Author's Note: So here it is, finally! The sequel to "Breathe". You don't need to read "Breathe" to enjoy this one, but there will be some references to the first story. Please enjoy, and feel free to offer any suggestions and comments! A special thanks to my beta, Katma!
As always, Bioware is the sole owner of anything Mass Effect.
She was dying.
She wasn't afraid, yet she still grasped the back of her helmet in a foolish attempt to prolong whatever time she had left.
Serena Shepard had accepted death a long time ago. From her childhood back on Earth to her service in the Alliance, she had known that death was always around the corner. Every outing back on Earth, every mission with the Alliance, held a certain risk, and she had always given herself willingly. Only this time, she didn't want to die.
How ironic that she was going to die just when her heart had been awakened with the yearning to live. She thought of Kaidan and a tear rolled down her cheek. She had failed him. All the time she'd wasted in her attempt to avoid her feelings for him. Time that she could have spent with him. Time that she would never get back.
Her breath came out in staggered gasps as the oxygen in her helmet depleted. A cold, numbing feeling began to wash over her limbs.
She closed her eyes and accepted her fate, content that, at least, her death had not been in vain. That her crew – that Kaidan – was safe. Her only regret…not telling Kaidan that she had loved him.
Kaidan was uneasy as he looked up at the sky. He should've stayed on the Normandy, should've made sure she was safe. His heart was pounding in his ears, making him oblivious to the reassurances from his crewmates that both Serena and Joker were ok. His head began to throb painfully, but he forced himself to focus. His heartbeat accelerated as he saw the last escape pod finally enter the planet's atmosphere.
The pod seemed to take ages to descend, and Kaidan ran up to it as it finally landed. Taking a steadying breath, he punched in the sequence to open the door and stood aside as it slowly hissed open. He pulled himself inside, and his heart stopped.
"Where is she?" he whispered.
Joker's head hung down between his shoulders, but he slowly lifted it at Kaidan's words. Joker looked defeated. He shook his head at Kaidan.
"Where is she?" Kaidan growled, grabbing Joker by the shoulders and giving him a hard shake.
Joker winced in pain, but Kaidan didn't care. He needed answers.
"Sh-she didn't make it," Joker finally spoke up, his voice hoarse with emotion. "There was a blast, and she got pulled away from the pod. She…died…trying to save me."
"No!" Kaidan yelled. He didn't believe it. She must've taken another pod. Serena always had something up her sleeve. He stepped out and looked up at the sky again. It wouldn't be long. Her pod should be making its way to the planet any time now. He felt a hand on his shoulder but didn't bother to turn around. His eyes continued to scan the sky for her pod, for her.
"She's not coming," Joker whispered from behind, and Kaidan realized that Joker was now crying.
She couldn't be dead. She was Commander Shepard, for God's sake, she couldn't die! Her whole life had been spent cheating death, she couldn't just…die.
Suddenly, Kaidan couldn't breathe. He fumbled with the oxygen hose that led to his helmet, though he knew there was nothing wrong with it. Kaidan's body flared with biotic energy, and he ripped Joker's hand from his shoulder. He stumbled away from Joker before he did something he would regret. Anger directed his body, and he moved with no direction in mind. He walked for hours…or was it only minutes? Kaidan didn't care. He had lost his sense of time, his sense of…everything.
Finally, his body drained, he knelt on the cold ground, and his body succumbed to the pain in his heart. She couldn't be dead. They had just found each other – it was too soon for her to go. His body shook with sobs as he finally accepted Serena's fate. She was dead, and it was his fault. He had made a promise to himself that he would never let her out of his sight and yet he had done just that. He had failed her.