A/N: Why is it that the good ideas always come to you at 3am. They drag you kicking and screaming from sleep, the words swirling in your head like a maelstrom waiting for release. They scratch, kick and yell to be heard, to be placed on paper, to be read. Eventually you capitulate, raise your arm to throw back the blankets because you left your notebook in the kitchen.

But an arm slides around you, a warm body curls up against you. Even in sleep he senses that he will be waking up to an empty bed. You forget the words and snuggle into his warmth, wrapping your hand over his, entwining your fingers and he grasps yours even as his slow, relaxed breathing brushes the back of your neck. The words scream louder, clawing at the inside of your skull but warmth and comfort induced sleep pulls you down. You promise the words that you won't forget them. Sometimes you don't.

This is one of those ideas. This is one of those stories. Hope I've done it justice. Let me know.

What if? We all have what if moments, events. For Shepard and Alenko Horizon could be a what if.

He walked away. He held his back erect, took perfectly timed steps and walked away. But with every step his heart was breaking, a piece of him was dying. Again. He didn't look back, he couldn't.

A few more steps, that was all he needed. A few more steps and he could stop, catch his breath, deal with the pain. He fought to control the turmoil of his emotions. Two steps. It may as well have been the other side of the planet. He reached the corner of the building and almost stumbled around it, out of sight.

He sucked in a breath, trying to force his lungs to work. The pain in his chest was physical, it drove him to his knees. He rocked on his heels and buried his face in his hands, covering the sobs that ripped from him, tore their way out. Tears burned but he couldn't hold them back. He couldn't do this again.

He'd buried his heart in a hole so deep and he never thought it would see the light of day again. He'd buried a part of himself with it, a part of him that had been unable to deal with the grief, the pain. He'd become an automaton, it was the only way he could cope. He'd closed everything off but now it had been wrenched open.

She'd been in his arms, the scent of her hair filled his senses, the feel of her breath on his neck. She'd whispered in his ear. Three words. It had been a promise, a promise only they knew. But he'd stepped back. It wasn't possible, death was final. He stepped back. The hurt and pain had taken control, it had to be a lie. He stepped back. He saw the heartbreak in her eyes, but he stepped back. He heard his voice, ignored the words as he stepped back. He heard her pleas but he couldn't believe and he stepped back. She cried out to him, he turned and walked away.

What if she had been telling the truth? What if it was possible? He dropped his shaking hands to his knees and stared at the dirt. What if he'd just made the biggest mistake of his life. He scrambled to his feet and staggered around the corner. She would be gone, he'd heard her call for the shuttle. He was too late.

She watched him walk away. Her heart shattered. He walked away. She couldn't breathe as she watched him walk away. All her dreams, hopes, needs, they disappeared with him as he walked away, as he disappeared from view.

She had to leave, she called the shuttle and sent the others away. She couldn't stay here, where she'd held him in her arms, felt his breath on her neck, smelled his after shave. She'd whispered in his ear, the promise they had made. She'd thought it would make him believe her, but he'd walked away. She'd seen the grief in his eyes, felt his pain, but he walked away.

She'd heard his words, they'd stabbed at her, wounded her. He hadn't heard hers, he'd been in too much pain, it had taken control. She could understand that pain. But it still hurt to watch him walk away. She stood, shaking, crying. She leaned against a crate to keep herself upright. She had to deal with it, she had no choice. She had to push the pain away. She had to believe he would eventually hear the truth, that there was still hope.

What if he'd actually heard her? What if he could believe the truth? What if he thought she was gone, that he couldn't come after her? She pulled herself upright, she could let him know she was still here. She could see if he was ready to listen. She turned to where he had disappeared.

She was still here.

He was coming back.

She was crying.

He was crying.

She was coming towards him.

He was coming towards her.

She was in his arms, he was holding her. Her lips met his. His lips met hers. His heart broke free and soared, her heart met his in flight. Their tears mingled, their hands roamed and finally their eyes met.

'Always and forever,' they whispered as one.