Chapter 38

(in which the hero gets the last word)

Shepard strode away from the make-shift Council meeting, limping slightly as she went. Well, that had gone well. Seemed like the Council was finally listening to her – for a change. Considering her job was far from over yet, it was good to have them on her side.

Yes, she thought, she had a lot of work ahead of her. But thankfully, she had convinced Anderson to allow her to give the crew two weeks of shore leave before they set out on their next assignment. She was really looking forward to the shore leave.

She thought her smile couldn't get any wider, but it did when Kaidan suddenly appeared before her. He was at the end of the bridge, a look of pure longing on his face. The only thing that kept her from running to him was the thought that someone might be watching. Well, that and the cracked ribs. She got a step away from him when his smile faced.

"Damn it, Shepard," he snapped. "Don't ever do that again."

"Do what?" she asked him, cocking her head. "Save the galaxy? Save the Council? Use up all of our grenades?"

Kaidan's eyes grew stormy. "Don't put yourself at such a risk. Don't get so far away from me that I can't be beside you when the blast goes off."

"Kaidan," she told him, "that sounds suspiciously like an order."

"Yeah, well my commanding officer has complained about my insubordination more than a few times, but she never did anything about it."

Shepard's lips quirked. "What was she thinking? She really ought to take you to task for that."

"Yeah, she should," he said, pulling her into his arms, then easing his hold when she winced. "Are you hurt?"

"Somewhat."

"Damn it, Shepard. You have got to take better care of yourself."

"You're not looking much like you've been taking care of yourself either, Kaidan."

It was true. His face was blackened with soot and the way he was hanging his arm made her suspect it was broken. "Why aren't you in the med bay?"

"I waited to make sure that you came there with me," he told her. Then a thought crossed his mind and he chuckled and blushed at the same time.

"What?" Shepard asked, looking at him in curiousity.

"Nothing," he said quickly. When she narrowed her eyes at him, he said, "Really, it's terrible."

"Tell me," she said. She wrapped her arm around his waist and tried to help him limp back along the Presidum. Between the two of them, they made a pretty sorry sight. Sort of the seriously wounded leading the seriously wounded.

"It's just something Joker said," Kaidan muttered. "About medigel..."

Shepard snorted inelegantly. "Let me guess – it had something to do with sex, too."

"He's predictable, isn't he?" Kaidan smiled.

"I like it," Shepard said consideringly. "Medigel. It certainly has...possibilities. Doctor Chakwas has a whole locker full of it. She also has those reserves of hers. I think she's got a lock on them, but I bet you could hack it..."

"The med bay is going to be full, commander."

"You're right," she nodded. "I'll go to my quarters instead. Of course, I'll still need a medic. Maybe you could come and check up on me."

"Is this..." Kaidan asked nervously, "...going to continue, commander? You and me, I mean."

"Do you want it to?" she said, looking up at him. She didn't realize she was holding her breath until he spoke.

"I'm not sure what we should be," he said, honestly. "But I look forward to finding out."

Shepard smiled.

"Me too," she said.

"Commander Shepard," a grating voice cut across the quiet of the Presidium. Shepard and Kaidan both stumbled to a stop as a slim, short shadow fell across their path.

"Khalish Al-Jilani..." the woman began.

"Miss Al-Jilani," Shepard frowned.

"It seems that you have made quite a mess of the station," the reporter said, casting a glance around.

"Care to explain how all this happened? When you're around, things tend to...explode, it seems."

Kaidan wondered that Shepard didn't shred the woman to pieces right there on the spot. The commander certainly looked like she was about to.

Shepard took two steps in until she was nose to nose with the reporter.

"You want to know what happened? I just took out a Reaper – yeah, a damn kill-all-life-as-we-know-it-Reaper of legend – and saved the galaxy. I'm headed back to my ship to congratulate my crew for what they just pulled off and then I'm going to get some medical attention. I've got four broken ribs, have been using biotics for ten hours straight, haven't slept in two days, am starving, and I need coffee. So if you try and stop me on my way to the docking bay, you won't have a smile left to flash at the camera."

Shepard held up a fist. The reporter blanched.

"Come on, commander," Kaidan murmured. He lightly touched her arm and Shepard dropped her clenched fist. She allowed Kaidan to slide his arm around her waist and help her limp away.

Behind her, Al-Jilani quickly turned to check her drone: "Did we get that? Specter threatens reporter... What? Standby? Dammit! I just missed... Shepard! Come back here – Shepard!"

Shepard and Kaidan exchanged a grin and walked back to the Normandy.