Chapter 13 of Valkyrie

Shepard rubbed her eyes and lay back in her sleeper pod.

Okay. Shore leave was going to be a little further off than she’d hoped.

Damn. And drinks with Alenko sounded like fun, too.

She’d opened the door of the Citadel medical clinic just a few hours ago to find the a bunch of thugs holding the doctor hostage. Garrus, the citadel security officer she had been looking for, was there already. The crazy turian had shot one thug in the head the moment Shepard’s appearace had startled them into letting down their guard. Shepard still couldn’t believe a police officer of all people would have taken such a risk with a hostage, but she was damn glad it had worked out. She’d finished off the other thugs easily enough with her biotics.

Then had come a frantic run back to Chora’s Den with a krogran in tow – an actual krogan mercenary, of all things. That guy had been even crazier than Garrus. He’d shot the surrendering mob boss and been completely unapologetic about it, too. The final result was that Shepard and her squad had rescued a Quarian from the Saren’s men and gotten the evidence they needed to implicate the bastard who had destroyed the colony of Eden Prime. Now those three aliens were intent on joining her in her quest against Saren. Never one to turn away allies, Shepard had put them up for the night in the Normandy’s hold.

Not bad for a day’s work , Shepard thought, curling up on her side and willing her mind to rest. Her body was exhausted. She had been using her biotics more today than she had in the months before hand. When Udina and Anderson took the evidence to the council, they had encouraged her to get a little rest before the hearing. She had returned to the ship at once, eaten three protein pudding cups in a row, and was now ready for a nap.

Kaidan walked up to the sleeper pods to see that Shepard had fallen asleep. He knew he really ought to walk on by and find his own pod, but he couldn’t help but stop and look in on her.

She was so…

Pretty was not quite the word for it. Pretty made him think of something more delicate, and though Shepard was very slender, she was not at all delicate. She had kicked off her blankets and he could see that her limbs were corded with lean muscle. Kaidan swallowed. As a rule, marines wore shorts made of high-performance fabric under their uniforms; women also wore heavy tank tops that doubled as bras. Kaidan had always found them rather utilitarian and ugly - until now.

Kaidan shook his head and sighed as he turned away. He really shouldn’t be watching the commander sleep - just as he shouldn’t be flirting with her, thinking about asking her out for a date, or imagining her taking on a career as a stripper.

And yet, you did all those things today, Alenko .

He had. It was embarrassing.

Kaidan rubbed his forehead. He didn’t have quite the headache he thought he would after a day of running around and using biotics on every thug in the wards. But he was still tired. Sadly, he doubted he’d get much more than a few hours of sleep before this whole thing with the council and Saren started up again, but he had learned to take his rest when he could. Kaidan opened an empty pod next to Shepard and began to take off his shoes.

Suddenly, Shepard slammed herself against the lid of her pod.

The sound of her body hitting the plastic startled him, as did her muffled scream when she realized she couldn’t get out. Her hands pressed wildly at the lid and she screamed again, her entire body lighting swiftly with blue electric fire. Kaidan felt the energy from her biotics like a sudden gathering of a thunderstorm. He lunged for the pod, reaching for the button to lift the lid, but he wasn’t quite quick enough.

Shepard screamed once more. The pod exploded.

The plastic lid splintered into a thousand pieces and showered all over the sleeping quarters. Kaidan stumbled back, unconsciously throwing up a biotic barrier over himself.

Shepard tumbled out of the pod onto the floor, her body alight. She looked up wildly, her eyes unfocused and savage, blue fire flickering all down her back. The energy pulsing around her was incredible.

Then, suddenly, she gasped for air and clutched her throat. She coughed. Just like that, the field of biotic energy drained almost as quickly as it had formed.

“Oh God,” she murmured, going limp.

“Shepard?” Kaidan gaped at her, unsure of what to say.

She looked up at him, then down at the shattered plastic on the floor. She turned and looked over her shoulder at the busted pod behind her.

“Please tell me I didn’t just do that.”

Kaidan just stared at her in shock. Shepard turned back around and looked at him.

“You’re using a barrier,” she said curtly. “I didn’t hurt you, did I lieutenant?”

Shepard stood and brushed shards of plastic from her hair. She reached her hand out towards him, but Kaidan shook his head and held up a hand to stop her. He said nothing, still in awe of her sudden outburst. What amazed him even more was her total calm now. Even her biotic energy manifested as little more than a hum.

“What happened? Are you all…” Ashley Williams came running over, Doctor Chakwas following right behind. “…right?” Williams stopped and stared, gazing at the remains of what used to be a bed.

“I’m fine,” Shepard said. “Alenko? You okay?”

Kaidan nodded.

“No casualties,” Shepard told them, her voice now cold and businesslike. “Other than the bed, that is.”

“Did you do that, skipper?” Ashley pointed. “We heard something like an explosion.”

“She did it with biotics,” Kaidan said, finding his voice at last. “You seemed to be trapped,” he told the commander. “Then you smashed the pod open.”

“Another vision, commander?” Chakwas asked quietly.

Kaidan watched Shepard closely. He had suspected that the beacon’s visions were still haunting her, but if they were causing her to react like this, then that was not good. At the very least, they were going to be going through furniture really quickly.

“I…yeah,” Shepard said, nodding. “I’m sorry about the sleeper pod. Maybe I shouldn’t be sleeping in things with a lid. It hasn’t been a problem since… Well, maybe I should sleep in the med bay. Is that alright, doctor?”

“Of course,” Chakwas nodded.

*Hasn’t been a problem since * when ? Kaidan wondered. But he didn’t ask.

“I’m getting a coffee,” Shepard announced. “I imagine we’ll be called back into the Council chambers again soon.”

“You think Udina’s going to get another audience with the Council in one day?” Ashley asked, doubtfully.

“One long day,” Shepard sighed. “We can only hope.”

“I’ll get a docks technician to find us a replacement pod,” Kaidan said.

“Don’t you need to sleep?” Shepard asked him.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep just now,” he told her.

A half an hour later, Shepard had changed back into her casual uniform and sat in the mess hall staring into her empty coffee cup. Her mind was flitting between the nightmare she had just had and the image of Kaidan standing over her, shock on his face.

And there had been biotic energy rippling all over those muscles of his.

He’d looked good, she thought. No, more than good. While she’d never seen much to like about biotics before other than the power associated with them, she was beginning to admit to herself that so far as the lieutenant went, they held a certain sex appeal. The fact that his biotic energies gave of such a low, calming hum helped, too. When he was around, she just sort of felt it thrumming in the air, along the back of her neck, all the way up…

No , she told herself. No thrumming. No checking out the lieutenant’s energy. Or his muscles. Or his…

Stop. Stop. Stop.

She pressed her fingers to her eyes.

Of course, now she’d gone a freaked him out – along with most of the crew. She stiffened in her chair. This is how missions always went. After the first part – the part where the crew pulled off the impossible – everyone would be feeling friendly and close. People would laugh, some might even flirt a little. Everyone would be caught up in the feeling of camaraderie.

Then her biotics kick in. And they would somehow remind everyone that she, of all people, was different. If she slipped up – even in sleep – she could tear a person apart.

It was a hell of a way to make friends and influence people, she thought bitterly.

A sudden footfall had her glancing up from her mug. Kaidan walked into the mess hall, his eyes wary. Shepard sighed inwardly. Well , she thought. Here it begins: the part where we all become chilly and distant.

The lieutenant poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down across from her.

“You okay?” she asked before he said something sympathetic and made her feel like a complete idiot.

“Fine,” he said, looking up at her through dark lashes. “What about you?”

Damn it , she thought. Why did he have to look so handsome even when he was frowning at her like that? She cleared her throat and replied, “Fair to middling.” With a shrug, she stared into her cup so she would not have to look at him. “I’m just sorry about the pod.”

“They can fix that,” Kaidan said, his voice low.

“Yeah.” Shepard looked up just as he pulled his arm away. Had he been trying to reach for her? She frowned. “I’m fine.”

Kaidan glanced at the wall behind her, his lips a grim line, then looked back at her.

“Tell me what happened, exactly.”

Shepard raised an eyebrow at his tone. That had sounded suspiciously like an order. But to her amazement, she actually did as he asked.

“I told you I was from Mindoir,” she said with a wave of her hand. “I don’t remember much, but I do remember…cages.” Kaidan frowned and she hastily went on. “So, let’s just say that I don’t like tight spaces. I’ve gotten used to it for the job’s sake, but that beacon…”

“It did something to you,” Kaidan said flatly.

“It did something,” she agreed. “I’m just not sure what. It was like someone keeps whispering at my mind, but I don’t understand the words. I guess it brought back old nightmares.” She shrugged. “I’ll be fine. I just probably shouldn’t sleep anywhere near the rest of the crew if I’m going to be pulling stunts like that.”

“Do you do that often?”

“What, explode sleeper pods?” she asked with bitter sarcasm.

Kaidan nodded as if the question was the most natural thing in the world.

“Not recently,” she answered.

“But you used to.”

She nodded. “Yeah.”

“Hmm…” Kaidan said. He looked at her, nodded, then went back to drinking his coffee.

Shepard blinked. He hadn’t changed his demeanor at all, hadn’t become distant or nervous. In fact, he just sat there drinking his coffee like they were old friends and had conversations about killer biotics and destroyed childhoods and nightmares triggered by ancient alien visions every day. It was strangely comforting.

Shepard suddenly realized that she would take this kind of easy companionship with Alenko over some awkward drinks date on shore leave any day.

Well, maybe not any day, she admitted, watching his biceps flex as he picked up his coffee cup. Maybe she wanted both the date *and * the friendly talk over coffee. Though as Alenko’s commanding officer, she knew she really shouldn’t be thinking overmuch about either.

Still, if the mission was going to drag on, it was good that at least one person on the crew seemed to accept her for what she was.

It was a start.