[A/N: Shortest chapter ever. Didn't feel like it needed to be longer than this though…]

This wasn't how it was supposed to end. It wasn't supposed to go so horribly wrong like this. They were supposed to end up back on the ship, debriefing, moving on to the next lead, the next mission—together. They'd been joking about taking leave here after the war, after Saren was finished. Just the two of them. One of them had wondered aloud if there was a reason there was a drink called "sex on the beach", while the other blushed. There had been more plans, more promises made, and one quick, heated goodbye before they went to their duties. Everything was supposed to work out.

But here he was, crouched in the mud and silt of a shallow pool, shields long since depleted, more than a few holes punched into his hardsuit, and the vulnerable flesh beneath, defending a bomb that would kill them all if he failed.

At least one of them had to make it out of here alive. He wasn't listening to the voice shouting over his comm. If he did, if he heard the fear, the panic, he was going to give in. He had to tune it out, even if, at the back of his mind, he savored every word. There was blood leaking down his chest now, running red over places where careful talons hadn't left so much as a scratch. He couldn't dwell on that, couldn't think—he just had to keep shooting until his hand went numb and his body finally gave out on him.

"Kaidan, please. We're coming. We'll get there. Just hang on. We can save you both, we'll get you out of there—please just hold on."

It was the same desperate litany he'd been tuning out for a long time now, and with parts of him breaking down, he couldn't believe it any more. His knees buckled, driving him down into murky water. Voice breaking, he finally responded to the pleading voice on the other end.


A beat of silence that stretched too long.

"I'm here. I'm here, I can hear you—we're coming, I swear—"

Kaidan's cracked lips just twitched, trying to smile. So much to say. But he heard the enemy closing in, he could hear chatter on the other end—moving out, no time to go back, stubborn, alien, beloved refusal. With supreme effort, he raised his voice.

"I love you."

So damn trite.

He switched off the comm. Switched it off, and silenced the confused, frantic denial on the other end. It had to have been enough. One last time, he raised his weapon. He never would have been forgiven if he'd died so vulnerably. Damned stubborn, devoted turian… he'd understand—he'd have to. Duty first. Only then, did he feel the faint tears in his eyes.

I'm sorry.

And then the nuke blew, scorching the world in red and fire, drowning out a distant scream.