Checkmate [2/2]

author: azzy
beta: ej/asylumfarm
illustration: heavenonfire
warning: Graphic Depictions Of Violence, Rape/Non-Con, slavery, depressing themes
rating: M+
fandom: mass effect
pairring: Kaidan/M!Shep, Vega/M!Shep
authors note: This is a sequel to Omega Days, read that first or this will be really weird. So this was supposed to be a short 6 to 8 pages ficlet, but you know how it goes… – Definition of checkmate: A situation in chess in which a player loses the game because that player’s king is in a position from which it cannot escape.

Shepard settled into a routine, finding himself almost content, he would work all day in the garden, no one bugged him, and he was left to himself and the plants mostly. He got to eat every day and slept on a cot, that was more than most slaves had, and he was okay really. Sonis trusted his knowledge so much she even asked his advice now and then. Sometimes James came to visit but he never stayed for long, it was mostly them having a swift talk while Shepard worked. As time went by, he reflected on the things that Kai Leng had told him. That Kaidan was just waiting for the right price, and the more he thought about it the more reasonable it became till he accepted it as truth. Kaidan had sold him out in a roundabout way. As angry as that made him, it also gave him peace as he stopped worrying about what happened, and whose fault it was that things had gone sour. The only regret he had was that he ever believing Kaidan’s bullshit.

Autumn was in the air on Jalnor, and he finished work early for the day. He found James waiting with Sonis at the barracks. “Shepard!” James called waving him over.

“James, Sonis.” He said with a smile setting down his bucket, “What caused this honor?”

Sonis gave James a stern glare and then turned and disappeared into the barracks. “Come.” James cheered, “I want to show you something.” He grabbed Shepard’s wrist and started to walk down towards the east corner of the garden.

“Wait…” Shepard laughed, “What is it?”

“You’ll see.” James said grinning, “It didn’t exactly come cheap.”

“Oh really?” Shepard’s interest was piqued, “What is it man?”

“A present.” James said. “Stop.” Shepard stopped and James came to stand behind him, he put his hands over Shepard’s eyes. “Alright slowly forward. I‘ll guide you.”

“Okay.” Shepard said with laughter in his voice. They walked for a moment, Shepard stumbling but James holding him tight so he didn’t fall. Finally, they stopped, and James removed his hands from Shepard’s eyes, “Alright you can look now.”

Shepard opened his eyes and found a basket of food. He turned and looked at James, “You made this?”

“I did.” James said nervously scratching the side of his neck, “You like it?”

Shepard split in a huge grin, “I love it.” He almost attacked the basket, “Oh it’s meat! Do you have any idea how long it has been since I had actual meat?”

James sat down opposite Shepard smiling as Shepard dug through the basket with childish enthusiasm. “Where the hell did you get all this?”

“Around.” James said with a sly grin.

Shepard pulled his hands back to his lap, and looked up at James with mistrust written all over his features. “And this is a present?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t want anything in return?” Shepard asked feeling slightly bad as James winced, but then shook his head. “Are you sure?” Shepard asked again just to be absolutely sure.

“It’s for you, no payment required.” James said softly. “Dig in.”

“Holy fuck.” Shepard laughed relieved, and then started to take stuff up from the basket. “Fruit that isn’t rotten! This is amazing!”

James just sat and watched Shepard eat; he experimentally picked up a piece of meat and held out his hand, “Here. Open your mouth.”

Shepard gave him a sideways glare, and suddenly he turned from enthusiastic to skittish and he hesitantly leaned forward to eat the meat from James’ hand.

“Come on, no need for that.” James said with a disappointed frown as Shepard’s lips closed around the meat and his fingers. “You don’t have to.”

Chewing the meat Shepard sat back, he was burning to call James out, he had promised there was no payments for this, and still he did something like that.

“I’m sorry.” James said with a sigh, “Shit I’m bad at this, aren’t I?”

“At what?” Shepard asked, still guarded and had not taken more food from the basket, just in case.

“Charming you.” James laughed as his ears turned red, “Alright the cat is out of the bag I suppose.”

“Oh!” Shepard stopped smiling and even moved a little away from the food, his voice dropped to a mumble. “I wish you wouldn’t.”

“Why?” James asked tilting his head studying Shepard. “Don’t you ever get lonely here? I could –“

Shepard looked down into the grass, how he wished he had never come here, that he had never eaten any of the food. Maybe he should just give James what he obviously wanted, he just wasn’t sure he was ready for it, he wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready for it again. “James I –“

“It’s fine.” James sighed heavily.

“Please don’t think I’m ungrateful.” Shepard said, his voice a little too shrill for his own taste. It would be really bad if James got mad, no way of knowing who he’d tell or what would happen. “I – I can pay you for the food and everything,” He paused unsure of himself, “If that is what you want.”

“I don’t want your payment.” James said sourly getting to his feet, “I want you to like me. To want me like I want you.”

“I do like you.” Shepard said slowly crawling back to the basket on all fours, “Just sit and we’ll finish this, okay?”

James sat down again with a frown.

Shepard inched closer, “You can feed me if you want to,” He whispered, knowing he was lying like hell, but right now he just had to save the situation, he couldn’t afford to have James angry at him. “Really.” He nodded.

“No you didn’t.” James muttered. “Are you still hung up on that fuckwit Alenko?”

“No!” Shepard said, hoping his answer wasn’t hesitant, for whatever reason. “That’s not it.”

“Then what is it?” James asked getting more annoyed, “You like me, but you don’t. We used to have fun, remember that? Back before any of this.”

Shepard bit his lip, he recalled their fling just fine, but it was mutual benefit, James looked after Shepard and protected him from the creepiest patrons, and in turn, Shepard gave him a little sugar. It had worked perfectly. “I remember.” Shepard finally said.

“So what is the problem?”

Shepard closed his eyes, “No problem.” He mumbled.

“Don’t lie to me.” James grabbed Shepard’s arm hard, making him flinch.

Shepard’s first instinct was to call him out on his absurdity, but he needed to get out of this situation, fast. On the other hand, if he gave James what he wanted, what was to keep him from coming back for more? “I’m not lying.” Shepard said hoping that James wouldn’t notice how scared he was.

“Fuck you.” James spat.

“No, no…” Shepard whispered urgently with a shaking voice, reaching out for James, “Come on don’t be mad, we can fix this.”

“What the hell did he do to you?” James asked, but he didn’t swat Shepard’s hand away “I just don’t understand why would you wish that I wouldn’t pursue you. And why do you shy from my touch?” James asked, looking absolutely heartbroken.

“It’s this place.” Shepard said, not entirely sure if he meant it or not.

“Not the kindest place, true.” James admitted, “But I have never hurt you.”

“No you haven’t.” Shepard whispered he bit his lip and swiftly looked over his shoulder; he paused, as James looked slightly crestfallen. “I’m not yours to have, it’s that simple.” Shepard explained with a soft voice.

For a long while James just sat and stared down at the space between their knees, “Tell me you don’t miss it.”

“Miss what?” Shepard asked gently, “Freedom or a lover?”

“Yeah.” James answered softly.

“Sure.” Shepard said with a little shrug, “But I just have to cope with it and work with what I got.”

“You know, back at Plastique I wish I could have warned you.” James smiled dismissive, “Maybe I should have, but I’m not sure you would have listened – you were too hung up on that asshole.”

“Warned me about Kaidan?” Shepard asked, not sure where James were going with this, or even why he was telling him. “Or warned me about you?”

“I know what you did for the Turian.” James said without blinking, “I never told anyone.”

“Thank you.” Shepard said in all honesty, not sure how else to react, but filed it away under things to remember about James Vega.

“So why don’t you trust me?” James said placing a warm hand on top of Shepard’s thigh. “All I want is someone to spend time with, someone to love – I mean you, I want to be with you.”

Shepard looked at James’ anticipating face, not sure how to respond to that. “You’d have to get permission from my master.” He said softly, congratulating himself on the smooth save.

-*-

It was weeks before Shepard saw James again, and when he did the bulky man wore a shit-eating grin. “Put down your shovel, Shepard.” He said, “And come, I have a surprise for you – and this time one you’d love.”

“Really?” Shepard asked puzzled, looking over his shoulder at Sonis who wasn’t looking his way. “Did you…”

“I talked to Groto.” He shrugged, “Alright so more like negotiated with Groto, and gave him the only thing he really respects, and in turn he let me have you for a day a week.”

“That’s great.” Shepard said slowly, his voice flat and tired.

“Come now.” James pulled Shepard’s arm and guided him out the garden to the gates. “I made dinner reservations.” He smiled, “Step up from a basket in the garden amirite?”

“Outside?” Shepard asked in blank disbelief, he pointed at the busy street outside the gates, “In Jalnor? Out there?”

“Yes.” James said. “You are mine till tomorrow morning.”

“Oh.” Shepard nodded slowly, “Alright.”

“First of all we need to get you some different clothes, because that thing you’re wearing won’t get you in anywhere.” James said, “I took the liberty of getting you some I hope you fit, come on.” James hauled him off again, this time towards the main house and James’ quarters.

James was smiling like a child come Christmas as he handed the parcel to Shepard, “Hope you like it.”

Shepard took the parcel and slowly unpacked it, it was black pants and boots, and a red shirt, looked his size all right. “Thank you.” He smiled at James, and for a moment, he just stood there until he realized that he was supposed to change into the new clothes right here. The thoughts raced in Shepard’s mind, James meant well, but really it was no different from anyone else, James also wanted him to be someone else, someone who fit James’ needs. He bit down any bitter remark he might have had as he swiftly changed clothes trying to forget about James standing there watching, waiting. After all he would get outside this prison, and with a freedom like that, came opportunities.

“You look fantastic.” James said, walking over to Shepard turning him around so he could see from all angles. “Perfect.”

“I love them, thank you.” Shepard said, daring a smile.

“So once we finished eating, we can go anywhere you’d like in Jalnor, anywhere you want to go in particular.”

Shepard looked down at his feet in the nice black boots, “I actually never have been out in Jalnor like that.”

“What about a movie then?” James asked, ignoring Shepard’s comment.

Shepard nodded. “Sounds nice.” He wanted to ask what James had paid, because even if he hadn’t come straight out and said it, Shepard knew that the only thin Groto respected was credits and power.

-*-

Shepard was still trying to take it all in as they were seated at their table at the restaurant, “I never thought there was so much life out here,” He laughed a little feeling stupid, “I just never saw normal people here.”

James just smiled and filled Shepard’s glass, “I’m glad you like it.”

Shepard tried his hardest not to wolf down the food on his plate and remember his manners. “So what movie were you thinking of?” He asked casually.

“I don’t know,” James shrugged, “There is some detective movie running, everyone is talking about it, maybe we should go see that?”

Shepard nodded. If he closed his eyes it would feel almost normal, the hum of the other patrons talking, the scent of food and the pleasant feeling of being full and the taste of wine in his mouth. Never had he missed Kaidan as much as he did right now, this was supposed to be theirs, but it wasn’t.

It was dark when they walked back through the streets it had been a mediocre movie. Still it made Shepard sadder than anything, it was sort of cruel to remind him of the life he could have had, that he had wanted and dreamed of, only to take him back to his prison at the end of the day. “James?” Shepard asked softly, “I have a favor to ask you.”

“Yes?” James said, wrapping his arm around Shepard’s shoulder.

“I need to talk to Garrus.” Shepard said in a near whisper.

“No.” James said, “Too dangerous.”

“Please.” Shepard stopped and looked at James in the street light. “I just need to make sure he is okay.” Upping his game Shepard wrapped his arms around James’ waist. “You could let me borrow your chit and use a public terminal, no one would know.”

James looked torn, “You can’t – what if…”

“Please… He was my friend James! He was your friend too. I just want to hear his voice.” Shepard smiled a little hopeful smile at James’ conflicted expressions.

James looked directly down into Shepard’s blue eyes, “You have five minutes, no more, no less. And don’t make me regret it.”

“You won’t.” Shepard whispered, obediently following as James hauled them towards a diner, he ordered a cup of coffee for them both and then discretely handed Shepard his chit. “Five minutes.” James whispered.

Shepard took the chit and made a beeline for the public terminal. His heart was hammering as he slid in the chit and typed in Garrus’ ID number. He almost gave up as the counter reached one minute and Garrus had not picked up. He wasn’t sure he’d get this chance again.

[Hello?]

“Garrus?” Shepard whispered into the microphone, and then laughed softly, “Garrus…”

[Shepard?]

“Yes, Garrus I don’t have much time.” He looked up at the timer counting his minutes on the phone, “I need a favor, it’s real fucking important.” He whispered.

[Of course. Was it too much with a courtesy call? And why are you whispering?]

“Long story.” Shepard said, turning his head smiling over at James at a table stirring his coffee. “I need you to find Kaidan for me, tell him I am alive and in Jalnor, on Lorek. Please Garrus.”

[Kaidan? Jalnor? What the hell is going on?]

“Please Garrus my time is almost up here, Kaidan Alenko with a K, the guy that got you off Omega. Remember him?” Shepard looked up at the timer; he had under a minute left.

[Ah yes I remember him. So I find him, then what?]

“Tell him I’m on Lorek, In Jalnor” He paused and took a deep breath, “At Groto’s house.”

[You went back there?]

“No, not willingly. Look Garrus I gotta go, this is dangerous for both you and me, take care and find Kaidan.” Shepard whispered as the timer hit 05:00. “Miss you.” And then he hung up, pulling out the credit chit and went back to James and sat down opposite of him, smiling wide. “Thank you James.”

“So was he doing well?” James asked casually.

“Yes.” Shepard said with a nod, accepting the cup of coffee that James pushed towards him. “It was really good to know he is okay,” He shrugged, “Maybe all this wasn’t for nothing you know? I did one good thing.”

James nodded.

They sipped their coffee in silence until James placed a hand on Shepard’s on top of the table. “Couldn’t it be nice if we could do this every week? Like I don’t know, sorta a regular date night? Getting to know each other again.”

Shepard had to force himself to swallow the coffee in his mouth, and not laugh at James; there was nothing near normal about this! Date night? Had he lost his mind? “Yeah that would be nice.” Shepard answered softly, willing himself not to remove his hand from under James’. For a split second he looked up at looked James square in the eyes, he looked completely calm and happy. And that scared Shepard more than anything.

James squeezed Shepard’s hand, “I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to.”

For an insane moment, Shepard wanted to laugh and never stop. “I know.” He said with a little smile.

-*-

This went on for a couple of months, James would pick Shepard up in the morning and had different outfits he wanted him to wear, and different places he wanted to go. He would correct Shepard all the time, walk this way, eat this way, sit like this, smile like that. And Shepard did it – like a trained monkey he just accepted all James’ weird kinks, just to get out of Groto’s house. But truthfully, Shepard got more and more nervous for the moment when that wouldn’t be enough. He could just imagine it, turn like this, moan like that. He would have laughed if it wasn’t a terrible reality.

“You know what it is this week?” James asked as he guided Shepard through the mass of people. When Shepard just shook his head, James continued, “It’s Frell, the Batarian celebration of love, it’s a festival that last a week.”

“Oh, Yeah I heard of it.” He said busy suppressing memories from before he was shipped off to Omega.

“So I was thinking that we should do something romantic, you know in the spirit of the festival.” James said.

“Like what?” Shepard asked, not sure what to expect.

“I made a hotel room reservation, a nice one with room service and everything.” James said, “You’ll love it.”

“I’m sure.” Shepard muttered and let James guide him to the hotel.

At the desk the receptionist looked over the couple and then at the reservation, “Welcome back Mr. Vega, but I’m afraid It only says one person.” The receptionist said. “Mr. Vega?” He looked at the two men.

“I’ll pay extra.” James said and placed his hand on the offered palm scanner.

“Thank you Mr. Vega” the receptionist said as the scanner made a little ding. “And who are you?” He looked at Shepard.

The lobby was full of people, visiting Jalnor for the holidays, families, couples, and single people. He took a deep breath and lifted the pink shirt that James got him, and held down in his belt to show his brand, “105” Shepard mumbled as he waited patiently while the receptionist took a scanner and ran over the brand. “Groto Ib-ba.” He mumbled, “There’s no warnings so I suppose you can go up.” The receptionist looked at James, “We have to raise your liability deposit sir.”

“It’s fine.” James said and accepted the key-card, “Happy Frell to you.”

“And happy Frell to you as well.” The receptionist said with a smile.

He guided Shepard up the stairs. Shepard didn’t want to look back over his shoulder because he could only imagine the stares. James led him to the door and opened it. The first Shepard saw as he opened the door was a human young man, he couldn’t have been much more than twenty, waiting naked on the bed.

“Ah, Shepard this is  … uhm…” James gestured at the boy.

“Mouse, Sir.” The boy said softly.

“Mouse.” James repeated.

Shepard just stood rooted to the spot, waiting for an explanation. James walked into the room and picked some food items from the pre-ordered room service trolley. “So Shepard, it’s up to you.”

“What is?” Shepard mumbled, staring at the boy who turned to hide his own brand on the left side of his ribs.

“What you want to do with him.” James said with a shrug, “He is my present to you for Frell.” He studied Shepard, “I am trying to respect that you don’t want to fuck me, but maybe you wanted to fuck him, I don’t mind, I’ll just stay over here and watch. Or we could both fuck him… It’s up to you.” James said smiling, and Shepard was sure he had lost his fucking mind completely.

“I…” Shepard looked from the kid to James, “Thank you.” He smiled something more akin to a tick. “James? Could I maybe get a moment with him alone? He looks terribly nervous.”

“So? Give him some of the tablets in the drawer on your left.” James said, sitting down in a plush chair with a drink in his hand.

“I will.” Shepard said, “But please?”

James shrugged, “I suppose I could go get another bottle of wine from the bar.” He stood up, “You got till I’m back, if you decide you don’t want your present, then I am going to get my money’s worth before we go home.”

“No worry.” Shepard smiled stiffly, “I appreciate your gifts, I always do.”

The second James was out the door, Shepard turned to Mouse, “Listen up, we’re gonna give him what he wants, but I need him to fall asleep.” Mouse looked confused, “I need his credit chit, and make phone call, and he can’t know.” Shepard said, opening the drawer on the side table pulling out the blister package with pills, “I need some, you?” he popped three out in his hand.

“Yes please.” Mouse muttered and took the offered package.

Shepard reacted on practice and dropped his shirt on the floor as he walked over to the table with foods and drinks, “Fuck why isn’t there anything stronger than wine?” He turned to Mouse, “Toss me those red sand pills.” Shepard said “Hurry.” He emptied the rest of the package in the wine and shook it, “Let’s hope an overdose of this works.” He picked up the empty package and went back to the bed just in time for James to walk through the door.

Shepard closed his eyes and leered as the red sand started to work, and Mouse’s hands on his skin just did crazy things to his cock, and before his pants were off he was afire. And just like Shepard had thought James barked commands from his chair, luckily, Mouse was professional and just twisted and turned, arched and moaned on command.

When they finished they both lay on the bed panting, James had started on his second bottle of wine. Mouse turned to his side, popping up on an elbow. “Now it makes sense.” He whispered, and touched Shepard’s brand.

“I’m sorry for all this.” Shepard whispered, pulling Mouse closer so James couldn’t see what he said.

“He’s still awake.” Mouse whispered.

“I know.” Shepard whispered back, “Fuck.” He slowly sat up and looked at James, giving him his best dirty look, “Why don’t you come over here?” He spread his legs as an invite, “I’m still hard.”

James grinned, “Dipped the red sand did you?”

“Maybe.” Shepard ran a hand down Mouse’s side, grabbing the kids hand and guided it to his chest. “Come on James, like old times.”

James stood on wobbly legs and got out of his clothes as gratuitously as he could manage. “I knew you’d beg for it eventually.” James grinned drunken.

“You know me well.” Shepard mumbled as he pulled James in for a filthy kiss, noting James’ lack of an erection, hoping it meant he was too drunk already.

James pulled back from the kiss, roughly pushing two fingers inside Shepard, “He fucked you good and lose.” He muttered, “Turn around on all four.” Shepard obeyed straight away twisting around with James’ fingers inside him still.  James fucked Shepard with his fingers, caressing him with his other hand. He added two more fingers without much finesse, and pushed so hard Shepard almost tumbled forward. Shepard looked up at Mouse seeing nothing but empathy there.

James caught on and stopped thrusting his hand and just twisted his fingers inside Shepard, “Are you that hot for his boy-pussy?” He slurred, “Eat it then.”

Shepard turned halfway around, looking at James over his shoulder, “Let him fuck his own ass, I want you.” Shepard bit his lip when James pulled the fingers out of his ass, and with a little wink to Mouse, he sat up watching as James lay down on the bed. He still had no erection.

Mouse watched James watching him, and he slowly started to touch himself, out of the corner of his eyes seeing Shepard pushing James’ legs apart, disappearing down between the firm thighs. James closed his eyes in bliss, and reached out to lay one hand on Mouse’s thigh, and one on Shepard’s head.

James opened his eyes halfway and watched Mouse fucking himself, moaning softly. James wet his lips, slowly closing his eyes.

Shepard Slowly stopped and got to his knees looking down at James. “He’s out cold.” He whispered.

Mouse nodded and with professional ease just sat up in the bed stretching his back, and left for the bathroom.

Shepard left him to it, and crawled off the bed; he walked over to the food trolley and downed a glass of wine from the new bottle that James had bought. “You fucking lost your mind.” He mumbled, and then turned to rummage through James’ pants after his credit chit. He heard Mouse turn on the water. “Found it.” Shepard smiled victoriously at the chit. He walked to the bathroom, not to risk waking James, “Hey kid, can you stay here? I have to go find a public terminal; I can’t call from this hotel.”

Mouse shut off the water and grabbed a towel. “You can’t, what if they won’t let you in again?” he stated flatly.

“True.” Shepard sighed. “I will just have to hope he never checks.” Shepard shrugged. “Inserted the chit and dialed Kaidan’s ID, his heart beat to the point where he was dizzy as he waited.

[Yes?]

“K-Kaidan?” Shepard whispered in the phone, his smile so big it hurt.

[John?]

“Yes.”

[When Garrus called me and told me you were alive on Jalnor, I thought it was bullshit, another ruse.]

“It’s not.” Shepard whispered.

[I know – I contacted someone I know in Jalnor, and she reported back to me that you were very much alive, and apparently very friendly with James Vega, that asshole doorman from Plastique. What is he even doing there?]

“Please baby, it’s not like that.” Shepard begged, ignoring the strange look he received from Mouse. “What am I supposed to do?”

[Not jump on the first dick you see?]

“Please Kaidan, Oh God, please – I didn’t.” Shepard’s eyes welled with tears, he was tired of being on guard all the time, pretending he was okay and that this didn’t bother him, all he had to cling to was the memory of Kaidan and everything he ruined. “I’m sorry for everything,” He managed to mumble.

[I’m sure you are, when you are stuck on Jalnor.]

Shepard didn’t answer he just broke down crying, he didn’t know what he had hoped, that Kaidan would save him? “I shouldn’t have called you.” He whispered.

[John?]… [John?]

“Yes.” Shepard choked out.

[Are you safe?]

“No.”

For a while it was silent except from Shepard’s hushed sobs.  [What exactly is it you want from me?]

Shepard shook his head slowly, “I don’t know.”

[Don’t cry.]

“I can’t help it.” Shepard mumbled, “I’m just so tired. And I just wanna go home – to you.”  Shepard whispered. “I’m sorry I was so confused and bitter – I… I don’t know why, or how to apologize.” He paused for a while, his chest full of words he didn’t really want to say but felt he would burst if he didn’t. “I can’t do this again, I can’t be someone’s property anymore.”

[Did you know about Miranda?]

“No.” Shepard mumbled, running a hand over his shortly cropped hair, not sure what to say about that. “Did you really check on the market to see what I was worth?”

[Yes.]

Shepard looked up at Mouse who just stood there with food in his hand, but had abandoned eating, his eyes wet for Shepard’s misery.

[I had to know]

“Sure.” Shepard whispered.

Mouse hunched down and held his balance with a hand on each of Shepard’s knees looking up into his puffy face, “Let him go.”

Shepard nodded, he knew Mouse was right this was nothing but torture; he had to acknowledge that Kai Leng had been right, and that there was no white knight. There was only this, and this was his life now. There was no reason in beating himself up over pissing his chance away with Kaidan. “I, uhm gotta go.”

[John.]

“Yes.”

[I loved you.]

“Thank you.” Shepard whispered, “For what it’s worth then – I…”  He didn’t finish the sentence and just pulled the chit from the terminal. “Fuck!”

Mouse hadn’t moved, he was still looking up at Shepard. “Love is a luxury people like us just don’t have.”

“True.” Shepard ran a hand over Mouse’s hair gently. “I had freedom, for one glorious moment in my life I had something else than this.” He nodded at James on the bed.

“Is he your master?” Mouse asked bluntly.

“No.” Shepard felt tears welling up again, “He pays for me when he wants to go out and play normal couple. Shit… I can’t do this Mouse.”

“Don’t give up.” Mouse said softly, “Are you born here on Jalnor?”

“No.” Shepard said sadly, “I’m from a small colony, mom, dad and – whatever it’s a very long time ago.”

“I am.” Mouse said, “I’m born here, branded before I had baby teeth.” He looked intently up at Shepard. “I want something else too, but I don’t know how.”

“That is… that is terrible.” Shepard pulled Mouse in for a hug, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, not your fault.” Mouse smiled and slipped out of Shepard’s arms, and after a silent moment asked, “Are you afraid? Of dying I mean.”

“No.” Shepard said in complete honesty. “Impending death is a condition of life here on Jalnor.”

“True.” Mouse nodded. “Grab his chit and his pants and we make a run for it.”

“But we have no ID, how are you going to get through customs?” Shepard asked.

“Natural charm?” Mouse said, “You had training in a harem, I can tell.”

Shepard frowned and nodded, “Yeah. But it’s been a while.”

“What’s the worst that can happen?” Mouse shrugged. “Death? So what. At least we died free.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t have done so much red sand, this is crazy.” Shepard mumbled rubbing his face in his hands.

“It’s the sanest thing I heard in years.” Mouse said, “If you don’t want to come, it’s fine, but I’m going.”

Shepard worried his lip between his teeth, if he did this it could go horribly wrong, there were after all worse things than death. Though he doubted he meant enough to his master anymore for him to bother with a transfer, a bullet was cheaper. “Alright.” Shepard said, “Alright let’s go.”

Mouse smiled wide and got dressed, his flimsy clothes didn’t exactly hide what he was, but it wouldn’t matter as long as it was Frell.

It was with a hammering heart Shepard descended into the lobby with Mouse at his side. “Check out please.” The clerk said and held out the palm scanner. Shepard lifted up in his shirt again and let the clerk hand scan his brand, and then he scanned Mouse as well. “Can I ask where your supervisor is?”

“Master Vega wished to sleep, he got quite drunk.” Shepard said, “I am a gardener, and I have duties when the sun rises, if you do not believe me, you can hand scan me.”

The clerk turned to Mouse, “And you were paid for the evening I assume.”

“Yes.” Mouse said, “I too have to return to my master’s house.”

The clerk looked over the data, “Yeah Sómer Jag, I see the order.” He looked up at Shepard and Mouse, “Alright you can go.”

“Thank you.” Mouse said and turned and walked calmly towards the door. “Holy fuck he whispered.”

“You don’t say.”

“First thing’s first.” Mouse said, “We need to transfer his credits to a different chit.” He grabbed Shepard’s hand, “Come!”

They hurried down alleys and streets, “I know this guy who can do this for a favor.” Mouse said with a little hurried smile, “Don’t worry, I’ll deal with it – you keep lookout okay? Knock on the door if you see anything weird.”

“Alright.” Shepard said confused and dizzy, he couldn’t believe he did this! It wasn’t really too late to turn around, but the thought of his tiny cold cot, and James’ weird infatuation which he knew would come to a crossroads soon, and when it did it would end badly. No this was right, Mouse was right. If they died, they died trying.

-*-

They had slept in an empty flat in the slums, and Shepard was woken with his stomach growling and his head pounding. Mouse wasn’t there, would he abandon him now? Would he take James’ fake chit and make off? Shepard rolled up into a ball and figured that no matter what he couldn’t deal with it right now, his head hurt so much that he was sure he’d puke if he sat up.

About an hour later Mouse came back, he had gotten himself some real clothes, and looked very different without all the gold glitter and flimsy fabric. “Shepard,” He shook Shepard gently. “I got some clothes for you, I’m not sure they fit, but it is what it is.” He smiled at Shepard’s bloodshot eyes. “Come on.”

Shepard slowly sat up and took the clothes, “Thanks.”

“So officially no one is looking for us – yet.” Mouse said, “There is nothing in the news, so that is good.”

“Yeah.” Shepard mumbled while he slowly got into the clothes that Mouse brought.

“Still think we need to lay low for a couple of days before we attempt to get off planet.” Mouse said.

-*-

Shepard was staring into the metal roof of the vent, thinking about this last month they had been hiding in the shadows, slept whenever and wherever it seemed safe, while he was waiting for sleep to take him. Mouse was pressed up against him, breathing steadily. “It’s like a casket.” Shepard mumbled.

“Yeah.” Mouse mumbled. “I’ve been thinking, that maybe it’s time we make for the port, and get off planet.”

“Me too.” Shepard said. “But what if they have a bounty out? We wouldn’t know that. I really don’t think Groto is bothered with this a second time, he thought I was damaged goods when I was returned last. So… yeah I don’t think he’s gonna pay for a bounty.”

“I don’t think my former master is bothered either.” Mouse said, “Besides I don’t think he has that kind of money.”

“What about you call that friend of yours?” Mouse whispered, “Maybe he is the best bet to get us off world without the hassle?”

Shepard smiled bitterly, sneezing from the dust in the vent. “I think he’s done getting me off any world.” Shepard closed his eyes and yawned, “Most of all he is done with me.”

“Shame.” Mouse whispered.

“You have no idea.” Shepard mumbled, “I… uhm… I was rented out to this asshole on Omega, dancing. And I met Kaidan there, he was trying to find someone I knew for a bounty and well… he decided that I was more important than the bounty and paid to get me off Omega and to Earth with him.”

“That sounds romantic.” Mouse said softly.

“It was, for a little while.” Shepard whispered, “But I think something is wrong with me, and I never settled on Earth. I was restless and angry – I don’t know why.” Shepard sighed, “I think that maybe my mindset was still here in Jalnor even if my body was on Earth… Like I expected him to –“

“Always being watchful and paranoid.” Mouse mumbled.

“Yes.” Shepard whispered, “That’s it. I just waited for him to go back on his word. Because no one just does what he did for free. There is always a price of some sorts.”

“I understand.” Mouse yawned.

“I should have trusted him, he is a good man.” Shepard sighed, “But that is the past”

“We have money.” Mouse whispered.

“Not enough.” Shepard chuckled. “But maybe if one of us has a bounty out, he would take that and take the other off world?”

“No.” Mouse turned around and settled again. “We do this together.”

-*-

Shepard was sure that the plan with just trying to get through customs would get them both killed, so when Mouse left the next morning, he went to a café that had a public terminal. He slid James’ chit in and called Kaidan’s ID. When it was picked up in the other end it had a lot of static, like from a portable device. “Kaidan?”

[John!]

“Did I call at a bad time? I can call back.” Shepard was biting a nail, more nervous than he wanted to admit.

[Where are you?]

“A café in Jalnor.” Shepard shrugged, “Look I called you with a proposition…”

[John…]

“No please hear me out.” Shepard whispered, he looked over his shoulder and then back at the terribly mangled feed of Kaidan. “Me and a friend need to get off world, and I don’t have any money… but if either me or Mouse has a bounty you can collect that, or collect the highest and get the other off world.” When the other end was silent, Shepard cleared his throat, “Please?” and to his surprise, Kaidan started laughing. The camera swung around he could see a sign but because the feed was bad, he couldn’t tell what it was. “I can’t see that.” He mumbled.

[It’s the Garenti.]

Shepard felt a pang of pain and surprise, “You’re in Jalnor?”

[Yep. So where are you?]

Shepard bit his lip, “Uhm… why?”

[What do you mean ‘why’? I’m here for you.]

“But why are you here for me?” Shepard whispered.

[You called me, remember?]

Shepard took a deep breath, this was not a conversation for a public terminal, because you never knew who was listening in. “There is a docking area for cargo in the far west end of Jalnor. Meet me by entrance D in an hour.”

[See you then.]

“Yes.” Shepard answered back before he pulled the chit, this felt wrong somehow. He wanted to trust Kaidan, he wanted to believe that he had been checking up on his bounty back then, because he wanted to know if it was high enough for another bounty hunter. But he just wasn’t sure. But on the other hand, he had offered himself up as payment, so he shouldn’t really be worried should he?

He left a message for Mouse at the vent where they had been sleeping, and left for the docking area, the whole way there his mind was racing with why Kaidan was here. Was he working for Groto? Would he just shoot him on sight? Then what about Mouse? Shepard laughed a little of himself, he had been here for too long. Kaidan would never shoot him. Or would he?

He couldn’t see Kaidan when he arrived, so he just crawled up on a container so it was easier to see far, he would see him coming from a long way away. And after a while, he saw someone walk down the alley for the D entrance, he strained his eyes to see if it was Kaidan.

The person came closer and he could recognize Kaidan, his stomach made a silly little flip. And Shepard inwardly berated himself, he didn’t have time to act like an idiot. This was business. He jumped off the container and walked over to Kaidan. “Alenko.” He smiled, “I’m glad you came.”

“Shepard.” Kaidan said looking up and down Shepard. “You look like shit.”

“The Jalnor look, it’s an acquired taste.” Shepard shrugged. “So are you going to tell me why you are here?”

Kaidan crossed his arms over his chest, “Because you called me.”

“Are you telling me that you came all the way here to – to… uhm… because I called you?” Shepard studied Kaidan carefully.

“You were crying.” Kaidan said with a defensive tone, but took a step closer to Shepard. “And maybe I was being an asshole… so yeah, I don’t really know what I’m doing here.”

Shepard smiled bitterly, “I have a bounty out, don’t I?”

“You do.” Kaidan said, “But I didn’t plan on collecting.”

“Why not?” Shepard shrugged.

“Because I despise your new master more than your old one.” Kaidan answered truthfully, “Look no tricks up my sleeve, and I’m not here to make you come home with me, I think I owe it to you to be happy. I will take you anywhere you wish, and you can start over.”

“My… my new master?” Shepard asked, feeling like an idiot.

“You mean you didn’t know?” Kaidan said studying Shepard with a worried frown. “Vega bought you off –“

“That’s right.” James cut in as he turned around a container and stood in the light to the left of Kaidan and Shepard.

“Wha- “ Shepard spun around to see if there was more, “How?”

“Groto decided that you’re not worth the hassle, so I got you at a discount.” James said with a smile.

“But…” Shepard looked over at Kaidan who was scanning the surroundings.

“Taking off with my money Shepard… Really?” James said with a pout, “I thought I was being good to you.”

“You were!” Shepard argued, “I…” And then he shook his head, “No, I’d rather die right here than going back to belonging to anyone.”

“Is that a fact?” James said coldly, “If I were you, I’d reconsider that statement.” He held up his arm and signaled to someone, and a moment later a body was tossed from a container, Shepard instantly recognized Mouse. “So here is where we are.” He placed his foot on Mouses’ head, grinding his skull against the concrete. Mouse was barely conscious but enough so that he whimpered.

Shepard looked at Mouse in horror, so that was how they’d found him. But he knew how Kai Leng made you tell things you swore you’d take to your grave. And he felt no anger, just pity and sorrow. “Let him go.” He mumbled.

“And I will.” James said with a smile, “See this is how it works, you come over here and we leave this fucking cesspool of a planet together. And the fuckwit over there can save this kid if he feels like it.” James looked directly up at Shepard, “If not, you all die, and we’re gonna start with him.”

At the words ‘we’ Shepard looked up and saw a figure up on the top of the office building in the middle of the docking area. He looked down at Mouse and then over at Kaidan. “Tell him to kill me then.” Shepard said.

“John!” Kaidan hissed, instinctively taking a step closer to Shepard.

James shrugged, and aimed his pistol at Mouse’s thigh and fired.

“No!” Shepard cried, Mouse just whimpered and weakly attempted to get free from under James’ boot. “Stop!”

“Gladly.” James said, holding out a hand for Shepard to take. “Come along then.”

“James.” Shepard said hesitantly taking a step out closer to James, “Why are you doing this?”

“I couldn’t make you love me, but I can make you mine.” James said. “You’ll learn to love me over time.”

“That’s not how it works Vega.” Kaidan stated angrily.

“Oh I know, but over time I’m sure that will change.” James said, aiming his gun at Kaidan, “This asshole needs to disappear though.”

“No James!” Shepard reacted without thinking, and just jumped in front of Kaidan. He pushed Kaidan away and stepped towards James. “Alright! If I go with you, you leave Mouse and Kaidan alone.”

James seemed to consider it, and then aimed his gun at Mouse, shooting him straight through the head, blood and chunks spraying up on his boots. “No deal.” James said.

“NO!” Shepard screamed, “What is wrong with you?”

“I hate lose ends.” James stated, “Now for the last time, come.” He held out his hand again.

Shepard looked over his shoulder at Kaidan, and then took a deep breath and hesitantly started to walk towards James.

“You can’t!” Kaidan yelled behind him.

“Of course he can.” James said with a smile, “Face it Alenko, you lost.”

“You are fucking crazy!” Kaidan growled.

“Maybe.” James said, grabbing Shepard’s hand as soon as he came close enough. “But he’s mine, and that is all that matters.” He smiled at Shepard, “Even if you have been bad,” James kissed Shepard’s temple, “I forgive you.”

Shepard closed his eyes and controlled his breathing, this was it – if he went for James’ gun he might up dead, but he couldn’t go with James, he had promised himself that he’d never again belong to anyone. He looked over at Kaidan who was deeply engaged in a shouting match with James.  He knew Leng was watching from the roof, and that the possibility that Kaidan would walk out of here was slim to none. With a swift move Shepard went for James’ gun, grabbed it but slipped on Mouse, and fell flat on his back.

The entire docking bay went completely silent, the chaotic screaming stopped the moment that Shepard landed on his back, and in one insane moment Shepard wondered if he had gone deaf. He realized he was holding James, gun and with shaking hands aimed it at James. “I am not leaving with you.” Shepard said flatly, wondering where this calm came from. “You do not own me.”

“Oh but I do.” James said softly, staring at the gun more than Shepard. “You’ll never be free; you are just an asset to whoever happens to own your papers. I bought you to keep you safe, to give you a future. Why do you fight me on this Shepard?”

“You bought me because you wanted to.” Shepard answered back.

“I wanted to train you and we could take up contract elsewhere, you and me.” James said, still not moving. “I know you Shepard… We are alike! None of us is domesticated, you will never be happy in a little house playing family. We are a different breed.”

“You don’t know shit about me.” Shepard hissed.

“If that fuckwit over there goes for his gun, Leng will shoot him before he even aims.” James said with a little smile.

Shepard swallowed hard, knowing that James was right, so he aimed the gun at his own head instead. “I don’t care.” Shepard said, staring directly at James, “I got nothing to lose anymore; do you?”

“John, don’t.” Kaidan called somewhere behind him.

“I lost everything James, the only thing I got left is choosing how to end it.” Shepard said.

James took a step forward to get the gun from Shepard, and as he bend over to get the gun, Shepard turned the barrel and fired directly at James. James flew back from impact, and Shepard scrambled away. Trying to shoot again, when the gun just made a weird click sound. “Shit, fuck…” Shepard mumbled as shaking hands tried to pull the slide. He felt arms pull him away, realizing that Kaidan was trying to pull him from Leng’s aim.

James groaned, and struggled to get up; Shepard gasped and pulled the slider harder, hoping to unjam the gun. “Kaidan!” He yelled.

But before any of them could react, James hit the ground and stayed down for good, Kaidan slowly got to his feet, looked over at James and then up at the office buildings roof. “He shot him.” Kaidan mumbled.

“That makes no sense.” Shepard mumbled, but then thought back to something Leng had said, that he only ever did what he did for money. So what if someone offered him more money? “Or… did you?”

“No.” Kaidan pulled Shepard to his feet. “Maybe Groto was fed up with his shit too?”

Shepard looked up at Leng, “He’s still there.”

“Hey.” Kaidan turned to Shepard, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry for everything, it was just not how I imagined it. I should have listened, shouldn’t I?”

“It’s okay.” Shepard said, caressing Kaidan’s cheek, smearing blood over it, “I should have told you.”

“I love you.” Kaidan whispered with a little sad smile, “And that was why I came here. I tried not to, but I couldn’t leave you to this. You deserve the best of the best, even if it’s not with me.”

“I’m glad you came.” Shepard said, pulling Kaidan closer to a kiss, closing his eyes as their lips met. “I love you too.”  He kissed Kaidan’s lips once more. “We aren’t getting out of here alive, you know that.”

“I do.” Kaidan whispered back, “We could make a run for it.”

“Or we could just stay here till he takes the shot.” Shepard mumbled, staring at Kaidan.

“We could.” Kaidan wrapped his arms around Shepard, and kissed him again. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too.” Shepard mumbled against Kaidan’s lips.

-*-

Kai Leng looked at them through the scope of his rifle. He had to give it to Shepard, he really did have more balls than most. But that didn’t change what he’d been paid to do. His order was to put James out of his misery, it had not gone unnoticed how unhinged he had become, and Groto had worried that he would jeopardize his business. So Leng had offered, not cheap but he had offered. He never liked that asshole anyway, you never ever mix business and pleasure. And you never ever let greed or emotions overcloud your better judgement or your mission.

Yet here he was wondering. He had been ordered to shoot Shepard, but he found it hard for some reason. He still didn’t like Alenko, and he wondered if he could aim his shot so he could wound Shepard and kill Kaidan. He was sure that Alenko wasn’t a stupid man, and would recognize the gift he had been given. Kai Leng sighed, and took the shot.

-*-

Shepard gasped, and collapsed in Kaidan’s arms. “No!” Kaidan yelled, “Goddammit!” He was so preoccupied with Shepard bleeding on the ground, that he didn’t see Kai Leng leave the roof. “John? John!”

“Yeah.” Shepard winced as Kaidan pressed down on the bleeding bullet wound in Shepard’s side. “You’re okay.” He mumbled dazed, “That’s good.”

“But you’re not.” Kaidan argued, his voice breaking over.

“I’m fine.” Shepard smiled as he closed his eyes.

“I am going to buy you a house on Horizon, and you can have as much earth to grow wild things in as you want.” Kaidan said attempting to sound calm, but his voice carried a panic-stricken tone as the blood kept flowing out from under his hands.

“Sounds nice.” Shepard whispered.

“You can’t die here! Godammit John!  Open your eyes!” Kaidan cried.

Shepard opened his eyes and looked up at Kaidan with a dull glazed look in his eyes. “You found me. You came for me…” He took a shuddering breath, “Made me happy.”

-*-

Kaidan landed with the commercial shuttle on Horizon, he blinked against the stark sunlight as he got out of the shuttle. Why was it always so damn bright here? He tried to come here as often as he could, but he didn’t have much downtime.

He walked with purpose through the settlement till he came to the unit that he had bought. He stopped at the fence that surrounded it and braced himself. Opening the chain fence, he was pounced on by three varren.

Shepard looked out through the door. “Kaidan! Boys, get off him.” He laughed and limped out to greet Kaidan. “I said shoo,” He shooed off the varren, and wrapped his arms around Kaidan’s neck and kissed him. “Welcome back stranger.”

“Hey babe.” Kaidan smiled against Shepard’s lips. “Who’s the third?”

“Oh that is Ruth.” Shepard laughed a little at himself, “I guess she was hungry.”

“Are you telling me that the fence is still open to the back?” Kaidan shook his head amused. “You are crazy.”

“I hate keeping them locked up, and well I know they’re here because they want to be. Is that really so weird?” Shepard argued and kissed Kaidan quickly again before he let go and walked up to the house again.

The limp made Kaidan cringe, “How’s your hip?” Kaidan asked, “It looks bad.”

“Better.” Shepard lied.

Walking through the door to Shepard’s home, Kaidan did send Kai Leng a thought, a man like Leng didn’t miss; his shot was on purpose to maim not to kill. Sometimes he felt like telling Shepard, but Shepard refused to talk about that day. But maybe he knew it too, that Leng had given them this gift, this opportunity to sort their shit out, be it as it may. The world thought that Shepard had died that day in Jalnor, his papers had been handed over, his brand was a crater of broken flesh and the scar made it impossible to see that there had once been something else there. A life for a pound of flesh – Not a bad deal at all.

The man with the limp was now John Unger, botanist and local excentric, and Kaidan loved him just as much if not more than he had ever loved John Shepard.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s