“Come on in, Alenko,” Anderson motioned for Kaidan to enter the room. “I think you’ll want to hear this.”
Kaidan walked into the C-Sec office cautiously, glancing curiously to all three men in the room. Anderson stood stiffly before them, another man he did not recognize stood nearby as well. That man had fair hair and wore a C-Sec uniform. Another man sat in a chair in the center of the office. He was balding, bleeding, and looked vaguely familiar.
“Hey, I know you,” the balding, bleeding man said, looking Kaidan up and down. “You were with Shepard all those years ago.”
Kaidan’s jaw clenched, just as it always did when he heard her name mentioned. But to hear it mentioned by this guy, with his smirk and his mean eyes made Kaidan feel like summoning a little biotic kick for him, just to wipe that look off his face.
“You remember Commander Alenko?” Anderson frowned.
“Sure,” the guy nodded. “Came into Chora’s Den with Shepard. They were both after Saren at the time. There was a brunette with them, too. She was hot, but not as hot as Shepard.”
Kaidan felt a flare shiver over his fingers. He got it under control a moment later, but the guy in the chair didn’t miss it.
“Yeah, you were as defensive of Shepard then as you are now,” the guy sneered. “But it looks like she doesn’t need you as her bodyguard any more.”
Kaidan froze, torn between a flash of anger and complete and utter confusion.
“What the hell are you talking about?” he snapped. “Who are you, anyway?”
“This is former C-Sec officer Harkin,” the C-Sec officer said. “Emphasis on the former.” The man’s Earth-Canadian accent was relaxed, but could not hide the fact that he was seriously disgusted with the situation. “He recently had a little run-in with a friend of yours.”
“Two friends, actually,” Harkin said, raising an eyebrow.
“Harkin?” Kaidan repeated. The name finally rang a bell. “You’re that dirty cop that told us…” Kaidan broke off and glanced up at Captain Anderson. Harkin had told Kaidan and Shepard some of Anderson’s secrets the last time they had met. “You told us where to find Garrus,” Kaidan finished quickly.
“And about how Anderson here screwed up his admission into the Spectres,” Harkin laughed. “Don’t forget that part.”
Kaidan frowned. The guy was a jerk, but he didn’t miss a trick. Kaidan would have to watch his step.
“My history is not the point of this meeting,” Captain Anderson said, sharply. “Tell us about when you saw Shepard the other day.”
“You saw Shepard?” Kaidan suddenly felt a little sick to his stomach. “Recently?”
Kaidan couldn’t believe it. Shepard had come here, to the Citadel. And she still hadn’t written back to him. Though Kaidan knew that she hadn’t dropped off the face of the galaxy when he’d left her on Horizon, it was bizarre to think that she had been out seeing people without…seeing him.
Well, of course she would. She hadn’t sought him out before Horizon, after all. And after they way they’d parted… Kaidan frowned at that thought.
“Sure, I saw her,” Harkin said, grinning a little. “I never forget a face. Hell, I don’t forget much of anything.”
“That was the one thing you had going for you as an officer,” the other C-Sec officer said. “Now shut the hell up about yourself and start talking about Shepard.”
“Relax, Bailey,” Harkin scoffed. “I’ll tell you. Yeah,” he added, looking Kaidan up and down, “I’ll tell you just to see what the boy scout here thinks of his former commander after all this.”
“You have something to say, then say it,” Kaidan said, as cool as he could manage. He had to congratulate himself that his voice stayed steady. In fact, he sounded so indifferent that Harkin frowned a little.
“Well, it was a few days back, see?” Harkin began. “I was just minding my own business when the Spectre and the turian came out of nowhere.”
“Turian?” Kaidan blinked. “You don’t mean Garrus, do you?”
“One and the same,” Harkin nodded.
“What was he doing here?” Kaidan asked.
“Attacking me, that’s what!” Harkin cried. “The bastard kneed me in the balls, then tried to shoot me.”
“Garrus tried to shoot you?”
“Pity he wasn’t a better shot,” Bailey said wryly.
“Hmpf,” Harkin snorted.
Kaidan’s eyes narrowed. “Wait,” he said, “Garrus tried to shoot you? If Garrus meant to shoot you, he’d have done it.”
“Shepard stopped him,” Harking shrugged. “He broke my nose instead.”
That gave Kaidan pause. It sounded like them – like both of them. He could imagine Garrus getting angry enough to shoot this loser, just as he could see Shepard stepping in to stop him.
“Why were they after you in the first place?” Kaidan asked.
”‘Cause they’re crazy, that’s why,” Harkin said.
“That’s not the whole of it,” Bailey told Kaidan. “Harkin here has been helping criminals ‘disappear.’ Apparently one of his clients had wronged Garrus somehow. And Garrus wanted to find the guy.”
“The guy had helped wipe out Garrus’ friends or somethin’,” Harkin shrugged. “For me, it was a way to mess with Garrus as much as to make a little cash. Too bad Garrus showed up like he did.”
“So you sold your client out?” Kaidan raised an eyebrow.
“He and Shepard were…persuasive,” Harkin said, not meeting their eyes.
“They did that to you?” Kaidan asked, pointing at the man’s wounds. The thought of Shepard and Garrus beating this man made him uneasy. As much as the guy probably deserved it, Kaidan had thought better of his former teammates.
“Garrus did,” Harkin frowned.
“Then Garrus went and killed this client of yours?” Kaidan asked. Just saying the words made him go from uneasy to disgusted. It was bad enough that Garrus and Shepard were working with Cerberus and beating up dirty cops. But if Garrus had become a murderer, and Shepard an accessory to a murder…
“Apparently not,” Bailey said. “I sent out feelers as soon as I got the guy’s name. Some turian named Sidonis. We brought him in for a little talk. He was shaken up pretty bad, but he was alive. Apparently, Garrus took aim at him but Shepard stopped Garrus from taking the shot. It seems neither of them wanted blood on their hands.”
“They didn’t kill him?” Kaidan asked, feeling a sudden sense of relief.
“Scared the hell out of him, but no killing,” Bailey said. “Frankly, since I have no proof of the incident except for one shaken eyewitness, I’m not going to pursue the matter. It’d be a waste of time to try and bring them in.”
“They beat me up,” Harkin grumbled. “Ain’t you gonna bring ‘em in for that?”
“I think we ought to thank them for that,” Bailey said wryly.
Kaidan shook his head. “So, let me get this straight,” he said. “Garrus and Shepard showed up here because Garrus wanted to take out someone who betrayed him, and then Shepard persuaded him not to?”
“Pretty much,” Harkin shrugged. “Though I’ve never known Garrus to take orders from anyone before. Not even his boss at C-Sec.”
“Garrus isn’t a murderer,” Kaidan said with conviction. “He must have been angry, but clearly he saw that what he was doing was wrong in the end.”
“Yeah,” Harkin snorted. “I think it was more that he’s too wrapped around Shepard’s finger to say no to her.”
Anderson frowned, as did Kaidan. “Come again?” Kaidan said.
“Look, I saw how Garrus looked at Shepard,” Harkin said. “Like he worships the ground she walks on.”
Kaidan’s frown deepened and he began to feel uneasy again. This time, however, his unease was less like disgust and more like…jealousy.
“I remember how he was,” Harkin went on, “Garrus used to sniff around Doctor Michel’s clinic on the wards all the time, protecting her from thugs and such. Now he’s following after Shepard like a lapdog. Alien’s got a thing for human women, if you ask me.”
Kaidan had to squeeze his eyes shut. He was getting a headache all of a sudden. It was the lights; it had to be, and not the thought that…
“Wait,” he said, pinching his nose, “You think that Garrus…”
“Wants Shepard? Yeah, seems he does,” Harkin grinned.
It was only by two years of practice that Kaidan shut off his reaction, the immediate churning in his gut. It was only by practice that he looked steadily at Anderson and said, “Is there anything else this guy can tell us about the commander?”
“Yeah,” Harkin said, his eyes narrowing on Kaidan, “Your Shepard seemed to be really concerned about Garrus, too. The woman just couldn’t seem to keep her eyes off of him.”
Kaidan bit his tongue so hard he actually tasted blood in his mouth. He saw red, and yet somehow, miraculously, he kept his hands behind his back and his expression blank.
“That’s enough, Harkin,” Bailey said. “We don’t know her motives. She was probably just trying to keep him from shooting your sorry ass.”
“Either way, Shepard’s personal relationships are not our concern here,” Anderson said coldly. “Did she say anything about who she was working for?”
Kaidan had never been so grateful to Anderson in his life for the way the captain brought Harkin back around just then. If the man had kept looking at Kaidan with that smug expression, Kaidan would have flattened him.
“No,” Harkin said, looking suspicious now. “I thought she was still a Spectre, working for the council. Just figured she was helping out Garrus, you know.”
“I see,” Anderson said. “Thank you for arranging this meeting, Bailey.”
“Hey, so am I going to get some time off for helping out here?” Harkin asked.
“Not a chance,” Bailey replied. “Your sentence will be as long as the Citadel prosecutor can convince the judge it ought to be. Men, get him out of here.” He called into a comm link and a few C-Sec officers came into the room. They collected the protesting Harkin and dragged him off.
“Bastard,” Bailey said after Harkin had gone. He shook his head, then turned to the two Alliance officers. “Feel free to use the office as long as you like. Me, I need to get some paperwork filed on that idiot.” He wandered out of the office and shut the door behind him. Anderson paced to the other end of the room, and Kaidan just stood there, reeling.
The woman just couldn’t seem to keep her eyes off of him.
There’s a logical explanation to this, the rational part of Kaidan’s mind told him. Shepard was trying to keep Garrus in line.
Kaidan frowned. Then why would Harkin say otherwise?
Harkin’s an ass. I bet he was just messing with us.
Kaidan had said that years ago about Harkin’s revelation that Anderson had been a Spectre and failed at the job. Kaidan remembered his flippant statement with a growing sense of frustration. He wanted to say it again and have it be true of this news about Shepard. But Harkin had been right about Anderson in the end.
What if Harkin was right about Shepard and Garrus?
Kaidan couldn’t think. His head was pounding and he just couldn’t think.
If Shepard had left him…for Garrus …
“Alenko?” Anderson’s voice cut into his thoughts. Kaidan jumped.
“I asked what do you make of it all?”
“I hardly know,” Kaidan murmured.
“I know,” Anderson said. “Me either. It’s a bizarre story, and I can’t see how it fits in with Cerberus’s goals.”
“It doesn’t,” Kaidan said. He tried to force his mind back to the present, to the facts – and to any theories that fit the facts – not to dwell on Harkin’s…speculations. “It must be that Shep – It must be that she’s helping Garrus, because…” Kaidan broke off. He remembered Harkin’s insinuations and could not think any further.
“Because she’s sleeping with him?” Anderson made a disgusted sound. “I doubt that. The woman is far too professional to get involved with her own crew.”
Kaidan nearly choked at the captain’s words. He only barely collected himself. If Anderson only knew about Shepard’s involvement with Kaidan, he thought. Then again, Kaidan was glad that the man did not.
“Maybe,” Kaidan said, grasping to find a reason that sounded sane and did not involve Shepard and Garrus being together in a more intimate way, “Maybe she’s helping him so that he isn’t distracted from the mission. I remember when we were chasing Saren, Garrus had some unfinished business with a salarian doctor. Shepard took the time to see it done so that Garrus was able to focus on Saren.” Even as Kaidan said it, it made sense. Still, Harkin’s words had left a nagging doubt in his mind that simply would not go away.
“That would explain things,” Anderson nodded. “My intel says that she’s been recruiting all sorts of unsavory types. If Garrus is the only member of her old squad that she has left, it would make sense that she’d want him focused on the mission. She’d want to be sure she could trust him completely.”
Trust him completely.
Shepard had once trusted Kaidan completely. The thought made his heart sink. For a moment, he felt a strange pang of guilt that Shepard should be forced to recruit anyone at all, that she would be forced to surround herself with people she couldn’t trust. But then he told himself that it was her own fault. When she signed up with Cerberus, she got what was coming to her. After all, he had trusted her once, and look where that had gotten him.
The words didn’t have the conviction they used to.
“Sir?” Kaidan snapped to attention. That was the second time now his mind had wandered.
“I asked if you had anything else to add.”
Other than the fact that I can’t believe she didn’t stop by to see me?
Other than the fact that I can’t believe she still hasn’t written me back?
Other than the fact that I’m sick thinking that she might be with Garrus?”
“No sir,” Kaidan replied, forcing his face to remain impassive.
Anderson watched Kaidan closely for a moment, then nodded. “Well, that answers that,” he said, seemingly satisfied. “Good.”
“I need to go,” Anderson said. “Keep me informed of any other information you hear about Shepard.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Kaidan saluted and Anderson left the room.
Then Kaidan slumped against the table, his head pounding.
Shepard and Garrus.
Shepard and Garrus?
That had to be wrong. That had to be Harkin being an ass – messing with him – confused, even. There was no way that Shepard would go for…
Garrus wasn’t even human.
Kaidan had never thought of himself as racist against aliens, but then again, he had never thought of one as a potential rival before. He supposed that was arrogant of him, but the thought had honestly never crossed his mind. He certainly hoped it had not crossed Shepard’s.
Then again, he thought with a sudden feeling of nausea, it wasn’t like that kind of thing hadn’t happened between before. Hell, the extranet was filled with all manner of interspecies porn. Not that he’d seen it. Well, not much anyways.
The thought made Kaidan’s blood boil, but it also worried him. Shepard could get hurt, here. She wasn’t delicate, exactly: she was a soldier and a biotic for a start. In a straight-up fight, she could probably mop the floor with any of the crew – even Kaidan, and he knew he was no slouch. But turians were huge – like seven-foot dinosaurs. They had armored skin and fangs for God’s sake. If a human and a turian tried to have sex… Kaidan squeezed his eyes shut.
He could feel his biotics flaring, feel his emotions roiling. He’d managed for so long to keep himself together, and now he was loosing it. It months now since Horizon and he still felt as raw as he had back then. One glance at Shepard, and she’d opened a wound in him that he couldn’t seem to close.
Garrus had been there, Kaidan remembered, his head snapping up. The turian had been at her back. He had defended Shepard when Kaidan had yelled at them both. The turian had placed a hand on Shepard’s arm as Kaidan had turned to go.
Had Garrus taken his place?
The thought made Kaidan’s biotics flare once more. At the same moment, a headache flared through his skull.
Damn. Kaidan pinched his nose. How the hell was a guy supposed to process something like this? He’d always regarded Garrus as a friend, as a teammate. He liked the guy. But now that he looked back, he saw that there had been plenty of times when Garrus had seemed…enamored of Shepard. Kaidan had thought of it as hero-worship, a close, cross-species friendship at most. He knew that Garrus was protective of Shepard, but so was Kaidan. Hell, so was everyone in their own way. Kaidan had never thought that the turian would actually…
Kaidan placed his hands on the table and tried to calm himself down. Garrus might have a thing for Shepard. Kaidan could admit that. It worried him, weirded him out, but he could see that. The question was, did Shepard return it?
Kaidan thought back through everything he knew about Shepard. She had always been friendly to Garrus, friendly to everyone, really. Her care for her crew was evident. And yet, she hadn’t seemed to have feelings – not like that, anyway – for Garrus back then. If anything, the guy annoyed her with his hot-headed ways. Kaidan remembered more than one occasion overhearing her tell Garrus to back down or cool off. She’d sounded more like she was reprimanding a subordinate than talking to someone she might be interested in. Kaidan’ had always thought that Shepard regarded Garrus as something of a kid brother – in spite of the fact that the turian towered over her by a good foot.
Whereas, when she was around Kaidan, Shepard had been… His face softened as he thought of that. She had always spoken to him in a way that was different from everyone else. He saw that now. She had treated him like an equal, welcomed his comments and listened to his criticisms. She’d never done that with the rest of the crew. They had something together, something that set them apart, even in the middle of a crowd. And as for what happened between him and Shepard when no one was around…
Kaidan closed his eyes. He could still remember the feel of her, the taste of her, even after all this time apart. That one kiss on Horizon had brought it all back. They’d been lovers for less than three months, and most of that time, they’d been under regulations that kept them from acting on their feelings. Yet, he could remember each time they’d been together with heartbreaking clarity. He’d been her first – technically. She had told him that their first night together. At the time he could scarcely believe that someone so passionate could have gone without sex for so long.
Now he realized that he assumed that she had been as celibate as he had been these last two years. Surely she wouldn’t have turned her back the fact that they had taught each other nearly everything they knew about intimacy. But then, he thought, people changed. He had changed. And it had been two years – two and a half years now. So maybe Shepard had moved on long before Horizon.
Kaiden scowled. This was going to make him crazy. He tried to clear his mind and think rationally about what Harkin had said. After all, he thought, Harkin had only been partially right about Anderson all those years ago. Harkin had thought that Anderson was kicked out of the Spectres. The truth turned out to be that Anderson had never made the cut, thanks to Saren sabotaging his first mission. Kaidan straightened a little. Harkin had his intel wrong then. He had his finger on the pulse of what was going on, but got the details confused. Maybe the same thing was true now. Maybe he had only some of his information right, but was making the wrong assumptions about it.
Kaidan tried to lay the facts down in a neat row. Shepard and Garrus had come here. They had tried to find some guy who had betrayed Garrus; Garrus had gone to kill the man, and Shepard had talked him out of it. Those were the facts.
Now for Harkins’s assumptions. Kaidan would like to dismiss them all, but he suspected that some of them might be correct. The man was a prick, but he was uncanny in his ability to read people. He was probably right that Garrus had been held in check by Shepard’s persuasion.
But Kaidan knew Garrus, too. As much as he hated to give Garrus any credit at the moment, Kaidan knew that the turian was decent and honorable at the core. Garrus would never become a murderer, not while there was any way out. And Shepard had clearly given him a way out.
So then, Kaidan thought, looking at the facts all lined up in his mind, it was possible Harkin had just seen Garrus’ admiration of Shepard, his gratitude to Shepard, and made a mistake. Garrus and Shepard had completed a mission to help Garrus out and that was all there was to it.
And it was possible that there was more.
Kaidan felt ill.
There was no way to know, no way at all – not unless he saw her again. A second meeting was doubtful, given this new assignment of his. It would be taking him away for a while. He could email her again, but he just couldn’t bring himself to send another message, not when his current one was still unanswered.
Kaidan’s stomach seemed to plummet, and his heart – the heart he’d thought was dead – felt like it was breaking.
She still hadn’t written him back.
Perhaps that was his answer right there.