Reese’s fingers drum on the desk, staring into the black void of his vid screen. Maybe he shouldn’t have sent that email, but he’ll be damned if he wastes the miracle of his rebirth just because his boyfriend tends to be a little skeptical about it. He needs Kaidan for this. Kaidan needs to get off his high horse. A little perturbed, what did he really expect after being in a coma for two years, but he saw the emotion Kaidan hid in his eyes on Horizon. A chance still exists, and Reese is sure as hell going to take it.
“I’ll be there.”
Kaidan doesn’t say anything else, but it’s enough. The response comes a week later, a long period of Reese second-guessing his decision to include Kaidan, sleep lost in the restlessness of his thoughts. He radios Joker to set a course to Amada System and tries to set about calming his nerves by putting together his Alliance Cruiser model. It’s the only thing guaranteed to work, but even then his thoughts drift back to what will be their second meeting since his resurrection.
The planet chills him inside of his envirosuit, something not even the sight of the other commander’s shuttle can warm up. Outside, he spots the bones of his ship- their ship- hollow and broken in the snow drifts of the planet below. The shuttle parks next to Kaidan’s, and he doesn’t hesitate in hopping out. Reese’s movements are slower, unsure. He doesn’t want to do this, but Anderson had insisted in his usual Anderson way. He hopes Kaidan can’t see the tremble coursing through his body.
Kaidan turns to him, facial expressions lost behind his helmet. “I’m glad you called. How we left things-”
“Kaidan... Stop .”
He’s not looking for an apology or an explanation. All Reese wants is to have a shoulder to lean on, his boyfriend or ex-boyfriend’s preferably. “That’s not why you’re here.” Reese can’t do this alone, and he feels it in every molecule of his being. He’s scared. Standing in the location where he died, the reason Kaidan distanced himself, it’s terrifying. All he wants is for Kaidan to be there, maybe hold his hand a little bit.
Kaidan nods before turning his head and surveying the area. The fear in Reese ramps up as his eyes survey every scrap of metal, every broken piece of hull. The Mako sits in silence before them, a memorial in its own right. He aches to run his hands over the steel, climb inside and see if it still starts up. Hear the purr of the engine and make love to Kaidan in the back, something he always thought he would do. His hands itch to grip the wheel again, to use it to roll over the wreckage. Everything feels better with some distance, behind helmet screens and plexiglass windshields.
He kicks a rock down by his foot. There’s no use in wondering about it now. He needs to keep the memories locked away, the best of his ability, if he’s going to survive this. Mindoir was great practice for this, another lifetime ago where he died. Death, a familiar friend, hanging over him his whole existence. He should feel nothing, but instead, he feels it all. Every bit of Alchera haunts him, and the memory of suffocating, the breathlessness, returns to him.
He’s sweeping away again; he needs to concentrate on the dog tags for the families. “Let’s move. Those tags aren’t going to find themselves.” Kaidan is ice beside him, frozen like the tundra around them. What thoughts are plaguing him? What does he see as he gazes out, what monsters lurk in his memory beneath the snow?
They search, the two of them, in the eerie quiet of their old home. Reese finds it harder to discern the ghosts from reality. Ashley’s presence lingers with them, and Reese thinks that maybe his old self does as well. He’s new now, with new skin and no tattoos and no scars. He’s new but he feels so old, and the ruins around them settles into his skin. He keeps flashing back to how dying felt, and trying to keep it out of his mind proves itself difficult. The last time he saw the SR-1, it was on fire and people burned and Kaidan begged him to get in the escape pod.
The cockpit is a mangled mess but he can discern Joker’s chair, the edges licked with black soot. It survived. It survived but he didn’t. Every breath feels like defiance. He shouldn’t be here. His tags should be lying with the rest of them on the ground. He shouldn’t be standing.
He finds the sleeper pods next, a computer or two not far from it. He chuckles, soft enough that Kaidan can’t hear him. Kaidan never was able to fix those darn things. He reflects on all the times he saw him by the bank, the conversations they held, the little ways that Reese found himself falling in love with his staff lieutenant. He fell hard in this tight space next to the hall of sleeper pods, and now it laid in tatters around them, around someone he only hopes might still love him.
Kaidan follows him, staying silent. Reese couldn’t help getting swept into the memory of each bit of metal he comes across. He shoves tags into his pocket as he spots them, the only call out of his past.
Kaidan spots the helmet first. It’s a little away from the rest of the wreckage, but it gleams, brighter than the tags. Kaidan staggers toward it, as if in a trance, before falling down onto his knees in front of it. His hands tremble as it hovers over it. Reese sucks in a deep breath and steps over to his side.
There are a lot of possibilities to what Kaidan thinks as he stares. His own thoughts bounce around in his head, the sight of the cracked visor and scorch marks. How did he survive? How could he survive? Kaidan wonders the same thing, he’s sure. He lays a hand on his shoulder.
“They said I was a real sight when they brought me in, all dry skin and burnt flesh. It wasn’t pretty.”
He needs to talk, to break the silence that settled on the planet. He needs to keep himself from going back into the atmosphere, writhing around as he tried to grab his unhooked hose, each breath getting harder and harder to take. He never talked about this with any of his crew, but it seems only fitting to break that seal on his lips for Kaidan. This is something that they must talk about if there’s hope for them in the future.
Kaidan's voice weakens. “We heard you die.” He doesn’t look up, instead choosing to skim a finger around the broken glass of the visor. He snaps his hand back and brings himself to his feet before turning to Reese. “I heard you die . But...you’re here . I can’t wrap my head around it.”
Reese has doubts too, and he understands where Kaidan is coming from. He scoops up his old helmet, brushing off some of the dirt as he looks it over. It’s dented, and the N7 stripes faded, but they were still there. Kaidan’s expecting an answer, but he’s not sure he can give him the one he’s looking for.
“I don’t fully understand it myself, but here I am.” He glances up to Kaidan’s face, still a mask behind his helmet. “I still don’t know why Cerberus brought me back, or how, but I’m here now. I’m still breathing.”
Kaidan’s stance shouts uncertainty, but Reese doesn’t know how to convince him. He bumps his hand into his, letting them linger in proximity before pulling it away and moving back out to find more tags. Kaidan remains in place, but after the fourth tag snatched up, he comes back to stand by his side. “This is… difficult for me.”
“I know. It is for me, too.” Reese bends over for another tag. The good news is that they’re almost done. He wants to say something to him, something profound and deep. He longs to ask him how the past two years have been, or tell him that it’s hard to sleep in an empty bed. Maybe let him know about the upgrades and how spacious his cabin is, how much he wants to get him back there. But all he can think about is dying, how the blackness felt as it surrounded him, Kaidan’s screaming in his ear. It’s been years for Kaidan, but it only feels like months for Reese.
As the last dog tag finds its way between his fingers, he straightens up and looks back to Kaidan. “Did you see anywhere to put the monument?”
Kaidan nods. “Around where we started, between the Mako and the heart of the Normandy.” He means the center of the wreckage.
What Anderson gave him is on the larger side, and he knows that he could easily float it out with his biotics, but he won’t resist an opportunity to include Kaidan. “It’s still in my shuttle. Mind giving me a hand?”
Kaidan gives a sharp nod and follows him back to where they parked. He finds that the cold penetrated the hull of the shuttle as he steps in, Kaidan quick to follow behind. He snaps his helmet off, giving him a chance to breathe unfiltered air and hoping Kaidan does the same. He wants to see his face, just once, before they go their separate ways.
“I’m glad you’re here. I don’t know that I could have done this without you.”
Kaidan takes off his helmet, holding it in the crook of his elbow. Reese’s chest aches at the familiarity of it, the hard set of lines carved into Kaidan’s face as he stares. He doesn’t say anything, but takes a step toward Reese.
Reese practically jumps forward, not stopping until his lips crash against Kaidan’s, the heat from the collision enough to break up the cold inside his bones. Kaidan’s responsive to it, hand reaching to cup the back of his head as his other digs into his hip. He returns his kiss with a fervor, a burning intensity that Reese doesn’t remember him having, not even in their first kiss.
Kaidan takes over, something Reese remembers well, and backs them into the shuttle wall. His tongue swirls inside his mouth, a hot caress where all Reese wants is more, to feel all of Kaidan on him at once. But Kaidan doesn’t go for his armor, content in mouth-to-mouth contact. Stubble from them both creates friction against their cheeks, and the flow of their biotics lap one another for control.
Reese begins to spark along Kaidan’s body as his desire deepens, but Kaidan pulls back, untangling himself. Reese grins, hooking his finger around his gun holster and bringing him back into him.
“That wasn’t supposed to happen,” Kaidan mumbles while Reese presses soft kisses along his jaw. He finds Kaidan’s weak spot, where his ear and jaw connect, and nips. Kaidan moans, his hands back on Reese’s armor as Reese sucks on the skin, making sure that he leaves a mark for everyone to see.
Kaidan yanks his head back by his hair, running his tongue up his neck before letting go and stepping back again. “I can’t do this.”
Reese sighs. He knew going into this what Kaidan’s thoughts on the matter were, but a part of him still foolishly believed he could change his mind. He pouts, crossing his arm over his chest as a show, but he’s fine with it. He’s a little surprised he got as far as he did with him.
“‘Cause of Cerberus.” He rolls his eyes. “I wouldn’t be standing here if not for them.”
“Complicated. Don’t I know it.” Reese moves away from the wall, brushing past Kaidan to pick up his helmet off the bench. He hesitates before putting it on, taking one last look at Kaidan’s troubled expression. He dashes back over and pecks a quick kiss onto his lips. His helmet slides over his head, and Kaidan follows suit. Together they lift the monument and head out the shuttle door toward the center.
They work side by side, Reese finding reasons to touch Kaidan as they set to installing it. Kaidan doesn’t pull away, and if there’s anything good to come out of this trip, it’s that maybe Kaidan isn’t as standoffish and repulsed by him as he’d been. The torch lights up when they finish, and Reese stands back to marvel at it. It’s not perfect; another piece of metal isn’t a perfect way to honor their fallen comrades, but it’s something.
Kaidan’s hand finds his as it hangs by his side, fingers lacing together. Reese gives a squeeze that Kaidan returns. He leans his helmeted head on Kaidan’s shoulder, holding his breath at one last chance of closeness as they watch the memorial flame burn for what is supposed to be the rest of eternity.