Kaidan watched Shepard walk away and he frowned.
That had been…awkward.
He felt a little bad about beating Shepard at arm wrestling. The woman had lost to Wrex handily and only barely lost to Garrus, but in the few seconds that he had fought her, he realized that if he hadn’t been careful, he might have lost to her . She had almost beat him due to his momentary distraction as they started. Now he wondered if she was offended that he’d won or if she thought he really had used biotics.
Setting his beer down, Kaidan slipped away from the table. No one seemed to notice him leave. He saw Navigator Presley coming down the port stairs, so he went up the starboard staircase. When he reached the command deck, Kaidan saw Shepard standing at the base of the galaxy map. The deck was almost completely deserted. Everyone was downstairs except for one lonely soul watching the helm in Joker’s absence. The man’s back was to them and he was a long way off. Kaidan suddenly felt a little strange up here with Shepard, virtually alone under the blinking lights of the CIC.
“Shepard?” he said. She turned at once.
“I mean, commander,” Kaidan corrected himself. Shepard cocked her head.
“Is something wrong, lieutenant?” she asked.
“Ah, no.” Now that he was up here, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to say.
“I hope you didn’t find that party out of order,” Shepard said.
“I think it was a good idea,” Kaidan told her. “It brought everyone together. I approve.”
“Well, good,” Shepard said, looking slightly amused. “Even if you didn’t, I still would have done it. But I’m glad you approve.”
“Look, ma’am,” Kaidan said. “I hope I didn’t hurt your arm.”
“My arm?” Shepard looked down at her arm, then raised an eyebrow. “From arm wrestling, you mean? Kaidan – lieutenant – you’re going to have to work a lot harder to wound me than that.”
“I didn’t use biotics, you know,” he said.
“I know that,” she replied as if she was confused. Then she stopped and frowned at him. “Though, I do wonder – did you do it deliberately?”
Kaidan’s brown wrinkled in confusion. “Ma’am?”
“Come on, Kaidan, I saw that flicker. I might have done it myself, if I’d thought of it.”
“Thought of what?”
“Flaring at me to distract me. It was hardly fair.”
“You found that distracting, ma’am?” Kaidan asked.
“So you didn’t do it to make me lose my concentration?” Shepard folded her arms across her chest and cocked her head to one side.
“Why would that make you lose your concentration?” Kaidan asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Shepard said with a one-shoulder shrug. “Maybe because your biotics are so damn hot?”
Kaidan blinked. Shepard blinked as well, then clamped her mouth shut, realizing she’d said too much.
“Ah…” She made a face, dropped her arms, and turned back to the map. “Never mind…”
“You find my biotics attractive?” Kaidan found his throat had gone dry. And after all that beer, too. He knew that he had found her biotic abilities unbelievably sexy, but had never dreamed that she might feel the same way about his.
“Don’t let me drink,” Shepard muttered. “Even one beer. Or half a beer. I swear, it’s like my mind suddenly disconnects from my mouth. And I’m not even drunk.”
“You find my biotics attractive,” Kaidan pressed, taking a step towards her. “And that’s why you were distracted by that flare of mine during our match?”
“So you did intend to distract me?” Shepard glared at the map.
She was being prickly now, Kaidan realized, and she refused to look at him. Somehow, the whole situation just made him grin. She actually found his biotics attractive, and she seemed to be embarrassed about it.
“I didn’t mean to do anything,” Kaidan told her. “But this is the confession I get out of it, then I’m glad I did.”
“Great,” Shepard said, still glaring at the map.
“I find your biotics sexy as hell,” Kaidan told her, his voice low. “Just so you know.”
Shepard turned to stare at him. “Seriously?” she asked.
“Seriously,” he replied, taking another step towards her. “I guess it’s that…” He stopped and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m not really sure how to describe it.”
“It’s that you used to always think of your biotics as a liability,” Shepard said, speaking quietly, but with utter conviction. “You could shred someone with a thought or snap them in half with a flick of a finger. You realize how hard it is to be normal around someone else when everything about you just… isn’t .”
Kaidan found he was smiling. He also found he was standing just a step away from her. “You have to eat all the time to keep your energy up…”
“Tell me about it,” Shepard laughed.
”…you have constant headaches…”
“I don’t get the headaches so much,” Shepard said.
“You know,” Kaidan said thoughtfully, “I don’t get them much either these days. I can’t tell if that’s because I’m using my biotics so much that I’m getting used to the strain or if it’s because of you.”
“Me?” Shepard blinked at him.
“Ah…” Kaidan hesitated, suddenly realizing he’d said more than he meant to.
“How do * I * help with your headaches?” Shepard wanted to know.
“You…” Kaidan frowned, then thought, why not? If he trusted her enough to tell her about his feelings about her biotics, then surely he trusted her enough to tell her this.
“I can sense biotic energy,” Kaidan told her. “I don’t know many biotics who can, but I can, well, I guess feel is the nearest thing. I feel mass effect energies like a kind of low hum. Weak biotics give off a little static, strong ones give off even more. But you, Shepard, you’re both strong and controlled all at the same time. When you’re around, it’s like cool water. It’s very soothing.”
She stared at him and said nothing.
“I…ah…didn’t mean to…”
“How long have you been able to sense me?” she asked. “Sense my energies?”
“Um…” He paused a moment before replying, “Since I first met you.”
“And you never said anything?” She frowned. More than that, she sounded angry.
“I didn’t…Look, it’s not something I talk about. Biotics are considered frightening enough without people thinking that we can read their auras or something.”
“We can’t read auras,” Shepard replied. “We can only pick up on the energies of other biotics.”
“Right,” Kaidan nodded. “Wait. We ?”
“I can do that, too, Kaidan,” Shepard let out a breath. “Only, up until now I thought I was the only person who could.”
“Well, yeah,” she scowled at him. “I was fitted with implants about the time I enlisted. The biotic training I got from the Alliance was pretty simplistic. I figured out most of my tricks myself. Nobody in the class seemed to have the same ability to read energies as me – not even the instructor. I didn’t want to appear more of a freak than I already felt I was. So I kept it to myself. I thought it was just me.”
“There are others,” Kaidan told her. “Though not many. You have to be pretty strong to sense other energies and extremely disciplined. Basically, you have to keep your own energy in check in order to read anyone else. Otherwise, it’s like your own chatter is all you get on the comm.”
“So my chatter has been on your comm all this time and you never bothered to say anything.” Shepard looked at him accusingly.
“Like you said, Shepard,” he told her, “it’s not a skill that’s all that common. I don’t go around advertising it.”
She glared at him for a second, then her gaze became considering. “I guess I can respect that,” she said, turning back to the galaxy map. “But I wish I’d known all this when I was back in basic. Would have saved me a lot of worry. All this time I thought my biotics were something stranger than most – something really unusual.”
“Well, they are unusual,” Kaidan said.
“But I’ve always been especially cautious and controlled. I always thought I was more of a freak, or a hazard, or – whatever – than other biotics.”
“Well, given the way you take people out,” Kaidan said teasingly, “you are more of a hazard than most other biotics.”
“Yeah, just not…” Shepard stopped and shook her head. “I guess what I mean is, it would have been nice to know I wasn’t alone.” She stopped, realized what she’d just said, and met Kaidan’s eyes.
“No,” he told her. “You’re not alone.”
“I guess I’m not.” She paused. “And you find my biotics sexy,” she added, smiling at him.
“Very much so,” he murmured, looking down at her.
“Is that because you don’t have to worry about hurting me or because my energies ease your headaches or because you like the way I look when I’m glowing blue?” She cocked her head and raised an eyebrow.
“Can I answer ‘All of the above,’ ma’am?” Kaidan asked.
Shepard took a step closer and allowed a flicker of biotic energy to slide along her lips. She was doing it deliberately, Kaidan realized. The sight made him feel as if he’d forgotten to breathe. He swallowed. They were nearly chest to chest now, and the galaxy map framed Shepard in a halo of miniature stars.
“Shepard,” he breathed. “I…”
But just as he thought that now would be a perfect time to finally take her in his arms and kiss her as he’d been wanting to for weeks, he heard voices behind them. Kaidan took a step back just as two crew members came up from the stairs. The two men stopped and saluted the lieutenant and the commander Kaidan stiffly returned the gesture. He turned to see that Shepard had stepped away from him and done the same.
“That was close,” he murmured.
“And what is that supposed to mean?” she asked, irritably.
“Just that flirting in plain sight of everyone on the deck is a bad idea?” Shepard spoke softly, but bitterly. “Fair enough. You’re right.”
“I’m sorry, commander,” Kaidan said, suddenly feeling awkward. “I didn’t mean…”
“Lieutenant,” she said, shooting him a glance, “If you apologize for what you just said, I’m going to be really angry.”
Shepard ran a hand through her hair and sighed.
“No,” she said, half to herself. “I’m glad we talked about this. But now we’re just going to have to wait a little longer until we can test it all out.”
“Test what out, ma’am?”
“Test out the compatibility of our biotic powers,” she said, speaking in a low voice that made his blood heat suddenly. “I have a feeling that it might take a while to get our frequencies in line.” She grinned and Kaidan could think of nothing at all to say in return. His mind seemed to have gone blank.
“I’d better go to bed,” Shepard said, smiling in a sultry way that Kaidan had honestly never seen before. “You just think about what I said, lieutenant.”
“I’ll be thinking about it,” he murmured. “Rather uncomfortably, I bet.”
Shepard smirked at that. “Let that be your reprimand for not telling me about your biotic abilities earlier.”
“I think the punishment hardly fits the crime,” Kaidan managed.
Shepard just gave him another wicked smile and walked away.