Over the pounding of the bass, Kaidan could hear almost nothing. His head felt like it was splitting in two. He watched Hinds as the man’s mouth moved, as Hinds waved a hand at Dean and Katie, who were staring at one another with an adoration so warm in insular that it was liked they’d wrapped a blanket around themselves that kept out everything else in the room. Kaidan doubted they were listening to whatever it was Hinds was saying either.
Behind Hinds stood Lisa. Kaidan had avoided the doctor ever since he’d walked into the club. Thankfully, she’d avoided him as well and they’d politely pretended as if the other didn’t exist. With the noise and the crowds, that wasn’t too hard. Clearly sentimentality had won out over sense with Dean and Katie and they’d decided to have their engagement party in the club they’d first danced in. Kaidan wished that they had realized that an Armistice Day engagement party was likely to be crushed among the many other people who had simply come to dance.
Kaidan held his glass in his hand, standing awkwardly by the bar, wondering how long, exactly, he should wait until he gave the couple a congratulations and then slipped out. Between the headache and the pointed avoidance of Lisa, Kaidan had no desire to stick around. Finally, mercifully, Hinds’ lifted his thin tube of a glass and everyone did the same.
“Cheers,” Kaidan muttered when everyone else began to lower their drink. He had no idea what Hinds had said for the toast, nor why it had taken so long to give. Dean and Katie took one sip and then headed out to the dance floor. Lisa disappeared into the crowd, and Hinds turned suddenly to Kaidan and shouted something at him.
“What?” Kaidan shouted back.
“I said, “Hey,” Hinds clarified.
“Oh,” Kaidan replied. “Yeah.”
“So,” Hinds said, shouting loud enough to be heard now, “Sorry about that last time.”
“Last time?” Kaidan asked. He tried to remember, then suddenly did. “Oh, right.”
“When you threw Shaw on the floor,” Hinds said. “Never seen that kind of shit before.”
“Yeah,” Kaidan nodded. “Sorry about that.”
“Sorry about…” Kaidan shook his head. This was getting to be ridiculous. He could scarcely hear what Hinds was saying now.
“It’s alright,” Kaidan said, now deciding that being polite to Dean and Katie now mattered less than getting out of the club before his head exploded. “Look, I’ve got to go – headache.”
“What?” Hinds shouted.
“Headache,” Kaidan shouted back and pointed at his temple.
“Oh,” Hinds shouted. “That a biotic thing?”
“Yeah,” Kaidan nodded. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“Sure,” Hinds replied. “Hey, wait,” he reached for Kaidan’s arm. Kaidan turned, trying not to feel dizzy when the strobe lights from the back of the room suddenly shuddered on.
”…so, that okay?”
“What?” Kaidan blinked. He truly hadn’t heard a word of what Hinds was saying.
“Do you mind,” Dean shouted, emphasizing each word.
“Mind what?” Kaidan frowned. “Look, I’m sorry, but this headache is getting pretty bad.”
“Lisa,” Hinds shouted. Kaidan frowned.
“What?” he shouted back.
“Are you guys still…” Kaidan didn’t catch the rest, but he guessed at it all the same.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “No, just friends.”
“What?” Hinds shouted. “Do you mind if I…” Kaidan lost the rest of the sentence as Hinds turned to look after the doctor. He waited until Hinds looked back at him to clearly and loudly say:
“Not at all. She’s a nice girl.”
“Yes,” Kaidan shouted. “You should ask her.”
“Oh,” Hinds’ face fell. “I thought so.”
“No,” Kaidan said, half-laughing now in spite of his headache. Clearly this music made communication of any sort impossible. He had no idea how Hinds planned to say anything meaningful to Lisa over the noise. “We’re not dating,” he shouted as loudly as he could.
“Oh,” Hinds said, brightening. “I mean, I didn’t want to…” Whatever he was planning to say was lost to the screaming of the crowd as a slim asari took her place at the DJ’s booth and every spotlight in the place swung to her. Kaidan decided he’d had enough.
“Be good to her,” he said, waving at Hinds. Hinds waved back, then immediately turned away, presumably in search of Lisa. Kaidan chuckled to himself and headed into the dancing crowd.
Be good to her , he thought wryly. As if I’m one to talk .
Kaidan didn’t see Dean or Katie in the crush, but decided it didn’t matter. He reached the doors and slipped out of the club into the Kithoi Ward. A long line of people had formed down the block, and the krogan bouncer at the door let a few people go in at Kaidan’s exit. Someone waved at Kaidan as he walked by, but then was gone so quickly that Kaidan didn’t register anything more than red hair. He wondered who it might have been, but shrugged it off. Out in the cool, blue light of the Ward, Kaidan felt his headache ease a little, but it didn’t go away. He looked around, then fired up his omnitool.
Kaidan sent a quick email to Dean and Katie, thanking them for the evening, congratulating them on their engagement, apologizing for ducking out early, and asking them if he could please send them off when their shuttle left for earth. That done, he took a quick peek at his mail. No reply from Shepard - of course. With a sigh, Kaidan headed off down the Ward.
As he walked along, Kaidan felt his headache ease. He walked slowly, listening in on conversations as he passed, stopping now and again to take in a particularly nice view of the Presidium ring in the distance. At one point, two krogan gave Kaidan a one over and began to follow him. He simply stopped, looked over his shoulder at them, and allowed his biotics to flare warningly down his arms. That stopped the pair cold and they turned and walked the other way. Kaidan wasn’t sure if it was the biotics or the fact that the flaring lit up his Alliance utilities and showed off the pistol he’d strapped to his hip. Either way, the result was that the rest of his walk was uneventful.
It took Kaidan a little over two hours to reach the Presidium from the club, and when he finally came to the elevator that led up the Ward arm to the ring, he realized that he had never actually walked so far along Citadel before. It was an entirely different experience when walking – a much rawer, more vibrant sort of place than he’d imagined. Somehow, staying up in the Presidium all the time, running on the treadmill and weightlifting in the morning, then working behind a desk for the rest of the day, seemed quite sequestered and cut off from the rest of the races living on the same station. Funny how he’d never noticed that before. The Citadel was more than a city, he thought. It was more like five cities all loosely connected to the Presidium, each with their own unique atmosphere. He would really have to visit them more often.
As the elevator doors opened, Kaidan walked out onto the Presidium and straight into a full patrol of C-Sec officers. They walked right past him and packed into the elevator. Kaidan heard one say into his comm, “Squad 5 heading to the Kithoi Ward checkpoint.” The comm crackled in response as the doors slid shut. Kaidan scarcely noticed as he blinked against the bright lights of the perpetual daytime of the Presidium. He was glad he’d invested in blackout blinds for his apartment, because he was definitely in need of some rest after that long walk.
“What do you mean he won’t see me?”
Shepard glared at the officious turian who stood before her, her arms folded over his chest. Behind him was a whole pack of turian C-Sec officers, and a few human officers as well.
“Ma’am it’s Armistice Day weekend,” the turian said. “Councilor Anderson won’t be in. The human offices and embassies are all closed and the Presidium in general has just been locked down to all but authorized personnel. We’ve receieved word about possible geth infiltration during the festivities.”
“Geth,” Shepard said, blandly. “Do I look like a geth to you?”
“No ma’am,” the turian replied. “But we’re also concerned about pro-human and anti-human groups coming into conflict over the weekend.”
“So what does that have to do with me?” Shepard wondered aloud. “I’m usually one for keeping the peace.”
“Look,” the officer said with a flare of his mandibles. “My database is showing you as a Cerberus agent. I could arrest you on the spot.”
“She’s Commander Shepard,” Garrus snapped from behind Shepard’s shoulder. “Or isn’t that in your databases as well?”
“It is,” the turian replied in a bored tone, looking Garrus over, “But that doesn’t signify much. Either you figured out how to hack the system or you’re undercover for the Council. Neither case, however, gives you access to the Presidium or any other Ward but Zakera.”
“Just let me go see the Council and I can get this all figured out,” Shepard told him. “They saw me the last time I was here.”
The turian just laughed. “Look lady, whether you are Shepard or aren’t, doesn’t matter to me. I go by the records, and they you’re to stay here in Zakera Ward under Bailey’s watch.”
“For God’s sake,” Shepard muttered as Garrus stepped in and pointed a finger at the turian.
“Can’t you think for yourself?” he asked. “This is Commander Shepard, come to talk to the human councilor.”
“So?” the officer shrugged. “If I don’t have orders otherwise, I don’t do nothing.”
“You damn C-Sec officers,” Garrus shorted. “Always hiding behind your uniforms.”
“At least my uniform isn’t tarnished, Officer Vakarian,” the turian replied. Shepard had to step in to keep Garrus from charging the guy.
“Calm down!” she snapped at her friend. “He’s not worth it. Alright,” she said, turning to the turian. “Can I see Captain Bailey then? Maybe he can help us out.”
“He won’t be in until tomorrow morning, and no, I’m not telling you where he lives.”
“Okay,” Shepard said. She held a hand up to Garrus. “It’s okay. We can sort this out tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll send Anderson a message. Maybe we can work that out while we look for your friend.”
“Right,” Garrus said tightly, still glaring at the turian.
“Okay, let’s go,” Shepard said, waving Garrus away.
“Damn it, Shepard,” Garrus grumbled, looking over his shoulder. “Those idiots are…”
“Can you find Fade?” Shepard cut across his griping to ask him.
“I think so, yeah,” Garrus replied. “Sources say he operates out of this Ward. It’s one of the rougher ones.”
“Okay, good,” Shepard replied. “Because I want to get out of here as soon as possible.”
“Why’s that?” Garrus asked, lifting his chin.
“Because we’ve got a Cerberus ship docked here and the Council told me to stay off the Citadel. I don’t want to push my luck.”
“Cerberus probably has agents here,” Garrus told her.
“I don’t doubt it,” Shepard replied. “That’s what’s got me nervous.” she frowned, then turned to Garrus.
“What about you?” she asked. “You still set on this plan of yours?”
“Your people have a saying,” Garrus finished, lifting his plated chin into the air. “‘An eye for an eye; a life for a life.’ Well, Sidonis owes me ten lives, and I plan to collect.”
“Garrus,” Shepard said slowly, not sure how to respond to that. “You know, you’re taking that saying a little out of context.”
He shrugged. “You know what I mean.”
“The point of that saying is that people aren’t supposed to go overboard in their revenge,” Shepard said, “that they’re supposed to stop at simply taking what was taken…”
“That’s what I plan to do,” Garrus told her evenly.
“But that saying is from the first half of a very old human book,” Shepard went on. “And later someone added that you ought to just let revenge go: it doesn’t help anyone to hang onto anger.”
“You’re one to talk, Shepard,” Garrus snapped at her. “You’ve never been betrayed.”
“Haven’t I?” she frowning. “Hell, Garrus, I’m working with Cerberus because the Alliance won’t help me.”
“That’s not the same,” he said, his voice growing angry. “You didn’t look at the body bags of ten good men, lying dead at your feet because you couldn’t be there to help them.” The vehemence in his voice made Shepard blink in surprise.
“Okay,” she said, holding up her hands. “We’re here, aren’t we? But Garrus, think long and hard about whether this is really what you want.”
“It is,” he said, firmly.
“Is it?” she asked sadly.
“Do you want to help me, Shepard?” he asked her.
“Of course,” she replied.
“Well then,” he said. “This is what I need to be ready for our mission.”
“Garrus,” Shepard said, softly. “Revenge isn’t going to end the grief.”
Garrus just glared at her, Shepard sighed and shook her head.
“Alright,” she said. “Let’s go.”