title; Nothing is ever simple.
pairring: Kaidan alenko/John Shepard.
Fandom: Mass Effect
AN: I was completely out of my element, writing a fluffy happy-go-lucky fic like this. Anyway, here it is 😉 (Wow I wrote fluff!) – Story is complete btw! – Shit lisbet I keep forgetting to run these stories past you! Sorry!!
Written for this Kmeme; Vega is a gung ho kinda guy, gets in there, gets stuff done, but he’s never met anyone as crazy as Shepard. Once Kaidan joins the crew, Vega begins to notice how often Kaidan just takes care of things for Shepard. He also see’s how much pain Kaidan is in any time Shepard does something drastically dangerous (like facing down a reaper on his own) and how Kaidan gets a little bit stupid in the field and runs himself a little ragged. So Vega starts doing stuff for Kaidan to make it a little bit easier on him. Like cooking him food and sending him off to ‘feed that boy of his’.
James was a lot of things, but stupid weren’t one of them. He had been slightly weary of Kaidan when he had joined them at the Normandy -again-. He had to be one crazy fucker, after all who the hell turns down a perfectly solid gig as a Spectre, living in the Citadel, babysitting Council members. To this… Long hours, exhausting expeditions, feeling like you were being hauled around in a three ring circus most of the time. It was not until Kaidan had been aboard the Normandy for a little white he noticed it for real. Everyone had their routine, James were no exception to that, and he noticed that Kaidan who were normally as regular as clockwork sometimes showing up at the strangest places at the strangest times. Like tonight.
Honestly then James preferred to work in silence, so he often found himself alone in the shuttle bay, sometimes just helping out Cortez, mostly he would keep things orderly. He was a marine above all else, and if there was something drilled into his head over the years, it was order and cleanliness could determine success and failure. And as James told himself, the world might be ending, but that was no excuse to not keep the ship in pristine order. Also it calmed him to mop the floor, he would whistle oldies tunes as he cleared his head, along with the floor. When the doors to the shuttle bay opened with a soft sound, Vega looked up but didn’t stop what he was doing. Major Alenko carefully placed a sniper rifle, and some other guns on the workbench with a deep sigh. Vega stopped whistling, as Alenko groaned softly pinching the bridge of his nose. Vega put the mop away and walked swiftly over to the Major. “Are you okay?” He asked.
“Mhhmm, In a second I will be.” Kaidan rubbed his temples in little circular moves.
“Headache?” Vega asked politely.
“Yeah.” Kaidan answered, not caring to elaborate. “I’ll be fine in a second.”
Vega looked down at the rifles at the workbench, they were Shepard’s.
“Would you hand me the rifle oil?” Kaidan held out his hand, his voice barely above a whisper.
Vega wasn’t sure what was going on, but his mother had suffered migraines, and it seemed a little like that. “Why don’t you go rest, and I will clean his rifles?” He offered, but still handed the oil to Major Alenko, just in case he thought Vega out of line.
Kaidan was leaned in over the workbench, but turned his head and looked up at Vega with a pained expression. “You would do that?”
“Of course.” Vega said, smiling. “Can’t have the Commander’s rifles jam in the middle of combat, just because he didn’t have time to clean them.”
Kaidan smiled a tired little smile. “You’re a savior Vega.”
“Don’t mention it.” Vega said picking up the rifle oil from the workbench, “Any time, Major.”
If it was fatigue or what it was, Kaidan wasn’t sure, but suddenly he found himself confiding in the lieutenant. “I know Shepard wants to upkeep his own weapons, but he just has so much on his plate.”
“Understandable.” Vega said nodding, “You can just bring them here, and I’ll fix them. It’s a part of why I’m here after all.”
Kaidan frowned, “I thought you were his jailer. Along for the ride for the Alliance to make sure he behaves.”
James couldn’t have been more surprised if he had tried, he had not expected this from Kaidan, he was a damn Spectre! “Major Alenko, I..”
“I’m sorry.” Kaidan sighed, “Thank you, Lieutenant. And I mean that.” He pushed off the table and almost stumbled on the way to the elevator. Vega would just stand there and wonder what the hell, but then he recalled his mother, she had been terribly tempered and light would hurt her eyes when she had one of her turns. Maybe Alenko hadn’t meant to snap like that, maybe he was just in pain? Vega looked down at Shepard’s guns, those had not been maintained for a while, and he shook his head amused as he carefully took them apart to clean them.
In the time following their encounter at the Shuttle bay, James starting to notice how Kaidan would make excuses on Shepard’s behalf. He would come down with Shepard’s rifles once in a while, and Vega began to suspect it was when the Commander had fallen asleep and wouldn’t notice that Alenko swiped his weapons from his quarters. Vega didn’t question it, he just offered to clean them and keep up the modifications available. But somehow it got his attention, that most often Kaidan would be carrying data pads too, he meant to ask, but never really had the chance without sounding nosy.
And it would happen so that Vega got his chance to ask eventually. One evening Kaidan came down with a part of Shepard’s armor that had a laser burn on it, almost burned all the way through. And as he placed it on the workbench, he dropped the data pads he carried. Vega picked one up from the floor, he meant to help, but he couldn’t help but to skim the text on it. He looked up at Kaidan, “This is the Commander’s intel.” And then he handed it back to Kaidan who almost snatched it out of James’ hand.
“I know.” Kaidan said sounding on the defensive. But then eased and sighed softly. “I found it in the war room.” He looked down at the other data pads in his arms, “Another in the Hammerhead, and just… all around, I think he might be a little stressed with it all.” He said with a little awkward shrug. “Can’t expect him to be on top of everything.”
“True.” Vega said with a slight nod. If there was one thing he had learned about John Shepard while being aboard the Normandy, then it was that the man didn’t outsource his workload. He would work himself to the point where he would sit straight up and down and sleep with a data pad in his hand. Some would claim that it was not really the model version of competent leadership, but Vega knew that Shepard needed to have his hands in everything, he needed to know everything that went on, and he needed to know first. He was trying to run the ship, save the world and still chip in with the boys. And to James it sounded impossible, and the more he saw of Kaidan he knew that it was. There was no way in hell that Commander Shepard could keep this up, he had to crash eventually. And the more James thought about it, the more it was what Kaidan did, he would keep Shepard safe any way he could, by making sure he got sleep, that his rifles were clean, that his armor was up to the task, and that he had all that he needed, when he needed it. Almost motherly.
Shepard had gone on a mission leaving both Kaidan and James at the Normandy. He had decided that he needed a second sniper, and Liara’s contacts. Vega thought it was great with some downtime, even if they weren’t docked somewhere, where he could go loose his hard earned money, then still, extranet porn and food with the feet on the table didn’t sound all that off. He went to the kitchen where he found Kaidan pacing, back and forth, back and forth cursing under his breath.
Vega stood still in the shadows for a moment, just about to turn around away from the crew kitchen, leaving Alenko to his pacing. He heard the alarm go off indicating that the dock bay opened to let the Hammerhead in. The party was back on the Normandy. Vega hardly had time to register anything before Kaidan almost pushed him out of the way, getting to the elevator.
“Hey Cortez.” Vega leaned against the terminal where Cortez tried to follow numbers and different names for stuff for sale run down over the screen in alarming haste. “Cortez..”
“The buzz is that the Commander was injured.” He crossed his arms over his chest, studying Cortez in the light from the terminal. “Come on man, you can’t keep gossip like that from me! I’m your buddy, remember?” He leaned in a little, enough so he knew it annoyed Cortez.
“Fine.” Cortez hit the monitor with a flat hand, looking up at Vega defiantly. “Yes, the Commander was injured. Garrus took him to medbay.”
“How injured? .. Chackwas can just patch him up, right?” Vega nodded to amplify his own optimism.
Cortez sighed, shaking his head, “I don’t know. He looked pretty banged up to me.” He leaned in to whisper, knowing EDI had ears and eyes everywhere, “They had to sedate him. to stop him from going back out there.”
James nodded, “Is there anything we can do? I mean maybe we can save some of those colonists anyway?” He cleared his throat feeling like a traitor just to voice it. “Strictly we don’t ‘need’ the Commander to shoot some Cerberus fuckers, or Husks or whatever was down there.” He pushed his chest out and held out his hand as a gun aimed at the Hammerhead, “Look, man. I only need to know one thing: where they are.”
Cortez seemed to think about it. “I suppose you have to talk to Major Alenko, with the Commander out, he would be in command of the Normandy I guess.”
“You know where he’s at?”
“He followed Garrus and Liara to the medbay.” Cortez shrugged again, “Now if you please? Some of us are trying to work.”
“Sure.” Vega said, pushing off Cortez’ data bay, “But you’d do it right? I mean you’d drop us down there, right?”
“Of course.” Cortez said with a polite smile, “If the Major gives the order. Not for your baby-blues though.”
“You’re an asshole.” Vega grinned, flipping Cortez the bird.
Cortez returned the favor over his shoulder at the retreating Lt. “You too.”
He went back to the crew deck, it was dark and empty except from the luminated light in the floor. He could be in his bed, watching Asari twins getting it on on his computer, but instead he was here, on his way to try and talk the Major into letting a second party land on the colony. He willed all dark thoughts of the past away, this was not the same. This time around he was older, smarter and… meaner. He smiled at his own resolution, he took a deep breath before he walked into the medbay. The first thing he saw was the Major sitting at one of the slabs, his eyes closed, he looked like he was sleeping. Vega turned around towards the door, thinking that it maybe was a stupid idea to begin with. If whatever was there had sent the Commander down for count, then what made him think he could do anything that would be more deadly than bad language?
“Vega?” Kaidan opened an watchful eye and studied James in the half light.
“I’m sorry.” James mumbled, “I didn’t mean to disturb.” And to James’ surprise Alenko sounded almost relieved, “It’s okay, what did you want?”
James turned around again and faced the Major, carefully walking closer. “I just wanted to check in on the Commander. I heard he was injured.”
Kaidan bit down all the bitter words he had, and just said “You heard right.” He turned his head slightly and looked at Shepard that was sleeping blissfully unaware of the fussing around him. “That thing almost took off his left arm, and he wanted to push on. Liara had to use her biotics to restrain him as they retreated.” Kaidan sighed heavily, looking back up at Vega, “He was furious, the idiot was furious that she saved him.”
The expression on Kaidan’s face was not lost on Vega, “Do you know what was down there?”
“Husks, different kinds, lots of them.” Kaidan said softly.
“I want to go and finish the Commander’s battle.” Vega said, straightening his back, standing tall.
“But the enemy must be hurt and regrouping, if we move now, then..”
“I said no!”
“With a better tactic and a bigger party.. maybe..”
“Don’t make me pull ranks on you, Lt.”
In the end Vega just hung his head and sighed.
Kaidan leaned a little forward in his seat, looking directly up at Vega. “The colony is lost.” He licked his dry lips and added with a serious but hushed tone. “If they could do this to Shepard, I hate to see what they’d do to you, Vega.”
Vega blinked confused, “I can handle myself.”
“I’m sure you can.” Kaidan said with a little annoying arrogant smile. “But it’s still a negative, Lt. And that is an order.”
Vega huffed, but didn’t argue. Instead he relaxed again, as Kaidan relaxed back in his seat. He silently left the medbay, and walked depressed over to the crew kitchen, roaming through the cabinets to see if there was something that didn’t have an expiration date that was further out in the future than himself dying of old age. He could see the Major out of the corner of his eyes, caressing Shepard gently, talking to his. He couldn’t hear what the Major said, but as Alenko placed a butterfly kiss on the Commander’s lips, all pieces fell into place. Of course that was why he was always picking up Shepard’s mess, making sure everything was in working order. Vega felt slightly bad over having watched something that intimate, but most of all he felt sorry for the Major. That had to be horrible, to be in love with someone you had to work with, day in and day out, acting normal. And only when they were unaware could you express your feelings. It made perfect sense. With a slight sigh he stuck a fork into his portion of spaghetti with some sauce he didn’t know what the hell was, but it smelled okay. – And carried it into medbay. “Major? You still awake?”
“The answer is still no.” Kaidan muttered tired.
“I thought you maybe hungry.” Vega held out the food between them in the dim light, as a peace offering.
“For me?” Kaidan asked surprised, gingerly taking the plate. He shot Vega a suspicious glare, “Why?”
“You looked like you could use it.” Vega just said with a little smile. Not about to admit the truth, that he saw Kaidan do all these things for Shepard, but no one ever did something nice for the Major.
“Thank you.” Kaidan said, slowly starting to eat.
“You’re welcome.” James said, exiting the medbay for the last time that night.
When it happened exactly he wasn’t sure, but something changed. Something in both the Commander and Kaidan. Nothing big, it was very subtle and anyone who weren’t looking, probably would have missed it. But it was something in the way they looked at each other, and most of all how Kaidan who had always, to the best knowledge of James been a very careful, calculating guy. Always thinking one step ahead like a considering pros and cons of his actions. This man suddenly threw himself into battle with a recklessness that amazed even James. And as he sat here behind some crates waiting for the Cerberus soldiers to reload so he could get a shot or two in, he noticed Kaidan pushing ahead, he looked pale and strained. Tired. But he none the less effortless picked up two soldiers and slammed them against the far wall with a sound that made James’ ears ring. As the soldiers reloaded, Vega sprinted over to hide behind the same crates as Kaidan. he stole a look at the room, seeing Shepard covering behind a table in the far end of the room. Damn him and his one man charge missions. “Major.” Vega whispered. “Take a break, will you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kaidan looked over at Vega.
“You’re exhausted.” Vega stated, “The Commander is surrounded, and you’re no good to him, dead, So.. take a breather.” He smiled at the Major. “I will hold them off for a while, Sir.”
“Bastard.” Kaidan hissed under his breath, but he had to admit that it was sound advice.
Vega peeked up over the crate and ducked down as bullets whistled over his head.
“On 3.” Shepard said in their headsets. “Bring them hell.”
“Hoorah.” James replied.
“Copy.” Kaidan just said in a slightly clipped tone.
“One, two..” Shepard paused, “Three.”
They all stood up and gave it all they had, but unlike Shepard, neither Kaidan or Vega felt superhuman. And fatigue means loss of precious seconds. Vega didn’t even see the shooter, but he heard Kaidan yelp surprised as bullet hit him. “You okay there Major?” Vega asked still focused on getting the last two Cerberus soldiers.
“Yeah.” Kaidan answered.
It was not till the last two were dead that Shepard came out behind the table, or that Vega turned around towards Kaidan who was dangerously wobbly on his feet. Vega caught him more by instinct than anything. He heard Shepard run across the room, “Kaidan!” he gasped.
Vega looked down at the major in his arms. Kaidan blinked confused, and then struggled to get up. “I’m fine.” He huffed as James assisted him to his feet.
“No you’re not.” Shepard insisted, pulling off his gloves to inspect the fiercely bleeding graze that the bullet gave Kaidan on his forehead. “What if he had been just 1% better shot, you’d be dead.” His voice was slightly scolding, he pushed Kaidan down to sit on the crates that had been Vega’s cover just a moment ago. “We need to stop the bleeding.”
James pulled a crumbled packet of medigel up from his pocket, “I think you can squeeze some more out.” He handed it to Shepard.
“Thanks.” Shepard looked over at the door at the far end of the room, “James, would you go guard that hall?”
James just nodded and walked over to the other end of the room. Even if it came off as a sound order, then James as quite sure he was shooed off. He could see Shepard and Kaidan out of the corner of his eye, he saw Shepard tenderly applying the medigel, he could hear Kaidan hiss as it stung.
“That was too close Alenko.” Shepard said softly, his words only meant for Kaidan.
“It’s nothing.” Kaidan said with a little smile, “All better now.”
“When we go back to the Normandy, you are going to sleep, even if I have to wrestle you to the bed myself.” Shepard whispered.
“Yes Sir.” Kaidan said with laughter in his voice.
It was not like it was lost on James what went on, but when he saw Shepard lean in and kiss Kaidan lightly, more like a brush of lips than an actual kiss. He knew. That was why Kaidan was distracted, and why he took sudden risks, he was just trying to keep up, and clean up. But no one in their right mind could keep up with Loco, he knew that much. And then to handle the stuff that the Commander missed too, that was not humanly possible. He knew it wasn’t his place, but he agreed with Shepard on that one. Kaidan should sleep, it was dangerous to be tired and unfocused on a battlefield.
“Lets get on with this.” Shepard sighed. He turned to Vega, “The sooner this is done, the sooner we can get back to the Normandy.”
“You won’t hear me complain.” James said with a smile and as he opened the doors to the hall outside.
Maybe he shouldn’t have taken Shepard’s weapons without saying anything. A little voice in the back of his mind told him that it was bordering on invading the man’s privacy. But he had seen how tired the Major had looked lately, and the incident at the colony just cemented what James already expected. That Alenko would give 110% to what he believed in, and he believed in John Shepard. And James was pretty sure that John Shepard believed in Major Alenko. Which really just complicated everything. It wasn’t like James didn’t understand the gossip heard in the dark corners of the Normandy, that fraternization was bad for morale, and that the Commander was not in the game as much as he could be. Maybe it was true, but he knew that if the crew thought about it, if everyone thought about it, what was wrong with wanting to feel alive? Everyone deserved something to live for, Shepard had the whole ‘saving the universe’ thing to worry about, and the Major he just worried about staying alive long enough to see it though at Shepard’s side. Quite understandable really. And he was not one to deny the Commander happiness, no matter where he found it.
He couldn’t help but to worry a little though. Normally he wasn’t a worrying kinda guy, but the Major’s headaches had been occurring more often than before, and James thought it might be exhaustion. He was no damn doctor, but he didn’t have to be, to see that the Major was running a marathon with no end in sight. So that was when he had decided to nick the Commander’s weapons and clean them so Alenko didn’t have to worry about Shepard forgetting. He finished them up in the night silent shuttle bay, halfheartedly listening to new from earth from a monitor. It sounded bad, real bad. No wonder the Commander worked himself and all of the crew to the bone, trying to uphold hope for a future. That was heavy shit when you thought about it. He finished the last rifle and expertly assembled it again. Collecting them in his arms he walked over to the elevator, hoping that the Commander was down at the war room or at the command bridge, and not in his quarters. He had no way of knowing if he would be furious.
Looking over his shoulder as thief, he stepped inside the Commanders dark room carefully leaving the rifles at his desk. James almost jumped out of his skin as he head a deep voice.
“Yes Sir.” James said startled, recognizing Shepard’s voice, knowing that he had completely busted himself.
“What are you doing?” Shepard asked, getting up from the foot end of the bed where he had been sitting, completely hidden in darkness.
James stood as tall as he could, “I came with your weapons, Sir. I finished cleaning them and checking on the upgrades.”
Shepard walked up to James and grabbed him hard by the arm, pulling him out of the room like a little child. Once out in the hall, bathed in stark light, he let go of James and just glared at him, “What the bloody fuck are you doing?”
“I just thought that..” James said winching slightly, wishing he could rub his burning arm without looking like a wimp in front of the Commander.
“You thought..” Shepard spat, clearly very upset over having his private space invaded. “You are not paid to -think- Vega.” His frowned deepened, “I don’t want people touching my weapons, you -know- that. Marine!”
“Permission to speak freely. Sir.” Vega said, knowing he had to play this safe.
“Permission granted.” Shepard sighed, relaxing a little, waiting for James to talk.
“The Major have secretly been bringing me your weapons for weeks,” He took a deep breath, “You kept forgetting it, Sir. So he remembered it for you.”
John’s shoulders slumped a little, “I might have forgotten once or twice, but that doesn’t give you the right to just take them, when I have given you a direct order to leave them alone.” His voice didn’t carry the same indignation as before, he just sounded a little embarrassed to be true.
“The Major forgot too.” Vega said, “I think.. ” He paused, “I believe that he is..”
“Not you too.” Shepard held up his hand to stop Vega from speaking. “I just had half the goddamn chain of command ripping me a new one because someone here on the Normandy felt like the brass had to know about my private life..” He sighed, and looked at Vega.
“Tired.” Vega finished. “I believe he is tired. He is juggling too many balls, Sir.” When Shepard didn’t interrupt him, James continued, “Think about it.”
And Shepard did. For a moment he was completely still while his face color drained. “It’s my fault? All those headaches he’s had recently?” He rubbed his neck nervously, “I did tell him to sleep and eat, and I thought he had heard me.”
“Honestly?” Vega asked, not sure if Shepard wanted his opinion.
“He has been keeping up on your correspondence, making sure your data pads didn’t lay around for everyone to read, and getting your weapons and armor fixed.” Vega said, “I wouldn’t want your work load Sir, and no one is surprised that you fall asleep standing up, or have to have food brought to you, so you don’t forget to eat.”
Shepard didn’t say anything. He just got this strange haunted expression in his eyes. “Thanks.” He mumbled looking down at his bare feet on the floor. “For cleaning the weapons and all.”
James smiled slightly proud, “That is what I’m here for, Sir.”
None of them spoke any more of their conversation in the corridor outside the Captains cabin. Soon they had all been whirled back into combat in a race against time, and the Reapers. James didn’t have time to think more about the pale haunted version of the Commander he had seen for a moment. Grumbling a curse under his breath he was pulling a upgrade off Garrus’ rifle, it was totaled! What the hell had he thought he could do with this! Some times he hated that goddamn Turian, ‘here, fix it,” he believed were the words, and then he had found his arms full of a Mantis sniper. and ‘asshole’ he believed had been his reply. James tossed the ruined part and started to fill out a form for Cortez so he could order the right one again, but for now he had to come up with something else. He was sure they had something else around that would fit to one of these monsters. Head first in a footlocker roaming through discarded upgrades and doublets, he heard someone clear their throat behind him.
Almost banging his head against the lid of the locker, he turned around, surprised to see the Commander stand there with his arms full of rifles. “Here.” Shepard said. “I figured you did such a great job on cleaning them for a while, that maybe, it would be okay if you just took them in for upkeep now and then.” He smiled a little awkwardly holding out the rifles to James like some weird gift.
James took them and carried them over to the workbench, “This is not yours.” He mumbled, instantly recognizing the type and mods as he had said it.
“I figured Kaidan needed to catch up on some sleep, so I took his too.” Shepard leaned in and looked over James’ shoulder. “Can’t have his rifle jamming when he need it.”
“Very true, Sir.” James said with a laugh.
“Do you know if there is any food left, that doesn’t taste like urinal detergent?” Shepard asked casually.
James kept down a giggle, “You know how urinal detergent tastes? – Sir!”
Shepard chuckled too, “You know what I mean.”
James nodded, turning around, “I think there is some protein bars that hasn’t gone bad, and maybe there is some instant meatloaf, minus the meat.. Mystery loaf.”
“Wonderful.” Shepard sighed, “Thanks again, and..” He took a deep breath, “Thank you for making me aware of.. Of not seeing what was right in front of me. Sometimes the world just have to sort itself out, and we sort ourselves out, right?” He smiled awkwardly again, “It’s sorta good to know that you’re looking after him when I’m not.”
James would have made a joke, but he didn’t. He just smiled back and said “You can count on me, Shepard.”