Fandom: Mass Effect
Rating: Adult (language, and some smut in part 2)
mild spoilers for all three games
Beta: This one is unbetad, so sorry in advance for any mistakes.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, If I did the ending wouldn't have sucked.
Five times Kaidan Alenko sang to his Commander Shepard, and one time he didn’t.
(The First Time)
(The Second Time)
Shepard took another swig of jack, straight from the bottle, and hiccupped a tiny sob. “Bastard,” she moaned, “Stupid, son of a bitch!” She stumbled around her ridiculously spacious cabin for a moment, before slumping heavily into the office chair. It rolled with her momentum, slamming her into the edge of her desk. A few drops of whiskey sloshed out of the bottle, staining Shepard’s standard issued Cerberus uniform. “Now see what you’ve gone and made me do?” She yelled to the empty room. “Why couldn’t you just… I just wanted…” But what had Shepard wanted? She wasn’t so sure.
Well, she thought, taking another swig and grimacing as the eighty proof alcohol burned its way down her throat. She certainly knew what she didn’t want. She didn’t want to wake up in an enemy laboratory, covered in unfamiliar scars and surrounded by unfamiliar people. She didn’t want to traipse across the galaxy, saving the universe, again, from people who refused to believe they needed saving…again. And most of all, she didn’t want the man she loved to accuse her of faking her own death, just so she could turn traitor against the Alliance.
The Jack bottle made a satisfying smash against the metal stairs. Amber liquid and shards of glass splattered everywhere. “Damn you!” she screeched, tears starting to blur her already impaired vision. The Alliance was her family, and for a few brief, but beautiful months, Kaidan had been her home. How dare he accuse her of betraying either of them?
Shepard let out another broken sob and leaned over the desk, fingers stabbing through her messy, ginger hair. She knew what she wanted now. She wanted to wake up from this nightmare. She wanted Kaidan to take her into his arms, like he had a few hours ago, before figuring out she was working with Cerberus. She wanted him to tell her he still loved her, that everything was going to be alright.
She glanced over to the framed photo on the other side of her desk. Kaidan’s handsome face smiled back at her, mocking her pain. “Why?” she asked the picture, brokenly. “Why didn’t you trust me? I know it’s crazy, but I promise I’m me and I’m really back. I didn’t fake it,” she cried. “I really did die.
“Oh God,” she moaned, as the reality of her situation sunk home for the first time. “I died.” Shepard had well and truly been dead for two years. What the hell did that mean; on a cosmic level, on a physical one? Questions like that were well above her pay grade.
Feeling particularly morbid and more than a little drunk, she opened the extranet on her personal terminal and typed ‘Commander Shepard funeral’ into the search box. Half a second later she was shocked to see over 1,500,000,000 results pop up on the screen.
“Damn, “she huffed, opening the first vid. “Save a few council members, and suddenly you’re a celebrity.”
The scene opened on what looked like large, open arena, in a part of the Citadel that hadn’t been hit too hard by Sovereign’s attack. There were flowers of every color and flags of every nationality. The multi-species audience was so large it trailed past the visual range of the camera filming the event. One entire side of the hall was packed with attendees almost exclusively dressed in formal Alliance Navy blues. It was a ridiculously elaborate event for a simple soldier, with no blood relatives to speak of.
The camera focused in on the stage and Shepard could see most of the Council members, plus Admiral Hackett, behind the podium. They were sitting awkwardly in folding chairs, shifting around and purposely not looking at one another. The view panned to the first row of guests. Shepard was both saddened and pleased to see some of her crew from the first Normandy were in attendance. Liara was sobbing messily into a bright green handkerchief, while Tali, her expression as unreadable as usual, patiently patted her back in what seemed like a comforting gesture. Joker was slumped next to them, pale as death, silent as the grave, and completely void of his usual vitality.
Before Shepard could identify anyone else, the band began to play and the view switched to a different camera feed. A coffin, empty of course, and covered in a System’s Alliance flag on one end and a large Council Spectre emblem on the other, was being carried down the long aisle by four pall bearers. Her throat tightened considerably when the picture zoomed in on their faces.
Captain David Anderson supported the front left corner of the symbolic casket. His shoulders were square and firm; his face a blank, expressionless mask. To the captain’s right, was the man foremost on Shepard’s mind. Kaidan wasn’t quite doing as good a job as Anderson at hiding his emotions. The Leutenant looked like he was barely holding it together: red rimmed eyes; tense, pulsing jaw.
“Way to keep it a secret, Alenko,” she croaked, feeling a few more hot tears drip off her chin.
Shifting her eyes from the pain she could see in his, Shepard examined the two males behind him. Garrus Vakarian and Urdnot Wrex were somberly holding up the rear of her casket, both dressed more formerly than she’d ever seen them. Shepard snorted inelegantly when she realized that Wrex probably could have carried the whole damn box down the aisle by himself, especially without her body actually in it.
She listened to the first few minutes of the first few speeches, skipping through most of the political word vomit the council members insisted on spouting. She teared up some more when Anderson said some pretty nice things about her, and laughed along with the crowd when he told that story about her stint in basic training. An adorable troop of Asari children danced around her casket, throwing flowers while chanting a blessing for the dead. A retired Turian Spectre, one she’d never had the occasion to actually meet, read a poem about valor and sacrifice.
And then, just when she thought the ceremony was finally wrapping up, Anderson called Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko to the stage.
“No,” she cried, knowing with utmost certainty what he’d been called to do. There was only one time-honored Navy funeral tradition that had yet to be performed. She held her breath as he approached the podium and stared out into the crowd. Dread burned in her chest, churned in her stomach. It just wasn’t fair.
Unable to make herself turn off the vid, Shepard listened, heartsick, as Kaidan’s beautiful baritone belted out the first few verses of the official Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” The traditional lyrics, asking God for protection for those ‘in peril on the sea,’ fell from his lips in practiced confidence. It wasn’t until he reached the last verse, the one adopted by the Navy’s space and exploration program, that anyone could guess anything was wrong. His strong voice never wavered. His ridged stance never slouched a fraction of an inch. But twin trails of glistening tears slowly made their way down his cheeks, as he sang the final few lines.
“Eternal Father, King of birth,
Who didst create the heaven and Earth,
And bid the planets and the sun
Their own appointed orbits run;
O’ hear us when we seek thy grace
For those who soar through outer space.”
Kaidan finished his solo and remained at attention, still silently crying as a lone bugle started playing a mournful rendition of Taps. His hand came up in a perfect, rigid salute as the empty coffin was rolled back down the aisle.
Shepard wondered if it was as obvious to everyone else, that this was more than just a soldier mourning his commanding officer. He looked fragile, right on the edge of breaking into a million pieces. Suddenly, all her fury burned up and floated away like so much ash. Great, heaving sobs built up inside her chest and Shepard had to bite her fist to keep them somewhat contained. How could she stay angry with him when presented with irrefutable proof of his grief? How could she blame him for distrusting her return, when her death had hurt him so very much?
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, reaching up to trace his familiar features with her fingertips. “I miss you, too.”
Kaidan sings the Navy Hymn of both the British and United States Navy and marines, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." It is sung at many different official events, including State funerals (like the one for former President Ronald Regan) and has been features on many television series and movies, including James Cameron’s “Titanic.” The song was originally written 1860, and over time verses have been added to include the different divisions and special operations in the military. The verse featured in this story was written 1961, specifically for astronauts.