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One month later…

Shepard stood in front of the full-length mirror, still fiddling with the bow tie on his tuxedo.

Garrus groaned.  “It’s fine, Shepard.  Leave it.”

“And how would you know what human formalwear is supposed to look like?” Shepard ribbed.

Garrus tapped the side of his head.  “C-Sec Annual Charity Ball, remember?  I can guarantee you I’ve seen more species’ idea of formalwear than you have.  I’m telling you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen an elcor all dressed up fancy.  Besides, ever since you humans showed up on the galactic scene, your fashion is the nouveau chic.  It’s impossible to avoid.”

Garrus sidled up to Shepard, picking up a hand mirror off the armoire shelf.  He gestured toward Shepard with it, and Shepard shrugged and turned around, using the hand mirror to see the double reflection of his backside.

“Satisfied?” Garrus said.

“Where the hell did you learn the phrase ‘nouveau chic’?” Shepard asked, grinning as he handed the hand mirror back to Garrus.

“Never mind that,” Garrus said.  “You have a wedding to go to.  Another practice run with the vows?”

Shepard took one last look at his reflection, then huffed and shook his head.  “I think I’m ready,” he said.

Tali stopped fussing with Kaidan’s tux and sighed.  “Kaidan, you’re worrying.  Stop it.”

“It’s just that the Alliance has been such a big part of both our lives,” Kaidan said.  “It feels… wrong not to have a military wedding.”

“One, it’s too late to change your mind,” she pointed out. “Two, today is your day, not the Alliance’s.  Three, there is no way you could have a military ceremony and not have it turn into a media circus.” She leveled her gaze at him.  “Oh, and four, Shepard wanted something small and informal, and a military ceremony would be anything but.  Shall I continue?”

“No, I get it, it’s just…”

“Think of Shepard.  Think of your friends, your family.  They’re here, they know what kind of ceremony they’re going to, and they’re happy with it.  Say it with me: ‘hap-py’.”

“You can stop now, you’ve made your point,” Kaidan said.

“‘Hap-py’,” Tali repeated.

“Alright, ‘happy’.  Are you happy?”

“Ecstatic,” she deadpanned.

It was a hot, clear July day at the Alenko family orchard, the temperature nearing 35 Celsius.  Facing away from the house were three rows of white chairs, each row split into halves by an aisle, and at the head of the aisle stood a white trellis arch.  The guests were taking their seats.

“Hell of a day for a goddamn wedding,” Zaeed Massani said, wiping his brow.

“Ah, quit your whining, pyjak,” Urdnot Wrex said.  “This is nothing compared to Tuchanka.”

Elsewhere, EDI was aligning a dish antenna.  “Pilot beam acquired,” she said.

“Excellent.  Please activate holographic projectors,” Normandy said over EDI’s comm.

EDI pressed a button on a flat platform attached to the dish.  “Ready.”

There was a flash, and then Normandy’s hologram appeared above the platform.  “I have control,” she said.  “Activating sound system.”

The sounds of Mozart’s String Quartet No. 14 began to pour out from the speakers.

Already seated, Diana Allers and Samantha Traynor sat next to each other, Traynor’s hand covering Allers’.  “This orchard is gorgeous,” Traynor said.  “Makes me wish we’d been out here in the spring to see the blossoms.”

Standing behind those two, potential trouble was brewing.  Jack’s skin flashed blue in warning.  “Kasumi, stop fucking doing that!” she yelled.

A disembodied voice answered back.  “Doing what?” she innocently asked.

“Stalking us.  Can’t you turn off that invisibility cloak for one fucking hour and sit down like a normal person?”

“No,” the voice said, audibly shrugging.

Across the aisle, Steve Cortez and James Vega were seated.  “Man, this is a wild bunch,” James said to Steve.  “I knew Loco had a big team for the Collector mission, but I had no idea they were more loco than he is.”

“You met most of them at Shepard’s party,” Steve reminded him.

“Yeah, but they were all drunk.  Now that I’ve met them sober I dunno what to think.”

Garrus and Tali exited the house and headed to the front of the setup.  “Alright, places, everyone,” he shouted as he and Tali walked up to the arch.

The stragglers finally sat down and the crowd quieted to a murmur.  Mozart cut out, and Pachelbel’s Canon began to play.

The door to the house opened again, and the officiant exited the house.  “All rise,” he called out.  Everyone stood up and faced the house.  John Shepard then appeared at the threshold, and he joined the officiant.  Together they walked the aisle toward the arch, the violins singing all the way as the cello carried the weight of the song.

As Shepard reached the arch, he turned to face the house.

Kim Alenko appeared at the threshold, quickly followed by her son.

John and Kaidan’s eyes met.  The violins swelled.  Kaidan found himself blinking away tears.

Together, mother and son walked the aisle toward the arch.  As Kaidan reached it, he turned toward John.  Kim left to take her seat, and the music faded out.

“You may be seated,” the officiant said, and everyone sat down.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the marriage of these two men and to celebrate the love they share.

“Marriage is an ancient institution, one that has existed in various forms throughout the five thousand years of humanity’s civilizations.  In our own time, it has come to be intimately bound to commitment, compassion, and – foremost of all – romantic love.  For us, marriage is a promise made between two people to share in the joys and sorrows of life, to accept one another with all their strengths and faults, to offer support and in turn to accept support in times of need.  Marriage is the fusion of two people into a greater whole, cemented together by love.

“With this in mind, John Shepard, do you take Kaidan Alenko to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish for all of your days?”

“I do,” Shepard said.

“And Kaidan Alenko, do you take John Shepard to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish for all of your days?”

“I do,” Kaidan said.

“The rings, please.”

Garrus held open a ring box containing a plain gold band.  Shepard took the ring and faced Kaidan.  He then said:

“From the shining shores and carefree shallows,
through the murky depths and storms at sea,
thy love hath shone upon the raging waters,
in a time of darkness guiding me.
My love for thee hath seen nei'er breaks nor bounds,
nor has it dimm'd since knowing I could hold thee.
Take from me this oath I here now give,
that I do seek with thee eternity.”

He placed the ring on Kaidan’s finger.

Tali then held open another ring box with an identical plain gold band.  Kaidan lifted the ring from the box and faced Shepard.  He then said:

“From thy love a gentle rain doth fall;
a verdant bounty doth there grow upon the land.
Thy love, thy love, doth wear the mountain down,
as stone is worn down into sand.
And so my love for thee I find renew'd,
on soil rich the green to sea hath spanned.
And thus to thee I give a promise dear,
forevermore entwined within this band.”

He placed the ring on Shepard’s finger.

“Then by the power vested in me by the province of British Columbia, I pronounce you married.  You may kiss your husband.”

The two leaned in toward each other, staring into one another’s eyes.  Shepard placed his right hand over Kaidan’s cheek, wiping away a tear of joy with his thumb.  Kaidan reached up with his own hand and wrapped it around the back of Shepard’s neck, pulling his face closer.  He angled his head and pressed his lips against Shepard’s.

The audience erupted into applause.

The reception was held beneath a large open tent set up on the other side of the house.  The sound system was playing something modern from an all-asari pop-rock band.

“Shepard, Alenko,” Admiral Hackett said as he approached.  In a rare sight, he was wearing civilian attire.  An unfamiliar woman accompanied him.

“Glad you could make it, admiral,” Kaidan said, shaking his hand.

“The least I could do for my two favorite spectres,” he said, shaking Shepard’s hand.  “I’d like you both to meet my wife, Cynthia.”

She shook Kaidan’s hand, then Shepard’s.

“A pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” Shepard said.

“Likewise,” she said.  “I’ve heard so much about you from Steven.  I’m glad you two have each other to depend on.”

“By the way,” Hackett said, “beautiful ceremony.  Short and sweet.  I liked the poetry, that was a nice touch.”

“Thank you, sir,” Kaidan said.

“Shepard!” Wrex called out.

“Wrex!” Shepard called back.

The hulking krogan walked over to the group and reached out his hand.  Hackett and his wife took a cautious step back.  Shepard returned Wrex’s gesture, and they clasped each other’s forearms in traditional warrior greeting.

“Gotta say, Shepard, never pictured you getting married.  You’re practically an honorary krogan, and krogan don’t have weddings.”

“What can I say?” Shepard said.  “Never knew I wanted it until Kaidan and I started dating.  Anyway, I don’t believe you’ve met Admiral Hackett and his wife, Cynthia.”

Wrex extended his hand toward Hackett.  “Urdnot Wrex.  Always glad to meet a fellow warrior.”

Hackett took the offered hand and shook.  “Steven Hackett.  A pleasure to finally meet you in person.”

“Cynthia Hackett,” Cynthia said, and she tentatively offered her hand.

Wrex surprised her by bowing down to kiss it.  “Enchanté.”  She laughed with delight.

“Where’s Bakara?” Shepard asked.

“She’s back home on Tuchanka,” Wrex said.  “Some of the clans were getting out of line, and she needed to stay to straighten them out.  She sends her regards.”

“How are things going on Tuchanka?”

“Good.  Bakara and I, we’re finally moving the needle.  Some of the things that other clan leaders laughed off a year ago when it was just me saying them… well, Bakara says it and they listen.  They don’t always agree, not right away, but for the first time, they listen.”

“Good.  I’m happy things are working out.”

“And Kaidan!  It’s been a long time.  That L2 still giving you trouble?”

“Not lately,” Kaidan said.  “Haven’t had much need for my biotics since the end of the war, so the lack of migraines has been nice.”

“Don’t go soft on me,” Wrex said.  “There are still things out there that need killing.”

“Don’t worry about that.  Now that this Reaper civil war is coming to a head, I’m sure I’ll be going out there a lot more.”

“That’s the spirit!”

“Shepard,” Miranda said as she approached.

“Miranda!” Shepard exclaimed.  “Miranda Lawson, I’d like you to meet Admiral Hackett and his wife, Cynthia.  I believe you met Kaidan and Urdnot Wrex at the party.”

“Oh, the admiral and I have spoken,” Miranda said.  “Still, a pleasure to meet you in person.”  She extended her hand, and Hackett shook it.  She repeated the gesture with Cynthia.

“I have Miss Lawson to thank for saving my life after Alchera,” Shepard explained to the group.  His gaze lingered on Kaidan.

“Thank you for bringing him back to me,” Kaidan said to her.  “Even if I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have at the time.”

“Oh, the commander made it quite clear how disappointed he was on Horizon when you objected to the company he was keeping,” she said with a sardonic smile.  “I’m happy that you two have come this far.  And after all Shepard has done for me,” she said to the group, “any debts are long since paid.  He saved my life, and he saved my sister twice.”

“That’s Shepard,” Wrex said.  “Always running in where angels fear to tread, just to help someone in need.”

“Yeah, that does sound familiar,” Kaidan agreed.

Shepard actually looked down and blushed.

“The comm- Shepard has touched many lives,” Javik said as he approached the group, hands folded behind his back.  “Including my own.”

“Javik!” Shepard exclaimed.  “This is Admiral Steven Hackett and his wife Cynthia.  You met Wrex and Miranda at the party.  This is Javik, the last Prothean.”

Hackett began to extend his hand, but Javik interrupted him.  “Please forgive me if I do not shake your hand.  Prothean physiology makes it a… very intense experience.  It was not done lightly among my people.”

“Oh?” Hackett enquired.

“My people can sense minute details through touch — your physiology, your pheromones, your nervous system… even your genetic code.  I would experience your lifetime of memories in a flash.  The experience has only intensified since the great change at the end of the war.”

“I see,” Hackett said.  “I’d read about it in Shepard’s reports, but I had no idea the effect was so detailed.”

“I thank you for your efforts in the war,” Javik said to Hackett.  “My own people warred with the Reapers for centuries.  I know all too well how desperate the situation was.  It speaks well to your leadership that the human fleets held out as long as they did.”  Javik turned to address the group.  “And now I would ask to speak to these two alone.  I have a private matter to discuss with Shepard and Alenko.”

Hackett, Cynthia, Wrex, and Miranda dispersed into the throng.

“Yes, Javik?” Kaidan asked.

“We have not yet spoken of the events of the day when you destroyed the Prothean Reaper.”

Shepard and Kaidan subconsciously closed together in solidarity.

“You were right, comm- Shepard,” Javik said.  “I saw Prothean culture reflected back at me, and I did not like what I saw.  I once told the major that if I were to follow your ways, it would be the end of Prothean culture.  I have decided that… perhaps it is time to let it end.”

“Are you sure, Javik?” Shepard asked.

“Yes.  I shall ‘let old ghosts rest’,” Javik said.  “This is not the cycle of my people, but it is now my cycle, and I must learn to live within it.  I-”

They were interrupted by a sudden change in the music.  Normandy’s hologram scrambled into a chaotic swirl of voxels, and a series of digital screeches erupted from the speakers.  Suddenly, a hologram figure of a dancing human appeared in Normandy’s place, and the sound of 1980’s synthpop filled the tent.

“Oh, come on EDI,” Joker shouted.  “No one’s going to get this joke except me and you.”

“What’s going on?” Kaidan asked as he approached EDI and Joker.

“Remember those red team exercises that EDI and Normandy do?  You know, try to hack each other for fun?  EDI just won.  This is her idea of a prank on Normandy.”

Kaidan shook his head in disbelief.  Shepard shrugged and started dancing, and Kaidan sighed and joined him.

We’re no strangers to love //
You know the rules // and so do I //
A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of //
You wouldn’t get this from any other guy //
I-I-I just want to tell you how I’m feeling //
Gotta make you understand //

Never gonna give you up //
Never gonna let you down //
Never gonna run around and // desert you //
Never gonna make you cry //
Never gonna say goodbye //
Never gonna tell a lie // and hurt you