“Well, that was unproductive,” Shepard said, pulling her helmet off and shaking out her hair. “I swear, all that travel just to take out those geth in less than an hour. Tali, did you get anything from them before they self-destructed?””
“Not much,” Tali said, shaking her head. “What little I got I managed to decrypt and upload to your omnitool. Most of it is corrupt. If we can take out those other outposts, we can perhaps piece more of this puzzle together.”
“Okay,” Shepard frowned. “Not what I wanted to hear – or do - but it will work. Thank you, Tali.” She nodded at the quarian. “Well then, let’s get out of these…” She broke off, realizing that Tali would not be taking off her suit. “Let’s get some dinner,” she finished. “Kaidan, could you help me with my zipper…?”
But when she turned to find him, Kaidan was already gone.
Kaidan yanked off his gear and shoved it into his locker. The sound of his helmet hitting the metal echoed through the empty cargo bay. What a shitty day. At least no one had died or been wounded. It could be far worse. But still, it hadn’t been very productive. One less geth outpost and three more they now needed to check out and take out. Some days, this mission seemed pointless. It also seemed endless.
But, Kaidan thought as he pulled on his casual uniform and laced up his boots, what really had him pissed off was the fact that today had been a day like any other, when in fact, it should have been a special day. It was Shepard’s birthday – and he hadn’t even known.
He supposed he could have looked it up, as Liara had. But the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind. Hell, he was a Marine – and a tech-geek – and a guy. Things like birthdays and gifts just didn’t really come naturally to him.
The trouble was, Kaidan thought, dragging a hand through his hair, most of this relationship stuff didn’t come naturally to him. It had been one thing when he and Shepard were just friends – flirtatious friends, but friends. While that situation had frustrated him at times, he knew how to deal with it. Things had gotten more complicated when he’d realized he wanted something more than friendship with Shepard. And when he realized that Shepard was open to that, things had gotten really tricky. But somehow, in the middle of all of that, the two of them had come together and for a short while, it had all made sense.
But then they were sent out on this mission, and everything got muddy again. Constantly surrounded by the crew, they were unable to spend time together as anything more than a CO and subordinate. It was driving him crazy.
And what was driving him even more crazy was the fact that he had asked for it.
Shepard had been open to more. Just what she wanted she hadn’t said, but he guessed she wanted to try and skirt the rules just a little. And now every day that he spent with her, Kaidan found himself wanting to do the same. The whole situation was driving him nuts.
On the one hand, he knew he needed to keep things professional with Shepard. To do otherwise would send a poor message to the crew. At best, it would imply that he and Shepard did not take seriously the rules about fraternization, and so were questioning the Alliance somehow. At the worst, it could cause distrust, feelings that he was being favored somehow, and might even cost the commander respect. Ships needed strict discipline to run well. That had been true from the earliest days on the oceans of Earth and it was true now out in space. That many people in a tight space required very careful handling.
On the other hand, he wanted so damn badly to be with Shepard, to join her in her quarters at night like he had that night before Ilos. Not necessarily to…well, most of the time Kaidan wanted that, too. But just to hold her while she slept would have been wonderful. Instead, he slept on the other side of a wall from her in a sleeper pod, pretending that he couldn’t sense her biotic energy through the wall. Then in the morning, he would wake up and pretend that he didn’t feel for her what he felt.
If Kaidan had always avoided complicated before, he had certainly stepped into a lot of complicated with Shepard.
“Kaidan?” A voice spoke from behind him. Kaidan didn’t even need to turn around to see who it was.
“Yeah, Shepard?” he asked wearily.
“Is something wrong?” she asked. “I was kind of hoping that you’d unzip me back there. I had to do it myself.”
Their jumpsuit zippers had long zipper-pulls, not unlike the old style of wet-suits used for ocean exploration back on Earth. It was easy enough for each Marine to get in and out of the suit alone. But at one point during their mission to stop Saren, Shepard had turned to Kaidan and requested his help in getting her zipper unstuck. The pull-tab had gotten twisted around to where she could not reach it. Kaidan’s mouth had gone dry at the request – a request he obliged with a mix of pleasure and pain. Unzipping the back of Shepard’s suit, slowly revealing her muscular shoulders and arms, had been a glorious sight. It had also made him so restless that night that he had eventually had to go and…take a shower.
From that point on, however, Shepard had always asked for Kaidan’s help with her suit, even though she didn’t really need it. After a few weeks, she had offered to help unzip him in return. He’d taken her up on the offer, even as the result had been returning from every mission to become a little bit stirred up. Kaidan supposed it was dense of him, but he honestly hadn’t realized that she was doing it on purpose to flirt with him until the last few weeks of their mission.
For some reason, he had assumed that she would stop asking for help with her zipper now that they were back on the Normandy. But sure enough, as soon as they came back from their first geth outpost, she’d turned to him, grinned in spite of the gash over her eyebrow, and asked him to unzip her. Kaidan had agreed out of habit, and had been instantly aroused again.
“I’m sorry,” he said, slamming the locker shut. “I just wanted to come down here and cool off.”
“Cool off?” she frowned in concern and stepped forward to lay a hand on his forehead. “You don’t feel too warm. Did you overdo it with the biotics?”
“No, Shepard,” he replied, taking her hand in his. Instead of releasing it, he just held it between them. Shepard colored a little, but she looked at him steadily.
“What’s going on, Kaidan?”
“It’s your birthday…” he began.
“And…?” she pressed.
“I didn’t get you anything.”
Shepard’s lips twitched. “ That’s why you snapped that geth’s head off with a biotic kick? I thought you were a little more on edge than usual down there.”
“Damn it, Shepard…”
“Do you honestly think I care?” she asked him. “I told you, I didn’t even remember. We’ve been so busy, I completely forgot.”
“Yeah, but when we were on the Citadel, I was going to…”
“To what?” She looked at him in curiosity as he frowned and glanced away. “Kaidan, what?”
“I thought about getting you something. But I never did.” He dropped her hand.
“What?” she asked, going for a teasing tone. “Some kind of ‘congrats for saving the galaxy’ present?”
“Never mind,” Kaidan said, walking away.
“Whoa, hey,” Shepard said, catching him by the elbow and turning him back to face her. “You’re not dismissed here, lieutenant.”
“Pulling the superior officer card, ma’am?” he asked stiffly. He glared at her through narrowed eyes.
“If you’re going to be an ass about this, then yes I am,” she shot back.
Kaidan glared at her for a second, the grabbed her by the shoulders and whirled her around. She gasped as he shoved her against the lockers. His eyes grew intent as he stared at her mouth. Shepard’s own eyes widened in surprise.
“Lieutenant,” she told him, “you’re pushing it.”
“I’ve already been pushed pretty hard,” he replied, his voice sounding more like a growl. He pressed his hips against her, just so she could feel how hard, exactly, he was talking about here.
Instead of being angry, Shepard felt – delighted? As Kaidan’s commanding officer, what he was doing was completely inappropriate, and yet, as his, well, whatever she was to him, it was pretty damn delicious to have him pressed along every inch of her body. Shepard found herself feeling very uncommanderly-like. That probably wasn’t even a word, she thought. But it pretty much summed up how she felt. Kaidan was looking like he wanted to take charge for the evening, and damn, but she suddenly wanted to let him do just that.
“Where are you going with this, lieutenant?” she asked, fighting for a chiding tone, but finding her voice came out breathless instead. She gripped his hips – to push him away, she told herself. But she just ended up pulling him in closer. Kaidan’s eyes snapped from her lips to meet her eyes, and he swallowed.
“You know we can’t do this,” he rasped.
“I know,” she replied, waiting to see what he’d do.
“Shepard…” he whispered hoarsely.
“What?” she murmured. She closed her eyes and leaned in to kiss him. Kaidan let his own eyes slide shut.
Then there was a sound behind them. It sounded like a soft grunt or laugh. They both froze, then looked up to see Wrex standing a few feet from them.
“Heh,” he grinned. “Don’t let me stop you.”
“Shit,” Kaidan hissed, pulling away from Shepard.
“Wrex,” Shepard snapped, “Don’t got sneaking up on people like that.”
“Sneaking?” the krogan smirked. “That damn elevator doesn’t allow for sneaking. You two were preoccupied. Though I didn’t realize what you two were up to until I got over here. Would’ve stayed in the elevator otherwise. Don’t mind me,” he opened his locker, tossed in a heat sink and then slammed it shut, “I’ll leave you to it.”
“Nothing happened,” Kaidan said quickly.
“Now that’s a damn shame,” Wrex replied.
“Wrex,” Shepard stabbed her fingers into her hair in embarrassment, “Just, don’t repeat this, okay?”
“Unlike the rest of your crew, Shepard,” Wrex said, “I don’t go around telling tales all day. I have better things to do.”
“So do I,” Kaidan said, straightening. “Have things to do, that is. Excuse me.”
“Kaidan…” Shepard began.
“Am I dismissed now, ma’am?” he asked her, his eyes wary. Shepard frowned. This was not how she wanted things to be going, but she didn’t see much hope of salvaging the situation now.
“Yes,” she told him. “But I want to talk to you later.”
He nodded, his face now expressionless. “Ma’am.” The lieutenant walked by her and stepped into the elevator. Just as the door began to close, Wrex climbed in after him.
“What do you want, Wrex?” She heard Kaidan snap at the krogran. And then she was left alone in the cargo hold.
Shepard frowned. Well that had gone badly.
She had never seen Kaidan be so aggressive with her. She realized that she liked it. Maybe a little too much. To see her ever-controlled lieutenant lose his cool was incredibly sexy. And it made her realize that his seeming indifference this last week had just been an act. Apparently, he wanted her as badly as she wanted him. Only, it appeared that he wasn’t terribly comfortable with that development.
Shepard chuckled and shook her head. She supposed that was the difference between her and Kaidan. She felt like all her life she’d just been waiting for an opportunity to relax, to find someone she could let her guard down around. She had relaxed considerably with this crew, but it was only Kaidan who saw her as she really was. But Kaidan, it seemed, was a little less comfortable letting his guard down. It seemed each time he took off his armor, he wanted to put it right back on again – with more armor on top of that, even.
She supposed this little encounter proved that Kaidan’s declaration that they ought to stay apart was wearing on him as badly as it was wearing on her. She didn’t plan to break protocol exactly, but perhaps there were ways to figure things out. Surely they could find some way to be together. And even if they couldn’t, it was nice to know that Kaidan hadn’t gone back to thinking of her as only a friend. She knew she wasn’t the most lady-like woman in the galaxy, but she hated to think that Kaidan could just discount her as one of the guys.
And apparently, he hadn’t. He was just as wound up from being apart from her and she was from being apart from him. Maybe given a little time…
Shepard was a patient woman. She knew how to wait until a target came into scope. If Kaidan needed time to adjust to what they had between them now that the rules of engagement had changed, well, she could give him that time. It might make her a little crazy, a little horny, but hey, she could wait things out. And if Kaidan came at her like that again…
Of course, waiting Kaidan out didn’t mean that she planned to sit back and do nothing. If they needed to get things figured out between them, then Shepard figured it was time to take some initiative.
“I have nothing to say to you, Wrex,” Kaidan said, punching the button for crew deck.
“Damn human prudery,” Wrex said, poking a finger into Kaidan’s chest. “If the genophage had been unleashed on your people, you’d never even know it. It’s a wonder you populate at all.”
“With my people, when a male finds a female who wants him, he doesn’t sit and mope about it. And if that female is his battlemaster, well, he’d be with her every night, trying to please her and make sure she bore many of his children.”
Kaidan tried to separate the image of him doing such a thing with Shepard from the image of krogans doing the same. The images got tangled together and he shut his eyes against all of it.
“Wrex,” he said, “in the Alliance, we have protocols,”
“In the clans, we have a saying: ‘Impregnate while there’s still night.’ I’m not sure if that’s translating…”
“Wrex, I am not trying to impregnate Shepard.” Though now that Kaidan said it, the thought held a certain appeal. He tried to squelch that thought instantly. That was not where his mind needed to go just now. Hell, they had Reapers to kill. And he didn’t even know if Shepard liked kids. He wasn’t even sure if he liked kids. He certainly hadn’t spent much time around them.
“Why not?” Wrex asked. “You two are fiercest humans I know. If you were to have a child…”
“Wrex, please,” Kaidan shook his head, “I do not need this right now.”
“But you are mating with her?” Wrex asked.
Staring into the face of the point-blank question, Kaidan found he could not lie. “I… We’ve… Yeah.”
“Good,” Wrex looked satisfied at that. “Well, I can see your regulations would cause a problem. They’re stupid rules, but I can see the issue. The Alliance is your clan, and you need to respect it. Still, I think this is a case where what isn’t out in the open can’t hurt anyone.”
“Wrex,” Kaidan said, “You’ll keep it from getting out in the open, right?”
“Of course,” Wrex said. “Only hear me out, Alenko. I saw how you were looking at Shepard just now – like a krogan male sizes up his female. And Shepard seemed to want it too. So why they hell you’re still talking to me, I don’t know.”
Just then the elevator stopped and Kaidan stepped out. “Yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing talking to you about this either.”
“Right,” the krogran replied, hitting the button for the cargo bay, “Go talk to your female about it. Or better yet, don’t talk at all.”
“My female…?” Kaidan began. But Wrex was already gone.