“Does it always smell like this up here?”
Kaidan looked down at Shepard, her head resting in his lap. “Like what?”
“Cherries, then,” Shepard said with an exaggerated sigh.
Kaidan chuckled. “Only in summer. It’s probably close to harvesting time by now,” he said, gesturing broadly at the trees that surrounded them.
Shepard followed his hand as he gestured, squinting through the sunlight. It was early in summer, but already oppressively hot. Like Therum, maybe, but without the lava, thankfully. Instead, there were rows upon rows of cherry trees, all of them heavily-laden with near-ripe fruit. The city never got quite this hot, not with so many skyscrapers to shield the streets from the sun, and the nearby ocean to usher over a few cool breezes at the right moments.
The Okanagan didn’t meet with any oceans, but there was a pretty big lake at the back of the orchard. Kaidan had shown it to her on their first night there. He’d stripped off his t-shirt, his pants, his underwear, and then he’d helped her to do the same, leading her into the water to show her how warm it’d still be after being heated by the sun all day. And it had been warm; it was the kind of warmth that had so closely matched her own body temperature that she could barely tell it was there at all, if not for the way it splashed and lapped up against her skin when he pulled her against him.
Now, she sat with her head resting on his thighs, the shrill of cicadas fading in and out somewhere in the distance and the high sun washing out the colour from the rest of the sky.
Kaidan reached down and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her hear, pulling her attention back to him. Her hair was longer now than it’d ever been while she was in service, and there was a fair amount of grey in it too. At least now we match, Kaidan had said, when she’d first pointed it out to him, somewhat distressed. Apparently no amount of metal alloy in her joints could prevent that sort of aging from happening.
He smiled at her and then reached for the wine bottle at the edge of their blanket. She sat up as he poured the last of it into their little plastic cups and then he held his out to her as a toast.
“We should do this every year,” he said, after they’d tapped their cups together.
“Like an anniversary? Of what?”
Kaidan shrugged and was quiet for a moment as he sipped on his wine. “That day when I got to bring you home from the hospital, maybe.”
It’d been two years last week since she’d been discharged from Vancouver General, and a little less than a year since she’d been able to walk more than a few steps without a crutch.
Shepard swished the wine around in her mouth, considering. “But we already missed last year. We were just at home. I still couldn’t walk much at all.”
“Yeah. But I’m sure there’s going to be other years when we aren’t able to make it up here. Maybe we just got one out of the way early.”
Shepard laughed and shifted closer to Kaidan, and he wrapped an arm around the back of her neck. “If you hadn’t confiscated my omni-tool, I’d mark it down in there. It’d be a shame if we missed next year too because we forgot the date.”
Kaidan tsked and shook his head. “I’ll remember. And you’re not getting that ‘tool back until we’re in the shuttle to Vancouver.”