At Ease

Shepard wondered how she got in this predicament. She had just saved the galaxy, proving once again her indestructibility...yet here she was. Stuck.

Stifling a sigh, she lifted the datapad she managed to grab before it was too late and belatedly tried to study its contents. But she couldn't concentrate.

Feeling more sorry for him than she wanted to, Shepard glanced down at what exactly had her immobilized. Kaidan's head felt like it weighed twenty pounds as it rested in her lap. His eyes were closed tightly, his expression frozen in pain. He'd murmured one word when he stumbled next to her.

Hurts.

She couldn't imagine the pain he was in, could see it on his face, but she certainly didn't expect to act as a stand in for his pillow. He'd been laying there for nearly a half hour and she swore she could hear the clock ticking, but every time she started to move, he asked for a little more time. And she wasn't going to say no when he looked the way he did.

Something inside her softened as she looked at him and she put the datapad down. She rested one hand on his shoulder and the other on the top of his head, her thumb stroking gently. His hair curled around her fingers and she teased a lock straight idly.

"Shepard..." he muttered.

"Yes?"

"Stop that."

She let out a breath, rolling her eyes to the sky.

"It feels like you're stabbing me in the brain when you do that," he explained, ever thoughtful of her feelings despite his pain.

"How do you know that wasn't what I was going for?"

He smiled weakly, cracking open one eye to look up at her. She put a hand on his cheek.

"Do you want me to call Dr. Chakwas?" she asked gently.

"I already saw her. I just have to ride it out. Give me a couple minutes."

He reached up and took her hand, pressing a kiss to her palm and then moving to rest it against his neck. She definitely couldn't say no now. His breathing evened out and he fell back asleep, her hand still in his. She studied him, already familiar with the planes of his face, the line of his jaw. She moved to rest her free hand on his chest, feeling the very familiar beat of his heart.

It had only been a month. A month since Ilos. A month since she'd broken a rule she'd been good about keeping after more than a decade with the Alliance. Accomplishing that hadn't been easy, considering that the only men she ever talked to were part of her crew and they tended to be the type of men she found attractive. For her to turn her back on that rule after all this time...and then Kaidan.

She told herself it was the heat of the moment, the fear of maybe not coming back and needing comfort. But if she were honest with herself, that was not how she felt.

She remembered the first time he'd seen her with her hair down-literally. Her one vanity was her long dark hair, though she had it pulled into a tight, neat bun most of the time. Kaidan had stared at her, his eyes dark with desire, and he reached out to tangle his fingers in it, drawing her close to him. She'd felt something inside her shift. When he touched his lips to hers, she forgot who she was, who they were, and was consumed only by him. In those quiet moments when he held her and she could pretend that they were anywhere else, she almost let herself believe that she was allowed to feel this way. Somehow, in the most difficult assignment in her career, she'd managed to find the one thing that had eluded her all this time.

She lost track of time as she lost herself in her thoughts. Idly, she brushed her thumb back and forth against Kaidan's jaw. Her lips quirked up into a smile when she remembered how incensed he'd been when she commented on how soft his skin was.

During the last mission, she'd nearly left him behind. He was the best of the best and someone she needed by her side when it was time to take down Saren. But...

She was afraid.

For the first time in her life, her feelings came before common sense and she'd nearly grounded him and taken Garrus instead. It took everything she had in her to stop the words from coming out of her mouth. He'd looked at her strangely as he sealed his helmet, but gave her a curt nod before getting into the Mako. She'd taken a breath. Then another.

This couldn't go on. She couldn't be put in a position where there was a strong possibility of placing someone she cared about in danger. Someone she loved.

"I can hear you thinking," he muttered, looking up at her.

"That doesn't even make sense," she retorted.

"I'm biotic remember? I can read minds."

With a grunt, Kaidan sat up. He rubbed a hand down his face and sighed. Shepard put a hand on the back of his neck.

"Are you feeling better?" she asked.

"Much," he answered, turning his head and smiling at her. "You're more comforting than you think."

He leaned over and kissed her, a gesture so natural that it surprised her with its ease. It was so easy with him. Had always been easy. Life was too short, she knew that better than anyone, and who knew what would happen tomorrow. The Reapers could attack since they've been weakened. Every second they could steal away together counted.

"Kaidan," she said, her voice shaking. "I..."

Suddenly ,the breach alarms blared and everything changed.

- fin -