Liara flared with her own power, the glow skating over the lighter blue of her skin. I was getting nervous and the wild energy loose in the room was doing nothing to calm me. The pressure in the back of my head made me dizzy and I swayed a bit, trying to keep my balance. Kaidan must have seen it, focused though he was on Liara, and immediately tamped down his biotics.
“Shepard!” I felt his arm around me and for a moment Liara's face twisted with some emotion. Then she, too, stopped pulsing. Kaidan helped me into a chair and then stepped back a few feet. I held up a hand to stop Liara as she moved closer. “If you two are going to have a fight I need to leave the room,” I said. I hated how weak my voice sounded but something seriously weird was sapping my energy and stuffing my head. I seemed to be reaching some critical mass. Despite my protests, she put a hand on my shoulder and then jumped back as I squirmed in the chair, a stuttering blue glow of my own leaping briefly to life. “I do not understand. Why would Cerberus have implanted you, Shepard?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.” I shook my head a little, trying to clear it. “That's actually why we came to see you so quickly.” I pretended not to notice the hurt that crossed her face at that. I never said that tact was my strong point. “Kaidan says I need someplace to hide out while we get a handle on this thing. It's been active for all of fifteen minutes, now. Can you help us find a spot?” Her expressive face shifted between alarm and concern. She was worried about me but Kaidan must not have been overreacting if she dropped the question of why in favor of helping us to solve our little problem. After a few moments, she nodded.
“I have access to a warehouse that sits empty right now. I will give you directions. I wish that I could come to help you, but...” She trailed off sadly. I wasn't sure if she had meant to say that she had too much to do or that it was clear she would be a third wheel. I thanked her as she sent the location to my omnitool but Kaidan was less gracious. “We will talk about what you did to the Commander later, Liara.” I could tell he intended that as a threat. Clearly I needed to point out that, without her intervention, I might well still be dead. He wasn't normally one to let his emotions run away too far with him. Now that the two of them had settled down it didn't feel like my brain was going to explode out of my ears, at least for the moment.
We made our way down to the taxi port. It crossed my mind that, without my comm unit, no one would know where we were. That seemed perfect to me, as long as I could get my head under control enough that touching Kaidan didn't make me woozy. Well, I'd have welcomed some light-headedness as long as it was induced by sensory overload and not some unwelcome piece of hardware stuffed into my skull. As we flew across town he asked me how much I knew about what Miranda had installed in my head. “Next to nothing,” I answered. “I kept meaning to ask her about it, why she'd put it there and why it didn't work, but she's so snotty that I kept putting it off. I never thought it would just burst to life like that without warning.”
Truth be told, I half thought it was some insidious programming device that Cerberus could use if I got out of hand and that the biotic implant story was a cover. Why else would you use one on a person who had never shown any hint of power? But it looked like they'd played straight on this one if Kaidan and Liara could both tell what it was just by touching me.
We arrived at the warehouse and a diffident Asari met us at the door with keys and a box of groceries. She explained that there was a small office with a cot and some cooking facilities in the southwest corner. We thanked her and made our way into the enormous structure. “Do we really need this much room?” I asked, somewhat alarmed by the empty space that stretched around us. “We might,” Kaidan replied grimly. “You need to figure out how to release power that builds up and how to control it. The former is pretty easy but until you learn the latter you're going to be throwing off bolts that could get you into a lot of trouble. At least there's nothing in here that you can break or kill.” We wandered across the floor as he talked.
“How do I build up power?” I asked. I felt like a raw recruit, still learning how to load a pistol but knowing that someone would be shooting at me soon enough. I could let Miranda run things on the Normandy for a few days but after that I really had to get on with my mission. “It looks like, for now, you just need me to touch you,” Kaidan said, looking apprehensive. “Is that okay?”
“I thought you'd never ask!” I blurted. I clapped my hands over my mouth. “Um, if it's okay with you. We haven't really had a chance to talk about...things.” He smiled at me in that gentle, “oh, Shepard” way that turned my knees to gel and swelled my heart with love. It was the look he reserved for when I'd said something unusually boneheaded. He once told me that he thought it was sweet that uber-tough, take-charge Commander Shepard could be so unable to read people who cared about her. “It's okay with me.”
I won't bore you with the details, except to whine that the amount of touching required was beyond frustrating. We started with hand-holding as he explained how I could let go of what was in my head. I learned to flare as he did, though not nearly as brightly, and that doing so moved the energy from my head to the rest of my body.
That alone was a relief but I still had to learn how to release it. I was so wound up at being unable to drag him off to the cot in the back that, by the time I learned to throw a bolt, I shot one the entire length of the warehouse and still did some minor damage to the wall. The frustration was making it difficult to concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing and the more we worked the more tired we became. Finally, we had to rest, to eat if nothing else. I felt like it had been a month since I'd had a good meal instead of just a few hours. No wonder biotics eat everything that isn't nailed down, I thought.
After a hearty snack we agreed that a nap was in order. Since there was but the one cot, Kaidan insisted I take it while he slept in the desk chair nearby. I knew that neither of us would get any rest if we shared the cot. The physical closeness would probably fry my circuits both with power from the implant and having to resist tearing his clothes from his body. I pouted even as my eyes closed, thinking how typical it was of my life that I finally had Kaidan back in it and I still couldn't have him. It was like being on the SR-1 all over again, but with physical punishment rather than regulations keeping us apart.
I woke to find him sitting quietly, munching something and watching me sleep. Had it been anyone else it would have freaked me out but with him it was different: our history made it different. It was more like he had been watching over me than staring at me. We spent the rest of the night and the following day alternating between training, eating, sleeping, and talking.
Kaidan knew how quickly I'd run to the Alliance and the Council when I'd awakened, how freely I'd talked to Councilor Anderson about Cerberus. It didn't take long before we'd exhausted my brief time without him and I asked what he'd been doing while I was gone. He didn't answer for a time but the sadness etched around his eyes had already told me part of the story. I put my hand on his cheek, holding the power that bloomed like he'd taught me. He'd promised that eventually I'd learn to shield myself from biotics, that I wouldn't be some energy vampire forever. He placed his hand over mine and turned to kiss my palm. “You're not ever allowed to die again, Shepard. I can't do that a second time.”
I slowly pulled away, both of us blinking back tears. I flared up and tossed away a series of small bolts, almost casually, to clear my head. Kaidan smiled. “At least you're a fast learner. Now you need to build up your own power instead of stealing mine.” He grabbed my face and kissed me hard, then turned and ran. “Come and get me, Shepard,” he called over his shoulder.
The contact hadn't been enough to affect me much but I as I laughed and ran after him I saw how I lit the floor beneath my feet. I chased him for an hour, throwing bolts and insults alike, reveling in the new-found skill as well as the sheer joy of being silly with him once again. He dodged, raised barriers, and shouted encouragement and instructions. Finally, we tumbled into the office, wiped out and starving again. “You'll need to keep training but at least you can trust yourself on your own ship if we give it another day,” he said, digging into the dwindling pile of supplies in the freezer. “Ooh, iced cream!”
He grabbed a spoon and shoved a huge bite into his mouth. Without thinking I reached out, laughing, and dabbed the creamy blot in the corner of his mouth. I popped my finger into my mouth as I reached for a spoon of my own but I froze when I looked at his eyes. All I can say is that I was glad I wasn't made of iced cream just then because I'd have melted to a puddle in seconds. “We have got to teach you to shield yourself,” he growled. I licked my finger slowly. “Mmm, strawberry.” He threw a spoonful at me, splattering my cheek and cracking up as I gasped, unable to believe he had done something so childish. That was definitely more my territory. I scooped it off and flung it at him, plopping it right on top of his head. He tried to get the sticky goo out of his thick hair. “Not exactly a cold shower, Commander, but close.” At least we were both still laughing.
We ate quickly and agreed to take turns in the tiny shower in the bathroom. It turned out that cold showers were the only kind we were getting. I would have liked a good, hot soak but, under the circumstances, I supposed that the less temptation we faced the better.