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Mass Effect Kink Meme: PART XI

"We have no beginning. We have no end. We are infinite. Millions of years after your civilization has been eradicated and forgotten, the kink meme will endure."


Post your requests anonymously, and fill any prompts that catch your eye. We’re not picky around here; anything goes. Fanart or fanfic, het, femslash, slash, threesomes and moresomes, or just gen-fic; as long as it’s part of the Mass Effect universe, there’s a place for it here.

  • All posts must be anonymous, be they prompts, fills, or comments.
  • Every new prompt should be a new post. Indexing’s impossible otherwise.
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  • No flames! We like a friendly atmosphere. If something’s not to your taste, just ignore it. If you see someone else causing problems, message me – don’t feed the trolls!
  • My Kink doesn't have to be Your Kink, and Vice Versa. A prompt or story that's outright trolling gets deleted; prompts that are merely not to someone's taste don't. I don't think anyone wants me to start imposing my own tastes on other people's fantasies.
  • No plagiarism. Didn’t think I’d have to point that out, but some people didn’t seem to get the message. If someone’s already written a story that fills a prompt, feel free to link to it, but don’t repost it and claim it as your own.
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  • Give back to the community! Try and write something for every prompt you leave. If you don’t think you’re up to writing, at least leave feedback on stories you enjoyed. Nobody likes putting effort into a story and getting silence in return.
  • The character limit per comment is 4300 – Break your story into 600-700 word chunks, and you shouldn’t have any problems.
  • When posting a story for an old prompt on this meme, please repost the original prompt here, then post the story as a reply to it - otherwise, everyone has to scroll past long stories to see the newest comments on a page!
  • Multiple fills are always welcome!
  • We run fill-a-thons every few weeks, during which new prompts aren’t allowed. If you post one by mistake, don’t worry – I repost them at the end of the week.
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  • It’s ‘Kaidan’, not ‘Kaiden’.

If there’s any problems or suggestions you wish to make, please PM me, and I will deal with the problem shortly. Or post them here:

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FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention

Repost from

Kaidan "kidnaps" FemShep, taking her to a safehouse, intending to break the hold he thinks Cerberus has over her. This takes place right after Shepard has blown up the Collector's base and told TIM to go to hell, however, and she is rightfully pissed at Kaidan, despite his good intentions.

Where it goes from there is up to the author, hopefully ending with sweaty bodies grinding against each other.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 1/? (~10ish)

The bed was soft.

That was the first thing Shepard realised. She was asleep, trying to wake up, and it felt like walking through a morass. Drugged, said the part of her mind that had reacted to outside stimuli and alerted her to the situation.

Her own bed, in the loft on the Normandy, was hard. Did wonders for her back. This one... was comfortable. Very, very comfortable. She was warm, she was cozy. She was bedded down, under a comforter or a duvet, she couldn't tell, but it was heavy and covered her entire body. There weren't all that many good reasons to wake up in an unfamiliar bed, and even as she tried, she couldn't piece together a coherent picture between now, and then. Normandy was... docked? Yes, they were docked at the Xavier Shipyards, for primary repairs after successfully completing the mission to destroy the Collector base. Also, to hide from Cerberus, who were probably more than a bit pissed.

And then, she woke up in a strange bed. Coincidence? Probably not. Assume capture, assume possible hostile intent. Her body? No restraints. She tensed her muscles, feeling them respond, feeling some stiffness but no injuries. And nothing... else, either.

At least she was dressed. She felt soft fabric against her skin, twirled around her legs. A full-length nightgown? She definitely didn't own one of those. No comfort there.

Cautious of alerting anyone who might be watching, she strained her ears to pick out any sounds to help her distinguish her location. There was a bird chirping. Not that far away, muffled by a barrier. A window? There was silence. No engines, no reactors, not even the slight telltale background hum of the Citadel.

And there was a rustling sound, intermittent, coming from somewhere beyond. Outside the room, maybe. Someone moving about. Not being stealthy, but not clobbing around either. Sounds of metal against metal, hatch closing? Shredding sounds, paper? Clobs and the occasional thunk. Not coming any closer. Distance was hard to tell, but it felt not too far away, five to ten meters past a wall, possibly.

Gravity and pressure? Hard to tell without moving, but it felt like Earth, or very Earth-like.

No light against her eyelids. She opened her eyes just a sliver.

Darkness. Complete darkness, no sources of light what so ever, not even a haze.

Chancing discovery, she opened her eyes fully. No change. She blinked hard. Still nothing.

Either the room was absolutely deprived of light sources – which she didn't feel likely, she heard the other person moving about, heard there was no closed barrier between them – or she was blind.

The thought didn't frighten her. She slipped into combat mode. Sightless, unarmed, in hostile territory, unknown person just outside. Commander Shepard had never feared the odds.

But this was going to require guile, not brawn.

She freed her arms from the duvet/comforter, taking great care to be silent, but not disguising her movement. She'd just have to take the gamble on not being directly watched. She felt along the matress until she reached the edge, then repeated motion on other side, without reaching the edge. The bed was large. She ascertained that there was nothing preventing her from swinging her legs over the edge and did so, sitting up. Her hair fell around her face. She usually slept with it in a loose braid. Good or bad? She tied it into a fast knot, then carefully felt her way around her immediate vicinity.

To the side, clothy fabric on a frame: a lamp. Wooden surface: nightside table. Above the pillow-end of the bed, her fingers touched cool glass. Window, as she had suspected. She couldn't feel any bars, but it would take a firm pound to find out if it could be shattered or was resistant to force. Moving to stand up, taking care with her drug-wobbly legs, she felt every inch along the frame. She found latches on either side, fingers tracing the make, figuring out how they worked – pull, then lift. Would probably be noisy. And getting out required a climb over the bed and nightside table. Not to mention she knew nothing about the outside, except that a bird felt comfortable enough to be nearby. Was that the sound of wind shaking leaves?

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 2/?

Her hands brushed against something on the windowsill. Cool metal. Round base, handle, soft candle. A real candle? She felt the wick flick under her fingers.

She took it. The thing was nicely heavy.

Shepard listened intently. The person outside the room was still rustling with things, moving about now. Still didn't realise she was up. The window was consigned to plan B. Getting out might work, but blind, she would not get far. Plan A it was.

The room was cramped, with only a small passage to walk between the bed and the wooden wall. The carpet was amazingly soft, her toes appreciating it, even as it helped her sneak. Then a corner, and she felt a wooden doorframe. Her brain was starting to call this a very old-fashioned house, possibly countryside somewhere, but she was careful to not make too many assumptions, lest she misinterpret something.

She listened, tried to detect a pattern in the person's movement, but they were stationary again, the same clanking and rustling as earlier, along with some annoyed huffing.

She took a steadying breath, then rounded the corner on silent feet, exposing herself, hard grip on the candlestick--

"Shepard? You're awake already?"

--and broke off before swinging it. She knew that voice. Knew it very, very well.


Of all the possible... him... why was he here? Wherever that was.

"It's okay, you're safe." More rustling, a heavy thud of boots against floor, then firm heavy steps moved towards her. She couldn't help it, they weren't on good terms, it was instinct; she retreated backwards to keep space between them, her back hitting a wall with an uncomfortable thunk.

Kaidan's steps ceased. "Shhh, it's okay," he said, voice so very, very gentle. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Shepard felt mildly sheepish. Her former lover was a lot of things – most notably and recently an ass – but he wasn't an enemy. At least, she didn't think he was. He hadn't been. "I-" what to say? 'Hi Kaidan, nice to see you. I'm still pissed about Horizon, by the way.'? For that matter, wasn't he still pissed about that, too?

Before she could get her thoughts in order, she felt a touch of skin against her hand, the one holding the candlestick. "Please give me that? I promise, you won't need it. You're safe now."

She let it go with a shrug. If she'd had her eyes, a fight between them might have been close. But blind? Not a chance. And that was assuming hostile intent, which she definitely wasn't feeling any of, if he'd been angry but hiding it, she would've noticed something. Quite the contrary, he seemed earnest in his assurances that she was safe. Still, there was some awkwardness on her part, along with a healthy dose of confusion. He'd obviously known she was nearby; he'd sounded surprised she was up, but not surprised that she was there.

However, since he wasn't an enemy, he was a valuable source of intel. Her brain helpfully reordered her questions in priority.

"Kaidan, I just woke up, I can't see anything, and I have no idea where I am. What's going on?"

He moved off, into the room she'd come from. Probably putting the candlestick back. Then he was beside her again. "You're in a safe house," he said, and she thought she picked up some hesitation in the voice. Not in the delivery itself. And that was not enough of an answer, dammit.

"Why am I here? Why can't I see?" she reiterated. Maybe she'd simply asked too many questions at once.

There was silence. She felt him moving, heard the steps as he walked away, stopping around the same distance he'd been at when she first came out. "Your ocular implants," it almost sounded like a curse when he said it, "are offline. That's why you can't see anything."



Shepard hadn't even realised the damn things could go offline. It wasn't something normal eyes did, after all. Between the hacking at the hands of the Overlord and now this, they were turning out to be quite the liability. But Kaidan was pretty good with tech, maybe he could help? Except....

...if he could, wouldn't he have already offered to?

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 3/?

She felt a momentary shiver. He was a kind man, but he was a professional marine. And distant. That was to be expected, they hadn't parted as friends, and she didn't know how he'd fared in her absence. But there was something else going on. She was missing something.

With her hand on the wall, she took a few steps closer, treading carefully. There was a different carpet under her bare feet here, and she felt wooden floors under it.

"Be careful, there's a real wood stove at 11 o'clock. I finally got a fire going in it," Kaidan said, voice the deceptive mildness of someone trying really hard. And that did explain the noises she'd been hearing earlier.

"Thanks. A wood stove? You're kidding?" She could do casually mild, too. Not as well though.

But it still got a chuckle out of him; it almost felt like a slice of normalcy. "Not kidding. Come feel for yourself. Four steps straight in my direction."

So she did. She trusted him and let go of the wall, taking said four steps. Then she felt her hand be taken by his and brought forward, to feel a radiating heat, very mild, just begun, but definitely there.

"What kind of place has a real wood-fire stove?" she asked, almost amused. His touch had been a little too sudden, she hadn't seen it coming.

"It's... pretty unique." Kaidan allowed.

"Where are we?"

Another pause, then a tentative, "Shepard...." He let go of her hand.

"Please, Kaidan." It was as close to begging as she would ever come. And it wasn't just a location she wanted.

"Classified," he muttered. "Need to know basis."

"I'm already here. Doesn't that qualify me to know?"

No answer. She heard him moving away.

"Kaidan?" Mindful of the stove, she took a few steps, arms out in front of her, feeling her way around. It felt like a large area, and without anything orientate herself by, it caused vertigo in her still-drugged system. She swayed on the spot.

And then a warm hand picked hers up from the air and held it, steadying her. "I'm sorry, Shepard. I thought you'd be sleeping a lot longer. I... was going to have an explanation all worked out for you, how to tell you, how to make you comfortable, but -- heh. You don't work on anyone's schedule but your own."

"It's a habit."

"So you kind of caught me off guard." Warmer voice, now. But still that something off. She wished she could see his facial expression, his body language. She loved his voice, but he didn't telegraph everything she needed to know by it alone.

"It's okay," she said, trying to wrestle control of this conversation. It wasn't her brain or vocal cords that were offline. "Why can't you tell me where we are?"

His hand caressed hers. "Classified, like I said."

And he could just keep using that answer, like a shield. "Alright. Why am I here? I was on the Normandy, we'd just completed our mission."

"Yeah. Fleet received your report. Intel division is chewing through it. They were pretty gobsmacked, let me tell you. That file was extensive."

"It contains everything I found out about the Collectors and the Reapers."

"Yeah, that's what they've said. And Cerberus?"

If she'd had her working eyes and not been paying outmost attention to his voice, she would probably have missed the hitch in his voice. It was so faint she had barely realised it was there.

"Everything I could add about Cerberus."

His hand squeezed hers. "That's not the same as everything, Shepard."

She felt the conversational landmines suddenly stack up around her. Cerberus and Kaidan were... two very mutually repelling forces.

"I added everything relevant," she said, trying for reassuring. Didn't think he bought it, though.

More silence. Unnerving. His other hand covered hers, stroking it gently. Soothingly.

"Yeah. I understand. It's okay, Shepard."

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 4/?

To which her first, and second, answer would have been, 'bullshit', but she stuffed it away, not willing to needlessly antagonise him. The thing that had seemed off about this whole conversation was rearing its ugly head. He was being nice. Far too nice. Too earnest in his assurances of her safety. He'd been angry, hurt, confused, last they'd met. A man like Kaidan didn't just sweep everything under a rug. Her involvement with Cerberus would continue to haunt him, he'd be unable to make peace until it was forced on him or he could take the source of his discontent out.

"Kaidan." She needed to explain. "The crew who worked for me? They're loyal, to me, not to Cerberus. I dragged them into the mess by blowing up the Collector base, they're in enough shit as it is with Cerberus after them, I'm not going to rat them out to the Alliance."

More silence. She was beginning to hate these little pauses, alone in the dark, unable to see his expression. She reached her free hand towards his face, but he caught it before she made contact. He held on to it though. The hand holding was nice. Friendly. The moment stretched.


"I guess I can see that," he allowed, slowly, but then his voice harshened. "I just... I didn't think you'd be more loyal to a Cerberus crew, than to the Alliance. They worked for a terrorist organisation. Same as you--"

She'd been about to interrupt him, but he did it himself, letting go of her hands and abruptly walking off. She lost track of him completely. For a large man, he could move silently when he wanted to.

"I am loyal to the Alliance," she called after him, voice more vehement than she intended, but she was tired, and she was working through drugs in her system, and she was still confused, dammit. "But that doesn't mean I just abandon a loyal crew, Cerberus or not. I added a lot of damning evidence against Cerberus as a whole, everything I know about the Lazarus cell, everything I found out about their other operations. Just. Not. My. Crew."

Her tirade was met with silence. Annoyed, she stretched her hands out and started walking in what she thought might have been the direction he went. She felt her feet move off one carpet and to another. Nothing in front of her. She probably looked more than a bit silly, but navigating without any visual aid what so ever was difficult. She'd trained in it, during N-school, but that had been entirely different conditions. For one, full body hardsuit, not just a nightgown.

A few more tentative, cautious steps, and her hands felt something hard. Wood. Not a wall, horizontal. A shelf. Her hands touched hard cloth-clad surfaces. Books? She found the over-side, running a finger along the compressed paper. Real books. An entire shelf full. Her mental map of this place, wherever it was, shifted again. Wood stove. Real paper books. Huge bed. Wood floors and walls. Birds and trees.

Her decision to not have gone out the window seemed to be proving itself correct, she had the feeling she would have found nothing but wilderness. This had the feel of a retreat, of one of the houses off the beaten track, untouched by the sprawling megatropolises. If she'd had her eyes, that wouldn't have been a problem; her survival training had covered some very inhospitable places. So very convenient, in fact, that the one thing she would need in order to leave had been deprived her.

She drew a breath.

"Kaidan?" No answer, but she felt the quality of the silence, he was still in the room. Brooding, perhaps, on her loyalty to her crew. "Just... answer one question. Please?"


She nearly jumped. She'd completely misjudged his possible location, somewhere off to her far left. She turned in his general direction. "Am I a prisoner?"

She heard him move, shifting. She imagined he would be leaned against a wall, arms crossed. Then another sigh.

"Not in the way you think, Shepard."

"But you did sabotage my eyes, so I can't leave?"

"That's two questions."

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 5/?

Meaning yes. "Dammit, Kaidan." That came out more forcefully than she'd intended, but she was well on her way to losing her temper.

He growled, then said, forced calm, "Sorry, Shepard. I'm handling this badly. I just.... Cerberus, Shepard. They killed our own people, and- and you protect them – even if they were your team, they're still accomplices."

"It's called loyalty," she replied frostily. "You might need a reminder on the topic."

"I am loyal," he answered, voice low. "That's why I'm here. That's why you're here."

Now, they were getting somewhere. She discarded her initial response, judging it too confrontational, and settled on a more neutral, "What do you mean?"

There was a silent pause, and then he began to speak, slowly, choosing his words.

"What Cerberus did to you, to get you to work with them.... I couldn't believe it at first. I thought that was something you'd never do, not voluntarily. I knew they had to be forcing you, somehow." His voice was rough, some pain leaking through. "Then I thought about what you said, about how Cerberus were the only ones taking the missing colonies seriously, and I realised they knew exactly how you worked. In your head, working with the enemy to accomplish a greater good, yeah, that's something you'd do, and they knew it. And with complete control of you, and how and when you found out... They were manipulating you."

Yeah, she'd known that. At least he was on the same page, now. And it reminded her that Kaidan could be very perceptive, as long as his emotions weren't getting in the way.

"I'm the one who stole their very expensive stealth frigate and an entire crew full of experts, not to mention blew up the Collector base against the Illusive Man's direct order; it's not like I didn't screw them over, too. I was using them. Their money, their resources, to do a mission that badly needed doing."

"I suspect that's what they wanted you to think. Shepard... I know how you work, too. You attack when provoked, the more cornered you are, the harder you strike. If you'd felt their collar around your neck, you'd have fought them. So they kept the reigns loose, let you do as you pleased. Let you think you were in control of the mission, let you think you were using them. Bet they didn't even complain when you sent that intel back to Alliance, am I right?"

Shepard ground her teeth, but nodded reluctantly. She'd sent that right in front of Miranda's nose; she'd fully expected some form of reprimand, a reminder of whose colours she wore. But it had never come. Miranda had simply stalked off towards the shuttle.

"You're right, they didn't," she muttered. "But what does this have to do with why I'm here? Wherever here is." Because she didn't want to talk about how possible it was that he was perfectly correct in his assessment. Shepard had, at the time, thought Cerberus had given her looser reigns than she would have given herself, if positions had been reverse.

"Because I realised I still believe in you, Shepard. I think you want to do the right thing, you just need some time and space to get your head on straight again and figure out what the right thing is. So I brought you here, far out of reach of Cerberus. You're completely off the ladar. They can't possibly find you, so they can't continue manipulating you, or make you work for them any longer."

There was movement, steps, a sensation of sudden nearness, then a hand brushed against her temple, just a quick caress that was gone again as soon as it had happened. She pretended not to notice her heart making a double beat.

"I don't want you in detention, Shepard, and that's where you'd end up, in isolation for months until brass is certain you're not at Cerberus' whims anymore. I want to help, want you rehabilitated, broken from Cerberus, and I thought you'd be better off here. It's a nice place, perfect for getting your thoughts together." He paused, then his voice was strong with emphasis. "You're safe."

"I-- Kaidan...." Shepard sighed. She did believe him, she just....

His plan had flaws. Most notably that she wasn't with Cerberus. He couldn't break her away from them because she wasn't with them, and since she wouldn't admit to being with them, he'd... yeah. Flaws. Damn stubbornheaded man.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 6/?

"At least tell me where here is?"

"Still classified. But I will tell you this; there's nothing but wilderness in every single direction, and a lot of the nearby terrain isn't passable at all, including deep water. Don't make me put a tracker on you." He pitched the last part like a too-serious joke.

She snorted. "You haven't already?"

"No. I thought about it, but I decided not to, as a gesture of good faith. I bet Cerberus didn't give you that much."

They hadn't, fancy that. She'd spent the past couple of months aware of her every step being watched. "How long are you going to keep me here?"

"As long as it takes, Shepard." He almost sounded apologetic, but only almost. More like a promise made with the full understanding that it would bring sorrow.

"We don't have 'as long as it takes', Kaidan. The Reapers are coming!"

"Yes, they are. And one stealth frigate is not going to be enough. We're going to need ships. Lots of them, and that means the Fleet. Unless Cerberus has a couple of dreadnoughts standing by?"

He actually sounded as though it was a reasonable question. Mostly sarcastic, but just that touch of askance.

"Not to my knowledge, they don't."

"Right. And your knowledge of the Reapers is invaluable, don't think we don't know that. But before we give you access to the fleet, to the military's secrets, we need to know you're one of us again, not one of them."

Try as she might to prevent it, Shepard's temper flared. "I AM one of you, dammit, Kaidan. How many times do I have to keep saying that?"

"Saying.... well, you've said it often enough."

"You think I'm lying?" Thanks to his voice, she had a good idea where he was, now. All it would take was one punch.... Even blind, she should be able to get one through his guard if she could catch him by surprise, right?

"No." The answer was immediate, luckily for him. "But I do think you're not thinking entirely straight. You've been fooled and manipulated in who knows how many ways, starting even before you woke up."

She'd been about to call his bullshit on the thinking straight – she was damn sure she knew what she was doing – but that last bit got her attention. "What do you mean?"

There was a pause, giving her a chance to reign her temper in.

"I... this is kind of a long story."

"We have time," she noted, a bit dry.

Another long sigh, then she felt his hand take hers again, and tugged her in his direction when he started moving. "Lets go sit down?"

Since he was asking instead of telling, she agreed, and let him lead her a few short steps and a turn that had her nearly lose track of the mental map she'd been constructing of the room. A familiar hand under her arm helped her hold her balance as she figured out how to get onto the soft something behind her. It was a sofa of some kind – Kaidan sat down next to her, his weight dipping the cushions. It was too comfortable, just like the bed.

Edging backwards a bit, she pulled her bare feet off the floor, intending to tuck them under her to get them warmed up. It wasn't inhospitably cold, just a shade of it. But just as she did, she startled when she felt Kaidan's hands suddenly seizing them both, locking them together and bringing them to rest against his thigh. Her soles felt the heat of his body even through the coarse cloth, and his hands stayed on them, fingers splayed, holding comfortably, careful to not tickle.

Shepard wasn't sure whether to pull free or not. It didn't have the feel of a hold. He was just... warming her feet. It was just a friendly gesture. An intimate one, to be sure, but they'd had sex at one point, and this was just her feet. It felt... nice. She wasn't sure whether to categorise it as "too nice" yet.

She shifted until she leaned against the backrest, a bit sideways, getting comfortable. The nightgown brushed against her ankles, the turn had spun it around over her thighs, but not annoyingly so.

"Go on," she prompted, and heard him exhale, though if from relief or something else, she couldn't tell.

"Yeah. Look, when you told me you'd been dead, I, obviously, I didn't believe you, not at first. People don't come back from the dead."

Which she believed. As far as she knew, she was the only one.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 7/?

"But then, once I had some time to sit down and think, I realised you believed what you were saying. So I started looking into things. At first it was just so I could disprove what you were saying, to prove that you were just a clone or a Cerberus puppet."

Shepard felt herself bristle. "You were going to prove I wasn't me?"

"I... yeah. Look, I'd been grieving, for two years, and I thought I'd finally gotten over you. And there you were, in the flesh, and I didn't know what to think, but I knew I had to get to the bottom of it. All the logical conclusions said it was more likely you were a Cerberus puppet of some kind, rather than... well, undead."

She actually chuckled. Joker had used that word too. "I don't eat brains, for the record," she said, and heard him chuckle. Just once, but it was a very nice sound.

"Glad to hear it. So, I was running my own investigation into you, and not turning up much – Cerberus covered their tracks well. But then, I got some help from the Intel division. They were investigating you too...."

"I know. Hackett ordered Alliance personnel to not engage me."

"Er, yeah. That order's still standing, by the way. I just have special dispensation."

"Right." That was more or less confirmation that Kaidan wasn't working on his own. Whether his superiors knew exactly where he'd taken her and what they were doing, was another matter entirely.

There was another pause. Not so bad, now that they were actually talking. She felt comfortable enough that he wouldn't just walk out on them there and then.

"You were looking into things?" she reminded him.

"Yeah. The... the science behind bringing a dead person back to life. Do you... know anything, about the kinds of things they had to do to you?"

"No. It's not something I've particularly felt like discussing."

"Understandable. We don't have to, if you don't want to."

"No, please continue, Kaidan. I want to know what you're thinking."

"Alright." His hands squeezed on her feet, that were now comfortably warm. "So. Your body, that was the easy part, relatively speaking. The science of it is extremely complicated and I'm not sure I understood even a quarter of what I read, but reanimating and regenerating dead tissue, in and of itself? We've had that technology for nearly a century. Just a matter of finding the right way to apply the theory into practice. And where that failed, cloning and cybernetics came in. Your body would've been in really poor condition, so it took a great amount of time. But doable."

She actually admired how he was able to be a bit distanced from the topic, despite its grizzly implications.

"And expensive," she added.

"And that. It's your brain that would have been the hard part." She felt a hand leave her feet, and a moment later a caress on her temple again, the briefest moment of touch, before he dropped his hand back to its previous position. "Deterioration would have started setting in almost immediately. Even people who're dead for just a few minutes and then revived tend to suffer from cellular degradation. For you, even if they got you into stasis immediately after retrieving your-- you, there would've been a lot of brain damage."

He trailed off, and a moment later she felt a squeeze on her feet. Then there was silence. He was waiting for something, she realised. Her reaction, or maybe just a reaction.

"I don't feel any different," she said slowly, then amended, "at least not in my head. And Miranda's notes said they wanted me back the way I was. Same mind, same morals, same personality."

The chill she'd felt at hearing those words... she'd been cold, perpetually cold after waking up and all the way until her first good night of sleep onboard the new Normandy, and hearing those words, while newly awake and confused, had frozen her deep.

"If you were different, would you know it?" Kaidan asked. And damn it if his skill at zeroing in on the heart of an issue wasn't perfectly intact.

"Truthfully? I don't know. And I spent a lot of time thinking about it, more than I wanted to."

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 8/?

Whoa, thank you so much for the commentary. ♥ I thought this fic was a dead end so started typing on a different fill, then came back and saw. Now I gotta continue this!


Another moment of silence, then Kaidan continued,

"So to simplify what Cerberus had to do with your brain – and believe me, it was simplified down to explain it to me, so you're getting the kiddie version – they had to extensively map your brain down to the nanoscopic level in order to discover all damaged and degraded cells, and find a way to record all the remaining signals between them – which depended on how well preserved you were. Then use that as a base to extrapolate backwards to figure out where there should be signals but weren't any. Knowing that, they had to regenerate or recreate the damaged braincells to support exactly the same pathways, without upsetting any of your surrounding brainmatter landscape. Then reactivate the signals the way they were supposed to be once they had your brain working properly physic... you okay Shepard?"

Kaidan slowed down, and she felt another brush against her skin, just a moment, but there.

"I'm fine." It wasn't quite a snap. She angled her head upwards and drew a breath, interrupting the momentary sensation of needing to puke that had come over her. She'd never let Miranda talk about that bit. Hadn't wanted to hear it. Hadn't wanted to be broken down into signals and cells instead of a person.

"That's, uh..." Kaidan hesitated, then continued, probably where he'd dropped off, "That's considered impossible, by the way. Two years ago, the technology didn't exist. Cerberus must have developed it, specifically to use on you. We found a lot of top level neurologists on their temporary payroll. Most of them probably never knew who it was that signed their checks."


Somehow, the darkness she'd been in ever since waking up felt more opressive. She'd been able to put it aside, not quite ignore it, but not let it rule her perception either. But the lack of sight was getting to her. Or possibly, the lack of light. She didn't realise she was hugging herself until she felt one of Kaidan's arms around her shoulder, hand over hers, pulling her against his body. She didn't resist. It wasn't light, but at least he was warm, and so was his voice,

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought this up."

"I asked, as I recall."

"...yeah, but that's just you being you. I should've known better." Another kiss on her temple, and this time, his face stayed for a few breaths, she felt him nuzzle her hair.

"Just... what does this have to do with Cerberus manipulating me? I'm not very grateful to them for spending all that time and money on me, just for the record."

Kaidan frowned. "No loyalty due to perceived debt, at all?"

"None what so ever. I didn't ask for it."

"Hm." He sounded thoughtful. "I believe you."

"Glad to hear it." She used their proximity to pat him on the knee, or at least mostly on his knee, she missed at first. In response, he squeezed her shoulder tighter. "Manipulation?" she reminded him before she let the touch lead her off the track.

"Did you ever think about how your tank-bred Krogan knew so much, straight out of the tank?"

She had to do a double-take on that, it seemed so disconnected to what they'd been talking about. "He said the voice told him, and that there were images in his head." A beat, then, "Hang on, you know about Grunt?"

Kaidan chuckled, sounding amused, and a bit smug. "Yeah. Like I said, intel's been following you doggedly for quite a while, and your tank-bred Krogan wasn't exactly being subtle or secretive. We didn't even have to ask; he told us."

Shepard grumbled. "He would. Not that I was trying to be stealthy or anything. If I was, I wouldn't have had Normandy's name painted in big letters." Still, she didn't like to find out from an external source that her internal ship secrecy wasn't as good as she thought it was. Not that she hadn't known Grunt was blunt as a sledgehammer, both on and off the battle field. Thankfully, Kaidan didn't press the smugness.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 9/?

"The tech used to infuse him with his images isn't as rare as you'd think. We've had the rough idea for centuries; it's a distant cousin of transmitting subliminal message by flashing an image in front of a person that they don't consciously register, but the subconscious does. The actual method is slightly related to the asari meld, and believed to have been developed by the salarians." He paused, then sounded thoughtful. "The only strange thing about it is it working on a krogan."

"It almost didn't." Shepard said. "He had all the images, but they were meaningless to him. It took him a while to integrate them."

"Makes sense. The mind would react differently to information it didn't get by living through it. Except in your case. Between the technology to chart and reignite your mind, and the means to feed information straight into your memory, we're sure Cerberus altered your reaction--


"--or, at the very least, tempered your reaction to them. It wouldn't even feel like a memory, or an image. Just an idea in your mind that helped you make peace with the idea of working with them. Like if a person who is afraid of fire because they've been burnt gets an image, an idea, of sitting around a campfire with friends placed in their mind, making the fire seem less threatening."

Shepard shook her head, more vehement than she intended. "No. I wasn't manipulated that way. I didn't feel any differently about Cerberus after I found out they resurrected me, than I did before dying."

"That you know. It would have been a subtle thing, and mostly apparent in your immediate reaction, the one you had the least amount of time to consider. Reactions are complicated, but past experiences, especially if they're bad, tend to be a very strong influence. Even when we know we want to think something else, intellectually."

"I almost shot Jacob when he told me!"

"Almost?" She knew that tone in his voice. It was the one he had when he was making a technical point, and had all the numbers to back it up, but wanted her to voice her arguments just so he could debunk them.

"The situation didn't warrant it. We were under attack by mechs, he was a friendly, and he admitted they were with Cerberus. He took a big risk springing that on me." She could deconstruct her command decisions in her sleep, had been able to ever since officer's training.

"Maybe a calculated one." Kaidan just put it out there, still sounding conversational. "He would have been told how to approach you in order to gain your trust."

"No." She shook her head again, decisively. "The station was under attack, he was cut off from his superiors; he made a battlefield call to tell me."

"So he told you he was with Cerberus, and that they had resurrected you, and you decided not to shoot him, that about right?"


"Did you trust him?"

Well, when he put it that way, no wonder he was being hung up on this. She chewed on her answer, "Not exactly. It was an 'enemy of my enemy' situation, I wouldn't have made it out without him."

"So you were thrown into a situation where you were forced to trust him, however reluctantly?"

"Yeah, you could say that."

"Did you re-evaluate after you got to safety?"

Dammit. "No. I was a bit... preoccupied." By the Illusive Man, by missing colonists, by being alive. Jacob had been a lone understandable quantity. Kind of exactly what Kaidan was getting at.

"How about now? Do you trust him now?"

Shepard sighed. "Yes, but that's different. He proved himself. He followed my every order throughout the mission."

"Isn't following your orders a minimum requirement?" Kaidan poked another nerve.

"That's not what I mean, Kaidan, and you know it."

She started to pull away, but his hand caressed her shoulder consolingly. "You're right, I'm sorry. You're a good commander, you foster loyalty, that's just the way you are."

Shepard had nothing to say to that. He was right. It came to her as easily as breathing. Oh, Grunt and Legion had taken some work on her part, and she'd nearly blown it with Zaeed, but thankfully crotchety old geezers responded well to being yelled at. But trying in and of itself was as second nature to her as cleaning her guns and mending her hardsuit.

Too bad the effect hadn't seemed to last on Kaidan.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 10/?

Maybe she should be more proactive in doing something about that. Still, sitting like this, even with the argument they were having, was... nice. To some degree of nice. His hand was warm on her shoulder.

"So..." he continued, still thoughtful, "you were introduced to Cerberus in a combat situation where you couldn't say no, and then you were roped into working for them by being given a mission you couldn't decline, and handed the means to do it that you had emotional ties to, so no reason to refuse. And you feel all of this was perfectly natural at the time, and that your reactions before dying would've been the same. That about covers it?"

"Kaidan...." To think she'd once admired his singleminded focus. She let go of his knee and lift her hand to press against the bridge of her nose. To her surprise, he took her hand away and held on to it.

"I'm not accusing you, Shepard. I'm just trying to figure this out. If I can't pinpoint what they've been manipulating, I can't undo it."

"There's nothing to 'undo', Kaidan. I worked with them out of necessity, and I broke away from them because I wanted to."

"Hmm. And you want to come back to the Alliance now?"

"Yes. I was going to, once I'd fixed the Normandy and dropped my crew off." She turned and tried to face him, or at least point her face in his face's general direction. "Please tell me what happened to the Normandy? To my crew?" Her part Cerberus crew.

Momentary silence. She tried to orient his eyes' location by a small sigh, but probably didn't get it right.

"Normandy and your crew were still at Xavier Shipyards when I took you. As far as I know, they didn't realise you were gone before we left. I haven't heard anything since we dropped off the ladar, and I can't comm to ask about them without risking this location." He squeezed the hand he was holding, his voice turning gentler. "I didn't hurt anyone, Shepard. I wouldn't do that to you."

"No, you just kidnapped me and killed my eyes, that's all," she grumbled, hiding her relief at the confirmation on her crew's safety. It had been a pretty stupid thought, Kaidan was an ass, but he didn't do collateral damage if he could prevent it.

"Your eyes aren't permanently destroyed, just disabled. You know that, Shepard, or you wouldn't be this calm." And when had he gotten so good at reading her? His thumb slipped into her palm and started drawing a slow circle. The gesture was familiar from their very brief courtship, when it had replaced more overt displays of affection. "I get that you're not happy being here," Shepard snorted at that. "But it's necessary, and for your own good. Definitely better than the alternative, which is an isolation cell with round-the-clock surveillance."

"I'd have preferred to make that call myself."

"I know." He sounded resigned, but not sorry.

"Tell me how you got me here?"

Another quick squeeze of her hand. "I drove us in a hovercar," he answered, a bit of a light tone. A joke. Probably a real answer, too, but meant to lighten the situation. She wasn't amused. But the tactical part of her mind that had been monitoring the situation noted that it meant there was a hovercar nearby; he wouldn't have carried her far. Time to fish for information.

"I want to know. I'm not easy to catch."

"You don't remember?"

"No. The last I know is...." she hesitated, visualised. Telling Joker to get his ass off the ship for some R&R. Promising the engineers to get their parts. "I was heading to the shipyard's cargo bay to collect some supplies for engineering."

She felt him suddenly go still, his thumb stopping its gentle rubbing of her palm.

"Crap," he swore softly. "I should've checked for amnesia when you woke up, I'm sorry."

That wasn't supposed to be funny, but somehow that's what her mind made of it, and she chuckled. "So you're not sorry for kidnapping me, but you are for not worrying about my health."


"I'm fine." She considered a moment, then lied, "Still a little woozy from the sedatives though."

"I bet. I didn't want to risk you waking up mid-transport, so... yeah. Honestly expected you to be out a lot longer. And you're not missing all that much, it took about half an hour I think, from airlock to airlock."

"How did you do it?"

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 11/?

The professional curiosity was legit after all, but it was personal, too.

There was a brief pause as Kaidan considered. "If you don't remember, then I think I'm not going to reveal all my tricks, sorry." At her grouch, he hurried to add, "But no, you weren't easy to catch. I had to work at it, and I don't think anyone else can repeat it." She felt his arm tighten, trying to pull her closer against him, back into the sofa. She resisted and he relented, relaxing, still holding her shoulder. "I'm kind of proud of it, actually. I went in expecting to end up on my ass, or in the morgue."

He sure sounded proud. Then again, beating an N7 at anything was a feather in the hat for anyone. She wished she remembered it. It had to have been a trap of some kind, she wasn't injured, and she didn't think he was either – if they'd fought, she would've noticed something. "I wouldn't have killed you, Kaidan," she corrected. "Not if I knew it was you."

"You might have, if you thought I was a threat."

She went cold. "Is that what you think? Really, Kaidan?" How could they have drifted that far apart?

The traces of humour were gone from his voice. Now, he just sounded tired. "Honestly? I didn't know what to expect, not after Horizon, not after learning what I know about Cerberus rebuilding you. But I was sure you wouldn't agree to come with me peacefully, not once you found out we were going to isolation."

"You could've just asked, dammit!"

"Could I? We were ordered to stay away from you because of your Cerberus ties, but if you weren't controlled by them, that means you were free to contact us at any time. That should've been the first thing you did, Shepard."

The reproach stung. Mostly because he was right. "I wanted to."


"I couldn't."

"Why not?"

"Because...." How to word this?

"Because?" Kaidan pressed, not letting up.

"I was... confused. Everything happened so quickly, and so jumbled together. The Collector attack, dying, living, finding out two years had passed and everyone and everything I knew was different. I was..." she tried to think of an adjective that fit, "unsettled, I wanted – needed – some firm ground to stand on. The Normandy, the mission, that provided stability. So I hunkered down and tried not to think of everything else I should be doing. If I'd gone to the Alliance, that would've been taken away. I don't know what would've happened to me, but I doubt they'd have let me go about my merry way."

"Well, no. You'd been missing for two years, of course there would be an investigation into it. That you'd faked your death for some reason was one of the primary theories – which was supported when you started turning up in places together with Cerberus. Then again, that supported the clone or puppet theory as well."

"And that was the problem! You all assumed the worst. You didn't believe me."

"Easy, Shepard. That's because we only had second hand information to go on. If we'd heard the truth from you, directly, things would've been a lot different." He sounded pained. "I loved you, Shepard. And I thought... I thought you felt the same way about me. And I would like to think that if you wake up in a strange place, surrounded by enemies, that I would be at least somewhere in the top three people you'd call to come to your side. You dug yourself deeper into the hole by staying away."

"Dammit Kaidan, don't make this my fault, I didn't--" The sudden touch of his hand on her cheek, fingers on her lips, interrupted her. She grabbed at it, pushing it off her skin. His fingers tightened around hers in response.

"I'm not blaming you, Shepard," he said, tone low and coarse, sounding frustrated. "I'm over that. I blame Cerberus, completely. I had the thought, just now, that they might not have changed how you felt about them, just how you felt about us. Made you think you couldn't trust us. That would have gotten them precisely what they wanted too, made you reliant on them."

Frustration welled in her chest, she yanked her hands free from his and closed them into fists as she growled at him. She felt him tense, go still. Was he armed?

Stupid question. He was a biotic, he was always armed. No matter. She drew a hard breath to fuel her battlefield voice.

"Drop the manipulation BULLSHIT already!"

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 12/?

Her yell shattered the air. She surprised even herself with her loudness, magnified by the closed indoors. The silence that followed was as complete as the darkness in her eyes, reigning supreme.

Kaidan's breathing resumed after a few quiet moments, reminding her she needed air, too. Well. At least now he knew for sure how she felt on that topic. She expected a retaliation of some kind, but it never came. Instead, she felt his hand return to her body, holding lightly at her neck – he'd taken it off her immediately when she'd yelled.

"It's okay, Shepard. It's okay. We don't have to talk about that, I promise." His voice was far too soft again, taking the air out of her sails. He hadn't even had the decency to get angry at her, robbing her of a target. His hand started running calm, soothing strokes on her back. No way he was going to drop the matter now, he'd just hide it where she couldn't see it. Dammit.

"Don't patronise me," she muttered, but without the bite it should've had. After the explosive unload, the whole conversation just felt exhausting, and she was feeling a bit perturbed by the force of her own outbreak. Apparently the situation – the blindness, the implied confinement, the oh-so-gentle interrogation – was getting to her more than she'd suspected.

"I'm not patronising you. I shouldn't have sprung all of this on you at once." That was nice of him to say, considering she'd been the one to demand answers that had led to it. "This went... absolutely nothing like it was supposed to."

"That's why they say plans don't survive contact." She left off the 'with the enemy' part deliberately, but she knew he'd caught it.

"Yeah. I know. But still. I was supposed to let you rest, not get you worked up. I just... I handled this badly, Shepard, I'm sorry. I'll leave you alone a while."

The sofa shifted when he stood. She followed his movements as best she could, a bit confused when she heard him stop and rustle with something, two quick sharp noises of a clasp of some kind opening. Then she heard him move closer to her again. He took her left hand and pulled her arm towards him. Before she could draw it back, something hard slid onto her wrist, cinching tightly but painfully so, and there was a brief sensation of pricking on her skin. The thing felt almost a decimeter wide, very thin and slightly flexible. A shackle of some kind? She hid her other arm before he could take that one too.

"What are you doing?"

"It's alright. It's just a biometric reader, it keeps track of your lifesigns. If something happens to you, like you walk into the stove, it'll send an alert to my omni-tool. It's just a safety precaution, nothing more. It won't hurt you." He paused, she felt him fiddle with it. There was a confirming beep. "There. I'll be outside, in shouting distance if you need me."

With that, he left. She started feeling along the not-shackle the moment she heard a heavy-sounding door click shut. It was too tight against her skin for her fingers to get purchase on it. She found the joined seam that sealed the thing together, but no lock or release that would open it. In fact, it felt smooth all over, no buttons or control interfaces. None that her fingers could pick out, at any rate. Perfect to put on the wrist of a blind prisoner.

And she bet the damn thing would register an adrenaline rush as well. No, Kaidan didn't need shackles when her own body would do the job of confining her just nicely. Although his premise was faulty, tactically speaking she had to admit he'd done a good job, even getting her to completely lower her guard. The warmth from his hand still lingered on her back, not sought, but not entirely unwelcome either. As much as she'd managed to derail his main plan, by accident even, the effect had probably been intentional. He knew what he was doing.

But so did Shepard.

The direct approach wouldn't work. Her initial assessment had been entirely correct: this was going to require guile, not brawn.

Step one, she was going to explore her gilded cage. Then step two: first duty of a prisoner.

- - -

And that was chapter 1. Wahey. *looks at outline, scratches out all the parts that ended up differently* Little over halfway, I'd say.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 13/?

Chapter 2

Time was hard to tell in the darkness, and keeping track of how long something took felt more difficult. But navigating started becoming easier as Shepard adjusted and gained more confidence from the lack of running into walls. Searching persistently and methodically, her mental map of the house she was in was turning out nicely. The biggest adjustment was to put the stove in the center of the house, rather than on an outer wall, and to merge the living room with the kitchen as she discovered it by carefully walking her way around the stove to find a bench with cold metal and a tap. Encouraged, she shifted her plan from general information gathering, to a very specific goal: acquiring a weapon. Not to take, just to find. Kaidan had the exact same survive-evade-resist-escape training as she did; conduct after capture classes were a mandatory part of the Alliance officer education. He would know to do inventory on every item that could possibly be used as a weapon.

Granted, if he was using their training, he wouldn't have left her unsupervised so she could look for a weapon in the first place. Score one for shouting his ears off?

And unfortunately the training he didn't have the benefit of, N-school's advanced resistance to interrogation, was completely inapplicable. After all, she wasn't being mind-probed by an asari or subjected to salarian interrogation techniques. The grizzled old Gunny of steel who'd conducted N-school's AR2I course, and held the distinction as one of the very few people who'd ever made her scream, would probably laugh his ass off if he ever found out she was connecting his course with her current predicament. None of it fit, all her SERE training had assumed she would be captured by terrorists, rebels, insurgents, mercs, pirates, or enemies, not a former lover hellbent on rehabilitating her by being too nice. Building rapport with him – the captor – would either work itself out, or become the trickiest aspect of it all.

On the bright side, she had the one thing training had assumed she wouldn't; the captor, Kaidan, wouldn't physically hurt her, at least not without serious provocation. Having the option to safely back down and surrender if caught gave her a lot of leeway in planning her escape. Definitely not her style, but training was clear: it didn't matter what your style was, you did what you had to do to survive and escape. If it meant smiling and nodding, then that's what you did.

Of course, there was a downside. Kaidan, and her apparent inability to dehumanise him into just 'the captor'. It wouldn't stop her from hitting him when the situation called for it. Assuming the element of surprise, she could disable him without permanent harm. But if he had the chance to fight back, and failure meant the end of her escape chances? Was she prepared to stab him with a knife and make a run for it, not knowing if he'd live or die? An insistent voice in her mind pointed out she'd been made Spectre precisely because she would do whatever it took, but....

It was possibly a moot point, because the knife drawer was locked. Incidentally, there was only one locked drawer. Unlike her biofrigginreader, she found the lock, an old fashion mechanical one that went nicely with the feel of the rest of the house. Unfortunately, a metal lock. Brute force would work – but there would be no way to hide what she'd done, which raised the little issue of threat escalation. SERE-training had emphasised that physically resisting your captors was not an end in itself if not resisting was more likely to give you, or let you keep, advantages which could be exploited later for a successful escape attempt. She could force the knife drawer open, but Kaidan could also chain her to a wall in response, however unlikely. Not a good thing in step 1, information gathering. That put the knife drawer right between step 2: preparation, and step 3: execution.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 14/?

Instead, she continued the search of the main room. Aside from the sofa group, there was a proper dining table, and a desk with chair. Lots of shelves with books and assorted ornamental knick-knacks – she ran a mental catalogue on weight and grip for future reference. There was a locked door, and she got high hopes for it since its position off the living room area might mean it held an office or a work room – that just might have a computer in it. Which made her form her initial assessment that Kaidan felt confident about leaving her alone because he had Shepard-proofed the house by locking her out of the things she shouldn't have access to.

That assessment went out the window when she pushed down a cold metal doorhandle and realised it led outside. There were wooden planks under her feet, with the occasional tickly strand of grass poking up between the gaps. Two careful steps forward, and there was a wooden railing. Not too high to climb by any means. She couldn't tell what was on the other side, but it wouldn't keep her in. Neither would the climate. It was cold enough that she would've liked a jacket, but not cold enough that she would need one, at least not for a few hours, provided the temperature didn't drop further. The lack of sight and shoes were still issues, but physically there didn't seem to be anything between her and freedom.

Kaidan was a smart guy. This couldn't be an oversight, there was no way he remembered to lock a knife drawer and an office, but forgot the outer door. Did it mean the biometric reader was equipped with the tracker he'd said he hadn't put on her? Possible, but it had seemed like a point of honour to him to not be like Cerberus.

So then what?

With a hand on the railing and the other in front of her, she continued exploring. And listening. She could still hear birds. Rustle of wind in trees. Not too distant clanking of some kind – probably Kaidan making himself busy. And nothing else. No hover traffic, no ambient neighbourhood noises, no artificial sounds of any kind. So silent. The air felt fresh, and devoid of scents she could pick out. The lack of clues were clues in themselves.

There was a gap in the railing a short distance from the door, and after two careful steps down a rickety stoop she was standing on solid ground. The grass was high enough to tease her calves, some straws finding their way under her nightgown. It probably had been a well-tended lawn at some point. She let go of the railing like letting go of a lifeline, and took two steps straight out into the darkness. The lack of a reference point was a bit dizzying, but took third priority to the elation, and confusion, of walking unhindered. Another few steps straight ahead, and her fingers brushed against something coarse. A tree trunk. The ground under her feet turned rougher. Her hands found more foliage in front of her. Right, Kaidan has said there was impassable terrain. She'd assumed he'd said that to emphasise the futility of trying to escape, and not because he trusted the terrain to keep her in. She wouldn't in his shoes.

Could it be that he just seriously underestimated her? That emphatically did not track with the way she knew he'd regarded her before, just short of hero worship. So did he overestimate the effect blindness would have on her? That was not quite as stupid as underestimating her, but still stupid. The blindness was a serious hindrance, yes, but Shepard had never – never – hit the limit of what she could accomplish when she set her mind to something. It was why she constantly sought new challenges, and that's what this was – just another challenge to be analysed, adapted to, then overcome.

But staring blindly at the foliage did nothing to shed light on the mystery of the unlocked door. Not willing to chance discovery, she returned to the house and continued her indoors exploration.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 15/?

The stove was radiating warmly, providing a nice focal point. Her hands brushed the lukewarm coarse stone, and from there she used the carpet to guide her towards the unexplored section of the house. It took her back to the bedroom where she'd woken up. Feeling her way, she discovered a locked door, no indication of what might be behind it. Another few steps, and there was another. With the rooms so closely together, this had the feel of a hallway. This door did open, and her fingertips brushed against hard porcelain almost immediately when she stepped inside. Sink. Toilet. The bathroom.

She'd made it as far inside as the shower, likely on the far wall, when suddenly there was the sound of another door opening nearby, followed by heavy steps, then thuds she identified as Kaidan taking his boots off. He was just outside where she was. The heavy-sounding door clicked shut after him. She'd had no idea she was that close to the main entrance; that made the house quite small.

His steps were less pronounced without the boots as he walked right past, then stopped, followed by a quizzical, "Shepard?"

She was surprised at the lack of suspicion in his tone when he didn't find her where he expected her to be, like he was more curious where she was, than concerned she might've escaped already. She stayed quiet, wanting to know how he'd react.

A short moment later and he was moving again, straight into the hallway, and it took him only three steps until he was just outside the bathroom.

"Ah, there you are," he said, sounding pleased that he'd found her, but also a bit too nonchalant. "No hot water I'm afraid. I'm working on it, but it won't be finished tonight."


"It's a bit past twenty-one hundred local. We're both pretty jet-lagged."

"Oh." No kidding. To her, it was still morning. She had no idea how long she'd slept before waking up, even far ahead of schedule, but it was probably the longest in one go since her resurrection.

"Yeah. And it doesn't make any difference to you, but this place doesn't have power yet, so since it's getting dark and I'm beat, I'm going to turn in soon. Just going to heat some food first. How's your stomach, are you still feeling woozy from the sedatives?"

Well, no. She'd kicked them off very quickly, but that wasn't what she'd told him, and she had no idea whether or not she realistically should still be woozy. "I am kind of hungry," she substituted instead, which had the benefit of being true.

"Alright. Hope the fire's still going, took me ages to get it lit properly," he said, steps fading in the direction of the main room.

There was that illusion of domesticity again, like he was pretending they hadn't had an argument just an hour or two ago. She followed, making her way onto the sofa with ease that surprised herself. Kaidan didn't say anything else while he went about warming their meal, and no amount of listening helped her figure out what he was doing until something hard and warm brushed against her hand.

"Here, use both hands," he prompted.

She did, getting a firm grip on what turned out to be a large mug before Kaidan let it go. It contained some kind of soup. Easily drinkable, even blind. Not bad taste either, chicken something? Better than the usual reconstituted meals. He'd probably thought this bit through. A nearby creak said he'd sat down. The meal passed in silence; Shepard didn't have anything she particularly wanted to say that wouldn't end up with another argument, and Kaidan seemed content to leave things be.

"Think you can sleep?" he asked when he took her now empty mug.

"No, I'm wide awake."

"I figured. Try to take a nap later? It'll make things less complicated if we aren't completely desynched." A clatter of something at the kitchen end of the room, then he came back, nearby but not too close. "There's some puzzles and toys in the desk drawers to keep you occupied," he said, then his voice turned a bit more hesitant. "But, Shepard, one thing?"


"Be careful when you go outside, okay? This place is badly overgrown, and the slope at the back of the house is very steep in some places."

Wait, what?

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 16/?

"You're letting me go outside?" she asked, somewhat incredulously. The unlocked door hadn't been an oversight?

"I told you, you're not a prisoner. I'm not going to keep you cooped up inside the house." He might as well have added, 'Don't be ridiculous', because that's what his tone said. "Though I'd really prefer if you didn't go out until I've had the chance to do some clearing."

"Aren't you afraid I'm going to wander off?" There had to be some ulterior motive. If something sounded too good to be true, it usually was. But Kaidan seemed determined to be confusing.

"There is that risk," he acknowledged. "But this place was built with hovercars in mind, there's no ground access."

That had never stopped her before. Hell, she was trained specifically to get through impenetrable places, while getting shot at. The question returned, was he overestimating her blindness or underestimating her skills? Or was something else going on here? He wasn't the kind of man who left things to chance if he had the time to plan, and he definitely wasn't a gambler or a risk-taker.

To hell with figuring it out by observation, she was just going to have to ask. She held her left wrist up, the one with the biometric reader that was starting to feel too comfortable.

"Is there a tracker in this thing?"

"No," he said, a touch irritated. "There's no tracker, in the reader or on you."

"So if I wander off, you can't find me?"

"I can find you," he said confidently. "But if you get lost, or fall and hurt yourself, it could take me a while. So please don't."

"You're... this isn't making any sense, Kaidan. Why wouldn't you put a tracker on me? Or lock me in?" He had to have some means of locating her, even if it wasn't using an honest tracker. Something like an area sensor? It wouldn't count as a tracker if he was willing to play word games.

Completely unexpectedly, he chuckled, voice turning smug. "This is really confusing you, isn't it?"

Why yes, as a matter of fact it was. She crossed her arms and glowered, not amused at being made fun of.

She heard him come closer. "Why don't I let you think on it, and we'll talk in the morning, okay?" A bold finger stroked her cheek, there and gone before she could react. "Goodnight, Shepard."

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 17/?

Chapter 3

Commander Shepard had added a great amount of skills to her repertoire during her professional life. Most through training, but quite a few simply by necessity at the time, with some from do-or-die situations. Picking mechanical locks using scavenged tools had, so far, not been one of her skills, but she was acquiring it the honest way. Progress through trial and error was slow, and frustrating.

Frustrating was the word of choice for a lot of things right there and then. Her lack of eyesight was frustrating. The lock in front of her that was almost open but not quite, that was frustrating.

Kaidan was frustrating.

Kaidan, fortunately, was still sleeping. She could hear his soft breathing, not quite loud enough to be called snoring. She was kneeling by the locked door in the small corridor just outside the bedroom. She had three slightly bent grilling skewers poked into the lock and some other assorted metal tools on the floor by her side, all of them liberated from the kitchen after a long and thorough search of every cupboard and drawer she could find. The maybe-office door had been her initial target, but its lock was simply too narrow for the tools she'd found. Same for the knife drawer. This lock was different however. Larger, older, presumably less complex. Someone like Kasumi would have had it open just by breathing on it. Shepard almost had it.

She'd almost had it for probably an hour now. Maybe it was more, maybe it was less. Her lost sense of time was frustrating, too. The night, however much of it had passed, had been completely fruitless as far as escape was concerned. The temperature outside had dropped only slightly, but it had started raining, accompanied by an insistent wind that created a wet chill she wasn't quite prepared to brave through. At least not without a definitive goal in mind. But in the brief time she had spent outside she'd managed to find the hovercar. It had been parked almost right outside the main door. And locked, of course. With her own omni-tool she could've had it opened and hotwired in a few minutes, no problem. Without it.... Well. She had a fairly good idea how to make the hovercar go if she could manage to get inside it, but that was the major hurdle.

A little insistent part of her mind still voted to force the knife drawer open and use the element of surprise to 'persuade' Kaidan to open it for her.

The slightly more tactical part of her, the one that didn't get tangled up in emotions she had no business having, maintained a steady insistence on continuing with step one. Gather and analyse information, seek understanding of the situation. Evaluate the options. Build rapport with... him. Avoid avoidable confrontations.

He'd said they would talk in the morning. Then she could have answers. On his time and choosing, after he'd slept on it and probably had his original plan all rewritten and rehearsed.

Yes, frustrating was the word to use about Kaidan.

But at least she had figured his apparent irrationality out during the night. It was simple, Kaidan had reached the exact same conclusion as Cerberus. "You attack when provoked, the more cornered you are, the harder you strike. If you'd felt their collar around your neck, you'd have fought them."

It was a neat, very Kaidan way of looking at the issue. He didn't want to fight her, so he removed a reason for her to fight him. It was almost worth giving him a fight just so he wouldn't--

--she lost her focus on the lock and swore as the tip of the metal skewer slipped inside. It was just too soft and thin to flip that final part of the lock over.

But this lock was definitely pickable. She reached for the carving fork – now minus one tine, then paused, and listened.

Movement in the bedroom. Rustle of fabrics. The bed was sturdy, it only barely creaked, but she could hear it in the perfect silence. It was possible he was just turning around, but she knew from experience that he wasn't a mover when deep asleep.

She considered her options, then quickly collected all her lockpicking tools and rose, moving silently through the darkness to the kitchen and returned the items to their drawers, placing them as close to where she got them as possible.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 18/?

Except for the carving fork. If he did a thorough inventory, he'd probably discover it where she stashed it deep in one of the drawers. Maybe she could convince him it wasn't her doing, and maybe not. She filed that away as an acceptable risk, then went to sit on the sofa where she'd left the voice-datapad and headphones she'd found in the desk. It had full voice interface with a pleasant speakervoice and intelligent menus that offered a wide selection of books and audio games. Most, if not everything, on it was something she found appealing in one way or another, including several of her favourite stories. Nothing wrong with Kaidan's memory, it seemed. The voicepad claimed there was over a thousand hours worth of entertainment on it.

Shepard had no intention of spending enough time in this house to even make a dent in that.

The rest of the desk content had been less personal. Thick jigsaw puzzles in frames, a few wooden brainteasers all supposedly solvable by touch – she hadn't devoted more time to them than necessary to figure out what they were. A fist-sized box that played music, different notes depending on how she touched it – she'd put that one away before it woke Kaidan. And a raised-letter book that she had no idea what it was about. A few minutes of fumbling her fingertips over it had left her none the wiser, and like the voicepad she didn't intend to have the time to learn.

It was all toys. Things to keep her entertained. None of them actually useful in any way.

She put the headphones on and tried to look like she'd been sitting there for some time, but didn't start the audio. Instead, she kept listening. And sure enough, Kaidan was definitely getting up. She heard him get dressed, then the soft swish of the door, and footsteps into the main room.

"Hey Shepard. Good morning." His sleep-thick voice was a touch hoarser than usual.

So. Right back to pretend-domestic, was it?

He was walking across the room, it sounded like he was heading for the kitchen. She didn't answer him at first, but reconsidered. Ignoring him was just a petty demonstration, serving nothing. Smile and nod, right? She took the silent headphones off and put them and the voicepad away on the low table, needing only a little bit of feeling through air to find it. "Morning, Kaidan." Well, she sounded mostly polite anyway. If he'd noticed or cared about the delay, he didn't say anything.

Then he stopped, and there was metal clanking from the stove's hatch. "Oh, you kept it warm. I appreciate it."

She shrugged. She had kept the fire going, but it hadn't been for his convenience. She'd been cold and wet after her trip outside and had realised she would have to tend to it when she tried to warm herself back up and found it lukewarm.

More noises, he was adding more wood to it, then, "You didn't burn yourself, did you?"

"No." It hadn't been easy, but the first time she'd added a log the stove hadn't been too hot. A little bit of feeling her way around using a pair of logs from the carefully stacked pile had done the trick. And the second and third times, she'd known what she was doing. Touch-and-go for a bit when one log got stuck halfway, but a firm push had gotten it inside properly.

Footsteps in her direction. He came right into her personal space.

"Let me see?" Warm hands took her right one, gently turning it over.

How about no? She pulled her hand out of his hold. There was no resistance. "I'm fine, would you just stop--"

"Easy, Shepard." Her complaint was halted by a hand that touched her shoulder with a steady squeeze, just as firm as his interruption had been. "I'm just making sure you're not hurt."

"I'm not." And if she had burned her hand, no big deal. "But if I was, wouldn't this thing tell you?" She raised her left wrist. She'd had a long, stubborn conversation with the biometric reader during the night, and since it was still around her wrist, it had won. Maybe it was slightly frayed around the edge near her hand though.

Silence. His hand left her shoulder. "Yeah, you're right, it would."

A hah, she'd caught him out on doing something irrational. Small victory, but there it was. Time to drive the wedge in deep.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 19/?

"Then why did you do it? Not like you to be so irrational, Kaidan." And that was probably the meanest thing she had ever said to him.

"I was worried. Your physical health is important to me, I'm responsible for it. For you."

Damn caring voice, and sensible. But she wasn't letting it go; she'd heard the carefully measured tones of someone who really didn't want to have an argument first thing in the morning. Too bad. He'd said they would talk, so that's what they were going to do. Or she was going to talk at him, if nothing else.

"That's it, really?"

"Yes, really."

She needed height for this, sitting down while he was standing wasn't the way to do this. She vaulted to her feet, briefly surprised when her momentum caused her to bump into him. She grabbed for stability, clothes bunching under her grip. She wasn't sure what she caught, but she felt a warm hand under her fingers a moment later, gently prying the cloth out of her grip. They were face to face, not that it mattered as far as her sight was concerned.

"I know what you're trying to do, Kaidan. I figured it out, and I'm not impressed," she told him, sharpening her voice. She didn't usually talk down to people like this, but she had to push her advantage. "It's not going to work."

"What's not going to work?" He sounded cautious now, and not sure what she was talking about.

Okay, first define the issue, then tear it apart. "This fake freedom you're letting me have. I can see it for what it is." Maybe poor choice of word. "You disabled my eyes and you're using my own body to keep me to keep me prisoner, and you think little glimpses of freedom and a lack of restrictions is going to keep me from feeling too trapped. It's not working."

"That's not... You're not a prisoner, Shepard," he said, more than a little frustrated, repeating what he'd said earlier. He'd probably keep saying that phrase every time she brought the topic up, just to hammer it home by repetition. "So no, that's not why."

"No? This is kidnapping, Kaidan. You took me from my ship, and you're keeping me here against my will." The hand holding hers tightened for a moment, and she heard him take a deep breath. Then another. He didn't say anything for several seconds. Counting backwards from ten? Not happening. "That's not like you. What were you thinking?" she pressed.

No immediate reply. The silence was eerie. She hadn't seen – dammit – Kaidan angry all that many times. Come to think of it, never aside from Horizon. Was this it? Her intuition said he should be responding more overtly. The only thing that happened was that she felt movement, then his other hand closed around hers he was holding. Tightly. Not enough to be painful, but enough to be uncomfortable.

"I was thinking that you needed help." His tone was just as tightly controlled as his hands.

She tugged at them, trying to free herself. No go. "This isn't helping anything. You're being foolish!"

A moment of silence passed. She heard him exhale slowly. "And you're being deliberately provocative." It was just a statement, like he declared the sky was blue. A thumb stroked the back of her hand. "Why are you trying to get me angry?"

Good question. More so than why it wasn't working. So much for 'smile and nod'. "Let go," she growled, pulling her hand again. And to her surprise, his hold released her immediately. Then there were footsteps, he was walking away from her.

"Please try to calm down. Let's just have breakfast, and we can talk about things, calmly and rationally." His voice was composed, but it sounded like it took him some effort to make it that way. There were sounds of containers opening, and something clattering. "Want coffee?"


No, she didn't want coffee, she wanted answers.

"What the hell, Kaidan? Just... what do you think you're trying to do? Asking me about coffee, not locking the door, all these toys... Being nice. It's not working, I still feel like a prisoner, so why are you doing it? What do you want?!" Her voice had risen towards the end, and she found she didn't care, but it prevented her from hearing him approach, she startled when his hand touched her shoulder.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 20/?

"Hey, hey. Easy. Relax, okay? What I said last night, when I teased you, is that why you're upset?"

She gritted her teeth. "I'm not upset, I just...."

"You are," he said, damn perceptively. "And you're still confused, which I suppose is to be expected. I don't know how I can make you believe me, but you're really not a prisoner, Shepard."

"Then why am I here?"

"Because I want to help you. You've been through a great deal in the last couple of months, and Cerberus have their fingers so far into your mind that I don't see any way to break you out of their hold other than to isolate you completely."

"Kaidan...." She was about to tell him exactly how little Cerberus had their fingers in her mind, but he wasn't finished.

"The fleet was going to do it by putting you in isolated detention, but Cerberus used to be Alliance black ops; they got the plans for the new Normandy through their inside sources. They probably have more than a few moles. I just wasn't confident they wouldn't find a way to get to you there."

"Assuming they want anything to do with me," Shepard pointed out acidly. This was really not going in a good direction.

"Assuming that." He didn't sound convinced. What the hell was it going to take? "You died-"

…so many nights she'd spent wishing he'd believed that.

"-and wasn't given a chance to deal with it. That alone is traumatising, and you've been surrounded by enemies, fighting for months. Like I said yesterday, I think you need rest. A chance to take a step back, catch your breath, and figure things out. This is a great place for thinking. It's calm and peaceful. It's not for containing you. I'm not locking you in, because I'm not trying to keep you in. You're here to be safe." His hand stroked her shoulder. "I'm sorry you feel like I'm keeping you prisoner, but that's not my intention."

That was a very Kaidan way of thinking, she had to admit. But as sensible as he could make it sound, she wasn't buying it. She could do logic, too. "If all you wanted was to help, there was no reason to disable my eyes to keep me from leaving."

"Actually," he said, hesitating, "that wasn't the reason. At least not in the first place."

Yeah right. But at least he'd confirmed it. "No?"

"No. At first I was worried about detection. I disabled them in case they were transmitting visuals back to Cerberus."

"Were they?" She didn't think so, but there was some validity to the question. Some.

"Not that I found. I scanned you very thoroughly, there was nothing in or on you transmitting."

"Good to know." She could admit that much. Grudgingly.

"Yeah." He squeezed her shoulder. "So, breakfast now?"

"No." She drew a breath. Getting angry at him hadn't worked. She counted to ten. He waited for her. "Assuming I'm not a prisoner," she made it clear that it was hypothetical supposition, "I'm sure you've given this a lot of thought, Kaidan, so why don't you tell me what it is you want from me? What do I have to do to get you to let me go? Because I'm not with Cerberus, I want nothing to do with them, and I don't think they want anything to do with me. The Illusive Man probably wants my head right now for messing up his plans." She sighed, a bit bitterly. "And I know saying this doesn't help."

"Shepard, if you're right about the Illusive Man wanting your head rather than wanting you back, then I'm really glad I've hidden you from him."

…dammit, she did not just give him a valid excuse for this bullshit. "I don't need protecting."

He chuckled fondly. "No, you probably don't."

"Then what is it going to take, Kaidan? Just spell it out for me."

"I want to be absolutely sure that you won't go back to him. To them. Whether you do it willingly, or because they manipulate you into it somehow."

"And when will you be sure?"

"When you trust me."

Say what now? "When... when I trust you? Do you have that backwards, Kaidan?"

"No, I don't."

"You... what...." Deep breath. Alright, so this conversation had just stopped making any sense what so ever. Throw out a new probe and keep trying. "This kidnapping thing? It's not helping your cause."

"I'm aware," he admitted easily. "But right now, the most important thing is to make sure you can't go back to Cerberus."

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 21/?

She shook her head. "There's nothing that can make me go back. I did what I had to do to save the colonies, and then I quit." Quit with a bang, even.

"Are you sure about that?" It sounded like a real question, not a rhetorical one, but it still triggered her suspicion. He was on to something.


"How about a hypothetical question then? Say that the Illusive Man has what he claims is a reliable way to defeat the Reapers, and all he needs is for you to do a few favours for him behind the Alliance's back. Would you?"

Shepard groaned. The reasonable analyst was back, with a new bone to chew.

"He doesn't. He was still searching when I left." Part of the reason he was pissed, even. It was very possible the Collector base had held secrets to destroying the Reapers. But it was also possible it hadn't, too.


"It's a moot point."

"No harm in speculating. It's a simple yes or no question. Would you help Cerberus at the cost of the Alliance, under specific circumstances?"

She wasn't going to bite. "What makes you think I would?"

"Because they knew exactly how to get you to work for them in the first place. You haven't changed, they could do it again. I know you, Shepard. There's very little you wouldn't do for the greater good, if the need was big enough."

"That's not true," she crossed her arms, and wished she could glare at him.

"No?" His voice was a strange mix of sharp and gentle. "Notice how you haven't actually said no."

Oh for... "You have got to be kidding me. The Reapers are coming! I don't want to work with Cerberus again, but against the Reapers? I'm not going to turn down any help that might make a difference." She regretted the words immediately, as she realised he wouldn't see the sense she was trying to make. Sometimes, command decisions were to do what was best for everyone, not what was nice for her. And sure enough.

"Exactly. You're still willing to compromise yourself, and the Alliance, in favour of Cerberus." Somehow he managed not to sound smug for getting the admission out of her. Which was good for him, because if he had, she probably would've socked him.

"Only for a damn good cause, Kaidan. I only worked with them because the Alliance wasn't doing anything about the missing colonies." But she was well aware the damage was done. She drew her hands over her face, annoyed, mental fatigue creeping in. "There's no way I'm going to be able to convince you, is there?"

A warm arm went around her shoulders, making a half-hug.

"It's not hopeless, I promise. You had every chance to kill me while I slept, and you didn't. That means something."

"That was a test?" she asked, disbelieving.

"Not exactly. I really did need the sleep. But I knew the risk was there."

"That's...." She thought of her plans for the knife drawer, and considered how close she'd come to failing that test. Or not exactly test. How to put it? "A little naïve, Kaidan. I have a lot of damn good reasons to hurt you right now, even without bringing Cerberus into it."

And if she had, the only thing she would have lost was him, and his regard, and she could live with that. She already had lived with it, after Horizon. The black abyss he'd torn up in her heart still hadn't mended entirely, but it had been well on the way, before... this.

"Maybe. I didn't bring you here on a whim, Shepard. I've seen you in action. I know you're stronger now than you were. Cerberus gave you a lot. If you decided to... well. I wouldn't put any bets on the outcome, lets just say. But if you're really you, no Cerberus manipulation, then you won't. And if not... at least we'll know, won't we?" He made a quick squeeze of her shoulders. "You wouldn't be here if I didn't think there was a chance. I trust you to not be a willing Cerberus puppet, Shepard. I trust you to want to do the right thing. I trust that the Shepard I knew, served with, loved, that she's still in there." Gentle fingers drew a brief caress over her temple. "That you're still her."

"I am still her." That, at least, she could say decisively.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 22/?

"Good. Because we're going to undo what Cerberus did to you. I know you don't want to hear this, but I've thought about what you said yesterday, and just now, and I'm convinced that Cerberus deliberately made you distrustful of the Alliance.

Not this again. "No."

He shifted, coming close enough to feel his bodyheat. His voice softened. "Could you answer a question for me? You've said you believed the Alliance didn't care about the colonies. What gave you that impression?"

"What? The colonies were vanishing and nothing was being done about it."

He was silent a few moments. "That's not exactly true. It was no coincidence that I was on Horizon when you turned up." He sounded perfectly composed, but there was a strange emphasis on his words. She got the distinct impression he'd already decided exactly what he was about to say. "Do you know why?"

And that was a leading question if she'd ever heard one. But there was no reason not to answer, either. "The Illusive Man tipped you off. Said I was going to be there, with Cerberus."

"Yeah. And the rumour was just strong enough that Anderson though it was worth sending me out there." His voice had that pained touch again. "But the guns and the rest of the unit I was with? Came from the taskforce assigned to protect the colonies and to prevent another abduction. Except the Terminus is huge, and the abductions happened so fast, they never got there in time. Horizon was the first time we had some advance warning. Believe it or not, the Alliance isn't usually in the habit of donating multi-million credit weapons to independent colonies that have constitutions specifically prohibiting our uninvited aid."

He caught himself, sighed. "Sorry, that was probably too sarcastic. But the fact is, we were there to repel what we thought was Cerberus. If we'd known it was the Collectors, maybe we could've been better prepared, but that's besides the point." He stroked her back, the gesture forgiving her for not informing them. "So I'll ask again, what gave you the impression that Cerberus were the only ones who cared, and that you were the only one who could do something about it?"

She considered it. Retraced her thoughts, all the way back to....

Damn it.

So that's where he'd been headed. She remembered the feeling of needing something to latch on to, a mission, something to ground her because being alive again wasn't something she could let herself think about. She remembered getting it.

"I don't want to be mean, Shepard," he said softly, prompting her when she didn't answer. His hand continued the gentle strokes on her back, "but I do need you to say it."

She sighed. There was nothing else for it. He already knew what she was going to say.

"The Illusive Man told me."

Kaidan didn't press the matter. He didn't have to. He drew her in for a one-sided consolation hug. "It's going to be alright, Shepard."

"I'd like to be alone a while," she muttered, exhausted.

"I understand. I'm going to make us breakfast, but I'll leave you alone, okay?"


He let go of her. "Okay."

Physically alone again, she stared off into the darkness.


FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 23/?

Chapter 4

The rain had stopped, but the wind was still damp and freezing. Shepard was leaning against the wooden railing near the stoop, staring blindly out into the dark unknown. There was dripping from above, from the roof, hitting a puddle of water somewhere off to her left. One single subdued bird in a nearby tree. The scent of wet foliage, very faint but there. Her feet were uncomfortably chilled by the wet and cold boards, but the clear air was helping.

Kaidan was still inside. He hadn't said anything when she went out. She... had no idea what she was going to do about him. Poking at the questions he'd raised was just like poking a sore tooth, gaining her nothing other than discomfort. She'd been backstabbed by shrewd politicians and cornered by nosy reporters, but she'd never walked right into a verbal trap like that one. Check and mate, scoped and dropped. The defeat stung.

So she'd spent the moments outside doing her best to not think.

Which, naturally, was turning out more or less impossible. The thoughts it came down to were two, and they collided mid-mind, producing a cacophony.

I did what I had to do.


Could I have done differently?

Her first initial assessment had been a vehement, 'No'. Then followed up by a lot of little objections that bit like mosquitoes. Operational discretion was all nice and well and all that, but she could have been more proactive in her contacts with the Alliance without risking them hindering her early investigation. That thought then warred with the assumption that the Alliance hadn't actually been doing something about the Collectors, at least not while they thought it was still Cerberus responsible. If Kaidan was right – and it was a good chance he was telling the truth as he saw it, but not necessarily the objective version of it – then the Alliance had been prepared to act, they just hadn't known how and had their thumbs nailed down rather than up their asses. If she'd told them more, if she'd nagged more, maybe it could've made a difference? A decade wasn't a long time in the military for a career officer, but there were some people who owed her favours, she could've made them sit down and listen.

So yes, she could've done things differently, but hadn't. Which brought her to the next question.

Did I really trust the Illusive Man when he said no one else could do it?

Which was even more annoying because the thought took on Kaidan's coarser voice rather than the smooth sound of her own conscience. But the ultimate answer to that question came from her gut, a resolute, unambiguous, 'no way in hell'.

Which then came down to, 'So why didn't I do things differently?'

To which she had no answer, other than the nebulous feeling of remembering what it had been like to be newly alive and confused, and the relief of steely determination that came with having a mission, which, held up in the light and examined on its own, really was a feeble reason to work for Cerberus. The only worse reason she could think of was boredom.

So the only conclusions she'd managed to reach during her time-out was that she was really crap at second guessing herself. Not a lot of practice in that department.

It was almost a relief – almost – when the door opened behind her.

"Breakfast is ready. Please come to the table?"

She was still feeling contrary enough that she would've refused if he'd told her to, but he didn't. His tone was asking, not requesting, offering her breakfast with no requirement that she accept. She shrugged and followed him inside, the sudden warmth a sharp contrast. He'd really gotten the stove fired up while she brooded.

Momentarily unsure where she was going, not confident she remembered the distance or direction to the table, she felt him nudge her arm, guiding her forward. Then after a few steps he simply took her hand and placed it on the back of a chair. Simple and efficient enough. She sat down and felt the table in front of her. Her fingertips brushed against something hard and cool.

"Coffee at two, juice at ten, sandwich at nine, cereal bowl right in front of you, spoon on the right."

She reached carefully in the directions he'd labeled, and he didn't insult her by repeating himself.

FemShep/Kaidan, Intervention 24/?

Everything was exactly where Kaidan said, and this was going to be a little more complicated than the cup of soup yesterday. She heard Kaidan sit down, probably on the opposite side of the table, digging right into his own food. She let the cereal bowl be for the moment, not entirely willing to start breakfast by spilling. The juice was some kind of orange mix, the coffee aromatic and hot. The sandwich smelled really good, and a few bites identified it as cheese, cucumber, and sweet pepper. Fresh too – not that she needed more confirmation that they were on Earth. She really had been eating Gardner's space-stored food for too long.

Then she went about tackling the hand-without-eyes coordination challenge of the cereal bowl. It didn't turn out quite as difficult as she'd expected, but required a ridiculous amount of concentration to seek and scoop, then keep her hand steady. She did spill some but at least none on herself. If Kaidan had any thoughts about her difficulties he kept them to himself. In fact, he was silent all the way until he offered her a coffee refill when she was just about done. It really was nice coffee, too. She sat with her hands wrapped around the cup, inhaling the lovely scent, still doing her best to not think. Kaidan didn't make that much noise when he started clearing the table, but she heard him taking the plate and the juice glass.

"If you're still hungry, just say so. We've got plenty of supplies."

"Yeah? How long did you pack for?"

"Fresh supplies should last for two weeks, give or take, and about two months for the base necessities. I think. I was in bit of a rush, got a nagging feeling I forgot something important."

She chuckled once. There was probably a good joke there, but she wasn't in the mood to make it. Instead she went back to ignoring him. When he came for her empty coffee cup a few minutes later she moved to the desk with her 'toys' under the pretence of using them. Not like she had anything better to do while he was awake to monitor her.

She was fiddling with one of the wooden puzzles when he walked past her and to the hallway, getting dressed by the sound of things; rustle of a heavy jacket, clobber of boots.

"I'll be working just outside," he informed her, and waited until she'd acknowledged him before going out the door.

She traced the edges of the puzzle piece she was holding. Just outside meant direct exposure if she went for the pickable door again, as all he'd have to do was open the front door to see her, and she wasn't certain of the visibility through the windows. Getting caught red-handed didn't concern her, but he might board the door shut.

And try as she might, no other bright plan of action was presenting itself. There were plenty of things she should be doing. She should be probing his ability to find her, she should be establishing rapport. But both those things involved dealing with him.

Using both hands, she started seeking the puzzle-piece's place on the board.


Two hours later or so, her thoughts were still making nothing but skidmarks in her mind. The puzzle was nearly finished, a minor accomplishment that failed to produce any flush of pride. So when the front door opened followed by heavy boots on the wooden floor she wasn't surprised when her mind latched on to the chance for a diversion. At least as long as it wasn't going to turn into round three of Kaidan vs Cerberus. She was quite done with that, thank you.

"Hey Shepard?" Kaidan's tone was a touch cautious, he obviously wanted something, which immediately made her suspicious.


"If you're up for it, could you come give me a hand? This is turning out to be a two-person job." He snorted self-deprecating. "Or a one-hanar job."

"What're you doing?" she asked, relieved that it wasn't going to be another disastrous 'talk'.

"Trying to remove the backup eezo battery from the hovercar, but it's wedged in tight."


"To hook it up to the indoor wiring to get the water heater going."

"This place isn't connected to the power grid?"

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