Every time he closes his eyes, he watches her die.
He wasn't there when she passed, not like Joker, but he knew what happened to a body when it was spaced. He knew, in the abstract that made itself into a horrible reality when he shut his eyes for sleep. The oxygen deprivation, the frostbite as the suit's power failed – he watched her body twitch as the last of the nerve endings crackled in a mockery of life as her brain died from lack of air.
The only thing that helped was whiskey.
And now, after seeing her on Horizon, talking to her, yelling his frustrations at her, it's not enough. After seeing her at the trial and watching the Council set her back on the untouchable pedestal again after she acquitted herself, it wasn't enough.
He still watched her die, every time he closed his eyes.
So he keeps busy – the gym, running, lifting things with his biotics until he can only stand, breathing like a blown stallion. He doesn't get the same headaches anymore. He gets hangovers instead. His control becomes iron, unbendable, but brittle, and it shatters with a tumbler instead of the backlash of purple-blue biotic energy.
He thinks it's an improvement, but he still can't close his eyes.
He doesn't see her, although his commanding officer warned him of it while congratulating him on making Spectre. You'll be following in Shepard's footsteps. Don't screw up. Like she did, but that was left unsaid.
He was warned she had an apartment on the Citadel now, and she stayed there while the Normandy SR-2 was retrofitted. He didn't ask where, just shrugged a shoulder in a lazy acknowledgement and got down to business.
His curiosity itches, but he does not scratch. He doesn't sleep, either, only blacks out, but anything is an improvement.
When he closes his eyes, her face, contorted in horror as the air goes.
He sits up, head in his hands as the nightmare fades. His chest is slick with cooling sweat, and he rises for a shower. Still no orders from the council, although Alliance command would love to give him some. He sighs before dousing his head under the steaming water and scrubbing the rest of the dream from his body.
But the guilt would never wash down the drain.
He slings a towel around his hips as he picks up his datapad. One new message, from an unknown sender. He taps it to life on his omnitool, and feels his heart stop and then start back triple time.
An address, and a name. One that's all too familiar. And a message for him.
Look, if you're going to pussy out on this, I don't think I can respect you anymore, dude. How long do you think you can mope in your apartment? Go talk to her, or I will. –J
Shepard. He didn't think it would be easy, but it is as he dresses in his blues and takes the shuttle to her neighborhood. His step is light, almost as if he's dreaming something good for the first time in three years.
It's a small apartment, a studio, and the area is nice for the Citadel. He sees a withered fern in a planter as he approaches her door and smiles. She never had a talent for growing things, nothing living. Still, she tried.
The buzzer is warm to his squared off index finger, and he presses it a moment longer than necessary, just to assure himself that this is real. He is real, this is real, and the door sliding open is real.
Shepard. She is real.
Ruddy hair hanging in her eyes, dark blue eyes that widen in shock before narrowing in suspicion. She is just the same, no, that's not right. She's different, but only on the skin. She has different scars, a new one where the soft skin of her throat meets the hard set of her jaw. The old one that wove through her eyebrow is gone.
The rest of Shepard is the same, the same set to her mouth when faced with something she didn't like, the same hostile stance as she looks him up and down.
It fills him with a mixture of exultation and fear, but he charges on, this new being with his name and face and he takes her cheeks in his hands and presses his mouth to hers, not taking but giving. He's rewarded with the flutter of closing eyelashes as she sags against him, hands clutching at his blues as she drags him back into the apartment and closes the door.
There is no time for talk, no time for pretty words and apologizing. He runs his hands down her back, and she arches into his touch.
He surrounds them with the swirling purple-blue of his talents, something that would scare any other woman as he lifts them both, but she rises to meet him, hands clawing at his shirt as their lips meld together.
Against the wall, braced against the whitewashed bulkhead with nothing beneath them but air, he strips the cargo pants from her hips and her hands yank his trousers down, seeking flesh and friction. He nips her throat, drawing the breathy gasp he loves, the one he hears when he thinks he has forgotten everything.
She is mewling before he can even stroke his fingers through the wetness he finds there, begging for him, his name a prayer as she sears him with her heat. He's not making love to a woman; Shepard is nuclear, a star gone supernova, and he is caught in the blastwave. His bones will liquefy but that's all right. It's preferable, because he wants to die making love to this woman, to sink into that heat, that brightness, for the rest of his life and beyond and forever.
His hips meld flush with hers, and he hears his own voice, hoarse with promises and 'I'm sorry' and 'I love you' and all of it is true. He buries his face in her neck, his teeth there, as he feels her fly apart in his arms. His teeth grip the juncture between neck and shoulder as he judders through his own release, his eyes closing at last.
Alive. Alive and mine. Mine mine mine.
They sink to the floor in a boneless heap as Kaidan releases them, Shepard in his arms as he rests his back against the bulkhead. She presses flushed lips to his chest, over his heart, and he lets out a breath. She smiles at him, and something missing clicks into place. This was right, here was right, and he should have come sooner.
"Better late than never, right?"
Author's Note: Wordy drabble because I promised someone Kaidan smut. Enjoy.