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Fractures - 1/??

A!A: Telling you right now, OP - this spiralled out of control. I've got about half done, but I thought I'd post what I do have. Had bits and pieces from the shipwrecks of past attempts. There's quite a bit of buildup - hope you don't mind! :(


Kaidan watches her from outside the hospital room, arms crossed across his chest. Shepard looks like hell, and it causes him physical pain to look at her, to know that she suffered – that she continues to suffer. Her arm is a burned, ruined mess, so mangled it hardly looks like it should belong on a person. Her leg was pierced nearly straight through with shrapnel, and from what he's heard, it missed her artery by millimetres.

She'll have several knew scars ziplining across her face from now on, too. The doctors hacked away most of her hair, as matted and filled with debris as it had been, and it sits like rotten crab grass atop her head.

Despite this, the look she's giving the doctor isn't pained. It's not self-pitying. It's annoyed, and he watches her mouth set in that stubborn way he's grown to love. That, more than anything, let's him know that she's going to be okay.

The doctor looks two-parts harassed to one part awestruck, and Kaidan takes that as his cue to to interrupt. He gives a soft knock on the hospital door, and enters without waiting. Shepard's sharp green eyes turn on him, soften, and she jerks her head towards the doctor in a way that clearly says, Deal with this.

“There a problem, Doc?” asks Kaidan.

The doctor practically sighs in relief at the friendly tone, and points emphatically at his patient. “The Commander is insisting that she be allowed to roam the hospital. Now, disregarding for a moment the fact that she has several debilitating injuries -”

To no one, Shepard says, “Did I ever tell the story about that time I got spaced, shrivelled to a crisp, and then woke up from a coma to fight off a mech invasion?”

Now it's the doctor's turn to look annoyed, continuing on as though he hadn't heard. “But there's also the fact that it's sheer chaos out there, and the last thing we need is the galaxy's saviour to be wandering around causing a nuisance.”

Kaidan can't stop his eyebrows from shooting up. He glances at Shepard, who seems positively appalled. “Causing a nuisance?” she repeats. “Need I remind you doctor, that I just stopped the reaper army on foot?”

Her voice is veering dangerously into her interrogation voice, so Kaidan steps between her and her prey. He says, “Why don't you leave the Commander and I alone, all right? I'll talk to her.”

The doctor collects his datapad and, shaking his head, strides out of the room mumbling to himself. Kaidan turns back to Shepard, only to find that she's now levelling a very dangerous look in his direction. Choosing to ignore it for now, he sits in the foldout chair next to her bedside. He reaches for her uninjured hand – a hand she promptly snatches away.

“Don't sit there like we're staying. I'm getting out of this bed,” she says, and makes a move to sit up. Sweat collects between her brows, and from the lines around her eyes he can tell that she's in excruciating pain. Not an insignificant part of him wonders at the logic of falling in love with a woman who doesn't seem to have the sense to lie down and heal, but, well, that's a battle he's already fought and lost. So he puts his hand gently on her shoulder, and gives her a significant look. She tries to ignore it, tries to ignore his hand, tries not to meet his gaze, but then she does, and she slumps back. “I hate you,” she says, but it lacks any bite.

Fractures - 2/??

“I know,” he agrees, taking her good hand and kissing it, remembering the first time he did so, remembering her smile. She smiles now, but it's sad.

“I don't like hospitals,” she says. “Not after...” Shepard doesn't finish, her face closing down.

Kaidan knows what she's not saying. Cerberus. He grips her hand a little tighter, propping his elbows up on her bed. “You've got to stay here and heal. You had a pretty bad shot to the leg, never mind the rest of you. Don't want to make it worse, do you?”

Shepard grumbles, which means no. Neither of them mention her arm, or how, unless drastic surgery is done, she'll never be as quick with a gun as she was before. She lets loose a giant sigh and turns to him, eyes searching his face. After a time, she says, “I don't know how you put up with me.”

He can't help chuckling. “Sometimes it's a mystery to me too.” He recalls, suddenly, what brought him to her in the first place. “Oh, hey, I have something I thought you might want.”

Leaning forward, he pulls a tattered notebook from his back pocket and sets it carefully in her lap. She freezes, staring at the rough paper of its cover, the fringed pages, the worn twine that holds it all together. She's so quiet, he can't even hear her breathing, isn't even sure she is breathing.

Finally, she says, “Did you read it?”

Kaidan considers lying. Telling her that he'd just found it today, and, recognizing it, brought it immediately to her. The truth is that he'd found it a few days after that last battle, a few days before they found her body. He'd slept with it, knowing that she'd held it close to her, hidden secret parts of herself inside, but had left it closed, waiting to hear the stories fall from her lips. It was only when they'd pulled her from the wreckage, broken and nearly dead, and he'd finally realized how small she was, how fragile... That's when he read it.

“Yes,” he says, “I read it.”

“Well,” says Shepard, but can't seem to come up with anything beyond that. She leans far back into her pillows, and places her hand – her bad hand – on top of it, and somehow, that speaks volumes.

That's why Kaidan cups her cheeks, brushing away that one stray tear with his thumb. And because there's nothing else to say, he says, “I love you.”

Fractures - 3/??

They asked me once, after, if Mindoir had anything to do with it. I sat on an uncomfortable metal chair, solitary against the combined weight of their glances, these high-ranking Alliance officials, and I wanted to tell them the truth. I scanned their faces, one by one, taking note of the lines burrowed around their eyes, of their clenched jaws, and I could tell that they wouldn't be interested.

They weren't interested in me. They were interested in spinning a good story for the vids.

So that's what I told them – a story. I gave them a cursory detailing of the compound on Torfan. I laid out my actions in the same brief, unpoetic sentences I'd used in her report, describing the way the batarians had mounted their defense and which tactics I'd used to try and break it. How any hesitation on my part would've meant that the entire operation went ass-side up, leaving the batarians holding the stick.

I recited the names of the soldiers killed, but left off their last words – words I'd tried my best to memorize as they'd been screamed over the intercom, words I couldn't forget if I wanted to. I told them exactly where and when these soldiers had died, and spouted platitudes about heroism and sacrifice for the greater good.

And the worst part, the very worst part, was that I believed it, completely, but just because all the bullshit I rattled off was true, that didn't mean it wasn't a lie.

Kaidan didn't know if she would come. He hoped she would, longed for it more than he'd let himself admit, but their interactions on Mars had been strained to say the least. It had been mostly his fault – he was big enough to admit it. He'd seen the way Shepard's eyes had narrowed, seen the way she'd hunched in on herself when he'd compared her to that Cerberus soldier, and had realized he'd touched a nerve when she'd changed the subject abruptly, squaring her soldiers and moving on.

He knew, because that's exactly what she'd done on the SR1. For every three things he revealed about himself, she revealed one. She resisted all attempts to pry information from her. Normally, Kaidan couldn't be bothered with mysterious types, but Shepard was different. For her, it wasn't about playing a game. It was a difficult thing, but when she did loosen up, even for a minute, he knew he was special – that he getting to see a side of her that few did. As much as he loved her strength – and he did, no question – he loved her moments of release, of humanity even more.

Then she'd died. Kaidan couldn't help but think of it like that, even if it wasn't the official story anymore. Shepard's death. Even though he knew she was out there, working at defeating the Reapers, the memory of the Normandy's death griped him tight. He'd been a broken man, then, but he had to pretend otherwise. Regs, and all that.

On Horizon, she'd been there. Like a ghost, only he'd been able to touch her, smell her. And she'd been with Cerberus.

He'd handled that badly, too.

When she walked into his hospital room, Kaidan sat up so quickly he nearly gave himself whiplash. He couldn't help the smile that came unbidden, or the way the words just tumbled out of his mouth. She was still so beautiful – long, dark hair pulled back in a no-nonsense bun, mocha coloured skin he once loved to kiss, and the most striking green eyes he'd ever seen. Those eyes looked him over, taking in his injuries, the way she used to on the SR1. Even the curt way she dismissed Udina was the same.

If she was a Cerberus drone, it was damn impressive.

She pulled up a chair and sat next to him, hands folded on the edge of the bed. If Kaidan hadn't known better, he would've sworn she was avoiding his gaze.

“Still thinking about the Spectre job?” she asked, and though her voice was light and conversational, she was looking beyond him, at the Presidium, a small frown twitching between her brows.

“Yeah,” he said, trying his best to match her tone. “Not sure yet though.” He paused, trying his best to figure out what to say. “Doc says I have to stay in here a bit longer, but I can't wait to get out of this bed.”

Fractures - 4/??

Those green eyes flickered to him, melting slightly as they trace his face the way her fingers used to. “And how are you, really?”

“Okay,” he said, feeling hopeful and defensive at the same time. Now he's the one that can't quite meet her gaze when he says, “Jostled my implant a bit, but.” A shrug finished his sentence, and Kaidan risked a glance. Shepard chewed on her lip, looking perturbed.

Once upon a time, she carried extra protein bars on missions, tossing them to him after gunfights with a small smile and the order to eat up, the last thing we need is another disadvantage, Alenko. Liara asked once, if it bothered him, this lack of confidence in his biotics, and Kaidan hadn't been able to explain that normal soldiers, they didn't carry extra protein bars; that the fact that Shepard had any to spare spoke volumes.

His voice was tight when he said, “Listen, are we all right?”

And just like that, Shepard was behind her fortress. He could see a glimpse of the real her, hiding deep inside, but the facade was damn impressive. She took a deep breath. “We've been through a lot together,” she said, but the way the words rolled out, it stunk of memorization. “That sort of bond is hard to break.”

“No, I don't mean, not,” fumbled Kaidan, annoyed. He ran the back of his hand over his forehead, frowning. “You were my Commander, sure, but you listened to – about me, and Rahna, and...” And all those things I never told anyone, but he couldn't say that, not to this wall pretending to be Vea Shepard. “I wish we could just go back to the way it was.”

Shepard crossed her arms tightly across her chest. “Things change.”

Was that sadness in her voice? Kaidan couldn't tell, but he sure as hell felt something inside him crack. “Yeah, I guess they do.” He sighed. “But that doesn't answer my question – are we all right?”

It took her a long time to answer as she studied the weave of his blanket. Finally, she nodded, once, decisively, and met his gaze. “Yeah,” she said, “we are.” She stood, lifted her hand as if to touch him, but wound up shoving it into a pocket. “You – you get better, okay? We need you at 100%.”

Kaidan wanted to call out to her as she turned to leave, to say something that would make everything okay. Instead, he said, “Thanks for coming, Shepard. Really.”

She nodded again, not quite able to look over her shoulder. “Take care of yourself, Kaidan.”

When those doors hissed shut behind her, Kaidan couldn't shake the feeling that he'd failed some unspoken test.

Fractures - 5/??

My mother had the most beautiful hair. Curly, thick and dark, she always wore it long, weaving it into a braid every morning. The humidity on Mindoir meant that by midday, small tufts would poke out, draping themselves around her dark face. She used to get so annoyed, and threaten to cut it all off, but she never did.

There were many things that were beautiful about her. Her small hands, with her delicately tapered fingers. The way her smile flashed like a sunrise in the darkness of her face. Her laugh, always short and surprised sounding. Somehow, though, whenever I think of her, I think of her hair, and how it felt in my small hands. When I was young, I demanded that my hair should always be done in the same way with hers, hoping that some day I might be just like her.

Of course, come fourteen years old, I was too cool for that shit. I cut my hair in the sort of short, fashionable bob sported by all the women in the vids. My mother hadn't smiled then, as my hair heaped onto the ground, but she let me go through with it anyways.

The last time I saw my mother, she was being dragged away by that hair. A batarian had it wrapped several times around his hand like a leash, and he pulled as she wept. I did nothing but watch from my hiding spot, hand over my mouth so that I couldn't scream, so that my breathing wouldn't be heard.

When I joined the Alliance, I let my hair grow out, despite knowing just how big a liability it could be.

This Normandy wasn't the same as the old one. For one, it was bigger. For second, it was clearly in the middle of unfinished retrofits, caught midway between civilian vessel and Alliance cruiser. Still, the observation rooms were nice, and it was great to have an actual bunk instead of a sleeper pod. Kaidan always got the worst cricks in his neck on the SR1. Before the ship's destruction, Shepard had been there to help him work them out, but, well, that was then. He pushed the memories away.

He and Shepard had been tiptoeing around each other since she let him join the crew – a decision that had surprised him, even though he'd asked for it. Pointing a gun at her definitely hadn't won him any brownie points, even if in the end, he'd come around and pointed the gun where it belonged: at Udina.

The thought of it still made him feel a little queasy. If he'd pulled the trigger, Shepard would be dead. If Shepard hadn't pulled the trigger, the Council would be dead. Kaidan felt that the whole scenario had potential as the most fucked up Venn diagram ever, and he briefly considered drawing it up and taping it above his bed, as a reminder.

Wrex had asked him once if he'd be able to shoot Shepard. He'd answered mostly honestly, with the primary sentiment being no.

And that, Wrex had said, is why Shepard would win.

He hadn't ever thought to put it in practice.

It wasn't as though Shepard seemed to be holding it against him, though. She'd been cordial to him since he arrived on the Normandy – the same as when he'd been at Huerta Memorial. It was almost worse than her being angry, the fact that his near betrayal, their near firefight, hadn't moved her at all. He knew he should feel grateful, but he'd rather she be distant because of the coup than because he hadn't trusted her all those months ago.

He trusted her now. He just wasn't sure how to prove it to her – or if she'd be willing to accept proof, even.

The doors to the observation deck swished open, and she strode into the room, looking troubled. Time was, he'd have gone to her and asked what the matter was. Now he just stood and said, “Shepard?”

“Asari High Command has a mission for us,” she said, her hands on her hips. “A monastery's gone rogue.”

Kaidan couldn't help but blink at that. “Wait – what?”

Shepard snorted, and even though it wasn't much, Kaidan was pleased he'd managed to coax at least that much from her. “Little bit more dangerous than your average monks,” she said, turning and leaning her back against the window. “It's for Ardat-Yakshi – asari who can kill with their minds.”

He couldn't tell if she was joking. “Can't all asari kill with their minds?”

Fractures - 6/??

She ran one hand down her face. “No. I mean, yeah. Let's just say that this is a particular brand of nasty, and you're coming along, okay? I need all the biotic firepower I can get down there.”

This was the first mission she'd assigned him since he'd come aboard, and he nodded.

She nodded in response, as if to say well, that's that. “ETA is two hours.”

What he wanted to do was thank her for trusting him on this mission, but by the time he'd sussed out what to say that didn't sound pathetic, she was already halfway down the hall. So he finished his report, ate a snack, cleaned his rifle and was ready to go when Shepard strode into the shuttle bay, armed to the teeth, Liara following behind.

“You weren't joking about biotic firepower,” he said as they boarded the kodiak.

“I've seen one of these things can do,” confessed Shepard and then paused with a quick glance at Liara. “What one of these women can do. She was... strong.”

“But you took her down,” finished Kaidan, taking a seat.

“Actually, no,” said Shepard. “Her mother did.”

Which prompted about a million questions, but this was neither the time or the place. And although he'd never considered himself particularly intelligent, when they ran into that asari justicar, it wasn't hard to figure out that this was the mother Shepard was referencing. That was the fun part. Less fun was seeing what these Ardat-Yakshi had become – which was to say, nightmares.

They'd fought their way to the commandos' bomb when a chorus of shrieks exploded behind them. Shepard motioned them into position, and threw a grenade at the enemy. It detonated to no visible effect.

Liara called, “Remember – they've got biotic barriers!”

He was close enough to hear Shepard mutter to herself, “I really fucking hate these things.”

Kaidan and Liara worked like a well-oiled machine, creating biotic explosions that took out dozens of the cannibals while damaging the encroaching banshees. Shepard, meanwhile, did what she did best, ducking and weaving and hitting them right between the eyes. Only, these asari husks, they didn't go down with a headshot, and he could see sweat dripping down Shepard's face from her exertions.

She was maybe five meters away when the last banshee charged into her blind spot. Kaidan rushed forward, pushing her out of the way of those vicious claws while detonating his barrier. The banshee screeched and Shepard took that opportunity, twisting her body, to empty several shotgun slugs into the thing's belly. The asari husk exploded, knees crumpling as what was left of it collapsed in a heap.

All in all, not the most romantic moment of his life.

They lay there a moment, flesh and blood coating their armor, each breathing heavily. From across the room, Liara yelled, “Shepard, Kaidan, you all right?”

“Fine!” he called back. He pushed himself to his feet and offered her a hand. She accepted, and he hoisted her up. Her bun had come undone, and black hair hung around her shoulders, longer than he remembered. There was a chunk of flesh caught in it, and he plucked it out, prompting a disgusted expression from Shepard.

“That was not fun. Let's not do that again,” she said. She removed something from her belt and pushed it into his hands, brushing past him towards the justicar and the two remaining civilians.

It was a protein bar. His hands closed around it, and despite their surroundings, despite the destruction and the horror, he couldn't help but smile softly to himself.

Re: Fractures - 6/??

I love, love, love this. The setup is amazing and the addition of the journal is so good. Your Kaidan and Shep are perfect.

Re: Fractures - 6/??

I can't stop smiling at the small yet genuine moments between these two. Loving the pacing and I appreciate the reference regarding Kaidan's convo with Wrex back in me1.

Here's hoping for more soon a!a! :)

Re: Fractures - 6/??

Amazing job so far, anon! Can't wait to see how we get from the past to the present.

Re: Fractures - 6/??

Oh gosh, those last two lines. I'm all aflutter. Wonderful story so far!

Re: Fractures - 6/??

And although he'd never considered himself particularly intelligent

Awww, poor Kaidan, so low self-esteem. :(

Re: Fractures - 6/?? -- OP

OP here! I'm so sorry I've been without internet for three days and this was a lovely thing to read the moment I reconnected! I can't wait to read more, this is just fantastic. All the little moments, Shepard's walls and Kaidan trying to find ways around them -- fantastic!

Frantically F5ing now!

-- OP

Re: Fractures - 6/??

Beautiful, A!A!

Re: Fractures - 6/??

This is wonderful! I made the silly mistake of reading this in the office today... and by office I mean big conference table all the grunt interns sit around all day, aka in a room full of other people... and I teared up a little bit.... death by fanfiction in the middle of an office! eee!

Re: Fractures - 6/??

This is fantastic, I'm dying to read more.

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