Author's Notes: Shepard is awake! whoo! And sassy as ever. Well, sort of. I realize now that the Shepard I've begun to formulate in my head is far different from the one I played. My Dragon Age story turned out the same way. Not sure why...all I know is that this Shepard is a good fit for Kaidan, and that's all that matters. I still cannot believe the sheer interest in this story! Thousands upon thousands of hits...you all amaze me! I can't say thank you enough. It means the world to me to know so many people are interested in this.
HellzCrusader: Yeah, ff mobile gives me a lot of trouble. I always use the full site whenever I can ;)
Kahlan: LOL, thankfully for me my fiance is gay, so I don't have that trouble. But I can see why your bf would be like what! I'm glad other people love this pairing as much as I do...it's just so adorable.
SailorElfGirl: It's true, isn't it? Not a lot of long-term stories are written in Kaidan's POV. I dunno why, I just wanted this to be more of a Kaidan-centric story than ShepCentric. And you shall be seeing flashbacks, well, of sorts, as time goes along. I think you'll enjoy them!
Ragnarok45: I played femshep/Liara too actually! I really enjoyed the pairing, but I left Zoe Shepard (my femshep) behind after game 2 because of some poor choices I made which resulted in some unfortunate deaths :/ As for your comment on smaller choices, they're starting to surface here and there. I can't state when and where but I'm hoping that they'll stand out enough in the story that you'll catch them :) As Shepard and Kaidan go through the motions of visiting friends, etc. then more choices should become apparent. I'm glad someone else is a stickler for things like that, like me! And I'm flattered this is becoming your headcanon now...I'll have to keep up the good work. XD
Lyros: Aw, thank you! Chakwas is an unsung heroine in my mind-I have loved her since day one and figured she deserved good representation. There will be some conflict, although I can't specify what, exactly. Hehe. I like a healthy balance of fluff and angst. ;)
Thank you all to my loyal readers! I hope you enjoy this chapter as much as the next. Please be sure to leave me a review with your thoughts/comments/etc!
Once the news had somehow spread that Shepard was in Huerta Hospital, it seemed as though a mass exodus of long lost "friends" and supporters alike were coming out of the woodwork in order to wish him congratulations on a job well done. Over the course of the next week, the sheer number of visitors who wanted to see Shepard and wish him well overwhelmed Huerta, which eventually had to ban all non-essential personnel and immediate family from visiting without express approval from the patients within.
In Kaidan's eyes it seemed an extreme measure, but the longer he sat on the idea, the better he felt about it. After all, too much attention was never a good thing. News reporters from across the galaxy were trying to get in to obtain just a piece of Shepard's story, of his actions against the Reapers. Kaidan could tell that things were kept well under wraps as none of the programs he watched throughout the day could say much more beyond what the general public already knew: Shepard had defeated the Reapers and that he was recovering from the battle in Huerta Memorial in the Citadel.
And that was precisely how it needed to stay until Shepard was able to share his story. Even though he had come through the coma with seemingly little long-term issues, there were a few short-term ones that prevented him from functioning fully. John was under observation for at least two more days to ensure that he was capable of performing daily tasks with an adequate level of autonomy. Despite his obvious disapproval, he went along with it, which was no surprise to Kaidan. John took risks, but when it came to himself, he followed the rules pretty close.
Kaidan, as was to be expected, had visited John as much as time allowed while he recovered from his comatose state. Today was the first day since John had awoken that Kaidan was able to stay for a significant period of time. He'd been working nonstop to ensure the Citadel was back up to snuff, partnering with Commander Bailey on updating all security protocol and enforcing rules and regulations with the repair of certain parts of the Wards. Unsurprisingly, such a job took up the majority of his time. However, for the first time since the war had ended, he'd finally taken a day off. He felt he deserved one.
Kaidan and John currently sat in one of the many sun rooms scattered across the levels of Huerta Memorial. There were one or two other patients sharing the medium-sized space with them, but they mattered little. Kaidan's focus remained upon Shepard, who was staring rather intently out the glass wall and across the Presidium. He'd been awfully quiet today. Kaidan knew that typically meant something was brewing beneath the surface. He had left well enough alone for most of the day, but now he couldn't help but ask.
"Hey, what's on your mind? You've been disappearing into your head all day."
"Hm? Oh." Shepard turned to face him, a small smile taking over his face. "Just thinking about when I have to jail break out of here. I know I told Chakwas I'd wait the two days, but I'm getting stir crazy."
"Seems like more than that," Kaidan said, scratching his chin. He knew very well that John would have been up and moving around if he felt trapped or stir crazy. "This is more…got-something-keeping-me-from-being-able-to-think-fully."
"Aren't you observant? Can't hide anything from you, that's for sure."
Kaidan wondered why John went silent then, and why he shifted in his chair, paying far more attention than usual to the small wound upon his arm where they had kept his I.V. inserted. This definitely was something to do with himself. Why was Shepard so preoccupied?
"I've just been…thinking about what happened. Earlier."
"You mean here on the Citadel?"
"Yeah. The more I think about it, the less I seem to remember. I can't explain it. Feels almost like—"
"Like a dream?"
"Yeah. Like a dream." Shepard glanced down at his lap, then over at Kaidan. "I know I haven't told you what happened up there yet."
"Figured you would whenever you were ready. I know better than to try and push information out of you. At least now," he amended as an afterthought, smiling faintly. Kaidan stared at the other patients in the sun room. They were a safe distance away, and otherwise occupied in their own conversation. He doubted they would hear. Still, he hunched forward, resting his forearms atop his thighs. "So what happened?"
"After the Reaper blast, I managed to wake up and get to the transport beam. It knocked me out, but I woke up somewhere on the Citadel. I remember lots of bodies, and a few Keepers…and then I remember a conversation with the Illusive Man that didn't end well. I had to shoot him. Honestly don't remember if he lived or not. I was more worried about Anderson. He was there, too."
"Captain Anderson?" Kaidan asked curiously. "Really?"
Shepard furrowed his brow. Kaidan knew that face all too well.
"What happened next?"
"The Illusive Man…shot him, before I was able to stop him." John looked away, rubbing his lower lip with the tip of his index finger. "Anderson died. I knew there wasn't anything I could do, so I went to activate the Catalyst, and it took me into this…room. I don't know. The Catalyst was apparently alive and sentient. It told me about the Reapers and how they're necessary because synthetics and organics will inevitably go to war and destroy each other. It…gave me a couple options…"
"Options for what?"
"Options for ending the war." John returned his gaze to Kaidan, but only long enough to acknowledge his question. "They all seemed extreme…so extreme."
"This doesn't make any sense. So you're saying the Catalyst was alive? Did it have a form?"
"Yeah, it did," Shepard said gruffly. "I don't really fully understand what happened. The way it described itself, it sounded like—like God or something. It said that the Reapers were its creation, designed to help bring order back to the chaos of the universe."
"And this—this thing gave you…choices."
"Yeah. Told me I could destroy the Reapers, but that doing so would destroy all synthetic life and everything we've developed, like mass relays, virtual intelligence, so on. Then it told me I could control the Reapers, but that I would lose my body in the process."
Kaidan scratched his head. Neither of these options seemed particularly fitting, or productive. And Shepard had clearly chosen neither, as the relays still existed, and he obviously existed. That meant there was another choice.
"What was the other option? The one you chose?"
"Synthesis," was all he replied with.
"A complete melding of synthetic and organic life."
When John offered no more explanation that that, Kaidan's mind began to reel. What in the world did that even mean? How could there be a complete melding of organic and synthetic life? How could something like that happen, let alone on such a grand scale? The idea seemed so preposterous that he couldn't help laughing at it. He stopped when he saw that Shepard wore just as serious an expression as he had been earlier.
"You've got to be kidding, John. Wha—what?"
"According to the Catalyst, all life in the galaxy now carries a hybrid DNA strand that is both synthetic and organic. It said the only way for us to fully cooperate was if we were one and the same. It didn't believe the peace between the Geth and the Quarians would last without a common ground. Even when I explained EDI and how she's grown, it didn't fully agree. This was the only option it offered that removed the threat."
"But did it?" Kaidan asked incredulously. "If Reapers are supposedly the 'order' that fixes the chaos in the galaxy, how will making the synthetics and organics meld together do anything to stop us from destroying each other?"
John's voice began to raise, its deep note carrying throughout the sun room. "The Catalyst didn't say. What was I supposed to do, Kaidan? Throw us back in the dark ages? Was I supposed to trust that gaining control of the Reapers would make them go away permanently? Huh?"
"I—I don't know."
Kaidan hated that he didn't have an answer, but damn it, how could he? None of those options seemed feasible for fixing the age old problem they had fought so hard to abolish. Shepard had done what he felt was best, but this affected the galaxy at large on a significant level. Did this mean the Geth now carried organic material within them? And what about species like the Asari? The Krogan? How would this synthetic hybrid DNA affect them over time? Would they live even longer lives? Would the Krogan become all powerful?
"Did it give you any sort of answer as to what this was going to do to us?" he asked in concern. "Or how it would even be capable of such massive genetic engineering?"
"No. But I guess if it was able to create the Reapers, it might as well we capable of anything."
Kaidan took a deep breath and sighed. If he stopped to think about it, the choice John had made was really the best of the worst. All three choices had their drawbacks, with the first two holding the most obvious: destruction of their mechanical evolution or his own death. The third option didn't seem overtly terrible, but the implications alone were tremendous.
He couldn't stop thinking about what this could mean for the galaxy as a whole. Would it bring them together…or tear them apart?
And then he remembered something.
"Wait a second. We already saw this."
John appeared confused. "What?"
"Doctor Chakwas and I. We…already saw this. In action." At his lover's continued look of confusion, he explained further, "She was running tests on you and discovered your hybrid DNA. We…we thought it was because of what Cerberus had done to you."
"So did it do anything?"
"I have no idea. She thinks it may be what helped your body to recover its injuries so quickly. But maybe that was the other Cerberus synthetics in your system. Honestly, it's hard to tell. She would know better than me."
"Guess I should ask her, then. Does anybody else know about the results?"
"The other doctor who's been helping you, Doctor Mesata. Aside from her…" Kaidan shrugged. "I don't really know."
Silence fell between them. Kaidan's mind filled with thoughts of all kinds, though it seemed to obsess the most over the mass confusion that would arise from the discovery that all species now carried synthetic DNA. The idea of it remained so confusing, so…strange.
Maybe he was thinking in fear. He couldn't help himself. This was an unprecedented experience that the galaxy as a whole would be thrown into. There were bound to be reactions all over the board.
"When are you going to tell everyone?" he asked.
"In time," Shepard replied. "What the galaxy needs right now is peaceful time to repair itself. Countless planets were destroyed, and many more came close. People have hope now. They need that to rebuild."
Kaidan couldn't help but feel that waiting to tell everyone would blow up in their face. The unfortunate fact was that it likely would do the same even if the galaxy found out immediately.
Catch-22 if there ever was one…
"I trust your judgment," Kaidan said, with full conviction. He'd trusted Shepard with his life time and time again. He had to believe he'd made the right decision. If he couldn't, what hope was there for them?
He reached across the space between them and gently gripped hold of John's shoulder. They needed to think about something else—something more exciting and fun. "So what're you gonna do once you get out of here?"
Kaidan smiled. "Don't tell me you're gonna go straight to Admiral Hackett. You of all people deserve some rest."
"No. I—" He stopped. He gave Kaidan a look, softening his expression. He said, "I just want to see a sunset. I haven't had the chance to really enjoy one since I joined the Alliance all those years ago. You know, a real Earth sunset."
"What, you mean you didn't enjoy them while you were grounded after what happened with the Bahak system?"
John rolled his eyes. "Oh, yes. I really enjoyed them from the small one by one window in my holding cell. That was great."
"Thought I'd make light of the situation. What you said is a lot to swallow."
"I could give you something else to swallow, if you're so concerned."
Kaidan's eyes widened. He couldn't help but laugh.
"Good to know this synthetic hybridization hasn't ruined your overtly sexual sense of humor."
John simply smirked.
. . . . .
"Well, Commander, today's the day. Are you ready to finally leave?"
John slipped on his leather jacket and gave himself a quick once over in a mirror hanging just beside the door leading outside his room. "Couldn't be more ready in my life. No offense, Doctor, but I'm sick of this place."
Doctor Chakwas nodded. She wore a smile. "I can only imagine. As much as you likely won't want to hear it, I'll need you to come back in a week so that Doctor Mesata and I can perform a follow up with you. Kaidan, I'm looking to you to bring him in." She winked.
"Oh, no, no, don't go putting this on me." Kaidan chuckled. He wasn't about to be responsible for policing a man who was fiercely independent.
"I'll be here," Shepard said.
"In the meantime, Mesata and I look into your…specialized enhancements," Chakwas said. "With the blood samples you provided for us, we may be able to come up with some substantive understanding as to how it affects you in your day to day functions. It may very well have been the reason you came out of the coma with such fantastic healing. Remember to please keep a log for me. What may not seem important to you could provide incredibly useful for us."
"I can do that. See you in a week, Doctor. Thanks for everything."
With their goodbyes behind them, Kaidan and Shepard left Huerta Memorial. To his surprise, Kaidan watched as Shepard took in everything that surrounded them. Not much had changed, but he supposed the curiosity came from having been in the hospital for so long; John was likely just happy to see something other than doctors and the same recycled scenery outside his window. He'd been trapped in there for nearly over a month.
"It's nice to be able to walk and not have to worry about someone breathing down my neck," John said as they slipped into the elevator leading them to the travel dock of the Presidium. "I get monitoring my progress, but I've never had that kind of watchful eye on me."
Kaidan instinctively wanted to ask, What about your parents? But he knew better. Shepard had grown up on Earth without ever having known his parents. It was a subject they hadn't touched much upon over the years, and as such he knew little about it. Although he had always wanted to discover more, he figured the subject would be brought up when the time was right. Or so he hoped.
So, unsure of what else to say, he settled upon saying, "Yeah, I don't miss it, either. Glad to be healed up."
The two walked in relative silence to the transport hub, where they took a shuttle to the Normandy's dock. Once there, both Kaidan and Shepard stepped out and started for the long pathway leading them back to the ship. It wasn't until they were just about to board that John finally said something.
"Everything feels like it normally does. I'm not sure why I was expecting any different."
"It's a bit mixed right now," Kaidan replied. "You'll see normalcy in most places, but there are still a few places around the Citadel where they're rebuilding or repairing. Everywhere else is where normal is still coming to terms with itself."
"Wonder what Earth looks like."
"Well, you'll see soon enough, right?"
John nodded, but said nothing more. He activated the entry to the Normandy, and with Kaidan by his side, stepped into the decontamination chamber that cleared them for re-entry to the ship. Once on board, they were greeted by EDI, who spoke with a surprising tone of excitement.
"Shepard, you've finally returned. It is good to see you aboard your ship once again. We have missed you."
He chuckled. "EDI, nice to hear you again. I haven't seen you since last week. Are you actually aboard the ship?"
"No, Shepard, but I will be returning with Joker soon. We enjoyed a date at the Apollo Cafe and are currently on our way back. We will see you shortly."
"Sounds good, EDI. I'll see you two when you get back."
Kaidan laughed. "How many people can say their ship is just as happy to see its commander as the commander is to see his ship?"
"Probably very few," Shepard replied, the corners of his mouth curling upward in a small smile. "But I'm glad to be one of them."
"Well, now that you're back on your ship, what's your first course of action?"
"No damn clue. I plan on getting something to eat and then going up to my cabin to check my email. Several weeks' worth is probably going to keep me busy for a long while. What about you?"
"About the same, actually. Well, until later this afternoon, when I have to go see Commander Bailey. When did we get so boring?"
"Defeating the biggest threat the galaxy has ever seen kind of does that to you. Everything else pales in comparison." Shepard clasped Kaidan's shoulder. "Come up to my cabin when you're done?"
"Count on it."
As the two men went their separate ways, Kaidan couldn't help but smile. Just having John back on the Normandy made everything real right again. Joker and EDI would likely say the same thing when they saw him, too. He looked forward to dinner tonight.
Kaidan arrived in the crew quarters just a few moments later, heading for the small desk in the corner he'd claimed as his own since the majority of the crew remained on shore leave. As he logged on to his email, he was surprised to find at the very top a message from his mother marked Your Father. His heart skipped a beat. The last time he'd heard from his mother, she had told him his father went to active duty to fight in the war. Try though he might, Kaidan hadn't been able to find him. For all he knew, his father had been killed in action, or was gravely injured.
Taking a deep breath, he clicked open the email and began to read:
I wanted to write to you and let you know that your father is fine. Even though he went MIA earlier, he returned without any significant injuries. He and I had a long discussion about what he did and he agrees that it was brash and stupid. All I really care about is that he is okay.
We've gone back to Vancouver now and are no longer staying at your aunt's in Seattle. The orchard isn't in as bad of shape as we thought it would be, not like the rest of the city. This year's harvest is going to be rough, however, so cross your fingers for us. There will be a lot of replanting to do next spring.
We know that the Reapers have been defeated but I haven't heard a single thing from you since you told me you were helping to recover the Citadel. That was weeks ago. I waited to see if you would email me but since you haven't, I thought I would email you.
Are you going to come home for a visit? Your father and I haven't seen you in a very long time. It would be nice to have you back with us for at least a couple of days. I'm sure your father would like to hear the story of how you helped take down the Reapers.
We miss you terribly.
Email me back soon.
Kaidan sighed. Leave it to his mother to unintentionally guilt him for not having written in some time. He knew it was his fault for having forgotten, and now it was on him to write back.
She made a good point: it had been ages since he'd seen his parents. Maybe Shepard's desire to visit Earth could coincide with Kaidan's need to visit his family. He had, after all, always wanted to show him his family's orchard, and share a drink with him there. Call him old-fashioned, but that seemed like the perfect way to spend time with a loved one. And to him, there was nothing more beautiful than a sunset overlooking the blossoming trees in the orchard.
He would need to speak to the Council about getting approved leave, but that wouldn't likely be a problem. He was more concerned with what John would say. He resolved to speak with him about it later.