Now here she was and he was frozen. He couldn't look away, but he sure as hell couldn't approach her. He was sure that if she wanted to talk to him she would have sent him a reply weeks ago. All he could do was stand there watching as she chewed her lower lip in indecision, then pulled out her credit chit to make some purchases. As she walked away he saw something flutter to the ground behind her. He waited until she was around the corner and out of sight before hurrying over to pick it up. A volus merchant was just reaching for it when Kaidan lunged in and snatched it away. "Sorry, dropped my shopping list," he muttered as he walked away ignoring the volus's response.
Now that he was really late to his debriefing, he only had time to glance at the paper long enough to determine that it was in cipher and then stuff it in his pocket. The hour it took to run Anderson and Udina through the events of his last mission was maddening. All he could think about was the piece of paper in his pocket. He was sure it contained some new information about the Reapers - maybe something she didn't even want Cerberus to know. The cipher presented a problem since he didn't want to make Shepard's intel Alliance business until he knew what the information was. He had a pretty good idea who he could take it to, though.
As soon as he was dismissed he headed straight to the Presidium's premiere "financial advisor." Barla Von had proved a valuable resource in the past. If he couldn't crack her cipher he could almost certainly point Kaidan toward someone who could. In fact, after his usual payment, Von only examined it for a few minutes before turning it back over to Kaidan. "I recognize the cipher, but I can't decode the message."
"Who can?" Kaidan asked, getting his credit chit out again.
"Without the key? No one. This is an old running cipher. Without the key text it can't be translated. You see, this text here is the cipher's indicator block. It tells you what word on what page to start with. When you have the key, usually a book of some kind, the cipher is rather easy to decode. You'd be looking for a book owned by whoever wrote this probably one that they're familiar with."
The answer was obvious. Kaidan thanked Von for the advice and headed back to his Citadel apartment.
As soon as he walked in the door he grabbed his copy of the Alliance Officer's Code of Military Conduct. He knew Shepard had read it cover to cover. Not wanting to run this through his computer he pulled out a fresh sheet of paper, but after a few minutes of decoding it still looked like gibberish. He pushed his chair back from his desk and pressed his fingers against his temples in frustration. Wrong book. It was obviously the wrong book. What else could it be, though? What would Shepard choose? He remembered the stack of books in her quarters on the Normandy. Why hadn't he paid closer attention to what she was reading? It could be anything. She used to spend hours in the bay talking to Ashley about classic earth literature. Then it occurred to him. Ashley... What if...
He hurried over to his shelf and pulled out a book he hadn't looked at in over two years The Collected Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson. There were too many painful memories associated with it: Ashley giving the slim volumes to all of her friends on the crew; Ashley demanding that they at least read The Charge of the Light Brigade; Shepard and Ashley debating the dubious merits of The Lady of Shalott; Ashley's death; Shepard's death so soon afteward.
He took it over to his desk, slowly turning it over in his hands, and then he opened it. It was quickly apparent that this was the key. He translated the first few lines Shepard had scrawled and started laughing. A shopping list, Jane? In cipher? How invasive was Cerberus if she was encoding reminders to buy fish food, model ships, and T6-FBA diagnostic couplings? He still hadn't translated the bulk of the text, though, and he was too curious to stop now. The larger block of text looked as if sections had been erased where she'd written in pencil and other parts crossed out where she'd written in pen. It was obvious she'd been working on it for awhile. He started translating, but as he decoded the first six letters his heart began to pound.
His name. For an instant the rest of the message didn't matter. She was writing it to him. The moment passed, though, and he began working as fast as he could, nearly ripping a page out of Ashley's book in his eagerness to know what she had to say to him that she couldn't send in a message.
You don't have to apologize. I could hardly expect you to wait two years for a dead woman.
When I woke up, I was in a Cerberus facility.
When I saw you on Horizon...
Kaidan sat for a minute reading and re-reading the last lines she'd written. Then he carefully folded her letter together with his translation and put it in his pocket. He knew he should destroy it, but he needed it. Needed a reminder that he hadn't mourned her for nothing. He knew she'd never meant for him to see this. He knew he couldn't send her a response. If she hadn't sent it to him, she sure as hell didn't want Cerberus to know this much about her. He also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that when she came back and he knew now she would always come back he'd be waiting for her.