You know me Kaidan.

Once Kaidan's life had been filled with John Shepard. So much so, that he hardly recalled what came before. He had been so blinded by love, when he had finally given in, that he could not imagine that anything could ever change that. Not the Geth, not Sovereign, not nothing.

It was like he was experiencing everything for the first time with John. Like when they had kissed, it had felt like no other kiss he had ever gotten, when they had visited Ilium, and John had taken his hand in public, it felt like he had never seen Illium before, because he saw it with Shepard.

Never in a million years had he thought that his life could be different, he had never thought that John was mortal. When he had pushed him into the escape pod, and the explosion had forced Shepard away. Kaidan had been scared, but confident that John would find some way out of that too. Like a defunct escape pod, or something.

When he had learned that John was indeed mortal, and that he had not pulled some magic stunt out his ass. It had completely destroyed him! He had been wavering between denial and sorrow, and it had not been until he had found himself in his navy blues at Shepard's funeral, it had hit him, and hit him hard. He knew the casket was empty, there had been no body to recover. Kaidan couldn't make up his mind if it was better or worse. If the casket had held his lover, his commander. Then he had had closure and certainty. As it were he had none of these things, and somewhere in the back of his mind, hope wouldn't let go. Hope that John was out there somewhere, maybe being nurtured back to life by some kind strangers.. When Anderson had placed the flag, folded and heavy in his arms, and saluted him. Kaidan accepted that; body in the casket or not, John Shepard was gone. Most his old squad mates were here, all condoling each other, and Kaidan.

He had lost himself after that, like the breath of life that John had been, had been taken away. Like things had had spectacular serenity and beautiful colors and smells when he had had his hand in John's. It was like nothing made sense now, like all things around him had lost purpose and form. Dull and gray. Garrus had left, Liara too. Kaidan had been oddly sad to see Tali'Zorah leave, even if he knew she had to, maybe she had been equally surprised that he had actually hugged her as she came to say goodbye. And Joker, God only knew where he had gone to.

Which left only him.

It took him a couple of bottles of booze and some nights on the couch in his underwear, wrapped in the flag that Anderson had given him at the funeral, to figure out what to do. He was the only one left, there was no one left to lean on, so now what? It forced him to think about what he was before. Before he was swept off his feet, and stopped to live for himself or his career.

No one had been more surprised than Anderson, when Kaidan showed up in his Alliance uniform, freshly shaved and a serious expression. Anderson could have asked a lot of questions, but he didn't. He just showed Kaidan to a his desk and sat him down, taking a deep breath and pushed a data pad in Kaidan's hands, it was some human colonists out in the Terminus system who had mysteriously vanished.

Kaidan had left that day, as Staff Commander Kaidan Alenko, and five data pads about disappearing colonists in the Terminus system, richer.

He had gone over the files again and again, frustrated that he was stuck here behind a desk, trying to find a pattern in the strange disappearances, plotting in map markers and numbers of lost colonists. He knew that every one of his dots were a colony, and every digit in his numbers were someone's husband, wife, lover, child, sister, father.. something. He hated this! He was not made for a desk job, but with all the rules that Shepard had bent as the commander of the Normandy. Kaidan knew he should be absolutely exstactic that he had been promoted to Staff Commander, even if he had been pulled out of any and all combat situations. Maybe it was Anderson that was worried about his mental state, and was just looking out for him? He didn't know. But he missed the fight, he never thought he would say that, but he did.

Kaidan stared out the window at the Citadel. Shepard had been dead for over a year now, he had had time to get used to the thought of never hearing his voice, or waking next to him again. He didn't have to like it, and it still stung, but it was a fact, and Kaidan liked dealing in facts. Another fact was that he was fine, he wouldn't break down on the battlefield, or crumble under pressure. He was sure of that. His nightmares was almost gone, and he didn't have to dope himself with sleep meds before bedtime anymore. Yeah, he was good, as good as he would ever be. He looked down at the files in his hands and smiled. What he had had before Shepard, was a fine career, and maybe he should just go back to that. It wasn't too late, maybe he would even get to command his own star cruiser some day, and get back up into the stars as his own master.

Standing so sudden his chair almost fell, Kaidan took the data pads, and went to look for Anderson.

"Sir." Kaidan said, gesturing towards Anderson, who was still reading the data pads on his findings. "It is Cerberus, I am sure of it! The Illusive man has something to do with this. Every time a colony has disappeared, there has been Cerberus troops, right after.. Surely you can see why that is suspicious."

"Yes. Yes I can." Anderson said scratching his cheek absentminded. He placed the data pad down, and looked over at Kaidan. "And it looks like you are right, Staff Commander."

Kaidan resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and just nodded, folding his hands under his cheek, waiting for Anderson's verdict.

"Kaidan." Anderson said with a serious expression. "There is something else I have been meaning to talk to you about. But I have waited till your therapist told me it was okay." He paused, and leaned back in his chair. "She didn't by the way, but I'm gonna tell you anyway."

Kaidan just nodded.

"There are rumors about Shepard." Anderson said watching Kaidan closely for any and all reactions. "That he is in Cerberus hands, remade, patched back together with tech, but alive."

Kaidan let out a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. "Alive?"

"That is what my informant said." Anderson rested his chin on his fingertips, still studying Kaidan. "What more is, the informant says that Shepard is working for Cerberus now."

"Your informant is wrong." Kaidan barked, his voice way too loud for the silent room. "He would never - "

"I hope you're right." Anderson sighed, "I really do."

Kaidan fought the urge to look down at the data pad in his lap, and away from Anderson's worried gaze. He was a soldier dammit! Not about to back down from a little fatherly concern. "What are you not telling me."

Anderson smiled, he liked Alenko, liked him a lot. Smart kid. "There is a good reason to think that Horizon will be one of the colonies hit in the near future, and the colonists reported Cerberus activity just last week." Anderson paused, "They weren't really doing anything, more like waiting, and then took off again."

Kaidan leaned in over the table closer to Anderson. "Oh?"

"Yes." Anderson smiled sadly at the gleam in Kaidan's eyes. "I want you to go there and investigate, it's the best lead we have had on the disappearing colonists to date."

"Yes Sir." Kaidan said.

"I should warn you, the colonists might not be too thrilled with Alliance soldiers being there, but you can handle a few sticks and stones, can't you Alenko?" Anderson said, finally leaning back in his chair. "What troubles me is the whispers about Shepard."

"Do you think he is on his way there?" Kaidan asked.

"Could be, could very well be." Anderson said with a thoughtful nod.

"Sir. Don't worry about me, I will cross that river when I get to it. Sir." Kaidan slowly got up from his chair and took the data pads. "When do I depart?"

Anderson laughed a little, bordering on a cough. "You will meet with your team at 08:00 tomorrow, good luck Alenko, and I look forward to hear what you find."

Kaidan saluted Anderson for good measure, before he heard 'dismissed' and exited the office. Shepard alive? And with Cerberus? it made no sense! Kaidan didn't know if he should be upset or happy that John apparently had pulled a trick out his ass anyway. Rebuilt with Cerberus tech? That couldn't be good. Would it even -be- John anymore? Or would be be a puppet for the Illusive man, just one with a soft voice and a friendly face? Kaidan shook his head, he had to stop thinking like this and get his shit together.

He had only been on Horizon for a couple of days to hate it. And Kaidan was sure he would have been miserable without his squad. They were just grunts, but a lively group, ready to adapt and do what it took. The citizens on Horizon was not thrilled with Alliance presence, they were afraid that it meant their comfortable life in the outskirts of the Terminus system was over. That soldiers would be their new reality. Kaidan had done all he could, summoned them all to a meeting where he tried to explain that they were not here to cause trouble, they were here to protect the people of Horizon. Which in it self was a joke, they were eight soldiers, and the colonists outnumbered them hundred to one. They weren't even -close- to be able to protect anyone, and from what he had seen on the gritty videos, should the collectors really come, they would not be able to do anything about it. Still it seemed to silence the most fears, there were always the anti-alliance people around, but those Kaidan was okay with, he was used to hard words.

It had been a lovely day really, Kaidan and his squad had been on Horizon for a couple of weeks, and it felt so much a holiday that the soldiers had started to relax, not carrying their weapons, visiting new friends and lovers around the colony. Only Kaidan was still vigilant, not because he actually thought that the Collectors would hit Horizon, but because he couldn't get rid of the little fear on his back, what if Anderson was right? What if Shepard would really come? Then what? Should he shoot him? Kiss him? Call upon parley for information?

"Staff Commander?" A woman asked from the door behind Kaidan. Kaidan turned around and looked at her with a smile. One of the soldiers he had brought, a brave girl, the spine of the Alliance. "Jackson?" He counter asked. "What can I do for you?"

"There is a message from Councilman Anderson, but we are all supposed to be there." Jackson said with a slightly nod.

"Alright." Kaidan sighed, standing from his chair, grabbing the data pad he had been working on, thinking that he could do two things at once. He could go hear what Anderson had to say, and then go to the techs who were responsible for the signal tower afterwards. The tower had been silent for weeks, but now it suddenly let out some low frequency waves, and he had to use their system and calibrations to figure out what it meant.

He walked with Jackson towards the barrack where the call from Anderson was waiting, when a deafening roar suddenly split the sky. Everyone looked up, and Kaidan paled, he had seen that thing before, it was a collector ship, much like the one that had shot the Normandy down on that fatal day. A swarm of what looked like pigeons from far away emerged from the ship's side. "Run! Get into the bomb shelters!" Kaidan yelled, "Go!" He pushed Jackson to get her moving, "Go Soldier! I'll cover you!" Aiming at the bugs he tried to take down as many as he could, retreating. Kaidan almost stumbled and looked down for a second to see what blocked his way, it was Jackson, and colonists around her, all laying on the ground like they were frozen in time. Kaidan aimed at the impending swarm and tried once more to get to the shelters, when a sharp pain invaded his senses. Swiftly he tore off the bug, staring at the offending critter before stomping on it, hearing it's hard shell crack under his heel. He had to get to the bunker, or maybe the barrack where Anderson would most probably still wait on hold. His joints started to stiffen, he groaned as his legs gave way, this couldn't happen! He couldn't be taken by the Collectors! He had been so focused on being afraid to meet John, not for a single second thinking that the Collectors could actually take him. Not him. Not before he had seen for himself if the rumors was true.

When Kaidan woke he was confused, not sure why he was laying about on the ground. Was it a nightmare? Blinking he opened his eyes, realizing he was jammed in between some crates, apparently his survival instinct had kicked into overdrive, so half stunned and not thinking, he had hid. Slowly he pushed out from his prison and rolled his sore shoulders. The colony was silent, he heard some gunshots in a distance, but that was it. He heard no people, "Hello?" He called not expecting an answer. "Jackson?" He pushed his omni tool to see if he could raise any of his squad. "Hayworth? Greene? Anyone?" He was greeted with static noise and nothing more. Kaidan could only come to one conclusion that they had suffered the same destiny as the colonists, whatever that might be. A little dazed Kaidan stumbled out from behind the barrack, aiming to where he heard gunshots, someone had to still be around for guns to be fired, someone on both sides.

Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. Garrus! What the hell was Garrus doing here? Kaidan advanced silently trying to see more, he saw a soldier he had never seen before, but apparently she was with Garrus. And then he saw it! John, no doubt about it, Shepard was standing right there, alive and kicking. He even sounded like Shepard! Kaidan's heart skipped a beat, and soft panic settled in his chest. Maybe he should just stay in hiding? Shepard, Garrus and the woman came towards him, talking hushed with serious voices, and then stopped to talk to someone that Kaidan couldn't see.

He recognized the voice of the surviving colonist, of course it had to be one of those crazy anti-alliance people that made it. Go figure! And like his feet moved on their own, Kaidan made his way to where the four others stood.

Kaidan hesitated for a moment, and then walked straight up to Shepard burying the man in a embrace. His scent was Shepard, no doubt about it. "I didn't want to believe the rumors." Kaidan mumbled holding Shepard close.

"Kaidan." Shepard sighed, caught up in the moment. "What rumors?" He asked softly.

Kaidan pulled from the embrace, staring at Shepard, trying to read his face. The red scars made him look different and dangerous, reminding Kaidan of what Anderson had said, that Shepard should be stitched back together like Frankensteins monster. "That you were alive," Kaidan answered curtly, "And with Cerberus."

"I am not with Cerberus." Shepard said.

"Then why are you wearing their colors?" Kaidan asked, pointing to the tiny Cerberus insignia on Shepard's standard N7 uniform.

"It's a mutual benefit thing." Shepard argued, "Come on Kaidan, you know me. I wouldn't do this if it wasn't for the right reasons."

Kaidan rose a brow and stepped two steps backwards. It smelled like Shepard, felt like Shepard, looked like Shepard, and even sounded like Shepard. But Kaidan wasn't convinced. "No." He said with a near whisper. And then he shook his head sadly, he wanted to tell Shepard about how he had mourned, cried and grieved till he thought he was going positively mad. How hard the world was with a John Shepard shaped space in his bed and mind. But he didn't, he just said "You turned your back on everything you stood for, that -we- stood for." He sucked in his breath, willing his voice to be even. "Unlike you, I know what I am, I am an Alliance soldier.. I.." He took two steps more away from Shepard, Garrus and the tattooed woman. "Take care Shepard."

"Alenko!" Garrus called, "Why was the alliance here? at least tell us that."

Kaidan shook his head, he liked Garrus, he was an old friend. "I can't." He finally spun around and walked away, he heard Shepard call for him, asking him to come back, to come aboard the Normandy like old times. But he kept walking, willing his ears deaf.

His mission had been a failure, not only had he lost his squad, he had lost the entire damn colony except three people, which Cerberus had shuttled away before he could do anything. His palms were unreasonably sweaty as he clutched his report of the mission, and another with the M.I.A reports that Admiral Hackett had to give the green light so their next of kin could be informed. The sour taste of defeat, and even worse was the doubt, he knew that he couldn't have dealt differently with the collectors, but what if he had been a little faster in picking up on what the low noise in the signal was? Could he have made sure more had made it to the bunkers? That anyone had made it to the damn bunkers - he corrected himself. And Shepard, he was still having nightmares about that, nightmares in which John's head would crack open by the red scars and reveal a robot of cold steel under the artificial skin. A robot with John's memory and voice.

He gingerly stepped into Admiral Hackett's office, "The reports from Horizon, sir." He said with a professional, even tone, saluting the Admiral as he looked up.

"Just put them on the desk." Hackett said, "And Alenko, you look tired. Take the rest of the day off."

"Sir, yes sir." Kaidan said, saluting Hackett again.

"I will get a hold of you when I finished reading through this. Dismissed." Hackett said with a bored tone, not that he was bored, more that he really didn't wanna read those two files at all.

Kaidan left the office and sighed, feeling a burden off his shoulders as he had delivered the files.

Six months later, Kaidan had awkwardly accepted a dinner invitation from doctor Asher. At first he didn't know what to do with Dr. Asher's subtle flirting, Kaidan just weren't really used to subtle, besides that he had completely buried himself in work, cutting himself off from a private life. He had nothing but work, and he liked it that way. He liked to tell himself he was driven, not that he was lonely. Still Dr. Asher stirred something, he had been conducting his last 3 semi yearly checkup's on his implant, when suddenly one day he had asked if Kaidan would like to join him for dinner. Kaidan had just been standing there like an idiot, not sure if he had heard right, and if he had, if he had read the situation right. When Dr. Asher had smiled a dimpled smile and cleared his throat nervously, Kaidan knew. He had hesitated but had agreed. It felt strange, it didn't feel wrong or nothing, just strange.

He tried, he really did. Asher was nice, and he had a great time with him. But at night when he went to bed, there was still that horrible John Shepard shaped void in his bed, a void he didn't think could even be filled by anyone but it's owner.

Eventually his duties brought him to Illium, and Kaidan welcomed the change, he had been going out with Asher for long enough so they ought to take the next step, everyone in their right mind would already have taken it. Dr. Bryan Asher was good looking, nice, rich, intelligent and all of these things. Kaidan couldn't really have asked for anyone better to have noticed little ol' him. But Asher however nice, didn't fit the Shepard space at his side. And being here on Illium actually just made Kaidan more sure, that nothing ever would. He leaned against the railing and looked out over Illium, it was beautiful, full of life and promise. If he closed his eyes he could almost feel John's warm body pressed against his back, his chin on Kaidan's shoulder as they just stood there and took in the sight in silence.

"Alenko" a deep voice said behind him.

Kaidan thought he was fooling himself at first, but as the owner of the voice came to stand against the railing next to him, he knew that it was actually real, this was happening. "Shepard." He said trying to sound as bored as he could muster.

"Liara said she had seen your name on the lists of arrivals, so I had to go look for you." Shepard said, turning around and leaning on the railing with his elbows like Kaidan.

"You found me." Kaidan said.

"That I did." Shepard said with a slight nod.

"I should be going." Kaidan said.

"And go where?" Shepard asked.

"Anywhere but here." Just flew out of Kaidan, and he regretted it the second he had said it, he had given away too much, too many emotions.

"Kaidan please, would you hear me out this once?" Shepard asked, placing a hand on Kaidan's shoulder, which Kaidan shrugged off.

"Don't touch me." Kaidan whispered strained.

"Cerberus rebuild me, they didn't change me. I am still me, and I am right here. Kaidan - would you look at me?" Shepard said, his tone so downtrodden that Kaidan made the mistake of looking at him. He looked tired and sad, and Kaidan wanted nothing more than to scoop him up and hide him from the world, to hear him laugh and see him smile. But he did none of those things, he just looked away from Shepard's tormented blue eyes.

"Do you really expect me to believe that?" Kaidan asked softly. "I buried John Shepard, almost three years ago."

"Kaidan please." Shepard's voice had taken on a soft begging tone, "I am sorry for everything, even the things I don't know I should be sorry for. But I still lov-"

"Just stop." Kaidan barked, "Stop it!"

"I was in a goddamn coma for two years, one moment I am pushing you into an escape pod, and the next I wake on a slab, and two years just went by!" Shepard said, his voice frustrated and hurt. "Nothing changed for me."

"Everything changed." Kaidan sighed sadly. "You are Cerberus."

"I am not! I am just working with them to sort this Collector problem. I am sure it's connected to the Reapers. Do you even realize what that means Kaidan? What if the Reapers are coming, what if we ran out of time?"

"Is that what this is about?" Kaidan asked coldly, daring another look at Shepard at his side, "You want me to be your confession father, someone who lets you unburden your sins?"

"No!" Shepard whined. "You are not listening to me Kaidan!"

"You're right, I'm not." Kaidan nodded and pushed off the railing. "This conversation is over."


"Shepard, you died. The universe didn't stop, it moved on, I moved on." Kaidan said flailing his arms over his head working himself up. "You are not the Shepard I knew and loved, you are something else. I don't even know you."

"Y-you moved on?" Shepard asked looking Kaidan up and down, trying to take in the amount of angry words tossed at him.

"I did." Kaidan spat. "I have all the things I used to have, minus the renegade suicide missions." He wet his lips, "I have a sound career, I teach what I know to youngsters in my spare time, and I have a lover who is everything I could ever ask for." Kaidan wondered if Shepard could hear or see the lie on him, but if he could he didn't show it.

"Oh," Shepard mouthed. "I'm happy for you." He said, unable to keep the bitterness at bay.

"thank you." Kaidan answered, pretending he didn't hear it. "Now goodbye Commander." He turned and left, his strides long and angry. He had to get out of here before the tears that threatned to fall would be evident in his voice. Before his resolve crumbled and he would just throw himself at Shepard, admitting how much he had missed him.

The first thing Kaidan did when he came back to the Citadel was to break it off with dr. Asher. Seeing Shepard made him absolutely sure that no matter how nice Asher was, he would never fill that void that he needed him to fill. No one could, not even the man who shaped it. Kaidan would much rather just learn how to live with the emptiness in his bed and in his life. busying himself so much that he hopefully wouldn't notice too much.

Of course he heard about Shepard taking down the Collector ship on his mad dash through the Omega 4 relay, he also heard about the Batarian colony that was gone because of Shepard. But when he heard that Shepard had come back to earth to stand trial for what the Alliance considered war crimes, Kaidan couldn't have been more surprised. Maybe there was something of John in there.

When he was promoted, there was not much of a party, mostly it was Hackett that handed him an extra stripe to place on his uniform. He knew that he got this promotion for faithful service, not a single person mentioned his failure on Horizon. Even if the some of the colonists, and three of his squad had survived, it still felt like failure to him. Major Kaidan Alenko, he -did- love the sound of that though. And he could have sworn he saw tears in the corners of his mothers eyes when he called her that evening.

The Reaper threat was a reality now, it was not just some madman story that Shepard had conjured up, even the council had to take him seriously now. Kaidan was proud of John in some roundabout way, that he took on the collectors, Cerberus or not. But mostly that he came back to take his punishment like any soldier with a conscience would.

Kaidan walked swiftly and with a purpose down the steel corridors of the Citadel. He tried to ignore the general age of the soldiers that were waiting for access aboard the cruiser, destination Earth.

Watching the back of Shepard as he walked with long strides towards the Earth council, Kaidan couldn't help but to smile. He recognized that walk, it was Shepard with a purpose, head first, take no prisoners. "You know the Commander?" Lieutenant Vega said next to him.

"I used to." Kaidan said with a little smile, rolling on the balls of his feet, stretching for a second. "Got your orders?" He asked.

"Yeah, I'm supposed to report at docking hangar 28." Vega said.

"Then you better start saluting me, lt." Kaidan smiled smugly and turned and left. Vega hurrying after him, keeping his pace. When the sirens started and the first rumble shook the ground, Kaidan was ripping through The Normandy, "Joker! We gotta get airborne."

Joker looked over his shoulder, and grinned as Kaidan tossed himself in the co-pilot seat. "Aye, aye Major." He grinned.

Kaidan shot him a dirty glare, but then split in a smile. "I'm still trying to get used to that." He admitted softly. The radio scratched something awful and Anderson's voice tried to get through the static. "Normandy do you read me?"

"We read you." Kaidan yelled into his microphone, "Where are you? Where is Shepard?"

"Alenko is that you?" The broken bits made though static.

"Yes. Where are you?" Kaidan got up from the co-pilot seat and started to run down the isle to the elevator, "Get us to his coordinates, Joker!" He barked.

"On our way." Joker said in his earplug, "ETA 10 minutes."

"You, you and you." Kaidan pointed at some of the soldiers that was milling about in the engine room, "Grab your weapons and come with me." If Kaidan had felt he had had time to stop for a moment, he would have been mortified over the chaos that reigned on the Normandy. But all he was thinking of was getting to Anderson, and getting Anderson out alive, and maybe Shepard would be there too.

The hatch slowly opened and Kaidan stepped to the edge, he let out a breath of relief as he saw Anderson and Shepard sprint towards the Normandy. Reacting on instinct he grabbed Shepard's arm as he jumped aboard, hauling him in. "Welcome aboard." He said with a little smile, not sure how or if he should try and build a bridge to John. Truth was that it made his blood sing with battle fever just standing next to him. The hatch closed and they left Anderson behind, "Joker" Shepard barked, "Get us to the Citadel."

"We're leaving earth?"

He didn't want to to, but he couldn't help but to keep an eye on Shepard, to try and find little cracks in his appearance, situations where he would act different than the John Shepard he knew. But Shepard seemed to to run the Normandy like he had never been away. Rarely did they stay in the same room for more than five minutes unless they had to, mostly their conversation consisted of 'commander' and 'major' as they passed each other within the confinement of the Normandy's hull. It was a far cry from the late night confessions they had used to have, even before they became lovers. They had been friends long before that, hadn't they? Kaidan wasn't so sure anymore.

Kaidan stood at the requisition station, trying to find a specific update for his armor, he had read on the extranet that there was a new model that would let him use his biotics more efficient with a back up, but it also held more space for essentials like bullets and medkits. Kaidan bit his bottom lip, completely focused on searching through the online Citadel shops.

"Need help Major?" Cortez asked politely behind him.

"No." Kaidan just huffed, but when he heard Cortez' footsteps as he silently walked away, Kaidan pushed off the terminal and turned to Cortez, "Yeah, maybe I could do with some help." He shot Cortez a disarming smile, stepping sideways away from the terminal.

Cortez smiled, "Of course. What were you looking for?"

"This." Kaidan pushed a button on his omni tool and showed the 3d version of what he had seen on the extranet, "I am just not sure what version it is, or what shop sells it.. And.." He smiled embarrassed, "Too many shops and too much stuff, how do you find head and tails of that?"

"It's my job." Cortez shrugged, he clicked a few times on the terminal screen. "There you go Major." he punched the button with a satisfied smile, "Want me to order it?" He looked over his shoulder at Kaidan who nodded, "It might take some time, just so you know."

"It's fine," Kaidan said watching as Cortez ordered the armor upgrade. He was just about to say something when his omni tool beeped insistingly, Kaidan turned his back to Cortez in feigned privacy, as he accepted the incoming call from Shepard. "Yes, Commander?" He asked.

"Gear up and be ready for a mission briefing in twenty." Shepard's voice said.

"Be right there." Kaidan cut off the link before Shepard could say anything more, if he had wanted to.

"Major?" Cortez leaned up against the terminal, "I hope you don't mind me asking, but - "

"I do mind." Kaidan growled, "Stick to your terminal, Cortez." He started to walk towards the elevator, what the hell was wrong with him? It was like when the topic came to Shepard, all his professionalism just went out the window and he became a ball of gnarled, twisted emotions he didn't even want to deal with himself. Almost at the doors, Kaidan turned around and looked at Cortez with a sigh, "I'm sorry, it's just - Thanks for your help with the order, and all." Once again he shot the pilot a little awkward smile.

"I didn't ask to pry." Cortez said with a little smile back, "I'm here if you ever wanna talk, now you know."

A snide answer was already on his lips, but Kaidan just nodded. "Okay." And then turned and left, he had never been good with that touchy-feely stuff. But it made him a little uneasy to see the worry in Cortez' eyes, was it something everyone knew? and if, how much did they actually know?

It felt a little like old times being on a mission with Shepard and Liara, Kaidan would never really admit it, but he had missed the Asari and her eerily blunt questions, like she could read your goddamn mind sometimes. Kaidan grumbled to himself as he searched the bodies of the fallen Cerberus soldiers, wondering if Liara was asking about him in the control room, and what Shepard would say. Honestly he had done nothing but trip on his own tongue, he had not really meant to be so cold and dismissive of Shepard, but he couldn't help it. Like his brain refused to compute a miracle. Miracles was for God, not Cerberus, or the Bible would need a serious re-write. "Shepard, get in here." He just said in the comlink, knowing that they'd hear. Moments later the doors opened behind him, and Kaidan stayed seated next to the dead Cerberus soldier. "His com looks intact," He looked up at Shepard, annoyed at his helmet that left him feeling like he was in a bubble, his vision was off, and all sounds came in wrong.

"Great." Shepard said, "I think this plan of yours might just work."

"Of course." Kaidan huffed, offended that Shepard would even question it. He carefully lifted off the dead soldiers visor and just dropped it on the floor, coms and mission completely forgotten for a moment. "It's a husk!" He gasped.

Shepard kneeled next to him and stared at the face that was hidden behind the helmet. "No, he looks more advanced somehow, less ruined."

"They do this to their own?" Kaidan asked with a tiny voice, slowly standing to his feet, studying Shepard as he unhooked the com inside the helmet.

"What you think they did this to me?" Shepard asked with dormant anger in his tone and eyes.

"I don't know what to think!" Kaidan blurted out, "I just don't know.. How can I not think that? It's Cerberus!"

Shepard was silent for a long moment. "I am -me- Kaidan. How many times do I have to tell you? Do you really think that I could rebel against Cerberus if I were a spy, or whatever it is you think I am."

"Maybe.. Maybe you are just doing what you're programmed to, not even knowing it.. What if they put some control chip in your head or something?" Kaidan argued, clenching and unclenching his hands, not sure what to do about himself. He opened his mouth to ask if he was still the same Shepard that he had followed to hell and back, and if he was still the same man that he had loved with all his heart. But he didn't, he just made a pretty undignified snort and stomped off, leaving Shepard with the Cerberus comlink in his hand.

Shepard, Liara and Kaidan were all equally horrified and relieved when Vega swept down with the shuttle and rammed straight into the other, escaping shuttle. crashing both to the landing pad of the Mars Libraries. Kaidan had all wind knocked out of him for a second from the blast as the Cerberus shuttle exploded, but as soon as he could scramble to his feet, he pulled up Liara, she looked pretty banged up and he just wanted to get her into safety first. "We need that information Dr. Eva stole!" Shepard yelled as he too got to his feet.

Kaidan heard a loud bang behind him, he heard Shepard yell "Your six Alenko!" And swiftly turned around to see a feminised robot walk out of the flames. Pushing Liara towards Shepard, Kaidan took up his gun and shot at the advancing form. Too late did he realize that it had no effect. She grabbed his helmet with crushing force and lifted him up like he was nothing, shaking him like a ragdoll. Kaidan gasped, trying to pry off her hands careful not to tear his air support, his helmet fogged up as his breath came in short panicky pants. He could hear Shepard in a distance, and he heard a voice he didn't know distorted. Suddenly he was swung around and slammed into something hard and unforgiving. Kaidan cried out in pain as the back of his head suddenly felt like it was on fire, in an insane moment he wondered if it was dangerous to get blood in your helmet in conditions like here on Mars. The robot slammed him into the side of the crashed shuttle two more times, and all he could do was to claw her metal arm, praying that she didn't crush his visor, letting the thin air from Mars in. He could hear a weird swooshing sound as something broke, letting in some of Mars' atmosphere, cold panic ran down his spine, and this time he screamed as she slammed him down hard again, lights danced in front of his eyes, and he could feel comforting darkness in the back of his mind, promising him no more pain.

When he woke he was confused, the constant beeping and the antiseptic smell told him he had to be at some medical facility, he blinked and slowly opened his eyes, almost afraid to open them to learn of the damage. The door swooshed up with a soft sound, and a smiling nurse stepped in. "Oh Major Alenko, you're awake!"

Kaidan turned his head slightly and watched the nurse as she set up for a change of intravenous fluids, "Wh-where is this?" He asked in a barely audible raspy whisper.

"Huerta Memorial." The nurse said with a friendly but professional smile. "Best care on the Citadel."

Kaidan just groaned, his throat too sore for asking more questions.

"The spectre was to see you last week," She said in a jovial tone, "Was the talk of the staff, some even made bets." She laughed a little embarrassed, "Oh I shouldn't have said that, should I?"

Even if he could he wouldn't have answered that, his mother had always told him that if he didn't have anything nice to say, don't say nothing. He never did let them settle their bet, no matter how much they prodded he wouldn't talk. He was thankful the day he could sit up in bed, and stay awake for more than thirty minutes in a stretch. What he wasn't so thankful for was the doctors who had come into his room with their best doomsday masks on. They were explaining him how lucky he was, and that he would most likely experience more frequent, more crippling headaches in the future. But that they believed that in the near future it would be possible to replace his old implant with an L5 with no handicapping side effects. 'your implant is rattled' is what he took away from that whole lecture. He swore Anderson to silence, to never mention this to anyone, and to make most of the gibberish disappear from his army and medical records once he was out. If the Alliance knew that his implant was borked they would not let him fight. He needed to fight, he didn't want to be stuck behind a desk again. He had been unknowingly training for this for years, ever since he had learned of the Reapers, he had known they lived on borrowed time, and so had Shepard.

Bored enough to do crosswords, but still too drugged to do anything else, the days blurred, had it not been for the big windows in his hospital room he would not have known what hour of the day it was.

Kaidan found that he missed rain, of all things that was the one thing he missed the most as he laid there and wasted his days. He remembered he had been at a hospital as a kid, and he had fallen asleep to the sound of rain on the windows. He had honestly never noticed that the weather on the Citadel never changed, never really stopped to think about it. Kaidan had been close to calling his mother a couple of times and had voted against it in the last minute, here was no need for her to see him all bruised and banged up, she would just worry. He'd call her once he was out of here. Instead he used two hours to compose a message for Shepard, not too needy for his company, not admitting that he might have been a little hard in his judgment, and not too professional.

Normally it was just the same nurses that would come in and check stuff, smile, smalltalk and then leave again. But today he got a different visitor, his first he had been aware of. He couldn't have been more surprised if he had tried. "Major." Cortez said with a smile, "Quite a scare you gave everyone there."

Kaidan smiled awkwardly, opting for humor to take the weirdness out of the situation "Please, anyone who hangs out with me in my undies get to call me Kaidan." He eased back into the mattress.

"Alright, " Cortez said shuffling into the room, gingerly sitting down in the chair next to the bed. "Shepard is gonna be happy to see you up and about."

"I sent him a message, guess he didn't get it." Kaidan sighed, closing his eyes momentarily, the stark light of the room hurt his eyes.

Cortez laughed softly, "He got it, why else do you think the Normandy docked?"

"Citadel business?"

Cortez shook his head. "The Commander said that the crew needed some shore leave, he even made me take a day off, but it had nothing to do with penned up frustrations in the crew. He came to see you."

"Oh." Kaidan whispered, not sure he was entirely comfortable having this talk with Cortez, he hardly knew the man. But then just gave in, truth was he was desperate for someone to talk to, someone who would listen. "Cortez, remember that day in the engine room? where you said I could just let you know if I wanted to - to, uhm talk, right?"


"Well does that offer still stand?" Kaidan asked so timidly soft that Cortez had to lean in to hear it.



"My name is Steve."

"Oh.. of course.." Kaidan felt his cheeks redden a little, he felt completely out of his comfort zone, "I knew that." He lied.

Cortez wasn't fazed, he just shrugged, "The offer still stands, it will always stand." He smiled, "I know we aren't exactly buddies, but don't be ashamed to need someone to talk to, we all need that."

Kaidan turned his head and looked at Cortez, raising an eyebrow. There was some truth in those words, some battles should just not be fought alone. "What.." His voice sounded raw and alien in his ears, taking a leap of faith he continued the sentence, "What do you know about The Commander, I mean, the commander and me to be specific."

Cortez clined his head and studied Kaidan, "I know that you were lovers once, and I know that you are avoiding each other like the plague. And I know how worried and frightened the Commander was when you wasn't waking up after Mars, Liara had to -make- him take us to dock, had to -make- him leave your side. Anyway, that is what I know."

Kaidan was surprised to hear that, "You know a lot then. More than me even." Kaidan grinned but it quickly faded because it was just not time for laughs. "You know how people say that when you are dying your life flashes before your eyes.." He bit his lips, and took a deep breath, "It didn't happen, instead I saw my future, the future that I wished I had. And the things I'd never do, or never do again.. or.. does that even make sense? Or did this place finally rid me of my last bit of sanity?"

"It makes perfectly sense." Cortez said.

"I regret that I was so hard on him when I met him on Horizon and later on Illium, it's just.. I couldn't understand why the man I used to love would side with the enemy, my Shepard would never do that, so ergo this had to be someone else, just wearing his skin and voice." Kaidan rolled eyes at his own words, "God, I sound like a mental patient."

"I understand." Cortez said, "I can't say I wouldn't have mistrusted him if I were you."

Kaidan said nothing, didn't have an answer, because he knew rationally that his mistrust was well placed. Question was if it was fair, John had tried to build bridges more than once, and all Kaidan had done was to build walls. Was it because he didn't trust his own judgment?

"Guess you have to ask yourself if that mistrust is still nessesary." Cortez said.

"Maybe it just takes time?" Kaidan heard himself whisper.

Cortez moved the chair closer and looked intensely on Kaidan, "Or maybe it's the excuse you use, because you don't want to be hurt again? Liara told me that you already buried him once, no one should have to bury their love."

"Liara told you that?" Kaidan asked, fully aware that he didn't even answer the question.

"She did." Cortez said, fidgeting with the hem of his sleeve for a moment. "I asked her what the deal with you were, you were always so cold and aloof that I figured that either you were a giant asshole or you were hurting."

"I'm amazed you didn't just write me off as a jerk." Kaidan mumbled a little puzzled, he knew that he would have done that if someone had acted like he had.

"Let's just say I know a thing or two about hurt." Cortez said with a sad voice. "Unlike me, you have a second shot. Maybe you should stop thinking it to death, and just tell him how you really feel about it - before it's too late."

"Yeah." Kaidan squirmed a little, all too aware that he knew nothing about Cortez, but it made sense if he would try and redeem himself somehow by talking sense into Kaidan. "Maybe you're right."

The door swooshed open again, and Shepard stepped in with a bottle in his hand and a goofy boyish smile. "Oh Cortez, didn't know you were here." He looked at Kaidan, "Want me to come back later?"

"I was just leaving Commander." Cortez reached over and squeezed Kaidan's shoulder friendly, "See you around, Kaidan."

"Likewise Steve." Kaidan said, noting the baffled look on Shepard's face.

"I didn't know you two were friends." Shepard said moving to sit in the chair next to Kaidan's chair.

"I didn't either." Kaidan admitted, smiling at Shepard.

"I'm glad to see you awake." Shepard said stoic as ever.

"Thanks." Kaidan mumbled, "You here to get me drunk?" He nodded to the bottle in John's hand.

Shepard lit up in a grin, "Maybe it doesn't really go over well with the nurses." He handed the bottle to Kaidan who set it aside on the small side table.

"Let's save it till I'm out of here, huh?"

It had been really nice to talk to John, not quite like old times, somehow it just seemed less effortless, like there was subjects that they didn't touch down on at all. He had tried with a joke when Shepard's tone got too serious, but when he had asked if Shepard was flirting, Shepard had just clammed up and changed subject. Apparently that was still hands off. None the less it had been a very long time since they had just taken the time to talk. Or maybe it had been a really long time since Kaidan had been listening, because it was not like Shepard hadn't tried to talk to him when he was flying under Cerberus colors. He looked at the bottle that stood untouched on the side table, it was dawning on him for real that many he had misjudged it all, maybe Shepard had been right all along, maybe he had indeed been roped into helping The Illusive man? And maybe he was right when Kaidan should trust him some more, he used to trust him with his life and heart, so what changed? Kaidan, that was what. He had changed over the years, more battle hardened in more than one way.