Fandom: Mass Effect
Pairing/Characters: Femshep/Kaidan, little bit of Tali/Garrus
Rating: Adult (language, and some mild smut)
Spoilers for the end of Mass Effect 3
Beta: This one is unbetad, so sorry in advance for any mistakes.
Synopsis: Even heroes can be broken. (A slightly AU ME3 Epilogue, although I personally think it is cannon).
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, If I did this is how the game would have ended.
Warnings: PTSD, brief mentions of supporting character death
Kaidan Alenko, Major in the Alliance Fleet, survivor of the Reaper War, and one of only two humans ever awarded the honor of becoming a council specter, really should be able to handle anything the universe can throw at him at this point. But, nothing could have prepared him for the agony of watching his beloved cry out in her sleep; night, after endless heartbreaking night.
Sometimes it's not too bad. She wakes from the dream with only a harsh shuddering breath and a quick jerk. It's those nights she withdrawals from him, gives him a kiss on the cheek before retreating to the bathroom to try and banish the demons alone. But when she returns to their bed, damp and freezing cold, she burrows into his warmth and Kaidan is grateful that the impenetrable Commander Shepard needs him for at least that much.
Tonight is not one of those nights. Kaidan is startled awake with screams so high pitched and anguished; it's as if she's being burned alive. He rolls instantly to his side, palming her face with both hands as she thrashes around in terror. She claws, white knuckled, at the bed sheets and kicks so hard at him, Kaidan has to climb atop her and pin her to the mattress. She's so much smaller than him, but incredibly strong, and it takes quite a bit of effort to keep her from injuring either of them.
"Shepard!" he cries desperately to her, "Jane, Baby, please wake up." He swallows a sob as she just continues to thrash, locked in the hell her mind will not release her from. He needs to try a different tactic. "Commander Shepard! "he shouts with all the authority he can muster, "on your feet, soldier!"
She freezes, her whole body rigid in an instant. Her wide, frightened stare locks with his and she takes two very deliberate, deep breaths. "Kai…" she swallows convulsively, "Kaidan?"
"I'm here," he whispers, gentling his touch to caress her cheek. "It's me."
Shepard's whole face crumples, lips pursed, eyes squeezed shut, as a desperate sob escapes her throat. Rolling to his side, Kaidan slides her body into his. She folds into his embrace without resistance, burying her face into his chest and clutching the material of his t-shirt. Her body fairly convulses from weeping and Kaidan holds her as tightly as he dares; keeping her together as she falls apart.
She doesn't have to tell him what the nightmare was about; they've been through this before. The first time he ever heard her scream like her skin was on fire was in an Alliance hospital ship, two days after the official end of the Reaper War.
Kaidan doesn't remember the Reapers being torn apart from the inside out. He'd been down for the count since Harbinger sent him careening into a concrete wall during their mad dash towards the transport beam. He's seen the vids of course; one minute the huge, menacing machines were devastating their forces, and in the next there were pieces of them scattered all over Earth and space. Turned out the crucible was some sort of lethal, Reaper specific, dog whistle. It emitted a resonating frequency so high that no one would have even noticed it had the reapers not suddenly exploded.
Instead of celebrating though, Kaidan woke up in makeshift Alliance hospital, covered in bandages and feeling like he'd just…well, hit a concrete wall. Being such a high profile patient had its perks, like clean clothes and a real cot instead of a mat on the ground, but it also had its drawbacks. No one would tell him what happened to Commander Shepard. Every time he asked, they just gave him noncommittal shrugs and pitying glances. He grew more and more frantic as the hours passed. The medical staff had to sedate him twice for removing his own IV and attempting to leave.
The third time he awoke, Kaidan wasn't alone. Perched awkwardly on a stack of medical supplies, arms crossed sternly over his chest, Garrus Vakarian glared down at him. "You look like shit."
Kaidan chuckled, wincing as his broken ribs protested the movement. "I wondered why no one would give me a mirror. You here to spring me?"
The Turian uncrossed his arms and stalked over to the cot. "In a way," he answered cryptically. "I'm here to transfer you to a different hospital, one a little more private than this one."
Rage at his helplessness boiled up inside Kaidan. "I don't need another hospital. I need to get the hell out of here so I can go find her!" The little metal tray holding his medication went flying and pinged against a tent pole. Garrus caught his hand before the cup of water could follow.
"What you need to do, Soldier, is to calm down and get your head on straight! You are no use to her like this."
Instead of a restraint, Garrus's clawed hand became a lifeline and Kaidan clutched it desperately. "Where is she?"
The Turian's expression grew grim. "I'll take you to her."
Needing Garrus to help him shower and dress proved to be one of the more humiliating episodes in Kadian's life thus far. However, it was the face staring back at him from the mirror that was truly humbling. The entire left side of Kaidan's face was a swollen collage of color, from yellow, to brown, to purple. He had two new puckered scars; one across his temple where the surgeons had to repair his implant, and another where they'd rebuilt his shattered cheekbone. He had burns on his neck and arms, shrapnel wounds on his torso and legs, and bruises on just about every viewable inch of his body.
Garrus finished putting a new coat of medigel on Kaidan's burns before slowly and painstakingly helping him slide into a clean Alliance standard issue T-shirt. Kaidan winced as something hot was injected into his arm. "That," his Turian friend said while removing the syringe, "was for the pain. And this, "he flipped the mirror over so all Kaidan could see was the gray painted backing, "is for being stupid. Next time I tell you, you look like shit, you should take my word for it."
Kaidan grimaced as another chuckle jostled his ribs. "I'll remember that."
The Shuttle ride from Earth to the hospital ship was interminable. Whatever Garrus injected him with only took the edge off the pain. Every turbulent jostle vibrated agony straight through Kaidan's damaged body. Garrus's update on what he'd missed over the last forty-eight hours only added to the torture.
"We lost James," his friend told him somberly. "The medics told me he was found only a few feet from you after Harbinger was destroyed. He just wasn't as lucky."
Kaidan frowned, letting the guilt wash over him. He'd lost track of Vega in the final push towards the transport beam.
His spirits fell even further as the list of the dead and injured went on and on. Wrex had gone down in a blaze of glory, fighting off six brutes by himself before succumbing to his injuries. Steve Cortez was killed when the shuttle he was transporting wounded soldiers in was destroyed. Liara was in critical, but stable, condition in an Asari hospital ship. She'd very nearly fried her biotics from overuse. Jack was okay, but she'd lost half her students in the battle. No one had any idea what had happened to Javik.
Kaidan couldn't suppress a moan of pain as a particularly violent jolt went through the shuttle.
Garrus glanced at him guiltily, his mandibles tensing in concern. "I really should have left you where you were, "he admitted, "but Shepard needs you."
"Please," Kaidan's voice cracks on the single word and he has to take a moment to compose himself. "Please tell me what happened to her."
The Turian leaned forward in his seat, elbows resting on his knees, and let out a long sigh. "She can't give us the details yet, so we only know what we've been able to piece together. "
"Just tell me what you can," Kaidan pleaded. "I need to know."
"Shepard wasn't responding to any communications after the Reapers were destroyed, but, Edi was able to track her location through her synthetic implants. Joker took us over to the Citadel on the Normandy. From what we can tell, Shepard and Anderson are the only ones who made it through the transport beam. At some point they encountered the Illusive Man, who by then was as about as indoctrinated as you can get and halfway transformed into a husk. We found him a room away from Shepard, single gunshot to the head."
"Jesus." Kaidan shuddered at the gruesome image.
"Found Anderson and Shepard in the center console room. Anderson was propped up against a low wall, and I'm sorry, but there wasn't anything we could do for him."
Kaidan just nodded, dreading what was to come next.
"Shepard was lying a few feet away from him, directly under the crucible control console. She was covered in blood," Garrus shuddered, an affectation Kaidan had never associated with Turians before. "I thought for sure we were too late."
"And then?" Kaidan's heart was about to burst out of his chest.
"We have no idea how she even managed to walk, let alone take out the Illusive Man and activate the crucible. It looks like she was caught in the same blast from Harbinger that injured you and killed James. She has numerous burns and shrapnel wounds, as well as a few broken bones and a bad concussion. She also had quite a bit of internal bleeding that had the doctors worried for a while. She came out of surgery all right though."
"Why isn't she awake yet?"
Garrus's mandibles twitched in discomfort. "She's awakened several times actually, but she's been so disoriented and agitated the doctors have been afraid she'll hurt herself. They've been keeping her sedated."
Kaidan squeezed his eyes shut against the tears that threatened to fall. She was alive, he reminded himself. Nothing else mattered, but that they were both alive and he would see her soon. "Is she alone?"
"No," Garrus assured him, "Tali is with her. Her suit was damaged in the battle and she needed immediate medical attention. One of the surviving Geth fighters volunteered to download into her suit to help her recover. I've never seen anything like it."
"I'm happy for you two," Kaidan told him sincerely. "It's great you guys found something together and that you both made it out okay."
Garrus reached across the shuttle to gently squeeze Kaidan's shoulder. "We will say the same about you and your Commander very shortly, my friend."
When the Shuttle finally docked at the hospital ship, Kaidan was astonished to see a lovely, dark haired woman throw her arms around Garrus in greeting. It was only when she nuzzled her face into the Turian's shoulder that Kaidan realized who she was.
"Tali?" He asked incredulously. "Is that really you?"
The woman pulled back from her lover and flashed Kaidan a brilliant smile. "In the flesh," she chuckled. "I still have to wear the suit more often than not, but with the Geth's help I've been able to take it off for hours at a time. Isn't it wonderful?"
Kaidan's smile was genuine. "It really is Tali. You deserve it."
Garrus caressed the Quarian's bare cheek to get her attention. "Tali Love, Kaidan's in a lot of pain. Will you commandeer a wheelchair for him while I get him checked in?"
"Oh of course," she replied, suddenly full of bumbling concern. "You wait right here." She bounded off; full of more energy than Kaidan could ever imagine having again.
A few painfully long minutes later, Garrus was still fiddling with the admissions console and Tali had not yet returned with his chair. Kaidan gritted his teeth and let out a frustrated sigh, tired of waiting. "I don't need a wheelchair," He insisted. "I don't need to get checked into this hospital. I'm fine. I just need to see Shepard!"
"First," Garrus informed him, not taking his eyes from the computer once, "the only way I could get the doctors on Earth to release you into my custody, was to promise them I'd be immediately checking you into this hospital. And second, you wouldn't make it five feet without someone holding you up, but feel free to give it a try if you feel like being stupid."
Before Kaidan could come up with a satisfying retort, a horrific, bloodcurdling scream echoed down the corridor. Everything in Kaidan's veins turned instantly into ice water. Instinctively, he made to run towards the sound, only to fall heavily to his knees in an agonizing mess of partially healed bone and torn muscle. Garrus was beside him in an instant, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder. With all the strength he had left, Kaidan took hold of his friend's tunic and pulled him down to meet his gaze. Eyes wild with desperation, he pleaded, "take me to her Garrus, now!"
One arm wrapped around the Turian's shoulder for support, Kaidan managed to hobble like an old man down the ship towards the desperate cries. What he saw when they entered the room ripped his heart to shreds.
Shepard; his beautiful, courageous, stronger than steel commander, was screaming and flailing in her hospital bed. Various medical staff rushed around her, taking vitals, filling syringes, and just holding her down as she literally tried to scratch the skin off her own arms. Kaidan let out a broken sob. His legs turned to jelly and he would have fallen if Garrus hadn't been holding him up.
"Tell them to stop," Kaidan begged, "tell them not to sedate her completely. I want to try to calm her down."
A few choice words and half a syringe of sedative later, Kaidan was gently lowered into a plush chair next to his weeping lover. He reached out to take her hand, but she snatched it back hastily, crying even harder. Kaidan let his own tears flow freely as he tried to gain her attention.
"Shepard," he tried. "Tell me what happened. Let me help you." Her body started to calm as the drugs worked their way through her system. She stared back at him, glassy eyed. "Jane," Kaidan tried again. Talk to me."
"I don't understand." She said, gasping a bit. "I thought I was dead. Are you real? Please tell me you're real."
Oh God, Kaidan thought. What had happened to her on that space station? "I'm real," he assured her, reaching for her once again. This time she let him take her hand. "I'm real. I love you, and it's all over now. You're safe. You saved us all."
Shepard began to sob in earnest again and Kaidan did the only thing he could think of to help. Gingerly, he rose from the chair and slid himself onto the bed beside her. She trembled like a leaf as he gathered her into his arms. She wept brokenly and told him that after all their fighting and struggling and desperate hope, the Crucible just didn't work. She grew more agitated while describing an ancient holographic child, who made her choose the fate of the galaxy. She explained that no matter what she chose, the child said it would lead to her death.
"I burned, Kaidan." She whispered, almost completely out of energy. "I felt myself die. And none of it even mattered because I couldn't save everyone, not really, not in the way we wanted."
None of those horrific images actually happened anywhere but in her mind of course. She'd set off the crucible and it had worked perfectly. She'd managed to save all life in the galaxy, both organic and synthetic. Every living being out there was singing her praises, declaring her the greatest hero who ever lived. They couldn't see the frightened woman in his arms. They would never know just how much she'd sacrificed for them.
"It was just a dream, Baby," he crooned. "It was just a horrible, nightmare." He had a hunch the reaper's mind controlling tech had something to do with just how horrible the dreams were, but they'd never know for sure.
Shepard let out a little gasping sob. "I don't know what's real anymore," she told him.
Kaidan brushed a kiss across her forehead. "Then I'll hold you until you do."
Months later, wrapped together in their bed, he is still holding her as Shepard's sobs subside. At first they settle into tiny, hitching gasps before finally easing into a light, even breathing. Kaidan's t-shirt is soaked through with her tears, but he is grateful that they are spent, no longer able to hurt her. Shepard nuzzles her face into his shoulder and slides a leg over his hip. He knows her well enough by now to understand what she is doing. As physically close as they are in this moment, she is desperate to be even closer.
"Thank you," she whispers, rolling over to straddle his lap. "I love you. I need you." Her hand trails under his shirt, over the ridges of his belly, and up to caress his bare chest. "Make me feel alive, Kaidan," she pleads, leaning down to kiss his jaw. "Remind me what's real."
Needing no further encouragement, Kaidan's shirt is on the floor in an instant and his lips are on hers. This he can give her, he thinks, as their kisses grow more heated. She's not quite ready for the diamond ring in the top drawer of his desk, or the ticket to Vancouver he's desperate to buy her, but this, himself, he can give her now.
Her movements grow more urgent with each passing second. She spears her fingers through his hair and lets out little breathy moans that drive him wild. The rest of their clothing joins his shirt on the floor and finally they are chest to chest, heat to heat.
"Don't make me wait," she pleads, causing him to groan as she grinds down on him. "I need you now."
He flips her over onto her back and kisses her again, savoring the feeling of having her in his arms. He whispers, "I love you," against her lips before slowly sliding inside her. He is determined to make this last, despite her pleading for a fast union.
Shepard struggles against him a little, trying to flip them back over, to regain control. But Kaidan needs her to know that he is just as strong as she is. She has to know that he can protect her and take care of her needs. He palms the underside of her knee and lifts it higher towards her chest. He makes each slow, deep thrust count and soon she is shaking, so very close to the edge.
"Just let go Baby," he murmurs into her ear before kissing just below it. "Let it all go."
She arches up as she climaxes, crying out and clutching at his back. Her strong thighs grip his hips in a steely vice as he allows himself to follow her.
After catching his breath, Kaidan tries to roll over. He's worried she'll suffocate under his weight, but she holds him fast.
"Don't you dare move," she commands with a grin, her nightmare thoroughly exorcized for now. She has been renewed and is at once both his playful lover and commanding officer. "I want you right where you are."
Kaidan chuckles, letting all the hurt and pain of the last few years be replaced with the joy of this moment. "Yes Ma'am."
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