A/N: Hello everybody! Thanks for taking a chance on my story! SPOILERS ABOUND! PLEASE DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED THE KADARA MISSIONS OR THE MAIN STORYLINE.

So I went into Mass Effect completely convinced I was going to romance Cora and then BOOM - Reyes walks into my Ryder's life and completely sweeps both me and him away. And then... that mission... and the cave... I think we both died a little. I left Reyes in the cave and went on to romance Peebee instead. But I still think about Reyes a lot - he's one of my favourite NPC's and he just gets so little romance screen time. Such a shame. And so this story was born.

So this story will be set in some small one-shots mixed with some emails set from the ending of the Kadara missions until the endgame. It'll feature Reyes dealing with the aftermath of Ryder dumping him. Expect a lot of sadness and regret, but also moving on and eventual happiness.

Read on, and please drop a review if you want! I really do appreciate them all and will (eventually) answer you back. Enjoy!


You're not the man I thought you were.

I wanted to be.

Reyes Vidal had been shot in the chest once before, back home – well, the Milky Way, he supposes now. Way back in another life in a distant galaxy, in a place and a time that no longer exists, to a man he can hardly recognise. Some young vorcha thug with a bad attitude and an itchy trigger-finger down in the Gozu District on Omega. Bullet went straight through him, not two inches above his heart, and shattered the window behind him. Took a month's pay of medi-gel and twice as long to recover from that one.

He should've died then. The slug should've killed him. It sure as hell felt like it. All his buddies knew it, and if he hadn't been a half-decent shot himself on that drifting mass of space junk, he was sure Tarak would've tossed him out of the Suns the moment they dragged him through the door, bleeding all over the greasy batarian's floor.

This hurts a lot worse than that.

Reyes knocks back another shot, and puts a hand over his heart as the too-familiar ache begins to swell up from inside.

"Umi," he says, trying his damnedest to look interested in the glass he's holding. "Hey, Umi. What do you think happens when we die?"

The asari frowns at him. "You? Hell, if you're lucky."

Well, he can't argue with that one.

He motions for her to pour another shot, and she complies, the usual scowl on her face.

"Thanks, Umi."

"Sure."

Reyes lives in Tartarus, but he'd rather drink in Kralla's song. It's a little cleaner and smells less like rotten eggs up here, and the air isn't so hot and smothering, and Umi serves better drinks – pricier by a wide margin, sure, but there was a good chance the liquor wouldn't kill you. Right away, at least. And you were less likely to get jumped or knifed for stepping outside for a dart, or become a reluctant witness to either of those.

Though in all honesty (honest being a quality he was sorely lacking), Reyes kept hoping something might happen here that would bring Scott Ryder back into his life.

It was like the bullet to his chest all over again, except this time it was his own hand on the trigger. Because a year ago, Kadara was like a supernova – bright, beautiful, but wild and deadly, especially if you looked at it for too long. Eight months ago Sloane Kelly rode in with the cavalry and tamed it, molded it, bent it into something resembling a society. Four months ago Scott Ryder showed up in his big-ticket ship and his fancy new armour with his strange ragtag team of dewy-eyed kids and rough-and-tumble aliens. Four months ago Scott Ryder came with big dreams and grand intentions and turned Kadara into a white dwarf instead – cool, and stable, and maybe with a sort of calm beauty, the kind that lasts. Four months ago Scott Ryder walked into that bar and so casually changed a smuggler's life.

You look like you're waiting for someone.

I've got time.

One month ago Scott Ryder watched Sloane Kelly die, had watched Reyes trick her into a fake duel, and had left him there in the cave. Broke up. Dumped. Over. Ended. Whatever you wanted to call it, one month ago Scott Ryder walked out of Reyes' life as swiftly as he entered it.

You're not the man I thought you were.

Reyes shakes his head and downs the shot, maybe not quite enjoying the burn but liking the way it pushes Ryder's face from his mind, if only for a little while.

"Hey, Umi."

"Hm."

"Can I ask you something else?"

"No."

"Do you think we have a destiny? Do you think our lives are all planned out for us? Or something."

Umi frowns at him again, wiping a glass clean with a rag. Or pretending to, anyway. "What in stars has gotten into you, Vidal? You going through some sort of mid-life crisis?"

"Hey, you…" he struggles for a decent insult, but fails miserably. "…asari. Look here. I'm only thirty-one years old, I'll have you know."

"Right. Well, honestly, looks like your pushing forty, maybe fifty."

"Ouch."

"I'm no expert on human physiology but you should probably take it easy with the drugs and smuggling. It's not doing you any favours."

"Look at you, being all… concerned and shit. It's almost endearing," Reyes smirks. "But what about drinking?"

Umi actually cracks a smile. "Drinking's good for the soul."

She pours him another shot.

You're not the man I thought you were.

The shot burns, but not in the way he wants it to. Not in the way he needs it to. Not strong enough to burn away the face of a certain man. Push it to the side, maybe, or make it a bit blurry, a little frayed around the edges. But still. Not enough.

Why does he care so much? Why does that face still haunt him like this? Why can't he let the man go?

You're not the man I thought you were.

He remembers that. And he also remembers Why didn't you trust me?

Scott Ryder was the biggest fool Reyes had ever met. He was stupid. Stupid for trusting him, for trusting anyone on Kadara. For even landing on this fucked-up skid row of a planet in the first place. For thinking he could come six hundred years out of his way and find his destiny in this slum of a toxic world. Serves him right, he thinks, downing shot after shot. Serves him right for thinking Reyes was an honest man, a decent man, someone that might be good for him. He was stupid, and it serves him right for thinking everyone came from the Milky Way with only good intentions and good hearts and grand dreams for adventure and a future beyond the uttermost reaches of the unknown, and he was stupid to believe Reyes wouldn't fuck that up.

Because nobody came here to be better. They came here to run away from it all. To be someone else, something more than they'd left behind.

What about you? Why did you come here, Reyes?

…To be someone.

You're someone to me.

Oh, he is someone now, all right. He is a smuggler, a thief, a shadow in the night. He is the ears and eyes of Kadara Port, and the brain. The saviour, the enigmatic benefactor, and the hands that orchestrated it all. He is the Charlatan. He is King of Kadara. He is everything he had ever wanted to be, and more.

Then why does he feel like less of a man because of it?

"Hey. Hey, Vidal."

"Hm?"

"You're starting to look a little pale. You better pay up and get out before you give my bar a new countertop."

"I…?"

"Vomit, Vidal. By the Goddess, you're tanked. Get out."

Reyes sighs, pressing a palm to his eyes. "Just one more? For the road? Please, Umi."

"Right, because you've got such a long way to go," she scowls, but pours him another anyway. "Drink up. Pay up. Get out. Don't come back until you're sober. And stop asking weird questions."

"Yeah. Thanks."

Reyes plays around on his omni-tool, paying off his tab (something he had started doing after – well, after Ryder) and fiddling with the settings and he contemplates calling Scott again. Not that he ever answered.

So he looks at his email. His Sent email. In particular, one piece of Sent email that, despite being sent almost a month ago, still has only one view by the recipient. He doesn't know what that means. Doesn't know if it's because Scott couldn't bear to look at it, or because he had moved on, and didn't care anymore. Honestly, Reyes doesn't know which is worse. He could always hope, but hope is a stupid thing.

He throws back the shot and lets it burn all the way down.


Subject: Friends?

To: Ryder

From: Reyes Vidal

I'm not a very good one, but I'd rather have your friendship than nothing at all.

Reyes


"So. I had a little chat with Ryder the other day. About you."

Sloane Kelly's Throne Room, as she had called it, wasn't the Throne Room anymore. Reyes had tossed the throne into one of the stinking sulphuric sinkholes out in the mountains, and he had relished the way the stone sizzled as the toxic water ate away at it. Had been quite proud of himself, actually, and thought it was a good metaphor for the downfall of tyranny, for the collapse of an oppressive system. Or something like that, anyway.

Now the Throne Room is the Trade Room. Keema's seat of power, metaphorically speaking of course. The place where people came to trade – legally, not so legally, and downright black market style. Reyes figures if they're going to do it anyway, might as well do it in a well-lit public area to cut down on the backstabbing and murdering. Worked, too. Mostly.

The turian in front of him clicks her mandibles, staring him down. An intense stare, really, for how causally she'd said that.

Reyes swallows but remains utterly nonchalant. "Thought this was strictly business, Nyx."

"I figured you more than anyone would know the lines between business and pleasure can get a little blurry, Vidal."

Ouch.

Vetra Nyx knew all about Reyes and Ryder, and the rigged duel, and about him being the Charlatan. It was safe to assume the whole Tempest crew knew. She still traded with him, though – one of the best sources for Nexus surplus. Medicine, food, weapons, armour. Either Ryder didn't care about it or simply didn't know. Probably the latter, considering his naïve views of people and the things they did.

Reyes sighs, swiping at his omni-tool to speed up the credit exchange. He doesn't want to hear about Ryder right now, doesn't want to know what heroic deeds that foolish kid has stumbled into. Running errands for every shmuck on the street corner smart enough to know the Pathfinder couldn't say no. He wouldn't be surprised if he had managed to get himself killed a few more times while he was at it. It all… still hurts too much.

"I would be a little more cautious in your choice of words here, Miss Nyx," he says, glancing up at the throngs of bartering humans and aliens around them, exact words lost in the buzzing susurrus of the makeshift market, the drone of the everyday, the common. "Wouldn't want to let slip anything now, would we?"

Nyx chuckles, crossing her arms. "Oh, no. See, unlike you, Vidal, I have nothing to hide. But what I do have is a high-profile shipment of Alliance weapons taken straight from the hull of Hyperion herself." The turian slaps a hand on the crate beside her, talons scratching the metal and nearly making Reyes wince. "Weapons I know you need to protect a certain settlement here on your kingdom."

Reyes hisses. "You know –?"

"About the Outcast Revived? Yeah. I know. I know they've been targeting Kadara Port and the slums, and causing quite the shitstorm out by the filters. And I know they've been causing some trouble for a little Initiative outpost called Ditaeon. But Ryder doesn't know. And he won't."

Vetra swipes at her own omni-tool, jamming the exchange at 98%. "Doesn't even know I'm here."

Reyes' heart is thrumming madly against his chest and it's a lot harder than he thinks it should be to keep his composure around this infuriating turian, because how could she know?

Reyes had promised Ryder Ditaeon's safety out there in the wilds – everything in my power to keep them safe, his exact words. Visible and not-so-visible patrols and sentries. He gave them the best purification systems, sells them the best food and supplies (for a greatly discounted deal), and spends more money and power and time on that tiny little outpost than he would ever admit to. He could just hear Keema's voice now: if you spent half as much energy trying to get the guy back as you did on your little outpost project, you two would be married by now. Which never makes him feel better. Scott was not coming back.

You're not the man I thought you were.

Ditaeon…it's the only thing he has left, the last little reminder of him, and it gives him a minute, thirty seconds, or maybe even only a second or two where he can forget or pretend nothing was wrong and they were still a Something.

He needs those weapons. Needs them like a drug, which would scare Reyes if he wasn't already juiced up about half the time.

He scowls darkly. "Alright. Fine. I'll entertain your… whatever this is. Intervention? Blackmail attempt? Dealbreaker? Come, tell me dear Nyx, what was it you and Ryder were chatting about?"

He already knows what they were chatting about, and he's angry at himself for the way his voice cracks when he says Ryder, but he doesn't think Vetra takes any notice, and for that he is eternally grateful.

"He's been kind of mopey the last while. You know, all gloomy and no fun. The whole crew's been seeing it too. Fine on a mission, but just so… dull back on the Tempest. So. I cornered him in the galley the other day, and straight up asked him what his deal was. Asked if he was more angry that you lied to him all this time, or because he didn't see it before."

Reyes crosses his arms and stands up straight, and even so, he still feels like a tiny little nobody. And it hurts in more ways than one, hearing about Ryder again, and knowing that he's hurting himself. But he cannot find it within him to be angry or anything other than thrilled that Scott is still upset about it all. About him.

"And?"

"And nothing. Got really pissed off at me. Threw a whole block of cheese at the wall and stormed off to his quarters. Let off a really long and interesting string of human curse words that even my omni-tool couldn't translate. I wrote some of them down for future use. Just in case."

Reyes swallows the uncomfortable lump in his throat. "I know he's still angry, Nyx. I think about that every day. So what's the purpose of tearing open old wounds?"

"Because if he was angry at you, he would've just said it. Have you met the guy? Those Ryders are a real stubborn gang, so I'm told. Stars help us when Sara wakes up. No. I think he's angry at himself. Won't admit it. Can't."

Reyes shuffles uncomfortably, not quite sure what to do. That's a first. But then so much of everything that happened with Ryder was a first, and it still surprises Reyes how he could still be surprised after it all.

"Look, I'm not gonna lie. Using him like that to take down Sloane and her people, that was a shitty thing to do. If it was me I'd have broken your nose and your ego right after the fact. But you know Scott. He's a good guy, somewhere under all that naivety and dewy-eyed idealism. But that's his strongest point. He forgives people, even if he can't forgive himself. Really believes there's some good in everyone."

Reyes looks down at the ground, at the bits of gravel and sand and concrete beneath his feet, and he's… sad. Anything to do with Ryder these days is a mix of sadness and a sort of pathetic longing, like a dying star, the faintest glimmer of light in the vastness of space.

You're not the man I thought you were.

Stupid fool of a kid, believing Reyes was the man he thought he was. Serves him right. He deserves it all. He should be angry at himself. Serves him right, he thinks, and then he remembers Scott thought he was a good man.

Reyes is a better man than you think.

Reyes is a liar, and a fraud, a smuggler and a murderer. A general all-around bad person, a fact he had accepted a long time ago. Things were easier a long time ago. Things are harder now, because Scott thought he was good. And Scott must've had one giant fucking horseshoe up his ass, because it wasn't often he was wrong.

Reyes clears his throat. "So? What am I supposed to do with all this? Talk to him? Call him? Make things right again?" he says, even though he already knows the answer.

"Shit, no. Bad idea. He'd never answer."

"Then what? Why did you come, Vetra? Just to watch me suffer, I assume?"

"Just…" she begins, then sighs, waving him away. "You know, I'm not even sure why I told you all this. I guess just to give you some hope, even if you don't deserve it."

She reinitiates the credit transfer, and it pings on Reyes' omni-tool. 100%. The weapons are his.

He scoffs, accepting the transfer. "Hope? Hope is a stupid thing."

Reyes has always had a hard time figuring out what turians were really thinking. Their metallic carapaces gave very little away, but he could have sworn Nyx was smirking at him. "Hey, aren't you a rebel? Rebellions are built on hope."

She turns and melts into the crowd.


Subject: I was right

To: Reyes Vidal

From: Vetra Nyx

Hey. So, long story short, Peebee and Drack got Ryder completely tanked on some of their infamous bathtub hooch last night and now the guy's naked and blacked out in his room for god knows how long. But I was right. Between all the embarrassing antics that you could possibly imagine a hammered krogan and asari could drag a human into (there's a lot, trust me), he said something about you. Said it was all his fault. Should've seen it coming. Says he was stupid for not seeing it before – well, you know. Before that duel in the caves, I guess is what he meant. I'm not going to mention it to him because I don't want him throwing any more cheese at the wall. Can't eat the stuff myself, but it keeps Liam away from Drack's varren steaks, and as everyone on the Tempest knows: a happy Drack is a happy Tempest.

Just thought you should know.

Nyx


/Incoming message/

Subject: about the kid

To: Vidal

From: Drack

I've been trying for weeks to send you a message but I keep sending it to someone named Rhys on the Nexus. All you humans have stupid names that all sound the same.

Anyway I got the kid drunk a while back and he seemed pretty upset about you. You tricked him into getting what you wanted, and you killed Sloane and now you're calling yourself the Charlatan. I don't care about any of that – knew you were a bad egg the minute I smelled you. All I care about is the kid. He's a good one. Too soft, even for a squishy human.

If I hear you've hurt him again I'll personally come to Kadara and break both your legs.

Nakmor Drack


Despite the empty, hollow feeling inside him now, and the very real threat of a very pissed-off krogan, Reyes can't help but smile a little. Scott Ryder couldn't hold his liquor for shit. Never could.


A/N: Did anyone else get completely wasted at Sloane's party? Best part of the game.