Beta: A huge thank you to my amazing beta reader cariel for taking time out of her holidays to beta read this for me on the fly. Thank you so much for wisdom and insight girl I don't know where I would be without you! *glomps*
Author's Notes: This was written as a Christmas gift for thessilian who had prompted for a tale involving Anderson and Shepard discussing the future post events of ME2 in Secret Santa comm. Unfortunately her secret santa fell through so here is my failed attempt at filling in the blanks.
This scene was meant to take place in the universe of her tale Deleted Scenes as well as If you need me. It was my attempt to explain how or when Kaidan returned to Shepard's crew.
There was no doubt in David Anderson's mind that Jane Shepard would survive Omega 4. She had the luck of devil, as his father would say, and of that, he was certain. Even so, he could not deny the relief he felt upon receiving the simple, yet direct, message on his private comm. channel or the joy of seeing her in person. Jane was the daughter he never had and as with any father, it did his heart good to know she was safe and sound.
With a hearty laugh, the admiral clapped her shoulders before drawing her into a brief, but tight embrace. Their paths had crossed only a short time ago, yet it felt as though an eternity had passed between them.
"I knew you'd come through, Shepard," he gently said, his voice tinged with pride.
With a weary, but sincere smile, she answered, "I only have my crew to thank for that."
"What of Cerberus?" Anderson had made a career out of confronting the facts and this time was no different.
Shepard smirked in reply; it was answer enough for him.
Chuckling softly, the old soldier shook his head as he studied his surrogate daughter. "It's good to have you back again, Commander. Though something tells me that I missed out on a significant moment between you and the Illusive Man," Anderson admitted before adding with a chuckle, "Pity. I would have loved to see the look on his face after you were through with him."
Shepard's smirk turned to a wry grin as she ran a hand through her red hair. The two shared a brief laugh, but the moment soon passed.
Leaning against the railing that overlooked the Citadel's cosmopolitan streets, Shepard's expression grew serious. "Actually, that's one of the reasons I'm here."
The admiral gave a small nod as he watched her watching the crowds below. Shepard's body was tense and her eyes were watchful; yet, there was an aura of peace that hung about her which had not been there before. Whatever she had witnessed, whatever she had endured, it clearly had left its mark.
"You looking for a job?"
"I need to know where my crew and I stand both with the Alliance and with the council," she quietly stated.
Anderson fell silent for a moment as he considered her words. He trusted the young commander with his life and knew she would not fail him. The admiral's concern was not in her capabilities, as she was more than skilled for anything that came her way. What troubled him was her recent run-in with the Collectors.
"The council still have their heads in the sand. It's just easier for them to turn a blind eye to the problem than to deal with it. I suppose they figure if they ignore it long enough, it will go away," he admitted with a heavy sigh.
"As for the Alliance, your recent history with Cerberus doesn't sit too well with them. I've tried to speak on your behalf to explain the situation and the fact you had little choice in the matter. It's broken some ground, but we still have a ways to go. I'd steer clear of them for the time being…at least until the dust settles."
Falling silent, the admiral studied the young woman before him. Shepard carried herself with an aura of peace, but there was no denying the bags under her eyes, the weight in her step, and the weariness of her words. Everyone had their limits and it was clear to Anderson that Shepard was near hers.
Nonetheless, David knew that she had come too far to turn back. In truth, they had all come too far to back down.
"What is the status of your crew?"
He did not need to explain himself further for Shepard understood the full meaning of his words.
"They're loyal. Even Miranda and Jacob are in it for the long haul. All ties were cut off with Cerberus when we destroyed the Collector base."
He expected no less of the Commander.
Satisfied by their answers, the two soldiers dropped the subject as they spoke of the past. The young commander readily admitted to her relationship with Garrus, her eyes growing soft as a hint of a smile crept onto her lips. Anderson, in contrast, spoke cautiously of his own budding relationship with the asari matriarch, Aethyta.
"—As in the bartender from Eternity on Illium?" Shepard asked in amusement.
Anderson raised a brow in reply as he smiled. "Really, Commander, you are in no position to judge me, given your own relationship with Vakarian."
"Touché. Though you have to tell me how that came about," she queried with an impish grin.
Speak now, old man, or forever hold your peace.
The memory of Aethyta's words echoed in his thoughts bringing a distant smile to the admiral's weathered features.
"I may be old, but I am not dead. While you've been off plotting the Collector's demise, I've been doing some planning of my own," he began. He could feel Shepard's eyes watching him closely waiting for him to continue.
"Your estranged illusive man is not the only one who has his eyes on the horizon," he explained before continuing. "I've been pulling some strings, calling in some favours. Aethyta was one of my first recruits and has been my go-between for some time now. If we're going to have a fighting chance against this threat, we need to be prepared."
"What's the plan then?" To anyone else the question would have been an order. Anderson, however, was not a man easily intimidated.
"I've been recruiting only the finest and the most skilled to our cause. We both know a dedicated crew and a remodelled Normandy can only take you so far.
"You may be good, Shepard, but you're not that good."
"Wanna bet?" she teased with an impish grin. Anderson's expression softened as the mood between them lifted.
"Does the council know about your little underground organization?"
The admiral shook his head. When it came to the council, some things were best left unspoken.
"So tell me who else is in on this?
"We both know this is too grand in scale for you to be running it entirely on your own. You're crazy, but not that crazy," Shepard said with a hint of curiosity.
For a moment, Anderson watched the bustling crowd going about their daily lives on the lower levels as he debated how much to share with her. It was not his intent to burden her with needless troubles. "I've taken the liberty of getting in contact with your former allies and other connections. They all respect and admire you, Shepard, and have sworn to aid you when the time arrives.
"Just say the word and we'll be right at your side."
He was about to continue when his comm. Chimed, announcing an incoming call from an encrypted channel.
Apologizing to the commander, Anderson read the message before pressing a few buttons on his comm. "As for my second-in-command, well, you're about to meet him." The admiral explained as his attentions returned to Shepard. "A more dedicated and efficient soldier I could not have asked for, though I imagine you already know that."
Just as the young woman was about to inquire further details the door behind them parted.
"Evening, Admiral," came a voice from behind them.
As the admiral turned to face the approaching soldier, he noticed Shepard's reaction. Her expression said everything.
"Commander, long time no see."
Admiral Anderson's second-in-command was none other than Kaidan Alenko.