iCaressed by a drug
You elevated soul
Vanity and pride
An addict to one
A universal force
A one and only kind
A thing I can't control
No matter how I try
bChapter 1 – White noise./b
Shepard searched the Horizon colony, leaving no stone unturned. In the end Garrus sat down on a crate and sighed heavily, leaning forward, he studied Shepard as he focused on overriding the mechanical lock on a shipping container. "Permission to speak freely." Garrus said shaking his head sadly.
"What?" Shepard growled, not taking his eyes of the panel for a nanosecond.
"We looked everywhere. Sir." Garrus said, he shot Jack a worried gaze, which she mirrored with a little nervous tic by the corner of her mouth. She wasn't easy to upset, but she was not sure what to think about The Commander tearing through the colony like a mad man. Searching for something, he wasn't talking, he just frantically looked everywhere, and Jack deducted that he was looking for something that was very important, and that it would be best to leave him the fuck alone.
"Negative." Shepard mumbled, and the yelled angrily, hitting the side of the container as he failed in the override. For a second he turned around and looked directly at Garrus, "We haven't looked everywhere. We can't have!" A shadow of doubt darkened his expression for a moment, and then he fisted his hands, determined. "Jack, please." He nodded towards the door, "Maybe a fresh pair of eyes... Just do it." He stomped past Garrus and a baffled Jack, leaving his team mates to stare at each other and his back.
"Do I even wanna know?" Jack sighed, pushing off the crate, walking to the doors security system.
"I don't know." Garrus answered honestly. He looked over his shoulder to see where Shepard was. "I overheard him talking to Joker, I don't eavesdrop on the cockpit, often." Garrus would have smiled if he could. "He is looking for someone... Special."
"Guess that makes sense." Jack said with a shrug as the door to the container slid open, revealing thousands of canned pineapples. "Who ever it is, is not in there." She turned and looked at Garrus. "The Commander is not stupid, if he had a friend on this colony, it would be safe to assume that the collectors took them as well. The whole fucking colony is gone."
"Don't tell him that." Garrus held up a disarming hand. Garrus turned in his seat and looked after Shepard, still ripping the colony to pieces. "See Alenko is no ordinary man. He is a top trained bionic, and if anyone is still alive on this damn rock, it will be him." Garrus got to his feet, and before Jack could ask, he continued. "He served on the original Normandy, so I knew him quite well. He was a good man, a little righteous, but who am I to judge?"
Jack rose an amused brow, following Garrus towards an area of the colony they hadn't searched yet. "So he is going to shred this place to bits, looking for an old teammate, that he -thinks- might be here?" She smiled slyly, "There -has- to be more to it than that."
"Oh but there is." Garrus answered amused, half assed looking down between some crates on the ground. "I think they were more than team mates. I think Alenko and The Commander was lovers. But I don't know," He looked directly at Jack, "You should have seen the looks they gave each other, and you wouldn't really have been in doubt either, and honestly, a small space ship isn't really the place where you advertise your love life."
"Why not?" Jack asked honestly confused. And then shook his head, "Guess you're right, The Commander is always into everyone elses business, but very closed off when it comes to his own person. Never really thought about it till now."
"True." Garrus agreed.
"It is kinda romantic." Jack said, stopping against a crate, watching Shepard's futile attempt to get access to a garage. She crossed her arms over her chest, "Must be nice," She smiled a little apologetic to Garrus, not sure why this whole thing suddenly had her all emotional. "I mean to know that there is someone who would do something like -that- for you." He nodded towards Shepard, who resorted to kicking the garage door in anger, jumping back in shock, as the door slid open revealing an empty room. "Fuck." Shepard swore and then turned his attention to the next door.
"I would." Garrus said, placing a hand on Jack's shoulder.
Jack smiled. "Thanks." She laughed softly. "Good to know that you'd act like a complete psycho if you couldn't find me."
"Thought it would make you happy, to know." Garrus said, not quite understanding why Jack would ask, and then dismiss it.
Jack sighed, "It does, thank you Garrus." She said, placing a hand on top of Garrus' on her shoulder. "When is he gonna give up?"
"Don't know." Garrus said, removing his hand from Jack's shoulder. "And I am not sure I want to be around when he does."
"Still." Jack said quietly. They stood in silence for a while "What the hell is that?" She pointed towards someone walking towards them.
Garrus jolted into life, "Commander!" He yelled, "Look!"
Shepard looked up at Garrus, seeing Jack point, he looked in the direction of Jack's hand. He instantly stood to his feet, looking every bit composed as he walked towards the person. Jack and Garrus followed, more out of curiosity than anything. "Is that?" Jack whispered. And Garrus nodded.
The two men stopped two meters from each other, just studying the other for a while, looked mostly like two combatants sizing each other up for a fist fight. And then Kaidan smiled. "Shepard, captain of the Normandy, first human spectre, savior of the Citadel. You're a legend and a ghost." He said, overstepping the invisible private space of Shepard, and buried him in a long, tight hug. "I thought you were dead Shepard, we all did." Kaidan whispered, tightening his hold on Shepard, he had never in his wildest fantasy imagined that he would ever see Shepard again, even less hold him. It felt terribly real now that he could feel the Commander's breath tickle on the side of his neck. Both men reluctantly pulled from the embrace, and went back to studying each other.
Shepard was the first to speak, "You don't sound too happy to see me, something bothering you, Kaidan?"
Jack almost spoke up, but Garrus shook his head as she opened her mouth.
Kaidan frowned, "Yes something is bothering me, i spent the last two years believing you were dead! I thought we had something Shepard, something real. I... I loved you!" He stalked closer to Shepard again, resisting to poke the other man in the chest to drive home his point. "Thinking you were dead tore me apart, how could you put me though that? Why didn't you try to contact me? Why didn't you let me know you were alive?"
Shepard opened his mouth, but closed it again without explaining, because trying to explain Kaidan that he -had- actually died, and that Cerberus had spent two years bringing him back to life, sounded a little too lame, even to him. And he knew it was true. "I just couldn't, and now so much time has passed. You've moved on. And I don't want to..."
"I did move on, at least I -thought- I did. But now we got reports on you and Cerberus." Kaidan looked away from Shepard as he spoke, if what he suspected was right, he wasn't sure he wanted to hear it from Shepard himself. He wasn't even sure why he had said it, he didn't want to ask, because he simply didn't want the answer.
Garrus had been dead set on keeping his trap shut, but now it just flew out of him. "Reports? You mean you already knew?" He had wanted to say more, had wanted to scold Kaidan for acting like an entitled little shit, but Alenko beat him to it. "Alliance intel thought Cerberus might be behind the missing human colonies. They got a tip that this colony might be the next one to be hit. Anderson stonewalled me, but there were rumors that you weren't dead. That you were working for the enemy." Kaidan ignored Garrus completely, he just returned his hard gaze to Shepard, as were he trying to read the answer in the other man's face.
With a little uncomfortable smile Shepard held out his arms, as were he expecting Kaidan to come back into an embrace like before. "Cerberus and I want the same thing: to save our colonies. It doesn't mean I answer to them."
"Do you really believe that? Or is that just what Cerberus wants you to think? - I wanted to believe the rumors that you were alive, but i never expected anything like this. - You turned your back on everything we believed in. You betrayed the Alliance, you betrayed me!" Kaidan worked himself up till he was almost yelling, his mouth a sneer, and his eyes hard and accusing. All along somewhere inside him he wanted nothing more but to grab Shepard and kiss him till they were breathless, he wanted to feel that it was not just a dream, that Shepard really stood here in front of him. Instead his mouth poured over with his frustration and anger, maybe a way to keep the Commander three steps away, where Kaidan knew it would be wisest to keep him. He couldn't afford to get lost in this again.
Shepard took a step closer, his back to his team mates, so they could only hear the hurt in his voice, not see it in his eyes, like Alenko could. "Kaidan, -you know me-, you know I would only do this for the right reasons. - You saw it yourself, the collectors are targeting human colonies, and they are working with the Reapers." He said, hoping that he could reason with the other man, he almost added a 'please Kai, listen to what I'm telling you, and trust me on this one.' But he didn't. Something in Kaidan's eyes told him he had lost his right to try to sway him with personal arguments, and nicknames.
Kaidan's expression twisted from disgust to heartbreak, "I wanna believe you Shepard, but i don't trust Cerberus. They could be using the threat of a Reaper to manipulate you." He lifted his hand to grab a hold in Shepard's uniform, but he didn't, he let his hand fall to his side again, and just frowned, "What if?... What if they are behind this? What if they are working with the collectors?"
"Dammit Kaidan, you are so focused on.." Garrus broke in, but the rest of his rant died on his lips as Jack hit him on his arm and shot him an angry glare. "Come on." She said, hauling the massive Turian off. Leaving Shepard and Kaidan alone, seconds short of starting to physically circling each other, measuring each other up.
"You're letting how you feel about their history, get in the way for facts." Shepard sneered, he wasn't angry, just frustrated.
But Kaidan would hear nothing of it, and just crossed his arms over his chest. "Maybe, and maybe you feel like you owe Cerberus because they saved you. Maybe you're the one who's not thinking straight." He paused, biting his lip, he could feel his heart on its way out of his ribcage, he had to get out of here! This was nothing like the dreams he had had about being reunited with his lover, this was all wrong! And he didn't know what was worst, the realization that the situation couldn't be different, and that all his silly dreams, was just that. Silly. "You've changed, but i still know where my loyalties lie, I am an Alliance soldier, always will be. - I gotta report back to the Citadel. They can decide if they believe your story or not." His voice had lost all conviction as he just turned around to leave.
"Don't!" Shepard yelled, causing Kaidan to stop, "Come with me, Kaidan, it will be just like old times." He smiled at the thought. "Please." He finally added.
Kaidan took a deep breath, and turned around, hoping he looked more composed than he felt. "No, and no it wont. I'll never work for Cerberus. - Goodbye Shepard, and be careful." He turned around again, and this time he started walking away. Kaidan felt more like he stumbled blindly away, but he didn't hear Shepard follow, so he must have come off like he was in control.
"Shit." Shepard kicked the ground. He looked in the direction where Kaidan had disappeared, and frowned, he knew he didn't have a whole lot to bring to the table, but there was no way in hell he was gonna go down like that.
"Alenko!" He called, suddenly sprinting after the other man.
Kaidan walked towards his shuttle, luckily it was fairly intact, and he could make it back to whatever Alliance ship was in the area. He might have to stay put here for a day or two. He pushed the communication button in his shuttle, "This is Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko of the Alliance. Requesting extraction from mission on Horizon, does anyone read me?" He waited for a little while, hoping that the Alliance had a ship near that would pick up on his secure Alliance channel. The radio beeped and a scratchy voice cam through, "This is Captain Samita Talid of the SSV Iwo Jima. We read you Lieutenant Alenko. We are two days from your destination, but we can make a detour to pick you up, where are you heading soldier?"
"Home." Kaidan sighed, But then pushed the communication talk button, "I have to report back to the Citadel. Captain."
"Of course, Lieutenant Alenko." The scratchy voice said, "Sit tight. We are on our way."
"Thank you so much Captain, Alenko out." He shut the com down, resting back in the seat of the shuttle, "Shit," He whined, He had looked forward to leaving this fucking rock. And now he was stuck here for two days. "I do not need this shit." He whispered, closing his eyes.
"Need a lift?" Shepard asked softly, walking slowly from the shadow to where Kaidan sat inside the shuttle.
"No." Kaidan huffed. And then opened his eyes and looked up at Shepard. "Your mission here is done I assume. Why are you still here?"
"You're wrong." Shepard said, gingerly sitting down on the footing to the driver's seat, looking up at the other man. "Anderson told me you were still in the Alliance, but wouldn't tell me more. Which is only fair I assume. But I did check up on you, and I knew you would be here."
"Are you spying on me John?"
"Yeah. Suppose I am." Shepard admitted with a little laugh, "Just wanted to.." He sighed and folded his hands in his lap. "I don't know what I wanted, but I'm pretty sure it was not this." He turned his head and looked over at the table in the garage, filled with tools to repair the shuttle. "I know you're upset, and.."
"Upset?" Kaidan interrupted Shepard's admission, "You betrayed me! The Shepard I knew would never do that!"
Shepard opened his mouth to voice a counter argument, but then as earlier he just closed it, shaking his head, staring down at his hands. "Maybe not." He didn't know what to say, he had hoped that the whole political mess wouldn't matter, not when they finally stood face to face. He had had a childish hope that Kaidan would fall into his arms, and come with him, rekindling the time lost. This was not reality, this was absolutely -not- reality. "You're right." He finally said, looking up at Alenko, his Commander mask firmly in place, "Two years is a long time, and we are both different people."
"Please John, this serves no purpose at all." Kaidan said, he scooted out of his seat and pushed past Shepard on the step, jumping out of the shuttle. "Go home."
Shepard got to his feet, "You're being an asshole Kaidan." He suddenly just said, grabbing Alenko's wrist, forcing him to stop his beginning pacing back and forth. He looked directly into Kaidan's eyes, "My last coherent thought was of you." He admitted, "I didn't want to die, i fought it for as long as i could, but in the end i suffocated inside my own damn suit, and i thought of you, on one hand i felt content that you were safe in a pod, but sad that the last words to you was an order. It wasn't supposed to end like that." He let go of Kaidan's arm.
Kaidan looked at Shepard, scanning his face for any untruth, but found none. He wasn't going to tell Shepard that Joker had been sitting with him for hours when he had learned that Shepard had not made it on board the last pod. He had felt guilty for wishing the roles had been reverse, that it had been John surviving, not Joker. But to his surprise, Joker had turned out a real friend, understanding all the downright cruel things Kaidan would say as he wept, was just his heart breaking, and not necessarily the truth. Aimless anger, and acute survivors guilt. Blaming himself for listening to Shepard when he had told him to leave his side to evacuate everyone else, and why had he gotten in that pod at all? Because he was scared and didn't want to die. But had he for just one second thought that Shepard would not make it, -never-, John was indestructible. "Thank you Shepard." He said calm, and measured. "That makes me feel -so- much better."
"I just can't win with you, can I?" Shepard sighed, rubbing his face with his hands in frustration.
A long moment of silence, "Alright, I have to respect that." He said with a tiny voice.
"Thank you." Kaidan said, stepping back to create more room between them.
"So.." Shepard straightened up, "Be careful, Alenko. Space is dangerous." He tried to smile at his own half ass joke, and failed miserably.
"You too, Commander."
Shepard turned around, leaving. Everything in him told him to turn around and grab Alenko and make him understand. But his better judgment knew it would serve no purpose, other than reopening old wounds. Suddenly the idea of a postcard didn't seem all that dumb, it would have saved them both for a lot of bullshit that was for sure.
Kaidan stood in the garage, torn. He knew he had made the right decision, he had finally gotten his life back, he was dating a nice doctor back on the Citadel, and he had gotten new friends, a new life. One without John Shepard. Then why the hell did it hurt so much, watching his ex-lover walk out of the garage. He almost called him back, but decided against it. Instead he went back to his shuttle and sat down inside with a deep sigh. It had been easier to think there was some mistake in his intel, or maybe that Shepard was just a bastard, before he had looked into his eyes that was. It would be two days of canned fruit, and lots of jerking off. Why had Shepard had to come here? Shaking him out of his fragile but comfortable new existence.
Garrus and Jack was sitting on the steps to the colony mess hall, at some point they had been so bored that they had gone treasure hunting like little kids, and Jack had scored big, when she had found some moonshine and a deck of cards. And suddenly the Horizon was less mind numbingly boring. None of them had noticed that Shepard had come back, it was not until they heard him signal Joker, "..I've had enough of this colony." he mumbled.
Both Jack and Garrus stopped their card game and looked at their Commander, but judging from his expression, they didn't want to ask. So they didn't. They silently packed up the game and Jack stuck the bottle down in her ammo bag. Waiting in awkward silence till they could board the Normandy. And even as they boarded, Shepard just went to his cabin, he didn't talk to a soul, and when someone asked what was wrong, Jack and Garrus would just shake their heads, and then ask who was up for a game of 21.
Shepard let the door click shut behind him, he went straight for his desk, and with a defiant expression, flipped the picture he had of Kaidan there, face down. Undoing his uniform, buckle for buckle, he stripped down and went to the bathroom. He wished he could wash the entire day off, not that it was only sweat, grime and blood that would rinse away. But that Kaidan's accusing words would somehow be flushed out too. Shepard turned the water off and went to the sink, clearing the mirror for some fog from the bath. "He was right." He said to his own reflexion. "You had no right to think things would be the same." He frowned at his own haunted face in the mirror, "You're an idiot John." And with that Shepard slammed his fist into the mirror, breaking it into tiny pieces. It was oddly gratifying, he had to admit that.
"Snap out of it man." He told himself as he walked out of the bathroom, aiming directly for his bed. "You've seen worse, right? You died and came back. You can get past that stuck up little shit rejecting you.." He fell gracelessly down into his bed and pulled the cover up to his chin. He would be fine, he was overreacting, and just needed a good nights sleep, that was all. "Fuck." He closed his eyes, trying to will himself to find rest, but all he got was unwelcome images of Kaidan coming back to him, things that had been, and the things that was. He smiled to himself as he recalled this particular evening where they had had a some time between fighting what had seemed like the whole fucking milky way. They had docked at this uninhabited planet, and had had a barbecue, space-food was fine, but there was nothing like food prepared over a fire. The crew had scattered, some had gone off to look around, some had just take the down time to catch up on some sleep. And he and Alenko had just been sitting there looking up at the stars, talking. It had been so peaceful that he couldn't recall a single time in his life that had been this calm, this perfect. Kaidan had talked about BAat, not the depressing stuff, but the mischief they'd get up to sometimes. Shepard wish he could remember some of the stories but he could just remember he had laughed, trying to imagine Kaidan as a kid. It had just been a perfect moment, letting him entertain the more than flimsy idea of a life filled with this, just him and Kaidan. No monsters, no wars, no battles.
Maybe that was it, Shepard thought to himself on the border of sleep. To leave the past as a pleasant memory of what had been, no one could take that from either of them. And then take this opportunity to start over.
The next day Shepard seemed his normal self again, and the crew quickly forgot the strange brooding, dark, Commander they had seen when he had returned from Horizon. And over the next days everything seemed normal, he had even joined Jack and Garrus in their new favorite pastime, a game of 21.
Actually he seemed a little -too- okay, which caused Garrus to call upon his Commander one late evening. Shepard was sitting at his computer, trying to make heads and tails of his report of the Horizon event, he had postponed it till he couldn't ignore the order to get it off his desk. "Commander." Garrus said as he stepped into the sparsely lit room.
"Garrus." Shepard said with a little tired smile, he pushed off his computer, and looked at the Turian, waiting for what was apparently so important that Garrus invaded his private space. "Can I help you?" He asked.
"I.. uhm." Garrus' gaze found the spot where he knew Shepard used to have a picture of Kaidan, this space was now empty. "Are you okay Commander?" He finally just asked, watching Shepard as he seemingly pondered on the question.
"I'm fine, thank you." Shepard said with an uncomplicated shrug. "This report is a bitch though, I wish Kelly could type them up."
"If you need a shoulder, or.." Garrus chose his words carefully. "You know I'm here."
"I know Garrus, thanks." Shepard said, running a hand over his buzzcut, he added, "I just hadn't expected him to lash out like that, but it's fine. I don't blame him, really no one could have foreseen that, or have predicted that situation. So yeah, I know what you're thinking, but I'm fine. Honestly."
Garrus just stared at Shepard, not buying the whole -I'm a bigger person- thing. But then he just shrugged and nodded, "If you say so. I just wanted to make sure."
"Sure." Shepard said, "Well, Garrus. I have work to do, I need to get this done before we dock at the Citadel tomorrow." He turned around and started typing again.
He was clearly being dismissed, but Garrus wouldn't hear of it. He could almost taste the lie in the air. "Are you going to mention that we met Alenko on Horizon?"
"Of course." Shepard said still typing away, "Wanna read it?" He said with a hint of bitterness. "I can read it for you, I wrote; Upon searching the colony for clues as to why the Collectors would target this specific colony, not wanting to rule out that it could have been something else, besides the beacon. We came upon Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko with the Alliance. He and one other survivor was all there was left after the Collectors finished. How they managed to remain untouched, I don't know. Lieutenant Alenko served under me at the original SSV Normandy, and is a person of integrity, and when he expressed his confusion over Cerberus investigation at the colony, I have no choice but to listen. He and I exchanged pleasantries, and then Gunnery sergeant Vakarian, project Zero (Jack) and myself boarded the Normandy once more, after learning that Lieutenant Alenko didn't have any information he could or would share, as to why the Collectors had come to Horizon."
"But that isn't true." Garrus said, clining his head, looking intensely at Shepard.
"Now it is." Shepard said curtly. "I can't see what my personal life has to do with the mission. I was asked to go there, and I accepted. End of story." Shepard looked up at Garrus with a warning written across his features. "Is that clear, Garrus?"
"Crystal. Commander." Garrus said, less than satisfied with this exchange. Maybe Jack would have more luck?
"Dismissed." Shepard just said, turning back to his report. The second Garrus was out the door Shepard let out a deep breath, he closed the window where he was writing the report, and stared at the email window open. Earlier that day he had received a letter from Kaidan, most unexpected really. It was very short, it just said;
I'm sorry for what I said back on Horizon. I spent two years pulling myself back together after you went down with the Normandy. It took me a long time to get over my guilt for surviving and move on. I'd finally let my friends talk me into going out for drinks with a doctor on the Citadel. Nothing serious, but trying to let myself have a life again, you know?
Then I saw you, and everything pulled hard to port. You were standing in front of me, but you were with Cerberus. I guess I really don't know who either of us is anymore.
When things settle down a little... maybe... I don't know. Just take care.
Shepard had been staring at the reply box like an idiot for hours now, and this was the main reason that he wasn't done with his report. Every time he wrote something, it just came off as insincere, stupid, passive aggressive, or downright pathetic. He stared at the letters on the screen, the mouse hovering over the send button. His reply just said -Where are you?- but it was the best he could come up with. He was a marine, not a poet. In the end he just pushed 'send' and sat back, getting up to get some coffee from the kitchen at the crew deck.
When he came back, he had a little flashing icon on his monitor. He gingerly sat down and clicked for the mail to open. It was from Kaidan and just said -The Citadel.-
Shepard wet his lips, wondering what Kaidan was doing right now, maybe he was making himself ready for a date with that doctor he met, or maybe not, since he was taking time to email him. Shepard swiftly typed -The Normandy docks in the morning, want to meet?- And then he deleted the last, but then it just looked stupid, so he added -The Normandy docks in the morning, let's have a drink- He clicked 'send' and felt better. The last thing he wanted was to come off as desperate and touchy freely, he had tried to reason with Kaidan, telling him the truth, talking about his feelings, but that had gotten him nowhere. So he figured there was no reason for it, if it really made them both uncomfortable. He waited around for a moment, hoping the next message would come back just as fast as the other, but it didn't. So Shepard resigned himself to typing up his report, trying to not expect his computer to give him that little email chime.
The next morning it was there though, and it just said -I don't think that is smart, I don't know Shepard.. Rain check maybe?-
Shepard had looked forward to that email all night, and it had absolutely not said what he had expected it to, he had hoped it had said something like 'Chora's Den, at nine. I'm buying'. It was with a sinking, gray, sad feeling he answered care Alenko.- He clicked 'send' before he could regret it.