Among the many improvements Cerberus had made to the new version of my beloved ship had been relocating my cabin to its own deck, accessible only by elevator, and tripling the size of my space. My old quarters had been converted to an office for Miranda Lawson. That self-aggrandizing bitch actually made me miss Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, who had been sweet despite her wrong-headed prejudice against aliens. I liked to think that she would have come around, as Pressley had, had she lived long enough to finish the mission with our rag-tag crew and see how we all worked together to bring down Sovereign.
Miranda may have brought me back to life but being forced to bring her on my ship rankled badly. What had she done for me lately, besides question my judgment in front of my crew? Between Miranda and Jacob Taylor, I was getting pretty tired of Cerberus lackeys undermining my every decision. At least I could leave them on the ship while I went out with more-loyal team members and got some work done on yet another attempt at saving the galaxy.
The door to my cabin hushed open and I quickly stripped off my disgusting armor. There were enough different colors of blood from the recent battle to make abstract art worthy of a museum, but all I wanted was to be clean. I tossed the whole mess into the scrubber and grabbed the robe I’d picked up on our last trip to the Citadel. Although I was thrilled to have a comfortable, roomy place where I could enjoy a little privacy, the bathroom design left quite a bit to be desired.
The shower had no walls. Every time I turned on the water it sprayed the entire room. I’d devised a way to shield the toilet paper, mostly, but I still had to wipe down the seat every time I finished bathing or suffer sitting in a puddle the next time I used the head. I hadn’t found a way to keep a towel dry while I showered, though, so I held my robe at arm’s length to keep it clean as I crossed the room. I draped it over the chair just outside the bathroom door. As I did, the picture of Kaidan Alenko, so thoughtfully placed on my desk by some well-meaning crew member, caught my eye.
Of all of the encounters I’d had since I’d been so rudely re-awakened a few weeks ago by reprogrammed mechs trying to kill me, of all of the times I’d been shot at or warped against a crate like rag doll, that disaster of a conversation on Horizon had been the worst. In my mind, it had been a few months since I ordered Kaidan into the escape pod while we tried to save the crew of the first Normandy from the shocking attack. I had only a few glimpses, quick blinks of faces and light in a stretch of darkness and pain, of the two years between punching the button to launch Joker and Miranda ordering me to grab a pistol and start defending myself at the Cerberus facility.
Memories of my too-brief time with Kaidan had been fresh in my mind and I could almost feel his touch when I thought of him. I’d used every resource Cerberus could offer but even they didn’t have full access to Alliance personnel assignments. I hadn’t been able to track him down between missions until The Illusive Man had told me that Kaidan was in the middle of a colony under attack. When we saw him on our view screens, frozen by the bugs, and then the Collectors loading pods into their ship, I thought I had lost him forever just as I had finally found him.
I had thrown myself into the ensuing battle fighting as much for revenge as to protect any remaining colonists. When the ship fled and the smoke cleared, I was ready to head back to this very cabin for a good cry when Kaidan appeared like magic before me. After a warm hug, during which I restrained myself from dragging him back around that corner, he had turned angry, accusatory. The sudden reversal had made my head spin and I feared that I’d sounded like a complete idiot, able only to say, “It’s good to see you.”
Good to see you?! I’d been fighting the desire to crawl inside his armor with him and stay there for a week and that had been the best I could do? For the hundredth time I smacked myself on the forehead. The conversation had only worsened from there. Everything I had said had made him angrier and finally he had stalked off, throwing insults at even Garrus, a turian more dedicated to righting wrongs than anyone I’d ever met. I had stood there, stunned and gawping, until someone had finally suggested we return to the new Normandy, built to replace the one destroyed on the last good day of my life, the last day I’d seen his face.
All of that came flooding back when I looked at Kaidan’s picture on my desk. I’d kept it so prominently displayed only because of the conciliatory message I had received a few days after things had gone so horribly awry on Horizon. While I was still hurt and angry at the unfairness of being so peremptorily accused of having changed by a man I had formerly known as calm and circumspect, his tentative olive branch had made me realize that Alenko was just as at sea as I was.
In addition, he was bearing a guilt that compounded his own conflicting emotions: he’d gone on a date. While part of me wanted to secure the name and location of the woman with whom his friends had set him up, in case an opportunity to pay her a visit should arise, it finally brought home to me that I had lost two years of my life. I may remember our love as having been interrupted recently enough to measure the time in weeks but Kaidan had thought me dead for two full years.
As much as I’d have liked to believe that he could never love anyone again after having been loved by me, I could hardly fault the man for a half-hearted attempt to continue his life. Would I not have allowed my friends to convince me to have coffee with someone after grieving for two years? And yet I couldn’t think how to respond. The longer I waited the harder it was to begin, and the impersonal format made it that much harder, teasing me by holding out the promise of delivering exactly the right words if only I could write them.
With a heavy sigh, I turned to the bathroom and started the water. I relaxed into the heat as steam filled the room. I soaped my hair and stood, contemplating the scars that still riddled my body. Many had faded to nothing more than faint lines over the months that I had been kept unconscious but a few remained tender and had been chafed raw by my recent exertions. The worst ran across my ribs under my right arm, where the last of Miranda’s repairs had reconstructed the crushed bones around my refurbished organs.
Dr. Chakwas had offered to heal them completely for me but I found the reminders of the strange turns my life had taken more important that mere appearances. It was only after battles that they really bothered me. I soothed them with thick lather and thought again how good it would feel to finally go directly after the Collectors who had given them to me in the first place. I was interrupted in my contemplations by a knock on the door, something unheard of in my recent tenure as the newly-risen captain of this resurrected ship.
"Are you there, ma’am?"
That voice! The pounding of the water on my head was clearly distorting my hearing. It had sounded exactly like Kaidan but that was impossible. How could he have found me, much less gotten onto the Normandy? But my heart nearly stopped in my chest despite the reassurances of logic.