“Yeah, we’ve got the tree up. No decorations. No, not yet. That’s why I called- uh huh I remember now. Yeah, thanks. Love you too, Mom. See you in a few days.”
Shepard smiled at the overheard conversation as he used a thin brush to paint details onto the ship that he’d been building. He hoped to have the model finished by the time Kaidan’s mother showed up since it had been a gift from her. She was constantly sending him things to keep him busy during his recovery. If it weren’t for her, he probably would have pulled his hair out from frustration over not being able to help with the restoration projects going on around the world and at the Citadel. He had no idea how she found the model ships, but he suspected it had something to do with her new friendship with a certain Shadow Broker.
He set the brush down and leaned back in his chair, stretching his spine over the low back of the seat and rubbing his palms over his buzzed head. Not that he had any to pull out really. Growing it out was an option now, but it had been short for so long Shepard wasn’t sure he wouldn’t look like a huge dork with hair. Besides, this way he didn’t have to compete with Kaidan over hair gel.
Thinking of Kaidan’s hair must have summoned the man, because he was suddenly standing in the doorway with his palms braced on the frame as he leaned in. “Hey,” he said with a smile. “That was my mom.”
“So I heard,” Shepard answered. He laced his fingers together and propped his head in his hands. “Find out where the ornaments are?”
“Yeah. Up in the attic apparently, and I’ll need to dig them out. Mom says they’re probably buried pretty far back,” Kaidan said with a sigh.
“Well we don’t have to-“
Kaidan shook his head. “Oh, no. We are going to.”
Shepard chuckled as he sat up and put his hands up in a protective gesture. “Alright,” he conceded. “Go find your decorations.”
“Do you need anything?” Kaidan asked as he straightened.
“I’m fine,” Shepard answered. He was getting around pretty well now, and his doctors said that he could probably remove the leg brace shortly after New Years, but Kaidan still insisted on taking care of him. He said that after seeing Shepard come so close to death, it was hard not to hover.
Shepard didn’t mind. He remembered how it felt to see Kaidan in a coma, first in the med-bay of the Normandy, then later in Huerta Memorial. If there hadn’t been a war going on, he probably would have hovered, too.
Kaidan was also determined to have a somewhat traditional Christmas this year. The year before Shepard had still been in the hospital going through surgeries and recoveries. They had made the most out of it, when Shepard wasn’t completely out of it from pain killers.
Shepard hadn’t really celebrated Christmas since his parents had died on Mindoir. And his family’s version of a “traditional” celebration was probably much different than Kaidan’s. No pine trees, first of all. He hadn’t even seen a real one until he’d joined the Alliance and visited Earth for the first time. His parents had made an effort though, using a native bush from the colony. It had been fun, but after they were gone… well.
He would play along with Kaidan though. They would make new memories together.
Leaning forward, he pulled his lamp closer to the model and started working on it again. He let his mind wander to the memories of his parents. The year they’d gotten him a speed bike, which he’d crashed almost immediately. The time his dad had burned the ham he’d spent a large amount of money on getting imported from Earth, and the way his mother had covered her mouth and tried not to laugh. Singing carols while they wrapped presents, when they thought he was asleep, but was really in the hallway watching them from around the corner.
He paused as he tried to remember the one his mother used to sing every Christmas Eve as she tucked him in to bed, even when he thought he was too old for it. He began to hum quietly, trying to catch the tune correctly.
“Oh, holy night…”
That was it. He sang softly as he continued painting the model. When he couldn’t remember the lyrics he hummed. Once he reached the end, he started over. More words came that time. So when he finished, he sang it again.
He was concentrating enough that he didn’t pay attention when Kaidan walked past the open door with a box in his arms. Kaidan backed up a few steps until he could see Shepard through the doorway.
When Shepard was finally able to sing the whole thing, he smiled at himself proudly for remembering it.
“I didn’t know you could sing,” Kaidan said from the doorway. His voice was quiet, his eyes soft.
Shepard glanced up from his work and felt himself flush. “I uh… can’t really.”
Kaidan shook his head, and set the box he was carrying down just inside the door. “You’re kidding, right?” he asked as he walked around the desk to stand behind Shepard and wrap his arms around his shoulders. Kaidan’s breath was warm against Shepard’s neck as he spoke. “Sing another song for me,” he requested in a low husky voice.
Shepard cleared his throat nervously. “I only know that one,” he said.
“Really?” Kaidan said against his ear. “What about Silent Night? Everyone knows Silent Night.”
“I think I only remember the first verse,” Shepard mumbled. “But I’ll give it a try.”
He started off quietly, feeling slightly self conscious to be singing for an audience. But Kaidan had forgiven him for a lot. He would be forgiving if Shepard didn’t get the words quite right. By the end of the first verse, he was singing at a more normal volume and remembered most of the second verse. When he stumbled over a part he couldn’t quite remember, Kaidan began to sing along.
When they finished, neither one said anything for a few moments. Shepard smiled and reached up with one arm to wrap around Kaidan to hold him close. “Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that you can sing,” he said after a long comfortable silence.
“Yeah, mom had me in choir for a few years when I was a kid,” Kaidan answered with a chuckle.
They went quiet again. Shepard’s eyes fell on the box next to the door. It didn’t have a lid, and decorations poked out. He could see a silvery star that was probably meant to go on top of the tree. His mother had something similar. It had looked a little silly on top of the round bush they used, but her face had lit up brighter than the strings of LED lights they wrapped around it when his dad put the star on top. Christmas had been her favorite holiday. Right after her birthday, that is.
He had been avoiding celebrating either since her death.
As he thought about how much she enjoyed decorating, another song popped into his head. So he sang. “Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…”
Kaidan laughed and kissed him behind the ear. “Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Give me a few minutes to bring the rest of the ornaments down, and we’ll have a proper Christmas tree.”
Shepard turned and gave him a proper kiss on the mouth that lasted a little longer than the quick peck he’d been intending. They were both grinning when they parted. Kaidan ran a hand over Shepard’s buzzed head then moved back toward the door to pick up the box of ornaments.
Kaidan stopped and looked over his shoulder expectantly. “Yeah?” he prompted when Shepard didn’t say anything right away.
“Don’t tell Garrus,” Shepard said. “You know… that I sing.”
Kaidan laughed. “You have my word.”
“Or Joker,” Shepard added. “And especially not EDI. Those two would conspire to record it and put it on the extranet.”
“I won’t tell a soul,” Kaidan promised. “But you’ll sing for me once in a while, won’t you?”
Shepard smiled shyly. “Yeah,” he answered. “I’d like that.”
“Me too,” Kaidan said with a smile that warmed Shepard up in interesting places. He bent down to pick up the box, giving Shepard an interesting view before disappearing out the door.
A few taps on his omni-tool brought up a Christmas station and Shepard sent a command to play it through the speakers set strategically throughout the house. Feeling more in the holiday spirit, he sang along as he picked his model back up to put the last coat of paint on.