

says Kaidan.

"It wasn't just for me,"

says Shepard.

Kaidan looks up at Shepard, interested.

"Yeah?

Who else lives here?"

Shepard rubs the back of his neck.

"I...

No one.

Not anymore, at least."

Kaidan pauses.

Then sits,

looking up at Shepard expectantly.

"Tell me, John.

I mean-

I'm here to learn, you know?

And you're here to fill me in on whatever I'm missing.

Which seems like a lot.

So shoot."

He reminds Shepard of the way everything had been,

back on the SR-1.

He looks so young.

Even with the gray creeping in on the edges of his hairline,

and the wrinkles at the very corners of his eyes.

There's something in his expression

that's just plain different.

And it hits him-

Kaidan doesn't remember the pain.

Not any of it.

Shepard's betrayal on Horizon.

Shepard leaving Earth.

Shepard at Mars.

At the hospital.

On Thessia.

He might remember the events

but he doesn't remember the hurting

the breaking

the crying-

god damn it,

Kaidan,

soldiers don't cry,

Commanders don't cry-

not like this,

not wrapped up in the fetal position

knees hugged up tight

trying to squeeze it out of their chest

because fuck,

fuck-

it hurts,

it hurts so bad,

Kaidan,

help me.


Shepard's death.

Seemingly

more than once.

Kaidan had told him what it had felt like.

But now he doesn't know.

He couldn't know.

And so he looks younger-

so much younger,

carefree,

never having had the crushing burden

of the knowledge

that the person you-

you live for-

is dead

and you're not.

Often,

usually late at night,

after Kaidan had woken

pale-faced

and breathing hard

from a nightmare,

Shepard had wished that he could've erased that pain.

But he never would've wished for this.

"John?"

Kaidan asks,

still waiting for an explanation.

But Shepard forces a smile

and shakes his head.

"Maybe another time.

Wanna help me move this couch?

We'll set it up so you can crash here."

"Aw,"

Kaidan teases.

"You mean I can't just have your bed?"

Shepard's throat tightens.  

You can have it.

Anytime.


"Nah,"

Shepard says lightly.

"I'd rather not share."

I'll share.

Sure I'll share.


Kaidan laughs.

"That's okay,"

he says.

"You probably snore, anyway."

I don't.

You do.

You do,

and it would wake me up

and I would complain

and god,

if I could do it over again

I would never complain,

not ever again

because your snores

were beautiful,

Kaidan,

so fucking beautiful-


Shepard stops.

Looks back at him.

"Hey, Kaidan,"

he asks.

"You ever feel like you need a sanity check?"

Kaidan's brow creases.

"A sanity check?"

he repeats.

"You mean like a psych examination?"

Shepard shakes his head.

"Never mind,"

he says.

"It was a stupid question."
Two years after the destruction of the Reapers, Shepard finds himself in the midst of an assassination plot. While he struggles with the repercussions, friendships are mended and bonds are made.

OUCH IT HURTS

AND IT'S JUST GONNA GET WORSE

THANK GOD CORTEGA IS GONNA BE IN HERE I NEED SOME FLUFF

:saddummy:
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"Joker, I don't care what you have to do, get us back to Earth," Kaidan's voice was sharp and demanding as he ran into the cockpit. The thought of his commander gone was just too much for him to accept. There were too many words that still needed to be shared, so much more to be done between them. He couldn't face the highly probable chance that his lover -after years of feeling betrayed and loving him regardless of that- was gone. He ran a hand through his thick black hair. There was no way that he was losing John.

The flight lieutenant nodded, having suffered a loss of his own, finding Shepard would have been a welcomed distraction. Even though that Shepard had told he and EDI not to get together, he still felt the impact of her loss.

John had never been a proper gentleman, hell he was never proper at all. He would kill someone without a second thought, but no matter what he did, he had a reason. Joker growled as he stood, finding that he had broken a rib. "Get Adams, we're going to need a status report on how long it will take to get her up and running," he said to Traynor, his voice biting back the familiar pain of broken bones. 

Kaidan shook his head not sure if he was angry or worried. He was frustrated, impatient, and sick to his stomach with the thought of John being dead. He caught sight of Engineer Adams and Tali running toward the CIC, where he was sitting. "How bad is it?" he asked and fell in line beside them.

"It's going to take at least a day or so to get her back into space with EDI offline. A bit longer for her to be running easy," Tali's words fumbled out and her hands were picking at one another. She looked at Kaidan through her mask, seeing the stress on his hard features. "We'll get back to Earth as fast as we can," she added with a false calm. There was no way that she could promise that Commander Shepard would be waiting there for him, but she could only hope. 

"Dammit," he breathed out as his eyes tightly closed, fighting off the hot tears at his eyes. "Thank you, Tali," he sighed and looked at the quarian, his eyes red. He couldn't deal with this. He had grit his teeth and kept his mouth shut through so much. Leaving John on the ground was the hardest thing that Kaidan had ever done. He had told him to be careful, but he knew John. He was reckless, destructive. There was never a guarantee that he was coming back, and now it just hit him harder than usual. Kaidan didn't give a glance back as he went to Shepard's cabin. He needed to be alone. He needed time to make sense of everything that had just happened. 

He stepped into the loft and looked around. It smelled like John. He looked to the mattress and memory flashed in his mind. It was the first time that he had truly given into pleasure, the heat of the moment racing through his veins, the pain melting into pleasure, sweat glistening both of their bodies, lust and love colliding in a rush. Yes, he had had sex before, but this wasn't just sex, this was love. This was something that no matter how much he tried not to think about and try to put a lid on it, it enveloped him, surrounding his every sense. He walked toward the bed and sat on the white sheets.

He exhaled a ragged breath and he felt a lump form in his throat. He tried swallowing it without success and his body become slightly unstable. "You are not gone," he whispered as tears edged his eyes. His hands rubbed his temples and his head pounded. He drew in a breath with the same jagged sound as the exhale and a tear ran down his cheek, scorching the skin as it moved. He fell back onto the bed and moved up, his head resting on a pillow. He wiped the tears from his eyes, smirking as he heard John's voice in his ear, teasing him for getting his perfectly white sheets dirty. He laid there for what seemed an eon before the door opened.

"Kaidan," it was the asari, Dr. Liara T'Soni, whose soft voice was captured in his ears. He sat up to see a metal plaque in her hands. He didn't have to ask to know what it was. That was Shepard's plaque. His eyes looked dead as they followed Liara's movements. She placed the plaque on Shepard's desk and walked to the bed. She sat beside him and without thinking about what he was doing, he wrapped his arms around her. She returned the favor and Kaidan buried his face in the crevice of her neck and shoulder. 

He had never much cared for Liara, being Benezia's daughter didn't help his feelings toward her when they had first met. She recovered Shepard's body and gave them to Cerberus, a known enemy of the Alliance, and part of him wouldn't forgive her for that. However, there was a time to set aside old grudges, and now seemed like that time. She ran a hand through his hair and calmed him down. 

They broke their embrace and Kaidan's chocolate eyes drifted pass her, resting on the plaque. He could see the 'ard' of Shepard and swallowed another lump that formed in his throat. 

"We don't have to put it up yet," Liara uttered, knowing full well what it was that he was looking at. In a way, she did not accept the idea of John being gone either. He was too stubborn to die. He would end everything on his terms and come out of it alive if that was what he wanted to do. 

"I think I need some fresh air," he said and stood from the bed. The room, the ship, the scent that was surrounding him; all of it was suffocating him. He couldn't breathe. They walked out of the room, Liara had the plaque in her grip, and they made their way to the bridge. Kaidan saw Joker opening the airlock and followed out behind him. Garrus and Liara followed behind the pilot and the major. 

Kaidan stood beside Joker, but they remained silent. The native lifeforms chattered and chirped in the distance. It was a beautiful planet, but still Kaidan could not shake the need to be on Earth. Joker turned around and walked back to the ship, as did the rest of the crew, Kaidan was the last to go in.

They gathered around the mural on the crew deck. Liara's heart was heavy as she handed Kaidan the plaque. The major's shaking hands grabbed it and he nodded to her. He turned around, plaque in hand and stared at the wall. His eyes moved over some of the names. Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams. She was a soldier, tough, her nerve couldn't be shaken for anything. Mordin Solus was another one. If there was anything that Shepard cared about, it was helping the Krogan. He didn't kill Wrex on Virmire and he spoke up about the plans of sabotaging the cure. Thane Krios, the terminally ill Drell who had tried to stop Kai Leng and paid with his life. Legion, a geth, of all things, sacrificed itself for his race to thrive, only to fall a few weeks later. EDI, an unshackled AI with a mind of her own. 

There was an empty space above Admiral David Anderson and Kaidan swallowed. His eyes rested on the plaque in his hands and he rubbed the name with his thumb. He looked back to the empty space and shook his head. "I can't," he muttered solemnly. Another tear streamed down his face and he clenched his jaw. "I have to know that Shepard's gone before I can even think about it," he tried his best to explain, his back to the crew. He knew that if he were to turn around he would lose what little of his bearings that he had left. "Let's just get back to Earth," he mumbled before walking to his quarters. 

----


Days passed and the Normandy was finally able to get into space. They had gotten an update on the Mass Relays. All of them were destroyed, but repairable. The crew all turned to Kaidan, finding him the best fit for the next Commander should they go to find what they had already suspected. 

"Joker, are we ready for flight?" Kaidan's voice was rusty from staying silent a good part of the few days when the Normandy was down.

The flight lieutenant smirked and nodded, "She could get us through the Omega 4 Relay again." That brought another memory into focus for Kaidan. Instead of agreeing with the Illusive Man on saving the Collector Base, he destroyed it without a second thought. He had heard the stories on how he told the leader Cerberus off and it stirred something inside of him. A bit of adrenaline mixed with pride.  

They lifted from the ground and took off, the drive core kicked in and they zipped away from the planet, heading towards home. Kaidan grew more and more anxious every hour that they were in flight. They hadn't gone far from Earth, but it would still take longer than his liking. 

Kaidan stood in his room, his arm resting on the edge of the window, eyes unfocused but staring into the great void. The blue essence that Normandy had around itself was a welcomed presence. The Mass Effect generator and shields were up and running, the thrusters had more than enough fuel, and the ship was running soundly. Tali, Ken, Gabby, Cortez, and Adams had pulled through at an exceptionable speed.
 
"Major Alenko, there's a call coming through Vid-Comm. It's from Admiral Hackett," Traynor's voice came over the intercom. She sounded excited, and it sparked the same emotion within Kaidan. It also brought an unsettling amount of panic. He swallowed it as he went through the CIC, marched through the war room and into the Communications area. 

He shaped himself up, blocked out most of the panic and excitement and answered the call. The Admiral appeared before him and Kaidan saluted. 

"Major Alenko, we just received signs that the Normandy is in space after being MIA for almost four days," there was suspect in the Admiral's voice, but also relief. 

"It was a hell of a ride, Admiral," Kaidan informed the admiral on everything that happened, how EDI and the other synthetics aboard shut down. He also mentioned the incredible job that the quarian and the other crew members had done to get the Normandy up and running. He wouldn't let them go unnoticed. The Admiral responded appropriately, saying that they would be given medals when they reached Earth. Now it was time for Kaidan to ask the questions.

"Admiral, have you heard anything on Commander Shepard's whereabouts?" he asked, his voice cracking as he mentioned John's name. The desperation showed in his eyes and his facial features. His palms were sweating and his head was aching. 

There was a pause before the Admiral responded, "We raised him three days ago," a smile appeared on Kaidan's lips as Hackett spoke. "They said he was in critical condition and his cybernetics had malfunctioned enough to cause concern," the smiled faded but Kaidan held hope in his heart.

"Where is he being held, Admiral?" 

"Charing Cross Hospital here in London. It seems to be the only one that's still functional and mostly unaffected by the Reapers," the admiral spoke with a calm voice, "He's woken up once already when they were replacing his cybernetic implants. He's tough, I'll give him that. Fly safely, Major. See you when you reach Earth."

"Yes sir," Kaidan responded before the call ended. John had woken up during surgery. He really was stubborn. Kaidan laughed, focusing on the good news instead of the bad. There was still a chance that the Commander could die, but if he had survived whatever happened on the Citadel, he would pull through. Shepard would never go down like that, he would find it insulting to his vanity. 

Kaidan walked out of the Communications room to see the crew gathered around the console in the War Room. Liara stepped toward Kaidan, her blue pools lapped with curiosity. He looked at the other members as well, all burning with the same curiosity, one question on their minds. His chocolate eyes closed for a moment and a smile spread across his face. The crew cheered and Joker came over the intercom. 

"I'm assuming that Shepard made it through yet another suicide mission," there was a smile in his grainy voice.

"I don't know how he does it," Kaidan answered and the crew dispersed, returning to their stations. Kaidan sat beside Joker in what became EDI's seat. It was originally his, so he found sitting here appropriate. They kicked the Normandy into Warp Drive in appeared in the Sol system within four hours. 

----
Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC Spoilers

Pairing:MShenko (Commander John Shepard & Major Kaidan Alenko)

I burn to make you understand
One wrong word and it all may come crashing down
For the fates are devious by heart
They envy you your dreams, so they'll let you drown

And there is no why, there is no how, it's like the sky, just one free flow
But you're here right now, and this is your show, so take a bow, cause the show is on right...

Here and now with all dreams realized
Would you choose still more time to do
Don't fall down when it's time to arise
No-one else can heal your wounds

Once again taboo becomes your law
What you want seems taken by another tide turning
Away from our flower field where we used to lay beneath the sky,
riding dreams to some other side


I've been having a lot of MShenko feels lately and I'm really, really tired of not being able to express them. Ugh. So I decided to not give a hoot about what you say and write some sweet Shenko aftermath lovin. I know, I'm obsessed with reunions, but I went more in depth with this one, giving more a set up for John not to do so well in the Hospital.

My Male Shepard is renegade for the most part. He only does paragon where it would truly make sense (i.e; telling the Illusive Man to suck a dick, destroying the base, getting the Krogan on his side by not killing Mordin or Wrex, Saving both the Quarian and the Geth. But other than that, he fucks everyone's shit up. He saved the council, finding them to be useful assets. Oops. He killed the Batarian though. Because Fuck them.)

Oh and in later chapters there will be sweet, lusty, rough lovin'. I promise it will be good ;v; I can write gay smut. ;3; I have practice eh-heh

BioWare owns the Characters
Poets of the Fall--Heal My Wounds
I own ze writing

--
Chapter 2: [link]
Chapter 3: [link]
Chapter 4: [link]
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SHEPARD

It's a hell of a first impression

when the people you most want to impress

come home to find you making out with their son pinned against the wall.

It doesn't help that Kaidan's blushing.

"Uh.

Hey, Mom,"

he says,

voice hoarse.

"Hi, Dad."

This is the most awkward silence

I have ever experienced.

Kaidan's mom's face is unreadable.

Kaidan's dad's face is thunderstruck.

Kaidan gestures to me.

"This is..."

He clears his throat.

"This is Commander Shepard,"

he says,

and his blush deepens even further.

"We're...

um..."

Something kicks in.

I don't know if it's from years of defying others,

or just another one of my act-fast, think-later instincts.

But I yank Kaidan closer to me

and slide an arm around his waist.

"Kaidan and I are getting married,"

I say unabashedly,

like it's no big deal,

and Kaidan's mom's eyes get so big

I think they might burst.

"We stopped by and you weren't here,"

I tell them.

"We were...shopping,"

says Kaidan's mom faintly.

"For...groceries."

That would explain the bags in their arms.

I look over at Kaidan,

who appears to be having a silent breakdown.

"Well, great,"

I say,

and,

because I'm starving,

and because obviously no one else is going to ask:

"What's for dinner?"

Mrs. Alenko actually takes a step back,

she's so thrown.

When she finds her voice,

it's very small.

"You're a very

straightforward

person,

Commander."

I grin,

leaving Kaidan's side to help her with the groceries.

"I've heard that more than once,

believe me,"

I say,

taking the heaviest bag

and following her into the kitchen.

Kaidan trails behind me,

looking uncomfortable.

And his father trails behind him,

his expression stony.

------------------------

KAIDAN

As it turns out,

we're having chicken for dinner.

And of course Shepard jumps at the chance to tell them about his

'poultry experience'

in the hospital.

Mom thinks it's hilarious.

Dad says nothing.

Shepard plays right to Mom's weaknesses.

Charms the shit out of her.

Compliments her cooking.

Tells her how much he loves Canada.

Laughs at the puns she enjoys making,

and then makes his own.

She's won over.

Completely taken.

As far as she's concerned, he's already part of the family.

Dad...

well, he's not as easily amused.

He hasn't said a word,

not yet.

And I kind of prefer it that way.

Because when he starts to talk,

you know you're in way too deep.

Dad eats both of the drumsticks.

For some reason,

that bothers me,

and I think it might be because Shepard loves the drumsticks.

Shepard is showing Mom the ring.

"It's beautiful,"

she says,

then grabs my hand from across the table to admire mine.

"Oh,

they're both beautiful."

She smiles at Dad.

"Look at these.

They're beautiful."

Dad stares at our hands,

mine and Shepard's.

His eyes flicker away for a second,

like he doesn't want to be here.

"They're fine,"

he says finally,

and Shepard's smile is very forced, all of a sudden.

He tenses up

and I know he's going to say something stupid.

Mom knows it too.

And she swoops in

and saves the day.

"John, honey.

How exactly did you and Kaidan get to know each other so well?"

And Shepard lowers his eyes reluctantly

and rolls one shoulder

and leans back in his chair

and says,

"Well,

four years ago,

there was this really good looking LT on my ship..."

"He pushed me over,"

I tell Mom,

reaching for the last piece of chicken.

"I saved your life!"

exclaims Shepard,

stealing it off of my plate.

And the tension eases.

But I catch the glance he throws my father,

and the cool look my father gives him in return,

and both Mom and I know

this is far from over.

------------------------

SHEPARD

Kaidan's dad shows us to the upstairs.

"Kaidan,"

he says,

"You can take your old room."

It sounds more like an order

than a friendly suggestion.

"Commander,

follow me."

Kaidan blinks.

"Uh,"

he says quietly.

"Uh, hey,

Dad?"

His father turns around.

Looks at him.

Waiting.

"Dad..."

Kaidan says again,

cheeks reddening,

and

oh, my god,

does he really have to say it?


"We'll share the room,"

I explain.

Kaidan gives me a grateful look.

His father is at a loss for what to do.

"Oh,"

he says finally,

and then,

"Fine."

Trudges back down the stairs.

I look at Kaidan.

"No

'goodnight, sleep tight'

from him,

hey?"

I ask.

Trying to lighten the mood.

But Kaidan's mouth twists down

and I regret saying anything at all.

He opens the door to his room...

and I regret coming here at all.

Kaidan's room...

is neat.

Tidy.

Dusted.

Bed.

Desk.

Chair.

Lamp.

One,

lone poster

of Jon Grissom.

"Wow,"

Kaidan says softly.

"They haven't touched a thing."

My chest is aching.

This isn't a kid's bedroom.

It's a soldier's bedroom.

His room was made for a goddamn soldier.

It's about efficiency

and rules.

Not innocence

and having fun,

and

"Oh, Kaidan,"

because he's standing there,

arms folded tight across his chest,

his throat bobbing as he swallows  

and his hands shaking

and

"C'mere,"

I say,

pulling him into my arms,

pressing my mouth against the corner of his jaw,

holding him.

His breathing evens out after a while,

and he leans into me.

"I'm-

I'm so stupid,"

he whispers,

voice unsteady.

"You had it so bad,

Shepard:

you had it so much worse,

and here I am,

complaining about this-"

It's okay, Kaidan,

I want to tell him.

But he keeps going.

He can't stop.

"And-

god,

after everything we've been through,

after Saren

and the Collecters

and the Reapers

and here I am,

complaining about this-"

You have every right to complain, Kaidan.

I want to tell him that.

But he can't stop.

"Just when we have a chance to be normal,

you know?

And I'm bringing this up,

ruining things,

just like I did on Horizon-"

Horizon has nothing to do with this, Kaidan.

I want to tell him that, too.

But he can't stop.

It's been holed up inside of him for years.

Carefully contained.

Just like his feelings always were,

before me.

Boxed up

and nailed shut

in a part of him that shouldn't have to hold such heavy baggage.

Rahna was in that box.

And Vyrnnus.

And his guilt over his abilities,

abilities that he never asked for,

that were never his fault,

given to him all because

his mother was in the wrong place at the wrong time

and there just happened to be a transport crash

and some stuff spilled

and

poof,

a biotic baby popped out

and grew up in Canada

with a soldier's bedroom

and a hard-ass father

and a habit to box up and nail shut all the things he didn't know how to handle.

Rahna.

Vyrnnus.

Jump Zero.

All of it,

shut up in that box.

And then I came along.

Shepard.

His Commanding Officer.

Prying into the parts of his life he left untouched.

Trying to get a glimpse into that box of his.

And for some reason,

he let me.

He told me about Rahna.

He told me about Vyrnnus.

He explained Jump Zero.

He opened the box

and let a lot of stuff out.

And put some more things in

to replace the ones he'd lost.

I went into the box.

Blushes,

tripping over words.

Quick glances that held more than was ever admitted.

His question

of if it was okay to want your Commander.

His answer:

no.

The Collecters,

and then Horizon.

More of me went into the box.

Wanting to forget.

About the Normandy,

about me.

The things in the box?

He could pretend they never happened.

When I finally got him back:

forced everything out of him,

began to wake up every morning

knowing he'd be there next to me,

I thought I'd found every single thing there was to find

in that fucking box.

But there's one thing I never uncovered.

One thing I'd never even thought of.

"My dad-"

Kaidan shakes his head.

"You know,

when those government officials showed up at my front door?

Dad helped me pack.

Mom cried.

But Dad-

he was relieved,

Shepard.

He wanted me to go.

Said it was for the best.

I don't...

I don't know-

I wasn't who he wanted me to be.

I wasn't him,

Shepard,

and I hated myself for that-"

I don't think he'll ever stop.

There are so many things he's never said aloud

that he wants to say now.

But he needs to stop.

Because there's a better way to clean out that box

than this.

I stroke his hair.

"Kaidan,"

I say,

voice rough,

and at those two,

familiar

syllables,

he goes quiet.

I try to find words.

"Kaidan,

you are, like-

you are the sexiest guy I know."

He lets out an incredulous breath,

half a sob,

turning his head to look up at me:

now really isn't the time, Shepard-

but I'm not done.

"And you are...

talented,

and-

and confident,

and...

a damn good soldier.

And if your dad wasn't

happy

with what he got,

well-

I'll be the first to tell him

that I am.

I am...

I am so happy.

About...having you.

Here,

with me.

Your dad...

well-

I don't care

what he thinks-

about you-

about anything.

You're...

You are

irreplaceable

to me."

It comes out more awkwardly than I thought it would.

But it seems to be what Kaidan needed to hear.

The bed is just big enough to fit both of us.

The thick quilt is welcome in the cold night air.

He falls asleep quicker than I do,

nestling his head underneath my chin.

And when I take him in my arms,

he feels lighter than before.

I think his box is emptying out.

But we've got a ways to go

before we set things straight.

I think about that picture, downstairs.

Eight-year-old Kaidan in Kelowna.

Eyes dark

and pleading.

Pleading with me.

Get me out of here.

Get me out of here, Shepard.


I shift a little

and brush my mouth against his forehead.

I wish I could have, Kaidan.

I'm sorry,

I'm so sorry-

but I didn't know you,

not then, anyway;

I didn't know-

and you weren't mine yet,

Kaidan,

and I would have gotten you out of there,

but I didn't know,

and I'm so,

so sorry.


Eight-year-old Kaidan in Kelowna,

hair perfectly combed

and shirt perfectly ironed

and shoes perfectly knotted

and eyes dark

and pleading

and sad.

I fall asleep

with that image in my mind.
I thought the Extended Cut was very well done, despite the ending. They added the necessary scenes, and kept the music fantastic.

So go listen. Your ears will thank you. [link]

Ah, Kaidan. You and your fucking box. :saddummy:

MEH FEELS

Part I: [link]
Part II: YOU ARE HERE!
Part III: [link]

More of my Sheploo/Kaidan fics: [link]

Oh, and those of you who don't already know about Shepard's "poultry experience": [link]

:dummy:
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