Here's a quick little story I started last night, but I'm pretty happy with how it came out. The next part of my Shepard/Kaidan series is done and being beta'd so it should be up soon, for those waiting on it. :) Hope you enjoy!

Lilith didn't consider herself a complicated person.

She was average in every way, she thought without bitterness, and had a pretty normal life. Her parents were both public servants who had been involved in colonization efforts in the Skyllian Verge and the Traverse since humans started forming colonies. They moved to Elysium just a few weeks after the colony was officially founded in 2160, when Lilith was just two years old.

She was happy there, with friends she liked and a neighborhood she knew and more colonists moving there every year. But her parents weren't happy when things were too easy or people didn't need their help, so they left when she was ten. They moved to several different colonies while she was growing up, always organizing local governments and figuring out logistics and helping people get adjusted in their new lives, while Lilith transferred schools, made new friends, met all kinds of different people, and never lived in one place more than a few years. It was definitely a migrant life, but she didn't mind it, and grew to love it.

She was close with her family. Her parents instilled in her a deep pride in humanity and gave her the skill set she needed to continue helping new and struggling human colonies on the fringes of settled space. Moving to new colonies was all she'd never known, and even though she returned to Elysium to attend the fledgling college there, she planned to continue in her parents' footsteps by moving away when she graduated. She wanted to help new colonies, just like they'd been doing for years.

Her plans were interrupted by the Blitz.

Despite all the moving and new colonies and strange places, she'd never felt like she was actually in danger until the day the batarians attacked Elysium. She could hear explosions and gunfire all around the city, and as she cowered in the basement of her apartment building, she seriously wondered whether she'd get out of this mess alive.

But she did, and it was all thanks to a young soldier just four years older than Lilith. The soldier was visiting the colony on shore leave, and had organized the colonists and managed to hold back the pirates and slavers for hours, until reinforcements finally arrived.

Everyone on the colony quickly learned and respected the name Irien Shepard.

Lilith hated Irien Shepard.

Not immediately, and of course she was grateful for everything Shepard had done. She knows she shouldn't hate her, and that it's pretty ridiculous to hate someone she never met and only saw in news vids, or someone who saved her life on Elysium then saved the entire Citadel a few years after that. She's a rational person most of the time, down to earth and relaxed about nearly everything, but this is something she can't think clearly about, and she knows exactly why.

Lilith didn't have many boyfriends growing up, and it was hard for her to settle down and seriously date anyone even after college. She moved to several different places over the course of five or six years, and things had been complicated but the work was difficult and satisfying, and she was happy.

But then she moved to Horizon and met Kaidan Alenko.

She was sitting at her small dining room table in her house on Horizon, and Kaidan was sitting with her. They sat in a companionable silence. She'd invited him over for dinner, just like she'd done twice a week for the past three months, and it was always the same.

He was polite. He would smile and sometimes laugh. He'd compliment her cooking and laugh when she offered him the recipe and tell her he wouldn't be able to cook it half as well as she could. He'd insist that she let him do the dishes for her after they ate, and she'd tell him it wasn't going to happen, and he'd tell her to try to stop him and he'd smile that smile she loved so much and she'd let him win. He'd listen to her talk about her day and would act interested and he'd comment or sympathize when appropriate.

A casual observer would have thought they were romantically involved. Lilith wished that was the case, but she knew it wasn't ever going to happen.

The fact of the matter was that Kaidan Alenko wasn't really there.

He tried. She could see how hard he tried to make himself care about the colony and about her and even about himself. He threw himself into his work, trying tirelessly to get the colony's defenses up and running. He worked himself to the bone helping the colony in other ways too, doing manual labor and heavy lifting whenever it was needed. Then he stayed up writing reports to the Alliance before collapsing into bed, just to do the same thing the next day, and the day after that.

She knew why he came over for dinner instead of just staying at home alone like he did every other night – he was trying to force himself to connect to other people.

But everything he was doing didn't seem to be working. Occasionally when she snuck glances at him, she could see how completely and utterly exhausted he was, like he was barely holding himself together.

She tried to bring him out of the wall he'd built around himself to keep everyone away. Whenever she asked him about himself, he'd tell her how his day went. He'd tell her amusing stories about the other colonists, and even as they both laughed, she saw that there wasn't a sparkle in his eyes, and his smile looked a little forced.

She'd originally thought it was her. After all, the Alliance wasn't trusted in the Traverse. Him being a part of Commander Shepard's crew didn't do any favors in that department either, so she knew that not many people were really trying to get to know him. But she eventually realized that there was nothing wrong with her, but a lot wrong with him.

She knew his past. He'd worked with the disgraced and deceased Shepard during her mission to stop the rogue turian Spectre Saren. He'd helped her save the Citadel and the Council and their ship had even helped to defeat the geth warship Sovereign. He'd been an important part of Shepard's team.

She's not usually one to put any faith in rumors or gossip vids, especially not when they're talking about someone she knows, but she can't help but think that they're right, and that Kaidan had been a lot more than a just team member to Commander Shepard.

She tried to be polite and not to pry, and she can tell what a good man he is and she cares about him and wants him to be happy in general – and happy with her, but that's a whole other issue. Lilith has tried asking him about his past, and he answered her questions and understood why she asked. He said he expected her to ask about Saren and the geth and that he doesn't mind talking about it.

Most of her questions go over fine, and he doesn't seem too bothered by anything. But she knows there has to be something that he's not talking about because normal happy people don't close themselves off from the rest of the world like he does. So she keeps asking, and listening.

Eventually, she'd given up on not prying and had asked a direct question about Commander Shepard and how he felt about her, and she saw that those gossip vids were absolutely right.

He'd tensed up and looked away, and he quickly schools his expression to a perfect neutral, but that half second response to Shepard's name told Lilith everything she needed to know. He told her that Shepard was an excellent commander and that he was still having trouble coping with her death almost two years ago, and he was sorry but it was very difficult for him to talk about and could they please change the subject.

She did, of course, but from then on, she watched him and his reactions closely. And on the rare occasion that Shepard's name came up in conversation with others, he always looked for a moment like he'd had the wind knocked out of him and he couldn't quite recover.

It was all Shepard's fault.

Lilith was a pretty easygoing person, and not usually the type to hate someone. But sometimes, she looks at Kaidan and notices him staring off into empty space, or sees that empty look in his eyes, or catches him when he drops that mask of calm he always wears, and she can't help but hate the woman who caused all this.

She hates how lost he is without Shepard and how hurt he looks when he just hears her name. She hates that empty look in his eyes and that he can't bring himself to talk about her. She hates how much she cares about Kaidan and that there's nothing she can do to help.

Lilith hates whatever Shepard did to Kaidan to make him love her so much, and Lilith hates that there is nothing she could ever do to compare to the woman he loved and lost.

She looks over at him now, sitting across from her at her dinner table, and he smiles and thanks her for the delicious meal. She smiles back and tells him she's glad he enjoyed it, and she wishes she could tell him how she feels about him. She wishes it would matter if she did. She wishes that he felt the same. She wishes he was happy and that there was anything she could do to make him happy.

But as he gets up and starts to do the dishes, she knows that Shepard's death caused more damage to him than Lilith could ever repair.

Lilith has seen the truth of the situation, and she hates it, but she knows that Kaidan Alenko is a broken man.