Despite my long career with the Alliance, my loyalties lay not with any organization but with my mission and my crew. I owed them my loyalty and my every effort, as so many had become outlaws and renegades to join me for this mission. I didn’t trust Cerberus or The Illusive Man any further than I could drop kick the lot of them but I couldn’t deny that they alone had given me the opportunity to pursue the threat against which I had been fighting when ambushed by the Collectors two years earlier. While the Council and the Alliance had swept Saren’s betrayal and Sovereign’s real intent under the rug, Cerberus had returned me from the dead to continue my fight.
The Illusive Man’s lies and manipulation had made it clear to me that this was, indeed, the same organization Kaidan and I had both grown to despise for Ferros and the other experiments we’d uncovered but they had provided me with the tools to continue fighting the Reapers. I had a new crew with a few old friends, a new and improved ship (with the exception of those damned bathroom doors), and information that would have been out of our reach in the Alliance.
“I know you can’t stay,” I finally said, raising my head to look at him. The look of relief on his face pierced me to the heart, thought I knew that it only meant that he had been dreading saying the same thing. Some cheesy, romantic corner of me had been hoping that he’d thrown over his life’s work just to be with me although I would never have done so for him nor would I respect such a decision made on a whim. This wasn’t like Garrus leaving Citadel Security when the chance presented itself. That had been born from a long-standing dissatisfaction and a belief that he could make more of a difference to more people by leaving. For Kaidan, going AWOL would mean more than simply following his heart. It would mean turning his back on the life that he had built and letting down the hundreds of people who depended on him every day. Even for love, neither of us could be that selfish. Saying it so clearly, though, was much different than knowing it.
“I don’t want to go,” he said tenderly, “you must know that. But I’ve only got so much leave and I’m not ready to give up on the Alliance or on using the platform that Anderson’s seat on the Council gives us. You can’t deny that, when the Reapers find their way through, everyone will need to fight together.”
He was right, I couldn’t deny it. I nodded miserably. It would be invaluable to have a strong, high-ranking person already in place to serve as a conduit for information and a center of coordination between my crew and ships from anyone else who could be convinced to join us. Anderson’s place on the Council left him just outside of the trusted Alliance core, his dozens of years of service notwithstanding. Kaidan was a decorated officer, well-liked and trusted by his men and women. He had many friends among the alien races that populated the Citadel, as well, and worked with people from across the galaxy. Who better to stay there, prepared to connect us all at the first sign of agreement? If I could have thought of a better candidate, alien or human, I’d have suggested him or her at once. Both of us knew that Kaidan had to go home and no amount of whining was going to change it. The issue wasn’t that he was leaving but that I was staying.
“I can’t act as some sort of double agent,” I said, “and I would never ask you to do it. But I’m still a Spectre, thanks to Anderson, and we can work together, despite being across the galaxy from each other.” I hoped that I didn’t look as bereft at this idea as he did, because the sadness on his face made me want to lock him in the storage bay until he’d been court martialed and couldn’t go back to the Citadel. That was no solution but his expression tempted me to try it nonetheless. If only I didn’t need the drip feed of insider information that The Illusive Man fed me to find and fight the Collectors I’d have had Joker fly us all back to the Citadel and pledged the new Normandy to Council use so that we could be together.
I knew that TIM, as we called him, was using my need for that information to keep me working on his agenda but I also had no alternatives for getting it. I had to keep letting him believe that he was calling the shots as long as he kept giving me as much leeway as he had. For all that I hated his beliefs and reasons for manipulating me, his clues were the only things that kept us moving forward in our search for a way to stop the Collectors from abducting millions of colonists. Kaidan and I talked about Cerberus and TIM and I could see in his eyes that he could finally accept the method to my madness in continuing to work with them.
“I know that I’m walking a fine line,” I said, “but at the end of it may well be answers that we desperately need and I intend to save as many people as I can along the way. I don’t know where TIM gets his information or how, so until I do I have to get it through him no matter the distortion.”
“That’s what brought me out to find you, my need to hear you say that,” said Kaidan. “I needed to know that they hadn’t brainwashed you, that the two years hadn’t been spent in some horrible little room where they genetically modified you and force fed you their propaganda. I had to see that you had doubts, that you were really still the same person I had lost.” Now the relief that showed on his face was more healing than hurtful. He kissed me sweetly, sadly, and said, “Now I can go back and be strong enough to do what needs to be done.” He moved to get out of the bed.
I tackled him. “Not so fast, Alenko,” I said. “We still have a lot of time to make up for and this time, Joker is not waiting for me on the bridge.” Laughing, we fell back into bed and began to do just that. Quite some time later, once more exhausted and smiling, we decided that it would be too hard for both of us if I went to the docking bay to see him off. He dressed and left, stopping for one last lingering kiss.
I lay, sweaty and dozing, happy for the first time since my resurrection. I really need a shower, I thought and hauled myself into the bathroom once more.