Kaidan stepped out of the shower and opened the door. He realized his mistake instantly. The change from the small, dimly lit bathroom into the brighter lights of the bedroom hit him like a blow to the head. He gripped the door frame and sagged against it.
“Oh shit,” he muttered.
“What?” Shepard looked up from where she sat at the edge of the bed, drying her hair with a towel. She wore a clean pair of underwear and nothing on top. If it wasn’t for the lights streaking before his eyes, Kaidan might have appreciated the view.
“Kaidan, what is it?” Shepard asked, frowning as she stood to cross to him. “Are you okay?”
“Damn it,” he said, shaking his head. He slipped past her to lie down on the bed. He was leaving a wet spot in the middle of the sheets, but he didn’t care. “I thought I was getting over these. Haven’t had one in months.”
“A migraine?” she asked, frowning suddenly.
“Yep,” he nodded. He put his hand over his eyes, pressed his thumb and forefinger to them. “Oh God, this is coming on fast…”
“What can I do?” she asked, instantly clinical. “Dim the lights? Get you some meds?”
“Light, yeah…” he nodded. “Meds…I forgot meds…”
“I’ll go get some,” Shepard hit the lights, then found her bra and began pulling it on. “What kind do you need?”
“Dr. Chakwas is off duty,” she said, more to herself than him. “But I saw a clinic back that way. What else helps, Kaidan?” When he didn’t answer, she asked again, “Kaidan?”
“Sorry…” Kaidan murmured. “Less than one day into our…leave…and I…”
“Don’t worry about that,” she said, pulling on her pants. She buttoned them, then reached for her boots. “Just tell me what you need.”
Kaidan didn’t answer. Shepard yanked on her boots, frowning at him all the while. She didn’t know what to say or do. Shooting down enemies one by one, she knew. First aid and medigel, she knew. How to help Kaidan’s sudden descent into pain? Not a clue. She found a clean shirt – one of Kaidan’s, she saw, and pulled it on. It was a little big. She rolled up the sleeves, tucked it into her waistband, and grabbed the tangled mess that was her jacket. She began sorting out the sleeves and the holster inside.
“I’ll be right back,” she said, checking her pistol, shrugging into the holster, then pulling the jacket on over it all.
Kaidan peeked up at her through his fingers.
“You brought a gun…to a seduction?” he asked weakly.
“The Wards can be dangerous,” she said leaning down to kiss him on the cheek. “I mean, just today I got pinned by this biotic…”
Kaidan grinned, then his smile faded with a wince of pain. Shepard’s brows drew together in a worried expression.
“Alright,” she said softly, “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Just rest.” She realized he was completely naked on the bed. She gently pulled a blanket up over him, and some strange impulse led her to tuck it in around his shoulders. She kissed his jaw briefly, trying not to feel hurt when he just hissed and pulled away.
“Meds are coming, Kaidan,” she told him. “I’ll do my best.” Then she left in search of them, wishing she could do more.
“Can I help you?” The alien at the front desk of the clinic was slim and had a more feminine voice than Shepard had ever heard from a turian before. She realized at once that this must be one of the illusive female turians she had heard about. Shepard had often teased Garrus that she doubted their existence, since Shepard had never met one. Well, she thought, here was one now. Now if she could just meet a female volus and she would have met nearly every alien race in council space. Then again, with the volus, perhaps she had met a female and she just hadn’t known it.
“I have a friend with a headache,” Shepard said softly, looking around the office to where several other aliens of various races sat looking worried, tired, or, unsurprisingly, sick. “A migraine, actually. I need some meds for him – and any information you have about migraines. I don’t know much…”
“We can’t release medication to you,” the turian said with a weary sigh. “With things the way they are on the Citadel, the black market for meds has gone through the roof. We need your so-called ‘friend’ to come herself, apply in person, and even then, it will take…”
“I’m a Spectre,” Shepard said quietly, deciding to pull that card. “I’m Commander Shepard of the SSV Normandy. Just give me some meds and some information so I can treat my friend.”
“Commander…?” the turian looked up at her with beady yellow eyes and blinked.
“Look it up if you don’t believe me,” Shepard said, cutting her off. She didn’t need the lady to go announcing it to the whole room. The turian obviously didn’t believe her, because she checked her computer at once.
“I have a crew member with a medical condition…” Shepard went on, her voice low.
“The biotic?” the turian asked.
“That’s him,” Shepard nodded. Okay, she thought, this was where things got sticky. But the Normandy was being prepped for departure, so she couldn’t very well go back to her own med bay. And there still was such a thing as medical privacy. She could get through this neatly, she was sure of it.
“Lieutenant Alenko is off duty and he had an episode. I was the only person he could reach. Our ship is locked down and I need to find him some meds.” She felt rather proud of that. It sounded completely above board, and better yet, it was all true, too.
“He can’t come here himself?”
“He said he couldn’t move.”
The turian frowned. Shepard could tell by the way her slim mandibles drooped.
“Technically, we can’t give out medication unless it is to the patient…”
“Unless you have someone authorized to pick it up,” Shepard told her, guessing at the rules rather than knowing them. “As the commanding officer of his ship that would be me. And,” she added, “as a Spectre, I could just demand…”
“Fine, fine,” the turian scowled. “I’ll let you back to see a doctor right away. Just, hurry please. We’re very busy these days.”
“I’ll be out of here before you know it,” Shepard promised her.
Kaidan lay on the bed, aware of just one thing: the horrible throbbing right in the center of his forehead, directly behind the bridge of his nose, then up a little to the right. He couldn’t think of much, but his few thoughts centered around the idea that it would be absolutely glorious if he could just dig his fingers right into his skull and scoop out that throbbing mass and throw it out the window at the Ward below.
A chime sounded somewhere to his left. He winced at the sound, then at the opening and closing of the door, at the sound of footsteps, then at the sound of Shepard’s voice.
“I brought you something,” she said. His stomach turned over at the sudden smell of food.
“No…” he moaned. “Can’t eat.”
“Oh, right. Nausea.” He heard her walking away, heard the bathroom door close. The smell went away, but the nausea remained.
“Be quiet,” he grumbled at her.
“Here,” she said, softly, though even that sound was killing him. She turned down blanket, pulled at his arm. He let his arm lie on the bed beside him. He heard some shuffling, then heard her mutter, “First aid training, don’t fail me now.”
He felt her rubbing hard at the inside of his elbow, then felt a few hard taps. “This may sting,” she said. Then he felt a prick, followed by a burning sensation that flowed right down his arm. He hissed in a breath.
“Don’t move,” she said, holding his arm still. Her voice was commanding, at normal volume, and it felt like a grenade had gone off right by his head. He grunted in response.
A moment later, there was a sharp, painful sliding sensation as she removed the needle and then all he felt was the burning trailing down to his fingers and up to his shoulder. There was a soft brushing of something over the place where the shot had gone in. Kaidan cracked open one eye to see Shepard kissing his arm.
“Thanks,” he murmured. She gave him a smile that was both worried and pleased all at once.
“Kaidan…” she began, then she broke off when he winced once more.
He lay there, feeling the burning turn into numbness, felt it creeping up the back of his neck, around his throat, and finally, mercifully, spinning its web across the muscles of his face to reach the throbbing pulse at the front of his brain. He felt the web branching over that ball of pain, trapping it, slowing it, even as he felt Shepard lie down beside him and lay her head on his chest. Normally, he would want to be left alone in the middle of a migraine, not to be closed in by people watching over him with their misunderstanding and their worry. But either Shepard’s concern was different or the meds were stronger than usual. He felt himself drifting off to sleep, wrapped tightly in her arms.
Kaidan woke to a dark room, feeling groggy, but with nothing left of the migraine than a slight headache. He looked up and saw Shepard’s face, illuminated by orange light. She was sitting in the chair in the corner, a datapad on her lap.
“Hey,” he said.
“Oh,” she said, looking up and switching off the datapad at once. “You’re up.” In the sudden darkness, he heard her ask, “How are you…” She broke off and tried again in a whisper, “How are you feeling?”
“Alright, actually,” he said. “Hungry.”
“You up for some food?” she whispered. “It’s cold by now, but…”
“Yeah,” he said, his voice at normal volume. “You can talk, you know.”
“Okay,” she said, pitching her voice to the same level as his. “I wasn’t sure.” There was a pause. “Can I risk some light?”
“Yeah,” he said, leaning over for the lamp. He closed his eyes tightly as he switched it on. With his eyes still shut against the glare, he turned his face away.
“You gonna be alright?” she asked.
“Shepard, don’t treat me like I’m broken,” he snapped.
“I’m not…” she let out a frustrated breath. “Okay, I won’t. I’ll just follow your lead. You’ll need to let me know what you need here.”
“Food,” he told her.
“Got it.” She went to the bathroom, brought back a giant bag filled with small boxes of various sizes.
“Earth-Chinese?” he asked.
“An asari approximation of it,” she replied ruefully. “There’s a genuine ramen place down by the transport hub, but it was closed. Maybe we can stop there tomorrow, on our way back to the Normandy.”
Kaidan looked down at the food before her, his appetite suddenly failing him.
“Tomorrow?” He glanced at the clock. “Oh my God, I just wasted thirteen hours of our almost non-existent shore leave with a migraine.”
“It would have been less,” she told him, “Only it took me a while to get that medicine. I’m sorry about that.”
“No,” he told her, “that medicine was…” He stopped and remembered it. “That stuff was incredible. What the hell was that?”
“Experimental is what it was,” she replied. “It’s something the asari are developing for human biotics – started as a military contract for the Alliance, still restricted in most circles. Lucky for you, you sent a Spectre to do your shopping for you.”
“You didn’t…tell them that we were…together?”
“I managed to avoid telling them the whole truth,” she said. She explained her conversation with the clinic receptionist and the doctor afterward. “So the doctor suggested this. She was an asari, and I suspect she has stock in the company. I bought some regular meds, too, because I didn’t want to shoot you up with just anything, but when I came back here and saw you like that…” She broke off and gave him a trouble look. “Well, I gave you the strong stuff first. I hope it helped.”
“It did,” he agreed. “It completely knocked me out.”
“I’m glad it worked. I know first aid, but I know squat about persistent conditions.”
“Because you don’t have any,” he said, a slight edge to his voice.
“True,” she nodded. “My ailments have all been psychological.” When he didn’t smile, she said, “That was supposed to be a joke, Kaidan.”
“Yeah,” he said, non-committally.
“Here,” she said, turning her attention to the food. “Eat.” She began to serve him up a bowl full of rice and some unidentifiable vegetables that smelled good, even if they were cold.
“I suppose I owe you an apology,” she went on after a moment.
“Why?” he asked as he took the bowl.
“Well, I was reading up on your condition,” she waved a hand at the datapad. “And I honestly, didn’t realize how bad things can get for you. You’ve been such a rock all this mission, I just came to assume…”
“That I wouldn’t be a problem?” he suggested. He stabbed his rice with a pair of chopsticks.
“Not a problem, Kaidan,” she said, touching his arm lightly. “Never a problem. I just forgot that you’ve been on a routine lately. You said it yourself,” she began to serve herself a bowl as well, “your headaches bothered you less the more you fought. I hadn’t really thought about it, but when we were on our mission, you stepped up your powers and stopped holding back. You also got six square meals a day, slept for at least ten hours a night, and ended up using your biotics at full power at least three times a week – sometimes more. I’d call that a pretty healthy routine.” She pulled out a pair of chopsticks and toyed with her food as she went on.
“However, after our last battle our sleep schedules have been totally off. The barracks only serve three meals a day, and I don’t know about you, but I simply cannot eat that stuff. And then I drag you here and keep you up all night and forget to feed you after just one meal…”
“That food was supposed to last two days,” he said, looking at the discarded bag in the corner.
“Yeah, well, we’re biotics,” she reminded him. “I should have known better. And speaking of biotics, it didn’t help that the only time you used your powers all this last week was too…” She smiled and shook her head. “Not that I didn’t love it, but still. I guess it was inevitable that you’d have an episode. I’m just sorry I wasn’t watching out for you more.”
“It’s not your fault,” he told her.
“Well, it’s not your fault either,” she replied. “It was just bad luck. And I’m glad those meds worked so well.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I feel almost normal now with the food. We should get some more of that medicine before we go.”
“Ah…” Shepard made a face, “It’s kind of expensive.”
“How much?” Kaidan asked. She told him. His jaw dropped open. “You spent how many credits on one dose?”
“Hey,” she said, “I had the money. I just don’t have enough to stock the med bay with the stuff.”
“Shepard,” he frowned. “You can’t…”
“What? Watch out for you? I need you at your best. It was money well spent.”
“Need me at my best, huh?” he asked her.
“Well, naturally,” she said, grinning. “I mean, who else is going to join me for a take-out picnic in the nude? Wrex?” Kaidan laughed at the terrible picture that brought to mind.
“There’s just one problem with that suggestion, Shepard,” he told her. “You’re still wearing clothes.”
“Am I?” she asked innocently. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“I had,” he told her, reaching for her jacket.
“Hey now,” she said, tapping his hand lightly with her chopsticks. “Eat first. Sex later.”
“Is that an order, ma’am?” he asked her, his eyes glinting.
“Damn,” she muttered, “they didn’t tell me that the meds would make you horny again.”
“I don’t need meds for that,” he said, letting his gaze trail down her body.
“Alenko,” she said, raising an eyebrow, “I want you. I do. But you need to eat your vegetables first.”
They looked at each other, eyes locked, lips twitching. Then both of them burst into sudden laughter.
“God, Shepard,” Kaidan said, shaking his head, “I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of this.”
“Enough of what?” she asked him, amused.
“Enough of…any of it. The sex, the jokes. Watching out for you,” he ducked his head, then looked up to give her a slightly goofy grin, “Having you watch out for me.”
Shepard returned the grin, with all its accompanying goofiness. “Same here,” she said. “But you forgot the near-death situations and saving the galaxy stuff.”
“Eh,” he cocked his head, “I could take it or leave it. No,” he said, reconsidering, “I’m damn proud of that. You did good work, Shepard. You realize that everything out there,” he waved a hand at the window, “even this little picnic here, is all because of you.”
“It’s because of us,” she told him, “Because of our team. We did this together.”
“You led us.”
“It’s easy to lead the right kind of people,” she told him, “especially when the goal is so clear. No, Kaidan, I appreciate the compliment, but credit for all this goes to everyone on the Normandy. I only wish they could have given Spectre status to us all.”
“Do you really want to give Joker that kind of power?” Kaidan asked her, raising an eyebrow.
Shepard made a face. “Good point.”
“I think they made the right choice when they picked you to be a Spectre, Shepard,” he went on. “Just like I think I made the right choice when I…”
“Picked me to be your Spectre?” she asked teasingly when he trailed off.
“I was going to say when I came to deflower you the night before Ilos. But then I realized that comparing me to the Council just…wasn’t a good comparison.”
“No,” she told him, smiling at him over her bowl of rice. “There’s no comparing you to the Council – or to anyone, Kaidan. There’s no comparison at all.”