You can call me wierd, but I wasn't very happy with my first version of this and felt that it would be good to rewrite it. Many thanks to my beta reader Ellaria Stormcrow who gave the time and patience to help me do this. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Mass Effect. Bioware does.
Commander Kera Shepard laid in bed, unable to rest her weary eyes. It had been a very long and stressful day. Virmire had not gone as planned and they had lost one of their officers. The crew of the SSV Normandy was now in a state of mourning for Ashley, who had stayed back with the nuke when it exploded on Virmire.
Grief had come to Shepard that night like a familiar, unwelcome guest thaft refused to leave. She hadn't lost a friend to death in a long time, although the wounds from Akuze and Mindoir were still tender. After Akuze she had sworn never to lose another soldier under her command, but she now knew far too well that fate was too often cruel. There was nothing that she could have done to save Ashley, or at least that was what she kept telling herself. These thoughts tormented her as she laid in bed that night.
Shepard remained in bed for a while hoping that slumber would finally catch up to her, but it came to no avail. She then decided to drown her sorrows in a tall glass of milk and a large plate of cookies, hoping it would make her feel comforted. She left her bed and tiptoed down to the Mess Hall, trying her hardest not to wake anyone who was asleep.
She quickly located the cookies and placed some on a plate. She poured a cup of milk and sat down in the dining area.
While the cookies did make her feel a little better they could not stop the flow of emotions that tormented her. She trembled with guilt, fearing that her personal feelings had clouded her judgment. Unlike Kaidan, Ashley still had family; sisters that looked up to her and loved her. Ashley had been taken from them as Shepard had selfishly chosen to save Kaidan. Not because it was the right decision or the easier option but because she couldn't bear the thought of losing him. A tear rolled down Shepard's face, she felt that a part of her had died along with the Chief.
Footsteps echoed down the hall outside the Mess and Shepard futilely wiped the tears from her eyes. She knew that anyone could guess from the redness in them that she had been crying. But she was the Commander of the Normandy and she knew her crew depended on her to stand strong through this tragedy. Despite her own guilt and self-doubt she had to do that much at least. She couldn't let anyone else down. Kera choked back a sob and lowered her head as the footsteps grew louder.
"So you can't sleep either, Commander?" Shepard didn't have to look up to see who entered the Mess; there was no mistaking Kaidan's voice.
"Nope, not at all." She dipped another cookie into her milk.
Silence passed between them until Kaidan spoke.
"Would you mind if I joined you?"
"Please." She indicated the chair next to her and pushed the plate of cookies over. Kaidan grabbed one as he sat down and she offered her milk for him to dip it in. Silence settled between them once again but Shepard didn't mind.
"So how are you holding up right now?" Kaidan asked at length. Shepard took a deep breath before she spoke.
"Not good." She wiped her eyes again as tears threatened to spill out.
"You definitely aren't the only one." Kaidan said as he reached for another cookie. "I can't tell you how sorry I am. We will all miss her dearly." She nodded as the tears pushed harder.
I will not cry, I won't.
"You couldn't do anything else to save her. There was nothing else that could be done."
Kaidan knew that she was dwelling on the mission, agonizing over the thought that she could have done more. If only she had denied the Salarian general's request to take Ashley with them but even that choice hadn't been the nail in the coffin. In her heart Kera knew she could have saved Ashley, but it would be Kaidan she now grieved for. She trembled slightly as she finally voiced the guilt that weighed heavily upon her.
"I keep feeling like I was the one who killed her, Kaidan." He winced sympathetically at her admission.
"No-one deserves to have to make a decision like that. I don't think I would have stayed as calm had I been in your shoes. If I had to choose between you and Ashley…" He broke off, unable to speak further.
"I just miss her so much." All the suppressed emotions of that stressful day came loose right there in the mess hall and there was no stopping them.
"I know you do, we all do." Kaidan scooted his chair towards Shepard and put an arm around her. He seemed a little surprised that Shepard had broken down next to him, but he was more than ready to comfort her. She had had more than her fair share of stress that day. "I'm sure that Ashley understands completely. Never in a million years would she blame you for her death," he wiped the tears from Shepard's face and lifted it up so that he could look into her eyes, "and neither would I."
Shepard smiled through her tears. "Thank you, Kaidan." She leaned closer to him and laid her head on his shoulder. "Even after Mindoir and Akuze, I have never grown accustomed to loss."
"I don't think that anyone ever does." Kaidan stroked her chestnut brown hair. "We just do our best to be thankful for our time that we had with them and press on. Who knows? Perhaps Ashley is up in Heaven dancing with the angels right now. If so, I bet that she is having a much better time up there than she would down here if she was still with us." Shepard nodded in agreement.
Suddenly, her body finally realized how fatigued she really was. A wave of drowsiness washed over her and she didn't even try to fight it. Kaidan smiled as he saw that she was falling asleep against him, so he picked her up and carried her down the hallway to her quarters. Once they arrived there, he set her gently into her bed and pulled the covers over her.
"You are not the only one on this ship who grieves for Ashley." He kissed her on the forehead. "Just please, never ever blame yourself for her death." She nodded drowsily.
"I don't know what I would do without you, Kaidan." He smiled again and turned off the lights.
"Ditto." He quietly stepped out of Shepard's quarters and walked down the hall to his sleeping pod. Meanwhile, a peaceful, dreamless sleep finally came to claim Shepard.
Feel free to tell me what you think. :)