Tidbit Tuesday: The Commander Takes a Shower, Part 4

Kaidan and I dripped our way across my cabin to the linen closet and playfully rubbed each other dry. I pulled my now-clean armor from the scrubber and tossed in his sodden clothes before I joined him in my bed. We lay close under the covers and listened to the bubbles in the aquarium, recovering our breath and letting our heart rates slow. It dawned on me that no one had come looking for me for more than two hours, an unprecedented event on either the original or my new Normandy and one that made me very suspicious. “You never did tell me how you found us,” I said.

“You didn’t answer my message,” said Kaidan, “and, well, someone told me that you’d been upset since we…'spoke' on Horizon.” Joker, I thought, you nosy little wonderful weasel. “I knew that we had to really talk, not write notes back and forth. Anderson helped me to arrange leave and borrow a shuttle from the closest space port to wherever you happened to be.”

“And have you been keeping in touch with many of my crew?” I asked archly, intending it as a joke.

“Of course not! They’re Cerberus operatives,” Kaidan said, sounding injured. While I found it adorable that he could be offended by the idea of even marginal involvement with a rogue group it also hurt that he still could not understand that these people were here for noble reasons; that, except for Miranda, they hadn’t joined this fight because Cerberus was involved but in spite of that fact. Even Jacob, who had been working for Cerberus during Miranda’s impossible restoration of my body, had joined them not because of the organization’s beliefs and aims but because Cerberus had offered the only way for him to continue the fight after my death. I propped myself up on one elbow and glared down at the man that I loved and with whom I was very angry

“I do not consider any of them to be ‘Cerberus operatives’,” I snapped. “The Illusive Man may have provided the credits and equipment but those people are on this ship to stop the Reapers, the same as I am. Every one of the former Alliance members—on the bridge, in the corridors, in Engineering, every last one—has told me that they joined this crew because they could no longer stomach the outright denial of what happened and every one of them is as torn in their loyalties as I am.”

Kaidan opened his mouth to protest but I kept going. “If Joker helped to bring us together than I will be forever grateful to him but don’t dismiss the rest of my crew as crackpots and amoral assholes just because they’ve made a different choice than you have, Alenko.”

“I would have thought,” Kaidan finally managed to interject in a frosty tone, “you would know me better than to think that I would paint an entire crew with so broad a brush. Besides, Joker just forwards me offensive jokes and raunchy pictures. It was Dr. Chakwas who got me onto this ship.” I goggled at him, never having suspected the good doctor of keeping such a devious secret. Kaidan stared just as hard, taken aback that he’d so carelessly revealed the name of his informant. Then we both burst out laughing.

I laid my head on his chest and we chuckled together, knowing that this was semantics rather than a fundamental issue between us. His ethical objections to Cerberus and our having been separated so long meant that he didn’t know who was on my crew and had no reason to trust any of them, not even the few he had already known. I’d made a point of speaking to everyone on my ship, exploring their histories and learning to trust them. The Normandy couldn’t function without that effort. I’d done the same on my first ship when Kaidan had been with me and he knew how strongly I felt about getting to know my crew personally.

I may have been quick to defend those on my new ship but when I took a moment to think about it I realized that I did know that Kaidan didn’t judge people by superficial evidence. I recalled how he had learned that lesson as little more than a child I told him as much. He hugged me close and said, “I’m glad you do.”

“This is still so awkward,” he continued. “I keep expecting to wake up and find that you’re a figment of my sad imagination. Every time we go back a step I’m afraid my alarm will ring and we won’t ever have a chance to make it up.” I was pretty sure I’d used my quota of tears for one day, but I felt a few filling my eyes, anyway. We lay together companionably for a time, thinking our own thoughts. Things may not be the same with us but I thought that Kaidan and I could manage to work this through, if given half a chance. The trick lay in getting that chance. If we failed to save the galaxy we never would, a laughably melodramatic truth that I couldn’t ignore.

Though I was still sated from the intense physical reconnection we’d enjoyed, I knew that much was still unresolved between Kaidan and me. We slowly considered everything that had happened while we were separated and what new threats now faced us. Finally, there was someone to whom I could admit how terrified I had been to wake up, weak and disoriented, surrounded by strangers. Being shot at had strangely comforting me in those first hours, bringing something familiar to the bewildering surroundings.

Kaidan traced the scars on my body as we talked, gently outlining the dozens of places where I’d been pieced back together. He told me about how alone he’d felt, to have so suddenly lost not only me but the ship and so many of the crew to whom we had grown close while pursuing Saren. He had kept in touch with many who had stayed in the Alliance but had lost track of the strongest of our former team, Garrus and Wrex. I listened to him reminisce about the old crew and wished that we could stay here, holding hands and talking about them forever. I knew, though, that eventually we would have to talk about more than happy memories and physical temptations.

We were still on different sides of a conflict that, while dwarfed by the coming of the Reapers, was profoundly important to each of us. The Alliance had been Kaidan’s home for his entire adult life, a refuge after the “brain camp” training that had hurt him so badly, and it still held his allegiance. While it had let both of us down on more than one occasion, Kaidan still had deep connections with other officers, particularly former-Captain Anderson, who may have become a member of the council but was still deeply involved in Alliance decisions and influential among the senior staff.

Kaidan told me how the two had grown close after the destruction of the Normandy SR-1, after my now-rescinded death, while they fought together to force others to believe the threat that Sovereign represented. While Jacob and most of the rest of my current crew had abandoned the Alliance and joined Cerberus in disgust over what they saw as the betrayal of my memory or a willful blindness to the truth, Kaidan could not give up on the family that the Alliance had come to represent for him. He told me how he and Anderson had been trying to make their voices heard, despite the displeasure of so many among the alien races and even other Alliance officers.

Anderson had long been a dear friend of mine as well as a commanding officer. I had recommended him for a place on the Council without hesitation and in the firm belief that he would make a difference in how the galaxy reacted to what I thought was the irrefutable evidence of Sovereign’s attack. It warmed my heart to think of him and Kaidan fighting for the truth together like in some old-fashioned vid and I was so grateful to know that they had had each other for support.

“I’ve been fighting to convince people for so long,” Kaidan said, “but without any new proof, without anyone having seen the Collectors much less being able to prove that they were abducting people for the Reapers, it’s been a losing battle.”

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