warning: implied child abuse, major character death, bigotry, AU medieval setting.
fandom: mass effect
pairring: kaidan/mshep, implied; miranda/shep, jack/shep
AN: A extra warning for this chapter, cause there is a childbirth. If that unsettles you I wanted to say that it’s not overly graphic, and the baby is going to be fine. =)
Shepard had helped handing out the gruel, people had been thankful; some had even kissed his cheek. Sitting down to eat his own portion, he had looked over at Kaidan who was seated some meters away, he had smiled so sweetly and proudly, it was worth a million times more than the kisses in his cheek. Shepard felt his chest flutter and his own returned smile widen to a leer. He was proud, wasn’t he? He had done something good here, but best of it all was that smile that Kaidan had given him, it spoke volumes about their friendship.
The mood was merrier than it had been in a long while, until a two men came carrying a woman, Shepard had seen her before, but now she looked deathly pale and on the verge of consciousness. “There is something wrong!” One of the men squeaked, frightened.
“Come, bring her inside the temple.” The Senior Priest said, “Quickly now.”
Shepard looked at the scene unfold before his eyes, noticing Kaidan getting up from his seat, handing his gruel to the person next to him before he hurried inside the temple.
“What ails her?” Shepard asked the woman sitting next to him, “Do you know?”
“I know she is pregnant,” She shrugged, “Must be the baby,” the woman sighed, “That poor lass.”
Shepard looked down at his bowl of gruel, “Maybe the Brothers know a way.”
“Maybe.” She said, “Childbirth has always been dangerous business for any woman, to take it lightly would be foolish.”
“Do you think she will survive?” Shepard asked in a whisper.
The woman shook her head slowly, “But the Brothers might help ease her passage to the Deep Dark.”
Shepard fell silent, it felt wrong just to let that woman die, but he was not a doctor, and he knew nothing at all about childbirth. Still he could not just sit here. “Excuse me.” He mumbled getting up, getting his crutch and walked as fast as he could to the temple.
As he arrived, he literally bumped straight into a flustered Kaidan. “Shepard!” Kaidan panted, “Do you know how to deliver a baby?”
“What?” Shepard answered surprised, “Eh, no.”
“Damned be.” Kaidan muttered, “Shepard, that woman is going to die if we don’t –“He hesitated and looked over his shoulder, “They are in there meditating, that is all well and good, but I care not what Sovereign might do or not do with her soul, that poor woman needs a doctor.”
Shepard bit his lip, “What is the problem? Is she sick?”
Kaidan shrugged and shook his head at the same time, visibly shaken by the whole situation. “No I don’t think so. Her husband told us that she had been in labor for the past two days and still the baby has not come out.”
“You could cut the baby out, maybe it would survive, if it isn’t already dead.” Shepard the ever pragmatic, said.
“By the Dark! Shepard!” Kaidan squealed appalled.
“Forgive me; I am still thinking as a military man. If a man’s leg is killing him, cut it off and he might survive.” Shepard looked away from Kaidan’s wild blown eyes, embarrassed that he had even voiced that thought. “We have to do something Brother Alenko.”
“Come.” Kaidan grabbed Shepard’s good arm and hauled him along.
The scene that met Shepard made him take a step back. The woman was splayed on the floor and the Brothers and the two men were sitting around her, mumbling, meditating. Shepard squared his shoulders and walked up to the scene, gingerly he sat down and looked where the baby was supposed to come out, he had thought it would be horrible, but it wasn’t – actually it reminded him of something. “Kaidan.” He whispered, Kaidan coming to his side. “I think the baby is stuck.”
“We could try one thing, maybe it will work, and maybe it will not.” Shepard whispered, “And no, there will be no cutting anybody up involved.”
“When I lived on the farm, we had a cow which had a stillborn calf, but for some reason it didn’t …uhm… fall out. So my grandfather reached in and unstuck it.” Shepard felt his cheeks heat up, “Maybe it would work on a woman as well.”
“I don’t see what we have to lose.” Kaidan whispered back.
“Right.” Shepard took a deep couple of breaths, preparing for what he would do.
Kaidan shuffled nervously, not sure if he should sit down with the other Brothers, or if he could help Shepard. Poor Shepard looked mostly like he was going to be sick, still it made Kaidan’s heart swell a little, he had just never realized how brave someone had to be to be Knight-Commander. He had always thought that the generals and commanders would hide behind his army, commanding people to their deaths, but always sticking to the back, barking out orders. He had a hard time seeing Shepard being that kind of leader, he was sure that Shepard was the type of commander who would be in the first line, ready for whatever came his way. No wonder his men loved him.
“Alenko!” Shepard suddenly yelped, “Come quick!”
Kaidan was shaken from his thoughts and hurried to Shepard’s side, to his surprise Shepard held up a tiny slightly blueish baby, Kaidan had never seen a new-born before and was slightly shocked that it was so, slimy. “Hold him.” Shepard said, and Kaidan did, he held out his arms and accepted the tiny sticky bundle in his arms.
“Isn’t it supposed to cry?” Kaidan asked disturbed, noting that the mother struggled to hoist herself unto her elbow, looking at the scene; even the Brothers seemed to hold their breath, waiting.
Shepard looked bewildered for a moment, and the dug a grimy finger into the baby’s mouth before leaning in, breathing softly into the baby. When he pulled back, the baby weakly wiggled. “Look Alenko! Look! He’s alive.” Shepard looked close to tears, he cupped Kaidan’s face and placed a kiss straight on his lips, Kaidan did not even get a moment to process before Shepard pulled back, and then leaned in for a second kiss. “He is alive.”
“He is.” Kaidan mumbled, licking his lips. “He belongs with his mother.”
The father of the baby left his wife’s side to come collect the child. “What is your name good Ser? I want to thank you properly.”
“John.” Shepard said, “My name is John, and –“
“There are no words to tell you what you did for me and my family.” The man said, holding the baby close to his chest.
“It was my privilege.” Shepard said smiling happily at the man and Kaidan.
The festivities were well under way around him, and Kaidan was in a good mood for the first time in what seemed like ages. The first surviving baby in years had to be a cause for celebration. Sadly, the head priest did not feel the same, and had urged all of the brothers not to participate. Kaidan thought that was preposterous and was glad to see that he was not the only who had disobeyed the priests wishes.
Kaidan had seen Shepard earlier, he seemed in his element, working on seven different projects, laughing and having a great time. Shepard really was a hands-on kind of man, only really happy when he was actually working with his hands and body. Now he sat down on a stump, sweating like a pig, and laughing at a guy who kept getting the steps wrong, drinking wine and tapping the rhythm with his foot. Kaidan saw his moment and casually walked over and sat down next to Shepard. “Enjoying yourself?” Kaidan asked as he sat.
“It’s marvelous.” Shepard said with a big smile, and then nodded, “I think we all needed to be reminded that there are more in this world than death.”
“True.” Kaidan said with a smile. “I have been meaning to tell you that what you did for that baby and the mother was… brave.”
“You think me brave?” Shepard’s smile became amused and coy at the same time, and he looked away from Kaidan and out over the dancing people again. “Thank you. But I think most would have done what I did.”
“No they wouldn’t.” Kaidan said softly. “You know that.” He paused, “Surely it can’t be the first time you were told this.”
Shepard shrugged, still not looking at Kaidan, but Kaidan could see the smile widen to a grin. “Would you believe me if I said yes?”
Kaidan did not answer; he just stared at Shepard, at loss for words. Finally, Shepard turned his head and looked at Kaidan, “I am a soldier, Brother Alenko. I am not brave; I follow orders and do my duty.”
“No one ordered you to save that child.” Kaidan insisted.
“True.” Shepard nodded. “I’m glad I did – Save him that is.”
“Me too.” Kaidan agreed, he wanted to ask about the kiss but he dared not, he was not sure he wanted to hear the answer from Shepard. It had most likely been a spur of the moment kiss, still Kaidan could not help but to wish it was so much more.
“Knight-Commander! Show us one of them fancy dances from court!” A man yelled.
Shepard shook his head, “I am not a dancer.”
“Please?” A young woman who sat closer to Shepard said.
“You are noble of birth Brother Alenko, you know how to do a Saltarello?” Shepard whispered to his sideman.
“Yes.” Kaidan whispered back, “I haven’t danced in at least five years, so I might…”
“Still better than me I’m sure.” Shepard smiled at Kaidan as he stood. “Right.” He pointed at the musicians, “You know how to play a Saltarello?” The musicians nodded. “Grand!” Shepard laughed and then turned to Kaidan who still sat at the stub, “May I have this dance?” Shepard asked as he bowed and held out a hand.
Kaidan hoped to the abyss and beyond that he did not blush in front of all these people, and yet he took Shepard’s hand letting him pull Kaidan to his feet.
Shepard smiled and mouthed thanks, and Kaidan hoped that only he could hear how his heart hammered in his chest.
They held hands and took a couple of steps forward, a couple of steps backwards, a kick to the side, and kick to the middle – So far so good. Shepard let go of Kaidan’s hand and twirled around laughing, waiting for Kaidan to do the same, and as the resumed the step kick routine, Shepard started laughing, “I’m the girl?”
“That you are.” Kaidan answered back with a badly hidden grin.
“Can’t be helped then.” Shepard laughed and let Kaidan twirl him, almost losing his footing. “Oh dear I think I had more to drink than I thought.” Shepard laughed.
“Stand.” Kaidan giggled, watching as Shepard stood still and curtsied as Kaidan danced around him in a full circle before the resumed their step kick.
Shepard could not stop laughing and could hardly dance for his laughing fit. “You stand.” He laughed and then did the same as Kaidan did before.
“Are you ready?” Kaidan chuckled. “Both hands.”
“Absolutely.” Shepard said, and grabbed both Kaidan’s hands as they danced around in a circle, in the end Shepard tripped over his own feet and brought them both stumbling down to the ground.
Kaidan was not sure if he should be mortified or amused as Shepard pulled him down with him, and he landed chest against chest in front of every inhabitant of the shelters and his brothers. However, Shepard just laughed, “Told you I wasn’t a dancer.”
“You did a fine job till you fell.” Kaidan mumbled getting to his feet.
“Teach me.” A young lady gently pulled the sleeve of Kaidan’s robe. “Please.”
Shepard just laughed as he too got to his feet, gesturing to the band to keep playing. He smiled at Kaidan and the woman, “Excuse me,” He bowed politely again, “I need more wine.” Shepard shook his head and laughed softly as he walked back to his seat.
Kaidan tried to show the woman how to dance, and slowly more came to, allowing Kaidan to slip away. He looked over at the stub where Shepard had been seated, but found that he was no longer there. Kaidan turned around and scanned the feast till he found Shepard in deep conversation with a younger soldier, sighing Kaidan decided not to interrupt and just sat down to watch the dance. He tried not to look in Shepard’s direction but failed. Why was he even entertaining these ideas, nothing would come of it. He could hear Shepard’s drunken laugh over the music.
It was late when Shepard found Kaidan again; he was standing against a wooden pole in the damaged structure of the cloister tapping his foot to the music. Shepard held out his glass to Kaidan, “Want some?”
“No thank you.” Kaidan smiled softly. “I don’t drink alcoholic beverages. None of the brothers do.”
“Forgive me.” Shepard slowly lowered his arm, “I did not know.”
“How could you know?” Kaidan said with a shrug.
“Walk with me?” Shepard asked stepping in front of Kaidan.
“If you insist.” Kaidan said smiling in contrast to his hard words, and then followed Shepard down the path away from the cloister courtyard.
“I take it that Brothers don’t dance either.” Shepard said a little cautiously.
“You’re right.” Kaidan said, enjoying the night air and getting away from the drunken, noisy feast for a while, but not sure why Shepard would make such a request of him.
“But yet you danced with me?” Shepard asked softly, “How come?”
“You asked me.” Kaidan said, knowing that he could never give Shepard an answer that would satisfy him.
Shepard stopped and turned to look at Kaidan in the dark. “Won’t the senior priest be angry with you?”
“Perhaps.” Kaidan said turning to start walking again, “It is not easy to know what will anger him.”
“If you wish it, I will speak to the senior priest and tell him I made you dance.” Shepard said jogging two steps to keep up with Kaidan’s now brisk pace.
“No need Shepard.” Kaidan sneered.
“Wait.” Shepard grabbed Kaidan’s arm and turned him around so they were face to face. “I didn’t know that Brothers didn’t dance, if I had known I would never have asked it of you.” He stared Kaidan directly into the eyes, “At least let me undo the wrong I did.”
“I could have refused you.” Kaidan said harshly, “You make it sound like you ordered me to dance.”
“True.” Shepard sighed, “Please Alenko, tell me why you are so upset with me then.”
Kaidan shook his head, there was no way to explain how he felt, he had not given love any thought in years, he had come to terms with this was how his life was going to stay, he was going to live it out in solitude with the Brothers. He was never to take a wife, never sire children, never to take a lover, never to know what a naked body against his own felt. Until recently, he had never thought he would know what a kiss would feel like. Damned be John Shepard to dance into his life like this and turn everything upside down, to make him yearn for what he could not have.
“You must tell me.” Shepard’s words slurred a little but he looked worried, which just made Kaidan look away. “In truth I have grown rather fond of you Alenko. You are wise, beautiful and caring. I would be yours if you but say the word.” He paused, “Please tell me how I wronged you so I can undo the damage,”
Kaidan’s mouth was dry and his heart beat with double the pace, but he still managed to look at Shepard calmly. “You must mistake me for my sister. Sir.”
“What?” Shepard’s worry gave way to confusion. “Why would you say that?”
“We should head back.” Kaidan said, and tried to pull his arm back, but Shepard just tightened his grip keeping him in place.
“Tell me, please. Why would you say that?” Shepard asked, a frustrated tone snuck into his voice.
“Your compliments are lost on me.” Kaidan stated flatly.
“But…” Shepard tried to meet Kaidan’s eyes but he Brother would not let him. He sighed heavily and then let go of Kaidan’s arms. “Please stay, I will speak no more of it.”
Kaidan looked at Shepard in the dark, he looked so sad, but Kaidan told himself that the knight-commander was drunk and that was why he reacted thus. “I will see you in the morning. I hope to travel into town to procure yet another cow or horse to cook.” He smiled a little sadly at Shepard, “I bid you good night, Sir.”
“Please.” Shepard said, but as he looked up Kaidan had already started to walk back up the path to the cloister. “Good night to you as well.” Shepard mumbled as he sat down on the side of the path with a sigh.