Empty Hands

Chapter 34 of Valkyrie

“Get us out of here, Joker,” Shepard told the helmsman. Joker smiled as he began to tap at the computer before him, urging the Normandy out of the docking bay , through the maze of ships around the ward arms, and out into the Widow Nebula. Shepard didn’t leave his side until she had seen that they had left the Citadel behind.

“Take us to the Mu relay,” she told him. “You’ve got the coordinates to Ilos uploaded?”

“Got ‘em and setting ‘em,” Joker replied. “We’ll be there in twelve hours.”

“Twelve hours,” Shepard frowned. “That seems far too long.”

“Long enough for you to get some rest,” Joker told her. “You’re gonna be fighting non-stop on the other end, I bet.”

“Let’s hope not,” she said. When Joker just cast her a look, she shrugged. “Okay, you’re probably right. I’ll go sleep. Or try to.” She wandered away looking edgy and tired.

Shepard hadn’t been gone for more than a minute when Kaidan walked up to the helm.

“Alenko!” Joker said, looking at him in surprise. “What are you doing all the way up here? I would have thought you were getting some rest before the storm. Or is the commander not bringing you on the squad this time? I heard you got wounded back on…”

Joker didn’t finish. He meant back on Virmire, but couldn’t bring himself to say the name of the place where Chief Williams had died. He didn’t have to though, Kaidan knew at once what he meant.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Besides, there’s no way I’m going to let Shepard leave me behind on this one.”

“Really?” Joker asked, looking at him askance. “And just what would you do if she told you that you couldn’t come to the secret alien base and fight the rogue agent and his army of geth troopers?”

“I’d suit up and come anyway,” Kaidan shrugged. “Speaking of which…ah…did you see the commander?”

“She was just here,” Joker told him. “Didn’t you see her?”


“Then you must have missed her coming up the stairs. She was on her way to her room, I think.”

“Oh,” Kaidan said, frowning back over his shoulder at where the dual staircases led back down to the crew deck. He was silent a moment, then said, “Okay, well, take it easy, Joker.”

“Yeah,” Joker waited until the lieutenant had gone out of earshot to mutter: “Have a good night. Find somewhere away from the deck cameras, you horny - lucky - bastard.”

Shepard frowned at the empty systems electrical station, then turned and frowned at the empty mess hall.

Kaidan wasn’t here.

How was that possible? He was always down here.

Maybe he’d gone to bed early, she thought. It made sense, though the thought depressed her. There were several crew in the sleeper pod. She could see the beds from here, but she didn’t much feel like walking along the row, peeking over the lids until she found him. Then what would she do? Bang on the lid like an idiot? Please Kaidan, get up so I can talk to you and not think about the nightmares I’m going to have in my sleep all the way to Ilos.

Her sleep had been restless again since Virmire. The act of melding minds with the second Prothean beacon, then with Liara afterwards, had left her feeling raw as an open wound. Her sleep ever since was filled with visions from other lives and from her own memory.

She didn’t know which were worse.

That was the funny thing about dreams. They could tear right through to your fear, in spite of all the guards of logic and courage you put up in waking life. She had no desire to spend the night with such thoughts.

Kaidan had always had a way of soothing her. His biotics, for a start, were like warm earth, solid and sure, and he always had a way of making her feel like she wasn’t alone.

Well, hell. She frowned. She was alone right now.

If Kaidan was already in bed, then she really didn’t feel like talking to anyone else. Well then, she had a novel on her datapad. She hadn’t gotten much reading in on this mission. The thought made her chuckle. Might as well get back to Dostoevsky now. That ought to make her sleep. With a sigh, Shepard walked into her room and let the door slide shut behind her.

Kaidan froze at the foot of the stairs. He had come around the corner just in time to see Shepard walk into her room.

He suddenly felt his stomach churn. He hadn’t realized he was this nervous, but then, he hadn’t realized until he’d come around the corner and seen her walk into her room what he intended to do.

He had been wanting this for weeks – no, months now. He had been wanting her . But he had pushed all those thoughts aside over and over, shutting them away where he didn’t have to deal with the fact that he cared for her, that he wanted her, and just couldn’t – shouldn’t – have her.

He could still come up with a lot of reasons why he shouldn’t do this. It might change things for a start, upset the balance of power and camaraderie on the ship, it was against regs, as well, though that one was much further down his list of “Why Getting Physical with Shepard is a Really Bad Idea.”

Mostly, what had him hesitating was the wonder of what this would do for his relationship with Shepard. He cared about her. No, it had gone beyond that, though he didn’t want to analyze how far gone he was just now. He only knew that the thought of loosing her made him feel like he was going to go crazy. Even as he admired her for everything she’d done and everything she was, part of him just wanted to make her stay somewhere safe while he and the rest of the crew took on Saren.

Kaidan’s lips quirked at that. As if Shepard would ever agree to sit quietly on the sidelines while someone else fought her battles.

So now, as he stared at her her door, he found himself once again thinking of her with admiration, warmth, and just pure lust, all at once. He seemed to be going back between those extremes with Shepard ever since he’d first met her. But things had changed over the past few months – or rather, they had just grown more intense. Now they were walking into a situation that might very well end their lives. Loosing Ashley on Virmire had made Kaidan realize how easily it might have been him – or Shepard – or all of them – dying down there in that blast. He wasn’t one to throw caution to the winds, but something had changed down there that day. He wasn’t sure how to explain it, but he sure as hell knew what he wanted to do about it.

Kaidan looked down at his hands. They were sweaty – and empty. Damn. He realized that he didn’t have a single thing to bring to her.

Hell, Alenko. What would you have brought, anyhow?

What would he have brought? He frowned. Flowers? Wine? God, he didn’t even know if she liked those things. Not that he had anything with him anyway. He’d been living like a warrior monk these past few years, with nothing to call his own but the clothes on his back and the gun at his hip. Then again, he’d been living like a monk in more ways than that. That had to be why he was so nervous.

Kaidan shook his head. He had savings in an account somewhere. He just wished he’d had the foresight to get her something. Though he wasn’t sure if a gift would offend Shepard for thinking she was sure thing, or amuse her. He found himself wishing that he had more time, at the very least. Hell, they hadn’t even been on a real date before. And yet, here he was, about to walk into her quarters and see if she wanted to…

God, he really was going to do this, wasn’t he?

Kaidan couldn’t quite believe it, but he was. He looked down at his empty hands, then let them fall to his sides. All he had to take to her was himself. He just hoped it was enough.

Straightening his shoulders, Kaidan walked purposefully towards Shepard’s door.