A direct continuation of my "Shepard's Loyalty Mission" series (Justified, Demigod, Loyalty, Full Disclosure, and Anything), which reunites Shepard and Kaidan post-ME2. Kaidan will be chatting to a different crew member each chapter, and I've already got another fic (or 3) planned to follow this story. Shenko, I wish I could quit you. (That's a lie, I love it too much to ever stop writing it!)
Thanks to Lywnna for reading over this for me, and I hope you all enjoy! :)
Shepard's hands were shaking. She could stand on her own, but only barely, and Kaidan could tell she wouldn't manage for long. But he also knew her well enough to be sure she wasn't giving up, not while she was still conscious.
She narrowed her eyes and reached up to tuck her hair behind her ears, taking a deep, steadying breath.
"It's not too late to quit, Shepard," he murmured. He desperately wanted to reach out for her, to help her, but at this point, he knew she was past helping. There was nothing he could do.
Her focus on her target was so intense that she didn't give him so much as the smallest glance. She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them, took careful aim and fired.
The dart didn't even come close to hitting the dartboard, instead hitting the wall and clattering to the floor far off to one side.
Everyone gathered around started laughing, with Shepard the loudest of all as she stepped back toward Kaidan and leaned on his arm.
"At least she isn't always a perfect shot," Joker said, taking another draught of his beer.
"And how long did it take her to get drunk enough to miss?"
"Way longer than I thought it would. Who knew she could hold her liquor so well?"
"Course I can drink," Shepard snorted. "I'm in the Alliance!" She paused, thinking hard for a moment, while Kaidan and Joker exchanged a grin. "'m still in the Alliance, right?"
A glance at Joker, who nodded. "As far as we know."
"Ok. That's good. Can't remember who I yelled at or quit or who fired me anymore."
"You've been doing that a lot lately," Joker agreed. "Easy to get 'em mixed up."
Kaidan smiled and took another sip of his drink. He and Joker had been taking the night fairly easy; he wasn't as young as he used to be, after all. Shepard, on the other hand, had been handed drinks all night, with near-constant toasts and cheers for her health and her skill at bringing everyone back from Omega-4 alive. She hadn't protested much, and the tension in her shoulders had relaxed a great deal, and she hadn't mentioned the Reapers all night.
She needs some time to forget that the whole galaxy depends on her, even if it's just a little while, he thought, looking at her smiling face as she chatted with Joker. She deserves some real downtime, not just an evening off, but who knows when all this Reaper and Cerberus stuff will be done, and she won't let herself really relax until then.
The rest of the crew had been going all-out on the open bar. Nearly all of them, including a couple aliens, were dancing and laughing around the club, which made Shepard smile. She leaned into his shoulder, closing her eyes for a moment as Kaidan looked out at the bar, watching the rest of the crew interact. They all seemed so close, like they trusted each other completely. Just like we all did on the SR1, he thought, but he stopped himself there.
Joker followed his gaze, then looked back and grinned at him. "Feeling better about everything?"
"Mostly," he said after a moment's hesitation. "I'm... kind of out of my depth."
Seeing the new crewmembers for the first time had been awkward. Or rather, all of them seeing him. Stepping into the club with a smiling Shepard on his arm, he'd been the recipient of quite a few suspicious glances. Some recognized him, and soon enough whispers were flying. Everyone greeted Shepard warmly, but he heard snippets of quiet conversation as the two of them walked toward the bar, things like "Alliance" and "Horizon" that stressed him further.
"Hey." She slipped an arm around his waist and looked up at him with a drowsy smile that made his heart skip a beat. "Glad you're here."
He reached up to touch her cheek gently. "I'm not going anywhere."
Joker took a long swig of his drink and rolled his eyes. "Don't make me get a crowbar to pry you two apart. Put your girlfriend down, Alenko. I think it's about time you met the in-laws."
An inquiring glance at Shepard, and she smiled and shook her head. "Go. I'll sit down for a minute."
"Yell if you need me, okay?"
She snorted, knowing that was unlikely, but grinned at him to take the sting out as she sat down at a table, where she was quickly joined by a few crew members Kaidan didn't recognize.
"She'll be fine," Joker said, leading him away. "We're the ones that need help. Probably better to meet everybody now, though, so you don't have to walk of shame past a bunch of strangers tomorrow morning."
"Walk of what?"
Joker laughed. "You'll find out. Let's go, Alenko. It's a big crew, and you've got so many crazies to meet and so little time before they're all hammered and homicidal."
What have I gotten myself into? he thought, but he followed Joker into the crowd of strangers.