plutokitty: lost: juliet and sawyer by icequeen3101 (Default)
[personal profile] plutokitty
Title: Left of Normal
Fandom: Mass Effect 3
Rating: G
Warning: Spoilers through Priority: Citadel II
Pairing/Characters: mShep/Kaidan implied
Summary: Kaidan's back on the Normandy, but nothing feels quite right, not even Shepard. For [ profile] the_greathorn

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Left of Normal

The thought strikes Kaidan as he's bringing his things aboard the Normandy. Everything's just a little off, just a little left of normal. It's the Normandy, but it isn't. Liara's there, Adams and Chakwas and Joker are there, but it's not the same crew. He turns right when he should turn left and his bunk is on the opposite side and Ashley is just a name on a plaque instead of down in the shuttle bay.

And Shepard…

Sometimes it's the same old Shepard, focused and driven but not without his own sense of humor. A hard man, but with a good purpose and a good heart. And sometimes that all seems absent, nothing but the cold hard glow of cybernetics behind Shepard's eyes, and then Kaidan doesn't recognize him at all.

War changes a man, of course. Even Kaidan's changed: everything looks different after seeing a colony wiped out by Collectors. After almost dying. He hasn't exactly earned kinder looks from Shepard, either. They've been on the wrong footing with each other since months ago on Horizon.

But remembering the way Shepard looked at him on the Citadel down the barrel of his pistol makes Kaidan break into a cold sweat. Like Kaidan was an obstacle to be removed if necessary, and not an old friend.

That man is not the Shepard that Kaidan knows.


Kaidan ends up in the starboard observation deck, trying to sort out his head. The lounge is quiet and it doesn't give him that weird sense of Normandy-but-not. Beyond the viewport, stars move past, light faintly blue-shifted. A little off-color. Like everything else about his life right now, he thinks, and he almost smiles.

The door opens behind him. Kaidan doesn't need to turn; he recognizes the footsteps, the brisk, no-nonsense ring of boots on deck. At least that hasn't changed. After all this time he still knows that sound like he knows his own heartbeat.

"Shepard," he says. He about-faces and halfway starts to salute, then lets his arm fall to his side. Uncertain of his situation. Of how formal to be.

They should be equals now, Spectre to Spectre, but Kaidan is not sure he'll ever feel that way.

Shepard's expression is inscrutable. He approaches the viewport with little more than a nod to Kaidan. Kaidan begins to doubt all the bygones-be-bygones promises.

"Hackett wants us to look into civilian abductions on Benning. I want you with me, but we'll be dealing with Cerberus." Shepard looks hard at Kaidan. "I need to know you're not going to start questioning me again."

Kaidan's taken aback. He starts to defend himself, then closes his mouth before the wrong words can come out. "Of course I'm not," he says at last.

"Thought we'd been through this," he adds, trying a smile. Looking for his old friend, his old commander. For the man he thought he had an unspoken connection with.

Shepard scrutinizes Kaidan for a long moment, from Kaidan's boots up to his hair, ending at Kaidan's face. It's all Kaidan can do not to squirm like a rookie under inspection. Their eyes meet, and Kaidan stares into to that deep red glow behind Shepard's irises. He feels like Shepard is judging the inside of his head, too.

If I hadn't lowered my gun, Kaidan thinks.

And yet somehow, inexplicably, Kaidan still wants to know what's going on with Shepard. Wants to dig down deep and find out how far those Cerberus cybernetic mods really go. Maybe even likes the flicker of fear that stirs through him when faced with a Shepard who looks every bit the Butcher of Torfan.

"Right." Shepard moves away, faces the stars. The taut aggression eases out of his stance, just like that. "Are you settling in? I know she's not exactly the old Normandy." He reaches out, pats the bulkhead with respectful care, like he's patting the head of an old, beloved and yet dangerous dog.

Kaidan doesn't answer right off, too startled by Shepard's sudden casualness. "Still getting used to it," he finally says. "Guess I didn't exactly have enough time to get myself completely acquainted on our first run."

"Well, take some time and get acquainted."

Shepard lays a hand on Kaidan's upper arm, and for a moment, Kaidan reads everything he wants to into that touch, into those words. Sees the shadow of a smile on Shepard's lips and feels the old, never-fulfilled promise of long ago in that touch.

"That's an order. I need that old synergy we had when we finally take on the Reapers."

Kaidan smiles. "Don't worry, Shepard. I'll be ready when you need me."

Then the touch is gone and the smile is gone, and there's only death and determination in Shepard's eyes. All the old doubts flood back, despite what he's said, and Kaidan wonders, for the millionth time, if it's really Shepard inside, or some elaborate Shepard VI, sent here to mock and torment him.

"Damn this war," Kaidan mutters, and Shepard's eyes narrow briefly, something shifting behind the uncanny red irises. Anger, loss, pain. Kaidan almost understands him, in that moment, before Shepard excuses himself.

Kaidan rubs his upper arms. No, it's Shepard, all right. And damned if he isn't going to find a way to reconnect, to fall back in step with his old friend. He just needs to get his head right again. Shift his perspective, a little to the left, until he's eye to eye with Shepard again.
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plutokitty: lost: juliet and sawyer by icequeen3101 (Default)

October 2012

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