“I’m glad you came back,” Shepard murmured, tracing her finger along the line of Kaidan’s pectoral muscles. He chuckled and grabbed her hand.
“That tickles,” he told her.
“You’re ticklish?” she asked, grinning at him. Her lips quirked mischievously. “I didn’t realize that. This has so many excellent…possibilities.”
“You’re evil, Shepard.”
“Not evil,” she said, shifting onto her elbow. “Devious. Tactical. Clever. But not evil.” Her smile faltered a little. “At least I hope not.”
“I was joking,” he said, brushing his thumb over her lips. “I just can’t come up with any other reason for why I keep ending up in bed with you…”
“Except to conclude that I’m evil?” she interrupted, her eyes narrowing. “How flattering.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he frowned. “It’s just that I keep telling myself that we need to wait until we get another shore leave, but then you walk by in that way that you have and…” Shepard raised her eyebrows and Kaidan broke off suddenly. “I’m digging myself in deeper, aren’t I?”
“You are,” she said, half laughing. “So tell me, why the change of heart in the middle of the night?”
“It’s nearly morning.”
“It is now,” she agreed. “Wasn’t when you showed up. Why, Kaidan?”
He shrugged, raising his eyes to hers. “I missed you.” Shepard smiled at him and immediately wrapped her arms around his chest.
“Am I off the hook?” he chuckled.
“This time,” she said warningly. Then she took a breath and sighed. “Truly, Kaidan. I wish we didn’t have to do things this way. I don’t want… But then I do want…”
“Yeah,” he murmured.
They lay like that for a time, staring at the ceiling in silence.
“It’s not just about the sex,” Shepard said after a while.
“I know,” Kaidan said.
“I…We’re… You know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” he murmured, draping his arm over her shoulder.
Shepard breathed in deeply and smelled the scent of sweat on his chest. She felt the warm thrumming of his biotics, a little dimmed now, like the sky just after sunset.
“Kaidan,” she said softly.
“Tell me something about yourself.”
“Something about myself?”
“Yeah,” she nodded against his chest. “Something that no one else knows about you.”
“Like…I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I just want to hear something about you.”
“Did you have something in mind, Shepard?” She felt his voice rumbling in his chest.
“Not exactly,” she said. “I’m not asking for some kind of confession or anything. Though if you did have any fetishes or requests…” She broke off, smiling.
“Oh, really?” he asked, lifting his head to look down at her with a grin. “I thought we were supposed to avoid fraternization, not encourage it.”
“You’re right,” she said, growing somber. “No, you’re right.”
“Something about myself, huh?” Kaidan shifted his head as he looked up at the ceiling. “And not fetishes.”
“Well, you can talk about fetishes if you want. But if, for example, you start telling me about how much you like the asari, then I may have to kill every one that I meet just on principle.”
“Asari?” Kaidan wrinkled his nose and shook his head. “They’re nice enough, I suppose. The have nice curves and they don’t hide it, but…” He shrugged. “I like you.”
Shepard’s lips quirked in a grin as she looked at the side of his face.
“Kaidan,” she told him, “You are officially the sweetest guy in the galaxy.”
“What?” he asked, innocently. “I like the way you look, Shepard. Asari don’t have hair, for a start.” He ran his fingers through the tousled strands and smiled.
“That’s good to hear,” she told him, “The entire asari race is now safe because you said that.”
“No, seriously,” Shepard went on. “For a while there, I thought you had a thing for the asari. I kept watching you around Liara. I kept thinking that you must be interested in her. Then I just got pissed off because I was feeling jealous.”
Kaidan chuckled, “You know, I thought the same thing about Liara and you .” Shepard laughed as well, but Kaidan’s face grew suddenly thoughtful.
“Okay,” he said, nodding, “Now there’s something you don’t know about me.”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“I kept thinking I should say something about it, but I never did.”
Shepard frowned. “Now you’re worrying me. What is it?”
“Well,” he made a face, then turned his head to look at her, his nose only inches from hers. “You know that day that Liara told you that she…had feelings for you?”
Shepard gave a rueful laugh. “Oh yeah, I remember. Wasn’t expecting that , I tell you. Poor Liara. She’d been so sweet and I don’t know if I handled it very…” Shepard broke off suddenly, realization hitting her.
“Wait. How did you…?”
“I was outside the door,” Kaidan said, sheepishly. “I…ah…overheard you two talking.”
“You did ?” Shepard blinked.
“I wasn’t eavesdropping,” he said quickly. “Okay, I was,” he amended, “But I didn’t mean to. I was looking for meds for my headache. I didn’t even realize anyone was in the med bay until I heard you. Voices carry from that back room, you know.”
“Damn,” Shepard murmured.
“Well,” he shrugged. “There you go.”
Shepard looked at him, her eyes narrowed, but in consideration rather than anger.
“So…?” she prompted.
“So what?” he asked.
“So what?” she repeated. “Come on, Kaidan, if I recall, there was more to the conversation than that . If I remember right, I told Liara that I was interested in you . Only I didn’t realize I had an audience for that confession. If I had realized that…”
“Then you wouldn’t have said anything,” Kaidan finished for her. “But I’m glad you told her. And I’m glad I was there. You have no idea how much my heart started pounding when I heard you say that. I was sure you were going to hear it right through the wall.”
He laughed and shook his head. “I got out of there before you found me and spent the next few minutes – well, days, actually – in a complete panic.”
“Panic?” she laughed. “Why?”
“Why?” he asked. “Because I realized that the attraction was mutual and that scared the hell out of me. I valued our friendship. I respected you as an officer. And I had no idea how to go about turning what we had into something more.”
“So you wanted something more?” she murmured.
“Almost from the first moment I met you,” he told her softly, gazing at her in a way that made her feel like she was going to melt. “But it wasn’t until I overheard you that day that I thought it might actually be possible. And that possibility terrified me.”
“You were a little…different the next time I talked to you,” she recalled. “You were very…insubordinate, come to think of it.”
“Yeah,” he laughed, shaking his head. “I’m sure I was.”
“Still are,” she added slyly.
“Yeah,” he said, his face falling. “I suppose I am. Considering that I’m here, now, like this…”
“I didn’t mean…” she winced. Kaidan sighed and looked away.
“Hey,” she said, quickly. “‘This too shall pass and all that, right’? We’ll figure this out.”
“Is this figuring it out, Shepard?”
“I don’t know,” she said, honestly. “I mean, technically you’re off duty.”
“That’s because I’m supposed to be asleep.”
“You said you weren’t asleep anyhow,” she reminded him.
“True enough.” He made a face.
“Hey,” she said, “We’re still making progress here. Just think how different things are since that awkward day when you overheard me talking to Liara. We’ll figure this out, Kaidan. We’ve gotten this far, right?”
He gazed at her, consideringly. “How is it that you always seem to think that things are going to work out, Shepard?”
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “Blind optimism?”
“I don’t think it’s that,” he said, looking at her closely. “It’s like you go into every situation believing that things will work out for the best – like you could get through any battle or solve any problem.”
“Well, sure,” she said, with a shrug. “I have an amazing team at my back.”
“It’s more than that,” Kaidan said. “It’s like…you have this…faith in the universe, or something. It’s admirable.”
“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” she said. “But I guess I do tend to hope for the best. Better than the alternative, right?”
“I guess. I don’t know. I don’t think of myself as a pessimist, but I see the universe as a pretty random sort of place. Aside from physical laws, stuff just happens, and most of the time it’s not really good or bad – it just…is.”
“Maybe,” Shepard conceded. “Still, I always felt like there was something…I don’t know how to put it. Guiding things? Battling the entropy? Like the story to the universe was already written and the author had decided it should have a happy ending.” She smiled wryly. “I guess that does count as blind optimism, huh?”
“Are you talking about God or something?”
She nodded once, then cocked her head to the side. “I guess – and mind you, I only had one course in philosophy at university and the professor was extremely weird – I guess I sort of took to that one way of thinking…oh, what’s it called? It’s the one where you take a leap of faith.” Kaidan looked at her blankly and she shook her head. “Whatever. Anyhow, it’s the idea that you find something to believe in and you just believe it. You make it true for you.”
“That’s…” Kaidan gave her a confused look. “Isn’t that kind of like a license to believe crazy stuff? I mean, if I’m going to believe something, I want it to be true. Not true for me , but…true.”
“Well, yeah,” she said. “Obviously, you want to believe something that’s *true, * even if you can’t prove it. It’s like…It’s like my parents. They used to say they’d be together forever. But some days were tough. Some days they fought. But they had faith that they really were right for each other, even if it didn’t feel like it every day. So, I guess I don’t think of a leap of faith as believing in something that isn’t true and wishing it is; I see faith as holding on to what you know is true, even when the proof is gone.”
“Yeah, okay. But, I mean, if your parents weren’t getting along for a really long time and they were always making each other miserable, shouldn’t they just move on?”
“If all proof of their love was gone, then yeah, maybe they should,” she agreed. “But if someone is important enough to you, you give them time. You have faith in them, and all that.”
“Alright,” Kaidan said, frowning. “But where do you draw the line?”
Shepard thought about that for a moment. “No clue,” she admitted with a laugh. “I nearly flunked that class. Anyhow, I guess I keep thinking that everything will turn out to have some reason for it in the end - though I know I can’t prove that.” She shrugged. “Besides, I’ve found that cautious optimism serves me well. Caution keeps me and my crew alive, and the optimism keeps everyone’s spirits up.”
Kaidan nodded. “I can see that,” he said. “And it’s not that I’m not cautiously optimistic, too, I’m just…”
“Optimistically cautious?” she suggested.
“Something,” he grinned.
They smiled at each other and Kaidan brushed his hand down her bare shoulder, then cocked his head to one side.
“So what about you?” he asked. “What’s your big secret, Shepard?”
“Secret?” she laughed. “Oh, right. I was asking you about… Well, doesn’t what I was just talking about count?”
“That’s not really a secret, is it? Come on, I want to hear something about you that no one else knows.”
Shepard scrunched her forehead in thought. “I can’t think of anything,” she said. “I mean, you already know all the things I never told anyone before. You know about the Blitz, you know about my…virginity.”
“Which is very much gone now,” he said, his eyes twinkling.
“Right,” she grinned. “So I told you about the virgin thing and the wild-days-back-in-Basic thing.”
“Yeah,” he said, his lips turning down in a frown.
“Hey,” she said, punching him in the arm. “I thought we got past that…” She blinked. “Okay, try this on, Alenko. Here’s something I never told anyone, not even you.”
“Before I met you I’d never…Well, let’s just say that even back in Basic, I never got to enjoy…I mean, you were the first person to…” She broke off, feeling a sudden blush creeping up her cheeks.
“Wait,” Kaidan said, blinking in surprise. “I was your first orgasm ?”
“Yeah. Other than…you know…helping myself.” She felt her blush deepen.
Kaidan stared at her for a moment, then propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at her.
“Cross my heart,” she replied.
“Not even your your old boyfriend?”
“That’s bullshit,” Kaidan said, his voice stern. Shepard blinked at him in surprise. “You mean to tell me that none of those guys even tried to make things work for you?”
“Well, no,” she admitted.
Kaidan just stared at her so intently that she had to look away.
He cut her off with a kiss: a deep, hot, utterly breathtaking kiss, that left her gasping.
“They should have,” he said, pulling back to gaze at her. His voice came out low and raspy. “But I’m glad it was me.” He leaned in and kissed her again. “You should have told me this when you told me about the rest of it. It would have made it easier for me to know.”
“I didn’t realize it mattered,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter,” he told her. “But I do care.”
She felt his biotic energy gathering, felt it pulsing around her. She tried to roll on top of him, then grinned when he pushed himself up over her and pinned her wrists to the bed.
“If I’d realized this was such a turn-on for you, Kaidan, I would have told you earlier.”
“You have no idea,” he murmured. He paused, looking down at her, his gaze taking in her face, arms, breasts, then raising his eyes to hers to give her a lazy smile.
“Kaidan?” she asked softly, looking up at him expectantly.
“I’m glad it was me,” he whispered. And he lowered his mouth to hers.