The sounds of drilling and mechanical noises filled the hangar, as several workers worked on the dozens of parked aircraft inside the structure. From shuttles and skycars to gunships and fighter jets, the structure was filled from almost every variation of vehicle designed to roam the skies and the stars.
Moving quietly inside, a tall man with a black shirt, blue jeans and an N7 jacket slumped over his shoulder entered the room. The workers nodded at him and some made quick salutes, all of them already used to the former Commander's visits of his husband's workplace. He nodded back and moved to the center of the hangar. His gaze scanned the room until he saw the person that meant everything to him, wearing his usual light blue work uniform, it by the side of one of the parked machines.
“The Tridents seem to be OK, engines and everything are working good. The Mantis is still undergoing repairs and the Kodiak is still undergoing it's flight tests. The recruits say that it handles ‘like a concrete fridge’ ”, the engineer with the datapad spoke to the man in front of him.
“Tell me about it” Steve Cortez said as he chuckled, his deep blue eyes focused on the parked shuttles at the end of the room “I had to fly that thing for over a year during the war. Quite the change when you go from flying something light as paper like the Trident to what's basically a Grizzly tank that flies. It took time to get used to it”
“I'm not complaining about your flying skills” a familiar voice behind him said as a pair of strong arms wrapped around him and a soft kiss was planted on his neck “I think you did a wonderful job”
“Hey, you” Cortez took hold of the hands around him and kissed them “What are you doing here ?”
“Was getting bored at the house. So, you know, I thought I’d stop by and… admire the view”
“The view, huh ?”
“You know I love aircraft. I love the pilots more tough” John said as he rested his head on Steve's shoulder.
“As long as I'm the only pilot you're loving, I'm glad we have the same passions” Steve answered as he smiled.
“Good Morning, Commander” the engineer said as he smiled and turned off his datapad and looked at Steve while he moved away “I'll finish giving you the reports later, sir. I'll leave you two alone”
“Sure thing, Mike” Turning around, the former procurement officer gave a soft kiss to the Commander “Your visits do tend to improve my day, so I'm not complaining”
“I have no problem visiting. But Steve, I… I wanted to talk to you”
“Were talking right now, aren't we ?” Steve replied, a half smile set on his face.
“I was hoping we could talk somewhere more… private” Looking behind Cortez, Shepard noticed the several parked transport shuttles behind him.
“You know, those Kodiak shuttles over there have autopilot”, John said, a grin set on his face.
“I know, I told you that”
“And since you're running all these tests, I think it's vital that you make sure that the system is in perfect working order in those shuttles. You know… for security” Shepard finished speaking winking at Steve.
“I've already checked the system. I assure you is working… Oh” Steve paused for a moment as he looked at the grin on Shepard’s face “I see your point, John. The autopilot is indeed very important and it won't hurt to recheck it. I presume you'll be interested in joining me for these tests, Commander ? Check the efficiency of the systems for yourself ?”
“If you don't mind, Flight Lieutenant. I can think of a few tips I can give you to ensure the full efficiency of the shuttles”
“I'm... sure you could”
Doing his best to hide the blush spreading across his cheeks, Steve walked Shepard to a shuttle in the far end of the hangar. After talking with some of the workers who weren't going to put much effort into checking if the autopilot system really needed another check, Steve assumed his usual role on the pilot seat, John sitting in the seat next to him. After few taps on the holographic monitor, a soft vibration rocked the shuttle as the thrusters lifted the vehicle several centimeters of the ground”
As the external cameras showed the outside of the shuttle as it moved out of the hangar, an unconscious smile appeared on his face as he focused on the horizon. The rebuilding of Illyria, Elysium's capital, was nearly complete. The city was one of the most important human colonies, and that had been noticeable in the amount of funds the Alliance had designated towards it after the war’s end. The Reaper corpses had been chunked towards the nearest star, and now dozens of skyscrapers filled the skies, the tallest of which was called “The Shepard Tower” in the Commander's honor.
“It still irks me that that giant monolith of concrete has my name”
“You've saved this colony twice, from the Batarians and the Reapers. You should be thankful that the skyscraper and the plaza are the only things they named after you. Can you imagine how it would look on the travel brochures if they hadn't stopped there ?” Steve chuckled “Planet: Elysium. Population: 13 million. Capital: Shepard”
“Oh God. I don't even want to think about it. So, where do you think we should go ?” John asked, the smug grin still set on his face.
“There's a test field not far from here. It's where we run most of our test flights. We could keep the shuttle doing a few spins there while we… analyze those professional tips you were talking about”, Cortez told Shepard as he maneuvered the shuttle towards their destination.
After letting out a short laugh, John let out a deep breath “Steve”
“Yes, Shepard ?”
“I love you, you know that ?”
“I just… wanted you to know how much it means to me to have you here with me” Choking up for a moment and wiping away the few tears that threatened to fall, John swallowed hard before continuing “The people I get close to tend to get hurt, or worse. So all those times that it seemed I was pushing away it was because… I couldn't bear the thought of you going through the pain of… of losing someone you cared about. Again”
“Shepard…” Steve replied, leaving the shuttle frozen midair.
“I've never had anyone in my life, no one as important as you. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry, and how much I…”
His words were silenced when Steve's hands cupped his face and lifted it, their gaze meeting for a brief second before his lips joined Shepard’s in a deep, passion filled kiss.
“You have nothing to be sorry for. Whatever you did before doesn't matter. You did what you had to do, and now you're here, with me” Grabbing John’s hand, he kissed it and lifted it in front of him, their fingers intertwined.
“See this ?” Steve said as he looked towards the rings on their hands “This means that you'll never be alone again. That whatever hardships may come, I'll be right beside you to face”
Giving him another soft kiss, Steve smiled as his deep blue eyes meet Shepard’s.
“This… means you and me. Forever”
“Don't say anything, and stop crying. You look ugly when you cry”
Shepard laughed “You don't look too pretty either when you're emotional”
“Fair enough” Sitting back on his seat, Steve tapped the monitor and looked back at him “So, what do you say we go give the autopilot system a check and… forget about the world for a while ?”
“I'm perfectly fine with that”