Kaidan kisses Vega—on the mouth, no joke—and he doesn’t even have to be drunk to get it done. He’d say that’s what separates the men from the boys, the majors from the lieutenants, but his actions speak for themselves and he’s not looking for personal commendations.
It’s pretty obvious when he means something. These days, he can’t afford not to follow through.
Vega’s mouth opens but it’s on surprise, not attitude; the scar beneath Kaidan’s lips is this rough texture that’s nothing like the scars on Shepard’s cheek, on his chest, the stubble on his chin and jaw, the coarse hair beneath his navel. Kaidan’s felt all that, too, with kisses that always land on their mark, right over little knots in the flesh that make it interesting—that almost hurt him, when he thinks about them too hard.
Or maybe that’s just the usual headache.
Vega’s mouth is soft, though, like anyone else’s. For a guy with so much muscle, he can’t hide that. He tastes like the cerveza he was nursing earlier, cocky, pressing the head of the bottle to his mouth and swiping his tongue over the glass, raising an eyebrow above it all, watching Kaidan from behind his hand of cards. Looks like I win again, Major Alenko, he said, chuckling, breath whistling around the circle made of glass, spit and beer on the rim.
He’s not chuckling now and the shock is the difference between the battle and the war, who’s winning what. Kaidan swipes his tongue over Vega’s bottom lip, this trick he learned when he was a kid, this trick that drives Shepard wild.
And just like that, it’s over.
‘Don’t mind me,’ Shepard says, arms crossed, watching the card game. Well—what used to be a card game. It turns out the stakes were higher than what Vega was betting and for once, Kaidan managed to win a round. It’s something that didn’t ask for a poker face but a different kind of cool, a different kind of confidence.
Vega blinks. Kaidan clears his throat and Vega does the same, but it’s to shake something loose instead of to punctuate a point he just proved.
Kaidan folds his arms over his chest to match Shepard’s posture, noting the flicker of interest in Shepard’s eyes, how they turn one shade bluer. He already noticed the heat on James’s cheeks, how they turned one shade darker. And he knows his smile’s one shade more something, though he doesn’t have to mean anything by it.
It’s all about integrity. Putting your money where your cards are. Doing more than just dancing around the subject or flirting all night. There’s fun in that, sure, but the best part is the way Shepard licks his bottom lip: on instinct, on interest, on queue.
‘Hey, Commander,’ Kaidan says. ‘You know, I think we were just talking about you.’
‘No wonder James’s ears are burning,’ Shepard says, crossing the room to slide in between them, where he belongs. ‘Deal me in, would you, Kaidan?’
‘I was wondering when you’d finally join us.’ Kaidan reaches for the rest of James’s cerveza, taking a long pull from the bottle, and when he sets it down again, all eyes in the room are on him.
It doesn’t happen all that often. That’s why he has to make it count.
The back of his throat burns but it’s a good feeling, a shot of heat that makes him warm all over.
‘Jeez,’ Vega says.
Maybe, with a little more time and some decent guidance, he might get the hang of it.