Baited Breath

Chapter 29 of Valkyrie

“ETA to Virmire, 20 minutes,” Joker’s voice crackled over the comm.

“Ground team, suit up and meet me in the cargo hold,” Shepard’s voice followed soon after. “That’s Alenko and Williams – if you’re both clear-headed enough to join me.”

“Wouldn’t miss this beach for the world, ma’am,” Ashley’s voice crackled back.

Kaidan looked up from his station and just as Shepard came around the corner from her quarters. She looked well rested, for a change. He was glad to see that someone had gotten a good night of sleep. He had spent the first part of the night feeling extremely…restless.

“Kaidan,” she said, stopping in her march across the deck to come speak with him. Kaidan found that he had begun to smile. It had become a habit of hers to stop and talk with him whenever she passed by, which, thankfully, was often. He was glad to see her this morning.

“One last errand for the council,” he told her. “And hopefully this will give us the evidence we need to bring the whole citadel fleet after Saren.”

“I don’t know,” Shepard said doubtfully. “If we can get their help, that will make this much easier But somehow, I just can’t shake the feeling that this isn’t going to be quite so smooth a run. Ah well, I’m probably imagining things. In the meantime, I’ll hope for the best and expect the worst, you know?”

“Yeah,” Kaidan said. He chuckled. “You’ve had to do that your whole life, haven’t you – expecting the worst and hoping for the best?”

“Pretty much,” she answered, folding her arms across her chest and leaning against the monitor. “I’ve had to be a little bit of bitch – no, I’m serious Kaidan,” she said when he shook his head. “I know how I come across to people. I’ve had to watch out for myself all these years. Until I met this guy on one of my missions, that is.”

“What guy?” Kaidan asked suspiciously.

“Oh, this technician,” she said airily. Kaidan found himself frowning.

“He was a lieutenant,” Shepard went on, taking a step closer to him, “a biotic with L2 implants. He was pretty easy on the eyes, too.” She reached out a hand and lightly touched him on the arm.

“Oh,” Kaidan said, realizing what she meant.

“He was a bit insubordinate,” Shepard continued. “Didn’t tell me the whole truth about his damn biotics until just yesterday.” Kaidan opened his mouth to protest, but Shepard cut him off by saying, gently, “But he always had my back. Kind of made me start hoping for the best all the time – at least as far as he was concerned.” She let her hand trail down his wrist to find his hand. Their fingers intertwined. Kaidan lifted his eyes to meet hers.

“I’m hoping for the best here, too, commander,” he told her, bringing their clasped hands up to rest against his chest. “Both for an end to this mess and for what comes after.”

“I hear you, soldier,” Shepard said, stepping in close to him, so close that he could feel the warmth of her skin from just a few inches away. “I’m waiting for that shore leave with baited breath.”

A ripple of blue biotic fire shimmered down the side of her face, indication of the strong energy, strong feelings, she was keeping held in check – for him. Kaidan sucked in a breath.

“God, you’re good at that,” he murmured.

“Good at what?” she asked, her eyes twinkling in amusement.

“Good at distracting me from what I was doing… What the hell was I doing?”

“I don’t know, Alenko,” Shepard smirked. “What the hell are you doing? I often see you working over here and wonder that myself. What is he working so hard on over here when he should be in my quarters working on me?”

Kaidan blinked at her. Shepard blinked as well. She could not believe she had just said that. In her past experience, she did not flirt, she did give sexual invitations, and she never, ever sounded sultry. Yet, here she was, doing all those things to the lieutenant – and doing them rather admirably, too, judging by his reaction. She didn’t know whether to shake herself for being so shameless or congratulate herself for being so effective. Kaidan’s biotics flared for a moment, a brief blue flicker along his jaw and neck. Then he cleared his throat and looked up at her through his eyelashes.

“Shepard,” he whispered, taking a step closer to her so that their bodies touched. “Look, when this is over, I…” He took a deep breath to steady himself. With it, he caught the scent of her hair and skin. It was a clean smell, soap, he figured, but it smelled so damn good.

Kaidan lifted his head to look at her face – and over her shoulder, he saw two crew members walking towards the mess hall.

“Damn,” he muttered, taking a step back. Shepard looked at him questioningly, then looked behind her and frowned.

“Oh,” she said. “Right. We were on our way to go shoot stuff again, weren’t we?”

“Yeah,” he shook his head, ruefully. “Shepard, you are hard to step away from, you know that?”

“I’m looking forward to a time when you won’t have to.”

“Yeah, me too.” Kaidan sighed. “We’ll get this done, commander.” He smiled and looked at her sheepishly. “The sooner, the better, for my sanity’s sake.”