A/N: LOL this is hilarious that I'm submitting something pointless. XD Okay, Mass Effect ficlet here; random one-shot written one evening when a friend and I were doing an e-mail one-shot marathon--which was terrifically fun, I might add; we need to do that again one day! So this was one of mine. This is just for fun, so please read it as it's intended. Hurray for random!

Mass Effect

That Mysterious Beat

Phoenix Shepard was worried. Normally, she would perfectly understand if Kaidan didn't come out of his dorm after extensively using his biotics, because then he'd have a migraine and would require much rest. That she could deal with. This was totally . . . strange. For one thing, they hadn't had combat action in close to four days. He couldn't possibly have a headache from biotic overload. It just wasn't likely! What was worse was all the thumping noises coming from his dorm; everyone on the quarters level or down in the garage could hear it. The scuttlebutt was that the lieutenant had gotten himself a woman; Phoenix, in her hope that maybe he was a little bit more than "just" her subordinate, felt a little jealous, if not snubbed. She certainly didn't want to intrude on his personal life, since that'd be outright uncalled-for, but, well . . . Dr. T'soni hadn't exactly been seen around Normandy recently, either . . . And Ash just seemed to love to crack sex jokes about the pair whenever Phoenix was around, therefore driving her CO insane and thoroughly frustrating Phoenix. All right, so fraternization was a huge no-no; Liara wasn't exactly a part of the Alliance, was she? That was what bothered Phoenix so much.

After several hours of listening to that thumping, Phoenix decided that she had had enough. She stormed down from the command deck to the quartering deck and strode right up to Kaidan's dorm's door. She paused a minute; she could still hear that thumping. Swallowing hard and working up her "I'm your CO, so tell me what's going on here!" expression, she rapped hard on the door. Instantly, the thumping silenced. Then came Kaidan's voice, sounding a little hesitant.

"Uh, who is it?"

"It's me, Kaidan," Phoenix replied, trying not to fly off the handle prematurely. "Mind opening up?"

"Uh . . . one minute . . ."

There was a little bit of motion on the other side of the door before it cracked open, revealing Kaidan looking as clean-cut as he always did, with his neat hair and neater fatigues. Phoenix lifted a brow at the sight of his slightly flushed cheeks.

"Entertaining company, lieutenant?"

Kaidan's brows shot sky-high.

"Wh—me, Shepard? No, never!"

"Then you don't mind if I have a look around your dorm, do you? Been a few noise complaints filtering up to me."

"N—no, not at all . . ."

Kaidan stepped aside, looking slightly nervous, as Phoenix stepped through the door, giving his room a visual once-over. As usual, it was tidy; everything was in place, and not an extra weapon or piece of extra armor was out of place. There was also no sign of a certain little asari scientist. Phoenix frowned as she turned around, carefully studying everything in sight. Then she caught sight of the bed. She'd been expecting to see rumpled sheets but instead saw, lying there on the blanket . . . a large record sheath? Lifting a brow at Kaidan, who swallowed hard, Phoenix stepped over to it, picking it up. This thing had to be centuries old, at least from the 20th. Oh, goodness, that was a long time ago for Phoenix to think about. She stared down at the cover before glancing at Kaidan.

"Black Sabbath?" she asked, and Kaidan rubbed at the back of his neck. "What's that?"

"Rock group," Kaidan answered with a nervous-sounding cough. "From the, ah, late-20th century."

Phoenix paused, staring at him. Rock group? Kaidan Alenko listened to rock? She lifted a brow as she turned the cover over, perusing the back. Kaidan came over a little closer, rubbing his hands on his thighs.

"So which one's been causing all the thumping?" she asked.

"It's, ah, that one," he said, pointing to a song entitled "Iron Man." "You, uh, wanna hear it?"

Phoenix nodded once as he scampered over and set the needle on what must've been a fairly antique record player. Phoenix folded her arms as the song began with a steady drum beat . . . a beat she recognized as the thumping the entire crew had been hearing. How loud had he been playing this song?! As the song progressed, Phoenix found herself positively bemused. Kaidan liked this? Sure, it wasn't a bad number, but it was so loud . . .

"What about your headaches?" she asked. Kaidan shrugged, and Phoenix noticed that he looked nearly ready to play an air guitar—whatever one of those was, Phoenix thought to herself.

"Doesn't seem to bother them too much," he replied. "So . . . you need me to, uh, turn it down a bit? So it doesn't bother people?"

"No, no," Phoenix replied, almost thoughtfully. "I'll, ah, excuse it. Carry on, lieutenant."

She gave him a rather lax salute, which he returned equally lazily, before she stepped out of the dorm and kept going. The minute she rounded the corner, though, she heard the music increase in volume; that thumping resumed as loud as it had been all day. But before she knew it, Phoenix was going about her daily duties humming that little tune and wondering if Kaidan would share his antique music with her sometime.