Commander Shepard is human.
He is “Only Human” when he fucks up a mission and he's the “Paragon of Humanity” when he makes the Alliance proud. Always one or the other, a good thing or a bad thing. How can one word encompass such a large spectrum of behavior? How can it represent opposing ideals? Alien races all over the galaxy sneer the word with disdain, pro-human extremist groups wave it above their heads like a banner, proud of their humanness, flaws and all. And Shepard—he doesn’t know where he fits in with all that. Doesn’t know if he falls under the good or the bad.
Kaidan, though: that’s easy. There’s no confusion about which end of the spectrum he falls onto. It’s apparent to Shepard the very first time he meets Alenko— “Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, head of Marine detail, honored to meet you, sir.” —yep, that’s a straight-shooter if Shepard’s ever seen one. Warm, brown eyes, voice like campfire smoke, salute sharp and lips pressed into a pleasant yet flat line, holding back a smile Shepard can tell he wants to let show but doesn’t, cautious about looking a fool upon meeting the Hero of Elysium.
He returns the salute, and then they’re knee-deep in the shit on Eden Prime, and then neck-deep in hell as the Council all but abandons the Normandy to their devices. Kaidan’s there at Shepard’s side with an ear on loan, trying to comfort him, saying something or other about how human it is for the aliens to be in denial, and that’s when Shepard knows. Kaidan’s not just another empty jarhead still mastering coloring inside the lines and trying not to chew on the blue crayon, he’s not just another yes-man, either. He needs to pay close attention to this one.
This one, he’s something else.
"Wow. Big place!" Kaidan says from Shepard's left, gazing out at the expanse of the Presidium laid out before them.
No night cycle in this part of the Citadel, Garrus had told Shepard, nowhere for the bad people to hide their dirt so they take it to the Wards. The Citadel is the apex of galactic civilization, but it has its seedy underbelly just like anywhere else. Seedy underbellies Shepard knows how to handle—he’s been handling them since he was born in some slum on Earth—but it’s the bright, clean places that trip him up. His first instinct, if he weren’t here on official business, would be to seek refuge in the lower markets or the Silversun Strip, where expectations of the first human Spectre would not weigh so heavily on him.
It's interesting, but he’s noticed that the first thing to come to his mind about a place is almost always the opposite of what Kaidan thinks. They're both humans—should be alike, according to aliens, according to stereotypes—yet Shepard can't think of someone so different from him. Shepard observes and sees the weaknesses that can be exploited, but Kaidan sees the potential for good.
As they head back to the docking bay, Kaidan stops and stares out at all the twinkling lights spread out in the Citadel’s open arms. Shepard hears Kaidan's breath catch, sees the soft smile spread over his face.
“When you see something this beautiful...” he says quietly. “Well, it really helps you understand what we’re fighting to save.”
Shepard glances back out at all the lights, squinting, eyes flicking from light to light, the ambient noises of machinery, eezo drive cores, and shuttle cars filling the lull in conversation. He tries to see it the same way Kaidan does, but it all looks the same to him.
On Noveria, Shepard can only complain of the cold, frost creeping down the back of his thermal layer where the suit is just a tad loose, stretched out at the neck from repeated removal. He doesn't remove his helmet but he knows his breath would fog up the windows of the Mako. His fingers sting, stiff from cold.
The planet is a shithole.
Kaidan says it's charming.
"It's so peaceful out here,” he murmurs as the Mako makes its way over snowy banks towards Peak 15. “Storm like this reminds me of winter at my parents' place, toasty fire roaring in the hearth, beer and thick sweaters…"
Shepard can picture it perfectly, like something out of a family Christmas card, something too good to have ever been afforded him. It does sound peaceful. Nice, even. He hums in acknowledgement. Rachni corpses soon stain the ground, turning the crisp snow into a toxic slurry, and Shepard feels more at home now. It's peaceful, but more peaceful with them all dead. It takes all sorts, he supposes.
Kaidan’s the soft, sensitive type. Shepard can't even sleep on sheets that don't scratch. Shepard doesn't know the meaning of comfort, or beauty, or happiness. Everything is survival, the mission. But even amongst all the shit, and the evil, and the good intentions paving straight to hell, Kaidan finds the upside of things. The galaxy is always worth saving from his point of view.
And when they stand outside the Mako, staring up at a purple sky and a bright moon reflecting the star, Shepard thinks there are better representatives for humanity. He may be a Spectre, he may be the Alliance’s golden boy, but he doesn’t think about the collateral damage, doesn’t worry himself with how the universe is supposed to keep on going after he’s gotten the job done. If you’ve saved a million people but all that’s left is shit, was it worth it?
Kaidan’s voice rings out in the still air, breath visible. "Will you look at that. It's really something."
Shepard looks at Kaidan, the premature wrinkles at the corner of his eyes crinkling with a grin, the moon reflecting off his helmet visor, dark eyes open. Honest. It sure is something. Shepard's not quite sure what, though.
Shepard doesn't get a chance to figure it out. Free floating above Alchera, all he feels is a dreadful awe.
Kaidan’s mistrust on Horizon stings more than any gunshot wound ever has.
Everything in Shepard urges him to give chase and grab Kaidan’s wrist, spin him around and talk until he can make him understand. But he doesn’t. He gets Joker on the comm and waits for the Normandy's pick up, staring out at the distance where he can see the bodies of a few dead Collectors in the grass.
Kaidan would have something nice to say, right now. Something… about the view, or about how peaceful the colony is—but that just makes Shepard’s stomach clench with anger, reminded that he was too late to save everyone.
Maybe this whole thing was a mistake. Not just Horizon, but being brought back to life. Shepard was never a good hero. He’s a soldier who kills and destroys and brings more ugliness into the universe. Unable to save a colony even when he was right there, and unable to conjure up a hopeful line when the people around him need it most.
Unable to make the one person who can always see the good, see the good in him.
And as they board the Normandy, Shepard takes one last glance out at the view, trying to find that glimmer of hope—but it’s just not the same without Kaidan.
“If I hadn’t backed down first, I feel like you would have taken me out.”
Never, Shepard wants to insist, just before catching himself. “I trusted you. I knew you’d come around.”
Kaidan doesn’t believe him, Shepard can tell. But how does he explain to him that he has a bigger chance at becoming a Reaper than he does at shooting Kaidan? How does he convey just how much the other man has come to mean to him?
It turns out, he doesn’t have to. Because Kaidan invites him to dinner at Apollo’s, and he pins Shepard with his warm, deep eyes, mouth forming a pleasant yet flat line, like he wants to smile but is wary of looking foolish in front of an old friend. Shepard is struck with the nostalgia of it all, despite them never having done anything like this before. But maybe every conversation they’ve had on the old Normandy , every talk late in the sleep cycle by that console outside Shepard’s quarters, every time they stood close enough for their arms to brush, was a prelude to this. Hints dropped by Kaidan like bits of comm chatter, laying a path for Shepard to triangulate and determine the location, and the location is a beautiful garden world that Kaidan nods toward as he says in that husky voice of his, “Hell of a view.”
Except that garden world is them, together, hands linked over their table at the cafe as they share a glass of whisky.
Shepard can’t say no to the idea of them, even less so when he imagines after the war, a galaxy free of the Reapers and their ugliness. A galaxy with the potential to be what Kaidan sees.
Kaidan drags his fingers across Shepard's chest slowly, his eyes tracking every twitch, sigh, and inch of pebbled skin Shepard allows him to see.
Shepard had said it himself: "Someone to live for. Maybe love." He knows it must have sounded strange coming from his mouth, that word—love. He's been careful to keep his armor of professionalism and duty on at all times, not allowing personal feelings to get in the way of the mission. He is familiar with the concept of love just as he’s familiar with quantum entanglement, but it has never factored into his decision-making process before Kaidan. To love is to be vulnerable, and Shepard doesn't let people see him vulnerable.
But as he watches Kaidan play with his chest, hesitance evident in his every movement, Shepard’s willing to be vulnerable with him. Everything is different with Kaidan, and the galaxy Kaidan sees—Shepard wants that. He wants Kaidan, and he wants everything Kaidan sees. He wants to make the galaxy some place worthy of Kaidan's love.
Kaidan touches him with reverence and sweaty palms. Shepard aches to return the gesture, but the space between them feels unconquerable. Sometimes when he's with Kaidan, he still feels like the past three years never happened. He still feels like he’s on the first Normandy and he’s trying to gauge the lingering looks Kaidan throws at him, trying to decipher the way and reason Kaidan lowers his voice when he tacks on a belated “Yes, sir. Commander”. How far he can push the nice, caring Commander routine before being forced to have the awkward fraternization conversation. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like all that time has passed between them.
Sometimes, he kinda wishes it hadn't.
(It's unfair, how quickly time passed when he was waiting for love.)
Shepard doesn't speak. He brings his hands up to encircle Kaidan's waist like they belong there, thumbs lightly stroking the bones and muscles of his hips under smooth skin. Kaidan's hands slide down and pet Shepard's sides, stopping at worn black cotton. Alliance-issued skivvies and nothing else. Shepard is hard already, heart beating even harder, pulse racing like Kaidan’s at the finish line.
"We don't have to do this if you don't want," Kaidan says quietly after a moment of them just touching each other, neither making a move to take more ground. Shepard's brows twitch as he tries to figure out what Kaidan’s getting at, watching as he fidgets with the hem of Shepard’s underwear, hands eventually smoothing and stilling on his skin. "We can finish that drink instead, maybe play some cards."
Shepard looks at him sideways. "You said you didn't come up here for a quick drink. Something on your mind?"
Kaidan steps back, his fingers still lingering even as he tries to put distance between them. "I don't know, Shepard, this just… It feels strange, doesn't it?"
"I'm not your ranking officer anymore, Kaidan. We're both Spectres, and with this war… We're not doing anything wrong."
Kaidan steps back again. "That's not it. You're my CO regardless but… Do you think there can be too much history between two people?"
Shepard's face pales, the rhythm of his heart stuttering for a second, but he otherwise remains stoic. "What are you trying to say?"
Kaidan sighs. "I don't know." He runs a hand through his hair, messing up the poof as static clings to his fingers. "I don't know."
"We're all but naked and you're bringing this up now?" Shepard arches a brow. "I thought I made myself clear before, but in case I didn't: I want you, Kaidan."
“And I want you too, Shepard. But…”
But before Kaidan can say anymore, Shepard’s mouth is on him.
A hand on Kaidan’s lower back pulls him in hard, Shepard trying to wipe away any of the other man's doubts about his feelings for him. It's not just two people finding comfort in each other in their last days—not for Shepard, it never was. Kaidan cups Shepard’s face, kissing him back, pressing into him. Shepard gasps, a hot breath puffing against Kaidan’s face, warm hands dragging across his naked skin.
“Kaidan…” Shepard whispers against his mouth, “I know I don’t talk much.” He pulls back just enough to look into Kaidan’s eyes, his gaze soft and open. He continues. “And I know… that I never said anything to you before. About how I feel about you.”
“It wasn’t the time,” Kaidan deflects.
“It never is. But with the Reapers… It’s like you said. I realized I needed to let the people who are important to me know that I care for them.” His hands drag up and down Kaidan’s arms as if comforting him. “We’re going to win this war. I have to believe that. But I need you to know—” hands slide around to hold him, “—that it’s always been you, Kaidan. From the very start.”
Kaidan’s shoulders slump, voice quiet. “...I wish we had more time together.”
“We have the rest of our lives. We have right now.”
“I wish I said something sooner. On the SR-1, on Horizon… Hell, on Mars. I just kept thinking, ‘This isn’t the time, Alenko. He’s got more important things to worry about than my inappropriate crush’ ,” Kaidan chuckles mirthlessly, ducking his head.
Shepard shakes his head. “I never knew you felt that way about me. I had hoped, but...”
“I was careful. So careful not to be a distraction.”
“You weren’t a distraction. You aren’t one now. I’ve been fighting for you the whole time.”
Kaidan squints when he looks up at him, his eyes red-rimmed. “What do you mean?”
“You were always on my mind, and knowing you were out there somewhere… It gave me strength.”
“Shepard…” Kaidan flattens his mouth, looking down at their feet as Shepard continues to stroke down his back and then up to his neck, curling his palm around his nape but careful not to touch his amp.
“Call me John, when we’re together like this.”
He meets his eyes. “John.”
“Kaidan. Take me to bed now.”
It doesn’t take long for things to get going after that. Having cleared the air, the subtle resistance in Kaidan’s body language dissipates as well. He throws Shepard onto the bed, trailing after him with lips and tongue, kissing up Shepard’s bare torso until their mouths meet in a slick embrace.
Shepard slips his underwear off, cock springing out hard. Kaidan can’t help but chuckle.
“You sure are ready for action.”
Shepard smirks. "Always ready. I’ve been waiting years for you.”
The words make Kaidan’s spine straighten like a jolt of electricity lancing through him, and he inhales deeply through his nose, eyes slipping closed briefly. “Years, huh?” he huffs in that husky tone of his. “Thinking inappropriate thoughts about your subordinate…?”
Shepard hums against Kaidan’s mouth as he kisses him again. “Often. The Normandy can be lonely.”
“Then I’ll make sure to keep you company. Tell me about some of these… thoughts you had about me when you were waiting.”
Kaidan removes his own skivvies, presses his body to Shepard’s, the flare of heat from their dicks brushing against one another causing them both to gasp.
“I wanted you to bend me over that console you were always working at. Right there, where anyone could watch. Wanted to feel you in me, taking me, powerless to stop you.”
Kaidan groans deep. “You’re driving me crazy.”
“How do you think I felt?” Shepard holds their cocks together, smirking at the memory. “You wore such skin-tight armor back then.”
Kaidan laughs, then, beautiful wrinkles crinkling with joy, telling of hardship, experience, pain. “Fighting for our lives and my CO can’t stop staring at my ass.”
“Just like old times—wait, you meant back then.”
“Tell me you don’t look at my ass out on the field now.”
Still smirking, Shepard remains silent as Kaidan arches a brow and scoffs playfully. He pulls his full bottom lip between his teeth like he’s planning something mischievous, moves down the bed until he’s between Shepard’s legs and takes hold of his dick, pulling the foreskin back to reach the sensitive head. Murmurs against his thigh, “Let me give you something new to think about when you’re lonely.”
Shepard props himself up on his elbows to watch as Kaidan takes him into his mouth. Slowly, at first, like he’s afraid Shepard will fall apart in his grasp. Dark eyes bore into Shepard, the gray at his temples shine in the light from the aquarium and cast shadows in the creases around his eyes, and Shepard notices a scar by his ear that’s new. But even with all the trauma their bodies have seen, with years of fighting, of protecting, of just surviving—it doesn’t detract from Kaidan’s beauty. He sucks down Shepard’s cock like there’s nothing he’d rather be doing—like he’s been waiting years himself—gaze intent and focused.
Shepard startles himself with the embarrassing whine that slips out, fingers tangling through Kaidan’s dark locks. Little sparks jump up his hands from the built-up static, and more groans and sighs of pleasure spill out his mouth unbidden as Kaidan takes him deep. Bit by bit he feels his armor finally shedding—first the legs and arms, then the chest piece, finally the breather helmet, his lifeline, the one thing that kept him from fading away for good—and now it’s in Kaidan’s hands. Shepard doesn’t want to be Commander Shepard right now, not when they’re alone like this. He wants to be John, and Kaidan, Kaidan, and they’ll just be two old soldiers finding love amongst all the ugliness.
Kaidan’s always been good at that.
He sucks Shepard’s cock better than the countless fantasies he’s had over the years. Slow yet firm, lips slipping wetly over the head, dragging down to the root, taking him all the way in, then pulling back to tease the slit. Kaidan’s face reddens with the effort, his eyes turn glassy. Shepard moans wantonly, sounds he knows Kaidan has never heard from him before, and the way he moans back, mouth stuffed with cock, lets Shepard know he likes what he hears.
“Kaidan,” he gasps, pulls on his hair when a tingle races up his spine making his back to arch. “Kaidan, stop.”
Kaidan pulls off and gives Shepard an innocent look. “What?”
“I can’t take it anymore. I want you to fuck me.”
“Such a romantic. How can I resist when you sweet talk me like that?”
“You’re not supposed to, that’s the point.” Shepard sits up, grabs Kaidan by the arms and pulls him on top. “Now put your dick in me.”
With a huff, Kaidan separates to grab the lube from the bedside drawer and slicks up two fingers, pressing them against Shepard’s hole. He watches his expression as he pushes them in, carefully, slowly, as if caressing his insides. Shepard tries to do his part, to relax and let himself be stretched and slicked, but he’s too impatient. He can’t believe this is really happening—Kaidan between his legs, looking at him with adoration. Shepard has never allowed himself to feel like this before.
Lost in Kaidan’s gaze, Shepard is unaware of time passing, and the next thing he knows Kaidan is withdrawing his fingers. He lubes his dick up, one trembling hand leaning into Shepard’s knee to spread him apart. He can hear Kaidan’s shaky breaths as he pulls Shepard’s bottom onto his lap and lines his cock up to his ass. He leans his weight into him, eyes unflinching, the muscles in his face going slack with pleasure. Shepard’s mouth drops open when he feels his hole being breeched. Hot and wet, his insides are slowly filled, and he clings to Kaidan’s arms when Kaidan’s entire length is seated within.
The sweet slide of Kaidan's hot length inside him makes Shepard groan hoarsely, and he spreads his legs as wide as he can, hooking his heels in Kaidan's ass to drive him in further. That ass Shepard has been eyeing for as long as he’s known Kaidan, finally all his and within reach. He leans forward to replace his feet with his hands, palming and groping and squeezing Kaidan’s perfectly round cheeks to his heart’s content.
Kaidan is as close as he can get, the pumping of his hips slowing to a stop as he lets Shepard feel him up with him fully inside. Shepard feels him throb, gasps. Kaidan glows blue—just a flash, a tingle—his careful control slipping when Shepard squeezes himself around his cock.
So Shepard does it again. Clenches his hole around the base of Kaidan’s dick, as hard as he can, and all of a sudden Kaidan falls forward to his hands, hips pressing painfully to Shepard’s backside as another biotic surge ripples through him. It’s like someone taking a live wire to all of Shepard’s sensitive bits and applied a balm right after—sharp and stinging but weirdly cool and soothing all at once, and it feels like the sensation travels up his innards, pooling in his gut and spreading through his veins. His cock weeps precum and bobs against his belly.
“Oh, fuck ,” Shepard pleads, though he’s not sure what for. He feels like he can barely catch his breath, panting as his body attempts to adjust to the fullness of Kaidan and his dark energy inside him.
But the biotic show subsides after a few moments as Kaidan finally regains control, and with a tentative glance at Shepard’s face, he starts to roll his hips again. His arms shake with the effort, hips clapping against skin as he picks up speed, the strokes shallow at first then gradually turning longer and deeper. Kaidan looks like he's holding back with great difficulty, jaw clenched, nostrils flaring as he forces Shepard's body to accommodate him, over and over again.
"So tight," Kaidan murmurs, voice catching like the ridge of his cock head catches on Shepard's hole. Shepard gasps, the sensation too much.
His knees fall to the side again, back melting into the mattress as Kaidan pounds away at him. He buries his face in the crook of Shepard’s neck, grunting and panting like he’s in the thick of a firefight of attrition—but that just makes Shepard moan louder, dick going impossibly harder thinking of how hot Kaidan looks flinging enemies across battlefields with his mind. He reciprocates with teeth wherever his mouth can reach and nails down Kaidan’s broad back, stopping to feel the muscles in Kaidan’s ass flex and the little layer of fat jiggle with Shepard’s caresses.
Kaidan changes position again, sitting back up so Shepard can oogle all the new scars and hard-earned bulk that weren’t there three years ago, and briefly laces his fingers with Shepard’s, pace turning sensual for a few beats. His eyes are black and bottomless backlit by the aquarium lights as they are, expression something Shepard’s never been privy to before—want and affection intertwined like their fingers—and a heavy stone crushes Shepard’s chest, unable to drag his gaze away.
When you see something this beautiful… but the rest of the thought doesn’t have time to form.
Kaidan eventually looks away and breaks the spell, his hips working faster again. Shepard cranes his neck, cupping his balls out of the way to get a good look at where they’re joined, and the sight is so unexpectedly erotic he can’t watch for long, feeling the tendrils of orgasm creeping in his loins.
It’s all so hot but it’s all a bit too much, been a while since Shepard’s been in this condition, and Kaidan seems to feel similarly. His thrusts begin to falter, become erratic—and he starts palming Shepard’s length, the sweat in the creases providing just enough lubrication for the otherwise rough handling to be pleasurable.
And Shepard can’t hold back any longer. His release is violent, his cock spasming as viscous ropes of cum shoot out and hit his chest, his asshole working over Kaidan’s shaft in rhythmic pulses like it’s trying to milk him.
Kaidan collapses on top of Shepard as he comes a moment later, his mouth finding Shepard’s in time for him to eat up and swallow down Kaidan’s moans. His insides warm as they’re pumped full, Shepard humming contented, gently rotating his ass in slow circles, palms flat against Kaidan’s bottom to hold him in place.
The afterglow seems to linger longer than it ever has for Shepard before, well past Kaidan withdrawing and cleaning them up, past them sliding under the sheets and tangling their calves together like they just can’t touch one another enough but it’s too hot for them to be touching more.
They watch each other sleepily, knowing they don’t have much time remaining before they must take up their roles on the ship again. Kaidan sighs peacefully, and Shepard remembers the rest of the phrase:
...Really helps you understand what we’re fighting to save.
“No matter what happens here, know that I love you. Always.”
He waited until the last possible moment to say those words to Kaidan, but if he had said it at any other time he’s not sure he would have been able to leave him behind.
His eyes water as he looks out over Earth, at the Reapers decimating ship after ship, cannons and guns firing in the distance, flashes of light as hulls are shorn apart, patches of red spotting the surface of the planet from the destruction. Shepard finds nothing beautiful in this.
But… past the war, Shepard can see the many stars dotting the endless black, and he can remember the first time he saw Earth from space. Before all the bad blinded him to the good. He remembers it as it were, and how it will be once again.
He meets the Catalyst. He listens to the choices. But even as his mind swims from blood loss and every muscle in his body cries out for rest, one thought jumps out above everything else:
Wonder what Kaidan would say about this view.
There’s still something left to save, and that’s all that matters.