2182 - Arcturus Station

Micah stepped off the shuttle with the heavy tread of one who was bone-weary beyond belief. And perhaps that was just the way to describe it. For the past five years, ever since being designated N7, the nature of her duty assignments had shifted from being ship- or land-based, to more short termed, special forces related missions, ultimately leaving her based out of Arcturus so that she could essentially be on call whenever they needed her. That being said, it had given her an opportunity to move out into her own flat at least, though that too had its drawbacks. She would still see her friends and former roommates occasionally, but for the most part they would be out on their long deployments while she more or less bopped around the galaxy wherever she was needed. This arrangement also made maintaining a relationship with a certain Lieutenant more than just a little difficult.

Sighing, she passed through familiar halls and passageways on her way to her apartment. Over the past five years, she and Kaidan had only managed to find one other time to be together for any length of time. And that had been three years ago. Since then, either he'd been out on a long deployment or her missions had coincided with his leave. Even their holidays hadn't ever matched up. It was becoming downright depressing, but at least they still were able to send messages back and forth. Though, she thought as she stumbled through her door, nearly tripping on the mail that had been left through the mail slot, even that had, as of late, been intermittent at best. This last assignment had been pure hell and she'd not had a chance to try to contact him since before leaving, and damn, she could sure use the sound of a familiar and friendly voice right now!

Micah's eyes were caught by the official looking envelope laying nearby as she set her gear down near the entrance. There were very few people in the Alliance who still used paper communication with her, most everyone else resorting to email. But, though few, she knew anyone who did would have important reasons for doing so ….

Bleary-eyed with the need for sleep, she managed to find a way to focus on the familiar handwriting within, the soft emergency lighting that was always on by the doorway providing enough illumination to actually see it. A short, personal note was attached to a more formal letter. How like him, she thought.

[official letter]

To: Staff Lieutenant Micah Shepard

From: Captain David Anderson

RE: Duty Assignment

As of receiving this, you are officially reassigned to my staff for the Normandy project. Report to my office for further details.

[short, handwritten note]

And make sure you take a day or three to yourself to recover first. I heard about that last mission - get some well earned and deserved rest. And that's an order! - Anderson

Micah couldn't help but grin. So formal and yet so … parental at the same time. So like him. Sighing, she set the letter aside and moved into the room to sit and remove her boots. Armor came next. When left only in her shorts and t-shirt, she rose and began padding through to her bedroom. Anderson's suggestion of sleep was well advised. That last mission had been hell in more ways than one, and she felt like she could sleep for weeks just now.

Without turning a light on, she opened the door to her room and entered. She didn't even waste time brushing her teeth, so exhausted was she (a mental image came to mind, though, of her mother chastising her about that fact), and simply opted to flop into bed and sleep for however long unconscious bliss would claim her ….

It took a long moment for her to realize that the sudden hindrance to her movement was caused by a person's arm rather than the dresser or a chair or some other piece of furniture. Instincts kicking in in a rush, adrenaline coursing through her and giving her strength that otherwise might not have been there, Micah instinctively began fighting against it. Moves and techniques learned from a very young age gave her an advantage, one she was not afraid to use. N7 training had only added to this. As a last resort, she might turn to her biotics, but that would only be a final option. She didn't want the inevitable mess that would follow if she could help it.

She heard the man (there was no doubt in her mind that it was a man by the deep tone of the sound) grunt as her elbow connected with his midsection, but he did not release her. If anything, his grasp tightened around her in reaction. "Micah, stop! It's me!"

And that quickly, despite her sleep deprived state, she recognized the owner of the voice and her body froze. "Kaidan?"

She heard his grunt of agreement and felt his arms releasing her. Brushing her hair out of her face, she reached behind him and flipped the light switch. "Kaidan … what -?" Her eyes lifted to meet his for a moment before she reached out, grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him closer so she could kiss him deeply. To hell with the reasons … he was here!

By this point in their relationship, Kaidan was more or less used to the way Micah could jump back and forth from mood to mood. To be honest, he wouldn't have her any other way. Alright, except maybe to have realized BEFORE he'd taken an elbow to his ribs. Still. But god, her shifts could almost be frightening at times. Moving from self defense to the attack (and there was no doubt in his mind that the way she was attempting to devour him just then was an 'attack' of some sort) was such that it was nearly as shocking as stepping from a freezer out onto the Sahara desert.

As surprising as it was, though, he met her, matched her, and even added more fuel to the fire as he lifted her into his arms and carried her over to her bed. There, he set her down gently, moving to lie beside her, hands tangling in her hair and with each whimpering moan she made, he felt his own response intensifying. She was insistent, he noticed, her hands moving to push, pull and tug at clothing between them in a manner that suggested sooner was better than later. Which, he had to admit, was an idea that he fully supported just then. The last time they'd been together had been three very long years before. Still, he wanted to savor this, not rush through it. After all, it had been three years. Who knew how soon they might see each other again? But she seemed to have other ideas.

In the end, they both gave into need rather than patience, and as they lay curled up beside one another afterwards, Kaidan couldn't deny that it had been well worth it. "Well," he murmured as he pressed a kiss to her forehead and wrapped an arm around her shoulders to keep her in place, "that's a hell of a greeting. Hello to you, too."

Lying half sprawled across his chest, her head resting over his heart, her laughter shook her slight frame. "I missed you?" she returned teasingly, amusement lacing her tone.

Kaidan chuckled along with her. "Never would have guessed," he countered.

She shifted then, and though it was dark, he was able to see her eyes lifting to meet his as she rested her chin on hands now folded across his chest. "What are you doing here, Kaidan?" she asked then. "And why didn't you let me know?"

"Ah." A moment of embarrassment washed through him as he lifted a hand to comb his fingers through her hair. "Well, you see, they pulled me for a new assignment and I had thought to surprise you ..."

"So you chose not to tell me because you wanted to surprise me?"

He sighed. "I only received notification two days ago," he admitted. "I'd already received your message, and you know I won't contact you during a mission unless absolutely necessary." This was an arrangement they'd both agreed upon back on Mars before parting ways at the end of that visit. "Besides," he added, hand tangling in her hair and pulling her close enough so he could kiss her again, "I did want to surprise you."

Micah maneuvered herself close enough to kiss, her own hands sliding around his neck and toying with his hair. Lightly, she trailed her fingers along the edges of his implant, knowing that if she kept it light enough, he could find it quite … distracting. She grinned at him as she felt a shiver roll through him in response. "Well, you certainly succeeded," she told him in response to his comment when he pulled back. "Probably a bit more successfully than you'd intended."

She noted that he laughed, apparently not holding a grudge against her for her earlier reaction. "Just a bit," he returned dryly. "But then again, you and that firecracker temper of yours tend to -"

Swooping in quickly, Micah kissed him quite thoroughly, her fingers lightly tracing the edge of his implant again. He groaned and she chose that moment to deepen the kiss. She knew she had him off guard when he reacted with just as much hunger. Normally, he was quite calm and controlled which had its occasional uses, and the challenge to make him lose that was an undeniable turn-on. Pulling back, Micah took a moment to lightly rub her nose along his as she asked, "You were saying?"

Kaidan's sigh was a sweet sign of victory, she thought.

For a moment, Micah felt as if time had come to a sudden halt. The only sound around her, the soft whoosh and whirr of the ventilation system engaging, was the only sign that she still remained in the present. She darted a quick, somewhat shocked look in Kaidan's direction, but clearly, he too was stunned. "I'm sorry, sir," she finally managed, her voice rough with her confusion. "Did you just say -"

Anderson, she noted, seemed quite pleased with himself as he rose to move around his desk and stand before her. "I said, you have been assigned to this Normandy project with the expectation of becoming my XO once the ship is space-worthy. As such, you have been promoted to Lieutenant Commander," he glanced over at Kaidan, "and Lieutenant Alenko has been promoted to Staff Lieutenant and has also been assigned to the same project."

More silence. Why she was so shocked, Micah was uncertain. After all, this was what she'd wanted, right? "Sir …?"

"Shepard, you've earned it," he told her. "Alenko too. This project is something special … unique, and we're looking for our best to serve aboard her. I was lucky enough to have been given my choice in the matter." He handed over a datapad to Micah then and she took it in still slightly numb fingers. "The crew isn't complete yet, of course," he continued while handing a similar pad over to Kaidan. "And I'm counting on you both to assist me with that."

"Of course, sir." Kaidan's voice was quiet, but solid. Assured. Micah glanced over at him again, taking a deep, calming breath when his eyes met hers. Grounded. She could always count on him for that. Swallowing, she echoed, "Of course."

"Good. You've both got a list of assignments that still need to be filled. We have four months before we're due to begin our shake down run. Take your time, think it through, and give me a good list to pull from. We'll aim to discuss it again … oh, end of next week."

Micah nodded, straightening this time and saluting. "Yes, sir."

Anderson smiled and returned the gesture. "Good. Now … unless there are further questions, I need to get to the shipyards to supervise." He winked at Micah. "You'd be surprised how quickly things can go to hell when I'm not around there to keep an eye on them."

Micah laughed aloud. "No, sir," she countered as he turned towards the doorway. "Hell, after that last mission, I doubt you could surprise me in that regard ever again."

Anderson turned back to face her for a moment, half in and half out of the door. Eyes meeting, he added, "Don't count on it," and then turned to exit the room.

Sighing, Micah ran a hand over her face briefly. "I still can't believe this," she muttered.

"Oh, I don't know," Kaidan replied as he crossed over to stand beside her. "Like Anderson said, you've earned it."

"Yeah." Another sigh, this one still tinged with disbelief. "Wonder what mom will think?"

Kaidan chuckled. He'd met Hannah Shepard once over the years. Though he kept the thought to himself, he figured he knew exactly where Micah got her feisty temperament from. "I've no doubt she'll be proud of you," he assured her.

"Hmm." Though things between her and her mother had gotten better over recent years, Micah still felt there was a huge gap between them, one which she was uncertain how to close. "Oh, and you too, but the way," she told him, mood swinging upwards again as she offered him a brighter smile. "Staff Lieutenant Alenko."

He smiled in return, but felt the heat flush his cheeks just a bit as she enunciated it. "Yeah, well …."

Micah grinned and reached out to squeeze his hand quickly before releasing it. "Congratulations to you too, sir," she returned with a quick, if slightly sassy, salute.

"Thanks."

Her eyes dropped then to the datapads they both had in hand. Lips flattening just a bit as her more professional side kicked into gear, she observed, "Alright, what do you say we go get some lunch and get down to business? I don't know about you, but I'm starved, and I doubt I can come up with enough suggestions on my own."

He chuckled in reaction, but unexpectedly didn't tease her back. Surprised, she glanced up at him. "You okay?" she asked.

"Hmm? Yeah, I'm good," he told her before turning towards the doorway, proving he'd heard her suggestion. "Just … thinking."

Micah snorted as they began making their way out of Anderson's office and through the station. "You do that quite a bit, you know?" she pointed out.

Kaidan snorted softly as they approached the bank of elevators. "You say that like it's a bad thing, Commander."

Micah managed to keep the smile in her eyes, but silently, she filed away another moment of concern as he addressed her as 'Commander.' At the moment, they were alone, no one else around or in hearing distance. If others had been around them, that might have explained it ….

It wasn't until that evening that Kaidan finally clued Micah into his thoughts. After spending the afternoon coming up with a short list of names to recommend, they'd returned to her apartment for dinner and to relax. He'd become more withdrawn as the afternoon had worn on, even to the point he'd noticed her darting concerned looks in his direction. By the time they'd returned to her place, he knew he'd have to talk with her about it or she'd not stop until she'd badgered it out of him. So while she worked on dinner (and he had to admit, she was getting much better at cooking), he assisted. It was as she worked on the fried rice and he made a salad that their conversation led down the road he needed to broach the topic.

"So," Micah began, quickly shaking the frying pan as she added the soy sauce, "you going to tell me what's been bugging you all afternoon?"

Kaidan shrugged as he worked. "Just … thinking." Her sigh of exasperation normally would have had him chuckling, but this time it only served to depress.

"Uh huh," she replied while moving to add more ingredients. With a few deft flicks of her wrist, she had it blended into the rice in moments. "About what, in particular?"

Kaidan set his knife aside and turned to face her. "About Alliance rules and regulations on fraternization now that you're a commanding officer." Okay, that had come out a bit more bluntly than he'd intended. But, she had asked.

The pan clanged as it landed upon the stove top suddenly. Micah reached over to turn the burner off before shifting to face him. Arms moving to fold across her chest (never a good sign, he knew), she ventured, "So … that's it then? We're done? Through? Just like that?"

Kaidan heard a low growl behind the words, saw a spark of anger flaring in her eyes and knew that she was about to blow up at him if he didn't stop her quickly. Stepping towards her, he met her look with one of his own. "I didn't say that," he replied quietly, calmly. "What I said was that I was thinking about them. They are in place for a reason, you know."

Micah sighed. "Why? Are you worried you'll have trouble taking orders from me?"

Kaidan shrugged. "It's been known to happen in the past," he pointed out. "Not with us, but in other situations. That's why the regs are there to begin with, and you know it."

"So," she continued, and he thought he could almost see the ideas jumping around inside her head behind those green eyes, "what are you suggesting then? What conclusions have you come to?"

"I haven't," he replied. Reaching out, he settled his hands at her shoulders. "I'm torn," he admitted truthfully. "We've both come so far, too far to ruin our careers over something like this."

Her eyes lifted to search his. "But?" she hedged.

Kaidan sighed. He could feel the strength and power that vibrated in her small frame and understood exactly what this conversation was costing her. She was trying to keep her temper in check … for him. For them both. "But," he finally continued, admitting, "I don't want to lose this. There won't be anyone else for me, Micah. Ever."

"Kaidan …."

The way she said his name was his undoing, and apparently hers too. Dropping his hands, he caught her as she stepped towards him, nearly leaping up into his arms. Their mouths met in a series of frantic and frenzied kisses. Desperation took over as hands began echoing the same, pulling and tugging at clothing. Whimpers and moans, rasping breaths that implied more than mere words could, all of this and more took control.

Reality, however, was not far away, and returned, albeit momentarily, with a loud thud. Tearing their mouths from one another, foreheads meeting and touching, they both glanced down by their feet at the bowl that had fallen. Salad and vegetables scattered about them on the floor, it took a long moment before the laughing began; softly at first, but eventually building until they both were shaking from the force of it.

"Oops?" Micah finally managed to gasp, her eyes meeting his.

His chuckles continued as he lifted a hand to her cheek, pausing momentarily before sliding it so his fingers could comb through her hair. "Yeah, um … perhaps we ought to move this into the other room?"

Micah didn't wait for him to change his mind. Tugging at his hand, she started leading him towards the bedroom. Dinner could wait.

Sighing wearily, Micah stared at the list on her datapad. They'd been at this for weeks now, offering up suggestions to Anderson who passed them along to Alliance Command, only to have one or two or more of them be tossed right back at them because the persons were 'unavailable.' Just how the hell many people did they think she knew within the Alliance? And why ask her opinion if they were going to blatantly ignore her suggestions in the first place?

Across the office, seated at a computer terminal, Kaidan was busily researching another possibility. "Okay, I've got one," he called out, catching her attention.

Rising to her feet, she crossed the room to stand behind him, staring down at his screen. "Jenkins, Richard L., Cpl." Micah frowned. This name wasn't familiar to her. "Do you know him?"

"Yeah. Met him a few years back, on Mars. We've stayed in touch on and off." He hit a button and pulled up Jenkins' service record. "I'd say he's a good match. A bit enthusiastic at times, but overall, I think he's what we're looking for."

Micah scanned the notes. "Sounds good to me," she told him after a moment. Straightening, she stretched, her back making a soft popping sound during the process. "God knows I'm out of ideas at this point."

"He the last one?"

"We still need a doc. I don't care what the brass say, I want Chakwas," she told him. "Submit her name again as well. Maybe they'll get the idea. If nothing else, maybe Anderson will add something to emphasize his endorsement." She certainly hoped the brass would listen. She couldn't think of any other doc she'd rather have on the ship than Chakwas.

"Done," Kaidan announced a moment later. Glancing up at her, he pushed back from the desk and asked, "Now what?"

Micah sighed. She was feeling antsy today. Most of it came from the frustration of not having a finalized crew list yet, more specifically from the occasional roadblocks the Alliance brass were throwing in their direction. Anderson had asked for their suggestions, they had given them. Too bad the brass didn't seem to agree with some of the choices. Thankfully, though, some of the major requests she'd made had been pushed through and approved already. They only had a month or so before the shake-down run was set to begin, and this was the last time she wanted to go through this process.

Running a hand through her hair, Micah began chewing at her lip. "I need to burn off some energy," she muttered.

"Oooookay?"

She glanced down at him and nearly choked with laughter at the expression on his face. Reaching for his hand, she tugged until he rose to his feet beside her. "Not that. Although," she added with a conspiratorial wink in his direction and a soft laugh when she saw him blush, "that's a good idea too. No, actually I was thinking we could go train in the combat simulator."

Rubbing a hand against the back of his neck, Kaidan laughed. "Yeah, well, that works too," he agreed. "Training is always good." And certainly less likely to result in the breaking of any regs. Equipment, on the other hand, was fair game ….

Several hours later, Micah had to admit that the training session had taken the edge off her frustration levels. And besides, she had discovered early on (this had been their fourth visit to the simulator since receiving their promotions) that she enjoyed working with Kaidan 'in the field.' Their skill sets seemed to compliment one another in battle situations. Fine tuning those skill sets now would, theoretically, make them a more effective team in the field.

They were exiting the simulator facility when she commented, "So, you think you'll have trouble accepting orders from me?"

Kaidan chuckled as they walked. "Not unless you become irrational, I suppose," he told her.

Micah giggled and side-eyed him. "What? You don't plan on supporting decisions for midnight pizza and beer runs? Not even for morale?"

"Heh. Now that you mention it …." Kaidan sighed. They'd finally both agreed to keep things as low key as possible between them, particularly once they were onboard the ship. They'd even taken their concerns to Anderson who, having already figured their relationship status out on his own, told them that he knew they were intelligent enough to be discrete and make the right decisions when necessary. And while he did still have some concerns, Kaidan knew that unless it did become an issue in accepting her as his superior officer, he wouldn't, or rather didn't want to stop building on what they already had.

They arrived back at her flat without incident (twice during the past four months they'd been followed by reporters who had recognized Micah and tried to chase her down for an interview), only to find a handwritten message waiting for them. Surprised, Micah opened it to find Anderson's familiar hand.

Shepard -

The requests from this afternoon have been approved and are in final stages of processing. Our departure has been upped as well. You and Alenko should report to the ship no later than midday tomorrow. I'll brief you then on a few minor alterations to our itinerary, but we should be well underway by tomorrow evening.

- Anderson

Handing the letter over to Kaidan, she stepped into the main room of the apartment. "Well."

Kaidan followed as he read the message. "Hmm. Something's obviously come up to change our plans," he commented.

"Yup." Though she wouldn't say it out loud, she could feel her gut instincts screaming at her just then because of this. Sighing, she turned to face him. "I guess we should pack. Maybe we should do the pizza run thing after all?"

Kaidan stepped over to her and reached for her hands. Squeezing them gently, he waited for her to look up at him. "We'll make this work," he promised quietly. "It might be difficult, but we'll make it work." It was only after she nodded that he leaned down to kiss her cheek. "Now, you go pack and I'll go get pizza."

"What about you?" she challenged.

He laughed as he turned towards the door. "Boy scout, I believe you once called me, remember? I'm always prepared." He smiled as the echoes of her laughter faded behind him. His bag had been packed for over a week.

Fin


Author's Note: This ends the second part of Micah Shepard's background fics. Thank you so much for reading and following! If you've enjoyed so far, keep an eye out for her main story, Mass Effect: The Lazarus Project, the story idea that started her venture into fanfiction! There may also be a small collection of one-shots forthcoming as well, set in the Mass Effect 1 era, just to fill in any pertinent details.