Flashback: Datapads and Coffee

Part 2, Chapter 22 of Valkyrie

Kaidan walked into the mess, then frowned. Shepard was not here. The coffee pot looked like it had been used recently, though and the place smelled like coffee. Kaidan glanced nervously to her door. Surely she hadn’t meant for their date to take place in there?

Kaidan suddenly felt a little like he was walking into a trap. Then he told himself that he was being ridiculous. Shepard wasn’t planning to lure him into her room with promise of a work date. Or was she? Kaidan wasn’t sure about anything anymore, especially his request that the two of them be just friends, just officers. In that regard, he was really feeling torn, especially after his conversation with Wrex.

Kaidan took a look around to make sure no one was there to see him, then he quickly walked to Shepard’s room. The doors whooshed open and closed to let him pass. He now stood inside the room and saw that Shepard had placed two mugs on the table, two chairs on opposite sides of that table, and a couple of datapads in between. Kaidan considered the set up. That certainly looked like she intended for them to have coffee in here, but the presence of the datapads suggested that this really would be a work date – completely professional and completely boring. Kaidan couldn’t tell if he was pleased or disappointed.

Then Shepard walked out of her bathroom. Kaidan gulped. That did not look like a work date.

She was wearing a robe – no, a kimono. It had short sleeves and was cinched tightly around her small waist. The patterned silk seemed to cling to her every curve. Her feet were bare and Kaidan instantly wondered if she was wearing anything at all under that get-up. Her hair was damp and she was flushed, as though she had just gotten out of the shower. She stopped when she saw him and licked her lips.

“Hello,” she said. She pulled her sash a little tighter.

“Hi” he said. His voice came out low and rough. “I didn’t mean… Should I come back when you’re dressed?”

“Ah,” she hesitated. “Actually, I was planning on wearing this.”

Kaidan gulped.

“Is that not okay?” she asked.

“What you’re wearing is fine,” he said. He then kicked himself. What she was wearing was not fine – not if they were simply having an officer’s debriefing.

“Okay,” she said, brushing her fingers through her hair. “Have a seat then,” she waved at the table. Kaidan sat down at once, glad to have a tabletop between Shepard and his reaction to her. He took up the cup in front of him and took a sip.

“That’s good coffee,” he said. “Really good.”

“Proper Earth roast,” she said proudly, sitting across from him and crossing her legs. Kaidan tried not to think about how her legs were probably visible under the table, the fabric sliding back to reveal them fully.

“Where did you get that?” he asked, nodding to her kimono.

“A friend gave it to me,” she said. “It came from New Tokyo on Terra Nova. I don’t usually wear it.” She looked up and caught his eyes. What she saw there made her frown. “Really, I can change.”

“You don’t need to.”

“Damn it,” she said, frowning, “This is a bad idea.”

“What is? Coffee?

“This,” she said, gesturing to the room in general. “I’m not good at this.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Being coy, being subtle. Here’s the thing: I understand that you’re not sure of me. I get that.”

“Not sure?” Kaidan blinked. “No… I just…” He trailed off, completely unsure of how to form his thoughts into words - especially when she was dressed like that . Kaidan frowned at her and nodded to her chest.

“What is this really about, Shepard?” he asked. “Seems to me like you didn’t really plan for this to be a work date.” Shepard suddenly looked guilty.

Bullseye , Kaidan thought wryly.

Shepard pursed her lips, then blew out a breath, blowing her hair out of her face as she did so. “Okay, yeah, you got me. Geez, I’m bad at the seductress thing.”

Kaidan choked on the sip of coffee he’d just taken. “Excuse me?”

“You know, the whole lady-in-her-robe thing like the old vids. Should have watched more of those as a kid. Strict parents though. Didn’t get much chance.”

“So you were trying to…?”

“Put ideas in your head?” she shrugged. “Yeah, you found me out.” When Kaidan just stared at her, she shook her head. “Yeah, okay, I’m going to go change…”

“No, wait,” he said. She paused and looked at him. He found he didn’t know what he wanted to say after all.

“Yes, lieutenant?” she asked.

“You’re fine,” he said lamely. “Let’s just deal with this data.” He lowered his eyes to the datapad and tried to ignore the way she narrowed her eyes at him.

“After my attempt at seduction has failed, and I think I want to change. I feel stupid.” She scowled down at herself. “I’ll be back in a minute.” She stood and walked into the bathroom. Kaidan stabbed a hand through his hair as the door slammed shut.

This was ridiculous. Shepard had actually planned to seduce him? And he’d pushed her away. Kaidan gritted his teeth. He thought again about Wrex’s words and began to feel like a complete idiot. But on the other hand, he thought, looking down at the table, he had asked for this for a reason. Their mission was already confusing enough. Adding to the chaos was not going to help.

“Alright,” Shepard said, walking back into the room. She wore her casual uniform, minus her socks and shoes. Her bare feet padded along the metal floor and Kaidan found himself staring at them. “Okay,” Shepard said, turning her chair around and straddling it, “I took at look at these reports, and they really don’t make any sense. The Alliance says we’re supposed to find geth, but the geth seemed to stop their activity after Saren was gone. The last known outposts were way out in the traverse, near the Armstrong Nebula. I think we should take a look at this planet first, since it’s closest to the mass relay in that system. We’ll have to stock up on fuel to get to the next location, since it’s further out.”

Shepard went on, laying out her plan as cool as you please. Kaidan, on the other hand, scarcely heard a word she said.

Here she was, acting like nothing had happened between them just a moment ago, that she had not planned a seduction and he had completely botched the effort. He didn’t know if this was part of her plan or not, but he had to admit that listening to her act so cold after being so warm was making him wish that he’d just kept his mouth shut and gone along with her original scheme.

“Now this one,” she said, setting another datapad in front of him, “is a listing of all the geth posts we’ve seen so far. I can’t tell if there’s any trend here, but maybe…”

Kaidan grabbed her hand from across the table and stood. He yanked Shepard to him, sending her chair clattering to the floor. Shepard gasped in surprise, then moaned as Kaidan took her head in his hands and kissed her deeply. Never breaking the kiss, he sat back down again, hauling her into his lap.

“Kaidan…” she whispered when he let her catch her breath.

“No,” he murmured against her lips, “Don’t talk…” And then he was kissing her again, sliding his tongue into her mouth. She closed her eyes and sighed against him.

Kaidan slid his hand up Shepard’s back, wishing that he hadn’t said anything before, wishing that she was still wearing that unbelievably sexy kimono so that he could get his hands against her bare skin, could unwrap her even as she sat on his lap. As it was, she had on a belt and undershorts and all manner of clothing that was completely in his way.

But he couldn’t do that, he told himself, even as he deepened the kiss. He couldn’t strip Shepard down and touch her, much as he wanted to. He had told her they had to stay apart, had to keep things professional. And now, here he was, being the one to take things further. Perhaps that had been Shepard’s plan from the start, he realized. The thought made him suddenly angry.

Kaidan broke off the kiss abruptly and stood. Shepard staggered back into the table, grabbed the edge and half sat on it to keep from falling over.

“What the hell was that?” she snapped at him. She was breathing hard and her face was completely flushed.

“I don’t know,” Kaidan said, running his hand through his hair. He turned away from her, then spun back around. “Damn it, Shepard. You’re the one who…” He trailed off in frustration.

“Who what?” she demanded. “Who wanted to figure things out?”

“Shepard, I am not going to be able to ‘figure things out’ when you’re wearing…what you were wearing.”

“Alright,” she said, nodding her head in an infuriatingly reasonable way, “I admit, that was a bad idea. I should have just been up front. It’s more my style, anyhow.” She took a breath and looked at him. “The offer still stands: figure this out with me.”

“Break regs, you mean.”

“No,” she said quickly.

“Really?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

“I don’t know.” She sighed. “I don’t know , Kaidan. I’m just trying to help us keep our sanity.”

“Damn it, Shepard,” Kaidan said again, shaking his head.

“Well,” she said, crossing her hands over her chest defensively. “Staying apart until we’re so frustrated that we end up against the lockers with Wrex sneaking up on us isn’t working either. *That * didn’t work; this last week hasn’t worked. Look, if this is about you and me, then it isn’t working, Kaidan. If this is about the crew, then it isn’t going to take long for this to affect them, too. Let’s rethink this and try something else. We can work in some off-duty time. Or something. Anything…”

Kaidan squeezed his eyes shut in exasperation. What she said sounded so reasonable, so practical, so exactly what he wanted to do. But nearly fifteen years of living by protocol and a nagging doubt that he would screw things up caused him to say, “Shepard, we can’t.”

“Why not?” she asked. “You said you wanted us to be ‘just officers,’ but you don’t really want that. You make it clear to me every day that you don’t want that. Then you push me away because you want something more and think you shouldn’t, and frankly, I’m tired of it.”

Kaidan didn’t know what to say. He threw his hands up in frustration.

“Fine then,” Shepard said. She pushed away from the table. Looking down, she saw that their coffee had spilled all over the floor. “You’d can go.”

“Ordering me out, ma’am?” he asked.

“Giving you permission to leave, lieutenant,” she replied. She didn’t look at him, but her voice sounded weary, almost sad. “My offer stands. I know what I want. You let me know when you’ve figured out what you want.”

“I want us to keep this professional.”

“No you don’t. Not really. When you do, you come in here and tell me that again. Until you get it figured out, I don’t want to talk about it. Dismissed.”

Kaidan felt his teeth clench. He hated being ordered out of here like some mere subordinate. He was still angry, still horny as hell, too, but Shepard, damn her, had gone and become as cold as ice. He remembered that she had been like this with him in the past, playing aloof and reserved. Now that he knew this was how she was with people she didn’t fully trust, it was a complete slap in the face. He wanted to make her stop, to get past the defenses she was putting up between them. But even as he thought that, he knew there was no way to get her to let down her guard down without dropping his own.

And because Kaidan had no clue what to say to her, he left.