(Author's note: Basically this is a novelization of my Mass Effect Head Canon. It is my first fan fiction ever. I appreciate constructive criticism, but please be gentle. I've got the ego and self esteem of a large eggplant.)

Chapter 1

The golden haired angel came to him every night in his dreams.

There were so many systems, so many planets in the broad expanse of space.

When was he going to find her on one of them and show her the man he had become, the man who could protect her from everything...?

Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko stared mindlessly into his screen, his finger idly tapping the arm of his seat. He heard the sounds of conversation behind him, but let them blend into muddled noise as he drifted back into his memories.

He sat elbow to elbow with other teenagers around a small table, gleaming white and smelling slightly of disinfectant. Cards and small personal items were scattered everywhere. Across from him, a wiry young man was trying to comfort a girl with her face in her hands.

"No, its okay, Rahna!" He cooed, putting an arm around the back of her chair. "I'm sure Kaidan will give you the locket back! I know you wouldn't have bet it if you knew he was bluffing. He's not so mean as to keep it from you, it's all you have to remind you of home."

Rahna raised her head, her blond hair falling in front of her face, slightly covering her bright blue eyes. As she did, nine other pairs of harsh eyes swiveled to glare at him.

The booming voice of Captain Anderson echoed through the cockpit. He jumped slightly, and didn't react in time to hear what was said. Even out of his thoughts, he still felt like he was being watched. He glanced to his left and saw Joker, the ship's pilot, staring at him, obviously expecting a reply. He fumbled through his brain, and went with his gut on the most likely response to the unheard question.

"He sounds mad."

"Eh, he always sounds that way when he talks to me." Joker went back to studying the controls. Kaidan sighed, content to have pulled himself out of a potentially awkward situation. Yet he still felt the eyes on him. He turned even more in his chair, and let his gaze fall upon the third person in the bow. The recently assigned Commander Shepard stood behind Joker, an almost ever-present look of amusement on her face. Kaidan's stomach sank. She knew he hadn't been paying attention, and that was definitely not a good impression to make. She thankfully didn't comment on it, and went back to what she and Joker had obviously been talking about before, the Turian Specter on board. After a few minutes of good-naturedly listening to Joker's theories of Council politics and Nihlus's actual motives, she headed back to the debriefing room for the mission update. The first real trip of the Normandy was to the colony of Eden Prime, to pick up and transport an ancient Prothean artifact, referred to as a beacon.

"Well, that was interesting." Joker glanced over the console at him. "No Commander has actually taken the time to listen to me. Usually it's 'just fly the ship, Joker.' 'You can't go that fast this close to an Volus cruiser, Joker.' 'How did you get that up here, put down the sandwich and pay attention to what you are doing, Joker.' It creeps me out to know she's really listening."

Rolling his eyes, Kaidan heaved himself out of the chair, and started wandering towards the stairs aft of the CIC. Shepard was indeed an odd Commander. She had proved that the moment she stepped foot on the Normandy.

She had come aboard earlier than her scheduled tour, and wandered the ship, talking to people, poking around in corners... Kaidan had been in the mess, eating lunch and reading the news on the extranet. They had been taking on a lot of crew; he was fairly new to the ship himself, so he had assumed her to be just another marine. Nothing about her really stood out, she looked to be around the average of most girls in the Alliance. Only slightly younger than him, years of running around in full armor had given her a thicker, more muscular midsection and thighs. Her hands had the strange female marine texture of being callused from gloves and weapons, but lotioned to prevent cracked skin and blisters. Hair that could only be described as mousey brown framed her face in a choppy hairstyle the girls he once knew called a bob, and had a slight wind-blown texture to it. A warm, friendly face had greeted him though, a small mouth, straight nose and dark brown eyes that seemed to radiate humor at something she was not going to share. It almost seemed familiar somehow, but that could have just been his current mental state that most Alliance girls looked alike. When he thought about it later, he had to admit that she was cute, one of the better looking marines he had encountered, but nothing compared to Rahna. Her tall, willowy figure danced gracefully through all parts of his brain, leaving no room for any other women.

They had spoke for a few brief minutes. News from around the fleet, a few pointed questions about the ship, and the reports of growing impatience from some renegade L2 Biotics about reparations. This last topic came after her notice of his amp, and with genuine interest in life as a biotic. Then with a look at the clock, she had apologized about interrupting his meal, and left him to eat in peace. It wasn't until several hours later, while standing at attention on the flight deck, did he recognize her as the hero of Elysium, Commander Shepard. As she and Captain Anderson walked past, she made eye contact and gave him the tiniest of smiles, more a sign of acknowledgment and approval than anything. He thought about hunching down slightly, until he noticed several of his fellow crewmates had the same mix of panic and recognition that he knew was on his own face. The worry gave way to relief; he wasn't the only one she had fooled.

Before he got to the stairs, he was intercepted by ball of energy Corporal Jenkins. His excitement over talking to the Commander and just seeing Nihlus was almost radiating off him. He opened his mouth for what was most likely going to be a hurricane of words, when Joker cut him off over the comms. He sounded agitated, all traces of his normal attitude vanished.

"Lieutenant, you and Jenkins are going down to the surface with the Commander and Nihlus. There's been a big change in plans."

Jenkins' eyes lit up, and he practically skipped off to find his gear. Kaidan shook his head, and trudged off after the corporal. He stopped briefly when he felt a hand on his arm. Doctor Chakwas held his gaze firmly.

"So many young people leave excited for combat." She said softly. "And so many of them come back to me in states I can do nothing for." With a sigh, she turned away from him and disappeared around a corner, heading back to her med bay.

Down on the flight deck, he strapped on his armor, checking that each piece fit snugly against the other. He gave a quick burst of his biotic power to make sure everything felt normal, and then started checking his guns. Jenkins stood on the other side of the deck, bouncing on the balls of his feet. In his excitement to get into combat, he hadn't fully clipped on his chest plate, and the constant jiggling was causing it to come loose. Resigned to go help the excitable marine, he swung his arm back to hostler his pistol, but his elbow met resistance where there should have been air. He turned quickly, but Commander Shepard leaned back to let his arm pass over her head. She said nothing, just raised an eyebrow at him, then jogged over and secured Jenkins into his armor. She then set him at going through his inventory check, taking care to show him how her routine differentiated. When she started doing fancy things with her own modded pistol, he casually sauntered over to watch.

"I make a point to try and know all my marines as people, Lieutenant." She didn't even look up from what she was doing. "They are marines first, and people second, but always individual people."

Before he could ask her to clarify, she locked her pistol in its holster and headed towards Anderson and Nihlus, gesturing with her head they should follow.

They were halfway through the briefing when they hit the atmosphere. It immediately became too loud to talk, so their instructions for the planet surface would have to wait. Kaidan leaned back against a bulkhead, closed his eyes, and retreated again into his mind.

The minute you met her, you knew that all you wanted to do was protect her. She just gave off this feeling of helplessness. She was so fragile and clumsy with her biotics; it felt cruel to not want to help her. All she had to do was look at you with those giant bright blue eyes and you were ready to die for her.

A jolt through the flight deck shocked him back to the present. A quick glance around revealed Jenkins bouncing on his toes again, Nihlus reviewing some data with Anderson on his omni tool, and Shepard sitting on a crate, staring at him. It took him a moment to realize it wasn't him that she saw, she seemed to looking past him, lost in her own thoughts. No one knew anything about her pre-military life, but he knew enough about her service to know she probably had plenty of memories to reflect on.

The next few minutes were a blur, suddenly they were on the surface, Nihlus had gone off on his own, and they were making their way towards the dig site. Jenkins was excitedly telling them all about the terrain, the colony, and the gasbags that drifted slowly in the clearings. The sound of approaching thrusters caused a hush to fall over the group of marines, the seriousness of the situation finally hitting them. They cautiously rounded a corner, and three flying drones unfamiliar to their military training came into sight. Kaidan felt helpless as Jenkins burst out of cover and tried to take them all out at once. His lifeless body crumpled among the rocks, the drones moving ever closer. Pushing away the anger and grief, he reached out with his biotic power to grab onto a drone and flung it into a tree. As it exploded in a flash of sparks, he turned to sight on his next target. But there were no targets. Shepard was clipping her assault rifle onto her backplate, and walking towards the sad heap that once was Corporal Jenkins.

She crouched over him and closed his eyes.

"We'll be back for you. I promise." She whispered to the body.

Kaidan grabbed her arm to help her up, and was shocked by the transformation of her face. The gentle good humor was replaced by a cold, distant hardness. She shook her arm out of his grip, and motioned that they should press on.

An almost robotic efficiency took over her fighting style. Her moves became automatic, her excellent training showing off in the way she methodically took down drone after drone. Kaidan found it almost difficult to keep up with the pace. The loss of their third squad mate forced him to change his standard tactics, and he found himself using his pistol more than his biotics, to save strength. He was almost excited to see another human form barreling towards them before it dove behind a large boulder. After taking out the pursuing drones, they ran forward to check on the new arrival.

"Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams of the 212, Ma'am!" Her visor flipped up to reveal a thin face whose main feature was a rather large mouth. Not unattractive, just strangely wide. Said mouth was pursed tightly in a frown as she regained control over her composure. A few minutes of questioning revealed her to be the sole member of the 212 not killed in the ambush. A change again came over Shepard. Her body seemed to loosen, the hardness washed off her as she reassured Williams that the loss of her squad was not her fault.

"You're going to come with us, soldier. Stay close." Kaidan was glad to have another gun handy; he could go back to using his biotics as best he knew. He caught a glimpse of Shepard's face before she flipped her visor back down. The distant look in her eyes was gone, but the hardness remained. He wondered if she shared his need to protect people. If she did, the loss of Jenkins must have hit her hard. No wonder she was so insistent Williams came with them. She needed to prove to herself that she could get people through this.

Approaching the dig site, Williams seemed shocked that the beacon they were originally there to recover was gone. All that remained were tools and dead bodies impaled on spikes.

"Probably moved to the spaceport, Ma'am." Kaidan's gaze followed William's outstretched hand that pointed up a small embankment. A guttural moan interrupted whatever Shepard was about to say next, and the squad turned as one to view the horrors behind them. The spikes were retreating, and the corpses on them were twitching their way off the pedestals. Lumbering towards them, mouths open wide, they were possibly the most horrendous things Kaidan had ever seen in his life. At some point, they may have been the colonists of Eden Prime, but at this point all he could do was put them out of their misery before they got too close. He didn't even want to imagine what would happen if they got their hands on him.

Or Shepard.

The thought stuck him so suddenly that his shot went over the head of his targeted creature. Williams came to his aid and caught it in the chest with her shotgun. She threw him a glance that essentially said, "What the hell, man?" and went back to blasting away. Finally, all of the monsters were dead. Or more dead than they were a few minutes ago. As Shepard and Williams opened a shed and questioned the traumatized scientists they found hiding inside, Kaidan racked his brain to figure out what had just happened. Shepard was not Rahna. She was a fully competent N7 marine, a Commander at that. He had had female squad mates before, and never felt a need to protect them beyond the camaraderie that military life built. He shook the strange thoughts away and tried to focus on what the female scientist was saying.

Geth? Impossible. Yet when he compared what he knew of the synthetic species with what he seen, he knew it was true. They left the scientists in their office, locking the door behind them, and started back toward the spaceport. The odd sound of a single shot quickened their pace. What awaited them brought an even larger cloud of doom down upon them. Nihlus lay sprawled on the ground, a halo of blue blood spilling out from the gaping wound in his head.

"Get out from behind there!" Williams yelled, drawing her gun and advancing on a stack of crates. Kaidan pulled his pistol out and followed her cautiously. From behind a large box came a rumpled looking dockworker.

"There was a second Turian here. Seemed to be a friend. Like they new each other. Called him... Uh... Saren. Then turned around. Blam." The dockworker mimed a gunshot with his thumb and forefinger. Shaking her head, Shepard sighed.

"Let's move out! We have to get to the beacon."

There were several Geth between them and they tram, but they buckled down and fought their way through. Kaidan leaned against the rail, catching his breath as the tram took them to the main loading dock. The short, quick ride down the rails deposited them at Spaceport Platform Two, and a sharp beeping noise from his omni tool demanded immediate attention.

"Commander! I'm detecting four explosive signatures!" He shoved his arm towards her, so she could see the proximity alarm flashing on his omni tool. As she tried to pinpoint the locations, a shot whistled past her ear. Gritting her teeth, she ducked and took off towards the nearest bomb. Kaidan and Williams followed, Williams bringing up the rear, shotgun at the ready.

They made short work of the Geth, the combination of biotics and shotgun efficiently tearing through the ranks as Shepard disarmed each bomb. Down the last stairs they encountered one final group of the not dead colonists, but eventually they were all put down. Distracted by the fighting, none of them had noticed the large tower at the end of the dock. The beacon. Relieved, Shepard walked off and called the Normandy to pick them up.

"I should probably find out if I can hitch a ride off world with you guys." Kaidan nodded distractedly as Williams trotted over to the Commander. He couldn't take his eyes off the beacon. He took two steps towards it, and was caught. It felt like something had reached through his chest and grabbed him by the spine. His feet scrambled against the ground as he was dragged towards the beacon until he was lifted into the air. Pain more intense then his worst biotic migraine began at the back of his head. Suddenly, there was a sensation of being knocked aside and he hit the ground. He rolled onto his side and to his horror saw Shepard had taken his place suspended in the air. A light surrounded her as if her biotic powers were too strong for her to control. But it was wrong. She had no biotic powers. He reached out for her. He was Kaidan, the protector. He had to protect.

"DON'T TOUCH HER!" Ashley roared, snatching his hand back. "It's too dangerous!" They watched together in shocked silence as the Commander twitched in the blue electric glow, until it released her and she dropped to the ground like a rag doll. With the Normandy landing in front of them, he gathered the limp Shepard in his arms and carried her to the ship.

Somewhere in his subconscious, without him even knowing it, the death grip Rahna had on him was loosening.