This is my first foray into the Mass Effect world. All of my stories have been about Dragon Age so it took some time and about five different versions of this chapter before I was somewhat happy with it. I'm not completely satisfied, but I hope that the more that I write these characters the stronger they will be come. Please share your thoughts with me, but be gentle with my delicate ego. ; )
Chapter 1 – Someone Like You
"I've been searching a long time, for someone exactly like you.
I've been traveling all around the world, waiting for you to come through
Someone like you make it all worthwhile
Someone like you, keep me satisfied, someone exactly like you.
I've been traveling a hard road, I've been looking for someone exactly like you
I've been carrying my heavy load, waiting for the light to come shining through
Someone like you, make it all worthwhile
Someone like you, keep me satisfied, someone exactly like you.
I've been doing some soul searching, to find out where you were at
I've been up and down the highway, in all kinds of foreign lands
Someone like you, make it all worthwhile
Someone like you, keep me satisfied, someone exactly like you."
Someone Like You by Van Morrison
Six months ago when the Normandy had docked in Washington DC and the Alliance had taken the infamous Commander Teghan Shepard into protective custody Lieutenant James Vega had never in a million years dreamed that he would be assigned as the legendary Commander's personal bodyguard. Ever since officers training school, he had heard all the stories about the heroic actions of the N7 officer, but what the stories didn't say was how incredibly down-to-earth she was, they didn't depict her quick sense of humor that at times boarded on inappropriate and the tales always seem to leave out how a woman who had been in more firefights then most military squadrons and brought back from the dead had remained so unbelievably beautiful.
Guarding her 24/7 had given him the privilege to get to know the real Commander Shepard and she was unlike any woman that he had ever met before. He was completely drawn to her and captivated by her, although he would never let her know that because it would put him at a very unfair disadvantage and finding things to leverage to her advantage was something that she excelled at. The woman had two very distinct personas. There was her public one in which she was as cool as a cucumber, calculating, diplomatic, but still had the ability to put those around her at ease and have them telling her every one of their dirty, sordid secrets. He honestly didn't know how she did it. When she had stood up in court and the Counsel had stripped her of her command and her ship she had remained unreadable, unflappable and James knew that with a poker face like that he couldn't wait to get her to the card table.
Her private side, the one that very few got to see, was the part of her had captured his mind and his heart. When she lowered her guard and was just herself, there was a magnetism about her that pulled him in. It was more than her quick-wit, her charming smile, the way her eyes lit up when she told a story or joke or the way she could disarm you with a single glance. For him, the moment he knew he was a goner was when they had walked into her room after her trial, the second that the door closed and she knew that there were no probing eyes, her defenses crumbled. She sank onto the sofa, rested her elbows on her knees and buried her head in her hands. She looked so vulnerable and defenseless, every fiber in his being just wanted to protect and comfort her. She shook her head in defeat.
"James, I d-don't know where to go from here...I'm a soldier, it's all I know..."
James' heart broke for her in that moment even as the anger at what they had done to her coursed through his veins. He walked over to her, knelt down in front of her and grasped her hands in his as he looked into her lovely emerald eyes. "You still are a soldier, Shepard. Just because those pendejos have their heads so far up their asses that they just benched their prize fighter in the twelfth round doesn't make it any less true. You know who you are. Don't let them take that from you."
She stared down at their clasped hands for a long moment and he had to fight the growing urge to pull her into his arms and comfort her...in more than a guardian kind of way. She looked back up at him as an impish grin spread across her lips. "Pendejo, huh?...I'm going to have to remember that and use it more frequently when dealing with the Counsel." And just like that the confident, self-assured Commander was back. He had no idea what well of strength she drew from, but her ability to compartmentalize was incredible.
"Hey pendejo..." a cool sultry voice said as a pistachio bounced off his forehead pulling him out of his thoughts. He looked up into her emerald green eyes that were dancing with mischief. "Grow some cojones and ante up."
"You know, Commander, it's a real turn on when you swear in Spanish at me," James replied.
"Turning you on is not my goal here, Lieutenant, but taking all your money is. Now, are you in, big boy or out?" Shepard replied with coy grin as she tossed back her long, dark mahogany hair.
James looked at his cards then at the pile of credits on the table. He looked over at the marine on his right.
"You got to know when to hold, know when to fold them," Shepard sung lightly under her breath.
James ignored her taunts. "What about you, Todd?"
The blond haired man just shook his head and threw his cards down on the table, "Nope, that's too rich for my blood. I'm out."
The Turian soldier sitting across from him said with smiled, "Oh, I'm in…all in." He pointed to the three hundred credits he had just thrown on the pile.
"Know when to walk away, know when to run," she continued to croon softly.
"Commander, what did you bet?" James asked.
"I told you not call me Commander anymore, James, and if the game is boring you so much that it can't keep your attention then maybe you don't deserve to know," Shepard replied.
"Come on Chiquita, give me a break."
"Oh alright, I met my fine Turian friend's bet and I raised it," Shepard replied.
"How much?" James asked patiently.
A sly grin spread across her face as she took a sip of her whiskey, "That all the losers had to lose their shirts…literally."
James smiled and he couldn't stop his eyes from glimpsing down at her chest. "Oh Comm…I mean Shepard, I'm going to enjoy this show. I meet your beat." James said as he threw the matching credits on the pile.
"So what do you ladies have?" James asked purposely looking at the Turian.
"Full house," the Turian said as he laid down three tens and two aces and began to pull the pile his way.
"Not so fast, sticky fingers," James said. Then he looked over at Shepard who had the best poker face he had ever seen. "And you my dear lady, what do you have?"
She grinned at him. "I'll you show you mine, if you show me yours."
James laughed. "Oh, I do believe you will be showing me yours," James said as he laid down the seven, eight, nine, ten and jack of hearts. James leaned back in his chair and grinned.
"Wow, a straight flush…impressive…hmmm, that certainly would beat my four of kind," Shepard said as she slowly placed the queen of spades down on the table, followed by the queen of diamonds, hearts and clubs.
"You can remove that shirt of yours anytime, 'Commander'," James purred and the other two players at the table leaned forward.
Shepard held up the last remaining card in her hand. "Except…"
James' eyes went wide, "Except?"
"Except if you're playing with a wild card," Shepard stated as she laid the Joker on top of her four queens giving her a five of a kind.
"I believe it will be you, Mr. Vega that will be giving us the show," Shepard cooed.
She pulled the pile of credits towards her she and as if serenading the money she sang, "You never count your money while sittin' at the table, there will be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done."
James laughed at the memory as he now made his way to her room. He had certainly given her a show as he made a production out of removing his shirt and when he had started for the belt on his pants, the other two soldiers had scrambled for the door, but Shepard had remained in her chair, laughing, her eyes glistening with delight. She told him to keep his pants on, but her eyes had definitely lingered on his bare chest. He was glad that he had managed to make her stay at the Alliance a little more bearable and that during that time they had become friends…sort of. Did you ever really become friends with a woman like Teghan Shepard?
James knocked on her door then walked in. "Commander," he said as he saluted her.
"James, James, James," Shepard said as she shook her head. "How many times to do I have to tell you not to call me Commander?"
James chuckled. "I'm not supposed to salute you either, but you don't see me stopping that."
"Either, you are very bad at following orders or its just mine you like to defy."
"Well, you're the one that keeps saying they aren't a commander any more, if that's the case then I don't have to follow your orders."
"Touche," Shepard replied with a grin.
"I'm here to escort you to the Pentagon. The Defense Committee wants to see you," James replied.
"Oooo, sounds important," Shepard said sarcastically as she followed him out of her room. She glanced around at all of the staff bustling around.
"What's going on?"
"I don't have a clue. They just told me to get you."
They briskly walked down the hall when James saw Admiral Anderson approach. He saluted him as Anderson shook Shepard's hand.
"You look good, Shepard. Maybe a little soft around the middle," Anderson stated.
James watched as she looked down and self-consciously rubbed her stomach. To be honest, James had no idea what the hell the Admiral was talking about. Shepard looked fine…more than fine to him.
James had to pick up his pace in order to keep up the two of them. They bantered back and forth regarding the counsel, Hackett and the reapers. It wasn't until Major Alenko arrived and he felt the tension rise in Shepard that he actually started to pay attention.
"Shepard," the Major questioned as he approached the group.
"Kaidan." There was hesitation in her voice that was underlined with pain.
"How did it go in there?" Anderson asked.
"You can never tell with them. I'm just waiting for orders," Major Alenko replied his eyes never leaving Shepard's face.
"Come on, Shepard," Anderson said.
James watched them walk away. He glanced over at the Major and noticed he was watching them too. There was a yearning in the man's expression that James recognized immediately.
"You know the Commander?" James asked.
There was a hesitation before he replied. "I used to or at least I thought I did," he said with regret.
Before James could reply a Staff Sergeant raced up to them and saluted. "Major Alenko and Lieutenant Vega, I have orders for the two of you to report to the Normandy immediately."
"What's going on?" Alenko asked.
"I'm not sure, Major. I was told you would receive your orders once you were on board the ship."
Now they were racing toward Mars, leaving the fight and Anderson behind back on Earth that was now being ravaged by the Reapers. It wasn't in his nature to run from a fight and every cell in his body was screaming for him to get off of that ship. When he had questioned her about this decision, he saw the real Commander Shepard for the first time. The lighthearted, joke cracking, whiskey drinking, card playing woman he had met had been replaced by a fighter with a strong backbone and take no shit attitude.
And she had definitely come to the end of taking his shit as she jammed her finger into his chest. "Enough Lieutenant! Don't you think I'd rather stay and fight? But we're going to the Citadel. You want out, you can catch a ride back from there."
James' body was shaking from fury, he didn't trust his ability to speak so he just turned and walked away from her.
Their plans had changed and Hackett diverted them to Mars to retrieve some important information from the archives. From the moment that they landed they were in a battle with Cerberus fighters as they fought their way to the Mars facility. The moment that they were inside and clear from Cerberus soldiers Alenko whirled on her.
"Shepard, I need a straight answer," Major Alenko demanded.
"Kaidan," Shepard said warily.
"Don't Kaidan me. This is business," Alenko shot back in frustration.
James felt his heart jump at the familiarity of the words. Don't Kaidan me! As if they had been down this path before...as if there was a history between them.
"Really? You think this is business. I don't think so! You have definitely made this personal," Shepard shot back.
"I have every right to question why Cerberus is here and since you worked for them…"
"I didn't work for them. I used them to stop the collectors since the Alliance was sitting on its ass letting colonies get harvested!"
"There's more to it, Shepard and you know it. They built you from the ground up then they gave you a ship and resources…"
"Oh for fuck sake, let me spell this out for you, Kaidan, I have had no contact with Cerberus since stopping the collectors and I have no idea why they are here or what they want," Shepard said as she took in a deep breath to collect herself.
It was clear that Alenko's doubts about her were very painful and James had enough of watching the bastard interrogate her. "Commander Shepard has been under constant surveillance since returning to Earth. There is no way they could have contacted her."
Through the visor of her helmet she looked over at him and there was gratitude in her eyes. James gave a curt nod of acknowledgment. How could the Major doubt her heart? It was written there for anyone with eyes to see.
The air pressure valve went off and all three of them removed their helmets.
"I'm sorry, Teg…it's just that…" Teg he had just called her Teg. There was an intimacy about the way he said the nickname. James felt sick at his stomach.
She spun and cut him off in mid-sentence. "If you don't trust Cerberus that's fine, but I am done explaining myself to you, Kaidan. You…" She paused as she collected her thoughts, and shook her head. "Y-you of all people should know who I am and what I'm about. Cerberus may have rebuilt my body, but they didn't rebuild my soul. "
Kaidan looked like someone had smacked him in the face as he ran his hand through his hair in frustration. It was blatantly obvious that these two had a past and one that hadn't ended on a good note.
"Are we clear?" Shepard demanded.
James didn't know the details of Shepard and Alenko's history, but he had hoped that by clearing the air between the two of them that it would help her put whatever their past was behind them, but as he watched her rock the unconscious, broken Alenko in her arms, her raw emotions completely exposed, he knew she was far from over the Major. An intelligent man would have counted his losses and walked away, but no one had ever accused him of being Einstein. He couldn't walk away from her even if he had wanted to. She was everything he had ever wanted in a woman and so much more. She may bring him heaven or hell, but he couldn't walk away until he knew which.
When they had arrived on the Citadel, Shepard was all business. First she made sure that Major Alenko had been taken care of at the hospital before she went to the counsel to request their aid for earth. He wasn't sure how it went, but when he saw her talking with Cortez and the other crew members, he really hoped that she made her way over to him. He watched as she talked and laughed with her crew, putting them at ease as she took the time to get to know each of them on a personal level. He really admired that about about her. To distract himself and to keep from staring at her, he began doing pull up reps.
A few minutes later she walked over and into his line of sight. "Hey Shepard, how did it go with the counsel?"
"The same old, same old, noncommittal, unhelpful and we ended with a nice game of you smack my ass I'll smack yours."
He grinned at her as he pulled his head above the bar and looked down at her. "Well, that could be fun…so what are we doing for this fun game of grab ass."
"We're going to rescue a Turian primarc from Palaven."
He continued to do his pull ups, trying not to think about how good she looked in that tight Alliance uniform. "Well that sounds interesting, never been to the Turian home world..." Why the hell was he suddenly so nervous around her? He couldn't think of damn thing to say.
"So did you come down here for something or are you just looking?"
"I did just come down here to chat, but I am enjoying the show."
"You're going to have to work harder than that if you want to make me blush, Chiquita. I'm not sure what you want to talk about. You've seen my service record."
"No I haven't. I wasn't privileged to that information when I was being held in custody."
James let go of the bar and dropped to the floor. He cracked his neck, trying to clear his head…she was now his Commanding Officer, she was now his Commanding Officer, she was now his Commanding Officer, he repeated over and over again.
"Well, you think you can dance and talk at the same time?" He asked as he cracked his knuckles.
"Oh, I can dance."
He chuckled as he followed her into the open area in the holding bay. "Okay, Chiquita, let's do this."
She grinned at him. "Don't let my good looks fool ya. I got my share of scars." She gave two quick jabs toward his face which he easily blocked.
He smirked at her. "Care to give me a personal viewing of these so called scares."
"Only after I give you a few new ones," she grunted. Jab, jab, block.
"Ha, you sound like my old CO." He said as he advanced towards her. Jab, block, jab, block, left hook, side step.
She quickened her steps as she advanced back towards him – jab, block, jab, side step, uppercut, back step. "Oh yeah," she panted. "And who was that?"
"Captain Toni, he was a hard ass son of a bitch, but a good leader," he panted - straight punch, block, jab, block.
"Died…with most of my squad. We were protecting a civilian colony from a Collector attack." Jab, block, left hook...and she connected with the side of his mouth.
He smirked and licked at the blood on his lip. "Nice."
"And the colony?"
"It was either them or the intel we had on the collectors," James grunted as he threw a hook, followed by an uppercut…block, block, but she stopped moving as the anger from that event forced his voice to become raspy.
"Intel that we could use to destroy them!" He grunted and threw a jab, hook combo. She held her ground and blocked the blows.
"I chose the intel." Anger coursed through him and the image of all those colonists either dead or harvested came to the forefront of his mind. He grunted then threw two quick left jabs followed by a right hook, catching her off guard and connecting with the side of her mouth.
Blood began pouring out her nose and down the side of her mouth, but she didn't back down. She advanced on him. "Tough choice," she growled – jab, jab, uppercut. "But it was the right call."
He lowered his hands slightly and looked at her. "You think so?"
Her fists were raised in a protective manner, but she looked over her hands and stared right into his eyes. "I would have done the same."
He laughed and circled her. "Funny thing was, that is exactly what you were doing. You were out saving the galaxy by taking out down the entire Collector homeworld. We never needed that intel."
"James, you had no way of knowing that. You can't blame yourself." Jab, block, jab, jab.
"Who says I'm blaming myself?"
She pivoted on her left foot, brought her leg up and delivered a solid kick into his sternum. He stumbled backwards, lowering his arms. "I do!" She declared.
"Are you a shrink too?" He asked, still a little off balance from the kick to the chest.
She moved in quickly, threw a hook and then an uppercut, connecting with the later. "Nope, but that stunt back on Mars was reckless. You're lucky to be alive."
"So maybe you don't care if you live or die…"
"Or maybe, I'm just willing to do whatever the fuck it takes to end this God damn war," he yelled as he threw a hook, she grabbed his arm, pivoted into him, using his momentum and weight she bent over threw him over her shoulder. He landed on his back. Stunned, out of breath and completely turned on, watched as she sauntered over to him.
"Maybe you are," she reached out and extended her hand to him. He clasped and she pulled him to his feet. "But if you are half as good as I think you are, James. I need you alive."
James whipped the blood from the side of his mouth. "Thanks for the pep talk."
"And thanks for the dance, Lola."
She smiled at him. "Lola…what no Chiquita?"
He laughed. "No, after seeing those moves you are definitely a Lola."
"You're cute, so I'll let you get away with it for now."
"That's it…now you made me blush," James said with a grin as he turned away from her…what he didn't say was she had also made him so incredibly hard. He looked over his shoulder and watched her walk away. She had said that she needed him and smile spread across his lips.
"What a woman," he thought.
A/N – Huge hugs to the Beta Goddess Jinxy for working her magic on this chapter. You rock my friend.