Kaidan nervously played with the strap of his bag across his chest as he walked along the campus of his new university. It was his first official day of classes and, so far, everything was going well. He hadn’t had to answer any questions, strangers didn’t come up and talk to him, therefore no one, so far, knew that he couldn’t talk.
When he was in high school, he was the “the freak that couldn’t talk”. He was bullied and belittled for years because of something he had no control over. Leaving his town and going to university was something he had been looking forward to for a very long time. It was his escape and he was very happy with the results so far.
He was too distracted by his thoughts that he didn’t even see the other body coming around the corner until he crashed right into a hard chest. Suddenly, he was on his back, the sky above him, and feeling a little dazed. He blinked rapidly, quickly sitting up, eyes wide as he stared at the man in front of him.
And that was all he did. Stare.
He couldn’t help it. The man was just... so attractive that Kaidan’s brain needed a moment to just... marvel at him. Strong jaw, buzzed hair with a scar on the hairline bright blue eyes that just seemed to pierce into his very soul. And he was all dressed up in ripped jeans and a leather jacket. It was like this man stepped right out of Kaidan’s fantasies.
The man stared at him, an eyebrow raised, and Kaidan rushed to stand up, closing his fist and rubbing it in circles on his chest, his face contorted into an apologetic look. He hoped the man understood.
“Uh...” The man frowned, his voice gruff and, god, if Kaidan didn’t just about swoon. “Are you... Okay?”
Kaidan nodded quickly, his fist stopped moving and instead he just grabbed the strap of his bag in a white knuckled grip and took a step back. His anxieties were coming back up, thoughts that he needed to leave before this guy figured out that he couldn’t talk. The day was going well so far, and he didn’t want that to be ruined because some hot stranger decided to make fun of him.
He turned before the man could say anything more and started to speed walk away, not looking back until he was around the corner and heading straight up to his dorm room and collapsing on his bed face down. He didn’t even take note that his roommate, and best friend, was on his own bed until he was speaking.
“Bad day already, Kaidan? It’s your first day.” Joker laughed, failing to completely hide the worry in his voice.
Kaidan flopped onto his back and gave Joker a dry look, his brown eyes narrowing. He gave a heavy sigh and bit his lip before sitting up and facing his best friend, shaking his head slowly. Technically nothing bad had happening. He’d had a good day.
“I bumped into someone and freaked out,” he signed slowly, sighing.
Joker just nodded and moved to sit next to Kaidan on the bed, giving his friend a pat on the shoulder. Kaidan smiled and gave Joker’s shoulder a gentle nudge before he gave a soft tilt of his head and nodded at him.
“How was my day? It was fine. There’s some cool people in my class that I’m gonna pass for top of the class.” he smirked cockily.
Kaidan grinned and let out a breathy laugh, standing from the bed and moving to put away his books from his history class, setting them up on his desk, and swapping them out for his mechanical engineering books. He continued to listen to Joker talk about his classes as he stuffed his books into his bag and shot a text to Tali, one of his other friends, to meet at his dorm so they could go to class together.
Joker was just finishing up about a story about how some kid showed up to class high as a kite, when there was a knock at his door. Kaidan opened it with a soft chuckle and grinned at the woman standing there. He gave a nod in greeting and stepped aside, letting Tali inside. She took a step in before looking at Joker.
“Hello, Joker.” she greeted, her voice lilting in that sing song way of hers. “Kaidan, are you ready to go? I want to get there early and get good seats.”
Kaidan nodded and adjusted his bag on his shoulder. Trust Tali to want to get there early. Not that he minded, of course. Mechanical Engineering was something they had both bonded over since meeting in high school, the two of them often gushing about the latest tech on the market while the rest of their friend group watched on. Well, Tali gushing and Kaidan listening enthusiastically and either writing or signing as quickly as he could.
They both waved goodbye to Joker as left, Kaidan making sure that he had the key to the room before they both wandered off, Tali chatting away about what she’s already read in the required textbook. Kaidan was nodding his agreement on how the latest Polaris software outshines the latest Bluewire software, when he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks.
Leaning against the wall to the building they were going to go into, was the man that Kaidan had bumped into and then run away from earlier that day, standing with another, taller guy. Tali stopped and turned to Kaidan when she noticed he wasn’t following and tilted her head curiously, looking to where Kaidan was staring, wide eyed. Kaidan didn’t like the smirk that graced her features when he tore his gaze away from the attractive man. He squinted suspiciously at Tali when she grabbed his wrist and dragged her over to the two men.
“Hi, Garrus.” she greeted, a soft pink dusting her cheeks before looking to the man in leather. “Hi...” she prompted.
“Hey, Tali. It's good to see you again.” Garrus grinned and Kaidan saw the appreciative gaze he cast Tali’s way before nodding in greeting to Kaidan.
“John Shepard.” the other nodded, his eyes only on Kaidan.
Kaidan meanwhile, was tense and gripping his bag strap tightly. His gaze frantically flicking between the three in front of him.
“John, Garrus, this is Kaidan.” Tali introduced.
Kaidan gave a small wave, his gaze flicking to John’s before looking back at Tali, pleading with his eyes that he wanted to just go inside and get a good seat before he dies, from either embarrassment or from all his blood rushing into his cheeks.
“Kaidan... hey, you were the kid that bumped into me earlier. Sorry about that. I didn’t get to say earlier... you kinda just bolted.” John spoke, tilting his head as he watched Kaidan.
Kaidan’s head shot up and he shook his head, his face contorting into a look of surprise. He brought his fist up to his chest again and rubbed in a circle again, hoping that John understood. He didn’t, if that look of confusion on his face was anything to go by, and Kaidan gave a frustrated look to Tali.
“He’s saying sorry.” she translated easily, watching Kaidan with curious eyes. Eyes that told him she wanted details on what happened with John earlier. “He has vocal cord damage.”
Kaidan became tenser, if that was even possible and chanced a glance at the two men. He was just waiting for the backlash. Waiting for the harsh words and the judgemental looks. This is what he was afraid off. Coming to university was meant to be a new start. Before he knew it, it was going to be high school all over again and he was going to get bullied again, all because he didn’t watch where he was going and bumped into an attractive stranger.
But... nothing happened. The looks didn’t come, the words didn’t come.
Kaidan slowly looked up at the two men and was surprised to see no judgement in either of their eyes. It made Kaidan’s heart feel... light and warm. It was a good feeling. He smiled softly at the two and gave a small shrug.
“That... actually explains a lot.” John nodded, his steely blue gaze rested on Kaidan. “It’s cool dude. We all have our... thing.” He shrugged, pushing off the wall and looking to Garrus. “Let’s head inside.”
Garrus gave a nod to his friend and looked to Tali. “I’ll see you in there. Come sit next to us when you come in. I’ll keep a seat free for you.”
With that, the two men were gone, leaving the two behind and blushing a deep red.
“Well... that was... interesting. Garrus is so...” Tali gave a soft sigh before clearing her throat and looking to Kaidan, her eyebrow raised. “So... John, huh?”
Kaidan blushed and gave Tali’s shoulder a light shove before he walked past her, her laugh echoing behind him before she caught up to him.
“He’s pretty cute. Kept eyeing you up too.” she hummed, walking through the door that Kaidan was holding open for her.
He just shook his head at her words. He was pretty sure his cheeks were going to be permanently red at this point. As much as he wanted to believe his friend, he just... couldn’t. He couldn’t believe that someone as good looking as John could find him attractive, especially after finding out he couldn’t talk. He was... broken. He couldn’t speak, he had an ugly scar on his neck, and he was emotionally damaged from years of bullying. He was broken and he knew that, and he had accepted it, and he knew that no one would want to be with someone broken.
Kaidan took a deep breath as he followed Tali into the classroom, he knew exactly where they were going and he honestly didn’t know if he was going to be able to pay attention to whatever the professor would be saying. Not when John, who Kaidan had now officially dubbed ‘the most attractive man ever’, was sitting next to him.
As expected, Tali made a beeline straight for the spot next to Garrus, Kaidan glancing at John and quickly averting his gaze when he caught John’s eye. He quickly took a seat on Tali’s other side, taking his bag off and pulling out his laptop and textbook. He had just logged onto his laptop when he sensed a presence at his side. He glanced out the corner of his eye and saw John getting comfy next to him. He turned to John and tilted his head curiously, giving a small shy wave before looking steadfastly back at the screen of his laptop.
It was quiet for a moment, Kaidan staring at the time, wishing the professor would just hurry up.
“So, Kaidan...” John drawled, lounging back in his chair. “I bet everyone says you’re a great listener.” He grinned.
Kaidan blinked and looked over at John, his eyebrow raised. Did he just...? A breathy laugh escaped his lips as he shrugged his shoulders with a slight nod. He wasn’t used to people making light hearted jokes about his... condition. He could hear there was no malice in John’s words when he spoken and, as much as he wishes they didn’t, the words made a warm, safe feeling settle in his stomach.
Kaidan brought up his hands to sign a question, but aborted the motion halfway through, remembering that John didn't know sign language. He held up a finger and turned back to his laptop, pulling up a word document and writing what he was going to say.
“I’m sorry about earlier... I freaked out... I didn’t expect to see you doing Mechanical Engineering.”
John took a moment to read the writing and nodded with a small chuckle. “I’m only here cause Garrus is. He’s my best mate.” He shrugged, his gaze finally leaving Kaidan’s as the professor walked into the room. “I’ll chat to you later.” He winked and Kaidan watched him move back to his seat next to Garrus.
He bit his lip as he stared for a moment longer, only able to tear his eyes away once the professor started to talk.
Kaidan pushed all thoughts of John out of his head and focused on the lecture. He may have a teeny, tiny crush on the man, but he had enough self-control to know he needed to focus on his studies. And as far as university lectures go, it was interesting. It helped that the Professor, Professor Hackett, really knew what he was talking about. He came off like a hard ass but was also fair.
At the end of the lecture, Kaidan packed his things away and stood from his seat. He was ready to go back to his dorm and sleep for the next 10 hours. Who knew university would be so tiring? He was in the middle of a large yawn when John and Garrus said their goodbyes, John slipping Kaidan a piece of paper with a wink before leaving.
Kaidan looked down at his hand as Tali grinned beside him, her eyes shining. “Well... What does it say?” she asked, the excited impatience prominent in her voice.
He opened the paper, reading the numbers with a blush before passing it over to his friend, adjusting the strap of his bag in a nervous gesture.
“That’s so cute. You already have his number. Now you have to text him.” Tali giggled, handing the paper back and then grabbing her own things.
She reached out and squeezed Kaidan’s wrist. “Told you he kept eyeing you.”
Kaidan just rolled his eyes again. He shoved the paper into his pocket and started to walk towards the exit, hearing Tali catch up and walk beside him. He was in his own head as they walked towards his dorm, his fingers in his pocket, fiddling with the piece of paper. He just... he couldn’t believe it still. He wasn’t going to jump to conclusions though. He’ll just assume John wants to just be friends, no matter how much the crush in his head whispered about wanting more. But no. He’ll be happy just to have more friends and John and Garrus seemed like genuinely nice guys, even if they were rough around the edges.
Kaidan walked into his dorm room with a happier smile on his face than the last time he did. This time when he flopped onto his bed, it wasn’t in a dejected, sad way. It was in a happy, giddy way. He pulled out the piece of paper, reading the words under the phone number with a grin on his face.
‘Hope to hear from you soon, Kaidan. - John x’