Mass Effect and its characters don't belong to me.


He had everything planned out. Except for the outcome.

After the Cerberus coup on the Citadel and the tense moment where he stared down Shepard's gun barrel, Kaidan was sure the Commander would be so pissed at him that would kick him out of her way on the first opportunity.

So he fidgeted and paced around the Normandy's airlock entryway, but wouldn't forgive himself if he didn't ask her whether there was any possibility to join her again.

He was pleasantly surprised by the answer.

It even allowed him to think that he could still have a shot with her. As long as he found the nerve to confess his feelings, that is.

Inside the ship he kept mostly to himself. He had a lot to think about – with his dad being MIA and his mother alone on a sieged Earth – and, despite the Commander's warm welcoming, he still felt that the crew looked at him with a bit of suspicion.

He actually could understand that. He'd been with Shepard in the beginning and ended up pointing his gun at her. That must look like some kind of betrayal from the outside.

More often than not Kaidan was caught by surprise by the fact that he'd forgotten what was like to work under Shepard. The daily meetings to strategize, the openness about Intel, the full briefing before the ground missions and long – sometimes boarding on exhausting – debriefs afterwards.

It seemed so much like the old times.

And yet, things were different. For one: the ground squad lacked some of the familiar faces – Ash's being the one he felt more deeply (whoever said that survivor's guilt goes away with time, didn't know what they were talking about).

He also frequently found himself baffled by Garrus' contributions and the fact that Shepard seemed to rely heavily on his opinion – the rest of the team seemed used to it, though. And there was nothing wrong about the turian's tactical analysis; it just tugged at some part of him that the hotheaded turian from the SR-1 had turned into such a capable leader while he wasn't looking.

By that account, he still couldn't believe that Tali was an Admiral among her people either!

And he couldn't even start making his mind about Liara being the Shadow Broker…

He also couldn't help but notice there was a change about how Shepard dealt with ground team composition. He remembered her keeping a leveled rotation before, but now, Garrus seemed to be a frequent presence there. He more than once got the squad wondering who would be the third element on Shepard's ground team as if the turian's place was solidified.

Nobody seemed bothered by the Commander's lack of rotation on the assault team. Their reaction actually spoke of habit.

It made some kind of sense. Garrus was with Shepard ever since the chase of Saren; he stood beside her on the Collector mission and they had been fighting together on the Reaper War almost from its wake – while he had been stuck in a hospital bed.

Garrus might just be some kind of stability figure on the chaos raised by the millennia-old machines. Even Shepard needed some semblance of normalcy once in a while.

That thought, more than anything, was what gave Kaidan the idea to organize a quiet dinner on the Citadel the next time they've docked.

When Shepard was trying to deactivate the Reaper base (which turned out to be a Reaper) on Rannoch, he felt his heart almost stop as she decided to take the Reaper out on foot.

After everything was said and done with the geth and quarians somehow settling on peace, both joining the War, Kaidan had decided that he'd use the dinner on the Citadel to tell her how he felt.

On their way back to the Citadel, because of a request from the Asari Councilor, Kaidan tried to talk to the Commander in order to invite her personally. She was strangely unavailable and he had to settle into sending her a message.

They arrived at the Citadel during what passed by the night cycle and had to wait till the next morning to speak with Tevos. So Shepard gave the crew some hours of shore leave.

He was as nervous as he could remember while waiting for her to show up and it didn't help him that when she did – wearing civvies instead of her BDUs, no less – she took his breath away.

They talked, laughed for a while, bantered and remembered the 'good ol' times'. When the talk inevitably turned to the war and something he said made her ask if he hadn't been able to sleep properly, Kaidan steeled himself and blurted about his feelings and his wishes for a future by her side.

"But that's what I want. What do you want, Shepard?" he asked.

She was startled; that much he could see. She never looked away while she absorbed what he'd told her. But her easy smile had left her and the camaraderie that existed between them just a second before was completely gone.

He thought he knew what her answer was going to be even before she opened her mouth. He was only half-right.

"Kaidan, I had no idea you felt that way." she looked down for a minute and rubbed her forehead. "I mean, I'm flattered, but…"

"You don't feel the same." he filled in when she hesitated.

"Yeah. That. And I'm with someone else." That he hadn't expected. "I thought you knew. I mean, we're not spreading it around the Galaxy, but Garrus's been bunking up on the Captain's quarter ever since he came back aboard the Normandy."

"Garrus?" Okay, THAT he really hadn't expected, but then again, maybe he should have.

"Yes, Garrus." he noticed that she tensed up, crossing her arms and daring him to say anything insulting.

"Since when?" he asked and she relaxed a bit.

"Ever since the Omega-4 Relay."

"Are you happy with him?"

She looked to her hands over the table and smiled – tenderly and sheepishly and completely un-Shepard-like – in a way that almost caused him physical pain.

Her answer was brief 'Yes.' though, and he was thankful for that, because he wouldn't be able to bear it if she started gloating about how happy she was.

"Huh," they were silent for some uncomfortable moments while he mulled over that, then shook his head and sighed. "It actually kind of makes sense," he said more to himself than to her. "The two of you have always been like two peas in a pod, of sorts."

"I'm really sor-"

"Don't apologize, Commander." He grinned at her, though it was forced. "I'm just glad that, no matter what'll happen, I've taken that out of my chest this time around." He didn't mean to say it like that, but she cringed at the meaning of that statement. His following sentence was a try on levity. "Incidentally, you should be paying the bill, now…"

Her snort was completely un-lady-like, but she nodded in agreement. After they placed their orders, their talk moved toward war related matters, the pros and cons of being a Spectre and other safe subjects.

They left the Presidium together and headed back to the Normandy's docking bay in the most awkward elevator ride of his life. And it became even worse when they met Garrus talking to a C-Sec officer near the rapid transport.

"Hey," the turian greeted them flapping his mandibles. "How was dinner?"

"It was good." Shepard answered, stopping beside him. "Kind of bittersweet."

"Thousands of times better than MREs and nutrient paste, though." Kaidan added, with no real mirth.

"I bet." Garrus said, sounding just a bit amused. "So, Shepard, are you free now?" he drawled, inching slightly towards her.

Kaidan couldn't stop the thought that he probably wouldn't have noticed it before.

She gave him a tight-lipped smile and looked at Kaidan in a silent question.

He nodded. "Thank you for joining me for dinner, Shepard."

"It was a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me."

And with that Kaidan turned around and started making his way to the ship. Behind him, he heard the Commander ask Garrus what he had in mind, before getting out of earshot.

That was definitely an unpredictable outcome.