Courage, Honour, Endurance

I don't own BioWare

Written as part of an exchange of presents with BeGodlyBeLynn, she's doing some fanart of 'Changing Fate'

"Are you...sketching, ma'am?"

Shepard looked up in surprise at the Staff Lieutenant sitting opposite her. Alenko had twisted his head around so as to get a better look at what she was sketching. She looked back down at her own work.

"Oh...I guess I am. If it's bothering you, I can..."

"No, not at all," Kaidan hastily re-assured her. "To be honest, I can't take much more quiet, anyway. With the time I have to spend in the quiet and dark when I have a migraine..."

"Your body associates dark and quiet with that pain?"

"Not my body, my mind," Kaidan shook his head. "I just get a little tense if there's not just a little noise going on. The sound of you sketching reminds me a little of my father. Once he got out of the Alliance, he spent a lot of time taking art classes. Said it was his way of easing back into civilian life. I kind of associate that sound with him nowadays."

He looked up at her. "I was dithering again, wasn't I?"

"Only a little." She smiled at him. "You don't mention your father much."

"We never really talked much when I was a kid," Kaidan looked down at his coffee. "He spent some time on Shanxi before the First Contact War. Said he wasn't there when the turians hit...but it didn't take me long to figure out the truth behind that one. How about your parents?"

"Spacers, served on one ship or another, usually the same ones, but they got separated more than a few times." Shepard shrugged. "Mom was the career officer, Dad preferred tinkering around with his engines. He was a thinker, a dreamer, sort of a loveable crackpot."

"He taught you to draw?"

"They both did, actually," Shepard made a face. "Dad was the sketcher, just loved coming up with funny little drawings on the fly. Mom was more classical. She liked painting. Roses, fields, me...said it helped her relax. Me? I just go with whatever feels right, like this little piece."

Kaidan examined it closely. It was an elegantly drawn representation of the N7 symbol, done in a multi-dimensional style to give the letters some depth. In the corner above the letters was a small block, coloured red.

"I've heard different things about this," he tapped the symbol. "Some people tell the most flattering stories about N7s."

"I've heard a lot of them," she brushed her hair out of her eyes. "It's pretty simple. The red stands for blood, human blood. The white of the letters represents human bone. Blood and bone, something we all have underneath the surface. A reminder of the similarities between officers and enlisted. And that's our motto underneath. 'Courage, Honour, Endurance'."

She looked up. "Do you draw?"

"Me?" Kaidan laughed openly, then stopped, self consciously rubbing his brow. "Afraid not, ma'am. I can reliably produce something that resembles a big smudge, but that's about it. I'm a fairly good photographer, though. Picked it up at the Academy."

"You were a photography nerd?" Shepard raised an eyebrow.

"Why? What was your extra-curricular activity at the Academy?"

Shepard held up a fist. "Mixed Martial Arts."

From over the other side of the mess, Ashley and Wrex observed the pair interact. Wrex grunted as he turned toward the elevator. "They should mate and get it over with."

Ash nodded as she turned to follow him. "You ever get the feeling that our minds are weirdly in synch."

He paused to eye her. "Maybe."

It's almost a week before he sees it, and when it happens, it's too perfect to pass up. She stands there, helmet removed, standing on the hull of the Mako as it rests on the old Prothean skyway. Beneath them, there's a flash as another explosion rakes the surface of Feros. The Alliance reinforcements arrived only a few hours after they'd finished dealing with the Thorian. Two divisions of Marines, all geared up and ready for war.

Zhu's Hope was secured, as were half a dozen other small settlements that the geth hadn't burned to the ground. The machines were falling back. Their command vessel at the ExoGeni tower destroyed, and the entirety of their forces on the skyway exterminated, they were retreating to their dropships and getting the hell off planet. Feros was safe.

But as Shepard stood there, staring out over the skyway as the colonists from Zhu's Hope stacked the bodies of the Thorian Creepers for burning, Kaidan knew that it wasn't over. Shepard's stance wasn't that of a woman who'd won a battle, it was that of a woman who knew that there were many more battles left to be fought.

The wind was picking up again, blowing her poorly bunched up bun out of its bundle and around her face, red hair whipping around her. The stench of death made her nose turn up, and her mouth was set in a thin line as the sounds of booming heavy weapons signalled another push from the Marines below.

Kaidan didn't have any words to comfort her...not right now, but the moment was just...there. Determination and courage, taken form. He lifted his omni-tool and flicked the embedded camera on.

She lifted her head with surprise as it came through. It's a picture of her...a pretty good one, too, reflecting some measure of skill on the part of the photographer. She knew who had sent it instantly, by the title underneath.

It simply said 'Courage'.

Her eyes drifted to the pencil and paper resting next to her console. Something this good deserved an answer.

There were three pieces of paper waiting for him when opened his locker to check his pistol and armour. He smiles as he examines them. The one top is a black and white sketch of the photograph he took. The same title as well, 'Courage'. Seemed like she agreed with his assessment.

The next one was a sketch of Ashley, her eyes narrowed and her rifle up as she turned to face the two turian assassins that had come up behind them at Chora's Den. He and Shepard had dealt with the two in front of them, but they'd been surprised as anything to turn and find the other two bodies lying slumped against the wall, minus the better part of their heads. This one had a different title. 'Honour'."

He thought about it for a second. Always ready, always faithful, and always disciplined and ready for the fight. Yep, 'Honour' described Ash perfectly. He flipped onto the last one.

It was him. He already knows from the lock on 'his' face where Shepard was drawing. Eden Prime, the place where he'd pushed himself harder than ever before, and found a new internal reservoir of biotic power. His teeth are bared slightly, his eyes twitching with fatigue, but his arm is still raised in the practiced pneumonic that brings up his barrier.

He almost expected the title.

'Endurance.'

Shepard's way of telling him something. Her way of saying how much her team meant to her, that she'd picture them as representations of the words that she lived by.

He didn't think it was possible for him to tell her how much he appreciated that. So instead, he'd just take a picture of Ash setting off a firecracker next to Wrex, currently curled up on a sleeping mat on the floor, while the Gunnery Chief was retrieving her bag of tricks from her locker.

Shepard would probably appreciate that.