Shepard looked up from the datapad. She had been on the same page for five minutes now, but she hadn’t read a word. She stood just as the doors closed behind Kaidan. In the low light, she could see his profile outlined in blue.
She guessed at once why he was here. On the night before battle – possibly their last battle – she could only imagine one thing that had driven him to seek her out. The thought made her heart start pounding.
Protocol be damned , she thought, making up her mind right then and there. There was no way she was letting the man leave tonight.
“You still calling me ‘commander’?” she asked, trying to keep her decision out of her face, just in case she’d misread his intentions. “Last I checked, we both turned mutineers.”
“Yeah,” he chuckled, his voice seeming to reach through the darkness to caress her. “Hell of a thing when we have to break regs to keep them.”
“I keep telling myself this is the right thing…”
“It is,” he assured her. “In all the time we’ve been together, I think you’ve always done the right thing. And I don’t think that about anyone.”
“Well, thanks,” she sighed. “Let’s hope what we’re doing now turns out to be right, too.”
“Yeah, what we’re doing.” Kaidan paused, then took a step closer, then another, until he was standing right in front of her. “Look, commander – Shepard.”
Shepard felt her blood heating as she stared into his eyes. His eyes seemed so intense, so utterly convicted.
“If something happens to you – to me – well, I want you to know, it’s been an honor serving under you, ma’am.”
” Serving under me?” she asked, her mind taking the phrase and running with it – probably in the completely opposite direction that it had been intended. “As in…?” she grinned wickedly. “I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of having you serve under me, Kaidan.”
“What?” he blinked. “No. I mean…”
Shepard chuckled, startling him. “Oh, God, to see your face, Alenko. I…ah…” She coughed. “That was wrong of me.” When he suddenly looked worried, she laid a hand on his arm. “Look, Kaidan, I… Hey, we’re more than officers. More than a lot of things. At least – tonight…” She trailed off and looked at him meaningfully.
Kaidan felt as though his heart was pounding right in his ears. Had he just heard her right? Because if he’d come here thinking that he was going to see if she was open to, well, something , he had just been handed his invitation.
“You’re right,” he said, unsure of how he had managed to speak, but finding that he was speaking all the same. “Protocol is kind of a moot point right now – not that I’ve been feeling like following it much anyway,” he added, making her smile.
“But yeah,” his voice grew steadier as he spoke, “This – this may be our last chance. It seems like everything in the galaxy keeps going on – the same old mess as before. Even the Reapers will come around again, but we are important right now. This is what will never happen again - us.” He took a breath and looked into her eyes. “Shepard, you make me feel…human.”
He stopped then, unsure of what else to say. He’d made his case. He waited for her reply.
“Kaidan,” she said, her face serious but her tone teasing, “I think I can make you feel a lot more than human. Just take off your shirt for a start…”
He coughed, feeling his temperature rising even more. Without his intending to, his arms were starting to shimmer with biotic energy.
“Is that an order?” he asked, trying to keep his tone light.
“Of course not, Kaidan,” Shepard frowned. “If I had been looking for a pet, I would have gone and found one. I want a friend, Kaidan.”
“A friend?” he frowned.
“More than a friend,” she said softly. “I want you.”
Kaidan took a breath, fighting to keep his wits about him just a little longer. The thought went through his mind that tonight would be about more than just easing tension before a fight or making some desperate attempt to hold off loneliness on the eve of battle. It was as if he could feel his heart in his hands and he knew he was about to hand it over to the woman before him.
“I’m glad it’s me, Shepard,” he said. “I am. I just…” he hesitated, imagining his fingers clenching around that heart of his. “This can’t change anything. You know that. This is a fine crew,” he added, seeing hurt flicker in her eyes. “I don’t want to mess that up.”
“We’re about to go fight a rogue Spectre agent who is leading an army of synthetics, following the orders of an ancient god-ship bent on wiping out all life in the galaxy and you’re worried about below-decks gossip?” Shepard blinked.
Kaidan looked at her, then began to laugh. “When you put it that way…”
“Kaidan,” Shepard said, stepping closer to him so that their bodies touched. “I know you. I know you’ll always try and do the right thing. It’s why I fell… It’s why I care about you so much. This may change things – but things are always changing.” She took a deep breath and looked him in the eye. “Whatever happens, I know we’ll both try to get this right.”
Kaidan gazed at her, not trusting himself to speak. She suddenly smiled. “You know what? On second thought, that was an order. And I think I’m going to enjoy ordering you around all night long.”
Kaidan laughed, surprised to find warm anticipation replacing his worry. “Careful now, commander,” he teased. “I might think you were taking advantage of your rank. That’s a serious breech of protocol.”
“How seriously do you think we can breach protocol before we get to Ilos?” Shepard asked with a wicked grin. “Two times? Three?”
Kaidan returned the grin. “At the very least, commander.”
She winked at him, then before he could react, she grabbed him and kissed him.
The touch of her lips seemed to send electricity to every nerve in his body. He felt, rather than saw, his body flare with biotic fire. Shepard’s energy, so intoxicating from a distance, now pulsed all around him. It was like running through a storm: heady and cool, dangerous and delicious all at once. He yanked her close to him and kissed her back for all he was worth.
Shepard’s eyes slid shut as she locked lips, tongues, bodies with Kaidan. His energy surrounded her, so warm and strong she felt she was falling headlong into it – into him. Between the two of them, they were glowing, blue-and-white energy rippling over their bodies like rainfall. It would be a wonder if they didn’t tear the ship apart with all this energy, she thought. It was a wonder they didn’t tear each other apart. But, Shepard realized, Kaidan’s strength and control was keeping him from getting hurt – or from hurting her. She’d always had to hold back before, always had to reserve her strength – both biotic and physical. But with Kaidan, there was no need to worry. He could handle the fire of her powers, the fire of her desires. There was no reason to hold back. She could finally let herself go. And here she had wondered if their biotic frequencies would make this difficult. Instead, everything about this – was right .
The implications of it all crashed down on her, making it suddenly hard to breathe.
She was falling for him - and there was absolutely nothing to break that fall.
It was everything Kaidan could do to keep himself from using his biotics to rush them both headlong into the wall. The world was all electric all around him as he slid his hands up her back. He was dimly aware that her hand rested on his belt, and he was waiting, silently pleading for her to go on. His head was reeling as he reached for her shirt and began to peel it over her head. Her shirt hit the floor and Kaidan ran a hand over her warm shoulder. She was hot to the touch, feverish, even, and he knew his skin must be the same temperature. His fingers trailed down her shoulder blades to the back of her bra. He was about to tug it off, too, when he realized Shepard had stopped. She stood frozen in his arms, the fires around her fading.
Kaidan stopped instantly, thinking he’d scared her. He knew he was barely in control here, only just keeping himself from throwing the furniture with displaced power. He didn’t think he’d hurt her, but then, he’d never allowed himself to be this raw with anyone. He had thought Shepard’s biotics were matching the intensity of his, but maybe the mere heat of him was burning her. He looked down into her face, worried.
“Is something wrong?” he rasped.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “No, I’m fine. I…” She broke off and looked up at him, her eyes uncertain. Kaidan felt his heart sinking down to his stomach, heading in the direction of his shoes. Damn, if she didn’t want this… didn’t want him …
“I don’t want to hurt you,” she said after a moment. “My biotics, that is. They’re strong. I’ve never been able to…” She looked away. Kaidan felt like he could breathe again, like his heart had stopped its path down to his feet. Hell, if that was what she was worried about…
“You’re not hurting me,” he told her. “Truly. In fact,” he sucked in a breath. “I’ve never been able to let my biotics into play before, either. But with you, Shepard, I think I can. It feels good.”
It felt more than good, he thought. It felt incredible. But rather than tell her just how much it turned him on, made him completely crazy, he tried to catch her eye and assure her with a smile. She wouldn’t look at him. Kaidan began to feel worried once again. “Did I hurt you?” he asked, concerned.
“No,” she said immediately.
“Okay,” he said. When she said nothing more, Kaidan frowned. “Shepard, what’s wrong?” When she didn’t say anything, he began to feel his heart sinking again. “Look, Shepard, I’m sorry if I’m not doing this right for you. I’m a little rusty – hell, it’s been a while…” A long while . Not like I’ve had a lot of practice to begin with . “If you want me to take things a little slower…”
“It’s not that,” she said, raising her eyes to his. Her smile, weak though it was, reassured him more than her words. He was so overwhelmed with relief that he almost didn’t catch her next words, words that she said more to herself than to him: “It’s just that I’ve never done this before…”
“I’ve never broken regs either,” he said, laughing a little, “but if there was ever anyone worth risking a court martial over…”
Suddenly, he registered what she said - what she meant . His realization was confirmed by the sudden blush that rushed up her cheeks. He wouldn’t have believed that Shepard was capable of blushing if he hadn’t seen it.
“Wait, you…” he broke off, then blinked. “You’re a virgin ?”
She shifted on the balls of her feet, but continued to meet his eyes. “Technically, yes.”
“Just how technically are we talking here?” he wanted to know.
“Just…” Her blush deepened and she glanced away for a moment, “Technically.” She looked back at him, her eyes so wide and vulnerable that Kaidan could scarcely believe it.
He stared at her a moment longer. “Seriously, Shepard?”
“Of course I’m serious,” she snapped, defensively. “It wouldn’t make a very funny joke. Don’t act like it’s a bad thing.”
“Not bad. Just unexpected.”
*That * was an understatement, Kaidan thought. This was the woman whose very name terrified nemies and NCOs alike. This was the woman who had lifted him like a rag doll with both muscle and biotics. And yet this same woman had never gotten further than a technicality?
Kaidan shook his head . “How is it even possible that no guy ever made that technically an…actually?”
“Wasn’t for lack of trying,” she muttered. Kaidan found himself scowling at that answer. Shepard glanced away, then then took a breath and blew her hair out of her face. “Alright, here’s the short version: I was from a conservative family. Good people, but sort of Puritans. Then there was Mindoir. When I joined the Alliance…” She broke off and looked away, like she couldn’t meet his eyes.
“Yeah?” he asked, wondering where this was going.
“Well, I was a little…wild. No foster parents watching over me; all those guys from Basic. You know how it is. I partied a lot.”
Kaidan thought of some of the guys he knew from Basic. The idea of a lonely, confused kid thrown in among those wolves made him suddenly feel very angry.
“My biotic powers were really kicking in strong and I had no idea how to control them. Didn’t take long for that to get around. Even sleazebags get gun-shy if they think their manhood might get shredded in the heat of the moment.” She shrugged. “In the end, it was for the best.”
“But on Elysium,” Kaidan said slowly, trying to wrap his mind around this, “You had a boyfriend. I assumed that you and he… “
“No,” Shepard said. “We were trying to work things out. He wanted to, but my biotics kept…ah…” She frowned and blushed and went on. “Then the Blitz happened and that all got shot to hell. God, I can’t believe I mentioned him. I must have been really drunk that night.”
“So you never…”
“Not quite. And then came the whole ‘war hero’ thing to start with and the nasty press that came after. It really intimidated people – men. I got this reputation as a ice maiden.”
“Maiden?” he repeated.
“I know, right?” she gave a small, self-depreciating laugh. “If they’d only known. So, I put the wild days and the boyfriend behind me and I’ve focused on the job ever since.”
“But,” Kaidan said, staring at her, “You’re so…” He trailed off, not sure how to finish the sentence.
“So what?” she asked, her voice sharp. “You don’t have to get laid to get the job done. Or kill pirate scum. Or lead a crew.”
“No,” he said hastily. “That’s not what I meant. I just had no idea. I would never have guessed…”
“Yeah, well,” she shrugged. “I don’t really advertise the fact. I guess the truth of the matter is, I kept a little of my upbringing in me after all. Deep down, I think I never tried very hard to make things work because I’ve become the job, you know? And I didn’t want to casually… Even when I was at my most messed up…” She sighed.
“I wanted it to mean something.” She looked up at him, her eyes reflecting the cabin’s low lights like bright stars. “It means something to me now, Kaidan.”
He stared at her, completely at a loss for what to say.
“Alright,” Shepard said, lifting her chin in a way that struck him as both businesslike and defensive at the same time. “There’s your answer.” Kaidan said nothing, just continued to stare at her. She shifted from one foot to the other nervously.
“Come on, don’t let this change anything. Kaidan. Don’t worry. You aren’t going to break me.”
“Says the woman who punched Saren Arturius in the head,” he managed at last. “You’re more likely to break me.”
“Oh, God, I hope not,” she said, looking a little worried. “But if I do, I’ll plead temporary insanity. Or passion. One of the two.” She laughed a little and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I want this, Kaidan. And I think the biotics will take care of itself. Just, you know. Give me some time to follow your lead.”
“My God,” Kaidan whispered.
“Damn it,” she said, her brows drawing together. “I shouldn’t have said…”
“No,” he said, wrapping his arms around her waist. “It’s not that. This just makes me realize…”
This makes me realize you care for me more than I dared to hope you did.
This makes me realize that I’m a luckier man than I knew .
This makes me realize that if we do this, then I’m well and truly handing my heart over to you tonight.
“Realize what? That you’re keeping me waiting for my first time?” She raised an eyebrow, looking unaccountably shy. Shepard never looked shy. Kaidan stopped hesitating.
“Well, we can’t have that, commander,” he murmured, leaning in to kiss her.
“I’m waiting, lieutenant,” she whispered against his mouth. “I may not have done this before, but I have a pretty good idea of where to start.”