Actions

Work Header

Promises We Keep

Work Text:

I am not putting your name on that wall. The thought is rolling around in Kaidan’s mind ever since the Normandy jumped back to Sol. As they rounded on the Citadel, especially, the words could not be stopped. Through the forward viewscreen, he could see it. Behind him, EDI mentions something about odds to Joker, who promptly shushes her. The station was broken, its high geosynchronous orbit over London slowly decaying as its pieces drifted away. As a Spectre, Kaidan knows that he should be thinking of every soul that was lost in the final battle with the Reapers, should be thinking of everyone who died on that station, of the ones who might still be alive somewhere, but he can’t. He can’t let it go, can’t let him go. He measures a breath, and blinks away a tear in the hopes that neither of the others will notice.

“I am not putting your name on that wall,” he whispers to himself. Thankfully, if either Joker or EDI heard, they don’t mention it.

Shepard. Kaidan’s mind can’t help but stray to thoughts of him. Of him walking away. Of that last touch, the last look, the last words he said before he turned and headed for the beam. Kaidan had hated himself for not trying harder to follow, kicking and yelling as Liara dragged him inside the hangar and up to the med-bay. He hated her for being so strong, hated James for holding him against the bed, and himself again for needing Chakwas to sedate him once they got him pinned.

He should have followed him. He’d promised to follow Shepard anywhere, and he’d done a shitty job of it. Yeah, it probably would have killed him. Chakwas had reminded him of that after he’d woken up, as if it was any consolation. He’d ignored her. He’d known what was at stake. He could take it. He also knew why Shep had called in ship to extract him and Liara in those final moments, when all three of them could have probably made it to the beam. The bastard had known he was going to die. Shep had known it, and he didn’t want them to die alongside him, when that is the only place Kaidan wanted, hell, needed to be. It had been that moment, and all the others like it from the very beginning, that made Kaidan realize that Shepard loved him. The fate of the galaxy didn’t count for shit if the bastard didn’t save his crew, even if it meant breaking his own damn promise.

Don’t leave me behind. Final words. Kaidan wishes he could’ve said anything else. The pain had been apparent in Shep’s eyes. Kaidan had just wanted to make it go away. He’d told him he loved him. He told him to be careful. Considering the circumstances, he’d been able to say more than most could’ve hoped for. But none of it had worked. Shepard had still left him behind.

Kaidan tries to keep his breathing under control as they make their way through the Presidium, the pain of those last moments, clawing at his chest. He’s pretty sure the rest of the team can hear it anyway. But no one says anything. He’s thankful for that.

Joker breaks the silence, chattering in Kaidan’s comm about the last location he got a fix on Shepard before everything went dark. There’s something more about jump-scares and an over-bruised pelvis each time one of the disabled reaper husks drifts into LADAR range, and Kaidan cuts across it, tightening his grip on his rifle.

“Does anyone see him?” He knows they can all hear the crack in his voice, even over the rubble crunching under six pairs of boots and the steady hiss of leaking atmosphere.

“I got nothing,” Garrus pipes up from the front of the group, swiveling to scan the room through the eyepiece of his rifle sight. No one else answers. At least it shuts Joker up. “I don’t know how we’re supposed to see anything in here,” he complains, scope light dancing as he shrugs against it. “It’s almost completely fucking destroy-” He stops as Tali clears her throat next to him. Loudly. Kaidan flexes his jaw. As much as the thought tightens his chest, he knows the Turian is right. What’s left of the massive room is a dome, that much he could tell. It’s largely intact, sure, but huge, thick cracks had formed in several places. Not enough to trigger anti-venting fields, but enough to do some damage. The internal structure of the room was another story. What was left of what appeared to be a central platform had been sheared clean off its mounts, overhead Crucible-beam guards still crackling with energy as they dangled from the ceiling. The flashes of it arced occasionally across the settling dust. What remained was essentially a few piles of twisted girders, torn and warped pieces of hull plating, and massive boulders of ferrocrete. Kaidan tries not to think about what would’ve happened if Shep had been caught under one of those. Garrus draws him back with another shrug. “We’re lucky it still has atmosphere, really,” he says, as if that makes it better. Kaidan tries to ignore the fact that he’s probably right.

Next to him, Liara lowers her Hornet as she surveys the rest of the damage. “But if anyone can survive this…” She lets her words trail off. Kaidan can’t tell if it was for his benefit or not. He hopes it isn’t.

“The odds are still very high,” EDI intones, as she kneels at the end of the central catwalk to examine something, “That Shepard did not.” Kaidan tries not to grind his teeth. Shep hated- hates that. Thanks for that.

“You’re not helping, EDI,” Liara bristles, speaking up a second too late. The knot is already reforming in Kaidan’s chest. He swallows hard, trying to ghost the lump in his throat before it got too high to ignore. He flicks the safety on his rifle and lowers it to his side, acutely aware of the heat in his cheeks.

“My apologies,” EDI’s tone is almost solemn as she cocks a half-look back over her shoulder, eyes not quite meeting his own. “I… I hope I’m wrong.” Kaidan breathes.

I will not put your name on that wall. It’s less a promise and more a plea, now.

Kaidan wipes the heel of his hand across an eye. It comes away dry.

“Can we just… can we just find him?” He asks no one in particular. “Please? Can we just stop talking and-” The rest of his words kind of fade out, a fresh wave of pain tightening his chest. It wouldn’t help to break down again. Not with everyone here. Not like this. It took all his effort to push it down, to just breathe and focus on finding the Commander.

I will not put your name on that wall. He puts concerted effort into forcing strength into those words, his own heartbeat ringing hollow in his ears.
It’s Garrus that provides the sanity check this time. “Did you guys hear that?” He asks, swinging his rifle back up, in the general direction of one large pile of debris, half-teetering on a raised ledge to Kaidan’s right. One of the central towers. Kaidan had missed it when he swept the room as they entered, its silhouette dwarfed by the remnants of the rest of the chamber behind it.

“No, what was-” Liara’s words nearly overshadowed the faintest sound of lungs taking in air. Six barrels zero-in on the sound as safeties are clicked off.

The ringing of Kaidan’s heartbeat quickens as the team’s thermal clips begin to spin up. Another breath.

“Quiet,” Garrus snaps, preemptively cutting her off as he hunts for the sound. Another breath. Shallow, ragged, barely there, but unmistakable. Kaidan’s heart lodges firmly into the back of his throat, ears vibrating from the force of its sound. “There, I heard it again!” Inhale, exhale. Kaidan can actually hear it. Almost fucking feel it.

“Shore party,” Joker’s voice crackles over the comm, “Guys, I’ve got a read-”

Liara’s almost ecstatic, omni-tool out to confirm before he even finishes stating the obvious.
“Me too! It’s… It-”

Joker comes back, anticipating her next response. “-I can’t get an exact fix with all the debris. Need a closer scan to pick it up” Kaidan looks down to his wrist, but Liara’s tool beeps in response.

“There!” She points at a fairly indistinguishable pile of rubble strewn across a catwalk, near what was left of the central towers. Kaidan follows the gesture with his rifle, but can’t distinguish the exact direction.

Fuck it, he thinks, and makes for it, tossing his rifle aside. I will not put your name on that wall. Liara is hot on his heels. Once they reach the rubble, Kaidan freezes, realizing the breathing hadn’t sounded in several seconds. Liara misses that apparently, throwing aside her weapon as she scrambles up to largest chunks of debris, only then pausing to search for the direction of the breathing.

Kaidan almost panics the second before it sounds, a raspy inhale followed by a broken, shallow exhale. It was stronger than the last one, but far too irregular to be a good sign.

“Garrus,” Liara yells, chunks of rock and metal clanging as she throws them aside, “guys, help me clear some of this.” The team was already on the move toward them, but Kaidan holds out a hand, the crunching of boots on gravel halts. He swallows hard, his throat never been drier. Heart thundering in his chest, he tightens his fists and takes a step back. The team clears a space for him. Somewhere at the top of his spine, the liquified tingle of biotic energy began to swirl.

“Get out of the way, Liara.” Kaidan orders, surprised at the amount of resolve in his voice. She turns, suddenly wide-eyed as he levels his now full-body biotic field at the rocks she’d been trying to move. Blue sparks flicker at the edges of his vision.

“Wha- Kaidan, no!” Her protests were immediate, concern punctuated by yet another breath from somewhere in the debris. “You could compromise the hull even more.”

“There’s no way you can move that, Kaidan,” James echoes. Kaidan knows that he’s probably right. More likely he’ll overload himself. Hell, he could feel his implants begin to cook at the base of his skull. No. He had let them save him before, and it cost Shepard his life. I will not put your name on that wall, he repeats, trying to give himself strength. “Dude, you’ll kill yoursel-”

Kaidan ignores him, his field thrumming in his ears as he centers his focus on where he last heard the breathing. Shepard’s breathing. He knew the familiar, measured breaths of his commander very well. He knew how they’d changed in timbre slightly after he came back from Cerberus a year ago. He knew how they sounded during a fight in his comm, or how they slipped into a desperately shallow, arrhythmic growling when they were together, in the middle of it. He remembered the night before Earth, when so many of them were shared with his own. With that thought in the back of his mind, Kaidan exhaled like he’d been taught, trying to seal out the voices of the team and the rest of the broken, shattered station around them. All that mattered was what was in front of him. Shepard. He was in there somewhere, buried in the ruined machinery that had saved them all. Kaidan had to get to him. He needed to. Bracing as he reached his arms out toward the debris, Kaidan concentrated. He could feel the tingle of energy flow through his fingers as he applied force to the rocks. Finding a purchase with the twitch of his wrists, he engaged. As the biotics coalesced around him, the weight of the rubble began to settle in his outstretched hands. It was almost overwhelming, pressure seeming to have no end, no effect even touching it slightly. Then there was a rumble. The deck tremored slightly beneath him. It’s working! The sound of metal and rock beginning to shift was muffled by the thrum of his field. More. He pushes harder. The veins in his arms begin to pop, muscles screaming at the strain of the force field in their fibers. Kaidan does his best to ignore them, needing desperately to be oblivious to all but the hurricane of energy ripping within his bubble like so much wind.

Suddenly, as if a tether somewhere is snapped, the largest of the crucible’s debris lurches free, instantly hanging precariously in the air. Kaidan nearly falters in surprise, fear flooding ice-cold across his mind. His grip slips ever so slightly. No. You’ve got this. You’ve got him. The rocks slip again, and Kaidan almost loses them. Somewhere out of the corner of his eye, he catches Liara’s field flickering to life. The debris holds steady.
I will not leave you behind, he snarls. Not this time.

Kaidan strains with everything he has, his throat letting out a defiant, raw-throated scream as he shifts the amalgam of engineered rock and steel in midair. The rest of the team can do nothing but look on, their concerned yells almost completely drowned out in the heavy thrum of his mass effect field pumping in his ears. He filters what little strength he has left into the palm of one hand and winds it back until he can’t hold it anymore. The shockwave is released as the tension snaps, and the debris is hurled across the chamber, falling into the seemingly endless shaft below. The thrum of his biotics begins to fade along with the rest of the team’s voices. Everything is numb. He thinks he says something before the tunnels start to constrict around his vision, spine suddenly jelly. His last thoughts are of shepard’s lips on his. They’re scarred, rough even, but warm. Just how he remembered them. Then world ceases to exist.

“Kaidan, wake up.” The voice isn’t Shepard’s. Kaidan registers the smallest amount of disappointment. Liara.

“Is he alive?” Now Garrus. Close enough to be listening to his breathing. Mandibles clack lightly.

“Yes,” Liara answers, sounding distracted as she presses types out a sequence of something on her omni-tool, “But his implants must’ve overloaded and had to discharge.” Kaidan’s head throbs at the noise. At least now I know why, he thinks, unsure if he can open his eyes. The mere thought threatens to make him sick. “Hold on,” Liara chimes in, voice pulsing his head, “His vitals are climbing.” There were a few beeps of agreement from her omni-tool. Kaidan wishes it would die. “Kaidan? Can you hear me?” Liara’s usually cool voice was wavering with concern.
Kaidan’s head is still throbbing when he takes a deep breath and forces his eyes open. And now spinning, now that his eyes are open. The combination worsens the nausea. “Wha- what happened?” He groans, his throat raw, voice hoarse from screaming. “Where’s Shepard? Did we get to him? Is he-? He tries to push himself up, to no avail. His arms fail halfway up from the ground, and he slumps backward. Liara and Garrus grunt as they catch him before he cracks his skull against the deck.

“Kaidan,” Garrus sounds almost weary as they settle him back down. “He’s-” The biotic’s heart stops cold in its tracks. No. He blinks, trying to adjust eyes as he searches their faces for some clue as to what happened. Garrus closes his eyes, mandibles clenched. Liara focuses intently on her omni-tool, her eyes steadfastly avoiding his own. She sighs.

“He’s gone, Kaidan.” If her voice was wavering before, it practically shuddered. No.

It couldn’t be. He was breathing. Kaidan had heard it. They all had heard it. He tried to listen, to ignore the tears welling in his eyes, but the sound was gone. He tried to get up, but they held him in place.

“I need- I need to see, to get to-” Kaidan pushes himself up, shrugging them off, looking to where the mangled, twisted remains of the crucible were what seemed like two seconds ago. In the wreckage, half-hidden behind Tali typing furious commands into her omni-tool, and James manually shifting boulders twice his size, is a small, familiar triangle of red inscribed on a breastplate. With what leftover strength he has, Kaidan staggers to get to his feet, Liara and Garrus’ complaints fading in his ears as he makes for the familiar form. Shepard. No. Shepard’s eyes are closed, his chest still, the glow of his scars a faded, darkening orange. Blood and bruises leave painful-looking tracks across his exposed neck and face. His armor, for what good it did him, is rent and broken, either melted together or, in the case of his right arm, tattered and charred, more like burned cloth than layers of reflective and ablative armor. The rest of the once proud Spectre is bent awkwardly, like whatever blast had destroyed this place had taken him before he even hit the ground. No. Kaidan couldn’t believe it.

His hearing returns as Tali says something about medi-gel and a missing heartbeat, and the tears begin to fall anew.

“No,” He whispers to himself, defeated. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Not after all this time. Not after all the waiting, all the fighting. Not when they finally had a chance. No. The word sounds so weak to him as he falls to his knees next to his Commander, his Shepard. Reaching out, his fingers tentatively trace up Shepard’s neck to his jaw, slack and lifeless. His thumbs follow his cheekbones up to his eyes, closed tight. Kaidan can’t breathe. He cradles Shepard’s head in his hands, willing him to wake up. “No,” he whispers, so that only Shepard could hear. “You can’t do this to me- to us. Not now. Not after-” He can’t go on, the words dry in his throat. Shepard can’t be dead. He can’t be. He made a promise. Not after everything, not after we won. It was supposed to be over now. Shepard should have died ten times over during the war, killed by Sovereign or the Geth or the Reapers themselves. But now, now that it was over, and he and Shep could’ve finally had something real, some small, happy part of the peace he never really knew they’d be able to win, it couldn’t happen this way. Not like this.

Kaidan’s fingers brush through the rough stubble of Shepard’s scalp. He can’t be dead. Gently, Kaidan lets his forehead rest against Shepard’s, and closes his eyes, trying in vain to create that private little space they used to share back on the Normandy. It was in those few quiet moments they had together, usually huddled in a corner of the starboard lounge, that Kaidan had been happiest. As silly as they were, those moments were some of the only few that had been able to force his mind back to center. He could’ve sat there for hours, Shepard curled against him, his familiar, steady breathing as he dozed off on his shoulder keeping Kaidan rooted to the spot. It just felt right, safe even, like he was finally home, despite being light-years away from it.

After all this time… The words echo in the back of Kaidan’s mind, fresh tears welling up behind his eyelids at the memory. A small sob escaped his throat, unwilling to be held back any longer. If any of the rest of the team had noticed, they were keeping their distance, even as the tears fell onto shepard’s armor, faint, irregular staccato of droplets on metal. “No,” Kaidan whispers again, barely recognizing his own voice. Whatever strength it’d had earlier was gone completely. It was more of a plea, a prayer. To anyone, or anything that could bring Shepard back, or at the very least, let Kaidan join him, wherever he was. “I told you not to leave me behind,” he whispers, just loud enough for only Shepard to hear. “You promised me.” The only answer he gets is silence, and it kills him.

Gently, almost reverently, he pulls closer, fitting Shepard’s lips against his own the way that they used to. They’re rough, scarred, and cold. The sensation locks up Kaidan’s heart in his chest, but he needs it. He needs Shepard, or whatever’s left of him. He needs his touch, the gentle way he used to hold him. He needs the man’s smell, the taste of his skin, of his lips. It’s still just barely there. He doesn’t want to forget any part of him, of the man that gave him so much. Slowly he pulls back, holding Shepard close, burying his nose in the crook of his shoulder, he whispers it. How he’ll love him forever, how he doesn’t want to remember the broken, cold war hero, the one who will always be the reason they brought down the reapers. He tells Shepard that he’ll remember the old soldier who made him feel whole again. I won’t to forget that. I don’t want to forget-
The thoughts truncate as a shallow breath curls warm air against the nape of his neck.
And in his ear, Kaidan hears a raspy voice whisper back, “You won’t.”

Kaidan’s heart stops dead, lungs forgetting the need to exhale. He chances a look as he pulls back slightly, hoping that his mind isn’t playing tricks on him. But the Commander’s body shifts, groans, barely. There’s another breath. And another. Kaidan’s pulse quickens. He didn’t imagine it. He can hear the rest of the team spring into action around him, but the commotion fades as his voice cracks from his throat. “Sh- Shepard?”
“I’m here, Kaidan.” His breaths are ragged, but there. Growing stronger each time. Kaidan finds he’s still cradling his commander’s head, but won’t let go. He’s terrified that if he breaks contact, he’ll lose him again. But there’s a half-smile, and a weak hand reaching up to his forearm, bloodied fingers closing gently around it. Kaidan can almost feel Shepard’s heartbeat through the contact on his armor, or was that his own? “I’m here,” Shepard reassures him, as if reading the biotic’s mind. His eyes flicker open. Kaidan sniffs, eyes warm with tears again. But he doesn’t care. He can’t help but let out a half-sobbed laugh. And he’s pretty sure Garrus does the same, somewhere behind him.

“You promise?” He asks, as a rough thumb wipes a tear away from his cheek.

“I promise,” Shepard answers, giving Kaidan’s wrist a gentle squeeze. The light begins to fade back into Shepard’s bloodshot eyes, as they focus on his own. Kaidan can see some of their former strength returning as they blink, locking back onto his own. Even through the bruises and dried blood, Kaidan can make out that look that Shepard used to give him. That half-smile that let him know Shepard was thinking about him, about them. And with it came the familiar tingling pull on his spine, just behind his heart. Even dying at the end of the galaxy couldn’t steal that power from them.

Kaidan chuckles as he pulls Shepard into him, thanking whatever powers there were for sending him back.

“Good,” Kaidan answers with a smile, “Because you broke the last one you made to me.” Shepard attempts a weak laugh, but it turns into a wheezing cough. But for a second, it’s there. He’s back, and Kaidan feels frozen in time.

“I never actually made that one, you know,” Shep coughs, a slight smile curling at his cracked lips. It looks like it hurts, and it makes Kaidan wish he could to take the pain away.

“I told you not to leave me behind,” he reminds him. Shepard nods. He remembers, the smile falters briefly as he exhales.

“And I won’t, from now on.” There’s a gentle squeeze at Kaidan’s wrist as if to punctuate it.

He cocks a half-skeptical eyebrow back at the Commander in response.

“I’ll hold you to that,” he says, and Shepard chuckles, pulling himself back toward Kaidan’s chest.

“I know you will, Major.” Shepard’s smile tugs at the corners of his lips as he closes what little remains of the space between them, mouth finding purchase against Kaidan’s once more. Shepard’s lips were rough, the scars and cracks a little deeper than before. But they were there, they were alive, and Kaidan can taste that life in them. And he knew he wouldn’t forget that, as long as he lived.

-

Kaidan absentmindedly says his name. No answer. Figures. He rolls his eyes, scrolling through recipes on his datapad for some old French mostly-beef concoction with a name he still couldn’t pronounce, for all the times he’d had it over the years. Shep had mentioned it in passing, but of course, now that Kaidan needed confirmation, his husband was nowhere within earshot. It’s a rather impressive, yet common problem these days. Their apartment isn’t that big, but neither of them were the hyper-alert soldiers they once were, either. The office is empty, as is the spare bedroom, and their room. Kaidan grumbles. The one time I want to surprise him with- he stops when he sees the familiar form through the frosted glass of the bedroom window.

Shepard stands out on the balcony, his back to the windows as he looks out over Vancouver Harbour. It’s been a cloudy day, with the forecast calling for high fog and rain throughout the night. An annoyance to most, but not to Shep. He always loved the rain. It was something Kaidan hadn’t found out until after… well, everything. There was so much they still hadn’t known about each other back then, looking back. He’d thought he knew all there was to know about his would-be husband back then, for all the times they talked, drank, bared each other’s souls and secrets. Kaidan can’t help but chuckle at the memories, smiling as he watches his husband. Leaning on the railing, idly tapping a foot to some imagined beat, Shepard looks completely at peace. It looks good on you, Shep.

Overhead, the ships pass low on their approach into the old Sea Island Airport (now Vancouver Memorial Spaceport), rumble from the engines and ocean each competing to be the loudest sound in the harbour. Kaidan can see the wind even from the kitchen, the way it tosses shepard’s hair. It’s longer now. Almost wavy. streaked with grey, but not nearly enough for someone who went through so much in his life. He wonders what pre-war Shep would say if he saw his future self, and chuckles at the thought. Kaidan knows that Shep would likely roll his eyes if he brought it up, complaining with that his husband’s still-relatively jet-black hair should be so lucky to look as distinguished as his. Would still be worth it though, mostly because he’d let Kaidan run his fingers through it.

Deciding that dinner can wait, Kaidan sets the datapad aside on the counter and makes for the balcony door. It barely makes a noise on the track as he pulls it open, what with the wind and all. It’s blowing harder than he expected, with a little more bite in its chill. The picture windows along the entire northern side of the apartment shiver slightly as they’re buffeted by the gusts, and Kaidan growls to himself mentally for not grabbing a sweater. They live on the 156th floor, after all. He should expect these things by now. It’d been almost eight years. Every damn time. He shivers as he steps over the threshold, catching the view through the fog.

They were situated in the new high rises behind the remnants of the old Olympic Center, one of the reconstructs that had to be done after the Reapers leveled the place. It offered a spectacular view of Vancouver Harbor on the right, Stanley Island on the right, with the Lionsgate Bridge catching the sunsets most night. The perks of being married to the savior of the galaxy meant that an apartment like this came relatively cheap. Hell, the thing had been practically given to them after the war was over, along with similar properties in New London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo. But Shep only wanted one, and Kaidan felt suddenly guilty for all the times he’d raved about his hometown over their tours. A little chilly, but it was hardly a problem, considering. Besides, more important matters needed attending to at the moment, like how best to sneak up on the illustrious Commander Shepard.

Shepard’s words overshadow a quick chuckle, stopping Kaidan mid-scheme. He doesn’t even turn to look behind him.
“You’ve lost your touch there, Kade.”

Kaidan chuckles as he closes the door behind him, rolling his eyes.

“I never was all that good surprising you.” At that, Shep does turn to face him, leaning his back against the railing and crossing his arms over his chest, a remnant mannerism of the smartass-commander-turned-space-messiah that Kaidan pretends annoys him.

“I think Horizon would’ve begged to differ,” he quips back. The jab isn’t meant to draw blood, but Kaidan doesn’t like being reminded of that not-so-chance meeting. He steps up to the railing and leans on it, taking in the cloudy harbor, conscious of Shepard watching him as he does the same. Overhead, a cruiser’s pitched thrum wins a momentary victory over the wind and waves. Their gazes follow the sound. “Oh,” Shepard adds, “And don’t forget about when you tried to kill me on the Citadel, and-

Kaidan waves him off, feigning annoyance. “I get it, Shep.” He rolls his eyes. “Full of surprises.”

Shepard turns toward him, offering a small, affectionate nudge. “Damn right,” he intones, a slight smile curled at his lips. “Wouldn’t have you any other way.”

Kaidan cocks an eyebrow at his husband of ten years, deciding whether or not he wants to make it better or worse. Worse. Definitely worse. Kaidan returns his husband’s smirk, eliciting a standard-issue Commander Shepard eye roll. He knows where this is going. They’d been at this a long time.

“Don’t do it, Major,” Shepard growls, as Kaidan smiles darkly. Pulling rank hardly had any effect on him anymore. Except when Admiral Shepard came to visit. But even then, she only did it to mess with them both. Once a soldier… The thought fades as Shepard continues. “You know how much I hate it.” All the more reason, Kaidan thinks. His smile doesn’t falter. Shepard makes one last-ditch attempt to stop the joke he knows is coming. “C’mon, Ka-”

Kaidan’s impression is still spot-on. “I should go,” he riffs, a deliberately superior bravado worked into the words. He pretends to start to leave, overdone marching steps apparently having the desired effect. He receives another nudge, this one an admonishment, and harder. That used to be more fun in armor.

Shep scoffs, shaking his head as Kaidan laughs. “You suck, you know that?”

The former Sentinel just shrugs. “Nah,” he intones, voice almost serious as he returns to his spot next to his husband. He leaning into Shep as they watch the boats bob through the choppy surf of the harbor. “You’re better at that than I am.” That brings another scoff.

“Well I learned from the best,” Shepard fires back, offering a small sideways look at his husband. Kaidan can see the glint of want in it. He has to look away to keep from jumping him right there. Not that it wouldn’t have been the first time they’d done it on that balcony. After all this time. Some things never change. Good thing he’d already made his peace with not having dinner at a reasonable time.

“I have it on good authority,” Kaidan redirects, “That you totally knew how to do that before you met me.”

Shepard shrugs. “Maybe,” he intones, feigning ambivalence. “But I didn’t perfect it until you came along.” At that Kaidan rolls his eyes again, mostly for Shep’s benefit. Cheesy little comments like that would be forever his undoing. Or at least, the undoing of his pants. “Among several other things.” The want in his voice is unmistakable. Dinner would definitely be some kind of post-coital late night take-out sushi again. Not that Kaidan was complaining. “And who is this authority of yours, pray tell?”

Kaidan waves him off. “I’m more interested in these other skills I allegedly improved.” His smirk deepens. He already knows the answer, of course. The memories of their first post-war nights aboard the Normandy were still fresh in his mind, as they’d probably always be. They existed in almost a dream-like state. Kaidan remembered how Shep’s gentle touches, warily-sought reminders that he was actually there with him, that they were both there, both alive, turned into the needy dig of his fingers into the Commander’s back, the fire of Shep’s lips finding purchase against his own in the dark, the heartbeat-skipping tingle of marks being sucked across his collarbones and chest, the firm, breathless pressure of Shepard against him, surrounding him, inside him. It was fantastic back then, but somehow got even better with time. And lots of practice.

Kaidan is torn from his thoughts as Shep pulls him in expectantly, almost as if he was reading the biotic’s mind. Kaidan lets his eyes slip closed as familiar, rough hands slide over his hips, closing what little distance remained between them. Muted warmth turns to sharp heat as they slip under the hem of Kaidan’s shirt to the small of his back, just before their lips come together. Kaidan lets a small groan slip from his throat as he arches into Shepard, like always, hands curled into the fabric of his shirt, trying to pull him closer, deeper against him. He’d forgotten all about dinner by this point. And everything else, for that matter.

Shepard’s words punctuate his ministrations. “Well for starters-” he breathes, his voice heady in Kaidan’s ears, “-Keeping my promise.” Kaidan chuckles, letting his head fall back as shepard kisses a trail across the angle of his jaw and down his neck.

“And which one is that?” He asks, voice cracking in his throat. He cards his fingers through Shepard’s hair, pulling their mouths back together again. There had been several promises over the years, starting with the one extracted from a half-dead Shepard, that night Kaidan had found him after the battle for the Citadel. Not a day went by that Kaidan didn’t think about that one. Then there were the vows from the wedding. He would be hard-pressed to forget anything Shep had said that night, too. Between the dress blue-and-golds, that smile, that first cool Vancouver night in August… Kaidan pulls himself from the memories as Shepard’s grip tightens around him, their lips locked one-over-the-other. Shepard pulls back, and Kaidan’s mouth follows, ghost of the Commander’s lips still etched across them. He searches the Shepard’s eyes for a brief second, as rough fingers lace between his own at their sides. The silence only lasts a second, but it feels like an eternity. Kaidan can feel that familiar tingle in his spine from the touch.

Shepard leans his forehead against his husband’s. After all this time. “The one where I keep you this close forever,” He whispers quietly, eyes closed as he savors the feeling.

Kaidan chuckles. “You mean when I made you swear to never leave me alone again?”

Shepard smiles. “And you followed me around like a puppy for almost a month? Yeah, that’s the one.” He pulls back, leading Kaidan back inside by the hand.

“I figured as much,” Kaidan laughs, taking a second to close the door once they’re through, before taking shep’s hand again. “Though I never actually followed you around.”

Shep smiles as he pulls them both down onto the couch, Kaidan settling straddled across his lap. “Did too.”

“Not,” he interjects before returning his lips to their rightful place against Shepard’s mouth. Again hands arch their torsos together, fingers dipping below the waistband of Kaidan’s sweats. He pulls back when Shepard lets out what sounds like a low, albeit appreciative, growl. Kaidan huffs out a knowing laugh.

“Commando?” Shepard’s smile is downright filth. Kaidan fucking loves it.

“What? you were expecting something else?” He does his best to feign incredulity. They’d stuck to the apartment most of the day, aside from the run he’d had taken earlier when Shepard was on a call with Hackett. Kaidan hadn’t changed, just stripped off the sweaty clothes for something more comfy. After all, it was just the two of them. Shepard cocks an eyebrow, an expression that meant only one thing. Kaidan sighs. He knows what’s coming. Shepard’s smirk gives it all away.

“Just that biotic boo-”

“Yup, i knew it,” Kaidan cuts in, mock exasperation in his voice. “When are you going to let that one die?”

“Never,” Shepard chuckles, entirely too satisfied with himself. “You love it, Kade. You just won’t admit it.” Kaidan scoffs, but says nothing as he started undoing the buttons on Shepard’s henley.

“I do not love it, actually,” He intones after Shepard pesters him. It’s a bald-faced lie of course, and Shep knows it, as evidenced by his manufactured eye roll. Kaidan would never admit it, but Shepard is right. Too much had happened to them. Even at their worst, when they annoyed each other to no end, or when they fought, goading each other to the point of screaming terrible things back and forth, neither could deny that they loved the stupid little shit like that. They had both been through hell and back. Whether it was Kaidan cracking wise about Shepard’s terrible conversation exits, or Shepard coming up with the cheesiest one-liners in the galaxy, all of it had a way of making everything else fall into place, of making the years of fighting and loss seem to fade away. It worked for them. And it had. Many times, actually.

Shepard’s voice brings Kaidan back again. “You there, Kade?” He shakes himself back to reality. “You’re spacing out again.”

“Yeah,” Kaidan reassures him, his fingers still toying with the buttons on his husband’s shirt. “I’m here.” Mostly.

Shepard gives his hips an understanding squeeze. “You sure? because we don’t have to-” Kaidan cuts across him again by planting a firm kiss against his lips. Shepard bucks up against him after a second, having been taken momentarily off-guard. Kaidan huffs a small laugh into his mouth, slightly proud of the way he can still throw his husband off from time to time. And when he pulls back, Shepard groans softly, craning his neck up as far as he can to follow the touch.

Kaidan can’t help but smile at the look on his husband’s face. It looks just like it did all those years ago, when they finally had a chance to talk after the Cerberus fiasco. That day, sitting at the little cafe on the Presidium, that same look made it seem like Shep was seeing him for the first time. Seeing them for the first time. it was the same look he had when Kaidan found him on the Citadel after the final battle of the war. It was like none of it mattered anymore, nothing except them, together, finally.

After all this time, he thinks. Virmire. Ash. Horizon. Mars. Cerberus. The Reapers. London. Broken promises. Extracted new ones. None of it. It was just them- Us.

Beneath him, Shepard stirs and smiles back, hand gently tracing one of the old scars across Kaidan’s cheek. His eyes are unfocused, as if deep in the same memory. “I’m glad you found me,” he intones, pad of his thumb gently following the line.

Kaidan chuckles, leaning into the touch, letting his eyes drift closed briefly against it as he remembers. “You’re the one that found me, Shep. Found us, actually.” It was true. Shepard was the constant, the one who never went away, never gave up, even when Kaidan wanted him to do nothing more than exactly that. “I’m just glad i didn’t have to put your name on that wall,” he shrugs, shifting from his perch back onto his feet. The floor is entirely too cold against his toes, especially after they’d spent the last few minutes being warmed against Shepard’s thighs. He reaches out a hand. Shepard leans forward and takes it, grunting as Kaidan pulls him to his feet. Their fingers interlock in the same way they have for the past ten years as he follows his husband’s pull toward their bedroom.

“I love you, you know that?” Kaidan can’t see Shepard’s smile, but he knows it’s there; he can hear it in his words. There’s a light squeeze on his hand, and a faint clink of metal bands.

Kaidan doesn’t turn to look, but smiles anyway.

“Always,” he answers.