Disclaimer: If I owned it, there would be A LOT more of Kaidan in the game. Sadly, I don't and he was pushed to the back burner. However, I still maintain high hopes for ME3!
Author's note: I want to thank everyone who has read and reviewed this fic. I truly appreciate any time you give to me and my ramblings. This is the final one shot in the series and I hope everyone enjoys it!
On a different note, the song I had playing while I wrote the last part of this chapter was "Come Home" by OneRepublic and Sara Bareilles. You should definitely listen to it at some point.
Kaidan was miserable. He thought he should be used to it by now, but this was a whole new type of misery. Before, he was miserable because he knew Shepard was gone. Now, he was in agony because he had no idea if she was alive or dead, and he felt like such an idiot for walking away from her on Horizon. He'd sent her a message shortly after, feeling he needed to explain the way he acted. She hadn't responded for almost a week, and he was beginning to think she never would when his omni tool pinged, indicating he had a new message.
It was short and not what he was expecting at all:
I remember Ilos. I remember everything. I hope you can forgive me and move on. Take care, Kaidan. I'll carry you with me always.
He didn't understand. Was she giving up on him? That didn't make sense. Shepard was an incredibly tenacious woman. She would never give in about something she cared about and yet, she was telling him to move on.
He was still contemplating her cryptic message when his omni tool pinged again. This time, it was an alert from the Alliance indicating that someone had activated the Omega 4 mass relay.
He felt a sinking settle in his chest. There was only one person who would try a jump through the relay. No one had ever survived it before, and he couldn't believe she was even attempting it. He knew it had to be for some stupidly heroic reason.
And just like that it hit him. Shepard wasn't giving up. She was telling him goodbye.
They'd made it. She'd been ready to die out there, but despite the odds, she survived. And so had the rest of the crew. It seemed it really was impossible to kill Shepard.
Still, they hadn't made it out untouched. Although she could fly, the Normandy was in bad shape and needed repairs as soon as possible. Most of the crew had injuries that needed immediate attention, and with Chakwas still recovering from her time on the Collector vessel, they were short on medical staff. They needed to dock immediately.
Shepard plotted a course for the Citadel, knowing that it was best equipped to fix the Normandy and provide her crew with the medical attention they needed. She also had to sweep the Normandy for bugs and any other protocols the Illusive Man may have installed in case she went rogue. She held no illusions that she'd seen the last of Cerberus and was determined to be prepared when the Illusive Man made his move.
She hoped that breaking ties with them was her way back into the Alliance and needed to speak to Anderson. Even though he was technically Councilor Anderson now, he still held a tremendous amount of sway in the Alliance. And even if they wanted nothing to do with her, she needed to meet with the Council to show them her newest evidence of the Reapers. They would have no choice but to believe her now. A storm was coming, and unless all Citadel space worked together they'd have no chance to weather it.
And then there was Kaidan. Shepard hated to admit it, but the main reason they were headed straight to the Citadel was because she was hoping he might be there. He had said after everything settled down and things were as settled now as they were ever going to be. She was no longer with Cerberus and had made it through her suicide mission with barely a scratch. Maybe he would be willing to listen to her now. Maybe he would take her in his embrace and tell her how sorry he was, how stupid he'd been on Horizon. Maybe he would want nothing to do with her and refuse even to see her. Maybe…
There were so many possibilities it would drive her mad if she kept thinking about it.
She left her cabin and made her way down to the crew quarters to see how everyone was holding up. She had limited training as a medic but would do everything she could to help Chakwas. Anything to distract her until they arrived.
Shepard hardly set foot off the Normandy before she was rushed off to Anderson's office in the Presidium. For the next six hours, it was nonstop hearings and meetings with barely a fifteen minute break somewhere in the middle for her to grab something to eat.
At last, there was no one else who needed to talk with her, at least not urgently enough that it couldn't be put off until the morning. She remembered now why she had avoided becoming involved with politics. Politicians were some of the most bullheaded people she knew, and it took all her self-control not to resort to physically persuasive measures when they doubted and questioned her every move. The Council was still hesitant to believe her about the Reapers, and she really didn't know why that surprised her. They refused to believe the Reapers were a threat when Sovereign had shown up on their doorstep, so why would now be any different? Utterly exhausted, she slouched back in one of the chairs in Anderson's office.
"Get some rest, Shepard. It's been a long day." The older man could see the dark circles forming under her eyes and wondered how long it had been since she last slept. "Don't worry about being back here until 1200. I'll delay any over zealous Council officials or Alliance brass who feel they have to see you before then."
"Thanks Councilor. I'm sure you'll never hear the end of it from Udina."
"I'm not worried about ruffling his feathers. You deserve a break, and I've learned that if I ignore his whining, he'll stop after a few hours."
Shepard chuckled though her heart wasn't into it. She was still trying to figure out a way to bring Kaidan up without being glaringly obvious about it. "How have you been, Councilor? Citadel life suit you?"
"I'll admit, this isn't how I pictured I'd spend my life after I retired from the Alliance. It isn't easy what we do, Shepard. So many lives depend on our decisions."
"Yeah, I hear you." She paused a moment before deciding to plunge right in, "How… how is Commander Alenko?" She held her breath, waiting for his response. To her surprise, he smiled slightly, and she realized he must know more about her feelings for the commander than she ever intended to reveal.
"Alenko seems to be doing well, though he keeps to himself mostly. He was reassigned to the Citadel after Horizon." Her breath caught in her throat. "And before you ask, I've already sent you his address."
Her eyes met Anderson's, silently thanking him. She rose from her seat, preparing to leave, "Well, I really must get back to the Normandy. I need to check on repairs and make sure the crew has everything they need."
She shook Anderson's hand before heading out the door. As soon as it closed, she was on her comm, "EDI, I need a status report on the Normandy."
"Repairs are progressing well, Shepard. Although, I believe Mr. Moreau may be having some sort of attack. He is shouting at every technician that walks by and refuses to leave the ship." Shepard smiled to herself as she heard Joker in the background.
"No, no, no! The main gun is a Thanix Magnetic-Hydrodynamic Weapon. The kind the Turians use? Have you ever even seen a Turian cruiser? You know, those large bulky things that on occasion fly through space?" Joker seemed to be in rare form and Shepard was sure he'd make sure the mechanics did their job well.
"Joker will be fine, EDI. Can you forward any messages in my private terminal to my omni tool?"
"Affirmative. Forwarding messages now."
"Thanks, EDI. Shepard out." She quickly scanned the documents EDI sent her and found the one from Anderson. It turned out Kaidan's apartment was less than five minutes away.
She immediately headed towards the address, her heart beating faster as she neared it. By the time she made it to his door, she felt like it was about to come right out of her chest. Now that she was finally here, she didn't know what to do. She had been so worried about finding him that she hadn't even thought about what she was going to say. So she just stood there, looking completely lost, when the door suddenly opened, and Kaidan walked straight into her. He was busy looking down at a data pad in hands and had she been any less solid, she would have fallen. He immediately began to apologize when he looked up and saw her, the words dying on his lips. He stared, eyes wide and completely in shock that she was here, standing right outside his door.
"Um… Hi. How are you?" Lame, totally lame. Come on Shep, pull yourself together! "Can we talk?" That was a little better at least.
He nodded mutely and stepped aside, allowing her into the room he had just exited. He followed and allowed the door to close behind, finally recovering enough from his initial shock to speak, "Shepard, what… What are you doing here? I heard the Omega 4 relay was activated. That wasn't you?"
She turned to face him. "It was. The Collector base was through the relay. We took it out," she stated simply.
Of course, he thought, leave it to Shepard to be the first to ever go through the relay and make it sound like a walk in the park. He studied her closely and saw the hollows under her eyes that contradicted her light tone. He knew that no matter how dismissive she was, it had been no easy task. He also noticed that she was dressed in civilian clothing. No Cerberus insignia emblazoned on her shoulders. But no Alliance symbol either.
"So then, are you still with Cerberus?" His tone a little harsher than intended.
"No. We had a little misunderstanding about, ah, what to do with the base. The Illusive Man wanted to keep it, to use its technology for human domination in the galaxy. Given all the human lives that were lost there, I felt a little differently." She smiled bitterly, "I left Cerberus and even managed to bring some if their top people with me. Turns out, my sense of duty is still intact."
He cringed at that, but felt he deserved it, "Shepard, I'm sorry. The last person I expected to see on Horizon was you. I just didn't know how to react."
"So you completely reject me because you think I'm working with the enemy? I thought you knew me better than that, Kaidan."
Her words were harsh and Kaidan wasn't quite sure why. Did she feel like she had suffered so much more than he? Did she honestly think that a few weeks of unhappiness even measured up to the torture he'd been through? He couldn't believe she was being so selfish about this.
"Do you have any idea what the past two years have been like for me?" He didn't even give her a chance to respond, "No? Well, let me enlighten you. They've been hell. It took months before I could go a day without breaking down and even longer before I didn't tear up every time you were mentioned in a conversation. I dreamt of you every night. I would go through the day on autopilot, counting down the hours until I could finally crawl back into bed where visions of you were waiting to envelop me. I was a pathetic mess, and I was just starting to get over you when you showed up on Horizon. I wanted to be angry with you. Hell, I was angry with you. You came back into my life as suddenly as you'd left it. It felt like I was just here for your entertainment: 'Oh, I'm bored so I'll die and make Kaidan wish he'd never been born.' Or 'I'll just drop in and visit Kaidan after being dead for two years. Let's see what kind of shit that stirs up.' And that wasn't all, was it? After coming back from the dead, you had to top everything off by working with Cerberus. Cerberus?! What the hell Shepard? The woman I knew, the woman I fell in love with, would never have worked for that kind of organization.
"It was a lot to take in after almost being abducted by the Collectors. So forgive me, if I was a little less than understanding."
She stood, stunned by his outburst. She knew he had a hard time after her death, everyone on the original Normandy had, but she had no clue how deeply it had affected him. She wanted to comfort him, but was at a complete loss for words. What could she say? He'd known more hurt than most could imagine and had somehow managed to make it through with most of his sanity. She reached out to him, but he shrank back as if her touch would burn.
"Don't touch me!" He realized his words unintentionally hurt and softened his tone to an almost whisper, "I can't be pulled back in. You won't mean to, but something will happen to you again, and the thought of you disappearing from my life, for a second time… I can't go through that again, Shepard. I barely endured it this time."
So that was it. Her association with Cerberus and all its implications, that was only secondary to his fear of losing her again. She had to find a way to reassure him, to make him see she would never willingly leave him, because unlike him, she couldn't survive without him. She just wasn't that strong.
"Kaidan, look at me." He raised his eyes to meet hers, and she reached out to cup his face. This time, he did not pull back. "The only image in my head as air was leaking out of my hard suit was you. My first thought when I woke up in a Cerberus facility was you. The first person I wanted to see after making it back through the relay was you. From the moment I boarded the original Normandy, it's been you. It's always been you, Kaidan." She moved closer, until they were less than a foot apart, "These last few weeks have been horrible without you, and I can't even begin to imagine what you went through, but that just shows how much we need each other. At any moment, either of us could die; it comes with the territory. But I'd rather spend a few brief moments with you and have them wrenched away than spend the rest of my life without you. With you, I feel like I can take on the galaxy, and right now I kinda have to. I–"
Her words were suddenly cut short by the force of his mouth on hers. He'd listened to her talk, becoming mesmerized by the movement of her lips, so close to his own, and before he could stop himself, he leaned in. In an instant, he realized that every single dream fell short of reality. She was so soft, and fit his body so perfectly. He knew she was right, would always be right. As long as they both existed in this messed up universe, they had no chance of staying apart.
He felt her body quiver and pulled back slightly to look at her. She was absolutely beautiful. The curve of her chin, the way her hair tumbled around her face, the soft pink hue of her cheeks, her lips swollen from his kiss…
He was overwhelmed by emotion and a soft sob escaped his body. After everything, he still couldn't believe she was here, with him, loving him, needing him as much as he needed her. He clung to her and allowed every emotion he felt over the past two years to flow out of him in the form of his tears. She held him, knowing he needed this more than any words she could offer. Eventually, spent but more happy than he'd been in what seemed like forever, he spoke, "Shepard, spend the night with me? Stay?"
The biggest smile since waking up in Cerberus' facility graced her face, and their lips met for the second time that night.
At long last, they were home.