Kaidan sat in the mess, eating a second lunch, wondering what he had done wrong. The commander had been acting very strangely this last week. She had spoken to him very little and she had made good on her threat of taking Ashley and Tali on the last ground side mission.
When they’d returned, Ashley had shaken her head and told Kaidan: “Dunno what you and Vakarian did to piss her off the other day, but she took it out on a thresher maw.”
“You ran into a thresher maw?” he gaped. A thresher maw – and he hadn’t been there to help her.
“Yup,” Ashley said. “And you can take your ground side missions. Between you and me, I see what you mean. Driving around with her is terrifying.”
“Tell me about it,” he chuckled.
“Don’t make her mad again, LT, or she might ask me to go with her again. I think I prefer polishing the guns and keeping my lunch in my stomach to playing spider-Mako with the commander. I’ll be damned if the skipper doesn’t think that tank can drive straight up the sides of mountains.”
The conversation had made Kaidan laugh, but it also had worried him. Shepard had been busy at the CIC most of the time lately and he suspected that she wasn’t sleeping well. He hadn’t seen her in the mess much lately and he was worrying that she was skipping her meals again. Given how much she’d been using her biotics, that wasn’t a good sign.
Kaidan knew it wasn’t really his place to worry about her, but damn it, the commander was running herself ragged. And for some reason, he had this strange need to be the one to make sure she was taking care of herself. After all, she was too busy taking care of everyone else to do the job.
“Where’s the commander?” a voice asked. Kaidan looked up to see Garrus walk into the mess.
“Sleeping,” Kaidan replied, nodding at her closed door. “At least, I think she is.”
“Or she’s writing up mission reports or doing something else,” Garrus observed. “She might have gone to the med bay to check in on Doctor T’Soni again.”
“It’s possible,” Kaidan said, frowning in the direction Garrus nodded. “Though I hope she’s sleeping. She needs the rest.”
Garrus stared at Kaidan for a moment, then said: “You keep a pretty close eye on her, don’t you?”
“I suppose I do,” Kaidan said, stiffly.
“Is that an Alliance officer thing, or is that just you?”
Kaidan looked up in surprise. Garrus had sounded strange for a second there – as if he was implying something more than he was saying.
“Well as the second-highest ranking officer on this ship, it’s my job to pick up any slack,” Kaidan told him. “And the commander sometimes lets herself become the slack, if you get my meaning.”
“Hm…” Garrus said. His sharp blue eyes narrowed for a moment. Then he looked away. “From what I heard from Doctor Chakwas, the asari doctor wouldn’t mind picking up the commander’s slack, as well.”
Kaidan blinked. “Come again?”
“Apparently, the young Prothean expert has been hanging after the commander all the time,” Garrus explained. “She’s been asking about the commander below decks, too. Not a whole lot of subtlety with that one.”
“Doctor T’Soni?” Kaidan felt as though someone had knocked him into a wall. “She’s interested in Shep - the commander?” A blue alien girl was interested in Shepard? He didn’t know how a guy was supposed to process that kind of information, much less what to do with it once he’d processed it.
“Looks that way,” Garrus gave a wave of his hand that Kaidan had come to recognize as the turian’s equivalent of a shrug.
“The doctor only just met her.”
“Have any of us known the commander that long?” Garrus asked.
“I guess not,” Kaidan said, frowning.
“It makes sense, really,” Garrus went on. “I’ve always noticed that the asari have a thing for your human females. I think it’s because human women look so much like them – the asari, that is. And the asari have that bias against pure bloods…”
“Pure bloods?” Kaidan asked.
“They believe it’s bad for their species as a whole if they don’t mate with other species. Mating among the asari is considered quite backward. Carries a stigma.”
“They can mate with other asari…?” Kaidan trailed off. “Of course they could.” He had never really thought about it before, but of course it made sense.
“Sure,” Garrus gave another wave of his hand. “The asari can mate with other species, each other, anything that’s sentient, really, since their mating has more to do with the mind anyhow. But you have to figure that all those millennium as their species evolved, everything in their mating instincts would be driving them to find one another attractive. With their new belief in perfecting their species by mating elsewhere, they would have to learn to find other species at least palatable. Human women, however, both look familiar, attractive, and yet…different.”
Kaidan frowned at Garrus’ words. “Don’t tell me you find human women appealing, too.”
“I have no fetish for humans,” Garrus said hastily. “Though,” he added thoughtfully, “Shepard does reminds me a little of this scout I once knew…”
“Garrus,” Kaidan said a little sharply. “This is the commander we’re speaking about, here.”
“I didn’t mean…” Garrus broke off. “I’m just saying, the commander isn’t bound by rules of protocol where Liara is concerned.”
That was true. Kaidan hadn’t thought about that. Perhaps he had been so caught up in his own feelings for the commander that he’d failed to notice that she was looking elsewhere.
“I really don’t want to think about that,” Kaidan said, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“And here I thought of the human crew you were the most open-minded,” Garrus snorted.
“I try,” Kaidan said, “but I don’t really want to strain my powers of imagination right now.”
“How is the LT straining himself?” Ashley Williams sauntered in to the mess and headed straight for the coffee. She poured herself a cup and drank it black. “Ooh,” she winced. “Good stuff. So what’s the LT up to? Straining his neck to check out the commander’s backside every time she walks by?”
“Watch it, Williams,” Kaidan glared at the chief. “I’m still your commanding officer and I’m sitting right here.”
“Sorry, LT,” Williams said, a little abashed. “I didn’t…”
“Never mind,” Kaidan said, pushing himself up from his chair. “I think I’m getting another headache. I’m heading to the med bay – and no, Garrus, I’m not going to talk to any asari when I’m over there.” He frowned, tossed his dishes into the washer and left.
Williams looked at Garrus with raised eyebrows.
“What was that all about?”
“Wait,” Ashley said, glaring at Garrus suspiciously. “Did you just tell him about Liara’s crush on the commander?”
“I might have.”
“God damn , Vakarian,” Ashley laughed. “You have the subtlety of a train wreck.”
“Then again,” she shrugged, taking another gulp of her coffee. “It might do some good to motivate him. The guy needs to lighten up.”
“I suppose so,” Garrus said, uncertainly.
“I don’t usually hold with fraternization,” Ashley added, not noticing when Garrus gave her the turian equivalent of a frown. “But in this case, I think it might be for the best. The skipper needs someone to watch her back, and the LT certainly takes that job seriously.”
“I watch her back, too, you know,” Garrus said, quietly. But Ashley was busy draining her coffee and did not hear him.