A/N: This piece was written as my part of an exchange for a friend, a result of the prompt "Kaidan notices that FemShep is distraught after the attack on Thessia and her failure there and comforts her." Credit for the title goes to Robert Frost.
Description: ME3 Shenko comfort fic, takes place post-Thessia.
And miles to go before I sleep
Crushing defeat warred with panic inside her, the dark emotions like a black monster threatening to swallowing her whole. She fought to shake it off, reminding herself that she was tougher than that. She wouldn't give in to despair.
She felt like she's had a solid plan of attack from the very beginning, expose Saren, find the conduit, stop Sovereign, defeat the Collectors, unite the galaxy, and destroy the Reapers. Ambitious, surely, but a plan, a stable foundation to stand upon.
Now, it was like the rug had been yanked out from under her feet. There was nothing left but to wait and worry, and she found herself entertaining, for the very first time, a frightening thought.
What if we fail?
Shepard's step was heavy as she all but stormed through the ship, the crew deck echoing with the sounds her boots were making on the cold metallic floor.
They were grasping at straws, heading back to a planet that still bore memories of failure and loss.
They hadn't really talked about Horizon. Suppress and move on, the Major's M.O., a comfortable way of not dealing. Forgiving something and forgetting it were two entirely different things, but if not discussing a given topic meant not fighting about it, then she supposed that she was more than willing to play along.
She'd been there before, with Garrus and a mission, and to say it hadn't gone well would be a massive understatement.
Reaching her current ship destination, the one she'd been after without consciously knowing it, Shepard looked over the shelves in the lounge stocked with non-alcoholic beer and ginger ale. Right. Shepard remembered. Normandy was an Alliance ship now, and that meant no more booze. She sighed heavily, wondering how she was supposed to while away the hours until they reached the Iera system.
To investigate. Because that was all that was left of a well-laid plan.
You could try to tell yourself it was pointless to worry about things that you can't change. But she was having trouble convincing doubt and stress that they were subject to her laws, and therefore things that could be ordered away.
She wanted to beat her head against the wall.
Instead, she stretched out her hands, popping her knuckles as she considered heading down to the shuttle bay to ask James if he wanted to spar. Turning on her heel, she went back out and into the hallway, and was just in time to see Kaidan step through the doors from starboard observation.
She was worried, you could see it in her face. Her brows were drawn together and he caught just a hint of little white teeth where they sank into her full lower lip.
"Kaidan," she said, the word sounding like a thousand questions asked all at once. "Where you off to?"
He spent most of his time in the same room, sure, it was comfortable and unused by most of the crew, leaving it quiet and relatively private, with an obscenely large window that allowed him the luxury of staring out into the black, the spaces between stars that were largely unmapped. But he'd made an effort to try to get out and explore the whole ship, so familiar and yet so foreign, sprinkled with a mix of new and old faces.
"I was... on my way to find you, actually."
"Oh." She looked mildly surprised by his admission. "Did you need something?" He wanted to reach out, touch her hand with his fingers, but she shoved her hands into her pockets, as if she'd read his mind.
"Well, no, not exactly. I was, when I found you, going to ask you if you wanted to talk."
She jumped on to the wrong part of his answer. "Well, where were you planning to look?"
He felt a smile pull at his lips. She was going to avoid his offer to "talk", it was obvious. "Well, first I'd probably have checked where I saw you last. So, the war room. Next, I would have checked with Joker on the bridge."
"What if you couldn't find me, what then? There's a lot of hiding space on this boat."
He laughed. "I've seen the pit under engineering. I might have checked there."
"And if I wasn't there?"
"I'm thinking you'd have to be somewhere. You can't really jump ship, there's only so many places you could go."
"But how would you find me?"
"I could ask EDI."
"That would be cheating," she said, matter-of-factly, as if dismissing the very idea.
"So you've seen everywhere there is to hide on the ship. How about the captain's quarters? Seen that yet?" she asked. Looking up at him, she watched as he shook his head in response before reaching out and grabbing him by the arm. "Come on, I think it's past time I show it to you." She hit the call button for the elevator. "I've had everyone else up there at one point or another. Almost."
Everyone? He felt his brows draw together as he asked, "Garrus?" He wasn't sure why, but he wanted to know if her best friend, her shining knight, had been among the many to share a closeness with her that he was still struggling to achieve.
She grinned as they entered the lift. "No. Not yet."
When they got to her cabin, his eyes strayed all over, taking in her personal space. Nothing was as he'd imagined it would be. "Nice. It's definitely roomy. And different. You've got pets now."
His explorations drew up short at the intimate sight of her bed. "Shepard. I, uh, thought maybe you might want to talk. About what happened down there."
She sat down on the couch, not meeting his eyes. "I've already talked. To the asari Councilor."
He winced, imagining how that debrief had gone.
"Then to Liara. Joker and Garrus. I don't really want to talk any more. And I'd really, really like to not think about it, either."
He sat beside her. Turning toward her, he lifted one of her hands, linking their fingers together. "Do you want me to leave you alone?"
In answer, she leaned forward, resting her head against his shoulder. "No. I... just..."
He let his free hand slide through her hair, allowing her to settle herself against him.
No talking, no thinking, he just held her there, behaving himself, until he realized she'd fallen asleep against him. Sometime later, he lost his own fight with consciousness, drifting off in the hope that her dreams were good ones, and that he'd meet her there.