A/N: If you haven't read my previous story, Training, I recommend it. There isn't a lot that will be referenced in here, but since this is an A/U story, it will help give background to Lauren and Kaidan. Thank you for reading!
The building was three stories tall, typical for a high school. Lauren Shepard, who would be turning 16 in two months, shivered from the cold and a touch of anxiety as she walked toward the building. For once she was glad she had attended Biotic Acclimation and Temperance, hellhole that it was, because it did teach her biotic control. Two years ago, she would have been flaring and kids would be screaming. "I guess the dirty bastard was good for something," she muttered about a dead and gone turian.
After Conatix sent everyone home from BAaT when her friend, Kaidan Alenko, killed their turian instructor, Vyrnnus, in self-defense, many of the parents began questioning what had gone on there with their children. Many of the teens were at the least emotionally scarred, but some had serious detrimental effects to their psychological well-being. It took three months and pressure from the turians as well before the Alliance Parliament decided to form a committee to investigate Conatix's dealings. A few students, including Lauren, sent written testimonies of the kind of operation Conatix was running. Lauren's testimony was detailed and precise. She remembered many of the comms that she and Kaidan had discovered before his omni-tool got destroyed. The Parliament sent a letter of thanks to Lauren, but kept her and the other students identities private (she was told that others had written in) because most of them were minors. In the letter it also said all records would be sealed and there would be no further investigations.
Lauren sat down in her class. It had been about 7 months since she had left Jump Zero. Her parents had decided that putting her into therapy was more important than starting school with everyone else in August. It was awkward to start in the school year in February, but the school's principal took her classes from Brain Camp, as the biotic teens had called BAaT, and placed them toward her graduation requirements, and it turned out she was actually ahead of schedule. Well, she was ahead academically, at least, she thought. Socially, she felt as inept as ever. She looked around to see any friendly faces, but everyone already seemed to be engaged with everyone else.
She looked straight ahead and decided she missed Kaidan. That really didn't happen often. She had gotten Kaidan's contact information as she got off the shuttle in Chicago, but she had never tried to use it. He had seemed so broken, his spirit so disjointed, that she didn't have the heart to try to talk to him. She thought him seeing her would probably just reopen the wounds. She wanted to miss Indira Kuthari, and she had talked with her on a couple occasions but the Indi she knew now wasn't the Indi she had known at BAaT. Her friend was in a different world now. She would see things that weren't there and say stuff to people who weren't around. Sometimes Indi would talk like they were still at Brain Camp. Lauren always came away from the conversations depressed, deciding each time that distance was better, but her heart still ached for the quiet dark-haired girl she once knew.
A bell rang and a teacher entered the room. "Good morning everyone. We have a new student with us today. Lauren Shepard, welcome to Northside," the man said. "Where did you move here from?"
"Uh," she stammered. Her parents had been in Chicago since she was born. How could she explain the nearly two year gap that she wasn't in school in the area unless she told everyone what she really wanted to keep quiet? The principal knew she was a biotic because of her BAaT credits, but she would rather let everyone else believe she was normal. "I, uh, am actually from here. My parents were homeschooling me, but thought that I should get the best education I can before I start my Alliance career."
The teacher smiled. "We're glad to have you as a Mustang. I hope everyone will help Lauren integrate into our family." He turned and started writing out a complicated algebra equation. Lauren settled in, flipped on her datapad and followed along.
Kaidan Alenko ran his hand through his shaggy dark hair and sat up in his bed. "Happy birthday, Kaidan!" his mother, Ivy, said as she peeked her head into his room.
"Thanks Mom," he said sleepily.
"When you're ready, I've made you a special breakfast, dear."
"I'll be down in a bit. Thanks."
He walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. He stared at himself for a minute. He was 19. Only 19 and already a murderer. He scrubbed his face with his hands. He wondered when the day would come when his mind wouldn't start condemning him the moment he woke up. Months of talking with a therapist had at least taken away the shock of it all, but it hadn't removed the guilt he still felt.
"You know, Kaidan, everything you did was in self-defense," the therapist had said more than once. He wished he could believe it, but he knew deep down, he wanted that turian dead, and for a few short moments right after he kicked Vyrnnus against the wall, he felt elated. No normal person felt like that. Not one with any sort of conscience.
He was trying to move on. He had his university classes that helped keep him occupied. Pre-med was definitely full of work, but it was the downtime, like right before bed, or when he woke up, that his mind went back to that dark place. Occasionally he would dream about killing Vyrnnus in myriad ways. He would wake up laughing over the turian's body, but he never told the therapist about that. She'd probably think he was a psychopath.
When he didn't dream about Vyrnnus, he would dream about Rahna Zorlu, the beautiful exotic girl he had been in a relationship with at BAaT. That is, he was romantically involved until he killed Vyrnnus. Rahna saw what he had done and ran away screaming for him to never talk to her again. She was good at keeping promises. Seven months and not a word from her. After all this time, he wasn't sure if he did want to hear from her or not, but his body definitely missed her. Kaidan's mind wandered to her soft sighs and even softer body. He had wanted something with her, but that was a lifetime ago, and now maybe it was just the idea of her that was comforting. But when Rahna crept into this thoughts, Lauren Shepard would find her way there soon after.
Lauren. Thinking about her was confusing. She was three years younger, practically a kid, but he watched her transform at BAaT, mostly without knowing. She was awkward and wiry when they met, but she developed into a beautiful woman. He smiled briefly remembering his bunkmate, Jason Mathewson, bringing her more mature figure to his attention. There had always been something attractive about her, but she was so…so…Kaidan wasn't sure what the word was to describe her. He had liked her, but he was, in the end, kind of intimidated by her. She was determined like no one he had ever known before. She had seemed so angry and betrayed when she caught him and Rahna kissing. Her friendship turned cold, until those last weeks, when she finally turned to him for help in her assumptions about BAaT's ulterior motives. Then they were separated by the heavy hand of Vyrnnus, and suddenly despite all that, for a time, he had felt closer to her than even Rahna. It didn't make any sense.
And it wasn't until he killed the turian that he saw who was truly loyal. Lauren stayed by him, unafraid after he unleashed his dark side, even as Rahna ran away. But then again, he thought, maybe she was. She had asked him for contact information, but he hadn't heard from her. It really wasn't that big of a deal anyway. He didn't think she would ever contact him, so he never felt bad that she hadn't.
He turned on the shower and climbed in. He had class to get to at 10:00 and lab after lunch at 12:30. There were more important things to think about than girls he used to know.
Post A/N: I have several chapters sitting in the wings. I appreciate all feedback, including if I am staying true to the characters that I had created in the previous story!