Kaidan glanced up only for a moment before burying himself back into his reports. There was a faint murmur in the air as the Commander was going over star maps with Pressely at his side, the tone was determined to succeed as they discussed matters of great importance.
He was familiar with the change in the man's eyes when he locked on to a goal. There would be success or death, never allowing himself the option of failure. Such harsh standards worried the biotic, but the higher-ups feigned ignorance as long he kept moving mountains. Nimble fingers hastily fixed a misspelled word as his focus was already slipping. He would tell himself that he didn't notice the lines by those mahogany eyes when he missed a night's sleep again.
The crowds would see exactly what they wanted. An invincible hero offered up by the human race, tempered by Akuze and steeled by loss. Even Shepard would pretend that it was the truth and hid the pain when he dragged the weight of worlds behind him. He became the loadstone that the crew depended on.
Shepard listened to the needs of the crew and went far beyond the call of duty to help those under his protection. Even Alenko was included in the camaraderie despite his 'condition'.
Human biotics were treated as an evolutionary oddity by Alien species, while with other humans the title of 'freak' was the best they could hope for. His fellow soldiers saw him as an experiment gone wrong, something to be feared, or mistrusted. The worst was being seen as a living weapon, not allowed to feel pain or exhaustion.
John Shepard was different though, he never worked with a biotic before and didn't know what to expect when Alenko signed on. The man had gone so far as to give him the warmest welcome he had ever received in the Alliance, dare he say that it made him feel normal.
Even after being briefed over what he could do, the sniper couldn't contain a mystified scream of "Holy shit!" the first time he saw Kaidan throw an enemy across the room. Usually this was where the normalcy ended, the moment they were reminded what they were dealing with. After the fight there was still no fear in those brown eyes, only a renewed sense of amazement.
He wanted to find meaning in that look but it was pointless to dig for something that wasn't there. The dark-haired man had the biggest heart out of any commanding officer he had ever met, and Kaidan couldn't decide if it was his best or worst quality. Between his rugged good looks and near-inexhaustible kindness, it wasn't unusual for someone to mistake his attention for romantic intent.
Sometimes the biotic felt like he was in the same broken-hearted boat as Liara. For her, meeting the Commander must have been something out of a fairy tale. She was beautiful maiden rescued by a tragic hero, and she was the only one who could make sense of his Prothean visions. Their romance seemed like destiny.
But destiny fell short when the knight turned down her advances, and that was where her similarities with the lieutenant ended. Liara still has a chance to win his affections while Kaidan had long since resigned to the fact that he was merely his Staff Lieutenant or maybe even a close friend, if he was feeling generous.
After missions, John made a point to seek out his lieutenant and check on how he was doing, unknowingly pressing on his façade of wanting to keep this strictly professional. The biotic kept the conversations as brief as possible, knowing the last thing the man needed was another problem on his plate. He already knew what would happen anyway.
Broad shoulders would stiffen at the confession, Alliance having trained him for everything but a love-struck subordinate. The rejection would be wrapped up by kind words and apologizes like it was his fault. The lieutenant would have to be transferred, preferable far away from any snipers with high testosterone levels.
There were books of regulations against this, his common sense screamed. It was wrong and he refused to become a scandal marking Shepard's good name. The biotic wanted him to know that he would gladly share the burden if he would only ask. But he was a grown man and he didn't need his subordinate to fuss over him. Instead he would bury his affections and give him what he needed, one less person to worry about.
His station was the model example of readiness and equipment was kept at peak efficiency. Every task that he was assigned was completed with upmost attention to detail, and he became familiar enough with his Commander's wants to anticipate his requests. He allowed himself a moment of pride at the surprise when he already set up a supply chain with a certain armor manufacturer before he could ask. Each quiet gesture was a small way of getting his attention. A compliment was worth its weight in gold and he refused to admit how much he treasured them.
Now Kaidan considered himself to be of a sensible sort and left his boyhood academy days long behind him. He didn't expect John to swoon at his feet because of a well-written report or supply order. It was a mindless crush that would bite them both in the ass if it was ever left out. It was a product of misguided adrenaline and respect, and would go away soon enough.
He was wrenched from his thoughts from the buzzing of a drill in his temples, the first sign of his implants rebelling against him. The tightening pain was an all too familiar sensation that he tried to will away. "Not now," he grumbled and forced his focus to back to his report. White text swam on a yellow background and the L2s began to throb. He managed a few more lines (although they were slightly garbled) before the datapad slipped out of his fingers.
The glowing device hit the table with an audible 'clack' that to him was deafening.
If he wasn't fighting off the sickness brewing in his head, he might have caught that the Commander stopped talking.
Kaiden left his post in a hurry, too unbalanced to call someone else to take over his shift. The dull roar of the Normandy's crew only amplified the unease. The situation went from bad to worse very quickly and the ship's meager lighting became blinding floodlights that wreaked havoc on his sense of balance. He stood as straight as he could still muster, but needed a hand on the wall to steady his steps. There was medication in his room that would help speed recovery, if he could make it back in one piece.
Luckily, the trip to the elevator was a short one and weak hands typed in the desired floor.
He could feel the lull in movement as the steel box was pulled by cables and Kaidan shielded his eyes as he wondered if it the bulbs were always that bright.
The elevator came to a sudden stop and jolt made him lose his footing, a grip on the metal railing was what kept him mostly vertical. He rested his forehead on the bar, the metallic coldness pleasant on over-sensitized skin. On his knees and in pain, he could not look more pathetic.
This of course, is why the elevator doors decided to open onto the sight of Commander Shepard's boots. He must have taken the stairs to catch him.
Anyone else would dismiss the sick soldier as another example of why not to eat off of the Turian menu, but he ran to his side as if the lieutenant's life depended on it. And as far as he knew, it did. "Kaidan? Kaidan, look at me. What wrong?" John urged as he helped his lieutenant to stand. In a rehearsed movement, calloused hands met skin to check heart rate and breathing. The biotic didn't struggle as the first few buttons of his uniform were undone so Shepard could touch his throat.
The skin was cool under a layer of sweat, a stark contrast to the elevated pulse. There were no obvious signs of blood or injury to hint at the invisible ailment, leaving him at a loss. Every inch of him screamed at him to do something and to fix whatever was wrong, but his medical knowledge kept coming up empty.
The younger man's back leaned against the hard wall of the elevator, his head heavy from the internal throbbing. His eyes darted around the enclosed space, as if refusing to show Shepard his weakness made it disappear.
The lack of response worried the Commander and he said "I'm going to take you to Dr. Chakwas now." Tentatively John closed the space between them, bending down to slide an arm under Kaidan's and across his back. The biotic realized what was happening the moment his knee was touched. Shepard was going to carry him.
His whole body tensed at the intimate gesture and he lashed out without thinking. Blue fire snapped at his ranking officer and the display wasn't enough to harm, only startle. John let go in an instant, far more frightened by himself than the biotic. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"I know, it's just…" Kaidan sighed, not wanting to talk about what was really happening. It was easier to blame it on his implants. "It's just a migraine from my L2s, Commander. A few hours rest and I'll be fine." He said as he pushed off from the wall to prove that he could stand without help. The brief wobble in his legs was disguised with a stretch.
Somehow this response was worse than letting him panic, because it meant that the lieutenant had suffered without him knowing. Mahogany colored eyes narrowed in focus as he searched for any excuse to throw him in the infirmary. There was an electronic 'ding' as the elevator was called and John punched the hold button without a second glance. He wanted to make sure the biotic was alright before he left and he doubted he wanted an audience for this.
The motion made Kaidan's heart skip a beat, he had seen vids that started like this. While the thoughts of being in an enclosed space with the very Alpha-male Shepard was distracting from the migraine, this was hardly the time.
"How often does this happen?" He asked, and squirmed under the firm tone, knowing he wasn't allowed to be vague.
"…About once every few weeks but I haven't had one this bad in months."
The answer passed some unseen test and John made a disgruntled noise, not sure if he was making the right choice by letting him off the hook. Another punch on the keys opened the doors and he threw Kaidan's arm over his shoulders. "I'll carry you to the infirmary but not to your room, there's already too damn much gossip on this ship." He said with the hint of a smirk on his lips.
This was the closest their bodies had ever been and Kaidan could smell his aftershave. The scent was as earthy and green as the camouflage on Shepard's armor. Pride and self-restraint took a backseat for once in his life as he let his Commander guide him back to his room. He wanted to sink into the man's warmth and forget about the galaxy around them.
John displayed his heart so openly, making Kaidan want to reach out and take a piece for himself. He knew he would take good care of it if he only had the chance. His eyes were closed only for a moment and he didn't notice where he was until his back hit the mattress.
Shepard had kept the lights off for the biotic and navigated the room using the light from window. Day and night were fluid concepts anyway once they left Earth. Left to his own devices, Kaidan instinctively curled up in a cocoon of blankets in an effort to blot out the rest of the world.
For reasons the biotic didn't know, John sat next to him. The bed shifted under the addition of a second weight with John being close enough to remind him he was still there.
Kaidan wanted him to say something, anything, or even pull the blankets apart and join him. But Shepard stayed where he was, and the biotic wondered what they would be doing if the Alliance uniform wasn't in the way?
Maybe…Maybe Shepard was thinking the same thing?
It seemed like such a stupid thing before, but now he wasn't sure.
What if this was his last chance to say something and he was wasting it with a headache? Either one of them could die tomorrow from the fight against Saren, the moment suddenly became too precious to waste.
He turned around to find Shepard going over the medications on his nightstand. John didn't notice the movement as he read the laundry list of warnings on each one, frowning when he found that they included everything and up to internal hemorrhaging.
Kaidan lost the air in his wings as his Commander carefully measured out the right number of orange capsules. Was that all? He thought with disappointment. No goodnight kiss or breathy confessions of adoration, his reward was some pills and a glass of water on his nightstand.
He heard the door slid open and pulled the blankets further around himself, the rejection settling heavy in his stomach. He must have been dumber than a varren for even thinking that-
There was a moment's hesitation at the door before the pale light of the hallway was shut out. John came back to put a hand on his shoulder and leaned in close enough until his lips almost touched his ear. "Get better soon, I need you Kaidan." He breathed, letting guarded emotions slip past. There was a small squeeze on his shoulder before Shepard thought it was time to leave.
Kaidan couldn't hold back a grin and for the first time he was hopeful about what he was feeling. Maybe once they defeated Saren and everything calmed down again, they might have a shot at this.