Link to music from the extended cut sums up the mood I was going for, being that of great loss and hardship but with hope for the future and a new beginning: [link]
I view this as my personal conclusion to Mass Effect 3 and the Shepard/Kaidan storyline since we weren't shown what happened after the breathing scene and I felt like Shepard deserved more than a torso shot if it really was the end to his story. Went with the destroy ending obviously.
I tried to write a short story of how I imagined this ending playing out. It didn't go so well haha. But I've never been much of a writer anyway. I'll stick to painting from now on.
Shepard lay dying beneath the rubble of the citadel. His synthetics overheating, his biotic implant pulsing out of control. He knew he didn't have much time left and had no delusions of being found or rescued, after all no one had even seen this part of the citadel until he and Anderson had been brought here a mere half hour beforehand. "I'm sorry Kaidan, looks like I wont be waiting for you when this is over after all," he uttered in the quiet darkness. Though as much as it pained him to think of breaking his promise to Kaidan Shepard felt a certain sense of peace. He'd finished what he set out to accomplish all along, the reapers were destroyed, never again would they pose a threat to the galaxy. He'd been offered alternatives by the catalyst but Shepard knew better than to trust an uncompromising construct responsible for the deaths of unfathomable innocents across aeons of time; both synthesis and control allowed a free pass to the reapers and Shepard couldn't risk them ever getting out of hand again. The decision to destroy them had been the obvious choice.
This victory was not without it's sacrifices though, as Shepard felt his own cybernetic implants giving out he realized that across the galaxy the GETH as well as EDI were also facing their final moments of existence. The catalyst hadn't lied when it warned him the Crucible would be indiscriminate. Shepard had never been much of a spiritual person but he believed that if there was such a thing as a soul, synthetics were just as worthy of having one as he or anyone else had been. "Legion, EDI, I'll see you both on the other side," Shepard thought to himself as his senses dimmed.
It was nearly time, Shepard could feel it now as his breaths quickened and fresh currents of blood spilled from his wounds. He took these last moments to look back on his life, his troubled youth spent running with street gangs on earth, leaving for a chance at something better with the Alliance as a young man, surviving Akuze, stopping Sovereign and the Collectors. Recalling these defining moments gave Shepard comfort as his world began to fade away but the memories that his mind settled on the most were those of Kaidan Alenko. Thinking back to the time spent getting to know one another on the Normandy SR1 and how close they'd become as friends. The disappointment he'd felt on Horizon at having lost Kaidan's trust coupled with the joy he'd felt at getting a chance to rebuild that trust and camaraderie. The sanity checks, their first date on the citadel, their first kiss, the passionate nights spent in Shepard's cabin. Finally telling Kaidan he'd always love him no matter what happened... all of these moments flooded Shepard's mind, smiling he closed his eyes and let the darkness take him.
Kaidan's eyes slowly opened, he wasn't well rested and his headaches would only get worse if he didn't get a real nights sleep sooner or later but he forced himself up for the sake of appearances; a week had passed since they'd crash landed and he knew morale was low. It was Kaidan's duty along with the other senior crew to inspire confidence. The Normandy was in bad shape and it would take an optimistic and determined team to bring her back to being space-worthy; there would be time to mourn the lost someday but for now Kaidan would have to be strong, he couldn't give in to his emotions, not yet in any case. Still he was in no great rush to leave Shepard's cabin, it was the one place on the ship that still contained the man's essence, so much so that just being there gave Kaidan hope that Shepard might somehow waltz in at any second, Kaidan realized this was probably hurting him more than helping him but he wasn't ready to give up sleeping here yet, it had become "their" room and sleeping anywhere else would mean accepting that the man he had loved was really gone. The room was dark and difficult to navigate without the ambient glow of fish tanks to light the way, it was a real shame that they had all died in the crash landing Kaidan thought to himself. Shepard had loved those fish and prided himself with collecting all sorts of exotic species from across the galaxy, almost as much pride as he'd had in his model ship collection, many of which were miraculously still in decent shape, though it seemed fitting that the Sovereign model lie shattered on the floor - it had always kind of creeped Kaidan out anway. Rubbing his eyes to try and adjust to the dim light Kaidan stumbled over to a nearby storage locker and retrieved his clothes. Checking to make sure the hamster had food he took a last look across the room and proceeded to the elevator shaft to make the morning briefing.
As Kaidan climbed down the ladder to reach the crew quarters he heard raised voices, it sounded like there was some sort of argument happening in the life support room. "EDI had every right to survive, just as much as me or you!" He recognized the voice as Joker while another heavily accented voice replied:
"That is not so, a machine is just a machine, no matter how attractive or helpful it is manufactured to be, human, you should be reveling in your victory, your emotional attachment to this platform is misguided," Obviously Javik was exhbiting his usual tendency of offering uncensored and probably unsolicited criticism. Kaidan knew this could get ugly fast so he decided to intervene, despite the fact that this really wasn't going to help his growing headache.
"That's enough Javik, surely even the protheans understood the need to mourn," Kaidan said as he entered through the battered doorway. Joker was sitting next to EDI's motionless body sprawled out across the table, since she'd gone offline a week earlier Joker had been trying everything he could to bring her back, but his efforts had proved futile, even Tali had considered her to be beyond repair, this hadn't stopped him from keeping a sort of vigil at her side, tinkering with her charred hardware every few hours, hoping for a miracle. Javik was leaning against the far wall, arms crossed and wearing his usual apathetic expression.
"Indeed we did, but only when it was warranted. Tears would never have been shed over the death of a synthetic in my cycle. It is a foolish notion. Your commander understood this, he died knowing this and the sooner you both accept it the better off we will all be" and with that the Prothean paced towards the exit.
Kaidan moved to the spot Javik had been occupying and leaning against the wall he observed Joker as the man diligently removed a section of plating from EDI's forearm. Kaidan had always felt a bit of mixed emotion towards having to interact with a body that'd nearly killed him on Mars but in the short time he had known her he'd grown to become quite fond of the AI and her quirky personality. She'd also proven to be invaluable in helping him track down his biotic students on earth.
"He's wrong ya know," Kaidan said to Joker, "Shepard would never have willingly done what he did unless there was no other option... EDI meant a lot to him."
Joker paused from his work and leaned back in the chair, his weary eyes raising to meet Kaidan's. "You think I don't know that? It doesn't change the fact that Shepard killed her. I know he did what he had to do but I'm still pissed off about it...dammit... she meant everything to me. Shepard knew that and he killed her anyway."
The truth was Kaidan had been avoiding Joker ever since it all went down for this very reason. Shepard HAD killed EDI, however noble the cause had been that was simply the reality of the situation. Kaidan shifted uneasily, searching for something to say "I know Joker, you didn't deserve to lose her so soon, and well....I'm sorry." He didn't have the proper words and felt himself somehow feeling guilty so he began to leave when Joker intervened.
"Kaidan wait... I'm being unfair, I know how much Shepard meant to you and I just wanted to say... "I'm sorry too."
"What do you have to be sorry for?" Kaidan asked.
"Back on the SR1, when the collectors hit....it's my fault Shepard died, it's because of me that you had to deal with losing him all those years, I never apologized to you for that and I want you to know that I've always felt terrible about it."
Kaidan took a moment to process what was said, "I appreciate that Joker, really I do. We weren't together back then though, not like you and EDI anyway."
"Maybe not" Joker replied, but it was pretty damn obvious you two loved each other, even if you were the only ones who didn't realize it.
Again Kaidan reflected on what was said, recalling the days when he and Shepard had just been good friends, knowing that there was something deeper between them but being too afraid to say or do anything about it, letting out a sigh he looked again to Joker "Yeah... I guess we did...I just never thought I'd lose him so soon. Maybe if I'd been honest with him sooner...told him how I really felt...maybe we'd of had more time together, heck I don't really know.
Joker smirked at this, "Ya know I'm pretty sure Shepard felt the same way about it. When I asked him what he thought about me and EDI he told me to live each day like it was my last, even if it meant I'd look like a fool, I'd say it's a safe bet he'd had a couple regrets of his own concerning you Kaidan."
Joker looked back to EDI
"Look I guess what I'm trying to say here is well...me and EDI...we might not have ever even happened if it hadn't been for Shepard learning from his regrets with you. I want you to know that no matter what I say, whatever stupid joke or snide comment I make in the heat of the moment... you and me...we're good and I'm here for you if you need someone to talk to."
"Thanks Joker, I really do appreciate that, and I'm extending the same offer to you. I'll send Tali over after the briefings over, maybe there's something she missed when going over EDI yesterday."
"Heh, Tali misses nothing Kaidan, but thanks. See ya around."
The briefing had been a short one, it had consisted mainly of going over plans for rationing food and outlining systems tests that would need to be carried out later in the day. Liara had also been rather optimistic about her ability to get the comm systems in her room functional again. "That's great Liara, let me know as soon as you've got them up and running," Kaidan said. The whole crew had been eager for any news of what had happened to the rest of the galaxy, aside from observing massive explosions on the citadel and the geth fleet shutting down alongside the reapers they were still largely in the dark as to just what had happened. "Alright people let's get to it." Kaidan set off to begin his own work on the ships navigation systems when he suddenly felt a sharp pain at the back of his skull, a jolt that reverberated across his entire upper body making it hard to focus, brushing his hand across his upper lip and bringing it in front of his face Kaidan focused on the familiar sight of blood stained finger tips. Nose bleeds were nothing new to the major but he needed a moment to regain his balance, leaning against a nearby wall for support Kaidan checked his pockets for something to wipe away the blood with.
"You ok Alenko?" Garrus asked, handing Kaidan a rag from the nearby counter. Kaidan took it and nodded appreciatively.
"I'm fine Garrus, it's nothing I haven't dealt with before."
"You sure? Chakwas would be delighted to have someone to look after, I'm beginning to think she was a little dissapointed there weren't more serious injuries sustained during that crazy landing we pulled off."
"I'm sure Garrus... it's just that I haven't been sleeping well and that's never a good thing for my headaches. Maybe when we're off this planet I'll get a few good nights rest."
Garrus gave what seemed a disbelieving look, though it was always hard to tell with turians.
"Maybe you will, but we both know that the thing keeping you from sleeping at night is still going to be there even after we've made it off this world, why don't you and I have a little chat. Just five minutes and then I'll let you get back to work." The turian started off towards the main battery area, Kaidan hesistated before reluctantly following along, he knew better than to argue with Garrus.
"Have a seat," Garrus said pulling over a nearby weapons crate. As Kaidan sat down his head continued to throb, maybe it was good he spend a few minutes off his feet he thought to himself, though he knew what Garrus was getting at and he wasn't looking forward to discussing it. He'd already had to bring up losing Shepard with Joker and wasn't sure he wanted another reminder.
"Look Kaidan, I know you're doing everything you can to appear strong for the crew but the fact is you haven't really talked about this with anyone since we got here, you've got to face it sooner or later. I know you better than anyone here and I can't imagine how this must be affecting you."
Kaidan looked to the floor, not wanting to admit that everything Garrus was saying and was going to say was the truth, it had always been more his style to keep his thoughts to himself, deal with issues on his own terms.
"I don't deny that you're right Garrus, but you know we have a responsibility to the crew, we can't let them see us lose hope... If Shepard were here..."
Garrus cut him off "If Shepard were here and saw you like this he'd drop whatever he was doing and make sure you were ok. He always kept an especially watchful eye on you and he'd never forgive me if I just stood by and didn't say something. Talk to me Kaidan, right now you're fighting a battle with yourself and unless you let an ally or two in to help there's no way you'll make it out alive.
The turians words fell on him like well aimed thannix missiles, tearing away at the defenses he'd placed to keep others from seeing just how vulnerable he'd really been. Kaidan felt his eyes getting misty, turning away he tried to hide what he knew was coming. Garrus took a seat next to him and raised an arm, resting his heavy claw on the man's shoulder, a somewhat awkward gesture though Kaidan appreciated the effort. Raising his arms to his knees Kaidan buried his face into his hands and began to cry, no longer able to hold back the swelling tears
Wiping his eyes Kaidan looked up to the ceiling, trying to find something to focus on and finding nothing, giving in he turned to Garrus and took a deep breath...
"He really loved me Garrus, he told me that the last time I saw him and then he was just...gone...forever, I wanted more time..didn't we deserve that?
His sadness turning to anger,
Fucking military protocol and this stupid war always getting in the way."
The turian sat silently next to Kaidan, gently rubbing the man's shoulder and giving him a few minutes to weep and vent his frustrations.
"And all those months I spent doubting him! Accusing him of being a cerberus puppet... What an idiot I'd been, how could I have done that to him Garrus?" What the hell was I thinking?"
At that comment Garrus broke his silence to speak "Kaidan that's all in the past, you had your reasons and what matters is that you were there for him in the end. Besides, you're forgetting that in those last moments you also finally managed to tell Shepard you loved him too. Think about how happy he must have been to hear you say that, no matter how the situation played out down there he died knowing you believed in him. Don't discount the effect something like that can have on a person."
Still feeling devastated but ultimately grateful for the chance to finally vent Kaidan slowly raised to his feet, still wiping away fresh tears.
"Thanks Garrus, I just...I can't let go, and don't think I'll ever be able to."
"Believe me, I understand what you're going through." Garrus said, "I doubt I'll ever really get over his death either, he was like a brother to me. "
Kaidan composed himself and turning to Garrus managed a smile "Yeah, you two were really something , no Shepard without Vakarian ey Garrus?"
Garrus stood up and flashed his best attempt at a smile to mirror Kaidan's, "damn straight."
"Look I've been thinking, maybe we can put together some kind of memorial service, something to honor his memory, I don't know if it'll help us any but it's worth a shot and who knows how long it'll be before we're out of this place and able to give him a proper one. What do you think?"
Kaidan took a moment to ponder this suggestion, he wasn't ready to say goodbye but Shepard's sacrifice needed to be honored.
"Yeah, I'd like that Garrus." "and well...I just want to say thanks a lot. If you hadn't made me do this well.... let's just say you were right, I needed to talk about it."
Garrus gave the major a quick pat on the back and headed for the exit, "Don't mention it Alenko, besides if you weren't being your usual stubborn self then I'd of really been worried," For the first time since losing Shepard, Kaidan managed to laugh.
It was decided that the following evening would be spent as an opportunity to mourn and reflect on the lives of those who'd been lost. Nearly everyone had gathered at the memorial wall for the night's tribute. As Kaidan stood alongside his friends he looked down at the metal plate he'd spent the afternoon engraving with the words Commander Shepard." Looking up at the wall before him Kaidan glanced over the names of others who'd paid the ultimate price for the war effort. Mordin Solus, Thane Krios, Ashley Williams, and in a matter of minutes he'd be placing Shepard's name alongside them, though for now another hero would be getting his moment of recognition.
Chakwas stepped out from the crowd first, walking to the memorial she fastened Admiral Anderson's nameplate to the center aisle, a place of respect befitting the man's rank and history as the first captain of the Normandy. Stepping back to observe the memorial in it's entirety Chakwas offered a few words:
"To David, a man whom I was honored to have served with over the years and proud to have called my friend, your sacrifice will never be forgotten." She raised a salute to the memory of Anderson, inspiring the others to do the same, a moment of silence followed as crew members bowed their heads, remembering the man who'd been like a father to many of them.
As Chakwas moved away from the memorial Joker limped forward to take her place. Slowly approaching the wall it became obvious to Kaidan that this was going to be just as hard for Joker as it would be for himself. As he reached the base of the monument Joker looked up at the spot reserved for EDI's name and then back down to the plate, he began to shake uncontrollably when suddenly Liara appeared at his side, lending a helping grip to steady Joker's now trembling hands.
"You don't have to do this now Joker, there's no shame if you're not ready." The Asari said in a soothing tone. Taking a moment to collect himself Joker took a deep breath and sighed.
" No, it needs to be done, and I have to be the one to do it, it's what she would have wanted,"... he closed his eyes and stood quietly for a few moments, upon opening them he looked to the vacant spot on the wall and whispered to himself "For you EDI." Joker raised both arms to the wall, fastening EDI's name alongside the others. "Wherever you are out there, know that I'm with you." It was as serious as Kaidan had ever seen the man. A minute of silence passed, broken only by the occasional interruption of someone crying, in fact there had hardly been a dry eye in the whole room.
As Liara helped Joker back to the assembled crowd Kaidan felt a knot growing in his stomach. Despite having his friends there he'd never felt so alone; even with their help it was clear this was going to be even more difficult than he'd anticipated. Slowly he began to walk towards the center of the memorial wall and upon reaching it he looked down at the plate in his hands, "Commander Shepard" he read as he lightly brushed his hand over the smooth metal surface. As Kaidan stood there the hesitation grew, he would have attributed it to not wanting to let go but this was something else... he needed a moment to think but he also didn't want to appear selfish in front of the crew, after all Joker had just had to say goodbye, it wouldn't be right for him to not go through with his own obligation.
"You can do this Kaidan," he thought to himself, beginning to raise his arms when suddenly an unseen force froze him in place, not so much physical as it was a mental block, it nevertheless kept him from proceeding any further, as he stood there motionless a familiar entity occupied the space around him. Immediately Kaidan recognized the presence as Shepard, the feeling was faint but unmistakably there.
It was something Kaidan had noticed in the past when sticking behind on the Normandy during missions, a certain change in the air's chemistry that alerted him to Shepard's return, even before they were in the same room. He'd always just thought it was his imagination but this was something he hadn't felt since losing Shepard a little over a week ago and the feeling was growing in intensity. Kaidan stood there paralyzed with indecision, not knowing what to do. A few more moments passed before he allowed himself to think it for the first time. "Shepard...are you... still out there?" Feeling the others staring at him like this was making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He knew these were his friends but how could he explain to them what was happening? He didn't want to appear in denial but with each passing second the inexplicable belief that Shepard was somehow still alive grew within him.
Suddenly a junior comm officer came running out of Liara's room, her face brimming with excitement.
"Comm channels are back online and we've made contact!" ..."They're saying he's alive, Shepard is alive!"
The words washed over Kaidan, dispelling any last vestiges of doubt he'd been holding onto. Dropping the name-plate Kaidan fell to his knees, tears of relief streaming down his face as exuberant shouts of joy echoed from every direction.
Garrus walked over to the man's side and extended an arm to help. Grabbing hold Kaidan pulled himself up and tried to stretch his arms around his friend, too happy to care about how incredibly funny it looked hugging bulky turian armor,
"I knew he was alive Garrus, I don't know how but something changed just now, I felt him here, still with us. Leave it to Shepard to cheat death twice I guess.
Garrus looked Kaidan in the eye and said "Yeah well I'm beginning to think Shepard gets a real kick out of making us all worry like this, remind me to kick his ass if he tries for a third time.