You may have heard by now that I've brought the SR-2 Normandy into the Alliance along with all of my crew but my former Executive Officer, Miranda Lawson, chose to stay with Cerberus. You were right on Horizon, Cerberus is not who I really want to be working for. For everything the Alliance said about me, for everything they did to my crew; they do stand by their people.
Apparently the Alliance likes people who bring in their own combat ready ships. So I'm Captain Lucille Shepard now. Not that I think I deserve it, but Hackett really likes the new Normandy. Officially, the Normandy is registered as part of fifth fleet, but I'm answer only to Admiral Hackett. This gives me the freedom to go where I want and do what I need to do.
I was wondering: did you mean what you said at the end of your last message?
You stopped the Collectors and saved humanity, I was wrong to doubt you. And yes, I had heard you were coming back. Not from Anderson, he stone-walled me, again. It was Admiral Hackett who told me. He also told me at great length about the new Normandy. How did you get the new Normandy away from Cerberus? It wasn't in your report.
I did mean what I said. I want to see you again. I'd like to think I would even if you weren't back with the Alliance, but I'm not sure, I just don't trust Cerberus. And you're right, we do need to talk. I'm back on the Citadel for the time being. Can you meet me here? I'll take you out to dinner at a place I know that's quiet, where we can talk.
Miranda's last act before going back to Cerberus was to help us disable the various Cerberus bugs, overrides and tracking devices. I hate to think how much trouble the Illusive Man is going to give her about that but she wanted to go back. She actually believes in what Cerberus stands for.
I'm incoming to the Citadel now. ETA six hours, I can meet you in eight. Where and when?
FWD: RES Rock Bottom Brewery
Her meeting with Anderson and the rest of the Council had gone very well. It had been the longest meeting she'd had with the council, ever. She'd had an hour of their full and undivided attention in a private chamber. The meeting had consisted of just the four councilors, her, and a recording device, for what felt like the longest debriefing of her life. After which, all four councilors had expressed relief that she'd left Cerberus and even the turian Councilor had welcomed her back to Citadel Space.
David Anderson walked with her for a time when the meeting with the Council was over. During the walk he'd expressed his personal pleasure over her return to the Alliance. He'd also commented about Admiral Steven Hackett's manic joy over her return to the service, remarking, "Hackett hates Cerberus and just loves that you deprived them of two of their most expensive investments: the Normandy and you."
Now Shepard stood in her flat on the Presidium level of the Citadel. She'd noticed something about herself years ago, after Mindoir was destroyed and she shut herself off emotionally. Whenever something emotional hit her she tended to go blank and ignore the emotions by analyzing the situation to death or by overdoing things to compensate.
She knew, intellectually, that she was overdoing it when she'd actually forsaken Alliance undress blues to meet Kaidan. While going through her closet trying to find a clean uniform, she'd come across the dress she'd worn to celebrate with friends after getting her promotion to Lieutenant Commander. Now she was going to wear a dress to meet Kaidan, even as part of her screamed that he'd been a jerk to her on Horizon. She knew that she needed to talk to him if only to say goodbye for good.
For years after she'd lost everything to the slavers, she'd kept from getting romantically involved with anyone. She'd made friends and so on but no deep emotional attachments. In fact, she'd done that up until Kaidan. There had just been something about him, something indefinable that had intrigued the sixteen year old broken child inside her. It's why she'd sought him out to talk so often. Shepard hadn't even known why she'd found him so interesting, just that he'd made her relax her soldier facade. The same man who fought by her side so perfectly that the two of them seemed to be linked somehow, had gotten closer, deeper than anyone since she was sixteen. Even her mentor, David Anderson, didn't know her so well. Then the night before Ilos, well, she'd taken lovers occasionally but they'd been about sex only. With Kaidan it was much more. So loving, so tender, so sweet.
Shepard still wanted him, even after he'd been so angry and mean on Horizon. She was just scared he'd hurt her again. So she was overdoing things to keep from being nervous, hence the dress. Normally she hated not wearing pants, but Shepard liked this dress. In addition to being gorgeous, it was cut to facilitate rapid movement and concealed weaponry. The fabric was nearly the same color green as her eyes and was so light and floating she felt like she hardly had anything on. Stepping into her bathroom, she looked in the mirror at her waist length red hair. Ordinarily she wore it up in a tight bun. But tonight she felt like doing something different. She clipped half of her hair securely up and turned to see how it looked. Satisfied, she inspected her make-up in the mirror briefly before putting on a silver chain with a plain silver heart pendent that she'd inherited from her mother.
After walking back into her bedroom Shepard stood looking dubiously at the box that was still resting innocently on the floor of her closet, below the dress's empty hanger. It contained dyed to match green dancing shoes, "With the sole exception of that mission with Kasumi on Boltzman, I haven't worn anything but combat boots since I was stationed on Arcturus," she muttered to herself. With a sigh she sat on the end of her bed and strapped the heeled dancing shoes on.
Standing, she began to walk tentatively around her bedroom. It took several minutes of nearly falling flat on face before her balance adjusted to the heels. Once she had regained her balance, she walked to her weapons locker. She found her two flat-hilted knives almost instantly, but it took her several more minutes of digging before she found her small, nearly flat hold-out pistol. She strapped the knives to her lower back, were there were concealed slits for just that purpose, and the small pistol to her right thigh.
On the way back to her flat after her meeting she had happened to pass a clothing store. In the front window was the usual display of the latest fashions, the sort of thing she usually just walked past with barely a glance. One of the models had been displaying a hooded cape. Shepard loved the look of capes. She'd never had the occasion to even consider buying one before. With a feeling of being deliciously indulgent, she'd bought a cape made with a plush satin in a green so dark it was nearly black that had a sterling silver clasp to hold it together.
Throwing the cape over her shoulders she clasped it shut at her throat. She looked at the clock hanging on her wall. She was going to be late if she didn't leave right now. Shepard left her flat heading for the rapid transit stand.
Kaidan stood outside the Rock Bottom Brewery on the Zakera Ward level twenty-one, dressed in his Alliance undress blues. Waiting for Shepard he'd had time to think about what he wanted to say to her. He knew one thing he didn't want to say was 'goodbye' not again. That would be another mistake. During his meeting with Admiral Hackett, before being assigned to the Citadel again, he'd respectfully asked to see Shepard's file. Hackett had looked at Kaidan for a very long moment, before acquiescing to Kaidan's request. Kaidan knew Shepard debriefed to Hackett about her time with Cerberus and that he'd missed meeting her on Arcturus by about forty-five minutes.
The report had been an engrossing read to say the least. Her report coupled with the debriefings from the rest of the former Cerberus crew painted a fairly grim picture. A half complete human Reaper; now that was truly nightmare fuel especially when you thought about how many people had been liquefied to make that thing. Shepard had killed it; of course she had, she always did what needed to be done, and destroyed the Collector's base despite the Illusive Man's plea not to do so.
Kaidan glanced around the crowded Ward hallway and froze. She was walking towards the restaurant and she was wearing a dress and a cape. He'd never even seen her in civilian clothes before, just combat hardsuits and Alliance undress blues. The green of her dress was the same color as her eyes and contrasted vividly with her red hair. Shepard's hair was down; Kaidan remembered the first time he'd seen this marvel; on the night before Ilos. She'd always been beautiful to him but now she looked like a goddess.
Kaidan was still watching her, speechless and tongue tied, when she spotted him standing there in his blues. She appraised him for a moment before laughing and saying, "Citadel calling Kaidan Alenko, come in please."
He swallowed and met her eyes, "Hi," he'd noticed on Horizon that her scars from the Skillian Blitz were gone to be replaced by several large ones that he now knew were from the destruction of the first Normandy. Looking at her now Kaidan saw that the scars on her cheeks and forehead were gone completely as well. She looked like a glamorous actress or a model or something like that, anything but a kick ass N-7 and a decorated war hero with twoStars of Terra to her name.
Shepard laughed at him again, "Kaidan?"
Kaidan shook his head and held the door open for her to go in, not taking his eyes off of her. Walking to the hostess's stand he stammered, "Res-reservation for Alenko." the hostess smiled at him and led them to a booth near the back of the restaurant. Once Shepard was seated, Kaidan sat across from her, "Umm," he said intelligently.
Shepard smirked at him, "Kaidan Alenko, I've stunned you to silence. That's got to be a first."
Kaidan cleared his throat, "I've never seen you in anything but combat gear or Alliance uniforms."
Shepard stretched her arms above her head. When she relaxed again, she smirked. Kaidan's face was slightly flushed and he was no longer looking at her face. Shepard took half a step forward and whispered, "Those aren't the only," she raised her eyebrows suggestively as she continued, "'uniforms' you've seen me in." Kaidan focused on her face again and she could see the desire in his eyes. Shepard felt herself blush but she couldn't look away. After a moment, Kaidan leaned towards her and kissed her.
When they broke the kiss, she looked up again to scrutinize Kaidan's face, observing, "You like me in this dress but you like me in combat gear better. Why?"
Kaidan sat back and blinked, "I… that's not it Shepard." she just looked at him until he sighed and added, "it's just, you're a fighter, I never thought of you in a dress before. It's beautiful, but I'm just not used to it, yet."
Shepard nodded, looking thoughtful, "Kaidan about-" their waiter came up to the booth to politely remind them to order and ask them what they wanted to drink. Kaidan ordered beer and Shepard ordered a soda.
"I always meant to ask, why don't you drink?"
Shepard looked away, "When I was brought back to Earth from Mindoir, I wasn't any too sane. I hit the bottle hard for a year and a half before I had some help cleaning up so I could go into the Alliance; even during Ascension training. After basic was over, I went to a party with my roommate. I had less than one beer and I passed out, right there on the couch. One of the people sitting with me called the Medics. This definitely saved my life because I went into anaphylactic shock and almost died before I got to the hospital. They did some tests after I woke up and found out I have an induced allergic reaction to hops. The doctors surmised that the substance abuse when combined with my L3 made for a bad reaction in my biochemistry. So I can't touch beer and since beer was the only alcohol I really liked anyways I just don't often drink."
"And the reason it didn't kill you before the service was…?"
"I'm not too sure. But if I had to guess I would say that it has to do with my body building up a tolerance to the alcohol slowly. Then I suddenly took it away and that immunity changed to an allergy. Apparently it happens that way sometimes, even more so with us biotics."
Kaidan nodded. He couldn't stop staring at Shepard. Part of it was the way she was dressed the rest of it was joy at her general hereness. He'd spent two years mourning her and now here was she, literally back from the dead. He felt the same fury he had on Horizon, but he was not angry at her, of that he was certain. Kaidan just couldn't figure out who or what his fury was directed at.
Some of his anger must have flashed across his face because Shepard asked, "So you're still angry with me then? Kaidan…"
"I'm not angry at you, Shepard," Kaidan put his hand on hers across the table. Something like a physical jolt shot through him and he knew she felt it too because she shivered when they touched just as he jumped.
"Kaidan, about the Collectors…"
He held up his free hand, "I already know about what happened with the Collectors and the Illusive Man. You sure do know how to make dangerous enemies, Shepard." at her quizzical look he explained, "I had meant to meet you on Arcturus after your meeting with Hackett, but I just missed you. I asked for a copy of your reports and those of your crew. I was already on the need to know list because of my mission to Horizon so Hackett gave me free access. I read everything," Kaidan shuddered, "as if I needed to add more nightmares to my repertoire. That Human Reaper; and the Protheans retasked by the Reapers and controlled from Dark Space."
Shepard nodded in perfect understanding and said, "EDI and Joker calculated the time it would take for the Reapers to reach known space, based on information they were able to pull off the Collector Base before we blew it up. They estimated it'll take them at least two years."
Kaidan nodded in understanding, "That's good to know," Kaidan looked at her for a moment before saying, "About Horizon, I shouldn't have said those things to you. I'm so sorry Shepard." Kaidan pulled his hand back but didn't look away from her face.
Shepard watched his face intently, even after their waiter returned and put their food in front of them. Finally, she observed, "You aren't angry with me."
"No," Kaidan said. A moment later he added, "I think I stopped being angry at you after I found out that you were dead."
"I'm still a bit angry at losing two years of my life; with losing your regard."
"Regard?" Kaidan smiled weakly, "I cruised past regard into love after you're reaction to the Thorian on Feros, 'I think we're gonna need bigger guns'," Shepard laughed with Kaidan, "maybe you're right and I'm angry at the situation."
She scrutinized his face again for a long time, as she began to eat. Kaidan ate also, watching her watch him. It wasn't until after they had finished and their plates had been taken away that he noticed Shepard's green eyes light up with understanding and discovery, "What?" he asked.
She smiled at him, leaning across the table she cupped his cheek, "You're angry at yourself; Kaidan, why?"
Shepard watched Kaidan blink slowly, genuinely taken aback. He took the hand on his cheek in his hand and kissed her callused knuckles. Without letting go of her hand, he sat back thinking. After several minutes he nodded and leaned forward again, "I tried to leave you behind me and get on with my life."
"Kaidan I was dead for two years, I don't blame you for trying not to be the same."
"That's just it, I was the same. Even when I took…" Kaidan stopped and shook his head, "a woman out for drinks once. She wasn't bad she just, there's no one who could replace you. No one could even come close."
"You're a sweetheart, Kaidan."
"How can you forgive me so easily after what I said to you?"
"First, you didn't say anything that I wasn't already telling myself. And second, I know what I want and who," she smiled at him then, not her everyday smile, but a smile that had to be just for him; so full of affection and understanding. This time Shepard leaned towards Kaidan and their lips touched just as there was loud bang and the sound of shattering glass in the front of the restaurant.