Chapter 1

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"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return."
~ Nat King Cole, Nature Boy


Milky Way/Omega Nebula/Sahrabarik/Amada System

Earth year: 2183 CE (Council Era) --- March

Kaidan watched through the window of the evac shuttle as a faint blue trail of light raced away from the wreckage of the Normandy.

He could feel his heart slow, his breath catching in his chest, as his eyes began to well with unshed tears. No! He screamed. No! She's with Joker, she's fine! Yet his words did nothing to ease the cold emptiness he felt in his heart.

Pain spread through his body as he watched the Normandy disintegrate in the unrelenting void of space, the sight of it threatening to drown him in grief. He knew with certainty she was gone. The fear he'd heard in Joker's voice over the comm was undeniable. Even as he fought to deny it, he knew what Callie had done. She'd sacrificed herself to save Joker and the crew at the cost of her own life.

He didn't need to see inside Joker's shuttle to know she wasn't there. A massive hollow feeling filled his chest as murmurs of the crew's shocked disbelief faded into the background of his awareness. He heard nothing, felt nothing as he withdrew from his surroundings. Pulling everything he felt inside, he crammed his pain into a black box in his heart and pushed it as far from his awareness as it would go.

By the time an Alliance cruiser, the Agincourt, came in response to their distress call, he was numb. His anchor, his light in the darkness of his life was gone.

He saw with the smallest trace of relief that nearly everyone he'd worked with had made it out alive. Garrus, Liara, Tali, Chakwas and Adams were standing off to the side of the Agincourt's cargo bay. They were talking quietly while glancing furtively in his direction, even as he ignored them.

"Lieutenant?" A man asked as he stood there, staring at nothing. "Lieutenant Alenko?" The man said, more firmly this time.

Kaidan blinked, forcing himself to focus on the source of the voice he heard. For a moment all he saw was a blurry outline before Anderson's familiar face came into focus.

"Sir?" He replied, hearing the confusion in his voice.

"What happened Lieutenant? Where's Commander Shepard?"

Kaidan flinched at the mention of her name, his jaw clenching to stem the tide of emotion that threatened to overwhelm him. "I don't know sir. I didn't see who attacked us."

"And Shepard?"

Kaidan couldn't speak. He nodded weakly at Joker's shuttle, the last to be recovered. "Ask Lieutenant Moreau." He said, not trusting himself to say more.

Anderson frowned as he followed Kaidan's line of sight, feeling his blood run cold. Alenko's behaviour was setting off red flags of alarm. He'd known Kaidan along time and he'd never seen him like this before. It was as though he was missing a vital piece of himself, the spark that had animated him was gone.

Setting his jaw, he turned to Joker's shuttle where the medics were now lifting Moreau onto a stretcher. It seemed he'd suffered multiple bone fractures and would be taken directly to the med bay for treatment. From where he stood, the look on Moreau's face told him what he already knew - Shepard was gone. A mix of grief and guilt marred Joker's features, his eyes red-rimmed with grief, making him unrecognizable as the carefree, smart-ass pilot he was known to be.

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