warning: implied child abuse, major character death, bigotry, AU medieval setting.
fandom: mass effect
pairring: kaidan/mshep, implied; miranda/shep, jack/shep
Shepard crumpled up the poster and tore out of the tent, he ran barefoot through the cold sludge on the paths of the camp and up the hill to the temple, he had to find Kaidan! He startled two brothers in the long dimly lit corridor as he sprinted past them. He finally came to a halt in front of Kaidan’s cell door; he didn’t knock but just ripped it open. “Alenko!” He whispered urgently, “Get up!”
Kaidan sat up in his cot wide eyes and confused, “Commander, what are you doing here?”
“It’s important.” Shepard tried to steady his breathing from the long sprint, but had enough thought to turn and close the cell door behind him. He sat down on the side of the cot staring at Kaidan with frightened eyes.
Kaidan couldn’t remember he had ever seen or heard fear in Shepard’s voice that only unsettled him even more. “What… what is –“
“Oh Kaidan.” Shepard took Kaidan’s hand, “I know I said I’d wait for you, but the time for waiting is over. Please Kaidan come with me – tonight.” He bit his lip feeling words just tumble out much like his heartbeat so fast he thought he might pass out.
“What?” Kaidan looked at Shepard “You are not making any sense, what frightened you so?”
Shepard sighed, he pulled the crumbled poster from his tunic, “This.” He handed it to Kaidan who turned in the bed to get light from the candle.
“What is… he lost his mind.” Kaidan gasped.
“I know.” Shepard said and hung his head, as if he felt slightly guilty. But maybe if he had refused to go, the king would never have listened blindly to the ABM. “We have to go Kaidan; it’s only a question of time before they come here.”
“The queen…” Kaidan mumbled, “Who would have thought?”
“I don’t care about the queen, I care about you, and I have to get you safe. Please by the void let me do that.” Shepard begged, “Please don’t stay and get yourself killed for this.”
“You think they will kill everyone?” Kaidan whispered.
“Yes.” Shepard whispered back, “Come now Kaidan, if the king is willing to sacrifice his queen, then do you really think that they won’t kill the mob?”
“No…” Kaidan whispered, “But that is insane!”
“I know.” Shepard whispered back. “Please, please come with me, we can just slip away in the dark, no one has to know.”
“We should warn them! We could…”
“No!” Shepard barked, “That would just create a panic.”
“So you think it’s fair that you want to save me, but leave the rest of these good people in the hands of those madmen?” Kaidan straightened up and shook his head, “Either you warn them or I am staying to warn them myself.”
“But if I warn them you’d come with me?” Shepard said as a weak smile formed on his lips.
“Yes.” Kaidan said with a little nod.
“I love you!” Shepard rambled and kissed Kaidan square on the mouth. “Let’s go then.”
True to his word Shepard had marched in and handed the poster to the brother whom Kaidan had said he trusted to get the word out to the camp. And then they had went to Shepard’s tent, picked up the very few things they needed and rallied the men which Shepard had left asking them if they wanted to come or not. Most chose to join them and as they set out of the camp towards the border they were twenty strong.
“I still don’t like sneaking off like this.” Kaidan said softly.
“Sometimes running is what keeps you alive.” Shepard said looking over at the village in the distance. “Self-preservation isn’t always cowardice, sometimes it’s just the sensible thing to do.”
“But what if they come to slaughter all those poor people? Without you and your soldiers they are just ripe for the picking.” Kaidan argued in a low voice.
“Say we managed to kill the soldiers who came along the ABM officials, then what? Take on the entire empire? That is madness Kaidan.” Shepard wrapped an arm around Kaidan’s shoulders and pulled him tight so they walked side by side. “Besides,” He whispered in Kaidan’s ear, “These men aren’t loyal to me, they were deserters to begin with, remember?”
Kaidan nodded in silence, just wanting to get far enough away so he might feel free of the brotherhood.
Kaidan sat and stared into the flames of the fire, he looked up and saw three fires like his, men huddled around them, some talking, some sleeping. “Kaidan.” Shepard said stepping into the light of the fire, “These are for you.” He handed Kaidan a bundle of clothes. “It was what I could scrape together of what people had brought along.”
Kaidan just looked up at Shepard with a puzzled gaze, “Clothes?”
“You are not a brother anymore, you are free to do exactly what you want.” Shepard sat down next to him and smiled widely.
Kaidan nodded and took the clothes gingerly. “Free.”
“Scary?” Shepard asked.
“Yes.” Kaidan said with a little mirthless laugh, “All my life people have told me what to do, and now suddenly I have all this freedom, and I can’t make myself feel it.”
“It will grow on you.” Shepard said as he leaned in and kissed Kaidan on his cheek.
“And what if this freedom means that I got up and left right now?” Kaidan asked with a dark tone.
“Then it was your choice.” Shepard said, “I would be heartbroken, but I would let you leave if you wanted to.” Shepard said as he placed the clothes in Kaidan’s lap. “I’d rather you stayed with me because you chose to, than because you felt like you had to.”
Kaidan stared at Shepard for a long time. “You mean that?”
“Yes.” Shepard said, confused as the clothes were handed back to him.
“Very well then, I want to return to the camp and help the people you left behind.” Kaidan said as he stood to his feet.
“I don’t understand.” Shepard mumbled, scrambling to his feet. “I thought you wanted to be free.”
“As you thought I’d give you my virtue.” Kaidan said coldly.
Shepard took a deep breath, “You are right. And if you want to return to the camp you are of course free to leave.” He looked over at Kaidan’s angry form, “And your secret is safe with me.”
“John, you need to learn how to ask before you assume and just take from other people.” Kaidan said, placing a friendly hand on Shepard’s shoulder.
“What did I ever take from you?” Shepard asked with a tiny voice.
“My life.” Kaidan stated flatly.
Shepard looked up at Kaidan in alarm. “How so?”
“I was content in my place before I met you. I did not miss a warm smile or a voice, I didn’t care about anything but my duty – and then you came and that all changed. I can never be the same man.” Kaidan said.
“I didn’t mean to.” Shepard said softly.
“But maybe it’s time I am the man I want to be instead of the man I was told to be.” Kaidan shrugged and looked over at the fireplace and the bundle of clothes.
Shepard sat down by the fire again, poking it with a stick, “I’m going back to the capitol.” He mumbled, “I understand why you’d not want to come.” He turned his head and spoke in Kaidan’s general direction. “But I’d rest easy knowing you are safe from the ABM.”
“Why?” Kaidan asked and walked over to the fire and rested on his knees, looking directly at Shepard’s profile in the orange light. “He gave you a death sentence for a reason; do you really wish to return only to have it carried out by the hangman?”
“James would not…” Shepard stopped himself and turned to look at Kaidan “You told me your secret, maybe it’s time I told you mine.” He paused and looked back into the flames, “The child the queen had was not sired by the king.”
“You?” Kaidan whispered urgently and scooted closer.
Shepard nodded, “She said she was barren.” He whispered, “For the king was already looking for a new wife to bear him an heir.” He wrapped his arms around his shins, staring into the flames, “She was so distressed and I just wanted to comfort her.”
“Is that why you sent your wife from court?” Kaidan whispered.
“Partially.” Shepard nodded, “I was trying to protect Jaqueline and Miranda both, and the children too. I didn’t care too much about what would happen to me if the King ever found out, but..”
“And you worry that he found out, and that is why he is going to execute the Queen under a large spectacle?” Kaidan asked.
“I understand.” Kaidan inched closer until he could wrap an arm around Shepard’s shoulders, “You are an idiot John Shepard.”
“Yes.” Shepard smiled a bloodless smile, “I never told anyone before.” He turned his head and looked directly at Kaidan “But I trust you, and I wish you’d trust me.”
“I saved you from death, and in turn you saved me from my existence. I say we are even.” Kaidan said.
“We are.” Shepard said with a little nod.
“So if I were to journey with you to the Capitol, you would be in my debt.” Kaidan said with a little amused smile, which confused Shepard. “When your business in the Capitol are over, you will take on work on a ship and leave this place, live your dream.”
Shepard’s smile grew, “I can do that.” He said, and then his smile faded, “But I don’t expect that I’ll live long enough to walk out of the capitol.”
“Nonsense!” Kaidan argued, “You and I will stand on the deck of the ship and hail the sandy shores” He squeezed Shepard’s shoulder lightly.
“So you are staying?” Shepard whispered.
“I need to know…” Shepard took a deep breath because he wasn’t so sure he wanted the answer to his question. “What are we? Are you my friend or my lover?” The moment Kaidan opened his mouth to answer Shepard interrupted, “Wait, do not answer now.” He reached up and caressed Kaidan’s hand on his shoulder. “We need to sleep.”
Shepard lay down in front of the fire, and to his surprise, Kaidan lay down behind him and spooned up against him. Hesitantly Kaidan wrapped an arm around Shepard’s chest, and with a smile, Shepard took the hand in his and held it close to his chest.
The next morning Shepard woke alone, the fire had gone out, and half the men was missing, a rag-tag band of deserted soldiers sat and talked a short way away, their voices a constant low-key hum. Shepard sat up, he saw the bundle of clothes were gone but that could have been anyone stealing it in the dark of night. He looked around and found no trace of Kaidan. He looked away from the men at the other fireplace, he didn’t want them to see the disappointment on his face. His chest felt like it was going to burst, and most of all he felt like just letting go and weeping. He had been so sure last night, so sure that Kaidan would stay as his lover. He said he’d stay hadn’t he? Maybe he had just lied, everyone lied once in a while. Shepard took a deep breath and got to his feet, he picked up his jacket that he had used for a pillow, and walked over to the rest of the men. “Where are the others?” He asked.
“They left.” One man said, “Said they wanted to strike out on their own, I think some might have gone back.”
Shepard nodded, “I see.” He looked over his shoulder in the direction of the border. “I am headed for the Capitol, you do not have to follow me, for to do so would most certainly mean death, but those of you who wish to attempt to cross the border are most welcome to tag along.”
“I will.” A young soldier said, “I too wish to return to the Capitol, and my family.”
“Very well, come on then.” Shepard said, while never really looking at the boy, but at the horizon hoping to see Kaidan walking back here.
They were a total of four people when they left the makeshift campsite towards the border. Shepard, the boy Auden and two more.
After they had walked for some hours Shepard finally stopped Auden’s chatter, “The priest, did you see him leave?”
“I did.” Another soldier said, “I think he went back to the camp.”
Shepard nodded stoic, he didn’t trust his voice.
“We all know you were fond of him Ser.” Auden said, “Maybe he left to –“
“Silence!” Shepard barked, “Not another word about him!”
Auden closed his mouth and efficiently killed whatever he was about to say, and just marched on.
They walked in silence, ate in silence and when the time came they laid down to sleep in complete silence. Shepard’s stomach rumbled weakly, the wounded bird they had managed to catch had not really fed any of them, it had only managed to hold off starvation. Never in his life had Shepard felt more alone and scared, he wasn’t sure what would happen when he made it to the Capitol, maybe they’d kill him on sight? And Kaidan, the brave, righteous little fool, they would kill him straightaway back at the camp. For a while, he entertained the fantasy of what would have happened if he had met Kaidan instead of Jaqueline back then, would he have fallen in love right away, as he had now? Would he had been consumed by the urge to have him by his side like now? He smiled bitterly to himself in the dark, Kaidan would never have given him the time of day, he was a noble and Shepard was a servant, albeit one with a sword and a fancy title, but he was not of noble birth and that was all those bastards thought about. Kaidan had his parents and a garden to folly about in, and Shepard had work and orders. No he would never have met Kaidan back then, how unfair that they met now. He found some comfort in Kaidan doing what he felt was right, he was many things but coward wasn’t one. In the end, he gave up on sleep and got up to relieve the night guard, “Kid.” He said as he walked over towards where Auden sat, “Go get some sleep.”
“But..” Auden stared at Shepard, “Very well Ser.” He got up from the rock he had been sitting at. “Ser?”
Shepard sat down on the rock with their only weapon, a poorly made bow. “Yes?” He looked up at the scrawny kid.
“I would never have done that to you.”
Shepard just stared at the kid in wonder.
Auden smiled weakly, “I bid you good night Ser.” He turned and walked back to the two other sleeping soldiers.
Shepard ignored it, and just stared out over the dark field. Light rain for a day’s time had soaked his clothes, but he didn’t particularly care about it, the weather matched his mood. Now all he had left in the world was to try to save Miranda’s child from whatever fate awaited. Shepard had no doubt in his mind that Miranda being a biotic was just the excuse, but the illegitimate child was the reason. If he could do one good thing with his life it would be to save the child from its ill fate, after all, he was responsible for the child’s very existence, and by the Void, he would do right by it.