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For a dinner made entirely out of Alliance-issue provisions, it was a damn decent imitation of chicken alfredo.

One of the crew had gotten creative with the provisions, whipping up a sauce that almost tasted like the real thing, pasta that didn’t taste like extruded cardboard, and surprisingly well-seasoned protein strips standing in for the chicken. Kaidan was waiting for her just outside her cabin with two plates of it balanced on one arm, a datapad clutched in his other hand when she arrived, twenty minutes late for their working dinner meeting.

“Saved you a plate,” he said, proffering up one of the covered dishes that had gone cold, despite the steam clinging to the underside of the clean plastic cover.

“Sorry I’m late. Adams held me back for longer than I expected.” She flashed him an apologetic smile and took the plate. The door to her cabin swooshed open automatically, having read the presence of her omni-tool.

“What was that about?” He asked, following her in. Her desk was cluttered with a half a dozen datapads strewn across it. She shoved them aside so they could both set their plates down on it. Kaidan waved his omni-tool over them to warm them up.

“Tali gave him all sorts of technical specs before going back to the Flotilla. Adams has been working up plans to integrate some of them into the Normandy’s systems and he wanted me to sign off on them, but not before explaining them in detail.” She took a seat at her desk and lifted the cover off of her plate, enjoying the smells that wafted to her nose. Kaidan settled into the chair on the other side of the desk. It was a bit of a tight fit—the Normandy, and by extension her cabin, wasn’t big. There was just enough room for a desk and a private bed. One of the few perks of being the commander.

“Yeah, he and I were up pretty late going over them a few days ago,” Kaidan chuckled before digging into his dinner.

“You didn’t have to wait for me,” she said, eying the way he wolfed down the food. She knew how much the greater metabolic needs of a biotic like him meant he needed to eat.

“You weren’t that late. I didn’t think you should eat alone at a working dinner,” he said around a mouthful of pasta.

“Alright. Let’s hear the reports, lieutenant.” She leaned back in her chair once she’d had enough and pushed her nearly empty plate away. She didn’t miss how he hungrily eyed the last portions of food, so she pushed it toward him. After wolfing that down, too, he neatly stacked the plates and covers and set them aside, then picked up his datapad with the ship’s daily report on it.

“Nothing out of the ordinary, Commander,” he said, slipping comfortably into his role as her subordinate officer. Normally, she’d be having this kind of meeting with Navigator Pressly, but he’d passed that on to Kaidan for the time being. He went on for a while, giving her the highlights of the issues the crew felt were worthy of her attention, as filtered through the view of Pressly and Kaidan. She allowed herself to simply listen without comment, trusting the two of them to filter out what was really important among the various personnel issues and supply and assignment requests that typically cropped up.

It was no exaggeration to say that the Normandy’s crew was the finest she’d ever served with. Each one had been hand-picked by Anderson before she’d taken over for him. They’d been to hell itself and come back through the other side even stronger than before. They trusted her, and she tried to repay that trust by making sure they had whatever they needed. She was becoming increasingly unafraid to use her status as the Hero of the Citadel to see that they got it.

And more immediately, it was nice to spend time with Kaidan, even on strictly business issues like this. These moments were precious, but had a bittersweet edge to them. Pressly deferring to Kaidan on these matters wasn’t just a matter of a wink-and-a-nod from the ship’s executive officer. Admiral Hackett had strongly hinted during their last few meetings that he had the lieutenant pegged for a promotion soon. A promotion that would in all likelihood see him rotated off the Normandy to serve as someone else’s right-hand man, or perhaps even a command of his own. Pressly was grooming him for that job just as much as Hackett and, hell, even she herself was.

She was happy for him. Kaidan was a good man, a damn fine officer, and he deserved the chance to shine on his own. But a part of her, a damnably selfish part, wasn’t nearly so happy. Within a few months, one way or another, he’d likely be on his way to his next assignment with the Alliance.

“Hey, you look pretty far away there. Want to tell me what’s on your mind?” Kaidan set the datapad down to look at her, his eyes searching her face for traces of her thoughts. She shook her head slightly.

“Running over some logistics in my head for the next few months. Speaking of which, did you and Pressly get that issue ironed out between Grieco and Draven?”

“Yes ma’am. It’s a small ship. They don’t have many places to just get away from each other. We got it so they won’t have to work the same shifts in the CIC again for at least a month, and they’re on opposite sleeping shifts, too, until cooler heads prevail.” He handed her the datapad he’d just set down, which had the roster on it. It only needed her initials for approval.

“Good work on that,” she remarked, signing off on the changes.

“Thank you, ma’am. I think that about wraps up the report, too.”

“Ma’am’s a little formal, don’t you think?” She raised an eyebrow at him, then changed the subject. “What time are you off shift, Kaidan?” She asked, lowering her voice and scooting to the edge of her chair, closer to him.

“Twenty-hundred hours...ma’am,” he replied, adding the tiniest of smirks to that last word. She glanced at the chron on her desk, confirming what she already knew. He’d been off duty—in as much as anyone on a frigate like this was ever off duty—for half an hour already. He reached out and placed his hand behind her neck, then leaned in to brush his lips against hers. Always the professional, it was an intimate gesture he would never do, even in private, if he were on duty.

She moved forward until she was practically straddling his lap and placed her hands on either side of his face. “Time for some R&R, then?”

“Is that what we’re calling it now?” He chuckled, relaxing into her touch. The hand at the back of her neck migrated to her waist, pulling her all the way into his lap. Her legs straddled over him, just barely touching on the floor. The chairs in her cabin were comfortable enough, but they were clearly not built for two. Not that she minded in the least. When their lips met again, she felt a small spark of static jump between them. A familiar warmth flowed into her, pooling in her core and between her legs.

“Why not?” She asked, pulling away just a little. “Spending my off hours with you is restful and relaxing,” she murmured against his lips. He smiled— god, that smile —and she felt her heart melt a little. But there was a controlled tension behind it. There always was. She didn’t think she’d ever seen him completely relax and let go.

That was Kaidan. Always so polite, always so controlled. She’d seen glimpses of the man that lived under that iron-clad self-control here and there. She knew his story, knew why it was important to him to stay in control of himself, both his emotions and his biotics. In the time she’d known him, he’d become less guarded and more comfortable with unwinding, but he still had a ways to go.

But here, now, with each other, they could unwind together, if only for a short time.

Her hands moved down to his chest, feeling the steady beat of his heart under her right palm. She gathered the synth-fiber material of his shirt in her hands and pulled him toward her. She kissed him again, urgently this time, savoring the feel of his lips on hers. When his tongue darted out to sweep across her lips, she made a sound halfway between a moan and a sigh and melted into him.

“I’ve been looking forward to seeing you all day,” he said in that low, husky voice that made her impatient to get his clothes off.

“I heard you were laid up in medbay most of the day with a migraine.” She kissed a path across his jaw and caught his earlobe gently between her teeth. He sucked in a breath in response, holding on to her more tightly.

“My amp was acting up. Nothing a few hours of rest couldn’t fix, not when I had this to look forward to.” His hand moved lower still, coming to rest over the curve of her ass, while his other hand rested on her face, his thumb caressing her cheek.

Moving was hard when he was touching her like that. She wanted to stay there in his arms, feeling him, smelling him, forgetting that the outside world existed. But there was never enough time. Not for that. She moved her hands under his shirt and pulled it up over his head. It went flying somewhere to a far distant corner of her cabin. His skin was warm under her touch, contrasting with the cold metal of the dog tags that hung from a thin chain around his neck. They were redundant in this age of RFID-implant tags, but the Alliance Marines were nothing if not traditionalist. When he pulled off her shirt, too, their tags clinked together as they kissed again.

Already, she was starting to get impatient. She moved off his lap, settling on the edge of his knees to work the zipper of his BDUs and pull them just over his hips. There she took a moment to admire him. His broad, bare chest was heaving with constrained excitement, and she could see just how eager he was with the bulge in his boxers. His pupils were blown wide with arousal, and the way he looked her—hungry, almost desperate—made her shiver as something inside of her answered with equal intensity.

“Shep,” he said hoarsely. She surged forward and captured his mouth in a kiss that was every bit as hungry as she felt. He pushed back against her, surging up off the chair as they stumbled to their feet together, lips still locked. One of his hands tangled in her hair, pulling on her scalp in a way that blurred the lines between pleasure and pain, drawing a sharp gasp out of her. He immediately relaxed his grip. “Sorry,” he murmured against her lips.

She shook her head slightly. “Don’t be.” Her hands migrated up and down his chest, feeling the hard layers of muscle under his smooth skin, then went to his hips to push his BDUs down further. They pooled around his knees, settling over the tops of his boots. Reluctantly, she let go of him and crouched down to try and remove the last few pieces of clothing from him.

Boots. Boots were the worst, with all the anachronistic laces. It was a complaint she fully intended to address with the Alliance one of these days. She got as far as untying one of his boots before her impatience got the better of her. “You can do this,” she said, throwing up her hands. He chuckled and bent down to finish the job himself, kicking off his boots and his BDUs in two smooth shakes of his legs. She quickly shimmied out of her own pants and footwear, sending them flying carelessly under her bed.

They came together again, skin against skin except where the thin fabric of their underthings kept them apart. His hands seemed to be everywhere on her, caressing the curve of her hip, kneading the soft mounds of her breasts through her bra while his thumbs brushed over her hardening nipples, gripping her ass and pulling her even closer. Every touch ignited her nerves, stoking the growing center of pleasure in her core.

She palmed the front of his boxers, feeling the warm, hard bulge under her hand. Something like a moan, a sound of sheer want emanated from him. She took it as a sign of encouragement worked her hand in under the elastic waistband. His cock was hot and heavy under her touch. He rolled his head back and groaned, moving his hips in a small thrusting motion against her palm. She wrapped her hand around his length, enjoying the feel of the smooth glide of his skin over hardened flesh. She took advantage of his head being rolled back to nip at the skin of his neck, just barely grazing him with her teeth.

Slowly, she pumped her hand up and down his length. The little desperate sounds he made as he pushed back against her hand drove her on, making her want to see what other sounds she could draw from him. Little wisps of blue began to dance across his eyes. She’d seen it happen every once in awhile when they had sex, but usually when they were close to finishing, not when they were just getting started.

“Shep,” he said again, an edge of warning to his voice. She pulled back, taking her hand off of his cock to gauge what the problem was. He had closed his eyes and was taking deep, shuddering breaths.

“You okay, Kaidan?”

“Yeah. Just a little...a little sensitive, I guess. Just...give me a moment.” He took another few deep breaths until the blue lights had all dissipated. Then he returned his attention to her. One of his arms snaked around her waist and pulled her in closer while the other worked its way up her back to unclasp her bra. The garment fell unceremoniously to the floor. He gave her breasts a few kneads, eliciting a shudder from her, before trailing his hands lower across the flat plane of her stomach. His thumb briefly dipped into her navel along its descent.

He grabbed one of her legs and lifted it up so it hooked over her hip and traced the sensitive flesh on the inside of her thigh. A small, needy moan escaped her lips and she leaned into him for support, suddenly feeling unsteady balanced on one leg. She buried her face in the crook of his neck, stifling the sounds that came out of her mouth when he continued to trace up to the apex of her thigh. He pushed aside the thin fabric of her panties to lightly brush his thumb over her folds.

“So wet already,” he murmured in her ear, running two of his fingers along her center. Between that low, gravelly voice of his and the teasing motions of his fingers, she felt like she was drowning in him. She held onto him, her hands grabbing his shoulders hard enough to leave marks, and writhed against his hand. When he slipped one finger inside of her at the same time that his other hand worked its way up to one of her breasts, she knew she was drowning, but oh what a way to go. She cried out when his thumb brushed over her clit, a shudder working its way up and down her sensitized nerves at the feeling.

“Bed. Now,” she growled urgently.

“Impatient, huh?” He smirked down at her.

“Screw patience. I need you in me now.”

“Aye-aye, Commander.”

She smacked him playfully on the arm. They made their way to the bed, laughing and shedding their last remaining clothes along the way. She kissed him, hard and hungrily, as they fell together toward the soft surface of the mattress. He landed on top of her, but was quick enough to catch himself, planting his arms on either side of her to avoid smothering her under his lean mass of muscles. She scooted back toward the headboard and he followed, stalking her on hands and knees looking like a man starved.

He grabbed her hips and pulled her closer to him, her slick heat just grazing against his bare erection and making them groan together in anticipation. She tangled her legs behind his knees to try and push him in further, but didn’t allow himself to be budged.

“Please, Kaidan,” she whispered. He bit his lip and lined himself up with her entrance, then pushed into her inch by torturous inch, setting such a slow pace that she would have squirmed with impatience if he didn’t have such a firm grip on her hips. In other circumstances, should would have would the desperate noises she was making undignified, but desperate times called for desperate measures. It was agony, it was bliss. The slow languorous feeling of him sliding home inside of her, the stretch of her inner walls around his length, it all felt so good, so right .

He pulled out just as slowly, then slid back in. Each time he picked up just a little more speed. He let go of her hips and buried his face in the juncture of her neck and shoulder, stifling his groans there. Once they had a steady rhythm going, she moved her hips in time with his. She wanted more. She needed more, more, more of him. Her hands roamed his back, urging him on faster, harder, but he kept that same steady pace. She kissed him, tongues tangling desperately in her mouth as she moaned into him. More. He started going faster, filling up her cabin with the sounds of flesh on flesh accompanied by their gasps and moans.

Close. She was so close, but not quite there. She still needed more. She angled her hips up and wrapped her legs around his waist, bringing him in closer and guiding him so that he hit that one spot that made her gasp each time. He continued to thrust into her with a steady, controlled rhythm. The muscles around his jaw were visibly clenched. Clearly he was close, too. Every nerve in her body was pulling tight at the center of tension between her legs, coiled, cocked, and ready to go. She just needed a little more.

“I'm close,” he gasped, hips stuttering against her, the effort to stay in control of himself visible in the strain in his voice and his muscles. Little blue lights flickered in his eyes, which he immediately squeezed shut.

“I’m almost there,” she moaned, grinding her hips against his to get the friction she so desperately needed. Kaidan suddenly gave a hoarse shout and slammed into her, climaxing hard.

A corona of blue light erupted from him, cascading over his body and flowing down to engulf her, too. Little curls of dark energy danced over her skin, electrifying her already sensitized nerves. A gasp tore loose from her as she watched the little beads of sweat that had gathered on her skin slowly rise up off her her body in response to the mass effect field that covered the both of them. A small arc of static electricity jumped between her skin and her dog tags as they, too, lifted up off of her chest a few inches.

Energy crackled along her body in a surprisingly warm and gentle hum. It flowed over her, into her, heightening to a pleasure that burned in her core and then exploded through her like a supernova. She closed her eyes, seeing little blue stars burst behind her eyelids, and cried out something that might have been his name, followed by a string of obscenities that poured from her lips before she could stop them.

She lay there gasping for breath in an utter daze of pleasure. Kaidan quickly pulled out of her, causing her to cry out again as her oversensitized nerves sang in protest at the loss of him. The mattress dipped and creaked as he knelt down beside her. He laid a strong, gentle hand on one of her cheeks.

Shit ,” he whispered, a panicked edge to his voice. “Hey, can you hear me? Are you okay? Talk to me.”

She cracked open her eyes to see his face hovering over hers, worry lines creased into her forehead and by his eyes. The blue glow was gone and her dog tags were back to lying flat between her breasts.

“Kaidan.” Her voice came out a moan. “What was that?”

“I...I’m sorry. That’s, uh...that’s never happened before. I’ve never lost control like that before.” His adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. Dazed as she was, she didn’t miss the haunted look in his eyes. She pushed herself up to a sitting position and laid a hand on his cheek. He flinched, but didn’t move away.

“Don’t apologize, Kaidan. That was...well, the word ‘incredible’ comes to mind.” Her lips tugged up in a smile.

“You’re not hurt?” His shoulders relaxed some.

“A little surprised, is all. That was the most intense orgasm I’ve ever experienced. You’ve been holding out on me, Alenko,” she teased, leaning in closer to kiss him reassuringly. “Is that a biotic thing?”

Kaidan looked away, clearly uncomfortable. “They didn’t exactly cover this at Brain Camp. The L2 implant can spike pretty high. It just...it gets hard to keep in.”

She moved her hand to cradle the back of his neck and pulled him closer for another kiss. The faint, ozone-y smell of eezo lingered in the air around him. He was always so controlled, even during sex. His BAaT experience had left a deep impression on him. He’d told her as much, told her how cautious it made him approach his abilities. Now she saw just how deep it went.

“Give yourself some credit, Kaidan. You didn’t hurt me,” she reassured him again. “It felt incredible, in fact.”

“I really...I didn’t know it could do that. Push you over the edge like that. I thought it would….” He trailed off. She kissed him again, pouring all of the love and assurance she could into where their lips met.

“You thought you would hurt me. You didn’t. I just got caught up in the field you generated.” She grinned, then, and added on, “I guess biotics have uses other than battle and party tricks, though. We might try it again sometime.”

“I’ll, uh, keep that in mind.” Clearly, however, he was not convinced. His eyes kept on sweeping over her, checking her for signs of residual injury or effects.

“You worry too much, Kaidan.” She pressed her forehead to his. “But you care. I love that about you.”

“I love you,” he said, voice low and full of emotion. “I don’t know what I’d do if I hurt you, even on accident.”

“Trust yourself. You won’t hurt me. Not like this.” She laid back on the bed and pulled him with her, encircling her arms around his chest. “You’re a good man, Kaidan Alenko. Never doubt that.”

He swallowed hard, but his muscles started to relax. Finally, he was able to bring himself to look over at her. “So...that really felt good for you, huh?”

“We could always try it again. You know, for science.” That finally got a laugh out of him. He turned on his side and laid a hand on her cheek.

“When you put it that way, how can I say no?”

“Uh, Commander?” Joker’s voice suddenly cut in over the intercom in her cabin. She bolted upright, scrambling to find her shirt, pants, or anything. It was a nonsensical urge to cover herself, she reminded herself. It wasn't like the pilot could see her state of undress. Nonetheless, she found Kaidan’s shirt and tossed it over her head, then carefully pressed the button on her omni-tool to ensure her reply was audio-only.

“Yes, Joker? Do you need something?”

“I was gonna ask you the same thing. Onboard sensors registered a strong mass effect field in your cabin. Everything okay there?”

She glanced over at Kaidan. A beet-red blush began to creep up from his neck and over his face. She bit her lip to keep from laughing before pressing the button again.

“Everything’s fine. Lieutenant Alenko was just showing me a new application he’s developed for his biotics.” She shook silently with laughter while Kaidan turned even more red.

“Uh-huh. New biotic applications, huh?” Joker sounded thoroughly unconvinced. She didn’t need to see the ship’s pilot to know what sort of expression he’d have on his face. She could clearly visualize the narrowing of his eyes and the shake of his head.

“Yup. Everything’s fine here," she said in as casual a voice as she could manage.

“Right. Well. I’m just going to pretend that’s not a weird euphemism or anything and resolve the sensor logs then.” The pilot still sounded deeply skeptical.

“You do that, Joker. Thanks for letting me know.”

She ended the call on her omni-tool and collapsed back onto her bed, unable to stop the laughs that bubbled up from inside of her.

“New application for my biotics?” Kaidan asked, sounding just as skeptical as Joker. He gathered her up in his arms and pulled her in close so her back was pressed flush against his chest. Close enough that she could feel the rumble of his voice through his chest.

“I had to tell him something. It wasn’t a complete lie, anyway,” she said innocently.

“You know what this means, though," he said in a thoughtful voice.

“What’s that?” She turned so she was lying on her back, close enough to touch her forehead against his.

“We’re going to need a program to disable the mass effect sensors in your cabin.”

“If only one of us had the technical know-how for that.” She tapped him on the nose with her finger. He caught her wrist and pressed his lips to her palm.

“If only,” he repeated with a grin.

“Are you volunteering to sabotage the Normandy’s systems? Such scandalous behavior from an otherwise upstanding Alliance officer.”

“I guess you’re a bad influence on me.” He kissed her on the nose.

“Mmm. I think I can live with that.” She snuggled in against him and buried her face against his neck. The eezo smell still lingered, but the clean, masculine scent of him was stronger. She breathed it in, committing it to memory while she could. Sooner or later, their careers would take them on different paths and moments like these would be all but impossible.

They had to take these moments where they could before they lost that chance.