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KAIDAN ALWAYS

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Kaidan always figured Shepard would be into classic rock, highway to hell type stuff. The sort of music people listened to on motorcycles or in the actual tape deck of a souped-up old muscle car.

Shepard had the motorcycle now. He’d texted Kaidan about it earlier in the summer but Kaidan still hadn’t seen it for himself, since he’d been in Whistler since before Shepard had gone out and bought it.

Maybe Kaidan had been watching too much TV lately, all this Back to the Future stuff getting into his head. And maybe—probably, definitely—he’d been thinking about Shepard too much beyond that. Letting Kaidan catch him humming Firework at the end of last semester was just Shepard’s way of reminding him that he knew one of the worst secrets Kaidan ever kept. It was even worse than the shelf of Star Trek novels in Kaidan’s bedroom that he was still adding to.

It didn’t seem to matter enough to ruin Shepard’s opinion of him—but it looked like Shepard wasn’t about to forget it, anyway.

Kaidan reached for the granola. Mom’s cereal was always like that, flax seeds and brain food, even when they were on vacation. But it kept headaches at bay until Kaidan was finished reading and could take some Advil, then finally fall asleep.

He skipped the spoon, grabbing a handful instead. He’d learned that tactic from all-night study sessions before midterms or finals; it wasn’t pretty, but snacking alone at midnight never was.

It was a little after that when Kaidan’s phone started to buzz over on the bed, where he’d tossed it that afternoon after coming back up from the pool to head off the start of a migraine. Two seconds after that it kicked into Katy Perry—something Shepard had programmed in on the last day of school, while Kaidan watched and sighed and didn’t actually change it back like he said he would—and Kaidan lunged for it, half on the bed and half off, to answer the call.

SHEPARD, the ID said. Kaidan hadn’t even put in his first name because he’d always just been Shepard around them. And the picture of him in Kaidan’s contacts was from that time they all went to see a full-day Star Wars movie marathon—from the intermission between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, when Shepard and Garrus were seeing who could fit more popcorn in their mouths at the same time.

Kaidan never changed the picture, either. When Shepard put his chin on Kaidan’s shoulder without warning and saw what it was, he’d grinned and said, ‘Yeah, those were good times. Don’t tell Garrus I let him win, though. ‘Cause I totally let him win.’

They hadn’t kissed then.

Not yet.

It happened three days later; Kaidan still remembered the exact time, three minutes after ten, and the homework he hadn’t finished, trigonometry. He remembered what Shepard was wearing, a beat-up t-shirt with a hole at the collar, and the fabric was soft and lived-in.

Kaidan answered his cell, halfway through come on, show me what you’re worth.

‘Chances are I’m gonna get a complex from that song, you know,’ he said, then, ‘Hey, Shepard.’

‘Vacationing too hard, huh?’ Shepard’s voice sounded far away but also intimate, like he was right there, leaning over during a movie to say This is my favorite part all warm against Kaidan’s ear. ‘You’re going to be permanently cranky if you keep that up.’

‘Actually, I’ve been in my room most of the day,’ Kaidan said, rolling over onto his back.

He should’ve been better at the whole lying thing, or flipping the truth so it made him sound at least a little cooler. Sure, Shepard knew about all the Star Trek stuff, but eventually he’d figure out—because Kaidan was making it all too easy for him—that Kaidan just hung around all day waiting for Shepard to call, or for figuring out the right time to call him. Like that was a formula in a textbook he could use on an exam.

Kaidan didn’t even know what ringtone Shepard had for his number. Or if it was on vibrate whenever Kaidan finally called or…something.

‘Uh-huh. Sounds…wild,’ Shepard replied. A long pause followed, kind of awkward, but Kaidan had a feeling Shepard wanted that. ‘So…what are you wearing right now?’

Kaidan felt it in his gut, all the way down his thighs, shooting to the base of his spine—this dumb, simple question that made him feel not like he was watching porn but like he was actually a part of it. And it was hotter, too, because there wasn’t even anybody there. There didn’t have to be. It was just Shepard, a guy who’d once put thirty pieces of popcorn in his mouth at a time to Garrus Vakarian’s thirty-one, saying crazy stuff on the other end of the line. They were in separate beds, even, one of them in Whistler and one of them still in Downtown Vancouver, and Shepard wouldn’t have been able to see Kaidan blush—but Kaidan still tried to hold it back, like it was something Shepard could see.

All that, and still the only thing Kaidan could manage to say was, ‘Huh?’

It was the peach mimosas Mom’d let him have at dinner. They’d fried his brain or something, past the usual headache into all-out dysfunction.

‘I’m wearing those matching Han Solo boxers Joker got all of us,’ Shepard continued, like Kaidan wasn’t totally useless. ‘So sexy, right?’

‘…You wanted to put me in the mood to think about you in novelty underwear by making my phone play Katy Perry,’ Kaidan said. Just so he could get that part straight.

‘Yeah,’ Shepard replied. ‘Because I know you, Kaidan Alenko.’

That hit Kaidan’s spine, too, up and down before it settled somewhere lower than ever. Kaidan almost dropped his phone, but he managed to hang on for the sake of listening to every second of Shepard’s silence.

‘So you’re wearing Star Wars boxers right now.’ Kaidan paused. ‘Hang on. I’ll check…what I’ve got.’

‘Huh,’ Shepard echoed, only it came out more like oh.

Kaidan undid the fly on his jeans one-handed because he still needed the other one to hold onto his phone. The way it was pressed against his jaw was making him feel sweaty—or maybe he was too hot for other reasons, like thinking about Shepard’s scraped knees and hard thighs, which Kaidan hadn’t actually, technically seen outside of jeans. They were tight jeans, maybe a pair from a year ago or something, but it was still different.

The sound of the zipper being pulled down seemed too loud when it was only Kaidan in the room. He pulled one side back and said, ‘I don’t know. They’re blue. …Briefs, not boxers.’

Shepard exhaled.

Kaidan didn’t have to be a genius to know what that release meant. That, for whatever reason, a detail as simple as boxers or briefs could be hot to somebody when they cared enough.

‘Good to know,’ Shepard said.

Kaidan closed his eyes.

His fingertips were still pressed against the cool, round button but it was only a matter of time before his body heat warmed the metal. Then he’d have nothing to clear his head; not even tightening his hold would calm the way his blood was seriously pounding.

‘…And jeans,’ Kaidan added. ‘That t-shirt you left at my place before… I don’t know, it got packed somehow.’ He’d brought it on purpose, just a thing. But he wore it, so it wasn’t weird. ‘It’s a little small but it smells pretty good. I don’t know, I think my mom might’ve washed it.’

‘Cool.’ Kaidan waited for Shepard to say something else or start humming an embarrassing song or something, anything, but in the absence of that Kaidan figured he needed to up his game. This wasn’t math club or anything; it wasn’t supposed to be as hard as memorizing a hundred different formulas.

But at least, with that stuff, there were formulas. Kaidan circled his thumb around the button on his fly, only a couple of times, to give himself a push.

‘I’m, uh…’ Kaidan cleared his throat. ‘Just lying in bed, anyway. Door’s locked. I guess it’d be easier if I was back home and we were closer, but…’

He was starting to get hard. And there was a chance Shepard would know that from the sound of his voice, would realize it was because of him—like it usually was, now that Kaidan had someone to look at who wasn’t in a gold bikini.

Or the guy next to her sweating through his tight white shirt while being a wild shot with a blaster.

‘Kaidan,’ Shepard said.

And that was how Kaidan knew Shepard was starting to get hard, or that he was hard already. Kaidan had touched him a couple of times but always through Shepard’s jeans, using the ridge of his fly’s zipper for friction that Shepard seemed to be pretty okay with. Sometimes he made these sounds…

Even if it was the first time Kaidan had touched himself while talking to Shepard, it wasn’t the first time he’d touched himself thinking about Shepard. It was almost the same thing.

Kaidan lifted his hips, trying not to hang up with his face, pushing his jeans down just far enough that they wouldn’t get in the way.

He froze for a second—that always happened right before he sat down in front of an exam, when everything he thought he knew or knew he could do went out the window. Then, all the practice tests kicked in and the muscle memory, too, and once he got started he never second-guessed himself again.

This was good. This was happening. And Kaidan needed to say something.

‘So, I’m… I’m gonna touch myself,’ he managed, around a lump in his throat that made it hard to talk, almost unrecognizable when he did.

‘Okay.’ Shepard sounded like he was trying to ground himself. ‘…Okay. Yeah, me too. I’ve kind of already… Yeah.’

Kaidan took the time to rub his palm over the cotton, to think about the back of Shepard’s neck and how his hips rolled when he was turned on, right there on Kaidan’s bed. The few times they’d actually made out—late nights they should’ve been studying for finals, the cold and Shepard’s fingers making Kaidan’s skin prickle. One cold, one hot. He couldn’t really say how it’d started but he could say that he didn’t want it to stop.

Not that he knew how to name it or talk about it, but it was there. Happening. …Sometimes.

Kaidan turned onto his side, the phone on the mattress next to his ear, the hand between his legs knowing what to do but also wanting to share it.

There was no formula for that. There wasn’t even a vocabulary, not one that didn’t sound stupid.

So Kaidan didn’t go for words. He touched himself until it felt so good he moaned and he heard Shepard curse on the other end of the line. Then, he heard Shepard drop his phone, a scuffle that couldn’t be anything else.

‘You—you still there?’ Shepard asked finally, breathless.

‘Yeah,’ Kaidan said. ‘I’m still…’

‘Yeah.’ Shepard sucked in a breath but Kaidan could’ve told him that wouldn’t help. He licked his lips not because they were dry but because he wanted to feel his tongue against them and think about the way Shepard kissed—hard, first, trying to prove too much, until Kaidan got his tongue into Shepard’s mouth and Shepard let him, easing up on everything else. Warm until he was hot; tense until he was soft.

The way kisses were supposed to be and, from Kaidan’s experience, never actually were.

‘Yeah,’ Kaidan said, again, only it didn’t come out as stupid as it would’ve been on paper. Sometimes a theory wasn’t as good as its application and Shepard seemed to like it, anyway.

Kaidan pushed into his fingers and he heard, like static, the rustling of sheets and the squeaking of a bedframe from Shepard’s end. It was an amazing feeling, although maybe it would’ve been better if Shepard was there with him, if Kaidan’s hands were on Shepard instead of just himself.

He knew exactly how many days it’d been since they’d seen each other. Not even once after school was out, all of them hanging out together that night, and no real chance for just the two of them to catch a moment alone. Not that they would’ve talked about it, anyway; but with Liara and Joker and Garrus all hanging around, drinking what Liara’d managed to bring along, watching a bunch of Red Dwarf episodes Joker had burned onto DVD, Kaidan didn’t have a chance and Shepard didn’t seem bothered by it, not the way Kaidan was itching all over to touch him.

He seriously had it bad. He should’ve known that when Shepard programmed the new ringtone in and he didn’t just reprogram it later, but he knew it now, and it felt great—and terrible and stupid and terrifying.

Especially the stupid part. And especially the terrifying.

‘Kaidan,’ Shepard said again, not exactly natural, like the name was making him choke. Or that was just how he got when he had to let go, something Kaidan never saw.

He’d never even seen Shepard fall asleep. Shepard watched every movie with his eyes wide open and no matter how late it got, he never yawned or spent too long on a single blink. Kaidan was always passing out somewhere before the credits rolled, waking up slouched against Shepard’s shoulder or, sometimes, with his head in Shepard’s lap, cheek on his thigh, smelling the rain-washed denim, which left creases on his cheek.

All the things he remembered, not even that far away, but there was still a week left before leaving Whistler. A lot could happen in a week—but still not enough to make the time pass any quicker.

Kaidan closed his eyes, squeezing them shut. There wasn’t anybody there to see him—Mom and Dad were eating out together somewhere nice—but he could still remember the times Shepard had touched him: his sides to his hips, curving around back to explore the shape of his ass. Their knees bumping together, their lips too close to actually kiss.

Something like that.

Kaidan couldn’t touch himself the same way. He only had one angle and sure, it worked, but it wasn’t what he wanted. Maybe that was part of why it felt so good, thinking Shepard wanted the same things.

Thinking he could give them to him.

He heard Shepard groan—it kind of caught on a whimper, but maybe that was their service cutting out, because it was so quiet and so quick that Kaidan couldn’t know for certain if he’d heard it. He thought he had. But he wasn’t thinking much more than that right now.

It was like a challenge to know he could make it last longer, but only for a little while. In the end, it was over for both of them, Kaidan’s hands sticky. He needed to change into new briefs before Mom and Dad got back from their night out together.

‘Guess I won’t be wearing blue tomorrow,’ he said, and Shepard laughed.

‘I—should go,’ he said, but didn’t hang up.

‘Actually,’ Kaidan replied, ‘you know… You don’t have to.’

‘Huh,’ Shepard said again. For the second time, it sounded exactly like oh. And Kaidan didn’t have to ask himself if they’d really just done that. There was no proof, no formula, but he could still study it—hard and long, until he was tired out.

‘So…’ Kaidan rolled over onto his stomach, trying to swallow the relief with the nerves, trying not to be screwed by either. ‘I told you what I did today. What about you?’

*

Chapter Text

Kaidan always called by midnight, right around when Shepard got off his closing shift at Thrifty’s and just after he’d biked his way back to Anderson’s. Now that he had the Normandy—that was what the paint job called her, and Shepard wasn’t gonna mess with perfection—he could usually make it in before Anderson called curfew and gave him one of those ‘You messed up again, kid’ looks. Not angry, just…disappointed.

Shepard hadn’t guessed he’d ever be one of those idiots who thought the second thing was worse, but apparently, he was, and probably always had been.

He was also one of those idiots who locked the door to his room like he thought it’d give him some privacy, then waited for somebody in particular to call him, then called that somebody when they didn’t.

It’d been going on all summer. First when Kaidan was doing that tutoring camp thing, then during his family vacation in Whistler.

Shepard hadn’t ever been there personally, but he’d seen pictures on tourist pamphlets when he was in train stations or waiting for it to stop raining in a drug store. It looked nice, the kind of place Kaidan would have fun in. Coming back tan, if he got some sun. If it wasn’t raining as much there as it had been where Shepard was.

Now and then, there was this sunset—clear above the clouds, and these orange and purple colors—and the wind smelled like actually being out on the water. So it was worth it, the same way it was worth staying up until three or four in the morning with Kaidan on the other line, most of his paycheck going to gas for the bike or keeping his phone topped up, then rolling out of bed half-dead on his feet the next morning for an all-day shift.

And it wasn’t like Shepard could fall asleep right after Kaidan hung up, anyway. He had to change his boxers and stuff the old ones in the laundry and then lie on his back for a while longer, thinking about all this Kaidan stuff.

Dark hair, soft mouth, twisty little faces that made no sense. Sometimes Shepard wanted to punch the pillow or let it all out by shouting or call Kaidan up again, wake him up, to say ‘I don’t ever stop thinking about you, not even for a second. Not even when I’m sleeping.’

Not that people could actually do that. Shepard thought about what the silence on the other end of the line would be like if he did and almost, almost laughed.

Whatever. It was good and Kaidan still wanted to talk to him—sometimes about touching himself, sometimes about nothing at all, sometimes about an episode of a show they’d watched together months ago. If Kaidan didn’t still want to kiss him when he got back from Whistler then that was whatever, too. Everything was whatever.

At least, it was without Kaidan around.

‘You look like shit, Shep,’ Donnelly said from behind the deli counter when Shepard came in.

‘Love you, too,’ Shepard replied, flipping him off and going for his apron.

He stuffed bags all day. He kept his phone in his back pocket. He waited for the buzzing texts from Kaidan that he could only check on his lunch break, which he took late because Kaidan slept late. At around two he finally ate out back, stuffing one of yesterday’s pre-made deli sandwiches into his mouth as fast as he could. He scrolled through something from Garrus about laser tag that weekend, a couple of texts about how he needed to add more minutes to his plan, and finally Kaidan telling him good morning.

Hey.

Wow, it’s late.

Gonna get some breakfast now, hope you had a good night.

Cause I had a really good night.

The first three texts came right after each other. Shepard had to wait for the hum of the fourth because it’d come about fifteen minutes later—fifteen minutes of Kaidan lying in bed, hair messy, maybe falling back asleep, or maybe thinking too much about what he should write.

Probably not. But maybe. And Shepard could picture it anyway, how curly his hair was in the morning, while he fumbled around for his glasses, a crease from the pillow on his cheek. Still tangled in the blankets, his legs poking out underneath. Bare, just wearing those blue briefs he’d been too tired to change out of, with a thick line of hair on his stomach, arching his back to stretch out from sleep…

Shepard wiped his mouth with his fingers and wiped his fingers on his jeans under his apron, then remembered to use the employee restroom to wash his hands before he went back to work.

He texted Kaidan between the restroom and the front of the store. Yeah. It was really good.

He didn’t know what else to say and he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

There was only one way to blow off steam after that.

‘Garrus,’ Shepard said, pinning him in his laser sights that night, ‘you ever want something really bad but you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and then you’re not sure if you want it after all?’

‘Never,’ Garrus replied. He managed to get Shepard on the arm before Shepard ducked; it was his own fault for letting himself get distracted but still, he was off his game.

‘Yeah,’ Shepard agreed. ‘Me neither.’

Garrus pegged him again—twice—once on the back of his knee and once on the shoulder, a killing shot. ‘That just sounds crazy to me, Shepard. …And now you’re dead, anyway. You’re bleeding out from the punctured artery and you only have seconds to live.’

The thing was, Garrus was right.

Shepard rode his bike home with sore muscles and didn’t want to miss Kaidan’s call so he’d have to shower in the morning. He was kicking off his shoes when his phone started buzzing.

‘Hey,’ Kaidan said.

‘Hey,’ Shepard replied.

He heard sheets rustling. There was no point in not picturing Kaidan naked—or in a t-shirt and briefs, spread out on his back like Shepard, the hem of his tee rolling up a little.

Christ.

‘Hey,’ Kaidan said again, then laughed that laugh. ‘Sorry. I don’t know, I’m just…not thinking, apparently. Thanks for the text.’

‘Anytime.’ Shepard plucked at the hem of his own t-shirt. His pillow wasn’t as soft as the one Kaidan had in his place, probably not as soft as whatever he had in Whistler. ‘Good day?’

‘It was all right.’ Kaidan sucked in a breath; Shepard could hear it. ‘Probably would’ve been better with you around, though.’

‘At Whistler?’ Now it was Shepard’s turn to laugh his laugh. ‘Yeah, right.’

‘It’s not like it’s fancy. My parents have a place out here and it’s usually the only time Dad gets off to spend with us, so… I mean, it’s just biking trails and some shops and views and fresh air. We rode the gondola, saw some bears…’

All stuff Shepard had seen in the brochures. He rubbed his eye with the heel of his hand, tucking his phone between his ear and his shoulder.

‘Cool,’ he said.

‘Yeah.’ Kaidan paused. ‘I guess. You would’ve liked the gondola stuff.’

Shepard would’ve; he could admit that. It wasn’t like he’d ever get to go see it, but he’d’ve liked it just fine. Sitting next to Kaidan, he’d like it even better—the kind of dumbass thinking that made his head hurt. Not the same as Kaidan’s headaches.

Nothing Shepard had was the same as Kaidan’s.

‘What about you?’ Kaidan asked, finally breaking the silence.

‘No gondolas,’ Shepard said. ‘Donnelly cut a finger on the meat slicer, so that was cool.’

‘That’s disgusting,’ Kaidan said. ‘…Is everything okay?’

‘Yeah.’ Shepard closed his eyes. ‘Except for Donnelly’s finger, I guess. And whoever got salami after that.’

Kaidan actually laughed again—sometimes he did that, at Shepard’s stupidest jokes. ‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Hey, Shepard, can your phone get pictures people send?’

‘I don’t know. I think so.’ Shepard’s eyes were open again, wide open. Instinct or impulse or just being damn turned on all the time, by everything Kaidan said when he used that voice. ‘Uh, why?’

‘I’ve got a picture to send you, that’s all,’ Kaidan said. ‘So I’m gonna do that. Look, Shepard, I— I gotta go. I hope you have another really good night.’

‘Hey,’ Shepard began, just repeating that dumb echo from before, but Kaidan had already hung up.

Shepard stared at his phone until the screen went dark. Then he stared at it some more, and nearly dropped it when it started buzzing, lighting up all at once.

One new message. It had an attachment. Shepard opened it so fast his thumb nearly went through the keypad; it didn’t make a difference because the damn thing downloaded so slowly Shepard thought he was gonna see the sun come up before he saw whatever it was Kaidan had sent him. Centimeter by centimeter, fuzzy at first, resolving into something small and crisp—because Kaidan had one of those phones with the good cameras.

Blue briefs, Shepard realized. And tight jeans, unzipped but not exactly loose, and the line of hair Shepard thought about too often right there on his stomach. The tug of denim over his thighs, not so much shadow that everything couldn’t be seen as clear as if it was a view from a gondola.

Shepard propped the phone up against his hard pillow. If it was going to be every night then he had a problem, definitely; it wasn’t just Kaidan’s body because it was the sound of his voice, the way he laughed, all the dumb shit he liked, and how he watched movies and how he’d fallen asleep in English one time, how Shepard had to save his ass by knocking over his desk and getting detention so Kaidan wouldn’t get caught. These crazy things he did and kept doing. Watching Star Wars with the lights off, letting Kaidan have most of the popcorn—not even being pissed about it.

It was good popcorn, too.

But it was also Kaidan’s body, wanting to touch it, not having it there—the distance, which Shepard needed, but which he also hated, and the sight of Kaidan’s fingers so damn close to his dick.

And maybe it was the idea that Kaidan might be doing the same thing as Shepard when they weren’t in the same place. There was no way of knowing for sure, no way of asking that Shepard knew about, and the good and bad feelings bunched up like the sheets under his chest, the t-shirt on it.

Thanks, Shepard wrote back.

He didn’t sleep for even a second that night.

*

Chapter Text

Kaidan always thought he was ready for the summer to end and school to pick up again. After enough Whistler, he was usually right. There was only so much nothing he could do before he started thinking too much about it—or, in this case, thinking too much about Shepard.

Seeing him again, after the late-night phone calls. Looking him in the eye after sending him…stuff. Picture stuff. And realizing, maybe, what Shepard thought of it beyond a quick text thanks and goodnight—or not realizing, which might’ve been worse. The uncertainty. Not being able to know if he was going too fast or not fast enough.

It was a lot easier to fall asleep when it was just him and Joker PVPing, or doing raids with Edi for hours. When the things he looked forward to were nonspecific and didn’t have blue eyes or go by their last name.

Kaidan could bite the inside of his cheek and keep his cool; he didn’t even blush that often. But when he thought about it, what it was really going to be like, while packing up his suitcase, he had to sit down and rub his palms against his knees and try to stop thinking about it.

It was gonna be what it was gonna be. He had to keep telling himself that, even if was a pretty dumb general statement, or he’d end up taking the gondola to the top of a mountain peak without ever planning on coming back.

‘Everything okay?’ Mom asked, going for the old forehead temperature check.

Kaidan was warm but not fever-warm, if only because he was not-thinking about Shepard.

He already knew he had a tendency to over-analyze things. What had him at the top of his class wasn’t what had him at the top of his game. If he even had a game.

Chances were, he didn’t.

‘Breathe that in,’ Mom said, both of them stepping through the door after way too long in the car. ‘Home at last. …You didn’t leave any food in your room, did you?’

‘Uh…’ Kaidan tried to remember. ‘…Two spoonfuls of granola, maybe?’

‘Yeah,’ Mom said. ‘We’re definitely home. You pick: unpacking first, or dealing with that granola first.’

Kaidan chose granola. He cleaned out the bowl and lugged his suitcase up the stairs and dropped it in the middle of his room; he locked the door and sat on the edge of his bed and then he fished his cell from his back pocket, staring at it.

No new messages.

He wasn’t in Whistler anymore.

Shepard knew the day he was getting back. Kaidan had told him a couple of times, though less and less as it got closer and closer. Now he was home, and it wasn’t like he was expecting Shepard to greet him at the door or anything. But a text, maybe. Something like welcome back and then it’s not gonna be weird when we’re together after you sent me pictures of your ass a couple of nights in a row.

It could be weird. It would be weird. As long as the weirdness was good and took them new places and Shepard wanted to see Kaidan again and this not-texting thing was just because he was busy instead of because he wanted to avoid something. Something like you sent me pictures of your ass a couple of nights in a row and also you can’t be friends again after that, obviously.

Kaidan shook his head. It was starting to hurt, right in the temple, and he flopped backward on the bed. He rolled onto his stomach, breathed in the smell of his sheets, and tried to relax.

It almost worked.

When his cell started to ring he had that moment of hope—before realizing it wasn’t Shepard’s ringtone.

Sucker,’ Joker said on the phone. ‘What’s up? Nothing, that’s what’s up. You need to get a gaming computer in Whistler, man. How do you even live without that?’

‘I don’t drink any Monster at four in the morning,’ Kaidan replied, rubbing his palm into his eye and bumping his glasses. ‘That’s how.’

Amateur.’ Joker snorted. ‘Hey, good to hear from you, though. I mean it. Knowing that nature didn’t finally get you. You know they’ve got bears up there? Fighting bears in real life is not like fighting Bog Lords.’

‘No kidding,’ Kaidan said.

‘Anyway, you didn’t miss that much.’ Joker paused to slurp whatever heart attack juice he’d mixed for himself at…four in the afternoon. Kaidan had no idea when—or if—Joker’d even slept the night before. ‘Just the usual stuff. A couple of special events, but obviously Whistler is more important than—’

‘I gotta unpack, Joker,’ Kaidan said.

‘If you aren’t on tonight at nine,’ Joker replied, ‘I’m going to hack your inventory and take you for all you’ve got.’

Kaidan’s eye hurt; he’d rubbed it too hard. ‘I’ll… I’ll keep that in mind. Jerk.’

‘Yeah, that’s right. I’m your daddy.’ Joker hit his whip-crack button on the computer and Kaidan wondered why it was that the people you weren’t desperate to hear something from were always the ones who called you first. ‘Missed you, man. Nobody buffs me like you do.’

‘Yeah, yeah,’ Kaidan said, and hung up.

There were no missed calls. Kaidan stared at the phone and it stared back at him. He couldn’t remember what shift Shepard had that day and when he asked Mom if she needed any groceries, she said it was fine, that she had a delivery on its way.

Shepard wasn’t carrying that delivery. It wasn’t from Thrifty’s, anyway. Kaidan ate dinner and helped Mom upload the trip photos to Facebook; he made sure to delete the ones where he looked like an idiot or a nerd, which life usually proved he was without photographic evidence, and also that he wasn’t tagged in any of the others.

‘You want to go out tonight?’ Mom asked. ‘With some of your…friends, maybe? Or are you going to reconnect by signing in as your archmage blood elf and destroying your enemies together?’

Ever since she’d read one article about World of Warcraft online, she’d been obsessed with the idea of blood elves. Not that she knew what they were, but she was obsessed anyway. Kaidan had offered to set her up with an account and everything just so she could have one of her own.

‘I don’t really know yet,’ Kaidan said, which was mostly true.

Then, he headed back up to his room, which made the real answer obvious.

He’d left his phone on the bed but the trick about watched pots never boiling was that you couldn’t be not watching them on purpose. He pretended he wasn’t going straight for the cell but again, no new messages. He checked his email and then he lost at least an hour to TVTropes but nobody was calling and so he grabbed his headset because it was almost nine.

‘Dream team, back together,’ Joker said, followed by a cheer that pierced Kaidan’s eardrum. ‘I’ve been waiting for this, brother!’

‘Archmage blood elves, destroying our enemies,’ Kaidan agreed, which made Joker go, huh? ‘Yeah, it’s…kind of a long story.’

He got into it, for a while at least, but eventually the servers went down for maintenance and Joker started talking to Edi so Kaidan shut down. Then, he checked his phone; it was midnight, and if he hadn’t called Shepard by then, Shepard called him.

Maybe he could send a text.

Back home and

In bed thinking about

Hey

You could come by if you

Hope you had a good day

Really wanna see you

Hey, Kaidan re-wrote, then stared at it for about fifteen minutes, then saved the draft and didn’t hit send. Twelve fifteen, no Katy Perry ringtone. Kaidan had the number right there in his most recent calls but he shoved his cell under his pillow instead, making a Wookiee noise, and heading in for a late shower.

It felt good, the hot water, his own bathroom, everything exactly where he’d left it, his toothbrush back in its holder. Water and shampoo got into his eyes and he rubbed his soap between his legs, and it was embarrassing but with his eyes squeezed shut he didn’t have to see anything: that he was jerking off, thinking about Shepard. Always… Always thinking about Shepard. His sharp cheeks and sharper shoulders, and how they’d stayed up the whole night together in Kaidan’s treehouse once, on their backs, talking about nothing.

Well, mostly, it was Kaidan talking and Shepard saying uh-huh a lot. That was how their Whistler phonecalls had gone too, come to think of it. So it was obvious what’d happened, that Kaidan—who over-thought everything—hadn’t been thinking enough when it counted the most.

Shepard’s throat, prickly with just a little bit of stubble. Sitting on the couch next to each other, Shepard letting Kaidan get too close. That one time Shepard had pretended to yawn just so he could put his arm around Kaidan’s shoulders. Slipping his fingers into Kaidan’s back pocket, only once when they were leaving school, but it was something Kaidan remembered in the morning, in the afternoon, at dinner and while he was eating dessert.

Kaidan had been talking to Shepard for two weeks every night, texting him every day—and he still missed him so much, who he was in person, that he couldn’t help touching himself, using the soap and the shampoo already on his hands to make things go smoother.

If he thought he’d be having trouble looking Shepard in the eye before, then he’d just made it at least twenty times worse.

He stayed too long in the shower but eventually he had to shut off the water and dry off his hair, and by the time he was done making sure he wouldn’t be falling asleep on it curly, it was after one in the morning, closer to two. Mom’d be asleep already and, probably, so would Shepard.

Kaidan checked his phone one last time, just in case. But he was right; he had his GPA where it was because being right was kind of his thing. People always talked about the pressure of that, of not knowing how to be wrong, but actually Kaidan wished he had been wrong this time.

He turned off his phone, setting it in to charge. He thought about the heat of it against his ear, how easy it was to feel comfortable when Shepard was on the line. And he thought about touching himself to Shepard’s voice, his uneven breaths, that thing they could only share, apparently, when they were miles away from each other.

It sucked. It’d been the best summer of his life and it was over.

He headed in for senior orientation the next morning and he was even a couple of minutes early, which meant Liara was there already waiting for him. She was reading something; it looked heavy enough to be one of the great Russian novels.

Finally,’ she said. ‘I was beginning to think you were hit by a car on your way here. Where’s Shepard?’

‘Like Shepard would be caught dead in this place,’ Kaidan replied. They grabbed good seats together in the front and Kaidan didn’t crane around to spot Shepard in the crowd—at least, not more than once or twice.

*

Chapter Text

Kaidan always picked up, but when Shepard called that night, it went straight to voicemail, and he wasn’t the type to leave a message after the tone.

It was too late. Shepard was too late. That’d never happened before and it wasn’t exactly the best feeling in the world. He was supposed to be fast. Hell, he had to be.

But it wasn’t his fault Donnelly had cut himself on the meat slicer—again, only worse this time—and Shepard had spent the entire night in the ER with him. No Cell Phones, the signs said.

So, there was that.

‘Shit,’ Shepard said, staring at his phone. He managed to steal an hour of sleep, tops, and missed senior orientation to show up at his last morning shift. Not like he’d be caught dead in that place anyway, but Kaidan would, and the longer they put off seeing each other again, the harder it’d be.

If it wasn’t impossible already.

Shepard rode his bike the long way home—the long way being not toward home at all or anywhere close—but it was too early to see if the light was on in Kaidan’s window or not. He met up with Garrus instead, letting it all out with a couple of rounds of paintball, and Garrus said, ‘Finally you’re shooting like you mean it. Where has this freak been all summer, Shepard?’

On the phone with Kaidan, Shepard thought.

Somewhere in Whistler, where he didn’t belong.

Flat on his back in bed listening to Kaidan touch himself; doing the same thing while staring at pictures of Kaidan’s ass.

‘Hey, Garrus—’ Shepard began.

‘No more existential questions,’ Garrus said. ‘I just want to shoot things. You, since you’re the only person here. Is that so hard to do? Because things used to be that simple.’

Yeah, Shepard admitted. They had been. Before Kaidan fell asleep with his head on Shepard’s thigh that one time and Shepard took his glasses off for him so they wouldn’t pinch the bridge of his nose. He’d done his best to keep watching the movie but every breath Kaidan took—more like every breath he released—had warmed Shepard’s skin through the denim of his jeans and after that, he hadn’t been able to look at Kaidan the same way. Not without feeling…stuff.

He knew how to name it. He just didn’t have to. It was there in the pit of his stomach always and the pictures Kaidan had sent him didn’t help, pictures Shepard couldn’t ever delete. Kaidan probably didn’t have any idea how often he opened them up to look at them, wishing they were bigger, grateful that they weren’t.

Shepard got back on track, catching Garrus right in the vest a couple of times. ‘Finally,’ Garrus said. ‘A real challenge. I thought I was going to have to go back to waiting around to join another group again.’

Shepard pictured Garrus crashing some kid’s laser tag birthday party, taking out all the under-tens first and then sniping off their older siblings. Finally, among the carnage, only one laser tagger would stand triumphant above the rest.

It made Shepard feel better. For a handful of seconds, anyway.

Shepard peeled off the sweaty vest and hopped back onto the Normandy, riding home fast in the dark. He didn’t sleep much not because Kaidan was on the other end of the line keeping him up but because he wasn’t.

Either way, Shepard knew he was screwed.

He skipped out on the first day of school—nothing ever got done then anyway, not even for seniors—and he was too busy unloading new Monday deliveries to think about the small of Kaidan’s back a few rows in front of him, the dark hair curling over his neck, whatever dumb t-shirt he was wearing, if he’d brought a sweater in case it rained. Shepard didn’t think about Kaidan outside of class, walking a little slower so Shepard could catch up with him, or the fact that he’d seen Kaidan’s ass with his briefs riding down over the curve when he looked at it in jeans across the hall, right before Kaidan realized somebody was staring at him and he turned around to catch them in the act.

Shepard knew how to shoot Garrus—at least with a laser—dead center in the vest. But for some reason, when Kaidan looked at him, Shepard always looked away.

It was dumb as hell. Shepard got to school late on the second day and slid into the back of the room and waited for Kaidan to turn around only he didn’t, and Shepard went up onto the roof to eat lunch and skip social studies and nap in the shade.

He woke up because it was raining on him.

He could see Kaidan already on his way to…whatever extracurricular activity he had that afternoon, tutoring or lessons or exam practice, or the hundred other things he was amazing at but kept having to work on anyway.

Shepard didn’t get it. He also totally got it but he didn’t have it; he wanted it but he had a closing shift at Thrifty’s to make instead of driving up alongside Kaidan, holding out that extra helmet he had for him, and saying, all casual, ‘You need a lift somewhere? I could take you.’

Kaidan met Mrs. Alenko in the parking lot, anyway, and Shepard watched them drive off together. Then he hopped on the Normandy alone, spare helmet empty, and sped through some lights to make it to work on time.

Garrus met him outside after his shift. ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Donnelly’s actually right,’ he said. ‘You look like crap, Shepard.’

‘Yeah, well,’ Shepard replied, ‘at least I’ve still got all of my fingers.’

Garrus told him he’d probably jinxed it now and Shepard knocked on the wood railing outside of the employee’s back door. They didn’t bother with paying for a late-night laser tag round, just went back to Garrus’s place, where Shepard spent the night on the floor and woke up with a lizard staring him down.

‘Zeus is hungry,’ Garrus said.

‘Maybe Zeus is gonna take my finger,’ Shepard replied.

‘Too much nail,’ Garrus said. ‘He’s very picky.’

They had instant oatmeal for breakfast. Shepard napped again on the roof of school instead of going to English and sitting behind Kaidan. He didn’t turn in homework that was due already because he’d forgotten what he’d started in the walk-in freezer—and Kaidan wasn’t waiting for him after detention like he used to junior year. On the days he didn’t stay at Garrus’s all night because it was closer to work, Shepard lay in bed like he did when Kaidan was on the phone with him. And, technically, Kaidan was still on the phone with him.

A couple of shots from the front, a couple from behind. And one of him pointing at a gondola in the background, over the view of the mountains, grinning and self-conscious and so fucking cute.

They bumped into each other in the hallway during the second week of school, but only once. ‘Hey,’ Kaidan said, then ‘sorry,’ like everything they’d done was a mistake. Shepard didn’t say anything, just yeah when Kaidan had already turned the corner.

If Shepard knew him—and he did, in all the weirdest ways and none of the ones that counted—then he was on his way to the library for self-guided study.

‘I get why you like it up here,’ Garrus told Shepard, leaning over the railing and looking down off the roof. ‘Everyone looks so small. It’s like an ant farm. …I used to have one of those, until Zeus ate them all.’

Some guys got a view from Whistler gondolas, Shepard could’ve said. But he didn’t, moving after a spot of sunlight that kept shifting and shrinking with the time of day.

‘Speaking of Zeus, I need to call the vet,’ Garrus added. ‘But I left my phone in his tank. Shepard?’

Shepard tossed him his and Garrus caught it one-handed, lips twitching in the Vakarian version of a grin that said I know I’m a badass. ‘Yeah, yeah,’ Shepard said. ‘I don’t have too many minutes left, so make it quick.’

Garrus flipped open the phone. ‘Hm.’

‘Battery doesn’t charge all the way sometimes,’ Shepard said. ‘You have to shake it so it turns on. Pop it out, give it some love, it’ll work. Eventually.’

‘Oh,’ Garrus told him, ‘it’s on already.’

Shepard got that feeling—like the air before a storm you always knew would come someday, but the when and where were the parts that took you off guard. He stepped forward; realization hit a second after Garrus’s grin changed.

‘You know, if I wasn’t your ally,’ Garrus said, ‘this would be a serious tactical error, Shepard?’

Shepard licked his lips. They were dry, but the back of his neck was sweaty. Like it wasn’t a tactical error already, or the worst mistake Shepard ever made, or something he was gonna have to talk to Kaidan about—because Garrus had seen almost as much of him now as Shepard had, and that was definitely not what he’d been thinking about when he’d sent Shepard those pictures.

Not that Shepard knew what Kaidan was thinking about. Smart stuff, way over Shepard’s head. Things he’d just…given up on trying to figure out.

‘This is unacceptable behavior, soldier,’ Garrus added. He never laughed, not exactly, but Shepard knew this was one of those situations where he was feeling like it, and he wouldn’t hold it back for a good reason, much less to spare anybody’s feelings.

‘I should— I should go.’ Shepard almost fumbled his cell when Garrus tossed it to him, catching it against his chest with his arm, already breaking into a jog.

But it wasn’t because he wanted to be alone, or because he wanted to tell Kaidan he’d accidentally let Garrus Vakarian stare at his half-naked ass—it was because he wanted to tell Kaidan he hadn’t deleted those pictures or ever thought he could delete them. That Kaidan needed to ride on his motorcycle sometime; that Shepard had saved up the whole damn summer just so he could take Kaidan home instead of his mom.

And then get him alone in his room. They could lie back to back if they wanted, pretending they were on the phone, getting each other off the way they used to.

Only Shepard knew there was no way he wouldn’t be able to look. If he couldn’t stop staring at the picture of Kaidan…

Then he was an idiot for not looking at the real thing.

He knew the way to the Alenkos’ by heart already; he wasn’t used to riding over there but he could get used to it. He could get used to a lot of things, maybe, but the one thing he couldn’t get used to was the idea of not kissing Kaidan again.

There was sweat under his collar by the time he pulled up on the right block—always a few houses away and always sneaking in around the back.

So maybe this newfound resolve, as close to panic as Shepard ever got, wasn’t there yet. Not all the way. But there was one thing he did know how to do and wouldn’t ever forget: climbing the tree behind the Alenkos’ house so he could drop in on Kaidan’s balcony.

That was just… PE class. Muscle memory. One hand over the other, hauling himself up until he could find a place steady enough to let him stay.

He landed on the balcony with one foot caught on the railing and almost skidded right into the door. That was one way of knocking—with his big thick head. It’d be even worse if Kaidan was still tutoring some seventh graders or out shopping with his mom or whatever it was he did—like doing his homework with somebody else, falling asleep with his mouth too close to that somebody’s knee.

And—of course—it’d started to rain.

Shepard didn’t mind getting dirty or getting wet. He was about to knock on the glass when Kaidan pulled back the curtain and slid the door open.

‘Shepard?’ he said.

He honestly sounded like he was surprised.

Shepard was too glad to see him—up close, not something they had to apologize for or even something that Shepard could explain—to tell him it was obvious, that Shepard was always going to come back someday. It might take him a while, yeah, but he could be slow like that, even when he was speeding through a red light on an ancient motorcycle. ‘Welcome home,’ he said, stupidly, that thing he should’ve told Kaidan over two weeks ago, when it would’ve counted for more.

‘Thanks,’ Kaidan replied.

He was wearing a t-shirt that said Han shot first on it but Shepard couldn’t ask if that meant Kaidan had been thinking about him all this time or if it was just the first thing he’d grabbed off a pile of fresh laundry.

That was the thing about Han Solo. He did shoot first. He didn’t wait to see if Greedo was going to start things off because he couldn’t afford to take the chance of not being ready for it when it came.

Shepard grabbed Kaidan by the front of that t-shirt, right over his stomach, and Kaidan’s lips parted before Shepard leaned in. He was moving fast, too fast to make up for all the slow, knocking them both off balance and into the glass door.

Kaidan didn’t say whoa, Shepard, hold on or put his palms on Shepard’s chest to get any distance between them the way Shepard was almost expecting. There was tongue in Shepard’s mouth almost right away, teeth pulling on his bottom lip, hands on either side of his face to keep him from going anywhere else other than in, in, in.

Shepard was wrinkling the t-shirt—which smelled all nice and clean like detergent and Kaidan’s bedroom and Kaidan—but running his hands up and down Kaidan’s chest, it didn’t matter, not any of it. Not the rain Shepard was bracing himself against so Kaidan wouldn’t be the one getting wet; not the way it was sprinkled all over his glasses, eyes still open through the spray.

It was so obvious that Kaidan had to know everything. His eyes were wide open even when Shepard’s fell shut, and the glass door rolled away behind them, soaked t-shirt clinging to Shepard’s back.

The storm’d be over as quick as it started, and Shepard was getting wet footprints on the floor of Kaidan’s bedroom.

But he stumbled inside anyway.

*

Chapter Text

Kaidan always thought about good surprises as something that didn’t really happen, or at least not to him.

It sucked that he was that guy—the one who thought this has to be a joke instead of this has to be what I was waiting for. Or that he forgot there’d been weeks between the time Shepard was supposed to kiss him and when he finally did. If he was pissed about it later, frustrated that he’d let it drop so easily, then…that was on him.

He didn’t ask. So whatever he got was his answer.

Or Shepard’s answer. Shepard’s hands on Kaidan’s hips, Shepard’s wet t-shirt clinging to his skin. He had no idea how to take care of himself, how to ring the front bell like a normal person, but obviously ‘normal’ had never been something Kaidan could expect to earn. After the eighth grade, he’d started to realize that, maybe, it wasn’t what he wanted anyway.

Kaidan’s ass hit the corner of his desk and Shepard mumbled something that might’ve been an apology—not just for Kaidan’s ass hitting the desk, either. It could’ve been more, if Kaidan wanted to believe that. He heard something fall over, an empty mug of hot chocolate he’d made after school, then the Whistler gift-shop glass that held his pens and stuff.  

Messy was good. Terrifying when you needed to know how it’d all get cleaned up, but it was so, so great while you held onto it.

Shepard reached around Kaidan to set the mug upright, the inside of his forearm bumping Kaidan’s hip, his lips close to Kaidan’s cheek. Kaidan could almost taste every breath he took and that had to be better than lying in bed thinking about every breath he took.

It had to be.

Shepard didn’t pull back right away but they weren’t kissing anymore, either. Kaidan held still, all that momentum they’d built up slowing, until Shepard rested his knuckles at the small of Kaidan’s back—right above the edge of the desk, and Kaidan’s ass against it.

Kaidan stepped away from the desk. That brought him closer to Shepard but it gave Shepard the room he needed to rub a little lower, a part of Kaidan’s body he only knew about because of pictures he’d taken for Shepard in the first place, pictures he hadn’t been able to look too long at after.

Shepard’s fingertips brushed the curve of Kaidan’s ass under his jeans, where skin met elastic, and Kaidan fumbled in the front with his fly, sliding the button out of its hole. Now there was more room, anyway, if Shepard wanted to slip his fingers down past the first knuckle. He did; the zipper stuttered as the push of Shepard’s hand forced it down from behind, just a few shaky notches, but it was enough to make Kaidan hard against Shepard’s thigh.

It was one thing to do it with a vacation’s drive between them. To listen for the cues and to picture what Shepard’s hands were doing—if that’d be different or the same when, if they were doing it to Kaidan.

‘You have a really nice ass,’ Shepard said.

‘Thanks,’ Kaidan replied.

They almost sounded calm, until Shepard swallowed, and Kaidan felt the gulp with his cheek, pressed into Shepard’s throat. Kaidan knew that if he’d said something a second later, his voice probably would’ve cracked.

‘C’mon,’ he added. He didn’t want Shepard to move away but he’d been waiting, basically all summer or at least since the late-night calls started, to do something about this.

It was easier to let things keep going in separate beds, shifting around to find a comfortable position that lined up with the best reception. Not worrying about the shape another body made against yours, just thinking about it until you came into your own hand. And then, to fall asleep after saying goodnight, Shepard mumbling ‘uh-huh’ one last time.

‘Uh-huh,’ Shepard said, and Kaidan bumped their knees together, walking him backwards to the bed. Shepard didn’t let go of him and Kaidan could feel how rough his fingers were. Climbing trees instead of ringing doorbells would do that for you. ‘…Wanted you to see my bike, at least. Think you’ll like it. I won’t even blow too many lights if you’re on the back.’

Kaidan kissed the corner of his mouth, bumping knees with him again. Shepard went down on the mattress, hard enough that the frame creaked, and Kaidan thought about how easy it’d be to kneel over him, do all these things on instinct instead of looking them up first—just to make sure he knew what he was doing beyond whatever weird stuff Joker sent him and whatever he’d already looked up, less for research and more for…personal understanding.

It felt like a different guy who’d done all of that. It felt like something that’d happened years ago, instead of at the beginning of summer. Shepard stared up at him, cheeks pink, still kind of wet on Kaidan’s bed. And Kaidan dropped in next to him, tucking an arm somewhere between his chest and his stomach, which narrowed every time Shepard breathed out.

‘Just, uh…’ Kaidan’s voice cracked—it’d only been a matter of time before it did—but it got hidden by Shepard’s shoulder, Kaidan’s lips drawn over the wrinkled sleeve of his t-shirt. ‘Hey. Roll over.’

Shepard almost laughed, like he was planning on saying something funny, but Kaidan had to rethink that interpretation when he did exactly what Kaidan wanted: shifting onto his side with his back to Kaidan, so that Kaidan could curl up around him, knees bumping knees again.

Sort of.

Kaidan settled his arm over Shepard’s and Shepard pressed into him, up against his chest—up against his hips. Kaidan’s fly was still open and Shepard’s body was hard on his, his chest jumpy, every breath uneven. Kaidan thought about how he was the one doing that to him, the same excitement and even fear he’d felt on the phone trying and failing to explain everything.

That the only way this could end was with somebody screwing up. That the only thing Kaidan was good at when it came to wanting to kiss people was scaring them away and making things awkward forever after that.

But they’d screwed this up already—and now Kaidan’s mouth was on Shepard’s throat, his fingers splayed over his stomach, both of them moving their hands together between Shepard’s legs.

Shepard was hard there, too. Kaidan ran his thumb over the actual bulge, zipper and denim dragging on cotton boxers.

There was still something between them, time or mess-ups or missed opportunities or how they honestly didn’t know everything about each other yet. Kaidan kissed Shepard’s neck until he started to shiver—not just because he was soaked—and when his teeth scraped the vein, Shepard groaned.

‘I’m gonna…’ Kaidan swallowed. ‘I’m gonna pretend like you’re on the phone, like we used to— Like I’m the only one here.’

He had to close his eyes for that, even if he didn’t want to. Shepard rocked his hips once with a yeah that might’ve been nothing more than a sigh of agreement and Kaidan pushed his hand down Shepard’s pants, opening the fly as he went, rubbing his dick through his boxers.

‘This…’ Kaidan’s throat was tight and dry, the rest of him actually pretty wet. He had the Vancouver rain to thank for that, the heat in his body and the central air and mostly Shepard keeping him warm while the skin on his arms prickled. ‘It’s what I like, anyway. The stuff I did when you were on the other line,’ Kaidan added, muffling his words in Shepard’s shoulder blade. It was sharp, shifting when Shepard rolled his hips forward, and Kaidan couldn’t pretend this was just like touching himself. ‘The stuff I wanted you to...do for me.’

The shape, the distance, how close they were… That was real. Shepard was real—Kaidan knew that because he did dumb things and made Kaidan do dumb things and none of this was how it was supposed to go, and all of it felt incredible anyway. He worked his hand over Shepard’s erection, actually holding it, only a thin layer of damp cotton between his palm and Shepard’s skin.

A little distance, just the right amount, wasn’t a bad thing.

Shepard’s balls were heavy and Kaidan rolled them with his palm when Shepard rolled his hips.

‘You—’ Shepard had to muffle the crack in his voice in Kaidan’s pillow. ‘—do this when you’re…?’

‘Yeah,’ Kaidan said. He didn’t recognize how he sounded, deep and rough but not sleepy, not at all.

‘Yeah,’ Shepard repeated.

Kaidan wanted him to make that sound again and he went after it, going for the balls a second time, then traveling up to the head, pushing into the slit with his thumb. Maybe they didn’t always like the same things best—Shepard was all about Star Wars, Kaidan all about Star Trek—but they could always appreciate those favorite things, and Shepard said yeah, fingers wrapping around Kaidan’s.

They found the right pace together. Kaidan ground into the small of Shepard’s back, his dick caught between their bodies, friction from the belt loops on his jeans. And Shepard’s hand was only strong the tighter it held on; every time his grip slipped and he knocked into Kaidan’s fingers, Kaidan realized it was shaking.

Yeah, he said, or mouthed, or thought, all part of the same thing. Shepard was gonna come, half in his boxers and half in Kaidan’s hand, and he almost pulled the boxers down until he realized getting messy like that meant Shepard would have to stay. A little while longer, Kaidan tossing the boxers in the laundry, while Shepard wore a pair of his with his jeans off and his socks still on and his t-shirt drying over the back of Kaidan’s desk chair.

Kaidan’s knuckles brushed against some hair, a lot softer than Kaidan’s was under his navel and between his hips. He hooked his thumb in the elastic and Shepard’s fingers tightened around his again, so tight Kaidan almost felt it. Then, he felt Shepard come, recognizing the way his breath quickened before it stopped, a few long seconds until it started back up again.

Nobody’d believe Kaidan if he told them he came too, a little after that, in the bare small of Shepard’s back, where his t-shirt was riding up from all the movement.

‘Whoa,’ Shepard said.

‘I know,’ Kaidan replied. ‘Better than… Better than hyperspeed.’

He had to press the embarrassed laugh that almost came out against Shepard’s shoulder to keep it quiet but Shepard didn’t even seem to hear him. He ran his thumb over Kaidan’s knuckles and Kaidan realized he was still holding on, that he didn’t want to let go yet but he probably needed to.

‘Thanks,’ Kaidan said again, then cringed. ‘I mean, that was…good. Maybe we could even do it again sometime.’

When Kaidan loosened his grip, Shepard’s hand came away with his; when Kaidan rolled over onto his back Shepard moved after him. His fingers tangled in Kaidan’s and rested on his stomach, somewhere right under his ribs, a touch spread wide open.

Kaidan couldn’t see his face.

Just like being on the phone, he thought.

‘So,’ Shepard said. ‘…What are you wearing right now?’

Kaidan laughed, burying his eyes under his elbow, until he felt nothing but the warmth from Shepard’s mouth in a simple o on his chest.

They were okay for now. Kaidan always wanted that. 

END (Part I)