EPILOGUE

"At least the savage knows how to use a fork," Catherine whispered to Eric, who just nodded but largely ignored his wife. He did look up at Shepard, who sat in his sparkling navy blues, focused on all the table manners he had ever learned, Eric knew his charge, and could tell that John was wound as tightly a spring. "What did Kaidan get for them?" Catherine whispered to her husband. "I didn't see his present. Because he -did- get one, didn't he? I specifically told him to go to -"

"Catherine," Eric sighed, "I'm sure they got Ashley and James a present, dear." He smiled fondly at his wife. "Could we please get back to the food?" And the alcohol, he thought to himself.

Kaidan sat further down the table and smiled at Shepard, who desperately tried to multitask, and not embarrass anyone. He noticed Eric lean in over the table a little and say something, Shepard nodding and smiling that shy little smile that Kaidan loved so much. But whatever his father had said, it worked. Shepard's body language seemed a little more relaxed. He even sipped his wine, turning his head as the woman next to him said something, and for the briefest of moments their eyes met. Kaidan excused himself and smiled reassuringly at Ashley, who looked a little confused that he'd leave the table. He walked around the family table and came to a standstill behind Shepard. "John?" he said softly, placing a hand on Shepard's shoulder.

Shepard turned a little in his seat to look up at Kaidan. "Hey there," he said softly with a little smile.

"Would you go get the present?" Kaidan asked.

"Of course," Shepard said with a little nod.

"What did you get them?" Catherine asked over the table, studying her son and Shepard closely.

"Catherine..." Eric sighed, elbowing her softly. But Catherine ignored him and leaned in over the table even further to hear Kaidan's answer.

"You'll see," Kaidan smiled secretively. "Come on, John." He patted Shepard's shoulder and turned to leave with Shepard in tow.

Kaidan went back to his seat, and Shepard left the hall all together. Kaidan took a deep breath, and hit the glass with his fork. "Excuse me," he said and stood up. "I promise I will keep this short so you can get back to your food, but I just wanted to tell James what a lucky man he is." He turned to look at James and Ashley. "Ashley is a dear friend of mine, and you are lucky to have caught the eye of a fantastic woman like her."

All eyes were on Kaidan and the bride and groom, so no one noticed Shepard coming back in, walking up towards the couple with determined strides.

Kaidan smiled knowingly. "Now I can't be around all the time to tell you to behave," the party giggled at the innuendo, and Kaidan continued, "And that is why I sent John on a mission to pick out the perfect gift for you two. And believe you me, you guys are hard to shop for," Kaidan said, turning to look at Shepard.

Shepard walked up to the couple and opened the side of his uniform to reveal a tiny Varren. He gently ran a hand down its back, and then carefully held her over the table to Ashley, who took the Varren puppy and placed it in her lap. "Now I wanted to call her 'Kaidan's watchful eye' but John wouldn't let me." Kaidan smiled fondly at Shepard.

"What's her name?" Ashley asked with a grin, scratching the tiny Varren on the side.

Shepard looked up at Kaidan who nodded. "Uhm, Flora. Her name is Flora." He smiled a little awkwardly, clearing his throat. "I thought she looked like one of those flowers from the Pax holos."

"She does," James agreed, finally giving in and scratching Flora under the jaw. "She's cute."

"And an excellent pedigree," Shepard said quickly, not sure what to do now, so he just inched backward toward his seat.

"And of course she comes with a lifelong varren-sitter in me," Kaidan laughed. "Anyway, congratulations to the both of you." He held his glass up high, "To the happy couple!"

Kaidan was looking over the party. Ashley and James had left and now the ceremonial part of the party was over, leaving people to booze and cake. He could hear his mother arguing that Kaidan could just have gotten them tickets to Pax, or Illium instead of a goddamn pet. He ignored her and just watched Shepard who was deep in conversation with the woman, who was probably one of Ashley's friends that he didn't really know. He thought her name might be Penelope, but he wasn't sure. Alcohol sure had loosened Shepard, he wasn't just listening anymore, he was actually answering the woman. "Kaidan, are you listening?" Catherine said, wrapping her arm around his.

"Excuse me mother, I have to save my boyfriend from a bridesmaid." He smiled genuinely at his mother, and snaked free of her hold and walked across the dance floor, and came to a stop in front of Shepard. "Hey there, handsome," he said, holding out a hand which Shepard took without hesitation, letting Kaidan pull him to his feet.

"Hey there yourself," Shepard grinned. "I was actually having a conversation."

"Too bad." Kaidan smiled back.

"Dance?" Shepard asked, wrapping his arms around Kaidan's neck, pulling Kaidan down a little to his eye level.

"Why not?" Kaidan said, ignoring his mother staring daggers at his back, and kissed Shepard. "I was thinking, maybe we should get my mother a Varren too, call it 'nagging-death.'"

"Shit, Kaidan." Shepard laughed as he pulled Kaidan off to the dance floor. "We want her to -like- us." He shook his head, amused.

"Yeah, there's that," Kaidan grinned. "So no varrens, poisons or deadly vira. And look on the bright side, in twenty year's time, when you've had like ten promotions, she might even smile at you."

"Shut up, Kaidan." Shepard whirled Kaidan around and pulled him close again to dance. "I'll settle for her not trying to kill me anymore, so let's keep it that way." He smiled at Kaidan's slightly drunk leer. "Hey, I was thinking, do you think James likes Flora as much first time it shits on his floor?"

Catherine held out her glass to have it filled, and to her surprise a pair of arms circled her waist, "So," Eric said, "What do you say you and I retire, and leave the kids to party?" He kissed her neck.

"Eric, I can't just..." Catherine argued.

"Of course you can," Eric said resting his chin on his wife's shoulder. "Come on."

"Just this once," Catherine said, her tone softer and she leaned her head against her husband's.

"Maybe it'll be their wedding next?" Eric teased.

"Don't push it." Catherine huffed, but couldn't resist a little smile when Eric kissed her jaw.

THE END