Chapter 16 of Valkyrie

God, he was tired.

Kaidan made sure the commander went to bed the moment they returned to the ship. Of course, he did not actually tell her to get some sleep. That was against protocol for a start and secondly, implying that he thought Shepard ought to do sometime either made her bristle or caused her to tease him for his insubordination.

Either way was bad. The irritable Shepard was no fun at all and the teasing one, well, that was almost worse. Sometimes, Kaidan got the distinct impression that Shepard was amused by his inability to keep his opinions to himself – sometimes, he even wondered if she actually admired it. He was already having a hard time restraining himself from overstepping the line from being friendly with his commanding officer to actually flirting with said commanding officer. So when Shepard blurred that line with her teasing, he had a hard time not following suit.

Kaidan wandered over to the sleeper pods, looking down the line at the faces of crew members who were already fast asleep. Chakwas was down for the night, Adams from engineering and the requisitions officer, too. People in sleeper pods was always looked a little creepy, Kaidan thought. Seeing human forms under glass like that always reminded him vaguely of a museum or a morgue.

Opening the locker near his pod, Kaidan stripped off his shirt and stashed it there. His shoes, socks and pants followed. Down to his undershorts, he pulled out a blanket and shut the locker.

But before he lay down on the bed, he felt the strangest sensation. It was like the ship had suddenly pulled hard to starboard, as if gravity was yanking him towards the wall behind him – towards Shepard’s cabin. He gripped the bed to right himself.

What the hell had that been?

Kaidan felt another whiplash of gravity, this time, stronger. The flickering hum of energy that went with it was incredible, slashing like swift lightning. Then he heard a strange sound: a sort of muffled clanking, as though coming from a long way off – or heavily dampened by a separating wall.

Shepard .

Without thinking, Kaidan jumped out of bed and raced around the corner. He did not even have to knock, for the door to her suite immediately slid open. He knew that she never locked her doors - no one dared to disturb her when she had gone into her private sanctuary. He realized that he was the first to have entered the room since it had become hers.

Peering through the open doors, Kaidan saw a chilling sight. A swirling ball of energy floated in the air before him, blue-white against the black. Shepard was nowhere in sight.

“Commander?” Kaidan called. A muffled cry came from somewhere in the back of the room. Without thinking, he hurried inside. The doors slid shut behind him, landing him in near-darkness. Only the singularity before him gave an eerie light to the corners. He squinted to see.


Kaidan ducked as chair came whirling by his head. Much of the furniture in the room was bolted down, but some of it was in orbit around the ball of light.

Kaidan heard another cry from somewhere across the room. He turned his eyes to the sound, but saw nothing beyond the bright vortex. A desk lamp went flying by his ear. Kaidan winced. That had been close. Now he knew what had happened to the lights. First things first , he thought. He would have to shut that singularity down.

Kaidan raised his hand and clenched his fist, trapping the singularity in a stasis field. There was a shimmering, rippling effect as the two mass effect fields collided, then a chorus of crashes as the chairs in the room dropped suddenly to the floor.

Kaidan wiped the sweat from his forehead. Shepard’s singularities were pretty amazing things. That hadn’t been easy. The room plunged into near-darkness with the singularity gone. Only the faint blue track lighting around the floor gave any illumination at all.

A soft sob caught Kaidan’s attention. He looked to the source, and there, in the furthest corner of the room, he saw Shepard. She was half sitting, half leaning against the wall, her knees up to her chest, her hands out in front of her. Here eyes were closed, her face in agony. His heart twisted in his chest at the sight of her like this. Carefully, he approached her.

“Shepard?” His voice was little more than a whisper.

Her face snapped into a mask of rage. Biotic energy slid over her body like cold fire. A mass of energy roiled in her hands and Kaidan barely had time to leap out of the way she threw the shimmering orb right past his ear. It slammed into one of the chairs and smashed it into pieces against the wall.

Damn , Kaidan thought. No wonder the ship had seemed to pitch. The woman was radiating on a frequency he had only seen during her most heated battles. Shepard had pulled this kind of power before, but then it had been strategic, used with deadly precision. Now, she was firing wildly at anything and everything in the room.

She must be having another nightmare, Kaidan thought, remembering back to the time she had shattered open a sleeper pod. He was suddenly grateful that she had her own room. If she had done something like this in the crew’s quarters, there would be more than clothes and furniture littering the floor.

“Shepard,” Kaidan whispered. He didn’t know why he’d whispered, because it was pretty clear that sound did not carry from her room to the rest of the ship. He had scarcely heard the first crash and he had been listening for it. Still, he pitched his voice low out of some sense of gentleness. He felt at once that he would have to be careful with her when she was like this.

“Shepard,” he said again, coming to the foot of her bed. He realized that he’d used her name twice now instead of her title, but he figured protocol was sort of a moot point right now.

In sleep, Shepard winced, as though someone had struck her. Her biotic barrier twisted and ebbed all down her body. She was wearing the usual military sleepwear: high performance fabric tank top and shorts; he could see that every muscle in her arms and legs were tensed. Her blanket was wrapped around one foot, and she pulled at it as if it was a chain.

“Hey,” Kaidan said, getting down on his hands and knees and crawling over to her. “You’re okay. You’re dreaming again.” As he reached for her, she made a small cry and backed away. Her barrier flared even more. He could feel her tensing for another biotic slam.

Even trapped in dreams, she’s a fighter, he thought, admiring. Every inch the Valkyrie.

Before Shepard could attack him at such close range, Kaidan threw on a biotic barrier. Then, quickly as he could, he pulled Shepard into his arms. She tensed against him, a warp field firing out at random, her open palm snapping out right for his nose. He turned his head to avoid the worst of it, but she caught him in the jaw with her elbow.

“Ow!” he cried, struggling to keep his barrier in place. “You’re going to hurt yourself. Stop fighting me, damn it! It’s me, Shepard! It’s Kaidan.”

Shepard heard the words dimly, recognized the voice. It’s Kaidan , she thought. Kaidan was calling to her. She fought back against the black claws of sleep that kept dragging her down. She didn’t have to stay here, she thought. This time, it was a dream. This time, she could escape.

Shepard woke, breathing hard, clutching hold of something: no, some one . Kaidan’s arms were holding her close; his biotic barrier was glowing as brightly as her own. Shepard could not remember the last time someone had held her this tightly. At once, she stopped fearing that she would slide down into dreams again. Without even meaning to, she gripped his arms, rested her head against his bare chest and sighed.

Kaidan froze in shock. He’d seen Shepard’s eyes open, the dimming of her biotic barrier signaling that she’d woken. He’d loosened his grip on her, ready to let her pull away. And then she’d gone and held onto him. He wondered if she could hear his heart thundering in his chest, because he certainly could.

Shepard turned her face up to meet his. She looked at Kaidan with a mixture of surprise and something else – something warm that made Kaidan’s heart suddenly flip over in his chest. He was suddenly aware that his face was only inches away from hers. Faint biotic fires shimmered down the lines of her face.

She was beautiful, he thought, absentmindedly rubbing his hand over her shoulders. Her arms were so strong - her biotics so strong. Beauty and strength and power all at once. It was a dizzying combination. In that moment, Kaidan looked down Shepard, and thought of her not as a commander or as a soldier - but simply as the woman he held in his arms.

And he found he wanted nothing more than to keep her there.

Shepard blinked and blushed, but she did not pull away. “How did…?” she began, then she trailed off as she turned her head looked down the length of the room. Kaidan followed her gaze.

“Damn,” she murmured.

“Yeah,” he said. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Are you…? Oh, Kaidan,” she said, looking at his face in horror. Kaidan blinked at the use of his given name, then again as Shepard trailed her thumb across his lip. “Did I do that to you?”

“Huh?” His brain completely failed to register anything at all except that she was touching his mouth.

“I think I split your lip,” she said, frowning. “And your eye! My God, that’s going to be a shiner. Wait here. I’ll go get some medigel.”

“Medigel?” Kaidan blinked. She was thinking of medigel? Here he was, completely aroused from holding her, and she was thinking of medigel ? He suddenly felt like a complete idiot.

“I’ll get it,” he said, pulling away from her and standing. Hopefully the darkness was enough to disguise his reaction to her.

“I’ll get it,” Shepard said, standing as well.

“Ma’am,” he began, “I can…”

“If you go walking out of my quarters at,” she glanced at the clock, “0100 hours, with your lip split open and dressed like that,” she looked down his body and her eyes widened briefly before she yanked her gaze up to meet his, “then what do you think they’re going to imagine we were doing in here? I’ll go and make sure no one else heard all that.”

She turned sharply and walked out of the room in bare feet.

And just like that, we’re back to CO and subordinate , Kaidan thought, frowning as he ran a hand through his hair. And why should that bother him anyway? It wasn’t as though Shepard was interested in him. Though, for a moment there, she had almost *looked * interested.

She’s your commanding officer, he told himself firmly. She’s off limits in a very big way .

Kaidan was suddenly disgusted with himself. Here he was, half-naked in his commanding officer’s private quarters, and it seemed damn clear by her rush to get away from him that she was merely shocked at his presumption. The thought was enough to dampen any lingering…feelings.

Kaidan shook his head and began to right the furniture in the room. The tables and bed were bolted down, but the chairs and lamps had taken quite a beating. He plugged in the desk lamp, giving the place a little more light than the track lighting had done. Shepard had shredded one of her pillows with a warp field. The synthetic filling was everywhere.

“You don’t need to clean up my mess,” Shepard said softly. She walked back into the room to find Kaidan picking up bits of fluff from under the desk. While she liked the sight of his backside from this angle… She shook herself.

This was really not appropriate. It had been one thing to flirt when they’d both been officers on a shakedown run, both under the command of another officer, both looking forward to shore leave in a few weeks if all went well. They had skirted the boundaries of protocol just a little, but it was just a bit of harmless flirting, or so she had told herself. But the mission was hers now, the responsibility for the crew entirely hers. What she did and how she treated her crew mattered more than ever – especially now that she saw no end in sight to the frustrating tangle that Saren had left behind.

And yet, she found herself drawn to the lieutenant in a way that grew stronger and more complicated every day.

She couldn’t understand it. She had made a career on being professional and getting the job done. She had taken pride in the fact that she did not factor her personal feelings or wishes into the equation at all. So since when had she suddenly started wanting something for herself so badly?

“Here’s the medigel…” She held it out to him, ready to apply it to his face.

“I’ve got it,” Kaidan said, taking the pack from her. His voice was cold and he immediately turned his back on her. Shepard frowned at his words.

Well, there you are , she thought. The quickest way to lose the respect of your crew is to act too familiar with them . She watched, feeling strangely awkward, as Kaidan looked into her mirror and dabbed the medigel on his lip. The split began to close almost at once.

“I’m sorry for this, lieutenant,” she said hesitantly. Now was the time to re-establish some boundaries, she thought. Feeling suddenly naked in her underclothes, she looked around for something to put on over her sleepwear. The door of her closet hung ajar and its contents appeared to have exploded onto the floor. Shepard grabbed the first thing she saw: an officer’s jacket that hung down to mid-thigh. It would be long enough to cover her tight shorts, at least. Shepard yanked it on, used one hand to hold it closed and used the other hand to brush her hair out of her eyes.

“So, you heard me – screaming or something? Is that why you came to check in on me?” She tried to keep her voice light. How pathetic was I? she wanted to ask.

“No,” he replied, still not looking at her. He was dabbing at his eye, now. “I felt the singularity.”

“Felt it?” She gaped at him. “Through the wall ?”

“Your biotics are pretty damn strong, commander.”

Shepard frowned. He sounded angry. She must have hit him harder than she thought.

“You okay?” she asked him.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Kaidan straightened and slammed the medigel down on her desk.

“Kay – Alenko, I’m sorry if I…”

“I’m fine,” he snapped. Then he turned around to face her.

Kaidan swallowed hard. She had pulled on an officer’s dress jacket and was wearing it like a shield – a damn sexy shield. Barefoot as she was, it gave the impression that she was wearing that jacket with nothing under it. It was as if she had gone right into his recent fantasy life and pulled out a scene just to tempt him. Kaidan felt his temperature rising. And after he’d finally cooled off, too.

“I should go,” he said quickly.

“Of course,” she said. “I…” She broke off suddenly and put up a hand to warn him to be silent. Kaidan stopped in his tracks. Shepard walked to the entrance of her room and the doors began to slide open. Shepard glanced outside, then pressed a button on the wall. The doors slid shut with a snick.

“Problem, commander?” Kaidan asked. He tried to keep the question casual, but his voice had suddenly gotten raspy on him. She had let the jacket fall open and the hint of clothes underneath was even more tantalizing than when she had been wearing nothing but them.

“Joker,” she said. “And Williams. Looks like they’re settling in for a coffee.”

“At one in the morning?”

“Their shift is off a little from ours,” she explained. “I’ve had them helping Adams scan for minerals and salvage while we’ve been off on ground-side missions.”

“So we’re just stuck in here until they leave?”

“Looks like it,” she replied. Their eyes met and Kaidan looked hastily away. He suddenly felt very exposed. He crossed his arms over his chest. Well, hell, he had no pants on, no wonder he was feeling exposed.

No pants on and standing in the commander’s bedroom. Okay, Alenko. Think of something else, something other than what you’re actually thinking about right now or she’s going to notice your reaction to her and then she’s gonna finish what she started on your face.

“You’re scanning for minerals?” he asked. His voice sounded like sandpaper, he thought, but at least he was staying on a neutral topic. It was a good start.

“It’s a waste of time, I know,” Shepard said with a sigh. She righted a chair and sat down in it, her knees pressed tightly together and her jacket pulled close over her chest. “But this mission isn’t exactly funding itself, you know.”

Kaidan frowned. “The council didn’t give you any money at all?”

“Not a single credit,” she said wryly.

“That’s odd,” he frowned and looked away. “Commander,” he said, after a moment, “Maybe it’s not my place to say it, but may I speak off the record?”

Shepard laughed. She couldn’t help it.

“Alenko, I think this conversation is going to be about as ‘off the record’ as they come.”

Kaidan raised an eyebrow at that, then smiled and rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I guess so.”

Damn , Shepard thought, watching him. The man simply had no idea how good he looked, did he? It was probably for the best that he didn’t realize how much she was enjoying this view of him, leaning back against her desk as he was, arms folded over his chest…

“Don’t you think, commander?”

Shepard blinked. She hadn’t heard a word he’d just said. She mentally kicked herself. She rarely missed what was going on in the conversation. Then again, Kaidan Alenko in his underclothes was a powerful distraction.

“I’m sorry. Say again?”

“I said it’s strange that the council can’t give you any backup when they sent you out here to do the impossible. I mean, just today we just found out that this rogue Spectre agent of theirs has been trading his followers to an ancient sentient plant life in exchange for information about some lost alien technology, and all they can say is, “Too bad you had to shoot the plant?””

Shepard chuckled. “Yup, that pretty much sums up the conversation I had with them.”

“That just seems strange, commander. We’re out here cleaning up their mess and they can’t help you out?”

“At least they let me have the ship,” she said. “Though that was as much the Alliance as the council.”

“It’s just that you’d think the council would give us something more – information at the very least – or that they would at least believe you about your visions.”

Shepard frowned. She leaned forward slightly stared down at her toes. “Yeah, visions…”


“You believe me, don’t you, K..lieutenant?” She gave him with a measuring look. “About the visions, I mean.”

“Of course I do,” he said without hesitation. “I was there too, if you remember. Well, of course you remember,” he added lamely, remembering the circumstances under which he had been the cause of her seeing the beacon’s visions in the first place. “I started to get pulled into that thing. I didn’t see what you saw, but I felt – something.” He frowned. “And anyway, even if I hadn’t felt it, remember that I heard the dock worker’s testimony and I helped you dismantle those bombs. I know Saren was trying to blow up that beacon, and why would he blow up something like that if he was trying to use it to trick you? That makes no sense. So, yeah,” he added, with a shrug, realizing he was babbling. “I believe you.”

Shepard let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. “Glad to know someone seems to think I’m sane. Sometimes, I wonder.”

“You wonder about the visions?”

“I’m the only one who sees them,” she pointed out.

“That asari saw them, too,” he told her.

“You mean the one who had been stuck in a Thorian pustule for how many weeks? And that’s suppose to corroborate my sanity?”

Kaidan chuckled. “Good point. Well, whatever the circumstance are, I believe you, commander. I’m sure we’ll find proof that will convince everyone else, too.”

And just like that, Shepard thought, he was standing by her, even if it meant standing against the rest of the galaxy. She had never known anyone to back her up so completely.

“So those visions from the beacon,” Kaidan said, drawing her attention back to the present. “Is that…” he paused. “Are they what you were dreaming about?”

“What I was having nightmares about, you mean? Yeah, that and other things.” Shepard sighed and looked at her toes. “I have a past that could keep me up at night all on it’s own – but then, most Marines do. I didn’t need the beacon’s help with that. But it seems the images got wrapped around all the nastier parts of my mind. It’s like my brain is trying to process it all and it’s latching onto the closest possible memory – like a translator that doesn’t have a perfect phrasing, it’s just grabbing onto the next best thing.”

“And the next best thing is…?”

“The stuff of nightmares,” she shivered. “And now that I have the cipher, the visions are…more vivid.”

“Did you .see anything useful? Not,” he amended, “that I’m not concerned about the nightmares. I am. I just thought…” Inwardly he cursed himself. Nice, Alenko. Really sensitive.

“You’re being practical,” she said, chuckling a little. “I can appreciate that. No, nothing useful. Just lots of bodies and death. Then it got mixed up in my mind with Mindoir and no, there was nothing useful.”

Kaidan opened his mouth, but he couldn’t think of what to say. What could he say? He knew all about messy pasts. He certainly couldn’t think of any way that anyone could fix his own history. The pieces had just fallen where they lay. He had no idea what to say to Shepard about hers.

“It’s alright,” she said, waving a hand. “And as far as the council goes, well, the council wants to believe nothing is wrong and that there is an easy answer to all this. I happen to believe otherwise. But then, that’s why they hired me to deal with their messy truths.”

Kaidan frowned. “I suppose that’s true. Only you think that as long as the council has been around they would be a little more savvy. I mean, here we humans are, the newcomers on the scene, and it seems we’re the only ones who appreciate the dangers of the space – or the beauty in it either.”

Shepard leaned back and crossed her legs. “I never figured you for a romantic, Alenko,” she said. “But the more time we spend together, the more I’m beginning to realize that you’re an even bigger idealist than I am – if such a thing is possible.”

Kaidan found his throat had suddenly gone dry. Shepard’s legs were outlined in a blue glow, and she seemed completely unaware of the fact that her jacket was gaping open, giving him shadowy glimpses of fabric and skin.

This was the trouble with Shepard, Kaidan thought. On the one hand, he wanted to just stare at her. Seeing her in that officer’s jacket with her bare legs like that made it hard to keep his eyes on her face. On the other hand, she was someone he liked – that he respected, even – and when she stopped being so cold and aloof, she was damn easy to talk to.

And she wasn’t being aloof now. Instead, she was acting like they were old friends – if old friends were in a habit of talking while sitting around half-clothed in the middle of the night, that is. And God help him, but he just couldn’t stay aloof himself.

So instead, he found himself opening his mouth and saying: “I suppose I am a romantic. At least, I was in the beginning.”

“So, did you sign on for the dream, Alenko?” Shepard asked. ““Secure Man’s Future in Space” and all that?”

“Yeah,” Kaidan laughed, realizing she’d pegged him. “I read a lot of books like that as a kid, where the hero goes to prove himself worthy of the woman he loves. Or,” he caught himself, “you know – for justice.”

Shepard felt her heart flip a little at his words. For love and justice. Damn, he was just as idealistic as she was. She had certainly signed on for the dream – the dream of stopping the bad guys, of saving other colonies from the same fate as Mindoir. But sometimes she just felt helpless against the darkness in the world. To see the sincerity in Kaidan’s eyes made her admire him all the more. The lieutenant just kept exceeding her expectations. The thought, perversely, made her want to jump him.

Shepard dropped her gaze, noticed her jacket was gaping, and pulled it tight.

“But yeah,” Kaidan was saying, “I thought about it after brain camp…”

“What camp?” Focus, Shepard. She fought to pay attention to his words and not way the low, blue light outlined the muscles of his arms and chest.

“Biotic Acclimation and Temperance Training,” Kaidan clarified.

“Tell me about it,” Shepard said, willing her mind to concentrate on his words and not his body.

Kaidan paused for just a second – and then he did. He told her all about BAaTT training – about Rahna even, his childhood crush. He wished he could pretend he didn’t know where *that * thought had come from, but he knew clearly enough what had caused it. The woman sitting across from him was ten times as pretty as Rahna, and far more interesting, but Shepard gave him that same feeling of being seventeen again and not quite knowing where to look. He tried to keep his gaze on her eyes, but they kept trailing down to her legs. It didn’t help that she kept crossing and recrossing them, one over the other. Funny how he’d never noticed how long they were when she was in her armor.

“Sounds like she was special to you,” Shepard was saying.

She’s quickly becoming so , Kaidan thought, gazing at Shepard’s face. He’d never seen anyone with such an open face. No pity, no condemnation. Just listening. As if she knew exactly what you meant before you even said it.

Then Kaidan realized she was talking about the past – about Rahna – not his deluded fantasies in the present.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck, “She was. She was smart and beautiful and charming. Sort of like you…I guess…uh, ma’am.”

Nice, Alenko . Mentally he kicked himself. Really graceful backpedal, there . Shepard was now looking at him with her brows drawn. Great. Now he’d gone and said something completely unprofessional.

“Beautiful?” she repeated.

“Uh, yeah,” he said. “But I’m sure you know that. That you’re beautiful, I mean. Not that you’re stuck up about it,” he added hastily. “You’re just – in good shape, you know. The, uh, biotics do great things for your figure.” He willed himself to shut up before he said anything more. Shepard was still just staring at him.

Shepard felt her heart skip a beat even as she cursed herself for being so silly. She was the commanding officer of this ship, a decorated war hero and, as of last week, the first human Spectre. She shouldn’t give a damn about what her lieutenant thought about her looks. In the military, beauty got you nowhere. Being scary, intimidating, persuasive, that mattered. Being pretty was icing on the cake at best, a liability at worst. She knew that certain persons in the top brass only respected her because of the scars that marred her once-normal face.

But as she looked at Kaidan – the lieutenant – she found she was flattered. She didn’t need him to approve – truly, she didn’t – but she liked it that he did. Shepard felt the color rise in her cheeks and thanked heaven that the lights were low. She fought for a suitably neutral answer.

“Well, gee, thanks, Alenko. It’s good to know all the extra protein rations I’m getting are doing this body good.”

“Uh…” Kaidan couldn’t tell if she was joking or offended.

“Jump Zero sounds like a hell of a training ground,” Shepard went on.

“It was,” Kaidan nodded, grateful to return to a safer topic. “So, ah, enough about my boring life out on Gagarin. How’d you receive your training?”

“Made most of it up as I went along,” she surprised him by saying. “And I didn’t get officially IDed as a biotic until I enlisted. But for a late bloomer, my powers kicked in strong. Suffice it to say, it was kind of a shock to adapt to all that.”

“I bet it was,” Kaidan said. He stiffened when she crossed her legs again, looking elsewhere – anywhere – to avoid staring at her. He glanced to the wall behind her, then his face fell as he saw the clock. “Oh, God. It’s almost 0300, commander.”

Shepard glanced over her shoulder to where her clock hung askew. “Oh,” she said, simply.

Kaidan stood. “If Joker and Williams are gone, I should go. I didn’t realize it was so late – er, early. I wasn’t trying to waste your time with bull about what happened years ago.”

“You didn’t,” she said, giving him one of her rare smiles. “And I’m glad you were here. I’d rather talk with you than, well, shred the room.” She waved a hand at the remaining mess. “Thanks for the talk, Kaidan.”

She realized belatedly that she had used his name informally once again. She wondered if he’d notice.

Kaidan had noticed. He tried not to read anything into it, but he saw it was becoming a habit of hers. It was a habit he liked far too much. He cleared his throat.

“Uh. You’re welcome,” he said, just stopping short of calling her “Shepard” in return. He frowned and added, “I’d better go.” He got halfway to the door, then turned around, because he just had to know:

“Do you make a habit of getting this personal with everyone, ma’am?”

This personal?” Shepard laughed. “As in having my lieutenant dash into my quarters while I’m sleeping, having him weather my biotic attacks while I’m dreaming, and then become trapped in my room for over an hour while we wait for our nosy helmsman and gunnery chief to finish their coffee? I assure you, lieutenant, this is not a common occurrence for me.”

He smiled in return. “I sort of more meant the talking me up about my past, but…”

“No,” she said, surprising herself with the admission. “No, I don’t get this personal with everyone, Kaidan.”

The words were out of her mouth before she could consider the wisdom of them. But even as she spoke them, she could hardly wish them unsaid. Because at her admission, Kaidan looked at her in a way that warmed her down to her toes. He didn’t look at her warily or businesslike in some idol-worshipping way. He just looked at her like he was interest - in her.

She wasn’t sure she’d ever experienced anything quite like it.

“Let’s talk later Kaidan.” She used his name again, and this time, she didn’t try to correct herself.

“I think I’m going to need some time to process all of this commander,” he said, slowly. “But yeah, I’d like that.”