A/N: Hey, guys, sorry for the delay! I know, I'm terrible at keeping a schedule. Sorry! And I'm sorry these chapters so short compared to what I usually do... xD I apologize. But I hope it still sounds okay even though I feel this story just progressively gets worse and too OOC but oh well I guess xD I started it so I will finish it at the very least. I hope.

Chapter length: 2726

Onward!


Chapter Twenty

Kaidan fully expected the weekend to pass without Shepard speaking to him, so it was a pleasant surprise when Shepard called the next day around noon, when his parents were at work and his siblings were out. He found he was home alone a lot these days, but that was okay. He actually preferred it that way, than having stilted conversation with his sister, or confused hugs with his brother, or just… any conversation with his father, and his mom's attempts to smooth things over…

Yes, being alone was easier.

Most of the time.

"Hey, Kaidan," Shepard said when he answered, leaving a smile instantly slipping across Kaidan's face, though he was confused at this knee-jerk reaction to the sound of Shepard's voice.

"Hey, Shepard," he replied.

"Just wanted to see if you were hungry."

"Sure," Kaidan said, "I could eat."

"Good, I'd hate to be wasting my money."

"Money?"

"I'll be at your place in a few minutes," Shepard told him. "We're going out."

"Okay," Kaidan said. "Sounds good. I have money."

"I bet you do," Shepard said with a warm chuckle which left Kaidan's smile widening. "But I'm paying, Kaidan. This is a date."

"A… A date?" Kaidan repeated, voice soft and quiet. He probably misheard Shepard; there was no way he would invite him on a date. This was ridiculous. Just because they kissed didn't mean…

"Well, you did kiss me," Shepard said. "Or are you going back on it?" His voice was still light and cheerful, but now there was an edge to it. Doubt, maybe?

Kaidan frowned. "Why would I go back on it?"

"Good, I'd hate to think this was one-sided. Anyway, I'm almost there. And then… we can talk."

The last part was said quietly, voice merely a whisper.

Kaidan swallowed and nodded even though he knew Shepard couldn't see it through the phone. "Okay," he said quietly. "I'll be ready."

"Alright," Shepard said. "Bye, then."

It was a little awkward, hanging up like this, but they would see each other in a few minutes. A smile flitted across Kaidan's face. He'd never felt like this before, so this was new and overwhelming and just… wonderful all in one. This vast mixture of raging emotions and he had no idea what he was supposed to do with the emotions, or with himself. It was easy to get confused, but he knew he didn't regret his decision. He did like Shepard; he liked kissing him. He liked being close to him.

He hurriedly got dressed and barely managed to get back down to the living room by the time the doorbell rang. He stopped just in front of the door, took a slow breath to steady himself, ran a hand through his hair which he'd quickly ran a comb through, and then finally reached out to grab the doorknob. Opening it revealed Shepard standing there. His blue eyes immediately fixated on Kaidan, looking him up and down, a smile appearing on his face.

"You look good," Shepard said.

Kaidan's ears burned. "Um… thanks," he said, unsure what to say in response to that. "You… uh… you too."

And now he really looked Shepard over, and found that he was speaking the truth. Shepard always looked good, as he recalled. With his short brunette hair, dark blue eyes, fair skin, and good-fitting clothing along with that leather jacket of his… Yes, he looked good.

Shepard released a slow breath. "So… are you ready?"

Kaidan nodded. "Yes, I'm ready."

Shepard grinned and turned to start back toward the car. Kaidan followed after him. "And no ogling my ass."

Kaidan spluttered out a breath, nearly tripping over his feet in the process, as Shepard chuckled ahead of him. The two made it into the car and Shepard keyed the ignition, pulling away from the curb.

"So where are we going?" he managed to ask after a few minutes of comfortable silence, Shepard quietly humming the driver's seat. Kaidan almost forgot about the humming, and realized now how much he'd missed it, in a way. It meant Shepard was relaxed; these past few weeks had been a little rough. He was happy things were getting back to normal.

A new normal, even.

He wondered if the kisses would become normal.

"To eat," Shepard replied easily.

"Where?"

"The usual place," was the response.

Kaidan nodded, feeling dumb for asking.

"And then we can go to my place and talk if you want," Shepard told him. "I have to drive Sam to a friend's place, so we can talk after that. Or we could go back to your place if you'd be more comfortable there."

"Your place," Kaidan said instantly, and then realized with a frown that he really did feel more comfortable at Shepard's house instead of his own. Perhaps that was wrong of him; he liked his family. Loved them. But it was still hard to be around them sometimes. He found it much easier to enjoy Shepard's company rather than his own family. He wasn't sure what that said about him. Perhaps he was a horrible person for wishing to be away from his family for a while.

But it had been a hard few years, and only recently was he starting to actually feel better. Being away from his family let him forget his problems, their problems, for a little while.

"Okay," Shepard said. "You're not regretting it, are you?"

And there it was again, that semi-guarded tone in his voice. It was a tone Kaidan found he didn't like.

"I'm not having doubts, if that's what you're asking," Kaidan replied quietly, looking out the passenger side window. "I just… this is new to me. I'm sorry if I seem like… I'm uneasy. Or uncomfortable. I just…" He took in a slow breath. "You make me nervous."

"Nervous?" Shepard repeated. "Good nervous or bad nervous?" Now even he sounded a little uneasy.

Kaidan frowned. That wasn't his intention.

"Good nervous, I think," he said, because he didn't really have anything to compare it to. "I've never, um… I m-mean, I… well…"

"You've never done this before," Shepard murmured, "have you."

"N-No," Kaidan admitted, closing his eyes, head still turned so he could focus outside the window, aware of Shepard's eyes on him nevertheless.

"No relationships? Not that this is what that is," Shepard said quickly. "Just… never?"

"Never," Kaidan sighed. "I'm sorry."

"Why are you apologizing?"

"I… I don't…"

"It's okay to be nervous, Kaidan. We don't have to do anything. We can keep it strictly casual. I don't mind."

Kaidan released a slow breath. "You're okay with that? I m-mean, um… for now. Until I get used to…"

He hated being so pathetic like this. He hated being so nervous, when what he'd wanted all along was for Shepard to do this with him. To treat him like this, to kiss him again, to… And yet here they were, and he wasn't any closer to knowing what this should be like. It was awkward, and almost uncomfortable, being this nervous when sitting next to Shepard like he'd wanted to in the first place. He'd felt off-balance, being relegated to the back while James had been up front with Shepard. And now he was back up front, things seemed to be fine, and he just felt so uneasy…

Was it supposed to be like this? Was there something wrong with him?

"I'm fine with it," Shepard said. "I'll take whatever I can get. Whatever you're willing to give."

"You… really?"

"Yes, Kaidan. I wasn't lying when I said I liked you."

"Oh. Me neither."

"Good."

They pulled into the parking lot of their usual place and climbed out of the car. It was cold, and it would be snowing very soon. Kaidan wished he'd brought a thicker jacket, but it was a short walk inside. They sat in their usual booth and ordered their usual things.

The normalcy of it all left him smiling.


Shepard's room was familiar even though Kaidan had only been here very few times. It smelled familiar, like Shepard's jacket and his clothes. All of it put Kaidan at ease as he sat on Shepard's bed. Shepard tossed the car keys on the dresser near his bed and then pulled out the computer chair, turning it so it was facing Kaidan, before he sat down.

"So," Shepard said, looking at him.

"So…" Kaidan repeated uncertainly. He wasn't sure what to do at this point. They were in uncharted, awkward territory. They kissed, but what did that mean? They said they liked each other, but again, what did that mean? Were they now in a relationship? He'd never been one before, never really thought about it. Until recently he preferred being alone. This was all still so very new to him. He felt entirely out of place.

Shepard smiled. "You can relax, you know. There's no need to be so tense."

Kaidan released a breath, his tense shoulders finally relaxing. It was strange, because he hadn't even realized he'd gotten so tense. He wondered if it gave Shepard the wrong impression; did he think Kaidan was regretting his decision? Did he think he wanted to leave? That this wasn't what he wanted?

Is it?

Kaidan paused thoughtfully. Did he want this? What was this, even? A casual… relationship? How did that even work? The more he thought about it, the more nervous he became. Even so he forced his posture to relax, and unfolded his hands from his lap and instead pressed them into the covers beneath him, positioned at his sides as he leaned back into a more comfortable, relaxed position.

I don't regret it.

He didn't regret kissing Shepard. He didn't regret telling him he liked him. He was just nervous, because this was new. That was all.

"You look like I'm going to skin you alive," Shepard said quietly. "You can leave if you want. I can drive you home." He paused, then. "Unless you don't want me to."

"No," Kaidan said. "No, I mean, I… I'm fine. I don't want to leave. I'm sorry, this is just… new to me."

"I don't want to make you uncomfortable, Kaidan."

"You're not, I'm just nervous."

Please understand.

He pushed Shepard away before. He regretted it. Now that he got a second chance at this, he didn't regret it. But if Shepard pushed him away… he wasn't sure what he'd do. It took everything he had to even get this far.

His nerves were frayed.

"What do you want to happen?"

The question caught him by surprise. "What?" he asked intelligently.

Shepard released a slow breath, looking nervous himself. But that was crazy; why would he feel nervous? This wasn't new to him like it was for Kaidan. He wasn't socially awkward like Kaidan, or damaged like him, or part of the background, or-

"Breathe, Kaidan," Shepard said. "Calm down."

Kaidan took a breath and nodded. "Sorry."

"If you keep apologizing I'm going to start thinking you've got second thoughts."

"Sorry." He swallowed. "I mean, u-um… No. I don't have second thoughts."

"So tell me what you want."

"What I… want?" he repeated, like it was something foreign. In a way, it was. No one ever really asked him that. What he wanted didn't matter, not after it happened. And now there was a knot in his stomach for entirely different reasons.

Shepard didn't know anything about his past. He knew something bad happened, but that was it. Kaidan never told him. To be fair, though, Kaidan never told anyone. He stayed as far away from that subject as possible. What would Shepard think if he learned the truth? If he learned how Kaidan-

"Yes, Kaidan. What do you want to have happen?"

"What?"

"If you like me, and I like you," Shepard said calmly, watching him, "what do you want to have happen?"

"I… I d-don't… I don't know."

"Start with the basics. Do you want to ignore what happened?"

"What?"

I sound so intelligent, don't I…

He needed to get a hold of himself and stop behaving like this. Shepard was having doubts about him now. Not believing him when he said he didn't regret it.

He was going to ruin this before it even really started if he wasn't careful.

And ruining it…

"Maybe we shouldn't… hang out for a while."

No. He couldn't ruin it. He wouldn't.

"I don't want to ignore it," he said firmly, managing to lift his gaze and catch Shepard's eye. "I meant what I said. Unless…" He looked away. "Unless that's what you want."

If Shepard wanted to ignore it… then who was Kaidan to deny him the option?

Maybe he was beginning to finally see how pathetic Kaidan really was. It had to happen sooner or later, but a part of him had hoped… had wanted…

Wanted, for the first time in forever…

"I don't want to ignore it either," Shepard said, and that lump in Kaidan's throat dissolved, allowing him to breathe again. "But if this is your first, erm… first relationship?"

"Yes."

"First…? Like… Okay, I'm just gonna ask. Have you ever been romantically and physically involved with anyone?"

Kaidan sucked in a shaky breath. "No."

"Okay, so you're… okay. That's fine. So we'll take it slow, if that's what you want."

"Slow?"

Shepard nodded. "Kissing is fine?"

"Yes," Kaidan said even as his ears burned. Why was he still so nervous?

"What else would be okay? What do you want?"

"I… I don't know."

"Think about it," Shepard said, causing Kaidan to glance at him. The brunette smiled at him, that warm, easy, familiar smile which left him relaxing again. "You're in charge of where this goes. No pressure, no strings. Just… You decide how far this goes, and what you want to do."

"Me?"

Why would he let Kaidan decide things, when Kaidan had no idea what he was doing? How did that make sense?

Shepard nodded. "Yes, you. I'm not going to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. It's obvious you're reserved about this; I'll let you be in charge of where this goes. If you have questions at any time, just as me, and I will answer to the best of my ability. If this is what you want. You can still back out."

"I don't want to back out. Why do you keep asking?" Kaidan asked, fighting back a scowl. "Do you not want to do this?"

"Of course I want to," Shepard sighed, shaking his head as he looked away, blue eyes suddenly finding the carpet very interesting. "I've liked you for a while. I've… well. Of course I want to do this, but not if it makes you uncomfortable, Kaidan. That comes first."

"You don't mind that I have no idea what I'm doing?"

"It's new for everyone at some point," Shepard said. "I don't mind."

Kaidan released a slow breath and nodded. "So is this a relationship?"

"It's whatever you want it to be."

Kaidan studied Shepard for a moment. Shepard still wasn't looking at him, fingers toying with the hem of his jacket. He was really going to let Kaidan decide everything? Even though he had absolutely no experience in anything like this? Wouldn't it be frustrating for Shepard? But he couldn't say no to this. Not when he wanted…

I want…

It had been a long time since he actually wanted something. Yearned for it, even.

A small smile slid across his face.

"It's a relationship," he said quietly, causing Shepard to lift his gaze and finally focus on him again.

A similar smile appeared on Shepard's face, lips twitching upward. "I'm going to kiss you now," he said as he got to his feet and approached the bed.

Kaidan released a slow breath as his heart stuttered for a second. Warmth spread through him as he nodded, unable to say anything at that moment. Shepard's lips landed on his own in a soft, gentle touch, lingering through for a moment, just a bit of pressure. Mouths getting used to each other, still new to one another, still awkward.

Nevertheless Kaidan actually wanted it. Liked it.

There was a taste…

Not something he could describe, but he decided to call it Shepard. The kiss tasted of Shepard.

And that was perfectly fine with him.


A/N: Hope this chapter sounds okay, hehe. Thanks for reading and please review!

~Averick~