5.

He didn't know how much time had passed but he guessed it must have been at least hours. He sat on one of many steps that descended through a corridor, somewhere in the Wards. It must have been some kind of maintenance route or shortcut that helped the keepers go about their daily routine as discreetly as possible. Few were the times that the panel doors actually opened to reveal a passer-by that looked upon him curiously then continued on their way. The walls were dimly colored by red lights that made the air seem hazy. His retreat here was inevitable, he had gone too far, his arms hurt, his legs too. But he needed someplace quiet to think.

No matter how annoying, let alone insulting, his conversation with Kaidan had been, it alerted him to one thing that so far had remained elusive: Words meant too little. It was true that he had given her a slight piece of his mind on his feelings, perhaps much more than he wanted to, but this wasn't the way. Eventually, he would find himself beating around the bush, instead of telling her directly what he felt. He wasn't used to big words. In fact, he wasn't used to any of this: romance wasn't an integrated part of his life.

Actions, on the other hand, spoke louder. He had established that even before he reached this step. He had been so terrified that all this was simply an ugly hoax from her part while he hadn't done anything specific to prove that he wasn't an elephant either. Something flickered in his mind, even as the corridor doors opened once again to reveal her well-muscled body. She was fully armored and the lights on all four of her guns glowed in unison only to intensify the mixture of anger and worry that spread on her face.

- What were you thinking? She bellowed as she lurched towards him and her voice slapped the walls. Are you trying to break a leg or something Jeff? Is that what you want?

He tried to stand up and get his bearing but his arms still felt quite numb, his legs hurt badly. He forced his weight against the wall, a grimace of pain briefly taking the form of his visage.

Just an inch away from him, she stopped.

- Are you trying to get me worried? Attention, is that what you want? She whispered under her breath.

- No! he said grimly.

- I've asked Dr. Michel and a medic team to pick you up. I'm pulling this as a personal favor, Jeff. Don't overdo it.

- How did you find me, anyway?

- The tracing beacon on your jumpsuit? They told me you practically flew out of the ship!

Momentary silence and then...

- Kaidan knows, he said reluctantly.

She frowned a little.

- Don't worry. I don't think he'll tell.

She sighed.

- It was a matter of time. Eventually everyone will find out, she remarked neutrally.

He realised they already knew that.

Silence fell once again and the insignificant color of the floor seemed strangely comforting.

Suddenly he snapped his head up. She looked him in the eye.

- I know I will never be able to join you in a fight. I will never have the pleasure to cover your flank as you throw a grenade. But as long as she's in my hands, the Normandy will save your life, no matter what it takes. And if you need a shoulder, no if you need arms to cry into, they're mine...

- What's gotten into you Jeff? We've been over this...

- No! Listen to me. I've got some credits I've been hoarding up in my account. No reason, really.

She shifted her weight from one leg to the other, impetuously.

- There's this old ship back at the base where I trained. Arcturus? She's such a big piece of junk. My supervisor had told me that if I ever wanted her, she was mine. I used to get in there and fix her up gradually but I had to give up when I was assigned to the Normandy. When I have the time, I'll go back and finish her for good.

- Why are you telling me this now, Jeff?

He got the distinct impression she took pleasure out of repeating his name. He did too.

- Come with me.

- What?

- When we take our next leave, come with me. I'll fly you to any godforsaken planet you want and bring you back in one piece.

She crossed her arms on her chest and looked at him intently, unbelieving to what she had just heard.

- Say yes.

At that moment, the doors opened once again and four interns stepped in, carrying a stretch. Dr. Cloe Michel followed short behind.

They both turned and looked at the approaching medical team with agony.

- Well? he urged her.

She looked at him dumbfounded then quickly gave a small nod

- Yes.

In your face, Scary Man!