"Okay," he said, opening them again, "let's talk about Cerberus. Let's talk about you flying around the galaxy with a crew full of attractive men. Let's talk about that."
He had to have heard my side of the story on news reports and through Alliance channels. Part of the reason I had agreed to so many interviews and written so much was in the hope that he would see them and realize how very dead I had been shortly before he accused me of abandoning him. I may not have been able to talk to him directly but a girl deserves a little slack for having been reconstructed in a four-billion-credit medical experiment, doesn't she?
The stories had made much of how I'd used Cerberus, milking every drop of data and every convenient credit from them in order to accomplish my mission before I confiscated their ship and returned to the Alliance. What did Kaidan want, a halo and some wings, too? Then I caught on to what he'd said.
"Men?" I asked. "What are you talking about?"
"I've seen the reports," he said hotly. "And Joker tells me you were awfully close to those guys, visiting them in their rooms, and taking them on all your side trips. It seems to me that you weren't lacking for company on your new ship, Cerberus operatives or not."
Holy crap, he's jealous! I thought. The fifteen-year-old girl that lived inside of me squeed in delight but the adult part of my brain was less thrilled. Had that been his problem all along? I'd shown up on Horizon with Garrus still excessively grateful for the rescue on Omega and Jacob in his creepy catsuit. There had been dozens of filler pieces about Thane, how attractive and suave he was and how he was dying. I smacked my forehead.
"I may have had a few offers, Kaidan, but I never took anyone up on them." I couldn't believe he was so angry about something I hadn't even done.
"No one?" He stepped into the room, left eyebrow raised, looking hopeful and doubtful at the same time. I had to derail his advance.
"No," I said, "but you should have seen Garrus. He was so flustered that I almost said yes just to reward him for working up that much nerve." Kaidan stopped abruptly. "Garrus?" he asked.
"Yeah," I continued, blathering to keep him at bay, "he just wanted to blow off some steam and he didn't know who else to ask. He really was adorably awkward. I'd have patted him on the head if I hadn't thought it would hurt." Kaidan looked much less like he was about to throw me onto the bed, although out of the window no longer seemed out of the question.
"I see," he said. "Anyone else?"
I remembered being at Afterlife, how Thane had grabbed me, dancing me around the bar, laughing, his muscles moving under my hands, until he found a dark corner and had kissed me so thoroughly that, had we not been in the middle of a mission, I might have mauled him right there. I decided to keep that one to myself. "Nothing worth noting," I said, flushing slightly.
Kaidan's eyes narrowed. I tried to think of anything but strip poker with Donnelly or Jacob's innuendo-filled conversations about heavy weapons. Now that I thought about it I could hardly believe I'd managed to resist all of those temptations. It had been an awfully long time, even if I had spent two of the three years dead. Maybe all of that frustration explained why I had been so eager to blow away mercs and geth every couple of days. I wished for a comforting weapon and a clear enemy to appear in my own bedroom about then. It was getting decidedly warm.
"You're lying to me," Kaidan said. I snapped my attention back to him, remembering that I was standing here in a towel at the end of my bed. He wore a familiar look, one that made parts of me tense in a way they hadn't for some time. "Tell me." He took another step toward me. I clutched the towel to my chest, trying not to pant. "There's nothing to tell," I said, widening my eyes to look as innocent as possible. "It was just a mission."
In one move, Kaidan slid around me to sit on the end of the bed and swept my legs from under me with a flare of blue. I tumbled awkwardly over his knees, the towel trapping my hands under me before I could try to break my fall. I felt a sting as he smacked my unprotected rear. "What the hell..." I started.
He slapped my ass again. "Was there anyone else?" he asked, his voice huskier now. Another whack came as I struggled. I'd forgotten how strong he was. His left arm kept me pinned to his legs.
"You left me." Smack!
"You made me save myself." Smack!
"Then you went where I couldn't follow." Smack!
"You were dead!" Smack!
"And then you came back." Crack!
"And you were with those..." Crack!
Though humiliated and hurting, I stopped struggling then. This was what he wanted to tell me, how he needed to express his frustration. I couldn't resist jumping every time his hand connected but I didn't try to get away.
"Then you went through that stupid relay," Crack!
"And you came back again," Crack!
"And you still..." Smack! "...didn't..." a half-hearted swipe "...call me." His hand barely brushed me, stroking my burning skin.
The inflamed flesh tried to contract in to goosebumps again and I squirmed in earnest. He grew bolder as I moved on his lap, sliding his fingers under the cloth, and the evidence that anger wasn't the only thing he was feeling pressed against my ribs. Then he released me.
I leapt to my feet, wincing. I didn't care that I was wearing nothing more than a pair of panties, that my scars stood stark before his gaze: I was ready to have this out with him. But when I turned I saw the tears that wet his face.
"And so I really need to know," he said mournfully, refusing to meet my eyes. "Was there someone else?"
I stepped forward and put my hand on his cheek. "No, Kaidan." He slid his arms around me and buried his face in my belly. I stroked his hair, the texture so familiar that it was like coming home. He moved his lips on my skin and my pelvis angled forward of its own volition.
As his hands and mouth worked their way up my ribs I reached down and tugged his shirt from the waistband of his pants. I pulled so hard that I heard something tear before he finally released me long enough to peel it off and toss it aside. He slid the scrap of silk off my legs then grabbed my hips and pulled me down to straddle him. I hissed as my tender skin scraped against him but I didn't want stop. I arched my back as his hands and tongue reminded me what I'd been missing.
He turned his face up to mine, need etched in every beloved line that had haunted my dreams even while I'd been dead. "Never since you," I said. "No one even came close." I leaned in to kiss him. As our lips met, he rose and swept me onto the bed.