Author's Note: This story is based on an incredibly vivid Mass Effect dream I had several months ago: what I remembered from the dream was really just an image and from that I built this story. The Shepard in this story is the same Shepard featured in my other stories, Comfort Food, Beyond the Horizon, Across the Bar, On My Way, Substance of Things Unseen, A Little Bit More, Out of the Night, and several Shore Leave drabbles.

Update 4/9/2012: This story was written and published before ME3 came out, so it's wildly inaccurate as far as any references to in-game events. I might try to update it later to make it more in line with canon, but for now, consider it AU. :D


Prologue

End of game, Mass Effect 2

The Illusive Man watched the space where Shepard's exulting holographic figure had disappeared. No doubt now she was walking through the ship—his ship—proclaiming the news to the crew. The Illusive Man had caved to Shepard Almighty.

He inhaled one last time on his cigarette and stubbed it out. Behind him, the star pulsed blue and cold as he brought up his private communications array.

"Sir?" A voice on the other line answered promptly.

"Project Persephone, what is your status?"

"Green, sir. "

"Good. Initiate the mission, with one caveat: if Shepard can't be subdued, she is to be eliminated. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

He closed the call and lit another cigarette. Shepard had no idea how far he was willing to go.

Chapter 1

Several months later. Post Arrival, post beginning of "ME3."

"Describe it to me again?" Kaidan Alenko looked at her with furrowed brows, clearly trying to imagine the biotic maneuver Shepard was trying to explain.

"Vasir did this floaty thing. She jumped off the edge of the wall, did some kind of mnemonic that I can't remember because I was busy barreling into her, but she looked as she would have gone to the ground in a controlled manner. Liara did it a second later and I've seen Samara do it too. Kaidan, her control was incredible. Even after I landed on top of her in mid-air, she kept the descent almost completely under control. Next thing I know, I'm slamming into the ground and she's running off."

Kaidan looked thoughtful. "Aside from the fact that these are all asari that you saw doing this, I don't see why it shouldn't be possible for human biotics to do it too." He walked to the edge of the storage platform, glancing down. They were in the cargo bay in the Normandy, on a long, wide shelf used to store crates. "It would be something like a lift," he said, almost to himself, rubbing his chin. "But not quite that strong otherwise you'd go zooming off into space."

"I'm going to try it," Shepard announced, walking up beside him.

"What?" Kaidan looked startled. "No you're not. This needs to be done in a controlled environment—"

She grinned at him. "Why do you think I brought you up here? Stop me if I don't look like I'm going slow enough."

Kaidan shook his head. "I'm glad at least you gave me warning."

Shepard patted his shoulder. "I may not next time." She flared her biotics and walked to the edge of the platform. "Ready?"

Kaidan flared and nodded. "Go for it."

Shepard took a breath and jumped off the edge. He watched her fall, biotic corona streaming around her like the tail of a comet. For a split second, Kaidan thought she might have actually done it on the first try, but then he realized she was still falling too fast. He executed a quick pull, grabbing her just before she hit the deck.

She was laughing as she floated nearer to where he stood. He had to reach out a hand and pull her in as he let the field dissipate. As normal gravity resumed, she fell awkwardly into his arms, the clash of their biotic auras making every nerve in his body tingle. He felt a momentary regret as she released her biotics, making the sensation disappear, and he did the same.

"You're insane," he said fondly, his stubble rasping against her cheek.

"I have to be, otherwise I wouldn't have any fun at all," she said, giving him a quick peck on the lips.

Kaidan froze at the casual intimacy. They hadn't quite... resumed where they left off before the destruction of the Normandy. There were still things to talk about; issues to discuss. It had been better—much better—than he'd had any right to expect after Horizon, but he mostly chalked that up to the insanity of everything that had happened in the last month. She had come so close to execution... He'd have lost her all over again. Kaidan swallowed hard and held her tighter, feeling the pulse of her heart through the fabric of her BDUs.

"It's okay," she said, muffled against his collarbone. "I promise not to maim myself. At least not permanently."

Kaidan managed a grin and released her. "We could just contact Liara, you know. Wouldn't that be easier?"

Shepard shrugged. "She's busy coordinating things from her end. Asking her the specifics about a biotic maneuver seems trite compared to what's going on in the galaxy. Anyway," she combed her fingers through her hair, making a messy ponytail, "I think I know what I did wrong. I forget that with my cybernetics, I'm heavier than I think I am. I was adjusting for the weight I used to be, not what I am now."

"Going to try again?"

She nodded. "Ready?"

Shepard practiced the maneuver several more times; each time coming closer to the move she'd described—a controlled descent—but never quite hitting it. By the last time, she was sweating with the effort. She stumbled out of the pull Kaidan had rescued her from, shaking her head. "I thought I was more or less precise, but this feels like trying to do surgery with an axe."

Kaidan raised his eyebrows. "An axe?"

"I think I told you that I had already decided to join the Alliance by the time I had surgery for my implant, right?" She sat down on the platform with a sharp exhale as Kaidan nodded. It had been one of their many conversations about biotics. Shepard rubbed the back of her neck. "I made it clear to the instructors that I would be using my abilities in a combat situation, and so I was trained accordingly. Big, showy motions designed to move people and things with force. I'm a living battering ram and that's how I wanted it." She looked up at him with a smile. "You remember telling me how Rahna was supposed to reach for a glass of water biotically?"

He nodded.

"I never learned that kind of stuff. It was always 'throw this training dummy fifty feet' or 'warp that training dummy into the size of an ice cube'. Precision?" She shook her head. "I don't know the meaning of the word."

Kaidan pulled her up from her sitting position on the platform.

"What?" he said warily as she looked him with calculating expression.

"I'd bet you'd be better at it—you learned this control stuff from the get-go."

Kaidan shook his head and walked with her from the platform toward the loading elevator that led to the deck of the ship. "Later, maybe. After a workout like that, you'd be in no condition to catch me if I fell."

Shepard stopped, folding her arms over her chest. "Don't coddle me, Alenko. I can go all day if I have to. And I have."

Kaidan glanced at her. Back then whey they were... something, she'd confronted him about his tendency to be overprotective. It had led to him nearly questioning her orders in front of the crew when she'd told Joker to drop the Mako in that impossible space on Ilos. He couldn't control the feeling, the desire to protect her, but in the months following the attack on the Citadel he'd learned to not act on it. I proved that by getting on the escape pod before seeing that she was safe, he reminded himself.

"I'm sure you could," he said after a moment. "But I'm hungry and I'm pretty sure I heard your stomach grumbling. "

As if on cue, Shepard's stomach gurgled loudly.

Kaidan bit back a grin at her scowl. "I'd rather not push it. A controlled environment is best to try out new biotic maneuvers. It's safer."

The irritation on her face faded. She walked up to him, splaying her hand on the side of his face, her thumb stroking his cheek. "I'm not going anywhere this time, Kaidan. I promise."

He nodded, throat suddenly tight, and turned his head to kiss her hand. She smiled and jerked her head back to the elevator. "Let's go. Rupert's making lasagna today."