Pretending that he was disinterested had become an art form. Because it was becoming more and more obvious every day that Shepard was not interested.
He would come by his work station. Make meaningless chat about the mission. How did it go? Shepard was there. He knew how the hell it went. He would ask about Kaidan's past, his time in Baat, his family. Perhaps he shouldn't have mentioned Rahna. It implied he was straight.
He wasn't. Perhaps he had been too young to know what he was, back then. Perhaps he had just liked looking out for someone else.
And then Shepard would go and talk to Liara, in the depths of the medbay, about goodness knows what, but after those talks, Liara always came out smiling.
Fraternization wasn't Shepard's thing, he was fairly sure. Ashley had complained about it on more than one occasion. He knew she had noticed the serious, brooding side to their commander, knew that she had fantasized about taking things further… but it seemed every time she turned around, the Commander was merely calling her out on questioning his authority, chewing her out over her distrust of the aliens. No, Ashley could not catch a break, that was for sure.
But then again, neither could he.
Was it because Liara wasn't Alliance? Regs didn't apply to aliens. Was it because she was female? Or, as female as an asari got. He'd heard her speeches on being 'mono-gendered', and didn't quite buy it. Or was it because she was an alien? Did Shepard have a kink along those lines?
However the odds stacked up, they were not in Kaidan's favour.
Regardless of the fact that he got taken on almost every mission the Commander went on. He was a medic. And a biotic. And with Garrus as their third, they were damned near unstoppable.
Until they'd had to go up against the rogue VI on the moon, and they'd been pinned in a corner, rocket drones firing rapidly, their shields taking a pounding…
He'd never seen shooting like that, had marveled at the way Shepard had taken out the drones… until he'd realised that his Commander had taken a serious hit to the chest and was bleeding profusely…
Garrus had taken out the remaining VI nodes while Kaidan had tried to slow the bleeding. They'd half-dragged, half-carried Shepard back to the Mako, then Kaidan had prayed like hell to a god he wasn't sure he believed in that Shepard would make it back to the Normandy.
Chakwas had worked a miracle, that day. And less than 24 hours later, Shepard was back in the CIC, demanding updates, tracking their progress, discussing important missions with Pressly.
Despite Chakwas's increasingly urgent pleas that he get some rest and stop aggravating his wounds.
And then he'd come by Kaidan's work station, and said "Hell of a ride," and Kaidan had had to work hard to keep from calling Shepard twelve kinds of fucking asshole and begging him to never, ever do that again.
Instead, he'd shrugged, and told him that "It got a little tight, back there," as if his Commander nearly dying was no big deal, nothing to get excited about.
And then Shepard had given him a look. Hard to say what it was, exactly. And Kaidan thought maybe he was about to get called out on his bullshit.
But then Shepard had said something about checking on Garrus, and had walked away.
And it was a minor relief that he hadn't been going to check on Liara.
But Kaidan couldn't help but watch the Commander as he headed for the elevator. His stride was sure and even. His back was straight. His head was held high.
And damn if he didn't have the finest ass in the whole of the Alliance…
But Kaidan would only ever get to see it via sideways glances, split seconds snatched when his back was turned, never an honest gaze, never speaking the words to back up the desire that he tried so hard to hide.
And then they went to Virmire.
And Shepard chose him above Ashley. Chose that Ashley should die. Chose that he should live.
And after the dust had settled, Shepard wasn't with Liara, wasn't licking his wounds, so to speak, with the asari 'female' whose eyes followed Shepard like the proverbial puppy, free from the constraints of gender and protocol that bound Kaidan as surely as a straight jacket.
No, Shepard was alone in his cabin. And, when Kaidan finally dared to knock on the door, he discovered that he was sitting slumped in a seat, head in his hands. And Shepard's gaze flickered up at him. A sideways glance that was merely to confirm what he already knew. Kaidan stood at attention, wanting to say something helpful, something to ease the guilt and pain and uncertainly in his commanding officer's posture… but was too bound by protocol to get the words out.
"Sit down," Shepard said hoarsely. And Kaidan did.
Silence. And when Kaidan risked a brief, sideways glance at Shepard, he was shocked to discover that the Commander was watching him with open longing.
At least, it looked like longing. Perhaps it was simply grief. Despair at the loss of yet another life to this escalating battle…
"Sir?" He was fairly sure his mask had cracked, his concern for Shepard leaking through like air through fractured armour in the vacuum of space…
"There's something I've been meaning to talk to you about," Shepard said, finally breaking the stare, looking down at the grey, blank floor. "Correct me if I'm out of line. But… I've noticed the way you look at me…"