A/N: I was considering making this a part of Vantage Points, but it's too long and sortof self-contained.
On my last playthrough, I accidentally got Kaiden into thinking Shep wanted to romance him. The fact that Joker chimed in to interrupt their kiss and after she shooed Kaiden out of her bedroom amused me to no end, so here's a Shoker answer to some of the questions I had about the whole Ilos sequence.
Glass and Stone
His hand worked against hers, worrying as they watched the steady orange light that told them the Normandy was locked. She kept still as a stone, as a rounded-at-the-edges river rock, letting the fear wash over her. Soon, she'd turn and face it. Until then, she tried to lock the warmth and smoothness of his fingers away in her memory. Quiet moments were to be treasured in the life of a soldier. They'd had their passion before, had their fights and battles of words before. Somehow, the first time and each time since, all their arguments ended the same way.
The first time it'd been all surprise. She knew she'd wanted to and she'd known he probably wouldn't mind (at least—she was female and willing, after all), but she hadn't known when she was going to do it until he slapped a hand down on the console and looked up directly at her as he said…well, she couldn't remember what the first argument was about. It was probably about either the merits or lack thereof of Battlestar Galactica, or of the political power of the Specters. Those were recurring themes so it was probably one of them. That didn't matter. What mattered was that suddenly she had to know what it would be like to kiss him.
It was like missing on the first try. Her lips found the stubble at the edges of his mouth. He was surprised too, almost as much as she was, and so he retreated back into the pilot's chair but had gotten a hand around her waist (somehow; another advanced maneuver they taught in flight school) and pulled her toward him so that she had to brace herself on the arm of the chair and lean over him. He didn't miss the first time he responded, quick and breathless as fighting. She almost fell over on him until she got her elbow on the chair, and that pressed the kiss harder until he started muttering through stolen breaths about brittle bones.
That's how their arguments went.
"Operational parameters? Are you serious? There were geth all over that valley! It was sound tactics to go around."
"I've already told you, commander, if you go out of comm range I can't swoop down and rescue you when the geth arrive."
"I don't need rescuing, Joker."
That's how it went. They got quieter as the relationship grew, as she became used to camping beside him as the ship trawled through the stars. It didn't take an argument for him to reach down a console-warmed hand and lace his fingers through hers, or for her to stroke the cloth above his knee as they searched the extranet for news. The quiet moments started to outweigh the loud ones, although not always. She was pretty sure he was making up arguments now—he couldn't really think Attack of the Clones was called classic cinema because it was good.
She knew she was making up arguments.
But by the time of the lockdown, when Shepard waited nervously for Captain Anderson's report and the voyage to Ilos, quiet was good too. She stood next to her pilot with their hands locked, the pad of his thumb making nervous tracks across the base of hers. She kept still this time and waited, knowing the consequences of stone striking glass.
By the time the signal changed to green he'd dropped his hand to check the comms, but she did not move from beside him. There was no reason to. This was ship business, and the ship was theirs. This was her place.
Kaidan left her room, glancing over his shoulder with the puppy-dog eyes she knew so well, and she sat back down at her desk and let the laughter she'd been stifling come out. Sure, it wasn't funny. She'd led Kaiden on and hurt his feelings, and still wasn't strong enough to tell him anything except the lie 'later'. But Joker…."You had to say something, didn't you?"
"The ship gives me the reports, I just pass 'em on."
"Frak you. You heard everything."
"A very staunch rejection that was, commander. Very polite, but you made him think he could come back…I thought the hints should be less subtle, actually."
"Subtle like you telling me we've arrived at Ilos."
She smiled, wishing Joker could see her. Memories of him would be the strongest way to propel her to survive. That's why she'd called him, but they'd started talking about something else and then Kaiden showed up.
Poor biotic was amusing enough, and certainly had gone through a lot, but… Shepard just didn't feel any chemistry toward him, and he was so blasted persistent. If Kaiden didn't get the hint that she was capable of being nice to him without wanting to sleep with him, she'd have to make it less subtle soon. Joker was going to do that for her any minute now.
She ran her finger across the green comm light on her desk. "I was going to ask you to come down, you know."
"He was faster."
She smiled. "This was just as much an accident as when you found us by the lockers."
"Exactly. Hey, you happened to have the comm open."
"I wouldn't have if I didn't have such a distracting, nosy, ornery pilot."
"You wouldn't have it any other way."
She lingered after the others left the bridge for the descent to Ilos. She knelt down beside him, their clasped hands in his lap. "Drop us gently."
"Don't worry. The Mako will be fine."
"Skip the banter." She stood up and leaned in to kiss him goodbye, their hands dragging across his chest. She bunched the cloth of his flightsuit between her fingers as he worked his lips against hers, lapping at the traces of sound her hushed breaths hummed against his skin. The brim of his hat brushed against her forehead, so she tipped her head to the side and the kiss intensified as he slipped a hand around the back of her neck and pulled her closer. She finally got tired of feeling the hat and pushed it off his head to somewhere on the floor. His kisses hitched, but she felt the curve of his lips as he smiled as she ran her fingers through his hair, loosening the flattened strands to their slight natural curl.
"It should have been you," she said. "He should have found us."
That smile again as she shifted away to speak to him. Her back twinged from leaning, but that was the way it had to be. "That would have been awkward…"
"You know what I mean. We don't have to hide this." She lifted his face to her with one hand. "We don't have to stay here in the bridge forever."
"Commander… it'd be a little complicated." His right hand stroked down her spine, gentle as wind.
"This must be the day for rejections."
"I'm not rejecting..."
"We'll work it out. We better." She kissed him chastely, her eyelids dipping shut. "When I get back."
His hand found hers again, squeezed lightly. Like a sculpture, they made beauty of glass and stone.