Kaidan walked into the med bay and let his eyes adjust to the low light. As he came closer to the beds that lined the wall, he realized that he was alone in the room with Shepard. The soft blue glow of the track lighting made her skin appears as if it was glowing.
Kaidan breathed a sigh of relief as he drew near to her. Her breathing was regular now, but more than that, he felt a small but steady hum of biotic energy around her. She must not be quite so far from consciousness as he had feared. It suddenly occurred to him that the change in her biotics might have been what had woken him in the first place. He was becoming attuned to her frequency more quickly than he had thought.
He didn’t know if the thought pleased him or concerned him.
Kaidan looked down at Shepard, fighting a foolish impulse to touch her as she slept. That seemed disrespectful, somehow, though his fingers itched to do so. Instead he cocked his head and watched her. Her face was peaceful: her muscles relaxed, her eyelashes still as feathers against her cheeks. She had very long lashes, Kaidan thought. He wondered that he had not noticed that before.
In truth, there were many things he had not noticed before. There were scars on her hands and he found himself fascinated by the light dusting of pale hair on her arms. There were more scars on her face than he had realized. Most were small, but one framed her right eye like a crescent. She had a smattering of freckles on her nose, which seemed strange to him. Freckles were something little girls had, not women warriors.
Asleep like this, she looked so different from the commander he had met the day before. That woman had been someone he had followed without question. And that – was unusual for Kaidan. He followed orders, sure, but only because it was part of the job. Internally, he was always questioning, always making sure he knew all possible exit routes. Ever since his teen years, he’d learned never to completely trust a CO.
Yet, there he’d been on Eden Prime, trusting Shepard in everything. From that moment she had ordered him not to get himself killed, he’d known he could trust her. He knew she had his back, and so he had covered hers. Throughout the mission, she had behaved exactly as he would have wished her to, and so he stopped wondering when the other shoe would drop. When she’d given orders, he’d listened. He felt like the two of them had an instant connection, had formed an instant team.
And that comforted him. When he had first met her, he thought the instant connection was one of…attraction. But now, he could neatly file it away in his mind as a connection of respect. The two of them were soldiers - biotic warriors. And they had saved each others lives time and again today. They were both skilled, cautious, yet capable of acting on instinct when the need arose. Shepard had been a better fit for him as a teammate - as a superior officer, rather - than anyone Kaidan had ever known. And now here he was, looking down at that same strong woman, thinking how odd it was that someone so commanding could be so vulnerable. It was also strange how she could be so…appealing.
Before Kaidan could fully banish that highly inappropriate thought from his mind, he heard a soft sigh escape Shepard’s lips. He looked down just in time to see her eyes flutter open.
“Doctor?” Kaidan called. He turned and hit the comm button beside the bed. “Doctor Chakwas?”
“Alenko?” The surprised voice of the doctor came over the comm.
“Come down to the med bay,” Kaidan told her. “I think she’s waking up.” He did not bother to say who “she” was and the doctor did not have to ask.
“I’m on my way,” she replied.
Kaidan turned at the sound of his name. Shepard blinked up at him from where she lay. He looked down into her face, taking in her wide eyes and her full lips, and he suddenly felt very warm.
She’d called him by his name. She hadn’t called the rest of the crew by their first names, had she? Surely not. Kaidan swallowed, finding his throat had suddenly gone dry.
“You okay?” he rasped.
“I…think so, I…” She sat up, nearly pitching to the floor in the process. Kaidan reached out a hand to steady her, but she had already turned away. His hand met empty air. He let his hand fall, then stepped back and crossed his arms awkwardly over his chest.
Seeing her awake was a great relief, but Kaidan instantly felt the change in her demeanor. Her face grew shuttered as it took on a confused expression. In sleep, she had been liquid, but upon waking, she hardened into ice.
“You had us worried there, Shepard,” Doctor Chakwas’ voice sounded from the doorway. She walked quickly into the room, sparing Kaidan a searching glance. He said nothing, but his posture became more defensive.
“How are you feeling?” Doctor Chakwas asked Shepard, bringing out her omnitool and running a scan over the commander.
“I’ve had worse,” Shepard said. She paused. “On second thought, it’s a close call. But I’m alive and nothing seems to be missing.” She absentmindedly touched the scar under her right eye. “How long was I out?”
“About fifteen hours,” Doctor Chakwas replied.
“Fifteen hours ?” Shepard frowned. “I felt more like five minutes…”
“Something happened down there with the beacon, we think,” Doctor Chakwas explained.
“It was my fault,” Kaidan said, frowning, feeling guilt swamp him once again. “I must have triggered some kind of security field when I approached it.” Stupid tech obsession. “You had to push me out of the way.”
Shepard turned to him and shook her him a slight smile. Her energy seemed to flicker a little as she said, “Don’t blame yourself, lieutenant. You couldn’t possibly have known what would happen.”
Kaidan felt his heart leap at her words. Ashley had told him the same thing; Captain Anderson and the doctor had, too. But until Shepard had said the same, he didn’t quite believe it. He smiled, ducking his head bashfully.
“So what happened?” Shepard asked him.
“The beacon exploded,” Kaidan replied. “Systems overload, maybe. The blast knocked you cold. We couldn’t revive you, so we brought you back here to the ship.”
“Thanks,” Shepard said. “I appreciate it.”
Kaidan nodded in reply; he found himself unable to find any words to speak his relief.
“Physically you’re fine,” Chakwas said as Shepard slid off of the bed and onto her feet. “But I noticed some unusual brain activity. Abnormal beta waves. Those signs are typically associated with intense dreaming.”
Shepard looked up with a start, her eyes flickering to the empty air before her as if she saw some nightmare there. “I saw…” She blinked and her eyes focused again. “I’m not sure what I saw. Death and destruction and some kind of…vision…? Nothing’s really clear.”
“Hmm,” Doctor Chakwas said, blandly. “I suppose I should add that to my report.”
Kaidan opened his mouth to protest. Add that to her report? That’s it? No follow up, no exam?
But before he could say anything, Captain Anderson arrived to demand a private interview with his XO. Kaidan saluted both Shepard and the captain, then he and Chakwas went out to the mess hall. The doctor wandered off at once and Ashley had long since finished her meal, so Kaidan poured himself a cup of coffee and plunked himself down at the table.
So, Shepard – the commander – was back up, he thought. That was a relief. And yet, that beacon worried him. In his understanding, there were very few things that could actually place visions in people’s minds, and none of them were likely to be harmless. Even a biotic could not read or influence minds. He was a powerful one and all he could do was move things telekinetically and sense biotic energy. But if Shepard’s mind had actually survived an encounter with something as dark and alien as the beacon, if she had somehow been taken outside of herself and forced to see visions of death…
Well then, it just went to show that Shepard was a lot tougher than he had thought.