Title: In Preparation
Author: E-Girl007 (Emily G.)
Game: Mass Effect
Characters/pairing: Kaidan Alenko
Disclaimer: Mass Effect and Kaidan Alenko are property of BioWare and Electronic Arts. This is purely a non-profit entertainment exercise. The writing however is my own, and I would ask that if you wish to feature it anywhere make sure credit is given to both myself, and BioWare/EA. Thank you.
Something old was playing on the sound system. Something really old. Kaidan looked up from his drink and over to the stage where the musicians played. The front woman was blonde and hugged the microphone, pressing it to her lips like the romance would make all the difference. She had a low voice that slanted sweetly in all of the right places. He turned completely in his seat to give his full attention to the stage.
Ain't it good to know that you've got a friend, when people can be so cold
Her eyes met Kaidan's and she smiled as she moved in time with the piano and the guitar.
You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I'll come runnin'
She closed her eyes and sang into the sky as the old notes rang as powerfully as they did when they were first sung long before Kaidan was born. Generations before. Her voice soothed his headache; or was the alcohol kicking in? When the song finished Kaidan applauded, along with the few others scattered around the bar. What time was it? He looked at his watch, 0130. He rubbed his face tiredly in his hands and quickly finished off the rest of his drink, cringing as his throat burned, then relaxed as it subsided into a mellow warmth. He transferred a few credits to the barkeep and stood, preparing to leave when a hand touched his arm. Without looking, he knew who it was.
"What's your hurry?" The low, feminine tone urged him to look at her. She leaned on the bar, smiling. Kaidan's eyes followed the line her body made from the bar, to the curvature of her back, and all the way down her legs to the floor. It was fluidand urged him to sit down. So he did. The singer's smile widened in amusement and she ordered two drinks from the barkeep. The man nodded and served them up quickly, exchanging a few words with the woman. They knew each other well, Kaidan gathered. After the 'how are yous' were finished the woman turned her attention to Kaidan, and held up her drink. "Cheers?" Kaidan took up the shot glass and clinked it together with hers; down the hatch. They both slammed their glasses on the bar at the same time, as the alcohol hit their taste-buds hard, but satisfyingly.
The spinning started. Kaidan slumped a little over his empty glass, opening and closing his eyes hard to try to stop it. The woman beside him laughed and moved closer, running her fingers through his hair on the back of his neck. Chills followed. "Already? Not very good at holding our liquor, are we?" she teased. Kaidan shook his head.
"This isn't my first drink of the night," he replied.
"I know." Her words spilled from her lips in a warm breath on his ear. He lifted his head and looked at her. "I was watching." She pulled away and gestured for another drink from the barkeep. "The name's Racheland that, is an Alliance uniform."
"Yes," Kaidan said. His head was swimming in the alcohol he'd steadily consumed all night and into the early morning.
"You've been drinking quite a lot tonight. What makes an Alliance soldier do that, I wonder?" Rachel folded her arms on the bar. Kaidan looked back down at his empty glass, turning it round absently between his thumb and first finger. "You alright there
"Kaidan," he said. He could feel grit in his throat from all the drinking. He asked the barkeep for a glass of water.
" His name coming from her lips in that tone of hers lowered his defenses. He took a sip of water as the glass was served to him then addressed her.
"You could say I'm a bit nervous. In oh, roughly five hours I'll be boarding the SSV Normandy. It is
the most amazing piece of Alliance technology and human ingenuity that will be sailing out into space."
"Sounds exciting," Rachel said, sipping her drink, something less daring this time.
"It is. It's very exciting."
"So what's the problem then?" Such an easy question, a question that had overshadowed all of Kaidan's thoughts for the past week as the time for departure came closer.
"This is my first, real run. I've trained for this my whole life. Whether I knew I was going to be here someday or not, I trained hard." His headache was returning, and he gulped down some water. "This is
a big deal. Bigger than anything I have ever done."
"Well then it's natural to feel scared," Rachel said without hesitation. Kaidan looked at her curiously as her words came effortlessly. "Oh please," she continued as she noticed Kaidan's confusion, "even an Alliance soldier is allowed to feel uncertainty. It means you're human." She looked over at the barkeep, "and at least a good looking one too, unlike this ugly mug over here." The man smirked and shook his head as he began cleaning and stacking glasses for the next night. Kaidan grinned, and let out a soft 'ha.' "See. You're going to be fine." Rachel put a hand on his shoulder. Her eyes met his and for a moment Kaidan really believed her. "I'm sure a lot of interesting and exciting things are going to happen."
"Thank you Rachel." She patted him gently and returned to crossing her arms over the bar.
"Now go, soldier boy," she said softly. "You should try to get some sleep before you leave." Kaidan let his gaze linger on her a little longer as he debated in his mind what to do. If he left, that was itbut he could stay. He could stay for a few more hours, he could stay with her. He could tell her this wasn't his first night in the bar, he could tell her that since he came to Arcturus, since he saw her singing for the first time he made sure never to miss a single performance of hers if he could help it; but somehow, he figured she knew. So he nodded and pushed out his stool, standing once more. He nodded to the barkeep, and held out his omni-tool to transfer more credits, but the barkeep shook his head. His last drink was on the house. Kaidan lowered his arm and looked down at Rachel.
"Want to stay? You can't Kaidan." She looked up at him. "You have to go soldier boy. You're needed elsewhere, and you have to be ready." The barkeep cast a glance between the two then steadied his gaze on Kaidan. "So go back to your room, and rest." A smirk tugged at the corners of Rachel's lips as she looked away from him, back down to her drink. "That's an order." Kaidan nodded then bid farewell to the barkeep, turning, and heading for the door. "Good luck." Rachel's voice caused him to pause for a moment. He glanced halfway over his shoulder.
The trip back to his room was an interesting challenge as he tried to remain upright the entire way. A stumbling Alliance uniform wouldn't look proper, especially on Arcturus. To help keep him on his feet he concentrated on the events that happened earlier in the day, particularly that morning during final physicals, and even more specifically, the conversation that took place prior. Jenkins told him he'd proposed to Sarah. It seemed like not that long ago that Richard was introducing her at the annual Alliance Marine Ball as his new girlfriend; and now he was getting married. Marriage. Now there was a thought he didn't want to entertain, especially while drunk. Only one name came to mind for him, and it was the only name that ever did.
Kaidan reached a railway substation rather cleanly, and he called for a cab. Single this time. He didn't mind the public cars, but he wasn't feeling up to it that moment. Even so late at night. The cab came, squealing to a halt in front of him. He winced as his head pounded, and entered. He sat down and closed his eyes, the bright lights of the cab reminding him of the subways back on earth; and of the classrooms at Jump Zero. A nearly blinding white light was often all he saw after one of the many "lessons" from Commander Vyrnnus. His temples blistered and he lay on his side, covering his eyes from the cab light.
After physicals Richard had pulled Kaidan aside and asked him to be his best man. How could he refuse? Since Kaidan had rejoined the Alliance, he'd formed something of a firm friendship with the coronel. Even as Kaidan ascended through the ranks faster than Richard, there was no bad blood between them. After the run Richard figured he'd have all the credits necessary to throw the perfect wedding, one Sarah deservedand Sarah deserved it all. She was a warm, beautiful person, and it truly did make Kaidan glad to see his comrade, his friend, so happy with herbut it also managed to guide Kaidan's feet into the nearest bar. Not that, he wasn't going to be in there anyway. To see Rachel.
The cab squealed again as it slowed. Kaidan grumbled and stood, balancing himself as the car came to a stop and the doors slid open. It was a short walk to his hotel from the substation. He barely heard the woman at the lobby desk greet him. Kaidan hastily waved back and entered into an elevator. A short wait, and a few steps later brought him to his door, then into his dark room, and face first on the bed. He laid there for a time, eyes closed, listening closely to the sounds behind the walls. Mostly air whistling between the metal girders, running watera voice, soft. A voice? This early in the morning? He sat up and moved to the edge of the bed. He wasn't the only one up at least. Maybe it was another Normandy crewmember. Maybe.
Weddings. People getting married. His friends, getting married. God, people getting married. He buried his face in his hands tiredly. Why now? Why the day before shove off? Why
Kaidan got up from the bed and went to the windowsill, leaning his head against the porthole glass, staring off, past the stars to something before.
"Don't look at me like that
" he whispered out loud, his breath fogging up the window. Her eyes were so wide, and her hands were shaking. "I did this for you
No Kaidan. Don't say that. No
you killed someone. She had said in her thick, Turkish accent that had at one time been such a comfort to him. Anything no matter how small could be a reprieve when out at Jump Zero. Kaidan turned and leaned against the wall, sliding down to the floor, stretching his legs out straight in front of him, tilting his head back, and gazed up at the ceiling. More images flashed in front of his eyes, ghosts that spoke to him from his past.
LEAVE ME ALONE. Don't touch me! Get away from me! You're nothing more than a monster!
Kaidan covered his face with his hands, closing his eyes tight as a painful lump turned up in his throat. No. He could feel the eezo begin to surge beneath his skin, his biotics reacting to his emotions. He raised a hand up in front of his face and watched his biotics pulse in time with his heart beat from beneath his skin like rippling water; blue, indigo, fading in and out of view. Kaidan smiled bitterly; it was so beautiful to look at. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply, and exhaled slowly and loudly. The sound of the air rushing from his nostrils helped calm him, and ebb the firing of his nerves. Typically when he drank, it was the only time he could feel normal--the lowered brain activity acted as some sort of a wall between him, and that part. The one Rahna called monster. He always wondered if he rejoined the Alliance after Jump Zero because he wanted redemption, or to make sure he didn't become an alcoholic.
Using the wall for support, Kaidan got to his feet and staggered across the room to the mini-bar, opening up the fridge and taking a bottle from itdidn't matter of whatand opened it, taking large gulps. He started coughing, the alcohol spraying out over the carpet as he tried to adjust to the sudden sharp taste of vodka. Strong, vodka. Slowly, he sat back down on the bed, trembling, and drank from the bottle again; this time in manageable sips. Vodka wasn't his favorite, but tonight it would be. He looked through clouded eyes at the clock as it read 3AM, and took another sip.
Drink until everything went black. Sort of like the old days.
Maybe he should have asked Rachel back to the room with him. Maybe.
Kaidan tried to shake off the haze as he stood in formation, Captain Anderson addressing the crowd of individuals. It was a mixed group, not all were soldiers, and to his knowledge, he was the only biotic. This would make things interesting.
He couldn't believe how much he drank. He was convinced he was still a tad bit drunk, and used all of his willpower to appear sober and perfectly well-rested, but he was sure that the pale look on his face betrayed some sort of problem. So far, no one seemed to notice. What a stupid thing to do--it was not his style. He knew better. How many times had he yelled at his subordinates for the very same thing? Try not to think about how everything was spinning; solid plan.
The captain's words were lost on Kaidan as he just struggled to remain focused. A woman stood beside Anderson, stoic, and at perfect attention. Jane Shepard. Commander, Jane Shepard. The first time Kaidan saw her in person he was nervous, and struck with awe. His nerves knotted up once more at the thought of having to serve alongside of one of the Alliance's greatest heroes. Was he truly ready? Could he serve these honorable individuals well?
At some point Anderson stopped speaking, because those around him were applauding. Kaidan joined in, a bit late, hoping no one would notice too much. When the clapping subsided it was time to board. Anderson and Shepard stood off to the side, shaking the hands of each individual that passed them, welcoming them to the SSV Normandy. Kaidan continuously wiped his palms on his thighs to make sure they weren't the least bit damp as he came up to his superiors. Anderson shook his hand firmly, patting him on the back saying, 'welcome to the Normandy soldier.' Kaidan next took Shepard's hand and shook it, but instead of being released like all the others she halted him.
"What's your name soldier?"
"Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko ma'am." She grinned, amusedpuzzling Kaidan.
"Yes, Staff Lieutenant Alenko. I read your file. Impressive might I add." She leaned in next to his earhe could hear the smirk in her voice, "you look a little green there Staff Lieutenant, make sure you do something about that hangover before we depart. The turbulence from leaving station orbit is bad enough, but I hear with a hangover it's, unpleasant, to put things mildly." She patted him roughly on the back and let him go. Kaidan nodded and moved along, heat rising up the back of his neck and into his cheeks in embarrassment; and yet, he couldn't stifle a grin as he ascended the ramp and into the airlock of the Normandy. The interaction left him feeling oddly--lightened. A few words from his superior seemed to just pierce the gloom without effort.
Glancing back over his shoulder, he caught a final glimpse of Shepard before the doors locked and the decontamination process began. He felt slightly awkward at the thought that came into his mind, but there it was, oddly enough it was Shepard. He would prove to her what he could not prove to Rahna; that he was not a monster. Shepard was his long awaited second chance, and the Normandy was the stage to do it. Could the past be so easily absolved? The airlock opened with a hiss, revealing the command deck. Kaidan slowly stepped out, stopping just beyond the doorway, as the doors slid shut, to allow the next group to come in for decontamination and boarding. Rejoining the Alliance was his way of moving beyond Jump Zero, there was no point in doubting that anymore, but Commander Shepard would be his way of moving past Rahna. How? That part was uncertain. After all these years, it was still that important to him. He just, he needed someone to know he wasn't a monster.
This was just a shakedown run, but there would perhaps be opportunities. He waited so long already; he'd wait a little longer. For the time being, his immediate mission was to the medical bay to put Shepard's suggestion to good use.