‘In hindsight,’ Shepard said, ‘I think we probably could’ve seen this coming.’
The fight that’d broken out between James and Grunt before the ceremony even started—no harm meant, both of them with skulls thick enough to withstand the headbutt challenge—wasn’t the craziest thing Shepard had ever been witness to. In fact, knowing these guys the way he did, he’d actually been expecting something like that might happen.
Of course, they were going to have to pay for the repairs to the two front pews and Shepard was never putting a deposit down on somewhere nice again. He also wasn’t inviting either of them over for dinner, at least not at the same time.
With friends like these, you could save whole galaxies but you couldn’t have a simple dinner party—much less a wedding.
But small-scale destruction was the kind of technical difficulty that made sense, all things considered. Which meant that the craziest thing about Shepard’s afternoon was realizing James and Grunt were so moved by the ceremony, they might’ve been crying right there in the new front row.
Shepard hadn’t known krogans were capable of producing tears.
You learned something new every day.
The two crazy kids worked it out with a second headbutt challenge, doing twice as much damage as the first round.
‘Yeah,’ Kaidan agreed, surveying the aftermath. ‘But, you know… It’s always twenty-twenty.’
There’d never been any question in Shepard’s mind about who his best man was going to be.
Liara was close to being pissed when he told her—as close as she ever came, anyway—until she’d learned she was the one Shepard wanted to walk him down the aisle, maybe even give him away.
‘I suppose I can settle for that,’ she admitted, with the same smile that’d seen Shepard through some of his darkest days. ‘But you should really just call the position best turian, don’t you agree? You’ll spare certain krogan feelings, at the very least.’
She was right there for him up until they reached the podium.
‘By the way,’ she added, giving his arm a squeeze, ‘you didn’t happen to research turian wedding ceremony customs, specifically their traditions regarding the role of best man, did you?’
‘Kind of slipped my mind there, Liara,’ Shepard replied.
‘Well,’ Liara said, ‘like with most things… They take it very seriously.’
Shepard had been looking forward to seeing Garrus in a suit. Instead, Garrus challenged him to a sparring match right there on the podium.
‘Don’t think I’ll go easy on you either, Shepard,’ Garrus said, cracking his knuckles. ‘Just because you’re the man of the hour doesn’t mean we don’t both have a reputation to maintain.’
They were almost at their vows, Shepard’s ribs bruised, most of the rubble cleared away, when the whole brood of baby krogans in the back of the church started screaming.
It was bad enough before Wrex joined in, and by then Shepard was just waiting for the noise to bring the rafters down on their heads.
‘They’re working on their krogan battle cries already,’ Wrex said, chuckling darkly, a daddy’s glint in his eyes.
Little Mordin did have a musical tone, Bakara added, strong enough to curdle the blood and piss of all his enemies.
‘Could they wait to do that until after the wedding maybe?’ Kaidan asked.
‘It ain’t a real marriage until you’ve destroyed at least one building,’ Wrex replied. ‘C’mon, Shepard. Show these guests your quads—unless you’re getting soft on me already.’
Shepard sighed, and offered his lungs to the noise-making.
‘Hey,’ Kaidan said, one hand at the small of Shepard’s back, rubbing his suit where it felt the most stiff—and, of course, the starched white dress shirt and the skin beneath. ‘We made it through the whole ceremony without any casualties. That’s gotta be a first.’
‘Yeah,’ Shepard agreed. ‘I thought you were going to go asari and use a singularity on Wrex for a second there, though.’
Kaidan’s fingers stopped moving, balling into knuckles, rubbing an ache Shepard used to take for granted. He’d thought it was just another part of his body, as natural to him now as all the replacements and emergency upgrades. But Kaidan made it feel better, and not just sometimes.
‘I’m not gonna lie, Shepard,’ Kaidan said. ‘I came pretty close.’
A half-eaten piece of cake on the table and a half-full glass of decent wine—it was possible, Shepard allowed himself to think, that this wedding was turning its fortunes around.
Then, they realized Joker was busting out some vintage moves on the dance floor.
Shepard had seen himself dance—and even he knew what Joker was doing wasn’t pretty.
‘You think he’s going to hurt himself, doing that?’ Kaidan asked.
‘Only thing Joker’s hurting right now are his chances with EDI,’ Shepard replied.
There was a reason he hadn’t danced in front of Kaidan, at least not before they’d said I do.
The baby krogans hadn’t made too much of a mess of the food and there’d only been one inter-species food fight the whole dinner, which lasted until Garrus started sniping canapés mid-flight just to make everyone settle down. Joker was off the dance floor, finally; James was downing another cerveza, brought in special just for him, and it looked to Shepard like he was telling Steve Cortez about how two people coming together in holy matrimony despite everything was a beautiful thing, Esteban. So damn beautiful. Miranda kept throwing Shepard looks—part disbelief, part undying love, Shepard was pretty sure—and it was always a good day when Jack hadn’t punched anyone’s lights out for breathing near her the wrong way.
All that, Shepard figured, deserved some kind of a toast.
‘To us,’ Shepard said, lifting his glass.
‘So you’re just as good at making toasts as you are at speeches, huh?’ Kaidan asked.
The smile in his eyes was like nothing Shepard had ever seen. All the supernovae he’d flown by had nothing on that light. He’d never been all that good at saying it out loud, but the feeling was caught in his chest and it was the one thing he knew where he could accept the truth. There was no way he could hope to fight it.
Shepard had the glass to his lips when somebody tackled him from behind.
He almost broke the idiot’s nose until he realized he was being hugged, not ambushed.
‘Commander Shepard!’ The voice was familiar—too damn familiar, even. ‘What a moving ceremony—and may I be the first to offer you my sincerest congratulations!’
Shepard turned, wearing the same smile he put on whenever somebody said ‘Commander Shepard, would you look this way for the cameras, please?’
‘…Conrad,’ Shepard said. ‘It’s almost unexpected to see you.’
‘Oh,’ Conrad replied, somehow beaming even brighter than Kaidan, ‘you know I’d never miss an occasion like this one. What a great surprise, right? And I’ll tell you something else—I even caught the bouquet!’
‘Do yourself a favor, Conrad,’ Shepard said. ‘Why don’t you sell that to a private collector and buy yourself a vacation with the credits.’
Conrad laughed without blinking. ‘As though I’d ever sell this. Don’t worry, Commander. I’ll keep these flowers forever.’
Shepard knew he wasn’t going to get out of his own wedding without someone taking pictures. Like he’d told Garrus once—they lasted longer. Eventually, someone would leak them to the extranet, and then there’d be plates and posters and watch faces and alarm clocks out there with Shepard kissing his husband on them, a collection Kasumi would send Shepard’s for their first anniversary as a joke.
‘That’s the smile I’ve been waiting to see all day,’ Kaidan said. ‘Come on. There’s one more thing we have to do tonight.’
‘No more turian wedding traditions,’ Shepard replied. ‘I think Garrus already broke one of my ribs.’
‘There are human wedding traditions too, Shepard.’ Kaidan took one of Shepard’s hands in his; Shepard felt it in his knees when he stood, but he got up without embarrassing himself, and that was all he could ask for some days. ‘Like the happy couple’s first dance.
‘There’s something I have to tell you,’ Shepard began, licking his dry lips.
‘I already know you’re worse at it than Joker,’ Kaidan said. ‘But this isn’t going to be that kind of dancing.’
Shepard let Kaidan lead him out onto the floor; he couldn’t put a name to the feeling of not being in charge for once.
A lot of people who were supposed to be there weren’t. There were some who were there who shouldn’t have been. But the reapers hadn’t shown up to crash the party and mostly it was who’d come that Shepard cared about. The guy he was with, everything else finally realizing it was going to have to take a back seat—if only for a little while.
Apparently he wasn’t such a bad dancer after all, not when Kaidan was his partner.