"Cover fire!" Alenko barked,

Vega obeyed immediately.

Alenko's biotics ran along his skin, wrapping the distant Shepard in a soft veil of blue-purple light, lifting her feebly moving form high enough that he could simply pull her to him. She hovered eerily as he moved her into the shuttle, then lay her down with infinite care. "In!" he barked, smacking Vega's shoulder.

Shepard was not unconscious, but she was only a step or two away from it, muttering softly. "N-n-never again," Shepard babbled. "C-combat scuba is fine…f-f-fresh-freshwater stuff is f-fine…but no more d-deep sea adventures for me…n-n-no w-way."

The chattering, Alenko realized with a jolt, was not cold, but fear and nerves. The skin on her face was absolutely frigid. She'd passed the point of being able to shiver in order to generate warmth.

"I'll back you up on that one," Alenko responded, helping her into a sitting position on the cabin floor. "Hey, hey, don't go fading out on me."

Her eyes fluttered and she hissed when he touched her. No doubt he felt unnaturally hot. Her tremors made him want to take her in his arms and follow general hypothermia treatments…but armor got in the way.

There was a solution for that. Alenko's hands began to work on Shepard's armor, the plates so cold it seemed reasonable to expect frost on them.

"It's t-t-too cold…and d-dark…" Her face lost what little color it had left, as though she suddenly found herself staring into a black abyss.

"Hey, hey, hey! Stay with me!"

Shepard blinked, but her gaze was oddly vacant. "Cold."

"Vega—find the thermal sheet in the medkit. Hurry. Cortez, can you orbit us? You're the only one not wearing real armor."

"Yeah." The pilot was out of the chair in a second, accompanied by a jet of hot air as the thermal regulators kicked on. He settled on the floor and pulling Shepard against him as Alenko took the thermal sheet from Vega and wrapped it snugly around them both. "Damn, she's freezing," Cortez shivered.

"B-been awhile since I got called frigid…" Shepard blathered vaguely.

"You can get us out of here as soon as I've cracked my shell," Alenko said briskly.

"Sounds like a plan."

"Why's it so dark?" Shepard asked, some of the chatter gone from her voice.

"You've got your eyes closed, Captain," Cortez answered, chafing her arms in hopes of restoring warmth a little faster.


Moving down through the water like that, in the dark and the cold, had to be a bit like being in space. That wouldn't do anything for her peace of mind, Alenko thought as he finally shed the bulk of his plates. "Swap out with me," he said, shifting Shepard into his lap and letting Cortez re-settle the thermal sheet.

"Why'm I bleeding?" Shepard demanded, reaching a hand up to her nose and wiping away the trickle of blood—which was immediately replace by another slow trickle.

"I'm not sure. Could be just a response to decreasing pressure," Alenko answered, accepting a gauze pad from Vega and holding it to her nose. Deep down, he knew this was not the case. He didn't think Shepard really wanted a technical answer—it sounded like a misdirected announcement that she was bleeding and shouldn't be.

"Anything I can do?" Vega asked worriedly, looking from Alenko to the pale Shepard, and back.

"All we can do is boost her body temperature and keep her awake."

"Hey, Lola, this isn't time for a nap." Vega chided, glancing at Alenko to see if this was as helpful in reality as it seemed to him. Alenko nodded, tightening his grip on Shepard. "What'd you find down there?"

"Find?" Shepard repeated numbly.

"Yeah, the Leviathan things? Did you find them?"

Shepard's breath gave a little hitch, as though someone had just placed a hand at her throat. "I don't…there was nothing down there. Just cold and dark. They…aren't here, now."

Vega glanced, alarmed, at Alenko who shook his head. Best not to press her about this, especially now.

"Okay…uh…so. Follow any sports?"

"C-caught a football match last year," Shepard answered, beginning to shiver—this time as a method for generating heat. Alenko breathed a sigh of relief and only just avoided kissing her neck. "They l-let a turian play. It was…w-weird."

"I must've missed that one. They're letting turians play football? No offense to Scars but that just seems…" Vega waved a abhand vaguely, casting Alenko another 'is this okay?' look.

"Weird," Shepard agreed with a bland sort of chuckle. Then she squirmed gently. "I'm cold."

"We're working on it, Shepard," Alenko answered. "Just think about a hot shower when you get back."

She gave a low chuckle that made Alenko wonder if her mind was where his had suddenly gone.

"Not so much for football. I follow biotiball, though. Not that they're playing as much now, thought, with the war on but some of the teams are still trying. Good to know something that normal is still going on."

"Who's supposed to be playing this week?" Shepard asked.

Alenko personally didn't follow biotiball, but if it was enough to keep conversation going then so be it.

"This month is…I wanna say it's…aw crap—" Vega growled. "I forget."

"Hamburg Blitz versus the Taetrus Dodge. Weird matchup, but at least it'll be interesting. You don't see many turian teams," Cortez supplemented.

"No, you don't," Shepard agreed. This time, she snuggled more to find a comfortable spot than out of necessity.

"Feeling better?" Alenko asked.

"I'm shivering again. I think I'll live…still, I think I'd like to stay put until Doc says I'm okay. If you don't mind."

She was definitely feeling better and Alenko had no objection—personal or professional—for not letting her stay right where she was.

How many times? How many times was he going to have to worry over her? The thought left him cold inside. He nipped the thought as he always did; Shepard was who she was.