Now this was fun to write. First time I've ever really tried my hand at action sequences so I hope it makes sense. I feel like it flows okay. Besides, I've always wondered what's been going on up on the Normandy while Shepard's galavanting about elsewhere. This is pure speculation but then... isn't that the point? :)

I own nothing.


19. Observation

The ship is quiet.

Tension cuts through the air like a knife. The crew is clustered around their various holoscreen stations, monitoring their aspect of the Commander's mission. There's an extra level of alertness hovering over the command deck, like it always is when she's not on board, when she's risking her life on the world below them.

"To your left Commander, scans are showing some kind of movement." Kaidan's voice is soft against the silence of the deck.

He is standing above where the Galaxy Map usually appears when they are jumping from system to system. He leans forward against the rail, peering at the reconstruction of the geth base that EDI's scans have pieced together. Three tiny dots pick their way through to where he's directed, their labels floating alongside them; AS, GV and EDI.

It always rankles him somewhat, when the Commander leaves him behind. There is usually a good reason for it, sure, but he feels helpless, reduced to monitoring the mission from afar. It's not that he doesn't have complete and utter faith in her though, he thinks to himself, it's just that he's pulled her out of too many close calls to feel entirely comfortable with her being in the line of fire. Still, it's not like the rest of the Normandy is actually safe this time around.

The ship lurches and he feels the snap of his safety harness pull to the left on the railing. He braces himself, shifting his weight against the tipping of the deck. The war outside is raging and they are caught right in the middle, completely unseen. Joker has been forced to weave in an out of the clashing of the Geth and Quarian fleets.

As situations go, it's not exactly ideal.

"I'm reading Geth activity ahead Commander." Kaidan tells her, frowning at the red dots appearing on the map. "Just through that door."

"Any alternatives?"

He scans the rest of the base quickly and sighs, "Negative. No other way to get to that console."

Legion's strange, disembodied voice cuts through the comm link, "Shepard Commander, you need to reopen the blast doors to…"

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Her voice is resigned. "Major, I'm going to need you on those battery-guns."

"Yes Ma'am." He says, signalling to the comm specialist standing at her station next to him. "Traynor's taking over comm."

"Roger that. Shepard out."

He braces himself once more against the pitching of the ship, grabbing a hold of Sam's arm as she unclips her harness at exactly the wrong moment. "Well this is exciting isn't it?" She breathes, her eyes a little wide and crazed around the edges.

"You could say that." He replies with his characteristic odd half-laugh at the beginning of his sentence.

He unclips his harness and, with the practiced ease of years in the Navy, jogs up to the bridge, slipping into the co-pilot's seat and lowering the vid-feed visor over his eyes.

"In position Commander, waiting for your go."

"Roger that."

Joker is muttering to himself, his fingers flying over the consoles in front of him. It has never ceased to amaze Kaidan, just how effortlessly the pilot can make the Normandy dance, given the sheer amount of information he has streaming through the holoscreens at his station. Kaidan glances out of the side window and blanches, a Geth ship nothing more than a fiery ball of orange and white as it explodes. The Normandy's shields flash purple as bits of debris collide with the barriers.

"Bastards." Joker mutters, pitching the ship once more.

Kaidan is not entirely sure which fleet he's referring to.

"How are we doing Joker?" The Commander's voice cuts into the bridge and Kaidan is sure he can hear the steady clip of her beloved Paladin in the background.

"On course Ma'am. Ready when you are."

"The laser guidance system is ready, Commander." EDI's voice is strange on the bridge when her body platform is not actually present, Kaidan realizes with a start. "You will need to target the base. I recommend retreating to a safe distance."

"Roger that EDI."

Kaidan's fingers nimbly punch out a sequence, keying in the automatic artillery to sync up with the laser targeting system in the Commander's hands.

"Here we go." Joker says before switching to ship wide broadcast, "All hands, brace for descent."

Kaidan's stomach drops and he's suddenly glad he and Arianna had not had time to have the lunch they had been planning in their brief downtime left before this mission.

"Base targeted."

The screen in front of Kaidan's eyes switches to a vid feed from the Commander's visor and his fingers hover over the artillery controls. Two holographic, vertical lines close in on the base as the Normandy speeds closer. They meet, just as Joker pulls the ship out of it's dive and Kaidan fires the guns.

The explosion is a little more than anyone is expecting, and he watches, heart in his mouth, as the platform the Commander has been standing on, crumbles, throwing her to the ground roughly.

"Commander!" Garrus Vakarian's voice crackles through the comm.

"I'm ok!" She calls back, Kaidan watches from her perspective as the world tilts with her movement into a sitting position.

And then a horrible, gut-wrenchingly familiar noise slices the air in two.

"No." Kaidan whispers, exchanging a brief, horrified look with the Pilot.

"Shit." Joker exclaims, turning the ship back around to get a visual confirmation.

"REAPER!" The Commander's voice screams through the comm and Kaidan winces against the decibels ripping through his eardrums. "TO THE TRANSPORT! GO! GO! GO!"

"Shit, shit, shit!" Joker shouts, "EDI! I NEED THOSE BOOSTERS! NOW!"

"Boosters online." EDI's voice intones throughout the bridge.

"KEELAH! It's huge!" Tali's oddly distorted voice chirps over the comm as Kaidan's fingers fly over the scanner data, desperately looking for a path out for the tiny transport. "How are we meant to fight that thing?"

"I was hoping your fleet would lend a hand." Shepard shouts over the Reaper's groaning and creaking.

"Legion!" Kaidan shouts down the intercom, "I've mapped a way out, updating your navigation system."

"Shepard to Fleet! This is not a Reaper geth. This is a live Reaper! I need a coordinated strike!" There's the steady thrum of the transport's cannon in the background and Kaidan can't help but think she's poking a bear with a stick. "KAIDAN!" She screams at him down the line, momentarily dropping their usual military formality in her shock. "Get those mods working on the artillery! I need you to send the coordinates to the fleet!"

"Got it!"

Adrenaline is coursing through him freely now, enhanced by his military-grade genetic upgrades. He can practically feel his biotic field flickering with barely suppressed energy. He grits his teeth, shoves the console backwards and is running, careening wildly into the walls of the ship as Joker dodges God-only-knows what.

"All hands, brace for impact. That thing is taking pot shots at us!" The pilot shouts into the comm.

"Safety harnesses!" Kaidan barks at the crew as he sprints by, "Now!"

He makes it to the elevator and smashes his hand onto the buttons just as Joker heaves the ship to starboard. Forced to cling to the ropes and guide wires that have lowered out of the ceiling for the crew, he pulls himself hand over hand towards the now-open doors, keying in the crew deck floor as the ship levels out.

"Shepard to the Fleet! Do you read me?"

"Commander! I'll talk to them. Just concentrate on getting your asses out of there!"

"Roger that Major."

Kaidan doesn't miss a beat, keying in the comm link around his ear. The elevator doors hiss open and he's running again, towards the gun batteries.

"This is Major Alenko calling the Quarian Fleet."

The ship heaves over to the port side and he's sent careening into the mess table, it's corner catching him painfully in the side. He curses and calls the fleet once more.

"This is Admiral Raan, what the HELL is going on Major?"

The door to the gun batteries slides open and he moves swiftly to the console, years of tech training kicking in as his fingers slide nimbly over the keys.

"We've got a Reaper on the surface Admiral."

"Keelah! Tali?"

"She's fine. I'm keying through the coordinates for Shepard's laser. We need all of the fleet's artillery pointing at that thing right now Admiral!"

"Roger that." There's a pause as the Admiral presumably relays orders, "I hope you know what you're doing Major Alenko."

"Me too. Alenko out." He frowns at the console, blinking sweat out of his eyes and finally punches the last key in triumph. "Mods are up Commander and the fleet's standing by. You're good to go."

"FIRE AT WILL!"

Kaidan covers his ears as the Normandy's giant guns fire in a deafening staccato. Over the noise he can just barely hear the unmistakable sound of an ear-splitting explosion.

"What did we hit?" One of the Admirals of the fleet asks.

"The firing chamber." Shepard answers;Kaidan realizes he's been holding his breath and lets it out, almost sheepishly. "Looks like a weak point when it's priming."

"Damnit!" The Admiral continues, "The jamming towers have us firing manually, we can't make a precision shot!"

"We may escape before it recovers." Legion notes, and Kaidan is suddenly sorry he hasn't taken the time to get to know this clearly very intelligent Geth.

"No. Pull over!"

However he has underestimated his apparently suicidal wife.

"What are you doing Ari?" He mutters, making sure his comm link is muted.

"If we run away the Geth stay under Reaper control and the Quarians are dead. This ends now."

Kaidan closes his eyes and sighs knowing full well just how right she is. He wonders why it always seems to be up to them to save everyone. Why they always manage to get themselves into these sort of ridiculous situations. Why he's not punching through the comm shouting at her to get the hell back to the Normandy.

"EDI, patch the Quarians to the Normandy's weapons system. I want the targeting laser synced up to the whole damn fleet."

"Already taken care of Commander. Ready when you are." He says, shaking his head to clear it.

There's a brief moment of silence on the other side of Kaidan's comm link and he can almost hear her blink in surprise.

"I knew I kept you around for something." She says, her voice dripping with wry amusement.

"Glad I could help Commander."

"Major, we could use you on the bridge." Joker says.

Checking the console is active and locked onto the Commander's targeting laser, Kaidan spins on his heel and starts jogging back to the elevator.

"Shepard Commander. Do you require assistance?"

"Just stay down Legion, I'll take it from here."

He stumbles at that, and finds himself crashing into the same goddamned table he managed to drive halfway through his kidney on his first trip across the tilting crew deck. By herself? Is she crazy?

Kaidan has never been so tempted in his entire life to snap into full on, unsupportive "get-your-ass-back-onto-the-Normandy-where-I-know-you're-safe" mode. He's planted firmly on the ground of the Crew deck, grinding his teeth together, fighting an internal battle between the Alliance soldier whose only role is to support his commanding officer no matter what the situation and the husband, driven almost completely insane, knowing the woman he loves is down there, alone, facing down a giant mechanical monster.

"Major!"

With an almost inhuman force of sheer willpower, Kaidan wrenches himself away from the mess with a cry of frustration. If she was stupid enough to face down a Reaper alone, he was damn sure going to make sure he'd do whatever he could to get her back onto the ship in one piece.

"Shepard Commander." Legion's voice sounds almost hushed and reverent to Kaidan's ringing ears. "Good luck."

The elevator doors hiss open and Kaidan launches himself out of them, shouts that the Reaper is powering back up chattering into his comm link. He sprints past the crew members currently strapped firmly into their stations and flings himself into the co-pilot's chair when he reaches the bridge. He and Joker exchange a quick look, both of their faces covered with something like fear, something like anger, before turning back to their consoles, expressions set in determination.

"Shepard to fleet. I'll paint the weak spot, link up with the Normandy and be ready to fire."

"Quarian fleet is standing by Major Alenko." An Admiral tells him.

"On my mark." He says, his fingers hovering above the targeting laser and main artillery guns on his console.

The next few minutes pass in a blur. When Kaidan thinks back to this day, he can remember the Normandy pitching wildly like Old Earth sea vessels in a storm. He can remember shouting out orders to the Fleet as the high-pitched whine of the targeting laser reaches a crescendo in his comm. He can remember sweat pouring off his forehead as he watches the incomprehensively tiny dot labeled "AS" dodging backwards and forwards between those horrible, burning, incinerating lines of red electrical fire that emanate from the Reaper. He can remember feeling numb and at the same time so completely alive, his heart in his mouth, every fibre of his being willing her to run…

And then it's over.

And he's fidgeting in his chair, fingers flashing over vid replays, scanning the surface, logging the Reaper's vocal signature, all just for something to do. Instead of feeling helpless and useless, just like he always does when the Commander leaves him behind.

He can't help but feel intensely proud of her, grinning when Joker 'whoops' loudly at the inhuman feat of negotiation she pulls off. "Two whole armies in one afternoon! And we took down a Reaper!" the pilot crows.

The crew is cheering, Kaidan notices dimly, almost overwhelmed by the relief coursing through every bone in his body. "Yeah, we did that." He murmurs, a small, wondrous smile across his face as he stares into the vid console at the small group on the surface.

He needs time to think.


That night, the doors to the CO's cabin hiss open and Arianna stumbles through, exhaustion plainly etched around her face. She smiles to herself, indescribably pleased with the day, a feeling of fearlessness and invincibility course through her to her bones. She feels like she can take on the universe. She took down a Reaper for god's sake. She rolls her shoulders idly and moves to sit down at her terminal, checking for messages.

"Hey."

She jumps and spins around, her, chair rolling slightly at the movement. She steadies herself with one arm on the table and grins.

"Hey." Her smile widens, "We just took down a Reaper."

Kaidan's staring at her strangely, his body outlined by the blue light of the fish tank. She blinks at him, more than a little disappointed at his lack of response.

"Yeah, we did." He says almost tonelessly.

His shoulders sag and he moves closer, leaning against the door to the bathroom, near the empty shelves, his arms folded across his chest in the characteristic manner he has that lets her know he's thinking deeply about something.

"Ari, on board the Normandy, I'm two people."

She laughs lightly, "If this is your way of telling me you're in need of some psychological profiling, Dr Chakwas is in the Med Bay."

He runs a hand through his hair and sighs in frustration. "No, will you just listen to me?"

She frowns, "Kaidan what's wrong?"

"I need to say something, and I need you to know that right here, right now, I am in no way your XO." He shakes his head, deadly serious, "Not even a little bit."

Arianna stands, her face having lost all of its triumphant glow. "Okay." She says apprehensively.

And suddenly he's moved, so fast she doesn't even see it, he's holding her shoulders in a vice-like grip. "What the HELL were you thinking?" His eyes are wide and glistening with something like fear and anger all barely held in check. "Taking on a Reaper by yourself? Do you have a DEATH WISH?"

He's shaking now, she notices, waves of biotic energy rippling along his body. "I didn't have time Kaidan, there's wasn't any other choice."

"Are you KIDDING me? Legion gave you the out!"

"What? I was supposed to run? Give them the satisfaction of our defeat? Let them tear through the Quarians? Leave us fighting the Geth?"

"NO! I…" He bends his head, breathing hard, his fingers still clenched around her shoulders. He looks up at her again and his eyes are glowing blue with biotics, their intensity shocking her into breathlessness. "I have never been more angry at you. Ever. I have never been so fearful for you in my entire life and you've died before." He stares at her, his eyes burning into hers and the tone of his voice shocks her into stillness and silence. "I just need you to understand that."

He closes his eyes suddenly, snaps them shut, and the spell is broken. With a small cry, she closes the distance between them, hugging him to her fiercely. She doesn't apologise, somehow she knows she doesn't have to. She has done nothing he would not have done had their positions been reversed. She is overwhelmed with shame and guilt at knowing in the last few hours she's been on board the Normandy she hasn't even considered what effect her actions would have had on him. She has been riding high on the glory of her latest victory. She's not used to being answerable to another person again, not used to having to think about someone else.

"I…" Kaidan starts, his voice muffled into her shoulder, his arms tightening around her waist, "I know you can't promise me you'll be safe, hell, I can't guarantee the same thing of myself but…"

"I know."

She doesn't know how long they stand there, wrapped in each other's arms, clinging to one another, but after a while Kaidan pulls back, a sudden grin crossing his features.

He laughs incredulously, "Ari, we just took down a Reaper."

"Hell yeah." His grin is infectious.

"A Reaper!"

"We did that." She's laughing.

He scoops her up, spinning her around and kissing her soundly.

The ship is quiet.