He had expected her to hate him.
'I mean,' he thought absentmindedly as he idly stirred his coffee. 'Isn't it normal for her to hate me?' Though all things considered, there wasn't a thing about their situation that was normal; a Reaper invasion putting your relationship- or what was left of it- on hold wasn't normal. Serving on the same ship during said Reaper invasion while putting your relationship or what was left of it- on hold was even less so. He took a sip of the bitter liquid, its warmth seeping into his chilled bones. It was incredibly late- the last of the crew, save for him, had finally tucked into their bunks for the night, the day's events heavy on their hearts as they attempted to exude a modicum of normalcy, tried to cope by means of routine.
Still, he had expected her to hate him.
How could she not? She had found him as soon as she could, sought for his comfort, his presence, and he denied her because he had been stubborn and hurt. Then after his temper had calmed and reason regained its voice within his head, he had attempted to apologize
but even then, his damned philosophy of, "leaving a way out," kept the tone of the letter neutral, hid the desperation he felt to fix what he had broken. Weeks of waiting like some lovesick teenager, constantly checking his omni-tool every chance he had for her reply, had left him wanting. Her silence was eating at him, slowly, and he wasn't entirely uncertain she didn't know she was doing it to him. Then, Alliance Brass picked up on usage of the Omega 4 Relay, and a sense of dread hit his gut. No one but her would even attempt flying near that damned thing, let alone use it.
But then she came back
He had expected her to contact him then- to say something to him, anything, and maybe she had intended to. But then Hackett had a classified mission for her. Then everything went so horribly, horribly wrong. He had wondered if she was going to try and run- to try and defeat the Reapers before the Alliance roped her in to answer for her crimes. But when he saw the SR-2 Normandy dock at the Citadel, saw her step out of the ship in her dress blues unarmed and allow them to arrest her, merely stared blankly at him when he cuffed her, he felt even worse for assuming the worst of her- again. He had tried to visit her while she was in holding in the hopes of speaking to her, but she wasn't allowed any visitation; even Anderson, despite being a Counselor, didn't even approach the hall she was kept in. So he skulked outside the Normandy in the docking bay as security while it was retrofitted for Alliance standards. 'After all this,' he had sworn to himself. 'After all this, I'll talk to her.'
But the end of civilization began with a trial.
He had been aboard the Normandy when the Reapers had come. Joker had given him the cold shoulder the entire time, as did most of the original crew that remained- and who was he to fault them? Then Anderson was radioing Joker to grab Shepard. The entire escape was nerve-wracking. When they had begun their hasty departure, Earth was crumbling before their very eyes. He had turned at the soft hiss of the airlock opening. She stood before him, her dress blues covered in dirt, in ash, but her dog tags glinted rebelliously, defiantly, and she stared, visibly shaking, and never looking more lost in all the time he had known her.
He had demanded to know where Anderson was, even dared to order her to answer him, as if she was going to refuse him. "I demand an answer, Commander!" Yes, because he outranked her now, didn't he? Now he had that weight
and he regretted saying it the moment the words left his mouth; the shock she had displayed before him, the one time he had seen her behave humanly since Ilos, died off; her body stilled, her eyes willed with the desensitizing level of duty she had always shown, and she was no longer a frightened woman, no longer shaking or on the verge of tears.
She was Commander Samus Shepard.
"Admiral Anderson chose to stay behind and assist with the evacuation of civilians and personnel," she responded evenly. "He has officially reinstated me into the Alliance, and has chosen me as Captain of this ship, Major Alenko," she snapped a salute, and he had to suppress a flinch; there was no bitterness, no sarcasm in her tone, it was all business and no room for arguing. Suddenly, he was a meek Staff Lieutenant all over again, and this was another time, another life, and she was impossibly out of his reach.
After that, he was so fucking sure she was going to hate him.
But perhaps that would have been better; she didn't give him the cold shoulder, didn't ignore him when he was near her, and was even polite to him when they did speak. Horizon was something neither of them brought up; if she was still bothered by it, she didn't give any indication of it. She even went out of her way to see if he was comfortable, if he had everything the rest of the crew had, and was being seen regularly by Dr. Chakwas. He, for his part, genuinely didn't know how to act around her, so he wound up answering with short answers, simple answers that couldn't hold a double meaning- "yes ma'am," "Area secured, Commander," "aye aye, ma'am," things that couldn't be taken out of context. The click of the door to the mess hall broke him out of his reverie, and he turned to see who it was. Nerves knotted themselves in his stomach as Samus entered the room.
"Oh, Major Alenko," she seemed surprised to see him, but clicked the heels of her boots together and saluted him all the same. "Apologies, sir; I couldn't sleep, and came to make some tea." It was becoming increasingly hard not to cringe at her saluting him, referring to him only as, "Major," or, "Major Alenko," out of propriety, but it was just the two of them
and she was still being horribly formal.
you don't have to salute me, Shepard
" he murmured softly, not bothering to conceal the turmoil he was putting himself through, fighting the internal battle he always did when it came to her. He watched as she cautiously allowed her shoulders to drop the slightest bit, though the guarded look in her eyes didn't falter.
"Very well, Major," she replied politely as she made her way over to the cabinet that held their mugs. Plucking one off the shelf and beginning to warm her tea, she sighed almost inaudibly and allowed her posture to slump for the briefest of moments, when she thought he wasn't looking. She straightened before he had the chance to blink, and the moment of her vulnerability was at an end. He nearly growled in frustration as he stood. He wasn't entirely sure why he stood, but he knew he was going to do something, say anything.
"Is that it? I'm just 'Major Alenko' to you now?" 'Swell, genius. That's your idea of attempting to fix things? How does she not hate you?' she turned to him, clearly not expecting his question. He felt nauseated; he was saying all the wrong things, things he didn't mean to say in the way he was saying them. He didn't know what to say, how to undo what he had just done, and he wasn't entirely sure what the look on her face meant. Or what the look on his face meant, either.
I'm sorry," she murmured, picking up her mug, holding it in front of her with both hands as if it were her shield. Tendrils of steam rose to caress her face, to tangle themselves in her hair, and Kaidan had never been more jealous of water vapors in all his life. And she- was the one apologizing? "I
I was just under the impression that we were speaking strictly on professional terms
" she lowered her head slightly, staring at his shoes. "I didn't want to be too forward and talk out of turn." It would be easier if she weren't so goddamn genuine about it. Why wasn't she screaming? Why wasn't she crying, saying she was disgusted by him? Why wasn't she making it easy?
" he was at a loss for words. What could he say that wouldn't offend her, wouldn't scare her off? "No
I didn't mean
not like this
" he wasn't making any sense, and he knew it. And bless her, Samus didn't press him for an explanation. She simply stood there, in her ACUs, waiting patiently for him, like she had all the time in the universe to hear what he had to say. He straightened, his shoulders squared, jaw set. "I think we need to talk- about everything
He could have sworn he saw her shatter on the inside.
"Yes, of course
" her voice had dropped to a smoky whisper, but she didn't move, didn't lift her gaze from his polished combat boots. And he hated it. He hated that she wouldn't show him her sparkling amber eyes, wouldn't give him that small affectionate smile. She simply bit her lip- a nervous, albeit adorable habit of hers. She still didn't relinquish hold of her mug of tea, occupying herself by idly sloshing the tea bag around in the ever darkening liquid. He walked the short distance between them, placing one hand on the bottom of the mug, his other gently covering hers, still clutching the side of the mug.
He ignored the small stab of pain in his chest when her body jumped slightly at his touch, though considered it a small victory that she didn't try to pull away. With a soft sigh, he coaxed the mug from her and set it aside on the counter. She seemed unsure of what to do with her hands, and so opted to wring them in front of her idly- another nervous habit of hers. "Shepard, look at me," his voice dropped to the level of hers, as if they were afraid the entire galaxy could hear them if they spoke to loudly. She lifted her gaze to his chin, but dared not go further. He wondered silently to himself why she was suddenly so meek around him, so timid. This was not the Samus he was used to
"Samus," he tried again, and this time, she hesitantly met his molten brown eyes with her honeyed ones.
"Kaidan," he emphasized gently, and grimaced. Had things gone beyond repair for them
Kaidan," she corrected herself after a moment's pause. "I
I read your e-mail. I know what you said, and it weighed on my mind a lot
" there it goes again, his stomach knotting itself up. This conversation was beginning to smack of 'there's-someone-else-so-go-fuck-yourself-but-let's-be-friends' and he wasn't entirely sure that he was going to be able to handle it. "I honestly wasn't sure of what to respond with for a long time. I knew what I felt, but it was almost impossible to put into words," she crinkled her nose cutely as she contemplated what she was going to say next. "And then, by the time I knew what to say, Hackett had asked me on that mission
" she whispered, her head hung in shame. His thick brows drew together in a contemplative frown. "But after what happened, I figured you would hate me. I figured you would never want to have anything to do with me. So I focused on the trial. I focused on getting past that so I could fight the Reapers
"No!" It came out of his mouth much more harshly than he had wanted it to, but he didn't care. He couldn't have her thinking that he hated her for things she couldn't have possibly controlled, things she tried her hardest to prevent. She jerked her head up in surprise. He caught her hands in his and held them there. Why was she so cold? Now that he was touching her, he could feel the near imperceptible shivering she was doing. "I don't hate you, Samus. I could never hate you. You've given your all for this galaxy and then some, and if things don't work sometimes, neither I, nor anyone in fucking existence can begrudge you for it." He implored her to understand what he was saying, to know that he couldn't change his feelings for her no matter what he tried to do. Her expression softened into a look of relief after a few long moments.
thank you, Kaidan," her voice held all the warmth of another lifetime ago, when things were simple and she outranked him and the end wasn't beginning before their very eyes. He gave her the same half smile he did when she first woke after Eden Prime.
"There's just one more thing..." feeling emboldened by her improved mood, he took a deep breath before he took the plunge. 'Will you leave yourself a way out again, Alenko? A way out that you'll lose her in?' He gave her hands a squeeze. "You never answered my question: what am I to you?" There. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't an accusation; it was a simple question that he desperately needed the answer to. He felt her body stiffen.
"I don't want to complicate things with you and the doctor you've been seeing-"
"I stopped seeing her, Samus," she looked genuinely surprised by that. "After I saw you again, I realized that, as nice of a girl as she is, I was really only attracted to her because she didn't remind me of you, and at the time, I was still grieving over your death
" his voice broke, and he cursed himself for wording it like that when she gave him a look filled with such sorrow and sympathy that it was almost tangible.
"I'm so sorry, Kaidan
" she whispered, closing the distance between them and wrapping her arms around his waist. He shivered pleasantly when she settled her head into the crook of his neck, her lips accidentally brushing his skin as she spoke, "I never wanted to hurt you. I love you
I would do anything if it meant you wouldn't hurt anymore," his arms didn't hesitate to find their way around her, clutching her as close to him as he could. She was here, where he had ached for her to be for the last three years, and he didn't want to move again. He kissed her brow softly, a hand lifting to stroke her hair.
"Then be with me," the words were out before he could stop them, but he didn't regret them one bit. After months of tip toeing around his feelings for her, there was no hiding them anymore. She looked up at him as he continued, though he refused to so much as loosen his hold on her, "It won't be like it used to be right away
I want to take this slow. I want to do this right. And I want to stay with you until the end because I love you. But I won't if that's not what you want. Nevermind the galaxy. Forget regulations. Just tell me what you want to do, Samus." He knew her too well; he knew she would try to be selfless and say that saving the galaxy would have to come first, so he wasn't going to give her the option. He's left himself no way out, for the first time in his life, and he has never been more terrified of the decision of one woman.
"I want to be with you. No matter what, I just want to be with you," she reached up and kissed his cheek before settling back into his arms. He pressed his lips to her neck and resumed stroking her hair. A tranquil silence hung between them for what seemed like an eternity. He felt more than heard her murmur, "It won't be easy
there are still things we need to work out
but I haven't been this happy in a very, very long time, Kaidan
" he smiled against the skin of her neck, feeling more content than he had felt since the original Normandy was destroyed.
"I know, Samus
and I couldn't be happier," reluctantly, he loosened his hold on her just enough to look her in the eyes. "It's late, and we need to sleep- I hear Tuchanka isn't going to be a cakewalk," he grinned, playfully nuzzling his nose into her scalp. She laughed softly under her breath and squirmed her head away.
"Oh, it's not so bad after you head butt a Krogan," she smiled as he quirked a brow at her.
"Now that is a story I will have to hear another time," her smile widened slightly.
"Now Major, are you saying you're going to debrief me in private?" she tapped him on the nose playfully. He grinned lopsidedly at her.
"Perhaps. I expect a full report tomorrow at 2300, Commander," her expression softened, and he only just noticed how tired she really looked.
"Goodnight, Kaidan, I love you," she reached up on her tip toes and kissed his forehead to sweetly he felt the burn of unshed tears. It was as if it had confirmed that none of this was some wonderful dream, and it made him want to weep. But he simply held her close one last time for the night.
"I love you, too
" he hated her leaving his arms, and felt a longing as she walked out into the hallway, but knew not to go after her; they had taken a step in the right direction, and while what they had wasn't entirely repaired yet, it was still theirs.
He had expected her to hate him.
Funny how she always manages to exceed his expectations.