Regulations, What Regulations?
James Vega was screwed. So very, very screwed. Not only did he fail to fulfill his one job condition, he fell in love as well. Maybe not love. More like a crush, the kind he had on several girls in high school. Not that he would admit to having a crush on his charge. The day Commander Shepard was brought to Alliance HQ he nearly fainted. She was beautiful beyond her uniform. She was stubborn, willful, and a paragon of right decisions. She was his hero. A true savior of the galaxy; a woman who outsmarted Saren, the Collectors, and Reapers. A woman with millions of lives saved. And here she was on house arrest for saving millions more. Not only that, but James was responsible for keeping her under lock and key. Sure, he hated the whole idea. But his hero was right there all day. He was allowed contact and he was in love.
When Reapers first attacked Earth and they were forced to evacuate James counted his lucky stars. Joining both Commander Shepard and the equally legendary Major Alenko was more than he could've ever hoped for. His home burned. His family was left unaccounted for. The first thing Shepard asked both Kaidan and James was if they had heard from home. Both responded negatively. Afterwards they each disappeared to their own corner of the ship. Mars was the destination, a prothean weapon the goal. James didn't know what either of those entailed, but the commander did, and her orders were all that mattered until a ding erupted from his omni tool. Looking up from the weapons locker, he quickly expanded the message. A text and photo attachment from his cousin in California. Where are you Jimmy?
"Everything okay down here?"
At the sound of the commander's voice James dragged his hand over his face. He didn't realize the water pooling in his eyes had sprung loose. She was aware of his family through their many late night chats. Over smuggled second-rate booze they swapped stories of families lost to time. Whether they were dead before didn't matter. If the Reapers won everyone'd be dead anyway. "We need to go back," he said to the locker. "Earth is burning and we left."
Shepard leaned against the locker next door and sighed. "You know I don't want to either. I'd rather be anywhere but here. But orders are orders. Hackett told me to go to Mars and Anderson gave me the means to do it. There's a special blueprint-"
"Screw the blueprint! Screw this! People are dying down there!"
"And billions more will die if we don't do anything. I've been involved since the start. If you want to leave hail a cab from the Citadel. I'm not leaving now." Shepard righted herself to leave. As she passed she dragged a hand lightly across his shoulders. Then, with a faint whisper, she was gone.
He needed to leave. He needed to help defend Earth. But his hero was going to stay and fight. She would risk her life every day on the front lines. James couldn't sit back and watch from the safety of some bunker. There was no chance he would desert. With a blink his omni tool disappeared, forcing him to return to organizing his weapons. Before long Joker's voice (not only Commander Shepard but Jeff Meruau too!) pinged over the intercom announcing their impending arrival on Mars. Why were they on Mars when they could be fighting? Stupid. As James shrugged on his armor the commander stepped out of the elevator with Alenko. Their conversation spoke of a past argument, of love won and lost, of the future's past. Didn't they use to love each other? Yes, they did.
"You didn't contact me, look at me, anything to-"
"I was saving lives, in case you forgot. Then I was locked up. Not my fault."
"And while you were locked up you made friends with the lieutenant-" Kaidan then seemed to realize the person he referenced stood before him. Immediately he clammed up, glowing pale pink into a heap of discarded armor parts. The man was jealous. The woman he loved left him for another because of invisible reasons. While the object of his affections certainly wasn't him, James had several things going for him. In another life, with a different Kaidan and a different James, they might have connected more. They might have stood a chance. Hell, there might not even be a Reaper problem. Everything might have changed.
Together they prepared in awkward silence. They were updated in silence, brought to the surface in silence, and separated in terseness. Shepard and Kaidan had issues to work out alone. When he was dismissed, more out of a private need than anything else, James booked it out of there. He did his thing. All he hoped for was Shepard to work out her differences and, deep down, hope she realized she didn't love Kaidan anymore. Hoping for another man's misfortune felt foreign to him. Normally he considered himself a decent guy. Shepard evoked all kinds of new feelings. He sat and waited for a call. Moments of boredom paid for a frantic call for help. Something about an escaped robot. A total unknown. A dangerous unknown. All he could do was start up the shuttle and do whatever he could to protect his team.
Kaidan went down. Not bloody, not flashy. Just a simple snap heard over the comms. Ragged, wet breathing eventually settling into nothing. He flopped lightly in Shepard's little arms. His suit's vitals dropped frigidly low. He was dying. And James' first thought was I have a chance.
Things changed quickly, faster than the war effort allowed. Planets fell, alliances forged, relationships realized. Huerta Memorial boomed with the sick and injured. The Citadel in general overflowed with victims of war. The Normandy felt out of place, its soldiers more so; beacons of hope in a sea of horror. The more noteworthy members of the crew were assaulted by the desperate. Forced to move solo in disguise, heads bowed to give the appearance of meek inferiority, darting through crowds before anyone caught on. With military precision they slunk into the safety of the elevators. One by one each person appeared in a spacious apartment modestly furnished, a gift from Anderson to Shepard. Empty floor space filled with people. Sneaking in was the easiest part of their day.
James arrived squarely in the middle flanked by Liara. His friends were intermingled around the ground floor. Everybody seemed happy and relaxed for the first time in weeks. No battles, no meetings, nothing but a short-lived plot from a defective clone. It was the lightest mission they'd had in weeks. Months, maybe. Just an evil woman and her lackey. Despite its simplicity, however, James was happy it was over. They still had today and tomorrow as shore leave, rumors of an epic party echoed throughout the Normandy, and he planned to spend some quality time with his girlfriend. His girlfriend. How did he swing that? Shepard invited him up to spend the night and bam, suddenly the commander and lieutenant were an item. James Vega was the luckiest man in the galaxy.
"Glad to see you made it in one piece," said a voice behind him.
Head darting up faster than a scared rabbit, James visibly relaxed when he associated the voice with Shepard. He hadn't realized he'd been hanging back from the quickly assembling group of friends. "It wasn't hard. You guys drew all the attention."
"Give yourself some credit, Mr. Vega. You've done a lot of good these past few months. People look up to you."
He couldn't help staring into her eyes as she spoke. Only James somehow charmed Commander Shepard, got her to like him enough to try boosting his self-confidence. Something good came out of this godforsaken war. Something good and it happened to him. Screw what everyone else said. He was in love. "God, I love you, Shepard."
"Then why don't we find one of the bedrooms before someone else thinks to look for us?"
"I would like nothing more."