I adore Mass Effect 2, but the lack of Kaidan Alenko in this game is absolutely killing me, so this will be the first of many fanfics where I try to give a little bit of resolution to the Shenko story before ME3 comes out. Apologies to those waiting for updates on "Missives," I swear there will be more coming soon. :) Thanks for reading!

You can't believe you've actually been gone two years.

You're sitting on your new bed in your huge quarters on the Normandy – the Normandy SR2, not the Normandy, not anymore. But you remember the destruction of your old ship like it was yesterday. Every detail of the day is fresh in your mind.

You don't want to believe you've been gone two years.

Gone, you think to yourself, laying back on your bed and sighing. If only it was just "gone."

You can't stop thinking about the day you died – you force yourself to think the word this time. You know it's the truth, but even after everything you've seen, you have difficulty believing that you actually died. But you know that if you don't believe it, then how is anyone else supposed to?

You had to stop yourself from looking at Miranda like she was an idiot when she started quizzing you about the decisions you'd made during the mission to defeat Saren and Sovereign. How could you forget? It may have been a long time for her, but for you, the death and coma felt more like a long nap, and you woke up feeling refreshed like you hadn't in years.

But that changed quickly.

Now you can't help but remember how quiet it was on the ship and the mission before Joker yelled to brace for evasive maneuvers. You commanded Kaidan to get in the escape pod, and you could tell how badly he wanted to come with you instead, but he did what you ordered, and you're so grateful he did. You walked through your burning ship and saw the soldiers you'd come to know lying dead on the ground. You'd stepped out into the CIC and been shocked at the damage and the open view of space from what used to be inside the ship. You'd grabbed Joker, thrown him in an escape pod, and then...


Not nothing nothing. You know what happened. You can remember exactly what it felt like to float off into empty space, to clutch at your helmet as your oxygen hissed away, to gasp for air that would never come, to know with certainty that you really were about to die. No air, no hope, no luck, no miraculous victory, no last-minute rescue. Nothing.

How can you still remember it all so clearly if it's been two years?

You have a horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, and it's been so long since you've been nervous that it takes you a while to realize that's what it is. You've been scared and worried and hopeless, but you've always been so confident that nervousness was never something you had to deal with.

You think about how much the galaxy changed in the short time after the geth and Sovereign showed up, and the idea of two years of changes in the world that you've missed completely terrifies you.

But it's the thought of finding Kaidan Alenko and telling him you're alive that makes your stomach twist with nerves.

Two years. He's been thinking you're dead for two years.

How are you supposed to tell him what happened? He's seen some crazy things while he was in your squad, but death, as you all learned firsthand, is always permanent.

Or it's supposed to be.

You can't help but worry about his reaction, and his feelings. You weren't together very long, and your relationship was never conventional even before your death. Just because you still love him doesn't mean he will.

After all, you feel like you've only been gone a day. For him, you've been dead for two years.

You wonder if he even remembers you.

You can't believe she's been gone two years.

You lie on the uncomfortable cot in your house in Horizon colony and stare at the ceiling. You know that it's a beautiful night outside and the weather is cooperating for once, but with how melancholy you're feeling right now, you don't even want to think about the stars.

You can no longer say without thinking exactly how many days it's been since her death, but this is a very recent accomplishment. It still takes a conscious effort to stop yourself from reaching for the small photo of her you keep in your pocket every time something goes wrong. And you'd never tell another soul, but you sometimes imagine that she's still out there somewhere, keeping the galaxy safe.

You can't believe she's been gone only two years.

It feels like an eternity.

The days pass less slowly now, and it helps having things to do and ways to keep yourself from thinking about anything but her, but you think back to those first few days – weeks, months – and you can't believe that time was passing at all.

You find yourself living in the past more often than you should, and you're still mad that there were two funerals for her. The Council decided that mourning and remembering the "hero of the Citadel" would distract people from their own terrible situation and the threat of Reapers and geth and looting on the Citadel.

It was a huge public spectacle, covered by every news network and attended by thousands of people, and the only people who had met her were the few people seated in the front row – including you, much to your vocal displeasure. You were forced to wear your nicest dress uniform, listen to everyone make speeches about her invaluable service and courage and self-sacrifice, and sit quietly. Inside, you were seething at how sad the Council and Udina tried to look, even though you knew they were celebrating that the biggest pain in their asses was gone.

Thankfully, before that whole mess, there was a private funeral, attended by Anderson, your fellow squad members from the mission to stop Sovereign, the former crew of the Normandy, and Shepard's parents. It was a fairly small, motley crew, and most of you were still wounded from the attack, but all the people she loved were there, and you know she would've liked it.

They never found her body. They hadn't even found the rest of the Normandy, so you couldn't imagine how they could find one woman in the vast emptiness of space, but having nothing to bury made you feel like the funeral was never really over.

Nearly everyone said a few words about how much they cared for and appreciated her, and unlike the state funeral, everything here was genuine. But as much as you wanted to say something, you also knew that you couldn't go up there if you wanted to keep any control at all over yourself, and you didn't want to show everyone just how much you missed her. You had to keep yourself together.

You didn't have the courage or strength to speak in front of everyone, but you did talk to her parents for the first time. They knew about your relationship, and her mother hugged you and thanked you for being there for her daughter. You told them how much you loved her and tried not to cry.

After the service, Anderson approached you and invited you to his new apartment in the Presidium for drinks, courtesy of the Council. The two of you wound up getting absolutely smashed on expensive alcohol, sharing your favorite stories of her insane plans and impossible victories, toasting her life. After the funeral, it was exactly what you wanted.

But she's what you need, and she's gone forever.

You don't know what to do without her. Still, after two years, you can't get past the little time you had together. You've made a couple new friends, but they didn't know her, never met her, only heard the news stories and the rumors that the Council is spreading that say she was misguided or a liar or even insane. They don't know why you can't get past her and move on with your life, and you don't know how to explain it to them.

Once, you try telling them more about her, to make them understand. About her quirky smile, her no-nonsense attitude, how she always saw right to the heart of a problem and immediately knew what to do to fix it. But even as you say these things, they suggest friends of theirs who they say have these qualities too, and they think you'd really like them, and if you want to go out to dinner with them sometime they'd be more than happy to set it up for you.

You try to be polite when you turn them down, and you see their worried glances. Everyone else pairs up and has children and lives, while you turn 34 alone, in a colony filled with people who hate you, still wishing for someone you know you can never have.

She's been gone two years, and it feels like so much longer, but you can't seem to move on.

You wonder how you're ever supposed to forget her.