Title: 50 First Dates
Warning(s): Memory loss? Angst
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. Absolutely no profit is being made from this.
Summary: After living through the Thresher Maw incident in Akuze, John Shepard loses his short term memory and forever thinks it is 2173. Kaidan Alenko meets him and is determined to make Shepard fall in love with him, even if he has to do it every day.
Written as a fill for a prompt at the Mass Effect Kink Meme.
Feb. 10th, 2178
"He's waking up, Admiral," a woman's voice swam through the thick drumming that obscured Shepard's hearing. His vision was black and he could barely hear what was happening around him. He sensed his heartbeat rising and willed to himself to calm down. He tried to shake his head, but it felt too heavy to move. He couldn't lift his arms or his legs. "Try not to move, Lieutenant," the woman's voice said and he felt a soft something flit over his arm. "Don't try to talk either," the voice said. His throat felt dry – as though he hadn't had anything to drink in days. His mouth moved, he wanted to ask the stranger for water, but no sound came out. "You've been through an accident, you're still healing. You can't see because there's a bandage over your eyes. I'm going to take it off now, so that you can see." It took a moment for her to completely remover the wrap, but finally Admiral Anderson and the woman to whom the voice belonged came into blurry focus.
Admiral Anderson looked relieved, but the woman looked concerned. "We had you on a ventilator for a while, so your throat will feel dry. You can have some water, though." She held a straw to his lips and he took a long drink, coughing and spluttering on the water. She wiped at his face with a tissue. "Try again," she encouraged, "just not so much this time." He took a small sip and tried to nod, but his head still wouldn't seem to move. The woman set the cup down on a table and turned to leave the room. "Admiral, I'll give you two some time."
The door hissed shut behind her and Anderson walked over so that he was more visible in Shepard's line of vision. "You must be wondering what happened," he said, pulling up a small chair to sit on. He was next to where Shepard was laying, and Shepard could see the man's hands move as he talked. "Well, somehow you escaped the Thresher Maw on Akuze – I don't know how, so don't even bother asking. You did however, sustain heavy damage. Your entire body was covered in Thresher acid and while your armor took the brunt of the assault, your skin is still burned. And somehow – I'm thinking you kept your visor open to communicate with the team – it got into your eyes. By some extra miracle, you weren't blinded. You should have full mobility and vision within the next few days. Don't worry about the paralysis – that from a drug that they gave you. You were thrashing around pretty good last night."
Shepard hoped he was making a confused face. Thresher Maw? Akuze? He had no clue what Anderson was talking about. The last thing he remembered was talking to his father on the phone – he had plans to visit Shepard and congratulate him on his promotion and selection for the N7 program. He felt his heart begin to beat rapidly again and swallowed hard.
"Shepard? Lieutenant? Are you okay?" Anderson leaned forward as some machine in the room let out a menacing sound. Suddenly there was a rush of noise and Shepard's senses were overloaded, but he was sure he felt something pinch him before the room went dark.
Feb. 13th, 2178
When Shepard woke, the room he was in – whatever room that was – was dark and cold. He pulled the blanket that rested on him up to his chin and tried to make out his surroundings. His memory was foggy – he couldn't remember where he was or how he got there and that fact made him particularly suspicious. He could tell he was only wearing his underwear and though there was a window in the room, it was covered with blinds. There was a lot of machinery in the room and when he moved again, Shepard realized he was hooked up to a fair amount of it. "Hello?" he called out, against his better judgment. Depending on where he was, he might be calling out for someone who would only harm him, but clad in little clothing and with no weaponry to speak of, he felt he didn't have much of a choice. When no one answered, he sat up quickly and his head began to spin nauseatingly. He dipped his head so that it hung over his lap and breathed deeply. For some reason, his throat felt sore and he was remarkably thirsty. There was a cup of something on a table across from him, but he decided that calling out for help was the biggest risk he was willing to take at the moment. "Hello?" he called out a little louder, his sore throat begging him to stop. "Is anyone there?"
The door to the room hissed open and suddenly a bright light came on. Shepard blinked at the pain in his eyes as a woman's voice reprimanded him. "You really shouldn't be yelling, it's still only been a few days since we took you off the ventilator."
He looked up, still blinking, but able to see the woman in front of him. She was in a lab coat and had a stethoscope around her neck. He hoped he was in a hospital and not one of those disturbing facsimiles of one. "Doctor?" he asked, whispering to bypass the pain of talking.
"No, I'm just your nurse. You must be thirsty, you've been out for another two days. Here." She held out the cup and he took it, looking at her once more before desperation took over and his will cracked. He lifted it to his lips and took a tentative sip. It tasted like water. After letting it sit in his stomach for a few seconds and feeling no side effects, he took another sip and swallowed. "Better job this time," she said, leaning against the table and crossing her arms. "How are you feeling?"
"Sorry," he said, resting the cup on his knee. "This time?" He rubbed the back of his head and squinted at her. "Why have I been out for two days?"
"Don't you remember?" she asked quietly, moving away from the table.
"Remember what?" He took another drink from the cup. The last thing he could remember was a phone conversation with his father. "Is everything okay? The last thing I remember is being at the academy. Talking to my father."
"Oh." She visibly blanched and moved to the door. "I'm going to get your doctor, okay?" She left him alone with his drink for a moment before the door opened. Along with the nurse was Admiral Anderson and a man that Shepard didn't recognize but whom he assumed was his doctor. He nodded at Admiral Anderson and moved to raise his hand in a salute, but Anderson stopped him with a hand.
"Hello, Lieutenant. I'm Dr. May. I've been overseeing your case for the last month." Luckily his cup was almost empty, because Shepard dropped it on the floor.
"Month?" he asked gruffly, not bothering with the cup as it slowly rolled across the tiled surface.
"Yes, Nurse Jackie said that you don't remember the last time you woke up?"
"What are you all talking about? Can someone just tell me what's going on?"
"Do you remember Akuze, Shepard?" Anderson asked quietly.
"Akuze?" He shook his head dumbly.
"Do you remember you father?"
"What about him?" Shepard asked. "The last thing I remember is talking to him. He was going to come and visit me – congratulate me on getting in the N7 program."
Anderson shook his head ruefully. "Shepard…John, you finished the N7 program two years ago."
"What?" he asked incredulously. "What do you mean?"
"Do you know what year it is?"
"Yeah, it's Earth year '73, isn't it? August 10th."
Anderson shook his head and looked imploringly at the doctor. "I'm sorry, Admiral," the man said. "I was afraid something like this would happen."
"Will somebody please just tell me what's going on?" Shepard flexed his hand into a fist – he didn't particularly appreciate being ignored, or the look of barely contained horror that covered Anderson's face.
"John, it's 2178. You've completed the N7 program. You and a team of marines went to Akuze and were attacked by a Thresher Maw. As far as we know, you're the only one who made it out alive. We are missing one Corporal's tags though," he added as an afterthought.
"Seventy…eight?" Shepard rubbed his forehead. If Anderson hadn't been there, he never would have believed it. But the man had always been there for him, supported him – Shepard often felt the man was more a father to him than his own. He knew that Anderson would never lie to him about something so serious. "What…what's wrong with my memory?" he asked, turning to the doctor.
"We don't know how to survived," Dr. May said, "but you suffered extensive damage from the Thresher. Your entire body was covered in burns – most of which have healed. But the Thresher's acid also managed to get into your eyes. Since we know very little about the acid, we didn't know what it was going to do to you. Luckily, by some miracle of God, you can still see. But it seems that it has affected your memory. You've forgotten the last five years, and it also seems that your short term memory is non-existent. Your "slate" is wiped clean every night. I think."
"You think?" Shepard looked at the nurse who was holding the cup so tightly her hands were white. Admiral Anderson's jaw was clenched and he was intentionally not making eye contact with Shepard. "What do you mean, you think?"
"As I said, we know very little about the acid. You could get better soon, or you could wake up every day thinking that you're going to see your father for lunch."
"What was this you were saying about my dad?" Shepard asked, starting at the mention of his father.
"Shepard, I'm…I'm sorry. I don't know how to tell you this, but he's…dead. He was KIA."
Shepard hung his head. "I don't mean to be rude," he muttered at his knees. "But I think I need some time alone to process this all."
"Of course," the doctor said. "Just call Jackie if you need anything." Shepard waited until he heard the door hiss shut to lie back on the bed and close his eyes.
June 17th, 2178
Instead of his alarm clock waking him, the ping of a received message roused Shepard from his dream. The image was already fuzzy as he woke, but he knew that it had been a nightmare. He shook himself of the ridiculous vestiges of fear and pushed off of his bed, making his way toward his computer. A message from his father blinked on the computer screen and he opened it to reveal the body. "John – I won't be able to make it to lunch today, but I'll definitely be there tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend off and try to keep your apartment clean for when I get there." As usual, there was no sign off or farewell. His father ended the message there. Shepard closed it and shook his head – it was so like his father to skip a chance to see his son. He would probably miss the lunch tomorrow too. He moved away from the desk and dropped to the floor to do some push ups – trying to think about something other than his selfish father as he did so.
After his workout and a shower, Shepard decided he would go to the diner and get lunch anyways – his father could pay for the food tomorrow. The walk to the diner was a short one – shorter than he remembered it being, but Shepard had never been one for directions, really – and soon he was scooting into a booth. A young woman came over to take his order, memorizing it without even taking it down. "Do you want a coffee?" she asked quietly, glancing over her shoulder.
"Sure," he said, grinning up at her before closing the menu. A couple booths down, a man sat with his head ducked over a menu. His dark hair was combed back and Shepard was sure that he could see the blue of an Alliance uniform on the man's shirt. The stranger glanced up for a moment and caught Shepard looking at him. When Shepard didn't look away, the man offered him a small, slightly lopsided grin before looking back at his menu. The waitress brought Shepard his food and set it in front of him, clucking her tongue.
"Is this the place to be scoping out future dates?" she asked with a chuckle. "I thought you were just here for the food."
Shepard smiled up at her good naturedly. "I'm pretty good at multi-tasking," he said before picking up his burger. While he ate, he focussed on his food, organizing the French fries from tallest to shortest, stacking them in a log house formation – Shepard had always had an interesting aptitude for playing with his food. But he glanced up a few times, and every time he did, the Alliance stranger was staring at him. When he finally finished his meal, the waitress came over so that he could pay her and he moved out of the booth. Instead of heading for the door, though, he made his way over to the man – who was still eating his food. "Hey," he offered his hand and a grin. The man wiped a hand on a napkin before taking Shepard's hand and shaking it. "I don't mean to be intrusive, but I noticed you're wearing a uniform – you Alliance?"
"Yeah," the stranger nodded. He had tanned skin and a slight five o' clock shadow. Shepard's eyes drifted up to the small bump in the man's gelled hair. "Are you?" he asked, swallowing thickly. He had been in the middle of chewing something when Shepard walked over.
"Mhm. N7 – just inducted. My name's Shepard. John."
"Nice to meet you. You come here often?" The man gestured to the other side of the booth and Shepard slid in.
"Not too often, no. I was supposed to meet someone here today, but they bailed."
"Looks like it's my lucky day, then," the stranger said with a quirk of his lips. "But I'm certainly sorry you've been stood up." He picked at his salad with his fork and watched Shepard.
"It's okay. It was just my father." Shepard shifted in his seat. "I never caught your name?"
"Do you come here often, Kaidan?"
Kaidan let out a breathy laugh and rubbed at his neck. "Uh…yeah, I guess that does sound silly now that you say it." Shepard smiled genially. "But no. This is the first time I've ever been here. I was asked to deliver a package to the academy and I stopped for lunch." Shepard's omni-tool beeped and a red light blinked on his wrist alerting him to an urgent message on his home terminal.
"Shit, sorry, I've got to get this. Do you ever think you'll be back in this neck of the woods?"
"I might be here…for lunch, on say…Tuesday?" Kaidan set his fork down and moved to stand.
"Well, then I might be here, too." Shepard gestured for Kaidan to stay sitting. "Really gotta run though, it was nice meeting you." He turned and rushed out of the diner just before the waitress came up to talk to Kaidan.
June 20th, 2178
Shepard was not in a good mood. He wasn't even sure he should be going to the diner – a place where he would have to be around people and behave in a civil manner. What he really wanted to was find something good and malleable to pummel. He was so tired of his father's shit – saying he couldn't make it for lunch this and he couldn't travel right now that. Why didn't he just admit that he didn't care about his son at all? Shepard vocalized a short burst of anger and punched his own palm. It would make life a lot easier for them all if his father would just disappear. But no. He wanted everyone to know who his son was and what he did. How could he even pretend to have a relationship with him?
Arriving at the entrance to the diner in a huff, Shepard let out a long breath before pulling the door open. The waitress didn't deserve an angry customer just because his father didn't have any manners. A young woman – Beth, her name tag said – showed him to a booth. "What can I get for you today?" she asked as he opened the menu.
"Sorry," he sighed, "I'm going to need a bit of time to choose."
"Bad day?" Beth asked sympathetically, resting a hand on the table.
"You could say that," he said, as he decided on a steak sandwich. "I'll have the number four."
"Good choice," she grinned, taking the menu from him. "Want a coffee?"
"Sorry about your day, hon," she offered, sauntering away.
"Me, too," he moaned, resting his face on his fist. The anger slowly drained from his body and left him feeling empty and exhausted – aggression was a tiring thing. He picked at a dark spot on the table and didn't notice when a body entered the booth across from him.
"Hey," a low voice startled him from his thoughts. He looked up to see a young man, about his age, sitting across from him. His hair was gelled back and he was wearing an Alliance uniform.
"Sorry, do I know you?" Shepard asked, narrowing his eyes. He wasn't particularly in the mood to entertain barely recognizable acquaintances. He dropped his hand and studied the man in front of him, trying to place the face somewhere in his memory.
"Uh…"the man looked around, "I thought you did. John Shepard, right?"
"That's me. Look, I'm sorry, but I'm not really in the best of moods today. I don't know where I know you from-"
"Is this some kind of game?" the man asked.
"Is what some kind of game? Am I supposed to know why you're here?"
"Well I thought that –" The waitress cut him off by setting down a cup of coffee. She placed it so firmly on the table that some of the dark liquid spilled over. After wiping her hand on her apron, she gripped Kaidan's bicep and pulled.
"Why don't you come with me, sir? I can find you your own table." Shepard watched her cart the soldier away, and he could see the man struggling but didn't care to listen to their conversation. He morosely poured a packet of sucrose into his coffee and groaned. It was going to be a long weekend.
June 21st, 2178
After lunch, Shepard decided to go to the park. It was close to his apartment and it would give him a chance to relax in the sunshine. He found an empty bench and sat down, crossing his arms over his chest, leaning back against the hard surface of the bench. He let his eyelids droop and reveled in the soft heat of the sun, the quiet din of children playing and dogs barking and people laughing. He did notice, though, when a body sat down next to him. It was a free world – for most people – and the bench was big enough for two people to sit comfortably far apart. Even though he knew there were many other empty benches in the park, Shepard wasn't concerned enough about his bench mate to open his eyes.
"John," a voice said after the body had been there for a few moments. It was deep and unfamiliar and Shepard sat forward, opening his eyes, at once.
"How do you know my name?" he asked. He tried to sound uninterested, but he knew that snapping out of his previous pose had probably already given him away.
"You're a popular guy," the man next to him said. He turned so that his torso was facing Shepard. "My name's Kaidan Alenko. I'm Alliance, too, and I was hoping I could get some advice from you? I heard you're N7 and some of my friends say you're the best."
"Alenko, huh?" Shepard leaned further forward and saw that Kaidan was wearing an Alliance t-shirt under his jacket. "I've only just been invited into the N7 program," he said, holding out his hand to shake Kaidan's.
"Regardless," Kaidan shrugged, "They say you're the best. Can I take you for lunch and get some tips?"
"I just ate," Shepard said, glancing at his watch. "But it's five o' clock on the Citadel. Want to take me for a drink?" Kaidan laughed deep and low, the sound was beautiful and Shepard couldn't help chuckling with him, even though it wasn't that funny.
"Sure, I'll take you for a drink. Know anywhere good?"
The two of them ended up a quiet pub around the corner from the diner – it would be busier in a couple hours, but not everyone knew Citadel time like Shepard did. They sat at a table in the corner and both nursed whiskeys while trading stories.
"Well I'm a biotic," Kaidan said, waving at the bartender to get his glass refilled, "so I wanted to do something useful with myself, you know? I didn't want to end up just doing lines of red sand off a toilet somewhere."
"A biotic?" Shepard asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Is that a problem? I know it makes some people…uncomfortable."
"To say the least," Shepard commiserated. "No, not a problem at all. I just never would have guessed. You don't have a scar." He tapped the back of his neck before draining his glass as well.
"I'm an L2. Smaller implant, smaller scar. It's under my hair," Kaidan said.
A moment of silence filtered between them before Shepard leaned forward on the table. He wasn't drunk, but he had enough of a buzz to be more straightforward than he had a right to be – only having known this man for a few hours. "Can I ask you a question?" he muttered. Kaidan nodded and held up his glass as it was refilled. "Do you ever wish that you weren't?"
The man seemed to mull the question over in his mind for a moment. He took a sip of his drink and squinted, moving his head from side to side. "That's a hard one," he finally answered. "I think I used to, a lot. When I was at Brain Camp, I sure did. And when the migraines hit – they're a side effect of the implant – I certainly wish the pain would go away. But, I guess now, I've joined the Alliance and I've really got a chance to do something good. I didn't choose to be this way, but I can make myself worthwhile, you know?"
"Sure," Shepard said, leaning back in his chair. "I know."
It was still sunny outside when they left the bar and Shepard shaded his eyes with a hand. "Jesus, you never know what the weather will be like, do you?" he asked, turning to Kaidan as the man shrugged into his jacket. He shook his head and looked at his omni-tool.
"I should be going," he said quietly.
"Yeah, me too. It was…nice meeting you. I had a good time. Could we…hang out again sometime?" Shepard asked.
Kaidan winced at something and turned his omni-tool off. "Sure, I'd like that. Why don't you give me your contact?"
June 25th, 2178
When Shepard looked out the window, he could see it was a mildly overcast day outside – perfect weather for a jog and a late breakfast at the diner around the corner. He rubbed his forehead and contemplated checking the message on his terminal. There wasn't really a point though – he knew what it said. He might not know the specifics, but he knew it would be a message from his father detailing why the man wouldn't be able to make it to lunch. In the end, he just threw on a pair of sweats and t-shirt and left the apartment without bothering to check the message. If it was something particularly urgent, the sender could contact him via his omni-tool. It may have been his day off, Shepard thought as his feet hit the pavement, but good soldiers don't stop just because they've clocked out for the day.
He huffed out a heavy breath and made his way to the park. There weren't very many people there – a few other runners and early morning commuters making their way to their respective jobs. Most people, though, wouldn't want to go for a stroll in the chilly air and were probably driving to work. He found his mind wandering while he jogged, considering what the N7 program might be like. He wondered who he would be working with – if he would know any of the other recruits or if he would be on his own. Shepard liked other people but he also knew that he would be more likely to focus on the training if he was alone – he had a tendency to worry too much about other people's problems and let them drag him down with them. He stopped by a tree to lean against it and catch his breath, bending over a little at the waist and wiping his forehead on his t-shirt.
Suddenly he was struck by a barrage of images and emotions that him doubling over before falling to his knees. Someone shooting a gun, loud screams and shrieks, and a massive creature darkening the sky as he ran – ran as fast as he could. He dropped his face into his hands when there was an extreme, searing pain in his head and tried to keep from making any noise. When the pain began to ebb and the images faded, Shepard pulled back and was shocked to see blood pooling in his hands. "What the…?"
"Hey, mister, are you okay?" A young asari was walking with her mothers to school but had stopped in front of where Shepard was kneeling. "Mom, is he going to be okay?" she asked quietly.
"I don't know," her mom said before letting go of the girl's hand. "Is there anyone we can contact for you sir?" she asked, crouching by Shepard. "Should we call the hospital?"
Shepard grunted and stood, but still leaned against the tree as his head spun. He wiped his hands on his pants and winced when his head throbbed. "No," he murmured, then louder, "No, thank you. I should be fine now." The trio left him where he stood, using the back of his hand to wipe the excess blood from his face. Once he felt well enough to return home, Shepard decided against breakfast. His head was still aching and he felt like he could use a lie down. He set off on the path back towards his apartment and in his haste to get home, ran into a body. "Ugh," he groaned. "Sorry, wasn't looking where I was going."
"Hey, it's okay," the stranger said quietly, pulling back with a hand on Shepard's shoulder. "You don't look very well, do you need some help?"
"No," Shepard shook his head. Bad idea. The world around him began to spin and a wave of nausea washed over him. He unconsciously put a hand out to steady himself against the stranger.
"My name's Kaidan," the stranger said. "Let me at least walk you home. Do you live close to here?"
"Yeah," Shepard murmured. Talking only seemed to make the spinning worse. Kaidan helped support him and they started in the general direction of his apartment. Other than giving Kaidan directions to the building, conversation between the two of them was non-existent: Shepard's head hurt too much to talk and Kaidan didn't seem to be a talker.
When Shepard got out of bed hours later, he knew that he hadn't really slept. It had been more a fitful tossing and turning waiting for the pain to go away. In the end, it had faded somewhat, but there was still a soreness that throbbed whenever he moved too fast, or too much. The stranger, Kaidan – he reminded himself – was sitting on his couch when he left his bedroom. He was still in the bloody t-shirt, but his sweats had been forgone for a pair of shorts. "Hey," Shepard offered as he went to fill a glass of water. "Um…thanks for helping me, and I don't mean to be rude…but why are you still here?" he raised an eyebrow at Kaidan before draining the glass in one drink.
Kaidan chuckled quietly. "Sorry if I overstayed my welcome, but you were pretty messed up. I wouldn't have felt right just leaving you alone here – you don't seem to have anyone to take care of you." The man rose off of the couch and stepped towards the kitchen. Shepard stiffened slightly but the man just laughed again. "If I wanted to hurt you, I could have done it while you were incapacitated, right?" He crossed his arms and nodded. "I called in to work today to say I would be late, and it ends up we answer to the same higher power." Shepard cocked his head slightly. "Admiral Anderson? He told me that you're John Shepard."
Shepard nodded. "Yeah, that's me. Thanks again for your help. And for staying to make sure I was okay. But…you don't have to stay anymore." He refilled his glass. "I'm sure that you have work to do."
"Do you mind telling me exactly what is going on here, Alenko?" Admiral Anderson was absolutely fuming. Kaidan had never seen the man so angry. He tried to stand his ground, but could feel his shoulders beginning to hunch inwards.
"I don't see the harm, really, sir. He can't remember anything the next day. We were just talking."
"You don't know how difficult it is to make sure he doesn't find out. How hard it is to keep him safe!" Anderson looked at Kaidan fiercely and shook his head. "You can't just mess with him for a little bit of fun."
"With all due respect, sir, it's not just a little bit of fun to me. I care about him." Kaidan shifted his weight. "Why don't you ever try telling him?"
"We have tried, LT. Trust me. It never ends well. He's angry that he's missed so many years, so many things. He gets aggressive or depressed. And then the next morning it's all for naught." Anderson sighed and rubbed his forehead – all the steam seemed to run out of his fight. "What's the point in causing him so much stress?"
"He has a right to know," Kaidan said quietly. "He doesn't deserve to be lied to every day; his entire life is a sham!"
"Listen, Alenko: Shepard is my responsibility. So do me a favor and leave him to me." Anderson closed in so that he was infiltrating Kaidan's personal space. He pressed his forefinger to Kaidan's chest and glared at him. "I like you," he said carefully, "Don't make an enemy out of me."
July 30th, 2178
Shepard wasn't necessarily the type to go out the bar, get drunk in public and dance embarrassingly in front of complete strangers, but on this night, he felt rather careless about it all. He was angry with his father and angry with his mother for just letting the man treat his only child the way he did. He shot back another ounce of alcohol – he couldn't remember what he had asked for, nor did he care – and cracked his neck. He had plans to get black out drunk and stand his father up tomorrow – see how much the man liked it. He ordered another shot and a drink to go with it, turning to look over the massive crowd of writhing bodies in front of him.
"Hey!" Someone came up to stand next to him, calling out as though the two of them had made plans to meet up. "How's it going?" In the dim light of the club, he couldn't see much of the person, but the man was attractive enough, well-built and a little taller than Shepard was. The man had a beer in his hand and was leaning against the bar in a languid manner that told Shepard he was probably just as intoxicated. "Come here often?" the stranger asked before sniggering, as though it was an inside joke the two of them shared.
"Do I know you?" Shepard asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Nope. But I know you," the man said, reaching out to poke Shepard's chest. "You're Shepard."
He downed his shot and picked up his drink, suddenly feeling sobered. "How do you know my name?" he asked, squinting and leaning forward so that he wouldn't miss anything the stranger said in the din of the music.
The stranger made a face – he looked shocked, like a child who'd been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. "Every Alliance knows your name!" the man finally said.
"You're Alliance?" he asked.
If you had asked him how it happened, Shepard wouldn't have been able to tell you. But it probably was some combination of even more drinking, talking and grinding against each other to the heavy bass of the dance music. Somehow, he and the stranger had ended up in his apartment, mouthing each other's skin and tugging clothes off in a flurry, pressing and pulling at each other as one or the other vied for dominance. Shepard's back was pressed into the soft leather of his sofa and the stranger was astride him, one leg hanging over the edge of the seat, grinning down at him in a drunken state. John Shepard wasn't the type to get wasted at a bar, and he certainly wasn't the type to bring a stranger home for the night. But as the man atop him bent to lick just beneath his ear and his breath hitched in his chest, he wasn't thinking about what kind of type he was.
August 2nd, 2178
Shepard rolled over in bed and groaned. His mouth was dry, his head was throbbing and he felt sick to his stomach – if he hadn't known any better, he would have assumed that he had been out for a night of drinking. But Shepard hadn't gone to a bar in a very long time – not any time in recent memory, anyways. He pushed himself up and grabbed his underwear off of the floor, pulled them on before padding out into the kitchen. He filled a glass with water and was raising it to his lips when someone came out of his bathroom.
"Shit…" the man whispered.
Shepard threw the glass of water at the man, but he dodged it and it shattered in a splay of water and glass shards against the wall. The man was wearing a rumpled shirt and pair of jeans – his hair was a mess and his eyes were blood shot. He looked like he had spent the night in Shepard's apartment. "Who the fuck are you?" Shepard asked, immediately regretting the volume of his voice when his head ached. "And what are you doing in my apartment?" His voice was a little quieter as he opened a drawer and fumbled for a knife.
"Woah, woah," the stranger held up his hands in a placating gesture. "I'm not here to hurt you. I can tell you what's going on, but you're going to have trust me a little, here, okay?"
"Why would I trust you?" Shepard asked, gripping the handle of a steak knife. "Some stranger comes out of my bathroom in the morning, I feel hung-over as shit and I don't know what the Hell is going on? I'm not trusting you at all. You stay where you are."
"Okay," the stranger said, stepping back. "I'll stay right here. Will you at least let me explain what's going on? If you don't believe me when I'm done, I'll leave. I promise."
"You've got five minutes," Shepard said, but he didn't release his grip on the knife.
"Okay, um…My name's Kaidan Alenko, I met you about two months ago at a diner. We've run into each other a few times since then, but you never remember me because after an accident with a Thresher Maw, your short term memory doesn't work. Admiral Anderson realized that I had been in contact with you and ordered me to leave you alone. So I did…but then, last night, we were both at that bar down the way and I was so drunk…" He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "Look, the short of it is, I fucked up. I disobeyed orders. You won't remember this in the morning, though."
Shepard stared quietly for a moment, his mouth hanging slightly open. Kaidan stared back, waiting for the man to say something. "Are you serious?" he finally asked quietly. A look of relief flashed quickly over Kaidan's face before Shepard continued. "Did you think I was high last night, or something? Or do you just think I'm that stupid?" He lifted the knife so that Kaidan could finally see it. "I don't know why you're here, or what you want from me, but if you're not out of my apartment in 5 seconds, I'm throwing this knife." Kaidan didn't move, he seemed rooted to the spot, but his eyes glared at Shepard with what seemed to be a blend of fear and anger. "Five," Shepard said slowly and loudly. "I'm a good shot, Kaidan. Or maybe you already knew that about me? Four." It was all the warning Kaidan needed. He made a beeline for the door and was out of the apartment before Shepard could finish his countdown.
Now that the stranger was gone (just because you know someone's name doesn't mean you know them) Shepard decided he would contact Anderson and find out what was really going on.
"You mean to tell me everything he said was true?" Shepard sat across from Admiral Anderson in the man's office, fidgeting with the buttons on his fatigues. He was uncomfortable to say the least, he felt like his head was swimming with information and he couldn't know what was true or what was a lie anymore. Overwhelmed couldn't even begin to describe his emotional state and all he really wanted was to go to sleep and forget this all happened – because, apparently, he could do that now. But that's not the type of person Shepard is…at least, it's not the type of person he remembers being. He wondered absently, while Anderson was talking, if he'd changed in the last five years. Time is an opportunity for people to grow, but if for him, time hadn't been moving…he wondered if he would be exactly the same person for the rest of his life.
"Shepard? Are you listening to anything I say?" He blinked up at Anderson and shook his head.
"Sorry sir, it's just…a lot for me to take in."
"I understand. We've been through this a few times before." Anderson rubbed his forehead. "Damn it, I told Alenko to stay away from you."
"I don't really think it's his fault, sir." Shepard suddenly felt a pang of guilt. He had almost thrown a knife at a perfectly innocent man, and he would have done it without hesitation if Kaidan hadn't left. But the man sounded like a stand-up guy from what Anderson had told him.
"I don't care whose fault it was, it happened. And this causes you too much stress."
"With all due respect sir, after the things you say I went through, I think a little stress isn't going to kill me." Shepard sat still in his chair and watched Anderson for a few moments. "Not that I don't believe you, but do you think I could see the files for myself? It's still all a little hard to believe…to take in." He hoped Anderson would say yes, because he didn't want to have to fight the man.
"Of course. I've got them here somewhere." After setting Shepard up at the terminal with the vids, Anderson left the room under the guise of going to get some coffee, but Shepard was sure that it was to give him some sorely needed alone time.
October 10th, 2178
Shepard didn't know what he was doing when he walked over to the stranger's table – he didn't know what had prompted him to ask the man if he could join him for breakfast. But after a couple hours of constant conversation and the best company he'd had in recent memory, he didn't care about knowing. The stranger, Kaidan, was a biotic and in the Alliance just like him. His voice was soothing and even though his jokes were a little corny, Shepard couldn't help laughing at almost everything he said.
"I think we're going to get kicked out pretty soon," Kaidan said with a quiet chuckle. "Want to get out of here?"
"You don't have any plans today?" Shepard asked.
"No. Do you? I'd like to keep talking." He offered a grin and moved to rise from the booth.
"Yeah, I'd like that." Shepard followed Kaidan out of the diner and waved back at the young waitress even though he didn't know her. The walked down the sidewalk, side by side. "It's so weird, I feel like I know you from somewhere." He looked sideways at Kaidan and the man shook his head. "It's like déjà vu, or something."
"You ever been to the zoo here?" Kaidan asked, opting not to comment on Shepard's statement.
"Nah. Never took the time."
"We should go. Half of their animals are from Thessia."
They had been at the zoo for hours before either one of them bothered to check the time. Children were running around with their respective family members, screaming and shrieking, oohing and aahing at the exhibits. "Shit," Shepard commented, "it's getting late. Should probably be going."
"Yeah," Kaidan said, maneuvering past a large family of Asari. "Why don't you let me take you home?"
"Is that a request for an invitation?" Shepard raised an eyebrow but hoped Kaidan knew he was joking by his tone.
Kaidan laughed and turned a little pink as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Ah…let's just say I wouldn't say no." They took a cab back to his apartment and he showed Kaidan in, sat him down on the sofa.
"Want a beer?" he asked, pulling two bottles out of the fridge without waiting for an answer.
"Sure, thanks." Kaidan took the beer and grinned when Shepard sat down on the couch across for him.
"Um…look, Kaidan, I don't usually bring random people home from diners. I'm not really sure what the…etiquette is on this one." Shepard shrugged and took a swig of his beer. "Sorry."
"Heh. That's okay. I'm in the same boat right now. But, um, John, there's something I've been meaning to tell you. All day. It's just…I was having such a good time and I didn't want to spoil everything."
"What is it?" Shepard felt a sudden tightness of anxiety in his chest. What the man sitting on his sofa a serial killer, or something? His hand itched to turn on his omni-tool, but he figured he should at least give the man a chance.
"I've met you before," Kaidan said slowly.
"You have? I don't remember you."
"You wouldn't," he said, breathing heavily as though his words caused him pain.
"You never do." Kaidan's brow creased and he rubbed his forehead. "Can I show you something?" Shepard nodded but didn't move from his seat. Kaidan set his beer bottle down and turned on his omni-tool, raising a screen. He came over to where Shepard sat so that the man could see the screen better. He clicked a few keys and a vid came up on the screen. It was Shepard and Kaidan, but their clothing was different and they were both soaked through. It was pouring but they seemed to be standing under some sort of structure so it wasn't raining on them. In the vid, Shepard leaned in and kissed Kaidan as they both laughed at each other.
Shepard turned to look quizzically at Kaidan. "There's more," the man said quietly, his voice thick and lower than usual. The next vid was of the two of them playing golf together, Kaidan was teaching Shepard how to stand (which was certainly believable, Shepard had always been awful at golf) and how to swing the club. There were multiple vid clips of them doing different things together.
"What is this?" Shepard asked. "Is this some kind of sick joke?"
Kaidan shook his head emphatically. "You have no short term memory, John. You were in a Thresher Maw attack about a year ago and you lost your short term memory. Every night when you fall asleep, you forget everything."
"I…"Shepard leaned forward to rest his head on his hands. "I don't know what to say…"
"Wait, I just want you to watch one more thing, and then I can go if you want me to."
Shepard turned his face up to watch the screen, but stayed in his hunched position. Admiral Anderson's face came on the screen. "Shepard," he said, sounding ever the Admiral, "everything this man says is true. You've known each other for some time now. Call me if you need confirmation."
"I know it's a lot to take in," Kaidan said, closing the screen and rising from where he had knelt on the floor. "I can go, if you want."
"No…" Shepard reached out to grip the man's wrist. "No, it's okay." He blinked at an awkward stinging behind his eyes. He looked up at the man who stood over him with barely concealed concern in his eyes. "So…every time we meet, you have to make me fall in love with you all over again?"
Kaidan laughed quietly and turned his hand awkwardly so that he could run his thumb over Shepard's wrist. "Most of the time," he smiled sadly. "Sometimes, you want nothing to do with me. Or when I show you the vids, you threaten to stab me."
Shepard frowned. "Yeah, that sounds like me." He looked up at Kaidan. "But not today." He pulled on the man's hand so that Kaidan was hovering over him, supporting his own weight on the armrest of the chair. Shepard used his free hand to grip the back of the man's head, pulled him in even closer and pressed their lips together. It was a tentative kiss for the man, he knew – logically – that he knew this man well, that he should trust him, but it was still like kissing a stranger to him. Kaidan let out a quiet groan and his chest seemed to drop a little. Where Shepard was still gripping the man's wrist, he could feel his pulse quicken slightly.
He opened his mouth and Kaidan's tongue slipped over his lips, the man's knees bent a little, bringing their bodies ever closer. Kaidan pulled back to take a breath. "John," he murmured and reached for Shepard's hand, pulling him to the couch so that they both had enough space to sit side by side. He dipped his head to kiss the line of Shepard's jaw, hands roaming over the man's ribs. Shepard wasn't sure what to do with his hands, didn't know where Kaidan liked to be touched. This man knew so much more about Shepard than Shepard knew about him. He must have stiffened or stopped kissing, because Kaidan pulled back.
"Is something wrong? Am I going too fast?" He let his hands fall so that they were resting on Shepard's thighs.
"No…it's just…I guess." Shepard looked away and gritted his teeth, willed himself not to pink. "I don't know where you'd like me to touch you."
Kaidan let out a quiet chuckle. Shepard should have been angry at being laughed at, but it wasn't derisive, it was more like Kaidan felt comfortable in his company, it was just a content sound. "Yeah," he said, taking Shepard's hands. "You say that a lot." He put one hand on the back of his neck, where his hair line was. "I like being touched here," he put another hand on his hip, "and here," and then kissed one of Shepard's hands. "And here." He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Shepard's body in a light hug, moved his hands up the man's back before pulling them back down in a soothing motion. "It's okay," he murmured, so close to Shepard's skin that the words tickled. "We can take our time, there's no rush."
Shepard tipped his head and tested the waters, nipped at the soft skin just under Kaidan's ear. "I like that, too," the man purred, gripping at the hem of Shepard's shirt. He groaned into Shepard's ear and they were so close that they could feel each other's heart beats quickening. After a few seconds, he pulled back, still gripping the bottom of Shepard's shirt. "Can I?" Shepard nodded and immediately after his shirt was removed, made to take Kaidan's off. He pushed forward so that Kaidan had to lie back on the armrest of the couch and kissed the man again, hands moving over the man's body, taking stock. He wondered, as he felt a fumbling hand move over his burgeoning erection, how many times this had happened. He was curious how well Kaidan knew his body, if every time was a new experience for both of them, or if Kaidan was tired of waiting for Shepard to catch up. He moaned and arched into the pressure of Kaidan's palm and wondered why the man was here.
One of his feet dropped with a thump to the floor. Kaidan hissed and licked at his shoulder, hands slipping into his pants' back pockets. Kaidan lifted his hips to press their crotches together and Shepard felt the man smile against his hot skin. "Stop me," he whispered, "if this is too much for you. I won't think any less of you."
Shepard pulled back and shifted so that his was sitting just past Kaidan's knees. "Kaidan, do me a favor," he said, leaning down to undo the man's zipper, "and shut up."
Kaidan tilted his head back on the armrest and grinned, running his hands over Shepard's short hair, sending tingles up the man's spine. "I can do that," he muttered. His eyes were closed and he lifted his hips so that Shepard could pull his pants off. The fact that Kaidan was still there, Shepard mused while tugging the man's pants over his ankles, meant that he much really care about him. To be willing to put forth so much effort, to be willing to risk getting turned down often, it meant that Shepard must have been important to him. He moved back up and kissed the man's lips slowly, sweetly.
"Let's go to the bedroom," he said, when Kaidan opened his eyes in surprise. He tugged the man off of the couch and led the way to his room, even though Kaidan had probably already been in it a few times. They fell onto the unmade bed in tandem, a jumble of limbs and nerves, the air between them thick with tension and want and other emotions that Shepard wasn't sure had a name. They rolled over one another a few times before Kaidan moved to take off Shepard's pants, grinning in appreciation as he did so.
"I know you won't say it back, I don't expect you to," Kaidan said, hovering over Shepard's prone form on all fours. He dipped his head so that Shepard wouldn't see him blush, but the light was good enough in the bedroom that he could see the matching pink on the man's neck. "But I love you, John."
Shepard ran a hand through Kaidan's hair, down his neck and hooked it in the man's waistband. "I bet I love you, too," he said, because it was the best he could give the man, and he felt like Kaidan deserved something more than just sex. Kaidan nodded and swallowed thickly before rolling over the side of the bed. He grabbed his pants and pulled something out of the pocket. When he rose back up, Shepard could see the small foil square in the man's hand.
"Uh…I usually…top," Kaidan grinned nervously. "But, whatever you want." Usually? So there had been more than one time…quite a few, it sounded like. Shepard shook his head.
"Whatever works for us." Kaidan nodded and slipped off Shepard's shorts before pulling off his own, bent to kiss him again, hands skittering over his body. It felt like the man's hands were shaking. Shepard gripped his wrists lightly, stopping him with a look. "Hey, what's wrong?"
Kaidan laughed quietly and glanced down to where their legs were intertwined, their chests heaving in a rhythm. "I only get one chance to do this right," he said. "I want it to be perfect." Shepard took the condom from him and opened the package, shaking his head.
"It's the opposite," he said, pushing back on Kaidan's chest so that the man was sitting on Shepard's shins. "You'll have hundreds of chances, if you have your way."
When Shepard wakes, it's in a room he doesn't recognize at all. Above him is a large window that shows an inky blackness dotted with hundreds of stars – an endless sky. He's alone and naked, but doesn't feel hurt or even as though he's in danger. The white duvet that he ensconced in is warm and soft, the pillows around his head smell of comfort. There's a few data pads on the desk across from him and when he rolls over to get out of bed, he sees a wardrobe drawer. He pulls open the top and finds a stack of underwear with a paper note on top. It's been a long time since he's seen a handwritten note, but he picks it up because he recognizes his own handwriting on it. "Watch it. You love him. I promise." He's not sure what the message means, but as he's pulling on a pair of black briefs, he sees a terminal that's blinking green and walks over to it, decides to take the advice from himself. He clicks to play the vid.
Suddenly a face appears on the screen. He feels like it should be familiar, and there's a stirring inside of him at the sight of the man's face, but he can't place the stranger. "Good morning, John," the man says, grinning through the terminal. "I hope you slept well. As you can see, you're not it your apartment anymore. The year is 2183 and you're on the SSV Normandy, an Alliance warship. My name is Kaidan Alenko." Shepard drops to his knees in front of the terminal but keeps watching. Kaidan's voice continues talking as the screen shows vid clips and e-news with pictures of Shepard in the hospital. Something about Thresher Maw acid and memory loss. "We're married, and your wedding band is right there," Kaidan points out the side of the screen, and sure enough, the wedding band is sitting on the couch. "Put it on if you want to – but you don't have to." Kaidan's face is replaced with a silent vid of the both of them.
They're in their dress blues, standing together in front of a small crowd and Shepard can see that Anderson is officiating the ceremony. He reaches for the wedding band, but doesn't put it on just yet. He's got a lot to take in. "You've been promoted as well – it's Commander now. And the Normandy's a new ship. We're taking her on a shakedown run to Eden Prime. Anderson is here, too – he's happy to answer any questions you might have." Kaidan's face reappears and he's smiling sweetly at Shepard. "So, get dressed, take your time. And when you're ready, come down to the crew deck to meet everybody." Shepard rises from the floor and touches his forehead. "And John," Kaidan says quietly, leaning ever closer to the screen. "Don't forget: I love you."