He had held a gun to his Commander’s face. To HER face. After Horizon, after Mars, when would he stop making things worse and worse between them?

If he was honest with himself, though, Kaidan knew that their issues started way back before Horizon. They had started on a muggy planet, between sandy beaches and clear water. The kind of place he would like to bring her for vacation or honeymoon, if they were not Alliance soldiers with no time for this and if she were into that kind of romantic bullshit.

But Virmire had been anything but a romantic sight or a dream landscape. It would remain forever the place where Ashley Williams had died instead of him. It would forever stink of death and grief.

Shepard had never justified why she had come back for him instead of rushing to the AA tower to help Ashley as the plan originally was. According to Liara, there were many good reasons that could explain : the bomb came to mind first. The mission required this bomb to explode and destroy Saren’s labs. That was why he had activated it in the first place. To make sure it would, no matter what. He was also a superior Officer and a good biotic, as Dr Chakwas had reminded him. Any other Alliance Officer would have picked him over Ashley. It was logical. Almost clinical. He wishes he could believe there was nothing more to it.

But there were other voices whispering – or not – other ways of thinking. He had activated the bomb. If Shepard trusted him to guard it until it explode, why coming back? He was a good biotic. But nothing as good as Shepard or Liara. He was a good tech. But he fell far behind Tali. Whereas Ashley was an incredible shot and an incredible soldier. Shepard always took her on missions. Always. Wrex had told him right to his face that he thought Ashley Williams was a far more precious asset to Shepard’s team than he was. That Ashley’s death was a terrible waste. Leaving him sick at wondering why Shepard had chosen to save him rather than Ash.

It’s a rhetoric question. He knows why. Because of the shy smiles, of brushing arms and hands, of shared whispers and the promises of more later. Once alone after the debrief, she had told him, between threatening tears and anger that she could never leave him behind. His heart had sunk for two very different reasons. But she had also asked why he had activated the bomb. Why he had robbed them of more time to come back for Ashley.

Kaidan knows there was no way Ashley could have been saved. But sometimes, he wonders. What if? They had lost all communication with her long before the bomb explode, but that only meant her omnitool was destroyed. Nothing more. Had his decision really sent her to her death?

Sometimes, Kaidan dreams of Ashley overcoming all of the Geth, standing hurt among a pile of destroyed synthetics, proud, and smiling hopefully as she waits for Shepard to come back for her, only to receive a flood of fire on her head and to burn alive. These nights, Kaidan would wake up in sweat and never find sleep again. He wonders if Shepard has this kind of dreams too.

He knows what Ashley meant to Shepard. For a woman who had grown up on the streets on Earth, Ashley was the closest to what Shepard ever called family. The two had made talks to go and visit Ash’s family on Amaterasu once the mission would be over. Their visit there had been far different from the one they had planned when Shepard had attended Ashley’s honorific funerals and witnessed first hand her younger sisters breaking down while the eldest – the new eldest – was trying to keep it together and comfort them. As if it wasn’t too much already for Shepard, Lynn Williams had come to see her at the end to tell her how proud her sister had been to serve under her, and to thank her – thank her! – for allowing Ashley to show her true potential. Already livid, Shepard had turned even paler and tired, and for a moment there, Kaidan had thought she might break into tears. Six days later, the Normandy SR-1 was blown up to pieces and Shepard declared KIA. Kaidan wonders if she had really fought to get to that safety pod then. She had hardly said a word to him during these days.

Kaidan used to mean a lot to Shepard too. After their night before Ilos, he had thought they might have a chance to get over this guilt together. They had hardly time to breathe and to see each other until they went to Amaterasu and Shepard finally died with the Normandy, leaving him alone to wallow in self-pity and guilt at losing them both.

Then Shepard came back and he couldn’t believe his eyes. He still can’t believe what he told her on Horizon. On Mars. He wants to believe it’s really her. That what they once had is still there somewhere. He’s not sure. Rumor has she’s spending a lot of time with Traynor. And Garrus. He always knew she was swinging both ways, but he didn’t care before. He knows she’s gotten closer to Garrus during the suicide mission. Maybe she’s seeing one of them.

Sometimes, their eyes meet and for the briefest moment, he forgets about Traynor and Garrus and wonders if he should go to her and asks for forgiveness. For Horizon. For Mars. For the Council. For Ashley.

He finally does one day. “I’m sorry, forgive me” he tells her. She looks at him, a little puzzled at first maybe. Then before he knows, she shrugs it off, looks away like she always does, tells she understands his doubts when she was with Cerberus, after she left Cerberus. He should feel better, but there is still a shadow looming over them, something hanging in the air between them. Something bigger than his anger on Horizon, than his mistrust on Mars, than a gun pointing at her. “About Ash,” he adds.

A sad smile creeps over her lips. “There’s nothing I can forgive you about Ash,” she answers. “I am the one to blame, I am the one I can never forgive about her.”

He had sometimes wondered if Shepard regretted loving him, choosing him over Ashley. Now, he knows she does.