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The Fault with our Stars

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Saturdays were always lazy do-nothing days in the Shepard-Alenko home: Shepard didn’t have to be at boring Council meetings, and Kaidan didn’t have much to do around the house. Their brood were probably all still in their beds, dreaming their innocent dreams. Or, as Kaidan had the misfortune of finding out, some not so innocent dreams.

 

Soft music began to filter in through the wall accompanied by the sound of running water. Shortly after, everyone was treated to the sound of the second-oldest Shepard-Alenko’s singing.

 

“Where do you think he picked that up?” Shepard mumbled. He pulled his husband in closer, enjoying when Kaidan began kissing the curve of his neck.

 

Kaidan just chuckled, nuzzling Shepard’s neck. “I honestly don’t know,” He said with a smile, “Danny’s always loved music, even when he was in diapers.”

 

They both listened as the water shut off, followed by the door to the bathroom squeaking open. They chuckled when they heard soft, comical yelps mixed with “it’s cold! It’s cold! It’s cold!” before the last door down the hall opened and closed.

 

“He must be getting ready to see Matthew.”

 

Shepard gave a noncommittal grunt.

 

Kaidan sighed. “Shepard-”

 

“He’s 21, Kaidan!” He snapped, pulling away from his husband. “Danny’s a few months shy of 18 and still in high school, for Spirits’ sake!”

 

So much for a peaceful morning. Thought the former Spectre.

 

Matthew and Daniel had met when Matthew was a Senior in high school. Much like their own relationship aboard the SR-1, they decided to keep their relationship purely platonic. They remained in contact with each other even when Matthew went to college. It was only recently, once Daniel had turned 17 the year before, that they changed the nature of their relationship. Shepard had never approved of the relationship, especially after he caught both boys making out in the kitchen.

 

Kaidan didn’t approve either, but he knew there was no stopping their eldest son. He was an odd mix of both his and Shepard’s personalities, which often made it very difficult to argue against him. He could charm the pants off a hanar one second, but then bust someone’s nose wide open the next. All he had asked of both of them was that they try to keep things out of the bedroom, at least until Daniel was of age.

 

A knock came from the door. “Dad? Pop? You guys descent?” It was Daniel. The poor boy had learned the hard way to always knock after a rather embarrassing moment a few months back.

 

“What’s up, Danny?” Kaidan sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He was thankful that the cold December nights meant that Shepard and himself went to bed in t-shirts and sweats.

 

The door opened slowly, and in stepped their son. Daniel’s hair was still damp, but it was already settling into it’s natural left sweep. He had raven black hair, much like Kaidan. And just like his father, he was also a biotic. John or Kaidan would sometimes catch him playing with his younger siblings, lifting them only inches off the ground, or using his abilities to do chores around the house. Like his siblings, he had a unique quirk: He had complete heterochromia: His right eye was a bright, pale emerald, and his left was hazel, with a green star-shaped pattern in it. He also wore glasses, black, that were actually quite fashionable. Though he was active boy, he still had some chubbiness about him.

 

“Hey, I was just letting you guys know that Matt and i are going into town on a breakfast date,” He said with a cheery smile. “Probably won’t be home for lunch, either, but I’ll message you guys if I’m running late, okay?” As if on queue, the doorbell rang.

 

Daniel’s eyes light up, and the smile he threw his fathers’ nearly blinded them. “Oh! That must be him!” He turned, calling out of his shoulder as he ran own the hall. “Love you guys! See ya later!”

 

Seconds later, they heard him squeal at the front door, before it closed quickly.

 

Shepard sighed and hung his head. Kaidan chuckled next to him, rubbing his husband’s back.

 

“At least he’s happy.” That got him another groan in response.

 

================================================

 

The early morning dawn bathed the city of Vancouver in warm, golden light. So early on a Saturday morning, there were hardly any cars on the streets. Small businesses here and there were opening up, primarily breakfast places.

 

Danny sighed happily, pressing his smaller body against Matthew’s larger frame. He’d never known what freedom felt like until he experienced his first ride on his boyfriend’s motorcycle. He loved feeling the wind whip around them. Loved the feeling of the vibrations coursing through his body. He felt like he was riding on some sort of wild, untamed magical beast. It always felt so exhilarating and amazing! Plus, it gave the young man the opportunity to grope his partner.

 

He felt more than heard Matt’s laugh. “Stop that!!” He laughed over the sound of the wind, his rich baritone doing wonderful things to his heart. “You’ll make me lose control of the bike, little bear!”

 

Neither knew who called who what when, but they did remember that it was over astronomy, one of their shared favorite subjects. But, it was safe to say, that one day, Danny called Matt ‘Big Bear,,” so, naturally, Matt started calling Danny “little Bear.”

 

Danny laughed himself, snuggling closer to his boyfriend. “Where are we going?” He called out.

 

“We’re almost there! Just a couple more blocks!”

 

5 minutes later, Matt was pulling his motorcycle up to a small diner called Sunny’s Breakfast Basket! that had just recently opened up. They were were able to find a spot out in front, Daniel happily hopping off. He took his helmet off and handed it to his much taller boyfriend so he could store them the side saddle bag.

 

“Thought we’d try some place new, since I know you like that kind of thing?” The big young man grinned.

 

Daniel and Matthew always made for the odd couple; Daniel, 5 feet, 7 inches, and Matthew, former captain of their high school wrestling and football teams, stood 6 feet, 8 inches, and as wide as barn. Even at his age, he gave James Vega a run for his money when it came to muscular bulk. Of Scottish descent, he had curly red hair, freckles, and dark green eyes.

 

“You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to woo me,” Danny said, sly smile making Matthew flush a bit.

 

Matthew coughed, trying to recover his smooth demeanor. “And if I am?” Fuck! That smile!

 

“Well,” Daniel batted his eyelashes at him, “You’ll just have to wait and see if it works.”

 

I’m so fucked.

 

================================================

 

The sounds of their laughter had plenty of people smiling as they enjoyed their own meals. Daniel and Matthew eat their meals, happily chatting and just generally enjoying each other's company. After having their meal, they hopped onto Matthew’s bike, and went to one of the many malls that dotted the area. They spent some time there, window shipping, doing some last minute holiday shopping as well. For a few minutes Matthew had disappeared, but Daniel just assumed he had gone to the bathroom.

 

When Matthew reappeared, Daniel was enjoying some ice cream, and had offered to buy some for his boyfriend. Matthew politely declined, and instead suggested they take a trip out to the local ice skating rink. The way Daniel’s eyes lit up and glittered made it worth the pain Matthew would later experience when he’d lose his footing on the ice. Daniel did his best to not laugh at him, but it was almost impossible for the young man, especially considering that he was a rather proficient skater.

 

After a few more rounds of skating, Matthew surprised Daniel with a sleigh ride around the large park. The bundled up together underneath the blanket the driver provided them. They were both surprised, though, when the kindly old man also brought out a large thermos of hot chocolate, handing it back to them to share.

 

“This is one of the best days we’ve ever hand, hun,” Daniel yawned sleepily, snuggling close to his boyfriend.

 

Matthew didn’t immediately respond.

 

Worried, Daniel looked up, noticing that Matthew’s brow was furrowed, and he wasn’t looking at Daniel, but at the floor.

 

“Matt?” He nudged him in the side. “Big Bear? What’s wrong?”

 

After a long moment, Matthew let out a slow breath, seeming to collect himself. “Danny, there’s something I need to tell you.”

 

“What is it?” He tried to hide his fear, but he could never lie to this man. He knew that it was probably showing in his eyes.

 

He closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. “You know I love you, right? And that I’d do anything for you.”

 

The other young man could only nod, desperately trying to keep his emotions under control.

 

Taking another deep breath, Matthew reached out and took Daniel’s hands in his own. “I want to be able to provide for you after you graduate high school; Whether that means you go off to college, or you want to do something else.”

 

“So... I decided to join the Alliance.”

 

========================================

 

“It’s almost 10, where is he?” Shepard was pacing in the living room. He would check his chrono on his omni, and then peer at the door before resuming his pacing.

 

“John, relax.” Having had enough, Kaidan stood up from the couch and wrapped his arms around the worried Counsilor's middle.

 

“They’re probably wrapped up in themselves, seeing as how it’s winter break.” Kaidan tried to sooth Shepard, but he knew how stubborn the man could be. Shepard was about to protest, when they saw the door open slowly, followed by a teary eyed Daniel.

 

“Danny?” Shepard’s anger quickly evaporated as he rushed to his son.

 

“What happened? What’s the matter?” He pulled his son close, hugging him tightly before taking a good look at him. “Did that bastard hurt you?” He growled, eyes flashing, “If he did, so help me, I’ll rip him apart!”

 

Daniel shook his head, sniffling. He tried to wipe his eyes, but more tears kept coming.

 

Kaidan stepped forward and took him out of John’s grasp. Wordlessly, he lead their eldest son into the living room. They sat down on the couch, and Kaidan pulled him close. Daniel took the hint and started crying openly.

 

“What happened?” He asked, rubbing his son’s back.

 

“Matt... Matt wants.. Is.. he’s joining the Alliance.” He cried, burying his face against his father’s neck.

 

John and Kaidan looked up and caught each other’s eye, their hearts clenching in their chests. John walked over to his husband and son and sat on Daniel’s opposite side.

 

“Is.. Is he breaking up with you?” Again, their son shook his head,

 

“No.. He.. He wants to join to.. So that he can.., provide for us... for me...” He sobbed, clutching his father’s shirt. “I don’t want him to do it!” He cried, his voice becoming hoarse. “But.. But he already did.. Today when we were out...”

 

“Oh Spirits, Danny,” Kaidan sighed, holding his son tight as he cried his heart out. He looked over at his husband, he could see he was having an internal struggle like himself.

 

On the one hand, they were both proud that this man, the man that they worried would take advantage of their son, was actually making plans for the future. A future he obviously saw Danny there with him, the both of them together.

 

On the other hand, though...

 

Shepard got up off the couch and went into the kitchen. He set a tea kettle to boil, pulling out the special tea blend they used to help ease Danny’s anxiety.

 

When they had adopted him, he came from an ex-Alliance couple. The war had left deep, irreparable damage on the young pair. His biological father had committed suicide after attempting to murder his wife in an a psychotic mental break. Thankfully, she had survived, and the unborn Danny had had no signs of trauma. But once he was born, she developed post-partum depression. She almost killed the newborn, but she had been stopped in the nick of time. They later found her, dead, having hung herself with sheets she had used as a noose.

 

Amongst themselves, they speculated that all of this left a deep, traumatic scar in the newborn. It would explain why he had such a deep aversion to anything that had to do with the military. Unfortunately, they found out about his fears only after they began to tell the kids some of their war stories.

 

Shaking his head, John walked back with a steaming mug of tea. He added some honey, making it just how his son would like it.

 

“Here, big guy.” He said quietly. Daniel’s sobs had turned into quite hiccoughs.

 

With shaking hands, Daniel reached out and gently took the cup. He quietly took a few sips, but didn’t pull away from Kaidan.

 

Both men sat with their son in the middle, offering their quiet support to the young teen. They couldn't guess what thoughts were chasing around in his head, but they weren’t going to push him. When he was ready to talk, they would listen to him.

 

“He’s leaving after I graduate...”

 

Both Shepard and Kaidan looked over at their son. Daniel was leaning forward in his seat, staring into the hug of tea.

 

“What was that?” John asked.

 

Daniel sighed, taking another long draft of his tea. ‘Matt..He postponed his deployment to basic, til after I graduate.. He wants to be here for me. Tried to tell him that it was okay if he left after my birthday... But..”

 

“He loves you.”

 

Kaidan and Daniel both looked over at Shepard, eyes wide with disbelief.

 

John started to squirm under their gaze, and quickly got up, keeping his back to them. “He loves you, and he wants to be there for you for your biggest moments right now.” He said, not looking back

 

“I... I can respect that.”

 

A soft smile crept across Kaidan’s face as fresh tears started brimming in Daniel’s eyes.

 

The young man didn’t say anything and got up and hugs his father. “Thanks dad.” He choked out.

 

The things I do for my kids... Shepard mentally grumbled, patting his son on the arm.

 

==============================================

 

Time seemed to accelerate after that fateful night.

 

Before anyone knew it, the holidays were upon them. When not at work, Daniel and Matthew could be found together. They hardly spent a moment apart most days. He would get teased by his sisters and brothers, the oldest, Mercy, a female krogan, and his younger sisters, Ashe, who was human like him, and Inanna, who was asari. The twin sularians, Romulus and Remus, would tease him in the way only brothers ever did.

 

Since Matthew was spending so much time at the Shepard-Alenko residence, he got to know them all pretty well. Kaidan in particular took a shine to the young man, seeing some of his husband in him. Matthew also went out of his way to spend time with the other ‘Shenko’ children. Much like with Shepard, Mercy didn’t like Matthew much. She would sneer and growl at him, not afraid to hide her dislike of him.  Daniel was going to stand up to his sister on his boyfriend’s behalf, but everyone was stunned when the other young man walked right up to the female krogan, and with all the strength he could muster, smashed his forehead against hers. She stumbled back, stunned beyond belief. With a snarl, she rushed him, returning the favor. But Matthew did not buckle. He stood there, grinning as blood dripped from his nose and forehead.

 

“Your boy’s got some good quads, little brother.” She said with a grin. And thus a disaster had been averted.

 

The other girls and the twins were easier to win over. They’d take them out for fun, or spent time at home just geeking out. Occasionally, they’d fall into some sort of experiment with the twins, which would go one of two ways. Daniel always made sure that they didn’t go the bad way. As for the girls, they’d take them out shopping, or let them do girly things to Matt. He had an old sister, so he knew how to play to their likes.

 

Matthew would also try and spend some time with Kaidan, helping him with what he could around the house. Kaidan was no fool. He knew perfectly well that he was try to get on his good side, trying to get at least one of the two men on his side. He knew that the young man still struggled to get Shepard to say more than two words or grunts to him, and it did irritate Kaidan. He could see Matt trying so hard to get Shepard to like him, but every rebuff would send the young man into Danny’s room.

 

And it was on one such occasion like that, a few days before Christmas, that Danny had had enough.

 

Once again, Matthew tried to help Shepard with something, but once again the man brushed him off. Like a kicked puppy, Matthew apologized for disturbing him, and with his tail between his legs, went upstairs into Danny’s room. Kaidan had had enough, and he was about to tear into his husband, when they both turned to the sound of thundering footsteps coming down the stairs.

 

“What the ACTUAL FUCK dad!?” Daniel yelled as he rounded the bottom of the stairs, marching right up to Shepard.

 

John was so surprised by Daniel’s wrath, that he couldn’t even find the words or anger to correct his son. Kaidan had never seen his son so worked up before. He didn’t think anyone ever did, really. He was slow to anger, and even slower to actually act on it. But right now, his oldest son was so angry that his biotics were crackling around him, wreathing his body in an almost ethereal blue flame.

 

“What’s your problem with Matt, huh?” Their son demanded, stepping up closer to his father. “All he wants is for you to like him-” Because he respects you , -”to treat him like a person!” Because he wants to be like you! His voice rose higher, and with it his biotics flared up, brighter than either parent had ever seen their son mannifest.

 

“I thought we’d work things out, dad! I thought you were finally able to accept that I love him! That he loves me!” Tears that would have normally fallen down across his cheeks were lifted and carried up to float around him thanks to his biotics.

 

“Danny, I-” Shepard tried, but their son was on a role, and he would not be stopped.

 

“We’re scared, dad! Don’t you get that!?” He pointed an accusatory finger at his father. “We’re trying to make as many happy memories as we can before he ships out!” Because he may not come back. He yelled, his biotics starting to lash out.

 

“I’m scared I’m going to lose him like pop lost you!” He yelled, and a biotic surge washed over the room, knocking some things off their places and making both men stumble.

 

He dropped to the floor, crying as his biotics began to subside, flickering out as the poor boy held his face in his hands as he sobbed. From the stairs, Mercy, Inanna, Ashe, Rom and Remus were looking down at the scene in the living room, eyes wide. Behind him, Matt poked his head out, and when he saw Daniel crying, pushed past them and ran to him. He dropped to his knees and held his boyfriend, rocking him gently.

 

“Why can’t you understand...?” He sobbed quietly, clutching at Matthew’s shirt.

 

For the first time in his life, John Shepard, former Commander in the Alliance Navy, Savior of the Galaxy, Human Counsilor, was at a loss for words.

 

More than anything, Daniel’s words had struck him harder than the biotic surge ever could. He felt like someone had just jammed a knife into his heat, and for good measure gave it a good, hard twist.

 

“I’m scared of losing him like pop lost you!”

 

He didn’t want that for his son. He didn’t want him to go through that same pain. That pain that nearly broke Kaidan, and nearly drove them apart. He didn’t want his eldest son to ever experience that sort of pain. Nor any of his children.

 

But the heart wants, what the heart wants.

 

If he hadn’t listened to his. If Kaidan hadn’t listened to his... He shuddered to think what kind of world they’d be living in.

 

“Danny,” His voice was rough, choked up with emotion, “I’m sorry...” He ran a hand through his short hair, sighing in frustration, “I’m just... worried... scared... I don’t want you to go through that... What you father and I went through..”

 

“But it’s my choice, dad.” He pulled away from Matthew, and eyes burning with so much conviction. He knew the risks. He knew the score: The trials of loving a Navy man. There was fear there. Uncertainty...Hurt. Hope. Longing. Understanding. But also love.

 

So much love for the man that was holding him. So much love for both of his fathers.

 

Shepard walked over to the kneeling couple, his eyes prickling with unshed tears. Both Shepard and Daniel held their gaze for what seemed like seconds, until finally something passed through them.

 

Trust. Understanding.

 

“Love each other like it’s the last day, all right?” He said softly. Kaidan came up behind him. Shepard took his hand, squeezing it tightly.

 

“You have our blessing.” Kaidan said softly. “We just want you to be happy, come hell or high water.”

 

Both young men leapt to their feet and hug both men, Daniel dissolving into another round of fresh tears. Whooping and hollering, Daniel’s brothers and sisters came barreling down the stairs. Hugs were exchanged, congratulations were bandied about -”Hey! It’s not like their getting married or anything!” Shepard had protested, but he couldn’t stop the smile that stretched his face nearly in two - and an all around sense of happiness fell on them all.

 

“Hey, who’s hungry!” Kaidan cut in. He was nearly deafened by the uproar of “WE ARE!”

 

“Alright then!” He clapped his hands, going into Cooking Dad Mode, “Well, let’s set the table, and let's get cooking!” That errand him another uproar of approval.

 

“Heh, the things I do for family.”

 

===================================================

 

“Merry Christmas!!”

 

Daniel ran through the living room and hugged his Aunt Tali and Uncle Garrus. “Oh! I’m glad you guys made it!”

 

“Danny! My little bro-cousin!” He let go of his aunt and uncle and gave his favorite cousin in the whole wide galaxy, Marcus a hug.

 

“I think your dad would have a stroke if we ever missed a Shepard-Alenko Christmas,” Chuckled the tall turian.

 

“Damn straight!” Came the reply from the kitchen.

 

Daniel laughed, helping his uncle and aunt with their coats. “Where’s Mitra? I thought she said she was coming.” He was asking about their first born, Marcus’ older sister Mitra, who turned out to be more quarian than Marcus, who came out more turian.

 

“Oh, she won’t be able to make it, I’m afraid,” Tali walked into the living room where all of the other guests were already mingling. “A last minute problem came up Citadel, and C-Sec needed their new boss there to handle it.”

 

“Like father like daughter,” Garrus chuckled.

 

Daniel nodded in understanding, never losing his smile. “Well, that’s a shame.” He pointed to the bar across the room. “Drinks are right over there. There’s a couple of different snacks here and there: Blue lids and tabs are all dextro-friendly.” He called to his family.

 

They thanked him and went to mingle with the rest of the guests.

 

“Glad dad and pop decided to move into grandma and grandpa’s house instead of staying in that apartment on the Citadel.” He grinned, diving into playing with the rest of his cousins.

 

Originally, when it was only Mercy, himself, Ashe, and the twins, they had lived in the apartment of the late Admiral David Anderson, his middle name’s name sake. They lived comfortably for several years, but when they started to grow older, the girls couldn’t share room, nor could the boys for very long. And then when Inanna came along, they realized that they had no room. As much as their fathers hated to leave the place, both for sentimental and practical, job-related reasons, they ultimately decided to move to what had been their summer home, the famed Alenko Family Orchard.

 

The children instantly fell in love with it, running wild amongst the trees, exploring every building, tree, and little stream they could find.

 

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games.

 

It took them a little over a year to finish, but it was brought up to code, and an extension had been added to the original house to fully accommodate them all, including an office each for Kaidan and John, a gym, and two guest rooms. Daniel, Mercy, Ashe, Inanna, and the twins each had their own room. Wrex, the unofficial 7th Shepard-Alenko child, would often stay with them when he was planet side, and not off helping Wrex quell a budding uprising.

 

=================================================

 

The festivities were in full swing by the time sun went down. The sounds of laughter and merriment floated out from the backyard and out of the house. The teens were off having a snowball fight amongst the orchard while the little ones were content to be held or building snowmen. The adults were all gathered together, remembering old times, and catching up in general.

 

When it was time to eat, they sat at the long table that had been set up in the backyard, heat lamps and a canopy keeping the snow at bay. The larger of two tables set up was for the adults, while a shorter one was for the older teens. There was as a small round table for the children which had been set up between the two other tables, helping keep an eye on their youngest members. At the teen table, Matthew and Daniel sat together, their legs touching underneath.

 

Of course, the cousins all piled questions onto the pair. The male cousins drilled poor Matthew, since they saw Daniel as a little brother - “Hey! I’m as old, if not older than some of you here!” - and felt protective of him. Mercy was the oldest of all the cousins, so she was the unofficial leader of their group, and had more than her fair share of questions. Daniel made a it a point to establish that she’d already given him the third degree, along with the rest of their siblings.

 

The night progressed into dessert and drinks. The tables were removed and chairs were brought out. The canopy had been dropped, and they were able to build a large bonfire. Several of the adult couples paired off with their partner and chatted with the others. The kids went off to tuck the littles ones into sleeping bags that had been laid out in the living room, but Matthew and Daniel found a quiet corner in the backyard and snuggled together.

 

Daniel was starting to nod off when Matthew got up. “Hmm? What’s wrong, big bear?” He asked, wiping his eyes.

 

He looked at his boyfriend, who seemed nervous, but also extremely excited about something. Grinning, he just walked over to the bonfire.

 

Coughing to clear his throat and get everyone’s attention. “Um, sorry to interrupt, but, there’s something I have to say.” All eyes turned to him, and then quickly back to Daniel and back again.

 

Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, before fixing his gaze on Daniel.

 

“When I first met you, all I saw was a dorky, quite kid, trying to his way in life, and trying to get out from the shadows of his father and older sister.” This drew a soft chuckle as most turned to look at Kaidan and Mercy.

 

“I kept my distance, just content to watch from afar. There were a couple of times when our paths crossed: During sports rallies, or, music festivals, or just singing down the halls, making your friends laugh.” He sighed softly, “Every time I hear you sing, it just my day that much brighter.”

 

A somber look came across his face, “But I knew, that what I felt for you, back then, would get us nowhere. So I kept my distance.”

 

“I went off to college, and I thought I’d never see you again. That what I had felt for you would pass,and that I would find someone out there that would make me forget about you.” He chuckled. “But like so much in life, seldom do things go according to plan.”

 

“I saw you near campus, looking for the administration office because you wanted to see if you could visit your sister. I was walking out of the office, and asked if you needed help. Your face light up, making my heart melt. Because you recognized me.”

 

“Instead of finding your sister, we ended up having coffee. You were 15, 16 in a couple of weeks. You weren’t a kid anymore.”

 

I know you like me,’ “You had said to me, smiling that little smile of yours, but you were scared, too. I could tell. I never wanted to lie to you. So I told you the truth. ‘ I like you, too,’ I thought I was going to die right there. I wanted to ask you out, right there. But I held back. I didn’t want to scare you.”

 

He motioned for Daniel to come to him, which he did, slowly. “I waited until last year to ask you. I wanted to make sure that what you felt was the real thing, and that what I felt for you was real, not just case of lust.” He smiled, a smile that made Daniel’s heart race. “And since that day, I’ve always respected you, respected your age, and I’ve been the one to make sure you didn’t do something in a rush of hormones.” That got a laugh from everyone there. Shepard looked pale, and Kaidan downed his glass of wine like his life depended on it.

 

“In a few months, I’ll be going off to the Alliance, because I want to build a life with you. I want to be able to support you when you go to college. I want to be the rock, you’re guiding star.”

 

He got down on one knee, and all eyes were about ready to pop out of their skulls.

 

“Daniel, I love you, I think I’ve always loved you, and I’ll continue to love you, even when the last star has died, I will.” Tears were in his eyes, same as Daniel. Shepard and Kaidan were sweating bullets.

 

“Daniel Shepard-Alenko, would you do this poor farm boy the greatest honour, grant him the highest of privileges, of being my husband?”

 

Kaidan fainted, and Shepard turned around and vomited.

 

============================================

 

In late January, February, the family got together to celebrate Daniel’s 18th birthday. They threw a huge bash for him at the orchard. Friends and were invited. Presents were showered upon the poor boy: From books to some rather expensive tech, to clothing, toys - “He’s more your son then realized, eh, Shepard? Kaidan joked, watching their son’s face light up at some models of famous ships being unwrapped. “Hey, it’s no crime being a huge nerd.” He replied with a grin. - and even some credit chits in high denominations.

 

The only thing that would have made the day even better was if Matthew had been there.

 

Sadly, Matt’s Alliance recruiter had called him early that morning and wanted him to come down to the office He wanted Matt to fill out some paper work, and start taking some placement tests, to see where he stood before being shipped off to basic. It had broken Daniel’s heart that he would get to see his fiance there, but he understood.

 

==============================================

 

After the party wound down and the guests all left, Shepard and Kaidan retired to their room for the night after putting away leftovers. Mercy was off hanging out with Wrex and Grunt, Inanna was staying over at a cousin’s for the weekend, and the twins were staying over at a friend of theirs. Ashe was probably off hanging with her girl friends, talking about some of the overly girly stuff that even made Daniel’s stomach turn.

 

Daniel was in his room, but couldn’t get to sleep. He kept tossing and turning in his bed. The had been amazing. But it had been lacking. Matthew hadn’t been there.

 

Frustrated, he rolled out of bed, slipping into Matthew’s oversized Alliance hoodie. He’d dropped it of the night before when he’d spent the night. The young man felt a sense of calm wash over him when he pulled it on. It already smelled like Matthew: something earthy, pure, masculine, and soft.

 

He cracked open his door and tiptoed down the hall, holding his breath as he willed his steps into silence as sneaked by. Once he reached the end, he made his way down the stairs. He really didn’t know what he was going to do out of bed now. Turning on the TV was out of the questions, since it would be too loud with the house so empty. Maybe grab a snack? No, he wasn’t all that hungry. Read?

 

He looked over at his favorite chair, tucked into the corner of the living room by his favorite lamp.

 

Reading it is.

 

Half an hour later, at a quarter to 2-in-the-morning, Daniel sat in his favorite seat, trying to read. He’d read the same passage at least 3 teams already before sighing in frustration and closing the book. Sighing, he snuggled deeper into the hoodie, drawing his legs up under it. Since Matthew was so much bigger than him, it acted like a blanket.

 

The young man had started nodding off when a gentle tapping at the door woke him.

 

Curious, he got up from his spot on the seat and cautiously walked to the door. His biotics flickered around him. He was ready if anyone tried to break in, but, he reasoned, if someone was actually trying to break into their home, they either had a death wish or were high on red sand.

 

Licking his lip, he peaked in through the peephole. He gasped, quickly fumbling with the locks before throwing the door open.

 

“Big Bear!” He gasped, eyes going wide.

 

“Happy birthday, little bear.” He said softly. He stood in front of the door, covered in snow. There was a thin package under one of his arms.

 

“Oh my god, you fucking idiot!” His joy was marred by worried fury. He yanked his fiance and quickly shut the door. “Here, get out of that jacket and put this on.” Daniel started fumbling with the hoodie, but two strong hand stopped him.

 

“Babe, I’m fine,” Matthew laughed, pushing the sweater back over Daniel’s head.

 

“What are you doing here?” After a few seconds, they both walked back into the living room. “I mean, it could have waited til morning? Did you walk here?”

 

The taller young man pulled his toque, shaking his shaggy hair out. “Nope; I got my mom’s car.” He shoot the shorter teen a look. “Baby, I know I’m crazy, but not so crazy as to walk in the snow.” That got them both chuckling.

 

“I wanted to give you your birthday presents.” Like a kid in a candy store, he held out the thin box that was wrapped in bright, color paper with a large bow on top. Daniel’s heart was instantly a puddle of warmth in his chest.



Nodding, they walked over and sat on the couch. Carefully, the birthday boy started unwrapping his gift. Matthew was practically bouncing in his seat, wanting to rush his love. But he knew why he was taking his time. They both knew, but neither had the heart to say it out loud.

 

A soft gasp left Daniel when he got the box fully unwrapped.

 

“Matt..Is it... Is this-?” He turned wide, teary eyes to the man next to him.

 

“They were hard to find before the war, and almost impossible after.” His voice was soft, tender. He leaned his shoulder against his smaller lover, soaking up the moment.

 

Almost afraid of the item, the young man slowly picked it up. He turned it this way and that, examining its colorful plastic. He pushed a couple of the buttons, and nearly squealed in delight at the sounds it made. He held the wand-like toy close to his chest, then turned and kissed Matthew soundly.

 

The carefully moved the toy and its packaging out of the way, letting their bodies fall against each other. They kiss until they see stars. Until their lips were pink and slightly bruised. They kissed until their lungs cried out, only then did they break apart. Daniel’s eyes were glowing faintly in the dark, face flushed.

 

Panting, Matthew sat up, pulling his sweater and shirt off. “I got another gift for you>” His voice was husky, causing wonderful things in Daniel’s groin.

 

“Oh?” The smaller teen’s grin was predatory.

 

“It’s not what you think, but you’re going to love it.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure I will.” Daniel’s eyes twinkled in the dark.

 

=================================================

 

With a yawn, Kaidan rolled out of bed. Shepard was still out cold next to him, snoring softly. He chuckled, recalling the other night’s activities after everyone left. It may have been Danny’s birthday, but that didn’t mean they weren’t allowed to have some fun of their own. Slipping on a sweater and some sweats, he headed out of the room to start coffee and breakfast.

 

Yawning again, he started making his way down the stairs. Something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye when he reached the landing.

 

Whose shoes are those?” There was an extra pair of shoes by the front door. They were too big to be Danny’s, and not the proper shape to fit over salarian feet, and  they also didn’t match any that he or Shepard owned.

 

With a frown, he was about to turn around and head back up the stairs when he heard a soft snore come from the couch. Curious, he walked around to the front, and had to cover his mouth to stop himself from laughing at the tender sight.:

 

A shirtless Matt was protectively holding Danny to his chest with one arm, while his son used the other as a pillow. Danny’s face was nuzzled up close to a tattoo on the blonde’s chest, which remained Kaidan of a constellation of sorts on the left side. Evidence of the open gift littered the floor at the foot of the couch.

 

He watched the tender moment, and was struck by how much they reminded him of himself and John. It made his heart warm knowing that he's found someone to love and be loved by at such a young age. But it also ached, knowing that their relationship was going to face hardships most young couples would ever experience.

 

Spirits, if you’re listening, please, Please I beg you, let these two young souls know no pain like Shepard and I have experienced. They deserve to be happy. Keep them safe. With that silent prayer, he headed up the stairs and climbed back into bed. He held onto John, even when the other man started to stir.

 

===============================================

 

Daniel’s graduation from high school was a big occasion for the Shepard-Alenko household. When the young man walked across the stage, top of his class, everyone in the audience was nearly drowned out by the noise from from his friends and family. He skipped out on the rest of the celebrations. There was something far, far more important to attend to.

 

===============================================

 

They were at the small little chapel not too far from where the graduation ceremony has taken place. Daniel and Matthew were wearing matching suits, holding hands as they stood before the presiding minister. Both young men had red, watery eyes as they tried to contain the emotions running rampant in them.

 

“...And do you, Daniel David Shepard-Alenko, do take Matthew Andrew Zaahir, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love him, comfort him, honor him, and keep him in sickness and in health, forsake all others, be faithful to him so long as you both shall live?”

 

“I do.” He could barely keep his voice from cracking, and the smile he wore could blind the sun itself.

 

“Then, by the power invested in me, I know pronounce you, husband and spouse. You may now kiss.”

 

Like two supercharged magnets, they were kissing like their lives depended on it. They were kissing even before the Justice of the Peace was even done talking. The room erupted in applause and cheers for the young married couple. The Justice had to cough loudly, nudging the two young men to get going.

 

“I love you, Daniel Zaahir,”

 

“And I love you, Matthew Shepard-Alenko.”

 

After the celebration, where family and friends gathered and rejoiced for the new union, they retreated to English Bay, into a quiet little bed and breakfast that Shepard and Kaidan had gotten them a room for the weekend.

 

That night, they consummated their marriage to the sounds of the ocean, gently lapping at the shore.

 

=========================================

 

The drive to the airport was quiet, full of a bitter sweet silence.

 

Kaidan drove and John was in the passenger seat, Matthew and Daniel in the back, holding each other. Matthew was dressed in Alliance fatigues, a duffle bag at his feet. Daniel had already broken down once today, and he was well on his way to do so again. His eyes were red and puffy, hand clasped firmly in his husband’s. Shepard looked at them through the rearview mirror, heart aching for the two of them. He chanced a glance to his own husband, and he could see the same worry on his face.

 

Once they found a parking spot, they piled out of the car and made their way to Matthew’s departing gate. The two young men walked closely together, hands gripped tightly. There was barely enough space between them for a sheet of paper to fit. Since John was with them, he used his status as the Human Counsilor to get through the gate with Matthew.

 

They waited in the departure area, the two young men whispering soft words and promises to the other. Danny’s shoulders were shaking from barely contained sobs, but he did his best to keep a stiff upper lip for his husband. When the boarding announcement came over the PA, they knew it was time.

 

“I’m going to message you everyday, okay?” Matthew pressed his forehead to Daniel’s, both boys with tears in their eyes. “And every time I get shore leave, I’ll make sure I come back home to you.”

 

“If your ship docks at the Citadel, let me know, and I’ll be sure to get on the first shuttle out there,” Daniel promised, try so hard to stop the flow of tears. “We can stay at our summer home there,”

 

They kissed, clinging desperately to each other. Their hands held the other’s face, committing each line and curve to memory.

 

“We know the score, right?” Daniel nodded, breaking the kiss. Matthew smiled down at his husband, mesmerized by that beautiful sea of green. “When this is over, I’m going to be waiting for you.. You’d better show up.”

 

Kaidan felt his heart clench at those words. His own eyes began to prickle with unshed tears. Shepard came up behind him, wrapping his arms around his middle.

 

“I’m going to fight like hell for the chance to hold you again.” He grit his teeth, tears coming freely.

 

“Don’t leave me behind,” Daniel whispered.

 

“No matter what happens, always remember that I love you,” He smiled sadly, pulling back.

 

“I love you, too.”

 

Daniel didn’t bother hiding anymore. He openly wept in his father’s arms as they watched Matthew disappear through the gate.

 

============================================

 

[I got into N School!]

 

“What! No way! Congrats babe!!”

 

In the seven months since Matthew had left, they had called each other every day. They had to adjust the times of their calls, since most of the calls came from worlds distant training and colony worlds. They’d made it work, however, catching up, and just enjoying seeing and hearing the other. And true to word, they’d meet up on the Citadel if Matthew’s training brought him there, and would come back to the Shepard-Alenko home. John and Kaidan always thought it odd the amount of time he’d spent there as opposed to his own home, but they didn’t think it was their right to ask.

 

“When are you heading down to the Villa? My dad used to tell me that it’s like hell,” He chuckled. The young man made sure to keep his omni-tool just so to keep Matthew in view.

 

[Next week, if I can get my transfer papers all squared away with my instructor.] Matthew was lying on his bunk bed after a hard day of training. Daniel could just make out the top of his Ursa Minor tattoo on the left side of his chest.

 

“I should warn you; My tio Vega can be a bit of hard-ass,” He chuckled.

 

[Wait, Major James Vega is your uncle??!}

 

That got the young man laughing, “Yes, remember? He and my aunt Jack were here for the holidays, and at my graduation, and at the wedding.”

 

Matthew nodded, then blinked, [Wait, was she that crazy lady that kept shouting “That’s my fucking nephew!” at the top of her lungs, next to this really big buff guy?]

 

“Yup, that’d be them.”

 

[Your uncle was kind of hot!]

 

“Oh my god! Matt! I didn’t need to hear that!”

 

“Neither did I,” Kaidan mumbled from the kitchen, chuckling.



[Do.. Do you think your dad’s going to be, uh, proud of me?] The question caught both Kaidan and Daniel off guard. Daniel looked at his husband, and he looked so unsure about himself.

 

Gently, he smiled at his husband, “Baby, of course he’s going to be. He’s already pretty proud of the fact that you respected our age gap, that we waited.” God how i love this man. “He may not say it outloud to you yet, but, in his own way, he loves you. They both do.”

 

Matthew sighed and nodded, the tension that had been plaguing him lifting. For now. [I should get to bed. Need to talk to my CO about that paper work in the morning.]

 

“Okay, go get some sleep.” He smiled, blowing his husband a kiss. “Same time tomorrow?”

 

[Wouldn’t miss it for the world.]

 

=====================================

 

“...And it’s my proud honour to introduce this year’s graduating class from the N7 programme!”

 

Daniel leapt up from his seat, cheering with all his heart as he watched Matt stand with the rest of the members of the newly minted N7 Marines. Shepard stood up too, clapping and cheering along with his son. He never imagined that that young college punk that had fallen for his son would make it into N School, let alone be made and N7, just like himself.

 

When the newly graduated students were allowed to leave their seats, Daniel made a point of using his biotics to make a marker for Matt to find. Of course this meant that the marker took the shape of a glowing bear paw.

 

Matthew cut an impressive image wearing his shiny new N7 armor. It got Daniel’s blood racing and face flushed. When they spotted each other, Daniel took a running leap into Matthew’s open arms. They laughed as the bigger male spun his husband around. They kissed passionately, Daniel having to stand on Matthew’s feet to get any sort of height to kiss him. They only broke apart when Shepard strolled up to them, chuckling and smiling.

 

“Sir!” Matthew snapped to attention, saluting the man. In doing so, he almost knocked Daniel on his rear. Luckily, James came up behind him, catching his nephew.

 

“Whoa there! I got you mijo!” He said with a laugh. Daniel was laughing too, just watching Matthew stand there like a statue.

 

“Matthew, at ease, soldier.” Shepard was chuckling to himself, but his heart warmed when the young man relaxed. He walked over to Daniel, apologizing.

 

“You’re such a gigantic dork, you know that?” The smaller young man laughed, hugging his husband.

 

“Hey, that’s Lt. Gigantic Dork to you, mister!” They both dissolved into a fit of giggles.

 

“Kid can shoot the head off a fly at 50 paces, but still acts like a kid.” James chuckled, watching his nephew and his husband interact with each other.

 

Shepard chuckled. “It’s like watching me and Kaidan, but only if we’d met during high school, not during..” He trailed off, sadness coloring his words.

 

“Hey loco, don’t go down that path.” The huge solider patted his friend on the back, smiling, ‘You and the Major eventually found each other. And look at what you have!” He pointed to the two young man, who were now surrounded by some of Matthew’s classmates.

 

“You’ve got a great family, Danny being one of my favorite sobrinos, and he’s got a good man to call his own. You and the Major have done good, heje.

 

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”

 

James barked a laugh, smacking John in the chest. “Of course I am! Just, y’know, don’t let Jack hear you.” He chuckled, “She’d kick my ass.”

 

Shepard and James walked over to the young pair and started chatting with them. Daniel was going to be staying at a hotel for the weekend, but John needed to head back home before departing for the Citadel on Council business.

 

“Matthew, there’s something I wanted to tell.” Shepard said, pulling the young man aside. Daniel caught this out of the corner of his eye, but he didn’t worry.

 

“What’s the matter, sir?” He tried not to let it show, but he was a bit apprehensive.

 

Steeling himself, John turned to face  his son-in-law. He studied him, amazed to see that the young man he’d met all that time ago was becoming quite the man. I will not check out my son-in-law.

 

“Matt, I just wanted to say, that, after all of this, I’m proud of you, son.”

 

For a second, Matt wasn’t sure he’d heard him correctly. He poked his ear, blinking at his father-in-law.

 

“I’m sorry, sir, but I didn’t quite catch that.”

 

Nodding, he spoke up, grinning like a proud father. “I said, I’m proud of you, Matt. For all you’ve accomplished, and for all you’re going to accomplish.” With that, he saluted him. The young man was stunned, but the smile that grew across his face was well worth it.

 

Matthew returned his own salute, unable to stop the warmth that bubbled out of him as a teary laugh. “Sir! Thank you, sir!”

 

“At ease, Marine.” The older man chuckled,.

 

“Also, call me dad.”

 

=================================================

 

March 3, 2207

[Hey Matt! I just wanted to touch bases with you, babe. It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve actually talked, or even seen each other. I know you’re busy protecting this colony or that station, but.. I miss hearing from you. Anyway, I gotta go. Class is starting. I miss you, babe. Take care.]

 

==================================================

 

November 23, 2207

 

[Hey babe! I’m sorry I missed your call! I’m glad you’re doing good. I must say, you look rather dashing with that hair cut of yours (chuckles) I wish you were here, though. Thanksgiving isn’t going to be the same without you here, but I’m glad you’re doing okay, like I said..(*turns away from the camera*) I’m just saying hi to Matt! I’ll be down in a sec! (*Turns back to the camera, smiling*) Sorry babe, gotta cut this short. Dad and Pop want em to go help with the cooking. They both miss you, and everyone else, too. (*There was a flash of sadness*) Anyway (*He tries to smile fully*) I miss you babe, and don’t forget that I love you!]

 

===================================================

 

January 5, 2208

 

{Happy New years babe! I hope you’re having a good time with your crew. I hope you got my care package, too. Packed some of your favorite things in it! Wish you were here right now. The sky is crystal clear, and there’s snow all over the place (*a wistful sigh*) Kind of reminds me of that sleigh ride, remember? (*He shaks hes head, trying to smile for he camera*) Anyway, I don’t want to take too much of your time. I know you Marines are super busy guarding this or that! Take care babe, I love you!]

 

==================================================

 

June 10, 2208

 

[(*Daniel looks into the camera, eyes misty*) I... I got the care package I sent you today.. I’m.. I’m really hoping that I got the address wrong.. Because I put a lot of care into putting it together for you..(*He wiped his eyes, trying not to have a breakdown on the vid*) I haven’t heard from you since... I dunno... it’s been awhile hun.... I really miss you hun...I want to see you again.... Do you think we can get together on your next shore leave? Maybe? I hope I can see you again soon, babe. I miss you... I love you, never forget that.]



=====================================================

 

On and on it went: Every few months, Daniel would record a video message and send it to Matthew. But just like before, he would get no reply. After a few more months, he stopped sending videos, and would instead just send short typed messages. But they didn’t get replied, either. With each day with no response, Daniel’s once bright and sunny disposition began to dim.

 

He hardly laughed around the house anymore. He had stopped singing. The light in his eyes began to go dull. John and Kaidan were at a loss as to what to do. All they could do was watch as their son became a ghost. He wasn’t really living anymore. He was simply existing. Distraught, both men reached out to their contacts within the Alliance, trying to track down their son-in-law. But they got stonewalled each step of the way.

 

Both Kaidan and John went so far as to use some of their Spectre contacts, and John made some subtle inquiries as the Human Councilor. But even those leads didn’t pan out.

 

Their family members rallied around them, everyone trying in their own way to help bring back that spark of life in Daniel. He would respond, little by little, but then he would see or hear something that reminded him of Matthew, and he would shut down again. It was both frustrating and heartbreaking to watch: The once bright boy who had a smile for everyone was slowly dying of a broken heart.

 

====================================================

 

“Morning pop! Morning dad!”

 

Shepard nearly spat his coffee out at hearing Daniel’s cheerful voice coming floating down the stairs. Kaidan almost burnt the bacon as both men watch their son enter the kitchen.

 

“Morning, son, how are you feeling?” Shepard was a bit freaked out by Daniel’s sudden change in demeanor. Last night, he watched Daniel sit quietly sit out on the back deck staring up at the stars. Today, he seemed like his old self again.

 

He and Kaidan exchanged a glance: Something’s not right.

 

“I’m good, thanks!” He said with a bright smile. “I’m going out for a bit, but I should be back for dinner, okay?”

 

“Sure son, have a good day.” Kaidan looked at Shepard again, ‘ Say something’ He mouthed. But his husband could only shrug, and before either man could say anything, their son was already out the door.

 

Both men just waited in the silence, both trying to process what they had just witnessed. It was Kaidan who spoke up first, voice thick.

 

“That’s not my son,” He whispered, looking at the door.

 

“What?” Shepard asked, aghast.

 

Kaidan shook his head, eyes red and watery. “That’s not my son,” He repeated, a little sob escaping his lips.

 

“Kaidan-” Shepard stood, wrapping his arms around his husband as he began to cry quietly.

 

“That’s not my baby boy!” He cried, burying his face into John’s chest. “That’s just something hollow and empty pretending to be my son!”

 

John tightened his grip around his husband, making soothing sounds to get him to calm down. But he knew that Kaidan was right. He’d seen it. Seen it smile like Danny used to. Sound like he used to. But it wasn’t him. Not really.

 

That smile had been hollow and empty.

 

==========================================

 

It had been a long time since they had had a family dinner. With everyone having schooling or other social responsibilities, it was hard to get all of the Shepard-Alenko children under one roof. But it was plagued by an unspoken tension. All of the siblings kept looking at Daniel with wry smiles, worried about his sudden 180 in personality. They all avoided any mention or reminder of their missing brother-in-law, for Daniel’s sake. For the sake of keeping him talking and smiling. But the girls caught on. They could see that his smile didn’t really reach his eyes, or that his laugh sounded hollow and empty. The twins may have picked up on it, but they didn’t say anything.

 

After dinner, Daniel excused himself, saying he was going to take a shower. Everyone nodded, and started cleaning up the table as he went up stairs. They waited for the water to start, before the remaining Shepard-Alenko children turned to their fathers.

 

“What’s happened?” Demanded Mercy, looking a mixture of worry and fury.

 

“A few days ago, he looked like a ghost, now he’s, he’s..” Ashe couldn’t finish, looking up the stairs.

 

Kaidan sighed, rubbing his face, “We don’t know...” He admitted, “You’re father and I have been trying to figure it out ourselves, but, we just don’t know.”

 

The twins looked at each other, then back at the rest of their family. “Maybe he’s slipped into a fugue state?” Wondered Remus.

 

“Or has some sort of retrograde amnesia?” Supplied Rom.

 

Inanna sighed, sitting back in her seat. “If I could talk to him, I could find out what’s wrong.. But as he is..” she shuddered, “It’s like, he’s like an automaton that’s pretending to be my older brother...” she sniffled softly. The twins walked over to her and hugged her.

 

They all just sat there in silence for a while, wondering what to do, or how to even help. The water kept running upstairs. Mercy made a face, her eyes going wide.

 

“Mercy?” Ashe noticed the face that her sister pulled. “What’s the matter?”

 

“I don’t know,” She grumbled, “But I suddenly smell...smell.” Her eyes widen in horror.

 

“Blood.”

 

Everyone turned to each other, then up the stairs.

 

“Danny.”

 

They all scrambled up the stairs in a flash, Shepard and Kaidan leading the charge.

 

“Danny! Danny open the door!” Shepard shouted, banging on the door.

 

Danny! Danny son, answer us!” Kaidan banged on the door, jiggling the door handle.

 

“Daddy!” Ashe cried, pointing at the floor.

 

They all looked: Pinkish water was starting to seep out out from under the floor.

 

“Danny!!” Shepard threw himself against the door, trying to knock it down. Mercy joined him, both trying with all their might to bust it down. Damn my need to get reinforced doors! Shepard cursed to himself.

 

The air started to smell like ozone. “Out of my way!!” Kaidn charged at the door, blowing through it. He slipped and fell on the floor.

 

Ashe and Inanna both shriked in horror.

 

The bath tub was overflowing with bloody water. The floor was flooded, seeping out into the hall. John jumped over Kaidan, running into the bathroom. He shut the water off, panic and fear almost making him vomit. He scooped up his son in his arms. He felt so cold, and he was so pale.

 

“Oh god Danny!” Kaidan ran over, picking up his arms. He tore his shirt, trying to stem the flow of blood that was coming from both his wrists.

 

“Mercy, get the car!” Shepard barked, rushing past Kaidan.

 

“But-”

 

“I SAID GET THE CAR!!” He boomed. Both he and Kaidan practically flew down the stairs.

 

Mercy went into combat mood, barreling past her crying siblings. She practically tore the front door off its hinges. She ran and got the car going and drove it up to the front door. She threw the doors open, letting her fathers and her unconscious brother in.

 

“DRIVE!!” Kaidan yelled. He turned his attention back to his son, cradling his head in his lap. He was in hysterics, they all were.

 

It almost felt like an eternity as she drove like a bat out of hell to the hospital. She didn’t care if she ran red lights or not. Her brother was dying, so damn the consequences. Her vision was getting blurry from her tears, but she needed to focus. Needed to get to the hospital.

 

==============================================

 

“HE:P! PLEASE!!!” Shepard and Kaidan burst into the ER, Daniel lying limply in John’s arms. Mercy came in right after. She’d had enough time to mass-call everyone she knew to tell them what had happened.

 

“What’s-” The nurse at the counter took one look at the bloody men, and the deathly pale young man in their arms and stopped. She pulled out her omni-tool and quickly started barking orders into it. She motioned for them to follow as she lead them to the back.

 

“Put him here!” She ordered. Shepard laid Daniel’s cold body gently down on the gurney. Almost instantly a whole medical team came out of nowhere, descending down upon the unconscious teen.

 

Kaidan, John, and Mercy stepped back, not wanting to get in the doctor's way. Mercy couldn’t contain herself and began sobbing, nearly punching a hole in a nearby wall. She blamed herself for not seeing the signs. Kaidan held his oldest child as they both cried. John dropped to the floor, leaning against the wall in the ER as he watched the doctors’ desperate attempt to save his son’s life.

 

He looked down at his bloody hands, his vision going blurry. His stomach rebelled against him, and he had just enough time to turn his head and retch all over the floor. He heaved and coughed until he could bring nothing else up. A kindly nurse brought him some water, which he thanked her for, before she rushed off to help.

 

Kaidan and Mercy soon joined him on the floor, both shivering.

 

“He’s strong.” He said softly, “He’ll make it.”

 

“He has to.”

 

Kadian held out his hand. John took, and finally let go, sobbing openly with his family right there on the ER floor.

 

================================================

 

Four days.

 

Four days since that terrible night

 

Four days since they’d nearly lost one of their greatest treasures in all the galaxy.

 

The beeping from the heart monitor brought a strange sense of comfort to everyone that came to visit Danny in his hospital room. Everyday and everynight, a friend or family kept watch over the unconscious young man.

 

The doctors had done all they could when he had been first brought in. They admitted that, if they had waited another hour, they would have been planning a funeral. That by no means made John or Kaidan feel any better, but it did mean that they had saved their son’s life. The doctors figured that the cold water may had helped keeping blood flow slow enough that they were able to save him in time. But he had lost a substantial amount of blood, and at one point  there had not been enough blood flowing to his brain, depriving it of vital oxygen.

 

Brains scans showed no damage to his brain, but they couldn't be sure about that until he woke up.

 

If he woke up.

 

============================================

 

“How’s he doing?”

 

John jumped out of his seat, reaching for an imaginary weapon. He looked up and saw Liara, one of his oldest friends.

 

“Liara, hi, sorry,” He sighed, sitting back down. His back felt like he had a 2x4 rammed down the middle, and his shoulders burned from tension. He hadn’t been able to sleep properly for almost a week. None of them could.

 

Inanna and Ashe were having nightmares. Mercy was angry for not being strong enough to see the signs. The twins felt terrible, because, as they reasoned, they should have done more to help their brother. And Kaidan.. Kaidan was a wreck, just like himself.

 

“He’s stable, but, just not waking up..” He said softly, looking at his son. For al intents and purposes, he looked like he was sleeping. If only it were that simple. He thought with a bitter laugh.

 

Liara nodded. Her daughter, Arisa stood next her, eyes water.

 

“Oh little bird,” She whispered. Her tears started flowing as ehe stepped up to his bed. She tucked a stuffed volus plushie next to his head. She stroked his hair back, smiling sadly.

 

“When you wake up, I’m going to kick your ass, you hear me?” She laughed, but she couldn’t keep from crying.

 

“Shepard, go home.” Liara said softly, sitting down next to her friend. “Arisa and I will stay with him tonight. Go be home with your husband and family. You’re no good to them or Daniel if you die of exhaustion.”

 

Nodding, he slowly rose from his seat. “Call me if anything happens, okay?”

 

“I promise.”

 

===============================================

 

3 days later his heart stopped.

 

The medical team was baffled by the sudden turn for the worse. He had been stable up till that point. They didn’t know what had caused his heart to simply stop beating. From that point onwards, they kept round the clock watch over the young man. There was always a nurse in the room with him, and there was always someone close to the Shepard-Alanke family ther, ready to alert the family.

 

“Why did this happen, Dr. Chakwas?” Karrin had been called from the Citadel specifically to treat their son. The felt she was only person they could trust to do everything in her power to keep their boy alive. Tonight it was Kaidan and John’s turn to stay with him.

 

The doctor sighed, running another scan. “Physically, your son is fine, Shepard.” She said softly, “But, if I had to guess....”

 

“Guess what?” Asked Kaidan, dreading her answer.

 

“He’s lost the will to live,” She said as kindly as she could. It pained her having said anything when she saw Kaidan’s expression collapse in on itself, fresh tears coming to his eyes.

 

“I’m afraid your son is, quite literally and metaphorically, drying of a broken heart.”

 

=========================================

 

He was floating. Floating in a vast, empty void. He opened his mouth, bubbles coming out. He panicked, but then realized that he could breath.

 

He looked down, and only saw a black abyss. It felt oddly comforting to him, He let himself float gently down towards it.

 

“Don’t go...”

 

He looked up. He saw light shimmering and bending, like looking up through water. It wasn’t just one light, but a multitude of lights. He could almost hear voices calling out to him, but he didn’t understand what they were saying.

 

They sounded sad, though. Daniel wanted to comfort them, but he was so tired. He turned to look back into the welcoming darkness. Maybe if he slept for awhile, he’d make them feel better.

 

========================================

 

The doctors had all but given up on the young man. Only Dr. Chakwas stayed to tend to him. With the help of a couple of nurses, and the friends and family that came to visit, they tended to him. They would speak to him, telling him about what he was missing. How they all missed him, wanted him back. It almost always ended in tears for the visiting party. Even some of the nurses that tended to Daniel began to grow attached to him, feeling like part of the extended Shepard-Alenko family.

 

All they wanted to see was Daniel wake up, be happy again. They prayed to whatever power would listen to them.

 

Sometimes, those powers answered.

 

========================================

 

Kaidan was sitting in Daniel’s room, reading. He’d sent John and Ashe home earlier when they both looked like they were going to just drop. A nurse had been by, bringing him some food and a blanket. She’d also brought him something for his migraine, which had thankfully dulled to an ache. He’d been having more and more since this whole nightmare began, but they hadn’t been as bad as the first, where he’d been knocked unconscious with a nosebleed.

 

He was composing an email to James in Rio de Janeiro when a knock came from the door.

 

“Yes?” He looked up, surprised to see a stranger standing in the door frame.

 

The young man was clearly an Alliance Marine, judging by the way he was dressed in his blues. His hat was tucked under his right arm. Even with the eyepatch over his left eye, Kaidan could see the faint glow of an artificial eye. The way he shifted his weight to the right either meant he had a limp, or prosthetic. Same with the arm on that side. He had a thick blond beard, hair cut in typical Alliance regulation. When Kaidan looked the large man in his good eye, he gasped.

 

“Matthew.”

 

“I’m home, dad.”

 

“Oh my god Matthew!!” The older man launched himself out of his seat and hugged his unofficial son, holding him tightly. “Oh my god! Where have you been?” He demanded between sobs, unable to control himself.

 

“We were all so worried about you! We tried looking for you, tried to get information on what had happened to cause you to disappear off the face of the galaxy!

 

Matthew was crying too, holding to his surrogate father. “My squad and I were ambushed by a band of batarian slavers. They attacked our ship, killed most of the crew before we crash landed on some rock in uncharted Council space.”

 

Kaidan made his son-in-law sit down, and he sat next to him. It was then that the former Spectre realized that Matthew had grown. His bulk barely fit in the hospital chair, and he was taller than Kaidan. “Shepard and I used every connection we had to try and find you, but we couldn’t seem to get a bead on your location. We didn’t even know you were MIA,”

 

Matthew chuckled bitter between tears, “The Alliance realized that they had fucked up by sending my ship and I there, so they kept it quiet.”

 

They stayed quiet for a long time, but then Matthew asked the hardest question Kaidan ever hand to answer. “Is Danny here...Is he here because, because..”

 

“Yes.”

 

The man sitting next Kaidan crumbled in on himself as he began to sob uncontrollably. Gone was the man, the soldier that had seen terrible things, and had lost parts of himself. All that was left was a young man, sobbing for the love of his life. Kaidan held him tightly, letting him weep.

 

=============================================

 

Not everyone was as happy to see Matthew back. While they didn’t say it right to his face, he knew that they held him responsible for what had happened. They could see how broken he was about all of this, and decided that they didn’t need to punish him further. Shepard had been the worst, verbally and physically tearing into him before breaking down and hugging him tightly. Both men hugged each other and cried, Matthew grateful to be forgiven, and Shepard for having his unofficial son back.

 

Matthew took up the daily and nightly vigil of his husband. He would sleep there in the hospital room while someone else watched, and stayed up most of the night, just talking to his husband’s unconscious body. He would cry sometimes, then laughing another moment. Most days, though, he was just lay on the bed with Daniel, holding his hand. No one dared tell the big man to leave and get some rest. After that they’d been through, no one was sure they’d be able to survive being away from each other long.

 

“You have to come back, Little Bear,” He whispered through tears for the upteenth time. “You have to come back to me, so we can start a family. So I can kiss you again...”

 

“I’m back, just like i promised... Don’t.. Don’t leave me alone...”

 

============================================

 

There was a new sad voice.

 

He looked up, and this voice was the brightest out of all that he’d seen dance in the sky. The rippling surface suddenly gave way to a starry sky. There was an aurora dancing merrily in the night sky, casting a soft glow. It made him feel warm, like something that had been missing had suddenly returned.

 

“I’m back, just like I promised...”

 

That voice! It made his heart race, warmth blossom in his chest. He looked up at the sky and watched as the stars rearranged themselves into the constellation of Ursa Major.

 

“Matt...” He whispered

 

“Don’t... Don’t leave me alone..”

 

“Matt!”

 

===========================================

 

Matthew blinked back his tear, unsure of what he had heard.

 

For a moment, he thought he’d heard someone call his name. But it was only himself and Daniel in the room.

 

“Get a grip, marine,” He chuckled to himself, never letting go of Daniel’s hand. But then he felt Daniel’s hand grip his.

 

He’d face down batarian slavers. Stared down the barrel of a gun. Had almost died buried under tonnes of rubble. He mustered all of his courage to look up at his husband’s face. He was so grateful he’d found it, because he was rewarded by the most beautiful sight ever.

 

Two soft, mismatched eyes looking at him.

 

“Hi..”

 

Matt smiled, a fresh round of tears already working their way down his cheeks. “Hi,”

 

Daniel winced as he struggled to swallow. Matthew quickly ran over to sink in the room and got some water and a straw. He held the straw up to Daniel’s lips and helped him drink. Once he had his fill, he reached weakly for Matthew’s hand again.

 

“‘Missed you..” He croaked, eyes filling with tears.

 

“I missed you too, babe...” Matthew held Daniel’s hand with both of his. “I’m... I’m so sorry I left you.. I’m so sorry that.. That...” He choked on a sob, burying his face in the blanket that covered his husband.

 

“S’okay..” Was the raspy reply.

 

“No it's not!” the Marine snapped, clutching Daniel’s hands tightly. “You almost died! You almost killed yourself because of me!”

 

When he felt a soft hand stroke his hair, he looked up. Daniel was crying, but it was soft since his throat was still dry.  “Because I was lonely...I missed you...” He said softly, “A life without you is not one worth living...”

 

They both cried quietly, holding onto each other as best they could.

 

“I’m never letting you go, you hear me? The Devil himself would have to come for me before I ever leave your side again.” Matthew vowed.

 

“Neither will I, Big Bear.”

 

==============================================

 

The news that Daniel had woken up spread like wildfire. Everyone wanted to drop what they were doing to go see him. But the doctors warned that too much too soon could overwhelmed his fragile system. Small groups were allowed in a few at a time. More people cried in the following days than they had in years.

 

The first to visit were his brothers and sisters, including Grunt. They readily forgave him, but they were also angry that he had scared them that way. They made him promise to never shut himself off like that ever again, tow which he readily agreed to.

 

Next were the aunts and uncles with his cousins. Seeing his aunt Jack cry the way she had was both a comfort and weirdly unsettling, because for as long as he’d known her, she never cried. She promised to kick his ass if he ever tried anything like that again. It was a similar sentiment shared by friends and family alike.

 

The hardest talks were the ones he shared with his fathers. They were both furious with him for not coming to them. They yelled with worry and anger until they couldn’t hold back anymore and just hugged their son tightly. When grief and anger boiled away, the begged him for forgiveness. They asked their son to forgive them for not seeing the signs, for letting him down in his time of need. He told them they didn’t have to ask, becuase it had been his own fault for having caused all the pain his attempted suicide had generated. In the end, fathers and son reconciled to try harder: Daniel to not shut off his emotions like he had, and his fathers to learn how to ask the right questions of their children.

 

===================================================

 

Daniel was released after another week from the hospital. They wanted to keep him under observation, to make sure he had suffered no long lasting neurological damage. As part of the conditions of his release, he had to agree to see a therapist once a week. He agreed, especially when he learned that, since he was the husband of an Alliance member, they could both go see the same therapist, one that came highly recommended by Dr. Chakwas herself.

 

================================================

 

Daniel sat in the backyard, being warmed by the morning sun. Another part of his conditions for release was that he’d have to live at home, though he could continue with his studies. He’d gotten up just before sunrise, and was careful not to wake Matthew as he did.

 

He looked down at his wrists, at the pink, angry scars that he had on both wrists. Everyone kept saying that he was a strong person. But now he had scars that said otherwise. He was glad that no one showed him any pity. Sympathy, empathy, he was okay with. Pity...Not so much.

 

“Hey,what are you doing out here so early?” He turned to see Matt walking towards him. He still wore the black eyepatch with the N7 logo on it, but he had stopped hiding his cybernetic arm and leg from him, feeling comfortable enough now with his family to not hide his body. Especially from his husband.

 

“Oh, I woke up early, and just came out to watch the sun rise,” He said with a soft smile.

 

With a tenderness that belied his strength, Matthew picked up Daniel, sat down in the seat, then cradled his husband in his lap.

 

“When do you have to go back?” Daniel didn’t want to ask, but he had to know.

 

“Not going back.”

 

Daniel blinked up at him, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

A large smile spread across Matthew’s face, “I’m still in the Alliance, and I’m still a Marine, but I’ve put in for deck job, here.”

 

“You mean-?”

 

“For the most part, my battle days are long over.” Daniel was kissing him so hard and suddenly, he was left breathless and dizzy when they broke for air.

 

“I love you, Matt, my big bear,”

 

“And I love you, too, Daniel, my little bear.”