Last chapter of this story. I'm sure I'll be writing a ton of fics while I beat ME3, so it won't be long before there are more up; I have a lot of Kaidan feelings. :3 Thanks for reading and fave-ing everyone, hope you enjoy!

She's alive.

But some days, you know she can't make herself believe that.

She meets with the Council. She talks with the squad and the crew, helping them as much as she can. She stays up working long after everyone else has gone to troubled sleep.

Everyone on the squad cares about her, and they all exchange glances when they see the circles under her eyes. You all know she's the best humanity has, but she can't be this strong, this tireless – not without consequences.

Joker asks if she's talking to you, but you shake your head. You were the only one she'd show weakness to, but that was a lifetime ago, literally. You're the last one she'll ask for help; the last one she'll ever talk to, period. You're awkward, wanting to open up to her and knowing you can't.

She's changed. The warmth in her eyes is gone, replaced by coldness and a neutral expression. All her passion, her humanity has been burned away – by Cerberus, the Council, the Alliance... It kills you, thinking that she's been hurt and betrayed by so many people she trusted.

Including – especially – you.

"I'll do what I have to, at the end," she'll say, not looking at anyone. The implications make your heart ache.

She's so dedicated to being the hero that everyone so desperately needs her to be and destroying the Reapers that she's lost herself completely, and you don't know if she can ever find her way back.

You know that look in her eyes because you had it for years.

Eventually, you can't take it anymore, and after an evening of trying to work up the courage, you head up to her quarters, your heart pounding. You're preparing to call out to her when you hear muffled voices on the other side of the door.

"-over Elysium." You don't recognize her mother's voice at first – it's been more than two years since you last spoke to her, at Shepard's funeral. "There's nothing you could have done, and you know it."

"How can you say that?" Irien demands. "If I got everyone cooperating faster-"

"Iri..." She sounds tired. Exhausted. "He wouldn't want us to blame ourselves."

"I know. I'm sorry."

A long pause. "I should go. I don't want them finding you."

"Just- be careful, okay? I can't-" Shepard's voice catches. "I can't lose both of you."

"You too, sweetheart. I love you."

"Love you too, mom."

The silence is deafening, and instinct takes over and you open her door. She's standing near her desk and turns around as you enter, her eyes red and teary.

You just look at each other for a long moment, and you wonder if she's going to throw you out when she finally speaks.


That's all it takes. You close the gap and wrap her in your arms as she sobs against your chest.

"It's okay," you whisper. "It'll all be okay."

You're both alive.

But maybe now, you can finally start living.