A View of the Wards

Chapter 12 of Valkyrie

As they walked along the promenade from the markets towards the medical clinic, Shepard became aware of the conversation going on between the two officers behind her. It was of a very different nature than her somber musings.

“I don’t care for blue skin, but if it’s there in my face…” Kaidan was saying.

“So you were staring at asses in there,” Ashley said derisively.

“Not… asses per se,” Kaidan hedged.

“So just one ass?” Ashley raised an eyebrow.

“Are you talking about asses again, Williams?” Shepard said, looking back over her shoulder in amusement. Williams turned a little red, but she lifted her chin up all the same.

“Best topic of conversation, ma’am.”

Shepard laughed. “Depends on the ass.”

“Good point,” Ashley smiled. “Human asses – male human asses – are the best. Salarians, not so much. Volus…”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Kaidan muttered.

“Let’s not go there, Williams,” Shepard said, fighting back a laugh.

“Why not?” Ashley asked. “Tell me something. Did you notice how they had human women working in that bar? Ever wonder why human women are dancing for aliens?”

“Probably because human women and asari look so much alike,” Kaidan observed. “After all, asari are considered very sensual due to their ah…ability to mate…with…”

He stopped, distracted by the sudden flaring of Shepard’s energy. Had her shoulders suddenly flickered? It was hard to say? Beside him, Ashley was eyeing him as though he was transforming into something very slimy.

“So they can mate with anything and everything,” Ashley snorted. “And you find that attractive?”

“I didn’t say that I …”

“Okay, so somehow aliens like the idea of getting it on with blue girls,” Ashley went on, “and since human women are the closest-looking thing to the blue girls, we’re considered sexy by extention? Great ,” she emphasized the word with heavy sarcasm. “So, basically women are like some sort of galactic mimic to the sexy-sexy asari?”

“I didn’t…”

Drop the subject,” Shepard said. “Both of you.”

Kaidan frowned. He had never known Shepard to be short-tempered, not even when dealing with that jerk, Harkin. Now he could sense her amps crackling. Maybe Harkin had annoyed her more than she let on, Kaidan thought.

The three of them walked in silence along the promenade, headed for the medical clinic, where Garrus supposedly had been headed. Not seeing any reason to hurry, they walked slowly, Shepard in front, Kaidan and Ashley following.

As Shepard fought to shake off her annoyance at her lieutenant’s comments on asari attractions, she glanced to one side and saw a rather amazing sight: the ward arms extended out into space, framed beautifully by a giant picture window. Momentarily distracted, she nodded to the spot and motioned for Kaidan and Ashley to follow.

“Look at this,” she said. “That’s got to be the best view in the station.”

“Even better than the Presidium,” Ashley agreed. “ Much better than the ‘views’ in Chora’s Den,” she added, looking at Alenko.

“Big place,” Kaidan murmured.

Ashley turned to him and snorted. “That your professional opinion, sir?”

“No, he’s right,” Shepard said, her irritation momentarily forgotten. “This is more like a city than a station. No wonder they’re careful with newcomers.”

“They probably just want to keep everything running,” Kaidan said. “It can’t be easy getting all these species to get along.”

“Or maybe they just don’t like humans,” Ashley suggested.

“Why not?” Shepard asked. “You said it yourself: we have the beautiful women dancing in bars. We have oceans and poetry and music and love. According to the old vids, we have everything the aliens could want.”

“When you put it like that, there’s no reason they wouldn’t like you ,” Kaidan said. Without his meaning to, his voice came out sounding low and intimate.

Then he realized what he had just said and his mouth fell open. Shepard and Ashely both turned to stare at him at the same time. Ashley’s expression clearly said, Are you kidding me? But Shepard’s was one of pure astonishment.

“I mean ‘us,’” Kaidan said, hastily backpedaling. “Humans, that is.” He knew he’d started blushing. “Ma’am.”

Ashley looked at him as though she expected lightning to strike him down where he stood.

“You don’t get much shore leave, do you LT?” she asked.

No , Kaidan thought to himself as he rubbed the back of his neck. But that’s never been a problem before . He couldn’t bring himself to look at Shepard.

“Alright,” Shepard said, sounding like she was holding back laughter. “That’s enough, chief. I appreciate the thought, Alenko, but we’re on duty here.”

Kaidan looked up in surprise. That was certainly nothing like the reprimand he’d been expecting.

“I’ll walk drag, ma’am,” Ashley said, looking from the one of them to the other in amusement.

“Not necessary,” Shepard replied. “Let’s move out.” She nodded towards the med clinic and walked on. Kaidan and Ashley fell in line behind her.

“Oooh, I thought you were so busted,” Ashley said, elbowing Kaidan in the ribs.

“Watch it, chief,” he scowled. “I’m still your commanding officer.”

“And Shepard’s your commanding officer. You’re lucky she ‘appreciated the thought’.” Ashley snorted. “Whatever the hell that means.”

Kaidan frowned. *What the hell * did * that mean?*

*What the hell did * that * mean? * Shepard thought, walking ahead of her officers, replaying the conversation she’d just had with Kaidan over again in her head. She’d been so flattered by his unwitting compliment that she had practically given him leave to ask her out once they were off duty – whenever that might be.

But then again, she thought, why not? She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been on a date. Probably since the Blitz.

She frowned. God, had it actually been that long? Well, if all went well and they found evidence against this Saren, then the council would send some other Spectre after him and that would be that. She wasn’t sure what her assignment would be after that or if she’d still be on the Spectre career path, but surely she had some shore leave coming. She might as well spend it with company for a change. Things didn’t have to get serious, she told herself. Just a friendly date, maybe some drinks…

Okay, Shepard. Think about that later. This is really not the time.

Right. Now was the time to find this Garrus guy, find evidence against Saren, and then turn this whole rogue-Spectre mess back over to the council and let them deal with it.

Shepard smiled to herself as she reached the medical clinic doors and pressed the button to enter.

Next stop, shore leave.