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PART ONE

****☆****

The small, run-down house was eerily silent when she arrived. Long brown hair swaying as she stumbled up the drive, copper-coloured eyes glazed over in a drunken haze as her companion for the night steadied her with a large hand, laughing in amusement.

"Easy there, Sugar. We don't want you falling down and hurting yourself before we even get started, now do we," the young brown-eyed brunette said as he assisted her with the keys, stopping to kiss the strange pentagram tattooed on the back of her neck before slipping the key into the lock.

The woman let out a moan and a drunken giggle as she replied. "Don't worry, honey. You'll get what you paid for. Once we get started, you'll never want it to end."

"That's what I like to hear," the young man grinned as he quickly opened the door, his expression changing as the unmistakable scent of copper and iron flooded his nostrils. "What the hell is that? It smells like blood?"

"What?" 

"You don't smell that?" The man asked as he took another step into the darkness of the tiny house.

"Smell what?" The woman asked in annoyance. "I don't smell anything. Besides, it's probably just my bastard kid. He's always messing around with paint. You probably smell the fumes. You'd think he'd learn to open a window."

"No, Hannah. It's definitely not paint," the young man insisted as he struggled to focus in the dark. "Where's the light switch?"

"I'm telling you, it's nothing," Hannah insisted, her words slurring a bit as she flipped on the light. "See – no blood."

"Yeah, must be my imagination," the brown-eyed man said as he rubbed the back of his neck in uneasiness.

"Come here," Hannah insisted as she pulled the man towards her, kissing him roughly.

The man grinned wickedly into the kiss. "Time to earn your money, sweet thing."

"Follow me," Hannah said with a wink as she staggered to the master bedroom.

"Your kid ain't gonna interrupt us, is he," the man asked curiously.

"I dunno," Hannah shrugged. "He usually knows to stay away. He's needy as fuck, though, so, who knows."

"That him," the young man asked with a nod towards a photo on the wall.

"Yeah, that's him. Cute, huh," Hannah chuckled as she continued pulling her date further down the hall. 

"How much for him to join us?" The lecherous man asked, licking his lips at the notion.

"I dunno. I never thought about it – never needed money that bad— well, not yet anyway. Besides, he's only thirteen. He wouldn't know what the fuck to do. So, why don't you just concentrate on me, yeah?"

"Let me know if you ever turn him out," the man said as he watched Hannah close the bedroom door behind them.

"Sure," the copper-eyed woman said in annoyance as she slowly fell to her knees before the eager man.

Just as she was about to earn her nightly income, there was a blood-curdling scream that seemed to shake the entire house.

"What the hell was that!?" The man asked, fear evident on his face.

"Goddammit, Johnny," Hannah cursed as she rose to her feet, "Johnny, shut the fuck up and go back to sleep. I can't deal with you right now!"

"MOM! MOMMY, HELP ME," the voice called out – rough and hoarse, and, obviously, full of fear.

"Maybe you should go check on him," the man suggested, motioning towards the door.

"Jesus Christ! That kid is more trouble than he's worth," Hannah huffed as she stormed out the door, heading to the small bedroom in the middle of the hall – her date following close behind.


Once she reached her destination, she quickly flung open the door only to be met by pure darkness—

"Johnny, why the hell are you sitting in the dark? I told you not to close the curtains. You know how you hate the dark," Hannah scolded as she entered the tiny room. 

"Jeez, it's that smell again. What the hell have you been doing in here, kid," the man asked as he took a step inside, the carpet under his feet squishing with unfamiliar wetness. "The carpet feels wet."

"For fuck's sake, Johnny! What have you done now?" Hannah asked as she flicked on the light, her copper-coloured eyes going wide in shock at the sight. "JOHNNY, WHAT DID YOU DO!? WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO!?"

The young man quickly placed his hand over his mouth to stifle the bile rising in his throat, the sight sending him into shock.

It was like something out of a horror movie... 

The room was covered in blood – the bedsheets were saturated and bloodied, the walls were filled with cast-off spray, and the light-tan carpet was now crimson with blood. The worst was on the floor just by the bed, where a half-naked man lay face down, bloody and pale. His entire torso, covered in bruises and, what appeared to be, stab wounds. And there, whimpering in the corner, covered in blood, naked with his knees pressed against his chest, crying and rocking back and forth in shock, was thirteen-year-old John Shepard.

"I knew I smelled blood! Your kid is a fucking psycho. I'm getting the hell outta here," the brown-eyed man yelled as he quickly made his way out of the house, wanting to be as far away from the macabre scene as possible.

"Johnny, answer me, goddammit! What did you do?" Hannah insisted as she made her way towards her son, shaking him roughly by the shoulders, slapping him hard across the face when he failed to answer.

The slap was loud in the quiet of the house, causing the young boy's sapphire-blue eyes to snap up towards his mother's copper-coloured ones.

"Mom?" The boy's voice was hoarse, and it was a bit difficult to hear his words.

"Yeah, baby. It's Mommy. What the hell happened, Johnny? Did you do this? Did you kill Adam?" Hannah asked, the scene before her sobering her quickly.

"I— I don't know. I don't remember," the boy answered truthfully, his blue eyes filled with pain.

"Johnny, please, try to remember," Hannah pleaded, trying to be as calm as possible.

"I— I can't."

Despite trying her best, Hannah snapped. "Don't give me that bullshit, Johnny! When I left here, Adam was watching you. Everything was fine. You were laughing together, for fuck's sake. What happened when I left?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" The young boy screamed, his voice cracking in pain.

"You fucking know what happened! So tell me, dammit. Tell me everything."

"He— He hurt me."

"How!? How did he hurt you?" Hannah demanded.

"You know how! He hurt me the same way he always does. But this time, he tried to kill me when I begged him to stop. I–I didn't mean to kill him. I don't even remember hitting him; I swear, I don't." 

"Where'd you get the knife, Johnny?"

"What knife?" The boy asked in confusion.

"What knife?" Hannah repeated in annoyance as she pointed to the bloody knife lying just inches from Adam's body. "That knife, the one you stabbed him with." 

"I don't know! I–I think it was his."

"This is my fault; I knew you were sick. I knew you needed them to help you, and I just ignored it. I'm so fucking stupid," Hannah said as she began to sob.

"Mom, whataya mean? Who's they?" The young boy asked, cocking his head to the side in confusion.

"I knew I should've called Damen," Hannah mumbled, shaking her head as she spoke.

"MOM! Who's they ?" The boy asked once more.

"I–It's not important, baby. They were just people that could've helped you," Hannah replied with a nervous smile.

"But, I ain't sick," the blue-eyed boy said with a look of confusion on his face.

"I know, baby," Hannah said as she brushed a stray lock of blonde hair from her son's brow.

"What do I do, Mom? Tell me what to do," the young boy asked, his blue eyes pleading.

Hannah's heart broke at the lost look in her son's eyes. She took the scared little boy into her arms and gently stroked his dirty blonde hair. "It'll be okay, baby. You're a minor, and you were only defending yourself. You'll see, baby. Everything will work out."


It took the police less than an hour to arrive. And within minutes, young Johnny was being placed into the back of a police cruiser, with his mother looking on with tears streaming down her face.

"You'll be okay, Johnny. I promise!"

****☆****

ONE WEEK LATER... 

"He seems to be doing well. It took us a few days to get his medication right, but we've finally found a regimen he tolerates. The side effects are minimal. Overall, we are quite pleased with the direction of his treatment," the doctor explained before handing the file to the policeman. 

"Has he said anything about the incident?" The policeman asked as he glanced through the boy's file.

"No. He's, actually, very quiet. He hardly says a word. Apart from asking to see his mother, he's not spoken to anyone," the doctor replied with a shake of his head.

"A real Momma's boy, huh," the policeman said with an air of annoyance.

"I don't think so – he doesn't really cry for her. In all honesty, he's probably just looking for a way out of here, and I get the feeling that she's all he has."

"Hn. Is it possible he's lying about blacking out? Do you think it's real or just a way to avoid taking responsibility?" The detective asked, eager to hear the answer.

"It's possible. But, if you're asking if the blackouts are real – they absolutely are. Twice in one week, he's presented signs of being disoriented. It was obvious to everyone who observed him that he didn't have a clue where he was or what he was doing. He was utterly lost," the doctor insisted.

"I see. Were there any triggers involved?"

"Stress and agitation seem to bring it on. The more agitated he gets, the more his personality changes. It's like watching Jekyll and Hyde," the doctor explained.

"Hmm. Do you have the physical report – or the SAK and SAFE kit results?" The detective asked as he handed the file back to the doctor.

"We do. I remember the reports quite well. Unfortunately, they were very memorable. I could give you a summary if you'd like," the doctor offered.

"That would be very much appreciated," Anderson said in a grateful tone.

"For starters, it wasn't the first time the boy had been violated. He had several tell-tale scars of long-term sexual abuse, as well as signs of frequent physical abuse. Some of the scars were quite disturbing, almost ritualistic in their appearance. The scarring tells me that he's definitely no stranger to assault and abuse. This particular assault was extremely violent. There was significant trauma, including severe bruising of the genitals and surrounding area. There was noticeable tearing present, along with bleeding, as well as trauma to the throat. The boy had several bruised ribs, as well as a few fractured ones. His back and torso had severe bruising, as well as cuts on his inner thighs and groin area. The extreme violence was most likely the trigger that resulted in the death of the assailant," the doctor explained. 

"So, the boy finally snapped from the constant abuse. It's a shame. I feel for the kid, but what he did to that man – the sheer violence of it – must be addressed. I'll need a copy of those reports," Anderson insisted. 

"I'll go retrieve them for you, now," the doctor said with a small smile.

"Can I get a copy of his psych files while you're at it?"

"Of course," the doctor replied before turning to speak again, "Detective, would you like to sit with him for a while?"

"I would. Thank you for the offer," the detective said with an appreciative nod.

"Follow me. His room is on the way."


It only took a few brief minutes for them to arrive outside Shepard's room – a stark, blindingly sterile-white room with nothing inside except a bed, and on that bed, a young boy, tall for his age with medium-length dirty-blonde hair and the strangest blue eyes the detective had ever seen. They were an odd sapphire-blue, sad, yet cold at the same time – like the boy had seen far too much in his young life.

"Johnny, this is Detective David Anderson. He's going to sit with you for a while. Is that alright with you?" the doctor asked, hoping for the young boy's approval.

The boy just shrugged.

"Please, don't ask him about the incident. This is a safe place for him. Save your questions for the formal interview," the doctor instructed as he left the room to retrieve the files.

"Hello. My name's Detective Anderson, but you can call me David or Anderson, whichever you'd like," Anderson introduced himself as he took a seat next to the boy on the bed.

The second Anderson's body touched the bed, the young boy quickly rose from his position, moving to the far corner, sliding down the wall until he was in a sitting position with his knees to his chest.

"Squirrely little thing, aren't you," Anderson said as he took a good look at the boy. 

He was thin, a bit too skinny for his age. His skin had a light natural tan to it, but the colour was muted by the malnourished dullness of the boy's overall appearance. Anderson could see a few scars running the length of the boy's arms and legs. Some looked like the usual scrapes any active boy his age would have, but some were disturbing to the seasoned detective. 

There were small round scars that seemed to shine a bit in the blinding whiteness of the room – cigarette burns, the detective surmised with a sigh. He had yellowish bruises that had yet to fully heal surrounding his wrists, and Anderson was certain that if he squinted, he could see the ghostly imprint of fingers. The boy's face was pristine, almost angelic in its appearance. The only flaw Anderson could see was another ghostly bruise on the far side of the boy's left jaw.

'He's been abused for a while,' Anderson thought as he attempted to engage the boy in conversation.

"So, might I know your name, son?" 

The boy stared briefly at the man before turning his gaze downward and mumbling a reply. "Shepard."

"Shepard. And your first name?" Anderson asked in a tone he hoped was calming.

"John. Mom calls me Johnny."

"Okay, Johnny—" Anderson started before the boy cut him off with a stern voice.

"SHEPARD," the boy insisted loudly.

"O–Okay. Shepard. How are you feeling? Are you comfortable here?" Anderson asked, genuinely concerned for the young boy.

Shepard just shrugged. 

"Son, I can help you, but you have to start talking to me," Anderson explained, hoping the boy would start talking – if only a few words.

"I wanna go home."

'It's a start,' Anderson thought with a smile.

"I know. But first, you have to get better."

"I ain't sick," Shepard mumbled, "I feel fine."

"Son, do you understand why you're here?" Anderson asked curiously.

Shepard shrugged. 

Anderson was just about to speak again when the doctor appeared at the door.

"It's time for Johnny's therapy session, and I have the files you requested," the doctor announced as he led Anderson from the room.


"Does he know why he's here?" Anderson asked.

"Yes, he's aware. He knows why. He just can't remember the details," the doctor explained.

"That won't keep him out of trouble. You know that, don't you?" Anderson reminded the doctor.

"In my opinion, it was – obviously – self-defence," the doctor replied.

"That was never in question. What's in question is the overkill. It would have been cut and dry if there wasn't so much rage involved. I don't think he'll be found guilty, but I do think he'll be ordered to a psychiatric hospital for a long duration," Anderson explained.

"And that would be the best thing for him. If you could get the lawyers to agree, I'm sure the boy's mother would sign-off on it."

"Speaking of his mother, how often does she call," Anderson asked.

"She doesn't. But she always gets right back to us whenever we contact her. Though, I wouldn't be surprised if she had some mental issues of her own," the doctor replied.

"From the scars I saw, I'd say she wasn't always the most caring mother," Anderson said, remembering the various cigarette burns that littered the young boy's body.

"I thought the same, but Johnny refuses to say how he got them. Speculation only goes so far, and it's quite possible Johnny was abused by someone outside the home and that his mother is innocent of any wrongdoing."

"What about the boy's father?" Anderson asked curiously.

"No father listed."

"Hn. Well, I should be going. Let me know if anything changes with him." 

"Will do. Have a good evening," the doctor said as Anderson took his leave.

****☆****

ONE YEAR LATER... 

"Hey, baby. Sorry, I'm late. Traffic was awful," Hannah apologized as she took a seat across from her son.

"That's okay. I'm just glad you came. You missed the last two visits. I was afraid you'd forgotten about me," Shepard said with a nervous grin.

"Johnny, you know I'd never forget about you. You're my baby. It's just— things are hard. You know how it is," Hannah insisted.

"Because of me, you mean," Shepard surmised as he furrowed his brow.

"Baby, don't do that. Don't torture yourself, worrying about what other people think. If they want to act ignorant because of one stupid mistake, then fuck 'em!"

"One stupid mistake," Shepard chuckled, "I killed a man, Mom."

"You defended yourself, Johnny. That bastard hurt you. He had it coming," Hannah insisted.

"Mom," Shepard said in a stern voice. "What I did wasn't okay. You fucking know that."

"Johnny, I'm sorry, but I don't think what you did was wrong, and I never will. So, let's just forget about it and agree to disagree," Hannah pleaded as she put her hand over her son's, smiling when she realized just how much he had grown.

"What?" Shepard asked anxiously when he noticed the strange look in his mother's eyes.

"My baby's gotten so big. And your hair – it's so long now," Hannah said as she brushed a lock from his too-blue eyes.

"They won't let me cut it," Shepard said with a shrug. "I know it probably looks awful, but I can't really do anything about it."

"It's beautiful. You're beautiful. You know that, don't you, baby?"

"Mom, you don't have to do that," Shepard insisted.

"Do what, compliment my son? I only speak the truth. Chris sent you something," Hannah said with a smile. "We missed your birthday, and before we know it, another year will go by, and you'll be fifteen. So, Chris decided to put together a package for you. Some art supplies – some paint, pencils, sketch pads. Things like that. I had to leave it at the front desk, but they promised you'd get it."

"You guys didn't have to do that. I know money's tight. I'd help if I could," Shepard said in an apologetic tone.

"I know, baby. But, we're fine. Everything's fine. Chris has a good job, and I don't have to – work – anymore," Hannah explained with a soft smile.

"You really like Chris, huh," Shepard asked with a grin.

"I do – he's a nice guy. He's got a bit of a temper when he drinks, but he doesn't drink often," Hannah replied with a shrug.

"He don't hit you, does he?" Shepard asked, concern obvious in his tone.

"No, baby. He would never hit me. He wants to marry me," Hannah said with a wink.

"Really? Are you gonna say yes?" Shepard asked with a smile.

"I think so. I wanted to wait until you were home, but that's not going to be for a while yet. Would you be angry if we went ahead and got hitched?" Hannah asked nervously, afraid of upsetting her son.

"Of course not, Mom. You should do what makes you happy. I mean, I'm the one that fucked up. Besides, I'm pretty much used to being here now. So, don't feel bad. I'm happy for you two. Really, I am."

"You're such a great kid. So, anything new going on with you," Hannah asked, genuinely interested in her son's life.

"Eh— Not much. I'm kinda dating somebody. Well, dating as much as you can in here," Shepard informed her.

"Dating? In here? Is that even allowed?" Hannah asked in surprise.

"Well, no. It's not really allowed, but it happens anyway. Are you mad that I'm breaking the rules?" Shepard asked, bouncing his knee nervously.

"No! Not at all. I was just surprised. That's all. So, what's her name, and what's she in for?" Hannah asked as she tapped the table with her nails.

"Um— I–It ain't a she," Shepard replied truthfully.

"What?"

"I–It's a he," Shepard admitted.

"Johnny, I don't think that's a very good idea. I mean, after everything that's happened, is a boy really what you want? What if it triggers you?" Hannah asked, her voice dripping with concern.

"Mom, I'm gay and have been for as long as I can remember. What happened  to me was awful, but one has nothing to do with the other. Do you get what I'm saying?"

Hannah was quiet for a long time, contemplating her son's words as well as his situation.

"Mom, say something," Shepard pleaded, his voice cracking and tears showing in his eyes.

"What do you want me to say?"

"That you don't hate me. That it don't matter. Mom?" Shepard pleaded with tears in his sapphire-blue eyes.

Seeing the pain and fear in her son's eyes, Hannah took her son's hand gently. "It doesn't matter, baby. And I could never hate you. I love you, no matter what. I'm just worried for you. You understand, don't you?"

Shepard just nodded.

"Is there a washroom I can use?" Hannah asked as she rose from her seat.

"Uh— Y–Yeah. It's just outside by the front desk," Shepard explained.

"I'll be right back, baby," Hannah promised as she made her way to the washroom.

"I should have never told her. I fuck everything up," Shepard thought aloud.


Ten minutes passed before Hannah's return, and the moment she sat down, Shepard noticed the change in her.

"Okay, baby. Where were we? You were telling me about your little boyfriend. Is he hot? What does he look like?" Hannah's words were coming rapid-fire from her mouth, and Shepard struggled to keep up.

"He's, uh, good-looking – a little shorter than me with dark-brown hair." Noticing his mother fidgeting, he struggled to continue. "His eyes are hazel. Uh, Mom, are you okay?"

"I'm fine. So, have you fucked yet? Who's on top? Do you love him?"

"You're using again. You told me you quit," Shepard surmised as he shook his head in disappointment.

"What? No, baby. Why would you think that?" Hannah asked with a small laugh.

"Mom! I can tell, alright. You're acting weird – talking to me like I'm one of your friends instead of your son. You always do that when you're wasted," Shepard reminded her.

"I only took a little. So, get off your high horse. It's not easy, you know – being me. So, yeah. I might drink a little. I might take a little something to calm my nerves. Is that so fucking bad?"

"Yes, Mom! It's really fucking bad! You aren't you when you're like this. You're killing yourself, and I don't wanna fucking see it. If you can't come here without getting fucked up, then do us both a favour, and don't come at all," Shepard yelled, hoping his mother would hear him.

"Are you telling me to leave?" Hannah asked in shock.

"No, Mom! I'm asking you to straighten the fuck up."

"Do you have any idea how hard it is to deal with you?" Hannah asked in a sharp tone that cut Shepard to pieces.

"Mom—"

"Don't 'Mom' me! I've been busting my ass to build a better home, so they'll let you out of here. But that ain't easy, not with all the whispering around the neighbourhood. Do you think they want you there? Of course not! They're afraid of you. And I'm getting tired of trying to defend you to them. So, if I were you, I'd stop being an ungrateful brat and start appreciating everything I'm trying to do for you," Hannah snapped, eyes glazed as the drugs coursed through her veins.

"I didn't know I was causing you such much pain," Shepard said in an apologetic tone. "I'm sorry. I love you, Mom, and if coming here brings out the worst in you, then maybe you should just stay away. Just— don't come back no more."

"Seriously!? You're telling me to leave! Look, you little bastard, I'm the only person in this whole goddamn world that gives a shit about you. Without me, you got no one. So, you better choose your words carefully," Hannah warned.

"I said my piece, Mom. I love you, but I don't want to watch you die. So, until you're clean, don't come back. I mean it. I don't ever wanna see you like this again. I can't."

"Have it your way. I swear, sometimes I don't even know why I bothered to keep you. You've brought me nothing but grief."

And with that, Hannah was gone. Within seconds, Shepard broke down – sliding to the floor and crying desperately for his mother. 

****☆****

FOUR MONTHS LATER... 

Hannah had tried for several months to visit her son, but each time, he refused to see her. A part of Shepard wanted nothing more than to see his mother, but there was a bigger part of him that wanted her to be healthy and happy, and he just didn't think that could ever happen with him in her life.

On the first weekend of the fourth month, since they had last seen each other, Shepard received a surprise visit—

"Shepard, you have a visitor," the orderly announced, causing the blue-eyed teen to look up from his sketchbook.

"I don't want to see her," Shepard simply stated as he continued to sketch.

"It isn't your mother. It's someone named Chris Scott," the orderly explained.

"That's my mom's boyfriend. I don't wanna see him either," Shepard said with a furrowed brow.

"Shepard, I really think you should see him," the orderly suggested in a tone that made Shepard uneasy. 

"Is something wrong," Shepard asked anxiously.

"Just come with me," the orderly instructed as Shepard hesitantly followed.


"Johnny, you look good," the man, no older than thirty-five, with brown hair and dark-brown eyes, spoke as Shepard entered the room.

"Chris? What's going on? Is something wrong?" Shepard asked nervously, watching Chris for any hint he could give.

"Johnny, please, sit down," Chris instructed as he pointed to the empty seat next to him.

"It's Mom, isn't it? What happened? Is she sick?" Shepard asked as the anxiety began to well inside him, his breathing becoming more uneven as his heart raced even faster.

"Johnny, please," Chris pleaded as Shepard finally took a seat.

Kneeling in front of the blonde teen, Chris carefully took the boy's hand. 

"It's Mom. I know it is. Just tell me! What happened to her?"

"She's gone, Johnny," Chris said, his voice cracking as he spoke.

"Whattaya mean, she's gone," Shepard asked as the tears began to escape from his eyes.

"She OD'd. They tried to get her back, but they couldn't. I'm so sorry, son." 

Chris's words seemed to be far away, and Shepard could barely hear them.

"Johnny?" Chris called out, trying to get his stepson to respond. "He's in shock."

The orderly quickly left to inform one of the nurses, leaving Chris alone with the devastated boy.

"Johnny, talk to me, son. Say something. You're scaring me, kid," Chris pleaded as he touched his stepson's face.

After a long moment of silence, Shepard let out a pained scream, his body shaking violently as the tears racked his body.

"It's okay, son. It's gonna be okay. I'll take care of you. You aren't alone," Chris promised as he held Shepard tight.

"It's my fault. I killed my mom," Shepard cried into Chris's chest.

"You know that's not true! The drugs killed her. We both know that," Chris said, his voice firm as he held Shepard's face in his hands, forcing the boy to look him in the eye. "This wasn't your fault."

After a few seconds, Shepard finally nodded his head in understanding.

"We fought. I never got to say, 'I'm sorry.' She died hating me," Shepard sobbed.

"No, Johnny. She didn't hate you. She loved you. You were all she talked about – you were her whole world," Chris said as he gently rubbed his stepson's back, hoping to soothe his pain a little.

Shepard didn't respond to that. He just continued to cry until there was nothing left inside. And even though he was used to being on his own, he had never felt more empty and alone than he did at that moment.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

EIGHTEEN MONTHS LATER... 

"You feel good, baby," an older man with dark hair and grey eyes gasped as he held on tightly to the naked body sitting in his lap.

"Hmm— Glad you approve," the blue-eyed teen replied with a sideways grin as he moved his hips in little circles, causing his partner to moan in approval.

"You're too fucking good at this. I could have you every day, and I would still never tire of you," the man admitted as he gently suckled on the young blonde's neck.

"Trust me – if you had me every day, you'd be begging to get rid of me. I–I'm a fucking mess," the boy admitted.

"You're too hard on yourself," the man insisted. "You need to have more faith in yourself."

"Uh-huh." 

"Shepard, I'm serious," the man said in a stern tone.

"Aedan— I know," Shepard sighed as he removed himself from his partner's lap and began to dress.

"You always do this," Aedan said, throwing his hands up in defeat.

"D–Do what?" Shepard asked, furrowing his brow in confusion.

"I say something that makes you uncomfortable, and you bolt from the room. It never fails," the grey-eyed man complained, hoping Shepard would see the pattern.

"L–Look, it's not like that. I'm not running away. I just gotta get home before Chris has my hide. You know he fucking hates it when I don't come home," Shepard explained as he pulled on his ragged grey t-shirt.

"Uh-huh," Aedan said in disbelief.

"I–I'll see you in a week or so," Shepard promised as he kissed the older man goodbye. 

"Yeah. Remember, you have an appointment with Doctor Stevens this Wednesday," Aedan reminded the blue-eyed teen.

"Then, I guess I'll see you this Wednesday," Shepard said with a wink and a cheeky grin.

"I guess you will, you brat," Aedan chuckled.

"You love it!" Shepard called out as he made his way out of the apartment.

Shepard had just made it to the street when his body stilled.

****☆****

"Kaidan, do you mind waiting here while I take these files into the clinic?" An older dark-haired woman with warm brown eyes and a gentle smile asked as she retrieved the files from her briefcase.

"I don't mind, Mom. Take your time," came the reply from a young teenage boy with dark curly hair and whisky-coloured eyes. 

"I shouldn't be too long. This isn't the best neighbourhood, so, please, be careful," the older woman pleaded as she rubbed her son's back gently.

"I'll be fine, Mom." Kaidan insisted as he opened the clinic door for his mother. 

She was gone for all of ten minutes when Kaidan was approached by three very unsavory-looking boys. All three, trying their best to look like gangsters.

"Well, well, look what we have here," one of the boys said with a grin.

"Looks like the pretty boy got lost," another said.

"You're far away from home, aren't you, rich boy?" The third said, "I can smell the money on you. So be a good boy and hand it over."

Kaidan's entire body tensed as he tried desperately to think of a way out of this predicament.

"Look— I—"

"There you are! I've been waiting for you all fuckin' day," a loud voice called out, causing Kaidan to look in his direction.

Kaidan raised a brow, confusion evident in his whisky-coloured eyes. "Wha—"

"Hey," the young blue-eyed boy said with a cocky grin as he put his arm around Kaidan's neck before turning his attention to the three thugs. "Is there a problem?"

Shepard's voice was cold and menacing – his eyes flashing like lightning, causing one of the boys to visibly shiver. 

"We were just leaving. Right, boys?"

"Huh?" One of the boys called out in confusion, visibly tensing when the leader whispered something into his ear.

"Y–Yeah," the other two agreed as all three turned tail to run.

"Well, that takes care of that," Shepard said with a crooked grin that – to Kaidan's great surprise – made his heart flutter.

Kaidan couldn't help but stare at the strange blonde boy with the piercing sapphire-blue eyes as he continued to lean against Kaidan.

"You okay? They didn't hurt you, did they?" Shepard asked as he removed his arm from Kaidan's shoulders.

"Uh, no. Thanks for, you know—" Kaidan let his words trail off, unsure of what to say to his blue-eyed saviour.

"Ah, no problem. Now give me all your money," Shepard said in a strict tone that sent shivers down Kaidan's spine.

Kaidan's face went ghostly pale as his stomach dropped. "W–What?"

Shepard broke out laughing at the sight. "Relax! I was just messing with you. I don't want your money."

"Oh— Well, what do you want?" Kaidan asked nervously.

"Huh?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"Don't you want something for your trouble?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"It was no trouble. I don't want anything from you. So, relax. Okay." Shepard said with a shake of his head and a sigh.

"May I ask why you helped me?"

Shepard grinned at Kaidan's choice of words. "May you? I guess you may," Shepard teased.

Kaidan furrowed his brow in embarrassment.

"Hey, I'm sorry for teasing you. I'm a bit of an ass, I know. I helped you because you looked like you needed it. Besides, I know those guys. They would've beaten the shit out of you. And you're way too good looking to take a beating." Shepard said with a wink.

Kaidan blushed at Shepard's words as he stumbled nervously over his own.

"W–What!?"

"Relax. I'm just teasing," Shepard grinned, hoping to alleviate the whisky-eyed boy's embarrassment. "So, you got a name?"

"Uh, it's Kaidan. Kaidan Alenko. And you?"

"Names are such binding things," Shepard replied with a smile.

"Huh," Kaidan said, confused by the young blonde's behaviour.

Shepard just laughed in amusement.

"Kaidan, I'm all done," Kaidan's mother called out, causing Kaidan to flinch.

"You're a bit squirrelly, aren't you," Shepard observed as he cocked his brow.

"I–I guess," Kaidan shrugged.

"You better go. You don't wanna keep your mom waiting." Shepard suggested with a wink.

"Y–Yeah. Thanks again for helping me out."

"No problem."

"I guess I'll see you around," Kaidan said with a smile as he made his way towards his mother.

"No doubt," Shepard called out as he turned and continued on towards his destination.

****☆****

"Anybody home," Shepard called out as his voice echoed throughout the tiny rundown house. 

When he received no answer, he decided to take a quick look around, making sure his stepfather hadn't fallen asleep after work.

He made it halfway down the hall when his body stilled, his expressions changing from one extreme to the next until, finally, everything calmed.

"W–What was I doing? I was on my way home from Aedan's place. I must've blacked out. God, I hope I didn't do anything stupid," Shepard said with a worried sigh as he opened a prescription bottle, quickly swallowing one of the capsules, "Well, I guess I better start dinner."

The young blonde slowly made his way into the tiny kitchen, rolling up his sleeves before opening the refrigerator door to examine its contents.

"Goddammit, Chris. You're worse than Mom," Shepard cursed as he perused the sparse items. "Beer, one egg, ketchup, moldy fruit, and a friggin' celery stalk. At least there's milk," Shepard mumbled as he opened the container, the stench causing him to recoil in disgust. "No, I was wrong."

Shepard sighed heavily as he closed the refrigerator door, only to lean against it with his arms crossed against his chest. "He never forgets to buy his beer and smokes, but god forbid he ever remembers to buy groceries. I'm fuckin' broke, so I guess we'll go without tonight. I hope he's in a good mood when he gets home."

Knowing he wasn't going to get anything for the rumbling in his stomach any time soon, Shepard decided to head to his room. 

Pulling out a sketch pad, he got comfortable on his bed, turned on some music, and started sketching whatever came to mind.

The sketch was halfway complete when he realized he had no idea who he was sketching, totally unaware of the young whisky-eyed teen he had met earlier that day. 

With a crooked, amused grin, Shepard thought to himself, 'Well, he's gorgeous. Might as well finish it.'

Once the drawing was complete – and Shepard was satisfied with the outcome – he closed his sketch pad, setting it on his nightstand before closing his eyes for some much-needed rest.


Two hours later, at around 8 PM, Shepard was startled awake by a kick to his bed.

"Wake the fuck up, sleeping beauty," Chris teased as he continued kicking the side of the bed.

"You home?" Shepard asked, his words slurring with sleep.

"What the hell kinda question is that? I'm talking to you, ain't I?" Chris said with a chuckle, and Shepard could smell the scent of whisky wafting through the air.

"Jeez, you drinkin' already." It wasn't a question.

"Don't you start! I only had a couple. Didn't wanna ruin my appetite. Speaking of which – where the fuck is my dinner?"

Shepard rolled his eyes, earning a sharp slap across the face.

"Johnny, you know I fucking hate it when you roll your eyes at me!" Chris reminded his stepson with a disapproving frown.

"Sorry," Shepard apologized, rubbing his left cheek as he sat up in his bed.

"Don't fucking apologize. Just don't do it again, moron," Chris scolded. "Now, get your ass up and fix me something to eat."

"There ain't nothin' to fix. There is literally nothing edible in this house – unless you count beer, ketchup, and a celery stick," Shepard said truthfully.

"Are you trying to be cute?"

"No. I'm dead serious. There's nothing here. You forgot to go grocery shopping – again," Shepard informed him.

"Shit. Why didn't you go?" Chris asked in annoyance.

"With what money?"

"Johnny, I love you, but you're gonna have to start pulling your own weight. Start helping out, put a little money in the till," Chris said, his tone serious and tired.

"I tried to get a part-time job. Nobody'll hire me 'round here," Shepard explained anxiously. "I'll keep trying, but I don't know what else I can do in the meantime."

Chris rubbed his face hard, and with a sigh, began to speak. "I know. I know. You're a good kid, Johnny. You really are. I got a twenty. Wanna order a pizza?"

Shepard smiled fondly at his step-father. "Sure. I'll call 'em."

"Good. I'm starving. I'm gonna go take a shower," Chris chuckled as he made his way to the washroom.


It took less than thirty minutes for the pizza to arrive and only a few minutes before the two were digging in.

"You want a beer?" Chris asked, causing Shepard's brow to raise.

"Is this some kinda test?" Shepard asked cautiously.

Chris burst out laughing. "No. It's no test. I figure you're mature enough to handle one beer. That don't mean you can go grab one whenever you want. You only drink when I give you permission. 'We clear?"

"So, if I want one, I just ask you," Shepard asked, wanting to be clear on the rules.

"That's right. So, you want one, or not," Chris asked as he held the bottle out towards his stepson.

Shepard cocked his head to the side, studying his stepfather's face carefully before reluctantly taking the offered beer.

"You like it," Chris asked as he continued to eat his dinner.

"It's okay," Shepard shrugged as he took a bite of his pizza.

Chris nodded in approval. "So, I know this ain't the best time, but I need you to look in the closet and see if there's anything of your mom's that you wanna keep. I'm gonna donate the rest, so— Yeah."

"Did she still have that red and black blanket? You know, the soft one with the thin white stripes?"

"Hmm. Yeah. I think so," Chris said as he scratched his chin.

"That's all I want," Shepard said quietly, his voice breaking slightly as he spoke.

"It's yours. I'll put it in your room," Chris promised as he finished off his beer. "Well, I'm stuffed. I'm gonna have another beer, then head to bed. Take your meds and go on to bed. You got school tomorrow, and don't forget to go see your parole officer. You can't miss that."

"He's not a parole officer. You make me sound like a convict," Shepard pouted.

"Son, you kinda are. Besides, he's a cop, ain't he? Trust me, kid, it's the same thing. Now, go on, get ready for bed. And don't forget to brush your teeth!" Chris called out as he watched his stepson disappear from the room. 

With a smile, Chris put away the leftover pizza, grabbed another beer, and turned in for the night.

****☆****

Shepard woke to the feel of something being thrown upon his chest. His eyes fluttered as he tried to will himself awake. It wasn't until a familiar smell hit his nostrils that he truly stirred. 

It was the scent of vanilla, coffee, and some flower Shepard could never pinpoint, but always brought a smile to his face whenever he smelled it.

"Mom?"

"Yeah. It still has her scent. I was gonna wash it, but I figured it was best left alone," Chris explained as he rubbed his neck nervously.

"I'm glad. I miss her scent," Shepard admitted as he brought the blanket to his nose, inhaling the sweet familiar scent.

"Me too, kid. Me too," Chris said as he handed Shepard a bank card. "Buy some groceries, but don't go too crazy. We still got bills to pay. Only the essentials, yeah."

"I understand. Is there anything in particular you want?" Shepard asked, wanting to be as helpful as possible.

"Yeah. If it's not too expensive, get bacon," Chris said with a grin.

"Bacon. Okay. Will do," Shepard assured him. "Chris?"

"Yeah, kid?"

"I–I blacked out yesterday. I don't know how many hours I lost. I–I thought you'd wanna know," Shepard replied nervously.

"Okay. Do you feel okay, now?" Chris asked, unsure of how to handle the situation.

"Yeah. I took my emergency dose as soon as I snapped out of it," Shepard explained.

"Good boy. You better go ahead and get ready for school. You don't wanna be late," Chris said as he turned to leave the room.

Once his stepfather was gone, Shepard inhaled the scent of the blanket one more time.

"I miss you, Mom," Shepard whispered before gently folding the blanket and officially starting his day.

****☆****

The day was long for the young blonde, and it was obvious that half of his teachers had already branded him a troublemaker, despite Shepard being on his best behaviour. It was to be expected, Shepard thought. Nothing he could do about it, so why dwell on it.

He got no relief from the hate – until art class, that is. Shepard had been looking forward to this elective all day and was not disappointed.

The room was massive, with every art supply one could ever dream of all on display. Shepard was in heaven. 

He had always been artistic, ever since he was a small child – from the day his mother put a pen in his tiny hand. And Shepard was a natural. The boy could draw anything he set his mind to, from animals to motorcycles to people –  it made no difference to him. He loved it all.

Once Shepard picked his spot in the farthest reaches of the room, he noticed a familiar face entering the room.

"It's him," Shepard spoke aloud without thinking.

"Hey, it's you! You're enrolled here?" The whisky-eyed teen asked with an amused smile on his face.

"Huh?" Shepard asked, completely lost.

"Don't tell me you've forgotten me already," Kaidan replied with a warm smile.

"I–I'm sorry," Shepard replied, his voice smaller than usual.

Kaidan placed his bag on the back of his chair before taking a seat.

"That's alright. Although, I am a bit hurt that you don't remember me, especially since you rescued me from a beating," Kaidan said, smiling at the confused blonde.

"I–I did?" Shepard asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"Yeah. So, did you just move here? I don't recall ever seeing you around," Kaidan asked, deciding to change the subject.

"Umm— Sort of," Shepard replied, hoping Kaidan would accept his answer.

"Uh— O–kay," came Kaidan's brief reply. "So, are you gonna tell me your name, or are names still too binding?"

"I–It's Shepard," Shepard replied as he started to bounce his knee nervously. "A–And you?"

"You forgot that too, huh," Kaidan chuckled. "My name's Kaidan. Kaidan Alenko. Mind telling me your first name?"

"Just call me Shepard," came Shepard's simple reply.

"O–kay. Well, it's nice to meet you, Shepard. I hope you'll remember me this time," Kaidan grinned.

"Oh, I'll remember," Shepard promised just as the teacher finally entered the room—

She was a beautiful lady – tall, with crystal-blue eyes and long honey-blonde hair that was pulled tight into a high ponytail. She wore an elegant pin-striped suit, carrying a large leather portfolio.

"That's Ms. Benezia T'Soni. She's known for her love of fine art. So, she takes her job very seriously," Kaidan whispered as the teacher addressed the class.


The class was pretty normal for the first day. The only assignment being a simple drawing of each student's choosing.

Kaidan was in awe of Shepard's talent as he watched the blue-eyed teen quickly sketch out an image of a young woman.

"Wow! You're really good," Kaidan praised as he struggled with his own sketch.

"Huh?"

"I said, you're really talented," Kaidan replied with a smile.

"T–Thanks," Shepard said quietly, blushing slightly at the comment as he switched hands to begin shading the image.

"Weren't you left-handed a minute ago?" Kaidan asked in amusement.

"Oh, yeah. My dominant hand is left, but I can write and stuff with both," Shepard explained as he continued his sketch.

"Impressive," Kaidan said as he grew more and more frustrated with his own sketch. "Mine looks awful."

Shepard glanced over to see his classmate's work, smiling a bit at what he saw.

"It's a dog, right," Shepard asked in an amused tone.

"Yeah. At least you could tell that much," Kaidan said with a chuckle.

"It's not bad," Shepard assured him as he took the sketchbook from Kaidan's hand. "'You mind if I show you something?"

"No, by all means," Kaidan replied, turning all his attention to the blonde as he continued.

"Your problem is the fur. The way you're trying to fill it in makes it look like squiggles. Try it this way," Shepard instructed as he demonstrated the technique to Kaidan. "Now, you try."

Kaidan took the book from Shepard and attempted the technique. "Well, it does look more like fur. I'll give you that. Thanks, Shepard."

"No problem," Shepard said with a wink.

"Do you mind if I ask you a question?" Kaidan asked nervously.

"Shoot."

"Is that your girlfriend in the sketch?"

Shepard chuckled a little at the thought. "No. It's my mom."

"Really. She's very pretty," Kaidan said as he finished up his sketch.

"Y–Yeah, she is," Shepard said, his smile fading as sadness took its place.

"You okay?" Kaidan asked, noticing the change.

"Huh?" Shepard shook his head to regain his concentration. "Yeah. I'm fine."

Kaidan started to say something else, but the bell rang, and their time ran out.

"Leave your sketches on my desk," Ms. T'Soni called out as the students started rising from their seats.

"D–Do you wanna hang out at lunch?" Shepard asked as he and Kaidan walked side by side from the room.

"I can't today. I usually eat with my girlfriend and some of my other friends. You're welcome to join us, though," Kaidan replied with a warm smile.

Shepard's heart dropped at the word girlfriend, but he forced a smile. "Nah. I don't wanna intrude. Maybe some other time."

"I'd really like for you to join us," Kaidan pleaded.

"I'll think about it," Shepard said as he threw his hand up in farewell. "See ya later, K."

"Later— Shepard."

****☆****

"Kaidan, over here!" A pretty girl with a thick Turkish accent and medium-length brown hair, and dark-brown eyes called out from across the room.

"Hey, Rahna. Sorry, I'm late. My locker got stuck," Kaidan said as he kissed his girlfriend quickly before taking his seat beside her.

"That's okay, Kaidan," Rahna assured him.

"Where's Tali? Kaidan asked as he noticed her absence.

"She's helping Garrus with his project in the science lab," a girl with honey-blonde hair and crystal-blue eyes replied casually.

"Figures. Where's Jack and James?" Kaidan asked.

"Probably in a broom closet somewhere. You know how horny they are," a boy with reddish-brown hair and green eyes answered with an amused chuckle, while his girlfriend – a girl with light blonde hair and blue eyes – fed him a piece of an apple.

"I think Jeff is correct. Their hormones seem to be at peak lately," Edi replied, causing her boyfriend to chuckle.

"So, how are you feeling today, Joker," Kaidan asked as he took a drink of water.

"You know me, I'm always good," Jeff replied with a shrug.

"Who's that?" Liara asked as she pointed to the far corner of the quad, where a lone figure sat alone under a tree.

Glancing over his shoulder, Kaidan quickly replied, "That's Shepard. He's new here, I think."

"He's quite attractive. Do you think he's single?" Liara asked, obviously interested in the young man.

"Wait— Did you say 'Shepard'? As in Johnny Shepard?" Jeff asked with a raised brow.

"I don't know his first name," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"Why does it matter if his name is Johnny?" Rahna asked, obviously confused.

"'Cause Johnny Shepard is a psycho killer," a voice called out from behind Kaidan.

"Hey, Ash," Kaidan greeted the dark-haired girl as she took her seat beside them.

"Hey," Ashley replied, her dark-brown eyes shining mischievously. "So, you guys haven't heard about him?"

"Well, I have," Jeff corrected as he continued to eat his lunch.

"Okay, I'll bite," Kaidan said in amusement, curious to hear the tall tale. "What did Johnny Shepard do?"

"Well, one night, during a terrible storm, a thirteen-year-old boy named Johnny Shepard snapped and murdered his mother's boyfriend. They say that he stabbed the poor guy so many times that the entire room was red with blood. They also say he mutilated the poor guy. Cut it clean off," Ashley made a scissor motion with her fingers. "Snip. Snip."

"Oh, really. If that's true, then why haven't I ever heard of it?" Liara asked skeptically.

"Yeah. I'm with Liara on this one. Besides, even if it was true, he can't be that Johnny Shepard. The real Johnny Shepard – if he even exists – would be rotting in jail," Kaidan replied in an unamused tone.

"Not true, Kaidan. They say he was institutionalized for three years, and they had to release him because of a loophole in his paperwork. The judicial system at its finest," Ashley insisted as she stole a chip from Joker's plate.

"Whatever. I'm telling you, he's not the same guy. It's just a coincidence that he has Shepard for a last name. His first name probably isn't even Johnny," Kaidan retorted.

"Why don't you go ask him, Kaidan. You seem to know him well enough," Joker suggested.

"I'm not asking him his name. And he's a nice guy. I was gonna ask him to eat with us, but now I'm not so sure that's a good idea. The way you guys are talking – it's embarrassing," Kaidan scolded.

"Come on, Kaidan! We were only fooling around. You know we wouldn't say anything to him," Ashley explained with a roll of her eyes.

"Well, not to his face anyway," Joker admitted truthfully, earning a scolding slap to the back of the head from Edi.

"I'll ask him to join us tomorrow. Hopefully, you people will have calmed down by then," Kaidan said as he chanced a glance over his shoulder, searching for any hints as to who the boy really was inside. 

From what Kaidan could surmise, Shepard was just a beautiful, artistically gifted blonde boy with sad sapphire-blue eyes, who just happened to be a little odd. Nothing to raise the alarm over.

"I don't care what you people say! He's gorgeous," Liara said as she continued to watch the blue-eyed blonde from afar.

"Keep it in your pants, T'Soni," Ashley teased.

"Oh, shut up, Williams! You know you would jump at the chance, same as me," Liara huffed.

"Ladies, can we please calm down," Joker suggested in a non-committal tone.

As the ladies continued to bicker, the end of lunch bell rang out, causing Kaidan to glance one last time in Shepard's direction.

And for just a second, their eyes met, and Kaidan could feel that same unexpected tingle in his gut that he had felt the first time they met.

"Shepard," Kaidan whispered, more to himself than anyone else.

"Did you say something, sweetie?" Rahna asked as she took her boyfriend's hand.

"Hn. No, it was nothing. Let's head to class," Kaidan said with a smile as they made their way into the building.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"You're late," a stern voice called out as Shepard took the seat in front of the man's desk.

"S–Sorry. The bus was late. I'll try to get here on time next week," Shepard replied nervously.

"You better do more than try," Harkin, a balding man with a severe visage that Shepard was certain only a mother could love, growled out as he took a look at Shepard's file.

"Understood, sir," Shepard replied in a disgusted tone that the officer caught instantly.

"Watch your tone, boy," Harkin warned. "I'm the only thing between you and a mental institution. Am I understood?"

"Y-Yes, sir," Shepard said in a low tone.

"So, you returned to school today. How was it? Did you get into any trouble?"

"No. Everything was fine," Shepard replied as he nervously bounced his knee.

"Are you taking your medication as instructed?" Harkin asked as he continued to flip through the file.

"Y–Yeah. I've been doing everything required of me."

"You don't abuse your medication, do you?" Harkin asked as he focused on the blue-eyed boy.

"No! Of course not!" 

"Hit a nerve, did I?" Harkin said with a mocking grin. "That have anything to do with your mom's death? OD'd, didn't she? Well, that sort of thing happens to whores."

It took all of Shepard's willpower not to punch the man right in his smug little face. With his hands clenched until his knuckles were white, Shepard finally mumbled a reply. "No. I just don't do that."

"We'll see," Harkin said as he slammed a lidded plastic cup on the table. "You know what to do. If the urine analysis shows up dirty, your ass is going back to the looney-bin."

Shepard clenched his jaw as he retrieved the cup from the table. "W–Where do I take it when I'm finished?"

"You just place it on the desk," Harkin instructed as he motioned to a spot on his desk. 

Shepard started to make his way to the washroom but was interrupted by Harkin.

"Where do you think you're going?" Harkin asked in a superior tone that made Shepard want to gag.

"To the washroom," Shepard replied simply.

"I don't think so. Gotta make sure it's really yours," Harkin said with a wicked grin, causing all the colour to fade from Shepard's face.

"A–Are you serious? Y–You want me to piss right here in front of you," Shepard asked, the request making him feel nauseous. 

"That's right. Don't be shy now? You ain't got nothin' I ain't seen before. Well, time's ticking. You better hurry, boy, before I lose my patience," Harkin threatened as he continued to glare at the boy.

Realizing that he wasn't being given a choice, Shepard nervously did as he was told. His hand shaking as he unbuttoned his jeans, freeing himself to do what was asked of him.

"Very nice," Harking commented as he licked his lips, lewdly watching as Shepard finally brought himself to urinate. "There's a good boy. Don't be shy now. Fill it up." 

Once he was done and the sample was collected, Shepard put himself away before shakily snapping the lid into place.

"Is there anything else, or c–can I go now?" Shepard asked, anxious as he placed the filled cup on Harkin's desk.

"Well, there's the matter of your restitution fee. You're supposed to bring your payment every week," Harkin reminded the youth.

"I put in a request to have that waived. T–There's no way me or my stepdad can afford to pay – not until I get a part-time job anyway," Shepard explained.

"Well, I guess I'll have to put in an order for you to be escorted back to the hospital. Because we both know, no one's ever going to hire you in this town." Harkin chuckled darkly as he spoke.

"B–But the waiver—"

"Denied. I thought you knew," Harkin said with a wicked grin that made Shepard want to puke.

Shepard's heart began to race as the room began to spin. "I— I need to sit down."

"By all means, sit," Harkin said as he motioned toward the empty seat.

Once Shepard was seated, he put his head between his knees and began taking deep breaths, trying to calm himself before he passed out.

"Panic attack, huh. Who would have thought? You know, I could ignore the payment – fudge the paperwork a bit," Harkin offered with a grin.

Shepard's brow raised as he chanced a glance at the man. "Huh?"

"Don't go thinking I'm going to do it for free. I'll want something in return," Harkin warned.

"But— I ain't got nothin'," Shepard reminded the man.

"Come now, didn't you learn a few tricks from your momma? I'm sure she taught you how to pay debts with no money. She did it all the time, didn't she?" Harkin teased, loving the absolute look of anger on the young boy's face. 'It's going to be so fun breaking him,' Harkin thought to himself.

"Fuck you! You got no right to talk about her that way!" Shepard screamed, causing the secretary to rush to the door.

"Is everything alright? Should I call security," she asked nervously.

"I'm not sure," Harkin said as he turned his attention to Shepard. "Well, boy. What's it gonna be? Can we come to an agreement, or are you ready to lose your freedom?"

"I fucking hate you, " Shepard said under his breath before chewing his lip in contemplation. "What would I have to do, exactly?"

"That's what I thought," Harkin grinned with a satisfied look on his face. "Security won't be necessary. You can go, Lisa."

"Sir," the young woman nodded as she exited the room, closing the door behind her.

"You do whatever I tell you to do. Simple enough, isn't it?"

Shepard stood in contemplation. Knowing he was fucked no matter what he chose to do, finally, he made his choice: "A–Agreed," Shepard mumbled, clenching his jaw in defeat.

"That's what I like to hear," Harkin said as he moved to lock the door before moving to hold the blue-eyed blonde from behind.

Shepard cringed as he felt the disgusting man's breath on his neck. His stomach churned as Harkin began sucking the tender flesh of his neck, uncaring if he left a mark upon the boy's skin. 

Shepard closed his eyes, trying his best to block out everything around him. When, all of the sudden, Harkin spun him around and forced him onto his knees. 

Unzipping his pants with practised ease, Harkin soon exposed himself, causing Shepard to look up at him in anger and disgust. 

"You know what to do, kid," Harkin grinned as he roughly yanked the boy's head back. "Don't be shy."


FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER... 

"You did well. You got a good mouth on you," Harkin praised as tucked himself back into his pants.

"C–Can I go now?" Shepard asked, his voice hoarse from the abuse his throat had taken.

"Yeah. You can go. But be here, the same time next week, and you better be on time. You hear me, boy?" Harkin ordered, using his authority to intimidate the young blonde.

"Understood," Shepard said as he quietly left the room.


"Excuse me," the secretary called out, causing Shepard to freeze in his tracks. "You forgot your appointment card."

"Sorry," Shepard mumbled as he quickly took the card and rushed out of the building, eager to be as far away as he could.

"Have a nice—" the door closed shut behind Shepard, "day," the secretary finished her sentence before shrugging and continuing on with her work.

****☆****

Shepard made it halfway to the bus stop before finally puking all over the sidewalk. 

"Fuck my life! I wish I was fucking dead," Shepard growled as he wiped his mouth, hating the taste that still lingered, raising his head just in time to see the bus leaving without him.

"Goddammit! Are you fucking kidding me!" Shepard screamed in frustration, his throat aching with every word.

"Bad day?" 

The voice was strangely familiar, but Shepard couldn't quite recognize the face.

"Y–Yeah. It's been hell."

"I'm Garrus. We have a few classes together – art and math to be specific," the tall brunette with blue-green eyes, and a long scar running the length of his jaw, introduced himself before motioning towards his very muscular Latino companion, "And this is Jimmy Vega."

"It's James, actually," the teen corrected, his light-brown eyes shining with mirth. "I'm in your art class too."

"Oh— N–Nice to meet you," Shepard said as he nervously held out his hand, unsure of the proper etiquette he should be using.

"You're pretty shy, huh?" James said with an amused grin.

"I— I dunno. M–Maybe," Shepard answered truthfully.

"Ah, you're awkward, too," Garrus teased, causing Shepard to roll his eyes at the taller boy.

"Look, I–I gotta get going. I missed my bus, and I still gotta go grocery shopping. So, I ain't really got time to talk. It was nice meeting you guys, though," Shepard said as he started walking away from the two boys.

"We could give you a ride. We don't mind," Garrus offered, causing Shepard to turn his head.

"I live on the other side of town. I–It ain't exactly the best neighbourhood. Are you sure you guys wanna go there?" Shepard asked, wanting them to know the situation ahead of time.

"I live on that side with my mom and my abuela. So, it really wouldn't be any trouble. Right, Scars?" James explained with a grin.

"No trouble at all," Garrus insisted.

"I–If you guys really don't mind. I would appreciate it," Shepard replied gratefully.

"Let's go," James said as he motioned for Shepard to follow him.

****☆****

"Y–You guys can just drop me off at the market," Shepard said as he nervously bounced his knee.

"We can wait 'til you're done shopping. It would be way easier that way. I mean, no one wants to carry groceries all the way home. Right, Scars?"

"Jimmy's right. We'll just wait for you to finish," Garrus insisted.

"I–I appreciate it," Shepard said with a nod of his head. 

Garrus pulled into the parking lot of the local market, checking himself in the mirror before exiting the car.

"Well, are you two going to move your asses or what," Garrus teased as he waited for the two boys to exit the vehicle.

"Y–You guys don't have to go in," Shepard assured them.

"Ah, we want to," James said as he threw his arm around Shepard's neck.

Shepard just grinned as they made their way into the store.

It only took about thirty minutes for Shepard to get everything he felt they needed, making doubly sure to get the bacon his stepfather had requested. 


Once they were at the check-out counter, all hell broke loose as an obviously strung-out blonde man with glazed-over blue eyes pulled a gun and demanded all the money in the register.

While the other customers took cover, Shepard alone stood unmoving, showing no sign of fear as the would-be thief shoved the gun directly into his face.

"What the hell's wrong with you!? I said *get the fuck down*," the man ordered, once again.

"What's wrong with me? What the fuck's wrong with you? You feel like a big man. You ain't nothing but a strung-out pussy, too fucking wasted to even realize what he's doing. Hell, you probably don't even know how to pull the trigger," Shepard admonished the man, causing the man to sneer and pull the trigger... 

Silence.

"Gimme that, you fucking idiot," Shepard growled as he took the gun from the would-be thief's hand. "You got the safety on. Goddamn, moron."

"I'm sorry," the man broke out crying, falling to his knees before Shepard. "I just really need a fix."

Shepard turned the safety off and pointed the gun directly at the cowering man.

"No, wait, please! I won't do it ever again. I promise. Just, please, let me live!" The man cried. 

"BANG!" Shepard said loudly, causing the weeping man to wet himself.

"He's loco," James whispered to Garrus as they looked on in awe.

"He's got balls. I'll give him that," Garrus said in agreement with James's sentiment.

"Here," Shepard said as he turned the safety back on and placed the gun on the counter.

"T–Thank you," the cashier said in a nervous tone.

"I–I hate to rush you, but could you kinda ring me up so I can get home," Shepard asked, totally unfazed by the situation.

"S–Sure," the cashier replied as she quickly scanned each item.

Noticing the wannabe thief trying to get away, Shepard's voice rang out clear in the silence.

"Where do you think you're going? Sit your ass down. The cops will be here soon enough. Don't make me tie your ass up," Shepard warned as the man took a seat on the floor next to the register. 

"He's so mean," the man cried as he awaited the cops and his inevitable fate.

"Y–Your total is $83.50," the cashier said as she glanced between Shepard and the man.

Shepard quickly inserted his card before collecting his bags. "Thanks. If he moves, shoot him," Shepard said with a wink as he made his way outside with James and Garrus following close behind.


"You knew the safety was on the whole time, didn't you?" Garrus surmised.

"Yep," came Shepard's simple reply.

"Yo, Loco, that was so fucking cool!" James said, pumping his fist in approval.

"L–Loco?" Shepard asked nervously. 

"No offense. I mean it in a good way. I like to give nicknames to people I like. It helps me remember them," James explained.

"And I'm Loco," Shepard said, laughing inside at how accurate the moniker was.

"Yep."

"Alright," Shepard shrugged as he placed the groceries in the trunk. 

"It's weird," Garrus said as he scratched his jaw lazily. 

"What is?" James asked as he slammed the trunk shut.

"Well, no offense Shepard, but you seem timid as fuck, yet you gave that would-be-thief a scolding he won't soon forget. It's like you're two people," Garrus explained.

"Y–Yeah. I get like that sometimes. Just look over me when I act weird," Shepard explained nervously. 

"Sure thing, Loco," James assured him.

"Yeah, we understand," Garrus agreed, "So, where do you live?"

"I live about fifteen minutes from here," Shepard replied.

"No problem, just tell me where to go," Garrus said as they piled in the car and continued onward to Shepard's home.

****☆****

"This is the place," Shepard announced as Garrus slowed the vehicle to a stop.

"Yo, you live in the murder house! You definitely got some balls! That place is haunted as fuck," James explained with vigor.

"Jimmy, you might wanna—" Garrus tried to think of a covert way to get James to shut the fuck up. 

"I–It's fine," Shepard said as he quickly retrieved the groceries from the back. "Thanks again for the ride. I'd pay you, but I'm broke."

"That's not necessary. We were glad to do it. See you in class tomorrow," Garrus said with a wave as he began pulling out of the drive.

"Later, Loco," James called out, causing Shepard to hold up two fingers.


Once they were on their way, Shepard made his way to the door, sighing when he noticed the graffiti on the door: PSYCHO-KILLER.

Deciding to let it go, Shepard placed the key into the lock and slowly opened the door.

"Chris, you home?" Shepard asked as he clicked on the light.

"Yeah," Chris replied, his voice groggy with sleep.

"I got the groceries," Shepard announced.

"And my bacon," Chris asked with a yawn as he helped his stepson with the bags.

"I got it," Shepard said with a grin. "I'll clean the door before I go to bed. Sorry about that."

"What the fuck you sorry for? You didn't paint it."

Shepard just shrugged.

"Are you getting a cold or something?" Chris asked, noticing the hoarseness of his stepson's voice.

"Nah. I'll be okay," Shepard assured his stepfather.

"Did you see your PO today," Chris asked as he continued to put away the groceries.

"Yeah, I saw him," Shepard replied in a tired tone.

"A real asshole, huh?" 

"Yep. I had to take a urine test," Shepard admitted.

"Hn. That's odd, isn't it? I mean, you weren't institutionalized for addiction," Chris asked in confusion.

"I think it had something to do with Mom's addiction, but I'm not sure," Shepard replied with a shrug.

"You passed it, right," Chris asked, only half-jokingly.

"Really, Chris?" Shepard chuckled.

"Just askin'. You better take your meds. You're about half an hour late," Chris reminded the boy.

"Yeah, I kinda lost track of time. I'm going to go take a shower," Shepard said as he put the final item away.

"Meds first, then shower," Chris insisted.

"I know. Have you had dinner?" Shepard asked.

"Yeah, I had a burger. You can fix yourself something though," Chris replied.

"Nah, I'm good," Shepard said as he made his way to the washroom.

****☆****

MEANWHILE, IN GARRUS'S CAR... 

"I can't believe he lives in the Shepard death house. His family must be hardcore. Ah, shit, we forgot to ask Loco what his name was," James said, scolding himself.

"It's Shepard, genius. I can't believe you couldn't put that together," Garrus said in an irritated tone.

"Get outta here," James chuckled uneasily. "Wait, are you serious?"

"Dead serious. John Shepard, to be exact," Garrus informed his clueless friend.

"Oh, shit! You don't think he's *the* Johnny Shepard?" James asked anxiously.

"I'm not sure. If he isn't, it's one hell of a coincidence," Garrus admitted.

"You let a psychopath in the car! Are you friggin' crazy!?" James panicked.

"Relax, Jimmy. Nothing happened, and we all had fun, didn't we," Garrus reminded his over-dramatic friend.

"Well— Yeah, but that was different," James replied.

"Why?" Garrus asked, cocking a brow at his friend.

"I dunno, it just is," James insisted.

"Jimmy, look at it this way, if the story is true, and Shepard really is Johnny, he must be harmless now, or they wouldn't have let him out of jail – or wherever the hell they had him. He seemed like a regular guy to me, and until he shows signs of insanity, I'm going to be his friend. God knows he needs one," Garrus explained.

"Whattaya mean," James asked, cocking his head to the side in confusion.

"I mean, he's always alone. You never see him talking to anyone. It's like everyone thinks he has the plague or something. I even saw a few teachers talking trash to him, even though he hadn't done anything wrong. So, tell me, Jimmy, do you really believe he deserves all this hate," Garrus asked, hoping he had convinced James to give Shepard a chance.

"Well, when you put it that way – I kinda feel sorry for him," James admitted. "Alright, Scars, you win. But if he goes crazy, you're the first one up on the chopping block. Deal?"

"Deal," Garrus agreed with a chuckle.

****☆****

3 AM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME... 

Chris was abruptly awakened by the sound of a dog's barking and the incessant blaring of a car alarm.

"What the hell's going on?" Chris asked aloud as he tried to wipe the sleep from his eyes.

Turning to look at the red glowing numbers of his digital clock, Chris sighed heavily – 3:02 AM.

"Johnny, you up?" Chris asked loudly as he slowly dragged himself from the bed. 

"Johnny?" Chris called out as he checked his stepson's bed. A cold sense of dread filled him when he found the bed empty.

"Johnny, where are you, kid?" Chris called out once more as he checked the washroom. "Dammit, Johnny! Where are ya!?"

Not knowing what else to do, he decided to follow the noise. His heart sank when he noticed tiny crimson droplets shining in the light of the porch lamp. 

"Johnny!" Chris bolted from the house, moving as fast as he could, following the small trail of blood until he was in the parking lot that was adjacent to their backyard.

He let out a shocked gasp when Shepard came into view, his right forearm bloodied as he continued to slash and mutilate, his left hand firmly around the hobby knife he often used in model making. 

It was a surreal sight. Shepard looked like a marionette – his head cocked to the side, his hazy too-blue eyes looking out into the darkness of the night. It was almost as if he were sleepwalking, totally unaware of the damage he was inflicting upon himself.

"Jesus, Johnny!" Chris yelled as he carefully took the knife from his stepson's hand before gently guiding him into the house.


He watched as Shepard calmly walked towards the hall, stopping in front of the now sealed bedroom, frantically shaking the knob, trying desperately to open that forbidden door. 

"Johnny, stop," Chris pleaded as he held his stepson from behind, praying the boy would come back to himself soon.

Then, as if a switch flipped inside, Shepard let out a loud sob that shook his lean frame. 

Shepard looked down at his arm in confusion. "What did I do?" Shepard asked in a panicked tone.

"It's okay, son. I got you," Chris said as he held the boy tighter.

"Did I— Did I hurt you?" Shepard asked in a frightened tone, fearful of the reply.

"No, you just hurt yourself," Chris explained truthfully. "Your arm is all fucked up. I think I need to take you to the emergency room."

"P–Please, don't make me go. They'll lock me up again," Shepard pleaded.

"But your arm," Chris said, his tone full of worry.

"I–I'll be fine. I promise. So, please don't make me go," Shepard begged once more.

"Okay. But if you start feeling strange, you let me know. Now, let's see how fucked up your arm is. If the cuts are too deep, I'm taking you to the ER – no arguing," Chris warned as he led his stepson into the kitchen before retrieving the first-aid kit.

Shepard flinched a bit as Chris gently washed the blood away. 

"Some of these are pretty deep, but I don't think they'll need stitches. I'm gonna have to bandage your entire forearm, though," Chris said as he prepared to disinfect the wounds. "This is gonna sting."

Shepard hissed a bit, but he didn't flinch much. "You okay," Chris asked in concern.

"I'm fine."

"You're the toughest kid I know," Chris said, shaking his head in wonder. "Not sure if that's a blessing or a curse, though. Well, I think you dodged a hospital visit this time."

"Thanks," Shepard whispered.

"For what?" Chris asked as he started wrapping Shepard's arm.

"For taking care of me. I–I know you didn't have to. I honestly don't know why you stay," Shepard admitted. 

"I stay because you're my kid. So, no more of that, yeah." Chris said with a smile. 

"O–Okay."

"So, are you gonna tell me what happened today?" Chris asked, his tone turning serious.

"Huh?" Shepard asked, his brow furrowing in unease.

"Something triggered this episode. So, tell me, what happened?" 

"I— Nothing too bad," Shepard lied. "Maybe I'm missing Mom."

Shepard wasn't totally lying. He did miss his mother, and while he knew that wasn't the trigger, it had certainly added to the problem.

"Yeah. I miss her too. Be sure to tell your doctor what happened tonight. He needs to know so he can decide whether your meds need changed or if something else is going on in that brain of yours," Chris insisted as he rubbed Shepard's back gently.

"I will. I think I'm alright now. I'm tired. I think I'll go to bed," Shepard said with a yawn.

"Yeah. I'm wiped out too. See ya in the morning," Chris said with a wave of his hand as he watched his stepson make his way to his bedroom. "Sleep well, kid," Chris whispered as he, too, returned to bed.

****☆*****

Chapter Text

****☆****

The next morning, Shepard wearily pulled himself from his warm bed, still tired from the episode he had experienced in the night. He went through his daily routine, paying no mind to the bandages on his right forearm. It wasn't the first time he had hurt himself during a blackout, and it probably wouldn't be the last.

"Are you gonna wear that t-shirt?" Chris asked, cocking his brow speculatively.

"Uh, yeah. Why?" Shepard asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

"Won't your teachers be suspicious of your injuries? I know how you hate it when people ask questions," Chris explained, hoping his step-son would choose a long-sleeved shirt instead.

"It's hot as hell outside. So, no, I ain't wearing a long-sleeved shirt," Shepard answered in an annoyed tone.

"If you say so. Just don't come in bitching when a teacher asks what happened," Chris warned as he finished his coffee.

"They won't ask. They fuckin' hate me. They wouldn't care if I came in with a knife in my stomach," Shepard said with a snort.

"Right," Chris said in an unconvinced tone.

"Well, I'm gonna head out. I don't wanna miss the bus," Shepard said as he grabbed his backpack.

"I want bacon for dinner tonight," Chris said with a grin. "And gimme my bank card."

Shepard rolled his eyes as he handed the card to his stepfather. "I wasn't gonna use it."

"Sure you weren't," Chris teased. "Have a good day at school."

"I'll try," Shepard said as he made his way out of the house.

****☆****

"Yo, Loco! 'You need a ride?" James asked, hanging his head out the passenger's side window of Garrus's car.

Shepard stopped for a minute, staring at the ground in contemplation before answering. "Sure."

"Jump on in," James insisted, motioning Shepard over.

"So, Shepard, how do you like our illustrious little high school," Garrus asked as Shepard made himself comfortable on the backseat.

"It's alright," Shepard shrugged. "The teachers aren't all that friendly, but I don't mind."

"Yeah, some of them are pricks for sure," James agreed as he cranked up the stereo.

"If you don't mind me asking, what the hell happened to your arm?" Garrus asked curiously. "I don't recall you having it bandaged yesterday."

"I–It was an accident. Just a few minor cuts.," Shepard replied with a shrug as he nervously bounced his knee.

"Nothing serious, I hope," James said as he changed the radio station.

"Nope. Nothing serious."

"Jimmy, keep your hands off my stereo," Garrus scolded as he slapped James on the back of the head.

"Ouch! It's not my fault your taste in music sucks ass," James pouted as he rubbed the back of his head.

"H–Have you two been friends long," Shepard asked, a little envious of their closeness.

"Yeah. Ever since we were five," James explained with a grin. "He's a pain in the ass, but he's a cool guy."

"So, Shepard, are you new to the area? I don't think I remember ever seeing you in school," Garrus asked, knowing full well Shepard was local.

"Nah. I'm from here. I just— I went away for a few years," Shepard admitted without giving too much away.

"I don't think I remember a Shepard in any of my classes as a kid," James said in slight confusion.

"I–I wasn't in normal classes. I was kind of a slow learner and had some developmental issues. I'm fine now – all caught up," Shepard explained.

"That's cool," James said as his phone buzzed. "Yo, Scars, can we swing by and pick up Jack? My baby needs a ride."

"No." 

"Garrus, what the fuck, man," James asked in a hurt tone.

"Jimmy, the last time she was in this car, she burned a hole the seat," Garrus reminded his sullen friend.

"So, I'll tell her not to smoke. Come on, Scars, she's my girl," James pleaded.

Garrus sighed. "Fine, but you keep her on a tight leash."

"No problem," James promised with a victorious grin.


TEN MINUTES LATER... 

"It's about time," a brown-eyed girl, with a plethora of tattoos, and dark hair – long on top with the sides shorn short, complained, wasting no time, climbing into the backseat. "Who the fuck are you?"

"W–Who the fuck are you?" Shepard repeated in an unamused tone.

"I asked first, smartass," the girl huffed.

"Jack, this is Shepard. Shepard, this is Jack," James said, hoping to prevent a scene.

"Shepard? Oh, I've heard of you! You're that crazy kid that killed that dude," Jack said, unabashed by her lack of tact.

"JACK!" Both Garrus and James yelled, mortified by the girl's uncouth words.

"Garrus, can you let me out? I–I'll walk the rest of the way," Shepard said in a quiet tone as he stared at the floor of the car.

"S–Sure," Garrus said as he slowed the car. "Look, Shepard, you can just ignore Jack. You don't have to get out."

"Thanks for the ride, Garrus. James." Shepard tipped his head to them as he quickly exited the vehicle, taking off on foot towards the schoolyard.

"Jesus, Jack," James said, shaking his head in disbelief.

"What? I didn't say anything you guys didn't already know. If he wants to be a pussy and whine like a little bitch because he got his feelings hurt, then that's his problem, not mine," Jack insisted.

"Jack, you gotta learn to shut up. He seems like a good guy. And the fact is, nobody knows what happened in that house except him. It's unfair for you to mention things you know nothing about," Garrus scolded the outspoken girl.

"Whatever," Jack huffed as they pulled into the parking lot of the school.

****☆****

Shepard continued on his way, getting closer and closer to the schoolyard. With any luck, he would make it before the tardy bell.

Just as it looked like he might make it on time, the bell rang out, causing Shepard to curse loudly.

"FUCK! Can my day get any worse?"

"Are you alright?" A girl's voice chimed in, the accent thick and unfamiliar to Shepard.

"Huh," Shepard said as he turned towards the source.

"I asked if you were alright. You seem to be distressed about something," the girl replied with a soft smile.

"I–I'm late for class, and I'll probably catch hell for it," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"I could write you a note. I volunteer in the office during the first period classes, so it wouldn't be a problem," the girl offered.

"I would really appreciate it," Shepard said gratefully as he followed her to the office.

"I'll just say you were delayed while helping the office staff. Your name, please."

"Umm. Shepard. John Shepard."

The girl froze a bit at the name and Shepard caught it immediately.

"I–I don't want to bother you. I'll just go," Shepard said as he turned to leave.

"No, please don't go," the girl called out. "I have your note all written. All you have to do is give it to your first period teacher," the girl explained as she offered the note to the blue-eyed blonde. "Please, take it."

Shepard hesitated for a second before finally taking the note. "I appreciate it. I really do, uh—"

"Rahna," the girl said with a smile.

"Rahna. Pretty name," Shepard said with a smile.

"T–Thank you," Rahna blushed.

"Thanks again," Shepard said with a wave as he made his way to class.

****☆****

LATER THAT DAY... 

"Hey, Shepard," James called out as he entered the art room. "I'm really sorry about Jack. She didn't mean anything by it. She just says whatever she thinks."

"I–It's fine," Shepard shrugged as he nervously tapped his pencil against his sketchbook.

"You aren't mad?" James asked as he took his seat at the next table.

"Nope."

"Did something happen?" Kaidan asked, furrowing his brow curiously.

"Nothing important," Shepard shrugged as he continued to fidget nervously.

"Rahna said she ran into you this morning," Kaidan said, trying to start a conversation with his new friend.

"Huh?"

"Rahna. She's my girlfriend. I think I told you about her," Kaidan said with a smile.

"Uh, y–yeah. She helped me out this morning. Nice girl," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"She said you were very polite," Kaidan said with a grin.

"Is that a surprise?" Shepard asked, his body taking on a defensive posture.

"Uh, no. I didn't mean anything by it. I just wanted you to know that she is happy to have met you," Kaidan explained.

"Oh— I'm glad I met her too. Like I said, she's a nice girl," Shepard replied as he bounced his knee nervously.

"So— do you have a girlfriend?" Kaidan asked curiously.

Shepard chuckled a bit at the word girlfriend. "Uh, no. No girlfriend."

"Really? I never expected you to be single," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"Why?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"You just seem like the type to turn a girl's head. That and you have a bruise on your neck. I assumed it was a love bite," Kaidan said, tapping his neck as he spoke.

Shepard immediately placed his hand over the mark. "No. No love bite. Just a bruise."

"Oh." Kaidan's eyes drifted to Shepard's bandaged right arm. "What happened to your arm?"

"Ah, nothing." Shepard shrugged.

"Nothing? It doesn't look like nothing. You're bleeding through the bandage," Kaidan informed the boy with a concerned tone.

"I cut myself," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Why?" Kaidan asked, his face full of shock.

"It was an accident," Shepard said, hoping Kaidan would let it go.

"Oh. Mind if I ask how it happened?" 

"I was messing around with a hobby knife and it slipped," Shepard lied.

"I'll bet that hurt," Kaidan said with a pained look on his face.

"Maybe a little," Shepard mumbled as Ms. T'Soni entered the room.

"Okay, class, let's settle down," she instructed as she made her way to the front of the class. "I was pleasantly surprised by the work I saw yesterday. You all did very well. You seem to have the basics down well enough. So, for today, I feel we can move ahead and concentrate on the various techniques of sketching."

The class went by fairly quickly, and before Shepard knew it, the lunch bell rang.


"Be sure to practise the techniques you saw today. Have a good lunch, everyone," Benezia said as she watched her students slowly exiting the room.

Shepard had almost made it to the door when – suddenly – his teacher's voice called out.

"Shepard, may I have a word with you, please?"

Shepard's stomach churned. 'What the hell did I do now?'

"M–Ma'am?"

"No need to be nervous. You aren't in any trouble," she assured the nervous teen. "I just wanted you to know that I was very impressed with your sketch. It was quite beautiful."

Shepard's eyes grew wide at the unexpected compliment. "T–Thank you, ma'am."

"Tell me, who was your teacher?" Benezia asked, curious as to where the boy had learned his technique.

"N–No one," Shepard replied nervously.

"No one," Benezia repeated in a surprised tone.

"I like to draw. I have ever since I was big enough to hold a pen. I just kept at it, that's all. I didn't have teachers or anything like that," Shepard informed her as rubbed his shoulder in a nervous habit.

"I see. Well, you are extremely talented. I'm looking forward to seeing more of your work."

Shepard just nodded.

"I've kept you long enough. Please, go enjoy your lunch," Benezia smiled as Shepard turned to leave, only now noticing the slightly bloodied bandage on the boy's arm. "Shepard?"

"Ma'am?"

"What happened to your arm?" Benezia asked in a concerned tone.

"I had a little accident. I'm fine, though," Shepard replied, hoping she would let it go.

"Alright. Please, try to be more careful in the future. I would hate to see you hurt," Benezia said in a sincere tone.

"I will," Shepard said with a nod as he exited the room.

****☆****

"Shepard, come – sit with us," Kaidan insisted, calling out to the blue-eyed blonde as he passed.

Shepard turned, smiling at the whisky-eyed eyed teen's kindness. "I probably shouldn't. I don't wanna take anybody's spot."

"You wouldn't be intruding," Rahna chimed in with a warm smile that made Shepard feel welcome.

"You sure," Shepard asked as he nervously toyed with the frayed edges of his t-shirt.

"Positive, now, please, sit," Kaidan said as he motioned to the empty space beside Liara.

"Hello, my name's Liara. Liara T'Soni," the blue-eyed girl introduced herself quickly, making sure to hold her hand out to the boy who was her latest crush.

"T'Soni?" Shepard asked as he shook the girl's hand.

"Yeah. She's Ms. T'Soni's daughter," Kaidan explained, causing Shepard to nod.

"It's nice to finally meet you. Kaidan and Rahna have said great things about you," Liara said with a smile.

"They have," Shepard said in a surprised tone.

Kaidan just smiled as Rahna did the same.

"Since no one's going to introduce us, I guess I will," the reddish-brown haired boy with green eyes chimed in. "The name's Jeff Moreau, but you can call me Joker – everyone else does. And this is my girlfriend, Edi Coré."

"Pleased to meet you, Shepard," Edi said with a polite nod.

"Same," Shepard said as he began to bounce his knee.

"Did you get into trouble this morning," Rahna asked as she took a drink from her sports bottle.

"Uh, no. The note you wrote did the trick. Thanks again for helping me out. You really saved my ass," Shepard said gratefully.

"It was no trouble," Rahna insisted as she continued to eat her lunch.

"Aren't you going to have any lunch," Kaidan asked, brow furrowed in confusion.

"Nah. I ain't all that hungry," Shepard said with a crooked grin.

"Hey, guys, sorry we're late," a Romanian girl with dark hair and light-violet eyes that seemed to glow, apologized as she and Garrus took their seats, followed by James and Jack.

"Shepard, this is my girlfriend, Tali," Garrus said, smiling as he introduced her.

"Nice to meet you," Shepard said with a half-wave.

"Garrus has told me so much about you. I'm glad we're finally meeting," Tali said with a smile that Shepard returned.

"So, Shepard, did you get into trouble or something? I saw Ms. T'Soni calling you to stay after class," James asked, hoping Shepard would speak to him after the earlier incident with Jack.

"Mother kept you after class," Liara asked in embarrassment.

"I–It was nothing," Shepard said with a shrug.

"That's a relief. When that lady gets mad, you better watch out," James said with an amused grin.

"So, if you didn't get in trouble, what the hell did she want you for?" Jack asked in a brash tone as she started to eat her lunch.

"Jack, I don't think it's any of our business," Garrus said in annoyance.

"What? It's just a question," Jack said, feigning innocence. "I genuinely wanna know. 'Cause I'm almost positive she didn't keep him after class to talk about his killer attitude. Get it – killer attitude?"

"Look, Jack, if you got a problem with me, just say so and I'll stay far the fuck away from you," Shepard snapped, his voice loud and full of anger.

"Calm the fuck down, killer. I ain't got anything against you. You got balls. I admire that," Jack said with an amused grin, pleased that she had pushed him this far.

"D–Don't fucking call me that! I h–have a name," Shepard growled as he slammed his fists on the table before angrily leaving the table.

"Shepard!" Kaidan called out, before turning his attention to Jack, "Satisfied, now?" 

"Jesus, Jack! Why did you do that?" James asked, shaking his head at his girlfriend.

"Okay, what the hell did I miss?" Ashley asked as she took Shepard's vacant seat.

"They're all pissed because I called Shepard 'killer'," Jack explained in a bored tone.

"Damn, I wish I coulda seen the look on his face," Ashley said with a grin.

"It was fucking priceless," Joker snickered as he took a drink of his pop.

"Jeff, please, don't encourage them," Edi scolded her boyfriend.

"You are all being unnecessarily cruel," Liara said as she stormed from the table. 

"Hold up, Liara. We're going with you," Kaidan said as he took Rahna by the hand.

"Guys, come on. There's no need to be mad. Jack did us all a favour," Ashley insisted. "He's not the friendly type and you all know it."

"He's always been friendly to me," James said, causing Ashley to roll her eyes.

"He really has," Garrus agreed. "Maybe, if you gave him a chance, you'd see that."

"Whatever. You guys trust way too easily." Ashley insisted with a dismissive wave. "Jack had the right idea by getting rid of him."

"I didn't do it to get rid of him," Jack explained. "In fact, I like him. He seems like a cool guy. I just wanted to see what it would take to see some real fucking emotion from him. When you see him around school, he's always so damn timid. There's no way that's the real him."

"Couldn't you have done that without calling him a killer," James asked in annoyance. 

"Where's the fun in that?" Jack asked with a pout and a shake of her head.

"You're all crazy," Ashley said with an amused laugh.


MEANWHILE...

"I k–knew I was an idiot for ever thinking I could have friends in this fucking town. I–I just wanted to have a normal day, just one goddamn day. Fuck this place! This day can't end soon enough," Shepard said as the bell signalling the end of lunch rang out.

****☆****

The school day seemed to drag on forever, but eventually it came to a merciful end. Shepard was on his way to the bus stop when he heard a familiar voice that never failed to arouse him.

"Shepard, wait up," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to look his way.

"Yeah," Shepard replied quietly.

"Do you mind if I walk with you?" Kaidan asked, a warm smile forming on his handsome face.

"I— I don't think we're going the same way," Shepard replied truthfully.

"Well, where do you live?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"I live on the poor side of town – far away from where you're from," Shepard answered truthfully.

"Hn. Well, I need the exercise, so, if you don't mind, I'd like to walk with you," Kaidan insisted.

"Why? I know your friends don't like me. And I don't blame them. Really, I don't. So, just do us both a favour and stop talking to me," Shepard suggested as he started walking again.

"Shepard, wait," Kaidan called out. "I don't care what they think. You helped me out of a bad situation and I'd like to get to know you better."

"Trust me, you wouldn't."

"Is this about those silly rumours?" Kaidan asked in annoyance.

Shepard flinched at Kaidan's words as he turned once more to face the whisky-eyed boy.

"T–They're not rumours," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"What?" Kaidan's brow furrowed in confusion.

"You heard me. Still wanna get to know me?" Shepard waited for a reply, hoping Kaidan would say something, anything, to break the silence.

No reply came.

"Yeah, that's what I thought. Goodbye, Kaidan. It was nice meeting you," Shepard said in a sad tone that made Kaidan's heart ache.

At that moment, Kaidan made his decision: "Shepard, wait! I don't know what happened in the past, but you seem like a very nice person. So, please, allow me the honour of getting to know you better," Kaidan pleaded one last time, hoping Shepard would agree.

"Allow you the honour," Shepard repeated, cocking his left brow in amusement. "You sure talk funny. Are you sure you're sixteen?"

"Umm. Actually, I'm eighteen. I'll be nineteen this November 24th," Kaidan answered truthfully.

"Really? I just turned sixteen, April the 11th," Shepard admitted. "How are we in the same class?"

Kaidan smiled brightly at the blue-eyed beauty, pleased he finally had Shepard talking. "Well, I had some medical issues when I was a kid. I missed a lot of school. Although, half of my classes are college courses so I don't fall behind."

"That's cool. Mind if I ask you what was wrong?" Shepard asked cautiously. "It's okay if you'd rather not talk about it."

"I'd be happy to tell you – if you'll allow me to walk with you," Kaidan bargained.

"It'll be a long walk. I just missed my bus," Shepard said with a crooked smile.

"I don't mind. Like I said, I need the exercise," Kaidan replied with a grin as he walked side by side with his new friend.

"So, what kept you outta school," Shepard asked as he shoved his hands in his jean pockets.

"I had a vascular issue in my brain. It had been there since birth, and was causing severe migraines and some light bleeding," Kaidan explained.

"W–Was it painful," Shepard asked in a sympathetic tone.

"The headaches were. They had to operate to fix the worst of it. I still have migraines and probably always will, but they aren't half as bad as they were," Kaidan explained.

"So, you've had it since you were a baby. I guess you're lucky they caught it, huh," Shepard said, genuinely interested in his friend's life.

"Very lucky. What about you? Garrus and James said you've lived here all of your life, but I can't recall ever seeing you around," Kaidan asked curiously.

"I had some developmental issues as a kid. I guess I was slow to develop or something like that. Anyway, they put me in special classes. That's probably why you never saw me around," Shepard explained.

"Any idea why? Were you sick as a kid? I mean, you seem so— smart."

"Hmm— Y-Yeah. I was born premature. My mom – she used drugs while she was pregnant with me. So, yeah. I was born addicted. It took me a while to grow and stuff," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Do you blame her?" Kaidan asked in a somber tone.

"No. My mom – she had a rough life. I wasn't exactly conceived in love, but she kept me anyway. She took care of me – when she could. And when she couldn't, I took care of her. So, no. I don't blame her at all," Shepard replied truthfully.

"Is she still an addict?" Kaidan asked nervously.

"No, not anymore. All her pain is gone now. Well, I hope it is, anyway," Shepard said with a sad look that broke Kaidan's heart.

"Is she—"

"She died – about two years ago now," Shepard said, his voice cracking as he spoke.

"Who takes care of you?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"I live with my stepdad, Chris, if that's what you're asking. We sorta take care of each other, though," Shepard admitted.

"Do you two get along?"

"Yeah. I guess. He tries. That's more than I can say about most of the other men Mom dated."

"I'd like to meet him one day," Kaidan said, causing Shepard to give him a strange look.

"Weirdo," Shepard teased with a crooked grin.

"What?" Kaidan asked with a chuckle.

"Nothing. I just ain't never met anyone like you," Shepard said, his grin turning into a proper smile.

"Then we're even," Kaidan replied with a warm laugh.

"Well, we're almost at my house. It's just around the corner. You don't have to walk me to the door. I mean, u–unless you want to," Shepard said nervously.

"I don't mind. I'd be happy to walk you to the door," Kaidan replied with a smile.

"Is Rahna going to be mad that you walked me home, instead of her," Shepard asked, hoping there was something more than friendship blossoming between him and Kaidan.

"Nah. She won't mind. She thinks you're a very nice young man. I think she would be pleased to see us getting along so well," Kaidan replied, causing Shepard's smile to falter.


"Well, we're here," Shepard announced as they walked to the door. "Ignore the graffiti. It got dark before I could get it all off."

Kaidan frowned at the faded word. "Does this happen often?" 

"The graffiti? Nah, this is the first time. They usually just throw eggs at the house," Shepard admitted as he unlocked the door. "D–Do you wanna come in for a minute? I can get you something to drink if you want."

"I'll take a glass of water if you don't mind," Kaidan said with a smile.

"Sure," Shepard said with a smile as he motioned for Kaidan to enter. "Sorry about the mess. It's been a long week and I ain't really had time to clean."

"It's fine," Kaidan assured the nervous blonde as his eyes scanned the room. "It's cozy."

Shepard laughed a bit as he handed Kaidan a glass of water. "If by cozy, you mean small as fuck, then yeah, it is."

Kaidan grinned as he took a sip of water. "Mind if I use the washroom?" 

"Not at all. It's down the hall on the right side," Shepard explained as he took the glass from Kaidan.

Kaidan found the washroom easily enough, and once he had finished his business, he exited with every intent of returning to the living room when he was suddenly compelled to stop in front of a dark-coloured door. 

As if his hand was being guided by some strange force Kaidan could not see, he found his hand upon the knob, slowly turning, but finding nothing but resistance.

"S–Stay away from that door," Shepard called out in a distressed voice that drew Kaidan from his dreamlike state.

Pulling his hand from the knob as if he'd been burned, Kaidan began to apologize profusely for his careless actions.

"I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to. I wasn't trying to be nosy. Honest, I wasn't. My hand was on the doorknob before I even noticed," Kaidan admitted truthfully. "Please, forgive me."

"I–It's fine. But, please, just stay away from that room, okay. It's locked for a reason," Shepard said, his tone practically dripping with anxiety.

"O–Okay. I promise to stay away," Kaidan replied, hoping he hadn't offended his new friend.

"D–Do you wanna see the rest of the house? It ain't very big, so it shouldn't take long," Shepard offered, his uncertainty obvious in his voice.

"I'd like that," Kaidan replied with a smile.

"The room at the end of the hall is the master bedroom. That's Chris's room," Shepard explained. "My room is a small addition next to the kitchen. Come on, and I'll show you."

Kaidan followed Shepard closely, stopping only once to ask about a picture hanging on the wall.

"Is that your mother?" 

"Yeah. It is. That was taken on my thirteenth birthday," Shepard said with a fond smile.

"She's beautiful. But she looks far too young in that picture to have a thirteen year old," Kaidan said with an amused grin.

"Yeah. She was only twenty-eight in that pic," Shepard explained truthfully. "She had me when she was fifteen."

"Wow! It must have been hard for her, raising you alone."

"It was. But, she did what she had to, and I admire the hell out of her for it. I always will," Shepard admitted.

"You loved her very much." Kaidan said with a smile. 

"I still do." Shepard said with a melancholic smile as he opened his bedroom door. "Make yourself at home."

The room was small – just enough room for a bed, dresser, nightstand, and desk. The walls were painted black with images of angels, devils, demons, and other fantastical creatures, drawn upon them – all outlined in white, making them pop at first sight.

"Did you draw those?" Kaidan asked as he motioned towards the mural.

"Yep. I get bored easily," Shepard said with a lopsided grin.

"They're impressive," Kaidan said as he continued to look around the small room, his eye catching the various pill bottles lining the nightstand.

Shepard caught Kaidan staring and decided to take a risk. "They're for my head. I'm sick," the blonde said as he pointed to his head for emphasis before opening a few bottles and taking his usual dosage.

"Might I ask about your condition?" Kaidan asked, surprised Shepard had shared so much already.

"Umm. A–Are you sure you wanna know?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Positive," came Kaidan's quick answer.

Shepard sighed before taking a deep breath, steeling himself before speaking again. "Umm. Dissociative amnesia and dissociative personality disorder, along with type I bipolar disorder with episodes of severe mania. I ain't a psycho, and I ain't a sociopath. So, no need to be afraid of me," Shepard admitted truthfully, leaving himself wide open to Kaidan's scrutiny.

"How many personalities do you have?" Kaidan asked, both fascinated and frightened by the boy's illness.

"Wow. I'm impressed. Most people have no idea what that means," Shepard said with a surprised look on his face.

"My mother and father are both doctors. My dad's a neurosurgeon, and my mom is a psychologist," Kaidan explained. 

"That's impressive," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"You never answered my question. I understand if you don't want to talk about it," Kaidan assured the young blonde.

"Nah. I don't mind. And the answer is two – I think. I mostly just blackout during an episode, so I ain't really sure," Shepard admitted.

"What's your alter ego like?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Umm. Well, he's braver than me. He's not afraid of anything, and he's a bit grouchy," Shepard chuckled a bit, despite himself. "Easily irritated, and can be rude to a fault. Likes to fight, but as far as I know, he ain't never attacked anybody."

"So, you remember everything your alter ego does?"

"Ah, no. I didn't mean to imply that I did. The hospital observed me. They showed me a video of him – of me. To be honest, it scared the hell outta me. It was obviously me, but at the same time, it wasn't. His actions, his words, even the way he spoke – it was my body, but it wasn't me. It's hard to explain. I didn't remember anything when it happened. I never have remembered and I doubt I ever will," Shepard explained.

"I feel for you. That has to be a heavy burden to carry," Kaidan said in a sympathetic tone.

"The meds help. They really do." Noticing the strange look in Kaidan's eyes, Shepard became uneasy, instantly regretting being so open with someone he barely even knew. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm telling you all this. I'm so fucking stupid. I never know when to keep my fucking mouth shut. I'll understand if you don't wanna be my friend no more. Hell, I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to leave right now and never look back."

"Why would I do that?" Kaidan asked in genuine confusion.

"Because I'm sick." Shepard replied simply.

"That's true, but you seem to be fighting to get better. I admire that. And I'm glad you opened up to me. I know that couldn't have been very easy," Kaidan said as he gave Shepard's left hand a squeeze.

"It actually wasn't as hard as you'd think. You're easy to talk to. I think I've said more to you in the past half-hour than I've said to anyone in the past three years. The truth is, I like you, K. I like talking with you."

"I like talking with you too. We should do it more often." Kaidan suggested.

"I'd like that. I ain't really good in social situations. So, please, forgive me if I say or do something stupid or inappropriate. I'm trying to do better. I'm learning, but I'm a bit slow," Shepard admitted.

"I think you're doing fine," Kaidan assured his friend. "You know, knowing what I know now, I think I met your alter ego that day. You're far too gentle to have been the one I met first."

"Y–Yeah. It was definitely him. But, I'm glad he ran into you," Shepard said, smiling nervously as he spoke.

"I am too, but I have to admit, I like the real you better," Kaidan insisted, causing Shepard to blush. "Well, I'd love to stay and talk, preferably about much lighter subjects, but I really have to go."

"Y–Yeah. I gotta start dinner for my stepdad. He gets a bit bitchy when his dinner's not on time," Shepard said with a nervous smile.

"I'm glad you let me walk you home," Kaidan said truthfully.

"Me too," Shepard agreed. "K, about what I told – you know, about my sickness, can you, maybe, not tell anyone. I mean, people avoid me enough."

"Don't worry. I won't say a word. I promise," Kaidan assured the blue-eyed blonde.

"I guess I'll see you tomorrow," Shepard said as he showed Kaidan to the door.

"Definitely. Maybe you could come over for dinner some night. I mean, if your stepfather will allow it, of course," Kaidan said, hoping Shepard would accept.

"I–I'll check with Chris and let you know."

"You do that," Kaidan said with a grin.

"I will. Have a good night, K."

"You too, Shepard," Kaidan said as Shepard shut the door behind him.


Once the door was shut, Shepard leaned against the door and let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding.

"He's so friggin' cute. And he's so nice, and he smells so goddamn good. Fuck! What I wouldn't give for just one fucking kiss," Shepard sighed before pushing himself off the door and heading to the kitchen to prepare dinner.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

In the weeks that followed Shepard's and Kaidan's little talk, the two boys had grown much closer, resulting in more than a few dirty looks from the others.

"Kaidan, you aren't inviting him to sit with us again, are you?" Ashley whined as she made herself comfortable at their usual table. "Everyone gets all weird and quiet whenever he's around. No one can even enjoy their lunch anymore. We're all too busy walking on eggshells around the guy. It's exhausting."

"Is that the way the rest of you feel?" Kaidan asked, wanting to know everyone's true thoughts on the subject.

"I happen to like Shepard. I think he's a very nice person," Liara said with a warm smile.

Ashley rolled her eyes at the love-struck blue-eyed blonde. "Of course you would say that! You have a massive crush on the boy."

"That's not the reason," Liara called out, blushing as the entire table gave her a disbelieving look. "Well, that's not the only reason."

"I'm with Liara on this one. Shepard's been a good friend to me. I have absolutely no problem with his presence," Garrus said with a shrug. "I'm sure Jimmy feels the same."

"Yeah. Loco's cool. Jack likes him too," James added as he took a bite of his sandwich.

"See, Ash, you're in the minority here," Kaidan said, causing Ashley to tap the table in annoyance.

"Fine. But, seriously, I wanna see the hands of everyone who's uncomfortable, and I wanna see 'em now," Ashley demanded as she raised her hand.

The table was quiet, everyone looking at each other, until, finally, hands went up.

"Tali?" Garrus called out in disbelief. "I mean, Joker's to be expected, but you? Why?"

"I didn't want to say anything. You two seem to get along so well, and I feel so guilty, but I just can't shake this uneasy feeling I have whenever he's around. I'm sorry," Tali said, her voice filled with remorse.

"And you, Joker? Any particular reason you felt the need to raise your hand?" Garrus asked, disappointment obvious in his tone.

"Well, it's his aura. Something's off about it. I dunno. He just gives me bad vibes," Joker answered truthfully.

"While I usually don't agree with Jeff, I too have noticed a strange aura surrounding him," Edi agreed as she took her boyfriend's hand.

"Edi, I thought you liked Shepard," Rahna said, a bit shocked by her friend's comment.

"I do. And I don't agree with any motion to have him removed from the group, but Jeff was absolutely correct in his observations. Shepard has a dark aura," Edi explained.

"You two are nuts. There's nothing wrong with Shepard's aura or whatever," Kaidan said, quick to defend his friend.

"You know, boy-scout, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you had a bit of a crush too," Jack teased, causing Garrus to kick her hard under the table.

"Ow! Garrus, you bastard!" Jack complained as she rubbed her leg.

"I don't have to listen to this. Rahna, let's go eat somewhere else," Kaidan suggested as he extended his hand to her.

"O–Okay," Rahna said as she reluctantly took his hand.

"Poor, Kaidan, he's always so melodramatic," Ashley said with a sigh.

"Tell me about it," Jack said in agreement. "Yo, Williams, wanna go sabotage Little Miss Perfect's locker?"

"Why the hell not! Pranking Miranda would make me feel better," Ashley admitted as she followed Jack out of the cafeteria.

"And there they go," James said as he watched his friend and girlfriend exit the room. "Yo, Joker, what's all this stuff about a bad aura?"

"It's hard to explain, but whenever I'm around Shepard, I can just feel some sort of negative energy surrounding him. Don't you ever get a bad vibe whenever you're around him?" Joker asked seriously.

"Hmm. I can't really say I've paid much attention," James admitted as the end of lunch bell rang out.

****☆****

4 PM – LATER THAT DAY... 

"Hey," Shepard said with a wink as he greeted his sometimes lover at the desk. "Am I late?"

"Nope. You're right on time. Odd, I know," Aedan teased as he put Shepard's information into the computer. "So, how was your day?" 

"Okay, I guess," Shepard said with a shrug. "And yours?"

"Busy. I didn't even get to eat lunch," Aedan answered truthfully.

"We could go grab something to eat whenever you get off work if you want," Shepard offered with a smile.

"Sure. You're the last patient of the day, so it works out great," Aedan accepted with a smile. "You can go on in. Doctor Stevens should be waiting."

"Thanks. See you in a few," Shepard said with a grin.

"Looking forward to it," Aedan said with a wink.

****☆****

"Ah, young Shepard. Please, take a seat," Doctor Stevens instructed as he pulled Shepard's file from the drawer. "It's been about two weeks since your last appointment. How have you been feeling? Any side effects?"

"I've been pretty tired lately, but I've always had periods of exhaustion, so that's not really new. The side effects aren't bad – nothing that stands out, anyway," Shepard answered truthfully.

"You're not sleeping well, are you?"

"No, not really," Shepard said, bouncing his knee nervously.

"That's what I thought. Are you having nightmares again?" Doctor Stevens asked as he typed something into his computer.

"I don't really get that far," Shepard admitted truthfully. "I start to fall asleep, but ten minutes later, I'm wide awake again. I had a manic episode last week. Chris thought I should mention it. I haven't slept much since."

"I see. How long did it last?" The doctor asked curiously.

"Um, about five days," Shepard replied nervously.

"Did it affect your ability to attend school?"

"No, not really. I still went. I couldn't focus or sit still, but I was there. I got detention, but nothing too bad," Shepard explained.

"Any blackouts?" The doctor asked, studying the boy's face for any signs of deception.

"No. Not since the one three weeks ago," Shepard answered. "But my personality's been fluctuating the last couple days, at least that's what Chris says."

"Do you think Chris is lying?" Doctor Stevens asked, noticing the change in Shepard's voice when speaking of Chris.

"Nah. He ain't got no reason to lie. It's just— Sometimes I feel like he's paranoid. I mean, I don't think my personality has been any different," Shepard said with a shrug.

"John, you do realize that you wouldn't necessarily notice the change. When the change has progressed far enough, you essentially blackout, leaving no memory of the alter ego or its distinct personality," the doctor explained.

"Yeah. That's what everyone says, but I would know. I mean, I know how I feel. I feel fine. I'm still me. I don't think I'm acting any different than I usually do," Shepard insisted in a severe tone, quite different from his usual way of speaking.

"John, you're doing it now. You don't realize it, but your personality is fluctuating. The entire tone of your voice is different, more severe than usual," Doctor Stevens explained.

"But, I'm irritated. My tone is supposed to change when I'm irritated or upset. That's normal, isn't it?" Shepard countered, unconvinced of any changes happening in his psyche.

"That is true. But, I wouldn't be surprised if you experienced a blackout soon."

"A–Are you gonna have me hospitalized?" Shepard asked nervously.

"No. You've been doing well. I have no reason to believe you're in need of extra assistance," the doctor assured the worried teen.

"That's a relief," Shepard mumbled.

"Did my colleague change your medication?"

"Nope. Everything's the same. He added a sleep-aid, but they don't work," Shepard admitted with a shrug.

"You probably need a higher dosage. I'll talk with him about it soon. Has there been any changes in your personal life?"

"Well, me and Kaidan are getting closer. I really like him. We get along well too," Shepard informed him with a big smile on his face.

"I see. Have you been honest with him – about your condition?"

"I have. He seemed to understand, and more importantly, it didn't scare him away. But—" Shepard struggled to find the words, but in the end, let them die on his tongue.

"But?" Doctor Stevens asked, hoping the boy would continue.

"Well, I like him— more than I should," Shepard said, his face turning red in embarrassment.

"I see. Do you think he feels the same?"

"He's straight," Shepard explained.

"Has he told you this, or—"

"He's got a girlfriend," Shepard chimed in.

"Ah. Does that bother you?" The doctor asked.

"A little, yeah. She's a sweet girl, very pretty, but sometimes— I fucking hate her," Shepard admitted truthfully.

The doctor chuckled a bit. "That's understandable. She has something you wish you had. It's completely normal to have those feelings. You haven't had any violent thoughts towards her, have you?"

"No! I would never hurt her. She's a sweet girl. I don't wish her any ill-will. I just want her dude for myself," Shepard explained.

"You're lonely," the doctor surmised.

"What?"

"YOU – ARE – LONELY," the doctor repeated, louder and slower as to get his point across.

"Yeah, so?" Shepard admitted with a shrug.

"Have you considered dating?" The doctor asked curiously.

"I kinda do. I mean, we're not together, but we hook up from time to time. That's sorta the same thing," Shepard said, his brow furrowed in contemplation.

"You mean, you have sex with this person," the doctor asked in a concerned tone.

"Yeah. Is that an issue?" Shepard asked as he rubbed his shoulder nervously.

"I'm not judging you," the doctor insisted.

"Well, it sure feels like you are," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Forgive my tone," the doctor pleaded. "I was merely concerned. How old is your partner?"

"Um, like nineteen or twenty. He ain't much older than me," Shepard replied. 

"I see. And are you comfortable in the relationship?"

"Look, I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. I've only been with two guys, not counting— well, you know. I ain't promiscuous," Shepard assured the concerned man.

"Again, I'm not judging you. I just want to make sure that you aren't taking things too quickly and that you aren't being manipulated into doing things you don't wish to do. I know sex isn't easy to talk about, but if you have any issues, you need to talk to me," the doctor explained.

"I like sex. It feels good. The guy I'm seeing, he's a good guy. He doesn't try to take advantage of me, and he never tries to force me into anything. The only time I hate sex is when—" Shepard's eyes grew wide as he realized what he was about to say.

"When?" The doctor asked, genuinely concerned by the boy's words. 

"W–When I think about the past," Shepard half-lied, terrified of revealing the situation with Harkin, afraid he may, once again, become locked away from the world.

"I see. Do you think about it often?" Doctor Stevens asked.

"No. Not really. It was a long time ago," Shepard said, his voice sounding farther and farther away as he spoke.

"SHEPARD," The doctor called out loudly, snapping Shepard out of his trance.

"Huh?" 

"Do you think you're ready to explore what happened that night?" Doctor Stevens asked, already knowing what the reply would be.

"I–I still don't remember," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"I understand. Don't force it. Well, our time is up for today. I'll see you again in two weeks. Call me if you need anything," the doctor ordered as he walked Shepard to the door. "Aedan, schedule him for two weeks from now. Have a good evening, Shepard."

"Here ya go," Aedan smiled as he handed Shepard the appointment card. "Do you mind waiting outside for me? I'll be ready in just a few minutes."

"Sure. Do you mind meeting me at the gas station? I don't want your boss to see us together. I'd hate for you to get fired because of me," Shepard explained, rubbing his neck nervously.

"No problem," Aedan agreed with a smile. "I'll meet you there."

****☆****

"Hey," Aedan said as he wrapped an arm around Shepard's narrow waist.

"Hey. Where do you wanna eat?" Shepard asked as he leaned into the touch.

"I got a stocked fridge in my apartment. Why don't we just go back to my place," Aedan asked with an insinuating grin.

"Sure," Shepard agreed as he followed the young man closely.


It only took about ten minutes to get to Aedan's apartment, and before Shepard knew it, they were in the kitchen preparing dinner.

"You are gonna love my pasta," Aedan said as he poured a can of tomatoes into a saucepan. "Do you mind chopping up the shallot while I mince some garlic?"

"Sure," Shepard said as took a knife from the chopping block. "Will this one do?"

"That's fine," Aedan assured him as he tossed Shepard a shallot.

"My knife skills suck, so don't expect these to be perfectly uniform," Shepard warned as he started dicing the onion.


The two were laughing and enjoying themselves immensely when the knife Shepard was using slipped, cutting his palm, causing the boy to hiss in pain.

"What happened? Did you cut yourself?" Aedan asked, watching Shepard carefully as the boy stood stock-still, staring down at his bloodied hand. "Shepard? Are you okay?"

Aedan was beginning to feel uneasy as Shepard continued to remain still as a statue.

After two extremely long minutes, Aedan started to make his way towards the frozen boy, when suddenly, Shepard dropped the knife, causing Aedan to jump in surprise.

Shepard turned and immediately kissed the young man hard on the mouth, his injured right hand leaving a bloody imprint on Aedan's white shirt.

"You okay, baby?" Aedan asked as he took Shepard's face in his hands, studying it carefully.

Aedan noticed a few subtle changes in his lover's appearance. His piercing sapphire-blue eyes had grown a shade darker, almost stormy in their appearance. His smile, oddly straight, instead of its usual crookedness. Even his hair seemed a shade darker by comparison.

"You aren't Johnny anymore, are you?" Aedan asked softly, still holding the boy's face in his hands.

"Who's Johnny?" The boy asked as he kissed the older man once more.

Aedan pulled away to retrieve a bandage from the nearby cabinet.

"Right. Mind telling me your name? I don't like to eat with strangers," Aedan asked as he started to take care of Shepard's wound, fascinated by the condition he was witnessing. "Place your hand under the water."

"Now, why would I do that?" The boy asked as he watched the older man gently clean the wound.

"Because I asked you to. I'm Aedan, by the way." Aeden said as he finished cleaning and bandaging the small wound.

"Your sauce is burning," the boy stated as he leaned against the refrigerator, amused at how Aedan rushed to save their dinner.

"Are you hungry?" Aedan asked curiously.

"Not especially," the boy shrugged.

"Well, I'm starving. You mind setting the table for me," Aedan asked as he watched the young blonde fidget restlessly.

"Fine," the boy huffed as he roughly placed a few plates on the table. "Happy now?"

"Ecstatic," Aedan said with a chuckle as he prepared the pasta for serving. "You really should eat something." 

"Are you going to keep bitching until I do?" The boy asked in an irritated voice.

"Afraid so," Aedan said as he placed the pasta on the plates.

Shepard never said a word. He just plopped down in the seat next to Aedan's.

"Would you like a glass of wine?" Aedan asked, knowing full well Shepard wasn't a huge fan of wine.

"Yep. Wine sounds good," the boy replied as he started to eat the food given him.

"You really aren't him," Aedan said, furrowing his brow in concern.

"Hn," Shepard grunted as he barely touched his meal.

"Eat," Aedan insisted.

"I'd rather be eating you," the boy replied with a wink and a smile, causing Aedan to choke on his wine.

"Excuse me," Aedan replied as he composed himself.

"Look, are we gonna fuck or not? I'm tired of wasting precious time here," the boy replied in annoyance.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," Aedan answered truthfully.

"Why the fuck not? You like what you see, don't you?" Shepard asked as he ran a hand down his chest.

"You are very hard to resist," Aedan chuckled. "But, no. I don't think we should."

"You know you want to," Shepard insisted as he kissed the older man deeply, his eyes glowing a strange blue. 

"I–I do," Aedan admitted, unable to look away from the beautiful boy.

"Then give in," Shepard said, his tone persuasive.

"God, I hope Shepard doesn't hate me for this," Aedan mumbled as he led the eager boy to the bedroom.

****☆****

Shepard woke the next morning feeling nauseous and a bit sore. Sitting up in the large, unfamiliar bed, Shepard's heart began to race as he frantically looked around the room.

"I— Where am I? What happened?" Shepard asked himself nervously as he hugged himself in fear, jumping at the sound of the shower turning on in the nearby washroom.

"What do I do? Do I leave? What should I do?" Shepard spoke aloud, looking around the room, frantically searching for his discarded clothes.

Once he collected the missing garments, he redressed as quickly as possible, desperate to be free from the situation. He was just about to leave when he noticed a photo on the bedside table.

"Aedan," Shepard whispered, his heart rate calming a bit. "We were in the kitchen. My hand—"

"Hey, baby," Aedan called out from the washroom door. "Are you feeling okay? I gotta say you really wore me out last night. You practically drained me dry."

"Y–Yeah," Shepard mumbled as he tightened his arms around himself.

"Are you cold?" Aedan asked, closing the gap between them and wrapping his arms around the blue-eyed blonde.

"Did I do anything wrong last night?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"No. You didn't do anything wrong. You definitely weren't yourself, though. I tried everything to get you back, but I couldn't," Aedan explained.

"Did we—" Shepard let his words trail off.

"Yeah. I thought you knew. I know we shouldn't have, not when your alter-ego had control, but you're just so damn beautiful. I couldn't resist. Are you mad, baby?" Aedan asked nervously.

"I–I ain't mad. I'm just glad it was you. I was so goddamn scared that I had been with a stranger," Shepard admitted truthfully as he nuzzled Aedan's neck.

"Don't worry. I got you. You're safe with me," Aedan promised.

"What time is it?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Umm. About 9:30 AM," Aedan answered as he kissed the top of Shepard's head.

"My stepdad's going to fucking kill me," Shepard said with a sigh.

"Yeah. You didn't really get to call him before your episode," Aedan said with an apologetic look.

"What triggered it?" Shepard asked curiously.

"You cut your hand," Aedan explained as he kissed Shepard's right palm. "I think the blood was the trigger.

"Thank you for bandaging my hand," Shepard said in a grateful tone.

"It was no problem," Aedan insisted.

"I–I should get going," Shepard said, feeling guilty at leaving so abruptly.

"Yeah. I'll see you in a few weeks," Aedan said as he kissed the blue-eyed beauty.

"Definitely," Shepard said as he kissed Aedan one last time before exiting the apartment.

****☆****

"Chris, I'm home," Shepard called out as he tossed his pack onto the couch. "You here?"

Shepard noticed the keys sitting sprawled out on the kitchen table, along with the several empty beer bottles and one empty liquor bottle. "Goddammit."

Shepard rubbed his face with his left hand before making his way towards the master bedroom. 

"I really hope he's passed out," Shepard mumbled as he suddenly froze in his tracks. "Chris?"

There, standing in the hall, was Chris, standing still as a statue, staring blankly at the sealed door.

The sight made Shepard very uneasy. "Chris, are you alright? I–I'm sorry I didn't call. I had a small episode last night, and well—" Shepard let his words trail off as he nervously touched his stepfather's shoulder.

In an instant, Shepard felt a sharp sting across his cheek.

"Where the hell have you been?" Chris asked in a demanding voice, his breath reeking of hard alcohol.

"I–I was at a friend's place. I had an episode. That's why I didn't call," Shepard explained anxiously, not liking the strange look in his stepfather's eyes.

"You're a fucking liar! We both know you don't have friends. What were you really doing? Selling yourself like a whore, or were you just giving it away," Chris asked, his words sounding strange and distorted to Shepard's ears. "Like mother, like son, huh?"

Shepard was at a loss for words. Chris had never said anything disparaging about Hannah before. Shepard knew for a fact that the man had loved her with all his heart. The man's actions were confusing, causing Shepard to panic.

"I–I don't—" The blue-eyed teen struggled to form a reply.

Losing patience with his stepson, Chris took Shepard by the hair and dragged him into the master bedroom before throwing him onto the bed.

"W–What are you doing!?" Shepard screamed, terrified at the implications.

Chris pounced on the boy, and as if a man possessed, began punching the young blonde mercilessly. 

Once Shepard had stopped moving beneath him, the man undid his belt. He was working on the zipper when he froze in place. 

It was as if a geas had been lifted. Coming to his senses, Chris looked down at the boy, his face beaten and bloodied, before realizing his belt and jeans were undone. A wave of nausea hit him as he rushed to the washroom, vomiting violently into the toilet.

"Oh, god, what did I do to my son?" Chris cried as he held his head in his hands. "Why did I drink so much? I'm so fucking stupid."

Chris rose from his spot on the floor, splashing cold water on his face before returning to the carnage he had caused.

"Johnny, can you hear me, kid," Chris asked nervously as he gently shook his stepson's shoulders, trying his best to get a response.

Shepard moaned a bit, the pain evident on the young blonde's face as he struggled to respond.

"Don't move, kid. I'll take care of you." Shepard flinched when Chris brushed a stray strand of dark-blonde hair from the boy's brow. "Don't be afraid. I'm not going to hurt you."

Shepard nodded in response as Chris left to retrieve a bowl of warm water, a washcloth, and the first-aid kit. 

Upon his return, Chris quickly dipped the cloth into the warm water. He squeezed out the excess water before gently cleaning the blood from Shepard's once-angelic face –  a face now marred with dark bruises and bloody cuts.

"I'm so sorry, kid," Chris whispered, his voice cracking as silent tears fell from his eyes. "I don't know what happened. I swear to you, I don't know what came over me."

Once the blood was washed away, Chris cleaned and bandaged two tiny cuts just above his left brow. "Your eye, it's starting to swell. I'll go get some ice," Chris said, mostly to himself.

By the time Chris had returned, Shepard's breathing had evened out, and, except for the occasional grunt, the boy seemed to be sleeping comfortably.

"Should I move him to his room or just let him sleep here?" Chris debated aloud.

Upon noticing the blood staining the bed sheets, Chris made his decision: "My boy's not sleeping on that," Chris mumbled as he left to prepare Shepard's bed.

It took him a few minutes, but he finally managed to carry Shepard to his room, making sure he was as comfortable as possible before leaving him be.

"Hannah, baby, please forgive me. I know I promised to watch out for our baby, and I will. I swear it. I'll do better, baby. I promise, I will," Chris swore as he kissed Hannah's picture before placing it back upon the wall. "I gotta clean this place up."

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

THE FOLLOWING MORNING... 

"Johnny, it's time for your meds," Chris said, his tone gentle as he helped the bruised boy to sit up.

Shepard never said a word. He merely did as he was told, quickly swallowing the offered pills.

"I added some aspirin. I know your head has to be killing you. Are you hungry?" Chris asked as he rubbed Shepard's back gently.

Shepard just nodded. 

"I made some eggs and toast. I'll go get you a plate," Chris said as he stood and made his way to the kitchen.

****☆****

Chris was just about to bring Shepard his breakfast when the blue-eyed boy suddenly entered the kitchen.

"Johnny," Chris called out in surprise. "What are you doing up? You should be in bed."

"I'm alright," Shepard replied, his voice low and timid as he took a seat at the table.

"You want a cup of coffee?" Chris asked, desperately trying to please the son he had wronged.

"I–If you don't mind," Shepard answered nervously.

"It's no trouble," Chris insisted as he quickly poured his stepson a cup. 

"A–Aren't you gonna have any?" Shepard asked, not wanting his stepfather to go without.

"Uh, s–sure," Chris said with a smile as he quickly prepared himself a plate.

Once his plate was filled, Chris retrieved his coffee and took a seat in front of his stepson.

He smiled fondly at the boy before taking his first bite. He watched the boy carefully, his heart breaking at the sickly purple patches now covering his young face. He noticed the swelling was less severe than it had been in the night, and for that, Chris was grateful.

"I–I'm sorry I didn't come home. I had an episode and kinda blacked out. I didn't mean to make you mad," Shepard said, his voice apologetic and sincere.

"Jesus, Johnny," Chris said, letting his fork fall to the plate, the sudden clinking making Shepard flinch. "Don't apologize – not after what I did. I hurt you, Johnny. I'm the one that needs to apologize."

"I–I don't mind," Shepard admitted truthfully. "I deserved it."

"NO," Chris slammed his hands down onto the table. "You didn't deserve it."

"B–But I made you worry. You always say, 'Johnny, come straight home. Don't stay out too late.' And I didn't listen. I'm sorry," Shepard apologized once more.

Chris sighed, knowing he would never be able to get the boy to understand. "Johnny, son, nobody has the right to hurt you like that. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Shepard nodded slowly.

"Mom used to hurt me sometimes," Shepard admitted, his voice quiet and sad.

"What?" Chris asked, his eyes wide in disbelief.

"W–When I was loud, or too rowdy – or when she was wasted. S–She used to burn me when I wouldn't stop crying," Shepard said, silent tears escaping as he spoke.

"Johnny."

"B–But I never blamed her. It wasn't her fault. She was sick and needed help, and I was too little to do anything. She was always so upset afterwards, and I always knew that she didn't mean it. I knew she loved me. She didn't mean to hurt me. The alcohol and drugs – they made her different. She wasn't herself when she was high," Shepard explained.

"I— She never told me about that," Chris said, brow furrowing.

"She wasn't a bad mom," Shepard insisted. "She was just so tired, and I wasn't the easiest kid to take care of. She did her best with what she had, and we did alright. We really did."

"I don't know what to say. What can I say? I ended up doing the same damn thing to you," Chris said, his tone sad and apologetic. 

"D–Did you ever hit my mom," Shepard asked with tears in his too-blue eyes.

"No. I swear to you, I never laid a finger on her. She was my world. The only violence she ever witnessed from me was when I threw a glass at the wall," Chris answered truthfully. "Hell, we only ever fought when we were talking about—"

"Me," Shepard finished his stepfather's sentence.

"No, that's not what I was going to say. We never fought over you. I was going to say addiction. We only fought over her addiction – never about you. Hell, you were the one thing we never fought about. And I mean that, Johnny." Chris insisted.

"O–Okay," Shepard said, not truly believing his stepfather's words. "Why did you stay? You could have left when she—" Shepard couldn't bring himself to say the word.

"Well, for one, I promised Hannah that I'd raise you as my own. And I fully intend to. And two, I'm your stepdad. I love you, kid." 

"But, you barely even know me. I know I'm a burden. You don't deserve to be tied to me," Shepard insisted.

"Hey, I know we haven't known each other long, but your mom told me all about you. From your love of art and music to your love of animals – your favourite foods and the ones you hate, to how you got that crescent-shaped scar in your hairline," Chris smiled as he traced the scar on his stepson's forehead. "She told me everything she could think of. We couldn't wait for you to come home so we could be a family. But that never happened, and fate took her away. When that happened, I couldn't just throw away the only thing I had left of her – I couldn't just forget about you, Johnny. I could never have lived with myself." 

"But I'm no good. I can't get a job, everyone hates me, our house is constantly being vandalized, and you're obviously stressed out from working all the time. I'm surprised it took this long for you to hit me," Shepard said truthfully.

"Johnny, listen to me," Chris insisted as he forced the boy to look at him, "I fucked up. You didn't do anything to deserve what I did to you, but I swear to you, I'll do better. I never meant to hurt you. Hell, I don't even remember hitting you. That night, when you didn't come home, I started to panic. So, to calm myself down, I had a few drinks – then I had a few more. I must have been totally smashed. Because the next thing I remember, I'm on top of you, beating the hell outta you. I–I can't explain it. But please, don't hate me, kid," Chris explained, knowing any excuse would ring hollow.

"I don't hate you. You're my dad, the only dad I've ever known. I could never hate you. I love you, I really do," Shepard admitted truthfully.

Chris hugged his son tight as he kissed his crown. "You know, you could start calling me Dad instead of Chris – if you want to, I mean."

"Alright, Dad," Shepard chuckled as he dried his eyes.

Chris sighed deeply as he took a good look at his son's bruised face. "I really fucked you up, didn't I?"

"It ain't that bad," Shepard insisted. "I barely even feel it."

"I don't know how we're gonna hide the bruises come Monday," Chris said, his voice full of concern.

"I'll tell anyone that asks that I got into a fight," Shepard said with a smile.

"Okay. You try to relax. I'm gonna go mow the lawn," Chris said as he patted his son on the back.

"That's my job," Shepard reminded his father. 

"I think I owe you one, don't you," Chris chuckled as he made his way outside.

"I guess I'll go catch up on my art," Shepard said as he made his way to the room.

****☆****

LATER THAT EVENING... 

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK... 

Shepard's brow cocked at the sound. "What the hell? Who could that be?"

Shepard slowly made his way to the door, an uneasy feeling in his stomach as he opened the door.

"Hey, Shep—" Kaidan's words died on his tongue as he took in the sight of his bruised friend. 

"K–Kaidan, what are you doing here?" Shepard asked nervously. 

"I thought I would come visit. What happened to your face," Kaidan asked, his fingers gentle as they touched the blue-eyed boy's bruises.

Shepard found himself leaning into the touch, closing his eyes, imagining just for a second that he was Kaidan's – that the gentle touch meant something.

"I–I got in a fight. You know how people are," Shepard lied, rubbing his shoulder nervously. 

"I see. Does it hurt?" Kaidan asked, his whisky-coloured eyes full of concern for his friend.

"Nah, not really," Shepard said as he automatically rubbed his cheek. 

"Do you mind if I come in?" Kaidan asked with a bright smile.

"Huh?" Shepard mumbled, unsure of what he should do.

Kaidan laughed warmly. "You don't get many visitors, do you?"

"Not really. Y–You're actually the first," Shepard admitted as he moved aside, allowing his friend to enter.

"D–Do you want something to drink?" Shepard asked nervously.

"No, thank you," Kaidan replied as he looked around the room. "Is your father home?"

"Y–Yeah. He's in the shower. Do you wanna go to my room? Or we could sit on the couch, whichever you prefer," Shepard offered, totally lost on how he should behave.

"We can go to your room if you'd like," Kaidan said as he waited for Shepard to make a move.

"Oh, o–okay," Shepard stuttered as he led Kaidan to his bedroom.


"You've been drawing," Kaidan noticed as he made his way into the small room.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry about the mess," Shepard apologized as he tried to clear a space for Kaidan on the bed.

"It's fine. I enjoy your work," Kaidan admitted as he picked up one of Shepard's latest sketches. 

It was of a man, no older than thirty-five, and standing behind him in the shadows was a monstrous figure, both hideous and frightening to the eye.

"Is this your dad?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Uh, n–no, Shepard lied as he quickly took the sketch from Kaidan's hands before putting it away along with the others.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you," Kaidan apologized, hoping he hadn't upset his friend.

"You didn't," Shepard assured the boy.

"So, what do you do for fun, besides drawing, I mean," Kaidan asked as he took a seat on the bed, motioning for Shepard to join him.

"I dunno. I never really thought about it. I–I like to be outdoors, but not where there's a lot of people."

"Oh. You mean you like to go hiking," Kaidan said with an understanding grin.

"Y–Yeah. That's what I meant," Shepard smiled, happy that Kaidan had understood him.

"I go hiking all the time. I love nature. It's so peaceful but violent at the same time. I love the duality of it," Kaidan explained. "So, what kind of music do you like?" Kaidan asked, noticing the headphones and MP3 player sitting on the nightstand.

"All kinds. Mostly rock, though," Shepard replied as he toyed with the frayed loop on his jeans.

"Have you ever been to a music festival?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"No. I ain't really been anywhere," Shepard admitted.

"You know, we should go to the festival next weekend. There's a lot of indie bands playing. I think you would enjoy it," Kaidan suggested with a warm smile.

"I–I would love to, really, I would – but I can't," Shepard replied sadly.

"Why not," Kaidan asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"I can't afford it," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"You wouldn't have to pay for anything. It'll be my treat," Kaidan insisted.

"I don't know. I don't think my dad would want me to," Shepard explained.

"I could ask him," Kaidan offered as Chris opened the bedroom door.

"Hey, Johnny, where's  my—" Chris let the word die when he noticed the stranger in Shepard's room. "Who's this?"

"Um, this is my friend, Kaidan Alenko. Kaidan, this is my dad, Chris Scott," Shepard introduced them nervously.

"Oh. Nice to meet you, Kaidan," Chris said as he politely shook the boy's hand.

"The pleasure's mine," Kaidan said as he returned the handshake.

"So, what are you boys talking about," Chris asked curiously.

"Well, I just invited Shepard to a music festival next weekend, but I didn't get a straight answer from him," Kaidan fibbed.

"Oh. Well, Johnny isn't big on crowds. You understand how it is," Chris said, wanting nothing more than to protect his son from the would-be haters of the neighbourhood.

"He's actually interested in going. He's just afraid you'll say no," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"I see. Is that true, Johnny? Do you want to go?" Chris asked, studying his son's face.

"I– no," Shepard lied, a lie that Chris immediately caught.

"Johnny, I can tell when you're lying. If you want to go, you have my permission. Just be back before dark. Okay."

"O–Okay." Shepard agreed with a nod.

"Great! I'll pick you up next Saturday. We'll work on the details this week during art class. Well, I guess I should get going. I'll see you at school," Kaidan said as got ready to leave.

"I'll walk you out. Johnny, if you're up to it, can you start dinner," Chris asked with a smile 

"S–Sure," Shepard said as he watched them leave the room.

Chris walked Kaidan to the door, following the boy outside so he could have a word with him.


"Look, Kaidan, you seem like a nice kid, and I hope you are. Because my Johnny can't take any more disappointment. So, if you're planning on hurting him, or humiliating him with some prank, just know that I'll kick your ass from here to Mars. Am I understood," Chris warned in a threatening tone that made Kaidan shiver.

"Y–Yes, sir. I understand. But, I swear to you, I'm not pulling any pranks. We really are friends," Kaidan insisted.

"Good. Johnny could use a friend," Chris admitted. "Have a good night."

"You too," Kaidan said as he turned to leave.

"Kaidan," Chris called out once more, causing the boy to turn around.

"Yes," Kaidan replied simply.

"Thanks for coming over. You don't know how much Johnny needed that," Chris admitted.

Kaidan smiled broadly at the man's words. "No problem."

Chris raised his hand in farewell as he watched the boy disappear down the drive.

****☆****

ONE HOUR LATER... 

"So, is that your new boyfriend," Chris asked with a grin as he took a bite of his dinner.

"No. He's got a girlfriend," Shepard explained as he picked at his peas.

"Hn. But you do like him," it wasn't a question.

"Yeah," Shepard admitted with a sigh. "I like him a lot."

"I can tell. Try not to get too hung up on him, though. It's not healthy. Instead, you need to find someone who's into— well, like you," Chris said awkwardly, unsure how to word his thoughts.

"Gay. Is that the word you're searching for," Shepard asked with a crooked grin.

“Yep, that's the one," Chris said with a snap of his fingers.

"Mom hated that I was gay," Shepard said, his smile turning sour.

"No, she didn't," Chris said with a shake of his head.

"You don't have to lie. The last time I saw her, I told her. She begged me to think it through – said she was afraid it would trigger me – you know, because of what happened to me. I tried to explain that one had nothing to do with the other, but she just didn't seem to get it. She had to go get high in the washroom just to talk to me after that. That's why we fought. That's why I never saw her again," Shepard explained in a melancholic tone.

"She didn't hate it. She was genuinely afraid for you. We talked about it many times. She regretted her actions, wishing she had handled it differently. She wasn't homophobic at all and would have supported you no matter what," Chris insisted as he took his son's hand, squeezing it gently.

"I'd like to think so," Shepard said with a smile.

"So, I know you're sexually active," Chris said, causing Shepard to cover his face in embarrassment.

"Dad!"

"Johnny!" Chris mocked, amused by his son's embarrassment. "Are you really gonna act all embarrassed? I'm your dad. We're supposed to talk about this stuff."

"Uh-huh," Shepard said with a nod and a crooked grin.

"Anyway, who's the lucky guy," Chris asked as he took a drink of his beer.

"It's not serious. He's not my boyfriend or anything. He's just a guy that I happened to find attractive," Shepard admitted.

"Uh-huh. So, friends with benefits, or just fuck-buddies," Chris asked curiously.

"Honestly, more fuck-buddy than friend. I was at his place the other night – you know, the night I blacked out," Shepard replied nervously, knowing his father wouldn't approve.

"You deserve better," Chris said in a fatherly tone that made Shepard smile. 

"Maybe. The sex is good, though," Shepard admitted.

Chris couldn't help but laugh. "You're only sixteen. What do you know about good sex?"

"Well, that's true. He's better than my ex-boyfriend was. So, for me, that equates to good sex," Shepard explained.

"What was that boy's name? Randy? Or was it Ricky?" Chris asked, unsure of the answer.

"River. His name was River. He was a sweet guy," Shepard admitted.

"Why did it end?" Chris asked curiously.

"He got released before I did. I think he moved away," Shepard shrugged. "I wasn't in love with him. It didn't hurt as much as I thought it would."

"What didn't hurt? The sex or the breakup?" Chris asked, confused by the comment.

"Both," Shepard replied simply.

Chris nodded his head in understanding. "So, you're a, uh, bottom," Chris surmised in embarrassment.

"I'm versatile," Shepard said with a laugh.

"Oh. So, you've done both. That's good. I guess," Chris replied awkwardly, trying his best to be supportive.

"Dad, we don't have to go into all the details. It's fine, really," Shepard insisted.

"Well, I want to understand. That way, if you ever have a particular issue, I'll know the mechanics of it," Chris explained.

"Thanks for taking an interest. It means a lot," Shepard said sincerely. 

"Ah, I love you, kid. Anyway, do you need more condoms?" Chris asked, wanting his son to be safe.

"Not right now. Thanks for asking, though," Shepard replied with a smile. "Speaking of sex and dating – have you had your eye on anyone?"

"Ah, there's this girl that I see every now and then. Nothing serious, same situation as you. She wants more than I can give. Just last week, she wanted to come over and meet you. I'm thinking of ending the relationship," Chris admitted truthfully.

"Why? Is it because of Mom?"

"Yeah. I know she's gone, but damn if I don't miss her," Chris answered honestly.

"Yeah. I get that. What's your ladyfriend's name?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Maya. Maya Brooks," Chris answered as he finished off his beer.

"It's a pretty name," Shepard said with a shrug.

"I guess," Chris said as he snapped his fingers. "I just remembered, I got you something. And if you go to that festival, you might actually need it."

"What is it?" Shepard asked in confusion as his father retrieved a box from the closet.

"Here ya go. Go on – open it," Chris insisted as he took his seat, eagerly awaiting his son's reaction.

"A smartphone," Shepard said as he gently touched the screen. "This is too much. We can't afford it. Thank you, but you should take it back."

"No, I'm not taking it back. It was a bit expensive, but it was worth it. It'll give me peace of mind. I know the way you're treated, and I hate the thought of you lying hurt in a gutter somewhere with no way to call for help. So, to me, this was worth every penny," Chris admitted with a grin.

"You even got a case," Shepard said as he looked at the shiny red and black star emblazoned on the back.

"Yeah. I know you have a tendency to drop things. That should protect it a bit. I hope you like the colour," Chris said with a pleased look on his face.

"I love it. Thanks, Dad," Shepard said as he hugged his father tight.

"I already put my cell number and the landline number into the contacts list. You can add whoever you want. You can even play music on it," Chris informed him as he rubbed his back gently.

"I–I'll try harder to get a job," Shepard said, wanting to help as much as possible.

"Johnny, you're doing your best. And that's enough," Chris insisted. "Now, go, get ready for bed."

"O–Okay. Thanks again for the phone. I appreciate it. I love you, Dad," Shepard said with a smile as he made his way to the washroom.

"I love you too, Johnny."

****☆****

3 AM – LATER THAT NIGHT... 

Chris was awakened in the night by the sounds of whispering. Uncertain of the source, he called out to his son.

"Johnny, is that you? Do you need something, kid," Chris asked as he waited for a response. 

After a while, with no response from his son, Chris decided to close his eyes. He was just about to drift off when the distinct sound of a knob being shaken filled the silence.

"Johnny, is that you?" Chris asked once more.

And just as before, the noise stopped, causing Chris to close his eyes once more. However, seconds later, a loud thumping noise could be heard, the silence once again broken by an unknown source.

"Johnny," Chris called out before crawling from the bed to investigate the mysterious knocking.

He slowly opened the bedroom door and was shocked at what he found—

"Johnny?"

Shepard was standing in front of the sealed bedroom door, his head banging forcefully against it as if trying to knock himself out.

"Johnny, you gotta stop," Chris insisted as he rushed to his son's aid. 

Without missing a beat, he wrapped his arms around his son, holding him tightly until the boy finally screamed.

"Shh, shh. I got you. You're alright," Chris slid against the wall, pulling his son in close against him as they eventually hit the ground. "You're freezing, kid. Are you sick?"

"My head hurts," Shepard mumbled as he turned his face towards his father.

"You're bleeding," Chris said as he took Shepard's shirttail and used it to staunch the flow of blood from the boy's nose. "I'm gonna call an ambulance. You might be hurt worse than we thought."

"Don't! I'm okay. Really, I am. I'm just tired," Shepard tried to reassure his father.

"I dunno, kid. You were knocking your head against the wall pretty hard. And now you have a headache and a nosebleed. That's not a good sign, Johnny," Chris said, hoping his son would listen to reason.

"I'm okay. My headache isn't as bad as it was," Shepard lied as he attempted to stand on his own.

"Whoa, easy now, kid," Chris said as he steadied his son.

"I'm okay. See, I can stand. I'm gonna go back to bed. I'm sorry I woke you," Shepard apologized as he staggered his way towards the kitchen.

"Johnny, you let me know if you get worse," Chris insisted as he watched to make sure his son made it to his room.

"I will," Shepard promised as closed the door behind him.

Chris stared at his son's door for a long moment before turning his attention to the sealed door. 

"Hmm." 

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

SATURDAY MORNING… 

"Johnny, you better start getting ready. Your friend will be here soon. You don't wanna keep him waiting, do you?" Chris teased with a grin as he watched his son scramble to clean up his mess.

"What time is it?" Shepard asked anxiously as he quickly put away the art supplies.

"It's almost noon. You got about ten minutes before Kaidan comes knocking. He doesn't seem like the type to be late, so you better hustle," Chris suggested as he helped his son put away some brushes.

"Okay. I think that's everything. I just need to change my clothes," Shepard said as he moved towards his closet.

"Son, you might wanna look in the mirror," Chris suggested with a smirk.

"Why? I got paint on my face, don't I," Shepard replied with a pout.

"You got some in your hair too," Chris informed his son as he took the offending lock of dark-blonde hair in his hands. 

"Goddammit," Shepard cursed as he took a good look at the strand. "Is it bad? Do I have to wash my hair or—"

"Relax, kid," Chris insisted as he dunked a handkerchief in water before gently cleaning the lock of hair. "There – the red is all gone."

"Thanks, Dad," Shepard said with an appreciative smile.

"No problem," Chris said as he cleaned the remaining paint from his son's face. "There, everything's perfect. Now, get dressed before you have a heart attack."

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"Shit! He's here," Shepard panicked as he rushed to get dressed.

"Relax, I'll go talk to him. You just concentrate on getting dressed," Chris said as he made his way to the living room.


"Hey, Kaidan. Johnny will be ready in a few minutes if you want to wait inside," Chris offered as motioned for Kaidan to enter.

"Thanks," Kaidan smiled as he took a step inside.

"I'm gonna go make sure Johnny has everything he needs," Chris said as he made his way into Shepard's bedroom.


"Was that K?" Shepard asked nervously as he pulled his t-shirt over his head.

"Yep. He's waiting by the door," Chris informed his son as he started taking some pills from the various medication bottles on Shepard's nightstand.

"What are you doing?" Shepard asked curiously.

"I'm getting your dosage ready," Chris explained with an amused laugh as he placed the pills into a small vial. "You probably won't be home in time to take it, and I don't want you to miss your dose. I added some aspirin in case you got a headache."

"Thanks," Shepard said gratefully.

"No problem. Now, go, have fun," Chris insisted as he placed a few bills into Shepard's hoodie.

"What's this?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"It's not much, just a little something in case you see something you like. They usually have vendors at places like that – both art and music," Chris explained.

"T–That's okay. I don't need it, really," Shepard said as he handed the money back to his father.

"Johnny, take the damn money," Chris insisted. "Be a kid, for fuck's sake. I think you deserve that much."

Shepard hugged his father tight, his sapphire-blue eyes shining with unshed tears. "I love you, Dad."

"I love you too, now go. You've kept Kaidan waiting long enough," Chris insisted as he watched his son closely. "Be safe, Johnny."

"I will," Shepard promised as he continued on his way. "I'll see you later, Daddy."


"You ready to head out," Kaidan asked with a smile as he held the door open for his friend. 

"Yep," Shepard said as they walked to Kaidan's car, Shepard freezing when he saw the other two bodies currently occupying the car. "W–Who's that?"

"Uh, that's Rahna and Liara," Kaidan admitted sheepishly. "Rahna thought you and Liara might hit it off."

"K, I–I don't think this is such a good idea. I don't do well around a lot of people," Shepard explained nervously. "Besides, I'm not really feeling very good. I'll just stay here. I'm sorry you made the trip here for nothing."

Shepard turned to go back into the house when Kaidan suddenly took him by the arm.

"Oh, no, you don't," Kaidan insisted with a chuckle. "You are going to this festival."

"K, I'm not comfortable. I wouldn't have anything to say," Shepard admitted.

"Liara will do most of the talking. And, who knows, maybe you two will hit it off. Best case scenario, you get a new girlfriend. Worst case – you get a new friend. I see that as a win-win," Kaidan replied with a grin.

"I don't like her like that, K," Shepard said, his eyes shifting to the side to prevent looking his friend in the eye.

"You barely even know her. Just give it a chance. Please – for me," Kaidan pleaded one last time.

Shepard sighed and nervously rubbed his shoulder. "Fine. I'll do it for you, K."

Kaidan smiled brightly as he led Shepard to the car.


Once Shepard was seated in the backseat next to Liara, Kaidan closed the car door and took his place in the driver's seat with Rahna by his side, sitting pretty in the passenger's seat.

"Is everyone ready?" Kaidan asked as he started the car.

"All set," Liara replied with a happy lilt to her voice that made Shepard roll his eyes as he leaned his head against the window.

"Great. We should be there in about half an hour," Kaidan informed them as he pulled out of the drive.

****☆****

The drive was awkwardly silent, with Shepard hardly speaking a word the entire time. Once they made it to the festival grounds, things went a little smoother, with the girls giggling and talking amongst themselves while Kaidan and Shepard took in the sights and sounds surrounding them.

"K, can we maybe get closer to the stage on the left," Shepard asked curiously as he pointed to the side stage. "I'm kinda liking what I'm hearing from them."

"Sure. Rahna, if you and Liara are done gawking at the jewelry, Shepard and I would like to get closer to the music," Kaidan teased as he hugged Rahna from behind, kissing her neck gently, causing Shepard to look away and rub his shoulder nervously.

"Boys," Liara said with a teasing hint to her voice, "they never appreciate the finer things."

"So true, Liara," Rahna agreed as she slipped her hand in Kaidan's. "Shall we go?"

"Yes, let's," Liara agreed as she put her arm around Shepard's, leading him along. 

Shepard said nothing. He just allowed himself to be led around like an obedient puppy.

Shepard was starting to really enjoy the band when Rahna asked Kaidan to lift her onto his shoulders so she could get a better view of the stage, thus encouraging Liara to ask the same of him.

"Go on, Liara – ask him," Rahna encouraged her friend as Kaidan hoisted her onto his shoulders. "I'm sure Shepard wouldn't mind," Rahna giggled as she held onto Kaidan tightly.

"I–I'm afraid of dropping you," Shepard said, hoping they would drop the idea.

"You won't drop her," Kaidan laughed, amused by his friend's response.

"That's alright. If Shepard isn't comfortable," Liara's eyes were full of sadness, causing Shepard to rethink his position.

"Goddammit," Shepard mumbled as he suddenly lifted the young lady onto his shoulders with ease. 

"Whoa! Shepard, that was unexpected," Liara said, her laughter ringing out through the crowd.

"Just hold on, okay. Try not to fall," Shepard said, his face still set in a frown as the girls laughed and sang along.

Shepard chanced a glance at Kaidan, who seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, causing Shepard to smile in approval.

"At least he's having fun," Shepard thought aloud, causing Kaidan to turn his way.

"Did you say something?" Kaidan asked, the music nearly drowning him out.

"No. It's nothing," Shepard lied as Liara tapped him on the head.

"Do you mind if I get down? I really need to get a drink," Liara said, her eyes shining brightly as she spoke.

Shepard never said a word. He just put her down with ease.

"Thank you, Shepard," Liara said as she kissed him quickly on the mouth before disappearing with Rahna into the crowd.

Shepard quickly wiped his mouth as Kaidan chuckled at his expense.

"It was just a kiss. You have been kissed before, haven't you?" Kaidan asked in amusement.

"Look, K – this thing with Liara, it'll never go anywhere. She's not even my type," Shepard explained nervously, hoping Kaidan would let it go.

"How can you possibly know that? You've barely spoken to her. I mean, you think she's pretty, right," Kaidan asked, hoping Shepard would at least give Liara a chance.

"Yeah, she's pretty. But she ain't my kinda pretty," Shepard replied as he rubbed his shoulder nervously.

"Let me guess, you like brunettes," Kaidan said, thinking the problem was skin deep.

"It's not her hair colour. It's the fact she's a she," Shepard said, being sure to put an emphasis on the word she. 

"What? I'm not sure I follow. Is it because she's Ms. T'Soni's daughter?" Kaidan asked in confusion as he struggled to hear Shepard over the music.

"No. It's because she's a she," Shepard tried once more, but the music was just too loud.

"We're back," Rahna called out as she handed Kaidan a bottle of water.

"I brought you one too. I thought you could use a drink," Liara said with a smile as she handed Shepard the bottle.

"Thank you," Shepard said appreciatively as he took a drink to avoid looking her in the eye. "I saw an art vendor earlier. I think I'll go check it out."

"Do you want us to come with you?" Rahna asked as she leaned against her boyfriend.

"Nah. You guys just continue to do whatever it is you were doing. I'll be fine," Shepard insisted as he made his way out of the crowd.

He was about halfway to the vendor's stand when Liara surprised him by taking his hand from behind.

"Liara," Shepard called out in surprise as she dragged the young blue-eyed blonde towards one of the park sheds.


Once they were inside, she quickly closed the door, fastening the lock behind her.

"W–What's going on? Are you okay? Is something wrong?" Shepard asked nervously as she pushed him against the wall, kissing the boy hard as she quickly removed his hoodie, letting it fall to the floor, before tugging his shirt off as well.

"Liara, what the hell are you doing?" Shepard asked as Liara continued kissing her way down his body, loving the way his abs danced with every touch.

"Shh. Shepard, I know how difficult it is for you to express yourself. So, please just let me help you relax.

"Liara, this isn't a very good—"

His words were cut off by Liara's tongue in his mouth and, without thinking, he returned the kiss.

'What the hell am I doing?' Shepard asked himself silently as Liara placed one of his hands upon her breasts.

"You're so handsome," Liara said with a smile as she began to kiss his neck, her hand going ever lower until she was palming him through his jeans. "You're so big," Liara whispered in his ear as she licked the shell of his ear. "I can't wait to see it – to taste it."

Shepard groaned at her words as he purposely banged his head against the wall. Liara fell to her knees before him and was just about to free him from his jeans when Shepard finally spoke.

"Liara, stop. This ain't right. I–I can't," Shepard admitted truthfully, causing Liara to freeze, her crystal-blue eyes shining with unshed tears.

"Shepard, I know you don't like me. I'm not that naive, but I really like you. I don't mind being friends – with benefits," Liara admitted truthfully, her face turning red in embarrassment.

Shepard gently touched Liara's cheek before helping her to her feet. He kissed her long and deep with a sweetness Liara had never experienced before, and it made her heart flutter.

"You're a beautiful, sweet girl, and your offer is tempting – or would be if women were my type, but they're not. I'm sorry," Shepard apologized before collecting his shirt and hoodie.

Liara watched in stunned silence as Shepard walked out the door. The second he was gone, Liara broke into tears.


"Shepard! There you are," Kaidan called out as he and Rahna made their way towards him. "Where's Liara?"

"She's over there," Shepard nodded towards the shed, causing Rahna and Kaidan to grin.

"I'll go get her," Rahna said with an amused giggle.

"I see what's up," Kaidan grinned as Shepard pulled his shirt over his head. "See, I knew you two would hit it off."

"Nothing happened, K," Shepard insisted as he put his hoodie on.

"It sure doesn't look like *nothing*," Kaidan teased.

"Look, K, I tried to tell you earlier. I ain't interested in Liara. Hell, I ain't interested in girls, period," Shepard explained truthfully, his tone unusually irritated. "Do you get what I'm saying?"

Kaidan's eyes went wide in understanding. "You're gay."

"Yep. 100%."

"Then, you weren't joking when we met," Kaidan surmised, his face turning red with every thought.

"W–What?" Shepard asked, his eyes going wide in embarrassment.

"Yeah. I guess you wouldn't remember. Your alt— he hit on me. But I thought he was just joking. I never suspected he was being serious," Kaidan explained, subconsciously taking a step back as he spoke.

Shepard rolled his eyes. "I ain't gonna fucking hit on you, K. You're straight, and I fucking know it. I wouldn't risk our friendship on a goddamn crush. But if I make you uncomfortable, just tell me now. It'll make things easier if I know up-front."

"Yeah, well, things would have been easier if I had known up-front that you were gay," Kaidan retorted, his voice rising in anger.

"I didn't think it mattered! I mean, what does that have to do with anything!?" Shepard yelled back.

"Are you serious!? It's a part of who you are, so why hide that from me?" Kaidan yelled back.

"I never hid it from you. You never asked, so I never brought it up. Besides, you just said my alt hit on you, so how is this a surprise now?" Shepard asked, confused by Kaidan's anger.

"I thought you were messing with me, asshole!" Kaidan yelled in frustration.

"So, now I'm an asshole because I'm gay and didn't tell you? Fuck you, Kaidan! Chris was right – this was a goddamn mistake," Shepard yelled as he walked away, leaving Kaidan standing alone.

"Shepard! You can't walk home from here! Don't be stupid," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to flip him off as he disappeared into the crowd. "Fucking idiot!" Kaidan cursed, but he wasn't sure if the words were meant for Shepard or himself.

"Kaidan, where's Shepard," Rahna asked, her brow furrowing in confusion.

"The idiot left," Kaidan replied curtly.

"This is all my fault," Liara said sadly. "I threw myself at him, and it upset him."

"No, it's his fault for pretending to be something he isn't," Kaidan said, shaking his head for emphasis.

"Kaidan, that's not entirely true. Shepard was always being himself. He was never obligated to tell anyone about his sexuality," Liara explained with a calmness Kaidan was now lacking. "He was so sweet about it, Kaidan. He was genuinely sorry. I could tell that he never meant to hurt me. So, please, Kaidan, don't be upset with him."

"You don't understand, Liara. He lied to me," Kaidan replied, his mind still racing and unclear. "He said I was his best friend, but he saw fit to fucking lie to me. Whatever Shepard was to me, he's nothing anymore."

"Kaidan," Rahna called out, a look of shock on her face. "You can't mean that."

"I do. Fuck him! Let's go enjoy the rest of the festival." Kaidan insisted.

"I don't think we would enjoy it much, considering all that's happened," Rahna said truthfully.

"I know I couldn't, not without Shepard," Liara agreed.

Kaidan gave an amused laugh. "He doesn't even like you, Liara! Why the hell would you want him here?"

"Because he's my friend," Liara yelled.

"Whatever! I'm tired of arguing! If you guys want to leave, we'll leave," Kaidan said as he took Rahna's hand roughly.

"Kaidan, calm down," Rahna insisted as she touched her boyfriend's cheek.

"I–I'm sorry. I just wish we could enjoy the rest of the day," Kaidan said truthfully.

"Well, we could watch one more band. Liara?" Rahna asked, valuing her friend's opinion.

"Fine! But just one," Liara insisted as she followed them towards the main stage.

****☆****

LATER THAT EVENING… 

"Goodnight, Liara. See you at school," Rahna called out as they pulled out of the drive.

After a few seconds of silence, Rahna finally spoke—

"Shouldn't you call Shepard," Rahna asked anxiously.

"Why would I do that?" Kaidan asked, furrowing his brow as he spoke.

Rahna sighed heavily. "To see if he made it home," she stated simply.

"I don't care if he made it home or not," Kaidan snapped.

"Kaidan, what is it about this boy that brings out such a visceral reaction? I've seen you defend him to the point of fighting, and now you're willing to throw him away because of one little secret," Rahna said, shaking her head in disappointment.

"It wasn't a little secret, Rahna. It was a big one. He made me look like a fool," Kaidan replied in annoyance.

"No, he didn't," Rahna insisted. "If anyone should be upset, it's Liara. She was the one who was rejected. You're just acting like a spoiled child."

"I am not," Kaidan pouted.

"You just proved my point," Rahna chuckled. "Kaidan, why are you so angry about Shepard being gay? Does it really bother you that much?"

"Yes, it bothers me that much," Kaidan admitted.

"Kaidan Aleksander Alenko, I never would have taken you for a homophobic person," Rahna scolded her boyfriend.

"What!? I'm not homophobic! His being gay doesn't bother me in the least. What bothers me is that he didn't deem me worthy enough to tell me," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"Kaidan, look at things from his perspective. He was probably afraid of what you might think of him or frightened about how you might react, and I have to say, after today, he had every right to be cautious," Rahna suggested, trying to get her boyfriend to see reason. 

"The fight was his fault, not mine. I'm not speaking to him until I get an apology," Kaidan insisted, causing Rahna to sigh.

"Stubborn man."

****☆****

1:30 AM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Those kids sure are making it late," Chris thought aloud as he dialed his son's cellphone.

A familiar song flooded through the house, and Chris' heart sank.

"Jesus, Johnny, you forgot your phone," Chris thought as he quickly called the Alenko residence.

"Alenko residence," a groggy, half-asleep voice answered after the fourth ring.

"Hey, sorry to be calling at this time of night. My name's Chris Scott, Johnny Shepard's father. He went to a festival today with your son, and I was wondering if they'd gotten back yet," Chris explained, the nervous pit in his stomach growing with every passing second.

"Ah, yes. Kaidan told me he was taking a few friends with him. Kaidan got home at around ten tonight. As far as I know, he dropped the others off. But, I'll be more than happy to ask my son," Aleksander Alenko offered.

"Thanks," Chris said as he waited patiently for an answer. Chris could hear arguing in the background, causing his anxiety to grow.

"Mr. Scott, this is Kaidan. Shepard left the festival early. I tried to get him to let me take him home, but he just kept walking. I'm really sorry," Kaidan apologized as Chris snapped.

"What the fuck did you do to my son? I fucking told you not to play him," Chris yelled, causing Kaidan to flinch.

"I didn't do anything to him. He just wanted to leave, so he left. That's all," Kaidan insisted.

"And you didn't bother to fucking call me? What the fuck's wrong with you," Chris scolded, his words cutting Kaidan to the bone. "Do you have any idea how dangerous it is for my boy to be out at night in this neighbourhood? He gets death threats all the time. How could you not call me?"

Kaidan's stomach churned at Chris's words. "I–I'm sorry. I didn't realize."

"No, your kind never does," Chris sighed heavily. "Look, from now on, just stay the fuck away from my son. He doesn't need friends like you."

Kaidan was about to apologize again when the phone went dead. "He hung up."  

"Kaidan, I can't believe you didn't call his father," Kaidan's mother, Elena, scolded. "We taught you better than that."

"Mom, he'll be fine. He's a very capable young man," Kaidan insisted.

"I certainly hope you're right. Because if anything happens to him, it's on your head, son," Aleksander warned as he left Kaidan to think about his mistake.

****☆****

Shepard had been lost for most of the day, slowly wandering the city in the hopes of seeing a familiar sight. 

It wasn't until midnight that he found his way. He was nearly home when a sharp pain blossomed against the side of his head, the impact sending him down to one knee.

Looking up, Shepard could see the blurry faces of two men. It took Shepard a few minutes to focus, but when he did, he immediately recognized his attackers. 

"I know you," Shepard said as he was kicked hard in the stomach, the force knocking the wind out the boy.

As Shepard coughed and gasped for air, the two men began kicking the boy violently. It wasn't until a light flashed that the attackers fled.

"Get the fuck away from my son! Don't think I didn't see you, you goddamn pricks! If you even come close to my house, I'm gonna kick your asses right back over the fence," Chris yelled as he knelt to assist his son. "You okay, Johnny?"

"Y–Yeah. I think so," Shepard mumbled as he leaned against his father for support. "How'd you find me?"

"You're my kid. I'd search the ends of the earth for you. Besides, it's a father's job to catch his kid when they fall, right."

"I guess," Shepard grinned as he wobbled a bit. "I'm glad you found me, Dad."

"Jeez, you're bleeding. They busted your head wide open," Chris said as he helped his son to walk.

"I–It ain't bad," Shepard assured his father. "The neighbours really hate me, huh?"

"As if that wasn't obvious enough. You know, you forgot your phone. You can't be doing that, Johnny," Chris reprimanded the boy.

"I still ain't used to having it. I'm sorry."

"That's okay. So, what went wrong today?" Chris asked, knowing something wasn't right.

"Kaidan fucking hates me," Shepard said as he staggered a bit in his father's grip.

"Fucking rich kids. Easy. We'll talk about it when we get inside." Chris said as he helped his son up the driveway and into the house.


"Just help me to the couch, please," Shepard requested, wanting nothing more than to sit down.

"Sure. Now, you were saying something about Kaidan hating you? Why does he hate you?" Chris asked, hoping his son was overreacting.

"He found out I like boys," Shepard admitted as he plopped down on the couch, a sad look in his sapphire-blue eyes.

"What? Are you saying he doesn't want to be your friend because you're gay? Are you serious?" Chris asked, shocked by the news.

"Yep," Shepard's voice cracked as he cleared his throat to hide his sadness.

"Johnny— that's just fucked up," Chris said in a disgusted tone. "Fuck him. You don't need him." 

"I really liked him," Shepard said as he finally broke down, the tears racking Shepard's entire frame.

Chris held his son tight, his heart breaking for the boy. "Let it all out, Johnny."

"I hate this place. I hate it so fucking much, but I hate me most of all," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Don't say that, Johnny. Please, don't say that. You're a good person. If Kaidan can't see past your sexuality, then he's poison to you, and you don't need it. Trust me, people like that, they don't deserve a second thought. And I know it's hard being here, but we got no choice but to live here. Believe me, Johnny, if I could take you away from here, I would."

"I know, you would," Shepard said with a grateful smile as he dried his eyes.

"That cut needs to be cleaned and disinfected. I'll be right back."

Shepard was starting to feel nauseous as odd whispers filled his ears. Deciding to follow the sound, Shepard staggered down the hall.

"Don't worry, Johnny. Dad's gonna fix you, right up," Chris looked up, finding only an empty couch, he called out for his son. "Johnny?"


It didn't take long for Chris to find him – standing in front of the sealed door, staring stock-still, in a trancelike state.

Chris sighed heavily before gently leading his son back to the couch. Once the cold, damp washcloth touched Shepard's face, the boy's senses returned.

"Your nose is bleeding. Once it stops, I'll clean the cut on your head," Chris promised as he continued to aid his son.

"Thanks," Shepard smiled as he allowed himself to relax. "I'm sleepy."

Chris laughed a little at his son. "I'll bet you are. You can't sleep until I clean that wound, though."

"I know," Shepard chuckled. "I kissed a girl today."

"Really," Chris said with a surprised look on his face. "Did you like it?"

"It was okay. It didn't really make me feel anything, though," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Well, that's normal, I guess," Chris said, a bit uncertain about the mechanics of gay attraction.

"You think so," Shepard asked, genuinely wanting to know.

"Well, I assume so. I mean, I'm pretty sure if I kissed a guy, it wouldn't make me feel anything. So, I assume it's the same for people like you, only reversed," Chris explained awkwardly.

"I love how you make an effort to understand me. I really do appreciate it," Shepard praised as he began to nod off.

"Okay, sleepyhead," Chris teased with a chuckle. "You can go to bed now."

"M'kay," Shepard mumbled with a yawn as he stumbled to the bedroom.

"I love you, kid," Chris grinned as he put away the first-aid kit and went straight to bed.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

The following week was awkward, to say the least. Kaidan had done everything in his power to avoid Shepard, even going as far as requesting a seat change in art class.

"Ms. T'Soni, may I please have permission to trade places with someone else," Kaidan asked, feeling Shepard's eyes upon him as he spoke.

"Is that really necessary, Kaidan," Benezia asked, slightly irritated by the request. "You've been doing fine right where you are."

"I think the light from the window is aggravating my migraines," Kaidan lied, hoping she would agree.

Benezia sighed before giving in to his request. "Alright. Who would like to trade places with Kaidan?"

The second she asked the question, everyone's gaze shifted to their work, doing their best to avoid the teacher's gaze.

Benezia's heart went out to Shepard when she saw the sad look in his lonely blue eyes

"No one," Benezia's voice was filled with disappointment. "Shepard won't bite, I promise."

"I don't mind sitting alone," Shepard called out, his voice low and quiet as he did his best to avoid his teacher's gaze. 

"Are you sure, John?" Benezia asked, her tone matching his as she spoke.

Shepard just nodded.

"Oh, for god's sake! I'll trade with you, Kaidan," Garrus called out as he collected his things.

"Scars?" James called out in confusion.

"You'll be fine, Jimmy. I'm just moving one table back," Garrus chuckled as he finished switching seats with Kaidan.

Kaidan quietly took his new seat, feeling a bit uneasy at the dirty look James was now giving him.

"What?" Kaidan asked defensively.

"That was a pretty dirty thing to do, Alenko," James said as he continued to work on his assignment.

"I have my reasons," Kaidan said with a sigh as he opened his sketchbook.

"Whatever," James shrugged, refusing to look Kaidan in the eye.

Kaidan sighed heavily as he tried to concentrate on his work.

"Hey. I guess we'll be sitting together from now on," Garrus said with a grin as he opened his sketchbook. 

Shepard just nodded as he continued to sketch.

Garrus let out a low whistle. "You got talent. I wish I could draw like that. You put most of us to shame."

"You don't gotta pretend to like me, or talk to me for that matter," Shepard informed him, his voice low and tired – like all the fight had been knocked out of him.

"But I do like you. You're a nice guy. I know we haven't really talked all that much, but you're a pretty private guy. So, let's just agree to be temporary friends for now. And in a week or so, if we're still getting along, we'll move on to permanent friends. How does that sound?" Garrus asked, trying his best to make Shepard more at ease.

Shepard cocked his head to the side as he studied Garrus's face. 

"What? You're giving me a weird look," Garrus said anxiously.

"I'm trying to figure out if you're playing me or not. But you're a bit hard to read," Shepard admitted truthfully as he continued to stare at his classmate.

Garrus laughed. "You don't trust anybody, do you?"

"Can't afford to," Shepard mumbled as he turned his attention to his sketchbook.

Despite several other attempts at trying to get Shepard to speak, Garrus never got anything more than a nod or small one-word replies from the blonde.

Thankfully, before long, the bell rang, freeing them from the whole awkward situation.

"Shepard, may I have a word with you?" Benezia called out as Shepard gathered his things.

"Yes, ma'am," Shepard replied as he moved to stand before her, nervously rubbing his shoulder as he waited.

"Are you okay?" Benezia asked, her concern for the boy greater than ever.

"Uh-huh," Shepard said with a nod.

"I'm sorry about today. It was unfortunate," she apologized, knowing how alone he must have felt at that moment. "Garrus shouldn't give you any trouble. He's a very nice young man."

"I know," Shepard replied as he shifted his weight back and forth nervously.

"John, you would let me know if something was bothering you, wouldn't you?" Benezia asked, her crystal-blue eyes kind and gentle.

"I'm fine," Shepard insisted with a fake smile that Benezia immediately caught.

"It won't always be this way. Time has a way of making people forget. Just give it time," Benezia promised.

"Y–Yeah. Was there anything else you needed?" Shepard asked, wanting to be anywhere but where he was.

Benezia smiled at Shepard's unease. "No, that's all I have to say. You may go now."

"Thanks," Shepard mumbled as he made his way to the door, nearly there when Benezia called out once more.

"Oh, before I forget, Liara says hello. She had a lovely time with you and values your friendship greatly," Benezia smiled as Shepard's expression changed from one of sadness to one of fond thoughtfulness.

"Tell her I had fun too. And— thank her for me," Shepard said as he exited the room.

"John Shepard," Benezia smiled as she sat down at her desk.

****☆****

At lunch, Shepard had taken to sitting alone again, knowing he would be unwelcome amongst most of Kaidan's friends.

Shepard could feel eyes upon him, and it made his skin crawl. He knew they were talking about him, that didn't bother him. He was used to it, after all. What bothered him most was the way Kaidan was acting.

It was almost as if the whisky-eyed teen wanted to will Shepard out of existence, to erase all trace of the boy from his life. 

And, even though they hadn't known each other long, he was the closest friend Shepard had ever known, and the loss was tearing the young blue-eyed blonde apart.

 Shepard's thoughts began to make him nauseous, so much so that he became a little light-headed when he stood up too fast. 

Staggering a bit as he stood, Shepard was grateful when a familiar arm, twice the size of his own, steadied him.

"Hey, you okay, Loco? You look kinda pale. I think you need to eat something, yeah," James suggested as he continued to hold onto Shepard's arm.

"I–I'm fine. I'll be okay," Shepard smiled a little as he stood a little straighter.

"Yeah. Look, I know you haven't eaten. Hell, you never eat anything at lunch, but today you look like you might need to," James said, hoping he didn't offend the boy.

"I–I don't really eat lunch, so I never brought anything. I get like this sometimes. I'll be fine. I just need to get something to drink," Shepard insisted as he collected his things.

"Yo, Loco," James called out, tossing Shepard an apple he retrieved from his lunch bag.

"I–I don't wanna take your lunch," Shepard said as he handed the apple back to James.

James laughed a hearty laugh. "Trust me, that ain't my lunch. That's just a little something extra my mom adds to the mix. So don't you worry about me. I got plenty to eat."

Shepard smiled a bit as he rubbed his shoulder in a nervous habit.

"I'll see ya later, Loco," James smiled as he placed the apple on the table before walking away.

Shepard picked up the apple, staring at it for a few seconds before calling out to James. "Hey, James."

"Hm," James said as he turned to look back at Shepard.

"I appreciate it."

"Anytime, Loco," James smiled as he went on his way.

Shepard carefully took a bite from the apple, savouring the flavour as he looked out across the yard. 

****☆****

Shepard was emotionally exhausted by the time he got home. And it was only getting worse. 

He had just come from his appointment with Harkin, wanting nothing more than to take a hot shower, when, just as he was about to unlock the door, he was pelted from behind by what smelled like rotten eggs.

"Goddammit! Stop!" Shepard shouted as he continued to struggle with the lock.

"Murderer! Go kill yourself – nobody likes you, and nobody wants you here! Die already," the boys screamed as they continued to throw eggs at the defenceless Shepard.

Shepard's anger grew as his eye colour began to shift until, finally, they began to glow. Turning his attention to the vandals, Shepard asked them once more to stop.

"I said, STOP!" The second the words left his mouth, the eggs exploded in their hands, causing the boys to gag at the scent before retreating behind the fence.

With the vandals taken care of, Shepard finally made his way inside, shutting the door quickly behind him.


"I HATE THIS FUCKING PLACE!" Shepard screamed from the top of his lungs as he began knocking over anything in sight, carving a path of destruction all the way to his bedroom.

A few minutes later, Shepard was underneath a steady stream of hot water, scrubbing his skin raw until he, finally, broke down – crying so hard, he lost his breath. He struggled to breathe as the tears kept flowing. 

Not knowing what else to do, he tried taking deep breaths to calm himself. And, once the tears finally ended, Shepard's breathing started to even out.

As Shepard was getting dressed, he heard the front door open and close.


"What the hell?" Chris's eyes went wide at the sight before him. 

Thinking the worst, he immediately searched the house for his son.

"Johnny, are you alright?" Chris called out, waiting patiently outside the washroom door.

Shepard slowly opened the door, hair still wet and skin red from scrubbing.

"You okay, kid," Chris panicked as he held his son's face in his hands.

"Y–Yeah. I just had a really bad day. School sucked. I had my appointment with Harkin, then, to top it all off, when I got home, a few kids from the neighbourhood egged the house – and me. My clothes are a mess. I'll put them in the washer. Then I'll clean up the mess I made. I'm sorry about that."

"Yeah. I take it the eggs were rotten," Chris said, scrunching his nose up at the scent.

"That bad, huh," Shepard asked with an apologetic smile.

"Yeah, you might wanna get those washed as soon as possible," Chris suggested.

"Yeah. I'll wash down the steps too. I think a few hit the stoop instead of me," Shepard explained.

"They did, but I'll take the hose to the house while you straighten up in here," Chris said with a smile.

"Okay," Shepard smiled gratefully as he made his way to the laundry room.

****☆****

LATER THAT NIGHT… 

"What happened at school to get you so down," Chris asked as he took a bite of his dinner.

"Kaidan asked to switch seats in art class. Apparently, he don't wanna sit beside me anymore," Shepard explained as he picked at his potatoes.

"That kid really wasn't who I thought he was," Chris said, a hint of anger in his voice.

"Yeah. I know what you mean," Shepard agreed with a sigh.

"Did you hook up with Aedan today?" Chris asked curiously.

"No. Why?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"You got a hickey on your neck," Chris informed his son, tapping his neck for emphasis. "If it's not Aedan you're seeing, then who is it?"

"I ain't been with nobody. I–It's probably just a bruise," Shepard lied as he began to bounce his knee nervously.

"Johnny, you can tell me. It's alright. I won't judge you," Chris promised.

"It's no one," Shepard said as he took a drink of his beer.

"Johnny, I know you well enough to know when you're nervous. Now, tell me – how did you get that mark?" Chris asked in a persistent tone.

"I–I dunno. It ain't a love bite, though," Shepard assured his father.

"Alright. I believe you," Chris said as he continued to watch his son carefully.

Shepard picked at his food for the next ten minutes, never really eating much, just taking a drink of beer from time to time.

"Johnny, eat," Chris insisted, noticing the unhealthy look in his son's appearance.

"I ain't really hungry," Shepard admitted.

"I know, but you gotta eat. Your mom told me about you not eating. She said it was always a problem when you were sick or upset," Chris explained.

"Mom was exaggerating," Shepard insisted.

"No. I don't think she was. She showed me pictures of you when you were little. She said they were taken around the time you had your first manic episode. You were so pale and thin."

"I forgot to eat sometimes," Shepard said, annoyed by his father's scrutiny. "We didn't exactly have a lot, so I got used to not eating much. Add mania to the mix, and food was the last thing on my mind. It wasn't a big deal then, and it isn't a big deal now."

"Your mom said you ended up in the hospital with a feeding tube. I don't want things to get that bad," Chris explained, causing Shepard to toss his fork onto his plate.

"I ain't sick! I just ain't hungry," Shepard yelled, growing angry at the memory but taking it out on his father. "I ain't gonna end up in the hospital."

"Johnny, you need to eat. You've barely eaten anything since Saturday. It's starting to show. You're losing weight, son," Chris said, hoping his son would listen.

"Dad, if I eat anymore, I swear to god, I'm gonna fucking puke. I ain't felt good all day, and all this arguing ain't helping," Shepard admitted as he slammed his hand down on the table, the glasses on the table shaking uncontrollably, causing the water to ripple and splash.

"Johnny, your nose – it's bleeding again," Chris said as he handed his son a napkin.

"Goddammit," Shepard cursed as he did his best to staunch the bleeding.

"That's it, get your coat. I'm taking you to the hospital," Chris insisted as he grabbed his coat.

"No, Dad. I'm okay," Shepard said, hoping his father would let it go.

"You're not getting out of this, Johnny. I'm taking you to the hospital," Chris demanded as Shepard rose from his seat, nearly passing out when he did. "Johnny!"

"I–I'm okay. I'm just dizzy," Shepard insisted as he leaned against his father for support.

"That's it! We're going right now," Chris said as he helped his son with his jacket.

"Dad, this is a waste of time," Shepard whined as his father led him to the car.

"Better safe than sorry," Chris said as he opened the passenger's side door for his son.

"It's just stress. There ain't nothin' they can do about it," Shepard explained.

"We'll see," Chris said as he fastened his seatbelt, doing the same for Shepard before starting the car and heading to the nearest hospital.

****☆****

LATER THAT NIGHT – THE EMERGENCY ROOM AT MERCY GENERAL HOSPITAL…  

After three hours of being poked and prodded for every test imaginable, Shepard was resting comfortably in his hospital bed, his father, Chris, watching over him as he slept. 

Everything was fine, right up until a nurse appeared with what looked like a unit of blood. 

Chris panicked.

"W–What are you doing? Is my son alright?" Chris asked as he watched the nurse closely.

"He's fine. His platelet count is very low. We need to get it within acceptable range. The hematologist will let you know everything once the lab results are in," the nurse explained as she started the transfusion.

Shepard stirred as the needle was placed in his vein. "W–What's going on?"

"They're giving you a unit of blood, or platelets – whatever. They're helping you," Chris replied as he gently stroked his son's long dark-blonde hair.

"I'm sick," Shepard asked in a confused tone.

"It looks that way. We'll know more when the lab results come in," Chris said, smiling to put his son at ease.

"I forgot to take my meds," Shepard said, bolting up in bed, nearly tearing the needle from his arm.

"Easy," the nurse scolded as she coaxed him back into a resting position. "We made sure you received your medication. You were a little groggy when you took it, so you probably don't remember."

"Oh – thank you, ma'am," Shepard said with a polite nod.

"Just doing my job," she said with a smile as she turned her attention to Chris. "I'll be back in about twenty minutes. Call me if he needs anything or if he shows any signs of a negative reaction."

"Of course," Chris said with an understanding nod as he watched the nurse exit the room.

"Did they say what's wrong with me?" Shepard asked nervously.

"No. They just said you were anemic and that they needed to run some tests. Haven't heard much since," Chris said as he brushed a lock of hair from his son's brow.

"I still feel nauseous," Shepard admitted.

"Yeah? Do you want me to call the nurse?" Chris asked, his brow furrowing in worry.

"Nah. It ain't that bad," Shepard assured him as his eyes started to flutter.

"Hey, don't fight sleep. If you're tired, then sleep," Chris said as he rubbed his son's hand.

"I wanna know if I passed the tests," Shepard said, his words becoming incoherent as he drifted off to sleep.

Chris smiled as he kissed his son's forehead.

****☆****

6 AM – THE NEXT MORNING… 

"Good morning," the hematologist called out, waking Chris from his sleep. "I'm Doctor Chloé Michel, the hematologist."

"Doctor," Chris said with a nod as he rose from the chair that had been his bed for the night. "Are the test results in?"

"They are, and we found some odd anomalies in his blood we couldn't explain. I'm sending the results to a colleague for review," the doctor explained with a thick French accent.

"W–What kind of anomalies? Is my son okay?" Chris asked anxiously.

"The anomalies don't appear to be life-threatening. We're just curious to see what they are. Aside from the anomalies, we think we have managed to pinpoint the current problem. Your stepson has a blood disorder, known as immune thrombocytopenic purpura or ITP for short," the doctor explained.

"And that's why he's been having those nosebleeds, and why he's been feeling so poorly lately," Chris asked, wanting to know everything he could about his son's health.

"Yes, I believe it is," the doctor nodded.

"Is i–it serious?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Not as serious as you'd expect," the doctor said with a smile. "It's quite manageable with treatment."

"And that consists of?" Chris asked, eager to hear the details.

"Weekly infusions, as well as daily oral medication. If he follows that regimen, he'll be fine," Doctor Michel assured them.

"What are side effects?" Shepard asked, dreading the reply.

"Well, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and fever are all common, as well as fatigue." 

"Seriously," Shepard said with a groan.

The doctor chuckled at the boy's response. "You won't have all of those side effects all of the time. In fact, you might not have any of them. It just depends on your system. If you frequently suffer from nausea, you are more likely to suffer it after an infusion," the doctor explained.

"I'm fucked," Shepard groaned as he rubbed his face with both hands.

"Yep," Chris agreed with a sympathetic look.

"You're also being placed on a vitamin regimen. You're a bit malnourished," the doctor explained.

"Yeah, he has a history of poor eating habits," Chris admitted, causing Shepard to pout.

"Anorexia nervosa?" 

"No, not that I know of. He just has a history of prolonged periods with no appetite," Chris explained.

"Hmm. Interesting," the doctor said as she made a note in Shepard's file. "I'll have my colleagues look into it. We'll start his first infusion soon. It'll take about 90 minutes or so. I'll have the nurse bring in some literature explaining the infusion process. I'll be back to check on him once the first treatment is complete."

"Thank you," Chris said, grateful for the woman's help.

"No problem. I'll see you soon, Johnny," Doctor Michel smiled as she exited the room.

"Did you have to tell her about me not eating?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"Johnny, you're malnourished. They knew something was wrong. And if it helps to get you better, I'll tell them anything they want to know," Chris insisted.

"I feel fine," Shepard pouted.

"No, apparently, you don't," Chris chuckled. "If you felt fine, you wouldn't be here."

"I guess," Shepard admitted. "I missed school today."

"I know. I'll get you a doctor's slip," Chris promised.

"So, I gotta come here once a week," Shepard asked anxiously.

"Looks that way, yeah," Chris nodded as he spoke.

"Dinner might be a little late on those days," Shepard said, only half-joking.

"I'll live," Chris chuckled, putting his son's mind at ease.

"This is gonna suck," Shepard groaned as his father squeezed his hand.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

THE ALENKO RESIDENCE…

"Did you notice Shepard wasn't at school today?" Kaidan asked as he took a bite of popcorn with Rahna curled up against him.

"No, I hadn't noticed. I don't have any classes with him. And I never see him anymore – not since he stopped eating with us," Rahna replied as she kissed her boyfriend's neck.

"That was his decision, not mine. He decided to leave the table," Kaidan said, his voice full of aggravation.

"Kaidan, you requested a seat change in art class to keep from sitting next to him. It's only natural for him to sit alone after that," Rahna reminded him as she gently nipped his neck.

"I guess. Do you think anything's wrong with him? Do you think he'd do anything stupid?" Kaidan asked, causing Rahna to roll her eyes in frustration.

"I don't know. I don't know him well enough to make assumptions," Rahna admitted as she continued to kiss her boyfriend's neck, trying her best to get him to drop the subject.

"It's not like I give a damn. He can do whatever he wants. He can go, jump off a building for all I care," Kaidan pouted as Rahna kissed his mouth.

"Yeah, I think it's time you let him go. Just put him out of your mind and focus on me," Rahna grinned as she took his hand, leading him up the stairs towards his spacious bedroom.


Before Kaidan knew it, Rahna had him lying on the bed, half-naked, while she straddled him – taking her time as she slowly kissed his chest.

"I'm going to make you feel so good, Kaidan," Rahna promised as she quickly removed her shirt, placing Kaidan's hand upon her lace-covered breast.

"You're beautiful," Kaidan smiled as he gently kneaded the tender flesh of her breast before slowly removing her bra.

Rahna gasped in pleasure as Kaidan took her delicate nipple into his mouth. "Mmm, that feels so good," Rahna praised as she began to palm him through his pants.

"Seriously, though – do you think Shepard's okay?" Kaidan asked as he suddenly stopped his ministrations.

"Are you fucking kidding me!?" Rahna called out in disbelief as she moved to collect her discarded shirt and bra. "Shepard, Shepard, Shepard – that's all I hear lately. It's like you're obsessed!"

"What are you talking about?" Kaidan asked, genuinely confused by her words. "It was one question."

"We were about to have sex, Kaidan! Did you really think it was the best time to ask about Shepard?" Rahna asked, angry at her boyfriend's lack of tact.

"I'm sorry! I can't help it. I'm worried about him, okay. I admit it. I'm allowed to be worried," Kaidan said defensively.

"Then call him, Kaidan. Call him and stop obsessing over him," Rahna said as she pulled her shirt over her head.

"I'm not obsessing over him! Today is the first time I've even mentioned him," Kaidan retorted.

"You don't even realize it, do you?" Rahna chuckled in disbelief. "He's all you talk about. Ever since the fight, it's Shepard this, and Shepard that – 'I can't believe Shepard kept that from me! Shepard betrayed my trust! He made me look like an idiot! I think Shepard's weird. Do you think Shepard's weird?' – shall I go on?" 

"Have I really been acting that way?" Kaidan asked, surprised by the revelation.

"Yes, you have. If you're that worried about him, then call him?" Rahna suggested.

"I'm not calling him. Like I said before – until he apologizes, he's dead to me," Kaidan said stubbornly.

"You just said you were worried about him," Rahna reminded her boyfriend, shaking her head as she spoke.

"I am, but he doesn't need to know that," Kaidan insisted.

"Kaidan, you're hopeless. Look, just do something to get him out of your system. Because I can't take another minute of hearing you talk about Shepard," Rahna warned as she turned to leave the room.

"Rahna, don't go," Kaidan pleaded as he held her from behind. "Stay."

"Why should I?" Rahna asked with a chuckle.

"Because I love you, and I promise not to mention Shepard anymore tonight," Kaidan promised as he kissed her neck gently.

"You just want to get laid," Rahna said with an amused laugh.

"Well, that too," Kaidan admitted with a laugh of his own.

"Okay, you win – but only because I want it just as bad as you," Rahna admitted as she kissed Kaidan deeply.

"I love it when you're horny," Kaidan chuckled as he led her back to the bed.

****☆****

8 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"So, are you feeling better than you did last night?" Chris asked as Shepard crawled into bed.

"Yeah. Just a bit tired," Shepard admitted with a yawn.

"I'll put your doctor's note in your backpack. Don't forget to take it to the office along with your infusion schedule. Without that schedule, they won't let you leave early," Chris reminded his son.

"I know. I won't forget," Shepard promised.

"Let me know if you need me," Chris said as he kissed his son's forehead.

"I will. Thanks, Dad," Shepard said as he closed his sapphire eyes.

"I love you, kid," Chris whispered as he closed the door behind him.


Shepard was sound asleep within minutes and remained that way until 3 AM… 

Shepard was awakened by a sudden knock at his bedroom door. Thinking it was his father, Shepard called for him to enter.

Shepard stared at the door in confusion as the slow and steady knocking continued.

"Chris? Is that you? You can come in if you want," Shepard insisted as the knocking persisted.

Thinking that his father may have been sleepwalking, Shepard rose from his bed and slowly made his way to the door.

"Dad," Shepard called out once more as he slowly turned the knob.

The second the door was opened, a cold chill went through Shepard's body. The sheer force of it made his chest seize, effectively bringing him to his knees.

'W–What's happening to me?' Shepard thought to himself as he struggled to breathe. "D–Dad—"

Shepard's words were pained and raspy and far too ragged to be heard by anyone else.

'I'm dying,' the boy thought, his sapphire-blue eyes wide with fear.


MEANWHILE… 

Chris was awakened by a gentle shake of his shoulder, a familiar voice whispering in his ear.

"Chris, you need to get up. Johnny needs you," the voice whispered, causing Chris to bolt upright in shock.

"Hannah!?" 

Chris could still smell the lingering scent of vanilla, coffee, and jasmine hanging in the air. A moment later, the door opened, and he heard Hannah's voice once more.

"My baby needs you."

The voice was nothing more than a faint whisper in his head, but it was enough to move him to action.

Within seconds, Chris was standing at the doorway to Shepard's room, terrified at what he found.

Shepard was ghostly pale, skin cold to the touch, lips blue as he struggled to breathe – one hand over his throat, and the other, over his heart. Chris could tell his son was in great pain, and it terrified him to no end. 

Not knowing what else to do, Chris began striking the boy on the back, trying to force out whatever was choking his son.

Eventually, pieces of what looked like ice mixed with blood flew from Shepard's mouth. With his chest free from the intrusion, Shepard began to cough violently – the blood still coming with every excruciating breath.

"Is this a side effect of the infusion?" Chris asked as he held his son close, rubbing his back as Shepard struggled to calm his breathing.

"I–I don't know. I–I don't think so," Shepard said, shaking his head as he spoke.

"I'm calling 911," Chris said as he moved to retrieve the phone.

"Don't," Shepard pleaded. "Whatever it was, it's passed now."

Chris stroked his son's hair as he took a good look at him. His lips were no longer blue, the boy's colour was beginning to return, and most importantly, his breathing had evened out.

"Are you sure you're alright?" Chris asked nervously.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded, his eyes becoming heavy as exhaustion overtook him. "Tired."

"Let's get you to bed," Chris whispered as he carefully lifted his son off the floor. "You're losing too much weight, kid. You should be heavier than this."

Chris sighed as he gently placed his son on the bed, wrapping him in the blankets as well as the red and black blanket Shepard's mother had once used to calm him. "He's safe now, baby."

"Sleep well, kid," Chris whispered as he reluctantly turned to leave, smiling as the scent that was ultimately Hannah lingered throughout the room.

****☆****

THE NEXT MORNING… 

"Good morning, son. How are you feeling? Did you manage to get some sleep?" Chris asked as he poured Shepard a cup of coffee.

Ignoring both his father and the coffee, Shepard made his way straight to the refrigerator. And before Chris could react, the young blonde had popped open a can of beer, drinking it straight down in a few short moments.

Shepard belched loudly before crushing the empty can and tossing it into the bin. "I really needed that."

"Johnny, what the fuck," Chris called out in disbelief. "You're supposed to ask before you drink."

"Well, if Johnny was here, I'm sure he would have, but he ain't, and I don't give a damn what you think," Shepard said in a cold, even tone that made Chris shiver.

"Fuck," Chris cursed under his breath. "How the hell do I handle this?"

"What's for breakfast? I'm fucking starving," the boy asked as he plopped himself down in the nearest seat.

"Cereal. I don't have time to cook. Here, drink this," Chris instructed as he placed the hot cup of coffee on the table before him.

"I'm not really a coffee guy. Sorry," Shepard said as he pushed the cup away.

"Well, Johnny has school today, and he really doesn't need your beer breath. So, drink – the – damn – coffee," Chris demanded, pushing the cup back towards the boy.

"I don't fucking like it," Shepard growled as he pushed the coffee back.

Chris sighed. "I really don't have time for this. Johnny, if you're in there, you need to come back before this jackass gets you in trouble."

Shepard laughed at Chris's words. "Johnny's tired. I don't think he'll be around too much today. He's weak, you know. Sick inside – it's eating away at him, but you already knew that."

"What do you mean, he's sick inside? Is something wrong with Johnny?" Chris asked anxiously.

"Of course, something's wrong with him! You don't need to be a genius to see that," Shepard laughed, shaking his head in amusement.

Chris rolled his eyes at the boy. "I meant physically. Is he physically sick?"

Shepard's grin faded. "If he's not, he will be. It won't leave him until he's dead."

"What won't leave him? You're not making very much sense," Chris said, the frustration obvious in his tone.

"You feel it. You know it's here. It's pushing him to awaken, but it's far too soon for that. His body isn't ready yet," Shepard said, his tone serious and dark.

"Right. Did Johnny take his meds before you took over?" Chris asked, wanting nothing more than to make this alter-ego disappear.

"You dismiss it, but you can't deny it forever."

"Answer me. Did Johnny take his meds?" Chris said, his voice sounding more demanding than before.

"How the fuck should I know?" Shepard replied with a shrug.

"Goddammit. You, stay right there. I'll be right back," Chris instructed as he made his way to Shepard's room.


Taking the time to count the contents of each bottle, he knew for certain – Shepard had not taken the medication.

Chris collected the dose along with his son's new medication and made his way back to the kitchen.

"Okay, whoever you are, you need to take these – right now," Chris called out, his eyes going wide when he faced an empty kitchen.

"Shit!" Chris cursed as he rushed outside to find his son.


Chris made it halfway down the street when he caught sight of his son beating the hell out of a local kid.

"Johnny! Johnny, stop," Chris pleaded as he pulled his son off the other boy.

"He's fucking crazy! He needs to be put down before he kills somebody else," the boy called out, wiping the blood from his split lip.

"You'll learn not to spit on me, you fucking cunt," Shepard growled, still fighting to free himself from Chris's grip.

"Is that true? Did you spit on my boy?" Chris asked, his tone filled with anger.

"He fucking deserved it," the boy replied as he spit once more in Shepard's direction, causing the blue-eyed blonde to struggle even harder to escape.

"You, get the hell outta here before I change my mind and let him kick your ass," Chris threatened as the boy ran quickly down the street.

Once the boy was gone, Chris held his son tight until he finally stopped struggling. Chris guided him to the ground, and while holding his son tight to his chest, he waited patiently for any sign of the real Shepard.

Shepard struggled and grunted as he tried to break free of his father.

Chris watched as his son's face changed between a plethora of emotions. He would go from irritated to smiling, to a look of sheer pain, then like the flip of a switch, Shepard's body slumped, going completely still as his breathing began to calm.

Once he had calmed enough, Chris coaxed him into taking his medication. 

"I know they're bitter. We'll get you some water in a minute. Just, please try to take these," Chris pleaded as he placed the medication on the boy's tongue.

Shepard struggled a bit, but he finally swallowed them all.

"W–What happened?" Shepard mumbled, his entire body feeling heavy.

"You had an episode. Come on, let's get you home." 

"I gotta get to school," Shepard reminded his father as he steadied himself.

"Are you sure you feel like going? Your alter was pretty aggressive. I know that takes a lot out of you," Chris said as he stuffed his hands in his jean pockets.

Shepard sighed. "What did I do?"

"You didn't do anything, but he – sort of – punched one of the local boys," Chris explained.

"How bad was it?" 

"Not bad – just a busted lip," Chris said with a shrug.

"Why did he do it?" Shepard asked as he rubbed his shoulder nervously.

"The little bastard spit on you," Chris said as he kicked a stray pebble.

"Hn. I can't really miss another day of school. I think I'll be okay. So, can I go on to school?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"Yeah, but if anyone asks, you went straight to school. Don't admit to punching that little bastard. You don't need the hassle," Chris insisted.

"O–Okay," Shepard said as he turned towards the direction of the school.

"Johnny, you need your backpack. Come on. We'll get your pack, and I'll drop you off at school on my way to work," Chris suggested as he motioned for his son to follow.

****☆****

"You go on to class. I'll take your doctor's note to the office," Chris insisted as he unbuckled his seatbelt.

"You don't have to do that. I know you're running late," Shepard said, looking at his hands as he spoke.

"I don't mind. I need to explain your infusion schedule to them anyway. I think they'll be more understanding with me," Chris explained.

"O–Okay. I'll see you after work, I guess."

"Yep. Be good," Chris said with a smile.

"I will," Shepard smiled as he made his way to class.

Chris watched him until he was out of sight before heading towards the office.


"Yeah, can you help me?" Chris asked the young girl currently watching the front desk.

"I'll certainly try," Rahna said with a smile. "What do you need?"

"I have a doctor's note for my son and was wondering who I should take it to," Chris inquired with a friendly smile.

"I can file it for you. All I have to do is scan it and put the information into the computer. It should only take a second," Rahna explained as she took the note from Chris's hand and placed it in the scanner. 

"I'll need your son's name," Rahna informed the man.

"It's Shepard. John Devon Shepard," Chris replied as he tapped his fingers on the desk.

Rahna rubbed her neck nervously, and Chris immediately caught her unease.

"Umm. He's a junior, correct," Rahna asked, knowing the answer.

"That's right," Chris answered simply.

"It's on file. If a teacher should give him any trouble, just have him report it to the office, and someone will take care of it," Rahna explained.

"Thank you. Who do I see about a scheduling problem?" Chris asked, his voice growing just a touch harsher than it had been.

"Uh, that would be the principal – Mr. Donnel Udina. He's in his office if you'd like to speak with him," Rahna explained.

"I would. Thank you," Chris said, nodding as he spoke.

"Follow me," Rahna instructed as she led Chris to the office directly behind the desk.


"Yes, Miss Kaplan," Udina called out with an odd British-like accent that Chris couldn't quite place.

"This is John Shepard's father. He would like to speak with you regarding a scheduling issue," Rahna explained nervously.

"I see. You may go now, Miss Kaplan," Udina insisted.

"Sir," Rahna gave a polite bow as she exited the room.

"Shepard, huh," Udina replied with a sigh. "I would be a happy man if I never heard that name again. Sit, and tell me what the issue is."

"You talk like my boy's a troublemaker, but as far as I know, he hasn't caused any problems. Unless there's something you want to tell me," Chris said, curious to hear the reply.

"Shepard doesn't have to cause problems – his very existence here does that," Udina insisted.

"I'm sorry my boy's existence bothers you so much," Chris said in an angry tone.

"His existence doesn't bother me – it bothers the students. They aren't too keen on having someone with his history being so close to them. And I, for one, can't blame them. They don't feel safe around him, and with good reason. In fact, I'm hoping you're here to transfer him to another school," Udina said, wasting no time in telling Chris how he felt about his son.

"Well, I'd hate to disappoint you, but my boy's staying right here. In fact, I'm here today to make sure he doesn't fall behind," Chris replied, his disgust for the man coming through in the tone of his voice. 

"Oh, we don't take bribes here," Udina said, a wicked grin on his face. "In fact, we reserve the right to expel any student who attempts it."

Chris laughed, shaking his head in amusement as he spoke, "Don't get your hopes up, old man. I have a paper for you. It's from Johnny's hematologist."

Udina took the paper, reading over it thoroughly. "So, am I to understand that you are requesting that Shepard be dismissed early every Friday in order to seek medical treatment?"

"That's right. In order to make his appointment, Johnny will have to leave at noon. It's non-negotiable. My son has to have the infusions, so you have no choice but to allow him to leave," Chris explained, a smug grin blossoming on his face.

"I'm not sure I can allow this – there are steps that must be taken," Udina complained, trying to find a way to deny the request.

"Cut the bullshit! My boy has a medical condition, and I've brought you proof of that condition as well as a documented letter stating the importance of this treatment. Now, give my boy the pass, or I'll sue your ass from here to kingdom come," Chris insisted.

Udina cleared his throat as he opened his desk drawer to retrieve a small card. Once he had filled in the proper information, he stamped the card with a seal and handed it to Chris.

"Here, Mr. Shepard, the pass you requested," Udina said as he begrudgingly handed the card to Chris.

"Thank you. And my name is Mr. Scott, Chris Scott. Johnny is my stepson," Chris corrected as he put the card in his wallet. "You would have known that if you knew anything at all about my kid. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm running late for work."

"Mr. Scott," Udina said with a curt nod as he saw the man out.

****☆****

"Scott, where the hell have you been?" Chris's supervisor called out in an irritated voice. "You're late."

"Yeah. I'm sorry about that. My kid was sick, and I had to take his medical paperwork to the school. It won't happen again," Chris assured the man as he started his usual routine.

"I'm gonna have to dock you a day's wages," the man explained, an apologetic tone to his voice.

"Do you really have to do that? I already missed one day this week, and I'm only an hour late. Isn't there anything you can do that doesn't involve docking me for a full day?" Chris asked anxiously.

"Chris, I know how difficult things are for you since that kid got out, but there's not much I can do. I'm sorry," the man said as he went on about his business.

"Fuck!" Chris cursed as he continued working.

"You need to make that lazy kid get off his ass and work a little," Chris's co-worker suggested.

"Johnny tries. He really does. You don't know him, so, please, don't talk that way about him," Chris said, defending his son.

"Alright, whatever you say. It was just a suggestion," his co-worker said, lifting his hands in apology.

"I know," Chris mumbled as he tried his best to concentrate on his work. "I hope Johnny's day goes better than mine."

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

The rest of the week went by quickly, and before Shepard knew it, it was Friday.

"Class, in a few weeks, you'll be pairing off for a joint project. The project will count as your semester midterm. The subject matter must be agreed upon by both partners. So, think about who you wish to work with, and remember to choose wisely. The midterm is a large part of your final grade for the semester." Benezia explained with a smile, hoping there would be no fighting over partners. 

Once she had finished explaining, the bell rang, signalling the end of class.

"Have a great weekend, everyone. John, may I speak with you," Benezia called out, making Shepard anxious.

"Yes, ma'am," Shepard said as he sat back down at his desk.

"Are you feeling well? You've been quite tired this past week. I think I saw you sleeping earlier. I chose not to say anything because your work has always been presented on time and of exceptional quality. However, I can't keep ignoring it. If you aren't well, you need to let me know," Benezia said, her voice strict yet understanding.

"I–I'm fine. I haven't been sleeping well. I'll try to get more rest. I promise not to fall asleep anymore in class," Shepard replied nervously.

"John, if something is bothering you—"

"Nothing's bothering me," Shepard said, hoping she would drop it.

Benezia sighed. "Alright. I've taken enough of your time. You may go."

"Um, Ms. T'Soni," Shepard called out just before he got to the door. 

"Yes, John."

"Can I, maybe, do the partnership assignment on my own?" Shepard asked, rubbing his shoulder nervously.

"Why are you asking?"

"It's just— Nobody's gonna want to be my partner anyway. So, I figured I could just do it on my own," Shepard explained truthfully.

"John, I'm sorry, but the answer is no. This assignment is required to build crucial cooperation skills. It's mandatory, and there's nothing I can do to change it," Benezia informed him, a sympathetic look on her face.

"W–What if I can't find a partner," Shepard asked anxiously.

"I'll make sure you have a partner, don't worry," Benezia insisted.

"I–I don't wanna be forced on nobody. That never ends well," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"You'll be fine, John. Everything will work out. You'll see," Benezia encouraged him with a smile.

"O–Okay," Shepard nodded as he left the room.

****☆****

"Where's Shepard going?" Kaidan asked curiously as he took a bite of his carrot stick.

"He has to have some kind of medical procedure once a week," Rahna explained as she ate her lunch.

"What kind of procedure?" Kaidan asked, his brow furrowing.

"I don't know. I never saw the forms. I just know he has a pass to leave early on Fridays," Rahna said with a shrug.

"Why do you even care?" Jack asked as she threw a grape at Joker's head. "You don't even acknowledge his existence anymore."

"She has a point," Garrus agreed with a nod.

"That doesn't mean I want him to be sick," Kaidan snapped.

"Kaidan, we all love you, but no one cares whether he's sick or not. I know it sounds cold, but if he really is sick, it's just karma for what he did," Ashley said in the straightforward tone she was known for.

"Maybe," Kaidan mumbled as he struggled to finish his lunch.

****☆****

1:15 PM – THE INFUSION CLINIC AT MERCY GENERAL HOSPITAL… 

"Hi, I'm here to have an infusion. I have an appointment for every Friday," Shepard explained, his voice low and quiet.

"Full name, please," the receptionist asked with a smile.

"John Devon Shepard."

"Age sixteen. Birthdate: April the 11th?"

"That's right," Shepard said with a nod.

"Are your parents with you today?" The receptionist asked as she pulled up his information on the computer. 

"No. My stepdad works and won't be able to accompany me. I–Is that a problem?" Shepard asked, beginning to panic a bit.

"No. It just means you'll have to stay a bit longer to ensure there are no side effects," the receptionist explained.

"Oh. W–Will I have to stay longer every time or just today?"

"Every time. Since you'll be a frequent visitor, I'll make a badge for you. It'll speed up the check-in process. Hand me your wrist," the receptionist instructed.

"Which one?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"Either one," the receptionist smiled as Shepard extended his left hand.

The receptionist froze a bit as she noticed the jagged silvery marks just above the boy's wrist.

"I–Is something wrong?" Shepard asked, his brow furrowing.

"N–No, nothing. There you go," the receptionist smiled as she placed the hospital band around his wrist. "You can go on back. They'll call you when they're ready for you."

"Okay. Thanks," Shepard said as he made his way to the waiting room.


Shepard had barely taken a seat when they called his name. He followed the nurse quietly, and before he knew it, he was all set up awaiting his infusion.

Once the needle was inserted, all Shepard had to do was sit and wait.

"I thought it would be red, like blood," Shepard thought aloud as he looked at the orange-like liquid dripping into his veins.

The nurse laughed warmly. "No. The platelets are orange, sort of like orange juice."

"What's the clear bag for?" Shepard asked curiously.

"That's medication. It's a slower drip and takes the longest to finish," the nurse explained.

"O–Oh. I–I didn't know," Shepard said, fidgeting restlessly as he spoke.

"You should bring something to occupy you next time," the nurse said with a smile. "These infusions can seem like they're taking forever."

"O–Okay. Do you mind if I close my eyes for a bit? I'm a bit tired," Shepard admitted.

"Sure. Go ahead and take a nap. I'll wake you when it's over," the nurse said as she checked the drip rate of the infusion.

"Thank you," Shepard whispered as he closed his eyes.


TWO HOURS LATER… 

"Johnny," the nurse whispered as she gently nudged the boy awake. "It's time to wake up."

"Hn. Is it over," Shepard asked as he wiped the sleep from his eyes.

"Yep. All we have to do now is observe you for a little while," the nurse explained as she checked his vitals. "Is there any pain at the injection site?"

"No."

"Since you'll be a repeat customer, the doctor might want you to have a PICC line," the nurse explained.

"What's that?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"It's just a precaution. It keeps your veins from collapsing. It's basically a small plastic tube that's inserted into your vein. We'll remove it once your treatment is over," the nurse explained, hoping she hadn't spooked the boy.

"Does it hurt?" Shepard asked nervously.

"No. You won't feel a thing. If the doctor orders one, you'll be called in sometime next week."

"Okay. Thanks for e–explaining it to me," Shepard said with a smile.

"No problem. I'll be back in a few minutes to check on you. If everything looks good, you can go home," the nurse promised as she took her leave.

"Well, this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Shepard thought aloud as he played with the hem of his t-shirt. "Boring as hell, though."

Twenty minutes later, Shepard was on his way home.

****☆****

LATER THAT NIGHT… 

"Dad, I'm home," Shepard called out, only to be pushed violently against the front door.

"Where the hell have you been?" Chris yelled, his breath reeking of liquor.

"Are you drinking?" Shepard asked, receiving a rough slap for his trouble.

"Don't you fucking start with me! Where the fuck were you?" Chris asked, demanding an answer.

"I–I'm sorry," Shepard said as Chris struck him once more.

"Answer the goddamn question and quit stalling," Chris insisted.

"I–I was at the hospital. They had to keep me longer than expected. It'll be like this until the treatments are finished," Shepard explained, hoping his father would understand.

"You better not be lying to me," Chris warned as he let go of his son, straightening the boy's wrinkled clothes.

"I–Is everything okay," Shepard asked nervously.

"Just— Just get to bed. I don't wanna deal with you tonight," Chris said as he grabbed a half-empty bottle of whisky from the table, and staggered to his bedroom.

Shepard watched as his father disappeared behind the door. Once he was gone, Shepard put his pack on the couch before quietly moving towards the kitchen.


After making himself a sandwich, he sat down at the kitchen table to eat. He was just about to take a bite of his sandwich when he noticed a past-due notice lying on the table just to the left of his plate.

Without saying a word, Shepard carefully read the notice. "That's why he's drinking," Shepard whispered to himself. "They're gonna turn off the power if we don't come up with $250."

Shepard sighed as he tried to think of a way to raise the money. He mulled it over in his head while he ate, and once he was finished, he made up his mind.

Once he collected his hoodie from his bedroom, he looked in on his father, who was passed out on the bed.

"He won't even know I'm gone," Shepard smiled as he slowly shut the door before making his way out of the house.

****☆****

10 PM – THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT… 

Shepard stood outside the seedy bar, waiting nervously for someone to take an interest in him. It wasn't the most noble way to raise money, but if his mother could do it, then he could too.

"Calm down, Shepard. You can do this. You have to do this," Shepard whispered to himself as he fought the bile rising in his throat.

Shepard was just about to give up when a tall man with dark hair, a well-trimmed goatee, and dark-blue eyes approached him.

"Well, well. What brings a good-looking kid like you to a place like this?" The man asked with a crooked grin as he lit himself a cigarette.

"Didn't have anything better to do," Shepard replied with a shrug.

"Want a smoke?" The man offered as Shepard slowly took one, his hand shaking slightly as the man held a light for him.

"T–Thanks," Shepard mumbled as he took a long drag, hoping the nicotine would calm him down.

"How old are you, boy?" The man asked, amused by the shaking of Shepard's hand as he flicked the ash from his cigarette.

"Eighteen," Shepard lied.

"Hn. You look eighteen, but your hand gave you away. So, how old are you, really?" The man asked once again with a smile.

"Sixteen," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Hn. Are you waiting for someone?" The man asked, trying to start up a conversation with the beautiful blue-eyed teen.

"Not really. You?" Shepard asked, taking another deep drag.

"No. I just thought I'd have a few drinks after work. Maybe find myself a little company for the night," the man said as he leaned in and brushed his fingers against the boy's cheek.

"I can help you with that, but it won't be free," Shepard warned, causing the man to raise his brow.

"I can live with that. How much?" The man asked curiously. "I'll pay more if you're a virgin."

"Sorry, but that ship sailed a long time ago," Shepard said in a sour tone.

"I'm sorry to hear that," the man said in a surprisingly understanding tone. "No one should have to go through that."

"How did you—" Shepard's words were cut off by the man.

"Your tone and the look in your eyes – it speaks volumes. Is that why you do this? Is that why you sell yourself?"

"I–I need the money, alright. And if you're gonna judge me, then you can just forget it," Shepard informed the man, his tone defensive.

The man laughed loudly, amused by Shepard's spark. "Calm down. I'm not judging you. In fact, I have no problem with paying you. Forget I said anything."

"Alright," Shepard said as he blew smoke out of his nose. "What can I do for you?"

"That depends. What services do you offer?" The man asked as he touched the boy's face once more.

Shepard shrugged. "I'll do pretty much anything – except S&M. I don't like being bound or gagged. And no hitting me. That shit triggers me. You can pull my hair if you want – I don't mind that," Shepard explained.

"You know, it was thoughtful of you to tell me your triggers. I would hate to have you go off on me in the middle of sex," the man said in amusement.

"I ain't even kidding. I hate that shit," Shepard warned. "If you're looking for somebody to abuse, you can keep looking."

"That's not what I'm looking for. I do, however, enjoy rough sex – the harder, the better. Is that a problem?" The man asked seriously.

"Nope, that's fine," Shepard agreed.

"Do you suck cock?" The man asked crudely.

"Uh-huh," Shepard said with a nod. "I'm pretty good at it."

"I guess we'll see," the man said as he touched Shepard's mouth, rubbing his thumb gently over his full bottom lip. "You have a beautiful mouth. Do you mind if I kiss you, or is kissing off-limits?"

"You can kiss me. I don't mind," Shepard shrugged as the man leaned in and kissed the boy gently before deepening the kiss.

"Mmm. You taste good. I think It's time we talked about price," the man said with a pleased grin on his face.

"For $300, you can have me for the night. I'll do whatever you want as long as you ain't abusive," Shepard promised, his sapphire-blue eyes hiding a tinge of fear that the man caught immediately.

"Relax, kid. I'm not going to hurt you. I just wanna fuck you," the man admitted.

"We have a deal then," Shepard asked nervously.

"Yep. $300 for a beauty like you – it's a steal," the man said with a grin as he licked his lips in anticipation.

"Show me the money first," Shepard insisted.

"Smart kid," the man chuckled as he handed the money to Shepard.

"Where do you want to do this?" Shepard asked as he pocketed the money.

"My apartment is just down the street. We can go there if you'd like," the man offered.

"Sounds good," Shepard said as he followed the man to their chosen destination.

****☆****

Once they were inside the apartment, the man wasted no time, leading the young blonde directly to the bedroom.

The man immediately began unbuttoning his shirt as he closed the bedroom door behind them. "You really are a beautiful young man. You could be a model."

Shepard couldn't help but grin in amusement. "Nah. I got too many scars for that."

"Really? I hadn't noticed," the man said as he loosened his belt. "Would you like to start now?"

Shepard turned his gaze to the man, who was now removing his belt. "S–Sure."

"Are you sure you aren't a virgin?" The man asked once more, noticing the nervous look in the boy's sapphire-blue eyes.

"Positive. I just ain't never done it for money. I don't want to fuck it up," Shepard admitted truthfully. 

"We can take it as slow or as fast as you want. You can set the pace. We have all night, after all," the man reminded the young blonde as he kissed him, letting his tongue thoroughly explore the hot cavern of Shepard's mouth.

"Do you mind if I play some music?" Shepard asked, hoping the man would allow it.

"If you'd like," the man agreed, amused by the request.

Shepard took his phone out and immediately turned on one of his playlists. Within seconds, dark, pulsating rhythms began flooding the room.

"Ah, you like things dark, I see. Nevertheless, good choice," the man praised, causing Shepard to grin as he pulled the man closer, kissing him deeply before moving to kiss the man's neck.

"Mmm. I like the effect music has on you," the man hummed in approval as Shepard fell to his knees before him.

Shepard gently rubbed the man through his slacks, gently mouthing the fabric before pulling them down along with the man's underwear. Successfully freeing the man's erection.

Shepard made sure to maintain eye contact as he kissed the man's erection, being sure to lick and tease the entire length before taking the head into his mouth.

"Mmm. You are good at this," the man praised as Shepard began to earn his money. 

It didn't take long before Shepard had the man on the verge of cumming. The sight of Shepard sticking out his tongue to catch the man's precum as it steadily flowed was nearly enough to send the man over the edge.

Knowing he wouldn't last much longer, he had Shepard stand, kissing the young blonde just to taste himself on the boy's tongue.

"I want you to strip for me," the man ordered as Shepard slowly took off his hoodie, followed by his shoes, socks, and t-shirt. Shepard was just about to unbutton his jeans when he was suddenly interrupted.

"Where did you get those scars?" The man asked, his tone curiously sad as he noticed the silvery lines on his arms, as well as the faint scars and burn marks that littered his chest.

"Umm, d–do they bother you?" Shepard asked, afraid that the man would back out.

"No. Were they self-inflicted?" The man asked curiously.

"N–No, not all of them anyway," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Come here," the man instructed, motioning the boy closer.

Shepard did as he was told, allowing the man to pull him into his lap.

"You are so very beautiful," the man whispered as he nuzzled Shepard's hair. "Just let me look at you for a while."

Shepard gave the man a strange look but allowed him his wish.

"I want to see all of you now," the man whispered as he encouraged Shepard to stand.

Shepard slowly unbuttoned his jeans before removing them along with his underwear, leaving him totally naked under the man's scrutiny.

"Perfect," the man smiled as he steadily stroked himself. "Come closer."

Once Shepard was close enough, the man did something quite unexpected – he took Shepard into his mouth, causing the teen to gasp in surprise.

Shepard closed his eyes, trying his best not to make a sound as the man continued his ministrations.

Shepard was close when the man suddenly stopped.

"Such a sweet taste. I almost feel a buzz coming on. Lie back on the bed," the man instructed as Shepard did as he was told.

He was surprisingly gentle as he took his time preparing the young blonde for what was to come.

"I–I have a condom in my wallet," Shepard said in a nervous voice that made the man smile.

"I've got it covered," the man assured him as he tore open one of his own.

Shepard concentrated on the music playing – letting his mind wander a bit.

"Are you ready?" The man asked as he prepared to penetrate Shepard's young body.

Shepard just nodded, gripping the sheets as the man slowly entered him.

"You're so unbelievably tight. Are you sure you're not a virgin?" The man asked, grunting as he continued to push into the willing body.

Shepard grunted a bit as the pain hit him, but he soon put it out of his mind.

Once the man was fully seated inside the blue-eyed teen, he gave Shepard a few minutes to adjust. "You feel so good – like you were meant to take my cock."

Shepard said nothing; he just wrapped his long legs around the man, encouraging the man to move without saying a word.

The man took the hint and began moving at a slow but steady pace. He took his time trying to find the exact angle to elicit a response from the boy beneath him.

Once he found that spot, Shepard let out an involuntary moan as his legs gripped the man tighter. Taking that as a hint, the man began to pick up the pace, and soon he was fucking the young blonde mercilessly – hard and fast just like he said he liked it.

"Tell me you like it," the man instructed as he continued to thrust into the young body.

"I–I like it," Shepard said, hoping the man would hurry and finish. "It feels good."

"Beg me to fuck you," the man ordered as he pulled out, leaving only the tip in.

"Fuck me. Please, fuck me," Shepard replied, his words hollow and doll-like.

"Good boy," the man praised as he thrust back in, harder than before, setting a punishing pace.

"S–Slow down," Shepard pleaded.

"Hush now. I'm nearly there," the man grunted out as he wrapped his hands around Shepard's neck, just hard enough to bruise.

Shepard squirmed beneath the man, trying his best to break free of the man's grip. "C–Can't breathe," Shepard called out, his words barely a whisper.

'He's gonna kill me,' Shepard thought to himself as he finally gave up fighting, letting his body go still as the man continued to use him.

Mercifully, the man didn't last long after, cumming hard before slumping against Shepard's used body.

Once his hands left Shepard's throat, the boy sat upright and began to cough as he gasped desperately for air.

"Are you okay, kid?" The man asked as he placed a hand on the boy's back, causing Shepard to flinch at the unwanted contact.

"W–Why did you do that?" Shepard asked, angry that the man had violated their agreement.

"I got carried away," the man admitted. "It won't happen again."

"I–I should go," Shepard said as he moved to collect his things.

"Don't be like that," the man said with a grin. "I promise it won't happen again."

"I–I really need to go," Shepard insisted.

Shepard was just about to get dressed when he was suddenly thrown onto the bed, the man pinning him face down.

"We had a deal. You agreed to stay the night, and that's just what you're going to do. I paid good money for you. If you don't want to be treated like a whore, then stop being one," the man yelled in anger as he twisted the boy's arm behind his back.

"You're hurting my arm. P-Please, stop," Shepard pleaded, his voice small and timid. "I-I'll stay. Just don't hurt me."

The man's expression changed from anger to confusion as he loosened his grip on the boy. "We have a deal. You won't fight me."

"I–I won't. We have a deal," Shepard admitted.

"I'm going to fuck you now. And I want you to beg me for it. I want you to tell me how much you love being fucked by my cock – tell me how much you love being a whore. Then you're going to beg me to cum inside you," the man ordered, steadily stroking himself as he spoke. "Am I understood?"

"Please don't cum in me," Shepard pleaded, his voice still small and broken.

"I said, am I understood?"

"Y–Yes," Shepard replied, allowing his body to remain prone as the man climbed atop him.

Shepard lost track of time, allowing his mind to wander as he put his body on autopilot, following every command he was given – like the perfect plaything he was paid to be.


Early that morning, Shepard woke up next to the man whose name he'd never bothered to learn – his body feeling sore and well-used as he quietly got out of bed. Quickly gathering his clothes and phone, Shepard made his way out of the bedroom, stealing a lighter and a pack of cigarettes from the nightstand as he left.

Shepard scrambled to put on his clothes as he made his way towards the apartment exit, settling for underwear and jeans – the rest he could put on later. 


Once he was safe outside the apartment, he finished getting dressed, making sure the money was safe in his pocket before lighting up a cigarette and taking a long draw.

With a shaky hand, he flicked the ash while thinking of his mother and all the hell she had endured every day just to make sure they had enough to eat. And while he respected her for her strength to endure it, it tore his heart out.

"You should've given me up, Mom," Shepard thought aloud, a lone tear streaming down his cheek. "I wasn't worth it. You deserved so much better."

Once he was finished with his cigarette, Shepard shoved his hands in his pockets and headed home.

****☆****

10 AM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Where have you been? Were you out all night?" Chris asked as he immediately took his son's face in his hands, a look of worry in his eyes.

"I–I was helping some old guy clean out his shed," Shepard lied. 

"And you expect me to believe it took all night," Chris said in disbelief.

"I left early this morning before you woke up. He paid me. Here, take it," Shepard insisted as he handed Chris the money.

"Johnny, there's $300 here," Chris said, his voice full of shock. "How'd you get this? The truth this time, Johnny."

"I–I am telling you the truth. I'm supposed to help him with his garage too. It's not just for one job," Shepard lied, hoping his father would believe him.

"What's the man's name?" Chris asked, knowing deep in his gut that his son was lying.

"I–I dunno. I didn't ask," Shepard said, his anxiety growing with each passing minute.

"Johnny," Chris shook his head at his son.

"I didn't steal it. I got it doing odd jobs. I can take you to the old guy's house if you want," Shepard offered, hoping his father wouldn't call his bluff.

Chris studied his son carefully before giving in. "Okay. I believe you. Here, you earned it."

"No," Shepard insisted as he refused the money. "I need to start helping out more."

"Come here," Chris hugged his son tight. "I love you, kid."

Shepard smiled as his father kissed his forehead.

Chris's smile faded as he saw the faint bruises on Shepard's neck. "Johnny, what happened?"

"Huh?" Shepard's brow furrowed in confusion.

"Did you get in a fight?" Chris asked as he examined the bruises more closely.

"N–No," Shepard answered truthfully.

"Son, your throat is all bruised.  It looks like somebody tried to choke you," Chris explained, causing Shepard to touch the bruises.

"I–I don't know what happened," Shepard lied. "It wasn't there this morning."

"Johnny, did you have another blackout?" Chris asked, his eyes searching Shepard's for the truth.

"No. I don't think so," Shepard said, shaking his head for emphasis.

"We should take you to the emergency room. You might be having a bleeding episode. They said that could happen," Chris said, his brow furrowing in concern.

"I feel fine, Dad. I'll be okay," Shepard insisted. "If I start feeling bad, I'll let you know."

"You promise?" 

"I promise," Shepard said with a smile.

"Okay. Well, I'm going to the bank to deposit this before I lose it," Chris said with a smile. "Do you wanna come with me?"

"Nah. I'm gonna get a head start on my homework," Shepard replied with a grin.

"Okay. I'm proud of you, Johnny," Chris smiled as he made his way to the car.

Shepard's smile faded as he watched his father pull out of the drive, heading straight to the washroom for a much–needed shower.

If he only knew the truth.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"I should be home around eight tonight. Do you think you'll have dinner ready by then?" Chris asked as he handed his son a cup of coffee.

"I should. Unless something goes wrong with my infusion," Shepard assured his father.

"If anything goes wrong, you call me immediately," Chris insisted.

"I will. Everything should be fine, though," Shepard said as he scratched his left arm.

"Don't be scratching there," Chris scolded, shaking his head at the boy. "You'll get an infection; then you'll really be screwed.

"I can't help it. It itches sometimes," Shepard said as he scratched around the bandage on his arm.

"It's healing; it's supposed to itch. Watch how you move. Those dangling tubes can get caught on stuff. I don't want you pulling them out," Chris said in a worried tone.

"They're called ports, and I'll be careful," Shepard promised as he gathered his things for school.

"That bruise on your neck – did you ever figure out how you got it?" Chris asked curiously.

"Nope, never did," Shepard lied.

"You should tell the doctor. Maybe have him check you out," Chris insisted.

"It's all healed now," Shepard said with a shrug.

"Johnny, please – have him take a look at you," Chris pleaded. "Do it for me."

Shepard sighed. "Okay. I'll ask him to examine me."

"That's my boy. Be good today," Chris said as he walked his son to the door.

"I will. Love you," Shepard called out as he started down the drive. "I'll see you later, Daddy."

"Love you too, Johnny."

****☆****

"What's that thing on your arm?" Garrus asked bluntly.

"Huh?" 

"That weird dangling thing on your arm," Garrus elaborated, pointing for emphasis.

"Oh. It's a PICC line. I needed one for my medication," Shepard explained.

"How sick are you?" Garrus asked, genuinely concerned for his classmate.

"I— It ain't bad," Shepard said with a shrug as he continued to sketch.

"Doesn't that annoy you? I mean, it looks downright painful." Garrus said with a grimace.

"You get used to it. It's been itching like a motherfucker today, though," Shepard admitted.

"Exactly what's wrong with you?" Garrus asked as he took a glance at Shepard's work. 

"Umm. I–I got a blood disorder," Shepard stated simply. "Goddammit. Do you have something to write with? I'm out of lead."

"Sure. It's a pen. I hope black ink's okay," Garrus said as he handed Shepard the pen.

"It's fine. Thanks," Shepard said with a grateful nod.

"Is it a serious disorder?" Garrus asked curiously.

"No. That's what the t-treatments are for, so it won't get serious," Shepard explained, growing anxious by all of the questions.

RING—

"Thank god," Shepard mumbled as he gathered his things.

"Remember, class. Your joint projects will begin on Monday. So, be thinking about who you want as a partner and what your subject will be. Now, have a nice lunch and a wonderful weekend," Benezia smiled as she dismissed her class.

"Umm. Garrus—" Shepard was about to speak when he was cut off by James.

"Yo, Scars, I got a killer idea for our project," James called out, his face beaming with pride.

Shepard's heart sank. 'I guess Garrus already has a partner.'

"Uh-huh." Garrus rolled his eyes at his overzealous friend. "It better not be a girly calendar. I don't think Ms. T'Soni would appreciate that."

"It's a good idea!" James argued with a pout.

"We'll talk about it later, Jimmy. Shepard, did you need me for something?" Garrus asked with a smile.

"Uh, n–no," Shepard said with a half-smile. "I was just gonna return y-your pen," Shepard lied.

"You can keep it," Garrus insisted as he and James went on their way.

"Thanks," Shepard mumbled as he headed towards his locker. 

****☆****

1 PM – THE INFUSION CLINIC AT MERCY GENERAL HOSPITAL … 

"Hello, Johnny. The nurse is ready for you. You can go straight back," the receptionist smiled as the boy smiled in thanks.


"How are you feeling today?" The nurse asked as she prepared the infusion.

"Pretty good. I–Is the doctor coming around today?" Shepard asked nervously.

"She is. She'll be around in an hour or so. Is there something bothering you?" The nurse asked as she started the infusion.

"My dad wants me to have her examine me. I've been bruising a bit lately, and he's a bit p–paranoid," Shepard explained.

"Well, he's a father. It's his job to worry," the nurse said with a smile.

"Yeah," Shepard said, returning the smile.

"Did you bring something to occupy your time?"

"Yeah – my sketchbook and earbuds for music," Shepard said with a crooked grin.

"You're very talented," the nurse praised as she caught a glimpse of his work.

"T–Thank you," Shepard said, blushing a bit at the compliment.

"You're all set. If you need me, just hit the call button. Be sure to drink the water I gave you," the nurse instructed as she moved on to the next patient.


ONE HOUR LATER… 

"Hello, Johnny. How are you feeling? Any irritation or pain?" The hematologist asked as she flipped through Shepard's file.

"I'm okay. Everything feels fine – no pain," Shepard answered truthfully.

"That's good. We raised your dosage just a bit. Your platelets are still a bit lower than we'd like," Doctor Michel explained.

"Is that bad?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"It happens sometimes," the doctor insisted. "Try not to worry too much. We'll take care of you."

"Doctor, Johnny's father wanted you to examine him. Apparently, he's been bruising a bit lately, and his father is concerned," the nurse explained.

"I see. Why don't you go ahead and do a complete blood count," the doctor instructed the nurse before turning his attention to Shepard.

"Once your infusion is complete, I'll do a full examination. You have a while to go yet, so hopefully, the lab results will be in by then," the doctor said as she made a note in Shepard's file. "Just sit back, and I'll see you soon."

"O–Okay," Shepard mumbled as he quietly went back to sketching.

****☆****

Shepard put away his sketchbook as the nurse returned to check his vitals. 

"That took a bit longer than last week. We're sorry about that," the nurse apologized.

"That's okay," Shepard replied, rubbing his shoulder nervously.

"Follow me," the nurse instructed as she made her way to the examination room.  

Once there, she handed Shepard a dressing gown.

"Be sure to remove all clothing, including underwear, before putting on the dressing gown," the nurse instructed with a smile. "The doctor will be here shortly."

Shepard did as he was told before taking a seat on the exam table, nervously swinging his feet as he awaited the doctor.

A few minutes later, the door opened as the doctor made her entrance.

"Hello, Johnny. How did your infusion go?" The doctor asked.

"Good," came Shepard's simple answer.

"I'm glad to hear it. Your test results came back. Your blood is a little low, and your platelet count hasn't improved very much. I suspect you may have some mild internal bleeding, but we won't know for sure until I examine you fully. Part of the exam will feel quite intimate. You might feel a bit embarrassed, but that's normal. Just let me know if the exam is too uncomfortable for you, and I can have a male doctor complete the exam. Are you ready for your exam, or do you need a few minutes?" The doctor asked, wanting the boy to be as comfortable as possible.

"I–I'm ready," Shepard replied with a nod.


The exam was thorough, and within minutes of its completion, Shepard was receiving an injection to help stop the mild internal bleeding he had unknowingly been suffering from.

"A–Am I supposed to feel nauseous?" Shepard asked as his stomach churned.

"That's probably from the infusion. The injection I just administered shouldn't cause nausea," the doctor explained.

"O–Okay. Can I go now?" Shepard asked, wanting nothing more than to go home.

"I'll go ahead and sign your release. I'm calling in a new prescription for you to take along with your other medication. You can pick it up at the pharmacy anytime," the doctor smiled. "Okay, you are now free to go. I'll see you next week."

"Thanks," Shepard smiled as he quietly made his way out of the building, eager to be on his way home.

****☆****

8:03 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Johnny, you home?" Chris asked as he looked around the empty kitchen. 

"Yeah," Shepard replied, his voice sounding oddly weak.

"Goddammit, Johnny! I'm starving, and you forgot to make dinner," Chris complained as he grabbed a beer from the fridge.

Just as Chris took a swig of his beer, he heard the unmistakable sound of retching coming from the washroom.


"Hey, are you sick? What's going on in there?" Chris asked as he slowly opened the washroom door.

His eyes went wide at the sight. Shepard was on the floor, vomiting mercilessly into the porcelain bowl.

"Jesus, Johnny," Chris called out as knelt by his son's side. "Are you okay, kid?"

"I don't feel good," Shepard admitted, his voice low.

Chris stroked his son's damp, sweat-soaked hair, trying his best to soothe the ailing boy.

"What can I do? Do you want me to call the hospital?" Chris asked, unsure of what to do.

"It's a side effect of the infusion. You remember when they told me this might happen?" Shepard replied before vomiting violently once again.

"This didn't happen last week," Chris said, doubting the cause of his son's malady. "Are you sure that's the reason?"

Shepard nodded as he leaned his head against his father's chest. "They had to increase my dosage, and it's m–making me sick as a dog."

Chris rubbed his son's back as he vomited once more. 

"I'm gonna get puke in m–my hair," Shepard whined as he retched once more.

"I got you," Chris insisted as he held his son's long blonde hair back while he puked.

Shepard vomited until there was nothing left inside, and he finally fell asleep against his father's chest – exhausted from the ordeal.

Chris never said a word; he just stroked his son's long blonde hair, occasionally kissing his forehead as he slept.

They remained that way for close to an hour before Chris finally decided to put his son to bed.


Once he had made Shepard comfortable, he carefully nudged his son awake.

"Johnny, you gotta take your meds. Can you hear me?" Chris asked as Shepard's eyes fluttered. "Open your mouth for me."

"Hn," Shepard grunted as he opened his mouth, allowing Chris to place the medication on his tongue.

"Here, take a drink of water for me," Chris  insisted as he held the glass for his son. "Good boy."

Chris sat by Shepard's side until he was certain the boy would sleep through the night before leaving the room to search out some sustenance for himself.

****☆****

THE NEXT MORNING… 

"How are you feeling, kid?" Chris asked as he watched his son take his seat at the table.

"Better. I hope it's not that bad every week," Shepard said as he rubbed his face with both hands.

"Yeah, me too, son. Did the doctor say anything else?" Chris asked in a serious tone.

"Umm. My platelets are still low, and I had some minor bleeding, but they gave me something for it. He prescribed me another drug, but I didn't have the money to pick it up. It ain't an important one; it's just a precautionary drug. I don't really need it," Shepard explained, knowing they couldn't afford any more bills.

"Johnny, I'll get your medicine. Don't worry about that," Chris insisted. 

"Dad, we can't afford it. I'll do just fine without it," Shepard assured his father.

"Johnny, it's not negotiable," Chris insisted.

Shepard nodded in understanding.

"Now, about the infusions – they aren't working, are they?" Chris asked in a worried tone.

"Umm. The first two didn't. That's why they upped my dosage. I dunno if the last one worked or not," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Did they say what they would do if it doesn't work this time?"

"Nope," Shepard replied simply.

Chris sighed. "And the bleeding – is it serious?" Chris asked anxiously.

"Not yet. I just gotta listen to my body, and if I start to feel strange, I'll just have to go get checked for excess bleeding," Shepard explained. 

Chris nodded in understanding. "You let me know if anything's wrong."

Shepard smiled. "I will, Dad. I'm gonna go finish my homework."

"Eat first," Chris insisted. "And I mean all of it."

"I ain't really—" 

Chris cut him off mid-sentence. "Don't care. You have to eat. I'm gonna run to the pharmacy, and there better not be any food left on that plate when I get back."

"Okay," Shepard agreed with a nod as Chris made his way to the car.

****☆****

10:45 AM – THE PHARMACY… 

"Yeah, I'm here to pick up a prescription and some refills for John Shepard. He's my son," Chris explained. 

"No problem. I'll just need his age and birthdate," the pharmacist said with a smile.

"He's sixteen, and his birthdate is April 11th," Chris replied as he handed her his insurance card.

"Do you want everything refilled?" She asked as she typed away on the computer.

"Yep. He's nearly out. And those meds are a must for him," Chris explained.

"I understand. Okay, that will be $165.87," the pharmacist replied.

Chris furrowed his brow in disbelief. "Is that with the insurance?"

"I'm afraid so. His latest prescription is quite expensive," the pharmacist explained.

"May I ask what it's for," Chris asked, hoping it wasn't needed.

"It prevents excess bleeding in patients with blood disorders," the pharmacist informed him.

"I see," Chris replied as he handed her the money. "He has to have it."

"Here you go, and here's your change. Have a good morning," the pharmacist said with a smile.

"You too," Chris said as he made his way back home.


ONE HOUR LATER… 

"Johnny, I'm home," Chris called out as he hung his coat on the hanger.

"Hey," Shepard said as he came from his room.

"You need to take this one right away," Chris insisted as he handed Shepard his dosage.

"How much did it cost?" Shepard asked anxiously as he swallowed the bitter tablet.

"Never mind the cost," Chris insisted. "Here's the rest of your meds. Let me know if they missed any."

Shepard nodded as he examined the contents of the bag. "I think it's all here."

"That's good. I'm going to go take a nap. I've got a date tonight and want to be well-rested," Chris said with a playful grin.

Shepard laughed in amusement as he fetched a condom from his wallet. "Here you go – just in case you get lucky."

Chris tousled his son's long blonde hair. "Alright, smartass! I'm the dad, remember," Chris grinned, amused by his son's actions. 

"Yeah, yeah," Shepard chuckled. "I just wanna make sure you're safe."

"Your concern is touching. Now, go take the trash out, and don't forget to replace the bag."

"Will do," Shepard said with a mock salute as he headed towards the kitchen to collect the trash.


Shepard put the trash on the rack for pickup before heading back towards the kitchen door, stopping when he heard a strange whisper.

'The time of awakening is nigh. We will have what was promised.'

"W–What? W–Who's there?" Shepard asked as a chill fell over him, causing goosebumps to form on his skin.

He could hear a strange laughter in his head before a strong breeze drowned it out.

Shepard's expression changed to one of concern and confusion as he looked out across the empty lot.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Class, I hope you've decided with whom you would like to be paired. Because today is the first day of your joint projects. Now, go ahead and pair up," Benezia instructed as she watched the students scurry.

When the students had settled, sure enough, Shepard was left alone, but he wasn't the only one.

"Ms. T'Soni, may I join Garrus and James? There doesn't seem to be anyone left that I would like  to partner with," Kaidan explained, hoping she would allow it.

"Kaidan, John is a perfectly viable candidate, and seeing as you both need a partner, I don't see a problem here," Benezia insisted. "John, do you have a problem having Kaidan as a partner for this project?"

"No, ma'am," Shepard answered quietly.

"Kaidan, meet your partner for the next two weeks. I suggest you get started," Benezia said in a stern tone.

"Yes, ma'am," Kaidan replied with a sigh as he made his way to Shepard's table.

"Hi," Shepard said with a small wave of his hand.

"Look, let's get a few things straight – this doesn't make us friends, this is strictly business. So, don't bother with the small talk," Kaidan said as he opened his notebook.

Shepard's half-smile faded to a deep frown as he nodded in response. Shepard remained silent, choosing, instead, to only speak when spoken to.

"Well, aren't you gonna say anything, or do you expect me to do everything?" Kaidan asked in an annoyed tone.

"I'll agree to whatever subject you want," Shepard replied quietly, staring at his hands to avoid eye contact.

"Fine. We need a subject that has meaning. How about the effect drugs have on people. Maybe we could do a piece that shows the before and after, like a person with two faces. What do you think?" Kaidan asked as Shepard visibly tensed.

"That's fine," Shepard agreed as he began to bounce his knee nervously. "W–What do you want me to do?"

"You can start sketching some faces. I'll work on the colour scheme," Kaidan instructed as he began to envision the colours in his head.

Shepard slowly started sketching, angry with himself that every face he drew ended up resembling his mother.

Shepard sighed as he discarded another disappointing sketch.

"What's wrong with that one? I think it looks great," Kaidan said as he took the sketch in hand.

"I–I don't like it. I can do better," Shepard insisted as he yanked the drawing from Kaidan's hand.

"You're gonna be a pain in the ass, aren't you?" Kaidan asked, cocking his brow as he spoke.

"Hn," Shepard grunted as he continued to draw.

RING—

"Thank fuck," Shepard mumbled as he put away his sketchbook.

"Please, try to work on the rough sketches tonight. We need to at least get a basic idea of what it's going to look like," Kaidan insisted.

Shepard just nodded with an annoyed look on his face.

****☆****

A WEEK LATER… 

"It's been a week, and we barely have anything to work with," Kaidan complained as he flipped through the sketches Shepard had produced.

"Just pick one," Shepard snapped, growing tired of Kaidan's superior attitude.

"I'll pick one when you draw something other than your dead mother," Kaidan snapped back, causing Shepard to lose his temper.

"Fuck you, Kaidan!" Shepard yelled out as he shoved his sketchbook into his backpack before storming out of the room.

"John! Shepard, where do you think you're going?" Benezia called out, shocked by the boy's sudden outburst. "Kaidan, I'd like to see you after class. Garrus, please watch the class until I return."

"Yes, ma'am,” Garrus nodded as Benezia left the room.


Once the teacher had left the room, Kaidan could feel the eyes upon him as the entire class glanced his way.

"What did you do?" James asked in a disapproving tone.

"I didn't do anything," Kaidan insisted. 

"Uh-huh," James said in disbelief as he turned his attention back to his work.

Seeing that Garrus was still staring a hole through him, Kaidan decided to say something. "I didn't do anything, Garrus. He's obviously emotionally unstable. You can't blame me for that."

"I didn't say anything," Garrus shrugged as he continued his work.

"God, I wish this day would just end already," Kaidan thought aloud as he placed his head in his hands, the ghost of a migraine beginning to throb in his head.

It was going to be a long day.

****☆****

MEANWHILE… 

It didn't take long for Benezia to find her distraught student. He was walking across the schoolyard with every intention of leaving for the day when Benezia called out, causing him to freeze where he stood.

"John Shepard, where do you think you're going?" Benezia asked in a scolding tone.

"I'm sorry. I just don't wanna be here no more. I don't wanna be anywhere," Shepard replied in a far-off voice that raised a red flag for Benezia.

"John, you know you can't leave the school grounds. I'm sorry, but you have to return to class. Whatever issue you have with Kaidan can be discussed and properly dealt with. So, please, come with me," Benezia said, her tone understanding yet insistent.

"I–I don't feel like arguing. I'm tired," Shepard admitted as he turned to face his teacher.

Noticing the boy's sickly pallor, Benezia immediately made her way towards him. She was just about to reach out to him when he collapsed to the ground, blood trickling from his nose and the corners of his mouth.

"John!" Benezia called out as she tried to assist the fallen blonde. 

Having no choice, Benezia quickly ran to the office for assistance.

"I need you to call 911. One of my students has collapsed in the yard. He's bleeding from his mouth and nose. Tell them to hurry," Benezia explained as she quickly made her way back to the young man's side.


Several students were gawking from the windows of their classrooms as Shepard was taken away in an ambulance. Benezia could practically hear the whispers already spreading throughout the school.

Benezia sighed. "It's going to be a long day."

By the time Benezia had returned, the bell had rang, and the students had already left for lunch – all except one.


"Kaidan, thank you for staying. I think we need to talk about what happened. Don't you?" Benezia asked.

"Ma'am, I honestly don't know why he snapped. I just made a suggestion and he lost it," Kaidan explained.

"What exactly did you say?" Benezia asked, curious as to what had upset the boy so much.

"I told him I didn't like any of the sketches he gave me, and he went off," Kaidan half-lied.

"I see. I think it would be in both your best interests to try to get along a little better. Shepard might not be at school tomorrow. If he isn't, I suggest you work at home together to catch up," Benezia said with a stern look on her face.

"I'll take that into consideration, ma'am," Kaidan assured her.

Benezia smiled at Kaidan before dismissing him. "You may go, Kaidan."

"Thank you, ma'am," Kaidan said with a polite bow as he hastily left the room.

****☆****

LATER THAT DAY… 

"Can you help me, please? My kid was rushed here from school. They said something about him collapsing and that he was bleeding from his nose and mouth," Chris explained in a nervous rush.

"The boy's name?" The receptionist asked as she turned her focus to the computer screen.

"John Devon Shepard," Chris answered quickly.

"He's in room 407. The nurse will take you to him," the receptionist said with a smile as she motioned for the nurse.


It seemed to take forever for the elevator to make its ascent to the fourth floor. Each moment, agony for Chris as he continued to think the worst about his son's condition. 

When the elevator door finally opened, Chris rushed to room 407, walking a few paces ahead of the nurse.


"He's stable now, but the doctor hasn't been around to fully examine him yet. We won't be able to release him until then," the nurse said.

"He's okay, isn't he," Chris asked as he stroked his son's hair as he slept.

"Yes. He had some minor internal bleeding. We ran some tests to make sure he wasn't bleeding into his brain," the nurse explained.

"He wasn't, was he?" Chris asked, terrified by the thought.

"No, the tests were clear. The bleeding was in his nose, throat, and stomach and was caused by low platelet count. We gave him an emergency transfusion. He's been sleeping peacefully ever since," the nurse assured him with a smile.

"Was he in pain when they brought him in?" Chris asked as he took his son's hand.

"No. He was unconscious when he arrived," the nurse replied truthfully. "The doctor will be here shortly. She will explain things more completely."

"Do you think he'll be able to come home tonight?" 

"I'm not sure. It depends on what the doctor orders," the nurse replied as she checked the IV and transfusion lines.

"He looks so pale," Chris said as he kissed Shepard's hand.

"He was actually much paler than this when he first arrived," the nurse said, trying to ease the man's fears, "The blood-transfusion has done wonders."

"Can I sit with him until the doctor arrives?" Chris asked, not wanting to leave his son's side.

"Sure," the nurse said with a smile. "The doctor should be here within the hour."

"Thank you," Chris said as he took a seat next to his son's bedside.


Chris waited until they were alone before speaking to his unconscious son.

"You sure know how to scare the hell outta me, don't you, Johnny? I don't know what's going on with you, but we'll figure it out. I promise."

For the next hour, Chris sat in total silence, watching the steady rise and fall of his son's chest. It wasn't until the arrival of the doctor that the silence was finally broken.

"Good evening. How's our patient?" Doctor Michel asked as he glanced at Shepard's chart.

"I was hoping you could tell me. He's been asleep since I arrived," Chris said in an unamused tone.

"Sleep is good for him. The blood loss has made him very tired," the doctor explained.

"I thought the medication you prescribed took care of all that," Chris said, clearly upset with the lack of progress.

"Yes, and normally it works quickly, but it seems to be taking longer with young Johnny," Doctor Michel replied.

"And why is that?" Chris asked anxiously 

"Well, I'm not exactly sure. There appears to be a strange anomaly in his blood, but we don’t think that’s the reason for the delay on the medication taking effect," the doctor replied truthfully.

"He has an anomaly that no one can explain, but you insist it isn’t affecting his body. And on top of that, those infusions you're giving him aren't working either. It feels like he's getting worse instead of better. I think I'm going to get a second opinion," Chris informed the doctor.

"Mr. Scott, I assure you, the infusions are working – to a point anyway," Doctor Michel assured him.

"If that's true, then why the hell are his platelets still low?" Chris asked, obviously annoyed with the doctor.

"As I said, we aren't sure. We test his platelets after each infusion, and the numbers drastically improve, but by the time he returns a week later, the count has dropped again. It's puzzling because his numbers steadily improve when he's here at the hospital. Are you sure he's taking the medication as instructed?" Doctor Michel asked, trying to understand the reason behind Shepard's declining health.

"Of course, he is. He's doing everything you ask of him because he wants to get better. He hates being sick. I think you people need to find a better treatment, and if you can't, I'll find someone who can," Chris snapped, desperate to find help for his ailing son.

"We'll retest all his levels, and if his platelets are still low, we'll give him an emergency infusion," the doctor promised. "I assure you, no one could do more for him than we are. There may be something about his home environment that's causing the medication to fail."

"And what might that be? Tell me what it is, and I'll fix it," Chris pleaded desperately.

"I–I don't know," the doctor admitted.

Chris sighed in frustration. "You don't seem to know anything. He's slowly being destroyed from the inside, not to mention all the emotional and mental crap he has to deal with every goddamn day. He needs help now. So, please, do something!" 

"I understand your frustration. I really do. And we're doing everything we can to help him," the doctor reassured the worried man.

Chris rubbed his face hard in frustration. "When can I take him home?"

"We'll go ahead and test his platelets. If the count is acceptable, he'll be free to go once his transfusion is complete," Doctor Michel explained.

"What's the likelihood of that?" Chris asked anxiously.

"I would say, very likely. He just needs rest, and he'll be fine," the doctor insisted as he drew some vials of blood from Shepard while he slept.

"How long will he be sleeping?" Chris asked as he brushed a stray hair from Shepard's brow.

"That's up to him. Just let him sleep as much as possible. He'll feel much better when he finally wakes," Doctor Michel explained with a smile as she made a note in the boy's file.

"I certainly hope so," Chris said as he took his son's hand.

"I'll get these tested, and if all is well, you can take him home," Doctor Michel promised as he left the room.


"Dad," Shepard called out in a groggy voice.

"Hey, kid. You okay? How are you feeling?" Chris asked, smiling gently at the boy.

"I think so. I'm sorry," Shepard apologized.

"For what? You haven't done anything," Chris said, cocking his brow in confusion.

"You had to leave work early because of me. I know it's hard enough without me messing things up for you," Shepard admitted.

"Hey, you didn't ask to get sick. These things happen, and there's absolutely nothing you could have done to stop it.  So, stop worrying and concentrate on getting better," Chris insisted with a smile.

"I wanna go home," Shepard admitted.

Chris chuckled a bit at his son. "We'll go as soon as the doctor releases you. It shouldn't be too much longer."

"O–Okay," Shepard nodded as he quietly awaited his release.

****☆****

4:30 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME – THE FOLLOWING EVENING… 

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"I wonder who that could be," Chris thought aloud as he made his way to the door.

"Hello, Mr. Scott. Is Shepard here? We have a joint project due soon, so I came here hoping we could work on it for a while," Kaidan explained, noticing the look of disdain in the man's dark-brown eyes. 

"I'm not sure I should let you see Johnny. He's just started feeling better, and I don't want him upset," Chris stated in a defensive tone.

"I understand that, sir, but the project is due on Monday, and it's worth half of our grade," Kaidan explained, hoping the man would reconsider.

Chris sighed heavily. "Wait here," Chris instructed as he made his way towards Shepard's room.


KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"Johnny, are you awake?" Chris asked, awaiting the reply before opening the door.

"Yeah. You can come in," Shepard called out as Chris stepped inside, closing the door behind him.

"That kid – Kaidan – is here. He says you guys have a project due and wants to know if you feel like working on it with him," Chris explained, hoping Shepard would send the boy away.

"H–He's here?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Yep. He's waiting outside. Just say the word, and I'll tell him to go fuck himself," Chris offered with a grin.

Shepard smiled a bit at his father's offer before answering. "Nah, I guess I'd better just let him in. I don't wanna fail my class, after all."

Chris sighed in disappointment. "If that's what you want. But if he upsets you in any way, his ass is outta here. We got a deal?"

"Deal," Shepard agreed with a smile.

"I'll go let him in. Are you gonna be okay here – alone – with him?" Chris asked in a worried tone.

"Yeah. I don't think Kaidan would do anything too upsetting. If he starts anything, I'll just tell him he has to leave," Shepard promised, not wanting his father to worry.

"Okay. I gotta head to work. I'm on night shift the rest of the week. Call me if you need me," Chris insisted.

"Will do," Shepard said with a nod as his father left the room.

Chris returned to the living room, where he found Kaidan still waiting patiently by the door.

"You know where his room is, don't you?" Chris asked as he lazily scratched his jaw.

"I think I do, yes," Kaidan replied anxiously.

"I have to head to work. Try not to upset my boy," Chris warned as he watched the whisky-eyed teen carefully.

"I promise. I won't do anything to upset him," Kaidan replied.

"Good. Well, get going. Johnny's waiting," Chris insisted as he grabbed his keys and jacket before heading out to work.

****☆****

"Shepard, can I come in?" Kaidan asked through the door.

"Yeah. The door's unlocked," Shepard called out as Kaidan slowly entered the room.

Kaidan's eyes wandered around the room, taking in the familiar sights before fixating on Shepard's face. 

Kaidan could immediately tell that the boy was sick. Shepard's face was sickly pale, and his eyes had dark circles around them, making the once bright sapphire-blue eyes appear dull and hollow. 

Shepard noticed Kaidan staring at him and immediately felt uneasy under the older boy's scrutiny.

"I–Is there something on my face?" Shepard asked nervously, touching his face as he spoke.

"Huh? No, no. It's  nothing. I just wasn't expecting you to look so—"

"Sick," Shepard said, finishing Kaidan's sentence for him.

"I was going to say pale," Kaidan corrected with a smile. "Do you mind if I sit down?"

"No. Let me clear a spot for you," Shepard said as he moved a few of his sketchpads.

"Thanks," Kaidan replied as he took his seat on the bed, placing his pack onto the floor beside them.

"I, uh, I changed the sketches. I drew a man instead of— well, you know," Shepard explained as he handed Kaidan the sketchbook.

Kaidan took his time, examining each sketch carefully. "These are great," Kaidan grinned, quite pleased with what he was seeing.

"Really? You aren't just saying that to be nice?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"Shepard, I wouldn't lie, not when my grade point average is at stake," Kaidan replied honestly.

Shepard rolled his eyes, slightly annoyed by the older boy. "Do you think you can figure out a good colour scheme?"

"I think so. Why don't I show you some of the ideas I have, then you can tell me what you think," Kaidan suggested as he opened his own sketchbook.


The two worked for well over an hour before finally settling on a dark colour scheme – one that invoked a sense of loss and despair. Perfect for their chosen subject matter.

"Do you want this done on paper or canvas?" Shepard asked as he made the necessary notes beside the chosen sketches.

"Canvas would be perfect for this. Do you have any larger ones?" Kaidan asked as he looked through the small box beside Shepard's desk.

"No, sorry. Those are all I have. I hope they're good enough," Shepard said as he rubbed his shoulder nervously.

"I'll pick up a larger one tomorrow," Kaidan said as he put his things away. "Are you going to be well enough to finish this on time?"

"Yeah. I'll get it done. Are you going to paint the background, or do you want me to?"

"It's my job to do the colouring, so all you need to do is sketch the subject," Kaidan explained.

"O–Okay," Shepard agreed with a nod. "If you need any help, just let me know."

"I will. So— will you be at school tomorrow?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Yeah. I should be. Why?" Shepard asked, furrowing his brow in confusion.

"I was just curious," Kaidan said with a shrug. 

BUZZ— BUZZ— BUZZ—

"Do you mind if I answer this?" Kaidan asked as he continued to glance at his phone.

"Huh?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"Never mind," Kaidan said, shaking his head in amusement as he answered the phone. "Hello." – "I'll pick you up tomorrow morning." – "It's no trouble." – "Alright. I love you too."

Shepard's brow furrowed as he listened inadvertently to his partner's conversation.

"Was that your girlfriend?" Shepard asked as he stared down at his hands.

"Yeah. You know Rahna," Kaidan replied with a nod.

"Y–Yeah. She's nice," Shepard said as he scratched his jaw.

"Do you have a, uh, a boyfriend; I guess that's the correct term," Kaidan asked nervously.

Shepard sighed heavily. "Why do you care," Shepard asked in a sharp tone that angered Kaidan.

"I don't. I was just trying to make conversation. That's what civilized people do. They also apologize when they do something wrong," Kaidan insisted, standing as he spoke.

Shepard immediately rose from his place on the bed, coming face to face with the infuriating older boy.

"Are you asking me for an apology?" Shepard asked in disbelief.

"You're damn right, I am," Kaidan insisted. "You lied to me and made me look like an idiot in front of my friend. I demand an apology for it."

"Are you fucking serious!? I don't owe you a goddamn thing. That was all on you. You should have asked me before trying to play matchmaker. And my sexuality is my business and mine alone. It wasn't important anyway. Besides, you said I wasn't exactly subtle when we first met. I mean, seriously, you said I blatantly flirted with you. So, you got no reason to blame me for your lack of insight. And if I had known you were such a homophobic bastard, I would have avoided you all together. So, fuck you! I ain't apologizing for being who I am," Shepard yelled out, never taking his eyes off Kaidan's whisky-coloured ones.

"I'm not homophobic! I was your friend. I thought we trusted each other, but it turns out I didn't know anything at all about you," Kaidan replied back, moving ever closer to Shepard as he spoke.

"Bullshit! We were fine until you found out I liked guys. The second you found out, you fucking changed. So, why don't you admit it already," Shepard scolded.

"I AM NOT HOMOPHOBIC!" Kaidan yelled out loudly. 

Shepard rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Fine. Whatever. I'm sorry. Are you satisfied? Now you don't have to feel bad while avoiding me. I'm sorry you ever had the displeasure of meeting me. I'll just fade out of your sight, and you won't ever have to see me again. So, let's just get through this project, and we can pretend we never even met. Is that what you want? Will that make you happy?"

"You are infuriating! You really have no idea – completely clueless! I don't want to forget you. I couldn't even if I wanted to. What I want is for you to trust me enough to be open and honest with me," Kaidan explained.

"What?" Shepard asked in confusion.

In that moment, Kaidan found himself leaning in and kissing the unsuspecting blonde, a quick, chaste kiss that left Shepard in a state of awe.

Shepard touched his bottom lip in shock. "W–Why?"

"I told you, I'm not homophobic," Kaidan repeated with a serious look.

Shepard smiled as he pulled Kaidan in for a passionate kiss.

Before they realized it, they were on Shepard's bed, still kissing as if their lives depended on it. And it didn't take long for the kissing to evolve into something more. 

Kaidan found himself sucking gently on Shepard's neck, making the blue-eyed boy hum in appreciation.

Everything was going fine until Kaidan's eyes began to glaze over, causing Shepard to worry a bit.

"A–Are you alright?" Shepard asked, noticing the vacant look in Kaidan's eyes. "We can stop if you want."

"I want you," Kaidan growled as he roughly palmed Shepard through his jeans.

"K?"

"Hush! Johnny, you be a good boy and do as I say," Kaidan demanded in a strange tone that made Shepard shiver.

"Y–You aren't K," Shepard said nervously.

Kaidan clasped his hand firmly over Shepard's mouth as he began to unbutton the blonde's jeans.

Shepard struggled a bit, and just as he was about to give in, the loud sound of glass breaking seemed to break the spell as a rock came flying through Shepard's bedroom window.

The haze in Kaidan's eyes cleared, and Shepard could see the confusion beginning to take hold.

"W–What was I doing?" Kaidan asked anxiously as he slowly sat up, freeing Shepard of his weight.

"D–Don't worry about it?" Shepard insisted as he rose from the bed, buttoning his jeans as he slowly made his way towards the broken window.

"What happened?" Kaidan asked as his gaze turned towards the broken window. 

"Somebody threw a rock through my window," Shepard said as he started to pick up the shards of broken glass.

"Let me help," Kaidan insisted as he began picking up some stray shards, stopping when he noticed blood dripping from Shepard's left hand. "Shepard, you're bleeding."

"Huh?" Shepard asked, not realizing he had cut himself on the glass.

Kaidan quickly grabbed Shepard's injured left hand to get a closer look at the wound.

"It's bleeding pretty badly," Kaidan said as he led Shepard to the washroom. "Do you have a first-aid kit?"

"Y–Yeah. It's in the medicine cabinet," Shepard explained. "I can take care of it."

"John, let me help you," Kaidan insisted.

Shepard smiled at the sound of his name on Kaidan's tongue. "You've never called me that before."

"What, you mean, John?" Kaidan asked as he cleaned Shepard's wound.

"Yeah."

"Do you want me to stop?" Kaidan asked as he applied pressure to the wound.

"N–No, I don't mind," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"I can't get this to stop bleeding," Kaidan said, furrowing his brow in worry.

"I–I have a blood disorder. It'll take a little longer than usual, but it'll stop soon," Shepard assured the older boy.

"I hope so. I know this isn't the best time, but what happened in there – between us, I mean," Kaidan asked anxiously.

"Umm. We kissed," Shepard said with a shrug.

"And?"

"And what?" Shepard asked.

"What else did we do?" Kaidan asked in a more demanding tone.

"Nothing. We made out a bit, but it never went very far. Why are you asking? Did you forget already?" Shepard asked nervously.

"I–I remember kissing, but things get hazy, and I don't know why," Kaidan explained, a hint of confusion in his voice.

"Nothing else happened. I swear," Shepard insisted.

"Okay," Kaidan nodded as he checked Shepard's wound. "The bleeding is starting to slow. It should stop soon."

"Put this on the cut. It'll keep it from reopening," Shepard explained as he handed Kaidan the bottle.

"I think I got it," Kaidan said as he finished bandaging the blue-eyed blonde's hand.

"Thanks. I better go get rid of that glass," Shepard said as he made his way back to the bedroom.

"Shepard," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to turn his way. "About the kiss."

"It's okay. I won't tell nobody," Shepard assured him with a sad smile as he placed the glass into the trash bin.

"I–I just wanted to show you I wasn't homophobic," Kaidan explained awkwardly. "It didn't really mean anything."

Shepard's heart sank, and his stomach churned as he closed his eyes in hurt before turning to face the whisky-eyed teen.

"I figured it was something like that. You don't gotta worry. I get it," Shepard said with a sad half-smile.

"Good. I'm glad you understand. Are we good?" Kaidan asked, hoping to reignite their friendship.

"Sure. We're good," Shepard insisted. 

"You can join us for lunch tomorrow if you'd like," Kaidan offered with a smile.

"Nah. Thanks for the offer, though," Shepard smiled as he put his hands in his back pockets.

"Oh. Okay. I really should go. It's getting late," Kaidan explained as he collected his things.

"Y–Yeah. I gotta put something over that hole in the window," Shepard said as he rocked back and forth nervously.

"I'm sorry that happened," Kaidan said, his voice sincere as he spoke.

"Don't worry about it," Shepard shrugged. "I'm used to it."

"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow," Kaidan said as Shepard walked him to the door.

"Yeah. Have a good night," Shepard said as he nervously rubbed his shoulder.

"You too," Kaidan said with a smile as he made his way towards his car.

Shepard watched until the older boy was out of sight before returning to his bedroom to cover the broken window.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

Chris came in from work at around 2 AM. He was pleasantly surprised to find dinner waiting for him, wrapped in foil, sitting on the kitchen table.

Smiling, Chris made his way towards his son's bedroom.

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"Johnny, are you awake," Chris asked as he slowly opened the door to check in on his son.

Seeing that Shepard was sleeping peacefully, he decided to leave him be, failing to notice the broken window until a burst of wind rattled the plastic covering Shepard had put up.

Sighing heavily, Chris shook his head before heading back to the kitchen to eat his meal.

****☆****

THE NEXT DAY – ALLIANCE HIGH… 

"I got a couple of canvases, but I left them at home," Kaidan explained apologetically. "Do you think we could work on the project at my place?"

"I–I can't today. I have an appointment and won't be free until five," Shepard informed his partner.

"Can't you come over afterwards?" Kaidan asked, hoping to get the sketching done today.

"I–I don't know. My dad doesn't like for me to be out after dark," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"I can drive you home. I can even drive you to your appointment if you'd like," Kaidan offered.

"I dunno. I don't wanna trouble you," Shepard said as he rubbed his shoulder.

"It's no trouble," Kaidan insisted. "We'll meet by the tree in the yard."

"O–Okay," Shepard reluctantly agreed as he nervously returned to his assignment.

****☆****

3 PM – THE ALLIANCE HIGH SCHOOLYARD… 

Shepard made his way out of the building, hoping that Kaidan had changed his mind.

Shepard sighed as he caught sight of the whisky-eyed teen standing under the tree, just as he promised. "I hope he doesn't ask too many questions," Shepard thought aloud as he made his way to Kaidan's side.

"There you are," Kaidan smiled. "Are you ready to go?"

"Y–Yeah. We should get going. I'll get in trouble if I'm late," Shepard explained anxiously.

"Really? Where are we headed?" Kaidan asked curiously as he motioned for the blue-eyed blonde to follow him.

"Um. It's the building beside the police station," Shepard replied. "I can give you the exact address if you want."

"I think I know where it is," Kaidan said as he opened his car door.

"Okay," Shepard said with a nod as he got into the passenger's seat.

"Remember to buckle up," Kaidan insisted as he started the car.

"Alright," Shepard said as he snapped the seatbelt. 

The drive was quiet until Kaidan finally broke the silence.

"So, what's the appointment for – if you don't mind my asking?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"It's a requirement for my release," Shepard admitted as he stared out the window to avoid Kaidan's gaze.

"So, you're seeing your parole officer," Kaidan said, furrowing his brow as he spoke.

"I guess you could put it that way," Shepard replied, his voice low and timid.

"Is that the only requirement you had to agree to?" Kaidan asked, wanting to know more about the blue-eyed teen.

"No. I have to see a few other people," Shepard said as he began to bounce his knee nervously.

"What other people?" Kaidan asked as he pulled into the parking lot.

"Umm. Mental health doctors. I only see them once every two weeks, though," Shepard explained nervously.

"What happens if they find an issue," Kaidan asked, an uneasy tone in his voice.

"I end up in the hospital again," Shepard admitted. "Can we, please, not talk about this anymore?"

"Sure. I'm sorry I asked," Kaidan apologized.

"Thank you," Shepard said as he unfastened his seatbelt. "I'll be back in about an hour."

"An hour. It takes that long?" Kaidan asked, cocking a brow in disbelief.

"Hn. S–Sometimes," Shepard answered nervously.

"What takes so long?" Kaidan asked, knowing it shouldn't take that long.

"The officer I have is slow," Shepard lied as he shut the car door. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"I'll be waiting," Kaidan assured as he watched the young blonde disappear into the building.


BUZZ— BUZZ—

Kaidan glanced at his phone to see two new text notifications, both from Rahna:

[RAHNA 3:35 PM]   I'm going to be home soon if you want to come over.

[RAHNA 3:40 PM]  Where are you? 

Kaidan sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose to stifle the migraine beginning to form.

[KAIDAN 3:42 PM]  I have to work on my art project tonight, so I won't be able to come over.

[RAHNA 3:43 PM]  Will Shepard be there?

[KAIDAN 3:44 PM]  He's my partner for the project. He has to be there.

[RAHNA 3:45 PM]  That better be all you're doing. 

[KAIDAN 3:46 PM]  Rahna, you know that's all I'm doing. Trust me, babe.

[RAHNA 3:48 PM]  How can I trust you after last night? You need to get Shepard out of your system. I don't care how you do it, just do it – or we're done.

[KAIDAN 3:50 PM]  Last night was a slip of the tongue. I was tired, that's all. I tried to explain that to you, but you just stormed out. 

[RAHNA 3:52 PM]  I'm not discussing this over a text. We'll talk about it later.

[KAIDAN 3:53 PM]  Alright, we'll talk later.

Kaidan sighed as he tossed his phone onto the passenger's seat before rubbing his eyes.

"John Shepard," Kaidan whispered as he thought back to the night before… 

****☆****

– *FLASHBACK* –

"Kaidan, you're late," Rahna smiled as she kissed her boyfriend hello.

"Yeah. Shepard accidentally cut his hand, and it took a while to stop the bleeding," Kaidan explained nervously.

"Is he okay?" Rahna asked as she placed Kaidan's coat on the back of her desk chair.

"He's fine," Kaidan insisted as he pulled Rahna in for a kiss.

"I'm glad," Rahna said in-between kisses.

Rahna giggled as Kaidan decided to take their kissing to another level. 

Everything was going fine, right up until Kaidan made the awful mistake of calling out Shepard's name during their foreplay.

"Shepard," Kaidan whispered, his eyes closed as he imagined it was Shepard's mouth upon him.

"What did you say," Rahna asked, a look of shock on her face.

"Huh?" Kaidan asked in confusion, not realizing he had spoken aloud.

"You just called me Shepard," Rahna explained, obviously upset at her boyfriend's slip up.

"W–What?"

"Are you gay, or bisexual, or— Did you have sex with him?" Rahna asked, her mind going into overdrive as she spoke.

"No! I don't know why I said his name, but it had nothing to do with sexual attraction," Kaidan lied.

Rahna was already gathering her things, wanting nothing more than to leave the room. 

"You really expect me to believe that," Rahna said, rolling her eyes in disbelief.

"I'm tired, Rahna. My head has been killing me lately, and I just spent three hours with him. Trust me, it was an innocent mistake," Kaidan tried to explain.

"I don't want to talk about this right now. I need time to calm down and think things through," Rahna insisted.

"Alright. We'll discuss it tomorrow," Kaidan replied as he watched as Rahna made her way to the door.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Rahna said as she exited the room.

– *END FLASHBACK* –

****☆****

ONE HOUR LATER… 

"It's taking so long," Kaidan groaned as he tapped the steering wheel in a nervous habit.

Kaidan's expression changed from boredom to relief as Shepard made his way towards the car.

"Thank god," Kaidan mumbled as Shepard took his seat, buckling his seatbelt as he did so.

Noticing that Shepard's countenance had become pale, Kaidan couldn't help but ask, "Are you okay? You look ill."

"I'm fine, just a bit nauseous," Shepard admitted as he leaned his head against the window.

"Are you good with travelling, or do you need a minute," Kaidan asked, not wanting to make Shepard more nauseous than he already was.

"I'm good. Do you have any gum? I ran out," Shepard asked, wanting anything to rid himself of the vile taste of Harkin still left in his mouth.

"I think so. Check the dashboard," Kaidan instructed as he continued to focus on the road. "My house isn't far. We should be there in a few minutes."

Shepard just nodded as he unwrapped a piece of gum before popping it into his mouth.

"What took so long back there?" Kaidan asked, keeping his eyes on the road as he spoke.

"Harkin likes to take his time," Shepard said in a tired voice.

"Harkin – is that the officer's name?" Kaidan asked as he pulled into the drive.

"Yeah. Is this your house?" Shepard asked, his eyes lighting up in wonder. "It's massive."

Kaidan laughed in amusement at his friend. "It's not as big as it looks."

"Uh-huh," Shepard said, doubt obvious in his voice.

"Come on," Kaidan said as he motioned for Shepard to follow.


Once they were at the front door, Shepard froze.

"Is something wrong?" Kaidan asked, noticing the nervous look in Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes.

"No. I just— I don't belong here. I don't think I'd be welcome here," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Why do you think that?" Kaidan asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"You know what I did. I don't wanna make nobody uncomfortable," Shepard explained, staring at his feet as he spoke.

"John, it's okay. You can come in. And if it makes you feel any better, my parents aren't home. They won't be home until late," Kaidan assured his nervous friend.

"O–Okay," Shepard nodded as he followed Kaidan inside.


"My room is on the first floor," Kaidan said as he led Shepard down the hall. "This is it. Make yourself at home."

Shepard followed Kaidan into the room. 

"You can sit anywhere you'd like," Kaidan said as he retrieved a large canvas from the closet. "How long do you think it'll take for you to finish the sketch?"

"Um. Not long – an hour, maybe," Shepard said as he rolled up his sleeves and retrieved his pencils from his pack.

"Did you do that to yourself?" Kaidan asked, motioning to Shepard's right arm.

"Uh, no. Most were accidents," Shepard lied. "Only a few were self-inflicted, and that was during a blackout. If they bother you, I can cover them back up."

"No, it's fine. How are you handling your PICC line? Does it bother you?" Kaidan asked, noticing the outline of the dangling ports through the fabric of Shepard's red shirt.

"Nah, I'm used to it," Shepard admitted as he began to sketch. "Dad has to remind me to flush the lines, but other than that, it's fine."

"You two are pretty close, huh," Kaidan asked with a smile.

"Yeah. We do good considering," Shepard said with a fond smile.

"Considering what?"

"Considering I'm not really his kid. He barely even knew me when he agreed to take me in, but he's always treated me as if I were his. I'm grateful to him," Shepard admitted.

"Do you guys ever fight?" Kaidan asked as he continued to watch Shepard work.

"Sometimes. I usually deserve it when he goes off. That don't happen very often, though," Shepard explained.

Kaidan remained fairly quiet after that, opting instead to watch Shepard work.


Once the sketch was complete, Shepard began putting away his things. "If you need any help with the colouring, just let me know."

"I will," Kaidan nodded as his phone began to vibrate.

"Let me guess, it's your girlfriend, Rahna, right," Shepard surmised from the look in Kaidan's whisky-coloured eyes.

"Yeah. I did something stupid last night, and now she's upset with me," Kaidan explained with a sour look on his face.

"What happened?" Shepard asked curiously.

"I–I called out someone else's name when we were about to have sex," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"Oh. She must be extremely pissed, huh," Shepard figured as he rubbed his shoulder in a nervous habit.

"Extremely. Anyway, she thinks I should do whatever it takes to get them out of my system," Kaidan said, curious to hear Shepard's thoughts on the subject.

"Well, do you like this other girl, or is it a strictly sexual attraction?" Shepard asked as he cocked his head to the side.

"I like them. They're interesting and quite beautiful," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"D–Do you like her more than you like Rahna?" Shepard asked, secretly wishing he was the one Kaidan was attracted to.

"I'm not sure," Kaidan admitted truthfully. "Maybe Rahna's right, and I just need to get them out of my system."

"D–Do I know her? Is it Liara?" Shepard asked as he toyed with the hem of his frayed shirt.

"Oh, you definitely know them," Kaidan chuckled nervously. "But it's not Liara."

"Oh."

"Do you have any idea how I could go about getting them out of my system?" Kaidan asked, desperate for guidance.

"I dunno. It ain't really any of my business," Shepard said with a shrug, wanting no part in the lover's spat.

"John, it is your business," Kaidan replied, causing Shepard to raise a brow.

"Huh?"

"I called out your name last night," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"My name? Why?" Shepard asked in disbelief.

"I already told you why. You're an interesting guy, and you're very beautiful. You could be a model if you wanted," Kaidan insisted.

"I— thank you," Shepard said, blushing at the compliment. 

"You're embarrassed," Kaidan said with an amused smile on his face.

"I— It's just a surprise. I mean, I just assumed you were straight," Shepard explained anxiously.

"I am. I can appreciate the beauty of a man, but I've never been attracted to one," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

Shepard's brow furrowed in confusion. 'He's playing with me.' Shepard thought to himself.

"I–I should go," Shepard said, feeling nauseous at the thought of Kaidan's teasing.

"Why? I thought we could talk about this," Kaidan said, a look of surprised confusion on his face.

"What is there to talk about? You're straight; problem solved," Shepard said with a shrug as he put on his hoodie.

"I— It's not that simple," Kaidan insisted.

"Seems pretty simple to me," Shepard said as he rubbed his shoulder.

"How does it feel to be so sure about who you are?" Kaidan asked, his tone half-irritated and half-envious.

"Huh?" Shepard asked, utterly confused.

"It's just, you seem so sure, like you've, never once, doubted your sexuality," Kaidan explained.

"Because I haven't. I always knew," Shepard admitted.

"Forgive me if I don't believe you. No one is that well-adjusted, especially not someone who—" Kaidan's eyes went wide as he cut his sentence short. "I–I didn't mean anything by that."

"Yeah. Don't worry about it. I hear that shit every day. I'm used to it," Shepard replied with a hurt look in his sapphire eyes. "And for your information, never doubting doesn't mean I don't wish it wasn't true. Sometimes I hate being this way. Sometimes I just want to be normal, but I'm not normal. Even if I pretended to be straight, it wouldn't help – nothing would be easier. People would still treat me like shit. So, why try to be something I'm not?"

"John, I didn't mean—"

"I know. You don't have to say anything. Look, K, I can't tell you what to do. You have to figure it out for yourself," Shepard insisted.

"I know. I just— Can I kiss you again?" Kaidan asked, his face turning red in embarrassment.

"Why? I thought you only kissed me to show how non-homophobic you are," Shepard said, cocking a brow in confusion.

"I–I liked it, and I need to know if it was real or just a passing feeling," Kaidan explained.

Shepard sighed before taking Kaidan's face in his hands and kissing the older teen slowly, letting his tongue thoroughly explore every inch of Kaidan's hot mouth.

"That was— way better than yesterday," Kaidan replied with a grin as his breath evened out.

"Yeah," Shepard agreed, smiling that crooked smile that Kaidan loved.

"Any ideas on how to get you outta my system?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"A few," Shepard grinned, cocking his head to the side as he spoke.

"Hm. Like what?" Kaidan asked as he licked his lips in anticipation.

"Well, it would be better if I show you," Shepard grinned as he began kissing Kaidan's neck.

"Mmm. I think I like that idea," Kaidan hummed as Shepard suddenly dropped to his knees before him. "You have the strangest blue eyes I've ever seen."

Shepard just smiled as he continued palming Kaidan through his jeans. "You're getting hard already. I think I can take care of that for you."

Kaidan groaned at the thought of having Shepard's full pouty lips around him.

Shepard smiled as he slowly unzipped Kaidan's jeans, taking his time before taking Kaidan in hand, stroking him a few times before taking the tip into his mouth.

"Oh, god," Kaidan moaned as he threaded his fingers through Shepard's long dark-blonde hair. 

Kaidan gripped Shepard's hair tighter as he took Kaidan deeper into his throat.

"You're so good at this," Kaidan said, pleasantly surprised by the blue-eyed blonde's talent.

"Hmm," Shepard hummed in agreement as he swallowed a bit, causing his throat to contract around Kaidan.

Kaidan nearly came from the sensation but managed to regain a bit of control as he began holding Shepard's head in place, thrusting in and out of the blonde's throat. 

Shepard began stroking himself in time with Kaidan's thrusts, loving the look of ecstasy on the older boy's face as his rhythm began to falter.

Knowing Kaidan was close, Shepard once again took control, swallowing the whisky-eyed teen to the root, causing the older boy's hips to jerk wildly as he found his release.

Shepard could feel Kaidan's release flooding his throat and mouth and did his best to swallow all the older boy had to offer before slowly letting him fall from his mouth.

Shepard smiled, tucking his still semi-erect penis back into his jeans before rising to his feet, amused by the dreamy look in Kaidan's whisky-coloured eyes.

Kaidan ran a thumb over Shepard's full bottom lip, feeling the moisture that still lingered there. It was then that Kaidan realized his orgasm had hit him harder than expected, leaving him weak-kneed and wobbly as he leaned against Shepard for support.

"Are you okay," Shepard asked with an amused chuckle as he helped Kaidan to the bed.

"That was— I've never cum so hard before. It was unbelievable," Kaidan said, a look of shock on his face.

"Hn. You were probably just pent up and needed a release," Shepard suggested as he started playing with the frayed hem of his shirt to avoid looking Kaidan in the eye.

"No, I have sex often, so that shouldn't be the reason," Kaidan said as he put his hand on Shepard's left cheek.

"D–Did you get me out of your system yet?" Shepard asked, hoping he hadn't.

"I'm not sure. I still want to kiss you," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"Are you sure? I mean, you might taste yourself a bit," Shepard explained anxiously.

"I–I'm sure," Kaidan said, smiling at the odd kind of shyness in Shepard's words and actions.

"O–Okay," Shepard nodded as he leaned in slowly, closing his eyes until, finally, their lips met.

It was a gentle kiss, one that Kaidan immediately took control of – taking his time, smiling as he tasted himself on Shepard's tongue.

Once the kiss was over, Shepard leaned his forehead against Kaidan's, closing his eyes as if he were afraid to open them.

"John, are you alright?" Kaidan asked, noticing the subtle shaking of Shepard's shoulders as the boy's entire body trembled.

"Huh?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"You're trembling," Kaidan informed him as he gently rubbed the younger boy's arms.

"I–I'm alright," Shepard insisted. "W–What time is it?"

"It's almost seven. Why?" Kaidan asked, hoping Shepard would stay just a bit longer.

"I–I gotta get home. My dad will be worried sick if I don't hurry," Shepard explained.

"I understand. I need to work on our project," Kaidan said as he watched Shepard gather his things.

"Um. Let me know if you need any help with the project or whatever," Shepard said as he anxiously made his way towards the door.

"John, wait," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to turn around.

"Huh?"

"Did— did you cum?" Kaidan asked, embarrassed that he had been too selfish to notice.

"Uh, no, but I don't mind," Shepard admitted.

"Is there something I can do? I just— I hate that you didn't get anything out of it," Kaidan said in an apologetic tone.

"I liked it. Really, I did. I don't regret it, and I–I'd do it again – if you wanted me to, I mean," Shepard offered, trying his best to avoid eye contact.

"You would?" Kaidan asked, pleasantly surprised by the offer. "Even if it doesn't mean anything romantic?"

Shepard's heart sank at the comment as he let his long dark-blonde hair fall to hide the disappointed look in his sad blue eyes.

"Uh-huh," came Shepard's simple reply.

"Will you let me drive you home?" Kaidan asked, knowing how far Shepard would have to walk.

"Umm. Sure, if you don't mind," Shepard agreed with a nervous smile.

"I don't mind," Kaidan smiled as he grabbed his coat and keys.

****☆****

"Does it bother you, fooling around with someone who has a girlfriend?" Kaidan asked as he continued to focus on the road.

"Nope," Shepard replied as he continued staring out the window.

"Mind if I ask why?" Kaidan asked as he turned onto Shepard's street.

"I ain't the one cheating," Shepard answered truthfully.

Shepard's response was like a kick in the gut for Kaidan.

"Rahna told me to get you out of my system," Kaidan insisted, trying to defend himself.

"I ain't judging you," Shepard said, his voice small but sincere. 

"I–I'm sorry. I didn't mean to—"

"I know," Shepard said with a nod as he unfastened his seatbelt. "I gotta go. Thanks for the ride."

Shepard was halfway out the door when Kaidan suddenly called out.

"John?"

"Yeah."

"Come here a second," Kaidan insisted, motioning for Shepard to come closer.

Shepard never said a word; he just leaned in close. And once he was close enough, Kaidan kissed him once more.

"Have a good night," Kaidan grinned as he gave Shepard one last peck on the lips.

"You too," Shepard smiled as he made his way towards his front door.

Kaidan watched until Shepard disappeared behind the dark-coloured door.

****☆****

"Hey, you're late, kid," Chris called out from the kitchen. 

"Sorry about that," Shepard said as he placed his backpack on the couch. "I had to finish a sketch for that art project."

"Is Kaidan doing anything?" Chris asked, slightly annoyed at the thought of his son being used.

"Yeah. He's painting it," Shepard explained as he made his way to the kitchen. "Have you eaten anything?"

"Nope. I just got home a few minutes ago," Chris replied as he took a swig of beer.

"I can make spaghetti if you want," Shepard offered as he gathered some things from the cupboard and refrigerator.

"Sounds good. About that window – what happened?" Chris asked as he took a seat at the kitchen table.

"Some asshole threw a rock through it," Shepard explained as he put the water on to boil.

"They didn't hit you with it, did they?" Chris asked, only half-joking.

Shepard laughed a little. "No. I did cut my hand on the glass, though," Shepard explained, lifting his bandaged left hand for emphasis.

Chris shook his head, his smile turning sour. "Fucking assholes."

"Yeah. So, are you staying on the night shift, or are you back on days," Shepard asked as he started chopping the onions and garlic.

"I'll be back on days starting Friday," Chris explained. "How was the appointment with the parole officer?"

Shepard's smile faded, and his voice became low. "It was okay."

"Johnny, is something going on?" Chris asked, his concern for his son growing.

"I–I don't know what you mean," Shepard said as he put the sauce on to warm.

"Every time you have an appointment with your parole officer, you come home acting all strange. Is there anything you want to tell me?" Chris asked, hoping his son would tell him what was bothering him.

"I–It's nothing. I just don't like talking about it," Shepard said as he put the onions and garlic into the sauté pan.

"I get that. I won't ask again," Chris promised as he got another beer from the refrigerator, handing his son a bottle in the process.

"Thanks," Shepard said as he took a drink from the bottle. "The food should be done in a few minutes. Do you want garlic bread?"

"Yeah, if it isn't too much trouble," Chris said as he watched his son closely.

"It's no trouble. Can you get the parmesan out of the fridge?" Shepard asked as he brushed the bread with garlic butter before putting it under the broiler to brown.

"You okay, Johnny?" Chris asked, noticing the paleness of his son's countenance.

"Yeah. I'm just a bit nauseous," Shepard admitted as he strained the pasta. "Can you put the sauce on the table while I make a quick salad?"

"Sure," Chris said with a smile as he placed the sauce on the table.

"The bread smells like it's ready," Shepard said as he began to dress the salad.

"I'll get it," Chris insisted as he placed the warm bread on the table.

"Everything's ready," Shepard announced as he retrieved two plates from the cupboard.

"I got the silverware and another beer if you want it," Chris offered as he took his seat at the table.

"Thanks," Shepard said as he served the meal.

"It smells great, Johnny," Chris smiled as he took a bite of spaghetti. "It tastes even better."

"I'm glad you like it," Shepard smiled as he took a small bite of his pasta.

"Are you not hungry?" Chris asked in concern as he watched his son pick at his food.

"Not really. I'm still a bit nauseous," Shepard admitted as he took another small bite, trying to force himself to eat.

"Eat as much as you can without getting too sick," Chris insisted as he continued to enjoy his meal.

Shepard ate a few more bites before taking a drink of his beer. "How did your date go? I forgot to ask earlier."

"It was good," Chris grinned.

"Nice," Shepard grinned, knowing what 'good' really meant.

"You need to flush your lines tonight," Chris reminded his son.

"Can you help me with that?" Shepard asked as he continued to pick at his food.

"Sure," Chris said as continued to watch his son. 

"I think I'm done," Shepard said as he pushed his nearly full plate to the side. "I'll go ahead and start on the dishes."

"I'll put away the leftovers," Chris said as he put the excess food away.


Shepard was in the middle of washing the dishes when, suddenly, the sound of a plate shattering as it crashed to the floor filled the room.

Chris jumped at the sound. "Jesus, Johnny," Chris called out, grabbing his chest as he spoke. "Johnny?"

Chris's surprise turned to worry as he noticed his son standing stock-still, staring straight ahead with a faraway look on his face.

"Johnny," Chris called out again. 

Getting no response, Chris realized his son was having a dissociative episode.

"Okay. I need to think. How do I get you back?"

Chris considered his options before deciding on a solution he hoped would work. 

"Ice cubes, that should do it," Chris hoped as he retrieved a few ice cubes from the freezer.

Once he had the ice, he placed a cube in each of Shepard's hands, holding them closed until Shepard finally began to stir.

Shepard began to blink, and after a few more moments, the boy finally spoke. "What's wrong?" Shepard asked, noticing the worried look on his father's face as he took the ice from his son's hands.

"You had a little episode. It wasn't a bad one. Are you still nauseous?" Chris asked, hoping the nausea was part of the episode itself.

"Yeah, but it's not as bad," Shepard assured his father. "Did I finish the dishes?"

"Yeah, you were drying them," Chris explained as he picked up the pieces of the broken plate.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to break the plate," Shepard apologized.

"It wasn't your fault. Now that that's done, I think it's time we flushed those lines," Chris said with a grin as he gathered the necessary equipment.

Shepard took a seat in front of his father before removing his shirt for easier access to the lines.

"This shouldn't take long," Chris smiled as he flushed the first line. "I'll bet you can't wait to get this thing removed."

"Yeah. Hopefully, in two months, it'll be gone," Shepard replied, his eyes growing heavy as he spoke.

"One more, and you can go on to bed," Chris said, noticing the tired look on Shepard's face.

"I still need to shower," Shepard reminded his father.

"That can wait until morning," Chris said as he flushed the last line.

"No. I'll sleep better if I'm clean," Shepard mumbled as Chris gave him an odd look.

"What do you mean?" Chris asked, noticing the odd choice of words.

"Huh?" Shepard asked with a yawn.

"You don't look very dirty, kid. I'm sure the shower can wait," Chris explained, his brow furrowed in confusion.

"I–I feel dirty," Shepard said as his father finished with the lines.

"Alright. Whatever you say, kid," Chris said as he kissed his son's forehead. "Go take your shower, then get some sleep. And remember to cover your lines."

"Alright. Thanks, dad," Shepard smiled as he made his way to the washroom.

"No problem, kid."

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

11:53 AM – FRIDAY… 

"I finished the painting if you want to stop by and take a look," Kaidan said as he turned his attention to Shepard. "Shepard?"

Kaidan frowned a bit when he noticed the blonde's closed eyes. Shepard had fallen asleep – again.

Kaidan sighed before nudging him awake. "Shepard, are you okay?"

"Huh?" Shepard asked with a yawn as he wiped the sleep from his eyes.

"You were sleeping again," Kaidan informed him.

"I'm just tired. Thanks for waking me up," Shepard said with a crooked smile.

"No problem. Anyway, I finished the painting if you want to stop by to take a look," Kaidan explained once more.

"I–I can't today. It's Friday, and I have an appointment at the i–infusion clinic," Shepard replied, rubbing his shoulder as he spoke.

"Oh. Do you want me to pick you up after? I can pick you up, and we can swing by my place before I take you home," Kaidan offered, hoping Shepard would agree.

"It might take a while," Shepard admitted.

"I don't mind. I'll head there right after school," Kaidan insisted with a smile.

"Thanks," Shepard replied, returning the smile.

RING—

The bell rang, signalling the end of class and the end of Shepard's school day.

"I guess you'll be heading to your appointment, huh?" Kaidan asked, unable to pull himself away from the blue-eyed blonde.

"Yeah. I'll see you later, I guess," Shepard said as he nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

"Definitely. I hope everything goes well," Kaidan said with a smile.

"Thanks. I better be going," Shepard said as he waved his hand. 

"Yeah," Kaidan chuckled as he watched Shepard disappear down the hall.

****☆****

1:02 PM – THE INFUSION CLINIC AT MERCY GENERAL HOSPITAL… 

"Sorry, I'm late. The bus was behind schedule," Shepard explained as he presented his badge to the receptionist.

"That's alright, Johnny," the receptionist smiled as she quickly checked him in. "Before you leave today, I'll need to have a quick word with you."

"I–Is something wrong," Shepard asked anxiously.

"It's nothing for you to worry about. You can go on back," she instructed with a reassuring smile.

Shepard just nodded as he headed down the hall.


Everything went smoothly, and two and a half hours later, Shepard was released.

"Johnny, may I speak with you," the receptionist called out, causing Shepard to stop at the front desk.

"Yes, ma'am," Shepard replied nervously.

"I was hoping your dad would be here today, but I guess I can send him a message through you," the receptionist said in a tone that made Shepard uneasy.

"I–I can give him a message. It isn't a problem," Shepard offered.

"Tell him that the deductible needs to be paid by next Friday. If it isn't, we can't give you the infusion," the receptionist explained.

"Oh. H–How much is it?" Shepard asked nervously.

"It's $600," she replied simply.

"$600," Shepard repeated in a shocked tone.

"I know it seems steep, but these infusions cost over $10,000 each. I hope you understand the need for payment," the receptionist explained, a sad look in her eyes.

"I–I understand. Can I bring it next Friday?" Shepard asked, hoping he could.

"That would be fine. I'll see you next week," the receptionist smiled as Shepard made his way out of the building.


"John," Kaidan called out as Shepard started walking down the street.

"K, I guess I forgot you were picking me up," Shepard admitted as he furrowed his brow, still bothered by the looming payment.

"Yeah. Are you okay? You don't look well," Kaidan said as he placed a hand on Shepard's shoulder.

"I–I'm okay, just a bit nauseous," Shepard replied with a crooked half-smile. "I'll probably throw up a bit later – I usually do."

"The infusions are rough, huh," Kaidan said with a sympathetic look.

"It ain't that bad," Shepard shrugged.

"Well, do you feel like riding, or do you want to rest a minute," Kaidan asked as he motioned towards the car.

"We can go. It usually takes a few hours for me to get really sick," Shepard explained as he followed Kaidan to the car.

"Buckle up," Kaidan insisted as they made their way to Kaidan's house.

****☆****

THE ALENKO RESIDENCE… 

"Do you want something cold to drink? We have ginger ale – it might settle your stomach," Kaidan offered.

"Thanks, I appreciate it," Shepard said gratefully as he sat on Kaidan's bed.

"I'll be right back," Kaidan insisted as he left to retrieve the drink.

Shepard looked around the rather large bedroom. "It seems even bigger than before," Shepard thought aloud as he noticed the completed painting sitting on an easel in the corner.

"Here you go," Kaidan called out as he handed Shepard a glass of chilled ginger ale.

"Thanks," Shepard said as he took a drink, hoping it would settle his stomach. "The painting looks great. You did a really nice job."

"Thank you. I was hoping you'd like it. You don't think it looks too dark," Kaidan asked, wanting Shepard's honest opinion.

"No. The colours suit the subject matter," Shepard admitted as he nervously rubbed his shoulder.

"Yeah. I'll write the paper explaining the painting. I think I owe you that much," Kaidan insisted as he continued to watch Shepard closely.

"I–I appreciate it. I'm not good with words, especially when it hits close to home," Shepard said with a shrug.

Kaidan just smiled before reaching out and cupping Shepard's left cheek.

Shepard leaned into the touch, closing his eyes as he did so.

"You still haven't gotten me out of your system yet, huh," Shepard replied, only half-joking.

"Not yet, no," Kaidan admitted as he slowly moved to kiss the young blonde.

The kiss was gentle but full of want, and it didn't take long for it to evolve into more.

Shepard was thoroughly enjoying himself when his stomach began to churn once again, causing him to break the kiss suddenly.

"I'm sorry," Shepard apologized as Kaidan looked on in confusion. "I don't feel so great. C–Can we do this later?"

"S–Sure. Do you want me to drive you home?" Kaidan asked as he gently rubbed Shepard's bottom lip.

"Uh-huh – if you don't mind," Shepard replied with a nod.

"Come on," Kaidan insisted as he took the younger boy by the hand, leading him to the car 

****☆****

The drive to Shepard's place was a silent one. One that consisted mostly of Shepard resting his head against the car window and of Kaidan watching him carefully.

Kaidan pulled into the drive at around 6:30 PM.

"Well, we're here," Kaidan announced. "It looks like your dad's home."

"Yeah. He tries to get home early on Fridays," Shepard said with a nod. "I–I'm sorry about earlier. It's not that I didn't want to; it's just that I feel so nauseous. And I really don't want you to see me puke. I hope you understand."

Kaidan smiled at his blue-eyed friend. "I understand. We can pick up where we left off later – when you're feeling better," Kaidan assured him as he leaned in to kiss him. 

The kiss was soft and sweet.

"I guess I'll see you later," Shepard smiled as he gathered his things, opening the car door to leave.

"Do you mind if I text you later?" Kaidan asked.

"No. You can if you want. I don't mind," Shepard replied with a shrug.

"Good. Have a good night, John," Kaidan called out as he backed out of the drive.

"You too," Shepard whispered as he made his way inside the house.

****☆****

"There's my boy," Chris called out from the couch – a young woman sitting beside him. "Johnny, this is Maya. Maya, this is Johnny."

The woman was beautiful – Black with straight shoulder-length dark-brown hair and dark eyes, filled with trouble that Shepard noticed right away.

"Hi," Shepard said with a wave and a nervous smile.

"Well, he is a handsome one, isn't he," Maya grinned as she offered her hand to the young blonde.

Shepard shook her hand quickly before making his way towards his bedroom.

"Where ya goin'," Chris asked with a chuckle, already enjoying himself as he took another shot of tequila. "Maya wants to get to know you better."

"I–I'm gonna go put my stuff away. I had my infusion today, and I'm starting to feel sick," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Oh. I forgot about that. Well, hurry up and put your stuff away. Then come back here and sit with us," Chris insisted as he took yet another drink.

"O–Okay," Shepard replied nervously.

Shepard moved as quickly as possible, trying his best to please his father.


"There you are. Why don't you come, sit between us?" Maya suggested as she patted the seat for emphasis.

Shepard never said a word; he just sat where he was told.

"You have the strangest eyes. They're blue, but they're so vivid, like sapphire gems. Are they real, or do you wear contacts?" Maya asked as she moved a bit closer to the young blonde.

"They're real," Shepard answered nervously.

"Stunning. I'll bet you have girls crawling at your feet," Maya grinned as she ran her hand up the boy's thigh.

"N–No, not really – if they do, I don't notice," Shepard said, nervously bouncing his knee as he spoke.

"You're being modest. I can tell," she grinned as her hand grazed Shepard's inner thigh.

"I–I'm gonna throw up," Shepard mumbled as he rushed to the washroom.

"Was it something I said?" Maya chuckled as she turned her gaze to Chris.

"Nah. He's probably sick as a dog. He pukes for hours after those damn infusions. I feel bad for him, but there's nothing I can do about it," Chris explained as he took another drink, deciding on beer this time. "Let's not let that spoil our evening."

"I agree," Maya grinned as she straddled Chris, slowly grinding against him as she took a swig of his beer.

"You feel so good, baby," Chris whispered as he began kissing the soft flesh of her neck.


MEANWHILE… 

Shepard could hear them from the washroom, the obvious sound of sex echoing through the walls as he lay on the floor, puking his guts out.

"At least somebody's feeling good," Shepard groaned as he retched once more.

Shepard's misery lasted for another hour before he finally felt well enough to brush his teeth and head for bed.

He had nearly made it to the kitchen when a feminine voice called out.

"Johnny, why don't you come sit with us," Maya grinned, unabashed by her nudity.

"I–I'm pretty tired," Shepard said, trying his best to get out of this awkward situation.

"Johnny, it isn't gonna kill you to sit for a while," Chris insisted as he lit a cigarette.

Shepard rubbed his face with both hands before taking a seat in the chair, far away from the two naked lovers.

"Don't be shy. Come, sit with us," Maya grinned as she patted the seat between them.

"I'm good," Shepard insisted, the uneasy feeling growing with each passing moment.

"Johnny, don't be that way. Come and sit with us," Chris insisted.

Shepard reluctantly did as he was told and was, once again, subjected to Maya's wandering hands.

"He's such a beautiful boy. It's a shame he wastes it," Maya said with a disappointed look.

"He ain't wasting it. My boy's gay – he don't like girls," Chris explained as he exhaled the smoke from his lungs.

"Really," Maya replied, a hint of surprise in her voice. "He certainly doesn't look gay. Maybe he just needs a real woman to show him the way," Maya suggested as she ran her hand down Shepard's well-toned abdomen.

Chris couldn't help but laugh. "Feel free to try, but I don't think it works that way," Chris replied as he took another shot of tequila.

"Dad, I don't feel right," Shepard mumbled, hoping his father would allow him to leave.

"Here, drink this," Chris instructed as he handed the boy a beer.

"I–I don't think that's a good idea. I still feel sick, and I really don't wanna puke again," Shepard replied as he tried to place the beer on the table.

"Now, now – drink up," Maya insisted as she forced the bottle to Shepard's lips.

"Johnny, don't be a pussy and drink the goddamn beer," Chris insisted, his words slurring a bit as he spoke.

Shepard closed his eyes and did as he was told, his stomach churning, but – unwilling to start an argument – continued to drink until the bottle was empty.

Once Shepard was finished with the beer, Maya sat the bottle aside and straddled the blue-eyed teen, leaning in to kiss the boy's neck before kissing the boy on the mouth, urging his mouth open with her tongue.

"He has a lovely mouth," Maya praised as she gave Chris a wink before returning her attention back towards Shepard.

Shepard said nothing; he just stared at his father, silently pleading for him to stop what was happening.

Instead of stopping it, Chris began to touch himself as he watched Maya continue her assault on the blue-eyed blonde.

Maya began palming Shepard through his jeans, causing the boy to squirm uneasily.

"Dad, please, get her off me," Shepard pleaded.

Chris acted as if he hadn't even heard Shepard's words. And when Maya unbuttoned Shepard's jeans and placed her hand firmly around him, he panicked, pushing her off him.

Once he was free of her, he quickly stood, trying his best to get to the safety of his room.

He was nearly there when he was suddenly turned around by a violent tug on his shoulder.

"Dad, please, I'm tired, and I don't wanna do this," Shepard pleaded, his sapphire-blue eyes glistening with unshed tears. 

"Johnny, don't be a brat. Besides, you might like it if you just give it a chance. Maya's a hell of a woman, and she'll do you right," Chris insisted. 

"Y–You want me to fuck her?" Shepard asked, his sad blue eyes going wide in disbelief. 

Chris sighed heavily. "Johnny, I just want you to feel good. Maybe if you were a little more normal, things wouldn't be so hard for you," Chris explained.

"This isn't you. It's the tequila talking, isn't it? The father I know would never try to change me," Shepard explained, hoping his father would listen.

"Stop being so goddamn dramatic! Most boys your age would love to be in your place right now. So, stop whining and do as Maya says," Chris insisted.

"I–I won't do that, Dad. I'm sorry. I love you, but I–I won't do that," Shepard replied as a tear ran down his cheek.

"Why are you so difficult!?" Chris yelled out, his voice strange, the tone deeper than Chris's usual voice.

"Dad?" Shepard asked, noticing the strange look in his father's dark-brown eyes.

"You bring this on yourself, Johnny," Chris yelled as he slapped Shepard hard across the face.

"Dad, stop," Shepard called out just as his father punched him, causing him to fall to the ground.

Shepard could taste the iron and copper as the blood dripped from his mouth and nose.

Chris kicked Shepard hard in the stomach before dragging the boy to the front door.

"Get out," Chris growled, his face twitching oddly as he spoke. "Now, Johnny!"

Chris shoved the boy down the steps before slamming the door shut behind him and locking it from inside.

"Dad, please. I'll do whatever you want, just please, let me in. I'm sorry," Shepard called out as he knocked on the door, desperately trying to fix things. "Daddy, please."

Shepard slid down the door, holding his head in his hands as he contemplated what went wrong. He sat there for hours until the silence of the night became too much.

Not knowing what else to do, Shepard took off, walking towards the other side of town.

****☆****

1:34 AM – THE ALENKO RESIDENCE… 

Kaidan was sleeping soundly when he was suddenly awakened by the sound of tapping on his window.

Kaidan sat up in bed, clearing the sleep from his eyes before turning his attention to the window.

"Shepard," Kaidan mumbled, unsure of what he was seeing – rubbing his eyes for good measure as he walked to the window.

Shepard waved his hand as he awaited Kaidan's next move.

"Shepard, what the hell," Kaidan mumbled as he opened the window. 

"C–Can I come in?" Shepard asked nervously, blood still occasionally trickling from his nose.

"Yeah. Of course," Kaidan insisted as he motioned Shepard inside.

Once inside, Shepard took a seat on the floor, trying to take up as little space as possible.

"John, what the hell happened to you?" Kaidan asked as he rushed to Shepard's side.

"I–I got in a fight," Shepard lied, not wanting Kaidan to judge his father too harshly.

"At one in the morning?" Kaidan asked, cocking his brow in disbelief.

Shepard just shrugged as he wiped his bloodied nose with the side of his hand. "I should go before I get blood on your carpet," Shepard said as he started to stand.

"Sit your ass back down," Kaidan insisted as he took some tissues from the box by his bed before gently pressing them against Shepard's nose to stop the bleeding.

"I'm sorry, I woke you. I would've texted or called first, but I don't have my phone with me," Shepard explained.

"Your dad was drinking, wasn't he," Kaidan surmised as he checked Shepard's nose for bleeding.

"K, this wasn't his f–fault. I was being s–stubborn. Dad has so much on his shoulders, and I–I just make things harder. Things will be better in the morning," Shepard explained in a defensive tone.

Kaidan shook his head in doubt. "If you really believe that, then why aren't you at home waiting for morning to come?"

"H–He locked me out of the house," Shepard admitted, staring at the floor to avoid Kaidan's gaze.

"Jesus, John," Kaidan said as he rubbed his face hard with one hand.

"I–I'll go. I'm sorry I b–bothered you," Shepard apologized as he rose to leave.

"John, I didn't mean to sound as if I didn't want you here. In fact, I would like very much for you to stay," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"R–Really?"

"Really. You can spend the night," Kaidan smiled as he threw the bloodied tissues in the trash.

"I a–appreciate it," Shepard smiled gratefully as he curled into a ball on the floor by the window, exhausted from the day's events.

"John, what are you doing?" Kaidan asked, cocking a brow in confusion.

"Umm. I'm going to sleep. I'm kinda tired," Shepard explained nervously.

"Get in the bed," Kaidan chuckled. 

"I–I don't want to trouble you. I'm fine on the floor. Really, I am," Shepard insisted.

"John, my bed is huge. It wouldn't be any trouble, so get in the bed," Kaidan demanded.

"O–Okay. Do you mind if I take my shirt off – it's kinda bloody?" Shepard asked sheepishly.

"Not at all. As you can see, I sleep that way too," Kaidan replied in amusement. 

Once Shepard was comfortable, Kaidan gave him one last long look before turning out the lights.

"John, can I ask you a question?" Kaidan asked.

"Yeah."

"Why did you decide to come here?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Well, you're kinda the only person I know. I'm sorry if it was an i–inconvenience. That wasn't my intent," Shepard apologized.

"John, enough apologizing. I'm glad you're here," Kaidan replied with an amused chuckle.

"S–Sorry," Shepard chuckled back.


Things were quiet for a few minutes, and Kaidan was certain Shepard had fallen asleep when he suddenly noticed a tremble in Shepard's shoulders.

"Hey, are you okay?" Kaidan asked, his voice full of worry.

"Y–Yeah. I think my blood count is fucked up. For some reason, I shiver when it gets low," Shepard admitted as he continued to tremble.

"Come here," Kaidan insisted as he pulled Shepard close, tucking the younger boy's head under his chin.  "You're cold, like really cold." 

"A–Am I?" Shepard asked, unable to actually feel the cold.

Kaidan's brow furrowed in worry as he rubbed his friend's arms. 

"You feel like you've been inside an icebox," Kaidan mumbled as he held Shepard closer, hoping his body heat would warm the blue-eyed teen.

"I–I'm sorry," Shepard apologized as he snuggled closer to the older boy.

"It's okay. Just try to rest," Kaidan insisted as he held the boy tighter before drifting off to sleep.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

Shepard woke early the next morning, smiling at the peaceful countenance before him.

"He's so beautiful," Shepard thought aloud, smiling at the way Kaidan's curly hair fell upon his brow. 

Unable to help himself, Shepard gently traced the line of Kaidan's jaw, causing a gentle smile to form on the older boy's face.

Shepard gently kissed Kaidan's forehead before quietly putting on his shirt and shoes and climbing out the window, leaving no trace of himself behind as he made his way back home.


"Shepard?" Kaidan called out as he reached out across the bed, finding only warmth where a body had once been. "Where—"

Kaidan sat up in bed, his eyes scanning the room for any trace of his blue-eyed friend.

"John, are you here?" Kaidan called out, hoping Shepard was in the washroom and hadn't vanished in the morning light.

When Kaidan received no reply, he rubbed his face hard with both hands. "Dammit, John, why won't you let anyone get close to you?" Kaidan thought aloud as he headed to the washroom to start his day.

****☆****

8:34 AM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

Shepard nervously paced the small porch, unsure whether or not he would be welcome.

Finally, after taking a deep breath, the boy decided to knock.

KNOCK, KNOCK… 

KNOCK, KNOCK… 

No answer—

Shepard sighed as he took a seat on the front steps. 

"I really fucked up this time," Shepard thought to himself as he toyed with the hem of his bloodstained shirt.

"Well, well – what do we have here?" Maya called out as she opened the front door.

Shepard immediately turned his attention to her as she took a step closer to him, nudging his back with her naked foot.

"I–Is Dad awake?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Not yet. Do you want me to wake him?" Maya asked as she lit herself a cigarette.

"No. I–I was just wondering. I'm gonna go take a quick shower," Shepard said as he made his way past the woman and into the house.

Maya grinned as she watched the boy head for his bedroom.

Once Shepard had gathered some clean clothes, he headed for the washroom to take a quick shower. When that was done, Shepard grabbed his phone and headed for the front door.

"If he asks, tell Daddy I'm going to be home late tonight. I'm helping the old guy near the market. He'll know who I mean," Shepard explained, rubbing his shoulder as he spoke.

"I'll be sure to pass it on – if he asks, that is," Maya teased with an amused look on his face.

Shepard just furrowed his brow as he continued on his way, heading down the street.


"I hope Dad's not serious about her," Shepard thought aloud, "She makes my skin crawl."

Shepard walked slowly, letting his feet carry him wherever his subconscious led. It wasn't until he was halfway to Kaidan's place that he realized what he was doing.

"Goddammit," Shepard swore as he rubbed his face hard with his left hand. "I can't go back to Kaidan's. I know what needs to be done. I gotta come up with $600 in a week, and there's no way Dad can raise that much. I know I don't have a choice, so why am I avoiding it so goddamn much?"

Shepard sighed as he steeled himself before changing direction and heading towards the red light district.

****☆****

THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT… 

Shepard spent hours roaming the area, hoping someone would show interest, but people were few and far between, causing Shepard to grow weary.

"I know it's still early, but I'm getting hungry," Shepard mumbled to himself as he walked past one of the many sex shops that littered the street. "If I don't eat something soon, I'm going to pass out."

Suddenly, one of the cashiers on his lunch break gave Shepard an interested smile, and it wasn't long before he was standing in front of the young blonde.

"Hey. Are you waiting for someone?" The man asked with a big smile. "I noticed you walking up and down the street."

"No. I'm not waiting for anyone, just out looking," Shepard answered with a smile he hoped was friendly.

The man nodded in understanding. "I'm on my lunch break and couldn't help but notice you. You have the most amazing blue eyes. Would you like to have lunch with me? It'll be my treat – wouldn't cost you anything," the man offered, hoping the gorgeous blonde would accept.

"Sure," Shepard said with a grin as he walked side by side with the man.

"There's a nice place, just a few shops down. It has just about anything you could ever want," the man explained as they continued on.


"It looks like a nice place," Shepard said as they entered the small café.

"You haven't been here before?" The man asked curiously.

"No," came Shepard's simple reply as he took a seat at the man's chosen table.

"Feel free to order whatever you like," the man said with a grin as he perused the menu.

"I'll just have whatever you're having," Shepard insisted as he began bouncing his knee nervously.

"Are you sure? What if you don't like what I'm having," the man asked in amusement.

"I'll eat anything," Shepard assured him as the waitress came to take their order.

"Alright. We'll have two turkey clubs with a side of chips," the man said to the waitress.

"What would you like to drink?" The waitress asked with a smile.

"I'll have a Coke, and he'll have—" the man cut his words short, waiting for Shepard to reply.

"Water's fine," Shepard replied with a small half-smile.

Once the waitress had left to place the order, the man began to speak once again.

"Forgive me if this question offends you, but you are for rent, aren't you?" The man asked, touching Shepard's hand as he spoke.

Shepard faked a smile, struggling with the urge to pull his hand away. "I am. Are you interested in more than just lunch?"

"I am. I only have an hour off for lunch, so whatever we do will have to be quick," the man explained.

"That's fine," Shepard agreed, wanting things to move as fast as possible.

"Here you are, two Turkey clubs with chips, one Coke, and one water. Enjoy," the waitress smiled as she took her leave.

"Well, we better dig in. Time's wasting," the man grinned with a wink as he took a bite of his sandwich.

Despite Shepard's hunger, he could only finish a little over half before his nerves began to make him nauseous.

"Do you not like it?" The man asked as he took another bite.

"No, it's good. I'm just not very hungry," Shepard explained as he took a sip of his water.

"So, where do you wanna do this?" The man asked as he continued to eat.

"Wherever you want. I ain't picky," Shepard admitted.

"How about one of the back rooms at the shop where I work? It won't be as crowded as a washroom stall." The man said as he finished his lunch. "Are you ready to head out?"

"Uh-huh," Shepard replied simply as he followed the man to their destination.


Once inside the store, the man wasted no time in leading Shepard to the back, choosing the cleanest and most spacious room for their exchange.

"I'd love to fuck you, but I don't think we'll have time for that," the man said, a hint of disappointment in his voice. "I guess I'll have to settle for a blowjob. Do you think you can make me cum in less than fifteen minutes?"

"I dunno, but I'll do my best," Shepard said as knelt before the man, ready to earn the much-needed money.

"Damn, you're beautiful. I wish we had time for foreplay, but you know how it is," the man said with a shrug as he quickly exposed himself. "If I don't cum, I won't pay you full price. You understand, don't you?"

Shepard nodded in agreement as he began stroking the man's length before taking the head into his mouth.

"Your mouth feels good," the man praised as he allowed Shepard to show him what he could do.


Sure enough, ten minutes later, Shepard had the man cumming wildly, much to the man's surprise.

"Damn, that was good! You are extremely good at that," the man said as he caught his breath.

"Thank you," Shepard said quietly as he rose to his feet.

"Here," the man said as he handed Shepard a fifty.

"This is double what I asked," Shepard admitted, cocking his brow in confusion.

"You earned a little extra," the man winked as he made himself presentable for work. "I would be interested in hiring you again sometime. I'm extremely interested in having sex with you."

"I might be back around someday, but I ain't sure," Shepard replied as he rubbed his shoulder.

"Well, if you're ever working in this area again, my shifts always end at 6 PM."

"I'll keep that in mind," Shepard said with a fake smile.

"I hope to see you again, kid," the man called out as Shepard made his way out of the building.

The second he was outside, he popped a piece of gum into his mouth and made his way towards the various bars and clubs.

****☆****

8 PM – THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT… 

Shepard was standing outside a club called Purgatory, tired from the day, and about to head home when a familiar face caught his eye.

"Fuck," Shepard whispered under his breath, hoping the man hadn't noticed him.

He had.

"Goddammit," Shepard mumbled as he noticed the man coming closer.

"Well, if it isn't the kid with the crazy blue eyes," the man grinned as he came to stand beside the young blonde.

"Hey," Shepard replied quietly.

"You owe me a lighter and a pack of smokes," the man said as he lit up a cigarette.

"S–Sorry about that," Shepard apologized, hoping the man wasn't too angry with him.

"Ah, I was just messing with you," the man chuckled as he handed Shepard the lit cigarette.

Shepard studied the man's face for a second before accepting the offered smoke.

"Thanks," Shepard said as he took a deep drag.

"Are you working tonight?" The man asked, eager to have Shepard in his bed again.

"Y–Yeah," Shepard replied nervously.

"You're adorable! Still as nervous and shy as ever," the man grinned in amusement.

Shepard just shrugged as he kicked at the ground nervously.

"That's new. What's that on your arm?" The man asked, pointing at the tubes hanging from Shepard's left arm. 

"It's a PICC line," Shepard replied simply.

"Doesn't that make it hard to do your job," the man asked curiously.

"No. I'm careful," Shepard insisted.

"How sick are you?" The man asked, cocking his brow in suspicion.

"It ain't bad, and it ain't contagious. It's hereditary," Shepard explained with a sigh.

"Oh, okay. So— how much for the night?" The man asked, remembering how much he had enjoyed Shepard the first time.

"Same as before," Shepard replied, dreading the night, but needing the money.

"Done. Do you want to head out now?" The man asked as he watched Shepard snuff out the cigarette underfoot.

"Lead the way," Shepard said as he followed the man to his car.

****☆****

LATER THAT NIGHT… 

Shepard lay prone on the bed as the man continued to thrust deep inside his young body.

Each thrust, harder and more brutal than the last, and it wasn't long before the man was pulling Shepard's long dark-blonde hair, demanding the boy beg him for more.


The session lasted for another hour before the man finally found his release deep inside Shepard's young body.

"You're such a good little fuck," the man praised as he collapsed atop Shepard's prone body, still balls deep inside the young teen.

The man began kissing his way down Shepard's spine as he finally pulled out of the boy's well-used body.

"Do you want me to stay?" Shepard quietly asked, his tone almost mechanical as he spoke.

"Of course, I do. I plan on fucking you again before the sun comes up," the man insisted as he lit himself a cigarette. "Do you want one?"

Shepard just nodded as he took the cigarette and held it with a shaky hand as the man flicked the lighter.

Shepard inhaled the nicotine, hoping it would somehow calm him. "W–What time is it?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"1:30. Why?" The man asked curiously.

"I— No reason. Do you have anything to drink?" Shepard asked as he flicked the cigarette ash into an ashtray.

"Sure. You want a beer, liquor, or—" the man's words were cut off by Shepard's reply.

"Water, if you have it," Shepard said as he took another nervous drag from his cigarette.

"Sure. I'll be back in a minute," the man winked as he made his way to the kitchen.

The second he was out of the room, Shepard retrieved his medication from a tiny baggy in the pocket of his jeans before throwing them back onto the floor. 

"I almost forgot. I already missed one dose. Missing another would be bad." Shepard thought aloud.

Once he heard the man's footsteps getting closer, Shepard quickly popped the pills into his mouth.

"Here you are," the man smiled as he handed Shepard the glass.

Shepard smiled as he quickly drank half of the water straight down. "Thanks," Shepard said with a nod as he sat the glass on the nightstand.

"Why don't we get some rest," the man asked, causing Shepard's brow to furrow in confusion.

"I thought you wanted to fuck again," Shepard replied, confused by the man's words.

"I do, and we will – later," the man insisted as he pulled Shepard down to lie beside him, kissing the young blonde's neck as he pulled Shepard closer. 

He kissed the young blonde once more before turning him onto his side, so Shepard was facing away from him. Shepard said nothing and just allowed the man to stroke his hair like a pet until, finally, Shepard fell asleep.


A few hours later, Shepard was awakened by the feel of being slowly penetrated by the man behind him. Shepard tried to move away as his instincts kicked in, only to be pulled closer to the man's chest, and in turn, driving the man deeper inside him.

"Shh, it's just me. Don't fight it. It'll feel really good in a minute," the man insisted, causing Shepard's body to relax as he once again allowed the violation of his young body.

The man lifted Shepard's leg, giving him better access to the boy and allowing him to thrust even deeper. 

Shepard just closed his eyes, trying his best to concentrate on anything but the nauseous feeling that was building in his stomach.

It wasn't as if the man was bad in bed. On the contrary, he was quite skilled. And had Shepard been attracted to him, he was certain he would've been enjoying it, but that just wasn't the case.

Shepard did everything the man asked, and soon enough, the man reached his peak and came once more deep inside the young blonde.

Once he was finished, the man kissed Shepard's neck gently, taking time to lick the sweat found there, loving the feel of the boy's pulse under his tongue.

"Mmm. How would you like to make a thousand dollars?" The man asked, knowing Shepard needed the money.

"Huh?" Shepard asked, cocking a speculative brow.

"You heard me," the man chuckled. "I know you need the money. Those hospital bills are rough, huh," the man said, pointing to Shepard's PICC line.

"W–What would I have to do?" Shepard asked, nervous to hear the terms but desperately needing the money.

"You wouldn't have to do anything you haven't already done," the man insisted. "There's a guy I know that's trying to find someone to take part in a movie."

"Y–You mean porn," Shepard asked nervously.

"Well, yeah. It would be a threesome. You would be bottoming, of course," the man explained.

"I–I've never done that before. I've only been with one guy at a time. I wouldn't know what to do," Shepard replied anxiously.

"That's the beauty of it! That's why you'd be perfect. He wants to capture that nervous energy. And if it makes you feel any better, I'll be right there with you," the man promised.

"How many people will be there?" Shepard asked, not liking the idea.

"About five. There'll be me, the two other actors, and two cameramen. It'll only take a few hours. You couldn't ask for easier money," the man insisted.

"W–Will they wear a condom?" Shepard asked nervously.

"They've all been tested. You can read the results if you want," the man said, trying to get the boy to forego the condoms.

"I–I don't know," Shepard mumbled, needing the money but not wanting to take a risk with his health.

"I cum in you all the time, and you don't seem to mind," the man reminded him. 

Shepard furrowed his brow, knowing the man was right and hating himself for allowing it. 'As much as I hate it, he has a point. I'm probably already fucked, and I really need that money. Fuck it!'

"O–Okay, but I need the money by Friday," Shepard insisted.

"Done. I'll text you with the time and place," the man said as he kissed Shepard's naked shoulder.

"W–Won't my age be an issue?" Shepard asked.

"Nope. I'll tell them you're eighteen. You look old enough to pass, and you certainly fuck like a man. They'll never know," the man insisted.

"O-Okay. I guess we have a deal," Shepard shrugged as the man kissed his shoulder once more.

"Excellent. Now that we have a deal, why don't we get some sleep," the man suggested as he pulled Shepard close.

Shepard allowed himself to be pulled close before willing himself to sleep.

****☆****

Early the next morning, Shepard woke feeling sore and well used as he slowly gathered his things to leave.

"Hey, you don't have to take off so soon," the man said as he sat up in bed.

"I–I really have to go. My dad's gonna be worried sick about me," Shepard admitted as he started to get dressed.

"You can take a shower if you want," the man said, wanting to keep the young blonde around for as long as possible.

"I— Okay," Shepard replied, eager to wash away all traces of the night before. "Where's the washroom?"

"Right over there," the man explained, pointing for good measure.

"Thanks," Shepard said as he made his way to the washroom.


Shepard took his time, letting the hot water cleanse his body and soul before finally getting dressed and heading back into the stranger's bedroom.

"You know, it occurs to me that I don't know your name," the man called out the second Shepard re-entered the room.

"D–Do we really need to know each other's name," Shepard asked, not wanting the man to get too close.

"Fair enough, but I have to call you something," the man insisted.

"Devon. You can call me Devon," Shepard replied, hoping his seldom-used middle name would allow him to retain his anonymity.

"Devon. It suits you," the man grinned. "My name is Will."

Shepard just nodded as he sat down to put on his shoes.

"Are you sure you can't stay longer? I can pay," the man offered.

"I really can't," Shepard replied as he collected his money from the nightstand, making sure to count it before putting it in his pocket.

"Alright," the man ceded with a sigh as he moved to kiss Shepard one last time before he left. 

"I'll need your information if I'm going to text you the info," the man asked after reluctantly breaking the kiss.

"Oh. Okay," Shepard said as he typed his information into the man's phone. "There you go. It's under D for Devon."

"Great. I guess I'll see you next week," the man said as he kissed Shepard once more.

"Y–Yeah," Shepard said as he hastily made his way out of the building.

****☆****

THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME – LATER THAT MORNING… 

"Dad, are you home?" Shepard called out, hoping his father wasn't still angry with him.

"Where the hell have you been!?" Chris yelled, slapping Shepard hard across the face.

Stunned by his father's sudden anger, Shepard turned his eyes downward, letting his long dark-blonde hair cascade in front of his face, successfully hiding himself from his father's gaze.

"I–I was helping the old man again. I told Maya to tell you," Shepard explained, his voice low and timid as he spoke.

"Goddammit, Johnny, when are you gonna learn to call me? What good is your phone if you never use it?" Chris scolded, obviously worried about his son.

"I–I'm sorry. I'll do better next time," Shepard promised as he continued to stare at his feet.

Chris sighed. "Have you eaten anything?" 

"N–No, not since yesterday," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Johnny, you gotta start eating more," Chris insisted as he prepared a plate for his son. "Sit."

Shepard did as he was told, sitting down at the kitchen table.

"Here," Shepard said, handing his father two of the three hundred and fifty dollars he had made.

"I appreciate this, son. I really do," Chris smiled as he placed the plate of scrambled eggs in front of his son before taking a seat opposite him. "Try to eat everything."

"I will," Shepard promised as he took a bite of the eggs.

"So, what did you think of Maya," Chris asked as he lit a cigarette.

"S–She's alright," Shepard said with a shrug.

"She's beautiful, no," Chris asked with a grin.

"I guess," Shepard said, rubbing his shoulder nervously.

"Look, about Friday night: I don't remember a goddamn thing. I know I was drinking a lot, and usually, when I drink, we fight. So, if I did anything to hurt you, I apologize," Chris explained nervously.

"I know. You don't have to apologize," Shepard insisted with a smile.

"I love you, Johnny," Chris said as he got up from the table, kissing the top of his son's head before making his way to the living room.

"I love you too, Daddy," Shepard whispered as he continued to eat his breakfast.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

MONDAY MORNING… 

"Hey," Shepard greeted Kaidan with a small wave as he took his seat.

"Hey. I already turned in our project. I hope you don't mind," Kaidan explained with a smile.

"I don't mind," Shepard assured the older boy.

"So— why did you leave like that?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"You mean Saturday?" Shepard asked as he opened his sketchbook.

"Yes, John, I mean Saturday," Kaidan replied, slightly annoyed by Shepard's aloofness.

"I dunno. I guess I didn't want your parents to know I was there," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Your concern is appreciated but not needed. My parents would welcome you. I know they would," Kaidan insisted.

"Maybe," Shepard shrugged. "I didn't want to cause any trouble, so I left."

Kaidan shook his head in amusement. "So, what are you doing after school?"

"Umm. I have a doctor's appointment, two actually," Shepard admitted.

"Do you need a ride?" Kaidan offered.

"Rahna won't be mad," Shepard asked, rubbing his shoulder nervously.

"Rahna has to stay after school. She's on the committee that plans all the upcoming school events. Apparently, there's an upcoming art contest being hosted by the school. You should enter," Kaidan suggested.

"Huh? M–Me?" Shepard asked in disbelief.

"Yes, you," Kaidan chuckled. "You're easily the most talented artist in the entire school."

"I— Thank you, but nobody would vote for anything I did," Shepard said with a sad smile.

"I don't believe that," Kaidan said, shaking his head as he spoke. "I don't think you're as hated as you think you are."

"Hn." 

RING—

"Alright, class, you're dismissed. You have until the end of the day to turn in your projects. Have a good lunch," Benezia said with a smile.

Shepard and Kaidan were nearing the exit when the teacher called out.

"John, may I have a word with you?" Benezia asked, causing Shepard to turn his attention to her instead of Kaidan.

"I'll text you later," Kaidan whispered as he went on to lunch.

"Ma'am," Shepard said as he made his way to his teacher's desk.

"Your sketch was superb. I was pleasantly surprised with how well you and Kaidan worked together. I'm proud of you," Benezia insisted with a smile.

"T–Thank you, but Kaidan did most of it. He did all the painting; I just sketched it for him," Shepard replied honestly.

"I know," Benezia smiled. "Now, for the real reason I asked you to stay – I would like for you to enter the upcoming art contest. The grand prize is an art scholarship, and I think you have the best shot at winning it."

"I–I dunno. Do you really think anyone would vote for me? I ain't exactly liked around here," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"John, it's a blind judging. No one knows the artists. The artist is only revealed if they win. Please, John. It wouldn't hurt to try, would it?" Benezia asked, hoping the boy would at least try.

"A–Alright. What's the subject and medium?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Anything you want – it's an open format," Benezia explained.

"When is it due?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"You'll have about a month to complete your entry," Benezia said with a smile.

"Alright. Where do I sign up?" Shepard asked with a nervous smile.

"I'll take care of your entry; you just concentrate on your piece. I'll handle the rest," Benezia assured her anxious student with a smile.

"Okay. Thanks," Shepard said appreciatively. "Is there anything else?"

"No, you may go," Benezia said with a smile as she watched Shepard until he was out of sight.

****☆****

3 PM – THE ALLIANCE  HIGH SCHOOLYARD… 

"There you are," Kaidan called out with a bright smile on his face.

"Hey. Are you sure you wanna take me to my appointments? I mean, if you have something else to do, I can just take the bus," Shepard assured the older boy, not wanting to be a bother.

"I'm sure," Kaidan replied with a chuckle. "So, is your appointment at the hospital or a doctor's office?"

"The hospital. The doctor sees me there when I have to do bloodwork. It saves both of us some time," Shepard explained as he fastened his seatbelt.

"I imagine drawing blood is a lot easier with your PICC line," Kaidan said, trying to make small talk in the hopes of getting Shepard to open up.

"Yeah, it's a lot quicker too," Shepard said with a nod.

"Where's your other appointment?" Kaidan asked as they neared the hospital parking lot.

"Umm. It's the bloodwork. They count as separate appointments even though they're in the same place. In fact, they usually do that first," Shepard explained.

"That's convenient," Kaidan smiled as he parked the car. "I can go in with you – if you'd like."

"That's up to you. My psych appointments usually last about forty-five minutes. The bloodwork doesn't take long at all, though," Shepard replied as he unfastened his seatbelt.

"I think I'll go in with you," Kaidan replied as he exited the vehicle.

"Okay. I'll try not to take too long," Shepard promised as they entered the building.


ONE HOUR LATER… 

"Hey. How'd it go?" Kaidan asked, his brow furrowing in worry.

"A–Alright, I guess. Can we go?" Shepard asked, his voice cracking and his eyes red as if he'd been crying.

"Y–Yeah," Kaidan replied as he led the young blonde out of the building.


Once they were in the car, Kaidan casually invited Shepard to dinner, hoping to cheer up the melancholic blonde.

"So, do you wanna go grab something to eat," Kaidan asked with a smile. "It'll be my treat."

"I–I ain't really hungry, but you can grab something. I don't mind waiting," Shepard replied, leaning his head against the car window.

"John, you have to be a little hungry by now. I know you never eat lunch," Kaidan reminded the young blonde.

Shepard shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe a little. My appetite ain't never been very good."

"Yeah. You are kinda skinny," Kaidan grinned, teasing his friend a bit.

"I ain't that skinny. I'm just tall," Shepard insisted with a grin of his own.

"I don't know. Your waist is pretty damn narrow," Kaidan said, cocking his head to the side as he spoke.

"Well, yeah, but I got broad shoulders, and I don't have a lot of body fat. It makes me look smaller than I am," Shepard argued.

"That's true; you are pretty damn muscular. But— you're still pretty damn tiny," Kaidan teased, loving the pouty expression Shepard had on his face.

"So, I'm skinny. Do I really look that bad?" Shepard asked, his tone serious, causing Kaidan's joking smile to fade.

"John, I was just joking. You're a beautiful person. I've said that before. I meant it then, and I mean it now," Kaidan insisted.

"A pretty face ain't the same as an attractive body," Shepard said with a shrug.

"John, I didn't mean to make you feel bad. I'm sorry I teased you," Kaidan apologized, taking Shepard's left hand in his as he drove.

"I know. I'm sorry. I just— I had a bad session, and I ain't feeling the best. Just ignore me," Shepard said as he continued to stare out the side window.

"Do you wanna talk about it?" Kaidan asked, furrowing his brow in concern.

"No. Talking is what has me fucked up," Shepard admitted.

"They force you to talk about things?" Kaidan asked, genuinely curious.

"Yeah. They think making me talk will somehow unlock my mind. All it ever does is make me wanna die," Shepard explained, his sapphire-blue eyes filled with a sadness Kaidan couldn't fathom.

"John, if it makes you feel that way, tell them. I'm sure they'll change their approach once you tell them how you feel," Kaidan insisted.

"They know. I tell them every time. They just say it's normal and that I'm making progress. Then they up my medication so I don't become too suicidal. It's a fuckin' joke," Shepard explained, his voice sounding farther away with every word spoken.

"It sounds to me like they have no idea how to treat you. You need to see someone that specializes in treating your disorder," Kaidan suggested, his brow furrowing when he noticed the strange look on Shepard's face. "John?"

Kaidan gently rubbed Shepard's knuckles, hoping to get a response.

He received none.

"John," Kaidan called out louder.

Realizing Shepard was no longer there at that moment, Kaidan quickly pulled into the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.

"John, look at me," Kaidan insisted as he tried to snap his friend out of his episode. 

Kaidan gently slapped Shepard's jaw, trying desperately to wake him from his trance.

Not knowing what else to do, Kaidan unbuckled the boy's seatbelt and guided him to his feet, hoping the outdoor air would help him to stir.

To no avail, Shepard continued staring straight ahead, unmoving.

"John, can you hear me? Please, if you can hear me, come back to me. I don't know what to do here. Please, John, I need your help," Kaidan pleaded as he held Shepard's face in his hands.

Sighing in defeat, Kaidan slowly let go of his friend, running both hands through his hair as he moved to get his phone from the car.

It only took a few seconds, but that was enough for Shepard to drift away from him. And by the time Kaidan caught sight of him again, Shepard was walking straight into traffic.

"JOHN!"

Kaidan screamed as he ran towards the lost teen, pulling him out of harm's way at just the last minute, holding the boy tightly as the car zoomed past.

"John, are you okay," Kakdan asked as he held Shepard's face in his hand, his eyes searching the strange blue of Shepard's own.

Suddenly, Shepard blinked, and just like that, it was over. 

"K," Shepard whispered as he kissed Kaidan desperately.

Kaidan's eyes went wide in surprise but slowly closed as he returned the kiss with equal vigor.

Once the kiss was broken, Shepard spoke, his voice shy and timid.

"W–What happened?" Shepard asked.

"You had some kind of weird episode. You were here, but not here – if that makes any sense," Kaidan explained. 

"O–Oh. I–I'm sorry. That happens sometimes when I think too much," Shepard said, his tone apologetic.

"I gotta admit, it scared the hell outta me," Kaidan admitted.

"I–I can go if you want," Shepard insisted, not wanting Kaidan to feel uneasy around him.

"No. I don't want you to go. I want you to have dinner with me. So, let's head in," Kaidan insisted as he took Shepard by the hand.

"O–Okay," Shepard agreed with a smile.

****☆****

"How's the food," Kaidan asked as he took a bite of his dinner.

"It's good," Shepard smiled as he picked at his food.

"I hate to bring this up again, but does that happen often," Kaidan asked, genuinely concerned for his friend.

"What? The episodes," Shepard asked as Kaidan nodded in reply. "Uh, y–yeah. I can go for weeks and be fine, but sometimes they happen once or twice a week. It depends."

"Does your dad understand your illness?" Kaidan asked as he took a sip of his pop.

"Y–Yeah. He went to a special class before I was released. They showed him several different techniques to use when I blackout. He usually snaps me out of it pretty quick," Shepard explained.

"I didn't know there were classes for that," Kaidan said, pleasantly surprised by the information.

"I don't think they're common. It was a requirement for my release. He had to prove he could handle me," Shepard said as he pushed his half-eaten food aside.

"That's interesting. Was that the only class he had to take?"

"No," Shepard replied, shaking his head as he spoke.

"Well," Kaidan asked, waiting for Shepard to continue.

"Well, what?" Shepard asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

Kaidan shook his head in amusement. "What other classes did he have to take?"

"Umm. W–Well, he had to go to a therapy group once or twice. That was supposed to teach him how to handle my mood swings without getting angry," Shepard explained as he bounced his knee nervously.

"You have mood swings," Kaidan asked with a sense of doubt in his voice.

"Y–Yeah. I'm bipolar with manic episodes. I thought I told you," Shepard said, his brow furrowing in confusion – unsure whether he truly had or not.

"Oh, I remember now. You always seem pretty level to me, so I guess I forgot," Kaidan admitted.

"Yeah, my bipolar meds work really well. I don't have many episodes, and when I do, they don't last very long," Shepard explained with a smile.

"That's great. One less thing for you and your dad to worry about," Kaidan smiled. "Those classes don't sound so bad. I'll bet your dad was happy to complete them."

"Yeah. He liked all of them but one," Shepard replied.

"Oh, what one was that?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"The one that taught him how to deal with me if I ever have a violent episode. That one was pretty rough for him. He hated the idea of having to restrain me with force. He said he hoped he never had to use what he learned," Shepard said, his tone sad as he spoke.

"Has he ever used his knowledge?" Kaidan asked with a frown.

"No, not yet," Shepard replied with a shake of his head. "I didn't mean to talk about stuff like this. It's not exactly the nicest thing to talk about."

"Nah. I was the one who asked. You only answered my questions," Kaidan insisted as he finished his meal. "Are you ready to go?"

"Uh, yeah. Do you mind if I order takeout for my dad? It'll be late when I get home and I don't want his dinner to be late," Shepard explained nervously.

"Sure. We can get something for him here, or we can stop somewhere else. It's up to you," Kaidan insisted with a smile.

"He likes roast beef. We could just order him a roast beef sandwich to go before we leave," Shepard suggested.

"That's fine with me. Do you want me to order it for you?" Kaidan offered.

"That's okay. I can do it. Thanks for offering, though," Shepard smiled as he went to place the order.

Kaidan was smiling as he watched his friend closely. 

His smile faded a few seconds later when he was interrupted by a lady and her son, who were sitting at the adjacent table.

"Sir, excuse me. I don't mean to interrupt, but I felt the need to warn you," the lady said, causing Kaidan's brow to rise in amusement.

"O—kay. Warn me about what?" Kaidan asked, dreading the answer.

"That boy you're with, he's a killer. He murdered my friend's cousin. He was always a weird kid. Everyone knew he was crazy, even his mother, but she ignored it until it was too late. That's why she killed herself, you know. She felt guilty for giving birth to him. It's a shame too. Hannah was a beautiful girl. I just can't understand why they let him out of the mental institution. If you ask me, they should have let him rot in there. Adam was such a sweetheart. He didn't deserve to die like that. Anyway, I thought you should know. I'd hate for you to end up like poor Adam. Well, have a nice evening. Come along, Robbie, we have to get home before it gets too late," the woman finished her rant, leaving Kaidan sitting alone in shock, trying to process what he had just been told.

Once Shepard's order was ready and paid for, Shepard returned to Kaidan.

"I got my dad's dinner. We can go whenever you want," Shepard replied with the crooked grin Kaidan loved.

Kaidan couldn't help but smile back. "Yeah, I'm ready. Let's head out."

Once they were settled and safely buckled in, Kaidan pulled out of the parking lot, heading straight for Shepard's home.


The drive was eerily quiet. So quiet that it made Shepard uneasy, even more so when he noticed the strange look on Kaidan's face, almost as if the older boy was struggling with something inside.

"I–Is everything alright?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Y–Yeah. Why?" Kaidan asked, glancing at Shepard as he spoke.

"You're really quiet. D–Did I do something wrong?" Shepard asked, staring at his hands to avoid Kaidan's gaze.

"What? No, of course not! Why would you think that?" Kaidan asked in confusion.

"I–I dunno," Shepard shrugged as he leaned his head against the window.

"John, how did your mom die? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I just— I would really like to know what happened to her," Kaidan explained, hoping Shepard would answer.

"I–I thought I told you," Shepard replied in a quiet tone.

"Well, you kind of implied that she overdosed," Kaidan said.

"Yeah. She OD'd when I was fourteen. I was still in the hospital when it happened," Shepard explained.

"So, it was an accident," Kaidan said, needing clarification on the subject.

"Y–Yeah. Why?" Shepard asked, unsure of the reasoning behind the question.

"No reason. I was just curious," Kaidan replied as he took Shepard's left hand, giving it a squeeze as he continued to focus on the road.

Shepard just looked at Kaidan in confusion before turning his gaze to the world beyond the confines of Kaidan's car.


The rest of the drive was silent, but it was a peaceful silence far different from the heaviness it held before.

Kaidan parked the car on the street to allow Shepard's father to park in the driveway.

"Well, we're here," Kaidan announced with a smile.

"D–Do you wanna come in," Shepard asked nervously.

"That was my intention; I'm not going to lie," Kaidan replied with a cheeky grin.

Shepard laughed a little, amused by Kaidan's words. "Still trying to get me out of your system?"

"Still trying," Kaidan replied truthfully as he followed Shepard down the drive and into the house.

****☆****

"Do you want something to drink?" Shepard asked as he placed his father's food on a plate, wrapping it for easy re-heating.

"No, thank you," Kaidan smiled as he pulled Shepard in for a kiss.

"Mmm. You're a bit eager, huh," Shepard grinned in amusement.

"Yep. I've been thinking about this since Saturday. So, please, humour me," Kaidan pleaded as he kissed Shepard once more.

"Okay," Shepard nodded as he led Kaidan towards his bedroom.

Once they were inside, Shepard quickly closed the door behind them.


"Do you have a lock on that door?" Kaidan asked with a suggestive wink.

Shepard smiled as he turned the lock. "Better?"

"Much better," Kaidan approved as he pulled Shepard close, eagerly removing the younger teen's hoodie and t-shirt before kissing his way down Shepard's well-toned chest.

"Mmm," Shepard hummed in approval as Kaidan gently nipped at his nipple.

Kaidan smiled broadly as he quickly discarded his shirt, tossing it on the floor to join the growing pile.

"D–Do you want me to suck your cock," Shepard asked, his voice quiet but full of want.

Kaidan's cock jumped at Shepard's crude way of speaking. "Oh, god, yes!"

Shepard smiled as he led Kaidan to the bed, taking his time to lower the older boy's pants, yanking them down past the knee.

Kaidan began to slowly stroke himself, getting himself nice and hard for what was to come.

"You need this bad, huh," Shepard asked with a smile as he noticed the steady stream of precum oozing from his fully erect cock.

"You have no idea," Kaidan admitted.

"Isn't Rahna taking care of you?" Shepard asked in confusion as he slowly licked the tip of Kaidan's manhood before sucking the head gently.

"God, that's good. N–No, she's mad at me. We have sex, but she's refusing to have oral sex," Kaidan explained truthfully.

"Do you still go down on her?" Shepard asked before taking Kaidan back into his mouth.

"No, n–not lately," Kaidan replied honestly.

"Hn. Is she still mad because of me?" Shepard asked as he licked the slit of Kaidan's penis, loving the steady stream of precum flowing onto his tongue.

"Hmm. Y–Yeah. Apparently, I'm obsessed with you," Kaidan said with a moan.

"I–I don't mind," Shepard admitted as he took more of Kaidan into his mouth, taking his time, not wanting to rush anything.

Kaidan moaned as Shepard swallowed him to the hilt.

Kaidan was lost in pleasure, steadily thrusting into Shepard's willing mouth, when Shepard suddenly stopped.

"W–Why did you stop?" Kaidan asked in annoyance.

"D–Do you wanna fuck me, K?" Shepard asked, his eyes almost pleading as he gazed into Kaidan's whisky-coloured ones.

"Huh? A–Are you serious?" Kaidan asked, shocked by the younger boy's offer.

Shepard's brow furrowed in confusion, thinking he had totally misread the situation. "N–Never mind," Shepard mumbled as he took Kaidan back into his mouth.

"John, stop," Kaidan insisted as he sat up to face the blue-eyed beauty. "Are you sure you want to go that far?"

"I–If you want to, I don't mind," Shepard admitted.

"It wouldn't upset you," Kaidan asked, wanting to make sure their friendship would survive.

"No. It won't bother me. Rahna wants you to get me out of your system. And I don't think you'll be able to do that without fucking me," Shepard explained anxiously.

"And you would give yourself to me, just like that," Kaidan asked, still surprised by Shepard's offer.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded as he continued to stroke Kaidan's manhood.

"I don't want to hurt you, John," Kaidan said as he caressed Shepard's face.

"I–I'm not a virgin, K. I haven't been for a very long time. There's nothing you can do to me that hasn't already been done. You won't hurt me. You ain't the type," Shepard admitted, his words breaking Kaidan's heart.

"John, I–I don't know what to say. I don't want you to feel like I'm using you. I care about you; I really do. But Rahna—"

"I–I know. I get it. I do. I don't need a relationship to be happy, K. We can be friends with benefits. I don't mind. I just— I like being with you, especially when we're like this," Shepard explained, hoping Kaidan would understand.

"Are you sure?" Kaidan asked one last time as he rubbed Shepard's full bottom lip with his thumb.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded as Kaidan kissed him deeply.

"Do you have a condom?" Kaidan asked as he kissed his way down Shepard's neck.

"Y-Yeah. In the drawer. There's some lubricant there too," Shepard said as he watched Kaidan step out of his jeans.

Shepard subconsciously licked his lips at the sight of Kaidan's naked body. "You're very handsome."

Kaidan smiled brightly at the compliment. "Thank you, but you're not so bad yourself, you know."

Shepard frowned a bit before moving to unbutton his jeans. "D–Do you want me to take everything off or—"

"I would very much like to see you – all of you. Unless that makes you uncomfortable," Kaidan replied, not wanting Shepard to feel uneasy.

"I–I don't mind. I–I have a few scars, though," Shepard warned as he slowly removed his jeans and underwear.

Kaidan's eyes gazed from Shepard's head all the way to his feet, taking in the sight of the beautiful blue-eyed blonde. Kaidan's expression softened to a look of sadness when he noticed small shiny scars littered all around the boy's body, along with a few obvious cigarette burns on his chest and legs.

Shepard noticed Kaidan's expression and, mistaking it for disgust, quickly covered himself with a bedsheet. "I– I understand if you wanna change your mind."

"John, I'm not going to change my mind," Kaidan assured his nervous friend.

"I–I can lay on my stomach if you want," Shepard offered, desperately wanting to hide his body from Kaidan.

"I want to see you, John," Kaidan insisted as he slowly removed the sheet from Shepard's body. "Can I touch you?"

Shepard's nod was the only response he gave.

Kaidan took his time, loving the feel of muscles rippling underneath his fingertips. He traced a few of the razor-thin scars that were scattered about the young blonde's ribcage. 

'Did a razor do this?' Kaidan thought to himself as he gently kissed the scars before running his tongue along them.

"Mmm," Shepard hummed as he ran his left hand through Kaidan's thick hair.

Kaidan continued until he had kissed every scar, every burn, before moving to kiss his right hip, running his tongue along the deep V of Shepard's groin – stopping just shy of Shepard's manhood.

"Can I touch you?" Kaidan asked as he kissed the surrounding area.

"Uh-huh," Shepard replied with a nod.

Kaidan gently took Shepard in hand, pleasantly surprised by the size, slightly longer than average and a bit thinner than his own. Kaidan took his time, admiring the beauty of it, frowning only when he noticed small scars on the underside. His mind going crazy at the insinuation. 'Was he tortured? What happened, and who did this to him?'

Kaidan kissed the scars before gently running his tongue up the length. "I've never done this before, so I might not be very good," Kaidan admitted.

Shepard smiled as he continued to toy with Kaidan's hair. "You're doing great. It feels good."

Kaidan smiled before taking the tip into his mouth and sucking gently while working the shaft.

"Mmm. T–That's good. Y–You don't have to take all of me, just keep doing what you're doing," Shepard instructed, not wanting Kaidan to overdo it.

"Mmm," Kaidan hummed as he tasted Shepard's precum on his tongue. "You taste sweet."

Shepard let out an amused laugh. "You like it?"

"Mm-hmm," Kaidan said with a nod as he took Shepard back into his mouth.

"K, y–you can fuck me now," Shepard said, causing Kaidan to stop what he doing and kiss him deeply.

"Are you ready?" Kaidan asked, unsure of what to do.

"Can you hand me the lube?" Shepard asked, his sapphire-blue eyes half-lidded as he spoke.

"Here," Kaidan said as he handed Shepard the bottle.

Kaidan watched in fascination as Shepard prepared himself. "C–Can I help with that?"

"Huh?" 

"I want to help you," Kaidan replied, his face red with embarrassment.

"You want to touch me," Shepard asked as he added some lubricant to Kaidan's fingers.

"I do," Kaidan admitted as he allowed Shepard to guide his hand.

"You can go ahead and use two," Shepard instructed as he guided Kaidan's hand.

"Your body's so hot and tight," Kaidan said as he allowed Shepard to guide his hand.

"Fuck," Shepard whined as Kaidan finally hit his prostate. "Fuck, right there."

Loving the reaction he was receiving, Kaidan continued to assault that spot deep inside his young friend.

"K, I'm gonna cum if you don't stop," Shepard pleaded as he tried to remove Kaidan's fingers.

"I want to watch you cum," Kaidan admitted as he continued to finger Shepard.

"I–I wanna cum with you inside me," Shepard pleaded, causing Kaidan to stop his assault.

"Are you sure?" Kaidan asked again.

"I'm sure," Shepard nodded as he handed Kaidan a condom.

Kaidan wasted no time, quickly putting on the condom before adding more lube. Kaidan held his breath as he slowly started to penetrate the blue-eyed beauty. Taking his time until he was fully seated inside the blonde.

"You feel so good," Kaidan groaned as he sucked on the junction between Shepard's neck and collarbone.

"Mmm," Shepard hummed as he wrapped his long legs around his whisky-eyed lover. "You can move now."

"God, you're tight," Kaidan whispered as he started moving. Slowly at first, giving Shepard's body time to open up for him, before gradually picking up the pace.

"F–Fuck me harder," Shepard pleaded as he tightened his legs around Kaidan's waist, grabbing his ass to drive him deeper inside.

"Y–Yeah? You like it hard," Kaidan asked as he thrust harder into Shepard's willing body.

"Y–Yes. It feels so good when you're deep," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"I want you to ride me," Kaidan insisted as he suddenly pulled out of the young blonde.

Shepard wasted no time, quickly straddling Kaidan before guiding his length back inside. Within seconds Shepard was bouncing up and down, riding Kaidan as hard as he could.

Kaidan was mesmerized by the sight of his cock going in and out of his new lover, and before he knew it, he was ready to cum.

"John, I'm gonna cum. It's too damn good," Kaidan warned as Shepard stopped his movements, opting instead to move his hips in tiny circles, wanting Kaidan's pleasure to last.

"Does it feel good?" Shepard asked as he continued to move at an agonizingly slow pace.

"Hn. You're the devil; you know that," Kaidan whined, wanting nothing more than for Shepard to ride him hard.

"You wanna cum?" Shepard asked, biting his lip as he did so.

"Yes," Kaidan admitted as he stroked Shepard's cock, which was steadily leaking precum. "By the look of your cock, you wanna cum too."

"Uh-huh," Shepard admitted as he started to ride Kaidan hard once again. "I wanna cum with you."

Kaidan continued stroking Shepard as he pulled Shepard close, using the momentum to thrust up into Shepard's tight body. His movements became more and more erratic, causing Shepard to guide Kaidan's hand faster over his length.

"I'm cumming, K," Shepard whispered as he found his release, ribbons of white splashing against his chest and spilling over Kaidan's hand.

In that instant, Shepard's body pulsed around him, causing Kaidan to cum hard inside the young blonde.

With Shepard still held tight against his chest, Kaidan kissed the young blonde's crown as he struggled to catch his breath.

"D–Did you like it?" Shepard asked as he ran his fingers through the ribbons of cum on his chest.

"More than I ever could have dreamed," Kaidan admitted.

"There's some hand wipes in the drawer. Can you hand me a few?" Shepard asked, eager to clean up his mess.

"Sure," Kaidan said as he handed Shepard the container. "Where do I put the condom?"

"The trash can is by my desk," Shepard said as he carefully cleaned his stomach.

Once Kaidan had disposed of the condom, Shepard carefully cleaned his hands and chest before surprising Kaidan by taking his spent cock back into his mouth.

"Fuck," Kaidan mumbled as he ran a hand through Shepard's long dark-blonde hair, loving the feel of Shepard's mouth around him. 

"All clean," Shepard smiled as he kissed Kaidan slowly.

"You didn't have to do that," Kaidan said as he wiped the excess moisture from Shepard's full bottom lip.

"I wanted to," Shepard insisted with a smile.

"Johnny, I'm home," Chris called out, causing Kaidan to jump in surprise. 

"Shit," Kaidan cursed as he scrambled to find his clothes.

"I'll be out in a second, Dad," Shepard called out as he threw on a pair of sweats. "You go ahead and get dressed. I'll go talk to dad."

"John, you're half-naked! Don't you think he's going to suspect something," Kaidan said anxiously.

"Nah. He won't say anything," Shepard insisted as he went to meet his father.

****☆****

"There's my boy," Chris called out with a smile. "Thanks for the food, kid."

"No problem," Shepard smiled as he took a seat next to his dad. "Kaidan's here."

"Why?" Chris asked with a sour look on his face.

"I dunno. He just wanted to come over," Shepard said as he started bouncing his knee nervously.

Chris sighed. "Johnny, you didn't let him fuck you, did you?" Chris asked, noticing his nervous tic right away.

"N–No," Shepard lied. "He's straight."

"Uh-huh. Then why is your hair damp." Chris asked, cocking his brow in doubt.

"It's hot as hell today," Shepard replied, hoping his father would buy it.

"That's true," Chris agreed as he took a drink of his beer.

Chris's eyes flicked up as he saw Kaidan slipping out of Shepard's room.

"Hello, Kaidan," Chris called out, causing the whisky-eyed teen to flinch and blush.

"Hello, Mr. Scott," Kaidan replied with a nervous smile.

"What have you been into?" Chris asked, trying his best to make Kaidan uncomfortable.

"Nothing much, just hanging around," Kaidan replied before turning his attention to Shepard, "Hey, I should really be going."

"O–Okay. I'll walk you to your car," Shepard insisted as he followed Kaidan outside.


"He knows, doesn't he," Kaidan asked, his face bright red from embarrassment.

"Probably," Shepard admitted with a grin.

"I hope he's not angry about it," Kaidan said, not wanting to cause trouble for Shepard.

"Nah. He's pretty cool," Shepard assured him.

"You better get back inside before you catch your death," Kaidan insisted as he rubbed Shepard's naked shoulders.

"I'll be alright. I guess I'll see you tomorrow," Shepard said, afraid to look Kaidan in the eye.

"Hey," Kaidan whispered as he lifted Shepard's chin, forcing the younger boy to look him in the eye. "You'll definitely see me tomorrow."

Shepard took a chance and leaned in to kiss Kaidan, who met him halfway. 

The kiss was sweet and gentle, causing both boys to blush as they parted.

"Have a good night," Shepard said with a small wave.

"You too, John," Kaidan said, returning the smile as he made his way back home.

Once Kaidan was out of sight, Shepard made his way back into the house.


"Goddammit, Johnny, why him?" Chris asked in a disapproving tone.

"Dad, I like him," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Obviously. But he's just gonna use you, kid. He's never gonna leave his girlfriend, and eventually, all you'll be is a convenient fuck for him," Chris explained, hoping his son would listen.

"I–I know," Shepard said, his voice low and timid.

"Whattaya mean, you know?" Chris asked in confusion. "If you know, then why do this?"

"Daddy, ain't nobody ever gonna love me enough to want me long-term," Shepard explained, a sad look in his sapphire-blue eyes. "I know it, and you know it. This is all I can ever hope for. So, please, let me have it."

Chris held his son tight, wishing he could make everything okay but knowing he never could.

"Johnny, you deserve so much better than this," Chris whispered as his son began to sob in his arms. "It's alright, kid. Let it out. I got you, baby boy."

And Shepard cried…

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Johnny, it's time to get up. You're gonna be late for school," Chris called out, trying his best to wake his son. 

Chris sighed before shaking his son gently. "Johnny, are you feeling okay," Chris asked as he felt his son's forehead. "You're a bit cold. You ain't getting sick on me, are ya?"

"No. I'm just tired," Shepard admitted as he slowly rose up in his bed. 

Chris's eyes went wide as he grabbed the edge of Shepard's bedsheet, bringing it up to his nose to staunch the blood. "Lean forward. You're bleeding like a motherfucker."

"I guess that explains why I'm so tired, huh," Shepard said, only half-joking.

"I'll bet your platelets are low again," Chris said as he continued to apply pressure.

"Probably," Shepard said as his eyes began to grow heavy.

"Hey, do I need to call for an ambulance?" Chris asked, his face filled with concern.

"Nah. I'll be alright," Shepard assured his father.

"Let me see if the bleeding stopped," Chris said as he slowly removed the sheet from his son's nose. "It looks like it stopped. Are you sure you're well enough for school?"

"Yeah. I'll be fine. I might sleep a bit in class, though," Shepard admitted truthfully.

Chris couldn't help but laugh at his son. "Alright. I guess you can go. But don't overdo it. Come straight home, okay," Chris insisted.

"I will," Shepard promised.

"Go ahead and get dressed. And I'll drop you off on my way to work," Chris said, wanting to keep an eye on his son until he was certain he would be okay.

"Okay, just give me five minutes," Shepard said as he quickly got dressed.


TEN MINUTES LATER… 

"Did you take your meds?" Chris asked as he grabbed his keys.

"Yep," Shepard replied simply.

"Good boy," Chris grinned as they made their way to the car.

The drive was quick, and before Shepard knew it, they were just outside the school.

"Thanks for the ride, Dad," Shepard said with a smile as he exited the car.

"No problem. Be good. I love you, kid," Chris called out to his son 

"Love you too. I'll see you later, Daddy," Shepard waved as he watched his father disappear down the street.

Shepard was just about to enter the school grounds when his phone began to vibrate. 

Shepard's brow furrowed as he read the simple text.

[UNKNOWN 8:01 AM]  TODAY@ 1 PM – MAJESTIC HOTEL – ROOM 206. KNOCK TWICE. DON'T BE LATE!

Shepard sighed as he put his phone away. Deciding to skip school, after all, he walked in the general direction of the hotel.

****☆****

12:50 PM – THE MAJESTIC HOTEL… 

KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"Devon, come in. We've been expecting you," Will greeted the young blonde as he guided him inside.

"Wow! He really is attractive," a young man with dark hair and light-blue eyes called out, winking at Shepard as he spoke.

"I told you he was," Will said, rolling his eyes in annoyance.

"He's a bit skinny, isn't he," another man called out, older than the last with dirty-blonde hair and light-brown eyes.

"He's got broad shoulders. It makes him look skinnier than he really is," Will assured them. "You'll see; he's a wall of muscle."

"We're all set up. We can start rolling anytime," an older man, a bit overweight with greying hair and a big bushy beard, called out as he adjusted one of the cameras.

Shepard's anxiety grew as he took in the sights around him. The room was a large suite with a king-sized bed and great natural lighting. The open floor plan made it easy for the two cameramen to move, but that, along with the windows, left Shepard feeling vulnerable to the outside world.

"W–Won't people see w–what we're doing?" Shepard asked, motioning towards the large windows.

"Don't worry, kid, they're used to it. We film here all the time," Will assured the nervous teen.

"Aw, he's nervous. That's adorable," the dark-haired man teased, his light blue eyes filled with mischief.

"He's never been filmed, so it's only natural for him to be nervous," Will insisted as he removed Shepard's hoodie.

"I can't get over how angelic you are. Your face just radiates beauty and innocence," the dark-haired man complimented, causing the young teen to blush.

"He doesn't talk much, does he," the older blonde said as he took a seat on the nearby couch.

"No, he's a quiet kid," Will said with a grin.

"So, Devon, are you looking forward to your first film? My name's Bryan, by the way," the older blonde grinned.

"I–I guess. I'm a b–bit nervous," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Nerves are normal, especially the first time. My name's Matt, by the way," the friendly dark-haired man replied.

"The kid has nothing to worry about. He's a natural in bed," Will assured them. "But, if he's nervous, I can give him a little something to take the edge off."

"I–I'll be alright," Shepard insisted, knowing he couldn't allow drugs into his system.

"Come with me. I'll show you the washroom. You can get ready there," Will instructed the boy.


Shepard couldn't believe the size of the bath; it was easily twice the size of his bedroom.

"Impressive, isn't it?" Will grinned, noticing the look of awe on the young blonde's face.

Shepard just nodded as Will handed him a slip of paper.

"Here's a list of instructions. Do everything on the list. I know it might seem daunting, but it'll ensure that everything goes smoothly," Will explained. "There'll be a nurse here soon to draw your blood to test for HIV and other STIs. It's a precaution – nothing to worry about."

"Shouldn't that be done before we do this," Shepard asked, confused by the order of things.

"Normally, but seeing as you're young and inexperienced, I'm confident you're clean," Will explained as he lit a cigarette.

"O–Okay. And the others are clean?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Yep. This is a legitimate operation. The only thing we skirt around is age. Everything else is 100% by the book," Will replied, hoping to ease the boy's fears.

"Do they know I'm only sixteen?" Shepard asked as he rubbed his shoulder nervously.

"No, and don't tell them. The less people that know, the better. There's no script or anything; this is just about sex. I didn't want to overwhelm you your first time out."

"Did you tell them about my PICC line?" Shepard asked as he instinctively placed his hand over the lines.

"No, but I've got a protective sleeve for you to wear. It'll prevent rubbing and hide it from the camera at the same time," Will explained.

"O–Okay," Shepard replied with a nod.

"You go ahead and get ready. We'll be waiting outside," Will smiled as he closed the door behind him.

Shepard sighed as he read the instructions carefully. "I fucking hate myself."

****☆****

Once Shepard was finished, he nervously returned to the others, nearly losing his balance when the second cameraman, a young man with reddish hair and hazel eyes, accidentally bumped into him.

"Sorry about that," the man apologized as he picked up a stray lens cap.

"T–That's alright," Shepard assured him.

"Hey, Frank, I like this kid. He's nice," the man called out to the senior cameraman.

"Yeah. We'll see how long that lasts," Frank chuckled.

"Never mind him. He's a bit of a grouch. I'm Max. I'll be in charge of the close-up action. You'll probably get tired of me real quick. Especially since I'll be all up in your business," Max said, trying to lighten the mood but, instead, making Shepard even more nervous than he already was.

"Max, zip your trap and take your place already," Frank scolded, his voice full of irritation.

"You guys just do whatever comes natural. We can edit it all later. Devon, here's your sleeve. Go ahead and put it on," Will instructed as he handed Shepard a long black sleeve to protect his lines.

The two actors glanced at each other in confusion at the sight of the dangling tubes.

"Is he sick?" Matt asked, pointing to the line for emphasis.

"Is he contagious?" Bryan asked nervously.

"He has a blood disorder. It's not contagious, it's hereditary, so you two can relax.

"That explains why he's so skinny. It's cancer, huh, kid," Matt said in a sympathetic tone.

"Whoa, I cannot fuck a guy with cancer. I couldn't stand the thought of hurting them," Bryan insisted.

"I don't have cancer," Shepard replied, his voice tired and a bit annoyed.

"Oh. So it's not a chemo port. My bad," Matt said with a wink, causing Shepard to grin and shake his head.

"Matt, please stop messing with Bryan. You know how OCD he is," Will scolded, causing Matt to feign innocence.

"I would never," Matt said in an amused tone.

"You're an asshole," Bryan huffed as he punched Matt in the arm.

"Ow! Don't do that! I don't want a bruise before work," Matt chuckled as the cameraman called for everyone to take their places.

"You two just sit on the bed until Devon comes into frame," Will instructed as he took a seat offscreen. "And ACTION!"

Shepard never said a word. He just walked towards the two men, completely unsure of what to expect.

"Hey, beautiful," Matt grinned as he walked towards the young blonde, taking his face in his hands and kissing him passionately.

Knowing what was expected of him, Shepard wasted no time returning the kiss.

'He's a natural,' Will thought to himself as he watched the scene unfold.

"You taste so good, baby," Matt grinned as he called out to the other man, "Bryan, you want in on this?"

"Does he taste as good as he looks?" Bryan asked as he made his way over to them.

"Better," Matt said, winking at Shepard before letting Bryan take his place.

Bryan's kiss was rougher than Matt's, and Shepard didn't particularly care for it, but he did what was expected of him and returned the kiss with fervor.

Shepard moaned as he felt Matt's tongue tracing the vein in his neck. Matt wasted no time, holding the young teen from behind as he continued to kiss the boy's neck.

Shepard couldn't resist, and once his mouth was free, he turned his head to kiss the dark-haired man once again.

"I think he likes you, Matt," Bryan grinned in amusement as he watched the two closely.

 Matt grinned into Shepard's neck before lifting the boy's arms so he could remove the boy's dark blue t-shirt.

Once his chest was bare, Bryan bit his lip, clearly pleased by what he saw.

"Damn, boy! Look at those abs," Bryan called out as he ran a hand over all the lean muscles of the boy's chest.

"Mmm," Shepard hummed, enjoying the feel of the older man's hands upon his chest.

Matt moved from Shepard's neck to his shoulders, kissing and nipping as he went.

"I can't wait to see all of you," Matt whispered in the boy's ear as he wrapped his arms around Shepard's narrow waist, pulling him close enough for Shepard's ass to grind against the growing bulge in his pants. 

"Do you feel what you're doing to me?" Matt whispered, licking the shell of Shepard's ear as he continued to grind against the young teen.

Shepard just moaned as Matt slowly unbuttoned the boy's jeans. He kissed Shepard's neck as he placed his hand inside Shepard's underwear, taking him in hand and stroking him slowly.

Matt grinned at the size of the young teen, pleasantly surprised by the length. "You should feel his cock, Bryan."

"Oh. Is it a good one?" Bryan asked, licking his lips at the thought.

"Oh, yeah. If he's as big as he feels, you're in for a real treat," Matt said as he continued to stroke the young blonde.

"Well, let's just see what he's hiding," Bryan grinned as he pulled Shepard's jeans and underwear down in one fell swoop, successfully freeing Shepard's semi-erect cock.

"Very nice," Bryan grinned as Matt guided Shepard's cock to Bryan's waiting mouth.

"Hmm," Shepard moaned as his cock was suddenly engulfed by the man's very talented mouth.

"How does he taste?" Matt asked, loving the look of ecstasy in the older man's eyes.

"So good. He tastes so fucking sweet. It's getting me a little buzzed," the man moaned, rubbing his clothed cock as he continued to mouth Shepard's cock.

"I wanna taste," Matt insisted as he too dropped to his knees before the blue-eyed blonde. "Mmm. He does taste good," Matt agreed as he and Bryan both continued to lick and nip at the young blonde.

"You're doing great so far," Will called out, making Shepard jump in surprise.

"Easy, baby," Matt said, rubbing the boy's hip to calm him. "That's normal. You're doing great."

Shepard just nodded, his heart beating out of chest.

"Devon, that was great! Are you about to cum, or can you go on?" Will asked, wanting to get the ideal shots in the least amount of time.

"I–I'm good. I can hold it," Shepard said, feeling his erection waning a bit from the sudden interruption.

"Excellent," Will grinned as he turned his attention to the other two actors. "I want you two to start kissing. Then, after a few minutes, I want you to lead Devon to the bed. Once you're comfortable, I want you to watch as Bryan and Matt undress each other. Stroke yourself a bit to stay hard," Will explained.

"Can we hurry, please? My knees are killing me here," Bryan complained, causing Matt to roll his eyes in annoyance.

"How can you be thinking about your knees when you have an angel with an unbelievable cock standing right here in front of you?" Matt scolded, his words causing Shepard to blush.

"You'll understand in a few years," Bryan insisted.

"Alright, enough chit-chat. Oh, before we start the main event, you don't have a problem with poppers, do you, Devon?" Will asked as he took his seat offset.

"I–I've never heard of that," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Oh, he is fucking precious! Where did you find him?" Matt asked, a big smile on his face.

"Matt, concentrate on your job," Will ordered.

"Oh, I'll do my job. No problem," Matt insisted, giving Shepard a suggestive wink.

Will sighed before turning his attention to Shepard. "You inhale it. It helps dilate the blood vessels. It makes anal sex better and much easier for you."

"I–I don't think that's a good idea – medical reasons," Shepard replied, hoping that would be the end of it.

"I don't think one or two hits will hurt you," Will insisted.

"I–I can't. I'm sorry," Shepard replied once more.

"Alright, but you might be a bit uncomfortable," Will warned.

"I–I'll be fine," Shepard insisted.

"We'll see," Will grinned, amused by the boy.

"Places, people. We're losing the natural light," Frank called out, causing everyone to hustle.

"ACTION!"

The scene started just as Will instructed, and it wasn't long before the two men joined Shepard on the bed.

"I love your mouth. Your lips are so soft and juicy," Matt grinned as he sucked gently on Shepard's bottom lip.

"Yeah, I can't wait to feel those full lips around my cock," Bryan hummed as he stroked himself in anticipation.

"Well, baby, what do you say? 'You wanna taste us," Matt asked as he licked the shell of Shepard's ear.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded as he took Bryan into his mouth.

"Mmm. That's it, suck that cock," Bryan moaned as he threaded his fingers through Shepard's long dark-blonde hair.

"Is it good, baby?" Matt asked as he lifted Shepard's hips, so he was on all fours with Matt on his knees behind him.

"Hmm," Shepard hummed as he took Bryan further into his throat.

"Oh, fuck. His throat is so fucking good. It's like velvet. You gotta feel this," Bryan insisted as he started to fuck the young blonde's throat. 

"Yeah. He's a good cocksucker, huh?" Matt asked as he massaged Shepard's ass before giving his right cheek a long lick.

"Such a good cocksucker," Bryan replied as he continued to fuck the boy's throat.

"Don't cum yet. You wanna last long enough to fuck him, don't you," Matt reminded the older man.

"Fuck," Bryan groaned as he pulled away from Shepard, taking his saliva-covered cock and tapping it against Shepard's slightly swollen lips.

Shepard's body trembled as he felt something wet touch the most private part of him. Shepard involuntarily moaned as he felt Matt's wet hot tongue probing at his entrance. Unable to help himself, Shepard started to stroke his cock slowly, enjoying the sensation he was feeling.

Noticing the boy's reaction, Matt smiled and continued his ministrations, using every trick he knew to make things pleasurable for the young teen.

"Get him nice and wet for me," Bryan instructed as he pulled Shepard's head back, forcing the boy to look him in the eye. "You like that. You like the way he licks your hole?"

"Y‐Yes," Shepard whispered, his voice hoarse from the previous oral play.

"Do you want something to fill that tiny hole of yours?" Bryan asked, his tone dominant.

"Y–Yes," Shepard admitted as he stroked himself slowly.

"Finger him, Matt. Loosen him up so he can take my cock," Bryan demanded as he pulled Shepard's hair harder. "Tell me what you want."

Shepard moaned as Matt began fingering him in earnest, opening him up in the most pleasurable way.

"I— Fuck me. Please, I–I wanna cum," Shepard pleaded, surprising the older blonde with his words.

"He's ready," Matt announced as he traded places with the older man.

Shepard cried out as Bryan roughly entered him, the man wasting no time as he began fucking the boy at a brutal pace.

Matt kissed the young teen, whispering in his ear as he noticed a tear running down the boy's angelic face.

"It's okay, baby. He's rough, but he knows how to fuck. It'll feel really good in a minute," Matt promised as he kissed the boy once more.

"Goddamn, he's tight," Bryan called out as he continued his brutal pace. "He's sucking me in, pulling me in so deep."

"Do you wanna suck my cock, baby," Matt whispered, stroking himself slowly as he placed the tip on Shepard's full bottom lip.

Shepard slowly opened his mouth, allowing Matt to slide in slowly until he was touching the back of the boy's throat.

Shepard relaxed his throat, and before long, he'd taken Matt's entire length.

"Fuck, baby," Matt groaned as he slowly pulled back before pressing forward once again, allowing the boy's throat to adjust before fucking him in earnest.

It didn't take long for Shepard to adjust, and before long, Matt was fucking his throat easily. "Shit, baby, your throat feels better than a cunt," Matt called out, his crude words making Shepard's cock twitch.

"Are you gonna cum down his throat?" Bryan asked as he continued to plow the boy mercilessly.

"Maybe a little, but I really want to paint his beautiful face with it," Matt admitted as his hips began to stutter.

"Get in close. I want you to get a close-up when Matt cums on him. Devon, open your mouth and stick out your tongue," Will instructed as Shepard did as he was told.

"You ready, baby. Here it comes," Matt called out as his cock began to twitch as the cum covered Shepard's angelic face, with some falling on his tongue. "Fuck. You're beautiful," Matt said, biting his bottom lip as he rubbed his cock in the excess cum before guiding his cock into Shepard's mouth once more. 

Shepard took his time, sucking Matt's now overly-sensitive cock gently, focusing on the head before letting him fall from his lips. "Fuck," Shepard called out, moaning loudly as Bryan hit something deep within him.

"He liked that, Bry. Fuck him hard, just like that. He's about to cum," Matt grinned as he took Shepard's cock into his mouth, waiting patiently for his reward.

"You're such a good fuck. Do you want my load, boy?" Bryan asked, pulling Shepard's hair as he forced his cock deeper inside the willing body.

"Y-Yes," Shepard replied weakly as Bryan thrust in hard, his cock pulsing as he came hard inside Shepard's young body. Sensing Shepard was close, Matt let the boy's cock fall from his mouth as he began to jerk him to completion, eager to get an *up-close and personal* look of the young blonde cumming. 

A few rough strokes and Shepard was cumming hard, painting his well-toned abdomen as well as Matt's face.

Matt grinned as just a bit of the boy's cum touched his tongue.

"Fuck— that's good," Bryan praised as Shepard's body tightened around Bryan's softening cock, milking what little cum was left.

"You taste so good, baby," Matt praised, his eyes dilating, as he gave Shepard's spent cock a few more sucks.

Bryan slowly pulled out of the boy, moving so the camera could get a close-up of the fresh semen slowly leaking from Shepard's abused body.

'Goddamn, that's hot,' Will thought as he let the scene play out.

"It's your turn, Matt," Bryan called out as he moved to the side, resting from the intense session.

"How 'bout it, baby? Do you wanna get fucked again," Matt asked, stroking Shepard's sweat-soaked hair as he spoke.

"P–Please, fuck me," Shepard replied, his breath shaky as he spoke.

Matt smiled as he rolled Shepard onto his back, carefully lifting the boy's legs, placing them on his shoulders before slowly entering the young teen.

"Fuck, you're still so tight," Matt replied as he slowly pulled out before thrusting all the way in, going a little deeper with each repeated thrust.

"His ass is sweet, for sure," Bryan agreed as he lit himself a cigarette.

"Fuck me harder," Shepard whined, his instincts taking over as he tuned out everything else.

"Yeah, you want me to fuck you nice and hard," Matt asked, his dick growing even harder at the thought.

Shepard wrapped his long legs around the dark-haired man, pulling him even deeper inside. "Y–Yes. Your cock feels so good. I wanna feel it deep inside."

Matt grinned, kissing the boy once before picking up the pace – rutting wildly into the boy's willing body until the sound of skin slapping on skin was all that could be heard. 

"Fuck, baby, your ass feels so good. I won't last long," Matt admitted as he started moving faster.

"Cum for me. Fucking fill me up. Give it to me," Shepard called out, surprising everyone with his words.

Shepard's words went straight to Matt's dick, and the second he heard them, his cock twitched violently, and his hips stuttered before cumming hard inside the beautiful blue-eyed blonde.

Matt's body jerked uncontrollably as pulse after pulse of his cum poured out of him, filling Shepard's body to bursting. Shepard could feel it leaking out as Matt collapsed atop him.

Noticing Shepard's erection, Matt wasted no time in jerking him to completion. Loving the way Shepard's body pulled tight like a bow as he came silently, the cum pooling against his well-toned abdomen.

Once the orgasm was over, both Shepard and Matt lay perfectly still as they struggled to catch their breath.

The silence was broken by Will's booming voice. "AND CUT! THAT'S A WRAP!"

The entire crew began to clap in celebration, everyone except for Shepard and Matt, who were still too blissed-out to move.

Matt smiled into Shepard's neck, kissing it gently as he held the boy tighter, while Shepard just stared straight ahead through half-lidded eyes.

"You were amazing," Matt whispered as he finally began to stir. "You're a natural, for sure."

"He's not exaggerating," Bryan said as he brushed a stray lock of hair from Shepard's brow. "You took me like a pro, and I'm not known for being gentle. I wouldn't mind working with you again."

"I–I ain't planning on doing this again," Shepard admitted as he slowly sat up in bed, his body sore and tired.

"That's what they all say," Bryan grinned. "You'll be back. The money's too good not to."

"Ignore him," Matt said, rolling his eyes at the older man as he disappeared into the washroom. "This work isn't for everyone. I can see why you wouldn't want to do it regularly. Hell, I'd quit if the money wasn't so good. But, it is, and I refuse to do manual labour. I'm far too delicate for that," Matt winked, his tone joking and lighthearted.

Shepard remained quiet, staring at his hands, unsure of what he should be doing.

"You wanna take a shower with me? I can help you clean up," Matt offered, knowing the boy was covered in their semen.

Shepard's brow furrowed before nodding his head in agreement.

"Come on," Matt said, offering his hand to the exhausted boy. "Let's go get you cleaned up."

****☆****

Once inside the spacious shower, Shepard stood under the spray, the hot water feeling heavenly against his sore muscles. A few seconds later, he heard Matt enter.

"I locked the door; that way, no one can bother us," Matt said as he started kissing Shepard's neck. "You're so beautiful."

Shepard closed his eyes as Matt slowly began to wash his body, taking his time, massaging every muscle as he gently scrubbed the boy clean.

"I know you're exhausted, but do you mind if I fuck you again? I'll be quick, I promise," Matt asked, a look of wanting in his light-blue eyes.

Shepard just nodded, no longer caring what was done to his body, feeling far too lost and far too exhausted to care.

Matt took his time with the young teen, enjoying every sound and twitch of muscle until finally finding his release.

"I think I'm in love," Matt chuckled, only half-joking as he gently pulled out of Shepard's spent body. "Did you cum, baby?" Matt asked, wanting his partner to be well satisfied.

"Uh-huh," Shepard lied as he allowed Matt to clean his body, wincing when Matt touched his tender opening.

"Sorry, baby. I know it's uncomfortable. I'll try to be more gentle," Matt promised as he continued to wash away all traces of their activity.

Once Shepard was all clean, the two men began dressing.

"You don't talk much, huh, Devon," Matt said, wanting to get to know the boy better.

"Ain't got nothin' to say," Shepard admitted with a shrug.

"Are you really eighteen?" Matt asked, hoping his doubts were wrong.

"Y–Yeah. Why?" Shepard asked nervously.

"You just seem so – I don't know – innocent . Or at least I think that's the right word," Matt replied, struggling to find the right words.

"I wish I was innocent," Shepard said, his voice tired and timid, "But I ain't."

Matt didn't know what to say to that, so he said nothing, opting instead to focus on getting dressed. 

Once Shepard was finished, he made his way to the washroom door.

"Devon, wait," Matt called out, causing Shepard to turn his head.

"Huh?"

"Can I text or call you sometime? You seem like a nice guy, and I thought, maybe, we could be friends," Matt asked, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

Shepard chewed his lip in contemplation before giving his answer.

"Sure," Shepard agreed as Matt handed him his phone.

Once Shepard typed in the information, he returned the older man's phone. 

"Thanks. Do you wanna grab a bite to eat?" Matt asked with a smile.

"No. I have an errand to run," Shepard explained.

"Aw. I understand. I guess I'll see you later," Matt said with a wink.

"Y–Yeah. Later," Shepard said with a wave as he headed out to collect his pay.


"Devon, you were absolutely perfect! You did everything right. You're a natural," Will praised, a big smile on his face.

"Uh-huh. I need the money you promised," Shepard admitted nervously.

Will laughed. "Here you go, one-thousand, just like we agreed. Would you be interested in doing this again?"

Shepard shrugged. "I dunno. I ain't planning on it."

"Well, if you ever need the money, let me know. Here's my card. You really are a gem," Will smiled as he shook the boy's hand.

"Well, I'm gonna head out," Shepard said as he made his way to the door. "Bye, guys."

"Bye, Devon," the crew called out as Shepard disappeared behind the door.

"What a sweetheart. This life ain't for him," Bryan said as he collected his things to go.

"That's the first sensible thing you've said all day," Matt teased as he slapped his friend on the shoulder.

"Yeah, yeah. Don't get your hopes up, by the way," Bryan insisted.

"What are you on about?" Matt asked, cocking a brow in confusion.

"You like him. I noticed it right off. But, he doesn't like you like that. I can tell," Bryan explained.

"We'll see," Matt shrugged as they exited the building.

****☆****

Shepard was on his way home when Kaidan pulled up beside him.

"Hey," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to smile brightly.

"Hey," Shepard said, leaning in close.

"Where were you today? I missed you," Kaidan admitted.

"I had an odd job to do. The money was too good to pass up," Shepard replied, only half-lying.

"Yeah. Are you guys in a tight spot?" Kaidan asked, the concern obvious in his tone.

"We're always in a tight spot," Shepard admitted. "But, yeah, I needed the money for my infusion therapy."

"Speaking of which, you look awful," Kaidan said in a worried tone.

"That's strange. I actually got complimented today," Shepard chuckled.

"Well, you're still gorgeous, but you're quite pale. Anyone that knows you can tell you have a strange pallor," Kaidan explained.

"Yeah. I think my platelets are low. I had a bad nosebleed this morning, and I'm tired as fuck," Shepard admitted.

"Yeah. Do you want a ride home?" Kaidan offered, hoping the blonde would accept.

"Sure," Shepard replied just as a police siren flashed behind Kaidan's car.

"Hey, kid," the policeman called out, causing Shepard to look at him.

"Y–Yes, officer," Shepard replied, the man's badge making Shepard nervous.

"Are you John Shepard?" The man asked.

"Y–Yes. Is anything wrong? I–Is my dad okay?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Son, don't ask any questions, just get in the car," the man demanded.

Shepard glanced at Kaidan, a look of confusion in his eyes.

"Now, boy," the officer demanded, causing Shepard to flinch.

"I–I'll see you later, K," Shepard said as he did as he was told.

Kaidan watched closely as Shepard was placed in the back of the vehicle. And his eyes remained focused on them until they were out of sight.

"What was that about?" Kaidan thought aloud as he continued on his way.

****☆****

4:33 PM – AN ABANDONED LOT ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN… 

Shepard's heart began to race as fear began to rise up within him.

"S–Sir, what are we doing here? D–Did I do something wrong?" Shepard asked nervously.

The officer let out an amused laugh. "I can't believe a pussy like you killed Adam. It's unreal."

Shepard's brow furrowed as he contemplated on what to say.

"I–I'm sorry," Shepard said, his voice timid and shy.

"You're sorry," the officer laughed. "*Sorry* won't bring Adam back."

Shepard was on the verge of tears, afraid of what the man might do to him.

"Anyway, this ain't about Adam," the officer clarified, causing Shepard's brow to furrow in confusion.

"I–It isn't," Shepard asked. "W–What did I do?"

"You know Harkin – the man keeping your sorry ass out of the loony-bin," the officer stated with a smirk.

"Y–Yeah," Shepard replied, his body shaking ever so slightly.

"He's a close buddy of mine, and he was telling me all about the deal you two have going," the officer explained, causing Shepard to close his eyes in dread. "He says your one hell of a cocksucker, and an even better fuck."

Shepard's stomach churned as he desperately tried to think of a way out.

"So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw you walking all by your lonesome. It was too good to pass up."

"I–I don't understand," Shepard said, his voice cracking under the stress.

"Sure you do. I know you aren't stupid," the officer stated with a grin.

"W–What do you want?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"You know what I want. And you're going to give it to me, 'cause if you don't, I'm gonna have to arrest you for attempting to assault an officer," the officer threatened, the smirk returning to his face.

"W–Why? Why do you wanna hurt me?" Shepard asked, the fear evident in his voice.

"Why? Why not? You didn't give a damn when you murdered Adam, so why should I give a damn about you," the officer asked, his tone filled with disdain for the boy.

"A–Adam was hurting me. I–I didn't mean to kill him. I swear I didn't. I just wanted him to s–stop," Shepard explained, hoping the officer would understand.

"Oh, shut up! That innocent act won't work on me," the officer yelled.

"I'm not lying!" Shepard yelled back.

"Adam was a good man. No one here believes your lies, boy. So don't waste your breath," the officer said as he made his way to the backseat of the car. "It's time I found out why you're Harkin's favourite pet."

Shepard tried to scurry away when the officer opened the car door, but he was grabbed by his ankles and forcibly pulled towards the crooked officer.

Shepard managed to kick the man hard enough to cause the man to lose his grip. Wiggling his way out of the car, Shepard tried to run away but stumbled when the man used his nightstick to trip the boy. 

"Please, let me go," Shepard pleaded as he tried to crawl away, only to be pulled closer to his attacker.

"Stop fighting it, you useless brat," the man demanded as he punched Shepard hard in the face, causing blood to fly from his mouth and nose.

Shepard spit blood in the man's face, blinding him enough to break free. Once Shepard regained his footing, he began running toward the other side of the lot when a gunshot rang out, hitting close to Shepard's feet, causing the boy to freeze in his tracks.

"Don't move! You move, and you're fucking dead. Am I understood?" The man demanded as he made his way towards the frightened boy.

"Y–Yes," Shepard answered, his voice wavering in fear.

"Turn around," the officer demanded.

Not knowing what else to do, Shepard slowly turned around. "Please, don't—" Shepard's words were cut short when he was struck hard on the left side of his head, effectively bringing him down to one knee. 

Once he was down, the officer continued to beat the boy mercilessly with the nightstick. 

"S–Stop. P–Please, I–I'll be good," Shepard begged, his chest aching with every breath as he coughed blood onto the ground.

"You really did it now! I was actually going to be considerate with you, but you fucked up bad this time, boy," the man spat as he forcibly pulled the boy's jeans and underwear off, leaving one leg still clothed the calf.

"I–I can't breathe," Shepard pleaded, hoping the man would remove his knee from his bruised chest.

Thankfully, the man's knee was removed when the young blonde was forced onto his stomach.

"Spread your legs like a good little bitch," the man instructed as he kicked Shepard's legs apart. "That's a good boy. Ready or not, here it comes."

Shepard cried out as the man forcibly entered him, wasting no time, fucking the boy raw as he screamed in pain.

"You took me way too easy. You fucking whore! You're just like your whore momma. She was a good fuck too. I'll bet she taught you everything you know. Such a good boy, taking my cock like a pro," the man spoke into Shepard's ear, causing the boy to sob until finally Shepard was gone. Retreating into himself while the vile man used him again and again.


Once the man had finished inside the boy, he grabbed his nightstick, holding it up to the moonlight with a wicked grin.

"I wonder how much of this you can take," the policeman said as he started violating the broken boy with the baton. 

Shepard groaned and cried out, his body still registering the pain even though his mind was no longer there.

"You took more than I thought you could," the man said as he thrust his cock back into Shepard's limp body. "I wonder if you can take both?"

The despicable man slowly thrust the nightstick into the boy's already filled hole.

"I'll be damned! You took it like a pro. You really are a whore," the man chuckled in amusement as he fucked the young blonde relentlessly, continuing to play with the boy long after he pulled out.

"Look at you! You're a goddamn mess," the policeman said as he pulled the baton from Shepard's worn-out body before lewdly urinating on the broken blonde.


Once the man had grown bored, he tucked himself away, nudging the young blonde with his foot, trying to get him to stir. 

"Oh, great. I fucking broke him," the man sighed, rubbing his face hard as he decided what to do. "I could take him home, tell his daddy he got in a fight. That should work."


The officer returned to his car to retrieve a bottle of cold water from a small cooler he kept in the front.

"Wakey-wakey, princess," the man teased as he poured the ice-cold water onto the boy's face, breaking him out of his trance and causing him to stir.

"Ugh," Shepard groaned as he slowly turned over.

"Don't just lay there! Put your goddamn pants back on," the officer demanded.

Shepard struggled but eventually succeeded in doing as he was told.

"Hurry the fuck up! I don't have all night," the man scolded as he kicked the boy hard in the side.

"I–I'm trying," Shepard mumbled as he tried to get to his feet, only to fall onto his knees.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," the officer sneered as he dragged Shepard to his feet. "There, now get your ass in the car."

Shepard staggered a bit but managed to make it to the car. And once he was inside, the officer immediately headed to Shepard's house.

"If you say a word, I'll fucking ruin you.  I'll have your ass locked away so fast, you'll never breathe fresh air again. Am I understood?" The officer promised, his tone demanding and violent.

Shepard nodded in understanding. "I–I won't tell n–nobody."

"Good boy," the officer grinned as he continued onward to their destination.

****☆****

It was another twenty minutes before the officer pulled into the drive.

Putting on a professional face, the officer gingerly helped the wounded boy to the front door.

"Remember what I told you, kid," the officer threatened as he knocked on the door.

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK... 

"Just a second," Chris called out, eyes going wide when he opened the door.

"Jesus, Johnny," Chris called out, reaching out for his son, helping to steady him. "What the hell happened to my boy?"

"Apparently, he's been fighting. I happened to find him staggering down the street," the officer lied.

"And you didn't think to take him to the hospital," Chris snapped, angry about the poor treatment of his son.

"I offered. Your son refused. I think you need to talk to him about causing trouble. I would hate to have a repeat of tonight's events. Here's his pack. Now, unless you have questions, I'm still on duty," the officer stated as he handed the pack to Chris.

"No. You can go, officer," Chris stated in a disgusted tone as the policeman made his way back to the patrol car.


Chris sat Shepard's pack on the floor, then eased his son onto the sofa before closing the door, then locking it.

"Jesus, baby boy, what the hell happened?" Chris asked as he wiped his son's bloody nose with a handkerchief.

"I–I don't know," Shepard said, afraid of saying anything else.

"Is anything broken?" Chris asked, his tone gentle.

"N–No," Shepard said with a shake of his head.

"Come on, let's get you out of these bloody clothes," Chris insisted as he led his son to the washroom.

Once they were inside, Chris instructed Shepard to take off his shirt. When he did, Chris's heart sank. 

Shepard's back and chest were full of bruises and abrasions – all from being beaten and dragged across the gravel and broken glass of the empty lot.

"I need to get the first-aid kit. Your chest and back are a mess. I have to clean the abrasions and try to stop the bleeding," Chris explained as he quickly retrieved the kit.


It took Chris a little over an hour to remove all the tiny shards from his son's flesh. And another ten to clean the wounds they left. 

"I think I got all of the debris out of your wounds. I'm gonna draw you a warm bath. You just sit tight," Chris instructed as he turned on the water.

"T–Thank you," Shepard said, his voice small and timid as he avoided his father's gaze.

"Do you need any help getting those jeans off?" Chris asked as he turned the water off.

"N–No. C–Can you go get my pyjama bottoms from my dresser?" Shepard asked, not wanting his father to see anything below the waist.

"Sure," Chris smiled as he left to retrieve his son's pyjamas.


By the time Chris returned, he was surprised to see his son ready sitting in the bath.

"Well, you're quick," Chris grinned, his grin fading when he saw the pink hue of the water. "Johnny, are you bleeding again?" Chris asked, his brow furrowing in concern.

"I–I dunno," Shepard admitted. "I–I don't think so."

"Okay. Let me clean your back, just in case I missed a cut," Chris insisted, determined to figure out the source of the bleeding.

Shepard winced a bit when the cloth touched his skin.

"Sorry, kid. I'll try to be as gentle as I can," Chris promised as he continued. "I'll wash your hair if you want me to."

"O–Okay," Shepard agreed with a nod.

Chris just smiled as he used the showerhead to wash and rinse his son's long dark-blonde hair. "Your hair is beautiful. It's getting a little long, though."

"S–Should I cut it?" Shepard asked, closing his eyes as his father massaged his scalp.

"Nah. It's not that long yet," Chris assured him as he rinsed the shampoo from the boy's hair.

"Daddy," Shepard called out, his voice low and tired. "I–I'm tired."

"Yeah? Do you want me to help you out of the tub?" Chris asked as he placed a towel on the floor to prevent his son from slipping.

"I– I think I can manage," Shepard said as he slowly stood.

Chris gasped, grabbing his son's arm just before he fell. "Are you okay, Johnny?"

"Y–Yeah. I–I'm just d–dizzy. I think I stood up too fast," Shepard explained as he allowed his father to help him out of the bed.

"I forgot to bring your underwear," Chris said with an apologetic look on his face as he covered the worst of Shepard's wounds with fresh bandages.

"T–That's okay. I'm going s–straight to bed after I brush my teeth," Shepard informed him.

"I'll wait outside the door. Just let me know when you're ready to head to bed," Chris said as he kissed his son's forehead before waiting outside the washroom door.


Once Chris was sure his son was safe and taken care of, he helped him into bed.

"Take your meds and then try to get some sleep. I'll call the school and tell them you won't be in tomorrow. You let me know if you start getting nauseous. You might have some internal bleeding that we don't know about," Chris explained as he stroked his son's long dark-blonde hair.

"I will," Shepard promised as his eyes grew heavy, his body exhausted from the ordeal. "Love you, Dad."

"I love you too, Johnny," Chris whispered as he turned out the light and made his way to his own bed.


Once inside his room, Chris began getting ready for bed, taking his belt off and slinging it across the room in frustration. "WHY!? Why? Why does he have to suffer so goddamn much!? Hasn't he suffered enough!? FUCK!" Chris yelled, trying to get the anger out before trying to get some sleep. "He's only sixteen, for fuck's sake."

Chris sat on the bed, rubbing his face hard as he contemplated his son's situation. 

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Johnny," Chris whispered as he brushed the long dark-blonde hair from his son's sleeping face. "It's time for your meds."

Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes fluttered open as he struggled to wake. "Hn."

"Here, son," Chris insisted as he placed the pills on his son's tongue before helping him take a drink of water. "There's a good boy."

"Don't call me that!" Shepard snapped, tears bursting forth as if a dam had burst.

Chris's eyes went wide as he held his son tight. "Johnny, what's wrong? I know you're hurting, but I don't know why. I can't fix it unless you talk to me."

"You can't fix it! No one can. It's been broken for too long, and nothing can fix it! I'm so sick and tired of being me. I don't wanna be here. I don't wanna be anywhere. I just wanna be left alone. I try to be good – to give whatever's asked of me, but somebody always takes a little bit more. Pretty soon, there ain't gonna be anything left for them to take," Shepard cried, shocking his father with his words.

"Johnny, did that cop hurt you?" Chris asked, his stomach churning at the thought.

"I–I'm tired, Daddy," Shepard mumbled as his eyes grew heavy.

"Johnny, please answer me," Chris pleaded as he ran his fingers through his son's long blonde hair.

Realizing his son was asleep once more, Chris just sighed before kissing his son's forehead.

Knowing he couldn't be late for work, Chris wrote his son a quick note before leaving.

****☆****

6 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Johnny, I'm home," Chris called out as he made his way to the kitchen. "Have you eaten today?"

Chris's brow furrowed as he received no answer.

After checking the washroom, Chris slowly opened his son's bedroom door. Frowning when he noticed his son hadn't stirred since his outburst early that morning.

"Johnny," Chris whispered as he gently shook his son awake. "Are you okay, kid?"

"Tired," Shepard mumbled as he pulled the covers over his head.

"Hey, it's too hot for that," Chris scolded as he pulled the blanket down. "You trying to hide from me," Chris said in an amused tone, his smile fading when his hand brushed Shepard's cheek. 

'His skin is so cold,' Chris thought to himself.

"Johnny, are you cold?" Chris asked, his anxiety rising.

"Uh-uh," Shepard said, shaking his head in denial.

"Johnny, I'm gonna take you to the hospital. Something's not right," Chris insisted as he pulled the sheets from his son's body, his eyes going wide when he noticed the blood staining the sheets. 

"Johnny, did you hurt yourself?" Chris asked as he searched his son for cuts.

"I–I don't think so," Shepard mumbled as he tried to sit up. "My leg burns."

"Which one?" Chris asked nervously.

"The left one," Shepard replied, rubbing his upper thigh as he spoke.

"Is it your upper thigh?" Chris asked, causing Shepard to nod in reply.

Chris quickly removed his son's pyjamas. To Chris's horror, there were three deep slashes, along with what looked like a bite mark on his son's inner thigh.

"Fuck! Johnny, what the hell happened?" Chris asked as he tried to staunch the bleeding. 

"I–I don't know. I'm sleepy," Shepard mumbled, his body growing colder by the second.

Not knowing what else to do, Chris made a makeshift tourniquet out of his belt before gathering his son in his arms and heading for the hospital.

****☆****

9:15 PM – THE EMERGENCY ROOM AT MERCY GENERAL HOSPITAL… 

"He was hemorrhaging in several places. But we've managed to stop the bleeding and have ordered an emergency transfusion. His body temperature was a bit low as well. We placed a warming blanket on him, but he insisted that we remove it. He claims it makes him nauseous. We're keeping an eye on his temperature, just in case," the ER doctor explained as he made some notes on Shepard's file. "Do you have any idea how he received those wounds?"

"None. I was at work all day. When I got home, he was still in bed. I happened to notice how cold he was. So I decided to bring him here, and when I removed the comforter, there was blood everywhere. That's when he complained that his leg was burning. I found the marks and immediately fashioned a tourniquet then rushed him here," Chris explained.

"The wounds weren't as deep as they looked. The bleeding was worse because his platelets were low. He also has a large bite on his inner thigh. Do you have any pets?" The doctor asked as he made a few more notes.

"No. None," Chris said, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"It's possible he had an episode and that the scratches were self-inflicted, but the bruises, abrasions, and bite mark, well – that's a different story. I'm sorry, but I had to contact social services," the doctor explained as he put away his pen.

"What?" Chris asked in disbelief. "You think I hurt my kid? Are you insane? I told you when I brought him in that he'd gotten in a fight the night before. A police officer dropped him off. If you don't believe me, you can check their records." 

"I'm not saying you hurt him. I'm only following protocol," the doctor explained. 

"I understand. What can I do to prove I didn't do this?" Chris asked, wanting to nip the problem before it had time to grow.

"Allow us to take a mold of your bite. If it doesn't line up, then you're in the clear, and Johnny can go home," the doctor explained.

"Fine. Let's get this done as quickly as possible. I don't want my kid to become any more upset than he already is," Chris insisted.

"I understand. Follow me," the doctor said as he led Chris down the hall.


The mold only took a few minutes to set, and the results were obvious: Chris was not a match.

"I cancelled the social services interview. I don't think it's necessary anymore," the doctor said with an apologetic smile. 

"I appreciate it," Chris said, shaking the doctor's hand as he spoke. "How's Johnny doing?"

"He's much better. Once his levels are acceptable, you can take him home," the doctor explained.

"Can I see him?" Chris asked.

"Of course," the doctor replied with a smile. "Oh, Mr. Scott?"

"Yes?"

"Is your son sexually active?" The doctor asked curiously.

"Uh, I–I'm not sure. Why do you ask?" Chris asked curiously.

"There were signs of sexual activity when you brought him in. Rough sex could explain some of the bleeding as well as the strange bite mark," the doctor explained.

"I see. Thank you for telling me," Chris said with a nod.

"I have a son his age. I understand how you're feeling," the doctor replied as he continued his rounds.


Chris stood next to his son's bedside, watching the steady rise and fall of his son's chest. "I swear if that son-of-a-bitch hurt you, I'll kick his ass myself," Chris promised as he ran a hand through his son's hair.

"Hn." Shepard stirred slightly before slowly opening his eyes.

"Hey, sleepyhead," Chris said with a grin as he stroked his son's long blonde hair.

"Hey. What happened," Shepard asked as he slowly sat up, wincing a bit when he did so.

"Somehow, you ended up with some pretty bad scratches on your left thigh. Any idea how they got there?" Chris asked curiously.

Shepard furrowed his brow in contemplation. "No. I slept all day. I don't remember anything other than sleeping."

"Okay. Son, were you with Kaidan last night? Did he, maybe, come over today while I was at work?" Chris asked, hoping his son would tell him the truth.

"No. Why?" Shepard asked nervously.

"There was an odd bite on your inner thigh. The doctor assumed it was sexual," Chris explained, searching his son's eyes for hints of a cover-up.

"Kaidan wouldn't do that. Besides, we didn't have sex last night. I only saw him for a few minutes, and I haven't seen him since," Shepard answered truthfully.

"Johnny, I'm gonna ask again, and I want the truth. Did that police officer hurt you?" Chris asked, knowing in his heart that something was wrong.

Shepard just shook his head slowly.

"Johnny, I won't be mad. So, please, be honest with me," Chris pleaded.

"I don't wanna cause no trouble," Shepard mumbled, staring at his hands as he spoke.

It was at that moment, Chris knew the truth.

"I'll kill that motherfucker!" Chris yelled, his anger boiling over.

"Daddy, please, don't. It'll just make things worse," Shepard pleaded.

"Johnny, he can't get away with this. What if he tries it again?" Chris asked, hoping Shepard would understand his reasoning.

"He won't. Besides, I know to avoid him now. I'll be okay. So, please, let it go," Shepard pleaded once more.

Chris sighed as he paced back and forth in anger.

"Daddy," Shepard pleaded, hoping his father would let it go.

"Johnny, I can't promise I won't floor the motherfucker if I ever see him again, but I won't search him out. That's about as much as I can promise," Chris replied.

"I understand," Shepard agreed with a nod.

"So, they think you'll be able to go home when the new test results come in," Chris said, trying to change the subject.

"I hope so. I need to start working on my entry for the art contest," Shepard replied with a smile.

"Have you decided on a subject?" Chris asked, taking his son's hand in his.

"Mom's been on my mind a lot lately. I was thinking about painting her. You know, to show everybody how beautiful she was," Shepard said, a sad smile on his face.

"That's a wonderful idea," Chris agreed as he kissed his son's forehead.

"I'm still tired," Shepard admitted with a small laugh.

"Yeah, well, the doctor said your platelet count was horrible. So, I'm pretty sure it's normal for you to feel like shit," Chris replied with a grin.

Shepard laughed a bit before closing his eyes. "You always know how to make me laugh."

Chris just smiled as he watched the steady rise and fall of his son's chest.

****☆****

11:45 AM – FRIDAY MORNING – ALLIANCE HIGH… 

"Are you feeling better?" Kaidan asked as he saw the tired look in Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes.

"Yeah," Shepard shrugged as he continued to sketch.

"I texted you for two days straight. Why didn't you reply?" Kaidan asked with a hint of hurt in his tone.

"I was asleep," Shepard answered truthfully.

"For two days," Kaidan said, cocking his brow in disbelief.

"Yep. My platelets were a mess. My body basically decided to hibernate," Shepard explained with a crooked smile.

"Oh. Well, welcome back to the world of the lucid," Kaidan said with a grin.

"Huh?" Shepard asked, not quite understanding what the older boy had meant.

Kaidan laughed in amusement. "It's nothing."

RING—

"Have a good weekend, class," Benezia called out as she watched her students file out of the room. "John, may I see you for a moment?"

Shepard sighed as he turned to face his teacher.

"Yes, ma'am."

"You're behind on a few assignments. I know art isn't a major subject, but I'll need at least three sketches by Monday. One scenic sketch, one mechanical sketch, and one portrait."

"I–I have a few older ones. I can give them to you now if that's alright," Shepard offered.

"That would be excellent," Benezia agreed with a smile.

"Here," Shepard said as he handed her the sketches.

"These are lovely. Might I ask who this is?" Benezia asked, showing Shepard the portrait of a young man.

"That's my dad, er, stepdad," Shepard corrected.

"Ah. I see. He's very handsome," Benezia smiled. "Well, you should be all caught up in my class. You can go now. Have a good weekend."

"You too," Shepard smiled as he made his way out of the building.

****☆****

1:05 PM – THE INFUSION CLINIC AT MERCY GENERAL HOSPITAL… 

"Hello, Johnny," the receptionist smiled as she quickly signed him in. "Do you have the payment for us today?"

"I do," Shepard smiled as he handed her $600. "I think that's the right amount."

"That's perfect. You can head on back. The nurse is waiting.  Here's your receipt," the receptionist instructed with a smile as she handed him a receipt.


"Hello, Johnny. Are you ready for your infusion?" The nurse asked as she prepared everything.

"Uh-huh," Shepard replied with a nod.

"This will take about two hours," the nurse explained. "It's a bit longer than usual. You're getting a bit of a booster today."

"I understand," Shepard nodded as he began to sketch.

"I'll be back in a while to check on you. If you need anything, hit the call button," the nurse said as she continued her rounds.

Once the infusion was complete and the waiting period had passed, Shepard was free to go.


The second he stepped foot outside, he heard a familiar voice.

"Shepard," Kaidan called out from his car, causing Shepard to smile.

"Hey, K. What're you doing here?" Shepard asked curiously.

"I thought we could grab something to eat. Are you interested?" Kaidan asked with a smile.

"Hell yes," Shepard grinned as he got into the passenger's seat.

"So, where do you wanna eat?" Kaidan asked as Shepard buckled his seatbelt.

"Umm. It doesn't matter to me. I ain't picky," Shepard replied with a shrug.

"Hmm. How about pizza?" Kaidan asked.

"Pizza sounds good," Shepard smiled.

"So, what are your plans for the weekend?" Kaidan asked as he headed to the nearby pizzeria.

"Homework," Shepard replied with a sour look. "I have a fuck-ton of it. I guess it's to be expected. I missed two days straight."

"Do you need any help?" Kaidan asked, hoping to spend time with the young blonde.

"I don't wanna come between you and Rahna," Shepard admitted.

"We're on a break. You know, giving each other space to find out what we really want," Kaidan explained.

"You broke up," Shepard asked, hoping he didn't sound too overly hopeful.

"No, not exactly. We're just taking a time-out," Kaidan tried to clarify.

"Oh," Shepard replied, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"Well, we're here," Kaidan said as he parked the car. "Are you ready to go in?" 

"I guess," Shepard said, rubbing his shoulder nervously.

Kaidan smiled as they walked side by side into the pizzeria.


"Can you grab a booth for us while I order?" Kaidan asked.

"Sure," Shepard said with a nod.

"Is deluxe okay with you?" Kaidan asked.

"That's fine," Shepard replied as he found a booth farthest away from the other customers.

Once the order was placed, Kaidan made his way to their booth.

"It'll be ready in about ten minutes. Wow, you really picked a solitary booth," Kaidan said with a chuckle.

"I–I don't like people," Shepard admitted as the waiter brought their drinks. 

"Thanks," Kaidan smiled as the waiter nodded before returning to the front. "I can understand why you feel that way."

Shepard smiled as he shyly touched the edge of Kaidan's right hand.

Noticing Shepard's intent, Kaidan smiled as he placed his hand upon Shepard's.

The moment was ruined when something hit Shepard in the back of the head, causing the young blonde to flinch. 

"What the hell was that?" Kaidan asked as he picked a piece of bread from Shepard's long blonde hair.

"I–I should probably head home," Shepard said as he stood to leave.

"Wait! We haven't eaten yet," Kaidan replied, hoping the boy would stay.

"I–I ain't very hungry. You stay. I can walk home. I could use the air anyway. Thanks for inviting me, K. I appreciate it," Shepard said with a sad smile as he quickly left the restaurant.

Kaidan could hear the snickers coming from the table adjacent to the booth. The sound made Kaidan sick.

Kaidan immediately made his way to the counter, determined to fix things for Shepard. "Excuse me, but can I get that order to go, along with two Cokes?" 

"Sure," the cashier nodded as she moved to gather his order. "Here you are. Have a nice evening."

"You too," Kaidan smiled as he collected the pizza and drinks. 

'Now, if I can only catch up with Shepard,' Kaidan thought to himself as he made his way to the car.


Kaidan was surprised by how fast Shepard had travelled on foot. It had taken him several minutes to catch up to the blue-eyed teen.

"Shepard," Kaidan called out from the car window, causing Shepard to glance his way.

Kaidan could see the red in Shepard's sapphire eyes, and it upset him to no end. 

"John, I got the pizza to go. I thought we could go back to your place and eat it there," Kaidan explained.

Shepard finally stopped walking, turning his attention to the whisky-eyed boy instead. "K, you didn't have to do that."

"I wanted to," Kaidan insisted. "Besides, this way, you won't have to cook for your dad."

Shepard laughed a bit at his friend. "I–I guess we could do that."

"Good," Kaidan grinned as he motioned for Shepard to get into the car.

Shepard smiled as he made his way to the passenger's side.

****☆****

6 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Johnny, I'm home," Chris called out as he made his way to the kitchen. "Hmm. Pizza?"

Chris took a slice from the box before heading to Shepard's bedroom.

"Hey, Joh—" the words died on Chris's tongue as he struggled to swallow the pizza – the sight of Kaidan lying atop a half-naked Shepard, obviously grinding against the young blonde being a bit much to take.

Kaidan immediately scrambled to retrieve his shirt.

"Kaidan, I wanna see you in the kitchen, now," Chris demanded.

"Dad, I—" Shepard tried to speak.

"Not a word, Johnny," Chris insisted as he left the room.

"He seems really pissed," Kaidan said as he struggled to button his shirt.

"H–He's just being over-protective of me. Something happened last week, and now he's paranoid," Shepard explained. 

"What happened?" Kaidan asked curiously. 

"Now, Kaidan," Chris yelled out, his voice filled with annoyance.

"You better go," Shepard insisted as Kaidan gave him a quick kiss before heading to the living room.


"You wanted to speak with me, Sir," Kaidan said as he presented himself to Shepard's stepfather.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Chris asked bluntly.

"I–I'm here to see John," Kaidan explained.

"No, you're here to fuck Johnny. You're here to use him and leave, plain and simple," Chris replied, his tone harsh and accusatory.

"I— that isn't true," Kaidan insisted.

"Cut the crap! We both know I'm right," Chris argued.

"John's too smart to let people use him," Kaidan said, his voice raising slightly as he spoke.

"You don't get it! My boy's lonely. He's so goddamn lonely; he'd let anybody use him. He knows you don't give a shit about him. But he doesn't care because he thinks that's the best he can ever hope for. And he'll do anything you ask of him because he's scared to death you'll leave and never offer him a second glance. And I'm sick to death of watching him hurt," Chris explained, letting Kaidan know exactly how he felt.

"I–I understand your concern, but I would never stop being John's friend. I care about him too much for that," Kaidan insisted.

"Right," Chris laughed a bitter laugh. "Forgive me if I don't believe you. You already hurt my boy once."

"That was a misunderstanding," Kaidan insisted.

"Whatever. Let me put it in simpler terms: stay the fuck away from my son," Chris demanded.

"I–I can't do that. As long as John wants me here, I'll be here," Kaidan replied, his tone stubbornly defiant.

"Dad," Shepard called out, causing Chris to look his way.

"Yeah, Johnny, " Chris asked, turning his attention to the young blonde.

"C–Can I talk to you for a minute?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Sure," Chris smiled before turning his attention to Kaidan, "You stay right there. I'm not finished talking to you."

Kaidan nodded as he took a seat on the couch, rubbing his face nervously.


"Dad, please don't chase Kaidan away. He's nice to me," Shepard pleaded.

"Johnny, he's only using you," Chris insisted.

"Maybe, but— you know what he did today? He asked me out to eat with him. When we were there, some guys started throwing stuff at me. I didn't want to ruin Kaidan's dinner, so I left. And, you know what he did, Daddy? He got the pizza to go, and he found me walking home. He said he wanted to eat with me, with me. I know he'll never love me, but at least I know he likes me. Please, don't take that away from me. It's all I got," Shepard explained with tears in his sapphire-blue eyes.

Chris rubbed his face hard with one hand before hugging his son tight. "Okay. I understand. I just— I don't want to see you hurt."

"I–I know," Shepard nodded in understanding.

"Well, I better go talk to Kaidan. I was pretty rough on him," Chris admitted.

"D–Do you want me to go with you?" Shepard asked.

"No. I'll send him back in when I'm done," Chris insisted as he headed back to the living room to confront Kaidan once more.


"Well, Kaidan. I guess you're getting what you want. Johnny wants you to stay," Chris explained, rubbing the back of his neck as he spoke. "So, I guess you're welcome here."

"Thank you, Sir," Kaidan said with a nod, offering his hand to Chris.

Chris shook the boy's hand firmly. "This doesn't mean I trust you. And if you ever hurt my son, I'll beat the living crap outta you. Do we have an understanding?"

"We do," Kaidan agreed.

"Johnny's waiting," Chris said, motioning towards Shepard's bedroom.

"Thank you," Kaidan said as he made his way to Shepard's room.


"Hey," Shepard greeted the older boy. "Is he still mad?"

"Well, yes and no. He loves you and wanted to make sure I knew just how much," Kaidan smiled as he pulled Shepard close.

"He threatened you, huh," Shepard said with an amused grin.

"He did. But I understand why. He's a good man," Kaidan said with a smile.

"He really is," Shepard agreed.

"Do you mind if I come over and help you with your homework tomorrow?" Kaidan asked, sad to see their time had been cut short.

"I don't mind. I'd like that very much, actually," Shepard admitted.

"Good. I'll see you tomorrow," Kaidan insisted as he kissed Shepard goodnight.

"Drive safe," Shepard said as he watched his friend leave the room.


"Goodnight, Mr. Scott," Kaidan said as he made his way towards the door.

"Yeah, yeah," Chris mumbled, causing Kaidan to grin as he exited the house. "Damn kid," Chris grunted as he took another swig of beer.


"Daddy," Shepard called out from the kitchen.

"Yeah, kid," Chris replied as he turned his gaze towards his son.

"A–Are we good?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Whataya mean?" Chris asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"Y–You're not mad at me, are you?" Shepard asked, trying his best to avoid eye contact.

"No, Johnny. I'm not mad," Chris assured his son. "I'm just trying to look out for you."

"I know," Shepard nodded with a smile. "My art teacher liked a sketch I did of you."

"Really," Chris said, a surprised look on his face. "Is she hot?" Chris asked, a cheeky grin on his face.

Shepard just laughed as he headed towards his room.

"Is she single? Hey, I'm dead serious! Johnny?" Chris chuckled in amusement.

"Sure you are," Shepard called out as he closed his bedroom door.

"God, I love that kid," Chris smiled as he finished his beer.

****☆****

3:03 PM – SHEPARD'S BEDROOM… 

Chris opened the door slowly, and as if in a trance, he made his way to Shepard's bedside. Watching the boy sleep, he ran his hand through Shepard's long blonde hair.

"So beautiful," Chris whispered as he ran his hand down Shepard's chest. "How easy it would be to destroy that beauty."

Chris then moved towards Shepard's desk, his hand searching the top drawer for something he could use.

"Ah, this should do just fine," Chris said, his voice deeper than usual as he made his way back to Shepard's bedside.

"Such a beautiful boy," Chris said as he began to palm himself through his sweats with his free hand. Then with his other hand, Chris took the blade and placed it just underneath Shepard's right ear. 

Chris licked the young blonde's neck before applying just enough pressure for the blade to break the skin. "Red is definitely your colour," Chris grinned as a thin line of red trailed down the young boy's neck.

Chris couldn't help but touch himself, getting off on the idea of seeing Shepard covered in blood. "If you're a good boy, I might even fuck you before you bleed out," Chris whispered in his stepson's ear before dragging the blade a little further down, causing Shepard to moan as even more blood flowed.

The slight noise from Shepard's mouth was all it took to break the spell – Chris's eyes wide in shock at the sight before him.

"What the hell!?" Chris yelled out, nearly jumping out of his skin when he realized what he had been doing. "I–I don't understand."

Shepard moaned again as the blood began to pool in the dip of his collarbone.

"Jesus, what did I do?" Chris panicked as he tossed the hobby knife across the room before taking his shirt off and applying pressure to the nearly two‐inch long cut underneath his son's right ear.

"D–Daddy," Shepard mumbled, still groggy from sleep.

"I–It's okay, Johnny. Daddy'll fix it," Chris promised as he tried his best to stop the bleeding.

"W–What happened," Shepard asked, only now noticing the slight burn underneath his ear.

"I–I don't know," Chris admitted truthfully.

"A–Am I bleeding," Shepard asked, his voice cracking in fear.

"Y–Yeah, but I got you. It'll stop in a minute," Chris promised. "Can you keep up the pressure while I go get the first aid kit?"

"O–Okay," Shepard nodded as he did as he was told.


"Okay, let me check it," Chris said as he slowly removed the bloodied t-shirt – his brow furrowing when he saw the steady stream. "I think I'm going to have to give you that anti-bleeding shot."

"O–Okay," Shepard replied, his body nodding as he spoke.

"Okay. I need you to keep the pressure up while I give you the shot," Chris instructed as Shepard did as he was told.

Shepard watched as his father prepared the injection, wasting no time before administering the shot.

"There you go. That should help stop the bleeding," Chris said, praying it would work.

"H–How did I get cut?" Shepard asked, his voice unsure.

"I–I don't know," Chris lied, hating himself for hurting his son.

"Daddy, I think I'm gonna puke," Shepard announced as his father quickly handed him the small trash can.

Shepard retched for several minutes before speaking once again.

"I thought I was going to avoid puking this time," Shepard said, a half-grin on his face.

"Yeah. You had an infusion, didn't you," Chris said, stroking his son's bloodstained hair.

"Uh-huh," Shepard replied before retching once more.

"Let me check that cut," Chris said as he carefully removed the bloodied t-shirt. "Thank god! It's stopped. I'll use the liquid glue to make sure it doesn't reopen."

"Alright," Shepard mumbled as his father carefully cleaned and bandaged his neck.

"I think I got it. Are you okay? You aren't feeling cold, are you?" Chris asked, hoping the boy hadn't lost too much blood.

"No colder than usual," Shepard assured his father.

"Alright. Do you want me to stay until you feel better?" Chris asked as he brushed a stray lock of hair from his son's brow.

"Y–Yeah. I might need a shower first," Shepard said as he made room for his father.

"That can wait," Chris insisted as he allowed his son to lay his head in his lap. "You're sick as a dog again, huh?"

"Uh-huh," Shepard admitted as he closed his tired eyes.

"Try to get some sleep, okay. I'll be here if you need me," Chris promised as he continued stroking his son's bloodstained hair.

"Okay," Shepard mumbled as he drifted off to sleep.

"I love you, Johnny," Chris whispered as he continued to watch after his son.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Johnny, Kaidan's here," Chris announced, causing his son to scramble to put away his sketches. 

"C–Can you stall him for a minute?" Shepard asked as he pulled his t-shirt over his head.

"Johnny, you look fine," Chris insisted with a sigh.

"Please, Dad," Shepard pleaded as he searched his closet for a nicer shirt.

"Alright. How much time do you need?" Chris asked, slightly annoyed by the situation.

"Umm. Ten minutes, maybe," Shepard said, pulling a number out of his head.

"You have no idea, do you," Chris asked, amused by his son.

"N–Not really," Shepard admitted.

"I'll come back in and check on you in five," Chris said as he made his way back to the living room.


"Johnny's getting dressed, so you'll have to wait here for a while," Chris explained. 

"Yes, Sir," Kaidan replied as he took a seat on the couch.

"Do you want anything to drink?" Chris offered.

"No, thank you," Kaidan replied with a nervous smile.

"So, what are your plans today?" Chris asked, still suspicious of the whisky-eyed teen.

"Well, I plan to help John with his homework, Sir," Kaidan replied honestly.

"Yeah, just don't help him out of his pants," Chris warned, causing Kaidan to tense up.

"Y–Yes, Sir," Kaidan said with a nod.

"Well, I'm gonna check on Johnny," Chris said with a satisfied grin as he made his way to Shepard's room.


"Johnny, are you dressed yet?" Chris asked as he entered his son's bedroom.

"Yeah. You can tell him to come in now," Shepard said, running a brush through his long dark-blonde hair.

"You know, you look awfully nice for a study date," Chris said, his tone just a touch disapproving.

"I–I know," Shepard admitted. "But I wanted to look nice. Kaidan always looks so nice, you know."

"Well, yeah. He's a rich kid; that's what they all look like," Chris insisted, causing Shepard to frown.

Chris sighed at the sad look on his son's face, angry with himself for causing it.

"Ignore me, Johnny. I'm just being an ass," Chris apologized. "I'll go get your boyfriend."

"Daddy," Shepard called out, causing Chris to look his way.

"Huh?"

"He... he's not my boyfriend. So, please don't say that in front of him," Shepard pleaded, his voice small and sad.

"I won't," Chris promised, giving his son a sympathetic look before returning to the living room.


"Johnny's ready. You can go in now," Chris said as he grabbed his keys and coat.

"Thank you, sir," Kaidan replied with a slight bow.

"Tell Johnny I'll be home late and not to bother with dinner – I'll pick something up," Chris instructed as he made his way out of the house.

Kaidan watched until the man was out of sight before releasing a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.

"Thank god, he's gone," Kaidan thought aloud as he made his way to Shepard's room.


"Hey," Shepard said with a small wave, smiling nervously as Kaidan took a seat next to him on the bed.

"Hey. What happened to your neck?" Kaidan asked, noticing the bandage below his right ear.

"I'm not sure. I somehow managed to hurt myself in my sleep," Shepard explained, placing a hand over the general area.

"Hn. Well, what would you like to work on first?" Kaidan asked as he opened his pack.

"Umm. It don't matter. I kinda need help with everything," Shepard admitted.

"How many assignments do we have to finish?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Umm. Four, but two of them are pretty short. The worst ones are math and history," Shepard explained.

"Alright, we'll do math first," Kaidan replied as he retrieved his laptop from his pack.

"Umm. Why do you need that? I have my book right here," Shepard said, a look of confusion on his face.

Kaidan smiled at his clueless friend. "This is more convenient for me, and I can use it to help research the answers."

"Ain't that cheating?" Shepard asked curiously.

"No. I won't use it like that. I'll just check your work as we go and let you know whether you're right or wrong," Kaidan explained.

"Oh, okay," Shepard nodded in understanding as they started on the assignment.

****☆****

FOUR HOURS LATER… 

"Well, I think we're done," Kaidan said with a smile.

"Yep," Shepard said as he put his books away.

"You look nice today," Kaidan smiled, causing Shepard to blush slightly.

"Y–You really think so?" Shepard asked nervously.

"I do," Kaidan nodded as he leaned in to kiss the blue-eyed beauty.

The kiss was short and sweet, causing Shepard to smile a sweet smile that made Kaidan's heart flutter.

"Dad's not here. He won't be back until late," Shepard said, his voice nearly a whisper.

"Yeah. That's what he told me," Kaidan replied in amusement.

"C–Can I kiss you?" Shepard asked, trying to avoid Kaidan's gaze.

Kaidan smiled at the apparent shyness of the young blonde. "Sure."

Shepard leaned in slowly until their lips finally met. The kiss was slow, languid, and full of promise. And it went straight to Kaidan's cock.

"I want you," Kaidan whispered in Shepard's ear as he gently kissed Shepard's neck.

"I want you too," Shepard admitted as he pulled Kaidan closer – until the older boy was lying flush against him.

Kaidan ran his hand underneath Shepard's shirt to feel the muscles underneath, causing the younger teen to moan.

"W–We should hurry – in case my dad comes home early," Shepard suggested as he lifted his hips suggestively against Kaidan.

"Do you have a condom?" Kaidan asked as he started to grind into the blonde beneath him.

"Uh-huh," Shepard replied as he leaned over to retrieve a condom from the drawer. "The lube's on the table."

"Your father would kill me if he knew what we were about to do," Kaidan said as he quickly removed his shirt before standing to remove the rest of his clothes.

"He doesn't have to know," Shepard assured him as he, too, began to undress.


Once they were fully bare, they returned to their places on the bed with Kaidan wasting no time kissing his way down Shepard's body.

"Mmm," Shepard moaned, loving the feel of Kaidan's wet tongue on his body. Gasping in surprise as Kaidan took him into his mouth.

"I hope I'm doing this right," Kaidan replied before taking him back into his mouth.

"Y–You're doing great," Shepard assured him as he threaded his fingers through Kaidan's curly black hair.

"Can you hand me the lube?" Kaidan asked before  giving Shepard's length a long lick.

"I–I can do that if you want me to," Shepard offered as he handed the bottle to Kaidan.

"I want to. I like touching you," Kaidan admitted with a wink as he started preparing Shepard for what was to come.

"I–I wanna taste you," Shepard whispered.

Kaidan grinned as he turned his body to give Shepard access to what he wanted.

Shepard wasted no time, taking as much of Kaidan as he could into his mouth as the older boy slowly opened him up.

"Are you ready, John?" Kaidan asked, moaning as Shepard sucked the head of his cock hard before letting him fall from his mouth.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded as he got on all fours, eagerly awaiting his partner's next move.

"John, how do you feel about riding me?" Kaidan asked as he stroked his cock slowly before putting on the condom.

"O–Okay. If that's what you want," Shepard agreed as he waited for Kaidan to lie down in the bed.

"Are you ready?" Kaidan asked as Shepard straddled him.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded as he guided Kaidan's cock to his entrance before slowly sinking to the hilt.

"God, you feel so good," Kaidan moaned as Shepard slowly began to move.

"I love your cock. It feels so good inside me," Shepard admitted, his crude words making Kaidan even harder.

"Ride me harder, John," Kaidan instructed, gripping Shepard's hip hard as the young blonde did as he was told.

The pace was hard and fast and Kaidan knew he wouldn't last long.

"You're getting close," Shepard grinned, feeling the swell of Kaidan's cock within him.

"Y–Yeah. Are you?" Kaidan asked, wanting Shepard to cum with him.

"Yeah," Shepard replied as he began stroking himself faster – his left hand a blur as he continued to ride his partner.

"Cum for me, John," Kaidan whispered as he replaced Shepard's hand with his own.

"Hn," Shepard grunted as he came, spilling over Kaidan's hand – his orgasm sending Kaidan over the edge.

"God, you're beautiful," Kaidan yelled as he pulled Shepard close, kissing him passionately.

Shepard laid his head on Kaidan's chest as he waited for the high to wear off.

"Here, let me clean you up," Kaidan insisted as he removed the used condom, tossing it in the trash, before retrieving the wipes from the bedside table.

"Thank you," Shepard smiled as he allowed Kaidan to clean his stomach.

"It's not a problem," Kaidan smiled as he pulled Shepard close, allowing the blue-eyed blonde to lay his head on his chest once again.

"You're warm," Shepard mumbled as he kissed Kaidan's chest.

"Well, you have that effect on me," Kaidan chuckled as he kissed Shepard on the top of his head. "John, can I ask you something?"

"Uh-huh," Shepard replied.

"It's about your childhood," Kaidan explained.

"O–Okay," Shepard replied nervously.

"What was it like?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Umm. I dunno. Hectic – that's a good word for it, I guess," Shepard admitted.

"In what way?"

"Well, Mom was always struggling – with alcohol, drugs, sex, money – you name it, she struggled with it. She was a good mom – when she was herself. But I don't blame her for how she was. She went through a lot to keep me," Shepard explained.

"And your dad?" Kaidan asked, hoping he wasn't digging too deep.

"Hell, I dunno. I don't think mom knew either, not for sure anyway. I'm sure she had her suspicions about who it was, but she never told me a name or nothin'," Shepard admitted.

"Do you ever wonder about him?"

"Nah. I got Chris now," Shepard said with a hint of a smile on his face.

"And before Chris?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Well, yeah. But I knew I'd never find him," Shepard admitted.

"I see. How did you get that scar? The crescent-shaped one near your hairline, I mean," Kaidan asked as he ran his fingers over said scar.

"I honestly don't remember. Daddy said Mom told him how I got it, but she never told me how," Shepard explained.

"And you didn't ask your dad about it," Kaidan asked in confusion.

"Nope. I figure I got it during a blackout. And if it did happen during a blackout, a story about it wouldn't trigger the memory of it anyway – so, why bother," Shepard said with a shrug.

"That seems so sad to me," Kaidan said as he played with Shepard's hair.

"Maybe."

"What games did you like to play as a kid?" Kaidan asked, trying to learn as much as possible about his friend.

"I didn't really play any games. I didn't have any friends, so I didn't really have anyone to play with."

"Why didn't you have friends?" Kaidan asked, his brow furrowing as he spoke.

"Nobody liked me. They all teased me about my size, the way I talked, the clothes I wore – things like that. They called me a whore's son a lot, too," Shepard replied with a shrug.

"That's an awful thing to say to a child. It must have angered you greatly," Kaidan said, upset at the thought of Shepard being shunned.

"Nah. They weren't lying. My mom was a whore. It's how she paid the bills. It's the reason she was able to keep me. And I'm grateful to her for that. I love her, so it never mattered what other people thought," Shepard admitted truthfully.

Kaidan was at a loss for words. 

"Did I upset you?" Shepard asked, anxious about the silence.

"No. It was just a surprise," Kaidan admitted.

"Please, don't think bad of my mom. She was a good person," Shepard said, his voice pleading.

"I don't think poorly of her," Kaidan assured him with a kiss to the top of his head. "So, you were always alone. You never had anyone?"

"You mean to play with as a kid?" Shepard asked, trying to clarify the meaning.

"Uh-huh," Kaidan nodded.

"Well, I remember, Adam used to toss me in the air and spin me around like an airplane. He called it *playing rocket ship*. That was probably my favourite thing to do until I got older. Then I just drew all the time," Shepard explained.

"Adam – isn't that—"

"Yeah. He's the one I killed," Shepard admitted, clearing his throat nervously.

"I don't understand. The way you talked about him – you seemed so close," Kaidan replied in confusion.

"'Cause we were. He was my mom's boyfriend when I was little – up until I was like five years old. They broke around that time, but they stayed close," Shepard explained.

"What made you hate him? You don't have to answer that if you don't want to," Kaidan said, hoping he wasn't making a mistake.

"I don't hate him. I hate the things he did," Shepard clarified, his eyes filling with unshed tears as he spoke.

"W–What did he do? Did he hurt your mom?" Kaidan asked, dreading the answer.

"No. He hurt me. He used to babysit me all the time. I used to be so happy when he watched me. But then, when I was about seven, he started touching me when Mom wasn't around. I tried to tell her, but she wouldn't hear me. Then, when I was eight, he raped me. He said it was the only way he could keep me. I never did understand what he meant," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Jesus, John, I'm sorry," Kaidan apologized as he held Shepard tighter. "Why didn't your mother do anything about it?"

"I don't think she knew. Or if she did, she denied it," Shepard explained. "Besides, he wasn't the last. Mom had tons of friends that would sneak into my room when she was passed out. I fucking hated them all, but I couldn't bring myself to hate Adam. It would be so much easier if I could," Shepard explained, tears running down his face as he spoke.

"What changed? You killed him, so something must have changed," Kaidan replied, looking for the truth.

"He hurt me bad that night. It felt like he was ripping me apart. I remember him finishing in me, but after that, everything's black. I don't remember doing it. No matter what I do, I just can't remember what I did," Shepard cried before clutching his head in pain. "Ugh— fuck, my head—"

"Ah. What the hell!?" Kaidan called out in pain as he experienced the same throbbing.

"It hurts," Shepard admitted as he tried to sit up, only to be forced back down – Kaidan's fingers tight against his throat, threatening to choke the life from him.

"K, I–I can't breathe," Shepard gasped as he struggled to break free.

"Shut the fuck up! You're mine. You belong to me, you fucking bitch," Kaidan growled, his voice sounding nothing like it should, as he bit the boy hard on the junction between the neck and shoulder – hard enough to draw blood.

Shepard screamed in pain. "K!? Please," Shepard pleaded as he felt his legs being spread wide. "Please, don't. K, stop! KAIDAN!"

"Such a precious boy," Kaidan whispered as he viciously penetrated Shepard's body. 

Shepard cried out in pain as he struggled to breathe under the pressure of Kaidan's hands around his throat.

Shepard's eyes went wide as Kaidan's face changed to an unmistakable nightmare from his past.

"Adam!?" Shepard cried, his eyes going wide in disbelief.

"So fucking tight," Kaidan grunted as he licked the tears from Shepard's face. "Even better than I remember."

The man grinned as he continued to brutally thrust into Shepard's young body – each thrust more forceful than the last until finally he found his release.

"You will always be mine! You were promised long ago; you belong to me!" Kaidan growled as his expression shifted from satisfied to confused.

Kaidan returned to himself, still balls deep inside his friend – hands still firmly around Shepard's throat – still cumming, but not understanding why.

"Oh, god, what have I done!?" Kaidan asked in shock as he slowly removed his hands from Shepard's bruised throat.

Kaidan felt sick to his stomach as he gently pulled out of Shepard's abused body.

"John, baby, I'm so sorry. I didn't— I would never hurt you. Please, believe me. I don't know what happened," Kaidan cried as he reached out to stroke Shepard's damp, sweat-soaked hair – his heart sinking when Shepard flinched at his touch.

"Baby, please. I'm so sorry. Forgive me, John," Kaidan cried, causing Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes to scan him carefully.

Kaidan placed his head on Shepard's chest as he continued to weep. 

Shepard never said a word; he just started stroking Kaidan's black, curly hair in a soothing manner, causing Kaidan to look up in confusion.

Shepard's gaze shifted towards Kaidan's whisky-coloured eyes. 

Kaidan didn't know what to think when Shepard suddenly smiled directly at him, a sweet, reassuring smile that broke Kaidan's heart.

"Oh, John," Kaidan whispered as he held the younger boy tight.


The two laid like that for several minutes until Kaidan finally found the courage to stir.

"John, are you alright?" Kaidan asked in a quiet voice.

Shepard never spoke. 

"John, please, say something," Kaidan pleaded, Shepard's continued silence scaring him to no end.

Shepard still didn't answer.

"I–I have to go, but I don't wanna leave you like this," Kaidan explained.

Shepard just stared at the whisky-eyed teen – his expression blank.

"Y–You aren't here anymore, huh," Kaidan said, rubbing his face with both hands.

"You should go," Shepard announced, his tone odd – more confident than usual. "Leave... before it comes back. It's done enough damage for one day."

"W–What?" Kaidan asked in confusion. "W–What are you talking about?"

"You know goddamn well what I'm talking about. Now, get the hell out of here. Johnny can't take anymore tonight," Shepard replied, his alter ego in complete control of his actions.

"What? W–Who are you?" Kaidan asked once more.

"Names aren't needed. They're useless things. I'm growing impatient with you. I'll tell you just once more – get your shit and get the hell out. Chris'll kill you if he finds Johnny this way," Shepard warned.

"A–Alright, I'll go," Kaidan agreed as he gathered his things to leave.

"C–Can I kiss John goodbye?" Kaidan asked anxiously.

"No. Go," Shepard demanded as Kaidan quickly left the house.

"Rest, Johnny. Your daddy will be here soon. I'll keep them away until he gets here," Shepard said, letting his body relax as his eyes grew heavy.

****☆****

TWO HOURS LATER… 

"Johnny, I brought dinner. Come and eat," Chris called out, sighing when his son never answered.

Chris rubbed his face hard as he made his way to Shepard's room.

"Johnny, it's time to eat. I know you have to be hungry," Chris called out, his brow furrowing when he noticed the strange expression on his son's face. "Johnny, what's wrong?"

"Johnny's tired. He won't be able to join you for dinner," Shepard replied.

"Not you again! Can you please, cut me some slack and go back inside Johnny's mind where you belong. My kid really needs to eat," Chris insisted.

"If I do that now, Johnny won't be able to recover. You wouldn't want that, now would you," Shepard asked, a hint of annoyance in his tone.

"What the hell are you talking about? Did something happen to Johnny while I was gone?" Chris asked, a sense of dread rising up inside.

"It's not my place to say," Shepard replied with a shrug.

"Did that Kaidan kid hurt my boy?" Chris asked, noticing the discarded clothing by the bed.

"No, not Kaidan," Shepard replied, shaking his head as he spoke.

"Not Kaidan? So, you're telling me that someone did hurt my boy," Chris asked, slightly confused by the comment.

Shepard just nodded.

"Who? Who hurt him?" Chris asked anxiously.

"The demons," Shepard stated simply.

"W–What?" Chris asked, thinking he had misunderstood.

"They're angry and obsessed. I know you feel it," Shepard replied, his voice growing tired.

"I— You aren't making any goddamn sense. Demons don't exist," Chris insisted, the anger growing with each passing second.

"Why are you denying it?" Shepard asked in frustration.

"Look, you need to give Johnny back his body before you have him believing your bullshit. He's sick enough already," Chris argued.

"I told you, I can't do that right now. He'll be back when he's ready," Shepard insisted.

"Fuck this!" Chris yelled as he quickly gathered Shepard's medication. "Take these, now."

"No," Shepard refused.

"Don't make me force you, because I will. I'll shove 'em down your goddamn throat if I have to," Chris threatened. 

"If I fade before Johnny wants me to, it'll destroy him. Why aren't you hearing me?" Shepard asked, his voice sounding desperate as he spoke.

"Why the fuck should I believe you?" Chris asked in anger.

"Because you love him, and you'd do anything to protect him," Shepard replied quickly.

Chris rubbed his face hard with both hands. "FUCK! Fine, you win. But you better be gone by tomorrow."

Shepard nodded as he watched Chris disappear out of the room.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Hey," Shepard greeted his father as he took a seat at the kitchen table.

"Johnny?" Chris asked, his tone cautious.

"Yep. It's me. How long was I out?" Shepard asked, dreading the answer.

"Well, it's Monday morning, so you do the math," Chris said as he poured his son a cup of coffee.

"Really? Was I zombie a whole time or—" 

"The jackass took over. I finally got him to eat something yesterday. I gotta say, if it wasn't for the fact he's a part of you, I would have kicked his ass," Chris admitted as he took a seat opposite his son.

"Was he really that bad?" Shepard asked, slightly amused by the situation.

"He just— he doesn't listen. He refused to take the medicine. I had to bribe him to take it," Chris explained.

"What? What could he possibly want?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"Money. I gave him my bank card. I'd like it back, by the way," Chris insisted.

"N–No problem," Shepard said as he fished the card from his wallet. "Here you go. Sorry about that. I hope I didn't use it for anything."

"I don't see how you could have. You were here all weekend," Chris explained.

"That's a relief," Shepard said as he drank his coffee.

"Are you ready to tell me what happened?" Chris asked as he finished his coffee.

"I–I don't remember very much," Shepard lied with a shrug.

"Uh-huh," Chris said doubtfully. "Look, Johnny, I think you need to avoid Kaidan – just for a little while."

Shepard furrowed his brow in disappointment. "Kaidan didn't hurt me."

Chris sighed. "Johnny, have you ever even considered women?"

"Dad, I'm gay. I don't like women. They do nothing for me," Shepard explained anxiously.

"I know that, Johnny. It's just that— life would be so much easier for you if you just gave it a try," Chris said, hoping his son would understand his point of view.

"I–I don't wanna talk about this right now. I gotta get going, or I'll be late for school," Shepard said as he gathered his pack and rushed out the door before Chris could stop him.

"Johnny, get back here! Johnny," Chris called out. "Dammit! That kid is so goddamn stubborn."

****☆****

11:35 AM – ALLIANCE HIGH… 

The day had been an awkward one for Kaidan. The older boy had spent all morning trying to figure out how to react around Shepard. But, no matter how much he thought about it, he just couldn't bring himself to approach his blonde friend.

Shepard noticed Kaidan's strange behaviour, and it made him anxious, to say the least.

"Hey," Shepard said with a smile and a small wave, causing Kaidan to give him a confused look.

"H–Hey," Kaidan replied as he opened up his sketchbook.

"K, is everything okay? I mean, you haven't spoken to me at all today. D–Did I do something wrong?" Shepard asked with a hurt tone.

Kaidan gave him a disbelieving look. "Seriously? John, I was the one who did something wrong. I can't believe you're even talking to me after what I did."

"Oh, that's what's bothering you, huh. I'm okay. I'm not mad at you or nothin' like that," Shepard replied calmly.

"How can you not be mad? John, I— I raped you," Kaidan said, his voice just loud enough for Shepard alone to hear.

"K, that wasn't you. It's okay, I understand," Shepard insisted.

"W–What do you mean, it wasn't me?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"It was Adam. He possessed you," Shepard replied as if it was the most normal thing to say.

"What? John, are you listening to yourself?" Kaidan asked, confused by the entire situation.

Shepard sighed. "C–Can we talk after school?"

"Sure. I'll wait for you by the tree in the yard," Kaidan agreed.

"Thanks, K," Shepard said with a smile as he focused on his assignment.


The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, and Shepard was happy to see Kaidan waiting, underneath the tree, as he made his way out of the building.

"I'm glad you're here," Shepard said with a smile.

"Yeah. You look like you're feeling better," Kaidan said as he rubbed the back of his neck nervously.

"I am. Can we go somewhere to talk?" Shepard asked.

"Sure," Kaidan said as he led Shepard to his car.

"Umm— the beach is near here. We could go there and talk a while," Shepard suggested as he fastened his seatbelt.

"Aren't the beaches closed?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Yeah. We can just jump the fence. Unless you'd rather not," Shepard said, wanting Kaidan to choose.

"I don't think we should do that. We might get in trouble," Kaidan replied, not wanting to get caught doing something illegal.

"Oh. O–Okay. Where do you want to go?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Well, there's a private area just behind my house. It's pretty secluded if you don't mind talking there," Kaidan suggested.

"That's fine," Shepard agreed with a nod.

"Do you want to get something to eat first?" Kaidan asked as he made his way towards their destination.

"Nah. You can get something if you want," Shepard replied as he leaned his head against the car window.

"That's okay. We'll go straight there. It shouldn't take longer than fifteen minutes," Kaidan explained as he concentrated on the road ahead.


FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER... 

"Well, what do you think?" Kaidan asked as he parked the car.

"I–It's really pretty here," Shepard said with a smile.

"Yeah. It's my mom's garden. She loves it here. The apple trees were my dad's idea. We own an orchard, but it's in the country," Kaidan explained.

"Oh, that's— nice," Shepard said, not knowing what else to say.

"I'm stalling, I know," Kaidan admitted.

"I–I don't mind," Shepard said with a faint smile.

"John, I am so sorry I hurt you," Kaidan said, his tone regretful and apologetic. "I swear, I would never do anything like that on purpose. It was like— I don't know. It just wasn't me."

"I know. I told you what happened," Shepard replied calmly.

"John, I admit that something happened to make me act that way, but Adam's dead. What you're saying makes no sense," Kaidan insisted.

"K, do you remember anything after that pain in your head?" Shepard asked nervously.

"N–No. Now that you mention it, I don't remember anything until— after," Kaidan admitted.

"Exactly. Because you weren't you. You were possessed by Adam. I know because I saw him. Your face, it changed. It was then I knew, it wasn't  you, K," Shepard explained, hoping Kaidan would believe him.

"John, the man hurt you. Maybe you were just seeing him in me because of my actions," Kaidan said.

"K, it was Adam. My dad's been possessed by him too. But, just like you, he denies it," Shepard said, his tone growing more irritated by the minute.

"Your stepfather raped you," Kaidan asked in shock.

"What!? No! He gets abusive, but nothing sexual, at least not that I know of. K, do you remember when you asked me how I got this cut?" Shepard said, pointing to the healing cut below his right ear.

"Yes."

"Well, I think my dad did it. He was there in my room when it happened. I didn't ask him about it because I didn't want to upset him, but I'm almost positive Adam possessed him," Shepard explained.

"John, if what you say is true, and I'm not saying it is, then how do we handle it?" Kaidan asked, at a loss for what to do next.

"I dunno. I guess we avoid being alone together in my house," Shepard suggested.

"Okay. So, if we want to be together, we'll have to do so in my house or somewhere else. I think I can handle that," Kaidan agreed with a nod.

"So, you still want to keep fucking me, you know, to get me out of your system? You don't wanna back out," Shepard asked, giving Kaidan an out if he wished.

"Do you have to put it so bluntly?" Kaidan asked, cringing at Shepard's crude way of speaking.

"K, it's the way I talk. I can't change it. And stop stalling. Do you wanna back out or not?" Shepard asked, wanting Kaidan to make his choice.

"I–I don't want to back out. I like being with you," Kaidan admitted.

"I'm glad," Shepard smiled in relief as he kissed the older boy.

"John, aren't you in danger? I mean, if Adam is causing your step-father to become violent, doesn't that make you worried for your safety?" Kaidan asked, hating the thought of Shepard being hurt.

"My dad won't take things that far. He's strong, way stronger than Adam ever was," Shepard said with confidence.

"Okay, but if things get too rough, feel free to stay the night with me," Kaidan insisted.

"Okay," Shepard grinned as he straddled the older boy before kissing him passionately.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Kaidan asked as he kissed Shepard's collarbone.

"Positive," Shepard smiled as he began to move his hips in tiny circles, causing Kaidan to moan in approval.

"God, you're beautiful," Kaidan said as he held Shepard tight, jumping slightly when they accidentally hit the horn.

Shepard just laughed in amusement. The sound of his happiness, making Kaidan smile.

'God, I love this boy,' Kaidan thought to himself as he kissed him once more.

****☆****

"That— was good," Shepard said as he tried to catch his breath.

"It was," Kaidan agreed as he put himself away. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. K, don't worry about what happened. Just put it out of your mind. You didn't do anything wrong," Shepard insisted as he took Kaidan's hand in his, rubbing the older boy's knuckles in a soothing manner.

"You're the strongest person I've ever met," Kaidan praised with a smile as he leaned over to kiss the young blonde.

"I–I better get dressed," Shepard said as he moved to open the car door.

"Do you want to spend the night?" Kaidan asked, hoping Shepard would agree.

"I–I can't. I have to get back and get dinner ready for my dad," Shepard explained, his tone apologetic as he buttoned his jeans.

"I understand. I guess we should head that way," Kaidan said as he waited for Shepard to get settled into his seat.

"Yeah," Shepard agreed as he fastened his seatbelt. "I guess we should."

Kaidan smiled as he started the car before heading towards Shepard's place.


"Thanks for bringing me home," Shepard said as he nervously toyed with the frayed hem of his grey t-shirt.

"No problem. I guess I'll see you tomorrow. I might text you later," Kaidan said as he kissed Shepard's left hand.

"I'd like that," Shepard smiled before leaning in to kiss Kaidan goodbye.

"Have a good night, John," Kaidan said as Shepard exited the vehicle.

"You too," Shepard said with a wave as he watched Kaidan's car disappear down the street.


"Psycho," a young boy yelled out just before throwing a rock straight at Shepard's head, hitting him just above his right eye.

"Ow!" Shepard yelled out as he placed his hand over the wound. "What the hell did you do that for?"

"Go away! We don't want you here! You killed my cousin. I fucking hate you," the kid screamed as he threw another rock.

The boy's eyes went wide as Shepard caught the incoming rock easily with his left hand, his eyes glowing as he spoke.

"Here's your rock back, you little fucker," Shepard yelled as he threw the rock hard, hitting the kid directly in the right shinbone, causing him to crumble in a heap.

"Ow! That hurt! I'm telling my dad," the kid cried, tears streaming down his face.

"I don't give a fuck who you tell! Just stay the hell away from me before I end you," Shepard threatened, sick of the boy's childish behaviour.

"You'll be sorry," the boy cried as he limped his way across the street, back to his house.

"I hate this fucking place," Shepard mumbled as he made his way into the house, cringing when he saw his reflection in a decorative mirror hanging on the wall by the door.

A thin line of blood was streaming from his right brow. "Goddammit," Shepard cursed as he made his way to the washroom.

Once the wound was cleaned and bandaged, Shepard quickly made his way to the kitchen to start dinner for his father.


It only took about an hour for dinner to be served, and Shepard was pleasantly surprised to see his father enter the house just as he placed the food on the table.

"Hey," Shepard called out, his smile fading when he saw who was accompanying him. 

"Hey, kid. Maya has agreed to have dinner with us. Isn't that great?" Chris asked, a big smile on his face as he pulled Maya closer to him.

"Uh-huh," Shepard mumbled as he took another plate from the cupboard.

"Well, this looks lovely. I had no idea you could cook," Maya grinned as she took a seat at the table.

"My boy has many talents," Chris praised.

"I— My cooking isn't all that great," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"It's way better than mine," Chris insisted as he retrieved three beers from the refrigerator before taking his seat at the table.

"I'm sure it tastes wonderful," Maya said with a grin as Chris handed her a bottle of beer.

"Okay, Johnny, let's eat. Come and sit," Chris insisted as he motioned to the seat next to him.

Shepard just nodded as he took the offered seat.

Shepard sat in silence as he ate, trying his best to avoid any conversation between his father and his date.

"You're awfully quiet tonight," Chris said as he retrieved another beer from the fridge, handing Shepard another one as well.

Shepard shrugged as he took the offered beer. "I ain't got nothin' to talk about."

"Hn. School went well?" Chris asked as he continued to eat his dinner.

"Uh-huh," Shepard replied with a nod.

"What happened to your brow?" Chris asked, motioning towards the bandage on Shepard's face.

"I got hit by a rock," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Well, that wasn't very pleasant, I'm sure," Maya commented. "Does this happen often?"

"Yeah. All the time, actually," Chris replied, causing Shepard's brow to furrow in irritation.

"Now, why would they want to mar such a beautiful face," Maya teased, with a wink, as she moved her foot towards the young blonde's crotch, causing him to jump in surprise.

"Whoa, Johnny! Are you alright? You seem jittery," Chris said with an amused grin on his face.

"I have a lot of homework. Can I go to my room now?" Shepard pleaded, wanting to distance himself from the aggressive young woman.

"You barely ate anything," Chris scolded, hoping his son would finish his dinner before leaving the table.

"I ain't hungry," Shepard insisted as he pushed his plate aside.

"Goddammit, Johnny! This has to stop. You barely eat enough to keep a bird alive. Finish your dinner," Chris demanded.

"Daddy, if I eat anymore, I'll just get sick and throw it all back up. So what's the point," Shepard asked in irritation, hoping his father would let him go.

Chris sighed. "Fine. You can go."

Shepard nodded as he silently made his way towards his bedroom.

"Now, I see what you mean – he's quite stubborn," Maya said in an amused voice.

"I told you so. I dunno; maybe I'm doing the wrong thing. I just want to make his life easier, not upset him," Chris admitted.

"You're doing the right thing. My idea is foolproof; it will work. I'm sure I can get his blood pumping. It might take a bit of work, but I think I can catch his interest," Maya said, confident in her powers of seduction.

"Yeah. I just don't want him to feel forced into anything. So, if he says no, just drop it, okay," Chris insisted, unwilling to upset his son.

"Chris, trust me. I won't do anything the boy won't like," Maya insisted.

"Yeah. Well, when do you wanna do this?" Chris asked nervously.

"This Saturday is good for me," Maya said with a wink.

"So, you wanna stay the night?" Chris asked with a suggestive grin.

"Of course! I didn't agree to dinner to be left wanting," Maya insisted, licking her lips as she led Chris to the bedroom.

****☆****

9:15 PM – SATURDAY... 

"Johnny, where are ya, kid," Chris called out, his voice tinged with a hint of alcohol as he spoke.

"Yeah," Shepard called out as he came from his room, wearing nothing but a loose pair of sweatpants. 

"Well, well, aren't you adorable," Maya teased, licking her lips at the sight of Shepard's well-muscled abdomen, her eyes following the deep V that led to the young blonde's barely covered manhood.

Shepard instinctively flinched under the young woman's scrutiny, quickly wrapping his arms tightly around himself to try to hide his exposed chest.

Chris let out an amused laugh. "Johnny, there's no need to be shy. You might be a little skinny, but you got plenty of muscles, muscles that Maya appreciates the sight of. So, go ahead and show what you got."

Shepard just frowned as he reluctantly brought his arms to his side.

"You must work out like a madman," Maya said as she slowly circled the young blonde, being sure to take in every inch of the nervous teen's body.

"N–Not really," Shepard replied with a shrug.

"He's naturally gifted. Hannah said he was always built like that," Chris explained as he took a shot of tequila.

"Gifted indeed," Maya grinned as she ran her hand down Shepard's chest, stopping to tease the skin underneath the waistband of his sweats.

"P‐Please, don't do that," Shepard pleaded as he gently removed the woman's hand.

"Johnny, come drink with me," Chris insisted as he patted the seat beside him.

"O–Okay," Shepard nodded, trying his best to please his father.

"That's my boy," Chris grinned as he kissed his son's forehead before pouring him a shot.

"Has he ever had tequila before?" Maya asked as she searched her purse for something.

"I dunno. Have you?" Chris asked as Shepard quickly took the shot, swallowing it all in one go. 

Chris blinked in shock before breaking into laughter. "I guess that answers my question."

"Chris, baby, I need to talk to you for a second – if you don't mind," Maya said as she motioned for him to follow.


"Yeah, babe," Chris said with a smile. "What do ya need?"

"I can already tell he's going to be stubborn. So, I brought a little something to help get his blood flowing," Maya grinned as she handed Chris a tiny blue pill.

"What the hell is this – Viagra?" Chris said, only half-joking.

"Something like that. Just slip it in with his other medication, and he'll never know," Maya instructed, causing Chris to frown in disapproval.

"I don't think so," Chris said, his voice stern as he spoke. "I don't want him to feel forced. I won't do that to him."

"It's not forcing him; it's helping him to get hard. You said yourself that he's into men, well, that means he might need a little push to get started, if you know what I mean," Maya said with a wink.

"I–I dunno," Chris said, feeling uneasy by the suggestion.

"Fine. Just let me handle it," Maya said as she made her way back to where Shepard sat.


Shepard was bouncing his knee nervously as the young woman took a seat in the chair next to the couch where he sat.

"Here, let me pour you another," Maya insisted as Chris returned with Shepard's medication.

"Here, son. Take these before we both forget," Chris insisted as he handed the pills to his son.

Shepard took the pills and popped them into his mouth as Maya handed him a shot of tequila.

Instead of taking the shot, Shepard took a drink from a water bottle that had been sitting on the coffee table.

"I don't think I should mix alcohol with my meds," Shepard explained as his father took a seat next to him.

"You'll be fine. So, go ahead and take another shot," Chris insisted as he motioned for Maya to give Shepard the shot.

"A–Are you sure it won't hurt me?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Positive. Now, drink up," Chris insisted as he watched Shepard take the shot. "That's my boy! Let's have another."


The night continued on, and Shepard matched his father shot for shot, trying his best to please him.

"I–I think— I need to go," Shepard said, his words slurring as he spoke. "I'm tired."

Chris looked at Maya with a half-grin before giving her a faint nod.

Taking the hint, Maya made her move. 

"Are you feeling warm, Johnny?" Maya asked as she ran a hand down Shepard's chest, grinning as she slowly moved her hand lower until she was palming the bulge she found between the boy's long legs.

Shepard gasped a bit as he subconsciously moved his hips upward in order to increase the stimulation.

"How does it feel, Johnny," Chris asked, hoping to somehow convert his son.

"G–Good," Shepard admitted as he continued to grind against her palm.

"He's impressive for his age," Maya said, licking her lips at the thought of seeing his full length. 

"Yeah, I guess," Chris said with a shrug as the woman began kissing Shepard slowly.

"His teeth are sharp," Maya said as showed Chris a tiny nic on her tongue.

"Yeah. His canines are longer than average. It makes them sharper too. They've always been like that. I should've warned you. Sorry, babe," Chris apologized as he took another shot of tequila.

"No worries. He tastes so good. A little pain is worth it," Maya insisted as she kissed the young blonde once again.

About halfway through the kiss, Shepard suddenly pulled away. 

"I–I'm sorry. I just can't," Shepard said, shaking his head as he spoke.

"Now, now! No need to end things so soon. After all, it does feel good, doesn't it," Maya insisted as she continued to palm the young blonde.

"Y–Yeah, but you ain't my type," Shepard admitted as his father handed him yet another drink.

"Is he into it?" Chris asked, watching his son carefully as Shepard quickly took the shot.

"He's not hard yet – if that's what you're asking. He needs the pill," Maya insisted.

"Fine, but only if he wants to take it," Chris said as he lit himself a cigarette.

"Excellent! Johnny, baby, I need you to take this for me. It'll make you feel so good. Open up, now," Maya instructed.

Shepard just gave her a strange look, causing her to sigh in frustration.

Finally, Maya decided to take things into her own hands, placing the tablet on her tongue before kissing the boy languidly, forcing the boy to swallow it before ending the kiss.

"There, all done," Maya grinned as she waited patiently for the pill to kick in.


Maya continued to play with the young blonde for several minutes until she noticed Shepard shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

Grinning, Maya palmed the boy once again, her grin widening when she felt him growing beneath her touch.

"Very, very nice," Maya praised as she took Shepard by the hand and led him towards the bedroom. "We'll be back soon."

"Have fun, Johnny," Chris grinned as he raised his shot glass to his son.

"I–I'm tired," Shepard mumbled as he allowed himself to be guided towards his room.

****☆****

Once inside, Maya wasted no time, quickly removing her clothes before tugging Shepard's sweats down to his ankles.

"I knew you weren't wearing anything underneath those. You naughty boy," Maya grinned as she quickly took Shepard into her mouth, loving the feel of him on her tongue.

"P–Please, don't do that," Shepard mumbled as his hips twitched automatically.

"Shush. I'll take good care of you. Just sit back and enjoy," Maya insisted as she pushed him onto the bed.

"I–I don't want this. Stop," Shepard mumbled as he tried to push her away, but feeling heavier with every movement.

Maya just laughed, ignoring everything except the boy's body. 

"Mmm. Your cock tastes wonderful," the woman said as she gave Shepard one last lick. 

After that, Maya wasted no time in straddling the young blonde. Sighing as she guided him to her sex, letting her body take his entire length.

Shepard's breath hitched as he tried to process what he was feeling. 

Maya rode him fast and hard, loving the feel of him deep inside her.

"So fucking good," Maya praised as she changed her angle a bit to increase her pleasure, paying no mind to the body she was using.

She continued to use the boy for well over an hour, pleasantly surprised by his seemingly inhuman stamina. Until, finally, Shepard's eyes began to glow as his body pulled taut, releasing his seed deep inside of her.

Maya squealed as she started cumming hard, her body milking him of every last drop.

"Oh, m–my god," Maya screamed as she continued to cum uncontrollably.

Shepard's eyes rolled back into his head before turning black. His canines became even longer, turning into fangs, as something wild took over, causing Shepard to sink his teeth deep into the tender flesh of Maya's neck.

"Aaaah!" Maya screamed in pain, her pained voice loud enough to startle Chris, who had been sleeping soundly on the couch in the living room.


In an instant, Chris was running towards Shepard's room, fearing for his son.

Chris wasted no time, bursting through the door as quickly as possible, eyes going wide at the sight he had found.

"Johnny, let her go," Chris pleaded, trying his best to remove his son's mouth from the young woman's throat. "You’re hurting her, Johnny. Let her go, please!"

Shepard slowly removed his fangs from Maya's throat – sobbing as he hugged his legs to his chest, rocking back and forth in shock.

"Are you okay, Maya?" Chris asked as Maya coughed a little as she finally caught her breath.

"H–He's crazy," Maya gasped, applying pressure to the wound on her throat as she staggered, trying her best to stand on her own as her energy slowly returned.

"I–I'm sorry," Shepard cried out, still rocking back and forth, trying his best to avoid his father's gaze.

"Johnny, what the hell!? Why did you attack her?" Chris asked, trying to be patient with his son.

"I— I didn't want her here," Shepard explained anxiously.

"What?" Chris asked, cocking his brow as he spoke.

"He's insane! I'm leaving. Don't ask me to come over anymore, Chris, at least not when he's here. I'll call you tomorrow," Maya insisted as she gathered her clothes before staggering out of the room.

"Well, now you've done it! She was just trying to be nice to you, and this is how you thank her, by biting her," Chris said in a disappointed voice.

"I don't like her! I never liked her, and I never fucking will. I hate when she touches me. It makes me sick – like my fucking skin is crawling," Shepard  admitted, raising his voice as he spoke.

"Did you even give it a chance?" Chris asked in annoyance.

"Yeah, Daddy. I did. We fucked just like you wanted. Are you happy now? I fucked a girl, and I'm still gay – just like I keep telling you," Shepard yelled in frustration. "You need to accept it, 'cause I ain't going through that shit again for you or anyone else."

Chris's visage changed; his eyes and hair grew even darker as he slapped Shepard hard, causing the young blonde to flinch.

"You ungrateful little cunt! After all I did to help you, you have the nerve to talk to me like that," Chris screamed, grabbing Shepard by the hair and dragging him from the bed.

"I‐I'm sorry," Shepard apologized just before Chris kicked him hard in the stomach, causing the young blonde to vomit from the impact.

"Look at the fucking mess you made. You're so goddamn useless!" Chris growled as he continued kicking his son.

"Daddy, stop," Shepard pleaded, afraid his father would go too far.

"Shut the fuck up," Chris yelled as he straddled his son's naked body, punching him hard in the jaw, causing blood to fly from his son's mouth. 

Laughing uncontrollably at the sight of blood, Chris slowly licked the blood from Shepard's lip before sucking his full bottom lip into his mouth.

Shepard screamed as his father bit his lip hard enough to draw even more blood. His sapphire-blue eyes went wide as Chris moved to expose himself, lifting one of Shepard's legs onto his shoulder.

"Daddy, stop! This isn't you! Please, Daddy, don't hurt me. I love you, Daddy. Please," Shepard cried, touching his father's face as he pleaded for his help.

At that moment, Chris's body calmed, his eyes clearing as he looked at his son in confusion.

"Johnny?" Chris looked down at his exposed body, the sight causing him to scramble away from his son's body. "What the hell did I do!?"

"Daddy?" Shepard asked, tears staining his face, causing Chris's heart to break.

"Baby boy, I didn't hurt you, did I?" Chris asked, his voice cracking as he spoke.

"N–No, Daddy. You stopped him," Shepard explained anxiously.

"What? Who did I stop? Johnny, I don't understand what you're saying."

"Adam. He's here – in this house. I know you can feel him," Shepard said, hoping his father would listen.

Chris furrowed his brow, contemplating what his son had said. "I–I don't know."

"Daddy," Shepard called out, watching as his father's face began to change slightly.

"Johnny, grab your clothes, your medication, and your phone. You need to leave. Don't come back tonight. Don't come back until I tell you to," Chris instructed as he did his best to remain in control.

"Daddy," Shepard called out, worried for his father.

"Johnny, do what I told you," Chris insisted. "Now, Johnny!"

Shepard wasted no time; putting on his sweats and shoes, grabbing the first shirt he saw before tossing his meds and phone into his backpack.

"I love you, Daddy," Shepard called out as he grabbed his hoodie before running out of the house.

"I love you too, Johnny," Chris whispered as a tear ran down his cheek, his face changing as something took control once again.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

THUMP... THUMP...

Kaidan quickly rose from his bed, startled by the sudden thumping sound coming from his window.

"What the hell?" Kaidan asked as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

Kaidan took his time, pulling back the blackout curtains before opening the window.

At first, all Kaidan could see was the darkness of the yard, the landscape lighting making things only slightly clearer in the night.

"Hm. That's odd," Kaidan said as he moved to close the window, a sudden voice causing him to freeze in his tracks.

"K," Shepard called out in a low voice, far too tired to speak any louder.

"John?" Kaidan called out in confusion, still unable to see his young friend.

"I–I'm over here," Shepard explained, knocking on the side of the house for emphasis.

Kaidan leaned out the window, cranking his neck to the left in search of his friend.

"John, what the hell happened? Are you okay?" Kaidan asked, his voice full of concern when he noticed Shepard's slightly swollen lip.

"C–Can I stay here tonight?" Shepard asked, still staring straight ahead, unmoving.

"Of course. Hold on, and I'll open the back door for you," Kaidan said, turning to head for the kitchen.

"K, stop!" Shepard called out, causing Kaidan to freeze where he stood.

"John?"

"I–I can just come in through the window. I don't want to wake your parents," Shepard insisted as he staggered to his feet, his head spinning when he stood too quickly.

"Whoa, be careful. Just stay right there," Kaidan instructed before rushing to meet his friend.


When Kaidan made it to the young blonde's side, he found him leaning against the house – gaze down and head swimming.

"Hey, are you okay?" Kaidan asked as he had Shepard lean on him for support.

"I–I think so – just tired," Shepard admitted, his words slurring just a bit.

Kaidan could smell the alcohol on his friend's breath, and it disappointed him to no end. 

"Have you been drinking?" Kaidan asked as he took a few steps towards their destination.

"Y–Yeah – a little. Are you mad?" Shepard asked, not wanting his friend to hate him.

Kaidan sighed. "No, I'm not mad."

Kaidan moved slowly so as to not wake his parents. They had nearly made it to Kaidan's room when he heard a familiar voice call out.

"Kaidan, care to explain what's going on?" Elena asked, giving her son a sour look.

"M–Mom! I'll explain everything, just give me a few minutes," Kaidan pleaded as he continued on towards his room.


"I–I got you in trouble. I shouldn't have come here," Shepard mumbled as Kaidan removed his backpack, sitting it on the floor beside his bed.

"I'm not in trouble, so don't worry. I'll be back in a second. Please, stay here. I don't want you sneaking out like you did before," Kaidan said, hoping Shepard would listen.

"K, I–I don't wanna cause no trouble," Shepard insisted.

"And I told you, you aren't. So, just lie down and try to get some rest. You look like hell," Kaidan said as he helped Shepard out of his shoes before helping him into bed.

"I'll be right back," Kaidan promised as he went to talk with his mother.


"Well, Kaidan," Elena said, waiting patiently for her son's explanation.

"He's a friend of mine from school. We have art class together. He needed a place to stay tonight. That's why he's here," Kaidan explained.

"He's obviously drunk. How old is he anyway?" Elena asked, brushing her long black hair from her shoulder as she spoke.

"Sixteen – he'll be seventeen in April," Kaidan said, knowing his mother would not be happy.

"And it never dawned on you that he was looking for a way to avoid getting into trouble. I need to call his parents and let them know he's here," Elena insisted.

"Mom, you can't do that! He doesn't have the most stable home life. I don't want him to get in trouble. Besides, he came from his house. His stepfather has to know about his drinking. That's probably why he needed a place to stay. His stepfather probably kicked him out because of the drinking. So, please, don't call him," Kaidan pleaded.

"Where's his mother during all this?" Elena asked, unsure whether to believe her son's story.

"She passed away nearly two years ago. Mom, he has things pretty rough. If I betray his trust now, he'll never speak to me again. John doesn't have anyone else. I'm the only friend he's got," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"Kaidan, did you say this boy's name was John?" Elena asked, his identity finally becoming clear in her mind.

"T–That's right," Kaidan replied, wishing he hadn't let the name slip.

"As in John Shepard?" Elena asked, her demeanor changing, her body tensing as she spoke.

"Yes," Kaidan nodded.

"Kaidan, you shouldn't trust him so easily. You can't possibly know him well enough to let him into our home," Elena insisted, her voice nervous and uneasy.

"Not you too," Kaidan said, shaking his head in disappointment.

"Kaidan?"

"I promised John that you wouldn't judge him. But it looks like I was wrong. John knew he wouldn't be welcome. But I insisted that you and Dad were different, that you would at least give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm so stupid," Kaidan said, the sad disappointment evident in his tone.

"Kaidan, that's not fair! You don't know all the details – the things he did, it was monstrous. Someone capable of that kind of violence, and at such a young age, it's frightening," Elena explained, hoping her son would understand her fears.

"I know more than you think," Kaidan insisted. "For one thing, it was self-defence. The man he killed was a pedophile. Did you know that, Mom? Did you know he abused John for years before that night?"

Elena's eyes grew sad at her son's words. "I–I didn't. But that doesn't change the boy's violent demeanor. What happened to John was horrible, but what he did that night was also terrible. Two wrongs do not make a right, Kaidan," Elena insisted.

"I never said John was right, only that he wasn't the only one in the wrong. Everyone defends Adam like he was some sort of saint. Well, he wasn't! He was the real monster, not John, but they all refuse to believe it. So, John is forced to live alone, with not a kind word from anyone. He's a good person, Mom. I thought you, of all people, would at least give him a chance," Kaidan ranted, angry at his mother's viewpoint.

"Kaidan, I feel for the boy. I really do, but he's unstable and dangerous. You can't expect me to be happy about his presence in my house," Elena admitted.

Shepard staggered from the shadows to interrupt their conversation, his presence causing Elena to gasp.

"I–I understand. I'll just go now. I–I'm sorry I upset you, ma'am. K, thanks again – for everything," Shepard smiled a sad smile as he adjusted his pack.

"John, wait," Kaidan pleaded as he rushed to stop his friend. "Please, don't go."

"I–I can't stay, K. I appreciate what you tried to do, but I–I just can't. I'll be alright," Shepard insisted with a smile, his sapphire-blue eyes full of hurt and sadness.

"Where will you go?" Kaidan asked sadly.

"Umm. I–It's pretty warm out. I'll find somewhere. I might jump that fence. I like the sound of the waves. It might make me sleep," Shepard said as he exited the house, closing the door quietly behind him.

"John," Kaidan called out, his voice cracking as he tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

"I'm sorry, Kaidan, but it's probably for the best," Elena said as she placed a hand upon her son's right shoulder.

"Best for you, maybe. But there's no way you believe it's best for him," Kaidan snapped as he jerked his arm away from her touch. 

"Kaidan, I'll contact his father. He'll go retrieve the boy, and everything will be fine," Elena insisted.

"I'll handle it. You've done enough already," Kaidan said, a hint of disapproval in his voice as he made his way to the bedroom – the door slamming louder than usual behind him.

"I really messed up this time," Elena sighed before making her way back to bed.


Shepard managed to walk all the way to the beach. But by the time he arrived, he was far too exhausted to climb the fence. Instead, the young blonde decided to curl up underneath a large Douglas fir growing near the fence-line. Using the soft moss and his pack as a pillow, the young teen closed his weary eyes and drifted off for a much-needed rest.

****☆****

11:00 AM – SUNDAY MORNING… 

BUZZ— BUZZ— BUZZ—

The subtle hum of Shepard's phone could be heard as it vibrated inside his hoodie's pocket.

Shepard groaned, his body sore from the small beating he had taken the night before, as he checked his phone.

"Kaidan," Shepard mumbled as he returned the call.

"John, is this you?" Kaidan asked anxiously.

"Y–Yeah. It's me," Shepard replied as he sat up, leaning against the tree for support.

"Are you okay?" Kaidan asked, genuinely worried for his friend.

"I–I'm fine. My head's killing me, but I'm okay," Shepard admitted.

"I'm sorry about last night," Kaidan apologized, feeling awful about the whole mess.

"That's okay. I understand," Shepard smiled as he spoke.

"I didn't get to talk to you last night, so I don't really know what happened. Do you want to talk about it now?" Kaidan asked, wanting his friend to know he was there for him.

"Maybe later. I don't really feel like talking right now," Shepard said, his voice sounding tired and worn out.

"Okay. My parents are gone for the day if you'd like me to come get you. I thought you might want to take a shower after being out all night," Kaidan said, searching for any reason to see the boy face-to-face.

"I don't wanna upset your mom," Shepard replied nervously.

"She wouldn't even know you were here," Kaidan insisted, hoping Shepard would accept.

"A–Alright. I'll be in the parking area near the beach," Shepard explained.

"I'll be there in about fifteen minutes," Kaidan promised as he ended the call.

Shepard slipped his phone back into his pocket before gathering his pack and making his way to the parking lot.

****☆****

TWENTY MINUTES LATER... 

"Hey," Kaidan called out as Shepard made his way towards the car.

"Hey," Shepard smiled as he got into the passenger's seat. "Thanks for coming and offering to let me shower. I appreciate it."

"It's no problem. So, what happened last night?" Kaidan asked as he pulled out of the parking lot.

"My dad brought his girlfriend over. Things just spiraled from there," Shepard replied, simplifying the situation as much as possible.

"I take it you don't like her," Kaidan said with an amused grin.

"I fucking hate her," Shepard said, his voice full of venom, a tone Kaidan had never heard the young blonde use before.

"Wow, I don't think I've ever heard you say that about anyone," Kaidan replied, a surprised look on his face.

"Okay, so *hate* might be a strong word. Let's just say I dislike her very much," Shepard corrected, not wanting to make Kaidan uncomfortable.

"May I ask why?" 

"She's a bad influence on my dad. He's been acting weird since he's been dating her," Shepard explained.

"Are you sure it's not Adam?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Nah, he's weird in other ways when that happens. It's like she's trying to change his view on things. Like, my dad knows I'm gay and has always been supportive of me and my sexuality, but, lately, he's been saying odd things," Shepard admitted.

"Like what?" Kaidan asked.

"He thinks it would be so much easier for me if I just dated girls," Shepard explained, his expression sour.

"That is quite a change. Have you talked to him about it?" Kaidan asked, never taking his eyes off the road.

"Yeah. I told him it was impossible, that women did nothing for me. But he didn't listen. So, last night was a disaster," Shepard said, rubbing his shoulder nervously.

"What does one have to do with the other?" Kaidan asked, not following the boy's logic.

"Daddy, he acted weird all night. The second he came home, he started pouring tequila and told me to come drink with him. So, obviously, I did. Then, later on, my dad's girlfriend is all over me. The next thing I know, we're in my room, and she's on top of me. She said something that triggered me, and I must have snapped. Dad stopped me before I could hurt her. She obviously left after that. Then, when she was gone, me and dad— we got into an argument. In the middle of it, he changed, and before I knew it, he was kicking my ass. He was about to really hurt me when he snapped out of it. He told me to grab my stuff and go. He said he'd call me when I could come home," Shepard explained.

"Has he called yet?" Kaidan asked, still processing what he had been told.

"Not yet," Shepard said, his voice full of sadness.

"He will," Kaidan assured the young blonde. "So, when you said this woman was on top of you, were you— you know?"

"Yeah. I guess we were. I'm sorry, K," Shepard apologized, but not knowing why.

"You don't have to apologize. I don't hold any claim on you," Kaidan insisted with a smile that he hoped was reassuring.

Instead, it tore Shepard's heart out. "Y–Yeah. I‐I know."

"So, did you enjoy it?" Kaidan asked, a hint of jealousy in his tone.

"No," Shepard replied truthfully.

"John, she didn't take advantage of you, did she?" Kaidan asked, hoping that hadn't been the case.

"K, can we just drop it. It's over, and it don't bother me no more," Shepard said as he leaned his head against the window.

"But it bothered you when it happened," Kaidan asked, his expression serious as he spoke.

"Yeah. I guess it did," Shepard admitted. 

"Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?" Kaidan asked one last time.

"I'm sure. I'm just really looking forward to that shower," Shepard said, hoping Kaidan would drop it.

"We'll be there in a few minutes," Kaidan assured him with a smile that Shepard returned.

****☆****

Once they had arrived at Kaidan's, Shepard wasted no time, heading straight for the shower.

Kaidan waited patiently until, finally, Shepard entered the room, his long blonde hair dripping. And Kaidan couldn't help but stare as his eyes followed a droplet as it ran down Shepard's well-muscled chest, all the way down, disappearing underneath the rim of his loose-fitting sweatpants.

"K," Shepard's voice rang out, causing Kaidan to snap out of his reverie.

"Huh?"

"You're staring," Shepard said with a grin.

"Well, look at you. You're half-dressed – who wouldn't stare," Kaidan asked with a grin of his own.

"Hn," Shepard grunted as he pulled Kaidan in for a kiss, letting his lips travel to Kaidan's neck before whispering, "Do you wanna fuck me, K?"

Kaidan moaned at the question. The thought of being inside Shepard once again making his cock twitch in want.

"You can have me if you want," Shepard offered as he licked the shell of Kaidan's ear.

Kaidan never said a word; he just led Shepard to the bed. 

"Are you already prepared?" Kaidan asked, hoping Shepard had taken care of it in the shower.

"Uh-huh. You can fuck me anytime you're ready," Shepard insisted as he spread his legs wider for Kaidan.

Kaidan wasted no time, quickly putting on a condom before sinking into the hilt inside the blue-eyed beauty.

"I'll never get over how tight you are. No matter how often we do it, you're still so tight," Kaidan praised as Shepard wrapped his long legs around Kaidan's waist.

"D–Does it feel good?" Shepard asked as he slowly stroked himself.

"It feels amazing," Kaidan said as he started moving at a steady pace.

"Y–You can fuck me harder," Shepard said, encouraging Kaidan to move faster within him.

Kaidan gradually picked up the pace, fucking Shepard so hard that the entire bed was shaking underneath the onslaught.

"Fuck," Shepard whined as he started stroking himself harder. "I–I'm gonna cum."

"Yeah. Cum for me, John," Kaidan insisted as he continued slamming into Shepard's willing body.

"Uhn," Shepard grunted, his body tightening around Kaidan as he found his release.

The feel of Shepard's body milking him proved to be too much as Kaidan came hard a few seconds later.

Kaidan's body shuddered as his orgasm began to subside, collapsing atop Shepard once it was over.

"I need a nap," Kaidan grinned, causing Shepard to chuckle warmly as he played with Kaidan's dark curly hair.

"Go ahead. I'll wake you in an hour or so," Shepard promised, kissing the top of Kaidan's head.

"Thanks," Kaidan smiled as he moved to dispose of the used condom. "Are you sure you won't mind if I take a nap?"

"Nah. I don't mind," Shepard assured him as he retrieved his discarded sweatpants.

"You aren't leaving, are you," Kaidan asked, hoping Shepard would stay.

"No, not yet. I'm just putting some pants on, just in case your parents come home early," Shepard explained as he returned to his spot on the bed.

"Good. I'd like for you to be the first thing I see when I wake up," Kaidan replied as he kissed the blonde teen slowly.

"I'll be here," Shepard promised as he watched Kaidan drift off to sleep.

Once he was sure Kaidan was fast asleep, Shepard took out his sketchbook and began to sketch the older boy as he slept. Drawing several impressive images before hearing the unmistakable buzz of a cell phone.

"Hmm," Shepard hummed as he quickly checked his phone, his brow furrowing when he saw the notification.

It was a single text:

[CHRIS (DAD) 2:47 PM]  Come home, kid. I miss you.

"K," Shepard whispered as he jostled the older boy awake. "Baby, I gotta go home. My dad just texted me."

"Are you sure it was him?" Kaidan asked with a yawn.

"Yeah – pretty sure, anyway," Shepard said as he collected his things. "You can finish your nap. I'll just take the bus home."

"Are you sure? What if you need to get away from there?" Kaidan asked in concern.

"I'll be fine. I'll text you when I'm settled," Shepard promised as he kissed Kaidan goodbye.

"I'll see you soon, yeah," Kaidan called out as Shepard disappeared out of sight.

****☆****

Shepard never said a word as he nervously opened the house door, his eyes going wide at the sheer mess that awaited him.

"Dad, I–I'm home," Shepard called out as he tossed his pack onto the couch. "Where are you?" 

"I'm in the master bedroom," Chris called out, causing Shepard to head there.

"Hey," Shepard called out, causing Chris to smile. 

"Hey. Looks like I made a mess, huh," Chris said with an apologetic smile.

"Eh, it could be worse," Shepard said as he helped his father pick up the pieces of a broken ashtray.

"I guess. Look, Johnny – I want you to start locking your door at night, at least until I figure out what to do," Chris insisted. "I love you too much to hurt you, and I feel like things are headed that way fast. So, yeah."

"What if I have an episode? You won't be able to get to me if I need you," Shepard explained, his voice sounding anxious and a bit frightened.

"Johnny, I promise you, if anything happens, I will get to you – even if I have to break down the goddamn door. So, don't worry about that. I got you, kid," Chris promised, pulling his son into a tight hug.

"O–Okay," Shepard smiled, trusting his father completely.

"Now, for the really bad news," Chris said with a sigh. "I trashed the painting you were working on – you know, the one of your mom."

Shepard's expression soured at the loss of progress. "Seriously?"

"Afraid so," Chris said, his tone apologetic.

"That's okay. I probably wouldn't have won anyway," Shepard replied, hoping to ease his father's guilt.

"Johnny, don't say shit like that. I don't want you to give up. Maybe you can work on it after school. I'm sure your teacher would let you stay late until you finish it," Chris suggested, wanting his son to finish what he started.

"If I do that, I won't have your dinner ready on time," Shepard explained, toying with the hem of his shirt in a nervous habit.

"Johnny, it's okay. You have my permission. Besides, it's only for the next few weeks," Chris insisted.

"Okay. I'll see if she'll let me," Shepard promised as he turned his attention to the mess surrounding him. "Is my room as bad as this?"

"No, not this bad, but it's still a mess," Chris admitted as he emptied the dustpan into the nearby trash bin.

"I guess I'll go clean up the living room first. My room can wait until later," Shepard said as he made his way towards the living room.

"That's my boy," Chris said, a look of pride in his eyes as he continued with his chores.


It took Shepard well over three hours to get the living room back up to snuff. Once he was done, he headed to his room, eager to get things back in order.

"Well, it doesn't look too bad," Shepard thought aloud as he picked up the clothing that was scattered about. "It looks like he threw all my clothes out of the closet."

Shepard shook his head in amusement as he placed the clothes on the bed. His attention then moved towards his desk. The drawers were all ajar, with papers strewn haphazardly across the top of the desk. 

Shepard sighed as he began stacking the loose papers. Most were sketches, with the occasional medical report thrown in, and the others were letters – letters from his mother that he couldn't bear to part with.

As he looked through the small stack of letters, the boy came across a long white envelope, totally unmarked and completely unsealed.

Not recognizing it, Shepard couldn't help but read its contents – his eyes going wide before letting out a loud sob, clutching the letter to his chest as he moved, with purpose, to his father's room.

****☆****

 

Chapter Text

****☆****

"You fucking lied to me!" Shepard yelled, surprising Chris with his ire.

"What? Johnny, what are you talking about?" Chris asked, confused by his son's sudden outburst.

"You said Mom died of an overdose. You fucking lied!" Shepard yelled, tears stinging his eyes as he spoke.

"Johnny, what the hell are you talking about? Hannah did die from an overdose. I never lied to you. Why on earth would you ever think that?" Chris asked, confused as to why his son was bringing up his mother's death.

"Don't lie to me! She may have died of an overdose, but it wasn't an accident. She fucking killed herself, and you never told me! How could you keep that from me!?" Shepard asked, his eyes pleading.

Chris's eyes went wide. "Johnny, I–I didn't want to hurt you. It was bad enough that she was gone. I wanted to save you from that pain. She regretted what she did, but it was too late to save her. They tried everything, but— her heart just stopped," Chris explained, hoping to ease his son's pain.

"She killed herself because of me! I killed my mom. I— I need to get out of here," Shepard said, his heart rate climbing higher every passing second as the panic set in.

"Johnny, you need to calm down. Please, sit. You're about to have a panic attack. Please, baby boy," Chris pleaded as he reached out for his son.

Just as he was about to touch his son's shoulder, Shepard let the letter slip from his fingers before rushing out the door, leaving Chris calling after him.

"Johnny! Johnny, please, come back! It wasn't your fault. You misunderstood her words, please, kid," Chris called out, knowing his son was too far gone to listen.

Chris sighed as he picked the letter up off the floor, reading it once more, the memories causing him to weep for his troubled wife:


Chris,

I'm sorry, love, but I just can't handle it anymore. My baby's lost to me, and it's all my fault. I failed as a mother, and because of my failure, my Johnny has suffered. I knew all about his mental issues – I could see his psyche fracturing, but I refused to listen. The first time he blacked out, I panicked. I just told myself it wasn't real, that my baby was just tired. Even when the doctors insisted that he needed help, I just refused to hear it. And I knew the cause of his pain. I had known for years. I know it started with Adam, but there were others. I knew what was happening to him, but I was too afraid, too cowardly, to stop it. I thought it would just go away, that Johnny would somehow forget what happened to him. I was wrong. I was so goddamn wrong, and now Johnny is paying for it. Because of my ignorance, my baby was taken from me. He has lost two years of his life already, and still, he worries about me. I don't deserve to have him. He'll be so much better off with you. 

I wish I were stronger. I wish I had the will to fight, but I'm so damn tired. And I want you to know that I love you, Chris. I love you more than I've ever loved any other man. You are the sweetest man I have ever known, and I want you to know that you had nothing to do with my decision. I'm doing this for my baby. I want him to be happy, and I just can't seem to do that for him. Drugs used to make it so easy to forget, but the drugs are no longer enough. I can no longer pretend everything will be alright. I am poison to all I love and hold dear. I hope you understand.

There are things about Johnny and myself that I kept from you. And even though I know it's inevitable for you to learn the truth, I am far too cowardly to tell you now. I wish I could, but I'm just not strong enough. 

Just know that I made a pact when I was very young, and my baby is the result. I kept him close because I couldn't bear to give him away. But I know that one day soon, they'll come for him.

One day, Johnny will change. I don't know how much, but I know he will. Nothing can stop it; it's in his blood. *Awakening*, they call it. And once he awakens, my baby won't be safe. Eventually, they'll come for him. 

Please, love, don't let them take him away. I know I have no right to ask, but please, take care of my baby. I know you don't know him very well, but I just know you'll love him. He's such a good boy. Be patient with him, Chris – he's strong and stubborn, yet fragile and delicate all at the same time. He's my beautiful angel – my whole world, so please protect him. It's the last thing I'll ever ask of you.

Please don't hate me for my decision. I'll be at peace, so please, don't resent me. I love you, baby, and I hope you can forgive me one day.

Your Loving Wife,

Hannah


Chris dried his eyes as he kissed the letter before tucking it safely into the dresser drawer.

"What do I do, baby? Do I go after him or give him some time? I'm so lost here," Chris admitted as he sat down on the edge of the bed, holding his head in his hands as he contemplated his next move.

****☆****

HANNAH'S GRAVESITE… 

"Why did you do it, Mom? It wasn't worth it. You should've just forgotten about me. Then, you and Chris could've been happy. I wish it were me lying here. You deserved better," Shepard cried, feeling lost and not knowing how to fix it. 

"I hope you're at peace now. You went through so much – I'll never forget how strong you were. And I understand that even the strongest have their limits. And I guess you reached yours. And you didn't fail as a mom. You were a great mom. You sacrificed so much for me. I just wish I could've done the same for you. I don't know if you can hear me, but I want you to know that I love you, and I miss you every day. I always will. So, rest now. Goodbye, Mom."

Shepard wiped the tears from his sapphire-blue eyes as he quickly texted Kaidan.


[SHEPARD 5:13 PM]  I really need to see you. Can we meet somewhere?

[KAIDAN 5:15 PM]  Sure. Is something wrong?

[SHEPARD 5:16 PM]  Everything's wrong.

[KAIDAN 5:17 PM]  Just tell me where and I'll be there.

[SHEPARD 5:19 PM]  Coffee shop near the beach?

[KAIDAN 5:20 PM]  I'll be there in fifteen minutes.

****☆****

FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER… 

"Hey! I came as fast as I could," Kaidan said as he took a seat next to Shepard.

"Thanks for coming," Shepard said, bouncing his knee nervously.

"Are you okay? You look upset," Kaidan said, noticing the red in Shepard's sapphire eyes.

"C–Can we go somewhere more private?" Shepard asked, eager to be away from the crowd.

"Sure," Kaidan agreed with a nod as he led Shepard to his car.


"Do you want to go to my mom's garden? You seemed to like it there," Kaidan said as he waited for Shepard to get comfortable.

"Yeah. That sounds okay," Shepard agreed as he buckled his seatbelt.

The drive was eerily silent, making Kaidan very uncomfortable. Neither of them spoke a word until they finally arrived at their destination—

"Well, we're here," Kaidan announced as he cut the engine. "What did you want to—"

Kaidan's words were cut short when Shepard kissed him passionately.

"John, what—"

"Shh. Just let me make you feel good," Shepard insisted as he rushed to remove his clothing.

"John, are you sure you want this? You seem pretty upset," Kaidan said, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"Please, K, just let me do this for you," Shepard pleaded as he freed Kaidan's growing erection.

Kaidan gasped when he felt the hot cavern of Shepard's mouth on his sex.

Once Shepard was satisfied with his work, the young blonde wasted no time straddling the whisky-eyed teen, sinking slowly onto the older boy's cock.

"Hn," Shepard grunted, biting his lip through the pain as he adjusted to the raw feeling.

"You're in pain," Kaidan said, his tone serious and full of concern.

"I–I'm fine. I–I need this pain," Shepard insisted as he kissed Kaidan hard on the mouth before roughly riding the whisky-eyed teen. 

Kaidan didn't know what to do. He didn't like causing his partner pain, but Shepard wasn't exactly giving him a choice.

Unable to resist the feeling, Kaidan finally gave in, gripping the younger boy's hips tight enough to bruise as he gave into Shepard's desire.

The pace was frantic, and it didn't take long for them to finish – cumming nearly simultaneously as Shepard slumped against Kaidan's chest, placing his head on the older boy's shoulder in exhaustion.

Kaidan could feel Shepard shaking in his arms, and a few seconds later, the young blonde broke down, his sobs loud in the quiet of the garden.

Not knowing what else to do, Kaidan held him tight, rubbing his naked back in soothing circles, hoping to calm his beloved friend.

"John, baby, what's wrong?" Kaidan asked, dreading the answer.

"I— My mom," Shepard mumbled.

"What about your mom?" Kaidan asked – his voice calm and understanding.

"She— she killed herself. I found her suicide note. She thought I'd be better off without her. She said she did it for me. I–I killed her, K. I killed my mom," Shepard explained, his breathing strained as he continued to weep uncontrollably against his friend's shoulder 

"I–I'm so sorry," Kaidan whispered as he held the boy tighter. "But, John, it wasn't your fault. She had issues and was obviously in a bad place. You can't blame yourself. I didn't know her, but from the things I've heard, she loved you very much and wouldn't want you to blame yourself."

"But—"

"No buts," Kaidan insisted as he wiped the tears from Shepard's sad blue eyes. "You didn't cause this. And you couldn't have saved her."

Shepard closed his eyes. "I–I miss her, K."

"I know," Kaidan smiled as he cupped Shepard's cheek.

"It hurts so much," Shepard admitted as he placed his left hand over his heart, "especially in here."

"I can't even imagine what you're going through, but I'm here for you. I'll do whatever it takes to help you. I promise you that," Kaidan insisted as Shepard leaned into his touch.

"Thank you," Shepard smiled as he kissed Kaidan softly.

"We, uh, we should probably get dressed," Kaidan suggested with a shy grin, glad that Shepard had finally stopped shaking.

"Y–Yeah. Sorry about that," Shepard whispered, slightly embarrassed by his rash behaviour. "I–I shouldn't have rushed things like that."

"That's alright. I enjoyed it," Kaidan said with a wink and a smile.

"I–I ran out on my dad. He was trying to talk to me, but I didn't want to hear it," Shepard explained as he tugged on his underwear and jeans.

"That's understandable," Kaidan said as he zipped his jeans.

"I hope he's not mad at me," Shepard mumbled as he ran a hand through his long dark-blonde hair.

"He's probably worried sick about you," Kaidan suggested. "Do you want me to take you home?"

"I–I guess. I just— What do I say? I'm still mad that he kept it from me," Shepard admitted.

"No, you aren't. You're hurt – there's a difference. Just tell him you needed time to process everything. And tell him how bad it hurt you. He loves you, and I guarantee he won't be mad at you," Kaidan insisted.

"Yeah. I–I guess we should go," Shepard said as he fastened his seatbelt.

"Sure," Kaidan smiled as he drove towards Shepard's house.

****☆****

FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER… 

"We're here," Kaidan announced.

"Thanks, K. I'm sorry I bothered you with all my baggage. I know you probably had better things to do," Shepard apologized.

"John, you're my friend, and you needed me. I was happy to be there for you," Kaidan insisted as he kissed Shepard's hand.

"I appreciate it, K," Shepard smiled as he unfastened his seatbelt before getting out of the car. 

"Call or text me later," Kaidan said as he watched Shepard turn to walk up the drive.

"I will. Later, K," Shepard said with a wave and a smile.

"Later, John," Kaidan smiled as he disappeared down the street.


"Dad, I–I'm home," Shepard called out.

Chris surprised his son by grabbing him and holding him tight.

"Are you okay, kid? I was worried about you," Chris said, his voice filled with relief.

Shepard said nothing; he just nodded and returned his father's hug.

"Johnny, I know I should have told you, but I didn't want to hurt you any more than necessary. It was bad enough that we lost her, and you had so much to deal with already. I did it to protect you. I hope you can forgive me for that," Chris pleaded.

"Daddy, I do forgive you. It just hurt to find out that way," Shepard explained.

"I tried to get rid of that note. But, every time I tried, I just couldn't," Chris said as he kissed his son's forehead before leading him to the couch.

"I–I get that. It was the last thing she ever wrote. You couldn't let it go. I don't think I could've either," Shepard agreed.

"Yeah. It was obvious that she wasn't in her right mind when she wrote it. A lot of what she said didn't make a lot of sense. But it was still written by her hand, you know," Chris said.

"Yeah. I think maybe, Mom was sick when she wrote it," Shepard replied with a sad frown.

"She was. I hate that the letter hurt you. She knew she was wrong. She regretted it but was too far gone. By the time I found her, there was nothing anyone could do. She loved you so much. I just didn't want you to hate her for leaving you," Chris explained.

"I don't hate her. I hate me," Shepard admitted.

"Johnny, don't say that," Chris pleaded as he hugged his son's shoulders. "She wouldn't want you to feel that way. You know she wouldn't."

"I know, but I can't help feeling this way," Shepard replied. "No matter what anyone says, this feeling gnaws at me. It makes me sick. Like I'm gonna puke any second."

"Johnny, you've blamed yourself this whole time, haven't you? The letter just cemented your feelings," Chris surmised, knowing he was right.

Shepard just nodded in agreement. 

"Kid, there wasn't anything you could have done to stop what happened. Believe me. I tried everything. Hell, I blamed myself for months. So, I understand how you feel. Really, I do," Chris insisted.

"When did you stop blaming yourself," Shepard asked, hoping for some advice.

"To be honest, I'm not really sure. I think it was when I finally accepted that she was really gone and when I admitted how sick she was. She had so many issues with her mental health, but she always refused treatment. I don't want that to happen to you, Johnny. That's why I'm always riding you about taking your meds," Chris explained.

"I–I'm grateful to you. And I appreciate the way you take care of me," Shepard said with a small smile.

"I love you, kid," Chris smiled back.

"Um, how did you meet my mom?" Shepard asked, curious about the story.

"Hannah never told you," Chris asked in surprise.

"She didn't go into detail – just that you met in a bar," Shepard replied truthfully.

"Well, we did meet in a bar. But there was a little more to it. You see, I had just moved here, so I was pretty new to the area. So, after work, I would drop by the bar, hoping to meet people. Being alone in a new city is not my idea of fun," Chris said with a smile. "Anyway, this evening was different from my usual visits. The first thing I noticed was the unusual scent that lingered in the air as I walked past one of the tables on my way to the bar."

"Coffee, vanilla, and some kind of flower. I–I don't remember what kind, but I remember the smell," Shepard said, knowing it was Hannah's perfume Chris had smelled that night.

"It's jasmine. It stood out so much that I had to turn my head to seek out its source. When I did, I was drawn to the most beautiful copper-coloured eyes. I remember the smile she gave me as I made my way to the bar. I swear I must have spent well over an hour just staring at her. She was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen," Chris explained, his smile widening.

"She was beautiful," Shepard agreed with a fond smile.

"She was… Anyway, eventually, there was a commotion, and Hannah was right in the middle of it," Chris said with an amused chuckle.

"That sounds like Mom," Shepard grinned.

"Yeah. She was feisty for sure. She was arguing with a tall brunette. Apparently, the woman was talking trash about her son, and we both know how angry that made her. She was always protective of you," Chris mused, causing Shepard to smile. "I remember it like it was yesterday…"


–  *FLASHBACK*  –

"So, Hannah, what brings you here tonight," a young brunette lady with dark-brown eyes asked as she flipped her hair over her shoulder. "Shouldn't you be at home waiting for your crazy ass kid to call?"

"Watch your tongue, Kim. I'm in no mood for your ignorance tonight," Hannah warned.

"Aw, is little Hannah upset," Kim mocked with a grin. "Tell me, how long did it take to clean up all of Adam's blood? Two days? A week, maybe?"

"Kim, I swear to god, if you don't shut your fucking mouth," Hannah warned, her anger beginning to boil over.

"That bastard kid of yours should have gotten the death penalty. It's bullshit how they let him get away with it. Adam was a great person; he didn't deserve to die because your son is fucking psycho. The fact you're defending him, son or not – it's sickening. You should be ashamed," Kim yelled, antagonizing Hannah even more with her words.

"That's it! I'm gonna tear your goddamn head off! No one talks about Johnny that way," Hannah growled as she grabbed the woman by the hair, slamming her face-first onto the table.

Upon seeing the commotion and noticing Kim's boyfriend's sudden movements, Chris couldn't help but intervene.

'Hey, easy there," Chris insisted as he put his arm around Hannah's tiny waist, easily lifting her off the ground as she kicked and struggled to attack the older brunette.

"Lemme go! I'm gonna kill that bitch!" Hannah screamed.

"Hey, take her outside before she trashes my bar," the bartender called out, causing Chris to nod and carry the unruly woman out to the parking lot.

"Put me down, goddammit!" Hannah screamed, her long hair cascading over her face as she wriggled and kicked.

"I can't put you down until you stop fighting," Chris explained, amused by the tiny spitfire of a woman.

"Fuck you!" Hannah cursed as she continued to kick.

Chris sighed. "I can hold on to you all night. It's not a problem. So, keep kicking if you want. You'll have to wear yourself out eventually."

After ten minutes of constant kicking, Hannah finally stilled.

"You promise not to bolt if I put you down," Chris asked, receiving only a nod from the young woman.

Chris put Hannah down as gently as possible, and to his surprise, she didn't flee. Instead, she turned, cocked her head to the side, and spoke.

"Why'd you get involved? It wasn't any of your business," Hannah asked, obviously angry she had been pulled off her enemy. 

"Well, I didn't wanna risk you getting hurt," Chris admitted truthfully.

"Please, that bitch could never hurt me," Hannah said, rolling her eyes at the young man. 

"Well, there's no doubt you could've taken her, but her boyfriend looked like he was ready to interfere. Besides, I figured it was as good a way as any to meet you," Chris explained with a grin.

"You're weird," Hannah grinned, amused by the handsome young man.

"My name's Chris. Chris Scott," Chris introduced himself.

"Hannah. Hannah Shepard," Hannah replied as she searched her jacket for a cigarette. "Fuck! Do you have a cigarette?"

"Sure," Chris said as he held a light for her. "Hannah, that's a very pretty name."

"I guess," she shrugged as she exhaled a cloud of smoke.

"So, what was that fight about," Chris asked curiously.

"The bitch was talking trash about my kid," Hannah explained as she took a drag from her cigarette.

"You have a kid? He must be young," Chris replied, surprised by the fact.

"Yeah. He's thirteen," Hannah answered truthfully.

"Thirteen? You look far too young to have a kid that old," Chris insisted.

"I had him young. Anyway, his age don't matter. I hate the way they talk about him. They talk like he's pure evil and worth less than a piece of trash. Fuck them all," Hannah said, a disgusted look on her face as she flicked the ash from her cigarette.

"Why was she being so cruel?" Chris asked, cocking his head to the side as he spoke.

"My baby cocks his head to the side, just like that. It's funny how you reminded me of him just now," Hannah smiled fondly. 

"Yeah. Does he look like me?" Chris asked in amusement.

"No, not at all," Hannah laughed. "Your mannerisms are similar to my baby, but that's all. He has beautiful dark-blonde hair and the most gorgeous sapphire-blue eyes. He looks like an angel."

"I see," Chris smiled. "You never answered my question."

"Yeah. I guess I was stalling. I don't like to talk about it," Hannah admitted.

"Oh. Well, if you'd rather not say—"

"No, I'll tell you. You deserve to know. Johnny, my son, he, uh— he killed a man. The man just happened to have a lot of friends around here. They all think Adam was a saint, but he wasn't. My baby acted in self-defence, but they won't accept that. So, they talk trash about my Johnny. They all think he should have been given the death penalty. They make me sick. They wanna condemn a thirteen-year-old boy to death, yet they praise a goddamn pedophile. It's fucked up," Hannah admitted, her hand shaking nervously as she brought the cigarette to her lips.

"I'm sorry that happened to your son. It must be difficult for him," Chris said sympathetically.

"He hates being alone, but he says he's getting used to it. I hope he does, 'cause when he gets out, people are gonna avoid him like the plague," Hannah thought aloud.

"He isn't home?" Chris asked in confusion. "I thought you said it was self-defence."

"It was, but Johnny has a mental disorder. His mind – what's the right word – fractured, I guess that's the right term. He's in a hospital. He'll be in there for a few more years," Hannah explained.

"I still don't understand. Why couldn't they treat him at home," Chris asked as he took another drag from his cigarette.

"Look, Johnny isn't a bad kid, and he wouldn't hurt anyone unless he had to," Hannah insisted nervously.

"Alright. I didn't mean to upset you," Chris apologized.

"That's okay. I just, I don't like explaining it. Most people only hear what they want to hear," Hannah explained.

"I understand. Maybe once we get to know each other better, you'll feel more comfortable, and we can talk about it then," Chris suggested.

Hannah arched her fine brow. "Are you asking me out?"

"I am," Chris grinned.

"Wow, you really are crazy," Hannah chuckled. "Alright, Chris. I'm interested. What do you say we go grab a bite to eat?"

"Lead the way, beautiful," Chris said with a wink as they headed for Chris's car.

– * END OF FLASHBACK * –


"And that's how I met your mother," Chris smiled, remembering Hannah fondly.

"It was love at first sight, huh," Shepard surmised with a crooked grin.

"It was for me. I can't speak for Hannah, though," Chris admitted.

"Believe me, it was. You were all she talked about when you first got together. It was nice seeing her so happy," Shepard said with a melancholic smile.

"I'm glad I gave her some happiness. She certainly made me happy," Chris admitted as he wiped a stray tear from his cheek.

"I–I better go finish cleaning my room. I kinda left it half-done," Shepard said as he stood to go.

"Y–Yeah. I'll order some take-out. I don't think either of us feels much like cooking," Chris smiled as he hugged his son tight. "I love you, kid."

"I love you too, Dad," Shepard smiled as he returned the hug.

Chris watched his son closely until he disappeared behind his bedroom door.

"I love you too, Hannah," Chris called out, closing his eyes and smiling as her familiar scent surrounded him once more.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Ms. T'Soni," Shepard called out as the rest of the class exited the room.

"Yes, John," Benezia replied with a smile.

"I–I was wondering if I could work on my painting here in the art room – after school, I mean," Shepard asked nervously.

"That's an odd request, and it would require permission from your father. But, if he agrees, then I don't see why not," Benezia nodded as she spoke.

"I–It's my dad's idea, so permission won't be a problem," Shepard replied.

"You can start today if you'd like. Might I know why you wish to do this?" Benezia asked, curious about the boy's reason.

"My room is a bit small, so I don't really have much room to work with. I think I'll do a better job here," Shepard explained, only half-lying.

"I see. I'll be here until six this evening if you need any help getting settled," Benezia offered, happy to help her student.

"Thanks. I appreciate it," Shepard said with a nod before collecting his things to leave for lunch.

"Have a good lunch. I'll see you this evening, John," Benezia said with a wave.

"You too, ma'am," Shepard said with a smile as he headed for the schoolyard.


The rest of the day went by fairly quickly, and before Shepard knew it, the final bell rang.

Shepard took his time, collecting the things he would need for his project from his locker.

"Hey, Loco," James called out, noticing the sheer amount of things Shepard had strewn about the floor near his feet.

"Hey, James," Shepard replied as he closed his locker.

"What's with all the art gear?" James asked curiously.

"I–It's for a project I'm working on," Shepard explained as he struggled to collect the gear from the floor.

"Do you need some help?" James asked, amused by Shepard's poor stacking skills.

"I–I can manage," Shepard replied, just as half the supplies slid from his arms onto the floor. "Goddammit!"

"Let me help, Loco. I'll carry half, and you can carry the other half," James insisted as he gathered half the supplies from the ground.

"Are you sure? I don't wanna cause any trouble," Shepard insisted.

"It's no trouble, Loco," James grinned. "So, how'd you fit all this into that tiny locker?"

"Easy. I put all my books in my backpack, then crammed my locker full of the supplies," Shepard explained.

"Your back must be breaking," James said as he followed Shepard to the art room.

"A little, but I didn't have much choice," Shepard shrugged as he held the art room door open for James.

"You know, I would've let you put some stuff in my locker. You really gotta learn to ask for help, Loco," James scolded.

"I–I don't like being a bother," Shepard admitted.

"Ah, it's no bother – well, not to me, anyway," James corrected. "If you need anything, just ask."

"A–Alright," Shepard said with a nod and slight smile.

"Can I ask you something?" James asked.

"Sure," Shepard replied as he put his supplies on the large table.

"Do you always stutter?" James asked curiously.

"I–I don't stutter," Shepard said, cocking his head to the side in confusion.

"You just did," James grinned.

"I–I did?" Shepard said, furrowing his brow as he spoke.

"Yep."

"I didn't realize. I–I'm sorry," Shepard apologized.

"Don't apologize. I was just wondering if you did it all the time or only when you're nervous," James asked as he placed the rest of the supplies on the table.

"I–I'm not nervous," Shepard lied.

"Uh-huh. You kinda look nervous. Anyway, are you going to the party this Saturday?" James asked, deciding to change the subject.

"What party?" Shepard asked as he laid out his supplies.

"Whataya mean, what party?" James asked in amusement. "It's all anyone ever talks about lately."

"I–I never heard anything about it," Shepard admitted with a shrug.

"Man, Loco, you need to socialize more. It's the first big party of the year, and it's gonna be a good one – drinkin' and dancin'. You should come," James suggested.

"I–I wasn't invited," Shepard replied with a shrug.

"It's an open party, no invitation needed. It'll be fun, Loco. Come, and you'll see," James insisted.

"I–I don't think I'd be very welcome there," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Loco, no one will even realize you're there. They'll all be too busy having fun to hassle you," James said, trying his best to reassure the young blonde.

"I–I dunno."

"At least consider it, Loco. You might even meet a nice girl. You never know," James said with a wink and teasing grin.

"I–I'll think about it," Shepard said as he rubbed his left arm, trying to be careful around the PICC line.

"You still got that weird thing in your arm?" James asked sympathetically.

"Yeah. My infusions aren't lasting as long as they'd hoped," Shepard explained as he scratched around the port.

"Any idea how long you're gonna have to wear it?" James asked curiously.

"Um. They're not really sure. It just depends on my body's response to the infusions," Shepard replied honestly.

"It's itchy, huh?"

"Yep."

"Do you want me to hang around and help get things sorted," James asked, motioning to the table.

"Nah. I'm pretty much done. I'm bringing my canvas in tomorrow. The rest will keep until then," Shepard explained. "Thanks for your help, James. I appreciate it."

"No problem, Loco. Do you need a ride home?" James asked with a smile.

"Nah. I have a doctor's appointment to get to," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"I can drop you off," James offered.

"Nah. That's okay. It's a bit out of the way. I'll take the bus, but thanks for the offer," Shepard declined with a smile.

"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow. Later, Loco," James grinned as he made his way towards the door.

"Later, James."

****☆****

6:30 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Dad, I'm home. Sorry, I'm late. I had a psych appointment today," Shepard explained as he made his way to the kitchen.

"I remembered, no worries," Chris grinned, surprising Shepard by preparing dinner for them.

"You're cooking?" Shepard asked with an amused grin.

"Yeah. Well, I'm trying to, anyway," Chris said with a wink. "I hope you like chicken and rice. The rice is from a package, so I don't think I can screw that up too much. But, the chicken— that's another story."

"I’m sure it'll be great," Shepard insisted as he retrieved two beers from the refrigerator. Opening them both before handing his father one.

"Thanks," Chris nodded in appreciation as he took a long drink. "That hits the spot."

"Do you need any help?" Shepard asked, wanting to be as helpful as possible.

"Nah. Everything's almost ready. You can put the plates on the table if you want," Chris said as he fluffed the rice.

"Okay," Shepard said as he retrieved two plates from the cabinet.

Once the plates were set, Shepard added the silverware and another beer for his father.

"And— dinner is complete," Chris called out as he placed the food on the table.

"It looks good," Shepard praised as he took his seat at the table.

"You're just being nice, but thanks, all the same," Chris grinned as he served the food. "So, how'd the appointment go?"

"It went alright. They gave me a prescription to help me sleep, but they're addictive, and I don't wanna take 'em," Shepard explained as he took a bite of his food.

"Are you not sleeping well?" Chris asked, his brow furrowing in concern.

"Same as always. You know how I am. I have bouts of insomnia, and I think I'm in that pattern," Shepard admitted.

"How many hours of sleep did you get last night?" Chris asked as he continued to eat his meal.

"I dunno," Shepard shrugged. "A few."

"A few, huh," Chris replied in annoyance. "How many is a few? Gimme a solid number, kid."

"Like three, I guess," Shepard said, hoping his father would drop it. 

"Is that three straight hours, or are you waking up in-between?" Chris asked, knowing the answer.

"Umm. That's the total. But I'm okay. I don't feel all that bad," Shepard insisted, his knee bouncing nervously as he spoke.

"You aren't tired," Chris asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"Nah, not really," Shepard admitted as he picked at his rice.

"That don't sound normal. Is everything alright with you?" Chris asked, suspecting something was off with his son.

"Yeah. I got invited to a party today," Shepard said, hoping to change the subject.

"Really," Chris asked, surprise evident in his voice. "Are you going?"

"I–I don't know. I haven't really decided yet," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Well, do you wanna go?" Chris asked bluntly.

"Kinda," Shepard replied as he picked at his food.

"Then you should go," Chris insisted.

"I–I don't think I'd be very welcome," Shepard explained.

"You were invited. I'm pretty sure that means you're welcome," Chris said with an amused grin on his face.

"W–Well, it's not that simple. You see, James – a friend of mine – he invited me. But it's not his party. It's someone else's. You see why I'm hesitant to go?" Shepard asked as he explained the situation.

"Hn. You're afraid to go because you think this James guy is playing with you," Chris asked, trying his best to understand.

"No. James wouldn't play me. He's a nice person. I'm afraid to go because of the other people. If they don't want me there, things might get bad, and I don't wanna ruin everyone's night," Shepard explained.

"So, do you like this guy?" Chris asked curiously.

"Yeah, but it's not like that. He's straight and has a girlfriend. He just asked me to come as a friend. He thinks I need to socialize more. He even thought I'd meet a nice girl if I went," Shepard replied, trying to clarify the situation.

"He doesn't know you're gay?" Chris asked, surprised by the situation.

"Nope. He never asked, and I never told him. That ain't important, anyway. Should I go, or just forget he asked?"

"Johnny, if you want to go, you should go. Don't let anyone keep you from doing something you might enjoy," Chris insisted.

"Yeah. I think I'll go," Shepard replied as he took a small bite of his chicken. "The chicken turned out pretty good."

Chris smiled at his son. "I'm glad you like it. Now, if I can only get you to finish it," Chris teased.

Shepard chuckled a bit as he continued to eat his meal.

****☆****

The next morning, Chris woke to the sound of frantic movement throughout the house. Curious as to the source, he quickly rose from bed to search out the perpetrator.

"Johnny, what the hell are you doing? It's six in the morning. You shouldn't even be up yet," Chris groaned as he wiped the sleep from his eyes.

"I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd clean the house. I'll make breakfast in a second," Shepard promised as he finished polishing the coffee table.

"Johnny, it's too early for breakfast," Chris replied, pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance. 

"Oh. How about some coffee? It won't take long. I'll get right on it," Shepard insisted as he rushed to the kitchen, eager to make the coffee for his father.

"He's manic," Chris thought aloud as he noticed his son's inability to sit still. "Johnny, you don't have to make coffee."

"I–I want to," Shepard insisted as he started the machine in record time. "See, almost done already."

"How long have you been up?" Chris asked curiously.

"Umm. I'm not sure. A few hours, I guess," Shepard shrugged as he retrieved his father's coffee cup from the cupboard. 

"You haven't slept much. Are you sure you'll be ready for school?" Chris asked, knowing his son had to be running on empty.

"I ain't tired. I'll be fine," Shepard insisted as he poured his father a cup of coffee.

"Johnny, if you go to school like this, you're gonna get into trouble. You won't be able to sit still," Chris explained, hoping his son would listen.

"I'll be fine. I can sit still," Shepard insisted as he took a seat next to his father at the kitchen table. "See. I'm sitting."

Chris couldn't help but shake his head. "Johnny, your knee is bouncing uncontrollably, your fingers are tapping the table – face it, kid, you can't sit still."

"I can't miss school, Dad. I've missed too many days already," Shepard said, his eyes turning sad as he spoke.

"Johnny, you're manic. It's not as bad as I've seen it, but it's pretty noticeable," Chris said, trying to get his son to stay home.

"I can't. Besides, I have to work on my painting. I have a lot of ideas, and I need to get started before I forget them," Shepard insisted, his words coming out at a rapid pace.

"Okay, but if you start feeling strange, you call me. I'll come, get you if it gets bad," Chris promised as he took a sip of his coffee.

"I will," Shepard grinned as he went back to his chores, leaving his father alone in the kitchen.

"That boy," Chris smiled, shaking his head as he watched his son from afar.

****☆****

5:56 PM – ALLIANCE HIGH – ART ROOM… 

"John, it's time to lock up for the night," Benezia stated as she checked her watch.

"I'm nearly finished," Shepard called back as he continued to work.

"John, I really have to go. You've made great progress on your piece. I think it's safe to end this session now, don't you?" Benezia asked, hoping to get the young artist to stop for the night.

"I— O–Okay," Shepard said, giving in to his teacher's request. "Just let me get my pack, and I'll be ready to go."

"Alright," Benezia smiled as she watched the young blonde.

"I'm ready. Thanks again for letting me work here," Shepard said in an appreciative tone as he placed his pack over his shoulder.

"It's no trouble. Do you need a ride home?" Benezia asked as she held the door open for her student.

"Nah. I'm okay. Thanks for asking, though. I appreciate it," Shepard smiled as he watched his teacher lock up for the night. "Well, I'm gonna head home. Have a good night, Ms. T'Soni."

"John, are you feeling alright? You seem overly energetic lately," Benezia stated, noticing the young man's restlessness.

"I–I'll be fine. I get this way sometimes. I'll try not to fidget so much tomorrow," Shepard promised as he gave his teacher a wave. "I better get going."

"Alright. Have a good night, John," Benezia smiled as she watched her student until he was out of sight.

****☆****

Shepard had walked for a little over fifteen minutes before taking out his phone and calling Kaidan's cell.

"Hello," Kaidan replied in the friendly tone Shepard had come to expect from him.

"Hey, K. It's me," Shepard said, the smile evident in his voice.

"Hey, are you finally home," Kaidan asked in amusement.

"No. I'm on my way there now. I just thought I'd call you first," Shepard said, shrugging as he spoke.

"Oh? Is everything okay? You sound— happy," Kaidan replied, amused by his friend's strange attitude.

"Do I? Hn. Anyway, if you aren't doing anything, I thought maybe we could hook up tonight," Shepard asked, his speech coming out faster than usual, causing Kaidan to worry.

"John, where are you?" Kaidan asked, his tone changing from lighthearted to serious.

"Huh?"

"Where are you?" Kaidan asked again.

"I'm about fifteen minutes away from the school, heading for home. Why?" Shepard asked, confused by Kaidan's question.

"Are you alone?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Yeah. Who would I be with?" Shepard chuckled, amused by Kaidan's words.

"John, stay right there. I'm coming to get you," Kaidan instructed.

"Okay. I'll be waiting," Shepard grinned as he ended the call.


When Kaidan arrived a few minutes later, Shepard was nowhere to be found.

"Dammit, John! I told you to stay put," Kaidan groaned as he continued driving in the direction of Shepard's house.

About three minutes later, Kaidan finally spotted him – walking down the street, earbuds in, ignoring everyone and everything around him.

"John," Kaidan called out from the car, trying his best to get his friend's attention.

Shepard just kept walking, unable to hear anything other than the music blaring in his head.

"He can't hear me," Kaidan sighed as he pulled the car over to retrieve his friend on foot.

Once he caught up to Shepard, Kaidan immediately tapped him on the shoulder. Flinching when he was unexpectedly shoved by the blonde-haired beauty.

"Kaidan! I'm so sorry! I thought you were one of my asshole neighbours. Are you okay?" Shepard asked, obviously upset that he had pushed his friend.

"That's alright," Kaidan reassured him as he straightened his shirt. "Why didn't you wait on me like I asked?"

"I–I got restless," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Are you feeling okay? You're acting strange," Kaidan said, hoping his friend was okay.

"Whataya mean," Shepard asked, cocking his head to the side in confusion, his strange behaviour lost on him.

"You're never this hyper. It's odd seeing you like this," Kaidan explained, hoping he wasn't offending his friend.

"I–I always fidget," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"This is way beyond fidgeting, though. You just can't seem to sit still," Kaidan insisted.

"I–I'm alright. Hey, K, since you're already here, do you wanna hook up?" Shepard asked, changing the subject as quickly as possible.

"Are you asking me to have sex with you?" Kaidan asked, amused by Shepard's boldness.

"Yep. I–If you want. I could just take care of you if you don't wanna fuck," Shepard offered, looking for a way to expel all his pent-up energy.

"This is definitely new. You're usually not this forward," Kaidan said, cocking his brow in confusion.

"Look, K, I need this, so please, just give me an answer, so I can figure out what to do," Shepard insisted, his words confusing Kaidan a bit.

"What would you do if I said no?" Kaidan asked, curious to hear the answer.

"I dunno, K. Stop playing with me, and just give me a goddamn answer," Shepard snapped, his tone angry and so unlike anything Kaidan had ever heard.

"Why do you want this so bad? I don't understand," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"I don't want it. I fucking need it. I feel like I'm gonna explode if I don't do something soon. Sex is a great release for me. So, are you interested or not?" Shepard asked, growing more anxious by the second.

Kaidan furrowed his brow in thought but remained silent.

"I understand. I'm sorry I bothered you," Shepard replied, taking Kaidan's silence as an answer.

"John, wait," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to turn around.

"Huh?"

"Come with me," Kaidan instructed as he motioned towards the car.

Shepard's sapphire eyes lit up in approval as a grin blossomed on his face.

"Remember to fasten your seatbelt," Kaidan reminded his friend as he fastened his own.

"Where do you wanna go?" Shepard asked, eager to be alone with the whisky-eyed teen.

"My parents aren't home if you want to go there," Kaidan offered.

"Do you have a blanket in the car?" Shepard asked as he restlessly bounced his knee.

"Yeah. Why?" Kaidan asked, cocking a brow as he spoke.

"Why don't we go to the garden? That would be a fun place to do it, wouldn't it?" Shepard suggested.

"You want to do it in the garden – out in the open?" Kaidan asked, surprised by Shepard's suggestion.

"Why not? It'll be fun," Shepard insisted.

"Won't we be exposed? I mean, what if someone sees us?" Kaidan asked, growing anxious at the suggestion.

"So? Let them watch. I don't care," Shepard replied honestly.

"But, I care. I can't have people watching me have sex. It's just— it's wrong," Kaidan said, disliking the idea of getting caught with his pants down.

"K, there are tons of large trees and enough brush to hide a goddamn elephant. I'm pretty sure no one will see us," Shepard insisted, rolling his wild blue eyes in annoyance.

"I don't know. I think the house would be better," Kaidan said, hoping Shepard would drop it.

"K, you're always so uptight. You do everything you're told, and you're serious to a fault. You need to loosen up. Live a little. I promise you won't regret it," Shepard said, placing his left hand between Kaidan's legs and rubbing the growing bulge he found there. "I know you want this. Your body don't lie."

"Dammit, John," Kaidan cursed under his breath, knowing the younger teen would get his way. "You win. You always win," Kaidan chuckled, slightly annoyed but mostly amused as he exited the car to retrieve the blanket and a camping lamp from the back.

"I wish that were true," Shepard mumbled, a sad look in his sapphire-blue eyes.

"Huh?" Kaidan asked, confused by Shepard's words.

"I–It's nothing," Shepard smiled as he took Kaidan by the hand, leading him into the densest part of the extremely spacious garden.


"How does this spot look?" Shepard asked as he stopped underneath a very large maple tree.

Kaidan took his time, taking in the lay of the land. And once he was satisfied they were fully hidden, he placed the blanket on the ground. 

Shepard smiled as he began to undress. 

"It'll be dark soon," Kaidan replied as he turned on the battery-powered lamp, an amused grin spreading across his face when he saw the now half-naked blonde. "In a hurry, are you?"

"Uh-huh," Shepard grinned as he pulled Kaidan in for a kiss, biting Kaidan's bottom lip hard enough to draw blood, causing the whisky-eyed boy to yelp in shock.

"Easy, John," Kaidan said as he rubbed his bruised and bleeding bottom lip. 

"Sorry. D–Do you mind if I leave my mark on you?" Shepard asked, cocking his head to the side as he spoke.

"Your mark? You mean, a love-bite, like a hickey?" Kaidan asked, wanting to know exactly what he was getting into.

"Y–Yeah. That's what I meant," Shepard said, his brow furrowing as he spoke.

"I don't mind, but can you place it somewhere less visible than my neck?" Kaidan asked, wanting to keep their relationship as private as possible.

"O–Okay," Shepard agreed as he quickly removed Kaidan's shirt before quickly unbuckling the older boy's belt.

"John, I can do that," Kaidan insisted, a hint of amusement in his voice.

"I got it," Shepard said as he dropped to his knees before the older teen, eager to have him in his mouth.

"John, you don't have to—" Kaidan's words were cut short as Shepard took him into his mouth. "Mmm… God, you're good at this."

Shepard just hummed in approval as he continued with his work.

A few minutes later, Kaidan was caught off-guard when Shepard knocked him to the blanket below, nearly knocking the wind out of him when he hit.

"Whoops," Shepard snickered as he straddled his fallen partner. "Did I hurt you?" Shepard asked as he kissed the edges of Kaidan's mouth.

"You knocked the wind outta me, but I'm fine," Kaidan insisted as he tugged at Shepard's long dark-blonde hair, eventually pulling the younger boy into a passionate kiss.

"Mmm… You taste good," Shepard grinned as he ran his tongue down Kaidan's chest, stopping to nip at the flesh above his heart. "I can feel your heart with my tongue. It's a strong beat."

"You're an odd one," Kaidan said as he stared at the younger boy fondly.

"I know," Shepard smiled as he moved to take Kaidan inside of him.

"Wait! Don't we need a condom?" Kaidan asked, not wanting to rush things without thinking.

"Why? We've already had sex twice without a condom. I haven't been with anyone else since then, so I don't get why we need one," Shepard admitted.

"John, I don't want to make it a habit. We're not a couple, and we shouldn't act like we are," Kaidan insisted.

"Y–You don't trust me to tell you the t–truth," Shepard said, a hurt tone in his voice. "I–I don't lie. I ain't been with nobody but you."

"Then why do you sound so nervous?" Kaidan asked, noticing Shepard's obvious stutter.

"I–I'm not nervous! I–I'm not," Shepard insisted.

"John, don't make this an issue. Just let me get the condom, and we can start where we left off," Kaidan said, hoping Shepard would drop it.

"I–I'll just go. Y–You don't wanna do this. I can tell," Shepard said, his voice low and apologetic. "I–I'm sorry I pushed you."

Kaidan quickly pulled Shepard close, holding him tight in his lap until Shepard finally returned the hug.

"I'm sorry. I do want this. I just want us both to be safe. You understand that, don't you?" Kaidan explained, hoping Shepard would understand.

"I–I do. I just don't understand. It would be different if we hadn't already, but we have. I promise you I'm clean," Shepard said, wanting Kaidan to know he would never put him at risk.

"John, please, don't make this harder," Kaidan pleaded, not wanting to say what he felt aloud.

"You're afraid because I'm sick," Shepard said, knowing it was the truth.

"Yes, I am," Kaidan admitted.

"Then why didn't you just say that, K," Shepard asked as he pressed his forehead to Kaidan's.

"I didn't want to upset you," Kaidan said, kissing Shepard gently.

"I'm sick, K. It don't upset me to hear people say it, not anymore, anyway," Shepard said, his voice far away as if he were thinking of the past.

"John, are you sure you still want to do this?" Kaidan asked, wanting to make sure they were both willing.

"Positive," Shepard grinned as he stroked himself a few times for emphasis.

Kaidan chuckled as he leaned over, taking a condom from his wallet. "Do you want to do the honours, or should I?"

"You can," Shepard grinned as he started preparing himself for what was to come.

"You're killing me here, John," Kaidan groaned as he continued to watch Shepard stretch himself.

"You wanna help me?" Shepard asked, taking Kaidan's fingers and sucking them gently, making sure to get them nice and wet, before guiding them to his entrance.

Kaidan smiled as his fingers searched out the spot that would make Shepard dance. 

"Hn." Shepard shuddered as Kaidan finally found that spot deep within him.

"Ready?" Kaidan asked as he slowly removed his fingers.

Shepard just smiled as he guided Kaidan to his entrance, sinking slowly until Kaidan was fully sheathed inside him.

"Feels good," Shepard moaned as he ran his nails down Kaidan's chest, causing the older boy to moan in delight.

Before Kaidan knew it, Shepard was raking his nails down his back as he held the younger boy tightly. Kaidan was surprised by Shepard's roughness and could already feel the burning of the scratches upon his back. 

"Easy, baby," Kaidan whispered as Shepard rode him harder.

"D-Does it feel good, K?" Shepard asked, holding Kaidan's face in his hands, searching his lover's whisky-coloured eyes for the answer.

"Amazing," Kaidan said, unable to look away from the strange ethereal glow in Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes.

This continued until, finally, they neared their peak.

"Cum for me, John," Kaidan insisted as he stroked Shepard hard, smiling when Shepard's body tensed and arched taut like a bow, signalling the younger boy's release.

Kaidan grunted in shock as Shepard suddenly leaned forward, biting Kaidan hard on the junction between his neck and shoulder. The pain, mixed with the pleasure of Shepard's body milking him, caused Kaidan to cum hard as he held even tighter to the younger boy.

 Kaidan collapsed, pulling Shepard atop him as he struggled to catch his breath. He jumped a bit as Shepard began to lick the fresh wound where Shepard had bitten him.

"How bad is it?" Kaidan asked, knowing it had to be a noticeable wound.

"It's just bruised. I eased up before I broke the skin," Shepard assured him as he nuzzled into Kaidan's neck.

"Why'd you bite me?" Kaidan asked, hoping it wouldn't become a habit.

"I dunno. I just felt like it, I guess. Did I hurt you bad?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Nah. I'll be fine," Kaidan promised as he kissed the top of Shepard's head before moving to dispose of the condom.

"D–Did you hear about the party that's happening this Saturday?" Shepard asked, feeling anxious about the upcoming festivities.

"Uh, yeah. Why do you ask?" Kaidan asked, trying to avoid Shepard's gaze as he spoke.

"Well, I was thinking of going and wanted to know if you were gonna be there," Shepard explained.

"Nah. I'm not going. It's too bright and noisy for me. You should probably skip it too. I don't think you'd have very much fun," Kaidan suggested, hoping Shepard would change his mind and refrain from going.

"R–Really?"

"Yeah. It's not a very good idea for you to go. I think it would just upset you," Kaidan said as he started getting dressed.

"Hn. O–Okay. A–Are you doing anything on Saturday? Maybe we could go somewhere instead?" Shepard asked, wanting desperately to be a normal teen for one night.

"I can't. I promised my mom I would help her around the house," Kaidan lied, feeling nauseous about lying to his beloved friend but unwilling to hurt his feelings.

"Oh," Shepard's smile faded as he began to redress.

"I'm glad I brought a lamp. It's dark already," Kaidan said as he finished buckling his belt. "Are you ready to head out?" 

"Y–Yeah," Shepard said as he helped Kaidan fold the blanket. 

"Let's go," Kaidan said as he took Shepard by the hand, leading him to the car while holding the lamp high.


Once they made it to the car, Shepard put the blanket into the trunk along with the lamp before taking his pack from the car.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Kaidan asked in confusion.

"I'm gonna walk home," Shepard explained as he put his backpack on.

"It's dark out. You should let me drive you," Kaidan insisted, hoping Shepard would agree.

"Nah. You're already home. I don't mind. It might help me wind down a bit. I'm sorry for biting you. I won't do it again," Shepard promised, his tone apologetic.

"Text me when you get home," Kaidan instructed as he kissed the younger boy goodbye.

"I will. Goodnight, K," Shepard made it halfway to the garden entrance when he turned to speak once more. "Tell Rahna I said hi."

Kaidan's stomach twisted into a knot. "How did he— He couldn't possibly know I'm taking her to the party Saturday? Could he?" Kaidan thought aloud as he watched Shepard disappear from sight.

****☆****

9:48 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Daddy, I'm home," Shepard called out, causing his father to come running, holding a glass of water and some pills. 

"Take these before you give me a heart attack," Chris insisted as he handed them to his son.

"What are they?" Shepard asked before placing them on his tongue.

"They're mood stabilizers. I called your doctor, and he told me to give you these along with your usual meds," Chris explained.

"I'm already on mood stabilizers," Shepard whined as he took a sip of water.

"I know. These are for emergency use only. I don't want you to become any more manic than you already are," Chris said truthfully.

"I–I'm starting to feel better," Shepard assured him.

"Uh-huh. That's good. I made something to eat for you. You should go eat before it gets cold," Chris insisted.

"I'm not very hungry," Shepard admitted, beginning to feel a bit nauseous and lightheaded as he spoke.

"Humour me, kid. At least eat a few bites," Chris pleaded as he brushed a stray hair from Shepard's brow. "Your hair's getting really long, huh?"

"D–Do you want me to cut it?" Shepard asked, wanting to please his father.

"Nah. It suits you," Chris smiled as he led his son to the kitchen. "Now, sit and eat."

"Okay," Shepard smiled as he began to eat his meal.

Chris sat, quietly sipping his coffee as he watched his son carefully, his brow furrowing in concern when he noticed how pale his son looked.

Chris's expression changed to sheer worry when his son suddenly dropped his fork.

"Johnny? Johnny, what's wrong?" Chris asked, trying to remain calm as he attempted to assess his son.

"I–I don't feel right," Shepard admitted before struggling to stand.

Chris quickly steadied his son, catching him before he fell.

"What's going on, Johnny? Talk to me," Chris insisted.

"I'm a little dizzy," Shepard replied as he staggered towards his room. "I feel like I'm gonna pass out."

"I think you need to lie down. All those sleepless nights are catching up to you," Chris said, hoping he was correct in his assumption.

"Y–Yeah. I'm really tired," Shepard admitted with a yawn as his father led him to the bed.

"You try to get some sleep," Chris insisted as he kissed his son's forehead. "I'll check on you in a bit. If you need me before then, call for me."

"I will. Love you, Dad," Shepard mumbled as his sapphire-blue eyes fluttered shut.

"I love you too, Johnny," Chris whispered as he gently closed the bedroom door.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

SATURDAY MORNING… 

"Johnny, it's time to get up. It's almost two, and you still need to get ready for that party," Chris reminded his son as Shepard sat up in bed.

"I–I don't think I'm going," Shepard replied, staring at his hands to avoid eye contact with his father.

"Why not? Are you sick? Do you want me to take you to the hospital?" Chris asked, obviously concerned for his son.

"No, it's nothing like that. I feel much better today," Shepard assured his father.

"You were so excited to go. What happened to change your mind?" Chris asked, hoping Shepard hadn't been bullied into not going.

"Kaidan said I shouldn't bother going. He thinks I wouldn't like it," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Why did he say that?" Chris asked, not liking what he was hearing.

"I dunno," Shepard shrugged. "I asked if he was going, and he said no. Apparently, the noise and lights aggravate his migraines."

"What does that have to do with you not going?" Chris asked.

"Nothing. It's just— he knows me pretty well, and if he says I won't like it, I probably won't," Shepard explained.

"Johnny, you've been looking forward to this for over a week. I don't think you should avoid going just because Kaidan won't be there. It's a chance for you to be a normal kid. You might even meet somebody," Chris suggested, wanting his son to be happy.

"I–I dunno."

"Do you still want to go?" Chris asked, brushing his son's hair from his eyes.

"Kinda, just to see what it's like," Shepard answered truthfully.

"Then you should go," Chris insisted.

"Yeah. I'm gonna go take a shower," Shepard said with a smile.

"Okay. I'll go put some coffee on," Chris smiled as he made his way to the kitchen.


Shepard was getting dressed when his father suddenly knocked on the washroom door.

"Johnny, someone's here to see you," Chris called out from behind the door.

"Who is it?" Shepard asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"It's your friend, James. I think he's here to pick you up," Chris explained as Shepard opened the door.

"I never asked him for a ride," Shepard said, still shirtless with his long dark-blonde dripping.

"Well, he's here. I don't see the harm in letting him give you a ride," Chris said, scratching his chin as he spoke.

"Alright. I'll go see what's going on," Shepard said as he made his way past his father towards the living room.


"Hey, Loco! Are you 'bout ready to head out?" James asked with a huge smile on his face.

"Y–Yeah. I just need to get a shirt and dry my hair," Shepard informed him, still confused by James's presence.

"Your hair looks fine; just grab a shirt, and we can head out," James insisted.

"A–Alright," Shepard said, turning towards his room, only to have a red t-shirt thrown in his face.

"Wear this," Chris insisted with an amused smile. "Here's your phone and wallet. I added a few bucks just in case you needed some money for an emergency."

"Dad, you didn't have to do that," Shepard said, frowning a bit as he spoke.

"It's fine, Johnny. Go, have fun. Call me if you need me," Chris said with a smile as Shepard pulled the t-shirt over his head.

"I will. I'll see you later, Daddy. I love you," Shepard called out as he followed James outside.

"I love you too, Johnny," Chris said aloud as he watched them drive away.

****☆****

"I–I was surprised when you came to pick me up. I wasn't expecting that," Shepard said as he toyed with the hem of his shirt. 

"It wasn't any trouble. I figured you needed a ride, so I stopped by," James explained with a smile.

"I–I appreciate it," Shepard said as he rubbed his shoulder in a nervous habit. "D–Do you think I–I'll be welcome at the party?"

"I don't see why not. Miranda usually cares less about who comes and goes. As long as nobody starts trouble, she's usually cool. Have you ever met Miranda?" James asked curiously.

"Umm. No. I d–don't think I've ever even heard the name," Shepard admitted.

"You've never heard of Miranda Lawson?" James asked in disbelief.

"No. I take it she's popular," Shepard surmised as he continued to fidget.

"Yep. She's arguably the most popular girl in school. You might get to meet her tonight. I say might because she doesn't always socialize with people from our part of town. She only talks to us when she feels like slumming it," James explained.

"She s–sounds like a snob," Shepard said with a sigh.

"She is, but she knows it. Jack thinks she's a bitch, but that doesn't stop her from going to Miranda's parties," James said with an amused grin.

"What's so special about Miranda's parties?" Shepard asked curiously.

"She always has the best music, the best food, and the best booze. It's always a rager, and she never kicks anyone out – unless they fight. If they fight, she has them kicked out permanently," James explained. "By the way, we're picking Jack up too. I hope you don't mind."

"I–I don't mind. She doesn't like me very much, though," Shepard said as he leaned his head against the car window.

"She likes you. She just likes pushing people's buttons. You'll see," James said as he pulled into a driveway.


James laid on the horn until, finally, Jack made her way to the car.

"Hey, Muscles," she grinned before kissing James hard on the mouth. "Hey, Shepard, move your ass. I ride shotgun, not you."

Shepard said nothing; he just got into the backseat, leaving the car door open for the bossy girl.

"Thanks. So, it looks like we're gonna be early. Do you guys wanna stop and get something to eat?" Jack asked.

"Hell yeah! I'm starving. How 'bout you, Loco? Are ya hungry?" James asked as he drove towards the closest restaurant.

"Nah. Thanks for offering, though," Shepard said appreciatively.

"Do you ever eat?" Jack asked, slightly amused by the blue-eyed blonde.

"Uh-huh. I just ain't hungry r–right now," Shepard admitted.

"Right. How you keep a body like that without eating is beyond me. What are you, some kind of alien?" Jack asked, only half-joking.

"She has a point, Loco. Do you take supplements or something?" James asked as he parked the car in the restaurant parking lot.

"No, n-nothing like that," Shepard replied with a crooked grin.

"Naturally gifted, huh," Jack said with a smile of her own. "I'm like that."

"Lucky bastards! I gotta work my ass off to look like this," James admitted as he motioned for them to follow him.

"I guess," Shepard shrugged as he followed his friends inside the restaurant.


The minute they set foot inside, all eyes were on Shepard. It didn't take long for the whispers to start, making the young blonde very uncomfortable.

"Jack, you want the usual?" James asked. 

"Yep," came Jack's simple reply.

"Are you sure you don't want anything, Loco?" James asked once more, hoping Shepard would change his mind.

"N-N-No, thanks," Shepard stuttered, shaking his head for emphasis.

"I'll get us a table. Come on, Shepard," Jack said as she made her way to a table near the back of the restaurant.

On the way, Shepard could hear the conversations of the other customers, and just as he'd expected, most were about him.

Once they made their way to the table of Jack's choosing, she motioned for Shepard to take a seat.

"Ignore them. They don't have anything better to do than gossip," Jack insisted as she plopped down in her seat.

"I–I know," Shepard said, staring at his hands as he spoke.

"You'd think they'd let it go. It's been what– like three years, right?" Jack said, trying to start a conversation with her new friend.

"A–Almost four," Shepard corrected as he continued to stare at his hands.

"Yeah. How old were you when it happened?" Jack asked curiously.

"Um— I had just t–turned thirteen. Why?" Shepard asked, wanting to know the reason for Jack's curiosity.

"You must've been a hellion back then, a real badass, huh," Jack teased with a grin.

"N–Not really," Shepard said, his voice shy and timid.

"Oh, come on! You had to be! Adam was a big motherfucker. He had muscles upon muscles. He wasn't as big as James, but he was pretty damn solid," Jack said, insistent upon learning the truth of the story.

"Y–You knew Adam?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Yep. He was a friend of my mom's. She used to date Adam's cousin before she married my stepdad, Zaeed. He always seemed like a nice guy. What'd he do to make you snap?" Jack asked, pushing her curiosity to the limit.

"I–I don't wanna talk about it," Shepard insisted.

"Fine, you don't have to tell me. I can guess. He probably beat your mom. That's usually what causes kids to snap," Jack said, her tone nonchalant as if they were talking about the weather.

"N–No. He never hurt m–m–my mom," Shepard replied, bouncing his knee nervously.

"Hn. So, how long did it take for him to die? Did he bleed out, or just die instantly?" Jack asked, causing Shepard to become uneasy.

"I–I don't know," Shepard admitted, furrowing his brow as he spoke.

"Food's here," James announced, causing Shepard to breathe a bit easier.

"About time! They're getting slower and slower around here," Jack said as she immediately dug in.

Shepard remained quiet as he waited patiently for the two lovers to finish their meal. All was well until Shepard noticed a customer at the counter speaking to the manager.

"Here it comes," Shepard mumbled as the manager made his way over to their table.

"Excuse me, but if your friend isn't a customer here, I'm afraid he has to leave. He's making the other customers uncomfortable," the manager explained nervously.

"That's bullshit! He isn't doing anything but sitting quietly," Jack insisted.

"Yeah, he ain't bothering anybody," James agreed, defending his new friend.

"I'm sorry, but he hasn't ordered anything, so he can't stay," the manager insisted.

"Then he'll have a Coke," James said, hoping the manager would drop it.

"No, that won't be necessary," Shepard said as he stood to leave. "I–I'll just wait in the car. I'm s–sorry I caused an issue for you, sir."

Jack and James looked at each other in surprise and a hint of disapproval.

"T–That's alright. Thank you for leaving without incident," the manager said, glad Shepard had agreed to leave so easily.

Once Shepard was out of earshot, James spoke.

"That was a dirty thing to do. He wasn't bothering anyone. He didn't deserve to be treated like that," James said, scolding the manager.

"I–I know. But business is business. If he had ordered something, I wouldn't have said anything. But, he was making the other customers nervous, and since he wasn't a paying customer, I had no choice but to ask him to leave. I'm sorry, but that's the policy," the manager explained, his tone apologetic as he spoke.

"We get it. You can go back to whatever you were doing. We're cool," Jack assured the man as he nodded and went back to his post.

"Why are you being so nice to him? He was a jerk for asking Shepard to leave," James said, angry at his girlfriend's actions.

"Look, Shepard left of his own accord. Why should we defend him when he won't even defend himself?" Jack said, shrugging her shoulders as she spoke.

"He doesn't want to start trouble. With his record, he has to be extra careful. He wasn't being a coward; he was being smart," James argued 

"Maybe," Jack replied, realizing the truth behind her boyfriend's words. "Should we wrap this stuff up and take it with us?"

"Nah. If we do that, it'll just make him feel worse. Let's just finish eating, so we can be on our way," James suggested.

"Yeah. You're probably right," Jack agreed as she continued to eat her food.


Once the two lovers had finished their meal, they headed back to the car to find Shepard with his head leaning against the car window, eyes closed as if he were asleep.

"Aw— he's asleep. Should we wake him?" Jack asked as she opened the passenger side door.

"I ain't asleep," Shepard informed her as he opened his eyes slowly.

"Uh-huh," Jack said with a doubtful grin as she fastened her seatbelt.

"Yo, Loco, I'm sorry about what happened in there. If we had known, we wouldn't have stopped," James apologized as he too fastened his seatbelt.

"That's okay," Shepard insisted as he stared out the car window.

"Yeah. Well, are you guys ready to head out? The party should be in full swing by the time we get there," James said as he started the engine.

"Hell yes," Jack said, her tone lively and excited, causing Shepard to smile in amusement.

"Let's crank the stereo up and get going," James suggested as he turned up the music, pulling out of the parking lot and heading for the party.

****☆****

7:37 PM – THE LAWSON ESTATE… 

"Well, Loco, we're here," James announced as he led Shepard into the house. 

The party was already well underway, with music blaring and kids drinking and dancing. It was a sight Shepard had never seen before, and he was in awe.

"I–It's really crowded," Shepard said, raising his voice a bit to make sure James could hear him.

"Yeah. This is nothing. It'll be packed before the night's over," James grinned as he was greeted by one of the party-goers.

"Yo, James, 'bout time you got here. Have a beer. And one for you too, Jack," the boy said as he handed them each a beer.

"What about Shepard? I'm sure he could use a cold one," James suggested with a grin.

"Y–Yeah. I only brought you guys one. If he wants one, they're in the kitchen," the boy explained. "Well, my girl's waiting. Have fun, guys."

"You too, man," James said with a nod as he pulled Jack close. "You ready to dance?"

"Hell yeah! Shepard, why don't you go get a beer. The kitchen is that way," Jack said, pointing to the right of the room.

Shepard never said a word; he just nodded as he watched the two lovers disappear into the crowd.

Shepard sighed as he made his way to the surprisingly empty kitchen. A wave of relief washed over him as he grabbed a beer from the ice bucket on the counter. 

He popped the cap off the bottle before taking a drink – nearly spewing when he was startled by a sudden presence.

Shepard turned to see who had entered. It was a tall young woman with dark hair and blue eyes. Beside her stood a near-perfect copy – the only difference being the length of their hair. 'Twins,' Shepard thought to himself as he wiped the excess beer from his mouth.

Shepard watched quietly as the two ladies chatted amongst themselves, ignoring Shepard completely as they did so.

"Can you hand me a couple of beers, please?" One of the girls asked, causing Shepard to cock his head to the side.

"Hey, she's talking to you," the other girl called out, her tone annoyed and full of disdain.

"I–I'm sorry. Here you go," Shepard apologized as he handed the girl two beers.

"Don't be too hard on him, Randa. He's cute," the girl with the shortest hair of the two said, causing Shepard to blush just a bit.

"Ori, you're far too nice, but to each, their own," the other girl grinned as she led her sister from the room.

Shepard downed what was left of his beer before opening another. He drank half before grabbing a few more and deciding to find James.


"Hey, Loco! Are you having fun yet?" James grinned as he kissed his girlfriend's neck.

"Y–Yeah," Shepard lied. "I met a set of twins earlier. One of them seemed a bit— mean."

"That's the cheerleader. This is her party. The other one isn't her twin. She's actually a year younger. They just look identical," Jack explained, a look of irritation on her face.

"Yeah. You met Miranda and Oriana. Oriana's the nice one. Miranda's— well—"

"A bitch," Jack called out, finishing James's sentence for him.

"Y–Yeah. I could tell," Shepard admitted as he took another swig of his beer.

"You should mingle. I'm sure there's plenty of girls who'd love to dance with you," James encouraged his blue-eyed friend with a teasing wink.

"Yeah. You're pretty damn fit. It should be easy enough for you to get laid tonight," Jack said, causing James to give her a sour look.

"Hey! I'm right here. Shouldn't you tell me how hot I am?" James said, giving her his best pout.

"Muscles, you know you're hot," Jack assured him, stroking his ego as she gave him a sloppy kiss.

"I'll leave you two alone," Shepard chuckled as he made his way to the stairs.

Feeling bored, Shepard put in one of his earbuds, not caring for Miranda's taste in music, before taking a seat on the bottom step of the grand staircase.


For the next half-hour, Shepard just sat alone, people-watching as he drank. He was about to go look for the washroom when he heard an unmistakable voice.

Turning his head, Shepard scanned the room for the source, his heart sinking when he found it.

Standing by the fireplace, laughing and kissing Rahna's neck, was none other than Kaidan. 

"He lied to me," Shepard thought aloud, noticing how happy the whisky-eyed teen seemed.

Not knowing what to do, he just made his way up the stairs, hoping to find a washroom, so he could lock himself away for a few minutes.


It took Shepard about five minutes to find a washroom. He locked the door behind him before splashing water on his face, hoping it would sober him just a bit. He hadn't drunk much, and he was far from wasted, but he was just on the edge of feeling buzzed.

"I should've stayed home," Shepard mumbled as he stared at himself in the mirror for a few minutes before hearing a knock on the washroom door. 

"Just a minute," Shepard called out before relieving himself and quickly exiting the washroom.

Shepard tried to go around the very large football player who was currently blocking his path but was stopped short every time.

"E–Excuse me, please," Shepard said, his voice timid and low.

"I know you. You're that murdering son of a whore. What makes you think you're welcome here? Nobody invited you. I think you should leave, don't you whoreson," the larger boy said, cracking his knuckles as he spoke.

"I–I don't want trouble. I just wanna go," Shepard said, hoping the boy would let him pass.

"You better be gone by the time I'm finished taking a piss, or I'm gonna kick your devil ass. Am I clear?" The larger boy threatened.

Shepard said nothing; he just furrowed his brow and nodded.

"Good," the boy grinned as he entered the washroom.


Shepard made his way down the stairs. He was heading for the door when a female voice called out to him.

"Shepard! Shepard over here," Rahna called out, motioning for Shepard to come.

Shepard sighed before slowly making his way over. "H–Hello."

"Hi. What brings you here?" Rahna asked as she put her arms around Kaidan's waist.

"James asked me to come. I–I was just leaving, though," Shepard explained, turning his gaze to Kaidan, who was doing his best to avoid Shepard's gaze.

"Aw. You should stay. The party's just getting started. Right, Kaidan," Rahna said, smiling as she spoke.

"If Shepard wants to leave, we shouldn't interfere," Kaidan insisted, hoping Shepard would decide to go.

Shepard furrowed his brow in hurt. "H–How's your head? I–I know migraines can be bad at parties."

Kaidan could see the hurt in Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes, and it made him sick to his stomach. "I— I'm fine."

"H–Have fun, K. Rahna," Shepard nodded politely before turning to leave.

"That was odd. Why come to a party just to leave so early," Rahna said as she leaned her head against Kaidan's shoulder.

Kaidan never said a word; he just watched as Shepard exited the house, his brow furrowing when he noticed a few members of the football team following close behind his beloved friend.

"Rahna, I think something's wrong," Kaidan said as he took her hand.


"I told you to be gone before I was finished. Yet, here you are," the larger boy called, eager to fight, causing Shepard to turn and face him.

"I–I'm going," Shepard said, hoping he would let it go.

"Too late, whoreson," the boy said, charging the young blonde.

Shepard was a bit too fast for him and sidestepped just in time to avoid contact.

"L–Look, I don't want t–t–trouble. Please, just l-let me go," Shepard pleaded, not wanting to risk getting arrested.

"What the hell's wrong with you?" The football player asked, laughing at Shepard's speech impediment, "C–C–Can't you t–t–talk?"

Shepard frowned, then suddenly winced when felt a tug on his long dark-blonde hair. One of the larger boy's friends had grabbed Shepard's hair from behind, successfully holding the smaller boy in place for his friend to attack.

"You think you're tough, don't you," the larger boy sneered as he punched Shepard hard in the stomach, causing the young blonde to cough.

Shepard finally caught his breath, spitting in the ring leader's face, receiving a punch to the face for his trouble. 

Shepard's blood flew from his mouth and nose as the boy continued to punch him as the others held him down.

"Look at you! You should do everyone a favour and kill yourself, just like your whore mother," the boy said, a satisfied grin on his face.

"Fuck you!" Shepard snapped, his eyes shifting from sapphire blue to shades of midnight before glowing brightly in the dark as an invisible shockwave flowed from his body. The sheer force of it, causing the larger boy to fly through the air, blood flying as the bully's nose was shattered on impact.

For a split second, the other boys stood in shock before finally turning on the smaller blonde.

Shepard was quickly overtaken by the other boys, and it didn't take long for the smaller blonde to crumble under the assault.


"FIGHT!" A voice called out into the crowded house, causing the party-goers to rush to the scene.

"John," Kaidan mumbled as he made his way to the scene, with Rahna following close behind.


By the time Kaidan had made it outside, Shepard was already on the ground being kicked mercilessly by four members of the football team – their leader lying unconscious on the ground beside them.

"They're gonna kill him," Kaidan mumbled, his heart in his throat as he moved to stop it.

Rahna grabbed Kaidan's hand to prevent him from interfering. "You can't help him! They'll hurt you, Kaidan. No one can help him now."

Kaidan stared at his off-again/on-again girlfriend, unsure of what to do.

Thankfully, a few moments later, James made his way outside. Seeing his friend being brutally assaulted, he couldn't help but step in.

"Get the hell off him!" James yelled as he yanked a few of them away, giving them each a punch for good measure. "He's had enough. You made your point; now leave him the fuck alone."

Taking the hint, the four boys helped their fallen friend to his feet.

"That devil ain't worth it, Vega. He's nothing but murdering trash. You shouldn't waste your time on him," one of the boys said with a look of disgust on his face.

"He's a fucking demon!" Another boy called out as they all moved to help their fallen leader.

James just sighed, watching them walk away as he checked on his injured friend.

"Loco, are you okay?" James asked as Shepard reluctantly exposed his head.

James frowned when he noticed the blood covering the lower part of Shepard's face – his mouth and chin dripping with crimson.

"I–I'm alright," Shepard insisted as he slowly sat up, his hand immediately grabbing his left arm. 

"Shit! That thing on your arm, did they yank it out?" James asked, hoping they hadn't.

"I– I dunno. I don't think so. They might've loosened it a bit," Shepard said, noticing the slight soreness whenever he touched it. "C–Can you help me up? I–I wanna go home."

"Sure, Loco," James said as he helped Shepard to his feet. "They got you pretty good. You got a cut above your left eye," James said, motioning to the injury.

"I–I'm okay. I barely feel it," Shepard said as he dusted off his clothes.

"I'll go get Jack, and we can go," James said, stopping when Shepard grabbed his arm tightly.

"N–No. Y–You guys stay. I–I can get home on my own. I've caused enough trouble for you already," Shepard insisted.

"Loco, you're beat to hell. I don't think it's a good idea for you to try to get home alone," James said, hoping the stubborn boy would change his mind.

"I–It ain't bad. I bleed a lot because of my disorder. It looks worse than it is," Shepard explained. "I'm just bruised. I–I'll make it just fine."

James sighed before finally giving in. "Okay, Loco. You're tough as nails, aren't you," James laughed in amusement. "Text me when you get home."

"I will. You and Jack have fun," Shepard smiled as he watched James retreat back into the house.

"John," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to flinch.

Shepard said nothing; he just turned to stare at the whisky-eyed teen.

"You're hurt," Kaidan said as he walked to stand before the blue-eyed blonde.

"I–It ain't bad," Shepard shrugged, flinching in surprise as Kaidan took a handkerchief from his pocket before placing it over Shepard's bloodied nose and mouth.

"You're still bleeding," Kaidan informed him as he gently cleaned the blood from Shepard's face.

"I–It'll stop soon," Shepard insisted.

"I–I'm sorry I lied to you. I just— I didn't want to hurt you," Kaidan apologized, feeling awful for his deception.

"I–It's okay. Y–You could have t–told me about you and Rahna," Shepard said, stuttering more than usual.

"We're not officially back together, but we're trying. I still haven't gotten you out of my system yet, and she understands that," Kaidan explained.

"I–I know. Y–You could've told me that you didn't wanna be seen w–with me. I–I would've u–understood," Shepard said with a sad look in his eyes.

"John, it's not that. It's just— it's complicated," Kaidan struggled to explain.

"I–I don't mind being used. I–If it's by you, I mean. But, I'd like you to be h–honest about it, K," Shepard admitted, causing Kaidan's eyes to go wide.

Noticing the shocked expression on Kaidan's face, Shepard couldn't help but smile. "Y–You're a good person, K. H–Have fun. Tell R–Rahna I said h–hi. L–Later, K."

Kaidan watched silently as Shepard walked past the entrance gate to the world beyond the estate walls.

"Kaidan, is everything alright?" Rahna asked, wondering what her sometimes boyfriend had been up to.

Kaidan stared at the handkerchief, now coated with Shepard's blood, before finally answering.

"I hope so. Shepard said hello and for us to have fun," Kaidan said as he put the bloody handkerchief in his pocket.

"Was he okay?" Rahna asked, her tone filled with concern.

"I— I don't know. I think so," Kaidan replied, hoping he was correct.

"Well, we better head back in," Rahna suggested as she took Kaidan's hand, leading him into the house.

****☆****

Shepard walked slowly, tears running down his face as he thought about Kaidan. "He didn't have to lie to me. I know I ain't good enough for him," Shepard said as he continued to look straight ahead, trying his best to avoid contact with the rest of the world.

"D–Daddy's gonna be so pissed," Shepard thought aloud as he dried the tears from his too-blue eyes. "I–I don't know what to tell him. H–He wanted me to have fun like a normal kid. H–He's gonna be so disappointed."

Shepard checked to see if his nose was still bleeding and was happy to see it had finally stopped. He used his shirttail to clean the excess blood from his face, hoping the bruising wasn't too obvious yet.

"I–I hope he isn't awake when I get home," Shepard thought as he continued on his way.


10:35 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

Shepard tried to be as quiet as possible as he slowly unlocked the door. The house was shrouded in darkness with no sign of life, causing Shepard to release the breath he'd been holding. 

Once he was inside, Shepard quietly locked the door before heading towards his room. He made it as far as the kitchen when the living room lamp clicked on, illuminating the small space.

"Hey, kid. You're back early. Did ya have fun," Chris asked with a yawn. "You forgot your meds. Remember to take 'em before you head to bed. Have you eaten anything?"

Shepard's shoulders tensed as he stood with his back towards his father, hoping to avoid a face-to-face talk. The movement was not lost on Chris, who immediately caught his son's uneasiness.

"Johnny, what's wrong," Chris asked, his voice filled with dread as he moved closer to his son.

"N–Nothing. I–I'm just tired. I'll tell you all about it t–tomorrow," Shepard replied as he started towards his bedroom door, flinching as his father placed his hand upon his shoulder, giving it an insistent tug to encourage Shepard to turn around.

Once he did, he tried his best to avoid his father's gaze.

Chris's eyes widened when he noticed the first signs of bruising on his son's face along with his bloodied t-shirt, the red blotches far too dark against the lighter red of the shirt.

"Johnny, what happened?" Chris asked as he took his son's face in his hands.

"I–I shouldn't have gone. Kaidan was right," Shepard replied, his sad blue eyes filling with tears at the look of pain in his father's dark eyes.

"Did James do this to you?" Chris asked, wanting to tear apart whoever hurt his son.

"No, Daddy. James helped me. H–He wanted to drive me home, b–but I didn't wanna ruin his night," Shepard explained. "A–Apparently, I wasn't wanted there and a few guys l–let me know how they felt."

"How many is a few?" Chris asked as he turned his son's head to assess the damage.

"Um— I–I dunno. Three or four, I guess," Shepard said with a shrug. "My PICC line is kinda sore. W–Will you check it for me, Daddy?"

"Of course. Sit down at the table, and I'll get the first-aid kit," Chris insisted as he retrieved the kit from the washroom.


"Okay, let's see what we got here," Chris said as he – carefully – removed the gauze bandage Shepard wore to avoid damage to the lines.

"It's a bit red and looks bruised, but it's not bleeding. It doesn't look like it's shifted. Do you want me to take you to the ER, just to make sure everything's okay?" Chris asked as he turned his attention to the first-aid kit.

"No. I–It's fi—" 

Shepard's words trailed off, causing Chris to turn his attention back to his son.

"Johnny? Johnny, are you there, kid?" Chris asked, noticing the faraway look in his son's sapphire eyes. "Come on, Johnny, don't do this now."

Chris sighed as he took his son's face in his hands, kissing the boy's forehead before getting up to retrieve an ice cube.

Once he had the ice, he sat back down, reaching out to take his son's hand when a spurt of hot blood splashed against Chris's hand.

Chris's eyes went wide in shock as his brain tried to register what he was seeing.

Shepard was holding a bloodied tube in his right hand, with the three shorter tubes dangling, and standing behind the young blonde, towering over him, was the dark outline of what looked like a man, only much larger. The sight was so unexpected that Chris fell out of his chair in fear.

Chris watched in shock as the shadow cocked its head to the side, making Shepard do the same. 

"Did you do this to my boy? Leave him alone," Chris demanded, watching helplessly as blood poured from his son's arm. "Let him go!" Chris screamed, causing the shadow to vanish. 

Chris took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself before tending to his son. "Johnny, are you okay, kid?" 

Chris furrowed his brow in concern when he noticed his son was still stuck in the middle of an episode.

"Fuck!" Chris yelled as he grabbed a nearby kitchen towel to wrap his son's arm in, doing his best to bind it tightly.

Once that was done, Chris gently placed the ice cube in his son's unoccupied left hand, hoping it would bring him out of his dissociative episode.

It took about two minutes for Shepard to stir. "W–What happened?" Shepard asked, fear in his voice as he dropped his PICC line in shock. "W–What did I do!?"

"Y–You yanked your line out," Chris half-lied, unwilling to tell Shepard what he had seen. "It's bleeding pretty bad. I need to get you to the hospital. Can you walk, kid?" Chris asked as he helped Shepard to his feet.

"Y–Yeah. W–Why did I do that?" Shepard asked nervously.

"I dunno, Johnny. We're gonna fix it, though. You need that line. Hopefully, you didn't damage your vein," Chris said as he walked his son to the car.

"I–I'm sorry, Daddy," Shepard said as he applied pressure to the area while Chris fastened the seatbelt for him.

"It wasn't your fault, Johnny. You probably yanked it out subconsciously. It looked irritated when I was checking it. It was probably bothering you," Chris explained, trying not to worry his son as he started driving towards the hospital ER.

****☆****

THE EMERGENCY ROOM AT MERCY GENERAL HOSPITAL – TWO HOURS LATER… 

"We've replaced the PICC line and given him antibiotics to prevent infection. Luckily, there wasn't any real damage done, permanent or otherwise. We checked him for any internal bleeding, just in case. He's all clear. His infusion really helped with the bleeding. The bruising on his face and body is superficial at best. If you can, please try to get him to avoid fighting. It can be quite dangerous with his disorder," the ER doctor suggested as she made a note on Shepard's chart. "We gave him a sleep-aid. He was reluctant to use it, but we finally got him to agree. I've called in a prescription for them as well as a prescription for antibiotics. The antibiotics are a precaution. They'll take care of any infection that might be present from the sudden removal of the line. We're also putting him on anti-seizure medication to see if that will help with his episodes."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. Johnny isn't an epileptic. Why does he need anti-seizure medication? I don't understand," Chris said, confused by the medication choice. 

"His seizures aren't epileptic. Dissociative seizures mimic epileptic seizures. I think Johnny is having absence seizures. We'll know more if the medication helps. We'll discharge him in about an hour. You can go sit with him if you'd like."

"Thank you, and thanks for explaining things for me," Chris said, shaking the doctor's hand.

"No problem. Let me know if you have any questions," the doctor said as she continued her rounds.

Chris breathed a sigh of relief before taking his place by his sleeping son's side.

"You're gonna be alright, Johnny. I promise," Chris whispered as he kissed his son's hand.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

SUNDAY – 1:45 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Johnny, it's time to get up. I know you're probably sore, but you really need to eat something," Chris insisted as he nudged his son's sleeping form.

"I ain't hungry," Shepard mumbled, hoping his father would let him sleep.

"You haven't eaten anything since yesterday. You have to be a little hungry by now," Chris said as he pulled the blanket from his son's body, his brow furrowing in sadness as he saw the dark bruises covering his son's chest.

"I–I really ain't hungry," Shepard insisted as he tried to pull the blanket back up over his naked torso.

"Johnny, don't argue with me. You have to eat. If you don't, your medication is gonna make you nauseous," Chris reminded the stubborn boy as he helped him sit up.

"Alright, you win," Shepard sighed as he rubbed his face to shake the sleep from his eyes.

"Excellent! I'll go get the coffee started. You go take a hot shower. It might wake you up and make you feel better," Chris suggested as he brushed a stray lock of hair from Shepard's brow.

"Okay," Shepard agreed with a nod as he slowly got out of bed, wincing a bit as he stretched his arms. "God, I'm tired." 


Shepard took his time in the shower, letting the hot water soothe his battered body. Closing his eyes, he let his mind wander to more pleasant things, thinking of anything that would distract him from the soreness he felt.

Eventually, Shepard found himself smiling as his mind wandered to a pair of whisky-coloured eyes. Shepard could almost feel Kaidan's breath on his neck as he continued to daydream. 

He could feel his body starting to respond to his thoughts, and just as he was about to take himself in hand, there was a loud knock at the washroom door, shaking Shepard out of his reverie and effectively ruining the moment.

"You almost done, Johnny? I don't want your food to get cold," Chris said, causing Shepard to curse under his breath.

"Yeah, I'm getting out now. Just give me time to get dressed," Shepard replied as he turned off the water before stepping out of the shower.

"Good," Chris said with a chuckle as he made his way back to the kitchen.

Shepard sighed in disappointment as he started to dress. "I need to get laid," Shepard thought aloud as he pulled his t-shirt over his head before removing the protective plastic from his freshly replaced PICC line. "I can't wait to get this goddamn thing removed."


"Did the shower help?" Chris asked as he poured his son a cup of coffee. 

"Yeah, it helped a lot," Shepard said with an appreciative smile.

"I'm glad. Your face doesn't look all that bad. You got a bruise on your jaw and near your mouth. They must've concentrated on your body," Chris said, pointing to the bruised area.

"Yeah. They kicked the crap outta me for sure," Shepard said with a bitter laugh.

"It'll get better, Johnny. It has to," Chris said, only half-believing his own words.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded as he took a bite of his toast.

"Your phone buzzed while you were in the shower," Chris said, motioning towards the phone sitting next to him. "I dunno who it was, but they were pretty persistent."

"It's probably James. I told him I'd text him when I got home last night, but I didn't," Shepard explained as he continued to eat his meal.

"He sounds like a nice guy," Chris said with an approving smile.

"He is," Shepard agreed with a nod.

"So, did you have fun before things went to hell last night?" Chris asked as he lit himself a cigarette.

"No, not really," Shepard admitted.

"Hn. Well, what did you do? Did you socialize at all?" Chris asked as he expelled the smoke from his lungs.

"No, not really. I–I wouldn't know how to socialize anyway," Shepard said as he picked at his eggs.

"Johnny, you need to try. You don't want to be alone your whole life, do you," Chris asked, hoping his son would listen.

"I–I don't mind. I'm used to it," Shepard admitted truthfully.

Chris rubbed his face hard in frustration. "Johnny, you can't keep letting people use you. It isn't fair to you, son."

"I–I know, but that's all I got – know what I mean," Shepard asked, unable to look his father in the eye as he continued to stare at his plate.

Chris sighed. "If you didn't socialize, then what did you do?" 

"I drank. It wasn't a lot. I didn't even get buzzed. I was close, but I decided to stop before it got that far. I didn't wanna risk getting into a fight. I guess it was a waste of time in the end, huh," Shepard said with a sad smile.

"Was Kaidan there?" Chris asked, hoping he hadn't been.

"Y–Yeah. He was with Rahna, his ex-girlfriend," Shepard replied nervously.

Chris's expression changed instantly to one of anger. "That son of a bitch lied to you!?"

"Daddy, it's okay. I'm over it, really," Shepard lied.

"Are you over him? 'Cause I don't want you seeing him anymore," Chris insisted, angry at the way his son was being treated.

"Daddy, please, don't ask me to stay away from him. H–He's my closest friend," Shepard explained, hoping his father would listen.

"Johnny, he isn't your friend. He just uses you for sex. How can you not see that?" Chris scolded his son, trying to get him to see reason.

"I–It's complicated," Shepard said, bouncing his knee in a nervous habit.

"It isn't! He told you not to go because he wanted to hide the fact he was back with his ex. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. He's playing with you, kid, and I can't stand watching it happen," Chris said, disgusted by Kaidan's behaviour.

"There's more to it," Shepard insisted.

"Did he want you there?" Chris asked, causing Shepard's brow to furrow.

When Shepard failed to reply, Chris asked once more, his tone more demanding than before.

"Well, did he?"

"No, he didn't," Shepard admitted, unable to lie to his father.

"I didn't think so," Chris said, taking his son's hand in his. "I love you, Johnny. You deserve so much better than Kaidan Alenko. I know you can't see it now, but you will. I don't want you to waste your time with unrequited love."

"I–I know, but it ain't as serious as you think. So, please, don't make me give him up," Shepard pleaded.

"You can still see him, Johnny. But don't bring him around here. I might lose it if I see him," Chris admitted truthfully.

"I–I understand," Shepard nodded.

"Good. Now, finish your meal. When you're done, if you're feeling up to it, I thought we could take a hike on the old beach trail. Hannah told me it was one of your favourite spots. It might help you relax," Chris suggested with a smile.

"I'd like that," Shepard smiled as he took another bite of his food.

"Great," Chris grinned as he snuffed out his cigarette into the ashtray. "It'll be fun."


Shepard and his father spent the rest of the day hiking, and by the time they got home, both men were exhausted.

"I'm gonna sleep like the dead tonight," Chris said as he removed his shirt, tossing it onto the couch before heading to the kitchen. 

"Yeah. I'll probably go straight to sleep too," Shepard agreed as he retrieved a bottle of water from the fridge.

"Remember to take your meds," Chris reminded his son. "Well, I'm beat. I'll see you in the morning. Goodnight, kid."

"Goodnight, Dad," Shepard smiled as he headed to his room.


Once in his room, Shepard decided to look through his phone, and sure enough, there were several missed texts from James.

"I guess I should explain myself," Shepard said as he sent James a lengthy text explaining why he hadn't texted him earlier.

A few minutes later, just as Shepard was about to close his eyes, he received another notification from James.

"Glad you're okay, Loco. Hope you feel better soon," Shepard read the text aloud. "Sounds like James," Shepard grinned as he put his phone on the nightstand only to have it vibrate once more.

"Wonder who that could be," Shepard thought aloud as he checked his phone.

It was an incoming call. "That's odd," Shepard thought aloud before answering.

"H–Hello," Shepard said, his voice awkward and unsure.

"Devon?" A man's voice called out, causing Shepard's eyes to go wide.

"Y–Yes," Shepard replied, unsure about who he was talking to.

"It's me. Matt. You haven't forgotten me already, have you?" Matt laughed, amused by Shepard's nervousness.

"Uh, n–no. I haven't forgotten," Shepard admitted.

"So, what have you been up to? I haven't seen you around and was beginning to worry," Matt said, curious as to where the boy had been.

"Not much. Was there something you wanted?" Shepard asked, eager to end the awkward conversation.

"Still not willing to open up, huh," Matt chuckled in amusement. "You're adorable. You know that. Anyway, I was just lying here thinking about you. I think about you a lot, you know?"

"Uh-huh," came Shepard's simple reply.

"I was just wondering if you were free tonight. I thought maybe you could come over so we could have some fun," Matt suggested. "What do you say? You feel like hooking up tonight?"

Shepard considered the offer while chewing his bottom lip.

"Devon? Dev, are you there?" Matt asked, hoping the boy hadn't ended the call.

"What's the address?" Shepard asked, finally making up his mind.

"Yes! The address is 436 Elm, apartment 304. When should I expect you?" Matt asked, eager to see the beautiful blonde again.

"Gimme an hour," Shepard replied as he started putting on his shoes.

"See you then," Matt said as he ended the call.

Shepard ended the call before throwing on a hoodie, placing the phone into the pocket as he quietly snuck out of the house.

****☆****

ONE HOUR LATER… 

KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"Just a second," Matt called out as he made his way to the door, his smile fading when he saw the bruises on Shepard's angelic face.

"Hey," Shepard said, giving the older man a half-smile.

"What happened? Are you okay?" Matt asked, concerned for the boy.

"I–I'm fine. I got into a fight. It looks worse than it is. If you want me to leave, I understand. I know I must look awful right now," Shepard said, touching his bruised cheek as he spoke.

"No! Don't go! You're still beautiful. It was just a shock seeing your beautiful face all bruised. Please, come in," Matt insisted as he took Shepard by the hand, leading him into the apartment. "Make yourself at home. Would you like a drink?"

"N–No, thank you," Shepard said as he took in his surroundings. "I can't stay long, so—"

Shepard let the words die on his tongue, hoping the older man would take the hint.

"Oh, that's too bad. We can speed things up if you want," Matt grinned as he pulled Shepard in for a kiss – a kiss that Shepard eagerly returned.

"Shall we take this to the bedroom?" Matt asked as he kissed his way down Shepard's neck.

"S–Sure," Shepard agreed as he allowed Matt to lead him deeper into the apartment.


LATER THAT NIGHT… 

"Are you sure you can't stay?" Matt asked as he kissed Shepard's naked shoulder.

"Positive. I–I've already stayed too long," Shepard admitted as he started to put on his shoes.

"Yeah. Sorry about that. I just couldn't resist a second round. You get me so hot. I've never met anyone like you. You're incredible. Have you thought of doing another movie?" Matt asked as he watched the young blonde dress.

"Nope. I might consider it in the future, but I'm not interested right now," Shepard explained as he pulled his t-shirt over his head.

"That's too bad. Will talks about you all the time. You must have been a real hit," Matt said with a grin.

Shepard said nothing; he just pulled on his hoodie, checking the pockets for his phone.

"I should go. Thanks for the sex. I really needed the release," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"No, thank you," Matt said, smiling as he spoke. "I'm glad you agreed to come over. Maybe we could do it again sometime?"

"Maybe," Shepard shrugged as he turned to leave.

"Wait! Let me walk you to the door," Matt insisted as he took Shepard by the hand.


"I had fun tonight. I hope you enjoyed it," Matt said as he opened the door for Shepard.

"I did," Shepard assured him.

"Mind if I kiss you goodnight," Matt asked, hoping Shepard would agree.

"Go ahead," Shepard agreed with an amused grin.

Matt took his time, kissing Shepard slowly, trying to savour the taste of the boy on his tongue.

"Goodnight, Matt," Shepard said as he started down the hall.

"Goodnight, Devon. Sweet dreams, eh," Matt called out, grinning as he watched the blue-eyed beauty disappear down the hall.


"I better get home fast. It's already two in the morning, and I got school tomorrow," Shepard said to himself as he headed for home. "I hope Dad's still asleep when I get there. He'll kill me if he finds out I snuck out."

It was a little past 3 AM when he finally made it home. The lights were out, and the house was silent when Shepard entered. 

Pleased he had made it back without getting caught, Shepard quietly made his way towards the washroom. He was halfway down the hall when a familiar gust of ice-cold wind hit him, forcing all the air from his lungs as his respiratory system locked, making it impossible for him to breathe.

Shepard immediately fell to his knees as he struggled to breathe. Desperate for help, he started to kick the wall, trying his best to make enough noise to wake his sleeping father.

Shepard was about to give up when he was suddenly struck hard between his shoulder blades. The impact was great enough to knock the blood and ice-like substance from his lungs.

Coughing to try to regain his breath, Shepard couldn't help but slump against his father's chest.

"You okay, kid," Chris asked, stroking his son's sweat-soaked hair.

"I–I think so," Shepard said, his body still shaking from the ordeal.

"Are you in pain?" Chris asked, noticing the blood still trickling from the corners of his son's mouth.

"M–My chest feels a bit raw – like I've been coughing for hours. It'll go away soon," Shepard assured his father.

"This attack was worse than the last one. Are you sure you don't wanna get checked out," Chris asked, wanting his son to be safe.

"I–I'll be fine. It's over now," Shepard said as he let his father help him up.

"Okay. You go on to bed. I'll clean this mess up," Chris insisted.

"O–Okay," Shepard nodded as he made his way to his bedroom. He was nearly there when Chris called out to him.

"Johnny, where were you tonight?" Chris asked, noticing Shepard's clothing.

"I–I couldn't sleep, so I took a walk. I know I should have told you, but I didn't want to wake you," Shepard lied.

"You can't go out alone at night. Too many people want to hurt you," Chris scolded.

"I–I know. I'm sorry. It won't happen again," Shepard promised.

"Go on to bed. We'll talk about it tomorrow," Chris said, causing Shepard to nod before disappearing behind his bedroom door.

Chris sighed as he retrieved some paper towels from the kitchen, his brow furrowing as he studied the strange ice-like chunks that were scattered along the floor along with droplets of his son's blood.

"What the hell is that?" Chris wondered aloud as he knelt to wipe up the remnants of Shepard's strange attack. 

KNOCK, KNOCK… 

Chris jumped at the sudden sound. "What the hell?" 

Chris was in shock as he realized the source of the sound. It was coming from behind the sealed door. 

The loud knocking persisted, followed by frantic shaking of the doorknob. It was if something wanted out, and it wanted out now.

Not knowing what else to do, Chris quickly disposed of the soiled towels before returning to his bedroom, locking the door behind him in fear.


The noise continued for the next half-hour until, finally, the house fell quiet once again.

Unable to sleep, Chris made his way to Shepard's room, knocking a few times, hoping to wake his son.

"Johnny, are you awake?" Chris asked through the door.

Chris was surprised when Shepard opened the door.

"Is everything okay, Daddy?" Shepard asked, wiping the sleep from his eyes.

"Y–Yeah. I was just checking on you," Chris said, rubbing his neck nervously.

"I–I'm okay," Shepard replied, rubbing his shoulder as he spoke.

"Okay. Let me know if you need me," Chris insisted.

"I will," Shepard smiled. "I'll leave the door unlocked. It'll make it easier for you to check on me."

"No. I'd prefer it if you locked it," Chris replied truthfully.

"Huh? Daddy, is something wrong?" Shepard asked, noticing the concerned look in his father's warm brown eyes.

"It's just— Something isn't right with the house, but I'm not sure what it is. Just— humour me, okay," Chris insisted.

"O–Okay," Shepard agreed. 

"You still got a few more hours before school. Try to get some rest," Chris said as he kissed his son's forehead.

"Dad, you can sleep here with me if you want. I know you gotta be tired too," Shepard said, hoping his father would rest.

Chris contemplated it for a moment before answering. 

"Okay. I guess it would be alright," Chris agreed as he followed his son to the bed.

"Which side do you want?" Shepard asked with a yawn.

"It doesn't matter. I'll take the right – since you favour the left," Chris said as he made his way to the right side of the bed.

"Okay," Shepard mumbled as he curled up on his side of the bed. "Love you, Dad."

"Love you too, kid," Chris said with a smile before closing his eyes for some much-needed sleep.

****☆****

11:54 AM – ALLIANCE HIGH… 

"I forgot to ask earlier, how's your project coming along?" Kaidan asked as he continued to work on his assignment.

"It's going good. It's almost ready. I can't believe it's due in two days. I hope I don't mess it up," Shepard said as he shaded his latest sketch.

"John, your work is excellent. There's no way it'll be anything less than the best," Kaidan praised his friend with a wink.

"Thanks," Shepard said, blushing at the compliment.

"Do you mind if I take a look at it?" Kaidan asked, hoping Shepard would agree.

"O–Okay. I'll show it to you after school; unless you're busy," Shepard added.

"I have time," Kaidan assured him as they both concentrated on their assignment.

"Okay," Shepard smiled that crooked smile Kaidan loved. "I'll wait for you by the door after school."

"Sounds good," Kaidan grinned just as the lunch bell rang.

"Okay, class, remember to hand in your sketches. Have a nice lunch," Benezia said as she stood by the art room door.

Shepard was just about to leave when Benezia gently grabbed his shoulder.

"John, may I speak with you for a minute?"

"Y–Yes, Ma'am," Shepard replied as he nervously adjusted his backpack.

"Where did you get those bruises?" Benezia asked, concerned for you young blonde.

"I–I got in a fight this past Saturday," Shepard answered truthfully.

"I see. Will you be able to work on your project today, or will you be too exhausted?" Benezia asked, knowing how sore the boy must have felt.

"I–I'll be fine. I'm nearly finished," Shepard assured her.

"I know. I stole a glance at it this morning. It's quite beautiful. You managed to capture a great deal of emotion, especially in her eyes. You can see the happiness, but at the same time, you can also see the pain. It's a moving piece, John. You chose a beautiful subject," Benezia said, wanting her student to be proud of his work.

"She was a beautiful person," Shepard replied with a sad smile. "I hope I did her justice, though. I guess I'll know for sure when my dad sees it."

"You haven't shown it to him?" Benezia asked, surprised that Shepard hadn't shared his work with his father.

"N–No, Ma'am. Nobody has seen it – nobody but you, I mean," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"I'm sure he'll be very moved by it," Benezia said with a gentle smile. "I should let you go. Enjoy your lunch, John."

"You too, Ma'am," Shepard said with a nod as he left the room.

****☆****

The rest of the day went by fairly quickly. As soon as the final bell rang, Shepard raced to his locker, eager to spend time with his crush.

He had just put his things away when he was shoved hard from behind, knocking him into the lockers hard.

For a second, Shepard thought it might have been unintentional, but he was quickly proven wrong.

"Did you really think I'd let you get away with it?" The larger boy growled into Shepard's ear as he shoved the young blonde's head hard into the locker.

"What do you want? I ain't bothering you, so why? Why do this?" Shepard asked, failing to understand the boy's motives.

"Adam was my uncle, you goddamn freak," the boy replied, making Shepard's eyes go wide.

"I–I didn't know. I–I'm sorry," Shepard said, his voice low and wavering.

"You're sorry! 'Sorry' won't bring Adam back, now will it," the larger boy said as he banged Shepard's head against the metal locker, hard enough to draw blood.

"Leave him alone, Curt," Kaidan called out, causing the much larger boy to look his way. 

"Well, well, if it isn't the white knight himself – Kaidan Alenko," Curt teased as he banged Shepard's head against the locker once more for spite.

"I said, leave him alone," Kaidan warned once again.

"Or what? You gonna rat me out to the principal or something," Curt asked with an amused laugh.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you on school probation? One more incident, and you can forget about the season. You'll be kicked off the team, maybe forever this time. Do you really want to risk it just to beat up one guy?" Kaidan asked, hoping Curt would let Shepard go.

Curt furrowed his brow in contemplation before reluctantly letting go of the defenceless blonde.

"You should watch who you're defending, white knight, 'cause this one… he ain't worth it," Kurt said as he spit on Shepard before finally walking away.

Kaidan watched until the angry boy was out of sight before making his way to Shepard.

Shepard slid down the lockers until he was sitting firmly on the ground, holding his head in his hands.

"Are you alright?" Kaidan asked as he knelt to get a better look at his injured friend.

Shepard never answered; he just brought his right hand down to look at the blood that now stained it.

"John, I need you to answer me. Are you okay?" Kaidan asked once more.

"I–I'm okay. It's just a s–scratch," Shepard replied as he slowly made it to his feet. "Sorry about that. A–Are you ready to go?"

"You're bleeding. Let me help you with that cut," Kaidan insisted as he moved to touch Shepard's face.

"I'm fine. It's not bad," Shepard said as he pulled away from Kaidan's touch. "I have to get started, or I might not finish in time. I understand if you don't wanna see my work anymore."

"John, nothing's changed. I'm ready when you are," Kaidan assured Shepard with a smile.

"O–Okay. Follow me," Shepard said as he led Kaidan to the art room. 


"John, what happened? You're bleeding," Benezia said as she quickly assessed her student's injuries.

"I–It's nothing, just a scratch, really," Shepard assured her as she led him to her desk. 

"Sit here. I'll get the first-aid kit and clean that wound. Kaidan, do you mind coming with me? I might need help reaching the kit," Benezia instructed as she moved towards the storage cabinet on the far side of the room.

"Yes, Ma'am," Kaidan agreed with a nod as he followed his teacher.


"Kaidan, what happened to John," Benezia asked as she opened the cabinet door. 

"I'm not sure, Ma'am," Kaidan lied, knowing Shepard wouldn't want any trouble.

"I see," Benezia said, slightly disappointed as she easily retrieved the first-aid kit from the shelf. "Here, I don't want John to know I asked."

"I understand," Kaidan smiled as he took the kit from her hand before following her back towards the young blonde.


"I'll have this cleaned up in no time," Benezia assured Shepard as she started cleaning the small gash on his forehead.

"Thank you," Shepard said, his voice sounding much smaller than it should.

"It's bleeding quite a bit, but it isn't very deep," Benezia said as she carefully bandaged the wound.

"I–It'll stop soon," Shepard assured her. "Do you mind if Kaidan helps me for a while?"

"No, I don't mind. Let me know if you need anything," Benezia said as she watched Shepard moving towards the back room. "Kaidan?"

"Yes, Ma'am," Kaidan replied, turning to look her way.

"Watch him. Let me know if anything seems off with him," Benezia ordered as she took a seat at her desk.

"Will do, Ma'am," Kaidan said with a smile as he followed Shepard into the spacious back room.


"Wow! I had no idea this room was so large," Kaidan said, in awe of the sheer size of the room.

"Yeah. I was surprised at first, too," Shepard admitted as he gathered the things he would need.

"Is that your painting?" Kaidan asked, pointing at the very large, covered canvas.

"Yeah. I–It's easily the biggest painting I've ever done," Shepard admitted as he nervously rubbed the back of his neck.

"May I see it?" Kaidan asked as he made his way closer to the painting.

"Um. Yeah. It's almost finished. I just need to tweak the background a bit," Shepard said as he slowly uncovered the large painting.

Kaidan was in awe. It was absolutely stunning. The young woman in the picture almost looked alive. Her eyes filled with so much emotion that Kaidan felt as if she would come alive at any second.

"Well, w–what do you think? Did I do good?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"Better than good. It's amazing! She's so beautiful but looks so sad at the same time. How did you do that?" Kaidan asked, amazed by Shepard's ability to capture emotion in his work.

"I–It's my mom. It wasn't too difficult to capture her feelings. I remember every look, every twinkle, every tear that ever shone in her eyes. I'm still not sure if it's good enough or not, but I'm proud of it," Shepard admitted. "Probably because I'm proud of her. I dunno."

Kaidan glanced at Shepard, his heart aching for his friend as he noticed the look of sheer sadness in Shepard's sad blue eyes.

"She's really beautiful, Shepard. I think she'd be proud," Kaidan said, hoping to give his friend some much-needed support.

"Yeah. She really was beautiful. Anyway, I'm gonna tinker with the background. You can stay – i–if you want," Shepard offered, hoping Kaidan would stay.

"I–I'd love to, but I have a dinner appointment. My family is having dinner with Rahna's parents, and I have to be there," Kaidan explained.

Shepard's brow furrowed as his face turned solemn. "You're back with Rahna, huh?"

"Not completely, no. We just haven't given up on each other yet," Kaidan admitted.

"Uh–huh. I–I wish you luck," Shepard said, smiling a hollow smile, completely devoid of any kind of emotion. "Rahna's a really nice girl. I hope she makes you happy."

"John, we can still see each other, just— not as often. And you don't have to worry about Rahna – she understands the situation," Kaidan explained, hoping Shepard would agree to continue their odd relationship.

"K, I–I don't understand the situation. I mean, I don't mind hooking up with you, but are we friends, or am I just an outlet for sex? Y–You can be honest with me. I–It won't change anything," Shepard promised, wanting to know what he meant to the older boy – if he meant anything at all.

"John, you're my friend – one of my best friends. Please, don't ever doubt that. It's just— you make me feel things I've never felt before. It's terrifying, and it's beautiful. I know it seems like I'm just using you, but that's not my intention. I just like being with you. Sex is just a very pleasant bonus," Kaidan explained.

"And Rahna," Shepard asked, causing the older boy to tense up.

"Rahna is special. I've known her ever since we were kids. She was my first love, and I'm not sure I should throw that all away. Like I said, it's complicated," Kaidan replied, not knowing how to put his feelings into words.

"O–Okay, I understand," Shepard lied.

"Can we do something tomorrow after school?" Kaidan asked, hating that he had to cut their time short.

"Y–Yeah. If I finish my painting, I mean," Shepard corrected himself.

"Good. Text me when you get home," Kaidan insisted as he kissed Shepard goodbye.

"I–I will," Shepard replied with a nod as he watched Kaidan leave.

"Well, Mom, I guess it's just you and me, huh," Shepard thought aloud as he started mixing the paint for the background. "Sometimes, I think you had the right idea. This world ain't kind to people like us."


"Leaving already, Kaidan," Benezia asked, looking up from the book she was reading.

"Yes, Ma'am. I have a dinner date, and I don't want to be late," Kaidan explained.

"Is John alright?" Benezia asked. "He won't tell me how he feels. I suppose it's understandable; I am his teacher after all."

"Well, he doesn't really talk much. I think he keeps a lot of stuff inside. It's just his way. He seems alright, though," Kaidan replied.

"Alright. Have a good evening," Benezia said with a smile as Kaidan exited the room.


Once Kaidan was outside, he quickly called Rahna.

"Hey, Rahna. I might be a few minutes late. Shepard invited me to view his painting. I'm leaving now," Kaidan explained.

"It took an hour to view a painting," Rahna scolded, doubting Kaidan's words.

"No. Curt Weisman attacked him. I helped him out, so it took a bit longer than expected," Kaidan replied truthfully.

"Is Shepard okay?" Rahna asked, genuinely concerned for the boy.

"He's fine. You should see his painting, Rahna. It's amazing. He's gonna be hard to beat in the competition," Kaidan said, proud of his beloved friend's work.

"You think he'll win?" Rahna asked, amused by Kaidan's excitement.

"I do. I don't think anyone stands a chance against him," Kaidan admitted.

"Well, I'm glad things are coming together for him, but can you, please, hurry up and get ready for dinner. Your mother will be very upset if you're running very late," Rahna reminded the whisky-eyed teen.

"Yeah. You're right. I'm on my way," Kaidan grinned as he ended the call before getting into his car.


"So, Shepard's entering the art contest," a young man stepped out from the shadows of the building, grinning as he thought aloud, "Curt will wanna hear about this."

The boy wasted no time, quickly calling his friend to give him the information.

"Curt, hey! It's Finch. I know you're looking for ways to get back at that murdering devil, and I think I've got just the thing. Shepard's entering the art contest, and apparently, his work is really good. Give me some time, and I'll find out where he's hiding it," Finch said, grinning at the thought of sabotaging Shepard.

"You do that, Finch. And once you find out where he keeps it, you let me know. I'll handle the rest," Curt insisted, wanting to be the one to ruin Shepard.

"Will do. See ya, Curt," Finch said, ending the call before making his way to his car.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Shepard," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to look his way.

"Kaidan," Shepard grinned as he closed his locker. "Can you give me a few minutes? Ms. T'Soni wanted to speak with me."

"Sure. I'll just wait here," Kaidan agreed with a nod.

"Thanks. I'll be right back," Shepard assured the whisky-eyed teen as he quickly made his way to the art room.


"Ms. T'Soni, are you here?" Shepard called out as he closed the door behind him.

"I'm in here, John," Benezia called out, causing Shepard to head for the back room.

"You wanted to see me, Ma'am," Shepard said.

"John, your painting is spectacular. I'm very proud of what you've accomplished," Benezia praised the young blonde, causing him to blush a deep shade of red.

"T–Thank you, Ma'am."

"I didn't ask you here to brag on you. Although, I do suppose that was part of it," Benezia admitted. "The reason I asked you here was to let you know that they'll be judging the entries tomorrow. I'll let you know the results by tomorrow evening."

"Tomorrow evening? I–I thought the results wouldn't be known until the ceremony on Saturday," Shepard replied, surprised by the information.

"No. We always let the winner and the runner-ups know ahead of time so they can prepare their speeches," Benezia explained, smiling in amusement at the look of fear of Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes.

"Speech? W–What speech?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"Don't worry, John. It doesn't have to be very long. It's just an acceptance speech. Think of it as a thank you speech. You won't have to go into detail. Just say thank you," Benezia instructed, hoping it would ease Shepard's anxiety.

"Oh. O–Okay," Shepard nodded.

"Well, that was all I wanted to tell you. Is there a particular number where I can reach you?" Benezia asked as she picked up a pen and notepad.

"C–Can you text me or my dad?" Shepard asked, knowing a text would be more convenient.

"I can. Just write down the information, and I'll text as soon as I know the results," Benezia promised.

"Thanks," Shepard smiled as he quickly wrote down the information before handing the pad and pen back to his teacher.

"Have a good evening, John," Benezia said with a smile.

"You too, Ma'am," Shepard said with a polite nod as he made his way out of the room.


"Hey, are you ready to head out?" Kaidan asked, excited to be alone with the blue-eyed beauty.

"I think so," Shepard grinned as he followed Kaidan to the car.

"Remember your seatbelt," Kaidan said as he fastened his own.

Shepard just smiled as he did as he was told.

"So, what did Ms. T'Soni want with you?" Kaidan asked as he started the car.

"She just wanted to tell me about the contest details," Shepard explained as he started bouncing his knee.

"Are you nervous, John?" Kaidan asked, amused at his friend's behaviour.

"Not really," Shepard replied as he leaned his head against the car window.

"Do you wanna get something to eat?" Kaidan asked before placing his hand atop Shepard's left one.

"I–I guess," Shepard agreed with a shrug.

"Any requests?" Kaidan asked, keeping his eyes on the road as he spoke.

"Huh?"

Kaidan couldn't help but laugh. "Where do you want to eat? What foods are you craving?"

"Oh. I–It don't really matter. I'll eat anything," Shepard assured his friend.

"Hmm. How about a really nice steak sandwich? There's a place that makes them better than anywhere else," Kaidan explained.

"Sounds good," Shepard agreed with a nod. "Can we get it to go? I–I don't do well in restaurants."

"Sure," Kaidan agreed as he headed for the restaurant.


"This is the place," Kaidan said, smiling as he unfastened his seatbelt.

"I–It looks expensive," Shepard said, suddenly feeling nervous and out of place.

"Don't worry about it. I'm buying. Do you wanna go in with me?" Kaidan asked as he opened the car door.

"Nah. I'll just stay here," Shepard insisted, causing Kaidan to frown. 

"If that's what you want," Kaidan said.

"It is," came Shepard's simple reply.

"I'll be back in a few minutes," Kaidan said as he headed into the restaurant.


By the time Kaidan had returned, Shepard had fallen asleep. Kaidan couldn't help but smile at the sight. 

Seeing the way Shepard's soft dark-blonde hair fell across his peaceful face, Kaidan couldn't help but touch it. 

Taking a lock into his hand, Kaidan brought it to his nose, inhaling the woody scent that was entirely Shepard. Kaidan could smell the faint scent of ginger mixed with juniper along with other spices that always seemed to get Kaidan's attention. Underneath it all, there was another scent hidden in the blend, one that was naturally Shepard, and it never failed to arouse him.

Kaidan couldn't help but lean closer, close enough to brush his lips against Shepard's jawline. Unable to resist, he did just that. 

It was a long, gentle kiss. One that, eventually, caused Shepard to stir.

Kaidan held his breath as he watched Shepard's strange sapphire eyes flutter open. When Shepard realized what Kaidan was up to, he smiled a sweet, almost angelic smile. A smile that made Kaidan's heart beat faster.

"You're so beautiful," Kaidan whispered as he kissed Shepard gently on the mouth.

The kiss was gentle and innocent in its simplicity, but it was the sweetest kiss Kaidan had ever experienced.

The moment was ruined in an instant when Kaidan's phone began to buzz uncontrollably.

"You should probably get that. It might be an emergency," Shepard insisted, causing Kaidan to sigh before answering the call.

"Yeah," Kaidan answered in an annoyed tone.

"Hi, Mom. I'll be home at around seven," Kaidan replied. "Do you need it tonight?"

Shepard sighed as he turned his attention to the world outside the car, watching a blackbird eating scraps by the restaurant's dumpster.

"Okay. I'll pick it up on the way home. Do you need anything else?" Kaidan asked, preparing to end the call. "Alright. Text me if you think of anything else. Love you, Mom. Bye."

Kaidan took a deep breath as he put his phone away.

"Sorry about that. Mom wants me to pick up a few things at the market on my way home," Kaidan explained, frowning when he noticed the faraway look on Shepard's face.

"John? Can you hear me?" Kaidan asked, hoping Shepard wasn't dissociating.

Kaidan sighed as he gently nudged Shepard's arm.

In that instant, all Shepard could hear was a rush of whispers as he finally regained sense of his surroundings. 

"Huh?" Shepard asked, a look of confusion upon his face.

"Are you okay?" Kaidan asked, eyes going wide as he quickly retrieved a napkin from the takeout bag. "You're bleeding," Kaidan explained as he placed the napkin against Shepard's nose.

"Sorry," Shepard apologized as he took the napkin from Kaidan's hand.

Kaidan flinched a bit when Shepard's hand grazed his own.

"You're freezing," Kaidan replied, his brow furrowing in concern.

"I–I'm sorry. My body temperature drops sometimes. I dunno why," Shepard explained.

"Don't you feel it? I mean, aren't you cold?" Kaidan asked, noticing how still Shepard's body was. 

"N–No. I feel fine," Shepard replied with a shrug as he checked to see if the bleeding had stopped. "See, it's stopped bleeding."

"That's good," Kaidan smiled, relief washing over him. "I'll bet you're starving. I know I am. I got fries too, just in case."

"Thanks," Shepard smiled.

"So, where do you wanna eat? We can go anywhere you like," Kaidan insisted.

"Um. There's a parking lot near here. You can see the ocean from there," Shepard suggested.

"You've been here before," Kaidan asked, a bit surprised by the information.

"Yeah. Sometimes, when my mom was working around here, she'd drop me off there while she— did what she had to do," Shepard explained.

"How old were you?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"I dunno, five or six, maybe. We came here a lot. We were here a few days before—" Shepard let his words die on his tongue, wishing he hadn't brought it up.

"She left you here alone at that age," Kaidan asked in disbelief.

"Y–Yeah. I didn't wander too far. I never went past the fencing," Shepard explained, not understanding the issue.

"Still, that wasn't very responsible of her. You could've been hurt," Kaidan said, upset with Shepard's mother.

"S–She didn't have much choice, K," Shepard said, trying to defend his mother.

Seeing how nervous the conversation was making Shepard, Kaidan decided to drop it.

"Okay. Forget I said anything," Kaidan insisted as he drove them to the vacant parking lot. 


"Is this the place?" Kaidan asked.

"Yeah. This is it," Shepard smiled. 

"It has a great view," Kaidan smiled as he unfastened his seatbelt.

"Yep, like I said," Shepard grinned, opening the car door to stretch his long legs.

"You wanna eat on the hood of the car?" Kaidan asked with a grin.

"Your car is way too nice to risk denting it. If you still have that blanket, we can just eat on the ground," Shepard suggested.

"It's in the back. I'll grab it," Kaidan said as he handed Shepard the bag of food.

"Do you need help?" Shepard asked as he watched Kaidan fighting the wind as he tried to spread the blanket evenly.

"No, I think I got it," Kaidan laughed as he plopped down on the blanket, motioning for Shepard to sit in his lap.

"Seriously? You want me to sit in your lap," Shepard asked in amusement.

"Yes, I do. Is that a problem?" Kaidan asked, chuckling as he spoke.

"Nope," Shepard laughed as he straddled Kaidan's lap, so they were facing each other. "Like this?"

"Perfect. This way, I'll be able to feed you fries from time to time," Kaidan explained with a wink.

"You are so weird," Shepard laughed in amusement before kissing Kaidan.

"Mmm. I love your mouth," Kaidan praised as he started distributing the food. "A steak sandwich for you and one for me, along with fries and two Cokes."

"It smells great," Shepard smiled as he unwrapped his sandwich. "This is a big sandwich. I don't think I can eat it all."

"I know you don't eat much, so I had them cut it into sections. You can take whatever you don't eat home for leftovers," Kaidan explained, earning a nod from his beloved friend.

"Thanks," Shepard smiled as he took a bite. "It's really good."

"Like I said, they make the best steak sandwiches in the city," Kaidan reminded him as he took a bite of his own sandwich.

They ate, just like that, with Shepard in Kaidan's lap, occasionally feeding each other until they were both sated.

"Well, I think I'm done," Shepard said as he wrapped up well over half his sandwich.

"You barely ate a thing," Kaidan scolded as he finished his sandwich. 

"I ate a ton of fries. You were feeding me like I was starving," Shepard laughed in amusement as he pointed to the nearly empty container.

"Alright, you have a point. I may have been overzealous with the fries, but I like feeding you. I'm weak," Kaidan explained with a wink.

"I forgive you," Shepard smiled as he pressed his forehead to Kaidan's. "Thanks for hanging out with me."

"No need to thank me. I enjoy spending time with you," Kaidan replied truthfully.

"Yeah. D–Do you wanna—" Shepard grinned, hoping Kaidan would take the hint.

"More than anything, but I have to head home. I have to do a bit of grocery shopping for my mom. I wouldn't mind making out with you for a while, though," Kaidan said as he kissed Shepard's neck.

"Whatever you want, baby," Shepard whispered as he allowed Kaidan to do as he pleased.


FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER… 

"I'll see you tomorrow. Good luck with the contest. I know you're gonna knock 'em dead," Kaidan said with a wink and a nod.

"Thanks again for the dinner. I appreciate it," Shepard said as he waved goodbye. "Have a good night, K."

"You too, John," Kaidan smiled as he pulled out of the drive.

Shepard watched until Kaidan's car was no longer visible before heading inside.

****☆****

"Daddy, are you home?" Shepard called out as he placed his backpack on the floor.

Receiving no answer, Shepard headed for the kitchen. He had just made it to the kitchen table when he heard a loud crash coming from his bedroom.

"Dad, is that you?" Shepard called out, rushing to see what was happening.

The second Shepard opened the door, an unseen force hit him hard in the chest, causing the young blonde to fall to the ground.

Shepard struggled to catch his breath as he slowly rose to his feet. 

"W–Who's there?" Shepard called out as he slowly made his way into the room.

Shepard's sapphire eyes went wide as he took in the destruction around him. His desk was turned over, all of its contents strewn across the floor. The photo of Shepard and his mother shattered and torn. Hannah's head ripped violently from the photo, replaced with a photo of Adam that had been hidden underneath.

Shepard picked up the photo, shaking away the glass and debris before removing the mangled photo to get a better look at the picture underneath.

It was a photo of Adam, standing with Shepard by his side, his arm firmly around the young blonde as if he was afraid the boy would get away. 

"I–I don't remember this photo," Shepard mumbled as a shadow slowly formed behind him, reaching out to touch the boy when Chris's voice shattered the silence, 'causing the shadow to retreat.

"Johnny, I'm home. Did you have time to make dinner? I'm starving," Chris grinned as he made his way to the kitchen.

"Daddy, I'm in here," Shepard called out, his voice sounding distressed, causing Chris to rush to his son's side.

"Johnny, what the hell happened?" Chris asked as he made his way into the messy room.

"I–I don't know," Shepard admitted as he continued to stare at the photo.

"What do you have there?" Chris asked, noticing the strange look on his son's face.

"I–I dunno. It's a picture of me— and Adam," Shepard admitted, causing Chris to yank the photo from his son's hands.

"You don't need this," Chris insisted as he moved to tear the photo.

"Don't! Please, don't destroy it," Shepard pleaded.

"Johnny, you don't need anything to remind you of that monster," Chris said, trying his best to protect his son.

"Daddy, please. Something's not right. I–I can't explain it. I feel like something bad will happen if you destroy it," Shepard tried to explain, knowing he wasn't making much sense.

"Where was this taken?" Chris asked as he studied the photo, immediately noticing the sadness in his son's strange blue eyes.

"I–In the bedroom, my old bedroom. I–I don't remember taking that photo. I mean, unless you destroyed them, Mom had a lot of the three of us together. But there were only a few of just me and him; and I remember each and every one, but this one— I–I don't remember it," Shepard admitted.

"Was it taken that night?" Chris asked, hoping he wasn't right.

"I–I dunno. Maybe. B–But if it was, it shouldn't exist," Shepard explained, anxious by the implications.

"If it shouldn't exist, let me destroy it," Chris pleaded, wanting the photograph removed from his son's life.

Shepard thought about it for a second before finally giving in to his father's wishes.

"A–Alright," Shepard nodded as his father tore the photo into tiny pieces.

"Now, let's burn the remnants. I don't want a trace of it to be left," Chris insisted as he led his son to the kitchen.

Shepard watched as Chris placed the pieces into a pot before lighting them on fire. Father and son watched closely until there was nothing left but ash.

"There, all gone. Hopefully, things will be a lot calmer around here," Chris said with a smile.

"Do you really think it helped?" Shepard asked nervously.

"It couldn't have hurt any," Chris insisted with a shrug.

"I guess," Shepard smiled as he made his way to the kitchen table. "Here's a leftover steak sandwich. I only ate a bit."

"Don't you wanna finish it?" Chris asked as he took the bag from his son.

"Nah. I'm gonna go try to clean up the mess," Shepard said as he headed to the bedroom.

"Let me know if you need me," Chris insisted as he took a bite of the sandwich.

"I will," Shepard assured him as he closed the door behind him.


10:35 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Johnny, I'm heading on to bed," Chris said with a smile as he peeked in on his son.

"Alright. I'll turn in just as soon as I finish this sketch," Shepard assured him with a smile.

"Don't stay up too long," Chris insisted.

"I won't," Shepard promised.

"Did you take your meds?" Chris asked, wanting to make sure.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded.

"Good. I'll see you in the morning," Chris said as he made his way to his bedroom.


3:06 AM… 

"Tell me you love me, Johnny," Adam demanded as he pulled the young boy's hair, violently biting the boy's shoulder in order to elicit a response.

"Ow!" Shepard screamed out as the tears ran down his face. 

"Say it, Johnny," Adam demanded as he held Shepard even tighter.

"I–I love you," Shepard whimpered as Adam licked the mark he made upon the boy's tender flesh.

Shepard screamed as the man forced himself inside of his much smaller body.

Chris rushed into Shepard's room, shaking his son awake before he managed to hurt himself.

"P–Please, don't hurt me," Shepard pleaded as he struggled to open his eyes.

"Johnny, it's me. It's Dad," Chris explained as he ran his hand through Shepard's sweat-soaked hair.

"D–Daddy," Shepard called out as he finally opened his eyes.

"You're okay, kid. It was just a dream. Everything's alright," Chris insisted as he helped his son to sit up.

"I–I could feel him," Shepard admitted.

"I know. But it was just a dream. He can't hurt you anymore," Chris said, taking his son by the hand.

Shepard's brow furrowed as he touched his tender shoulder, his eyes going wide when he saw the blood staining his hand.

"Daddy!?" Shepard called out in shock, showing his father the blood on his hand.

"Are you hurt, kid?" Chris asked, panicking as he searched his son for wounds, his eyes going wide when he saw the obvious bite mark on his son's shoulder.

"I–It wasn't a dream," Shepard mumbled, his brow furrowing as his body shook in fear.

"Johnny, that's— it's impossible," Chris insisted.

"I–I didn't bite myself, Dad! I couldn't have," Shepard said, hoping his father would listen.

"There has to be another explanation," Chris said, pausing when he noticed the look on Shepard's face. "Johnny, what's wrong?"

Shepard said nothing; he just pointed across the room, his hand shaking as he did.

Chris's eyes followed his son's direction, shocked when he saw the object in question.

"T–That's impossible!" Chris yelled as he stared at the familiar photo, framed and in perfect condition as if nothing had happened. "We destroyed it."

"I–I told you something was wrong with that photo," Shepard replied, his breathing uneven as he spoke.

"Johnny, you're sleeping in my room tonight," Chris insisted, not liking how the situation had escalated.

"O–Okay," Shepard agreed as he watched Chris gather his medication.

"Let's go, kid," Chris said as he led Shepard to his room. 


"Go ahead and get comfortable. I'm gonna go get the first-aid kit so I can clean that wound," Chris said as he made his way to the washroom.

While Chris was gone, Shepard started to smell the familiar scent of vanilla and coffee. He couldn't help but smile as he felt himself being engulfed in warmth.

By the time Chris returned, Shepard was fast asleep. Smelling the same familiar scent that had engulfed his son, Chris just smiled as he gently cleaned the sleeping boy's shoulder, bandaging it carefully when he was done.

"Goodnight, baby," Chris whispered as he laid down beside his son. "I'll protect him. I promise."

Chris could feel Hannah's warmth as he closed his eyes, smiling as he let himself drift off to sleep.

****☆****

THE NEXT MORNING… 

Shepard woke late the next morning, panicking as he scrambled to get ready for school.

He was on his way to the washroom when Chris called out to him.

"Where's the fire, kid?" Chris teased as he took a drink of his coffee.

"I'm late for school," Shepard explained anxiously.

"Johnny, there's no school today. It's a holiday, remember. Even I get the day off today," Chris grinned.

"I forgot," Shepard said, his face turning red in embarrassment. "What are you doing?"

"I'm putting all our important things into storage. With the way things are going around here, I don't wanna risk them getting destroyed," Chris explained as he placed some papers into a box.

"What are all these?" Shepard asked as he flipped through some of the papers.

"They're medical reports along with some legal papers from when you were institutionalized," Chris replied, rubbing his neck as he spoke.

"What's this one," Shepard asked, noticing the date.

"That's your medical report for the past six months. Your psych review is in there too," Chris replied, hoping his son would ignore the papers.

"W–What do they say?" Shepard asked nervously.

"I— I don't know. I haven't read them. As long as they're not threatening to have you locked up again, I'm good. Whatever you discuss with your doctors should be private, and those reports are pretty damn detailed," Chris explained, hoping Shepard hadn't caught his lie.

"You were protecting my privacy," Shepard replied with a smile.

"Well, yeah. That, and the fact that I'm terrified I'll read something about me being a terrible father," Chris half-joked.

"Dad, I'd never say anything bad about you. You're a great father," Shepard insisted as he picked up one of his mother's photo albums.

"Thanks, kid," Chris grinned as he placed a few more papers into the box. "I found your birth certificate. I'm putting it in the lockbox. I know you'll probably need it."

"Thanks," Shepard smiled as he flipped through the album, his brow furrowing when he noticed a face that seemed vaguely familiar to him. "Hey, Daddy?"

"Huh?"

"Who's this guy standing beside Mom?" Shepard asked, cocking his head to the side as he spoke. "It was taken when I was in the hospital."

"Hm. Let me see," Chris said as he studied the photo. "That's your mom's cousin. I think his name is Damen."

"Mom said she didn't have any family," Shepard replied, confused by Chris's words.

"Hn. That's odd. She told me he was her cousin. He might have been an old boyfriend. I only met him once. He was a real piece of work – probably the biggest jerk I've ever met. Honestly, I'm glad they aren't related. I always thought Hannah was too nice to be related to that asshole," Chris admitted.

"D–Do you think he could be my birth father?" Shepard asked nervously.

"No, not a chance. Look at him. He doesn't look a thing like you. This guy has black hair and dark eyes. There's no way he's your biological father. Your biological father most likely looks just like you," Chris insisted.

"Why do you say that?" Shepard asked as he continued looking through the album.

"Johnny, you don't look a thing like your mother. Her hair was darker, her eyes were copper-coloured, and she was short. You're tall, you have dark-blonde hair, and the strangest sapphire-blue eyes I've ever seen. You had to get those traits from someone," Chris explained.

"Have you seen anyone that looks like me in any of Mom's old albums?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Nope. Is it bothering you – not knowing who he is?" Chris asked.

"No, not really. I have you, and that's enough. I was just curious. Do you have any photos from when I was a baby," Shepard asked as he tossed the album into a nearby box.

"I already put away your baby book. I put it in the lockbox along with all the photos of me and your mom. I found an interesting one that I think you'll like. I set it aside. I think I'm going to have it enlarged," Chris said as he reached for the photo.

"Here it is. Well, what do you think?" Chris asked, cocking his head to the side as he studied his son's expression.

"This was taken in the hospital. I remember – it was the third time we'd met. I thought Mom deleted them," Shepard admitted as he smiled fondly at the photo. "I look awful."

"Eh, you were having a rough week. You were a bit manic, and to top it all off, you had a dissociative episode earlier that day," Chris reminded him. "I think you look pretty damn good, considering."

"Yeah. If I could have, I would have begged Mom not to come. She always hated seeing me like that, and I was pretty bad. The medicine wasn't working too well. They had to change my dosage after that," Shepard remembered.

"Yeah. I didn't know what to think. It was an eye-opener for sure. Hannah was so afraid I wouldn't stay. She wanted me to get to know the real you, not just the illness. I remember you asking me a ton of different questions. You were so focused on how I treated your mother. You spent most of the day telling me to take care of her," Chris chuckled.

"Did I? I'm sorry about that," Shepard apologized as he handed the photo back to his father. "You should get it enlarged, and I'd like a copy if you don't mind."

"No problem, kid," Chris smiled as he put his arm around his son's shoulder. "Do you want me to put your blanket in storage?"

"Y–Yeah. I guess we'd better. I wouldn't want it to get ruined," Shepard said as he headed to his room to retrieve the blanket.

"Bring me anything else you want to keep safe," Chris called out as he continued packing the boxes, taking a few photos off the wall, and adding them to the box.

"Here's a few of my sketchbooks. I hope there's room for them," Shepard said as he handed both the books and the blanket to his father.

"There's room," Chris insisted as he packed the items away safely. "Well, I think that's it. Once I get these loaded, I'll take them to the storage facility."

"Do you want me to help you carry them to the car?" Shepard asked, rubbing his shoulder as he spoke.

"Sure. I could use your help unloading them too," Chris admitted as he picked up one of the larger boxes.

"Okay. I'll grab the other one," Shepard said as he picked up the other large box before following his father to the car.


TWO HOURS LATER… 

"Well, that's a load off my mind," Chris said, smiling as he spoke.

"The house might seem a bit empty without the photos of Mom hanging on the wall," Shepard said, a bit sad the photos wouldn't be there when he got home.

"Yeah, it'll suck, but I'd rather not lose all those memories," Chris admitted.

"Yeah. I agree. I'll just miss 'em, you know," Shepard said, toying with the hem of his grey t-shirt.

Chris touched the back of his son's head lovingly just as his phone began to chime.

"I wonder who that is," Chris thought aloud as he answered the phone. "Hello."

"Yes, this is Mr. Scott." — "Really!?" Chris's eyes lit up as a proud smile covered his face. "That's wonderful news! I can't wait to tell him." —  "Of course, I'll be there. I wouldn't miss it," Chris insisted, ending the call with a *thank you*.

"What was that about?" Shepard asked, amused by his father's mood.

"Johnny, you won," Chris said, holding his son's face in his hands as he spoke.

"S–Seriously?" Shepard asked, shocked by the news.

"Seriously. That was Ms. T'Soni. She told me that your painting won by unanimous decision. You did it, kid," Chris said, hugging his son tight. "I'm so proud of you."

"T–Thanks, Dad," Shepard said, returning the hug.

"You have to be at the school by eight this evening," Chris explained.

"Why? The ceremony isn't until noon tomorrow," Shepard wondered.

"Well, Ms. T'Soni said something about getting the paintings ready for the big reveal," Chris replied.

"Oh. Okay. Will you come with me? I want you to see my painting before anyone else gets a chance," Shepard said, smiling at his father.

"Really? And why is that?" Chris asked curiously.

"I–I'd like your opinion on it before anyone else gets a look," Shepard admitted.

"Alright. I'll go with you," Chris agreed as he squeezed his son's hand.

"Thanks, Dad," Shepard smiled as he toyed with the edges of his t-shirt. "C–Can you take me to get my infusion? I almost forgot about it."

"It's a holiday, so they cancelled this one. I forgot to tell you. They rescheduled for Monday afternoon."

"Oh, that's a relief. I wasn't looking forward to puking all over the school," Shepard admitted with a cheeky grin, causing his dad to laugh out loud.

"That is a great point," Chris grinned. "How about we grab a bite to eat before heading to the school?"

"Sounds good," Shepard agreed as he turned up the radio. "I hope it all goes well."

****☆****

8:05 PM – ALLIANCE HIGH… 

"Do you know where to go, Johnny?" Chris asked as he followed his son into the building.

"Yeah. Ms. T'Soni's room is just down the hall. It's pretty close to the auditorium," Shepard explained as he led his father further down the hall.

"Here it is," Shepard said as he opened one of the large doors. 

"John, you're here. Please, come in," Benezia called out, smiling brightly at her star pupil.

"Hello, Ms. T'Soni," Chris said as he introduced himself. "I'm Chris Scott, Johnny's father."

"Mr. Scott," Benezia nodded as she shook his hand. "I'm very proud of John. His work is exceptional. I can't wait for you to see his winning piece."

"I can't wait to see it. Johnny worked so hard on it, and I couldn't be more proud of him," Chris said, smiling proudly at his son.

"John, I'll leave you and your father alone for a few minutes. One of the volunteers will be here to take the painting into the auditorium soon. If they arrive before you finish, just have them wait," Benezia insisted as she left the two alone in the room.

"Well, are you ready to see it," Shepard asked as he prepared to remove the cover.

"Ready as I'll ever be," Chris chuckled as Shepard carefully removed the sheet.

Chris's eyes grew wide when he came face to face with a set of copper eyes that had stolen his heart and changed his life forever.

Shepard watched as his father's expression changed from wonder to sadness, then finally happiness as a smile blossomed across his face just as a tear fell silently from his chocolate-coloured eyes.

"I–It's beautiful, son," Chris said, motioning for his son to come closer.

The minute Shepard was within range, Chris hugged him tight. 

"It's amazing. Thank you for painting this. You really captured her spirit," Chris said, kissing his son's forehead as he fought back the tears.

"I–It's yours. I–I want you to have it when this is all over," Shepard insisted, causing his father to hold him even tighter.

"I love you, kid. I love you so damn much," Chris said just as they were interrupted by several male volunteers.

"Excuse me, but we're here to move the painting to the auditorium," the tallest boy explained.

"Yeah. Just let me take a few pictures and cover it first," Chris insisted. "I don't want it getting dirty."

Shepard chuckled a bit as he watched his father take several photos before finally covering the large painting.

"Ms. T'Soni wants you to meet her in the auditorium," the boy said as he helped the others carry the impressive painting out of the room.

"Well, I guess we should hurry, huh," Chris grinned as he followed his son to the auditorium.


TWENTY MINUTES LATER… 

"Well, I think that'll do it. Everything's ready for the ceremony tomorrow. Have you thought about your speech?" Benezia asked, knowing how much the boy was dreading it.

"Y–Yeah. It'll be a bit short. There's only three people I need to thank – four if you count the committee," Shepard explained.

"Just three?" Benezia asked, surprised by the small number.

"Yeah. I'm gonna thank you, my dad, and my mom. I think that'll cover it," Shepard admitted.

"I think that'll do just fine," Benezia said, smiling at her student. "It's getting late. I should let you two get home. Thank you for coming to assist."

"It was our pleasure," Chris insisted as he shook Benezia's hand. 

"Try to get some sleep tonight, John. You'll want to be at your best tomorrow," Benezia suggested.

"Yes, Ma'am," Shepard nodded as he followed his father to the car.


"Mr. Finch," Benezia called out, "I'm leaving for the night. The security guard will be waiting outside to collect the key as you leave. Please try to be done before midnight."

"We'll try our best, Ma'am," Finch said, giving Benezia one of his best smiles.

The minute Benezia was gone, Finch immediately called Curt.

"Curt, the coast is clear. I'll be waiting in the auditorium." — "Yeah, I got the spray paint. It's in my pack." — "Sounds good. See you in a few," Finch grinned as he ended the call.


"Curt, 'bout time you got here," Finch chuckled as he greeted his friend.

"So, which one is the devil's," Curt asked as he shook a can of red spray paint.

"The big one in the centre," Finch said, pointing at the covered painting as he spoke.

"Don't tell me that cunt actually won," Curt replied, a sour taste in his mouth at the thought.

"Yep, he won. I gotta admit, it's a good painting. The woman he painted is pretty hot," Finch admitted as he lowered the painting before removing the sheet. "See, pretty hot, huh."

Curt laughed in amusement. "He painted his whore mother. That's fucking hilarious! Hannah was hot alright, but she'd fuck anything for the right price."

"Is she still working? I wouldn't mind hittin' that," Finch said, rubbing himself lewdly as he spoke.

"Sorry, Finch, the bitch is dead. She offed herself to avoid living with that freak," Curt replied with a sour look.

"Man, what a waste," Finch said as he shook another can of paint.

"Maybe we should let the school know what a whore Hannah Shepard really was," Curt grinned as he painted the word *WHORE* across the painting in bold red letters.

"Looks good, Curt!" Finch praised as he painted over Hannah's eyes, the copper colour ruined by a glob of black spray paint.

After adding several lewd images to the painting, the two boys quietly covered the painting before lifting it into place and cleaning up all traces of what they had done.

"Let's get out of here," Finch said as he and Curt made their way out of the building, handing the guard the key before heading home.

"I can't wait to see the look on that devil's face when he sees what we did," Curt laughed as he threw his arm around Finch's neck.

"It's gonna be awesome, to say the least," Finch agreed. "I think I'll video it."

"Hell yeah, Finch," Curt said, loving the idea. "Record that shit, and we'll post it online. By the time we're done, he'll want to kill himself."

"Here's hoping," Finch laughed as they continued home. "I can't wait until tomorrow!"

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Johnny, it's time to get up," Chris insisted as he shook his son awake. "You don't wanna be late for your big day."

"M'kay," Shepard mumbled, yawning as he stretched his long limbs. "I guess I better search for something nice to wear," Shepard thought aloud as he got out of bed and headed for his closet.

"Did you sleep okay – nothing strange happened," Chris asked, wanting to make sure his son was safe.

"Yeah. Nothing happened, just the usual knocking," Shepard replied as he continued to look through his closet. 

"Having trouble," Chris asked with a knowing grin.

"I–I don't own a dress shirt, and I don't have anything but jeans. Do you think it'd be okay if I just wore my black jeans with a long-sleeved shirt?" Shepard asked, scratching his chin as he spoke.

"Come here," Chris said, motioning for his son to come stand before him.

"Yeah," Shepard replied, cocking his head to the side as he looked at his father.

"I've got a few dress shirts and a few pairs of slacks you can wear. The slacks might be a bit baggy, though," Chris admitted as he put his arm around Shepard's shoulder, leading him towards the master bedroom.

Chris quickly pulled a nice white dress shirt off a rack in the closet, along with a pair of black slacks.

"Try these," Chris instructed as he handed Shepard the clothes. 

"Thanks, Dad," Shepard smiled as he quickly tried them on.

"It looks good on you," Chris smiled as he helped his son tuck in the edges of the shirt. "The pants are way too big, though. I think I have a nice belt that might hold them up."

"O–Okay," Shepard nodded, thankful for his father's help.

"Here, let's see if this helps," Chris said as he threaded the belt before buckling it into place.

"I think that works," Shepard said as he adjusted the sleeves a bit.

"Yep, that'll do," Chris said, giving his son a wink.

"I better go take a quick shower," Shepard said, removing the clothes before gently placing them on the bed. 

"Do you want breakfast?" Chris asked, picking out a nice outfit for himself as he spoke.

"Nah. I'm too damn nervous to eat," Shepard admitted.

"Alright. Take your meds before you forget," Chris reminded his son.

"I will," Shepard assured him as he made his way to the washroom.


"Well, how do I look?" Chris asked as he adjusted the cuffs on his suit.

"You look great," Shepard assured him as he quickly brushed his hair. "Should I tie it back?"

"Nah. It looks good the way it is," Chris replied as he retrieved a black suit jacket from the closet. "Here, put this on."

Shepard did as he was told, putting the jacket on with just a little difficulty.

"I–It's a little tight," Shepard admitted as he adjusted the jacket as best he could.

"Yeah, your shoulders are a little broader than mine. It's funny because your waist is so much narrower," Chris said, amusement evident in his tone.

"Yeah. I'm built weird," Shepard said, his brow furrowing as he spoke.

"You know, most guys would kill for a body like yours," Chris insisted, trying his best to instill confidence into his son.

"Y–Yeah," Shepard asked nervously.

"Yeah. You have a body like a statue," Chris grinned.

"Well, we better get going before we fall behind," Shepard said as he waited for his father.

"Yep. Do you wanna drive?" Chris asked, causing Shepard to raise his brow in confusion.

"I–I don't have a license," Shepard reminded his father.

"I know. Do you know how?" Chris asked, unsure of the answer.

"Y–Yeah. I think so. I might've forgotten, though," Shepard admitted.

"Well, I guess we'll see," Chris grinned as he led Shepard to the car.


"So, who taught you? Was it your mom?" Chris asked as he fastened his seatbelt.

"No. Adam taught me. He used to put me in his lap and let me steer. When I got tall enough, he taught me the rest," Shepard explained, a sad look in his sapphire-blue eyes.

"I see," Chris said, wishing he had never asked. "Why haven't you tried to get a license? Most kids annoy the hell outta their parents until they agree to teach them."

"I–I was told not to drive. I–I'm a risk because of my disorder," Shepard explained, fully expecting Chris to take the wheel.

"I understand that, but I'd feel a lot better if you at least knew how," Chris insisted. "It's a useful skill, even if you can never get a license."

"You trust me enough to drive," Shepard asked in disbelief.

"I do. It's not far. You'll do fine, Johnny," Chris assured his son as he watched him closely.

"Let me know if I fuck anything up," Shepard said, wanting to learn from his mistakes.

"Oh, don't worry, I will," Chris grinned as he continued to monitor his son.

"Well, here we go," Shepard said as he pulled out of the drive.


"Well, how'd I do?" Shepard asked as he put the car in park before turning off the engine.

"You did great. You need to watch your speed, though," Chris scolded as he unfastened his seatbelt.

"Okay. I'll slow down," Shepard grinned as he stepped out of the car.

"Are you ready, kid?" Chris asked as he rubbed his son's back.

"I guess," Shepard said as he led his father into the building.

****☆****

"John, I'm glad you're here," Benezia smiled as she greeted Shepard and his father.

"Hello," Chris smiled as he shook her hand.

"I–It's pretty crowded," Shepard said as he looked at the nearly filled auditorium.

"Don't be nervous, John. Most of them are kids, just like you," Benezia insisted, trying to ease the young teen's nerves.

"O–Okay," Shepard mumbled, her words making him even more nervous.

"You'll be sitting on the stage along with the runners up. When your name is called, come and stand beside me. Once they unveil your work, I'll let you know when to speak," Benezia explained.

"O–Okay. I think I understand," Shepard said, feeling nauseous at the thought of speaking.

"Go ahead and take your seat. You'll be sitting in the middle," Benezia said as she motioned towards the chair.

Shepard just nodded as he nervously took a seat.


Shepard sat quietly, nervously, bouncing his knee as the emcee droned on and on. He watched on in mild interest as the runners-up were called.

Shepard gave them a healthy round of applause. Impressed by their talent, he congratulated each of them as they accepted their awards.

Then came the time Shepard had been dreading; they finally announced the winner. When Shepard's name was called, he came to stand beside his teacher, waiting patiently for his painting to be unveiled.

Benezia took Shepard's hand, squeezing it tight before giving him a reassuring smile as they finally unveiled his work.

The entire auditorium went silent, Shepard's eyes going wide in shock when he realized his painting had been vandalized.

The silence soon faded, erupting into laughter as tears gathered in Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes.

"I'm sorry, Mom," Shepard whispered, his eyes glowing as he tore his hand away from Benezia before rushing off the stage.

"John! John, come back," Benezia pleaded. "We can fix this, John."

"What the hell is going on!? How dare you humiliate my son!" Chris yelled at Benezia, sick of the mistreatment his son was receiving.

"Mr. Scott, I assure you, I knew nothing about this. The last time I viewed the painting was last night. Whoever did this must have done it late last night or early this morning. I promise I will do everything in my power to find and punish the ones responsible. I will make this right," Benezia promised.

Chris laughed a bitter laugh. "You can't make this right. Nothing can make this right."

Benezia watched as Chris made his way backstage, trying his best to find his son.

"Ms. T'Soni, we need you to address the crowd," the emcee said, at a loss for how to deal with such an awful disaster.

"O–Of course," Benezia said as she took her place at the podium.

Just as she was about to speak, the other two paintings crashed to the floor, causing the guests to scream in horror.

"Oh, goddess," Benezia said, her hand on her heart as she spoke. "H–How did that happen?" 

"I'm not sure, Ma'am. They were secure this morning," the young man said, a look of confusion in his eyes.

"Make sure no one was injured," Benezia said as she returned to the podium. 


"Johnny? Where are you, kid?" Chris called out, hoping to find his son.

He made his way into the dressing room, looking behind every unlocked door.

"Excuse me, have you seen a boy passing through here," Chris asked.

"Yeah, he went out the back," the man said as he continued his work.

"Thanks," Chris said with a nod before rushing outside.


"Johnny," Chris called out in desperation, breathing easier when he finally found his son. 

Shepard was sitting alone on the curb, his body shaking as he wept, the sight breaking Chris's heart.

"Johnny, are you okay, kid?" Chris asked, already knowing the answer.

"W–Why? Why did they do that? My mom didn't do anything. They didn't have to attack her. I'd rather they beat me than drag her into it," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Johnny, whoever did this is a horrible person. They just wanted to hurt you and were willing to use your mom to do that," Chris said, not knowing what to say. "They're assholes, kid, and there's nothing you can do about it. I know it hurts, but they're not worth it."

"I hate it here. I wanna go home," Shepard pleaded as he leaned against his father, crying into his shoulder.

"Okay. Let's go home," Chris whispered as he kissed Shepard's forehead.


"Mr. Scott," Benezia called out just as Chris was putting Shepard in the car.

"Look, my son's pretty upset, and he wants to go home, so please, just— just let me take care of him," Chris insisted as he got into the driver's seat.

"Of course," Benezia said as she watched the car drive away, leaving her alone in the parking lot.

****☆****

6 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

Chris sat alone at the kitchen table watching his son sleep when, suddenly, his phone began to buzz.

"Hello," Chris answered, his voice tired as he lit himself a cigarette.

"Mr. Scott, this is Ms. T'Soni, John's art teacher. I'm just calling to check in on him. After today's unfortunate incident, I was quite worried about him," Benezia explained.

"He's as good as can be expected. He's sleeping right now, but thank you for calling. It's nice to know at least someone gives a damn," Chris replied, his tone bitter as he exhaled the smoke from his lungs.

"I'm so sorry this happened. I know how hard things have been for John. I just wanted you to know that John will still receive the award, along with a scholarship. I hope this will make things a bit easier for him," Benezia explained.

"Look, you're probably one of the nicest people I've ever met, and Johnny likes you a lot, but you obviously don't understand how difficult things are for him if you think a scholarship is going to make things better," Chris replied, his voice tired and weary.

"I see. I just— I wanted John to know," Benezia said, her voice filled with concern.

"I–I'll tell him. Thanks again for calling. I appreciate the concern," Chris said, hoping to end the call quickly.

"It was no trouble. Have a good evening," Benezia said.

"You too," Chris sighed as he ended the call, his eyes going wide when he noticed his son was no longer on the couch.

"Johnny, where are you, kid," Chris called out, going room to room in search of his son.

Once he had reached Shepard's bedroom door, he moved to open it, panicking when he realized the door was locked.

"Johnny, open the door," Chris pleaded, growing more and more desperate by the minute. "Goddammit, Johnny, open the fucking door!"

Not knowing what else to do, Chris began doing everything in his power to break down the door. He was just about to give up when the door suddenly opened. A cold chill went through Chris's body as he slowly entered the room.

Chris swallowed the lump in his throat as he followed the small trail of blood to the bed, where he found Shepard crying on the bed, holding his left side as blood pooled onto the white sheets.

"Jesus, Johnny," Chris yelled as he rushed to his son's side.

"D–Daddy, I–I don't know what happened," Shepard admitted as he tried to stop the bleeding from a particularly deep wound on his side.

"Let me see," Chris insisted as Shepard reluctantly removed his hand. "What did this to you?" Chris asked as he examined the three scratches running along the left side of his son's ribcage. 

"I–I dunno," Shepard replied, flinching as his father pressed against the edges of the wound.

"The middle one is pretty deep. If I can't get it to stop bleeding, I'll have to take you to the hospital," Chris insisted, causing Shepard to groan.

"Please, don't. They'll ask questions I ain't got the answers to," Shepard pleaded as he dried the tears from his eyes.

Chris sighed before moving to retrieve the first-aid kit.

"This is gonna sting," Chris said as he cleaned the wound, the alcohol causing Shepard to flinch. "What do you remember?" 

"I— Nothing. I was sleeping one minute and bleeding the next. I don't even remember coming to my room," Shepard admitted.

"Your skin feels so cold," Chris said as he bandaged the large wound before rubbing his son's arms. 

"I–I ain't cold," Shepard insisted.

"Uh-huh," Chris said, raising his brow in disbelief. "Do you wanna stay in my room tonight?"

"I–I don't wanna bother you," Shepard said, trying his best to avoid his father's gaze.

"You aren't bothering me," Chris insisted. "I can tell you're still upset. I really don't think you should be alone."

"A–Alright," Shepard agreed with a nod.

"Good," Chris said with a smile as he closed the first-aid kit. "Do you want something to eat?"

"No. I feel a little nauseous. If I eat anything, I'll puke," Shepard admitted.

"Okay. Do you wanna go straight to bed?" Chris asked as he rubbed his son's naked back.

"Nah, I think I need some air. Do you mind if I sit on the front steps for a while?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Sure," Chris replied as he helped his son get out of the bed. "I might join you in a minute. I'm gonna give these sheets a quick wash."

"Alright," Shepard said as he made his way outside.


Shepard sat alone for nearly an hour before hearing the front door open behind him. 

"Hey," Chris called out, offering his son a beer before taking a seat next to him. "It's peaceful tonight."

"Uh-huh," Shepard agreed as he took a long drink of his beer. 

"Are you feeling any better?" Chris asked, looking up at the sky as he spoke.

"Yeah," came Shepard's simple reply as he looked to the sky. "It's gonna storm tonight."

"You think?" Chris asked, looking at the partly cloudy sky. "It's not supposed to rain tonight."

"I can feel it in the air," Shepard said as he took another drink.

"Hn." 

The two sat in comfortable silence until Shepard finally spoke.

"Daddy, have you ever just wanted to scream? I don't mean a frustrated scream; I mean a soul-cleansing scream. One that comes from deep inside. One that feels like it's tearing you apart. But when it's over, you feel so much lighter, like you could just float away, forgetting everything for just a few precious moments," Shepard asked, his thoughts drifting as he spoke.

"Do you wanna scream, Johnny?" Chris asked, taking his son's hand in his.

"Yeah. I really do," Shepard admitted.

"Then scream. Let it all out, kid," Chris said, encouraging his son to do whatever he could to feel better.

"I–I'll wake the neighbours," Shepard reminded his son.

"Ah, fuck the neighbours. You go ahead and scream. Hell, I'll even scream with you if you want," Chris insisted.

"R–Really," Shepard asked, surprised by his father's words.

"Yeah. I'd do anything for you, Johnny," Chris said as he kissed his son's hand.

"Fuck it, let's scream," Shepard chuckled as he began to scream.

Chris smiled before joining his son, both of them screaming until their throats were raw.

"What the hell's wrong with you!? Some people are trying to sleep," a neighbour complaining from their bedroom window.

"Shut the fuck up! Can't you see I'm bonding with my kid!?" Chris yelled back, causing Shepard to laugh in amusement.

Chris joined in as their laughter filled the night sky until the sound of thunder drowned them out.

"Looks like you were right," Chris said as the rain started pouring down.

"Yep. I love the rain," Shepard smiled as he turned his face to the sky, letting the rain cover him.

"You ready to turn in," Chris asked, noticing the tired look on his son's face.

"Yeah. I'm tired," Shepard admitted as he followed his father inside.

****☆****

11:45 AM – MONDAY – ALLIANCE HIGH… 

"Are you okay?" Kaidan asked as he took his seat next to Shepard.

"I'm fine," Shepard shrugged as he continued to sketch.

"I texted you, but you never texted back," Kaidan said, tapping his pencil against the table nervously.

"I didn't feel like talking about it," Shepard explained.

"Is there any way to save the painting?" Kaidan asked, knowing how proud Shepard had been of it.

"I don't think so. Any attempt would remove the paint underneath. I'd have a better shot trying to recreate it," Shepard said, his brow furrowing as he spoke.

"Couldn't you try," Kaidan said, trying to encourage his friend.

"I don't know. I'm over it," Shepard insisted as he continued to sketch.

"I could try," Kaidan offered.

"K, it can't be saved, so just let it go," Shepard said, his tone darker than Kaidan was accustomed to.

"I–If that's what you want," Kaidan said, not wanting to make things worse.

The two sat in silence until the lunch bell rang out.

"Have a good lunch, everyone," Benezia called out. "John, may I speak with you for a minute."

"Yes, Ma'am," Shepard said as he stood before his teacher. 

"I've been looking into ways to save the painting. They managed to remove the spray paint, but it damaged the paint underneath. The only way to restore it is for you to repaint the damaged areas," Benezia explained.

"I don't think I should bother. I mean, it'll just get destroyed again," Shepard said, too tired to fight.

"John, you have the talent to repair this painting. And I believe the painting is worth saving," Benezia said, hoping the boy would reconsider.

"If I do, I'm doing it for my dad and my mom's memory, not so you can put it on display for a bunch of haters to tear it down again. My mom deserves better," Shepard said, his eyes full of determination.

"That's fine. We'll make a print of the original to put on display, if that's okay with you, of course," Benezia said, hoping Shepard would agree.

"As long as my dad gets the original," Shepard agreed, shaking his teacher's hand.

"You can work on it after school, starting today if you like," Benezia offered.

"Thank you," Shepard said with a polite bow.

"Have a good lunch, John," Benezia smiled.

"You too, Ma'am," Shepard said as he made his way out of the room.


For the next two weeks, Shepard worked hard to restore the painting. And in the end, it looked just as it had before the vandals had destroyed it.

"Ms. T'Soni, I'm finished if you want to have a look at it," Shepard announced.

"Alright," Benezia smiled as she followed Shepard into the room. 

"John, it's gorgeous! You can't even tell it was ever damaged," Benezia praised.

"I'm gonna let it dry overnight before I take it to my dad," Shepard said, rubbing his shoulder as he spoke.

"Alright. Do you mind if I have a print made before you present it to him?" Benezia asked, hoping her student would allow it.

"O–Okay," Shepard agreed with a nod.

"I'll have the print made and drop the painting off at your home tomorrow afternoon," Benezia explained.

"Y–You know where I live?" Shepard asked nervously.

"I do," Benezia smiled.

"I–I should head on out. It'll be dark soon, and my dad doesn't like for me to be out past dark," Shepard explained.

"Alright. Would you like me to give you a ride?" Benezia offered.

"Thanks, but I'm okay. I'll just take the bus," Shepard said with a smile. "Have a good night, Ms. T'Soni."

"You too, John," Benezia said as she watched her student until he was out of sight.


"Need a ride," a familiar voice called out, causing Shepard to grin.

"I might," Shepard said with a shrug.

"So, how does the painting look," Kaidan asked as he moved away from the wall.

"It's good. I think I was able to fix it," Shepard admitted.

"That's good. Come on. I'll drive you home," Kaidan insisted as he motioned towards his car.

"Alright," Shepard chuckled as he followed the older boy to the car.

"So, how are you feeling?" Kaidan asked as he fastened his seatbelt.

"I'm alright. What have you been up to?" Shepard asked as he adjusted his seatbelt.

"Not much. I've been attending a few fundraisers with my parents. They're a bit boring, but I don't have much choice in the matter," Kaidan explained.

"I take it Rahna's your usual date for these things," Shepard said, knowing it was probably true.

"She is," Kaidan replied honestly.

"Hn. K, how would you like to spend an entire day doing something crazy and spontaneous?" Shepard asked as he stared out the car window.

"Hm. Are you asking me out?" Kaidan asked in amusement.

"Depends. Are you accepting?" Shepard asked with a cheeky grin.

"Why the hell not," Kaidan chuckled, amused by the blue-eyed blonde.

"Great. How about Saturday?" Shepard asked.

"Sure. What time?" Kaidan asked as he continued on towards Shepard's house.

"Surprise me," Shepard grinned as he gave Kaidan a suggestive wink.

"Okay," Kaidan agreed with a chuckle as they continued on. 

The two continued talking all the way to Shepard's house, laughing as they pulled into the drive.

"Well, I should probably let you go," Kaidan smiled as he leaned in closer to the blue-eyed beauty.

"Yeah," Shepard replied with a nod.

"Goodnight, John," Kaidan said before kissing Shepard goodbye.

"Goodnight, K," Shepard said as he gave Kaidan one last kiss. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yep. Later, Shepard," Kaidan said as watched Shepard until he disappeared behind the front door.

'I can't wait for Saturday!'

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK… 

Chris sighed as he made his way to the front door.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming, hold your horses," Chris called out as he opened the front door.

"Good evening, Mr. Scott," Benezia said, giving Chris a bright smile.

"Uh, good evening," Chris said, surprised by her presence. "Please, come in."

"Thank you," Benezia said as she struggled with the large painting.

"Let me help you with that," Chris insisted as he helped her inside.

"I have a surprise for you," Benezia said as she leaned the covered canvas against the wall. "I was hoping Shepard would be here."

"He'll be home in a few minutes. He had to have an infusion today," Chris explained.

"I thought those were scheduled for Fridays," Benezia said, a bit confused by the information.

"They usually are, but his platelets were a bit lower than they'd like last Friday, so he has to have two this week," Chris said, rubbing his neck as he spoke.

"Is he alright?" Benezia asked, her tone turning serious.

"Yeah. He's fine," Chris assured her. "Would you like something to drink?"

"No, thank you," Benezia replied.

"Please, have a seat," Chris insisted as he took a seat in the chair beside the couch.

"Thank you," Benezia said as she sat down on the couch. "John seems quite tired lately."

"Yeah. He has episodes like that," Chris replied just as the front room door flew open. "Hey, kid."

Shepard never said a word; he just dropped his pack before rushing for the washroom.

Retching could be heard throughout the house as Shepard continued to vomit.

"Does this happen often?" Benezia asked, her brow furrowing in concern.

"Yeah. Sometimes the infusions don't cause nausea, but those times are rare," Chris explained.

"It must be difficult for him to maintain a healthy weight," Benezia surmised.

"It doesn't help, that's for sure," Chris agreed before standing. "Excuse me while I go check on him."

"Of course," Benezia nodded as she watched Chris disappear down the hall.


"Hey, kid. Is there anything I can do?" Chris asked, knowing how miserable his son must have felt.

"No," Shepard simply replied, shaking his head before retching once again.

"Your teacher, Ms. T'Soni, is here. She said she has a surprise for me," Chris explained, stroking his son's damp sweat-soaked hair as he spoke.

"I–It's the painting. I–I fixed it for you. T–Tell her I'm sorry and have her give it to you," Shepard insisted.

"You fixed the painting?" Chris asked, touched by the gesture.

"Y–Yeah. I know how much you liked it, so I fixed it," Shepard explained before retching once more.

"Thank you, son," Chris said, smiling proudly.

"I–It wasn't a big deal," Shepard shrugged as he retched yet again.

"It's gonna be a rough night, huh. I'll show Ms. T'Soni out and come right back," Chris insisted.

"Y–You don't have to rush. I'll be fine," Shepard assured him.

"Alright. Call for me if you need me," Chris said as he kissed Shepard's forehead.

"I will," Shepard promised as he watched his father leave the room.


"I'm sorry, but Johnny won't be able to socialize tonight. He's pretty sick," Chris explained.

"I understand. Would you like to see the painting?" Benezia asked, motioning towards the canvas.

"I would, thank you," Chris said with a nod as he watched Benezia uncover the canvas.

Chris smiled as he took in the image before him.

"It looks even better than before," Chris said, tearing up a bit as he spoke.

"It does. He's a very talented artist. I'm glad he repaired the damage," Benezia said, smiling fondly at the painting.

"He's a great kid," Chris said proudly.

"Well, I should get going," Benezia said as she extended her hand to Chris.

"Thank you for bringing the painting. I appreciate it. You don't know how much it means to me," Chris said as he shook her hand firmly.

"I think I understand," Benezia smiled. "I hope John starts feeling better soon. Have a lovely evening."

"You too," Chris smiled as he accompanied her to the door.

Once she had left, Chris immediately made his way to the washroom.


Chris frowned when he saw his son heaving into the bowl.

"Still throwing up, huh," Chris said as he took a seat on the floor beside his son.

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded. "I'm sick as a dog, and no matter how much I puke, I still feel nauseous."

"Is there anything I can do?" Chris asked as Shepard placed his head in his lap.

"No. Just— sit with me a while," Shepard pleaded.

"Sure," Chris agreed, kissing Shepard's crown as he spoke.

"I love you, Dad," Shepard mumbled.

"I love you too, Johnny," Chris said as he held his son tight. "Thank you for the painting. I'll treasure it always."

"You might wanna put it in storage," Shepard suggested as he vomited once more.

"I will," Chris promised as he continued to watch over his son.


A few hours later, Shepard was fast asleep with his head on his father's lap. 

Realizing how late it had gotten, Chris gently lifted his son into his arms, carefully carrying him to the bed. 

"Sweet dreams, kid," Chris whispered as he kissed his son's forehead before heading to his own bed.

"I'm exhausted," Chris mumbled as fell hard onto the bed, falling asleep almost immediately.

****☆****

3:06 AM… 

"Tell me you love me," a familiar voice whispered in Shepard's ear, causing him to bolt upright in the bed, his chest heaving as sweat rolled down his half-naked body.

"I–It was a dream – just a dream," Shepard told himself as he rose from the bed before heading for the washroom.

Shepard stared at himself in the mirror, frowning when he noticed the bruises that littered his neck and chest. 

Trying to clear his head, the young blonde splashed some water on his face before looking in the mirror once more. 

Shepard continued to stare into his own eyes, watching as the colours shifted from near midnight-coloured dark blues to the bright sapphire that always seemed to glow in the darkness. 

He watched as they continued to shift until, finally, they went black. Shepard jumped at the sight, staggering backwards until he hit something solid. 

Shepard quickly turned to see a figure darker than the abyss standing before him. Unable to speak, Shepard just stared at the creature, cocking his head in disbelief as he studied the figure.

For a moment, Shepard believed it was all in his head, a waking dream that had manifested inside his already fragile psyche. 

That belief was shattered when the figure touched Shepard's face, running a talon-like finger down along his neck before dragging it further down his chest.

Shepard was frozen where he stood, unable to move, let alone speak. Shepard was at the mercy of the creature before him, and it terrified him.

"Mine," the voice growled out as it pressed its talon against the pulse in Shepard's neck. 

Blood began to flow down the boy's neck, the warmth causing Shepard to shudder.

The creature smiled, its long tongue lolling.

Shepard began to feel a bit lightheaded, moaning as the creature lapped at the blood, savouring every drop until a loud knock at the door interrupted its fun.

"Johnny, are you okay, kid?" Chris asked, his voice still groggy with sleep.

The creature hissed as it retreated to the shadows, causing Shepard to fall to the ground in a heap, the blood loss making him too weak to stand.

Hearing the loud thud, Chris shoved the door open, panicking when he saw his son lying on the floor, blood trickling down his neck.

"Jesus Christ, Johnny," Chris called out as he moved to help his son. "You're ice cold." 

Chris's brow furrowed in concentration as he felt for a pulse. 

"Don't do this to me, kid," Chris pleaded as he continued to search for a pulse. 

Chris let out a long sigh of relief when he finally found what he was looking for. "Thank god!"

Chris quickly assessed the wound on his son's neck. The bleeding had nearly stopped, but the ordeal had left Shepard pale, much too pale for Chris's liking.

"Johnny, wake up, kid," Chris pleaded as he gently slapped his son's face.

Shepard groaned as his glowing sapphire eyes fluttered open.

Chris watched in awe as the colours shifted once more, the strange glow turning to a dark midnight blue before returning to their usual sapphire blue.

"W–Where am I?" Shepard asked, his voice tired and worn out.

"You're home… in the washroom," Chris replied as he brushed a long strand of dark-blonde hair from his son's face. "Do you remember anything?"

Shepard shook his head slowly in reply.

"You punctured your neck. I don't know how, but you did," Chris said as he motioned towards the wound.

"I–I think I blacked out," Shepard said, unable to remember what had happened.

"It looks like you lost a lot of blood, but I can't find anything except a few stray drops," Chris said, unable to explain his son's condition or where the blood went.

"I–I'm okay, just tired," Shepard explained.

"I think I should take you to the ER. You might need a transfusion," Chris suggested as he retrieved the first-aid kit from the cabinet.

"I–I'll be alright," Shepard insisted as his father began cleaning the tiny puncture wound.

"You are so goddamn stubborn," Chris scolded as he bandaged his son's neck. "Remind me to restock this thing. We're running low on bandages."

"I will," Shepard promised as he struggled to stand.

"That's it! You're going to the goddamn hospital," Chris insisted.

"No!" Shepard yelled, the washroom mirror shattering with the sound.

Chris stood in shock, staring at the broken mirror. 

"I–I'm sorry," Shepard panicked as he attempted to pick up the broken shards. His hands shaking as he tried.

"Johnny, stop," Chris whispered, holding his son from behind.

"I–I need to clean this up before somebody gets—" Shepard began to sob.

"It's okay, Johnny. Let it go," Chris insisted as he kissed his son's temple.

"W–What's wrong with me? What the hell am I?" Shepard asked, his shoulders shaking as he spoke.

"You're okay, kid. I got ya," Chris assured his son as he stroked his long dark-blonde hair.

"I–I'm tired," Shepard whispered as his body slumped against his father's chest.

"Let's get you to bed," Chris said as he led his son to the master bedroom.


Once Shepard was settled, Chris made his way to the kitchen.

"I need a beer," Chris mumbled as he retrieved one from the fridge before taking a seat at the kitchen table, lighting himself a cigarette as he sat alone in the darkness, contemplating what he had just seen. 

Remembering a conversation he had had with Hannah when he was just getting to know Shepard, he let his mind wander to that day: 


– *FLASHBACK* –

"So, what did you think?" Hannah asked as she nervously tapped the table with her fingers.

"He seems like a good kid. A bit strange, but, overall, he's nice," Chris replied as he looked over the restaurant's menu.

"Yeah. He is a bit – different, I'll admit. And today was just awful. He was so sick. I mean, he's always strange, but today— Well, he wasn't quite himself," Hannah explained.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but is he slow?" Chris asked, hoping he hadn't upset his girlfriend with the question.

"What!? Hell no! I mean, he might be a little slow at reading and crap like that, but my kid's smart as a whip. He's just— he's sick. The reason he kept repeating himself and acting so hyper was because of his illness. He was manic," Hannah explained.

"Manic, huh. What's wrong with him, exactly?" Chris asked curiously.

"My baby's bipolar with manic episodes. He's got DID too. So, yeah, he's a mess sometimes," Hannah admitted.

"DID?" Chris asked, unfamiliar with the acronym.

"Dissociative identity disorder," Hannah replied. "It's basically multiple personality disorder. He has episodes of dissociative amnesia too. That's why he can't remember what happened the night Adam died."

"How long has he been like that?" Chris asked.

"For a while now. He's been bipolar since he was little. He was diagnosed with it at age five. The dissociative issues started recurring about two years ago. Before that, it only happened once or twice," Hannah explained.

"It must have been hard, raising him all alone," Chris said, taking her hand in his.

"Yeah. When Johnny was sick, it was bad, but without him, I'd be dead. He took better care of me than I ever did of him," Hannah admitted. 

"He's your protector," Chris said with an amused smile on his face.

Hannah laughed. "He tried to be, but he was kinda small. He didn't start growing until recently – a premature baby, you know."

"Do you mind if I ask what his father was like?" Chris asked curiously.

Hannah visibly tensed at the question. "I–I don't really know who his father is."

"Oh. So, you have no idea," Chris asked, doubting Hannah was being truthful.

"None, and it's better that way. I don't need anyone trying to lay claim to my kid," Hannah replied, her eyes full of determination as she spoke.

The look in her eyes was enough to make Chris change the subject.

"So, what was Johnny like before all this?" Chris asked, wanting to learn more about the boy.

"Lonely," Hannah admitted with a sad look in her eyes.

"Lonely? Didn't he have any friends?" Chris asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"No. Johnny never had any friends," Hannah replied.

"Why not?" Chris asked.

"Johnny's— different. He's a strange kid, downright weird, but he's my baby," Hannah explained.

"What do you mean by different?" Chris asked curiously.

"I can't really explain it. I swear the kid's psychic. He can predict things like the weather better than a damn meteorologist. He has this strange energy about him. Wanna know how he got that cute little scar – you know, the crescent-shaped one in his hairline?" Hannah asked.

"Tell me," Chris smiled, interested in the story.

"Alright. When Johnny was six, he was playing on the monkey bars at the park where we live. He always loved those things. Anyway, he was alone, like always, having fun just hanging upside down – being a kid, ya know. Then, this older kid came over; he had to be nine or ten years old – much older than my baby. Johnny was polite; said hello with that little stutter he has sometimes and gave the boy a smile. You know what he got for his trouble? The older kid rolled his eyes and shoved my baby off the bars. He hit his head on the way down, split his little head wide open," Hannah explained.

"You must've been terrified," Chris said as he gave her hand a squeeze.

"I was. I assumed the older boy would help my Johnny," Hannah said. "Boy, was I wrong."

Chris's frown deepened.

"Instead of helping my baby, he laughed at him. Teased him before kicking him into the dirt. My baby never did anything to deserve that, so I rushed over, and I grabbed that kid by the ear and dragged him away from my baby, cursing him the entire time. When I finally let go of the kid's ear, he spit in my face. A split second later, the kid went flying through the air, his nose bloody as if someone had punched him. I was in shock. Then I heard Johnny speak: 'Stay away from my mommy,' he yelled. I turned to look at him, and his eyes – they had the strangest glow – bright blue, almost neon. I watched in horror as blood just started pouring from his nose. Then, he just collapsed. I ran to his side, and he was just staring off into space. Nothing I said seemed to reach him. Terrified, I immediately scooped him up and took him to the ER. They stitched the wound on his head and put him in a room for observation. They said he was having a dissociative episode. It was the first one he ever had, and it scared the living hell outta me. He stayed that way for so long I was afraid I'd never get him back. When he finally did snap out of it, he couldn't remember a thing."

"What happened to the bully?" Chris asked, fascinated by the story.

"That punk was fine. He eventually got up, called Johnny a freak, and ran away. I never saw him again," Hannah replied.

"What do you think happened that day?" Chris asked curiously.

"I–I dunno. It never happened again, so I just let it go," Hannah lied.

"Hm," Chris hummed as he considered her words. "Was that the first time he did anything odd?"

"Yeah. I mean, he always had a weird turn. Eager to please, afraid to make people mad, things like that," Hannah explained. 

"He's a timid child," Chris said with a smile.

"I guess. He likes animals, especially birds. Birds seem to love him. And he absolutely loves the rain. He'd drown in it if he could. He can draw too. He's been drawing since he could hold a pen. Yeah, my baby's got talent. He's a beautiful kid."

"Like his mother," Chris smiled as he kissed Hannah's hand.

– *END OF FLASHBACK* –


"Daddy," Shepard called out from the entryway, shaking Chris from his thoughts.

"Huh?"

"I–Is everything okay?" Shepard asked, his voice sounding small and anxious.

"Yeah. Yeah, everything's fine," Chris assured his son as he snuffed out his cigarette into the nearby ashtray.

"A–Are you coming to bed?" Shepard asked as he toyed with the edges of the entryway.

"Yeah. Just let me finish my beer, and I'll be right there," Chris replied, feeling a bit uneasy but not knowing why.

"O–Okay," Shepard whispered as he made his way back to the bedroom.

Chris's eyes never left his son's form until it finally disappeared behind the door.

****☆****

THE NEXT MORNING… 

"Johnny, it's time to get up," Chris insisted as he shook his son gently.

"M'kay," Shepard mumbled as he dragged himself from the bed.

"Is cereal okay today? I'm running a bit late, so I can't cook anything," Chris said.

"I ain't hungry. I'm still a bit nauseous," Shepard explained.

"Johnny, you have to eat something. There's some fruit on the counter. Try to eat a banana or something, okay," Chris pleaded.

"Okay," Shepard agreed as he made his way to the washroom.


"Sorry about the mirror. I'll get a new one as soon as I can," Shepard promised as he took a seat at the kitchen table.

"Don't worry about it. How's your neck?" Chris asked as he handed Shepard a banana.

"It's fine," Shepard said as he peeled the banana before taking a bite.

"Are you sure you feel like going to school today?" Chris asked curiously.

"I–I'll be okay. I gotta see Harkin today. I might be late getting home," Shepard reminded his father.

"I've been meaning to ask, what takes so long?" Chris asked. "I mean, you go in, pee in a cup, and that should be it."

"I–It's a bit more complicated than that," Shepard replied, hoping his father would drop it.

"It must be. How much longer do you have to see him?" Chris asked as he finished his coffee.

"Until I'm eighteen," Shepard answered, causing Chris to frown.

"That long, huh."

"Yep. I better head out before I miss the bus," Shepard said as he grabbed his backpack.

"Yeah. I'm right behind you," Chris chuckled as he grabbed his keys.

"I–I kinda have a date this Saturday. You don't mind, do you?" Shepard asked nervously as they walked down the driveway.

"Nope. I think it's great. Who's the lucky guy?" Chris asked, hoping it wasn't Kaidan.

"I–It's, uh, it's Kaidan," Shepard admitted.

"I knew it," Chris sighed. "Just be careful, kid. I love you," Chris said as he kissed his son's forehead. "Be good at school."

"I will. Love you too. I'll see you later, Daddy," Shepard said as he watched his father get into the car.

"See ya tonight," Chris grinned as he pulled out of the drive.

Shepard waved as he watched his father disappear down the street.

****☆****

"Hey, Loco!" James called out from his car. "You need a ride?"

"I–If it's not too much trouble," Shepard replied as he toyed with the frayed edge of his belt loop.

"Hop in, Loco," James insisted as Shepard made his way to the car.

"Thanks. I appreciate it," Shepard said as he got into the passenger's seat.

"No problem," James said as he continued on.

"Don't you have to pick up Jack," Shepard asked, cocking his head to the side when they passed the intersection.

"Not today. She's got a dentist appointment," James explained. "Sorry about what happened to your painting. Whoever did that is a real asshole. I saw the print of the repaired version, though. It was really good. The lady you painted was smokin' hot."

"The painting's of my mom," Shepard said, giving James an unamused look.

"Really!? My bad, Loco," James said, blushing at his faux pas.

"That's okay. She was a beautiful woman," Shepard said, staring out the window to avoid James's gaze.

"So, I know this girl; she's seen you around school and thinks you're pretty hot. If you want, I can hook you up. She's a sure thing too – if you get my drift," James grinned, giving Shepard a teasing wink.

"Nah, guys are more my speed," Shepard admitted, hoping James wouldn't freak out.

"Get outta here! That's a good one, Loco," James laughed.

"I–I'm not kidding. I like guys. I thought for sure Liara would've said something," Shepard said, purposely leaving Kaidan's name out of it.

"Nah, Doc don't talk much about private matters," James replied.

"Doc?" Shepard asked, cocking his brow in amusement.

"That's my nickname for Liara. She's gonna get her doctorate in archaeology when she goes to college. It's all she ever talks about. Besides, she carries herself like a doctor," James explained.

"Hn. Makes sense," Shepard admitted. "A–Are we cool?"

"Huh? Why wouldn't we be?" James asked as he continued to keep his eyes on the road.

"I dunno. Some people don't like people like me," Shepard replied.

"Well, it doesn't bother me in the least. Hell, I'd probably fuck you if I was drunk enough. You're pretty damn hot," James grinned, giving Shepard a suggestive wink.

"Really?" Shepard asked, surprised by James's words.

"Hell, yeah. I ain't ever been with a guy, but I'll admit, I've been tempted. Not very often, mind you, but I have been," James admitted. "Who knows, I might be a little bisexual."

"I wish I woulda known that a few months ago," Shepard mumbled.

"What was that, Loco?" James asked, not quite understanding the blue-eyed teen's words.

"Nothing. So, does Jack know?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Yep. She's full-on bisexual. She believes everyone is born bisexual. She encourages my curiosity," James grinned.

"Huh. Great girl," Shepard said.

"The best, Loco. So, you ever tried being with a girl?" James asked

"Yeah. Once – I didn't like it," Shepard admitted. "I guess I'm more gay than anything."

"And there's nothing wrong with that. Why don't I ever see you at any after-school events? You're a cool guy. If people would get to know you, they'd like you," James insisted.

"D–Do you remember the party? P–People have to w–want to get to know you. P–People here d–don't wanna know m–me," Shepard explained, stuttering as he spoke.

Noticing the change in Shepard's speech pattern, James immediately decided to apologize.

"Sorry, Loco. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable," James said, his smile fading.

"T–That's okay. I–I'm used to being alone. I'm glad we're friends, though," Shepard said, toying with the hem of his frayed t-shirt.

"You know, that's why your shirts are all frayed," James said, trying to lighten the mood.

"Huh?"

"You're always toying with them. I'm surprised they're not see-through at this point," James chuckled.

"Y–Yeah. I fidget a lot," Shepard admitted.

"So, you really aren't seeing anybody?" James asked, noticing the hickey-like marks on the young blonde's neck.

"Um. Well, I kinda hook up with someone every once in a while," Shepard replied nervously.

"You must've got some last night, huh," James teased with a wink.

"Uh, no," Shepard replied truthfully. 

"Somebody's lying," James said in a sing-song voice.

"I'm not, though," Shepard said, causing James to give him a strange look.

"Then why do you have a hickey on your neck?" James asked in confusion.

"Huh?"

"You got a hickey on your neck," James said, reaching over and touching the mark with his fingers.

"I— That's not a hickey. It's just a bruise. I bruise easy sometimes," Shepard explained.

"Oh, yeah. You got that blood thing," James said with a snap of his fingers.

"Uh-huh," Shepard said with a nod.

"You still got that weird thing on your arm," James asked, rubbing his left arm for emphasis.

"Yep. I yanked it out during an episode, so they had to replace it. I can't wait to get the goddamn thing removed," Shepard admitted.

"Yeah. I don't blame you," James said as he pulled into the school parking lot. "Well, we're here."

"Yep. Thanks for the ride, James," Shepard said as he got out of the car.

"No problem, Loco," James grinned as he gathered his things from the back before heading out to find Garrus.


He was halfway across the parking lot when he noticed something odd.

"What the hell is Loco doin'?" James asked as he watched the boy closely.

"Here, birdy," Shepard said, whistling to get the tiny blackbird's attention.

"Is he talking to a bird?" James asked aloud.

"There's a nice boy," Shepard smiled as the bird hopped into his hand. "I'll bet you're hungry, huh. Sorry, I don't really have anything to give you, but maybe James does."

James stared in awe as Shepard made his way towards him, blackbird in tow.

"James, I hate to ask, but do you have anything I can feed this little guy? A piece of fruit, maybe," Shepard asked as he gently stroked the bird's tiny head.

"How? How did you do that?" James asked in wonder.

"Do what?" Shepard asked, cocking a brow in confusion.

"Get that bird to come to you," James replied as he looked through his lunch for a piece of fruit.

"I dunno. Birds like me," Shepard stated simply.

"Uh-huh. I got some blackberries," James said, offering Shepard one.

"Excellent! They love blackberries," Shepard said as he offered the berry to the famished little bird.

James smiled as he watched Shepard feed the bird.

"Yo, Jimmy! Get your ass over here," Garrus called out, motioning for James to hurry.

"Well, I gotta go, Loco. Good luck with the bird," James grinned as he made his way towards Garrus.

"Later, James. Thanks for the blackberry," Shepard called out, causing James to turn around.

"Any time, Loco," James replied before going on about his day.

"Well, the bell's gonna ring soon. I hope you got enough to eat. See ya later," Shepard smiled as the tiny bird flew from his hand just as the bell rang.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

SATURDAY MORNING – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

Chris woke to the pleasant smell of bacon and fresh coffee, causing him to smile as he headed for the washroom.

Once he finished his morning routine, he headed for the kitchen, laughing in amusement as he watched his son scrambling to get breakfast on the table.

"Well, you must be feeling better," Chris grinned as he made his way to the coffee pot.

"I am. I thought you might like some bacon this morning. I–I know you love it," Shepard said with a warm smile as he cracked a few eggs.

"Mmm. It smells heavenly. Is that fresh fruit?" Chris asked, spotting a bowl of berries and other assorted fruit on the kitchen table.

"Y–Yeah. Go ahead and have some if you like," Shepard insisted as he began plating the bacon and eggs.

"Do you want me to make the toast?" Chris asked before popping a blueberry into his mouth.

"If you don't mind," Shepard replied as he set the plates on the table. "Do you want juice or milk to go with your coffee?"

"I might have a glass of juice," Chris replied as he waited for the toaster to do its job.

"Well, breakfast is ready," Shepard said as he poured his father a glass of orange juice.

"Toast is ready," Chris said as he retrieved the pieces from the toaster.

"I hope you like it," Shepard smiled as he took his seat at the kitchen table.

"I know I will. You really outdid yourself, kid. What's the occasion?" Chris asked as he sat down beside his son.

"I just wanted to do something nice for you. You're always taking care of me, and I just wanted to show you how much I love and appreciate you," Shepard explained truthfully.

"Thank you, Johnny. It means a lot," Chris smiled as he started to eat his breakfast.

"How did I do? I didn't overcook the bacon, did I?" Shepard asked, hoping everything tasted well.

"It's perfect. Everything's delicious," Chris said, easing his son's anxiety. "So, what time's your date?"

"Huh?" Shepard asked, furrowing his brow in confusion, causing Chris to laugh in amusement.

"Don't tell me, you forgot," Chris asked, grinning at the lost look in his son's sapphire-blue eyes. "Oh, my god! You really did forget!"

Shepard cocked his head to the side as he searched his mind for information. 

"Kaidan!" Shepard exclaimed, his eyes going wide.

"That's right," Chris said, grinning as he spoke. "You two have a date tonight."

"I– I totally forgot! I–I have to change," Shepard panicked as he started to stand, his father stopping him.

"Eat first," Chris insisted. "I'm sure you have more than enough time to eat your breakfast."

"O–Okay," Shepard agreed as he sat back down to finish his meal.

"That's my boy," Chris smiled as they continued on with their breakfast.


Once breakfast was over, Chris offered to wash the dishes in order to allow his son to prepare for his date.

He had just finished drying the final plate when there was a knock at the door.

KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"That must be Kaidan," Chris said as he made his way to the door.

"I knew it," Chris mumbled as he stared at the whisky-eyed teen.

"Good morning, Mr. Scott," Kaidan said, offering his hand to the older man.

Chris reluctantly shook the boy's hand before inviting him in. "Come in. I'll go get Johnny."

"Alright," Kaidan replied with a polite nod as he took a seat on the couch.


"Johnny," Chris called out as he opened his son's bedroom door. "Kaidan's here."

"A–Already," Shepard replied nervously.

"Yep," Chris said as he studied his son's face. "So, what are you guys doing today?"

"I dunno. I think we're going to hang out and try to be kids," Shepard said with a shrug.

"That sounds interesting," Chris said, scratching his chin as he pondered the vague reply.

"How do I look?" Shepard asked as he tugged at his black form-fitting t-shirt.

"You look great. The light-blue ripped jeans are a nice touch," Chris grinned.

"Do they really look okay?" Shepard asked, wanting to look nice for Kaidan.

"Yes, they really do. You look very hot. Now, can I go tell him you're ready, or—" Chris let the words die on his tongue.

"I'm ready," Shepard said, taking a deep breath before following his father to the living room.


"Well, he's ready," Chris called out, causing Kaidan to look in their direction.

"Wow! Nice outfit," Kaidan praised, smiling as he took in the sight of Shepard.

"You two try to stay out of trouble," Chris said as he followed the two teens outside. "Johnny, don't forget your phone. Call me if you need me."

"I got it, and I will," Shepard assured him with a smile. "I’ll see you later, Daddy. I love you."

"I love you too, Johnny," Chris said as he watched the boys until they were out of sight.

Shaking his head, Chris made his way back into the house.


"So, where do you wanna go?" Kaidan asked as he took Shepard's left hand in his.

"There's a park near here. We can hang there for a bit," Shepard suggested.

"A park? That's unexpected," Kaidan chuckled. 

"Yeah. Laugh if you want, but I guarantee you're gonna have fun," Shepard insisted.

"Will drinking be involved?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Only if you want us to drink," Shepard assured him.

"Let's say I want to drink; who's gonna drive the car?" Kaidan asked, genuinely curious.

"Well, if you don't mind walking, we could park the car at your place and walk to the park," Shepard suggested, trying to give his date options.

"That's an interesting idea. Let's do it," Kaidan agreed with a mischievous grin.

"Hell yes!" Shepard grinned as they made their way to Kaidan's house.

****☆****

LATER THAT DAY… 

"So, pick your poison," Kaidan said as he looked at the various beers and liquors that lined the shelves of the liquor store. 

"Um. Maybe we should stick to beer. We don't wanna get wasted, just buzzed," Shepard reminded him.

"True, but how about we buy a bottle of whisky just in case," Kaidan suggested as he pulled a bottle from the shelf. "How much beer do we need?"

"I dunno. Are we staying out late?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Hopefully," came Kaidan's simple reply.

"Better get at least eighteen," Shepard suggested. "That's nine each for the entire night."

"If we stretch it out and don't drink to get wasted, that should be more than enough," Kaidan agreed as he headed for the counter with the alcohol in hand.

"I'll be outside," Shepard said, knowing he was underage.

Kaidan quickly paid for his purchase, giving the clerk a smile before exiting the building.

"Ready to go?" Kaidan asked, causing Shepard to look his way. 

"Uh-huh. The park is just down the street and to the left. You can't miss it," Shepard explained as he motioned for Kaidan to follow.


"Well, here we are," Shepard announced as he led Kaidan through the gate.

"Why is it fenced off?" Kaidan asked as he followed Shepard to a nearby bench.

"I dunno," Shepard replied, shrugging as he spoke. "It's always been fenced in."

Kaidan watched in amusement as Shepard climbed to the very top of the tallest monkey bars.

"You should come up here," Shepard suggested with a wave. "The view's great from up here."

"Are you serious?" Kaidan asked, grinning from ear to ear.

"Yep," Shepard smiled as he motioned for Kaidan to join him.

Shepard laughed as he watched Kaidan struggle to reach the top, the older boy's choice of clothing causing movement issues.

"Don't laugh! My shirt doesn't leave me much room for movement," Kaidan admitted, his dress shirt pulling tight as he made his way to the top of the smaller bars.

"I shouldn't have worn a dress shirt," Kaidan admitted as he shook his head.

"Take it off," Shepard suggested.

"Huh?" Kaidan asked in confusion.

"Take it off," Shepard repeated.

Reluctantly, Kaidan agreed to the suggestion, removing his shirt and tossing it to Shepard.

"Do you think you can make it now?" Shepard asked, grinning in amusement.

Once Kaidan made it to the top, Shepard gave him a round of applause. 

"Well done," Shepard said, whistling in approval.

"Thanks. Can I, please, have my shirt back now?" Kaidan asked with a grin.

Shepard quickly tossed the shirt to the wind, causing Kaidan to panic.

"Hey! That's my shirt! What am I supposed to do now – go around half-naked?" Kaidan asked.

"Here," Shepard said, offering his own black t-shirt to the uptight boy.

"W–What are you gonna wear?" Kaidan asked as he pulled the t-shirt over his head, trying his best to resist the urge to inhale the scent.

"Nothin'," Shepard simply replied.

"Nothing? You're gonna go shirtless?" Kaidan asked, watching as Shepard began hanging upside down.

"Yep. We ain't gonna be going into any stores or anything like that. I won't need a shirt where we're going," Shepard assured his beloved friend as he began to sway back and forth.

"You have my attention," Kaidan admitted as he joined Shepard, swinging upside down while watching the world from a new angle.

"So, why the monkey bars?" Kaidan asked as he continued to sway back and forth.

"I dunno. I've loved them since I was little. I feel so much lighter when I'm just hanging here," Shepard explained, smiling as Kaidan threaded their fingers together.

Kaidan smiled as he somehow managed to kiss Shepard, the angle making it messy and awkward, causing the two boys to break out laughing.

"I–I think I'm getting lightheaded," Kaidan said in-between laughter.

"Yeah, we better climb down," Shepard suggested as he effortlessly flipped himself upright before dropping safely to the ground.

"God, you're graceful… and beautiful too," Kaidan said as he struggled to flip himself upright.

"Do you need some help?" Shepard asked, chuckling in amusement.

"No, I got it," Kaidan said as he finally made his way to the ground. "That was— different. I liked it."

"Yeah," Shepard smiled before pulling Kaidan in for a romantic kiss.

"Mmm. You always taste so good," Kaidan said as he pressed his forehead to Shepard's.

Shepard laughed a bit before something caught his eye.

"Hey, look at that," Shepard said, motioning to an abandoned tricycle.

"A tricycle," Kaidan said in confusion, smiling at the mischievous look in Shepard's sapphire eyes.

"Wanna ride it?" Shepard asked, grinning at Kaidan like an imp.

"Are you serious? There's no way we can fit on that?" Kaidan insisted, shaking his head in amusement.

"I'll bet we can," Shepard said as he rushed to the abandoned toy. "Well, are you at least willing to try?"

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Kaidan mumbled as he made his way towards his playful friend.

"You wanna go first?" Shepard asked, wagging his brows at Kaidan.

"Hell no! You go," Kaidan said, refusing to be the guinea pig.

"Pussy," Shepard said in a teasing voice, causing Kaidan to tweak his left nipple.

"Goddamn, your mean," Shepard chuckled as he rubbed his poor abused nipple. "Okay, I'll go first."

Kaidan watched in amusement as Shepard straddled the tiny bike. "Your legs are way too long for this."

"Ah, I'm pretty flexible, watch and learn," Shepard grinned.

"Well, you are flexible, but I still don't think you can ride that thing," Kaidan insisted.

"Oh, ye of little faith," Shepard said with a wink as he began to actually pedal the tricycle, slowly building up speed as he went.

"Huh," Kaidan watched in amused disbelief. "I'll be damned. He did it."

"This is pretty fun, K. You should try it," Shepard called out as he made his way back to his friend.

"I can't believe you did that," Kaidan admitted. "Okay, if you can do it, I can too."

"Damn right, you can," Shepard encouraged his friend as he helped him get settled. "Well, you're all set. You can start pedalling any time."

"I will; just gimme a second," Kaidan said as he took a deep breath before finally pedalling.

"Yeah! You go, K," Shepard called out, encouraging his friend to go faster.

"This isn't bad," Kaidan yelled out as he made his way back to where he started.

"Have fun?" Shepard asked, smiling as he spoke.

"Yes, I did. Do you think we could double on this thing?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"I dunno. We could try. I mean, the worst thing we could do is break it," Shepard said, willing to try.

"Yeah. It's not like it belongs to anyone. Let's do it," Kaidan insisted.

"I'll climb on back," Shepard said as he squirmed his way onto the seat.

"Your legs are too long," Kaidan said, his smile turning to a frown. "It'll never work."

"Wait," Shepard said as he wrapped his long legs around Kaidan's waist. "Can you pedal like this?"

"I'm not sure. Let me try it," Kaidan said as he slowly began to pedal. "Hey, it works!"

"Go faster," Shepard called out as he started kissing Kaidan's neck.

"Mmm. That feels good," Kaidan responded, taking his eyes off the road just long enough to hit a rock, causing the tricycle to tip over, knocking both boys into the grass.

Their laughter could be heard all throughout the park as they lay sprawled out in the tall grass.

"I think we broke it," Shepard said as he struggled to catch his breath.

"Well, it was about three sizes too small for us," Kaidan admitted as he took Shepard's hand.

"Yeah. It was a hell of a ride, though," Shepard chuckled, kissing Kaidan's hand.

"It was fun for sure," Kaidan said before leaning over to kiss Shepard.

"Mommy, I found my tricycle," a little girl called out, causing Kaidan and Shepard to bolt upright. 

"Shit! We better get the hell outta here before her mom shows up," Shepard insisted as he quickly rose to his feet, offering his hand to Kaidan.

"Yeah, we better go," Kaidan agreed as he took Shepard's hand, following him to the picnic table by the entrance.

"I'll grab the booze," Shepard said as he jogged to retrieve the bag.

Kaidan couldn't but stare as he watched the muscles of Shepard's chest ripple with every move he made.

"I got it! Where do you wanna go next?" Shepard asked, wanting Kaidan's input for the evening.

"Hmm. Let's go dancing," Kaidan suggested, causing Shepard to cock his head in amusement.

"I ain't got a shirt. I can't get into a club without one," Shepard reminded his friend.

"You're misunderstanding me. You won't need a shirt," Kaidan replied with a wink.

"Then lead on," Shepard said with a wink as he followed Kaidan closely.

****☆****

"What's this place?" Shepard asked him as Kaidan got comfortable, sitting on a large rock overlooking what looked like a stage.

"It's the hill just in front of the pavilion. They're having a rock concert there tonight. I figured we could listen to it from here – maybe even dance a little," Kaidan said as he handed Shepard a beer.

"Sounds good," Shepard grinned as he clinked his beer bottle with Kaidan's.

It didn't take long for the concert to begin. And before long, the two boys were moving their heads to the music.

"So, can you dance?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Umm. Yes, and no," Shepard replied before finishing his beer.

"Explain," Kaidan said as he took another drink.

"I can dance when it's sexual, or when it's just me and someone else, but in public— I panic and can't dance for shit," Shepard explained.

"You're shy," Kaidan said with a fond smile.

"I–I guess," Shepard shrugged.

"Well, to be perfectly honest, I can't dance either. So, may I have this dance?" Kaidan asked, standing before offering his hand to the blue-eyed beauty.

"A–Alright," Shepard smiled as he took Kaidan's hand.

The two danced together for well over an hour, not stopping until the concert had ended.


"That was amazing," Kaidan whispered before kissing Shepard slowly.

"Hey, K?" 

"Hm?"

"You wanna come with me to see the ocean?" Shepard asked, his smile warm and gentle.

"Isn't it getting a bit too dark for that?" Kaidan asked with an amused chuckle.

"Nah. The moon and stars make it even better," Shepard insisted.

"Sure," Kaidan agreed with a nod. "Let's go to the beach."


Once they had made it to the beach, Kaidan suddenly remembered the fence.

"So, we're gonna trespass?" Kaidan asked nervously.

"Uh-huh," Shepard said as he quickly climbed the fence. "It's your turn, K. I'll catch you on the way down."

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Kaidan said as he pulled himself over the fence.

"'You ready to head down?" Shepard asked as he took Kaidan's hand.

"Yeah, ready and willing," Kaidan smiled as he let Shepard lead him to the beach.


"It's beautiful!" Kaidan said, his eyes wide with wonder.

"'You like it," Shepard asked with a grin.

"I do," Kaidan said with a nod.

"'You wanna go for a dip?" Shepard asked as he began unbuttoning his jeans.

"Are you seriously going into the water? It's pitch black out there," Kaidan said, concern obvious in his voice.

"K, just let go. For once in your life, be spontaneous," Shepard said with a wink as he kicked off his shoes and socks, followed by his jeans and underwear. 

"You're insane!" Kaidan said, laughing in amusement as he watched his beloved friend jump head-first into the ocean.

"Whoo! It feels great, K! You should join me," Shepard suggested as he continued to enjoy the water.

"Fuck it!" Kaidan said as he quickly stripped naked before running head-first into the ocean.

"Damn, that's cold!" Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to laugh before pulling him to his chest.

"I'll warm you up," Shepard promised as he started kissing the older boy passionately.

Kaidan moaned as Shepard kissed his way down his neck.

"Have you ever had sex on the beach?" Shepard asked as he nibbled Kaidan's ear.

"No. Have you?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"Nope, but I want to," Shepard admitted as he led Kaidan to the shore.

"God, you're beautiful," Kaidan said as they made it to the beach.

"So, do you wanna fuck me?" Shepard asked, hoping Kaidan would say yes.

"More than anything," Kaidan admitted. "John, I don't have any condoms."

"Hn. I–It's your call. We can go bareback, or we can just forget the sex part. I'm happy either way," Shepard assured his beloved friend.

"Well, we did have sex twice already without one, and I really want you," Kaidan admitted. "So, let's do it."

Shepard smiled, a bit surprised by Kaidan's reply.

"A–Are you sure?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Positive," Kaidan assured him before pulling Shepard in for a kiss.

Shepard smiled into the kiss as he allowed Kaidan to pull him to the ground.

"You're beautiful in the moonlight," Kaidan smiled as he began kissing his way down Shepard's body.

Shepard gasped as Kaidan took him into his mouth. "Mmm. That feels good."

"Hmm," Kaidan hummed as he continued to pleasure the blue-eyed blonde.

"K, if you keep that up, I'm gonna cum," Shepard warned, causing Kaidan to let Shepard fall from his mouth.

"What are we gonna use for lube?" Kaidan asked, cocking a brow as he gave Shepard's cock a few firm strokes.

"Hm. Give me your fingers," Shepard instructed as he guided Kaidan's hand to his mouth. 

Kaidan subconsciously began to stroke himself as he watched Shepard suck each of his digits, wetting them thoroughly before guiding them to his entrance.

"I–I think you know what to do," Shepard smiled the crooked smile Kaidan loved.

"Yeah, I think I can figure it out," Kaidan chuckled as he began preparing Shepard for what was to come, loving the way Shepard's body reacted when he stroked his prostate.

"I–I'm ready," Shepard announced, causing Kaidan to cease his movements. 

"We still don't have lube," Kaidan reminded him.

"Come here; I'll get you wet enough," Shepard promised.

Kaidan wasted no time, slipping into Shepard's mouth with ease, letting the young blonde get him nice and wet.

"Hmm. Are you s–sure this will be enough," Kaidan asked, his voice stuttering in pleasure.

"Yeah, it'll be fine," Shepard assured his lover as he gave his length one last lick. 

"Okay. If you're sure, then I'm ready," Kaidan said as he lined himself up, ready to take Shepard once again.

"Go ahead. It might take a little longer, so be patient, eh," Shepard instructed as Kaidan slowly started to enter his friend.

"God, you're so unbelievably tight. I don't know if we have enough lubrication for this to be pleasurable for you," Kaidan said as he pulled back, afraid of hurting the younger boy.

"U–Use your spit," Shepard instructed, causing Kaidan to give him a strange look.

Shepard couldn't help but laugh.

"What's wrong, K? Is that too dirty for you?" Shepard teased. 

"It's just— isn't that awfully demeaning," Kaidan asked, not wanting Shepard to feel uneasy.

"No, it'll be helping me. It's not like you'd be spitting in my face, K," Shepard said with a look of amusement on his angelic face.

"I–If you're sure," Kaidan said nervously.

"I'm sure, K," Shepard assured him with a nod.

Kaidan never said another word; he just spit a generous amount onto himself as well as Shepard's entrance.

"Ready to try this again?" Kaidan asked as he once again lined himself up.

"Uh-huh," Shepard replied as he pulled Kaidan in close for a kiss.

Kaidan stopped about halfway through when he felt Shepard tensing in pain. 

"Are you okay, Shepard?" Kaidan asked, his brow furrowing in concern.

"Y–Yeah. Keep going," Shepard insisted as he wrapped his long legs around Kaidan's waist, trying to pull the older boy deeper inside.

Kaidan nodded as he continued until he fully sheathed inside Shepard's tight heat.

"God, I feel like I could cum just like this," Kaidan said, kissing Shepard's neck as he got used to the pleasurable feeling of Shepard's body.

"D–Don't cum yet," Shepard replied in a demanding tone. "Not before you've had a chance to properly fuck me. I wanna be able to feel it in the morning."

"You want it rough," Kaidan grinned. "I think I can handle that."

Shepard grinned as Kaidan gave a sharp thrust to show just how capable he was.

"Fuck yes," Shepard moaned as Kaidan thrusted with wild abandon.

"You're so fucking good. Your body's pulling me even deeper inside. You really love getting fucked, don't you," Kaidan said, surprising himself with his words.

"Yes! I love getting fucked! Your cock feels so fucking good," Shepard admitted as he started to stroke himself.

Before Kaidan realized what he was doing, he put his hands around Shepard's throat.

"I'm gonna fucking wreck you," Kaidan growled as he increased the pace, Shepard's body moving with each brutal thrust.

"Ah, fuck!" Shepard yelled out as Kaidan assaulted the most pleasurable spot within him. "I–I'm gonna cum, K!"

"Then cum," Kaidan insisted as he continued to fuck Shepard through his orgasm, loving the way Shepard's body tightened around him.

"Fuck!" Kaidan called out as he came deep inside his blue-eyed lover, his hands tightening around Shepard's throat as he did so.

"K, y–you gotta let go," Shepard said, gently touching Kaidan's face to get his attention. "'C‐Can't breathe."

Realizing what he was doing, Kaidan quickly removed his hands from Shepard's throat.

"Shit! I'm sorry, John. I didn't realize what I was doing," Kaidan apologized as he kissed the bruises now forming across Shepard's throat.

"T–That's okay, baby. I'm okay," Shepard assured him as he pulled the older boy close.

"I bruised you. I'm a terrible person," Kaidan said as he touched the tender bruises he had caused. 

"Nah. I bruise easy. You didn't do anything wrong. I wanted it rough, and that's what you gave me," Shepard reminded the older boy.

"Was it good for you?" Kaidan asked as he kissed Shepard's chest.

"Uh-huh, better than good," Shepard laughed, his laughter making Kaidan smile.

"I love the sound of your laughter. It's a shame I don't hear it more often," Kaidan said as he dusted the cum-coated sand from Shepard's abdomen.

"Yeah. I ain't really got a lot to laugh about," Shepard admitted as he turned to look Kaidan in the eye. "You make me happy, though. Anyway, we better jump into the ocean. We need to get this sand off our bodies."

"Yeah. It is starting to become uncomfortable," Kaidan chuckled as he kissed Shepard before rising to his feet.

"Mind giving me a hand?" Shepard asked, reaching out for Kaidan.

Kaidan said nothing; he just took Shepard's hand, helping him up off the sandy beach.

"Well, let's go," Shepard insisted as he walked towards the water.

Kaidan's smile turned to a frown when he saw a trickle of what looked like blood running down Shepard's inner thigh.

"Come on, K," Shepard called out, extending his hand to the older boy.

Kaidan walked towards his friend, accepting his hand as he allowed Shepard to lead him into the water.

"I–I hurt you, didn't I," Kaidan asked as he watched Shepard rinse the sand from his body.

"Huh?" Shepard asked in confusion.

"I–I think you're bleeding a little," Kaidan explained, unable to look Shepard in the eye.

"K, you didn't hurt me. I feel fine, so don't worry about it," Shepard insisted.

"A–Are you sure?" Kaidan asked anxiously.

"I'm positive. You worry too much," Shepard chuckled in amusement. "Let's go get that bottle of whisky. We'll have a few shots before heading home."

"O–Okay," Kaidan agreed as he followed Shepard to the shore.


Once they were dressed, they made their way to the fence.

"I don't want the night to end," Kaidan thought aloud as he walked hand in hand with the boy he had grown to love.

"Me either," Shepard agreed, causing Kaidan to stop dead in his tracks. "Huh?"

"I don't think I'll ever get you out of my system. You've taken up too much room in my heart for that," Kaidan admitted. "You sure make things complicated for me."

Shepard's eyes went wide. "I–I never meant to cause you trouble."

"John, shut up," Kaidan grinned as he pulled Shepard in for a kiss. 

Once the kiss was over, Shepard smiled as he pressed his forehead to Kaidan's. 

"We better get going before the cops start making their rounds," Kaidan suggested as they continued walking hand-in-hand towards the fence.


"I'll jump over first," Shepard said as he quickly scaled the fence.

The second Shepard's feet hit the grass – he was blinded by a bright light.

"Stop where you are, and show me your hands," the young policeman instructed as Shepard did as he was told.

"K, stay right there. There's no need for both of us to get in trouble," Shepard instructed, causing Kaidan to furrow his brow.

"But, Shepard," Kaidan pleaded.

"No buts, K. I'll be fine," Shepard assured his friend.

"Put your hands over your head, and slowly turn around until you've made a full circle," the policeman instructed.

Shepard did as he was told, turning slowly to let the policeman know he wasn't armed.

"You know you were trespassing, right?" The policeman asked as he motioned for Shepard to walk closer.

"Yes, sir," Shepard replied truthfully.

"What's your name, kid?" The policeman asked as he searched Shepard for weapons or drugs.

Shepard cursed under his breath when the policeman found the tiny vial containing his medication.

"What are these?" The policeman asked before Shepard could tell him his name.

"Um, m–my medication," Shepard said, knowing the officer would never believe him.

"Right, your medication – like I haven't heard that one before. Have you been drinking tonight?" The officer asked, causing Shepard to flinch.

"Y–Yes, a little, sir," Shepard admitted.

"How old are you, kid?" The policeman asked as he looked into Shepard's eyes for any signs of drug use.

"Sixteen."

"Underage drinking – I might have guessed. What did you say your name was, boy?" The policeman asked, an air of superiority in his tone.

"J–John Shepard," Shepard replied nervously.

"John Shepard? Are you the John Shepard?" The officer asked curiously.

"I–I don't know what you mean, sir," Shepard lied.

"You're the kid that murdered that man a few years back, aren't you?" The policeman asked with a pleased look on his face.

"I— Y–Yes, sir," Shepard replied, giving up on trying to explain himself.

"Anderson's gonna be so impressed! I caught Johnny Shepard! The guys are never gonna believe this," the officer grinned as he had Shepard put his hands behind his back before placing the handcuffs on the young blonde.

The officer led Shepard to the car as Kaidan looked on from the shadows.

"Watch your head," the policeman warned as he placed Shepard into the backseat of the police cruiser.

Kaidan watched helplessly as the car drove away.

"Dammit, John!" Kaidan cursed as he made his way over the fence, grabbing the unopened bottle of whisky before heading home alone.

****☆****

The officer drove to a nearby restaurant, causing Shepard to tense up immediately.

"I'll be back in a second. I have to let my partner know what happened.

Shepard started bouncing his knee as he waited.

"Daddy's gonna fuckin' kill me," Shepard thought aloud, his brow furrowing when he recognized a familiar face.

"Son, step out of the vehicle, please," Anderson instructed as he helped the handcuffed boy regain his balance when he almost fell.

"Go ahead, boy, admit what you did," the younger officer demanded in a hateful tone.

"Jenkins, why don't you sit in the car and eat your dinner. I'll handle this," Anderson insisted.

"But, sir, he had drugs in his possession," Jenkins pouted, causing Anderson to pinch the bridge of his nose in annoyance.

" Now , Jenkins," Anderson said with enough authority to make the younger officer listen.

"Yes, sir," Jenkins huffed as he made his way to the driver's side before getting into the car.

"Jenkins tells me you were trespassing," Anderson said, hoping the boy would open up to him. 

"Uh-huh," Shepard nodded, trying his best to avoid Anderson's eyes.

"Same old Shepard," Anderson chuckled. "Mind telling me what you were doing on the beach at this hour?"

"Swimming," Shepard admitted.

"That's a bit dangerous, isn't it," Anderson said, giving the boy a scolding look.

"I–I don't mind," Shepard replied, his feet shifting back and forth as he spoke.

"And these?" Anderson asked as he showed the vial to Shepard.

"That's my medicine. I–I'm sick, and it's not good for me to miss a dose. I swear they aren't drugs. I have a prescription for them, but the bottles are at my house," Shepard explained, hoping Anderson would understand.

"Is it past time you took them?" Anderson asked, not wanting the boy to get sick.

"Y–Yes, sir," Shepard admitted.

"Hn. If I take these handcuffs off, you aren't gonna run, are you?" Anderson asked, already knowing the answer.

"No, sir. I won't run," Shepard promised as Anderson removed the shackles. 

"Thank you, sir," Shepard said with a polite bow as he rubbed his wrists.

Anderson opened the passenger's side door to grab an unopened bottle of water before turning his attention back to the boy.

"Here," Anderson said as he handed the boy the medication as well as the bottle of water. "I don't want you getting sick."

"Thank you," Shepard said as he quickly took his medication. 

"Where's your shirt?" Anderson asked in amusement.

"Um. I–I dunno. I must've misplaced it," Shepard lied.

"Were you drinking?" Anderson asked curiously.

"A little. But that was a few hours ago," Shepard admitted.

"Were you alone tonight?" Anderson asked, his instincts telling him that Shepard had company.

"Y–Yeah. I ain't got any friends," Shepard half-lied.

"I see. Well, I don't think you were intentionally causing trouble. I think I can let you go with a warning. I'll have to drive you home, though," Anderson said as he opened the car door for the young blonde.

"T–Thank you, sir," Shepard said, grateful for Anderson's intervention.

"No problem, son," Anderson smiled as he shut the car door before making his way to the passenger's side.

"Sir, are you sure we should just let him go. What if he hurts someone?" Jenkins asked, his paranoia getting in the way of fact.

"Relax, Jenkins. I think it's highly unlikely the kid will go from trespassing on an empty beach to assault in one night," Anderson said, giving his rookie partner a sour look as he spoke.

"Y–Yes, sir," Jenkins said with a nod as he started the car.

"We're taking the boy home," Anderson instructed as he told Jenkins the address.

"Understood, sir," Jenkins replied as he headed for Shepard's house.

****☆****

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK… 

Anderson knocked on the door, waiting patiently for an answer as Shepard fidgeted beside him.

Once the door opened, Chris cocked his brow as he looked at the officer and his son.

"Good evening, Mr. Scott. I'm Detective David Anderson," Anderson said, smiling as he spoke.

"I–Is Johnny in trouble?" Chris asked, giving his son a confused look.

"No. It's nothing like that. We caught him trespassing at the beach. He was alone, and there was no sign of vandalism. I think he was just being a kid, so I decided to bring him home before he was tempted to do anything drastic," Anderson grinned as he patted Shepard on the back.

"Thank you for bringing him home," Chris said as he motioned for Shepard to stand near him. "My boy hasn't had the easiest life. I'm glad you didn't arrest him for being a kid. Most others would have taken him in, in a heartbeat. I'll talk to him about the trespassing thing. I'll make sure he doesn't do it again."

"That would be much appreciated. Well, don't be too hard on him. Have a good night. Stay out of trouble, kid," Anderson said, giving Shepard a friendly smile before making his way back to the cruiser.


Chris watched until the car was out of sight before closing the door.

"Kaidan left you alone?" Chris asked, his voice full of anger.

"No. He was there. I just told him to hide. I didn't see the point in both of us getting in trouble," Shepard admitted.

"Johnny, you are too damn nice," Chris grinned as he kissed his son's forehead. "Did you have fun?"

"I did. It was nice – being a kid for once. I even got Kaidan to ride a tricycle," Shepard explained with a cheeky grin.

"Really!? I woulda paid to have seen that," Chris chuckled as he led his son to the kitchen. "I ordered a pizza. It's still warm. Whataya say we have a few beers and eat this bad boy? Then you can tell me all about your date."

"Sounds good, Dad," Shepard agreed with a smile as he took a seat next to his father.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

SUNDAY MORNING – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Hey, Johnny," Chris yawned as he poured himself a cup of coffee. "How's the head, any signs of a hangover?"

"Nope. No hangover," Shepard smiled as he took a bite of his cereal.

"Nice to see you eating something without me having to tell you to," Chris said as he grabbed himself a bowl from the cupboard. 

"I left the milk out for you. I knew you'd be up soon," Shepard said, motioning to the carton on the table.

"Thanks. Looks like we'll have to go shopping soon," Chris said as he drained the carton before tossing it into the bin.

The two sat in comfortable silence until there was an unexpected knock at the door.

"Who could that be at this time of morning?" Chris asked as he started to rise from his seat.

"I'll get it," Shepard insisted. "Go ahead and finish your cereal."

"Uh-huh. You know who it is, don't you?" Chris said, narrowing his eyes at his son.

"Yeah, Dad, it's Kaidan," Shepard replied in a sarcastic tone. "How could I possibly know who's at the door? I'm not psychic," Shepard chuckled as he made his way to the door.

"Your mom thought you were," Chris said, causing Shepard to look back.

"What?" Shepard asked, thinking he had misunderstood.

"I'll tell you later," Chris winked as the visitor knocked again. "You better hurry and get that."

"Uh-huh," Shepard said, still staring at his father while turning the knob on the door.

"Hey, Shepard," Kaidan smiled, surprising Shepard with his presence.

"Hey. W–What are you doing here?" Shepard asked, a smile forming on his full lips.

"I was worried about you," Kaidan admitted. "I wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Oh. Thanks. D–Do you wanna come in?" Shepard asked, motioning for Kaidan to enter.

"I don't think your father would like that very much?" Kaidan said, rubbing his neck as he spoke.

"Gimme a minute, and we can go somewhere and talk," Shepard said as he closed the door, leaving Kaidan alone on the porch.

"Hey, Mister," a young boy called out from the yard next door.

"Huh?" Kaidan asked as he turned his focus to the boy.

"You better leave while you have the chance. That boy's a demon. He'll kill you if you get too close," the young boy warned.

"Who told you that?" Kaidan asked just as the door opened behind him.

"Well, I'm ready to go. We can go anywhere you like," Shepard said, smiling his best smile as he came to stand beside Kaidan.

"Who's that kid?" Kaidan asked as he pointed the boy out.

"That's one of the neighbours. Ignore them if you can," Shepard said as he stepped out into the yard.

"O—kay. He had some pretty strange things to say about you," Kaidan said as he followed Shepard closely.

"I'll bet," Shepard said, looking unamused at best. 

Shepard could feel the boy's eyes upon him, following his every move until Shepard had, finally, had enough.

"Whataya want, you little parasite?" Shepard called out, causing Kaidan to stare in confusion.

"E–Excuse me?" Kaidan said, cocking a brow as he spoke.

Suddenly, a rock came flying through the air, and just as it was about to hit Shepard's head, the young blonde caught it with ease, causing Kaidan's mouth to drop in awe.

"How did you—" Kaidan's words trailed off when he noticed the  sudden changes in Shepard's eye colour, shifting from shades of dark blue to sapphire before beginning to glow a beautiful shade of blue. 

Wind stirred all around as Shepard's temper began to flare.

"I'm in no mood for your shit today," Shepard warned as the boy fell to the ground as if someone had pushed him.

Kaidan couldn't understand what he had seen. So, instead of dwelling on it, he remained silent as he watched the young boy scurry away with tears in their eyes.

"I take it that happens often," Kaidan asked as he watched Shepard's eyes return to their normal shade of sapphire blue.

"Yeah. That kid's a pain in the ass," Shepard said as he threw the rock as far as he could.

"Do you wanna get outta here?" Kaidan asked, hoping to take Shepard away from his troubles for a few hours.

"Yeah," Shepard agreed. "I'm sick of this place."

"Let's go," Kaidan said, motioning towards the car.

****☆****

THREE HOURS LATER… 

Shepard and Kaidan found themselves lying underneath the familiar foliage of Mrs. Alenko's garden.

"It's really peaceful here," Shepard admitted as he kissed Kaidan's naked chest.

"Yeah. You should see the orchard. You'd absolutely love it," Kaidan said as he ran his fingers through Shepard's long dark-blonde hair.

"What's the orchard like?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Well, first of all, there are hundreds of apple trees, and when they're all in full bloom, it's like a river of white. When I was little, I remember thinking the fields were covered in snow because of all the fallen petals. My dad just laughed before taking my hand and leading me into the field. The petals make for a soft blanket too. I used to take naps under the branches, looking up at the blue sky while the wind stirred the petals, making them flutter in the wind. I'd love for you to see it one day," Kaidan said, kissing the top of Shepard's head.

"It sounds beautiful," Shepard said, his voice sounding sleepy and faraway.

"Hey, you aren't going to sleep on me, are ya?" Kaidan asked with an amused chuckle.

"I'm a little tired," Shepard admitted with a small laugh.

"I guess we better head back, huh," Kaidan said, disappointed that the moment had to end.

"Yeah. I guess we should," Shepard agreed as he gave Kaidan a quick kiss before wearily dragging himself up onto his feet.

Kaidan's brow furrowed as he reached out to steady the wobbly teen.

"Are you okay, John?" Kaidan asked as he allowed Shepard to lean against him.

"Y–Yeah. I–I'm just tired," Shepard assured him as he steadied himself before making his way to Kaidan's car.

Kaidan stayed close in case Shepard needed him for balance.


Once they were firmly buckled in, Kaidan started the car.

"Do you wanna get a bite to eat before I take you home?" Kaidan asked, thinking Shepard's weakness might have something to do with low blood sugar.

"Nah. I ain't really hungry," Shepard said as he leaned against the window.

"Are you sure?" Kaidan asked again. 

"Uh-huh," Shepard said, taking Kaidan's hand in his. "Thanks for this weekend, K. I had fun, and I'll never forget it."

"You talk like it's the last time," Kaidan said, feeling uneasy with Shepard's words.

"It might be," Shepard admitted as he squeezed Kaidan's hand.

"Why do you say that?" Kaidan asked anxiously.

"Come Monday morning – everything will go back to the way it was before. I know it and you know it. And that's okay, K. I don't blame you," Shepard explained, a sad smile on his face.

"John, even if that's true, that doesn't mean we won't have more days like this," Kaidan said, trying his best to reassure his friend.

"Call it a feeling, K," Shepard insisted.

"John, you worry too much," Kaidan said as he kissed Shepard's hand.

"We'll see," Shepard smiled a sad, knowing smile that Kaidan hated as they continued the drive in silence.

****☆****

8:45 PM – THE SHEPARD FAMILY HOME… 

"Well, we're here," Kaidan announced as he turned his attention towards Shepard. 

"Yeah. I–I better head inside," Shepard said as he quietly unfastened his seatbelt.

"John," Kaidan called out, causing Shepard to cock his head to the side.

"Yeah?"

"I'll see you tomorrow," Kaidan said as he kissed the blue-eyed beauty goodnight. 

"Y–Yeah. Goodnight, K— and thanks again," Shepard smiled as he kissed Kaidan one last time before heading into the house.

"What's this feeling – is it dread? What the hell is it?" Kaidan asked himself aloud as he reluctantly headed home.


"Daddy, I'm home," Shepard called out as he made his way into the kitchen. 

Shepard's brow furrowed when he noticed his father was nowhere to be found.

"Daddy," Shepard called out once more before heading towards the master bedroom.

Opening the door slowly, Shepard checked inside for his father.

"Where the hell is he? His car's here, so I know he hasn't left," Shepard thought aloud as he headed to his bedroom, flicking on the light when he was suddenly grabbed from behind.

Shepard's eyes went wide as he fought to remove the hand covering his mouth.

"You were promised, and we take what is ours. Damen was supposed to deliver you to Him, but we were betrayed. He failed the moment Hannah decided to leave the coven. Damen ordered Adam to follow her in order to serve as a protector for the cambion as well as a watcher for the coven's interests. Damen thought he had Adam under his thumb, but he betrayed us. He tried to claim you for himself, but he was weak, and you were far too strong." The voice sounded like his father's, but it was far too dark for it to have been him.

Shepard managed to glance into the dresser mirror, his eyes going wide when he saw his father, eyes black as night, holding onto him from behind.

"Even now, Adam tries to claim you, but you are not his to have. You belong to us," Chris insisted as he bit Shepard's shoulder hard enough to draw blood, causing Shepard to scream into his father's hand. 

"There is power in you, but you must be broken. Tonight, I will break you." Chris said as he licked the blood from the wound before forcing the boy face down on the bed, pulling Shepard's jeans from his body along with his underwear before forcing him to turn over.

"Hey, Johnny! Be a good boy and show Daddy a good time," Chris said, the demon possessing him using his true voice as a tool to try and break his son.

"S–Stop! Daddy wouldn't hurt me," Shepard said, closing his eyes tight, refusing to look into the eyes of his father as he was violated.

"Daddy, please," Shepard pleaded, causing Chris's body to freeze, his expression changing as, finally, Chris regained control.

"W–What did I do?" Chris asked as he immediately let go of his son. "Jesus! I–I didn't hurt you, did I, Johnny?"

"I–It wasn't you! S–Something's using you to hurt me," Shepard said, trying desperately to explain.

"What have I done!?" Chris asked, holding his head in his hands as he spoke.

"Daddy, you didn't hurt me. Please, listen to me; something is possessing you," Shepard tried to explain once more, hoping his father would listen. 

Chris considered his son's words, then thought of all the strange incidents and feelings he had experienced before deciding to take action.

"This has to end. Johnny, I need you to go. I'm gonna take care of this. I'm gonna end this, even if I have to burn this goddamn place to the ground," Chris insisted as he touched his son's face gently.

"L–Let me help," Shepard pleaded.

"No. It wants you, and I don't wanna give it the opportunity to take you," Chris explained. "Adam ends tonight, and I mean permanently."

"I–It's not Adam!" Shepard tried to explain as he pulled his jeans on.

"Johnny, I know you loved Adam, and I know a part of you probably still does, but trust me, Adam is the problem here. His blood stains this house; it has to be him," Chris said, feeling his logic was sound.

"But, Daddy," Shepard tried once again, but Chris wasn't listening.

"Johnny, please, just go. I'll call you as soon as I can," Chris insisted. "I love you, kid."

"I love you too, Daddy," Shepard said as he hugged his father tight.

Chris kissed his son's forehead once more. "Go, son. I'll take care of it."

Shepard just nodded as he grabbed his phone and hoodie before bolting from the house.

"I love you, Johnny," Chris whispered before going in search of a hammer.


Not knowing what else to do, Chris tore the boards from the sealed room before shoving it open.

The smell of blood was still present, despite all efforts to clean the room, and it made Chris want to puke. 

"Adam, I know you're in here," Chris called out. "I know you've been hurting my boy, and it's gotta stop. You hear me, Adam? It's going to stop. I won't let you hurt my son. Not anymore."

Suddenly, Chris was face to face with the spectre of the man. His hair was just a shade duller, and his eyes were dark and hollow, but Chris recognized him immediately.

"My duty was to protect the cambion, to guide him on the path to awakening his power, to ensure his survival, to be his shadow. It was my job. I started the job feeling nothing for the child, but the cambion was not what I expected. He was kind and gentle, nothing like the demon I had expected. In time, I grew to love him. It wasn't love at first sight, not like Hannah's love for him. No. My love was much more gradual. It started out as a brotherly affection, then grew into something much more intimate. The feelings grew into a want I had never felt before. The desire to touch and hold him – it consumed me. It was then that I realized that I had fallen in love with the cambion's spirit, and so I decided to claim him for myself. And claim him, I did. I was the first to have him, the first to break him. Because of that simple fact, he was already more mine than anyone else's. But still, it was not enough,” Adam explained, wanting Chris to hear his story. "During one of the secret rituals Damen conducted on Johnny, one of the novice members was overzealous, and instead of carving his mark along one of the child's ribs as instructed, the man, for whatever reason, stabbed Johnny. The pain made him lose control. His eyes began to glow a beautiful shade of blue; then Johnny chanted a wind and sand incantation that tore the flesh from the man's bones in the matter of minutes. No cambion should have that much power at such a young age. After that, there was talk within the coven that the child would soon be hunted. Fearing he would be taken from me, I searched frantically for a way to bind him to me. Then I stumbled upon a ritual that would forever make him mine. The ritual was intricate and extremely powerful, not to mention forbidden. While the pain caused was regrettable, I had no choice but to try. So, on that fateful night, I decided to use that forbidden ritual to permanently bind him to me. The ritual was extremely violent and the rape brutal. But the pain he endured was necessary. It was needed to make him mine," Adam explained, wanting Chris to understand what had happened.

"You brutally raped my kid for some goddamn ritual," Chris said with a look of sheer disgust on his face.

"It was not the first of such rituals; it was only the most violent. Binding the unwilling takes a lot of power, power a mere human like me cannot hope to possess. Others tried to bind him in a similar way with minimal success. Damen bound him for rituals, and even then, with the benefit of some of the most talented spellcasters, he still couldn't be controlled for any substantial length of time. Watching his failure, I realized that I needed something much stronger than the common rituals that Damen had used. So, instead, I used the ancient forbidden rituals, small gifts to the Gods, to ensure he remained mine," Adam replied.

"You used these often?" Chris asked, causing Adam to nod.

"Every time I took him, and I took him often," Adam answered truthfully, causing Chris to clench his fingers in anger and disgust. "You misunderstand. Not all the binding rituals were violent. Some were quite pleasant. The violence only came with the greater binding spells. Everything was fine until I became desperate to make the binding permanent."

"I take it, it was the new ritual that caused Johnny to fight back and finally put an end to you," Chris said, causing Adam to hiss in disapproval.

"I misjudged his power. He was far more powerful than he should have been. The cambion awakened something inside, and before I realized, it had torn me to shreds. The ritual was so close to being completed. He was so close to being mine. But, instead, the cambion created a protector from his own psyche, a powerful fail-safe to ensure his safety. I doubt the boy even realizes what he's done," Adam said, sounding almost sad.

"You fucking make me sick! If I could, I'd end you again for what you did to my boy," Chris threatened the spectre.

"I know how disturbed I seem to you, but I would love Johnny no matter his age. I love his soul, not his body," Adam insisted, his words making Chris nauseous.

"Bullshit! If that were true, you would have protected him. But, instead, you ruined him. Can't you see how sick and twisted you are?" Chris asked, wanting the spectre to at least acknowledge the damage he had done.

"We are not so different, you and I. You've beaten him while drunk, while I've never once harmed Johnny out of anger. How dare you sit in judgement of me when you are no better!? You condemn me for things you do not understand. You think Johnny was upset because of the sex, but you forget what Johnny is. He's a cambion, the son of a powerful incubus. He enjoys sex. It's in his nature. Age does not matter to his kind. They do not age as we do, and they mature much faster. Before the rituals became necessary, Johnny enjoyed our nights together. What Johnny hated was the ritualistic violence necessary to awaken and bind him. That's why he turned on me, not because we were lovers," Adam insisted, angering Chris even further.

"You really are fucked in the head! You were never lovers! You were nothing more than his rapist. If I could kill you now, I would. He was a child, you fucking monster. You're insane if you think my kid enjoyed what you did to him. He hated it. You wonder why Johnny turned on you? It's because you drove him to hate you. With every touch, you made him hate you just a little more. You're nothing more than a demon," Chris insisted, his anger growing more with every word spoken.

Adam hissed at the word demon. 

"I AM NOT A DEMON!" Adam screamed. "I WAS PROTECTING HIM! YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND MY LOVE FOR HIM!"

"You're damn right; I won't! And you're fucking delusional if you think you protected him! Johnny has nightmares about you. You took his innocence and destroyed a part of him, and now he can never be whole. He loved and trusted you, and you betrayed him in the worst way. You can lie to yourself for all eternity. I don't give a damn, but I don't wanna hear it," Chris yelled.

Adam's expression changed from anger to understanding.

"I know how you feel, but hating me won't help anyone now. Johnny is being plagued by demonic spirits as well as other nightmares. It's their job to take him to their master. He was promised, and they're here to collect," Adam said, wanting Chris to understand the danger Shepard was in.

"What are you on about now?" Chris asked, unsure whether to believe the spectre's words.

"Listen to me! The coven was betrayed from within. And, somehow, the cambion was promised to another," Adam said, causing Chris to frown.

"What are you talking about?" Chris asked, unsure as to whether or not he should care about the man's words.

"The cambion was to be Devon's, but in the end, Hannah couldn't give him up. For reasons unknown, Devon allowed her to leave. He promised to stay away as long as she continued to protect his son. Everything would have been perfect, but there was a snake inside the coven. A deal was made, and we were betrayed. Someone within the coven had promised the cambion to another. Somehow, a pact was struck right under our noses. The demons in this house are lesser demons, here to retrieve what was promised to them, and they won't stop until they succeed," Adam explained.

"Where did the demons come from?" Chris asked, a serious look on his face.

"They came through the hellgate that's located on this land. Long ago, Hannah's father placed a spell on the house. He summoned several guardian spirits, and they were bound to serve as protection for his daughter. Her father was a high-ranking member of the coven, and his spells are tied to it. When Hannah broke the covenant, the spirits disappeared. They were no longer willing to protect her. She was no longer part of the coven that summoned them, so they had no obligation to her. Without spirits to protect this house, it was easy for the lesser demons to slip through. All it took was a simple spell. I don't know who cast it, but whoever it was, was very clever. Before we realized it, the house was infested with lesser demons. It was a struggle to keep them away from the tiny cambion. Eventually, the demons caused Hannah to take matters into her own hands. Desperate to protect her child, she had me join her to try to bind the lesser demons to her will. But Hannah wasn't the most talented spellcaster, and the spell she chose ended up binding the lesser demons to the house instead. This left them free to turn on her and anyone else who entered. They have waited years, and now they wish to claim the cambion. They wish to make an offering of him to one of the Demon Lords. Unfortunately, I have no idea which lord they work for," Adam explained.

"Are you finished? Because all this sounds like a whole lot of bullshit! You're obviously insane if you expect me to believe a word of what you're saying. The only truth you've spoken is when you admitted to raping my kid," Chris said, unable to accept his words as fact.

"I'm not lying! What purpose would a lie serve now? You had to have realized by now that the boy is different. This shouldn't come as a surprise to you," Adam insisted.

"I–It makes no sense! If Johnny was a cambion or whatever the hell you call it, then why is he sick? Demons don't get sick," Chris said, determined to prove Adam wrong.

"The cambion is not as sick as you think. All of his mental issues can be explained by his power," Adam insisted.

"Maybe the split-personality can be explained, but what about the dissociative amnesia – or the fact he's bipolar? How do you explain that?" Chris asked, growing tired of Adam's words.

"The bipolar condition most likely comes from the duality of his nature. The boy is a cambion, after all. And as for the amnesia, it can be explained by simple power fluctuations or the calling causing lapses in his memory. Who really knows," Adam said with a shrug.

"What's *the calling*?" Chris asked curiously.

"It's the sound demons, angels, and other spirits make to get the attention of others like them. The cambion no doubt hears these things but never mentions it out of fear of being institutionalized. We, as humans, tend to lock away things we don't understand, and the boy knows this," Adam explained.

"You got an explanation for everything, don't you? Well, what about his blood? Johnny's blood disorder can't be explained by your fantasies," Chris said, thinking he had finally exposed Adam as a liar.

"Surely, they found anomalies in his blood – traces of things they couldn't explain," Adam said, knowing the truth of things.

"Maybe," Chris said, still unwilling to accept his words as fact. "But you still haven't explained his disorder."

"The explanation is simple. His blood is at odds with itself. The human blood is diseased, causing the demon blood to react in a bad way. It's an unexpected side effect due to Hannah's poor genetics," Adam said, causing Chris to snap.

"Don't you dare speak her name," Chris warned.

Adam smiled in amusement. "After all I've told you, you still think she's innocent. I could tell you things far more sinister about that woman. Things that would change your mind about her in an instant. The rituals I performed on Johnny were not the first, and she attended several of them, even participating until her love for the boy became too great. She could no longer stand to see her son in pain. So, she took him away. She never realized that the pain was necessary to make the cambion stronger. It's a well-known fact that with great pain comes great power," Adam explained.

"Bullshit! Hannah would have never allowed any harm to come to Johnny," Chris argued.

"Naive to a fault," Adam said, shaking his head at the man. "Where do you think Johnny got all those cigarette burns?"

Chris sneered at Adam when he remembered what Shepard had said about the burns.

"If what you say is true, and that's a big if, then what did Hannah get for agreeing to hand over her son," Chris asked.

"She didn't just agree to hand over her son; she agreed to carry the demon seed. She agreed to be the vessel. As for what she received, you'll be shocked to learn it was a car. A shiny black sports car was all it took, but it isn't surprising that she chose something so frivolous. After all, she was barely fifteen when she agreed to the pact," Adam replied truthfully.

"You mean the car Hannah claimed was a piece of shit? You expect me to believe that piece of junk was her reward?" Chris argues.

"It wasn't always a piece of junk. It worked fine until she broke the pact. Once that happened, no amount of work could fix it. I told her she was lucky she didn't ask for eternal beauty. That wouldn't have ended well," Adam said, an odd grin on his face as Chris frowned.

"She agreed to have a demon's baby for a fucking car!?" Chris replied in a disappointed tone, realizing he knew very little about his deceased wife.

"You really didn't know anything, did you?" Adam grinned, causing Chris to give him a sour look.

"Alright, smartass! If Johnny's a half-demon, then why does he look so damn angelic?" Chris asked, trying to find anything to prove Adam wrong.

"Not all demons are hideous. Pure demons are nothing more than fallen angels. Johnny's father was an incubus and quite handsome," Chris said with a grin.

"You met Johnny's father?" Chris asked, wanting to know the man's name.

"Of course! I was there when Johnny was conceived. It was quite the scene for an eighteen-year-old boy to witness," Adam admitted truthfully.

"Wait, you watched," Chris asked, shocked by the revelation.

"We're a coven that believes strongly in sexual energy and the power it provides. Our deity is an incubus, after all. So, naturally, all the high-ranking members as well, as the younger members of the coven, watched. It was part of the ritual. Once the ritual was over, those of us who attended were all allowed to use Hannah as we saw fit. A reward for our devotion. It was one hell of a party that night," Adam grinned, loving the look of anger on Chris's face.

"I can't believe Hannah would have allowed such a thing," Chris said in disbelief.

"She did what the coven asked of her, like always. Besides, she fucking loved it! Yeah, Hannah really loved to fuck. But you already knew that." Adam teased.

"Don't fucking push me!" Chris warned. "Hannah was never a member of any coven, and you have never been anything more than a goddamn liar!" Chris yelled, still refusing to believe the man.

"You must have seen her tattoo," Adam said as he showed Chris the tattoo on his wrist, a pentagram with several strange symbols surrounding it. 

Chris's eyes went wide when he saw the tattoo, remembering the exact same tattoo resting on the back of Hannah's neck.

"If I remember correctly, Hannah's was on the back of her neck. She preferred to be discreet," Adam grinned.

"How did she become a member of this coven? Who led her to you?" Chris asked, wanting to know everything.

"Her father was a life-long member. He was a high-ranking member but was asked to step down as ritual master when Damen saw a conflict of interest," Adam explained.

"What was the conflict?" 

"Hannah, of course. John refused to allow his daughter to join us, even though she searched us out at the tender age of twelve. Her father decided his daughter would be brought up innocent and refused her request. Hannah was always a rebellious little thing. To spite her father, she started acting out. Drugs, alcohol, sex – anything to make daddy angry. I began dating her when she was just thirteen. I was sixteen at the time, and Damen suggested I bring her into the fold. I agreed, but John forbade it. He wanted her to wait, but Hannah went behind his back and joined us on her fourteenth birthday. John was not happy," Adam grinned.

"Was he there during Johnny's conception?" Chris asked, nauseous at the implications. 

"No. He approved of the decision, but he never attended any rituals involving Hannah," Adam assured him.

"And Johnny? Did he ever hurt Johnny?" Chris asked, his eyes filled with sadness.

"No. He never saw his grandson. John passed away just shy of Johnny's birth. I believe a heart issue was the culprit, but I'm not certain," Adam replied truthfully.

"Johnny – he isn't a member of this coven, is he?" Chris asked, hoping his son wasn't bound to them.

"A cambion cannot be bound by any coven. They can choose to join, but they can never be bound. It goes against our most sacred and ancient rules. It would be as if we were trying to bind a God," Adam explained.

"But that's exactly what you were trying to do," Chris reminded him.

"Yes. I broke our most sacred rule, and I am paying the price for my folly," Adam admitted.

"Did Johnny follow his mother into the coven?" Chris asked, praying his son hadn’t.

"No, by the time he was old enough to choose, Hannah had already started distancing herself from them. Devon wasn't happy when she took him," Adam said, his expression changing to one of sadness with a touch of fear mixed in.

"Wait, did you say Devon? Is that the name of Johnny's father?” Chris asked, knowing Shepard's middle name was Devon.

"Don't bother looking for him. He's rarely in this realm. Though, he may eventually come to claim the boy. He always had great love for his son. He was disappointed when Hannah broke the pact," Adam replied.

"Why are you telling me all this?" Chris asked, unsure of Adam's intent.

"Because I need you to understand what happened here, what happened between us. And because I love him. I have always loved him. If they take him, if they claim his power, he will cease to exist as he is now. Anything kind and gentle will be destroyed. He will be used as a tool for war. I have no wish to see that happen. The cambion's greatest power will be forever lost if they succeed," Adam said, his tone sincere.

"What power is that?" Chris asked curiously.

"The power of light. The boy's spirit is contagious. He can make even the darkest soul wish for the light," Adam explained.

"If you feel that way, then why did you hurt him? Why do you keep hurting him?" Chris asked, wanting to understand the man's reasoning.

"I told you: I was selfish, so I claimed him for myself. It was the only way I could think of. I still believe we would have been happy together if I had only succeeded. As far as hurting him now: I'm bound to this room. I couldn't hurt him, even if I wanted to," Adam replied truthfully.

"Why are you bound here, and if you aren't hurting him, then who is it?" Chris asked, desperate to protect his son.

"Johnny is strong. He has a talent for spells, the likes I have never seen. He even puts his grandfather to shame, and he was a Grandmaster. Anyway, Johnny bound me to this room the night he killed me. I'm sure he doesn't remember it, but he is the reason I can never leave," Adam explained. 

"Unconsciously or not, why would Johnny do that? Why would he bind you to this room?" Chris asked, unable to understand the logic.

"I'm not sure. With Johnny's gentle heart, I assume he did it as a mercy. I think he feared what would happen to my soul. He was always a kind child," Adam replied.

"If Johnny frees you, what will happen? Will you disappear, go to hell? What will happen?" Chris asked curiously.

"I'm not sure, but I assume I will wander. Johnny's spell gave me a strong link to this world. Even severed, the remnants would be more than enough to keep me here. Like I said, Johnny is extremely powerful," Adam explained.

"Hn. And here, I was hoping Johnny could get rid of you forever," Chris said in a disappointed tone, causing Adam to hiss.

"I am no threat to Johnny. The demons just use my face to trick the boy. The incident with the photo was also their doing. They knew how much pain it would cause him. The pain of his memories makes him stronger, but it also makes his blood sweeter."

"Yeah. I think something's been feeding on him. Why do they want his blood?" Chris asked in confusion.

"They don't want it; they crave it. They hunger for it. Johnny's humanity gives him power they can never have. When they feed on him, they gain that power for a short time. It becomes addictive. They would never kill him; he's far too valuable for that. But they won't leave him be either. They've been feeding on him for years. Even as an infant, they fed on him. I banished several weaker demons when I caught them feeding," Adam said, hoping Chris would listen.

"I'm not sure if I believe you. I witnessed Johnny standing outside this very door, banging his head against it so violently, I thought he was going to give himself a concussion. And you expect me to believe you had nothing to do with that?" Chris asked, not knowing what to believe but knowing what he saw.

"No, that was me. I admit it. I was trying to lead Johnny to me. If I could have gotten him to open the door, then maybe I could have compelled him to free me. I led you to the door as well, in the hopes of you persuading Johnny to free me," Adam explained truthfully.

"So, you wanted to be free, so you could try to – once again – bind yourself to my kid. You're just as bad as the demons," Chris said, disgusted by the man's actions.

"NO! I've learned my lesson well. All I wanted was the freedom to protect him. It tears me apart to see him hurting. If I had been free, I could have protected him. That was my sole intent," Adam explained.

"Are you listening to yourself? You talk about protecting him when you've inflicted so much hell upon him that he'll never be free from all the nightmares of you. You say you want to protect my boy, well, I want to protect him too, from the demons and from monsters like you," Chris said, causing Adam to hiss a bit.

"I swear to you, I only wish to protect my little one. Why can't you see that?" Adam said, growing frustrated with the man.

"If what you say is true, and you're sincere in what you're saying, then tell me what to do to stop them. They're possessing me, trying to make me hurt my kid. And I need to stop it. I know you know how. So, please, tell me," Chris said, desperate to bring them to an end.

"I'll help you… for the sake of my little one. As I've said before, the demons outside this room are also bound here. They were destined to be bound to this house the second they entered through the gate; they just didn't know it at the time. To ensure these lesser demons fail, all you have to do is banish them. If you destroy the house, you destroy their link to this world. They'll have no choice but to go back to where they came from," Adam explained.

"So, all I have to do to protect my son is burn this motherfucker down. That, I can do," Chris said as he cracked his knuckles.

"Be careful," Adam warned. "They'll know your intent, and Hannah no longer has the ability to cast spells. She won't be able to help you. They'll attack you, so be ready." 

"You know Hannah's here?" Chris asked, surprised by the revelation.

"She talks to me sometimes. We loved each other once. I suppose a part of me still loves her. I hope she can forgive me for what I've done. Anyway, I wish you luck. Tell Johnny I'm sorry and that I truly do love him."

"You are a very sick man with an even sicker soul. I hope you know that," Chris said, still nauseated by the sight of him.

Adam laughed. "I know."

Chris watched as Adam faded from his eyes before turning his attention to what needed to be done.

He quickly called his son to tell him what he had decided to do.


"Daddy, is that you? Can I come home yet?" Shepard asked, eager to be by his father's side.

"Not yet, Johnny. Look, kid, if there's anything you want me to save, then you better tell me now, 'cause I'm gonna burn this motherfucker to the ground," Chris told him, hoping he would understand. 

"No, Daddy, you're all that matters. I can come help if you want," Shepard offered, hoping his father would agree.

"No, kid, I'll take care of it. I don't want them blaming you. I'll call you when it's safe to come home," Chris insisted. "I love you, kid. I'll see you soon."

"I love you too. I'll see you soon, Daddy," Shepard said as he ended the call.

"Well, that's done. I guess I better get to it," Chris said, taking a deep breath before heading out


Chris went outside and gathered two red containers filled with gasoline from the shed.

"I hope this is enough," Chris said as he started to open one of the containers.

He was just about to remove the cap when he was thrown violently across the room, crashing hard against the wall.

"We will have what was promised!" A loud demonic voice rang out throughout the house.

"Fuck you! You ain't getting your claws on my kid," Chris yelled as he got back up, heading for the gas can with purpose.

"NO!" The voice boomed as it pinned Chris to the wall, black tendrils circling around his left knee until he heard an audible pop.

"Aaah," Chris screamed in agony as the tendrils began attacking him, beating him within an inch of his life.

"Y–You can't have my kid," Chris growled just as he passed out from the pain.

****☆****

The attack on Chris was so loud that the neighbours decided to call 911. By the time they arrived, Chris was unconscious, with no way to explain what had happened.

One of the neighbours volunteered to tell the police what they had seen, and the police had no choice but to listen.


"I know what happened," the woman insisted, grabbing the attention of the young detective.

"What did you see?" The detective asked, trying to gather as much information as possible.

"It was that boy. His stepson, Johnny Shepard. I saw him run from the house like a bat outta hell. He was covered in blood too," the neighbour lied.

"And you're positive it was his stepson?" The detective asked, wanting to make absolutely sure.

"Absolutely! I hope that devil hasn't killed Chris too," the woman said, shaking her head as he spoke.

"Do you have any idea where he might have gone?" 

"No, I'm sorry. He doesn't have any friends, so I'm not sure where he'd be," the woman said.

"Thanks for the information," the detective said as she made her way to the police car.

"Yeah, I need an APB on John Devon Shepard. He's sixteen years old, about 6'1", weighing about 145 lbs. with long dark-blonde hair and blue eyes," the detective stated to the dispatcher before turning her attention to the detective and the EMTs.

"Any idea when CSI is due to arrive?" The officer asked as he finished taking notes.

"Not for a few hours yet," the detective replied. "I doubt they'll find anything useful here."

"There's a crowd gathering. I hope they're not stupid enough to cross the police tape," the officer said, worried about the potential destruction of evidence.

"Is he conscious yet?" The woman asked the EMT, eager to speak to the victim.

"Not yet. Feel free to follow us to the hospital. Maybe he'll be lucid by the time we get there," the EMT suggested.

"Yeah, that's probably my best bet at figuring out what the hell happened in there. Officer Lang, stay here until the CSI unit shows up," the woman said as she got into the police cruiser, ready to follow the ambulance.

"Will do," the officer replied with a nod as he took up position on the porch.


"Yo, what's going on?" James asked when he noticed all the commotion.

"Apparently, Johnny Shepard beat the hell outta his stepdad. The police are looking for him even as we speak," the young boy replied as he continued to spin a basketball on his finger.

"Are they sure it was him?" James asked, refusing to believe his friend would hurt his own father.

"I dunno. They're just going by what the nosy neighbour lady said. You know how she likes to stretch things, and she really don't like Shepard," the boy said, causing James to search out his friend.

"Ma, I'm going to Jack's for a few hours," James lied.

"Alright, don't be out too late," James's mother called out as James made his way to the car.


MEANWHILE… 

THE ALENKO RESIDENCE… 

Shepard tapped on Kaidan's window, hoping he would hear him.

"Come on, K," Shepard said as he continued to tap on the window. "Jeez, you sleep like the dead."

Growing tired of waiting, Shepard's eyes began to glow in the darkness of the night as he concentrated on the sheets covering the sleeping boy's body.

In an instant, the sheets were dragged from his body, causing the older boy to awaken with a start.

"Finally!" Shepard mumbled as he tapped on the window once more.

"Shepard?" Kaidan said as he rubbed his eyes in disbelief. 

Shepard motioned for him to come closer, causing Kaidan to walk to the window.

Opening the window, Kaidan invited Shepard inside.

"T–Thanks," Shepard said as he took a seat on the floor.

"What's wrong?" Kaidan asked, immediately sensing that something was wrong.

"M–My dad's gonna burn down our house," Shepard replied, making Kaidan cock his brow in disbelief.

"What?"

"You heard me, K. He's gonna burn it to the ground. I hope it's enough," Shepard said as he leaned his head against the wall.

"You want him to burn it," Kaidan asked in confusion.

"Yeah. I really do. That house, it's like it's possessed. Hell, you experienced it first hand. It's just getting worse and worse. We have to do something, or it's gonna fuckin' kill us," Shepard explained, hoping Kaidan believed him.

"O–Okay. What does your dad want you to do?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"He wants me to wait. He said he'd call me when it's done," Shepard replied as he started to fidget restlessly.

"Do you wanna go get some air? Maybe head to the diner down the street?" Kaidan suggested, noticing Shepard's nervousness.

"Y–Yeah, okay," Shepard agreed as he waited for Kaidan to get changed.

"I guess we'll go out the window," Kaidan said as he followed Shepard outside.


"Thanks for helping me take my mind off of things," Shepard said as they walked towards the diner.

"Anytime, Shepard," Kaidan said with a smile as he took Shepard's hand.

BUZZ— BUZZ—

"That's my phone," Kaidan said as he quickly checked the notifications. 

"Mine's buzzing too," Shepard responded as he too checked his messages.

"John," Kaidan said, his tone sympathetic as he finished reading the text.

"M–My dad's hurt, and they think I–I did it," Shepard said, his eyes watering as he spoke.

"John, I know you didn't do this," Kaidan said, trying to comfort the young blonde.

"K, my dad's hurt," Shepard said, caring less about the accusations against him.

"I know," Kaidan said as he hugged Shepard tight.

"I–I need to talk to James," Shepard said as he called his friend.

"Yo, Loco, is this you?" James asked, hoping it was.

"Yeah. What the hell happened, and how is my dad?" Shepard asked anxiously.

"Man, I dunno, Loco. All I know is what I heard. Your dad was hurt pretty bad. They said he was unconscious when they found him," James explained.

"He's still alive, isn't he?" Shepard asked, afraid of the answer.

"Yeah, as far as I know, he is," James assured him. "Loco, the cops are looking for you. I thought you should know."

"James, did my house burn down?" Shepard asked, needing to know what he should do next.

"Uh, no. Why'd you ask a question like that?" James asked, confused by the question.

"I'll explain later. Can you come and get me?" Shepard asked nervously.

"Sure. Where are you?" James asked, ready to change directions if needs be.

"I'm near the all night-diner – the one near the high school," Shepard explained.

"I'll be there in less than five," James promised as he ended the call.

"What are you gonna do?" Kaidan asked, knowing it was nothing good.

"I–I'm gonna burn it myself," Shepard admitted.

"John, please, think this through," Kaidan pleaded.

"Believe me, K, I have," Shepard said as they waited for James to arrive. 


"Yo, get in, Loco. Are you coming, Kaidan?" James asked.

"Yeah. I'm coming," Kaidan agreed as he climbed into the backseat.

"So, where are we headed?" James asked, his eyes firmly on the road as he spoke.

"My house," Shepard replied.

"Loco, you can't. There's a cop watching the place. I don't think it's a good idea," James said, hoping his friend would listen.

"I'll handle it," Shepard said as he started bouncing his knee nervously.

"Whatever you say, Loco," James said as he headed towards Shepard's place.


"Shepard, don't do this," Kaidan pleaded, not wanting his beloved friend to get into trouble.

"I have too, K," Shepard said as he got out of the car. "Take K home for me, James. And thanks for everything."

"No problem, Loco," James said with a nod as he drove further down the street.

"I guess it's time," Shepard said as he walked towards the house.

****☆****

"Hey, aren't you—" 

"Sleep," Shepard commanded, his eyes flashing, causing the officer to fall into a deep sleep.

Once he moved the officer out of harm's way, Shepard entered the house.

"Daddy almost got it done," Shepard said as he noticed the red containers.

Wasting no time, Shepard quickly removed the cap, leaving a trail of gasoline as he made his way down the hall. Noticing that the sealed door had been breached, Shepard made sure to douse it in gasoline.

"I–I'm sorry, Adam," Shepard whispered before continuing on to the master bedroom.

For a split second, Shepard could smell his mother's scent.

"Mom, if you're here, I need you to leave if you can. I love you, but this house is damned. It's gotta be destroyed," Shepard said as he emptied the first container.

Shepard returned to the living room to gather the last can.

"One down, one to go," Shepard said as he doused the kitchen table before heading to his bedroom.

The second he set foot in the room, the door closed behind him.

"That won't stop me! I've had enough of you," Shepard called out as he doused the bed and everything in his closet.

Once the container was empty, Shepard gathered some of his sketches, throwing them into his backpack before throwing it over his shoulder.

"I gotta get outta here," Shepard said as he made his way to the window, throwing out his pack before attempting to climb through the window.

Shepard had one leg out the window when he was thrown violently onto the bed.

"You were promised! You belong to us, cambion," a demonic voice called out, causing Shepard to struggle against his invisible bonds.

"Go to hell!" Shepard yelled, causing the demons to laugh.

"There's no use struggling. You are no match for us," the demons insisted.

"Y–You can't have me. I don't belong to you," Shepard argued, trying his best to break the bonds.

"Hush, child! Your new master awaits," the demons said as Shepard's eyes began to grow heavy.

"Y–You c–can't – have – me," Shepard whispered slowly as his eyes finally closed, too tired to fight back.

"Johnny, wake up," Hannah's voice whispered in his ear. "It's time to show your teeth, baby."

'Mom?'

In an instant, Shepard's strange blue eyes snapped open as his body began to float high above the bed as black tendrils tried to pull him down.

Shepard let out a piercing scream. The scream was so loud, the windows shattered throughout the house as the black tendrils retreated back into the darkness.

Still floating high above the bed, his eyes began to glow a beautiful shade of blue as the house ignited into flame.

Blood began to pour from Shepard's nose as he continued to guide the flames.

"NO! He has awakened! We must stop him!" One of the demons commanded as Shepard formed a barrier between himself and the other demons.

Seeing Adam standing within the flames with a sad, apologetic look on his face, Shepard decided to take pity on him.

"And you are set free," Shepard whispered as Adam smiled before disappearing from his sight.

"The rest of you can burn," Shepard growled as the flames began to engulf everything around him.

Shepard could hear the demons screaming in agony, and with his strength faltering, he let the barrier go.

"I–I'm sorry, Daddy," Shepard whispered as the last of his strength gave out, sending him crashing towards the flaming bed.

" No! " Hannah cried out, her voice pleading and filled with pain. "Devon, please!"

Just before he landed amongst the flames, Shepard felt himself being carried away from the heat by a figure in a hooded red silk robe.


The hooded figure never said a word; he just placed Shepard onto a nearby picnic table.

Shepard could feel someone gently brushing the hair from his eyes, but he was far too tired to open them.

"You've done well, little bird. Rest, you're safe now," the hooded figure said, his voice barely a whisper.

Before leaving the boy, the hooded figure kissed the boy's left wrist, burning a mark into the boy's tender flesh before disappearing from sight.


Shepard could hear the sound of sirens as he struggled to open his eyes.

Just as he had found the strength to sit up, a fireman came from nowhere to put an oxygen mask on the young blonde's face.

"Breathe-easy, kid," the fireman instructed as he checked Shepard's vitals.

"How is he?" The detective asked as she studied Shepard's face.

"His heart rate is strange, and his body is cold to the touch. I have no idea what's causing it. He might be in shock," the EMT replied truthfully.

"Hn," the detective grunted as she pondered on what to do. "Do you think we can take him in?"

"I think he needs medical assistance before you drag him off to interrogation," the EMT said as he continued to monitor Shepard's vitals.

"Fine, but I want him cuffed to that goddamn bed," the detective said, causing the EMT to raise a brow.

"Isn't that a bit extreme?" The EMT asked.

"He's dangerous. He just burned down his own house and may have assaulted his stepfather – he can't be trusted," the detective said.

"A–Alright," the EMT said as he reluctantly cuffed the boy to the gurney. "We're ready to move him."

"Fine. I'll ride with you. I wanna keep an eye on this kid."


MEANWHILE… 

James and Kaidan watched from a distance as Shepard was loaded into the ambulance.

"Man, Loco's screwed for sure," James said, hitting the steering wheel in frustration.

"Yeah, it sure looks that way," Kaidan agreed.

"Why did he burn it all down?" James asked as he watched the embers smoulder.

"I'm sure he had his reasons," Kaidan said, unwilling to break his friend's trust.

"Yeah. Man, he really lit up the sky tonight, didn't he," James said with an approving grin.

"He really did," Kaidan said, his voice sad as he spoke.

Noticing the melancholic tone of his friend's voice, James just had to ask: "Were you and Loco—" James asked curiously.

"Does it matter?" Kaidan asked, practically answering James's question.

"Nah, I guess not," James said with a knowing shrug.

"God, I hope he's okay," Kaidan said as he continued to stare at the burning husk.

"Me too, Kaidan. Me too," James said as they continued to watch the house burn.

****☆****

A MONTH LATER… 

THE ALENKO RESIDENCE – KAIDAN'S BEDROOM… 

"I miss you, John," Kaidan whispered as he inhaled the scent of the black t-shirt that had once belonged to his beloved friend.

"Kaidan, baby, we're gonna be late," Rahna called out from the washroom door. "You need to hurry and get dressed. You know how my father is when it comes to punctuality."

"Yeah. I know," Kaidan said, sighing as he put the shirt back into the drawer. 

"I told my parents to avoid talking about what happened with Shepard. It wasn't easy. They just couldn't fathom how a boy like that could have ever been your friend," Rahna said as she brushed her long dark-brown hair.

"And what kind of boy do they think he was?" Kaidan snapped.

"Kaidan, please, don't start this again. You know I have nothing against him. But my parents don't know him. They only hear and see what the news outlets say. You can't blame them for thinking poorly of him," Rahna said, hoping Kaidan would drop it.

"I— You're right. They couldn't possibly know him, let alone understand him," Kaidan said, giving Rahna his best smile.

"Besides, maybe one day you'll meet again. Who knows?" Rahna suggested as she kissed her boyfriend's mouth.

"Yeah, maybe," Kaidan said as he smiled out the window.

****☆****

Chapter Text

PART TWO

****☆****

TEN YEARS LATER… 

Light from the morning sun slowly crept across the worn-out floorboards, steadily making its way up the bed until it shone brightly on the face of the man found there. His dark-blonde hair shining in the light.

The man groaned as he turned on his side, trying his best to avoid the light, as the brunette man lying beside him began to stir.

"Good morning, beautiful," the brunette said as he kissed the blonde man's cheek.

The blonde frowned as he sat up in the bed, recoiling from the other man's touch.

The brunette sighed. "I always forget how unfriendly you can be after sex."

"If you want, you can use the washroom. You know where it is. When you're finished, I would appreciate it if you left. I got work today," the blonde said as he sat on the edge of the bed, reaching for a half-empty bottle of whisky.

"How much do I owe you?" The man asked as he retrieved his clothing from the floor.

"Same as always," the blonde replied before taking a long drink of whisky straight from the bottle.

"Isn't it a bit too early for that?" The brunette asked, chuckling in amusement.

"Not your concern," the blonde said, rubbing his shoulder as he spoke.

"You never change, do you, Devon," The brunette said, shaking his head in amusement as he made his way to the washroom.

Shepard watched as the man disappeared behind the washroom door, shaking his head as he lit himself a cigarette.

The blonde never moved from his spot, waiting patiently for his guest to finish and move on.

Shepard took a long drag from his cigarette, exhaling the smoke from his lungs just as the brunette opened the washroom door.

"I got your payment," the man said, showing the money to the unamused blonde.

Shepard motioned to the table by the door. Taking the hint, the man placed the money on the table before quietly exiting the apartment.

"Good riddance," Shepard muttered as he put out his cigarette before heading to the washroom for a much-needed shower.

****☆****

11:45 AM… 

Shepard knew he was running late and was trying his best to make up time, opting to avoid stopping for coffee and going straight to work instead.

"Yo, Loco," James called out, causing Shepard to look his way. "Need a ride?"

"Yeah. I do, actually. Do you mind dropping me off at work?" Shepard asked with a crooked grin.

"Get in," James said with a wink.

Shepard chuckled as he got into the passenger's seat. "Thanks for this. I'm running a bit late, and I d–don't think I would've made it in time on foot."

James smiled when heard the familiar stutter – not as prominent as it once was – but still present in Shepard's speech.

"No problem, Loco. My garage is just across the street, so it's not like I'm going outta my way," James assured the blue-eyed blonde.

"Still, I– I appreciate it," Shepard said as he began to fidget a bit.

"Can't sit still, huh," James teased with a friendly smile.

"Yeah. It's one of those days. So, how's Jack doin'?" Shepard asked, eager to change the subject.

"She's doing great. She's helping her stepdad with his bounty hunting business," James explained.

"I was wondering why I haven't seen her around," Shepard said as he continued to stare out the window.

"She'll be back in a few weeks," James said with a grin.

"You must miss her," Shepard said, bouncing his knee in a nervous habit.

"I do. I'm about to bust – if you know what I mean," James admitted with a suggestive wink.

"You know, I could help you with that if Jack would allow it," Shepard offered.

"Tempting. I might take you up on it," James grinned as he pulled in front of the local junkyard. "Well, here we are – Tuchanka, the biggest junkyard in the province."

"Yep. Thanks for the ride, James," Shepard said in appreciation.

"Anytime, Loco," James said. "'You wanna grab a few drinks after work? It'll be my treat."

"Sure," Shepard agreed with a nod.

"Great. See you at eight," James said. "¡Hasta luego!"

"Later, James," Shepard said with a wave as he walked into the office to check in for the day.

****☆****

"Shepard, I need you to show my nephew the way things work around here," a very large man with dark red hair and reddish-brown eyes spoke, causing Shepard to turn his way.

"Are you sure you want me to show him? I've only been working here for a month," Shepard reminded his boss.

"I know. But, you're the best worker I have, and the boy needs to learn how things work. He wants to take over one day, and he can't do that until he gets his hands dirty. I'm counting on you, Shepard," the man said as he slapped the blonde on the shoulder.

"Okay, Wrex, but what do I do if he refuses to work?" Shepard asked, knowing how family members and work didn't always mix.

"If he starts slacking off, just let me know. I'll put him back in line," Wrex insisted.

"O–Okay. What's his name?"

"It's Eugene, but we all just call him Grunt," Wrex explained.

"Grunt?" Shepard asked, cocking a brow in amusement.

"Don't ask," Wrex said as he made his way outside, motioning for Shepard to follow.


"Grunt, this is Shepard. He'll be teaching you the ropes," Wrex explained, causing the platinum-blonde-haired kid to roll his blue-green eyes.

"Is this really necessary? I mean, how hard can it be to stack junk," Grunt said, obviously annoyed by the notion.

"Listen, whelp, everything has its place here. You can't go messing up the order of things. It'll cause chaos and disorder. That has been the downfall of many junkyards. I won't let it happen to Tuchanka," Wrex lectured his nephew.

"Yeah, yeah," Grunt said, kicking a stray rock in boredom.

"Shepard, he's all yours," Wrex insisted. "You'll be burning those old tires in the back. Use the cement kiln, and be sure to be careful. You'll mess yourself up pretty quick if you get too close to the kiln while it's burning."

"Understood," Shepard said as he pulled his face mask up over his mouth and nose.

"Wait, you're trusting him to work with fire? What if he loses it and decides to throw me into the kiln?" Grunt asked, knowing all about Shepard's history.

Shepard's brow furrowed as he clenched his fists in annoyance.

"One can only hope," Wrex replied dryly, refusing to comment seriously on such a foolish idea.

"Ha, ha," Grunt said, unamused by his uncle. "I'm being serious, old man."

"Kid, if Shepard wanted you dead, you'd be dead, and I doubt anyone here could stop him. So, if I were you, I'd try not to piss him off," Wrex said, giving Shepard a supportive slap on the back.

Shepard grinned underneath his mask. "I guess we should get started. That pile isn't getting any smaller."

"Good, man," Wrex said before giving Grunt a serious look. "Put on a mask, whelp. Those fumes are toxic, and I don't want you getting sick on your first day."

"Fine! But do I have to wear it all the time, like he does?" Grunt whined.

"No, but you listen to Shepard when he says for you to wear one," Wrex insisted.

"Fine. Let's get this over with," Grunt huffed as he stormed off towards the impressive pile of tires.

"Watch over him. He's young and cocky, a reckless combination," Wrex said, scratching his chin as he spoke.

"Will do," Shepard nodded as he made his way towards Grunt and the tires.

"Hm. Good kid. It's a shame he's wasting away here," Wrex thought aloud before going back into the office.


3 HOURS LATER… 

Shepard put another load of tires into the kiln. The heat and exertion, causing him to sweat profusely as he wiped his forehead with his inner arm.

"Grunt," Shepard called out in annoyance as he watched the teen continuing to play on his phone instead of doing his job.

"GRUNT," Shepard yelled, sick of the boy's slacking. "Goddammit, Grunt!" Shepard cursed as he yanked the phone from the boy's hand.

"Hey! Whataya think your doin', you psycho?" Grunt asked in irritation.

"Go pick up another load of tires, now," Shepard demanded, causing the teen to roll his eyes before doing as he was told.

Shepard just shook his head as he collected a load of his own.

"Don't open the kiln until it's finished," Shepard said as he continued to stack the next batch of tires.

Sensing something was wrong, Shepard looked back just in time to see the boy turning the latch.

"NO!!" Shepard screamed out.

In an instant, Grunt was sent flying backwards, just out of harm's way as the flames poured out of the kiln, along with clouds of toxic black smoke.

Grunt sat up, rattled and in shock, as he stared at Shepard, whose eyes were glowing a strange blue.

"W–What the hell!?" Grunt called out as he watched Shepard closely.

Shepard walked towards the kiln, calm as ever, cocking his head to the side as the flames and smoke retreated back into the kiln, the heavy hatch closing and locking into place as if nothing had happened.

"Are you alright?" Shepard called out, his eyes returning to their natural sapphire hue.

"Y–Yeah. H–How did you do that!?" Grunt asked in awe.

"I–I didn't do anything," Shepard lied. "Y–You just got lucky."

"I know what I saw," Grunt argued.

"Y–You were in shock. You d–don't know what you saw," Shepard insisted, subconsciously rubbing the inside of his left wrist. 

"Uh-huh. Well, whatever you did— thanks," Grunt said, reaching his hand out as a peace offering.

"Anytime, Grunt," Shepard smiled as he helped the boy to his feet. "Are you gonna start paying closer attention now?"

"Yeah. I'll be more careful," Grunt promised.

"Good. Let's get back to work. We have one more load, then you can call it a day," Shepard said as he slapped the boy on the back.

"Yeah. Let's do it," Grunt laughed as he followed Shepard's lead.


"Well, that's enough for the day," Shepard said, giving Grunt the go-ahead to leave an hour early. "I'll explain why I let you leave early to Wrex. You won't get into trouble," Shepard assured the boy.

"Thanks, but what are you gonna do?" Grunt asked curiously.

"I'm gonna grab that last load and finish the burn. I don't really feel like dealing with it again tomorrow," Shepard explained.

"Are you sure you can do it alone?" Grunt asked, not wanting to leave the man hanging.

"I'll be fine. Go, have fun," Shepard insisted as he began gathering the last of the tires.

"Thanks, Shepard," Grunt smiled before leaving the yard.


8:15 PM… 

Shepard finally finished disposing of the tires when he made his way to the office to clock out.

"Grunt told me what you did for him today," Wrex said, causing Shepard to look in his direction.

"Yeah. It was nothing. It shook him up a bit, though. So, I let him leave an hour early. I hope you don't mind. I think it scared him enough to start paying more attention. So, it all worked out," Shepard explained with a shrug.

"Well, I just want you to know, I'm grateful. Anyone else would've let him burn," Wrex said in appreciation of the blonde's actions.

"I–I didn't really do much. Grunt tripped; that's probably what saved him," Shepard lied.

"Uh-huh. That's not the way Grunt tells it," Wrex said with a knowing smile. "As a reward, you don't have to come in tomorrow. You can take the day off."

"Thanks, but I really need the money," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"And you'll get paid. Think of it as a bonus," Wrex insisted, knowing Shepard must have been exhausted.

"T–Thank you. I–I appreciate it," Shepard said with a sincere nod.

"Well, I'm gonna go grab some dinner. Have a good one, Shepard," Wrex said as he made his way out of the office.

"I wonder if James waited for me," Shepard thought aloud as he made his way across the street.

****☆****

"Yo, Loco! It's about time. I almost gave up on you," James grinned as he greeted his friend.

"Sorry, I'm late. The job took a little longer than expected," Shepard explained.

"Damn, you look tired as hell. Hot, but tired," James said, grinning in amusement.

"If you call sweaty and dirty hot, then, yeah, I'm hot," Shepard replied with a grin.

"Loco, sweaty is hot, and the dirtier, the better," James said, running his hand down Shepard's chest, feeling every muscle rippling underneath his coveralls.

"Y–You're such a fuckin' tease," Shepard laughed as James winked in amusement.

"You love it, Loco," James insisted. "You know, you should take off the coveralls if we're gonna go drinking tonight."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess I probably should," Shepard chuckled as he unzipped the front before stepping out of them. 

"Nice! Much sexier, Loco. So, what bar do you wanna hit tonight?" James asked, eager to get the night started.

"I'll go wherever you decide. I don't have to work tomorrow, so I plan on drinking until I pass out," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Don't drink too much. I might wanna fuck you later," James said, licking the sweat from Shepard's neck for emphasis.

"You always say that, but we both know you won't act on it. The only time you ever have the balls to play with me is when Jack's there to tell you what you can and can't do to me," Shepard reminded his friend.

"This time's different. I haven't had sex in almost a month. I'm dying here," James admitted as he playfully rubbed Shepard through his jeans.

"Really? A month? You really do need it, huh," Shepard said, cocking his brow in amusement. "Jack must be outta her mind."

"Nah, I gave her permission to fool around with her old college roommate. They used to hook up sometimes," James explained.

"You guys have a very interesting relationship," Shepard grinned, knowing how much the two actually loved each other.

"Yeah. We don't go broadcasting the details of our sex life. We know it's not for everybody. Hell, even Garrus would probably freak out about it. But you, you're cool. You realize that sex doesn't always equate to love. To me and Jack, sex is just something fun to share. As long as we're honest, we don't see the need for monogamy," James explained.

"Yeah. I get that," Shepard said, nodding as he spoke.

"Do you think you could ever be monogamous, Loco?" James asked curiously.

"Hell, I dunno. I feel like it would be hard for me. I– I don't know why. But I'd be willing to try it, though – for the right guy, I mean," Shepard admitted with a shrug.

"Hn. Here's hoping you find a more open-minded guy. I think being bound to one sexual partner would probably kill you," James joked as he put his arm around Shepard's shoulder.

"It p–probably would," Shepard laughed as he allowed James to lead him to the car.

****☆****

AFTERLIFE BAR – LATER THAT NIGHT… 

"Yo, Loco, that guy has been eyeing you all night," James said, motioning to the dark-haired man sitting at the end of the bar. 

"Really? I–I hadn't noticed," Shepard shrugged as he took another drink of his beer.

"You never notice anything," James chuckled as he ordered another beer. 

"Hn."

Shepard cocked his brow as a shot of tequila was placed in front of him.

"Courtesy of the gentleman at the end of the bar," the bartender smiled before returning to his duties.

Shepard picked up the drink, raising the glass to the man in appreciation before swallowing it in one go.

"Told you," James said with a satisfied smirk. "You should go talk to him. Who knows, he might be the one."

"Highly unlikely," Shepard said in disagreement.

"Loco, go talk to him. I know you think he's hot," James said, trying to encourage his friend to socialize.

"And how do you know that?" Shepard asked with a chuckle.

"I know you aren't blind. The guy's hot," James insisted.

"Maybe you should talk to him," Shepard suggested.

"Nah. Jack would kill me. She has to get to know the person before she'll agree to anything," James explained.

"Smart girl," Shepard said as the bartender placed another shot of tequila in front of him.

"Another gift from the gentleman," the bartender said with a smile.

"Persistent, ain't he," James chuckled. "You should talk to him."

"I–I ain't interested in starting a relationship," Shepard admitted as he swallowed the shot.

"Okay," James nodded. "How about using him for sex?"

Shepard's sapphire eyes flashed bright at the suggestion.

"Hmm. I guess I could talk to him," Shepard grinned, the thought of sex making him give in.

"Atta-boy, Loco," James grinned, slapping his friend on the back in approval.

"Wish me luck," Shepard said with a wink as he made his way to the end of the bar.


"Two, please," Shepard called out to the bartender, motioning to the shot of tequila sitting in front of the dark-haired man.

"I was hoping you would join me," the young man grinned as he drank his shot.

"I figured it was only fair, considering your generosity earlier," Shepard replied as the bartender handed them their drinks.

"You're a very handsome man," the dark-haired man said, turning his full attention towards Shepard.

"Hn. So are you," Shepard admitted, taking notice of the man's light-green eyes.

"Thank you. So, are you here alone?" The man asked, placing his hand on Shepard's knee.

"Nah. I'm here with my friend, James," Shepard replied as he motioned towards James, making the man tense as he removed his hand from Shepard's knee.

Shepard couldn't help but laugh. "We're not together, we're just friends."

"That's a relief. For a second, I was afraid he'd rip my head off. He looks like a very intimidating man," the young man said with a relieved smile.

"Yeah, you don't have to worry. I ain't bound to anyone," Shepard admitted, causing the man to smile at his choice of words.

"That's an interesting way to put it," the green-eyed man laughed. "I prefer a purely sexual relationship myself."

Shepard grinned as he finished off his shot. "That actually sounds pretty damn good."

"If you feel that way, then follow me," the man said with a wink, finishing his shot before heading towards the men's room.

Shepard just grinned as he followed the young man.


The young man held the door for his would-be lover, tracing a strange pattern on the face of it while quietly chanting – his voice barely a whisper. Smiling wickedly before allowing the door to fully close.

"Now, we can have some real fun," the man grinned, turning his attention to Shepard.

The man walked slowly towards Shepard, licking his lips until he was close enough to touch the beautiful blonde.

Shepard closed the gap, kissing the young man roughly, pulling the man's dark hair as he ran his tongue from the man's chin to the small dip in his collarbone.

The dark-haired man moaned in pleasure as he ripped Shepard's t-shirt open before dropping to his knees in front of the young blonde.

"I wanna taste you," the man grinned as he quickly unbuckled Shepard's belt.

Shepard growled as he allowed the man to free him from his jeans, grinning as the man finally engulfed his growing length.

"Mmm. You taste so good," the dark-haired man hummed as he kissed his way down Shepard's length before taking him into his mouth once more.

Shepard couldn't resist the urge to fuck the man's throat, causing the man to gag as he allowed the young blonde to use him.

Not wanting to cum too soon, Shepard pulled the man to his feet, forcing him to release his cock from his mouth.

"So, who's fucking who?" Shepard asked, eager to start the main event.

"Oh, you're definitely the one getting fucked," the man suggested, licking Shepard's neck before chanting into the young blonde's ear.

'Goddammit! It's a binding spell. He's a hell hunter,' Shepard thought to himself, closing his eyes in disappointment as the hunter finished his spell.


Pretending to be under the dark-haired man's sway, Shepard stood eerily still, not moving a muscle until ordered.

"Well, that wasn't so hard. I expected more from him. Well, cambion, I think it's high time I delivered you to my master. Although, it would be nice to share you with a few of my demon friends first. I just hope they don't get too carried away," the dark-haired man grinned, palming Shepard's cock before removing a ritual dagger from his right boot.

The man began chanting a spell of summoning, causing the air around them to become alive with energy. 

Shepard could feel the electricity and watched silently as the dark-haired man moved to cut his hand. 

He was just about to draw blood when Shepard knocked the dagger from the man's hand with his mind.

"WHAT!?" The man called out in shock. "B–But you should be bound! The spell should have rendered you harmless."

"Your spells are shit. You really need to work on them a bit if you're going to be a hunter," Shepard suggested, cocking his head to the side in mild annoyance.

The man began to chant once more, causing Shepard to laugh.

"You really are an idiot," Shepard grinned as he began chanting a spell of his own.

"W–What!? S–Stop!" The man pleaded as blood began to trickle from his nose.

"Who's your master? What's his name?" Shepard asked, curious to see who was hunting him this time.

"I–I can't say. H–He'll kill me," the man said, his voice filled with fear.

"Well, if you don't tell me, I'll kill you," Shepard promised as he chanted louder, causing the man to scream in agony.

"S–Saren! His name is Saren," the man cried out, hoping Shepard would free him from his agony.

Shepard's brow furrowed in contemplation. 'Saren? I've never heard of him.'

Shepard said nothing as he broke the spell, causing the man to fall to his knees.

"T–Thank you," the man said, tugging on Shepard's leg in appreciation.

"What should I do with you?" Shepard wondered aloud.

"P–Please, spare me. I'll do anything you wish. I'll do everything in my power to please you. You have my word," the man promised. 

"Maybe I should invite a bunch of my friends to violate you. Isn't that what you had planned for me?" Shepard reminded the man, a hint of disgust on his beautiful face.

"I–I'm sorry. P–Please, spare me," the man pleaded, tears running down his face as he begged.

"I have to admit, I have been feeling a bit— hungry lately, and I, suppose, I could use you to sate that hunger. But I'm not sure that you're worthy of that honour," Shepard said, his eye colour beginning to shift rapidly as he spoke.

"P–Please! I'll do anything," the man said, desperate to save his own life.

Shepard grinned as his eyes began to glow a beautiful shade of bright blue.

"Fine. I will allow it," Shepard said as the man rose to his feet. "Strip for me," Shepard demanded.

The man did as he was told, and once he was fully naked, Shepard had him kneel before him.

"Get me nice and wet," Shepard instructed as the man took Shepard deep into his throat.

Shepard smiled at the young man's enthusiasm as the man started fucking his own throat with Shepard's cock.

"Eager, aren't you?" Shepard chuckled in amusement as he pulled the man off of his cock. 

The man whined at the loss.."Please! I need to taste you," the man pleaded, the taste of Shepard's essence becoming a drug for the dark-haired man.

"But wouldn't you rather I fill you up instead?" Shepard asked as held three fingers to the hunter's mouth.

The man wasted no time – sucking them into his mouth until they were dripping with saliva.

"Turn around and lean over the sink," Shepard demanded, his voice cold and even.

The hunter did as he was told, moaning as Shepard stretched him for what was to come.

Shepard pulled the man's hair, forcing him to look at himself in the mirror.

Staring straight into the man's eyes through the mirror, Shepard whispered into his ear. "I'm going to fuck you now."

"Y–Yes! P–Please," the man let out an uncomfortable scream as Shepard entered him with one quick thrust.

Shepard wasted no time, fucking the man hard as they both watched through the reflection in the mirror.

"F–Fuck me! Please, fuck me harder," the hunter pleaded, growing weaker by the second.

Shepard growled as he continued to fuck the man with brutal thrusts.

Sensing the man's orgasm was near, Shepard took the hunter in hand and began stroking him in time with his thrusts. 

"I–I can't! I–It's too much!" The man cried as he came hard, his body tightening around Shepard's length, causing Shepard to cum shortly after.

The man cried out as Shepard bit the man hard on the neck, his teeth tearing through the skin as his eyes rolled into the back of his head before turning black as he continued to feed on the euphoria in the hunter's blood.

Once Shepard had his fill, he reluctantly removed his fangs from the young man's neck, causing the hunter to slump against his chest.

Shepard licked his lips slowly, savouring the taste of euphoria that had coursed through the hunter's blood.

"You did well," Shepard praised as he slowly pulled out of the exhausted man's body, allowing him to slide to the floor.

"N–No! P–Please, I need more of your seed. Please, master! Just a little more," the hunter pleaded, on his hands and knees in front of Shepard.

"I've already given you more than you deserve," Shepard said with a hint of disgust as he tucked himself back into his pants.

"No! I have to have more! You can't leave me like this!" The man yelled before chanting another spell.

Black tendrils came from the ground, wrapping themselves tightly around both of Shepard's long legs.

"Not this again!" Shepard said, rolling his eyes in annoyance.

Shepard quickly mouthed a spell, causing the tendrils to dissipate into ash.

"You can't leave me!" The man screamed.

"What a pain," Shepard said, a sour look on his face before grabbing the man by the hair to reveal his throat. "You really are a fool. You could have lived," Shepard said in a sad tone before sinking his teeth deep into the flesh of the man's throat.

The man began to cum wildly, his entire being filled with ecstasy as Shepard drained the hunter dry.

"T–Thank you, Master," the man said as a blissful smile crossed his face.

Shepard watched as the light faded from the hunter's eyes.

"What a foolish waste," Shepard said as he cleaned the blood from his lips with his tongue before chanting a spell.

In an instant, the man's body went up in flames, turning to ash instantly, leaving nothing but a small black stain on the floor.

"Well, that's that," Shepard said as he broke the spell that had bound the door to allow time to flow again before making his way back to James.


"You ready to head out?" Shepard asked as he popped an olive in his mouth.

"That was quick," James chuckled. "You were only gone for a couple minutes."

"He wasn't my type – too clingy," Shepard grinned, giving James a wink.

"Is that right?" James grinned. "I guess that explains the torn shirt."

"Yep, way too desperate and way too clingy," Shepard repeated as he drummed his fingers on the bar 

"Well, if you're still looking to get fucked, I might be able to help you with that," James teased.

"Jack finally gave you the okay, huh," Shepard replied in amusement.

"Yep. She said as long as it was you, it was perfectly okay," James explained, wagging his brows for emphasis.

"Then, what are we waiting for? Let's go fuck," Shepard said, his words making James laugh in amusement.

"You were always blunt," James said as he paid for the drinks.

"Y–Yeah. I'm kinda rough like that," Shepard admitted.

"Well, never change! The roughness suits you," James insisted as he led Shepard towards the exit.

Shepard just laughed as he followed James to the car.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Nice place, Loco," James grinned as he looked around the apartment. "I really like the feel of a studio apartment."

"Yeah, it suits my needs. Thanks for helping me find it," Shepard said as he threw his torn shirt into the nearby trash bin.

"No problem, Loco. I'm starving! Do you mind if I raid your fridge?" James asked, making his way to the kitchen.

"If you can find anything you like, go ahead. I doubt I have much," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"Jeez, Loco, what do you eat?" James asked, disappointed with the emptiness of the refrigerator.

"Um. Regular stuff, I guess. I haven't been to the grocery store this week," Shepard explained, rubbing his neck nervously.

"Mind if I order a pizza?" James asked, his stomach rumbling as he spoke.

"Sure, go ahead," Shepard said with a nod as he stretched his long limbs.

"Goddamn, you're beautiful," James said, licking his lips at the sight of Shepard's broad chest and narrow waist.

Shepard chuckled a bit at his friend's words. "Uh-huh. Shouldn't you order your pizza?"

"Oh, right. My bad," James said as he quickly opened the app on his phone. "So, what are you craving?"

"Sex," Shepard answered truthfully.

"You are the devil; you know that?" James joked. "Seriously, though, what toppings do you want?"

"I–I'm not really hungry," Shepard replied, his body feeling energized from his feast earlier.

"You don't eat enough to keep a bird alive," James scolded as he put in his order.

"I'm fine, James," Shepard assured him as he began to fidget.

"It'll be here in about fifteen minutes," James said as he took his shoes and socks off. "Your floor is fucking freezing."

Shepard chuckled in amusement. "I think I can warm you up," Shepard grinned as he fell to his knees between James's spread legs.

"Oh, yeah. You think you can make me hot," James teased. 

"Uh-huh," Shepard grinned as he slowly palmed the growing bulge between his friend's strong muscular legs. "You're already aroused," Shepard smiled at the revelation.

"Y–Yeah, like I said, it's been a while, and I've been thinking about this all damn night," James admitted.

"You wanna cum now," Shepard asked as he mouthed James through the fabric of his jeans.

"I dunno. Are you sure you can make me cum before the pizza delivery guy gets here?" James asked, his light-brown eyes half-lidded as he spoke.

"Uh-huh," came Shepard's simple reply.

James quickly unfastened his jeans, pulling the fly wide open before releasing his semi-erect cock. "Prove it," James grinned, challenging Shepard with a look.

Shepard just grinned before taking James in hand, giving his length a few good strokes before taking the head into his mouth.

"You taste pretty good, James," Shepard winked, loving the feel of James's precum on his tongue as he continued to mouth the head.

"Mmm. Feeling good, Loco," James praised as he threaded his fingers into Shepard's medium-length hair.

"I'm about to make you feel a whole lot better than good," Shepard promised as he took James's entire cock deep into his throat, swallowing a little to give James maximum pleasure.

"Shit, Loco! You're the best cocksucker I've ever had," James admitted, his crude words making Shepard moan as he started palming himself through his jeans as he continued to pleasure the larger man.

"C–Can I fuck your throat?" James asked, wanting Shepard's permission before giving in.

Shepard just nodded as he opened his throat in preparation.

James gave in to his desire as he fucked Shepard's throat with brutal thrusts.

"Fuck! I'm gonna cum," James announced as he continued to fuck Shepard's throat. "Here it comes, Loco!"

Shepard just hummed as James exploded deep into his throat.

James's body jerked uncontrollably as he struggled to regain his composure.

Once he was fully spent, James began to feel lightheaded, his orgasm hitting him harder than expected.

Shepard slowly let James fall from his lips before helping him sit down.

"Are you okay, James?" Shepard asked, wondering if he had overdone it.

"Y–Yeah. T–That was amazing! You are very good at that," James said as he kissed Shepard deeply, loving the taste of himself on the blonde's tongue.

"Why don't you get undressed while I answer the door," Shepard suggested as he made his way to the door.

"The pizza guy isn't here yet, Loco," James said, laughing at his friend's overeagerness.

Shepard just grinned as he opened the door.

The pizza delivery man stared in surprise, his hand in the air, midway through knocking. "Uh. Pizza delivery for James Vega."

"Yeah, here you go," Shepard said as he handed the young man the payment along with a generous tip.

"Thanks, man," the delivery boy said.

"No problem," Shepard said before shutting the door. "Here's your pizza, James. I got beer if you'd like one," Shepard said as he handed James the pizza box.

"Thanks, Loco," James said as he took a bite of his pizza. "Dammit, that's hot!"

Shepard laughed as he handed James a beer.

"Appreciated," James said with a nod as he took a long swig. "So, how'd you know the pizza guy was at the door?"

"I dunno. I guessed," Shepard said with a shrug.

James frowned when he noticed the hoarse sound of Shepard's voice. "Sorry if I was too rough, Loco."

"Nah, don't worry about it. I enjoyed it," Shepard assured his friend as he lit himself a cigarette.

Shepard took a long drag before exhaling hard through his nose. 

"Let me know when you're ready to fuck me," Shepard said as he flicked the ash from his cigarette.

"Why don't you give me a show?" James suggested as he took another bite of his pizza.

Shepard laughed as he snuffed out his cigarette. "What kind of show? You want me to strip for you? It'll be a pretty short striptease. I'm only wearing jeans," Shepard admitted.

"What, no underwear?" James asked with a grin.

"Nope, no underwear today," Shepard admitted. "I could finger myself, you know, to get myself ready for your cock. That might make for a pretty decent show," Shepard admitted as he scratched his jaw lazily.

"Hell yeah! Hop to it, Loco," James said, eager to see the blue-eyed blonde naked and wide open on the bed.

Shepard just laughed as he slowly removed his jeans before walking towards the bed. He took his time gathering the things he would need from the nightstand drawer.

"What's that you got there," James asked, noticing the small, thin vibrator in Shepard's hand.

"Just a little something to get me going," Shepard said with a suggestive wink as he spread his legs wide before pulling them close to his chest.

James watched carefully – nearly choking on his food when he saw Shepard guide two well-lubricated fingers to his entrance.

Shepard sighed as he let himself become lost in the moment, slowly stroking himself as he added a third finger.

After a few minutes, James suggested that Shepard use the vibrator on himself.

"Why don't you come over here and fuck me with it?" Shepard asked, hoping James would take him up on it.

James never said another word; he just quietly made his way to the bed, kissing Shepard passionately before taking the vibrator in hand.

"Hm," Shepard hummed in approval as James slowly inserted the thin object, rotating it slowly until Shepard's body twitched.

James grinned, knowing he had found the right spot deep inside of the blonde. "I'm gonna make you cum so fucking hard, Loco," James promised as he turned up the speed of the vibrator to the highest setting.

"Hmm. FUCK!" Shepard called out, his body squirming as his hips reacted to the pleasure deep within him.

Suddenly, James pulled the vibrator free from Shepard's body, much to the blonde's disappointment.

"Goddammit, James, don't fucking stop," Shepard whined, his voice filled with frustration as he stroked his cock slowly, not wanting his pleasure to wane.

"Sorry, Loco, but I think it's time I loosen that ass up," James insisted as he tore open a condom packet, quickly rolling it onto his engorged cock.

"Fuck yes," Shepard agreed as he lifted his legs high against his chest, leaving him wide open for James to do with as he pleased.

James couldn't resist running his tongue along Shepard's tight opening. 

"That feels so fucking good," Shepard admitted as he laced his fingers through James's short hair, encouraging him to continue.

"Mmm," James hummed as he drove his tongue deeper.

"Mmm. Fuck me, James," Shepard called out, causing James to cease his ministrations.

James kissed Shepard deeply, letting Shepard taste himself before James guided his cock to Shepard's waiting hole.

"Hn," Shepard groaned as James opened him up little by little.

James took his time, letting his thick cock stretch the blonde slowly.

"I love being inside you. You're always so goddamn tight," James said as he finally bottomed out inside the willing blonde.

"Hm. Your cock always feels good. It's so fucking thick," Shepard said, grunting as James pulled out just halfway before thrust back in slowly, trying his best to loosen Shepard for what was to come.

"F–Fuck me, James," Shepard pleaded, causing James's cock to twitch deep inside his blue-eyed friend.

"Are you sure you can handle it, Loco?" James asked, knowing just how uncomfortable his thick cock could be to someone who wasn't properly stretched.

"I can handle it," Shepard assured him as he held his legs even higher, making James sink even deeper into the young blonde's channel.

"Fuck! Your ass is devouring my cock," James moaned as he pulled out until just the tip remained before thrusting in hard, harder than before. 

"It's hungry for it. Don't disappoint it now, James," Shepard said, knowing just the right things to say to make James come undone.

"Fuck yeah," James grunted as he started fucking Shepard hard, loving the way the blonde's body felt around cock.

They continued picking up the pace until James was thrusting in and out at a blinding pace, sweat pouring from both their bodies as they continued to fuck like animals.

And as much as Shepard was enjoying James's powerful fucking, he knew it had to come to an end soon. 

Shepard moaned when he felt James's cock grow deep within him, his hips stuttering a bit as he chased his orgasm. 

"I–I'm gonna fucking cum," James announced, his body convulsing as he lost his rhythm, finally giving in to his orgasm.

"Hm. Fuck yes!" Shepard called out as he felt the twitching of James's cock deep inside him.

Shepard's left hand was a blur as tried to stroke himself to orgasm.

"Are you gonna cum, Loco?" James asked, pulling out of Shepard's well-used body to discard the used condom, leaving Shepard feeling empty and well-used.

Shepard whined at the loss, wanting nothing more than to be fucked over the edge.

"I got you, Loco," James assured him as he took Shepard's cock into his mouth, causing Shepard's hips to buck in reflex. 

"Fuck! F–Fuck me with your fingers," Shepard pleaded as James continued to suck him hard.

Wanting Shepard to be satisfied, James did as he was told, easily thrusting three fingers into Shepard's well-stretched hole. 

Shepard gasped when James found the place deep within him. Moaning as James continued to assault his prostate.

"Stop! I–I'm gonna fucking cum," Shepard warned as he signalled for James to stop.

James immediately let Shepard fall from his lips as he continued to fuck the blonde hard with his fingers.

Shepard took himself in hand and jerked himself in time with James's finger fucking. 

"I–I'm cumming," Shepard announced as his body drew tight like a bow, his eyes flashing bright.

James grinned as Shepard's dick erupted, sending ribbons of cum flying across the blonde’s well-muscled abdomen.

James ran a finger across Shepard's stomach, gathering a tiny amount of the blue-eyed man's cum.

"Mmm. You taste so fucking good, Loco," James said as he licked his finger clean. "I'll never understand why you won't finish in my mouth. You taste really good," James admitted, his eyes going cloudy as he stole another taste.

"Trust me, it's for your own good," Shepard insisted as he cleaned his stomach, causing James to roll his eyes in annoyance. 

"Yeah, yeah, that's what you always say. You're such a weirdo," James grinned before kissing Shepard hard on the mouth, letting his tongue explore the depths. 

"Mmm. That was good," Shepard praised as James kissed him once again before collapsing atop the young blonde.

"I know we've only fucked a handful of times, but sex with you always leaves me exhausted. Exhausted and a little bit high," James chuckled as he nuzzled into Shepard's neck.

"I think we're both a little tired," Shepard chuckled as he ran a hand through James's short hair.

"Yeah. It's worth it, though, 'cause I always feel so damn energized the morning after we fuck. You're good mojo, Loco," James yawned, half asleep as he spoke. "Do you mind if I spend the night?"

"Not at all. Go ahead and sleep," Shepard said as he turned off the bedside lamp.

"G'night, Loco," James mumbled as he closed his light-brown eyes.

"Goodnight, James," Shepard said as he allowed himself to drift off.

****☆****

EARLY THE NEXT MORNING… 

"Loco," James whispered as he nudged his sleeping friend's shoulder. 

"Hn," Shepard mumbled as he wiped the sleep from his eyes. 

"I didn't wanna leave without saying goodbye," James said, brushing a stray lock of dark-blonde hair from Shepard's brow. "I gotta work today, so I can't stick around."

"Hm. Alright. Thanks for telling me," Shepard smiled, his strange sapphire-blue eyes glittering as he spoke.

"Thanks for helping me out last night. I really needed that," James said, grateful for Shepard's assistance.

"Mmm. Anytime, James," Shepard said as he gave James a small chaste kiss.

"You go ahead and get some rest. I know you must be exhausted," James surmised as he grabbed his wallet and keys from the table by the door. "Later, Loco."

"Later, James," Shepard said as he watched James leave.

Deciding to take his friend's advice, Shepard closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift back into a deep sleep.


Shepard woke up a little past noon, stretching his long limbs before making his way to the washroom. After a quick shower, he decided to look through his phone, smiling when he saw a few messages from his dad.

"I think I'll surprise him with a visit. I need to give him some money anyway," Shepard thought aloud as he quickly grabbed his hoodie and keys before heading out the door, eager to see his dad.

****☆****

THE SCOTT RESIDENCE… 

"Hey, Daddy," Shepard called out from the driveway, surprising his father with his presence.

"Is that my Johnny!? I thought you had to work all week," Chris called out, unable to wipe the smile from his face. "Get over here, kid! I've missed the hell outta you."

Shepard laughed a bit as he hugged his father tight. "It hasn't been that long, Dad. I was just here a few weeks ago."

"It's been three weeks, Johnny. You're losing time again. Besides, it seems like forever when you don't call," Chris scolded his son as he motioned for him to come and sit beside him on the steps.

"Yeah. Sorry about that. I guess I lost track of time. I'll try to call you more often," Shepard promised as he sat down beside his father.

"You look good, kid. Have you been eating enough?" Chris asked, knowing his son's penchant for forgetting to eat.

"I–I've been eating well lately. Better than usual," Shepard replied, only half-lying.

"That's good. How's your platelet count?" Chris asked curiously.

"It's so-so. I had to have an infusion last week," Shepard admitted. "I don't need them as often as I used to. And, hopefully, I'll never need another PICC line. So, I can't really complain," Shepard replied.

"That's great. I'll admit, I was worried about you. You've only been out for about six months. I know how difficult things have been for you," Chris said in a sympathetic tone.

"It was rough; I won't lie. But things have been good since Wrex decided to take a chance on me. People still avoid me like the plague, but I can afford food, rent, and my art supplies, so I can't complain," Shepard assured his father.

"I'm glad. Do you want a beer?" Chris asked as he slowly stood.

"Sure. I–I can get it," Shepard offered, knowing how painful it could be for his father to walk without his cane.

"Nah, I'll get it. I need to work my knee anyway," Chris grinned with a wink before limping into the house.

Shepard's smile turned to a frown as he thought of his father's damaged left knee.

"Johnny? JOHNNY," Chris called out, causing Shepard to snap out of his thoughts. "Here you go," Chris smiled as he handed his son a beer.

"Thanks," Shepard said, giving his father a half-smile.

"Are you okay, kid," Chris asked, his smile fading into a look of concern as he brushed a stray lock of dark-blonde hair from his son's sapphire-blue eyes.

"Yeah. I–I'm alright," Shepard insisted as he took a long pull of his beer.

"Johnny, what's bothering you?" Chris asked, knowing his son well enough to sense when something was off.

"I–It's nothing," Shepard shrugged as he twirled the bottle between his knees.

"Kid, don't lie to me," Chris said. "I'm your dad; I can tell when something ain't right."

"Has anyone dropped by here lately? A stranger asking odd questions, maybe," Shepard asked as he stopped twirling the bottle.

"No, nobody's been here. Well, Anderson was here a few days ago. But he was just checking in on you – making sure you were behaving," Chris teased playfully. "Other than that, I haven't seen a soul."

"S–So, nobody's been following you, or anything like that?" Shepard asked, genuinely concerned for his father.

"Johnny, what's this about? Are you in trouble?" Chris asked.

"I— Another hunter showed up last night," Shepard admitted as he rubbed his shoulder nervously.

"What? Are you sure it was a hunter? What exactly happened?" Chris asked, hoping his son was just being paranoid.

"I'm positive it was a hunter. A low level hell hunter, to be exact. He was at a bar. I don't know if he followed me there, or if we met by sheer circumstance, or whatever. I guess it doesn't really matter now," Shepard shrugged as he lit himself a cigarette before offering his father one.  

Chris quietly took the cigarette, letting his son light it before taking a long drag.

"Did he try to hurt you?" Chris asked as he exhaled slowly.

"Not really. He was ordered to retrieve me. He tried to bind me, but his spell casting was weak. I reversed it in an instant," Shepard explained as flicked the ash from his cigarette.

"I guess it was definitely a hell hunter. If it had been a regular hunter, they would have either tried to capture you without binding you, or they would have flat out tried to murder you. Do you know which demon lord sent them?" Chris asked anxiously.

"Some guy named Saren. Have you ever heard the name?" Shepard asked, trying to find out as much as he could.

"Saren?" Chris thought on it for a second but, eventually, came up empty. "No, I've never heard that name. I could try to look around – maybe ask Damen. As much as I hate that evil fuck, he'd probably know."

"Nah, don't do that. I don't want to get you involved. Besides, I don't trust anyone from Mom's old coven," Shepard admitted truthfully.

"I understand," Chris nodded as he took another drag of his cigarette. "So, what happened to the hunter?" Chris asked, already knowing the answer.

"I–I killed him. I tried to spare him, but he wouldn't let me. You'd think they'd learn not to throw their lives away by now," Shepard said as he finished the rest of his beer.

Noticing the sad look in his son's eyes, Chris tried his best to console him. "You did what you had to do, kid. Don't beat yourself up over it," Chris rubbed his son's back gently as he spoke.

"I–I know. I–I just hate hurting people, even if they wanna hurt me. Anyway, I just want you to keep an eye out. Let me know if anyone catches your attention. They might try to get to me by hurting you. I–I couldn't take that, Dad. If you ever got hurt again because of me, I don't think I could ever forgive myself," Shepard said, a lone tear running down his cheek.

"Johnny, what happened to my knee… that wasn't your fault. That happened because of choices made before you were even born. So, please don't blame yourself for that," Chris insisted, kissing his son on the temple.

"O–Okay," Shepard said as forced a smile. "I, uh, I have something for you."

"What is it?" Chris grinned as Shepard retrieved an envelope from inside his hoodie.

"I–It's a little something to tide you over. I know disability doesn't pay much," Shepard said as he handed his father the envelope.

Chris raised a brow as he looked inside the envelope. "Son, there's over $2000 dollars here," Chris said, his eyes going wide in shock. 

"I knew you could use it," Shepard insisted with a smile.

"Johnny, this is too much. I know you don't make much at that junkyard. Besides, you have infusions and other medications to pay for. You need this more," Chris insisted.

"Daddy, please, take it. I'll be okay," Shepard insisted, squeezing his father's hand as he spoke.

"How'd you get it?" Chris asked, hoping it wouldn't offend his son.

"Odd jobs," Shepard lied. "You know me, Dad; I'm always looking for more work."

"Uh-huh," Chris said, doubting it was as simple as that, but not willing to start an argument over it.

"Mr. Scott," a short, overweight man with thick glasses and a red–coloured complexion called out from the neighbouring yard.

"Yes, what is it, Mr. Korlak?" Chris asked in annoyance, knowing the man's distaste for his son.

"He isn't planning on staying, is he? I thought we agreed that he wasn't allowed here," the man said, his tone full of disgust as he spoke.

"My kid's just visiting, Korlak. There's no need to have an apoplexy," Chris said, rolling his eyes in annoyance.

"Good. We don't need a murdering firebug hanging around the area. The insurance premiums are already through the roof because of his past actions," Korlak said, a smug grin on his face as he spoke.

"Lay off, Korlak!" Chris said, ignoring the pain in his knee to stand up and confront the man.

"Dad, it's okay. I don't want you to hurt your knee," Shepard said as he urged his father to sit.

"Just make sure he's gone before dark," Korlak said as he turned towards the house.

The man was nearly to the porch of his house when Shepard's eyes flashed bright, causing an invisible shockwave to flow outwards, knocking the overweight man onto his back, successfully knocking the air from his lungs.

"Nice!" Chris grinned as he slapped his son on the back.

"He deserved it," Shepard grinned. "So, are you seeing anyone?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, I have been seeing someone. She's a journalist, though," Chris said with a shrug.

"A journalist, huh," Shepard said with an understanding nod. "Do you like her?"

"I do. She's a couple younger than me, a beautiful girl. Her name's Emily. Emily Wong. We met while she was doing a piece on the 10th anniversary of the fire. I thought she'd stop coming around when I refused to give her an interview, but she didn't. She said she liked me and wanted to get to know me better. I have to say: I don't exactly trust her. But, so far, she hasn't really asked any questions," Chris explained.

"I get why you're cautious, but please, don't stop seeing her if she makes you happy," Shepard said, wanting his father to be happy.

"Yeah. I'll think about it. So, how about you? Have you met anyone?" Chris asked, hoping his son was at least trying.

"Nah. I don't think relationships are meant for me," Shepard admitted.

"Johnny, even a cambion deserves to be loved. Besides, you're a great guy, and you deserve to be happy. Don't give up, okay," Chris said as he squeezed his son's hand.

"Thanks," Shepard said with a smile. "Well, I should get going. It'll be dark soon, and I wouldn't want to make the neighbours uneasy."

Chris chuckled in amusement. "I know I shouldn't ask, but have you been back to the ruins of the old house?" 

"You mean the empty lot? Yeah. I go there sometimes. I'm thinking of having a privacy fence installed. The neighbours are nosy as fuck whenever I visit," Shepard grinned, only half-joking.

"Johnny, maybe you should think about selling the lot," Chris said, hoping his son would consider it 

"Daddy, that's my land. It's the only thing I own of any real worth. Besides, I'm saving up to build you a small house. The land's already ours, and it's no threat to anyone. I pretty much cleansed it, so, please, don't ask me to sell our land," Shepard pleaded, hoping his father would listen.

"Okay. But instead of a small house, can you make it a nice two-story with three baths?" Chris asked with a cheeky smile.

Shepard let out a joyful laugh that warmed his father's heart. "Anything for you, Daddy," Shepard promised as he hugged his father goodbye.

"I love you, kid," Chris said as he held his son's face in his hand.

"I love you too, Daddy," Shepard said with a crooked smile.

"Don't be a stranger, and you call me at least twice a week. I worry about you, kid," Chris admitted.

"I'll be back next week, I promise. And I'll try to remember to call more often," Shepard said as he hugged his father one last time.

"Remember to eat something," Chris scolded as he waved goodbye to his son.

"I'll grab something on the way home," Shepard promised as he returned the wave. "I'll see you later, Daddy."

Chris smiled as he watched his son disappear down the street. "Well, Hannah, our baby's all grown up," Chris thought aloud as he turned to enter the house.

****☆****

APOLLO'S CAFÉ… 

On the way home, Shepard decided to keep his promise to his father by stopping by the nearby diner for dinner.

Once Shepard placed his order, he decided to stretch out in his booth, closing his eyes in an effort to block out the rest of the world.

All was calm within him until, suddenly, his heart began to race, his eyes snapped open as they began to dilate before flashing a bright blue.

Unable to resist, his eyes searched out the cause of his arousal. 

"Kaidan," Shepard called out aloud, causing the dark-haired man to look his way.

"Shepard?" Kaidan replied, eyes going wide in surprise as he found himself staring into the familiar sapphire-blue orbs he had always loved.

Shepard just smiled with a short nod as the waitress interrupted the moment. 

"One meatloaf special with a pitcher of water," the waitress said as she set the plate on the table. "Will there be anything else?" 

"N–No, thank you," Shepard replied, eager for her to leave so he could catch another glimpse of the whisky-eyed brunette.

The second the waitress moved away from the table, Shepard was pleasantly surprised to see Kaidan standing to take her place.

"Do you mind if I sit down?" Kaidan asked, smiling warmly at his former friend.

"N–No, o–of course not," Shepard said, stuttering slightly.

"I had no idea you were here," Kaidan said, unsure of what to say.

"Y–Yeah. I got released about six months ago," Shepard explained nervously.

"Were you hospitalized that whole time?" Kaidan asked, a sad look on his face as he spoke.

"Uh, y–yeah," Shepard admitted as he began to bounce his knee in a nervous habit.

"They locked you away for nine years. That's horrible," Kaidan said, his voice – sad and apologetic.

"I–It wasn't so bad. I–I learned to adapt. It gave me time for my art and time to realize who and w–what I am. I learned a lot about myself, and my dad visited regularly – when he was able," Shepard explained, cocking his head to the side as he studied the whisky-eyed man's face.

"How's Mr. Scott doing these days?" Kaidan asked as the waitress brought him his order. "That'll be all. Thanks," Kaidan stated before the waitress even had time to speak.

Shepard grinned at Kaidan's behaviour. 'He's eager.'

"Now, where were we? I believe I was asking about your father," Kaidan said as he prepared to eat his meal.

"Daddy's okay. His left knee is pretty much fucked up for life, though," Shepard replied, his smile fading as he spoke. "How's your family?"

"My parents are good. They're both still working. They refuse to retire," Kaidan replied as he took a bite of his chicken. 

"W–What brings you back to the city? J–James said you left," Shepard said as he picked at his meatloaf.

"I was offered a job at Mercy General Hospital. I'm a med lab scientist, but I'm also in the middle of my residency.  I'm working towards becoming a full-time ER doctor," Kaidan explained.

"You're a doctor?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Yeah. But like I said, I'm still just a resident. I spend most of my time in the hospital's lab," Kaidan explained 

"Damn, you must be a busy man," Shepard grinned.

"Not as busy as you think. So, what do you do for a living?" Kaidan asked, wanting to learn everything he could about the blue-eyed beauty.

"I work at a junkyard," Shepard admitted as he continued to pick at his food.

"Hn. Do you still sketch?" Kaidan asked as he took a sip of water.

"Y–Yeah. I don't think I could stop, even if I wanted to," Shepard admitted with a small laugh.

"I noticed you cut your hair. It isn't as long as it once was," Kaidan said as he continued to study Shepard.

"Y–Yeah, I cut it a long time ago. It's getting a bit long on top, though. I might have to cut it again soon," Shepard said as he tugged a particularly long strand for emphasis.

"You haven't really changed all that much," Kaidan said, his smile turning fond. "You're still just as beautiful as ever."

"S–Still haven't gotten me out of your system, huh?" Shepard said, only half-joking as he smiled that crooked smile that always made Kaidan melt.

"No. I guess I haven't," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

Shepard smiled as he pushed his nearly full plate aside.

"You haven't changed at all," Kaidan chuckled. "You still don't have a healthy appetite."

"Hn. You'd be surprised," Shepard said, subconsciously rubbing the mark on the inside of his left wrist.

"Yeah, I probably would be," Kaidan chuckled, placing his hand on top of Shepard's.

Shepard smiled sweetly as his eyes flashed bright.

"Your eyes are even more beautiful than I remember," Kaidan admitted, mesmerized by the young man's beauty.

Shepard never said another word; he just stood up, tilting his head towards the men's room, signalling for Kaidan to follow as he continued on ahead.

Kaidan took a few minutes to contemplate the offer before deciding to act upon his desires. Stifling a grin as he quickly followed Shepard to the washroom.


Shepard grinned when he saw Kaidan walk through the men's room door.

Kaidan was pleasantly surprised when the young blue-eyed blonde pulled him close for an extremely sensual kiss.

"I–I don't usually do things like this, but you make me do things I'd never even dream of doing," Kaidan admitted as he started kissing his way down Shepard's neck.

"You don't have to worry about anyone interrupting us," Shepard promised as he began to mouth a spell, his eyes glowing bright blue as the world beyond the washroom came to a halt.

"How do you know?" Kaidan asked as he moved to look Shepard in the eye, his eyes returning to normal, leaving Kaidan totally oblivious to his actions.

"I just know," Shepard grinned, causing Kaidan to laugh in amusement.

"God, I've missed you," Kaidan admitted as he ran his hands up Shepard's shirt. "Your body feels even better."

"Mmm. C–Can I taste you? I–I'd like to taste you on my tongue," Shepard said, his eye colour shifting as his heart began to race.

"I'd like that, John," Kaidan admitted as he kissed Shepard's full, pouty lips.

Shepard just smiled into the kiss as he quickly unbuckled Kaidan's belt before doing the same for his trousers, causing the expensive material to fall to the floor.

Kaidan's breath hitched as Shepard palmed him through the thin fabric of his underwear. 

"You really need this, huh," Shepard said, his angelic face looking almost innocent as he stared deep into Kaidan's whisky-coloured eyes.

Kaidan's heart began to race as pictured himself thrusting in and out of that beautiful mouth, defiling that angelic face with his semen – the imagery making him moan loudly.

Shepard grinned wickedly as he freed Kaidan's growing erection, stroking it a bit before taking Kaidan into his mouth.

Kaidan's eyes rolled back into his head as he threaded his fingers through Shepard's dark-blonde hair, encouraging the blue-eyed man to take him deeper into his throat.

Shepard hummed as he did just as Kaidan wished, taking him all the way in.

"Oh, god," Kaidan moaned, feeling his release coming faster than he'd expected. "John, I'm gonna—"

"Mmm," Shepard hummed as he waited for Kaidan's release.

Unable to stop himself, Kaidan suddenly began thrusting roughly into Shepard's warm and inviting throat, desperate to find his release.

Kaidan's hips began to stutter as he held Shepard's head steady as he erupted deep within the blonde's waiting throat.

Shepard managed to swallow everything the whisky-eyed man had without spilling a drop, going so far as to clean Kaidan's spent cock with his tongue before letting it fall from his mouth.

Shepard stood quickly, eager to kiss the man he had always adored. He grinned as Kaidan moaned into the kiss, the taste of himself on Shepard's tongue being too much to take.

Shepard laughed in amusement as Kaidan's knees nearly buckled. "Are you okay?" Shepard asked with a wide smile as he helped to steady his friend.

"Y–Yeah, just a little lightheaded. You've always had that effect on me," Kaidan admitted as he leaned into Shepard's arms, pulling the younger man close until he was holding him tight. "I've missed you so much," Kaidan whispered into Shepard's ear before kissing his temple.

"I–I've missed you too," Shepard replied as he laid his head on the older man's shoulder, feeling at home for the first time in nearly ten years. In that moment, Shepard was right where he belonged.

"I hate to ruin the moment, but we really should hurry," Kaidan said as he reluctantly pulled away from the blue-eyed blonde before pulling up his underwear along with his trousers.

"Y–Yeah," Shepard agreed as he reached out to fasten Kaidan's belt.

Kaidan couldn't resist the chance to kiss him again, so he leaned in and did just that.

When they parted, Kaidan pressed his forehead to Shepard's, smiling as he looked into Shepard's sapphire-blue eyes. 

"W–We better head on out," Shepard said as he adjusted Kaidan's shirt, making sure it was tucked neatly into his trousers.

"Y–Yeah. John, did you, uh, you know?" Kaidan asked, knowing he hadn't.

"Nah, but that's okay. I enjoyed tasting you," Shepard admitted with a wink before turning his attention to the door. "I–I'll head out first. You can follow me in a few minutes."

"O–Okay," Kaidan agreed with a nod as Shepard turned to leave.

Shepard chanted something under his breath before opening the door, causing time to flow once again.

"John Shepard," Kaidan said aloud, unable to hide the joy in his voice as he slowly made his way back to their table.


The two continued to chat for well over an hour when Kaidan's phone suddenly began to buzz.

BUZZ— BUZZ—

"That's my phone," Kaidan said as he quickly checked the messages. "That's my mom. She wanted me to pick up dinner tonight. I totally lost track of time. I guess I should probably head home. They must be starving by now," Kaidan said, disappointed that he had to cut the evening short. "Can I call you sometime?"

"Huh?" Shepard asked, dazed by the question.

"Can I call you sometime?" Kaidan repeated with an amused look on his face.

"Uh, s–sure," Shepard nodded.

"Do you mind if I add my number to your contacts?" Kaidan asked, causing Shepard to unlock his phone before handing it to him.

"Here's mine. You can go ahead and add your information," Kaidan insisted as he handed Shepard his phone.

They both smiled as the phones were returned to their respective owners.

"Thanks for allowing me to sit with you this evening, and for— well, you know," Kaidan said, blushing as he extended his hand to Shepard.

"T–Thank you for remembering me and allowing me the honour," Shepard said with an appreciative smile as he firmly shook the older man's hand.

"The honour was all mine. And as far as remembering you goes, you're far too vivid to forget," Kaidan admitted with a soft smile.  

Shepard just smiled, blushing a little at the compliment.

"Well, I really should be going. Have a good night, John," Kaidan said as he reluctantly released Shepard's hand.

"You too, K," Shepard smiled, the sound of his first name on Kaidan's lips making him feel warm as he watched Kaidan disappear out the door.

'Kaidan Alenko,' Shepard thought with a smile.

****☆****

Chapter Text

****☆****

"Mom, I'm home. I picked up dinner," Kaidan announced as a dark-haired boy, no older than nine, came running through the house, his amber-coloured eyes sparkling in amusement as he hugged Kaidan tightly.

"Hi, Tato! I'm glad you're home. Baba was getting pretty upset about dinner being late," the young boy explained with a grin.

"Tato? Baba? Who's been teaching you to speak Ukrainian?" Kaidan asked with an amused smile on his face.

"Gigi," came the boy's simple reply.

"I see. Dad has been teaching you all about your Ukrainian roots," Kaidan said as his mother entered the room.

"He certainly has. They've been at it all evening. To be honest, I feel a little left out. I think I'll start teaching him Portuguese and tell him all about his Brazilian roots. Then we'll see how well Aleksander likes being left out of the conversation," Elena said, only half-joking.

"Mom, if you do that, you may as well have him learn Turkish while you're at it. Let's face it, your grandson is a walking, talking melting pot," Kaidan reminded her with a grin.

"Eh, I suppose you're right. Learning a few new languages would be good for him, though," Elena insisted.

"I agree, but give him a little time to be a kid. He's only eight after all," Kaidan reminded his mother.

"That's true," Elena nodded as she stroked her grandson's thick, curly black hair.

"I don't mind. I like learning how to speak a new language. It'll impress my friends," the boy insisted.

"Xander, you left your backpack on the kitchen table," Aleksander called out, causing his grandson to look his way.

"Sorry, Gigi. I'll put it away," Xander said as he made his way to the kitchen.

"Alright. Wash up for dinner while you're at it," Aleksander insisted as he watched his grandson disappear into the kitchen. "Well, son, I hope you decided on Mexican food. I've been craving it all day."

"I got what Mom told me to get, and lucky for you, it was Mexican food," Kaidan said, teasing his father a bit as he held up the bags for emphasis.

"Excellent! Well, shall we head to the kitchen? I'm starving," Aleksander said, rubbing his rumbling belly for emphasis.


"So, what took you so long?" Elena asked as she began to serve the food.

"Well, I, uh, I ran into an old friend. We decided to have dinner together," Kaidan explained, blushing a little as he spoke.

"Kaidan, don't tell me you've already eaten," Elena said, hoping Kaidan would have dinner with the family.

"Relax, Mom. I barely touched my meal," Kaidan assured her.

"Good," Elena smiled as she handed her grandson a full plate of food.

"Thanks, Grandma. I mean, Baba," Xander said, correcting himself.

"Grandma is fine," Elena insisted as she finished serving the meal.

"So, who was this friend?" Aleksander asked as he took a bite of his food.

"No one special," Kaidan shrugged. "I ran into Shepard today."

"Oh, Kaidan," Elena sighed. "That wasn't who you had dinner with, was it?"

"No, of course not," Kaidan lied, not wanting to be lectured by his mother. "I was just surprised to see him. You never told me he was released."

"It wasn't important," Aleksander insisted. "He's of no concern to you. He proved his instability the night he attacked his stepfather and burned their house down. People like that rarely ever get better."

Kaidan furrowed his brow in annoyance.

"Your father's right," Elena agreed. "In my professional opinion, he should have remained hospitalized indefinitely."

"Mom, you've never even spoken with him. Suggesting he should be hospitalized indefinitely is extremely irresponsible," Kaidan insisted.

"I'm just considering his past and his pattern of behaviour. He's known to be violent, and if history holds true, he will continue down that path," Elena insisted.

"Well, I just think it's a blessing that he hasn't murdered anyone else," Aleksander stated as he continued to enjoy his meal.

"John isn't a murderer, Dad," Kaidan insisted, his tone more defensive than it should have been.

"His record says otherwise," Aleksander reminded him.

"Can we just drop it, please?" Kaidan pleaded as he picked at his food.

"Alright, consider it dropped," Aleksander promised.

Xander sat quietly, totally unaware of who John Shepard was or why his name had sparked such a hot debate.

"Xander, do you have any homework this weekend?" Kaidan asked, trying to get his mind off of the previous conversation.

"Yes, but it's Friday, so I figured it could wait until Sunday," Xander replied as he took a bite of his rice.

"Hn. Okay. If you need any help, just let me know," Kaidan insisted with a smile.

"I will," Xander promised as they continued on with their meal.


9:30 PM… 

"Are you sure it's okay for him to stay here? I don't want to add to your workload," Kaidan said as he got ready to leave.

"Kaidan, we love having him here! It's no trouble. He can stay as long as he wants," Elena assured her son.

"Thanks, Mom. I appreciate it. The place I'm renting is a bit too small for a rambunctious eight-year-old. You guys are doing me a really huge favour by letting him stay here," Kaidan said, smiling in appreciation.

"You could stay too, you know," Elena offered.

"Tempting, but I really need to get things lined out. And I can't really do that here; it's just too distracting. Hopefully, I can find a house nearby that Xander will love. He's really picky when it comes to his space, so finding the right house hasn't been easy," Kaidan explained.

"You and Rahna spoiled him a little too much," Elena teased, a knowing smirk on her face.

Kaidan chuckled in amusement. "Yeah, we really did. I think it was to make up for the divorce. We might have gone a little overboard trying to please him."

"Yes, you did. He seems to be doing much better now. When Rahna passed, he was so angry. But that was to be expected. She was taken far too early," Elena replied, her voice turning sombre.

"Yeah. It was a shock for us all," Kaidan admitted. "Well, I need to head home. Make sure he's in bed by ten."

"Kaidan, I know what I'm doing. I raised you, remember," Elena reminded her son with an amused grin on her face.

"I know. Thanks again, Mom," Kaidan said as he kissed his mother goodbye. "Have a goodnight. I love you. Tell Dad that I love him."

"I will. Drive safely, sweetheart," Elena said as Kaidan made his way out of the house.

****☆****

KAIDAN'S APARTMENT – LATER THAT NIGHT… 

Kaidan found himself tossing and turning in bed, unable to keep his mind from drifting back to his earlier encounter with the man he had always adored.

Deciding to give in to his feelings, Kaidan grabbed his phone, quickly calling the blue-eyed beauty, hoping he wasn't disturbing the young man.

"Come on, John, pick up," Kaidan thought aloud as he waited for an answer.

"Yeah," Shepard mumbled, his voice filled with sleep.

"Hey, did I wake you?" Kaidan asked sheepishly.

"K? Uh, t–that's okay. I don't mind," Shepard replied, glancing at the digital clock by the bed. "Do you always call people at two in the morning?" Shepard asked in an amused tone.

"Is it really that late?" Kaidan asked, chuckling as he spoke.

"Yep. So, what can I do you for?" Shepard asked, making Kaidan laugh in amusement.

"Actually, I was hoping to do you," Kaidan replied, bolder than Shepard had ever known him to be.

"Wow, that's blunt," Shepard said, letting out a small amused laugh that made Kaidan smile. 

"You seem to bring it out of me," Kaidan admitted.

"Hn. D–Do you wanna come over, or should I head over to your place?" Shepard asked, perfectly willing to make Kaidan's wish a reality.

"Would you really let me fuck you?" Kaidan asked, surprised by his own choice of words.

"I don't see why not. If you're as good as you once were, it'll definitely be worth my time," Shepard admitted as he pulled on an old pair of jeans.

"I'd like to think I've gotten better with age," Kaidan said with a grin.

"Then I'm in for a real treat," Shepard said as he lit himself a cigarette.

"If you're really interested, I guess I could send you my address," Kaidan said, hoping Shepard was being serious.

"Go ahead and send it," Shepard said as he threw on a hoodie, deciding to forego wearing a shirt as he grabbed a small bottle of lubricant and a few condoms from his nightstand drawer along with his keys before heading out of the building.


"I just sent the address. Did you get it?" Kaidan asked, already stroking himself in anticipation.

"Got it. I'll be there in about fifteen minutes," Shepard replied as he finished his cigarette, crushing it beneath his heel. 

"The door will be open; just lock it once you're inside. My bedroom is straight down the hall," Kaidan explained as he moved to unlock the front door before heading back to his bedroom in anticipation of Shepard's arrival.

"On my way," Shepard said as he ended the call.


True to his word, Shepard stepped out of the taxi fifteen minutes later, letting out a low whistle as he looked up at the impressive apartment complex.

"Fancy place," Shepard thought aloud as he made his way to Kaidan's apartment.


Upon arriving outside the apartment door, Shepard was pleased to find the door unlocked, just as Kaidan had said.

Remembering the older man's instructions, Shepard locked the front door before heading towards the bedroom. 

Shepard's grin widened as he stepped inside the room. 

"I see you're excited to see me," Shepard said, licking his lips at the sight of Kaidan slowly stroking his erection.

"Hm. I've been craving this since our— meeting ," Kaidan admitted.

"Oh? My oral skills weren't enough to tide you over?" Shepard asked as he slowly unzipped his hoodie.

"They were too good , actually. You left me wanting more," Kaidan admitted, cocking a brow when he noticed Shepard's lack of a shirt. "You didn't wear a shirt?"

"Well, I was sleeping before you called. And since I came here to get fucked, I didn't really see the point in wearing one." Shepard explained, his crass way of speaking, making Kaidan's cock twitch.

"Mmm," Kaidan licked his lips as he watched Shepard unbutton his jeans. "No underwear, either?"

"Nope," Shepard answered truthfully.

"Come here," Kaidan insisted, motioning for Shepard to come closer.

Shepard grinned as he stepped out of his clothes before walking naked and unabashed towards the bed.

Kaidan watched the blue-eyed beauty closely as he slowly crawled his way up the bed.

"God, you're sexy," Kaidan replied as he kissed Shepard passionately.

"Hm," Shepard hummed as he broke the kiss. "Lie back and let me take care of you."

"Hmm. Have you missed me?" Kaidan asked curiously.

"More than you could ever imagine," Shepard admitted truthfully.

Kaidan chuckled a bit before motioning to the nightstand. "There's a condom in the drawer."

"Do you have any lubricant?" Shepard asked, cocking his head to the side as he studied Kaidan's face.

"Uh. N–No. I don't," Kaidan admitted truthfully.

"K, baby, you need to invest some lube," Shepard scolded his partner before digging through the inner pocket of his discarded hoodie. "I brought a little, just in case you still didn't have any."

"Resourceful, aren't you," Kaidan chuckled.

"Well, yeah," Shepard shrugged as he returned to the bed, surprising Kaidan by taking his erection into his mouth.

"Fuck!" Kaidan groaned, under his breath, running his right hand through Shepard's dark-blonde hair.

Shepard's mouth didn't linger long before he decided to pull away, much to Kaidan's disappointment.

Kaidan whined loudly, causing Shepard to laugh in amusement. "Relax, baby, I'm gonna make you feel really good in just a few minutes," Shepard promised as he poured a generous amount of lube onto his fingers before moving to stretch himself for what was to come.

"Do you need any help?" Kaidan asked, eager to move things along.

"No, I–I got it," Shepard assured him as he quickly added a third finger to hasten things.

Shepard arched his back as he gently stroked the place deep inside himself, causing him to throw his head back in pleasure.

"God, you're beautiful," Kaidan whispered as he slowly stroked himself.

"I–I'm ready. Do you want me to ride you? I–I remember, you seemed to like that a lot," Shepard said, turning his head to the side to avoid Kaidan's gaze.

"I'm surprised you remember that," Kaidan replied truthfully.

"W–Why," Shepard asked, a hurt look on his face as he continued to stare into the darkness of the room.

"Well, it's been ten years. I assume you've had a lot of partners since then," Kaidan replied truthfully.

"M–Maybe, but I've never forgotten you," Shepard admitted truthfully.

Kaidan smiled at Shepard's words. "I'm glad."

"Y–You never answered," Shepard said, his tone slightly colder than before. "How do you want me?"

"John, are you alright?" Kaidan asked, noticing the change in Shepard's voice.

"Huh? I'm fine," Shepard faked a smile, kissing Kaidan passionately in order to silence his doubts.

"Hmm. What position would you like?" Kaidan asked with a smile.

Shepard never said another word; he just got on his hands and knees in the middle of the bed, so he was staring out into the darkness of the room.

"Hurry up and fuck me," Shepard said as he stroked himself in anticipation.

"I had almost forgotten how rough you like it," Kaidan chuckled in amusement as he tore open a condom packet. "I have been waiting for this all night," Kaidan said as he rolled the condom on before slowly sinking into Shepard's waiting body.

Shepard grunted a bit as Kaidan slipped deeper inside him.

Once Kaidan's entire length was buried to the hilt, Shepard let out a slow, even breath.

Kaidan never moved; he just kissed the area between Shepard's shoulder blades, his lips touching one of the many cigarette burns that littered the young man's torso.

"W–Why aren't you moving? I–Is something wrong?" Shepard asked, hoping Kaidan hadn't changed his mind.

"I'm just savouring the moment," Kaidan assured him as he slowly pulled back, leaving only the head in before thrusting back in slowly.

"Hmm. I–I'm not made of glass. You can fuck me now," Shepard insisted.

Kaidan chuckled. "Are you always this impatient?"

"I–I guess," Shepard said with a shrug.

"You always did like it rough," Kaidan replied as he started moving faster, thrusting his hips harder each time until he was properly fucking the blonde.

Shepard's breathing increased as he started to stroke himself in time to Kaidan's violent thrusts.

"I can't believe how tight you are," Kaidan said as he continued to pound Shepard hard.

"Hn," Shepard grunted as he started to chase his own orgasm, his left hand a blur as he stroked himself hard.

"Shit! I'm gonna cum," Kaidan groaned as he felt Shepard's body tighten around him, the younger man's silent orgasm causing him to milk Kaidan's cock for all it was worth.

Kaidan's hips stuttered as he came hard, the orgasm causing him to shake uncontrollably as his body found release.

"Fuck!" Kaidan exclaimed before collapsing onto Shepard's naked back, causing the younger man to collapse under the weight.

Shepard never moved; he just waited for Kaidan to stir. 

"T–That was even better than I remember," Kaidan admitted as he slowly pulled out of Shepard's used body before disposing of the used condom.

Shepard remained quiet as he slowly lifted himself up off the bed before pulling on his jeans.

"John, what are you doing?" Kaidan asked, his brow furrowing in disappointment.

"I–I gotta work tomorrow," Shepard replied as he slowly buttoned his jeans.

"I was hoping you could stay," Kaidan said as he handed Shepard a cloth to clean the semen from his well-muscled abdomen.

Shepard contemplated the offer as he cleaned his stomach. 

"I— Are you sure that's what you want?" Shepard asked as he handed the cloth back to Kaidan.

"Of course, that's what I want. Besides, it's almost daylight. At least this way, you'll get some sleep before work," Kaidan said, hoping to sway his friend.

"O–Okay," Shepard finally agreed.

"Excellent," Kaidan smiled as he pulled the covers off the bed.

"What are you doing?" Shepard asked, wrapping his arms around his own naked chest as he watched the older man closely.

"The sheets are dirty, so I'm changing them," Kaidan replied as he retrieved a fresh set of linens from the drawer. "Do you mind getting that side for me?"

Shepard never said a word; he just pulled the fitted sheet over the mattress.

"Thanks," Kaidan grinned as he spread the sheet over the bed. "Well, the sheets are changed, time to get some sleep."

"I–I can sleep on the couch," Shepard offered.

"John, don't be silly. Get out of those jeans, and get into bed," Kaidan insisted.

Kaidan crawled into bed and made himself comfortable as he patiently waited for Shepard to do the same.

"John," Kaidan called out as he patted the pillow next to him, urging Shepard to join him.

Shepard took a deep breath before crawling into bed beside Kaidan.

It took a few minutes, but eventually, Shepard became comfortable enough to close his eyes.

"Goodnight, Shepard," Kaidan whispered as he kissed the man's naked shoulder.

****☆****

9 AM – KAIDAN'S APARTMENT… 

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"Kaidan, are you still asleep? It's time to get your lazy ass up!" Ashley yelled from outside the apartment door.

"Hn," Kaidan finally stirred as Ashley continued to pound on his door. "Shit! I forgot I was supposed to meet Ashley for breakfast this morning."

Kaidan quickly jumped out of bed, trying his best not to wake the sleeping man next to him as he pulled on a pair of sweats before rushing to answer the door.


KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK… 

"Alright, Ash! I heard you the first thirty times," Kaidan called out as he opened the door.

"Hey, what took you so damn long? Wait – you got laid, didn't you!?" Ashley asked with a mischievous grin on her face, noticing the disheveled look of his hair.

"What!? Of course not," Kaidan lied. "I haven't been back long enough to meet anyone new."

"Hmm. Well, if you didn't get laid, then you must've had one hell of a wet dream," Ashley teased.

"Very funny," Kaidan said in an unamused tone. "Look, just give me a few minutes to get dressed, then we'll go."

"Sure, but hurry up, okay," Ashley insisted as she took a seat on the couch.


Shepard was just exiting the bedroom door when he was suddenly forced back inside by a very flustered Kaidan.

"John, I'm sorry, but you'll have to stay here until I leave. I promised Ashley that I would meet her for breakfast, but when I didn't show, she decided to come over. She's on the couch even as we speak," Kaidan explained.

Shepard's expression turned to stone. "Is Ashley your girlfriend?" Shepard asked, suddenly feeling sixteen again.

"What? No! She's