Shepard isn’t suspicious until Cortez hands him an open, steaming thermos, and a quick sniff tells him there’s high-grade hot chocolate inside. He looks over at the Hammerhead, frozen and silent on the side of the mountain, and back at Steve.
“Please don’t tell me you planned getting marooned out in the middle of a snowy wasteland, because I have to tell you, there are much more efficient ways of getting into my pants.”
Steve laughs and waits until Shepard has taken a sip of the cocoa to take the thermos back and drink some himself. “I didn’t plan the marooned part, no. I really did hope that surviving a Reaper attack meant the upgrades would apply to temperatures as well. Too bad. It’s still a good shuttle otherwise.” He hums appreciatively as he drinks the cocoa, and Shepard chooses to watch the way his eyelashes flutter instead of reaching out to take the thermos back. “But yes, I did plan to make a quick stop to look at the stars with you.”
The feeling that pushes at Shepard’s heart is too big for him, and he reaches for the thermos. “Gimme,” he says, and his voice is thicker than it should be. “Why didn’t you bring your own?”
Steve doesn’t seem put off, even while Shepard is wincing at his own abysmal social skills. Face down the Reapers? Overcome Harbinger’s mindbreaking indoctrination attempt? That he can do. Have a romantic moment with his boyfriend without throwing up every emotional wall he has? That… he’s still working on.
“Because sharing is more fun,” Steve answers smoothly, leaning against him so their shoulders press together.
So Shepard shares, and he notices they’re both drinking from the same spot on the thermos -- rather deliberately, he thinks. It’s just a little thing, but he likes it. It warms him more than the cocoa does.
They’re quiet for a long while, the internal temperature regulator in their suits keeping them comfortable despite the snow on the ground and the sharp, cold shine of the stars across the mountaintops. Shepard has time to lean back from that overwhelming emotional ledge, studying Steve’s profile as he turns up the thermos.
“Hey,” he says, and Steve turns to meet his eyes, face open as always. Shepard appreciates it, appreciates the room Steve gives him as much as he appreciates the space he takes up. “Thanks.”
It’s a guileless question, and Shepard looks for a way to answer it that will be meaningful, something to give him.
“I haven’t really had a lot of time to just… sit and look, you know?” He tilts his chin up to study the sky above him. “I’ve spent so much time in and around stars, and I never just look at them.”
Steve smiles broadly, and Shepard feels his mouth curving in response. It’s a good feeling. “I’m glad you’re getting a chance to now, then.”
Shepard bumps their shoulders together but then just stays there, pressed close, letting himself feel the small thrill in his belly. “I like looking at other things too,” he says, and Steve’s grin turns sly.
“This ain’t a museum, Shepard,” he murmurs. “You can touch.”
They’re good at kissing; they have been since the beginning. It’s the one thing Shepard’s not scared of fucking up, and Steve tastes good -- like chocolate and comfort and perfect little moments under the stars. They don’t pull apart immediately when the shuttle zooms overhead, but when it slides to a stop unevenly across a small plateau, Steve cringes.
“Haven’t you learned how to drive yet, Mr.Vega?” Steve calls out as soon as the shuttle doors open.
“Hey, you call me to come pick your sorry ass up because you think you like driving a piece of tissue paper in the snow, you don’t get to be picky about how I drive, Esteban.” James grins and hooks his thumb over his shoulder. “Get in, losers. We're goin' home.”
They stand, brushing the snow off their pants, and Shepard swallows his misgivings long enough to catch Steve’s hand as they trudge toward the shuttle.
“And no macking in the backseat!” James says, ducking into the shuttle before Steve can bend down and scoop up a snowball. He throws it anyway, white snow spattering across the dark glass, and Shepard grins.
“I think it’s gonna be a tight fit,” he says, loud enough for James to hear. “I think you’re gonna have to sit in my lap, Steve.”
James groans, and Steve laughs, but even though there’s plenty of room for both of them in the shuttle seats, they sit close together the whole way home, the empty thermos rattling beside them.