niki_chidon: (ME_Blue)
Niki ([personal profile] niki_chidon) wrote2012-12-13 02:03 pm

Fic: Scars (Mass Effect, Male Shepard/Kaidan Alenko pre-slash)

Title: Scars
Fandom: Mass Effect
Disclaimer: Takeo Shepard is my custom Shepard but he still belongs to Bioware
Rating: PG-13
Summary: When Cerberus brought Shepard back from the dead, he lost his scars.
For [livejournal.com profile] hc_bingo prompt: scars
Notes: Fix-it for ME2 – I added the “reply” button;)


Photobucket

It takes Shepard a while to see his face in a mirror for the first time, and by then he already knows he has been practically reconstructed, so he knows to expect something bad.

He didn't expected it to be so bad.

He almost looks like himself. Almost. And that is the worst.

If you disregard the glowing scars which he is assured will disappear in time his face looks like it always has. His features are the same: the bridge of his nose, the line of his brows, the shape of his eyes, all familiar, all accounted for... but something about his hairline is off.

Surely, surely that isn't the line he has seen for nearly three decades? ...Well, it is three decades now, while he slept he turned 30, and in just a few weeks he will be 31.

He makes an Extranet search of himself, and holds out a pad with a PR shot for reference while studying his face in the mirror in the even more luxurious captain's cabin of the new Normandy.

He was right, his hairline is different. Why the hell would they change such an insignificant thing? Didn't they care? Was it an accident? Should he ask Miranda, or would she just look at him with her vacant doll expression that still somehow conveys dismissal.

Did they want to screw up with his mind? Give him an eternal reminder that he is not the original edition, he was rebuilt, reworked – rescued.

That he died and was brought back.

He doesn't want to read about himself, the obituaries, the news, the exposés, especially not after hearing from his crew how even the Alliance dishonoured his name after he was gone. He searches for Kaidan, though, and finds preciously little. He made Commander, that much he learns from public record.

A little guiltily, he saves a picture into an electric frame he finds on one of the desks, and then hides it in a drawer, only to dig it up a little later. Who's going to see it in his private room? He can be as sentimental as he wants in here, and if some Cerberus spy sees it, they can draw their own conclusions and be welcome to them.

He returns to the mirror, and faces the real issue the whole hairline thing was just a disguise for.

His scars are gone.

It seems stupid to be missing a few scars when this new face of his is so filled with them but he does. They were as much a part of his face as the bridge of his nose, the line of his brows, the shape of his eyes. The little x by his right eye, high on his cheekbone, something he's had for as long as he can remember, the first line a memory of the fight that killed his mother.

(“Hannah Shepard, Takeo Shepard,” he whispers in his mind, instinctively, the old mantra he used to repeat every night for years, afraid he'd forget the names no one spoke. It feels as important to remind himself now.)

The line crossing it joined it just a few months later, in his first fight alone, protecting something he didn't even understand yet, and discarded soon after to pay for food, his innocence gone before he knew what to miss.

That scar was on his face when he killed the first time, when he met Tricia, when he joined the Alliance, when he earned his first commendation, on Akuze... and on Akuze it was joined by the long scars on the left side of his face, snaking down his cheek, ending just before the line of his lip, a constant reminder of the skin crafts he needed after the attack.

A reminder of all those lives lost, of the deadly acid spat by the monster from their nightmares, but also of survival against all odds, and – strangely – of his father, of learning his name for the first time.

There were other scars, all around his body, and they'll be gone, too, now. But nothing as important, as crucial to his self image as those two (three) scars on his face. Mementos of a hard life, living on the edge of survival and never crossing over.

Signs of who he was, where he'd been, what he'd lived through, and to have them just... be gone one day leaves him almost more unsettled than this weird world he woke up in.

He was gone for two years, and suddenly Cerberus isn't the shady terrorist cell they investigated but a wide public organisation declaring to protect human interests in a hostile galaxy? The Alliance is an organisation his old crew can leave behind without a backwards glance, a place where they didn't feel appreciated any more?

A galaxy that seems to have forgotten the Reapers and the threat they present to all sentient life in it? A place where human colonies – whole colonies – are disappearing, and the Alliance and the Council do nothing, content to blame it on mercs and pirates?

Maybe he really died and this is hell. Maybe that is why everything familiar seems so strange. Maybe that is why no one can tell him anything about Kaidan's fate or current location. He asked about others, too, of course, all the members of his crew, and they all seem to have just... scattered.

Garrus left C-Sec, Wrex went back to his people, Tali went home to her people, Liara... what is she doing on Ilium? Why isn't she on a dig somewhere? Why didn't he find any mention of any new publications from her on the Extranet, even though they made all those new Prothean findings during their mission to stop Saren?

What the hell happened to everyone?

Well, at least he knows Kaidan stayed with the Alliance. But if it really is an organisation that has turned its back on so many of its heroes... is that a good thing?

- - -

The new scars fade, and his skin looks more normal every day. Maybe it's the positive thoughts like Doctor Chakwas says, but Shepard doubts it as there is very little to be positive about.

Of course it's good to see old friends again, Wrex as a ruler of his clan, ha! Good for him. Garrus... Garrus, who decided to ignore everything they ever talked about about the importance of doing things right and turned vigilante? He's not sure he recognises his old friend anymore. Whereas Wrex seemed to have grown with his new duties (respectability a good look on him), Garrus... it's like he hit the teenage years of badassery and conceit.

He has the skills to back the attitude, sure, but how close is he to crossing the line? Are there still principles keeping him in check? Every time he tries to talk to him, he just says he's busy with his eternal calibrations or whatever busywork he can come up with to avoid him. At least that's what it feels like.

It was good to see Tali, too. He hadn't realised how big an impact he made on the Quarian until her personal notes revealed how she looked up to him for guidance and inspiration even after he was gone.

So there is that. All these people, and being able to help again, maybe that counts as positive.

It almost makes it worse, to see his unlined face in the mirror. He shaves eyes closed most mornings, pretending it's practice, telling himself he's just training to operate by feel alone. But the truth is he doesn't recognise the face in the mirror, and he's afraid of the feeling. Doesn't need the self doubts, not when so much is at stake.

His new face doesn't tell anyone where he's been, what he's seen, or the hardships he's endured. It looks smooth and unlined – untested, inexperienced. The weight of his years is there in his eyes but his unbroken skin irritates him so much some days he feels like taking a blade to it, to recreate his oldest companions, to bring back his marks of identity.

Maybe it makes him more reckless, makes him forego his helmet when he really should make use of the extra protection it offers, but he doesn't feel like protecting the façade.

He develops a new habit: while he whispers the names in his mind in the night his fingers trace the spots of his scars. He doesn't want to forget them either, afraid he'll lose something precious if he does.

- - -

Kaidan looks at him like he doesn't know him, either, and it hurts worse than anything else. The words come out all wrong, and before explaining, apologising, he's already blurted out his request for him to join them. Of course he says no.

And of course Garrus is “busy” when he wants to talk, after, when he feels like there isn't enough air in the Normandy, when his chest feels tight and bruised, and he needs a kind face, a friendly word, and a warm hug more than he ever realised he could. The price of all that damn caring.

It takes two days for him to start breathing easier, and that's just because Kaidan sends him a message. It's carefully worded, still filled with doubts and feelings of betrayal, but he refers to their friendship as something that mattered a lot to him, hoping it really meant as much to him, and expresses a wish that maybe, after all this, they can try to regain it.

He lives for days on that one message, on that hope, and his equally carefully worded reply takes shamefully long to compose.

He doesn't even remember what he wrote, in the end, sleep deprived and lonely, fresh off a mission from hell, but he thinks he may have babbled about scars.

Kaidan's next reply is more relaxed, even if still careful, and the hope intensifies.

“Yeah, I noticed about the scars. Weird. And has your hair line always been like that?”

He laughs, and Joker makes pointed remarks about the weird thing happening on his face, what is that... a smile? He thought Miranda left that feature off!

He doesn't tell him the reason for it, though, keeping the private messages and the warmth they create to himself. Well, to himself, and EDI, and Miranda, and maybe the Illusive Man to whom the two are bound to report to but he mostly decides not to think about that.

He tells Kasumi, though. The thief has a soft spot for romance, and he'd rather talk to someone who doesn't know them both. If Garrus was actually talking to him, that is. And... is Tali flirting with him? He must be making that up. Tali's like his little sister!

Kasumi finds the idea of his “pen pal” cute, but never teases him in public, so maybe she really does get it.

- - -

I spoke with a geth today. Let me repeat that: I had a conversation with a geth. Turns out the geth we fought were just a faction, an irregularity, and these guys calling themselves “True Geth” are something else. They don't hate organics on principle – not that I could blame them, between you and me, if your first meeting with organics after gaining sentience is your creator race performing a genocide on your ass – and are actually willing to work with us.

This, I didn't tell you, which, maybe I shouldn't say, because I know you have to report everything, and I know Miranda censors any sensitive information out of these messages before they reach you (Hi, Miranda, don't try to deny you read these, you bossy wench) but... yeah. We have one on board. He... It... Them, damn, it refers to itself in plural, being merely a voice of the geth consensus? Anyway, the platform we call Legion has a bit of my old N7 armour fixing a hole on its body. He claims it was just a useful piece of metal used for field repairs, but... I don't know. It feels like there's more. Like maybe... there is an almost emotional quality to it.

Or possibly I should just sleep more.

Thank you for listening, Kaidan. Thank you for being there. I don't think I could do this alone. (Yes, Miranda, I did mean to write 'alone', don't censor that, please.) (Although maybe you should.)

Shepard


- - -

Shepard,

you know I don't relish going through your private correspondence. And I am not your editor. If you want to wreck your relationships, you are free to do so.

Just as long as you mention no names or locations. Those I will edit out.

And if you don't stop leaving sarcastic little notes for me, I will replace them with the cheesiest pick up lines I can find. And, trust me, I hear a lot of them.

Miranda


- - -

Do I even want to know? About your censor? How can I trust the messages I get from you are really all from you?

Well, in case you did say it... I'm here for you. I know that what you are doing is important, and even though I don't approve of the people you got into bed with, I can't really wholly blame you either. It's getting harder and harder for me to get any real support for my research.

And I learned that you are actually doing jobs for Hackett. If he trusts you, at least that much... Who am I to second guess my superior officers? Although I do recall doing that on occasion. There may have been shouting involved. Sorry?

It feels like... like I really did get my friend back, and... who am I to get so lucky?

Maybe I need a censor, too.

Take care, Shepard. Please.

Kaidan


- - -

Kaidan,

I'm about to do something monumentally stupid and potentially fatal. The good thing is that if it works, then the whole Collector issue is put to bed. The downside is that even if we succeed... we might not be coming back. We're really putting the 'suicide' back into 'suicide mission'.

There are many things I'd like to tell you, and not least is leaving you some clue as to where to direct your efforts if we fail, but I know that would never go through, so I will just have to hope that the Illusive Man is smart enough to publish our findings if we fail.

There is more, of course, but it would feel unfair to burden you with those things, so I suppose I'll just say thank you, again, and goodbye – this time I can do at least that.

It feels like the night before Ilos. I can't sleep. I'm thinking about my sister, and Shakespeare, and you, and I miss you. I wish there was someone on this ship I could ask to just sit with me, share a drink with me, and let me be human for a few hours before I have to be the bloody saviour of everything again.

Don't get me wrong, I have good people on board, the best – you'd fit right in. But... no matter how much I appreciate or even like them...

Well, I just wish you were here.

Then maybe I wasn't trying to put myself to sleep with Henry V and staring at the fish.

Don't ask about the fish.

Yeah, okay, fine, apparently Cerberus' idea of good resource management on a spaceship is a wall-length aquarium.

Of course I bought bloody fish in it. Who wouldn't?

Take care, Kaidan.

Yours,
Takeo Shepard


- - -

Kaidan stares at the message. Parts of it make him want to laugh, he can hear Shepard's voice so clearly (Fish? Really?), and parts of it make him choke up.

He still isn't sure what the new Shepard really is, if Cerberus... changed him but he wants to have his friend back so badly he is willing to go with it, for now. And it's easier via messages, when he doesn't need to look at that strange unscarred face. It's funny to miss someone's scars, a physical reminder of the pain they've gone through in the past, but even Shepard admitted to finding their absence odd.

No, what really scares him is the fact that never in any of their communications during all the time he's known him has Shepard ever referred to himself with his given name. Now it's like he's making sure someone remembers him as something other than just the heroic Commander Shepard.

It hammers the point home: Shepard doesn't expect to come back.

He receives the message almost a day after it was sent, stuck on an undercover mission on a godforsaken ruin of a planet, and he curses the futile mission for making him miss this. Any reply he can send will be too late.

Shepard,

if I recall correctly, Henry V lived, won the battle of Agincourt, and didn't even lose many of his men.

So... I don't know, don't just borrow the guilt, take some of that, too.

I don't even know what I'm saying. If you're reading this it means you did make it, so what does any of this matter?

I know you can do it. And I know you need to be the one doing it. And those people wouldn't be following you if they didn't believe in you too. Then again, they could be idiots. Why are you flying with idiots, Shepard?

Anyway. Let me know you're okay as soon as you can.

Yours,

Kaidan



He read the play after the first time Shepard mentioned it, and even liked it. But he just knows that the other man would be concentrating on the bits of the doubts the military leader has on the eve of a big battle. And, possibly, that's where he gets the inspiration for all of those great speeches? Maybe they aren't quite Shakespeare but they sure fill the listener with confidence and pride.

“For he who fights with me today shall be my brother...”

Brothers in arms. Friends. It doesn't quite seem enough to express what they are, what they used to be, anymore. Doesn't explain the happiness he felt when Shepard admitted to missing him. If Shepard lives, and they can capture even a little of what they had... The other man is probably the most important person in Kaidan's life, after his parents. Or... in addition to his parents.

And that's a scary thought.

And anyway, all of this is moot if Shepard doesn't live through his Agincourt.

- - -

He does die in the epilogue, though, if you count that.

Shepard



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