"Kaidan, go. Now." Shepard's words were brief, but her intent was clear. She needed him looking after the crew, not her. In a fleeting moment it had become apparent that everything they'd gained could be lost just as quickly, and if he had to he would let it happen for the sake of duty. Because Kaidan Alenko didn't take chances. Kaidan Alenko played it safe. But as he scanned the corridor for any stragglers, as he prepared to enter the escape pod himself, he hesitated, realizing that if there was anyone in the galaxy that was worth risking everything for, it was Shepard.

He slammed his hand on the release switch and watched the pod spin away, then turned and made his way to the bridge.

The Normandy's deck shuddered beneath her feet as Shepard tossed Joker into the escape pod. She leaned forward to climb in behind him but another shot from their unknown foe put a stop to that. She drifted away, watching the deck crumble away between her and the pod, her chances of escape crumbling with it. Her one comfort, though, was knowing that Kaidan was safe. She had unexpectedly developed a soft spot for the biotic, and here, just as on Virmire, she wasn't about to let anything happen to him.

Just as she'd resigned herself to her fate, she felt something lift her up, propelling her toward the pod. Glancing down, she saw herself surrounded by a blue glow, something that she'd seen hundreds of times as Kaidan expertly used his biotics to fling their enemies aside, sometimes finishing a fight before she even had a chance to take a shot. And she knew that as much as she prided herself on using her brains, her guns, or the sheer force of her personality to arrange any situation to her advantage, she was powerless to stop what was happening now.

She'd barely been released from the Lift when she saw the escape pod doors slam shut, felt it spiral away from the wreckage that had once been her home, watched the faint glimmer of starlight off Kaidan's hardsuit as it drifted away. She pounded on the door of the escape pod, breaking free of Joker's futile attempts to hold her back. "Damnit, Kaidan! I gave you an order! You were supposed to be in the fucking pod!"

His voice came in over her helmet radio, faint, already gasping for breath, "Sorry... Shepard. Had to..."

She screamed wordlessly as his last words faded away, not stopping until her throat was raw. Finally, she fell back into an empty seat on the pod, still staring out at space, ignoring Joker's mumbled condolences, ignoring the radioed requests from the other pods. He was gone.

I wish that I was anesthetized and sterilized

And then, we wouldn't have this evidence congealing

After Ilos, after Saren, they'd made sure to take the proper precautions. But that first night had been so desperate, so unexpected...they'd only concerned themselves with the moment. It had been foolish and romantic and so unlike her... what was it about him that had managed to disarm her so completely..

Surprise, surprise, another pair of lips and eyes

"A blessing," said the old woman in that vid Becca had enjoyed so much, back on Earth. "Something to remember him by." That would have been the most foolish thing of all. She would always remember Kaidan, and the brief time they'd had together. Some little bit of his DNA wouldn't change that.

And that is the consequence of actually feeling...

Besides, she had so many other things to concern herself with. The Alliance. The Council. Career and command and duty. They were all she had left, now. Really, they were all she'd ever had. So she took the pill. And cried as the last thing she had of Kaidan bled away.

"She's alive?"

"Yes, sir. The attack was devastating, but most of the crew survived, Shepard included."

"Very well. We'll need to reach out to her then, see if she's amenable. Contact her. She'll want to know who attacked her ship; tell her we have information."

"Do I tell her whom I represent?"

"Only if she asks."

"So tonight, we honor the memory of those we lost on the Normandy. Kaidan Alenko..."

The look was fleeting, but Anderson still recognized the shadow that overcame Shepard's face as she read the first name. Not that he was going to accuse her of impropriety, especially not now, but he'd never seen Shepard react so strongly to a death among her crew.

"Hector Emerson, Robert Falawa, Harvey Gladstone..."

If her relationship with Alenko had gone beyond the professional, however, it would explain her behavior over the past few days suddenly made more sense. They'd seemed quite close in the time they'd spent on the Citadel after Sovereign's defeat as well, although he hadn't thought anything of it at the time beyond simple camaraderie; gratitude that they'd made it out alive.

"Charles Pressley, Mandira Rahman..."

It didn't take long for the shadow in her eyes to turn to fire. It didn't surprise him to see her turn to anger in her grief. That fire was what made her special, what made her the best damn soldier he'd ever met. It had saved her at Elysium; he hoped it would help her heal now. Still, he'd be watching her. She wouldn't be the first soldier he'd seen let righteous anger get the best of her.

"She doesn't trust our information, then?"

"She doesn't trust the source."

"I see. And what about our other channel."

"The attack on the Normandy was devastating. There was very little left intact. Most of the bodies were ripped apart."

"But you found something."

"One corpse. It appears he survived the initial attack but wasn't able to evacuate. Went down with the ship, so to speak. His O₂ line was severed; he wouldn't have survived til rescue."

"And could she tell you anything about him? Was he close to Shepard at all?"

"They were lovers."

He took a long drag from his cigarette as he considered this, then leaned over to put out the remains. "Very well. We've lost nothing; the matter will simply require more gentle handling than we anticipated. Proceed with Project Lazarus."

"Shepard, this is getting out of hand, and there's only so much I can do to protect you. You're obsessed. It has to stop."

"I can't just give it up. If my information holds up, the attack on the Normandy was only the beginning. For all we know, it could be the next attempt by the Reapers to..."

"There has been no evidence that it was anything but a random attack, much less that the Reapers were involved. And you can't take this to the Council or Alliance Command without hard evidence, not just some nameless source." His voice lowered. "Look, I understand what you're going through. But Alenko's dead, and this won't bring him back."

"This is NOT about Alenko!" She breathed deeply, slowly, trying to calm herself. "This is about the galaxy. Look, if I hadn't taken the Normandy to Ilos we'd have been sitting ducks for Sovereign. We'd all be dead right now."

"It's different now, Shepard. You have no ship, no resources..."

"I spent half my life getting by with nothing, Anderson. I'm not afraid to do it again."

"Well, if I'm not going to talk you out of this, do one thing at least. Resign. Make it official. Don't burn any more bridges than you have to."

He got a call from Admiral Hackett the next day. She'd submitted her formal resignation that morning.

Contains lyrics from "Carriage" by Counting Crows