Oh God , Kaidan thought, leaning his head back on against the wall. Had he really just said that? He watched Shepard walk away – as usual, the view was a nice one. He couldn’t tell if he wanted to smile, laugh, run his hand through his hair in frustration or just turn red with embarrassment.
He hadn’t spoke to Shepard for a few days after their last conversation. The mission had kept them busy and Kaidan was beginning to doubt the wisdom of his earlier familiarity. After all, what business did he have making a play for his commanding officer when they were in the middle of a mission? It was selfish at best, dangerous at worst.
On their last assignment, he had nearly lost Shepard to a stray sniper shot. The experience had made him realize that he wasn’t playing around here. The mission had to take priority, regardless of what he was feeling. If life were simpler, he wouldn’t be in this whole mess and then he’d be able to just ask Shepard out for a date like a normal human being instead of spending his days dodging bullets with her.
Then again, he realized, if life were simpler, he might not have met Shepard at all.
So when Shepard had come to check in on him, Kaidan resolved to simply share his opinion that the council was really dropping the ball on this one.
That resolution had lasted all of five minutes. Shepard had begun teasing him for being so standoffish. It seemed that the more that he spoke out of turn with her, the more warm she became towards him. And damn it if he didn’t like that vicious cycle. So he’d opened up his mouth and nothing but drivel had poured out. The next thing he knew, he was talking about Vyrnnus, about the day he’d become a killer, driven away all his friends – the day his childhood had suddenly ended in rain of red and blue bloods.
He’d heard himself relating the tale as if someone else was doing it, as if he couldn’t stop. Because Shepard had asked, he just found himself telling her. She’d listened with that uncanny open way of hers - not judging, not shocked or pitiful either. And then she’d gone and told him what he’d done was noble – noble of all things. She’d sounded a little angry at Rahna, actually, and Kaidan had the thought flash though his head that if Shepard had been there, she probably would have taken down Vyrrnus before he had. She certainly wouldn’t have cowered. He was certain that she would have stood by him.
And she’d stood by him just now, hadn’t she?
Yes, Kaidan thought, looking up at the ceiling. She had. She had looked at him, called him noble, and told him to lighten up. She’d reminded him that he was human. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt human, but he certainly did now. Being human was certainly *warmer * than he remembered. Shepard had laid a hand on his arm and he’d foolishly said something about wanting shore leave. He couldn’t quite remember what it was, only that she hadn’t pulled away. She’d smiled and said they’d talk later. Then she walked away with what he hoped was reluctance. He’d certainly been reluctant to let her go.
Well, that settled it then, he thought to himself. Shepard hadn’t told him to take a flying leap – she hadn’t been disgusted by his past. No, she’d listened, and smiled, and now he found himself desperately looking forward to some shore leave.
First things first, Alenko . He told himself. You have to help her stop Saren first .
“So what changed?” Joker asked Kaidan.
The lieutenant had stopped by the cockpit to check in on his adjustments to the navigation systems before they reached the Widow Nebula. Shepard had not wanted to backtrack, but there were simply too many assignments calling her back to the Citadel to ignore them all. Kaidan hoped it would be a quick stop. He considered staying in his casual wear when they docked, but thought better of it.
Given how much action they had been seeing lately, he might as well suit up and get all the guns out. Even the Citadel wasn’t safe given Shepard’s track record lately.
“What do you mean, what changed?” Kaidan asked Joker, sparing a glance at the helmsman.
“You seem…” Joker searched for the words.
Kaidan raised a dark eyebrow and frowned. “Yeah, Joker?”
“Let’s just say that in the past you tended to be a bit…”
“A bit what?”
“And now you’re…”
“Now, I’m what ?”
“Look, never mind,” Joker said.
Kaidan folded his arms across his chest. “Spit it out, Joker.”
“When I first met you, Alenko, I don’t think you ever smiled – not really. Now you have this wistful expression all the time. Wistful? Is that even a word?”
“Yeah, Joker, that is a word.”
“Hell,” Joker shrugged. “I guess it’s none of my businesses.”
“What are you driving at, Joker?”
“Joker, if you have something to say…”
Joker frowned and looked at Kaidan. “You’re alright, Alenko.”
Kaidan narrowed his eyes. “What is this about, Joker?”
“Look, when I was teasing you about the commander…” Joker broke off and looked around, then lowered his voice. “When I was teasing you, I was just teasing you. I wasn’t actually serious about…you know… *doing * anything.”
“Well, I haven’t done anything,” Kaidan replied. Though, he admitted to himself, it wasn’t for lack of wanting to.
“Well, that’s a relief,” Joker said.
“Do you have a problem with me and the commander?” Kaidan frowned. Joker’s opinion didn’t really matter, Kaidan told himself, but at the same time, it did, somehow. Kaidan hated to think that the one person who knew about his interest in Shepard disapproved of it.
“No, not at all,” Joker said. “Geez, if I could send you two kids off with keys to a nice Citadel hotel, I would. It’s just…”
“What, Joker?” Kaidan asked, trying not to allow Joker’s comment about hotel keys to conjure up images that it shouldn’t.
“I just can’t help feeling that we’re a long way from done, here. That’s all. I don’t know if I should be telling you to cool it until the mission is over, or telling you to get yourself the hell down to the commander’s quarters and enjoy life while you can.”
“Ah…” Kaidan blinked at him. “That wasn’t quite what I was expecting from you, Joker.”
“Yeah, I know, far too serious for me. Look, Alenko, just take care of yourself, okay? Take care of the commander, too. I don’t want anything to happen to you two.”
“Joker, are you getting sentimental on me?” Kaidan asked suspiciously.
“I like you guys,” Joker said, frowning at his computer. “And I don’t like anybody.”
The helmsman shook his head. “Okay, that’s it, that’s all I had to say. Just – don’t screw up, Alenko. You’re a lucky bastard if the commander isn’t offended by the way you’ve been hanging after her. If things actually work out, then…”
“Then I’ll be even luckier,” Kaidan agreed. “Alright, point taken. No messing this up, or Joker’s going to be mad at me.”
“Hell, if you mess this up,” Joker said, “You’ll have bigger things to worry about than me being mad at you. You do realize if you screw things up with Shepard, she’s the kind of woman who could just – BAM! - take you down?”
“That’s true,” Kaidan said with a grin. “But I’m finding that’s just the kind of woman that I like.”