Author's Note: This is my first fanfiction EVER, so please be gentle! Any reviews are welcome as I would like to continue the story and would appreciate the feedback. Enjoy! --k.b.

Disclaimer: Bioware is the sole owner of the entire Mass Effect universe.

Commander Serena Shepard nodded in greeting to passing crewmembers as she made her way to the bridge of the Normandy. She had only been on the Normandy for a couple of days, and it was about to go on its shakedown run.

"Drift…just under 1500 k," she heard Flight Lieutenant Jeff "Joker" Moreau say as she approached the bridge.

"1500 is good. Your captain will be pleased," the turian Spectre, Nihlus, acknowledged before leaving. Serena saw him go surprised that he didn't stick around while she was there. Nihlus had been shadowing her ever since he had joined them the day before. She couldn't turn around without bumping into him.

"I hate that guy," Joker sighed.

"Nihlus gave you a compliment…so you hate him," Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko remarked.

Serena hid her smile. She loved hearing the camaraderie banter between the crew. They had only been together a couple of days, but she was glad to see how well the whole crew was getting along.

"Spectres are trouble. I don't like having him on board. Call me paranoid," Joker said.

"You're paranoid," Kaidan replied. "The Council helped fund this project. They have a right to send someone to keep an eye on their investment."

Joker scoffed. "Yeah, that is the official story. But only an idiot believes the official story."

Serena had to admit, it was a bit suspicious that Nihlus was here to accompany them on a simple shakedown run. That and the fact that he was obviously following her was an indication that there was more to this mission. Something wasn't right. She could feel it in her gut, and her gut was never wrong. Navigator Pressly had mentioned that all they were doing was checking the stealth systems. Why, then, did it feel like Captain Anderson was hiding something?

_______________

Kaidan Alenko couldn't help but feel nervous. It turned out the shakedown was really a guise to retrieve a Prothean beacon from Eden Prime. He knew there had been something more to this mission. Now, here he was suiting up alongside the famous Commander Shepard as part of the recon team.

He had read all about the Skyllian Blitz and how Shepard had single-handedly held off the Batarian slavers. He hadn't really had a chance to talk to her since they arrived on the Normandy, but he had expected her to be larger than life with all the cockiness that came with being a war hero. What a surprise she turned out to be. Not only that, but the vids did not do her justice. The first time he saw her in person two days ago he damn near lost his breath. She was beautiful. Her silver-grey eyes stood out against her lightly tanned complexion and dark brown hair. He wondered how she had gotten the scar that ran through her right eyebrow and then he stopped himself. She was his commanding officer, for God's sake. It wouldn't do him any good to be salivating after her. There were regs and, besides, what would a woman like Shepard see in him?

He forced the thoughts aside and vowed not to think about her in that way again. There was a serious mission at hand, and the last thing he wanted to do was mess that up.

_______________

Serena stared at the beacon before her. It was glowing and pulsating almost like it was alive. She removed her helmet and wiped the sweat from her brow.

"It wasn't doing anything like that when they dug it up," Chief Gunnery Ashley Williams said.

They had run into Chief Williams shortly after they had lost Jenkins. Williams' entire unit had been wiped out by the geth, and she had been more than eager to accompany them to the beacon.

Serena sighed, glad for the small break. What started out as a simple mission had turned into an all-out bloodbath, or rather a circuit-bath considering geth didn't actually bleed. Now, Nihlus and Jenkins were dead, they had found out the geth were back, and, to top it off, all signs pointed to another turian Spectre, Saren Arcterius, as the mastermind behind the attack on Eden Prime.

Serena turned away from the beacon as she radioed Joker their location. She saw movement out of the corner of her eye and turned just in time to see Alenko being pulled towards the beacon. Her heart raced as she threw her helmet down and ran towards him, jumping up to catch him in mid-air. It took all her strength to push him aside, but she got caught in the beam herself. She fought against the pull but it was so much stronger.

She felt helpless as she felt her body being pulled up in the air. Her head tilted slightly back and a series of vivid images impregnated themselves into her head. Death. Destruction. Images so intense she almost screamed in pain. Seconds felt like hours and right when she thought she couldn't hold on any longer, darkness overtook her.

_______________

"Shepard!" Kaidan screamed. He felt his heart rise to his throat as he struggled to his feet. He had to save her just like she had just saved him.

"No!" Chief Williams held him back. "Don't touch her! It's too dangerous!"

A sudden explosion knocked them both down, and they saw Shepard fly through the air landing hard in front of them. The debris from the beacon showered them as Kaidan ran over to check on Shepard. She was unconscious but alive. He used his omni-tool to do a quick scan of her body but found nothing serious. Where the hell was Joker? Shepard needed medical attention right away.

Almost as if Joker had heard his thoughts, the Normandy landed not far away. Kaidan gently scooped Shepard up in his arms and moved quickly toward the frigate. She stirred in his arms and groaned but did not wake up. The decontamination process seemed to take years and when the airlock finally opened he all but ran to the medical bay ignoring the fact that he could have just radioed for a med team to meet them at the airlock.

Kaidan paced up and down med bay awaiting Dr. Chakwas' results.

"Lieutenant," Dr. Chakwas began, " if you can't sit still I'm going to have to ask you to step out."

Kaidan sat down on the bed next to where Shepard lay. "Sorry, doc. It's just…it's my fault. I should be the one laying on that bed." He ran his hands through his hair in frustration.

Dr. Chakwas placed a gentle hand on Kaidan's shoulder. "Kaidan, you have to stop blaming yourself. It's nobody's fault. You were just doing your job."

Kaidan looked away. He couldn't bring himself to tell her that if it hadn't been for him Commander Shepard wouldn't be unconscious right now. His stupid curiosity got the best of him. A Prothean beacon was not something you saw every day, and he hadn't expected to be pulled into some kind of beam.

Kaidan sighed. As long as Dr. Chakwas didn't object, he was going to stay by Shepard's side until she woke up.

_______________

Serena slowly opened her eyes and tried to take in the scene before her. Where was she? What happened? Somewhere to her right she heard Kaidan say, "Doctor? Doctor Chakwas, she's waking up."

She sat up carefully, her mind still reeling as it registered the events of the past few hours.

"How are you feeling, Commander?" Dr. Chakwas asked.

"Minor throbbing, nothing serious," Serena replied massaging her temples. "How long was I out?"

"About fifteen hours. Something happened down there with the beacon."

Serena gaped at the doctor. Fifteen hours? The images in her head were still so real it felt like it had just happened minutes ago.

"It was my fault," Alenko spoke up. "I must have triggered some kind of security field when I approached the beacon. You had to push me out of the way."

"No," Serena interjected, turning to him. "You couldn't have known what the beacon would do". She managed a smile. She could hear it in his voice that he felt guilty for what happened and it was all she could do not to reach out and squeeze his arm. She had this crazy need to reassure him that it was not his fault.

He looked surprised, but smiled back, his dark eyes grateful at her words. He moved to stand in front of her. "The beacon exploded. The blast knocked you out cold. I, uh, had to carry you back to the ship," he explained sheepishly.

Now it was her turn to look surprised. "I appreciate that. Thank you," she replied, and he smiled at her again.

Serena's breath got caught in her throat. What the hell was wrong with her? You'd think a guy had never smiled at her before. She had admitted to herself that she found Kaidan Alenko attractive the moment she met him, but had resigned to set those feelings aside. She knew nothing would ever come of it, and it was silly of her to faun over him like an adolescent girl. Besides, she didn't even know the guy. Sure, she had read his record. She had done that with all the crewmembers of the Normandy, but she had hardly said two words to him, not counting Eden Prime. Of course, she hardly constituted a barrage of orders a conversation. Still, there was something about him that made her catch her breath. She quickly turned away before he guessed what she was thinking. She sighed…this was going to be a long assignment.