This takes place in my no-Starchild post-ME3 verse (established in "Consequences"). Hope you enjoy. :)

Also, I'm mostly posting my fics on AO3 now, as impsy.

Five hours into the meeting, the three other Councilors appeared perfectly calm as the human colonial representative repeated himself for the fourth time, as if doing so was going to make them more charitable to his case.

With their longer lives and decades on the Council, the three of them were old hands at this, and Kaidan didn't have the experience they did. He had only been on the Council for a year, though he'd known the appointment was a possibility for six months before that, when there had been yet another endless series of debates about who could fill Anderson's shoes. He hadn't had much of a choice but accepting their offer - they threatened to nominate Shepard if he said no, and as she pointed out, her diplomacy skills more often than not ended with weapons being drawn.

But accepting the offer didn't mean he always liked it, and he especially regretted time wasted on meetings like this one, where they'd listen intently to the arguments, nod sagely, promise to discuss it, then do absolutely nothing to correct the situation. He'd hoped that after the defeat of the Reapers things would change, but galactic politicians had a long history of being useless, and it was far too late to change the tradition now now.

had a long list of things he'd rather be doing, but these days, all he wanted to do was be with Shepard.

"I'm not getting within a hundred feet of that place," she said when he asked her to tag along, giving him a skeptical look that would have intimidated a lesser man - or, at least, someone who wasn't quite so used to being on the receiving end of her skepticism. Ah, marriage. "Every time I go to the Tower, someone screams at me. Or I almost die. Though both of those sound like more fun than Council meetings."

"What if I made it worth your while?" he'd asked, sliding his hands along her hips, and she'd grinned.

"Think you could manage that during the meeting?"

"Mhm. I can multitask."

"Don't think I need your full attention?"

He'd chuckled, but his hands remained where they were. "Fair point. Good thing I've got an hour before I have to be there."

He was late to that meeting, of course, and a few after that, but couldn't find it in him to regret it, even when his assistant took one look at his mussed hair and rolled her eyes ("Honestly, you two! The galaxy isn't going anywhere! Couldn't you keep your hands off each other until after the meeting?!").

That, at least, he could handle. Having to correct the other Councilors when they'd asked if he had run into a door neck-first was one of the most unpleasant things he'd had to do so far. Damn human skin showing "injuries" easily.

Shepard, of course, had just grinned wickedly when he told her, and done worse the next time. ("It's so they remember who's gonna kick their asses if they drag you out of bed to a 'emergency meeting' one more time.")

"In closing," the representative said, which managed to grab Kaidan's attention despite where his mind was wandering, "the krogan settlement will undoubtedly do more harm than good, and if left unchecked, our colony won't have the resources it needs to survive. I certainly hope that none of you want to be responsible for more human deaths," he added, with a pointed look at Kaidan. "Not after the casualties we suffered on Earth."

"I certainly hope you aren't implying that your race's losses were worse than anyone else's." Councilor Tevos cut in for the first time, her tone reproachful.

The speaker ducked his head at the chastising. "Of course not, Councilor, I only mean that-"

"I'm sure you're aware of the death tolls on Thessia and Palaven. As well as the sacrifices of the krogan you're trying to expel, many of whom died defending your own planet."

"I- I only worry for my colony's-"

But he stopped suddenly, tilting his head slightly and frowning for only a moment before the door swished open to reveal one of Kaidan's assistants, winded and red in the face, her dark, curly hair sticking to her forehead.

"Councilor Alenko!" she managed, her breath catching in her throat as she gasped for air. "Apologies for- interrupting you, Councilors."

Kaidan stood, ignoring protocol. "What happened, Devi?"

"Came as- as quick as I could. It's- It's Commander Shepard, sir. The hospital called. She-"

Devi didn't even get to finish the sentence before Kaidan jumped over the desk, a move he thought he'd left behind with active service, and ran for the door without a backward glance.

He heard Devi tell the others that "Councilor Alenko will- return as soon as he's able. And- he appreciates your understanding," and was briefly grateful that at least someone was able to think straight right now.

But his focus was on one woman only, and this gratitude didn't stop him from snapping at Devi as they ran. "Where's the shuttle?" Of course the hospital was as far out of the way as it could be, of course, of course they couldn't have the meetings too close by, not even when they knew-

"Over here, Councilor!" Devi darted ahead of him, her long hair streaming behind her.

"Where the hell are the guards?" Any other time, he'd feel bad for being so short with her, but now he would have used his position with the Council to clear the whole damn Presidium without a twinge of guilt if it got him to Shepard faster.

"Keeping a path open for you at the shuttle, sir!" she called back over her shoulder, and he was grateful for that bit of foresight when he saw the crowds. It was around quitting time on the Citadel, and while there was always congestion around the shuttle and taxi landing pads, it was particularly bad now.

But he recognized one of the people directing foot traffic as his guard, a pistol resting comfortably at his hip, with one arm stopping pedestrians and the other urging Kaidan forward.

He practically threw himself into the shuttle, Devi shortly behind him, and the doors shut with a whir of machinery.

"How is she?"

"She's- in pain. She won't say how bad, but- I can tell, now. Been getting worse and worse all day."

"Why is she only going now?" he demanded. "Why didn't one of you call?"

"She didn't want to go," Devi protested. "I told her to talk to you, or go to the hospital, or something, but you know how stubborn she is. But eventually it got bad enough that she agreed to go."

He gripped the seat as the shuttle shuddered into the air, his knuckles white and gaze fixed out the window.

Devi reached over to pat his arm, and he met her eyes. "It'll be all right, sir. We knew she'd-"

"Yeah," Kaidan said, his jaw clenched. Every muscle was tense, ready to leap out of the shuttle the moment it stopped. "Just- not yet."

"ETA four minutes, Councilor," the pilot said over her shoulder, and though the war was over, had been over for almost two years now, Kaidan felt like he was going back into combat, but this time, he was completely unprepared for what he'd find.

Fortunately, at least he didn't have to jump from a moving shuttle or clear a landing zone, and they were ready for him the second he stepped out of the shuttle. A salarian nurse took his arm and pulled him forward, blinking rapidly. "This way, Councilor, please hurry, she's-"

He picked up the pace, nearly running, his heart pounding in his ears. "Is everything okay?"

"She's asking for you."

"Any of the others arrive?"

"Lieutenant Moreau and EDI are inside," Devi said, tapping at her omnitool as she ran. "They were already on the Presidium. Garrus says he and Tali should be here within the hour. Liara is dealing with a situation of some sort but said she'd be here as soon as possible. The others I've heard from all want to vidcom in if they can. Here's her room."

The door was open, and though Kaidan's eyes went straight to Shepard, he didn't miss the two guards standing outside, sidearms at the ready, who nodded at him as he pushed past and rushed to her side.

She was more pale than normal and her face was covered in a sheen of sweat, her blonde bangs pasted to her forehead, clad in a hospital gown instead of a uniform. A doctor and several nurses all bustled around in a dance too quick for Kaidan to follow, but the fact that none of them were crashing into each other impressed him for a moment before he ducked between them to get to Shepard's side.

His heart thumped at the lines of tension in her face that he didn't normally see, but she still smiled up at him. "Kaidan. You made it."

"Hey, babe," he murmured, taking her hand in his. "Sorry it took me so long."

Shepard shook her head, and she forced another smile, but he knew the expression on her face all too well - she was trying to hide the amount of pain she was in. "It's- it's fine. Just glad you're here. I didn't want to- Not without you."

"I'm here, Iri. Always, remember? Not letting you do this alone."

She squeezed his hand, almost painfully, and glanced at the medical professionals swarming around her. "Kaidan..."

"What's wrong?"

She pulled a face, ruined immediately when she gasped in pain. "I'm- scared."

"Hey, hey, don't worry, okay?" He smiled and reached up to push her bangs out of her eyes, and she gazed up at him, unable to hide her worry. He cupped her cheek, putting on a brave face and hoping she couldn't tell how petrified he was. "There's- it's going to be okay. The doctors will take care of you and we're going to get through this just fine. Okay?"

"I- yeah." She nodded quickly, then gasped, squeezing her eyes shut and clinging to his hand.

He scrubbed at the tears in his eyes with the back of a hand while she wasn't looking, then turned to the doctor. "Can't you do anything for her?" he demanded.

The doctor sighed, shook his head, then jerked his thumb toward the door. Kaidan followed, stepping outside the room and leveling a serious look at him. "I'm Dr. McDaniel," he said. "I've been brought up to speed on your wife and am going to do everything I can for her."

"Then why is she in so much pain?"

"We've done everything we can for now, Councilor," McDaniels said quietly. "But we need you to keep it together, for her sake. She needs you to be strong. Okay?"

That wasn't the response he was hoping for. Kaidan ground his teeth together, but nodded. "I just-" he started, then sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I hate seeing her in pain."

He reached out to clasp Kaidan's shoulder. "I understand. Trust me. We'll get you through this."

He nodded and forced a smile of thanks, stepping back in the room. A nurse pushed a chair toward him and he murmured a word of thanks.

Shepard grabbed his hand the moment he was next to her again. "What did the doctor say?"

He bent to kiss her forehead gently, closing his eyes for a moment. They were in the best hospital on the Citadel. He had her. She would be all right. Weren't they always? He pushed aside all the memories of Shepard, broken and bloody, pinned under a chunk of rock and near death after the last battle. "He said to give it some time."

"Some time" turned out to be the longest hour of Kaidan's life, much less Shepard's, who clung at him and tried not to cry, breathing heavily. Every time she clutched at his arm, squeezing her eyes shut against the pain, he would sit there holding her, torn between going to yell at a doctor until they made this better and wanting to be there and be strong for her.

"How bad is it?" he eventually asked, trying to distract her from the doctor hovering over her, taking blood and checking her pulse and doing nothing to actually help.

"Worse than standing in Ravager acid, not as bad as suffocating to death," she managed, panting with the effort of speech, a tension line creased in her forehead.

He grinned despite himself. "I knew I could count on you to remind me how much worse this could be."

"It's a talent," she said, laughing weakly, but something behind Kaidan's shoulder caught her attention, and he turned around to see McDaniel and another doctor standing just outside the room, having a hushed conversation and occasionally glancing in at them.

"It's going to be fine," he said, just as much for his benefit as hers. His eyes were locked on the pair as they finally stepped in the room, and he and Shepard remained silent as they checked her over. The room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, the tension palpable in the air, and Kaidan wished they'd say something, anything, so they could at least have some kind of clue what was going on.

Finally, McDaniel cleared his throat and met Shepard's eyes. "How are you feeling, Commander?"

Kaidan had seen her looking worse, but not much. "Been better," she managed, tension lines beside her eyes, and Kaidan squeezed her hand. "Is there- anything you can do?"

He shook his head. "I think we've done everything we can."

Shepard whimpered. Quietly, but Kaidan could hear it, and he hated this, hated how powerless he was to help her.

"Are you ready to go?"

She shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut, her chest rising and falling with her rapid breathing. "I can't- I'm not-"

"Everyone says that," McDaniel said with a small smile. "But I think you two are going to be great parents. You managed to do a pretty good job with the galaxy - how hard can a baby be?"

Both of them managed a laugh at this, and Shepard squeezed his hand once more before nodding to the doctor. "Okay. Let's- christ, let's go."

They wheeled her out of the room, and Kaidan made as if to follow, but a nurse caught his arm. "Let's get you in scrubs, Councilor," she smiled, handing him a bag of clothes. "Are you ready to be a father?"

His eyes followed Shepard until they rounded the corner into the hall, then he turned back to the nurse with a shaky nod. "As ready as I can be."

Kaidan didn't even notice the door opening until Garrus not-so-subtly cleared his throat, making him jump and turn around in his chair.

"Sorry, didn't want to bother you," Garrus said, standing half-in half-out of the doorway. "But the nurse said you were cleared for visitors, and we wanted-"

"Get in here, Vakarian," Shepard said, looking up at last from the little pink bundle in her arms and smiling. "The others out there too?"

Garrus nodded, stepping gingerly into the room, with Tali close behind, followed by Joker, EDI, and Liara. While the others crowded around the bed, cooing and making sounds only dogs could hear, Garrus reached out to clasp Kaidan's hand and met his eyes. He didn't say anything. But Kaidan knew him well enough, had learned turian expressions well enough, that he could see the pride and happiness in his friend's eyes clear as day.

"She's beautiful," Liara whispered, leaning over the bed and smiling. Her eyes looked suspiciously bright - but, to be honest, everyone's did. Kaidan would readily admit that the moment Dr McDaniel had announced "it's a girl, congratulations" that he, too, had cried in happiness. Shepard had as well, though part of that was pure relief that she was done with hours of labor.

"What did you call her?" Tali asked, holding Garrus' other arm, and Kaidan couldn't help wondering if the two of them had ever considered adopting.

"Hannah Eden," Kaidan replied, gazing down at the dark-haired little girl. Their Hannah. Their daughter. "After Shepard's mother, and-"

"Eden Prime?" Joker laughed. "You're killing me, Alenko."

Shepard just grinned. "Seemed appropriate, since that's where all this started. Honestly, that was the hardest part of this whole thing," she added. "We spent hours coming up with names."

"That was the hardest thing?" Kaidan balked at this - after so many late-night runs to fetch Shepard food she was craving, endless trips to the doctor, and too many sleepless nights for both of them spent worrying that something would go wrong, that her cybernetics and Cerberus' meddling would cause problems-

Shepard raised an eyebrow. "You disagree, Major?"

They'd been married long enough that he knew when he was going to lose an argument. "No ma'am. Just glad that was the hardest part for you."

She grinned. "Thought so."

"I'm surprised you had trouble coming up with names, actually," Liara said, peering down at Hannah. "There are many friends to remember that you could have named her after."

"Too many to choose from," Shepard said, echoing many conversations the two of them had had. "If we'd tried, she would've had some ridiculous name like Ashley Krios Solus Legion Anderson Shepard-Alenko."

This got a laugh out of everyone.

"All right, let's let the new parents get some rest," Liara said. "I'm sure they're going to need it."

"They already have many people who want their attention," EDI added. "I have been monitoring the calls placed to the hospital. Many Citadel residents saw Major Alenko running to his shuttle, and it seems the news networks are speculating - correctly - that Shepard has given birth. There have been one hundred and eighty six calls placed in the past hour from residents and news stations trying to find out if this is the case. This number is in addition to the calls from friends and coworkers that went directly to your omni-tools."

They both groaned. "I don't even want to think about how many emails I have," Shepard grumbled, but even her "annoyed" voice was quiet, almost tender, as she looked down at her daughter. "I'm putting off checking that for as long as possible. Is it too late to run off and raise her on a colony?"

Kaidan laughed. "Might be tough to find someone out there to take care of the baby."

"We've got you covered, Shepard. Tali has had me reading plenty of books on the subject." Garrus sounded amused, elbowing Tali in the side.

"That so?" Shepard's eyes twinkled, but she didn't comment, and Kaidan looked down to hide his smile.

Tali tugged at his arm, leading him along and ushering the others toward the door. "We'll see you both soon."

"We're staying on the Citadel for a while," Garrus said, patting Shepard on the shoulder. "Just in case."

She smiled. "Thanks, guys." The group murmured congratulations and promises to babysit as they left, leaving Kaidan, Shepard, and Hannah alone in the room at last.

"Come here, you," Shepard said, patting the edge of the bed with one free hand, her smile gentle.

He sat on the edge of the tiny hospital bed, curling around her with one arm around her shoulders. "You all right?"

She huffed a laugh. "I think I'm going to sleep for a week. Haven't been this exhausted since the night before Earth."

"Really? Could've fooled me," he said, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "You look gorgeous."

"Flatterer," she said, rolling her eyes, but she smiled, looking back down at their daughter. "Worth it though. She's..."

"Yeah," he murmured, moving closer to her. Hannah's green eyes gazed up at him serenely. "Some days... I can't believe we made it here."

"I know the feeling." Shepard shook her head, leaning back against him. "You know... I didn't expect to survive the Reapers."

He pulled her closer. "None of us did, Iri."

"No, I really- I knew, I knew I wouldn't." She huffed a quiet laugh. "I actually felt like I was leading you on."

He raised an eyebrow. "How's that?"

"When things started getting really bad, and I thought I wasn't going to- well." She shook her head. "I didn't think it was fair to you. I knew it was going to end bad. For both of us."

"So you're saying you're not right all the time?" he teased gently, kissing her cheek.

Shepard smiled and leaned back against him, smiling as they both gazed down at their daughter. "And I've never been happier to be wrong."