Serving on the Normandy first under Captain Anderson and then Commander Shepard had felt like the greatest of honors. The Normandy was a thing of beauty, fresh off the construction line and on what appeared to be it’s final test run. Decked with some of the best technicians and equipped with stealth systems that made them practically invisible. It really was a shining example of the best Humanity and the Turian Hierarchy had to offer.
Then he saw Shepard in action for the first time. Saw the sheer conviction and determination he had in his crew and their cause that made it so easy to make the choice to follow him into hell and back. The more he talked to him, the more impossible or improbable stunts they managed to pull off Kaidan truly started to believe that it really was Shepard who was the best Humanity had to offer. Something that Ashley teased him mercilessly about once she caught him staring dreamily after him while on break in the mess. The way he sputtered and vehemently denied it might have worked if only she hadn’t caught him yet again when he checked out Shepard's ass on Noveria.
Every time he caught himself looking after that it was always with an undercurrent of guilt. Because Shepard couldn’t be his soulmate, right? Right? The man drew people in like it was as easy as breathing, he walked into a room and people stopped and stared like they couldn’t help themselves. Kaidan had seen him charm a damn Rachni Queen for Gods sake, the man was ridiculously charismatic. That Kaidan felt drawn to him like a moth to a flame was just how the world worked at this point, there was no red cord tying him to the man. But then...
When he first turned around and saw that bright red stripe going down his arm in what Shepard proudly called N7 red with that endearing smirk of his, Kaidan wondered.
When he caught a glimpse of ‘’ I love you too ’’ in a shaky blue script curled around his wrist, Kaidan shamefully turned his eyes away and continued helping Dr Chawkwas remove their comatose Commander’s heavy armor. Soul-words were private, just because he hadn't meant to see them didn't mean he had any right to them. He had never showed anyone other than his parents his own final ''Kaidan, Go. Now.'' after all.
When Kaidan accompanied Shepard to the Citadel and first saw him sign his signature in big looping swirls to get a discount, in-between helping a Quarian and talking shop with a very enthusiastic Turian weapons dealer, Kaidan shook his head with a huff of amusement. Whether it was at himself or Shepard, he couldn’t tell.
There was no way someone as bright and wonderful as their Commander could possibly be tied to someone like him, Kaidan thought with a pang of regret. It’s not that he had problems with his own self esteem, he wasn’t a new biotic just learning how to control his powers after all. He was comfortable in himself the way he wished he had been as a teenager back in BAaT. But when you look into the eyes of the Savior of the Citadel and he grins back so brightly it’s like he’s got the sun bottled in his very soul, it’s hard not to feel slightly unworthy.
It took stealing a warship before he truly came to terms with his not so platonic feelings after all. Before serving under him the mere thought of disobeying such a direct order would’ve made him blanch, but with Commander John Shepard at the helm it barely registered as a blip on the radar past a brief moment of worry of getting caught. That he ended up being right and saving the Council just cemented the fact that Kaidan would happily follow this man to the ends of the galaxy if given the chance.
Going after the Geth after the whole excitement of crashing a Mako through a relay and having the citadel tower almost fall on them almost seemed like a vacation in comparison. Like they were finally getting a chance to breathe. Ships had been disappearing, and the Council wanted Shepard on it and way out of the public’s sight while they smoothed out the aftermath of the attack and brought things back to a semblance of normalcy. They had been going after the Geth since first encountering them where it all started on Eden Prime, this was an enemy they knew intimately enough that there really shouldn’t of have been cause to worry.
It’s only as the foreign ship cuts through the Normandy’s shielding like a blowtorch would through butter that Kaidan understands that this isn’t the Geth . This was something far worse. But there are fires to be put out, crew to escort, and panic to be fought back as explosions rocks the hull all around them. There’s no time to think beyond whether to go left or right down the stairs as the ship transforms into a warzone right before his eyes in the span of a few moments. As Kaidan sprints down the hall and Joker’s swerving to escape the searing yellow laser throws everything into further disarray, there is nothing going through his mind except a desperate urge to survive the next lurching step as the floor shifts underneath him.
Spotting Shepard working his way through the inferno taking over the sleeping pods Kaidan made a beeline for him with a call that didn’t quite manage to mask his relief.
‘’Distress beacon is ready for launch.’’ He cut him off, voice as hard as granite even as his fingers shook slightly around the clasps in his helmet as he secured it with a decisive snap.
‘’Will the Alliance get here in time?’’ Kaidan couldn’t help but ask, his own uncertainty beating against his chest plate like a second heartbeat for how obvious it was. The ship shuddered with yet another metallic screech as the enemy ship's canon tore into it again. Lurching to the left as the entire ship suddenly tilted, Kaidan heard Shepard bite out a curse. Something distant exploded. Judging by the tumbling underneath their feet, it felt like the entire cargo bay.
Stumbling forwards Kaidan almost fell flat on his face as gravity shifted yet again. The steadying grasp of Shepard grabbing his upper arms keeping him leveled enough to speak over the chaos.
‘’The Alliance won’t abandon us.’’ Shepard assured, ‘’We just need to hold on. Get everybody onto the escape shuttles!’ He called. Letting go of him once he saw he had regained his footing to scoop up a fire extinguisher from it’s still intact compartment. Shepard turning and throwing a fire extinguisher to him like they were simply passing a data-pad like normal further centering him even as Shepard started tearing at the paneling in between the sparking cables ripped loose from the ceiling. Meeting up with Shepard during the chaos was the first moment since the first blaring alarm sounded that Kaidan felt somehow in control.
‘’Joker’s still in the cockpit. He won’t abandon ship. I’m not leaving, either.’’ Kaidan called out, spraying at the worst of the flames licking up the inside of the hull and finally seeing the sleeping pods extra oxygen supplies Shepard was manually emptying into space. The thought of them suddenly going boom in Shepard’s hands making him want to smack the cables out of the Commander’s hands and manhandle him out of the hallway himself.
‘’I need you to get the crew onto the escape shuttles. I’ll take care of Joker.’ Shepard assured, still digging through machinery and cables to get at the last of the tanks. Grasping Kaidan’s forearm arm as he passed either to reassure him or himself.
‘’Kaidan, Go. Now.’’ Shepard ordered, pinning him in place with his glare even as the helmet obscured anything more than the slight shadow of his eyes. The protests that had been beading on his tongue falling away as resignation filled Kaidan’s chest. With a affirmative he moved on, jumping over some debris to get at the end of the hall and further to where distant screams could still be heard.
Yanking out people by their uniforms, grasping shoulders, hands, backs and pushing them with urgent yells for them to go to the escape pad waiting with the rest of the survivors felt like it took eons but could’ve only been a couple of minutes. Some of the automatic doors had sealed shut in the onslaught of enemy fire. But with a slam of biotic energy Kaidan was able to open them with brute force, dragging people out smoke filled rooms by their upper arms whenever he had to until he could wave down another crew member to take over whilst he continued searching.
It was only as he himself was firmly secured in a seat underneath the safety bars strapping him down in an escape pod that he made the connection. When he stopped to think past the order given to him and really heard the words .
And like a full bucket of ice water being dumped over his head, Kaidan felt his heart lurch in his chest and the writing seared into his skin since he was a baby pulsed in time with a foreign heartbeat pumped full of adrenaline. He had heard his words. The soulmate words.
And in the end Kaidan had muttered a curt ‘’Aye Aye’’ back and left him there.
His actual fucking soulmate.
Kaidan wanted to claw out of his own skin so badly it hurt . If only it would make the shaking stop, to turn back time and get him back on the ship faster.
He had wondered in what way the looping script displayed right across his chest and over his heart would be said. Would it be dismissive? A stray comment from a friend or an almost stranger right before the building collapsed underneath them in some freak accident? Would it be kind? A last fond inside joke uttered from weathered lips as they laid grey and wrinkly side by side on their deathbed?
...Would it be angry? Hurled at him like a vase as his soulmate slams the door and never speaks to him again?
Turns out it was none of the above. Merely the bark of a Commander trying to convince his crew-mate and friend to abandon ship. To get anyone who could still be saved on to the evac shuttles set to leave the burning wreckage of the SSV Normandy. To leave Shepard’s side and make himself useful in the roaring chaos as the blare of the alarms and flashing warning lights deafened him to anything else.
He always thought he would notice. He always hoped that he would somehow stop it from being their last words, like he saw in some of the more popular romance vids available on the extranet even all the way out here in the Traverse. They were tattooed on to his skin, how could he possibly forget something as important as his soulmate’s final words?
He tries to get out, to go back for him, straining desperately against the hands trying to keep him back. But it’s too late. The door is already shutting and before he can finish attempting to unhook himself the escape pod shoots out into space with a jerk that throws him back into his seat.
After that there’s just the wait, and the cold dark emptiness of outer space swallowing them all up.
He tries to keep calm, to listen to the transmitters and the rest of the crew yelling over the radio. To trust that despite the universe trying to tell him he’s gone, that Shepard will manage to pull off the impossible as he always does. But he can’t breathe past the vice that has settled over his heart, squeezing his lungs until black spots appear before his eyes. He can’t think past the pulse roaring in his ears, the tears clouding his eyes and dampening the inside of his helmet.
They do a headcount, try to find out where everyone are, where their pods will end up. According to the log all of the escape pods seemed to have launched, but the last one isn’t responding. There’s still a chance , the most stubborn part of him pleads. Shepard could still be alive , it hopes with a blinding intensity that leaves Kaidan with a lump sitting in his throat like glass.
Acid burns at him when he swallows it back. Leather creaking as he twists his fingers together in the habitual fidget he thought he had kicked as a child.
When they find Joker sobbing out apologies in an otherwise empty escape-pod Kaidan doesn’t even register his knees going out from underneath him. Letting the cold of Alchera seep into his torn armor plating to match the ice water running through his veins to a canopy of no no no please no echoing like a chant in his mind.
As his hope withers and dies in the space just behind his chest cavity, twisting until it tears into ribbons even the most talented heart surgeon couldn’t possibly put back together. As Kaidan’s every daydream he’s held since he was a child of finally finding his soulmate all crashes down around his ears like the shards of broken metal currently falling from the atmosphere.
Shepard was his soulmate.
Shepard is dead.
Shepard is dead and Kaidan weeps.
Two years later they reunite on Horizon, Kaidan a mess of strangled hope and anger as he throws himself into the arms of a man he thought lost. Trying and failing to hold back the grief choking him and lashing out in fear of this being nothing more than yet another fruitless dream come to torment him. Meanwhile Shepard doesn’t know that Kaidan’s words has bled and shifted underneath his skin. Like a discolored bruise that swirled and twisted over the months since the crash instead of growing white as they’re meant to when someone’s soulmate dies. What it settled into in the end was a declaration that made Kaidan howl with grief, and almost tear his apartment apart with a biotic blast that punched his bathroom mirror into a million pieces.
‘’No matter what happens, just know that I love you. Always.’’ It read. Still in that familiar N7 red like freshly spilled blood, crawling up his chest like vines with the weight of the universe laughing at him in every line. The same familiar script that had grazed his skin before, but harsher, standing out sharper as if the smooth edges should be jagged and sharp like cut glass. The same looping script Kaidan had traced with his fingertips over and over in his youth with a reverence fit for something as devastating as his person’s dying words.
This time Kaidan wasn’t going to leave him behind.