[I saw three ships]
To: FireEye
From: shiny_glor_chan
Fandom: Mass Effect
Title: Shepard's Choice
Requested Element: Camaraderie
Warning: no standardized warnings apply
Notes: I kept it in ME1. Thank you for the Dear Sailor letter. It helped quite a bit.
Summary: Virmire is the toughest choice Shepard's ever had to make.

“Commander? I told you to save Kaidan...” Ash said as she felt Shepard lift her and put her in a fireman's carry.

Shepard was quiet for a moment as she made her way for the Normandy, as quickly as she could. “His comm went dead after you signed off, Chief,” she said quietly.

Ash made a choked sound. “No,” she murmured, swallowing thickly. “He can't be... Commander-”

“Ash,” Shepard interrupted as they finally made it to the Normandy, “you can mourn the Lieutenant later. We need to get you to the medbay, now.”

“I don't... Shepard, please, bring me to the cargo bay,” Ash begged, trying to keep conscious. “I have a first aid kit. I just can't pass by...”

“I get it,” Shepard said quietly, ignoring the looks the crew gave her as they took off. “Get back to your stations, everyone! That bomb is going off soon, and we're going to feel the blast.”

The crew replied with a round of 'yes, ma'am's and 'aye aye, commander's. As they passed the galaxy map, Shepard let Ash to her feet but kept her arm around her waist for support as the made their way down stairs.

“Commander...” Ash murmured, trying not to lean on her but needing to with the concussion she most probably had.

“Ash, close your eyes and lean on me,” Shepard stated quietly. “I'm taking you to the medbay.”

Ash whimpered as her head lulled on Shepard's shoulder. “He's not allowed to be gone, skipper,” she murmured. “It's my fault.”

Shepard stopped, right in front of the elevator. “No,” she stated as held Ash up and made Ash look at her. “It is not your fault. It was an impossible choice, Chief, and I made it.”

Ash bit her lip. “I can't help but wonder if I had guarded the bomb better...”

“Don't think like that,” Shepard said as she pressed her forehead against Ash's, kissing away the tear that escaped Ash's eye. “He wouldn't want you to, you know that, right? Would you want him to feel guilt had I gone after him?”

“No...” Ash murmured, blinking away anymore tears. “But...is this why you saved me? Because of-”

“Ashley,” Shepard interrupted, her face hard. “You were guarding the bomb. The bomb was the top priority. Had Saren been able to reach bomb and disable it, those who died for this mission would have died completely in vain, and Saren would have his krogan army to supplement the geth”

Ash looked away. “Understood, commander,” she said quietly, wobbling a bit. “I think-”

Before Ash could finish her thought, the elevator dinged and swooshed open to reveal a haggard Captain Kirrahe and Garrus who were carrying an unconscious Lieutenant Alenko between them. “Watch out, we need to get him to the medbay,” Garrus shouted as Shepard moved herself and Ash out of the way.

Kirrahe and Garrus quickly moved past, heading for the medbay. “Alenko? He's alive!” Shepard stated in shock. “How?”

“Kaidan,” Ash murmured quietly before her head lulled, and she passed out from her injuries.

“Dammit, Ash!” Shepard exclaimed before pulling Ash into her arms and hurrying after the others to get to the medbay.

A few hours later, Shepard was slumped in a chair between Kaidan's and Ash's beds in the med bed. A groan came from one of the beds, and Shepard sat up straight, turning towards the bed that she heard the groan come from. She ran a hand through her messy red hair as she blinked away sleep.

“Commander?” Kaidan questioned, his voice rough from being unconscious. “What happened...?”

“I was planning to ask you that, Kaidan,” she replied quietly. “Your comm cut out before I could get your coordinates to come get you.”

Kaidan frowned, and his brows furrowed. “I... Wait, does this mean Ash is-”

Shepard shifted her chair, just enough so Kaidan could see Ash, who was sound asleep in the bed next to him. “She's fine,” Shepard stated. “I...when the comms cut, I had to rethink my choice, and-”

“Commander, I'm glad you saved her,” Kaidan interrupted. “I don't think I could face you if you had saved me over her.”

Shepard frowned. “What are you implying, Lieutenant?”

“Nothing,” he answered. “Sorry, I didn't mean... It's just- I know you care about her greatly, Commander, and I think had you saved me because of my higher rank, I think you would have blamed me, even if only subconsciously.”

“You listen, and you listen good, Kaidan,” Shepard said angrily. “This was one of the hardest decisions of my whole life. Don't think your life doesn't matter compared to hers.”

“That's not what- I apologize, Commander, I spoke out of turn.”

Shepard scowled. “That's not the problem here, Kaidan! I care about you, too, dammit!”

Kaidan stared at her. “Commander, I don't-”

“Of course you don't,” she interrupted, hanging her head and gripping her hair in frustration. “Just forget it. This conversation never happened, Alenko.”

“Yes, ma'am,” Kaidan murmured, his face flushed in embarrassment.

“You two are so damned stubborn.”

Kaidan and Shepard turned to see Ash wide awake and looking rather unhappy. “Ash-”

“With all due respect, Commander, shut up, and let me talk to Kaidan about this,” Ash interrupted, ignoring the glower Shepard had leveled at her.

“Ash, should you-”

“You too, Kaidan, shut up. We're not on duty right now, and dammit, we're getting this out in the open if it kills me,” Ash interrupted again, and Shepard frowned.

“Could we not mention death right now?” Shepard muttered, not looking at either of them.

Ash .txted. “Right, poor choice of words, but my point stands, so let me speak.”

“Fine,” Shepard muttered, glancing at Kaidan. “Let her speak.”

Kaidan looked wary as he nodded. “Good,” Ash stated. “Look, Kaidan, I know you're thinking Shepard saved me because of... Well, you know about us, and you've never reported us or anything-”

“With all the bullshit we've had to put up with, did you really think at this stage, I'd report you two for misconduct?” Kaidan asked.txtredulously. “This mission has pretty much left the parameters of any other Alliance mission, and it hasn't affected Shepard's judgment or yours.”

Ash laughed. “Missing the point of this conversation, Kaidan,” she said fondly. “But I'm glad that we're not getting reported. Will you let me finish now?”

Kaidan nodded. “Good, because I need to get this out,” Ash stated before licking her dry lips. “Shepard's choice would've been hard no matter what, but you don't get why it was so much harder for her, do you?”

“Ash-” Shepard started before Ash pressed a finger her lips.

“Skipper, let us get this out in the open.”

Kaidan looked between the two women in front of him. “What is going on?”

“She loves you, too, and you'd see that if you didn't hide behind regulations all the time,” Ash stated firmly.

Kaidan stared at Ash while Shepard sighed. “Look, I didn't bring this up because I figured you'd be against...that kind of relationship.”

“What kind of relationship would that be, Shepard?” Kaidan asked, genuinely a bit confused by the situation.

“You, me, Ash,” Shepard replied. “When you and Liara confronted me about everything, and I mentioned a threesome-”

“I thought you were joking!” Kaidan exclaimed angrily. “I thought my feelings were a joke to you.”

Shepard .txted. “I wasn't... Look, I was feeling you out, okay? Not my best move, I know. I hurt you and Liara. I'd meant to see if you were...okay with this. You came from a traditional family, right? I didn't. I'm not used to...a relationship having to be just two people,” she explained then shook her head, then looked over to Ash. “Not that you aren't enough-”

“Shepard, we had this talk,” Ash interrupted softly. “I get it. I think I understand it now, being with you.”

Kaidan looked between Ash and Shepard. “So...” he began. “You were worried I would be against this.”

“You said as much, Kaidan,” Shepard stated, scrunching up her nose. “Or don't you remember?”

“I said that because I thought it was just about sex, Shepard,” Kaidan replied firmly. “It may not be something I'm used to, but I can understand...loving more than one person.”

“So, that's that then, right?” Ash asked. “Because I don't want this to become some ridiculous love triangle. That could get in the way of our mission.”

“You're okay with me just...joining your relationship with Shepard?” Kaidan questioned Ash.

“Would I have gone through all this if I wasn't?” Ash retorted before reaching over to put her hand over Kaidan's. “You're thinking this is more of a hardship than it really is for me, Kaidan. I care about you too, you know.”

“Oh,” Kaidan said, a bit dumbly before flushing when Shepard and Ash start laughing. “Hey.”

Shepard stifled her laughter and gave Kaidan a quick kiss on the lips. “We're just teasing, but we do care about you too.”

“Yeah, I think I get that now,” he murmured. “I care about you both as well, if that wasn't obvious by now.”

Ash smirked. “Very. Now, that that's settled, I think maybe Kaidan and I should rest a bit more, so we can get back to our duties sooner rather than later.”

Shepard smiled. “I'm going to get you both moved to my quarters. You two need some decent sleep on an actual bed.”

“Are you sure we'd get sleep there, ma'am?” Kaidan asked innocently.

Ash giggled, and Shepard snorted. “Cheeky, Kaidan, really,” she replied. “I think this is going to work out just fine. Now, get some rest while I talk to Chakwas.”

“Yes, ma'am,” Ash and Kaidan said in unison, sharing a smile.

Shepard rolled her eyes, leaving the medbay with a smile one her face as well.