Disclaimer: I do not own Mass Effect or any of the characters, neither do I earn any money writing these stories.
Author Note: I apologize for the delay and I also apologize for leaving the battle scene to your imagination – at this time I simply couldn't be arsed to write it. My mood wasn't set to technical details and combat descriptions. I hope I'll get around to do something like it eventually though.
Nighty is to thank for the betaing – and I apologize if there are some more issues. I changed a few things after the beta! I know – bad move. But if you find typos or the likes, send me pm.
But more importantly, Chapter 14 is not only dedicated to Nighty – who sticks around, being a wonderful friend, despite my issues and neglect, but it is also to my good friend Carl, who passed to the next world some time ago. I miss you!
The rest of you – I hope you can enjoy!
The battle was heated and didn't go as smooth as it could have. All but Thane brought back bruises and other small injuries. Fighting a berserk Krogan was one thing – fighting an entire squad of them was something entirely different even if the modified shield also helped to level out the impact of a charging enemy. Garrus and Shepard had received most of the melee damage – Kaidan had only been caught once and had been able to keep the enemy at bay after that. One bullet scratched him but it looked like a minor flesh wound only.
When they returned to the Normandy, Thane brought their weapons to the armory while the rest of them headed to the medbay. They had a good laugh at the different colorations and shapes of Krogan-caused bruises. Shepard and Kaidan grimaced when laughing – bruised and cracked ribs just do that to people. But despite the pain it felt good, just like a good day's work. All of them had been trained as professional soldiers and all of them had seen their share of battle and in a way, it was an essential part of their lives. Truth was - even if they had to retire at this very moment; even if they were to never fight again, they would still be training or looking for alternatives to real battles, just to stay sharp. But of course, that was an irrelevant thought – they knew there were a hell of a lot more battles to fight. But what really mattered at this point was that they had survived and that they had won the fight.
Since Garrus had only received some bruises and minor lacerations he left the medbay first and only his 'softer' comrades stayed behind.
"I think I said that you wouldn't have to worry about a barrier right away... not that you didn't have to worry about a barrier at all." Shepard smirked at Kaidan when Dr. Chakwas was working on his injured arm.
"I did put up a barrier – only a moment too late. You can't blame me for being slightly distracted by an unfamiliar beeping from my omnitool." He looked up from his bleeding arm as he spoke. "You on the other hand seemed to enjoy being a tossed around by angry Krogans." A little provocative smile crossed his face and even the doctor giggled a bit before she turned around to get the rest of her equipment.
"Is that so? Tell me Staff Commander Alenko – does that hurt?" Shepard quickly responded and before he could react, she had poked her finger slightly into the wound. His eyes widened a bit before he half coughed and half laughed out an "Ooww!"
"At least I didn't get shot" she added with a satisfied grin and Kaidan couldn't help but laugh with disbelief.
"I might have been shot but at least I don't have a bruise the size and shape of the Krogan home-world on my torso. Seriously – I think I prefer my scratch over your... planet sized hematoma. At least I still look pretty!" His retort left Shepard speechless – almost.
"That's true" were the two words that escaped her as she still stared at the man next to her. When she realized only moments later what she had just agreed to as she felt the light heat in her face. Luckily there was enough dirt and dust still clinging to her that the blush had probably gone unnoticed and she was grateful when Dr Chakwas stepped between them.
"Enough with the competition. I am glad you all came back in one piece – though I'd prefer if you would follow Thane's example. He never comes back with injuries" she paused before she mumbled almost inaudible "though I wouldn't mind it if he did – at times. No, I wouldn't mind that at all..." She didn't blush but a mischievous smirk was on the face of the otherwise so serious woman. The other two succeeded more or less in stifling their chuckles.
"I could try and shoot him on a mission and claim it was an accident" Shepard than offered still grinning like mad.
"I'll help covering it up" Kaidan offered and after a moment of embarrassed silence from the doc, there was general laughter.
The night had been so so for Kaidan. His exhausted body had kept the nightmares at bay but the stinging of the wound, whenever he had turned onto his arm pulled him right out of the well deserved rest. But all in all, when the time had come to get up, he felt pretty good, well despite the growling of his empty stomach.
Minutes later he was dressed, freshened up and on his way to the mess hall. The visit to the medbay could wait, especially when the aroma of bacon, eggs and French toast filled his nostrils. Gardner was as lively and as generous with the food as ever and without wasting another minute, Kaidan sat down to satisfy his incredible hunger. Considering the amount of people that filled the tables, it had to be around the time for the shift change.
A little smile crossed his face – he had not checked the time. He couldn't remember if there had ever been a day when he hadn't checked the clock first thing in the morning.
He was still grinning when someone tapped him on the shoulder. It was someone from the crew, asking if the seats next to him were available. He still couldn't stop smiling and only nodded. Actually – it caused him to continue to smile. It was nice to finally not sit all by himself anymore – it was nice to be part of the crew.
After a while he heard the familiar voice of Shepard, even through the constant murmuring of those around him.
"Well, do you trust him?" Involuntarily he lifted his head and looked around, trying to find her.
"Shepard, the last time I trust someone, I was shot in the face!" That was Zaeed and it actually answered a question that had been on Kaidan's mind. A rough chuckle from the old mercenary followed.
"Actually – that's not quite true. The last time I trusted someone, I ended up taking a trip through a deathtrap relay, invading the home base of a hostile alien race, saving the crew and destroying not only the Collectors but also a Reaper – while barely making it back through the same deathtrap relay. Yes, I think that was the last time I trusted someone."
They walked into Kaidan's sight and he could see the a genuine smile on Shepard's face.
"Well – you live and you got to see places nobody else will ever get to see. Beats getting shot in the head, if you ask me." Even he had to grin listening to them.
"I suppose you are right." Zaeed answered before he pointed in the direction of Gardner. Moments later they disappeared out of his sight. Of course he was curious but if it was something that concerned him, she would eventually tell him. Besides – there was still plenty of breakfast left that demanded his attention.
"... usually, yes. But he knows that I'm looking for him." There was Zaeed's voice again and only moments later Shepard sat down across from Kaidan, a cup of steaming coffee in her hand and Zaeed sat down next to him.
"In that case we'll just have to try and maybe catch him off guard." Shepard responded and when she said the last words she smiled at Kaidan "Isn't hat right, Commander?" He smiled and tilted his head a little until the food had gone down.
"You should know me better than that, Shepard. I won't agree on anything before I know what it is all about." She chuckled and nodded.
"Of course – it was just tempting." After a moment she directed her view to Zaeed again.
"If you think there is a good chance that Vito will be on that planet, we'll go and check it out. If he's there, I'll help you – at least as long" but before she could finish the sentence, Zaeed sighed.
"... as long as we follow the basic rules. No endangering civilians, no more destruction than needed. I know, Shepard, I know." He sounded annoyed when he said those words. Kaidan was convinced that it wasn't because Shepard had told him so many times, but because Zaeed considered it a hindrance to consider the lives of others.
"Fine, I'll go and check with him. Matt owes me – so it'll be cheap" Zaeed stood up again while he spoke. Before he walked off, he addressed her again. "Once I get the information, we'll have to move quickly. He won't be staying in once place for too long."
Shepard nodded in agreement and the scarred man left the mess hall. She looked at Kaidan again and quickly reached over the table, stealing a bite of food from his plate. Everyone else probably would have had their hand impaled on his fork – but this was Shepard.
"Slept well?" She asked before she nibbled on the piece of bacon in her fingers. A wide grin spread over his face when he grabbed her cup and took a sip of her coffee. For a moment she looked like a child who had her beloved teddy stolen. Kaidan wouldn't say it of course, but he thought it was adorable.
"For the most part. I woke up a few times but I feel pretty good." After he had put the cup down again, Shepard reclaimed it immediately, and if it was intended that her hands rested on his for a moment or if it was an accident... he just didn't know.
"Good, because it seems like we'll have work to do as soon as Zaeed finishes negotiating." She leaned back in her seat, stretching before enjoying more of the coffee.
"So, you have any idea what we'll be doing or rather what we'll be up against?" He continued eating his breakfast, waiting for her response. After all – cold bacon wasn't the most delicious thing.
"Well... let's just say I would like you to improve the timing between the shield and your barrier." Despite everything, he recognized the worried look on her face.
"That bad, yes?" She knew that she couldn't hide those things from him but he wasn't sure if she was happy about it.
"One thing you might not know about Zaeed is that... that he and his friend Vito founded the Blue Suns. That was before Vito decided that two leaders were one too many. So... to cut things short, we'll be after the current leader of Blue Suns and that means we'll be fighting a lot of them." Kaidan stopped chewing.
"The Blue Suns? As in one of the largest, one of the best organized and best equipped groups of mercenaries and security troops?" Depending on who hired them, the Blue Suns could support police or security forces or they could be hired as protection for freighters, buildings or people. But without contracts, they had also pirated and robbed. It was large group of decently to well trained mercs with a lot of guns at their disposal.
"Exactly those, yes." After a moment she gave him a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, we don't plan to hunt them all down. The Blue Suns are divided into different cells and most work independently – so if everything works out, we'll just have to fight Vito and his squad." Kaidan still didn't like the idea of going up against a group like the Blue Suns.
"Shepard... with all due respect, why? Aren't there enough enemies already? Do you really want to piss them off?" At first he was worried that it would anger her that he questioned her decision but then he saw her smile again.
"I promised him. I know how it feels to have unfinished business and I know what it feels like to be left behind. He needs closure and I promised to help him." As soon as she had said those words, the familiar feeling of guilt began to dig its fingers into his guts - again. No matter what anyone had said – he had never gotten over it that he had left her behind. If he had gone with her... he felt her hand on his.
"That is not what I am talking about, Kaidan. I never did think of it that way and you should stop too. Leave it behind. After all, we are both here now." Her voice was serious but warm and it reached him on a level nobody else could. Her warm hand lingered on his fingers for a short while and for this very moment it was like nothing bad had ever happened between them.
"Sayen – I..." he didn't know what he wanted to say but he felt the need to just voice her name. She looked at him knowingly and there was not only a smile on her lips but in her eyes as well. She squeezed her fingers around his for a moment before she got up.
"Work on the timing and the sync, ok?" The way she said it made him smile again and his eyes rested on her even when she walked away. When he finally resumed his breakfast, he realized that cold bacon would never be one of his favorite foods.