“You’re not going to wear that, are you man?” Kaidan stepped out of his room at the barracks into the hallway and Dean immediately frowned at him.
“Why?” Kaidan asked, looking down at his simple blue utilities.
“Every guy wears those,” Dean said with a dismissive wave. “Hell, C-Sec guys wear them. Don’t you have your class A’s or something…?”
“Dress uniforms are meant for dress,” Kaidan told him, thinking of the email he’d received about that recently – and the time he’d completely broken that rule at Shepard’s request.
“Whatever,” Dean said. “Come on.”
The two of them walked to the nearest transport hub, Dean talking about tech all the while and how the Alliance email systems had been acting ‘really screwy’ lately. Kaidan listened with only half an ear, his mind wandering to the email that he’d sent recently and the reply he still had not received. He was beginning to doubt that he ever would receive a reply about Horizon. After all, he thought, what was there to say, really, that hadn’t been said?
When the car let them out in a quiet, nondescript corner of the wards, Kaidan didn’t much notice – until Dean led them to a door with a red cross over it.
“This isn’t the club, is it?” Kaidan asked.
“No,” Dean said. “This is the clinic. We’re picking up the girls and we’ll walk from here.”
“Picking up…?” Kaidan didn’t have time to finish before Dean walked in through the doors. Kaidan strode after him, wondering how in the hell he’d missed that rather critical detail in the course of their conversation. He hadn’t intended to pick Lisa up. Hell, he hadn’t even sent her a message. He’d just spent the whole day…moping. God, that was pathetic, he thought. He really needed a new assignment, soon.
“Dean!” a lovely voice with a thick French accent cut across the room. Kaidan looked at the speaker – a fine-boned woman with deep red hair and beautiful green eyes. She looked familiar somehow. Dean nodded to her.
“Ma’am,” Dean said. “Is Katie going to be free any time soon?”
“We’re just finishing up,” the woman told him. Her eyes turned to Kaidan, then narrowed in curiosity. “Hello,” she said. “Can I help you?”
Before Kaidan could answer, Dean clapped him on the back. “This is my buddy, Kaidan Alenko. He’s here for Lisa.”
“Oh?” the doctor’s face became rather enigmatic with that single uttered word.
“I’m not…” Kaidan began, then stopped himself. He couldn’t think of any way to get out of that assumption politely. To say he wasn’t with Lisa would be rude and would raise questions, to play along was…well, it felt dishonest, but hopefully, he’d be able to clear this up soon enough.
“I’m not dressed for it,” he finished, lamely.
“Told you so,” Dean said, pointedly.
“Have we met before?” the doctor asked, “you seem very…”
“I was about to say the same thing,” Kaidan said, trying to place the woman. Then, suddenly, he did. “Wait,” he said, “You were the doctor Garrus was trying to protect. You told us about Tali – the quarian.”
“You’re a friend of Garrus?” The woman’s whole face lit up.
Well now, Kaidan thought, a little taken aback. That was a rather unexpected reaction. He wondered if the turian realized he’d left behind a human with a crush on him here in the Wards. It had been two years, after all. It was surprising the woman was still so…interested.
“Yeah,” Kaidan said, cocking his head a little. “I was on Shepard’s team.”
“Really?” the doctor asked, reaching out her hand. “Well, I’m pleased to meet you again. How is Garrus? And Shepard, too? I sent her an email asking about Garrus; I sent Garrus an email, too, but neither of them wrote me back.”
Seems to be a trend , Kaidan thought, wryly.
“I thought maybe the rumors were true that Shepard was dead, but then, I wasn’t sure,” the woman went on. “I also thought that perhaps if she was undercover, she wouldn’t be able to access her mail.”
Kaidan paused at that. He had thought of that briefly, but in all his waiting for a reply, he’d sort of…forgotten that possibility. It was likely, however, that something was keeping Shepard from writing back. Y eah, whatever it was that caused her to join Cerberus and leave you for two years without any word, right? a small voice seemed to whisper in his ear.
“I…don’t know how she is,” Kaidan replied. That was mostly true, he thought. At least, it was true for now.
“Well,” Doctor Michel said, “If you hear from either of them, please tell them I want to thank them again for everything. And I’d like to…talk…to Garrus again.”
“Of course, ma’am,” Kaidan said, nodding to her.
“Dean?” The plump, dimpled face of Katie appeared in the doorway to their right. Dean grinned. Kaidan stiffened as a pretty, elfin woman appeared behind her. Lisa’s green eyes widened. She was wearing a tight, dark dress, her hair pulled up on top of her head in a messy bun. She looked quite pretty, Kaidan thought, absently.
“Alenko?” Lisa said. She frowned and elbowed Katie. “You could have told me that he was coming.” she hissed, but not so quietly that Kaidan didn’t hear her.
“I didn’t know,” Katie said, frowning at Dean.
“Ah, let’s go, shall we?” Dean said, a little too loudly and too brightly. Kaidan nodded to the doctor, then followed Dean out into the Wards. He held the sliding door open for the ladies. Lisa glared up at him as she passed.
“What are you doing here?” she asked him frowning.
“Uh…” He stepped away from the door and let it close. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry you’re here or sorry you didn’t write to me after the first few letters?” she scowled.
“I told you I was going to be off the grid,” Kaidan replied, not quite sure what to say. Should he be defending himself, he wondered, or just let her be angry, apologize, and let her walk away mad? He realized though, that he couldn’t allow her to think that this was somehow a reflection on her. She hadn’t done anything, after all.
Katie gave Kaidan a disgusted look, then looped her arm through Dean’s. The two of them walked off down the street. Kaidan looked after them. Then, not wanting to be left alone with Lisa, he gestured after the two of them and fell into step behind his friend. Lisa folded her arms over her low-cut dress and followed.
“I turned down a couple of good dates for you,” she told him with a glare.
“Why’d you do that?” Kaidan asked, frowning.
“Because,” she said, “I was waiting .”
“For me?” he asked, stunned. He had no idea why she would have bothered. To his mind, they’d left things very…vague.
The girl scowled, then pursed her lips. Kaidan had no idea what to say. His memory of Lisa was that she was distanct, aloof, and a little bored. He hadn’t realized that what he had done – or not done, rather – would offend her. But then again, Kaidan thought with a frown, Ashley Williams had once told him that he really didn’t get women. It seemed that the chief was right once again.
“If you weren’t ready to get over her, you might have told me,” Lisa snapped at him.
“I…” Kaidan thought instantly of Shepard, of their fight on Horizon. Then he remembered that Lisa thought he had been in love with Ashley.
“I was off the grid,” he told her.
“Off the grid?” she asked, doubtfully. “For a whole month and a half you had no access to the extranet at all? Seriously?”
“Well…” Kaidan hedged. Truthfully, he could have sent a message if he’d been willing to check his extranet mail via the very slow link on Horizon, but he had been so busy he hadn’t even checked his work messages. And since the attack…
Kaidan took a breath, then opted for honesty – or as close as he could get to it, these days.
“My mission went badly,” he told her. “I suppose I should have said…something, but honestly, that’s all I’ve been able to think about lately.”
“How badly,? she asked him, now looking concerned.
“It’s…classified,” he said. “I’m fine,” he added quickly. “I’ll be fine. It’s just…distracted me from everything else. I had a lot of reports to write up.” He glanced at her, at her wide, elfin green eyes. “It wasn’t anything you did, Lisa. It was just…”
Me. Shepard. My past. Our past .
“A mess,” he finished.
She considered that for a moment. “Okay,” she said, pursing her lips. “So…” she shrugged. “What now?”
“I…” Kaidan looked ahead at Dean and Katie, who had reached the doors of the club. The two of them looked so damn…happy, Kaidan thought enviously. Dean paid the cover charge, bent to whisper something in Katie’s ear. She giggled and look up at him, then kissed him on the cheek.
“Alenko?” Lisa asked, drawing him back to the present. “I asked you if you were coming in or if you were just going to dump me here to watch those two make out on the dance floor for another night.”
Kaidan’s brows furrow at that. “So why come with them?” he asked. “Why not just go home?”
She shrugged. “I go home almost every other night.”
Kaidan thought for a moment, then dug out his credits and paid the cover charge for himself and Lisa. She protested, but he cut her off, saying, “It’s the least I can do.”
“Not the least,” she grumbled.
Inside the club, the music was pounding, the lights low, and the bodies crushed together. Kaidan and Lisa wound their way to the bar, having completely lost Dean in the maze. Lisa propped herself up on a stool and ordered a drink. Kaidan ordered one, too, before turning back to her.
“Look,” he said, “I’m sorry.”
“Okay…” she said, clearly waiting for more. When Kaidan just raised an eyebrow at her, she glared at him.
“Listen,” she said, practically shouting to be heard over the bass, “I’m busy. I’m in residency and I have a lot going on right now. I like you – well, I liked you. You seemed…well…” She trailed off and turned to look across the dance floor.
“Yeah?” Kaidan asked, curious to see what she’d say. How *did * women view him? he wondered. He had never really known, except for with Shepard. He guessed that Shepard’s reaction to him wasn’t typical, anyhow. Shepard wasn’t like most women. But then, he wasn’t sure what Shepard thought of him anymore, anyway. It would be interesting to hear what some other woman had to say about him.
“You’re the kind of guy that women typically keep,” Lisa said, bluntly. Kaidan blinked at that.
“Keep?” What the hell does that mean? he wondered.
“You’re that…” she shrugged. “Type. I can just tell.”
“That type?” he repeated.
“You’re the kind of guy that’s just…you know. The nice type.”
“Is that…bad?” he asked.
She shrugged and flicked a speck of dust off of her skirt. “I don’t know. I thought you were, you know, the kind of guy that’s just really…” She shrugged. “But in reality…”
“Yeah?” he frowned.
“You’re not around much,” she finished.
“Oh,” he said. “I’m assuming that would be a mark against me.”
“Well, a woman does like a man to stick around,” Lisa said, looking at him pointedly.
Kaidan winced. The words cut, much deeper than the doctor realized. He knew that she meant a woman liked a man who was not always gone on some assignment. Kaidan could appreciate that. His previous relationships – before Shepard, that is – had ended on those grounds exactly. Only a different meaning could be given to that observation, now. Kaidan realized that as far as Shepard was concerned, he hadn’t stuck around. He’d walked away.
But damn it , he thought, frowning, she left first. She was with Cerberus.
“Alenko?” Lisa asked. Kaidan looked to her. She handed him his drink. She had her own in her other hand. He took the drink and sipped it thoughtfully.
“Listen,” she shrugged. “I don’t know. You gonna be around, or should I just count last time off as a nice date and go back to having Katie set me up with every guy she can find who’s still single on the Citadel?”
“I…” Kaidan looked at her, taking in her delicate face, petite build in that elegant dress and her snapping, angry green eyes. She was pretty, he thought. She really was. But even if he had found her particular style of pretty tempting, he found that he just couldn’t quite bring himself to pretend. It wasn’t fair to Lisa, he told himself. And, another part of him realized, if there was some reasonable explanation to what had happened on Horizon, then it wasn’t fair to Shepard.
Kaidan sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry, Lisa. You’re… Some guys is going to…”
“Spare me the talk,” she frowned. “I know. Really, I do. The way people move around anymore, it’s a wonder that anyone finds each other.”
“Yeah,” Kaidan laughed, bitterly.
“And given how dangerous the galaxy is,” Lisa added, “It’s amazing anyone ever lives long enough to enjoy it.”
Kaidan felt a lump filling his throat. “Yeah.”
Lisa looked at him, and a sad smile came over her face. “We’re going to have to get over them someday, you know,” she said. “I mean, I’m just saying. I’m ready to move on, but I guess you’re not.”
“No, I…” Kaidan sighed. Feeling a sudden sense of relief mixed in with sudden sorrow. He was glad Lisa was understanding all of this, but he also just didn’t know how to express, well any of it.
“It’s…complicated,” he finished at last.
“Moving on always is,” Lisa said “But heck,” she shrugged. “I guess I feel like I’m moving on already – without your help, you know? And I need to keep walking, so if you’re not going to come with…” She shrugged.
“That good,” Kaidan said, nodding at her. “That’s…I’m glad for you.”
“Yeah,” she murmured, pursing her lips again.
“I just…” Kaidan broke off. “I thought I was there, too. But I guess I’m not. Or…” he shook his head. “After this last assignment, I ended up somewhere else entirely.” He scowled and looked out across the room. “I’m not in any place to… I have more questions than answers right now.”
“Well,” Lisa said with a shrug and a scowl. “I wish you luck, Alenko. I just wish you hadn’t kept me hanging for so long.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, even as he wondered how she could possibly have taken a month of no letters after a single date as something that warranted turning down other dates for. He hadn’t seen it as anything serious, well, nothing more serious than a possible indication that he was getting over Shepard. But then again, Kaidan realized, he really didn’t get women.
“Hey,” Kaidan said, holding out a hand. “No hard feelings. I…wish you luck, too.” Belatedly, he realized he was treating this more like he was talking to someone who had lost at a hand of poker, not to someone he might have been romantic with, but nothing came of it.
“Sure,” Lisa said, shaking his hand. “Good luck, Alenko.”
“You too,” he replied, polishing off his drink and looking for the exit. “And thanks. I think I’m going to need all the luck I can get.”