It’s a big part of the experience for me, that Shepard goes through missing a piece of themself because of a choice they made. I don’t choose who to leave based on who I like or don’t like, I just choose based on who Shepard is in that playthrough and where they’re most likely to go. Whoever I lose, I lose.
I’d rather hear about what people’s Shepards are losing on Virmire, what they miss, how they miss it. I remember both “first” times I made the choice. I saved Kaidan (Xe), then Ashley (Kaur). I constructed for myself what Shepard would think and feel and regret about the one they lost, those times and the times after.
Kaidan (Kaur Shepard): Hell of a hard luck life. Didn’t ask for his powers. Got ‘em before humans really understood ‘em. Shitty implants that made most of his kind broken or crazy or dead. Lost his childhood. Stranded out at the backend of nowhere. Suffered way more abuse than he let on, because Shepard can read between the lines even if she isn’t what you’d call sensitive. Made the best of a bad situation—he didn’t want to be where he was but there wasn’t much other choice for him. Not naive but still hopeful. Sturdy in spite of his disabilities. Tough as nails and still not only human but humane.
Shepard wasn’t actually pissed off about what he went through until he died and then she was mad as hell because there wasn’t any way to make it up to him. Kaidan changed how she saw her own people. Changed how she thought about groups like Cerberus. Made her less righteous. More angry. More cynical. Made her realize she would have been a better person if he’d been around, more forgiving, more yielding, more gracious, and that it wouldn’t necessarily have been better in the long run.
Ashley (Xe Shepard): She set out to redeem her family name, somehow, and Shepard felt like she did. Was going to make sure other people saw it the same. He was proud of her because she took her mission that far to the end that he only had to pick it up and carry it a little further to finish it for her. Whatever power and credit and respect he gathered up along the way, he wasn’t going to let people forget that one of the cornerstones on which he stood was her headstone. His foundation is a cemetery.
In some ways, losing her wasn’t as hard as losing other people in his life. Like him, Ashley got up each morning ready to lie down in a grave by nightfall if that’s what it took. Voluntarily. With full knowledge and awareness. The choice of it made a difference. He didn’t forget what she’d said to him when she spoke her mind. He kept it closer to him because she wasn’t there to say it anymore. When he argues with himself now, part of him speaks for her.
I feel like that’s what you’re supposed to get out of that moment, pieces with which to build your character. Pick and choose but for fuck’s sake, use it. And so many people treat it like finally slapping a mosquito that’s been whining around their head for hours. Is that really how it is for them or do people armour themselves against being forced to experience loss?