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Loved Enough to Hurt

Title: Loved Enough to Hurt
Fandom: Mass Effect
Pairings: Kaidan/Male Shepard
Warnings: Angst, bucketloads of angst
Word Count: 829
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: James Vega witnesses Kaidan and Shepard's last goodbye.


James is pretty sure that this is the last place he wants to be. The soldier would rather be back on the battlefield fighting Reapers solo than standing in the Normandy and trying not to listen as Loco breaks his lover's heart.

Not literally, of course, but Alenko was injured in that last assault, too injured to keep fighting anymore. Honestly, the major is barely staying upright even with James taking half his weight and there's no way he'd be able to keep up with Shepard on another run for the Crucible. He can’t watch his lover’s back but Loco is still going. The commander has to; if no one reaches the weapon then their whole fight was in vain and Shepard's face is grim as he orders Joker to get the Normandy out of here right now. He wants his crew at a safe distance when he makes his final stand.

"That's not gonna happen," Alenko says stubbornly. The biotic straightens up, trying to prove that he's still good to fight. But the other man can't hold it for more than a few seconds before he crumples into James’ side with a gasp.

“Don’t argue with me, Kaidan,” Shepard tells him. His tone is stern, almost cold, but even James can see how much he cares. That he just wants Alenko safe right now.

Indeed, the major has to know this, but he’s never been one to follow orders without questioning. He cares about Loco too much to just go quietly and his voice is pleading when he says, “Don’t leave me behind.”

There is a wealth of history in those words and James is sharply reminded that the biotic has been with Shepard from the beginning. He saw Loco die and spent two years grieving, thinking that he was never going to see the other man again. From what James has heard – mostly from Liara – Alenko probably loved the commander even then and now the major's second chance is going up in flames. Now he has to watch his lover run off to fight without him and they all know that Shepard probably isn't coming back.

At Alenko's plea, the commander's whole face softens for a moment. He takes a few steps back up the ramp and then reaches out to cradle the major's face in his hand.

"No matter what happens, know that I love you. Always," Shepard says as the biotic leans into his touch, the expression on the commander’s face making James look away. Because Loco's mask of determination has fallen to reveal the love and regret swirling underneath and this isn't a moment that should have an audience. This feels too raw and intimate, the sort of goodbye that should be whispered to a lover where no one else can hear.

However, while the soldier tries to give them some privacy, he can't shut off his ears and Alenko's murmured, “I love you too," makes his whole chest ache. Because the major's voice shakes on the words and James can hear the smile slapped on over sorrow, the smile that Shepard needs to make this all okay.

Out of the corner of his eye, James sees the biotic cover Loco's hand with his own, their fingers entwining for a moment before the commander pulls away.

“Be careful," Alenko says quietly and Shepard nods once. Then with one last shouted, “Go!” the other man turns and starts sprinting toward the Crucible.

But the major ignores his lover’s order. He doesn't move, watching Loco’s figure until the Normandy's ramp closes and hides the battlefield from sight. Then Alenko crumples all at once as though looking at Shepard was the only thing that had been keeping him upright. James is caught off guard and goes down with him, his knees landing painfully on the metal floor.

“Alenko? Are you all right? Let me get you to the doctor," the soldier says, trying to help the major up. However, the other man doesn't respond; he just makes this awful keening noise that cuts straight to James’ heart. The noise goes on and on as Alenko wraps his arms around his chest, a picture of misery curled up on the floor. The soldier can only watch helplessly as the biotic falls apart. He can’t make this better; anything he said would be a lie and James doesn’t know the other man well enough to try and comfort him somehow.

But then, as suddenly as he started, the major simply stops.

James expects to Alenko to be crying when he raises his head but the biotic’s face is blank and somehow that's even worse. Because the soldier knows how much the other man is hurting - he saw it and he heard it and he never wants to hear a noise like that again.

"The Normandy needs to leave; we do as Shepard ordered," the major tells him. His voice is firm, barely trembling when he mentions Loco's name, and this is either the bravest or the saddest thing that James has ever seen.

He doesn't know if he'd have the strength to keep on going if that were his lover out there on the battlefield and while he's always known that Alenko is a good soldier, this is something else entirely.

However, even as the Normandy lifts off and leaves Earth far behind them, James can't help a stab of worry. For all the biotic's strength, he has the feeling that losing Shepard again would shatter him completely, that his mask of duty is just a flimsy bandage across a gaping wound.

So after James helps the major back to his feet, he spares one last thought for the commander, praying that Loco somehow makes it through. It will take a miracle but if anyone can survive the Reapers, he'd lay his bets on Shepard and James cannot bear the thought of watching as Alenko breaks again.


End