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07 July 2012 @ 12:44 am
As Long As We Have Hope  
Title: As Long As We Have Hope
Characters/Pairing: Shepard/Kaidan, with cameos from just about everyone.
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Destruction EC.
A/N: So, I've never written ME fic because I find it incredibly hard to write Shepard when we all interpret her (or him,) in so many different ways. But I, like many people, was not satisfied with the ending for many reasons and this is what came of my own dissatisfaction, at least about the 'RAWR I DEMAND A HAPPY ENDING' bit. Also, I'm not really active in fandom so I posted this to masseffect but I'm not sure if I'm missing any active communities.
Summary: Kaidan finds Shepard, but Shepard has never been good at sitting around when someone can be saved.


Jack is the one to find Shepard.

Kaidan refuses to put the plaque on the wall. He says that Shepard deserves a proper burial before they mourn her at least, but everyone feels the same doubt. Shepard has built a strong base and even though there's a lot to do on Earth, plenty of people ignore it in favor of finding her.

Jack is fresh off the loss of a few of her students, and she isn't taking it well. Entire piles of rubble fly up in the air during her search, and then there's a yell of joy so loud and guttural that is sounds like a Krogan.

Miranda Lawson shows up at the hospital in cuffs and running away from the Alliance. (They may have accepted her help but now order is setting in and with order comes judgment. )

“I know her body better than anyone,” Lawson screams at the nearest doctor. Kaidan doesn't know her, but Dr. Chakwas starts screaming at the doctors on Lawson's behalf, and no one can resist their combined force.

Things don't look good for Shepard, but then they never have. Kaidan paces, and waits, and paces some more. He should be part of the war recovery process, he knows, but he's paid enough in this war and no one tries to stop him from reaching her. Tali brings him food, and Garrus punches his shoulder, and Joker doesn't speak, and James blubbers on, and Hackett fills him in on the recovery efforts and Liara offers words of hope. Kaidan can't focus on any of them.

Eventually, Shepard is declared shockingly stable and alive.

When he arrives, she looks terrible and broken and great and amazing and he sits by her side. Kaidan leans back into the hospital chair. “I showed up, Shepard,” he tells her. He puts his hand over hers. “Now it's your turn.”

Shepard doesn't wake up at all that month. After a week, Chakwas gets him access to the hospital's shower and puts an extra bed in Shepard's already large room. He's lost her once before, and left her once before, and he won't do either this time.

Kaidan learns about the unorthodox nature of Shepard's previous team when a woman appears out of thin air. She's crouched on his bed and looks him up and down. “Shepard makes good choices. I see why Jacob never swayed her.”

Kaidan's mouth tries to work to form words. “I, uh, can I help you?”

“What items does Shepard like?” the woman asks.

“Like?” He rubs the back of his neck. “She isn't really materialistic.”

The woman crosses the room so that she's right in his face, and he still can't make out her features with her hood. “But she had a photo of you – oh! I know!”

She pulls out a recorder. It flashes in his face and blinds him. She puts it back in her pocket and grins at him. She makes a lazy salute. “Sir, Commander, Sir, nice meeting you.”

“I don't think I caught your name,” Kaidan calls after her.

She grins and turns her head to look at him as she reaches the doorway. “Kasumi Goto. Any lover of Shepard's is a friend of mine.”

He thinks that will be the strangest person he'll meet, but in the next week a grisly man comes in and begins to tell him about the time he beat an entire merc group with a single thermal clip. Zaeed Massani is either one incredible walking, talking weapon, or a very talented story teller. Maybe both.

Jacob Taylor nods to him. “Hey, man.” And that's the extent of their conversation. He holds a baby against his chest, and tells her about his crazy commander, and how she saved the galaxy.

Samara says a prayer over her, and tells Kaidan about the strength of Shepard's valor and justice.

Miranda stops by the next week. She looks over Shepard's medical records. “She's been through a lot worse,” Miranda tells him. He knows it's supposed to comfort him. He doesn't know how to feel about Miranda. That Shepard trusts her is enough for him to trust her, but Miranda put her back together when it should have been impossible. She worked over Shepard's charred body until she was Shepard again – and he doesn't know if he should be grateful or hate her for it.

Jack shows up before Miranda leaves. “Hey pageant queen” she says. “Shouldn't you be running for head of Cerberus?” Miranda's entire demeanor changes. Jack rubs a hand over her nose. “I heard you helped put Shepard back together.”

“Yes,” Miranda says. “Some of us were useful in her recovery process.”

“I found her!” Jack yells. She flares with her blue biotics and Miranda responds with her own.

“You could have seriously harmed her, what were you thinking – moving all those things? What if you'd opened an artery or a wound and killed her?” Miranda demands.

“Ladies!” Kaidan separates them both with his own biotics. They seem so surprised by his existence that they both stop their own biotic use to stare at him. “Somehow, I doubt Shepard would want you fighting.”

Miranda straightens her outfit. Jack rolls her shoulders.

“I'm glad you found her,” Miranda mutters.

“I'm glad you fixed her,” Jack replies.

Then they walk away as if the exchange never happened. Kaidan stares after them, wondering not for the first time if Shepard is, in many ways, the galaxy's best babysitter.

It's a day later that she wakes up.

It happens all at once. Her body flails and sweat breaks out across her forehead and she screams.

“Shepard!” Kaidan tries to press her to the bed as gently as she can. She's too weak to put up a fight. She begins to mumble.

“There was a choice. I don't know – I don't know – could everyone have been happy? Did I take peace from the galaxy? Where am I? Am I dead?”

The machine she's attached to begins to scream her panic.

“Shepard, hey, Shepard, relax. You saved us, all of us,” Kaidan says. He tries to use his words to calm her, but even though her head is titled toward him, she's looking right past him.

Kaidan watches as one of her many personal nurses (the Alliance doesn't skimp on the galaxy's savior,) comes in to sedate her.

Shepard falls back to the bed. Her eyes flutter shut, then open again, and focus on him. A single tear rolls down the corner of her right eye. Kaidan cups her face in his hand and rubs his thumb along her cheekbone, careful not to hurt her.

“Kaidan,” she whispers.

Her eyes close and her breathing evens out. Kaidan's heart twists. Even with all the bruises and scars and burns she looks peaceful asleep. He knew, of course, that this wouldn't be easy for her. Hackett's connection to her never cut off, and while it will never be official Alliance history and no one else will ever know, Kaidan was told about the choices. They still don't understand what the crucible was, or if the other choices even held any truth.

Kaidan feels a biotic ripple along his spine as his anger grows. He closes his eyes to try to calm himself. Sometimes, he hates all of it. If he hadn't approached that beacon on Eden Prime, she wouldn't have been forced into this role. Then again, they all may well be dead if she didn't learn about the Reapers and Protheans. Because of that one fluke she ended up with the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders. Brought back to life by a terrorist organization, forced to kill hundreds of thousands to buy the rest of the galaxy time, and now she was left with the impossible choice to commit genocide against friends in order to save everyone else and defeat the biggest threat the galaxy has ever seen.

They're soldiers. He knows that he would jump in front of a gun for her, for the Alliance, for the greater good. He's been trained for that, and so has she. But a gun is child's play compared to the weight she's been left with, sometimes because the very organization she dedicated herself to turned its back on the greater good while she remained dedicated to it.

“You're the strongest person I know,” he says. Kaidan doesn't know what else to say. This is probably the time for a long declaration of love, but he's never been very good with words. With her, he's never needed them. “Please, Shepard. I love you.” He leans over her and rests his forehead against her hand. “I would take it all, if I could.”

The second time she wakes up, she smiles at him.

“Hey,” she says.

“Hey,” he says.

She groans. “Feels like an Atlas ran over me.”

“That would would be a hundredth of what happened to you,” Kaidan says.

“Told you I'd be waiting,” she says.

“I don't know. I've been doing a lot of waiting,” Kaidan says. He leans forward and places a kiss against her forehead. She grimaces.

“Am I still bruised? How long have I been out?”

Kaidan rubs the back of his neck with his hand. “Ah, sorry, no. Well, yes, but your friend Grunt head-butted you a few days ago to try to wake you up. I forgot. Wrex had to tell him that even though you're Shepard, you're still cursed with a squishy human body.”

Shepard laughs, and the sound is possibly the best noise he's ever heard in his life.

“I love you, Shepard.”

“I'm so glad you're here.” Her brow furrows. “How many did we lose?”

“Earth is pretty bad off, but we're recovering,” he says.

“That isn't an answer,” she says. And there she is, even drugged out her mind she's smart and so quick to carry the world on her shoulders.

“No, it isn't. Liara, Garrus, and Tali take turns asking about you. Everyone from your old crew has come by, too. Interesting people you've been working with.” His face turns scarlet as he hands her a necklace. “Kasumi had to leave, something about too much heat, but she left you this.”

It's a very old looking locket, that Kaidan is pretty sure belongs in a museum. Or was in a museum. His shocked face that Kasumi recorded is inside it.

Shepard smirks. She can barely hold it before her hand collapses back to the bed, but she doesn't release it.

Kaidan lowers his voice. “We had Anderson's funeral.”

Shepard nods. She closes her eyes. “One of the best men I ever knew. This is going to be a long journey, isn't it?”

Kaidan has heard the estimates on her recovery and the physical therapy she'll need. He squeezes her hand. “We just defeated the Reapers. How bad can a little walking be?”

She smiles. “Don't look now, Alenko, I think you learned how to offer a comforting comment without any realism whatsoever.”

He laughs. “I'll be here with you every step of the way, Shepard.”

It doesn't take long for her to hate the hospital. He walks her around and she points out the various exits and suggests they make an escape. Garrus and Wrex humor her and create alarmingly intricate escape plans, while Liara and Tali offer words of comfort.

When Joker comes by, he laughs and says he's finally faster than someone. Then Shepard speaks to him in private, and he storms out after their talk.

“He deserved to know,” she tells Kaidan. “I took EDI from him.”

“You had no choice,” Kaidan says.

“Did you know she was afraid? At the end, she was afraid, and I-” she turns away from him. “I can get back to my room myself.”

The next week, Joker comes back. Kaidan isn't sure what to expect at first, but he and Shepard lock themselves up in her room and talk. A few days later, they do the same thing and Miranda joins them.

A certain spark comes back to Shepard's eyes during the talks. Kaidan is never invited, or is politely asked to go do something. Eventually Garrus and Grunt and even a very nervous Tali start to distract him while the growing group of people talk.

Finally, one day, a Shepard who only has a limp in her walk and most of her vision, says, “Come on, Kaidan. We're going to the Normandy.”

“We're- what? Shepard, what are you doing?” He follows her into the elevator. “We can't leave. Did your doctor approve this?”

“Chakwas just signed off as my new doctor,” Shepard says.

“Okay, great, but we can't just leave. Can you even take the Normandy? What about the Alliance?”

“Funny thing about being called 'the galaxy's savior', not a lot of people stop you. We're going to find EDI.”

“EDI's dead, Shepard.”

“Not quite. Most of EDI was stored in the Normandy, and when she crashed she should have gone to a backup system – in Cerberus.”

“Cerberus was destroyed.”

“So Cerberus says,” Shepard says. “Miranda knows different. They still have bases, and if we can find the backup file we can bring back EDI and find a body for her along the way.”

Kaidan grits his teeth. “You've been planning this all along, haven't you? And distracting me because you know I'd never go along with it. You are nowhere near healed enough for this. What are you going to do, get in gun battles and limp from cover to cover?”

“That wouldn't be new,” Shepard says. Kaidan glares at her. “I'll only do what Chakwas lets me. And I won't be alone. You'll be there, to watch my back. And there may be a few more people coming.”

“Like who?” he asks.

“Shepard!” Vega yells across the lobby.

“Lieutenant,” Kaidan greets. Vega salutes him. “Didn't expect to see you.”

“I'm on vacation. Thought where better to take it than the now completely repaired Normandy? No secret plans with Lola, sir,” he says.

Kaidan resists the urge to roll his eyes. Of course Shepard managed to join her entire crew back together behind his back. Of course these insane people decided to follow her without question.

As it turns out, Garrus, Tali, Miranda, Jack, Grunt, and Liara are also on “vacation.”

“You all do know vacation involves relaxing, right?” Kaidan asks.

Garrus slaps him on the back. “What better way is there to relax than with a secret infiltration?”

Kaidan sighs.

Later, in her cabin, Shepard sits down on the bed and takes in a sharp gasp of air. He's at her side in an instant, his hands move of their own accord as they check over her body. “Are you hurt? Did you push too hard today?”

“Kaidan.” She grits her teeth together. “I'm fine.”

“No, you're not. This is the stupidest plan you've ever come up, and you can't seriously plan on going ahead with it.”

“You're right,” she says. In his surprise, it takes him a moment to process the words. “I'm nowhere close to fine. I need this, Kaidan. Not being cooped up and not the interviews that will come later and not the memories of Earth. I need... hope.”

He bends down so that they're eye-to-eye and kisses her. It's gentle, and slow, and when it's over he rests his forehead against hers.

“This is a ridiculous, no-chance plan,” he says. “But I guess those are becoming your expertise. I'll be by your side, Shepard. Always.” He smiles. “I can't guarantee it'll be without protest, but I'm not going anywhere.”

She grins. “If you're always by my side, we'll have to exert a lot of flexibility.”

He laughs and kisses her. “Think Chakwas would approve that in your physical therapy?”

“I'll just mark it under 'stretching',” she says.

Kaidan pushes over her on the bed and pulls her back to him. She rests her head against his arm and lets out a sigh as her breathing evens out. Her body is still fragile, but it seems absurd to think of Shepard as fragile. He kisses the back of her shoulder.

“I love you,” she says.

A million thoughts and emotions run through him. He rests his chin on top of her head and closes his eyes. “I love you, too.”

She rolls over so that she's facing him. She kisses his arm and smiles.

“You know the chances are low, and the obstacles are high-” he starts. She groans.

“Alenko.”

“But we'll find her, Shepard. I know we will.”

She nods. “And until then, at least I'm home.”

He kisses her. “And so am I.”