Authors note: HeavenOnFire, and what can I say? it's been an absolute joy to work with you again! And your art is beautiful as always. You are far more talented than you give yourself credit for sweetness. And thanks to Robotkumo, whom did not just fix my iffy grammar but also helped sort my ideas and reel me in when I got too far out. Thank you! And extra thanks to Asylumfarm who helped me keep a resemblence of sanity!
Artist note: Let's get lost. That what happened to me when I had the pleasure of reading the story she wrote for the MEBB 2015. I got lost in Azzy's words. I got lost in the complex story she wrote around my two favorite characters and enjoyed every minute of it. Again, she impressed me with her talent and the way she takes me out of time and space. While I followed her story, I forgot where I was and couldn't but continue reading until I was done. Then, I woke up from an exciting dream and breathed out with a smile. I am so happy to be her artist and to work with her again.

WRITTEN FOR THE 2015 MASS EFFECT BIG BANG. (if you want to see the art, you gotta go to my Ao3 account or my Wordpress)


"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.

- Orson Welles

August 10th 2183 – The Citadel.

"John! Stop!" Jane yelled, aiming her gun at her brother.

John turned, holding councilman Udina in front of him like a human shield, locking eyes with his sister. "Jane, this is none of your fucking business."

"You're wrong, John. It's very much my business." Jane said, her green eyes squinted measuring her chances to incapacitate her brother without hurting either him or Udina. She saw none.

The sound of Udina's panicked mumbling was the only noise on the landing platform. Kaidan crept out of the shadows behind the scene unfolding. He looked at John's back, over his shoulder to see Jane Shepard and Garrus both aiming their guns at John. If he could have done this differently he would. Looked directly at Jane, he gave her a slight nod and moved his hand so that it hovered over his gun.

"Okay John. Let's talk about this. Maybe we can still resolve this somehow." Jane said with a little smile, slowly placing her rifle on the ground, waiting for Garrus to do the same.

"Goddammit Jane." John growled, shifting nervously on his feet. Kaidan knew that shuffle, it meant that John wasn't sure what to. "Why can't you just walk away? Garrus, if you ever gave two shits about our friendship, tell her to walk the fuck away."

"Can't do that Shep, sorry." Garrus said with a sad shake of his head.

"If you just let Udina go, we will figure something out." Jane said, taking a tiny step closer to John.

"Why are you trying to save this racist cum-stain?" John asked, taking a step back towards the railing, "He means to start a fucking war Jane!"

"If that is indeed true, he should be brought before a jury." Jane took a tiny step forward, "For once in your fucking life, try to be smart about it John."

"You don't believe me?" John asked, not sure why he was so surprised.

"I do." Jane admitted carefully, "But it's not up to me."

"Like fuck..." John growled, "You are a fucking Spectre, more like the Spectre. Of course it's up to you."

"Being a Spectre only goes so far." Jane said, holding a hand out towards John, who in turn took another step back, only to feel the railing against his heels. "If you shoot him, I can't help you."

"Shep, come on man!" Garrus exclaimed, his voice thick with worry as he took a step forward, only to have John grind his pistol harder into Udina's temple, making the councilman whimper.

"Stay back Garrus." Jane yelled, waving Garrus back with her hand.

Kaidan was now at a slight angle to John, unable to reposition himself due to Johns retreat to the balcony ledge.

Several moments of silenced passed till John finally asked, "How did you know where to find me huh Jane? And if you lie I will –" His voice cut like a knife in the tense silence, followed by the sound of an energy weapon charging.

"John, please do as she says." Kaidan finally said softly, his gun shaking slightly in his hands as he aimed it directly at John's back.

"You too?" John's features contorted with pain and anger.

It all happened so fast. John pushed Udina into Jane who stumbled and fell, yelling "Now! Kaidan take the shot!" While Garrus that scrambled to get his rifle.

Kaidan hardly had time to react as John turned towards him and aimed his gun. A shot went off, ringing in his ears, and for a moment he wasn't sure who had fired. He looked confused over at Jane who had managed to get to her feet, and Garrus who had finally retrieved his rifle.

It was not till John's knees gave in and sent him to the ground that Kaidan realised that it had been him, the shot had come from his gun. "John!" He gasped, tossing the gun, running to John's side, "Shit.. shit, shit, shit… Someone get a hold of a medical unit! Now!" He literally screamed, caressing John's cheek with a trembling hand. "Oh God." Kaidan searched John's torso with his other hand to find the entry wound. "Why did you have to do that?" He cried, fat tears mingling with the blood on his hand, seeing his hand come away bloody. "Hang in there, baby." He whispered. "Please…"

John opened his eyes, red pupils focusing on Kaidan, he opened his mouth so say something, but nothing came out.

November 14th 2182 – The Citadel.

Anderson pushed a data-pad across the table to Kaidan, "Vega outdid himself getting information for you."

"Sir." Kaidan mumbled as he picked up the data-pad.

"I assume you read the files I gave you last month, and memorized your story." Anderson said with a fatherly smile, "Can't have this whole operation go up in smoke because you forgot something. And we all know what is riding on your shoulders, son."

Kaidan nodded. He remembered his new identity well, he had been repeating it to himself almost to the point where Aiden Noak was a real person. Honestly, he was proud that the Alliance trusted him with this delicate mission, but at the same time, it was nothing short of intimidating.

"Vega, Please." Anderson said, and Vega turned the computer monitor so all three of them could see the screen.

It was a picture of a man, besides the cheap cybernetics work, he looked old, jaded and boyish at the same time. Kaidan looked over at Vega and nodded for him to begin.

"Alright." James said, "Meet your target, John Shepard." He gestured at the picture on the screen. "Born to Captain Hannah Shepard and Liam Freeman. They met as recruits and Liam croaked pretty soon after, never knowing that his girlfriend was preggers." James unscrewed the lid of his water bottle, took a sip and continued. "Hannah remarried when John was about two years old. Apparently that single mom and career thing didn't match. And from that pretty short marriage to Dallas Frost, she had another kid." James chuckled, "You'd think she would have learned by now, huh?" He shrugged, "Oh well," He clicked a key on the keyboard, bringing up another picture of a pretty young red haired woman in her navy blues. "This is Jane Shepard, Johns half sister. I bet you wish it was her you'd get to spend some quality time with."

"Vega..." Anderson sighed.

"Sorry sir." Vega said, but his dirty grin was anything but apologetic. "Jane is an Alliance big shot, I'm guessing you already saw her on posters and infomercials n'shit."

Kaidan nodded, "Commander Shepard. Yeah, I saw her."

"Great." James clicked forward in his slide show. "Let's start with the important stuff, and before you ask, then I made a copy for you of this, so you can look it over before you leave." He smiled genuinely friendly grin at Kaidan. "John joined the alliance at sixteen, guess he fooled the recruitment, or maybe they didn't give a shit, I don't know. And like his younger sister he actually started out with rising through ranks pretty fast. He was, according to his army records, a perfect soldier. Good at thinking on his feet and apparently very dedicated."

"I sense a but..." Kaidan mumbled.

"A very big but." Vega chuckled at his own lame pun. "On his very first mission as squad-leader, he went to Torfan, set to raid the place. John Shepard took it a notch too far, his platoon butchered any and all Batarians, and only one of Shepard's platoon made it - him. His commanding officer Major Kyle was so disturbed by this, that he not only did he lobby to court martial Shepard, but the Major left the Alliance all together and formed some hippie cult commune somewhere."

Kaidan looked down at the table and reached for a water bottle, this was all a bit much to be honest.

"So," James said. "Shepard went to prison, known as 'the butcher of Torfan' and most Batarians still carry a grudge. He spent five years at Purgatory, buried like a dirty secret. Eventually Cerberus stumbled across him, thinking that he could help their cause where he had failed the Alliance. Needless to say he gave them the slip, and as far as I know nothing more came of it. While in Purgatory he met this sidekick of his," James changed the picture to a bald, tattooed young lady. "This is Jack, and that is about what I know about her, she is a human biotic – like you." He nodded at Kaidan. "And in the files there are hints at her staying at an Alliance research facility as a kid, much like you actually… Maybe you have something to talk about after all…"

"Vega!" Anderson said more sternly this time.

James nodded, "Sorry." And this time he sounded like he meant it a bit more. "Anyhoo, her papers are buried so deep in 'super-secret-this-never-happened' land, that I can't access them. And it's not really important either, what is important is what she is, not what she was."

"Is Shepard a fugitive then?" Kaidan asked.

"No." James shook his head, "Cerberus paid for his release, and if they have a bounty on his head, it's not something that is common knowledge." James changed the image to a picture of Omega. "So after he got out, John did some odd jobs for the Blue Suns and then eventually ran into Garrus Vakarian," He changed the image to a scarred, mean looking Turian. "Vakarian used to be C-sec, but left because of some disagreements with the leadership." James shrugged, "He went full blown vigilante at some point, calling himself Archangel." James laughed, "come on, that is pretty funny."

"Not even the slightest." Anderson said drily.

James cleared his throat. "Well, Vakarian gave up the lone-wolf act and hooked up with Shepard and Jack, and that is where you come in."

"How?"

"Those three are rumoured to work for Aria T'loak now. Two weeks ago General Septimus Oraka was found dead. The surveillance suggests that it was Shepard, though the quality is so bad, that it could, in theory, be Jack. We need to know why someone put a hit out on General Oraka, and why Aria has an interest in him being dead. "

"What we fear." Anderson said, "Is that Aria wants to rally the major gangs under her, and if she manages that, she would have a goddamn army. That cannot happen – it's that simple."

"But why is my main target Shepard, and not Aria?" Kaidan asked.

"Because you'd never get in in ten leagues of Aria, but it is quite possible to get fairly close to Shepard, he has a habit of picking up strays." Vega said, "Which leads me to the next part of my presentation, John's private life. Not that he has one to speak of. He lives alone in a small apartment in this dump," He shifted the picture to a building in the Omega slums. "He mostly keeps to himself, and what we know about his private life, we know from a colleague of ours. She is your entry ticket, your brand new long lost cousin, Ayah 'Smiles' Will."

"She works at Afterlife, right?" Kaidan asked.

"Yep." James said merrily. "So she is in good with Jack, and sometimes they have a girl to girl. See, we had originally intended on her being the mole, that's why she's there. But after she reported back that she had talked to Shepard, tried everything she could think off to make him notice, Jack told her that she was wasting her effort. Point one, Shepard apparently doesn't fraternise with anyone from Afterlife, perhaps it's a rule Aria set for her employees, maybe not. Point two, he is not into girls."

Kaidan's brows knitted in worry, "I'm not gay. Wouldn't it make more sense to send someone like Conrad then?"

"No." James said with a sly grin, "You're just his type."

"What?"

"Vega!" Anderson leaned in over the table and looked directly at Kaidan. "Look, son. No one is expecting you to have a romantic relationship with him, of course not. Vega is just having fun on your expense, that's all. But it's important that you know that we can't give this to anyone else, James has already worked on Omega and the chances of someone recognizing him is just too big. A lot is depending on this, not only the mission, peace and maybe the lives of a lot of civilians, but also your nomination as the first human spectre."

"I know." Kaidan nodded.

"There is of course also the delicate situation of his family, Commander Shepard can't afford a scandal like her brother being a pirate, a common criminal mercenary." Anderson said softly. "Captain Hannah Shepard made that quite clear, that she would prefer it if we could bring her son in, without too much drama."

"I understand." Kaidan said.

"Very well." James said handing Kaidan a data-pad, "These are your papers, you'll need them. There are also some credits, and the lease of a room in the same house as Shepard, don't worry, we made sure there are the basics, the landlord will give you your code, his number is there."

"Alright." Kaidan sighed.

James leaned in over the table and looked at Kaidan, "Look, all jokes aside, you are the perfect candidate for this. And don't worry – besides the other mole, we have a bunch of people on our unofficial payroll, they don't know who you are, the fewer who know, the better. We are already taking a big risk with you and cousin Smiles, that is why she doesn't know who you are in reality, just like you don't know her. The less you know, the less you can say if you're caught."

Kaidan's lips became a fine line of worry; he had read about others that had been caught in undercover work, the lucky ones were dead.

"You won't be caught though. We have eyes and ears everywhere, and at the first sign of something weird, I will personally come get you. Which leads me to, I am your childhood friend James, and I'm coded into your new phone as such. But be careful of what you say – the code is if everything is fine you say that you're still looking for work, and if you need me to bail you out, you say that you're flat broke and can't come to visit. And lastly if you need money, you say that the connection is breaking up. Can you remember all that?" James said.

"Yes." Kaidan said with a nod, picking up the data-pad. "What if I have important information, like something going down, or that I have what I came for."

"Then you just call me and ask how the wife is doing." James fiddled with the phone before handing it to Kaidan, "Dad is Anderson, but you don't call him unless… yeah, it's a fail safe for if it gets super hairy. Your apartment is not bugged, we know that, neither is your computer terminal, so you can upload data freely. And… Good luck man." He held out his hand to Kaidan who took it and shook it. "Thanks."

The more Kaidan read about Shepard the more nervous he got, apparently he was a difficult man, and had always been. He had to do this, that promotion ceremony was so close he could taste it. If he could pull this off, he would be sent on a mission with one of the other spectres so they could assess him, but he wasn't kidding himself, he knew this counted too.

November 29th 2182 – Omega.

Kaidan had not really known what to expect, the journey had been long and boring, giving him much too long to worry that he hadn't had a chance to say goodbye to his parents, they wouldn't let him. He hadn't told them he was a candidate for spectre either, again it was riddled in red tape. Was it really like this? Knowing all these things but never being able to talk about them, never being able to be proud of ones achievements. And here he was, on his way to become someone else, he had gotten a haircut, and felt down right stupid with this look, but if he were to pull this off he couldn't look like he was straight out of the academy, but he couldn't look to shabby either. His hair was a little longer than he was okay with, and he had one side shaved. He looked stupid, like a goddamn punk. And while he missed his parents, he was sorta glad they couldn't see him like this. He had let his beard grow for two days, and it had started to itch. Man he missed being clean shaven and his uniform. At least he knew what he was then, now he was Aiden – and it was just a personal ID number and a name. The rest he would have to make up.

The first thing that hit him as he got off the shuttle at Omega was the stink, recycled air that smelled like it had been by a dumpster first. Kaidan wrinkled his nose in disgust, painfully aware that he was the only one troubled by it, all the other travellers either left the landing bay, or were being greeted by relatives. Maybe you just get used to this place over time, though Kaidan was seriously in doubt that he'd ever get accustomed to the air quality here. He picked up his backpack and stared to walk through Omega security.

He had to ask a couple of people before he managed to locate Afterlife, and this one Batarian had been pretty rude about it too, maybe the Human-Batarian conflict still stirred under the surface here? He didn't know.

Kaidan unfolded the fake picture of him and his cousin so he would be able to find her. He sighed and grabbed his bag, getting out his phone to call the landlord for the door code, while on his way to Afterlife.

Afterlife looked like a cheesy strip club, there was a long ass line, but Kaidan couldn't be bothered, he would end up standing out here all night if he played nice. So, he cut the line and went with what he hoped was confident strides up to the gorilla sized bouncers at the door.

"Stop!" The bouncers said, stopping Kaidan efficiently with a huge hand on his chest. "Haven't seen you before. You fresh off the earth shuttle or something?"

"That obvious huh?" Kaidan smiled a cocky smile, "I'm here to see my cousin Ayah, she works here. Brunette about ye high, pretty cute."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Hang on." The bouncer turned and said something to his buddy who disappeared into the club. Kaidan was a little worried that he would be made to wait around for hours, just because he had smart mouthed that bouncer. Why the hell had he done that? Maybe that was just Aidan showing what he was? Maybe Aidan was an excuse to act on impulse? To be able to do and say things that Kaidan would never do. After thirty minutes waiting outside on the stairs, he had started thinking about going back to his apartment to sleep, and try again tomorrow. When the bouncer came back out, yelling "Hey kid!" He waved Kaidan over.

"Yeah?"

"What's your name?"

"Aiden." Kaidan said. "Why?"

"You can go in," The bouncer said, "Smiles is on the first floor."

"Gee thanks." Kaidan skipped past the bouncer swiftly, not wanting him to toss him out on his ass. He couldn't believe his luck, he had actually managed to hustle his way in here, it felt dirty and wrong – and absolutely fantastic! Maybe this wasn't so bad after all? He just had to get used to it.

If Kaidan had thought Afterlife was corny from the outside, it was nothing compared to the inside. The bowels of the club were tacky neon and strobe lights, the air was stale with sweat and the heat was unbearable. The music was crazy loud, and no matter where he turned he bumped into another sweating person. Why the hell anyone would wanna subject themselves to this inferno was beyond his reach.

Kaidan looked around at the bar full of people, drinking and talking. The private dancers, and even the party fluffers on the pedestals. He could honestly say he had never seen anything like it. It was like the strobe light was brainwashing you to 'alcohol, sex, violence – you want more' he wouldn't have been surprised if there had been giant flashing banner ads that said 'fuck, kill, hunt' or something, there was just something weirdly primal about that whole gig, and he assumed that was on purpose.

He spotted a half moon shaped windowed crucible and guessed that would have to be Arias, it looked looming and important. Slowly he made it through the masses up to the first floor, and to his relief Ayah wasn't that hard to find since Aria apparently didn't have a habit of hiring humans. There was a pretty dark haired girl, and he was pretty sure it was the same from the pictures. He looked down at the fabricated photo in his hand, yeah that could be her behind one of the bar disks, he walked straight over and decided to take a leap of faith. "Ayah?"

The girl turned around and smiled wide, "Aiden, you made it!" She jumped over the bar and buried him in a hug, he swung her around like she was a long lost loved one, even if they had never met before. I was bizarre to say the least, but he reckoned that he would just have to get used to this. This being pretending to be someone else, living someone else's fake life.

"I didn't expect you before tomorrow." Ayah said.

Kaidan shrugged, "Decided to come a day early." He wasn't sure what she talked about, since he had come precisely on time, but then again he figured that it might cover up her surprised reaction, should anyone be watching.

"Come on, have a drink on the house." She kissed his cheek, "It's so good to see you man." She said softly, and Kaidan got the distinct impression that she meant it on a personal level, and not in character. Then again he could understand how lonely it had to be to pretend to be someone else for a long time. He was freaking out over it, and he had only been doing it for an hour.

Kaidan sat down and let Ayah pour him a drink. "So you know of any work around here? Somewhere where they don't care too much about past uhm... employers." Kaidan figured it was a normal question to ask when you landed in foreign territory.

Ayah laughed, "You're on Omega, no one cares. But we can go see Aria and see if maybe she could use you somewhere."

"That would be great." Kaidan said with a nod, sipping the drink.

"I'm off in an hour, we can go together."

"Sure." Kaidan said with a smile, "Thanks." He turned around in his seat to look at the dancing people. When suddenly a man which he recognized straight away from the photos, followed by a woman and a Turian. The woman turned off, leaving the two others to cut through the guests towards Aria's private balcony. To Kaidan's horror she made straight for where he was sitting, was his cover already blown?

"Hey Smiles." She yelled as she sat down next to Kaidan.

"Hey Jack." Ayah said, "What'll be?"

"Batarian, straight up." Jack said with a nod and held out three fingers.

"You got it." Ayah said, "By the way, meet my cousin Aiden. He came here today." She gestured at Kaidan.

"Hey." Jack said.

"Hey." Kaidan said, discreetly studying the woman at his side, she looked so much more feminine in real life than on the photos. He noted that her hands were delicate and her make-up perfect. Clearly she took pride in her appearance. Funny cause that was not the impression he had gotten from the photos or the personality file.

"You here to visit Smiles?" Jack asked, receiving her drink.

"Not really, I needed a place to go, and she suggested Omega." Kaidan said with a friendly smile.

"Well it's a perfect place if you don't want to be hassled by law." She chuckled.

"What's wrong with Shepard and Garrus?" Ayah asked, leaning in over the bar looking directly at Jack.

Jack rolled her eyes, "Apparently 'someone' leaked bad information, and what we thought was an abandoned facility was an Alliance communications center. Shep is a bit pissed off about that."

"Is everyone okay?" Kaidan asked, feeling fucking stupid but he had to remember that he knew nothing of guns or missions as Aiden.

"Yeah, but see we were promised loot, and so Shep wants to be compensated. I told him he ain't gonna get shit from Aria, but he wouldn't listen." Jack explained as she was downing her drink. "Again." She banged the glass down into the desk to have a refill.

"Jack!" Shepard placed a hand on her shoulder. Startling Kaidan who hadn't seen or heard him coming, the music was too loud, and he had been completely focused on Jack. "Let's go."

"I just ordered another drink." Jack stated annoyed, "Besides I am just having a conversation with... uhm... dude, I forgot your name."

"Aiden." Kaidan said, looking up at Shepard, and for a split second he was absolutely positive that he couldn't pull this off, Shepard was downright intimidating to look at, It wasn't just what met the eye, all the metal and scars, but it was his energy; anger rolled off him in waves. Kaidan wasn't for a second in any doubt that Shepard was a dangerous man to cross, or to know.

"He's my cousin." Ayah said from behind the bar.

"Alright." Shepard answered flatly without even looking at Kaidan, but his eyes still completely focused on Jack, "Good luck with it."

"Garrus." Garrus said holding a hand out to greet Kaidan.

"Aiden." Kaidan said again, smiling at the scarred Turian, who to Kaidan's delight had a firm and friendly handshake. He wasn't even as ugly as Kaidan had expected from the pictures, maybe it was because a picture couldn't recreate the intelligent eyes, and strangely soothing voice. "Good to meet you."

"Jack…" Shepard stated, "I'm leaving."

"Did you get it?" Jack asked nonchalantly, never turning around to look at Shepard and Garrus, "The compensation."

"What do you think?" Garrus chuckled.

"Told ya." Jack shook her head amused.

"Well." Shepard crossed his arms over his chest, "What we did get, was the name of who sold her the bad intel."

"Alright." Jack downed her drink, "See ya Smiles, and you too cousin." She said, jumping down from the barstool, and then she was gone just as quickly as she had appeared.

"Damn." Kaidan mumbled to himself, sipping his drink, pretending it was nothing, but he was having serious doubts if he could pull this off at all. It had seemed much easier when he had been reading files, or at the mission briefing, to meet the people was something completely different, it was real.

"Come on." Ayah said, shaking Kaidan out of his thoughts. "Let's go see Aria."

"Alright." Kaidan put his glass down, grabbed his bag and followed Ayah to the private balcony.

Later, when Kaidan walked home with Ayah, she had promised him to show him exactly where is apartment was so he wouldn't get lost and mugged on his first day here, they talked the whole way. She showed him where the best and cheapest shops where, told him what vendors that was sure to rob him blind and so forth. Not a word about Shepard or Aria, Kaidan's insecurities or the unsettled butterflies inside.

It was not till they were inside his apartment, she dared whisper. "I don't think I have ever been so scared in my life." She chuckled a little breathlessly. "I was sure they'd call us out on it."

"I can't do this." Kaidan whispered back with a desperate high pitched tone.

"You have to." Ayah said softly, placing a hand on Kaidan's shoulder, "I already did all the ground work, and I don't want my year here to be for nothing." Anger snuck into her voice and eyes.

"How am I going to convince them that I am a criminal, I don't even have the damn lingo down." Kaidan whined.

Ayah's gaze softened as she recognized the fear in his voice. "Well, according to what I was told, you did fraud." Ayah said, "And you don't need street talk to swindle with numbers."

"True." Kaidan said, hanging his head in defeat, "Still."

"Sleep on it, man. Maybe you're just a little overwhelmed right now." She smiled, "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay."

Ayah left, leaving Kaidan with his thoughts. He couldn't just let all Ayah's hard work go to waste, but on the other hand he absolutely did not feel up for the task. He was no coward though, and he had been hand picked for this mission. Even though James had implied that he was the perfect match for Shepard's dream man, Kaidan was sure that Anderson wouldn't stoop to that level, and that he had actual faith in Kaidan's abilities - Maybe Ayah was right, maybe he just needed sleep.

September 2nd 2184 – The Citadel.

Kaidan had finally gotten clearance to visit John, amazing what a Spectre status would do. Jane was still sticking around The Citadel as well, she would never admit it, but she worried, how could she not? It was her brother for fucks sake, they might not have a whole lot in common, apart from the apparent animosity on both sides, but she still wanted him to be okay. As did Kaidan.

He shuffled inside the dimly lit hospital room, nodding to the guard in the corner, "It's okay, go get yourself some coffee or something." Kaidan said softly.

"Are you sure, Sir?"

"Yes I'm sure." Kaidan said with a little smile, it was still a head trip when people addressed him as 'sir'. He waited till the guard left and then sat down in the chair next to Shepard's bed, with a heavy sigh.

"Hey Johnny." Kaidan whispered, "I hear you're gonna be fine." He wanted to reach out and caress the limp hand on the bed, trying his best to ignore the restraints on the wrists, knowing there had to be more of them under the covers. But he was quite sure that it would be an unwelcome gesture, and he was gonna respect that, even if John was unresponsive.

"Your sister and I did all we could." He whispered, "You shouldn't be so hard on her John, she loves you… And for what it's worth, I love you too." He wet his lips, and looked down on his hands wringing. "You know what I wish? I wish we could start over, that this wasn't the end, but that we could somehow… I don't know; do it over, the right way."

Nervousness over won respect and Kaidan took Shepard's hand and enveloped it in his. "What we had was real, I know it was. "

December 4th 2182 – Omega.

Luckily, when Aria had said cleaning it had meant exactly what Kaidan had hoped, mopping up floors and hosing down bathrooms. He had been given a blue one piece work suit and stuck in a team with this guy named Steve, or 'gay-Steve' as people called him, Kaidan was sure that James would have had a fucking field day if he had known. Kaidan didn't want James to know, so he had not requested a background check on Steve, but he had looked about the extranet for what he could find, and while it wasn't much, it spoke to the guys credibility.

"Aiden." Steve called from the walkway, "Break-time, want coffee?"

"That would be divine." Kaidan called back, propping up his mop and climbed the stairs to the walkway and Steve.

Steve was behind the bar, making coffee. "How do you want yours?"

"Black." Kaidan said, hopping up to sit on the bar.

"Here you go," Steve said, handing Kaidan a cup of black coffee. "So, kid… What are you running from?"

"What makes you think I'm running from anything?" Kaidan said innocently.

"Because no one comes to Omega to seek their fortune," He leaned in over the bar and looked up at Kaidan, "Unless they have a couple of skeletons in their closet."

"Yourself included?"

"Myself included." Steve said. "So, I was a pilot, and a damn good one too. Developed a gambling debt, and one thing led to another – and here I am… Stuck in the land of piss stains and vomit on the floor. Laying low for a couple of decades or something."

Kaidan chuckled, "Yeah." He took a sip of his coffee, "I come from a fairly good family, I always had a nose for numbers, and so when someone gave me a super sweet deal, making loads of credits just for rearranging their numbers, I took it. And one more, and one more… until it all came crashing down and I had to find somewhere else to stay for a while."

"Does Aria know that?"

"Know what?"

"Knows that you're good with numbers?" Steve said casually.

"No." Kaidan shrugged, "Didn't get a chance, I asked for work and got this."

"You should tell her." Steve said, "Now don't get me wrong, I like the company – it just seems like such a shame." He smiled, and then waved down somewhere below. "Hey Shep!"

"Steve." Shepard called back, "Got any coffee left?"

"For you? Always." Steve called back, pushing off the bar ledge, he reached for Kaidan's cup, "Refill?"

"Sure, thanks." Kaidan said.

"You met Shepard?" Steve asked while arranging the coffee maker.

"Yeah, hard guy to miss." Kaidan said, "All that metal and..."

"Hey cousin." Shepard chuckled behind him. "Nice to know that someone notices me around here."

"Oh, sorry... I didn't mean…" Kaidan felt the tip of his ears redden, "It's just that…"

"If you keep up them compliments, I might have to take you to the prom." Shepard laughed, and then placed a friendly hand on Kaidan's arm for a brief moment, "Don't worry about it, man." He looked at Steve, "Rough day?"

"Nah, it's not bad," Steve said with a shrug, "Besides, it helps a lot to have someone else working with me."

Shepard nodded while carefully sipping the hot coffee. "So Aria gave you work?" Shepard asked Kaidan without turning his head to look at him.

"She did." Kaidan said.

"She's a regular mother fucking Teresa." Shepard chuckled. "So found a place to stay? Or are you sleeping here?"

Kaidan couldn't quite figure out why Shepard would ask him all of this, but maybe he was just making polite conversation, he didn't know. "Gozu. Apartment 3557."

"Really?" This time Shepard turned to look at him, and this close up Kaidan could see that the red eye wasn't really red, it was deep blue like the other, but had a bunch of red specks around the iris, which made it look red.

"Yeah, well, it was affordable." Kaidan shrugged, wondering if Shepard would let slip he lived there too.

"It's a cesspool, but I suppose some people like it that way." Shepard said with a little smile, "So how's Stevie here treating you?"

"Fine." Kaidan said chuckling a little, seeing Steve roll his eyes. "I'm Aiden by the way."

"John." Shepard held up his mug to toast with Kaidan, both men laughing at the absurdity.

"Oh, get a room you two." Steve huffed, his smile giving him away.

Shepard laughed, and for a moment Kaidan could see something in John's expression that made him look like an innocent little boy. Those damn dimples seemed just so completely out of place on a man like Shepard, they made you believe there could be some warmth hiding under that cold, hard exterior. "Anyway, I should let you two gents get back to work." Shepard said, emptying his cup.

"No hurry." Steve said, "It's not like we're paid by the hour."

"No joke." Shepard said as he pushed off the desk, "See you Steve." He turned to walk down the stairs and stopped, "And you too cousin."

"See ya." Kaidan waved unceremoniously back, and returned to drinking his coffee. Maybe Shepard wasn't so intimidating after all?

"Rookie." Steve said softly "Want some advice?"

"Sure."

"Shepard is a good guy, but he's mad as a hatter. Believe me, you don't want whatever he's selling." Steve said in a dead serious tone that made Kaidan look directly at him.

"Why would you even say that?" Kaidan looked up at Steve with his best imitation of innocence. "I'm not into guys if that is what you are hinting at." Kaidan said flatly.

"Doesn't matter; friendship, fucking, business partners... It's probably all the same to him. He is bad goddamn news if you get too close, that's all." Steve said with a shrug, "Oh well, now you know."

"Steve?"

"Yes."

"Doesn't it bother you that they call you Gay-Steve?" Kaidan asked in all honesty, handing his cup back to Steve who took it over to a tray to his left.

"Not really." Steve said with a little laugh. "Why? Does it bother you?"

"Yeah a little." Kaidan admitted, jumping down from the desk to his feet. "That's not okay, I mean to label and name call like that."

"I like to see it as free advertising." Steve said with a little shrug. "Don't worry about it man, I've heard much worse. Stick around and they'll find a name for you too."

"Yeah, like dances-with-mops or what?" Kaidan huffed.

Steve didn't answer, he just laughed.

January 13th 2183 – Omega.

Kaidan pretty quickly settled into a routine of working at Afterlife, he had to admit it went pretty slow, he neither heard, nor saw anything remotely interesting. Maybe he had gone about this all wrong? Maybe he really should tell Aria that he could go over her books, but he wasn't even sure they paid taxes on Omega.

Today he had a massive workload, Steve had not come in this morning, Kaidan wasn't overly concerned, Steve's absence could be any number of things.

When he was roughly halfway done, he decided for a break and went to the bar and made himself coffee. He sat by the balcony, looking out over the dance floor, which he still hadn't gotten around to cleaning yet. He saw a group of people walk across the dance floor below him, there was Shepard, Jack and Garrus, and who was that? He leaned over as much as he could without falling over the railing.

Vito Santiago.

Holy crap! What were all those Blue Suns doing here? He had seen them around in their tell-tale uniforms, but this was something else all together. Kaidan wondered what that meant, he'd have to ask Ayah if Santiago was a regular and he just didn't know, or if this was as big as he feared. He jumped from the bar, and went to make himself more coffee.

He didn't see Shepard, Jack and Garrus come down the stairs to Aria's personal balcony, but he vaguely heard them exchanging quick words, and Garrus laughing with that smooth and at the same time rusty voice of his. What he had never expected was Shepard emerging at the top of the stairs, smiling. "Hey cousin." He said, "Could I scrounge one of those?" He pointed at the coffee cup in Kaidan's hands.

"Sure." Kaidan said and turned to make another.

"Where's Steve?" Shepard asked casually.

"I don't know." Kaidan answered honestly. He turned with the cup in his hand, sliding it over the bar to Shepard.

Shepard didn't say anything, he just sipped his coffee. Eventually Kaidan broke the silence, "Was that Vito Santiago?" He whispered urgently.

Laughing softly Shepard nodded. "Fucking self-important asshole, if you ask me."

Kaidan eyed the balcony nervously.

"Don't worry, they can't hear us." Shepard said slightly amused.

"What's he doing here?"

Shepard shrugged, "Wouldn't know." He sipped his coffee again with a serene expression. "I was hired to make sure nothing went belly up, yanno with all those Blood pack psychos around here. And that was all." Shepard looked purposely up at Kaidan, "So where are you from?"

Kaidan was confused for a moment, the change of subject and the sudden question. "Uhm, Earth." Kaidan said, smiling what he hoped was an uncomplicated smile at the man on the other side of the bar desk.

"Waddya know... Never been there, heard it's a shithole." Shepard grinned.

Kaidan chuckled, "It is. And the weather sucks."

Shepard's smile widened to a genuine gesture, "I like you Aiden. You're funny."

For a split second Kaidan didn't quite know what to say, "I can honestly say I've never been told that before." He said, congratulating himself on not just freaking out.

Shrugging Shepard said "Earth humour, it's an acquired taste."

Kaidan was literally squirming, he didn't like the cold and aloof Shepard, but he didn't know what to do with this friendly version either. Something in Shepard's eyes told him that this was not just a casual conversation, but he couldn't put his finger on what was his motive. "So uhm.. where does one go to unwind here at Omega, besides here."

Shepard's face lit up with a shit-eating grin, "Depends on your taste in unwinding."

"I don't know…" Kaidan said, he could tell from Shepard expression that he didn't even have the imagination to ask for the places that Shepard was thinking of. "Beer?"

Shepard laughed to the point where he had to wipe his eyes from amused tears, and Kaidan decided he liked the sound of his laughter, it was light and contagious, and very much in contrast to how brutal Shepard looked, with all the metal and buzz cut. Even his armour was intimidating for fucks sake. Kaidan couldn't help but to wonder if it was something he did a lot, laughed. He just didn't look the type. "Yeah, I know of a place where you can get beer." Shepard managed to say between involuntary giggles.

Kaidan smiled in the pink neon lights that shone down on them both from the ceiling of the bar. Wasn't this what he wanted? He needed to get close to Shepard, then why did it make his stomach churn? Steve's words came back to him 'goddamn bad news' indeed. "Sure". He said starting to pull out his personal data-pad, "You can plot it in here on..." He stopped as Shepard placed a hand on his arm, looking up he saw blue and red eyes studying him amused.

"How about I just take you there?" Shepard said with a little half smile, it looked hesitant, but Kaidan couldn't be sure.

Kaidan's mouth went dry, he didn't quite know what to make of this, had Shepard been a woman he knew exactly what he would have been thinking. But surely… He wet his lips nervously, "Are.. are you flirting with me?"

Shepard looked at Kaidan for a long moment and then removed his hand. "No." He said, the smile was gone both from his lips and eyes. "Gimme that." He took the data-pad that Kaidan was still holding like a shield. Shepard quicky shifted through some menus and then expertly searched the map of Omega, "Here." He gave Kaidan a fake smile as he handed back the data-pad. "The beer is cheap, and so are the women."

"Great..." Kaidan squeaked, "Or... I mean..."

Shepard looked down into his coffee cup, and with one large gulp emptied it. "Well then." He stood from the barstool, "I've kept you for long enough."

"Hey John... wait!" Kaidan exclaimed, halfway throwing himself across the bar grabbing Shepard's arm, inwardly shocked at his own reaction, but he just couldn't let Shepard walk out now, cause if he did, he wasn't sure he'd get a second chance at getting close enough to settle this damn mission. "I didn't mean to offend you."

"What?" Shepard said calmly and to Kaidan's surprise, didn't pull his arm back.

"I'm sorry." Kaidan said, "It's just cause Steve…" He stopped talking and smiled a thin, embarrassed smile at Shepard.

"Stevie huh?" Shepard's smile returned for a split second before it disappeared again. "That old fucker talks too much."

"Still." Kaidan said, squeezing Shepard's arm a little harder. "I'm sorry I just assumed uhm... stuff." He laughed a little nervous, "I'm probably not even your type."

Shepard just blinked dumbfounded, "You got a heartbeat right?" he stated drily.

"Oh fuck..." Kaidan sighed. "Super suave there Aiden." He scolded himself. "Just... I'm sorry alright?" And then he let go of Shepard's arm. He worried his lower lip, hoping Shepard would take the bait, and for a second it looked like he would leave, but then he turned around and snatched Kaidan's data-pad again, searching through menus silently, plotting in a second location, and typed something. "There. Call me if you ever feel like having a beer." Shepard said with an oddly detached tone as he handed the pad back to Kaidan.

"Sure." Kaidan said with a smile, "Thanks man, and I really mean that. I don't know a lot of people here and…"

"And I said we're good." Shepard repeated with a little controlled nod. "See you around."

"Count on it." Kaidan said with a large grin, until he looked down at the pad where Shepard just plotted down the second location that his smile faded. It was marked right here in the bar, and said 'ask Steve'. "Asshole." Kaidan hissed and then kicked the bar. He had been so fucking close! He had to get five minutes with Ayah to get some creative ideas here.

January 17th 2183 – Omega.

Later that week when he had showered and eaten a meal while watching some stupid game show, Kaidan finally called James.

"James?" Kaidan asked when the monitor finally crackled and an image with static settled. "James?"

"Yeah, hang on." James said, adjusting his camera making most of the static disappear before he sat down in front of his monitor, "You look like shit."

"I messed up." Kaidan admitted with a sigh.

"How bad?"

"As in; I don't think Shepard will ever give me five minutes of his time again." Kaidan said as he ran a hand through his hair. "I talked to Ayah and…" Kaidan shrugged, "She wasn't a lot of help."

"What happened?" James asked.

"I can't do it." Kaidan admitted with a vague blush, "It's just too weird James! I had wanted to play along but I just can't do it!"

"What the fuck are you talking about man?"

"I freaked out because I thought he was hitting on me, okay? You can laugh it up!" Kaidan said looking defeated, "Ayah told me to grow a pair."

"So what if he was making a pass at you." James couldn't help but to laugh "Jeez Alenko, maybe they were right all along." James shrugged.

"Who them? And right about what?" Kaidan asked, suddenly wished he had bought a bottle of whatever booze he could afford, cause this looked to be a real long night.

"If you are ready to abort the mission because some guy made a pass at you, maybe you weren't cut out to be a spectre – just sayin'." James said.

"Come on James, I told you that I messed up… But I can't see how I can save it now." Kaidan said, frustration evident in his expression and voice.

"Give me five." James turned to the left, obviously working on a different machine. And after a couple of minutes he grinned. "Gotcha'."

"Got what?" Kaidan asked, puzzled.

"John Shepard's personal data id number." James said with a grin, turning to face Kaidan at the monitor again. "You're welcome."

"How did you get that?"

"The less you know the better." James answered cryptically. "I'm gonna transfer it to your data-pad, hang on."

"Whoa.. back the fuck up…" Kaidan looked helplessly at his data-pad on the desk to his left as it ticked in with a private message. "That's your suggestion? That I call him?"

"Sure."

"I can't do that, man." Kaidan shook his head - that would never work! "I think I made it awkward enough already."

"Define awkward."

"Vega…" Kaidan growled in a warning tone.

"Okay think of it this way – What would you have done if Shepard had been a chick? Wouldn't you have called her and tried to make it up to her?" James said.

"Yeah maybe…eh... Yes... yes, I would. Are you happy now? Asshole." Kaidan's anger seeping through into his voice. How dared James to even make it out to be a minor thing? He hadn't been there, so how would he know, and with a bitter taste in his mouth Kaidan had to admit that he felt really weird about the disappointment written in those odd-colored eyes of Shepard's, it couldn't be as simple as a call or flowers… No, Shepard was no woman. "Thing is." Kaidan finally mumbled, "Shepard is not a chick."

"Maybe he likes chocolates and a Blasto movie anyway?" James shrugged, "Fucked if I know. I never tried to score a guy."

"God!" Kaidan yelled angrily, "I'm not trying to – whatever man, never mind, I'll figure something out."

James just smiled coyly "You need credits?"

"Yeah."

"I'll transfer some right away. Stay safe okay?" James said, but his amused smirk never left his lips.

"I hope you fucking choke on your tongue in your sleep." Kaidan said as he cut off the connection. He leaned back in the dark, staring at the ceiling. Should he call Shepard? Wouldn't that just be creepy? And what if he asked where he got his number from? "Fuck." Kaidan mumbled, vaguely aware that he never used swear words this much before he had come here, Omega was rubbing off on him, and not in the good way.

It was not till the next morning that Kaidan realised that he had neglected to tell James about Vito, it had completely slipped his mind, he'd just have to tell James next time they talked.

February 21th 2183 – Omega.

Kaidan had not seen Shepard since that day in the bar, the more days slipping by the more desperate he became, he had to do something, he just didn't know what. He was not about to call Anderson and tell him that all this work had gone to waste because he had freaked out. He put the mops away for the day, small talked with Steve who hadn't questioned the obvious lack of Shepard coming by. Kaidan went straight for the top bar hoping to find Ayah, but it was empty. He pulled out his personal data-pad and typed in a message for her, asking her to get back to him right away because he really needed to talk to her. Making his message as ambiguous as possible in case someone checked either their pads.

Her message ticked in seconds later, asking him to come by her place. He answered that he'd be there as fast as possible, he put the pad back into his pocket and hurried out of Afterlife.

Ayah sure had nicer housing accommodations than he had, but he would save that for a talk with James at another time, how come he got the shit-end of this deal? Ayah's apartment was located in a nicer hub of Omega, the walls in the long hall were painted yellow, and there wasn't even any garbage littering the floor. He stopped in front of her door, but before he pushed the doorbell, she opened the door, wearing a oversize shirt and wet hair. "Hey there" Ayaha said, opening the door to let Kaidan inside. "Want something to drink?"

"Wow, this place is nice." Kaidan said with a little smile, hanging his jacket on a hook, "Sure, you got coffee?"

"Of course." Ayah said, turning to go into what Kaidan assumed was the kitchen. This place even smelled of woman, like air freshener and clean sheets. Kaidan seated himself at the dining table, idly picking at the decoration in the middle of the table. He was slightly self-conscious that his tiny flat most likely reeked of smelly socks, sweat and farts.

"What's on your mind Aiden?" Ayah asked softly while handing him a cup of coffee.

Kaidan laughed, "How men are slobs, and women not so much."

Ayah chuckled sitting down opposite Kaidan at the table. "So, what's really a matter?"

"I really don't think I can do this." Kaidan sighed, "I just can't get past that whole dick on dick thing… It's weird and…"

"He wanted to show you a bar, man. I'm pretty sure he didn't rip his cock out of his pants for that." Ayah said drily.

"I know." Kaidan whined, "But it was his intentions… he - he was flirting – And that means he intends to rip out his cock" He looked helplessly up at Ayah, "And if I don't find a way to solve this problem, then all this," he gestured at both of them, "Is for nothing."

"You need to chill the fuck out." Ayah said with a little laugh, stirring her coffee. "I think you should cross that bridge when you come to it. And just call him and say you're sorry you were a dick, and ask him out for a beer." She winked and smiled amused at Kaidan, "I'm pretty sure he wouldn't say no."

"So you're telling me to deal with his –" Kaidan sighed and nodded, "I guess I see your point."

"Hey, you don't know if he's genuinely interested, maybe he was just testing you? Don't tell me you never made a half-assed pas at a woman just in case it would work." Ayah said motherly, "From what I can understand from Jack, it's been a while for Shep." She laughed.

"That just makes it worse." Kaidan laughed nervously. "Look, do you think I am comfortable with admitting this? Just talking about it weirds me the hell out. It's like a finals test that you didn't study for, and are hoping that the professor doesn't catch you cheating."

Ayah rose a brow. "I know you got a mission; that we got a mission. But he's a person, they are people Aidan. Just like us – Have you ever stopped to think about that? We are the ones doing them wrong, lying to their faces while wearing masks of friends."

"You wanna know what I think?" Kaidan stated flatly, "I think you've been here for too long. These people are criminals. And they have to be brought to justice, they have just avoided the jurisdictional system for a long time cause they know how to work the system – and that is where we come in. The less controversial method."

"I know that." Ayah said staring down into her cup. "I thought this was an easy gig. But it's not Aidan, in time you forget yourself." She looked up at him with sad eyes, "What did they promise you?"

"Excuse me?"

"What is your prize for bringing Shepard down?" Ayah asked.

"That I would come into consideration as the second human spectre." Kaidan whispered, realising how childish it sounded.

"They promised me my own ship, my own command. And somehow years later I am still stuck here. Every time I ask to be withdrawn, they come up with something. And it will be the same for you." Ayah said grimly, pausing for a moment as were she giving second thought to her own dark words, before she just accepted her fate and sipped her coffee like nothing ever happened.

Kaidan stared at her.

"I think I'm going crazy." Ayah sighed.

"No you're not." Kaidan soothed. "I will sort this out, and when I leave, I will take you with me."

"Well Aiden, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were flirting with me." Ayah said with a tiny voice, locking eyes with Kaidan to make sure her point came across.

Kaidan sighed in defeat.

"It's no lie though." Ayah said "It sucks the living crap out of you, this job."

Kaidan nodded, sipping his own coffee. "Alright." He pulled out his personal data-pad, "I'll call him."

"Now?"

"Right now."

Kaidan took a deep breath and clicked the personal id contact number, waiting for the call to go through. To his surprise there was no answer, and he just shrugged and put the data-pad down on the table between him and Ayah. "I tried." He shrugged.

Both of them jumped when the data-pad let out a loud shrilling beep just moments later, the caller id said 'Shepard, John'. Hesitating for a second, Kaidan swiped his finger across the screen, and an image of a puffy eyed Shepard came through crystal clear. "Well, if it isn't boy-wonder." Shepard muttered, scratching his neck.

"Yeah." Kaidan said annoyed with his own embarrassed blush, refusing to look over at Ayah at the other side of the table, he could feel her damn smirk all the way over here. "Hi. So, uhm…" He heard Ayah move around the table, and felt her come to stand behind him.

"Hey Shep." Ayah grinned. "He's driving me fucking nuts. Could you just –" Kaidan elbowed her hard, and she jumped to the side with a laugh, rubbing the spot where his elbow made contact. "God!" Kaidan muttered… "I had planned on this being a whole lot more – uhm different."

Shepard smiled weakly, "It's fine."

"No, it's not." Kaidan said trying his hardest to look guilt-ridden. "So, could we perhaps, I don't know… meet up for a beer some day soon?"

Shepard just blinked, looking slightly bored. "I don't know."

"Oh." Kaidan sighed, not really sure how the hell to get through to Shepard, his mind working on overdrive trying to remember James' words, what would he have done if John had been a chick whom he had wronged?

"Look Aiden, I don't have time for this – whatever this is – right now." Shepard reached for the monitor to shut the link down.

"Wait!" Kaidan squeaked, "Wait!" But Shepard didn't answer, he just turned off the link. "Fuck!" Kaidan yelled out into the room.

"Gimme that." Ayah sneered as she snatched the pad out of Kaidan's hand.

"What are you doing?" Kaidan asked, even if he was pretty sure he knew.

Ayah looked up at Kaidan, her eyes angry. "If you hadn't known Shepard was gay, would you ever have thought twice with asking him to go grab a beer?"

"Probably not." Kaidan admitted with a tiny voice, feeling slightly ashamed of himself when he was faced with it like this. "You make me sound like I'm a terrible person."

"And?" Ayah hissed, waving the data-pad in Kaidan's face, "You are totally overreacting - He asked if you wanted his company after you asked him for directions."

"I know," Kaidan looked away from Ayah's angry form. "And I tried to apologize several times. I just don't know how to be around him... I don't expect you to understand anyway."

"Oh, but I think I do." Ayah's anger gave way to a sly grin. "It's the sort of move you'd make on a woman who caught your interest, and so now you think that he is thinking the same things, as you would have done in his shoes."

Kaidan just ran a hand through his hair, never answering her.

"Thought so." Ayah muttered, and returned to type on Kaidan's data-pad. "So how does this sound; Hey John, I wish you would let me apologize. I hope you have time to grab a beer this weekend. – Aiden."

"Alright." Kaidan said, reaching for his cup to empty down the now cold coffee.

"Good cause I already sent it." Ayah grinned.

More than ten hours would pass when a message ticked in on Kaidan's data-pad.

From: Shepard, John 04112154-IL-0103-HU-M

Subject: Okay. Your creds.

September 30th 2184 – The Citadel.

Kaidan and Jane walked side by side down the long corridor at Huerta Memorial. Stopping outside John's hospital room, Jane placed a hand on Kaidan's shoulder. "It's okay if you'd rather stay out here."

"I can't let you do this on your own." Kaidan said softly, a sad smile on his lips.

"He's gonna be pissed." Jane said with a little wry grin.

"I know." Kaidan answered flatly.

"I think it's better you stay out here." Jane said, "Just for now."

"No, let's just get it over with," Kaidan sighed, gestured towards the doors to the hospital room. "Ladies first."

Jane rolled her eyes, but none the less took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and marched inside. "Knock, knock." She said as she entered. "Hi John," and then the doors swished shut behind her. Kaidan too had to ground himself before he entered the room, only to be met with John's angry scowl, the atmosphere in the room was so thick with feral anger that Kaiden had a hard time breathing.

"John." He said with a nod, coming to stand next to Jane, if nothing else then the feel of her shoulder against his, grounded him.

"You!" John spat, "Get out!"

"Come on John." Jane started, but John cut her off, so livid that the tendons on his neck stood out like cords,

"No! Get him the fuck away from me!"

Kaidan felt his heart sunk, his chest ached with a strange empty feeling. He looked away from John and down at his own shiny boots.

"Stop behaving like a child." Jane barked, not sure if she were speaking to John, or Kaidan, or both. But John just flexed his jaw and stared intensely at Kaidan with bloody murder in his eyes.

"I'm gonna wait outside." Kaidan mumbled, and turned to leave.

"Like fuck you are." Jane said with a deep commanding voice that would not accept obstinacy. And then she leaned in over Kaidan's shoulder and whispered, "Don't let him scare you off like that."

Kaidan took a deep breath and turned to stand next to Jane again.

Jane smiled at her brother and walked over to sit in the chair next to the bed, leaving Kaidan standing on his own. "Look at me John." She said none to gently, and to her surprise, he did. "We're here to tell you that you are deemed fit to stand trial."

"What are the charges?" John asked flatly, while he studied his sisters expression.

"The murder of Alliance agent Ashley Williams, and the attempted murder of Councilman Donnel Udina." Jane said softly.

"Oh good, at least there is no hard feelings about that time I stole that hammerhead." John said, but his voice was flat and devoid of humour.

"Do you even understand what I am telling you?" Jane asked a little surprised.

"Sure I do." John nodded.

"Johnny... Drop the smart ass act." Jane's smile turned motherly, and she reached out for John's trapped hand, caressing it for a second. "If you are convicted then they're gonna put you away for a very long time."

"Might as well." John looked down at Jane's hand on top of his, like he would bite her if he could.

"Why would you say something like that?" Jane asked, her voice betraying her worry.

"Don't pretend that you care what happens, Jane." John said with spite.

"But I do, that is why I am here. That is why we are here." Jane said her voice growing in intensity.

"And here I was, thinking that you could all go have tea with Captain Hannah, and gossip about what a huge mistake I was, how I let everyone down… How I once had potential, just a shame I fucked it away…" John's jaw flexed, but not for the same reason as before. This time his eyes looked sad, even if his body was still tighter wound than a bowstring.

"Do you really think that mother, or I, think you are a disappointment?" Jane asked softly, squeezing John's hand gently. "We worry John. That's all."

"And you are a fucking terrible liar, sister." John growled, his mask of indifference back in place.

"Have it your way." Jane sighed, "But it's not true." When John said nothing, Jane just patted his hand and got up from her seat. "I'll see you soon, okay?"

She turned to Kaidan who still just stood there, "I'll be outside."

"Okay." Kaidan said, clenching and unclenching his fists, gathering courage. In the end, he walked over and sat down in the same chair which had held Jane just moments ago. "I'm glad you're okay." He said lamely.

John just blinked slowly, but said nothing.

"Uhm..." Kaidan fought with the words, there was so many things he wanted to say, things he sought forgiveness for. "My name is Kaidan, Kaidan Alenko." He said with a little nervous smile, "And I…. And I really wish you'd forgive me." This had sounded better in his head by far.

"Congratulations on your promotion." Shepard whispered, it was so low that Kaidan had to strain his ears to hear it.

"Thank you." Kaidan blushed even if he didn't want to, but he felt it wrong and embarrassing to be reminded of his price for betrayal, from the person he betrayed. He looked up at Shepard with a begging expression, "I would rather have you."

"What do you need me for? You have my sister to play boy-scout of the universe, with." John said, his voice flat, and his smile fake.

"I need you…" Kaidan looked down at his hands, "Because… I love you."

"Sure you do." John said in a clipped tone.

"Dammit John." Kaidan said, his voice thick with emotion, "It was real, it was me."

John turned his head away and stared out the window, "Maybe." He took a deep breath, "But it doesn't change anything."

"If you'd just –"

John's head snapped back, and stared directly at Kaidan, "You betrayed me." Those words were spoken with so much venom that Kaidan almost felt it physically.

"I know." Kaidan mumbled, "It was my job, John. I had never expected to feel something." He looked up at John, halfway afraid to meet his hateful glare. "I begged you to come away with me, to forget about Aria and Udina. I never wanted this to happen."

"Were you ever gonna tell me the truth?" Shepard asked.

"No." Kaidan whispered. "I wanted to be Aiden for ever."

John sighed.

"My mission was Aria." Kaidan admitted meekly, "And you were the surest way." He looked away again, "You still are."

"I see."

"No you don't." Kaidan exclaimed with badly hidden frustration, "They are going to offer you a bargain for sure."

"Ah, a 'get out of jail' free card." John laughed mirthlessly. "I don't think so."

"But if you did." Kaidan ran a hand through his hair, knowing that John would have no reason to believe him. "Then they'd probably let you get away with a few years served, and if you'd let me, then we could perhaps.."

"There is no me and you, Aiden... Cayden... Hayden, whatever your name is. And there will never be." Shepard said coolly.

"Kaidan." Kaidan politely reminded him. He knew the battle was lost so he had to pull some desperate strategies. "John, look at me."

Shepard looked up, ruby red pupils staring straight into Kaidan's brown ones.

"The truth John - Tell me you never cared for me, that you don't want me here, and I'll walk away." Kaidan resisted the urge to scratch his cheek or bite his lip, or any of the nervous ticks he felt coming on.

"I never cared for you. And I don't want you here." Shepard said calmly, his heart not even missing a beat.

"Alright." Kaidan sighed, his chest felt like it was about to burst, and he had a hard time catching his breath. Vaguely he wondered if this was how heartbreak felt. "I'll be going then... and... I'm still glad you're okay." He smiled, knowing that Shepard could see the strain on his face, trying not to let his heartache show, and make as dignified a retreat as he could. "Take care Johnny."

"You too Spectre." John said, and almost as a counter to Kaidan's struggle not to let his show, then John's voice completely void of emotion.

February 28th 2183 – Omega.

Kaidan was waiting outside this sorta dingy looking bar, starting to regret that he had agreed to show up. How did he let Ayah talk him into this? Did he really feel bad for being out of line, or was he more worried that he'd mess up the mission, and never become a spectre? He pocketed his hands, shifting weight on his feet. Shepard was already twenty minutes late, what if he wasn't gonna show up? What if he was just having a laugh, knowing that Kaidan was standing here waiting among patrons whom looked like they'd tear out his throat with their teeth if he dared blink. He checked his data-pad again to see if Shepard had maybe sent him a message and he hadn't seen it, but there was nothing.

He had not spotted Shepard until he cleared his throat right next to him. Kaidan looked up from the data-pad and right at Shepard's stupid grin. "You're late." Kaidan said.

"I know." Shepard just said with a shrug.

"Are you gonna be a jerk all evening?" Kaidan asked, putting the data-pad away with an annoyed huff.

"Probably." Shepard said a slight smile on his lips, "But I seem to remember you promised me a beer."

"I did." Kaidan shook his head, not sure if he should be amused or annoyed. "Sure you wanna go in there?" He pointed at the bar behind them.

Shepard laughed merrily, "No fucking way, I wouldn't be caught dead in there." He placed a hand on Kaidan's shoulder, "I was just messing with you. Come on, there's a better place not far from here, where the guests doesn't eat their young and shit on the floor."

"You made me stand here like a fucking idiot for twenty minutes?" Kaidan asked, but followed Shepard none the less as he started to walk down the dimly lit alley.

"Yep." Shepard said.

"Let me guess, you aren't a people person." Kaidan sighed deeply; damn this was going to be a long night.

"Not really." Shepard shrugged.

Kaidan followed Shepard down the narrow alleys and through what he could only assume was short cuts, his mind flooded with all sorts of unwelcome thoughts and doubts. He wanted to say something, but it felt wrong to say to Shepard's back in the odd orange blinking lights that illuminated these maintenance passageways.

"Here we are." Shepard said as he walked up the stairs towards the open door to a pub. To Kaidan's relief it looked cleaner and much nicer than that other place. They made their way through people, aiming towards the bar.

"Just order us whatever you like." Kaidan said his eyes running over the sign with different drinks listed.

"Alright." Shepard leaned in over and talked to the barkeep, receiving two bottles of something Kaidan had never heard of before. He swiped his credit chit and walked after Shepard again as they tried to find a place to sit. Finally, they found a bench with two seats and squeezed in there.

"Is this where you go then?" Kaidan asked, lifting the bottle to his lips, testing the taste of the beverage.

"Not really, it's pretty expensive, and they won't serve Garrus." Shepard said.

"Why not?" Kaidan asked genuinely puzzled. "There are other Turians here."

Shepard chuckled, "Cause he got in a fight here once."

"Oh." Kaidan felt stupid assuming it was cause he was Turian and not just because he couldn't hold his liquor. "What happened?"

"Not sure actually." Shepard said casually, nesting his beer as it was a prize on it's own. "I think it was something with a female Turian if I'm not totally off."

"He fought with a female Turian, or over one?" Kaidan asked with a chuckle.

"Fucked if I know." Shepard grinned.

"So have you seen the new Blasto?" Kaidan asked, desperate to keep the small talk going, knowing that if he stopped Shepard would probably just leave, and he'd back to negative square one.

"No." Shepard said, but instead of just cutting Kaidan off, Shepard turned his head and studied Kaidan carefully. "Have you?"

"Not yet." Kaidan said with a tiny smile, it was a huge lie, he had seen it at least ten times in the time he had been stuck on Omega. "Want to? I mean you wanna go see it."

"I don't know." Shepard said, his lips curled upwards into a knowing smile. "Are you asking me if I want to go with you?"

"Yeah... Yeah I am." Kaidan laughed nervously. Suddenly all too aware of how their thighs and shoulders were touching. He had to keep it cool and remember his mission.

"Sure." Shepard said in his infuriatingly uncomplicated way, never removing his gaze from Kaidan. "Want another beer?"

"Yes please." Kaidan sighed thankfully. "With a shot on the side."

"You got it." Shepard said as he stood up, "Credit chit." He held out his hand to receive Kaidan's chit.

Kaidan stared at Shepard open mouthed, "You expect me to hand over my credit chit to you, just like that?"

"Just like that." Shepard said, still holding out his hand. "Don't you trust me?"

"No."

Shepard laughed merrily, "I wouldn't trust me either."

"Alright." Kaidan said hesitating to let go of his chit. "If you fuck me over, the popcorn is on you."

"Deal." Shepard nodded, smiling as he finally closed his fingers around the chit.

Seven beers and a couple of shots later, Kaidan stumbled out of the bar, Shepard in tow. When Kaidan stumbled down the stairs, Shepard caught his arm and minimized the fall. "Lets get you home." Shepard said, hauling Kaidan over his shoulder and hip, guiding him down the stairs and towards the Gozu district.

"I have a confession." Kaidan slurred, leaning his head drunken on Shepard's shoulder. "It wasn't what you think."

"What do you mean?" Shepard asked, focused on the road ahead of them, and not tripping over his own feet.

"What Steve said." Kaidan whispered, and giggled. "He just said you were bad news."

"Bad news, huh?" Shepard laughed drunken. "It's just cause I wouldn't fuck him."

"Really?" Kaidan snickered.

"I swear." Shepard laughed a little breathless, as he struggled to get a better hold of Kaidan.

"Dude!" Kaidan laughed till he coughed, "TMI, TMI."

"What?" Shepard asked innocently and then chuckled, having to stop to catch his breath. "I think I see your front door." He nodded straight ahead. "Come on, keep it together for five more minutes."

"Hey John." Kaidan slurred as they stumbled towards his apartment complex, but forgot what words he planned to say after.

March 1st 2183 – Omega.

The next morning Kaidan woke by the loud ring of a data-pad, he pulled the sheets over his head and hid from the noise, and the dead certain hangover he'd have if he sat up.

"Yeah." A sleepy, rough voice answered the call. Kaidan's eyes flew open in the dark under the covers. What the fuck? Now that he was more awake, he was painfully aware that the sheets smelled different than his, the pillow was different too. With a start he sat up and pulled the sheet from his face and looked around the room. He could make out a person laying on a sofa which was much too small to fit someone. Nausea overcame his curiosity, and with a panicked dry heave, he slammed a hand over his mouth, struggling to get out of the sheets.

"First door on your left."

Kaidan didn't question it, he just sprinted to the bathroom, and barely made it. He could hear Shepard laugh, that was definitely Shepard's laugh. So this was his apartment? What the hell was he doing here? With a pitiful whimper as his stomach still painfully reminded him that everything hadn't been expelled, he grabbed the edges of the toilet and gave up on trying to make sense of it all.

"So can I get you something?" Shepard asked from the door to the hall. "A soda?"

"Yeah." Kaidan nodded weakly.

"There's painkillers in the medicine cabinet over the sink." Shepard snickered.

"Great." Kaidan managed to say before he was assaulted by another series of dry heaving.

"Beer?" Shepard asked, laughing.

"Fuck, off." Kaidan clutched his stomach as it hurt to laugh.

Shepard laughed hard as he closed the door to the bathroom and left, and after a moment Kaidan struggled to his feet and to the sink. The face that stared back at him in the mirror looked like shit. He really had let himself go last night. He had just got caught up in Shepard's drinking pace, but obviously Shepard held his liquor much better than Kaidan. Eyes on the prize, Kaidan told himself. Because, after all, he had managed to get Shepard where he wanted him, guard down, at his own place. He opened the medicine cabinet and took a couple of painkillers, drinking straight from the faucet, splashing some water in his face in the process. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he flushed the toilet with the other, ready to go to work.

Shepard sat in the living room, pointing towards a soda on the sofa table. Kaidan smiled gratefully and took it, sitting down next to Shepard staring at some game show. "It's pretty awesome, this one idiot just lost a million credits cause he didn't know the name of the biggest clan of Krogan." John said, pointing at a pretty frustrated looking man, and a snickering Salarian.

"Dear God." Kaidan just groaned, placing the cold soda on his forehead. "Did I do anything crazy pitiful last night? Like sing, or dry-hump the jukebox."

"No." Shepard said with a sly smile like he was thinking of lying just to mess with Kaidan. "But you did confess stuff."

"Oh no." Kaidan groaned.

Shepard chuckled and took a sip of his soda, "Nah, it was nothing, I'm just messing with you." When Kaidan just sighed, Shepard answered the question in the air. "You said, he had said that I was bad news."

"Good."

"Good?" Shepard asked amused.

"It's not good that… ah hell, I just mean I'm glad that it wasn't the real embarrassing stuff that I felt like confessing to you." Kaidan smiled. He finally took the soda off his forehead and opened it, taking a tiny sip. "Thanks for letting me sleep here, seriously."

"You passed out." Shepard shrugged, "And I don't know which apartment you're in, or your door code, so yeah… you're welcome."

"We're still on for Blasto, right?" Kaidan asked with a little nervous laugh.

"Absolutely." Shepard smiled back.

And much to Kaidan's own surprise he decided he liked Shepard's smile, dimples and all.

October 16th 2184 – The Citadel.

"I have read your report on the incident, "Spectre Jondum said, hands clasped together under his chin, "I have heard the taped phone conversations with Alliance HQ" He stared at Kaidan who was doing his best not to squirm under the hard glare from the Salarian. "What aren't you telling me?"

"Nothing." Kaidan said, trying to sound confident, but felt like a schoolboy all over again.

"I spoke with Commander Shepard, and she seems to know nothing at all either." Jondum cocked his head and studied Kaidan with his large fish like eyes. "Now I find that highly suspicious, and if I catch a plot hole like that, be sure the defence will too." He sighed, "Again, what aren't you telling me."

"I warned him." Kaidan mumbled.

"Speak up boy." Jondum said.

"I warned him, alright?!" Kaidan said louder. "I told him not to go after Udina."

"I see." Jondum said calmly, "And how did you go about that without blowing your cover?"

"He trusted me." Kaidan said, the words tasted sour and wrong.

"Yes." Jondum just hummed, turning to type something real fast on the terminal. "Your report mention excessive amounts of alcohol and movies, right?"

"Right."

"So you'd say you were friends?" Jondum asked, typing away while he spoke.

"Yes." Kaidan said with a slight nod.

"He was your mission." Jondum corrected.

"No, Aria was." Kaidan stated, "John was a means to an end."

"I see."

Kaidan wanted to scream, he knew that if he said that they were lovers, his testimony would be worth nothing, it would be assumed biased, and his integrity would be damaged, it might even cost him his spectre status, call of bad judgement, an easily manipulated personality. But he hated to lie.

"Are you gay Mr. Alenko?" Jondum asked in his weirdly clinical tone.

"No." Kaidan said.

"Did John Shepard ever try to have sex with you? Or in any respect act out of bounds with sexual laden innuendoes or flirted?" Jondum stopped typing and looked at Kaidan.

"No." Kaidan said again.

"To what?"

"All of the above." Kaidan said, forcing himself to look directly into Jondum's eyes. "We were friends, that's all."

"Good." Jondum mumbled and returned to typing. "Now, did you warn him of Ashley Williams too?"

"What?" Kaidan spluttered, completely unprepared for that question.

"Did you…"

"I heard you." Kaidan answered sourly, "No, how can you even ask me that?"

"Because I know the defence will." Jondum just shrugged matter-of-factly.

"No, no! I most definitely did not warn anyone about Ashley. Hell, I didn't even know that was her name till after she was dead." Kaidan said, realising his voice rose with his impending need to defend himself.

"The defence will most likely make you out to be a ruthless, master manipulator." Jondum said, "So we should stick to the bond between you…" He looked at Kaidan with dark intent. "So, I ask you again, why do you visit him? Bad conscience or something else?"

"He was my friend, and I miss him, I worry about him." Kaidan admitted, "I know it sounds weird, but it's true."

April 11th 2183 – Omega.

"Aiden!" Jack called, running to catch up with Kaidan as he came out of Afterlife, finished with work for today. "Wait!"

Kaidan stopped and smiled at Jack, "Hey. What's the emergency?"

Jack looked over her shoulder, "Okay so," She linked arms with Kaidan and hauled him off towards the market stalls. "We're going to surprise Shep." She whispered.

"Surprise?" Kaidan was confused.

Jack stopped and looked up and down Kaidan with a scowl. "It's his birthday."

"Oh!" Kaidan bit his lip, "Shit."

"Don't fret." Jack laughed, "I'm sure we can find some shit here somewhere... Just don't get him anything that breathes, he can't even keep a plastic plant alive."

"What did you get?" Kaidan asked.

"A first edition copy of Fornication." Jack grinned, "It's fucking epic." She linked arms with Kaidan again and hauled him off towards the stalls, "Not as epic as his face when he gets it though." She laughed.

"I'd imagine." Kaidan chuckled, not sure what Fornication really was, but by the sound of Jack's dirty laugh, it couldn't be good.

Kaidan stopped at a shop, and looked at the model ships, "This is pretty cool."

"It's the Normandy." Jack stated flatly.

"Is that a problem?" Kaidan asked stupidly, feeling Jack's judging stare.

Jack smacked her lips, "Oh well, I don't know... but if you want to take up that whole 'Commander Jane Shepard, saviour of the universe' shit with him, be my guest. Pro tip though, he is not really keen on his dear baby sister."

"Right." Kaidan put down the model again, "Still - Pretty cool ship."

"Suppose it is." Jack shrugged, "Come on man, model ships are for old men, and retards." She hauled Kaidan off to another stall.. "Now here on the other hand…"

"Damn." Kaidan looked at all the weapon parts.

"You could always get him this!" Jack pointed up at a t shirt on a clothes rack which said 'I have a boyfriend who thinks of Blasto when he fucks me.'

"Or not!" Kaidan snorted in disgust.

"Cause you are, aren't you?" Jack asked with a little too much enthusiasm.

"Are we what?"

"Fucking! F.U.C.K.I.N.G. Damn are you slow or something?" Jack laughed merrily.

"No!" Kaidan gasped mortified.

"Seriously?"

"Yes! Gods!" Kaidan shook his head, and returned to browse through the wares of the store catalogue.

"Well excuse me..." Jack sing song mockingly, "I just thought you were."

"Well, we aren't." Kaidan muttered trying to focus on the different specs, prices and names on silencers and scopes.

"Why?"

Kaidan turned around and stared at Jack as if she was completely mad. "You mean why we aren't fucking? For starters, we are -" he almost said 'both men' but stopped himself. "- Friends, and we like it that way."

"Shame." Jacks shrugged and sauntered away to the next store.

"So what should I get him?" Kaidan called after her.

"How about, what he really wants?" Jack yelled back.

Kaidan just sighed, and then yelled, "You're not helping!"

"You!"

Kaidan was rooted to the spot. At first he had been so fixated on Shepard being gay that he would mess everything up, saying all the wrong and offensive things, even if he didn't mean to. And over time he had completely forgotten about it, he had just enjoyed being with John, they were friends, sharing bad grilled food in greasy paper after a movie, or just hanging out having a beer, with or without Shepard's other friends. This just brought back all the awkwardness.

But he had noticed hadn't he? The odd sad stare when Shepard thought he wasn't looking, only to be covered up with a happy smile as Kaidan's attention was directed at him again. Those goddamn dimples. And talked about something trivial in that uncomplicated way Kaidan had come to know him. But that made no sense! Shepard knew he was straight, he had even helped him get laid by that barmaid last month. With a sinking heart, Kaidan wondered if he had done it as a friend, and because Kaidan had asked him, all Kaidan had thought was that he'd return the favour if John saw someone he fancied. Never for one moment had he thought that John would like him that way.

He jogged to catch up with Jack, "Are you taking the piss?" He asked in a near whisper.

"Why would I?" Jack said with a little smile, studying Kaidan, "Hey man, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. I just thought you guys were fucking, that's all."

"Well, we aren't." Kaidan said, "Still you're right, I should get him something personal."

"I know where you can have a holo made – it's pretty expensive but –"

"Jack…" Kaidan sighed and held up his hand to stop her from talking. "I'll figure something out".

What Jack had said had haunted him all day, he knew she would laugh it off with a lewd comment, or pretending not to care, but Shepard had a creeping suspicion that she did. Kaidan had spent hours trying to come up with something, when he suddenly had gotten an idea, not the best, but it was a personal gift, and also something manageable within the time limit he had.

Shepard had laughed at the Fornication magazine and poured his drink from his paper cup, down Jack's corset. Jack had let it slide, and Kaidan figured it was her birthday gift after all.

"Here." Kaidan said, handing Shepard his present. "It's not a big deal, so…"

Shepard's smile lit up and he looked like an exited boy. "Thanks." He started to peel the gift wrapping and uncover what was underneath. "That is… that is awesome!" Shepard exclaimed happily, and with one arm pulling Kaidan in for a brief, hard hug.

"You're welcome." Kaidan said with a smile, "And happy birthday."

Shepard held up the framed picture, putting it up on a shelf. It was Shepard to the left, Blasto in the middle and Kaidan to the right. Both men grinning like idiots, and Blasto with raised guns.

October 30th 2184 – The Citadel.

Kaidan was standing outside the court building, just looking at traffic zooming past, he did not hear James as he approached. "Hey tiger." James placed a hand on Kaidan's shoulder. "You look just as uncomfortable as me in this getup." James smiled at his stupid attempt at a joke.

Kaidan smiled and nodded. "Feels like I'm going to a goddamn funeral."

"Well…" James shrugged and came to stand next to Kaidan, leaning on the railing. "He should have taken the bargain." He turned and looked at Kaidan, "You got any idea why he didn't? I mean it's no secret that you have been visiting."

"He's a man of principle." Kaidan said sorrowfully.

"Look, you gotta stop beating yourself up over this. None of this was your fault." James said, his brown eyes soft and worried. "You couldn't have saved Ashley."

"Maybe not." Kaidan said in a near whisper, "But I still feel like I should have done something."

James held his tongue, having a feeling there was more to that story than anyone let up. "For what it's worth, I know it's hard – to change person like that. I did it a couple of times, and it's really difficult not to lose track of yourself. You didn't Kaidan! You are much stronger than others I've seen out in the field, they lost it man – tried to work both sides… That never goes well." He placed a friendly arm around Kaidan's shoulders, "He was not your friend, he was your target. Don't get it muddled up Alenko."

"Still feel like a traitor." Kaidan finally mumbled.

"Oh, Kaidan." James squeezed Kaidan's shoulders a little. "Vito is caught, Jack is caught, and Shepard is caught… I would say you did an excellent job." He smiled flawlessly at Kaidan, butting shoulders in a friendly manner, "You set the bar pretty damn high."

"Thanks." Kaidan said with a little embarrassed smile.

April 17th 2183 – Omega.

"I saw Vito again today." Kaidan said casually, as he and Shepard was sitting having a beer, watching shuttles come and go from Omega trading dock.

"I know." Shepard said oddly disjointed. "I'm flying out with him tomorrow."

"You're what?" Kaidan's head snapped around and stared at Shepard in shock.

"Apparently we're going with Vito somewhere to deal with an old acquaintance of his. I don't know man, but someone who's been trash talking him to the wrong people." Shepard said seriously, "Nobody likes a snitch."

"Yeah." Kaidan said, shifting nervously in his seat. "But why are you going?"

Shepard turned and watched Kaidan darkly, "Aria wants to unite the gangs, and that means to rope in the Blue Suns too, she's done the ground work, but Vito has asked for me specifically, and Aria paid me handsomely to oblige him." Shepard took a sip of his beer, looking away from Kaidan again. "I just have a really bad feeling about it, can't explain it."

"You don't work for Aria, you can just say no." Kaidan said worried.

"True." Shepard nodded, "But, I won't say no to that many creds, neither will Garrus or Jack. It's a lot of fucking credits Aiden."

"You think it's a trap or what?" Kaidan whispered, afraid the crates around them had ears.

"I don't know what I think." Shepard said with a sigh, "I have no problem with Vito – But why would he ask for me by name? I didn't even know he knew who I was."

"That is weird." Kaidan said thoughtfully, and then smiled as he bumped shoulders with Shepard, "So is there something you'd like to do before you fly out?"

Shepard turned his head, and gave Kaidan a brief sad gaze full of longing, before he turned his head and looked out over the docks again. "Not really, no," He leaned back against a crate behind him and closed his eyes with a little smile, "Could we just stay here? It's hard to find anywhere this calm on Omega."

"Calm?" Kaidan laughed softly, "It's the docking bay, this place is anything but calm."

"Try and close your eyes and just listen," Shepard said, not opening his eyes to check if Kaidan actually did it. "It all just becomes a background noise."

Kaidan closed his eyes and listened to the dull hum of vents and people talking. "How long are you gonna be gone?" He said softly.

"Not sure." Shepard said with a sigh. A rustle of fabric indicated to Kaidan that Shepard had sat up, and he could feel a shift in the air as he moved closer to sit right up against Kaidan's side. "Been meaning to ask you…" Shepard said, "Uhm... Are you still gonna be here when I come back?"

Kaidan smiled, "Why wouldn't I be?"

"Just cause…" Shepard eased back down against the crate and tried to relax again. "You'd tell me if you planned on leaving, right?"

Kaidan opened his eyes and looked at Shepard, who looked anything but relaxed right now, tense and worried was the words that came to Kaidan. "I would, I promise."

Shepard turned his head and looked directly at Kaidan, "Promise?"

"Yes, I promise." Kaidan smiled an uncomplicated smile, "Friends would never leave friends without saying where they go, right?"

"Yeah." Shepard said, his voice was soft, his smile pleased but his eyes were still sad.

For a long moment, they just sat there and looked at each other, and while it should have gotten awkward, it didn't it just felt like the air sizzled with softness and sadness all mixed into one. Kaidan looked at Shepard's lips, and for a second he thought that John would actually kiss him. He didn't, he just took a deep breath and turned his head, staring out over the docking bay, "I could go for another beer,"

"Sure." Kaidan said and reached over to pull one from their six-pack. When Shepard stayed silent for a long while, just sitting there staring at the people moving about beneath them on the docking bay. "Did I say something wrong?"

"No." Shepard said shaking his head a little and smiled, "I'm just not sure…" He ran a hand over his buzz cut and laughed silently at himself, "Nah forget it. Cheers." He smiled one of his normal pleased smiles at Kaidan in the semi dark.

"No man, you were just about to say something. I won't laugh." Kaidan said, nudging Shepard with his shoulder.

Shepard frowned as he took a deep breath. "You said we were friends, and I, - And I am not sure I know how to be friends." He took a sip of his beer, "Guess I'll just have to wing it."

"What about Jack and Garrus?" Kaidan asked.

"We get along fine, have a great time – we have a common goal and work in a team." Shepard said, "But we're not friends – not for the sake of just being friends."

Kaidan just blinked as he stared at Shepard's profile for a moment, trying to imagine what it would be like to be in a world where everything is about gaining something. Be it credit or notoriety, it didn't matter, it was always something for something. Suddenly Kaidan felt terribly privileged in the worst sort of way. He had his parents who would move mountains for him, he had friends and colleagues whom he knew were there for him. "What about your family?" Kaidan asked, much against his better judgement.

Shepard laughed bitterly, "They are… unimportant."

"Still." Kaidan said, amazed that he found what a hard time he had understanding Shepard's approach.

"Captain Hannah is a woman, a wife, but always an alliance fleet captain first. Motherhood is pretty far down on the list. My dad is dead, and my sister, she... it's complicated." Shepard shrugged before taking another sip of the beer. "I even called myself John Digby for some years, just to distance myself from those assholes." He smiled embarrassed, "It was something it said on a crate, and I was filling out paperwork on – never mind, well it was a stupid name."

"What did they do to make you resent them so much?" Kaidan tried his hardest to keep both pity and an odd excitement out of his voice. He knew that Shepard never spoke of his family, and yet here he was talking, not getting angry or walking off like the others said he always did.

"They just weren't there." Shepard shrugged, "And like you said, friends don't leave friends out to dry – same goes for family, right?" He paused, "I know you know, you have just been too polite to bring it up." He turned to look at Kaidan with a slight frown.

"I do." Kaidan admitted. "It's just that the others said you'd get upset if anyone asked, so I didn't." He smiled timidly and reached for another beer for himself, just so he wouldn't have to look at John's displeased expression.

"They said that, huh?"

"Yep." Kaidan nodded, unscrewing his beer.

Shepard's frown deepened as he thought over what Kaidan just said. "So what do you want to know?" he said sourly, almost pouting.

"Nothing." Kaidan said holding up his beer to toast with Shepard, "You'll tell me what you feel like, when you feel like it." He clinked their beers, and took a sip, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and added "Friends, remember?" Truthfully, he didn't need to hear it from Shepard, he already knew from the extensive files he had read before coming to Omega. And the loving smile that Shepard gave him made him feel something akin to pride over having said all the right words. The truth confused him a little, because if he had to be honest to himself, he was glad to have found a friend in John, he had never thought he would, but now he honestly couldn't imagine a day without him in it. And more and more he had to remind himself of why he was even on Omega, and that he was not Aiden.

"Yeah, friends." Shepard said, and for the first time since they came here the smile met his eyes.

October 30th 2184 – The Citadel.

Kaidan sat outside the court room cradling a cup of coffee. It took awfully long time, and he wished he could hear what they said on the other side of the large doors. He wished he could call his mother, if nothing else, for some emotional support. He could never even begin to explain to her what had gone on, or why he was so miserable. But, that was the best thing about his mother, she didn't care for the why, and unless he offered an explanation, she would just comfort him because he was upset, no questions asked.

How could he have known? And looking back, how could he have avoided this? Why did he set himself up for heartbreak? He couldn't… he had never in a million years imagined he would fall in love with a man, even less a man like Shepard. And right now, all he wanted was to wake up next to John in his too narrow bed and realise that this was nothing but a nightmare and everything was okay – they were okay. Maybe he just had to get with the program, John would never forgive him, and why should he? After all, what Kaidan had done was unforgivable. It didn't change his feelings about it all, if only he could make John understand how horribly confused he had been. He had wanted both, but had been forced to make a choice. If he had chosen Shepard, he would have left everything behind, everything he had been working for, his family – everything. But, it still didn't mean that he didn't desperately wish that John was a part of all that.

He still remembered when Shepard had left for that mission for Vito, Kaidan had found his world had a Shepard shaped hole in it. He had been so miserable that Steven had pulled him aside and asked him what was wrong. He would never confide in Steve, knowing that it would just result in a long monologue about 'how men like Shepard were not boyfriend material, and how he would end up hurt and alone'. Maybe he really should have confided in Steve, but he hadn't, he had chosen to go to Ayah when his world had felt like the walls had closed in. Ayah had listened, and to his surprise, she went completely off the deep end. He still remembered how angry she had been, her words clear as day - 'you stupid fuck, you fell in love with your own target! God!' At first Kaidan had been puzzled, but the sinking feeling in his chest told him she was right. How could she be right? He wasn't – or maybe he was? And what had his words been? 'I can handle it'… yeah I can handle it! Like fuck he could, and Ayah had known it. He hadn't asked her if she would report it in, because of course she would, he was jeopardizing the entire mission.

"Mr. Alenko, Sir?"

Kaidan looked up at the soldier in front of him. "Yes?"

"They are waiting for you."

"Alright. Thank you." Kaidan stood up and handed the slightly baffled soldier his cup. He straightened his uniform and squared his shoulders. He could do this, he had to.

He walked in through the doors and down the rows of people, ignoring the eyes on him. Trying his hardest not to look at Shepard whom he knew would be at his left. Kaidan walked straight to the witness stand and sat, his eyes focused on Jondum at the prosecutor stand.

"For the record of the court, what is your name and occupation?" Someone said.

Kaidan shook from his dazed reverie. "Kaidan Alenko" He said, his voice echoing in the microphone. "Spectre."

Jondum came to stand "Mr. Alenko – do you know the defendant, John Shepard?"

"Yes." Kaidan said.

"What was the nature of your relationship?" Jondum asked.

"Friends," Kaidan croaked out, "We were friends."

"I see." Jondum said giving Kaidan a sharp glare.

Kaidan shifted a little in his chair, "It was believed that he would have information of a larger criminal operation on Omega, and so it was my job to ferret out that information, Sir."

Jondum nodded. "And did you?"

"Yes." Kaidan scratched his cheek, "Well, most if it, I think."

"You were undercover as Aiden Noak, am I right, Mr. Alenko?"

"Yes." Kaidan gave the judge a quick glance. God how he wished he was anywhere but here, somewhere where he and John would just sit and listen to the world with a beer in their hands. "I was assigned with an identity to match my colleague in the field, Ashley Williams."

"Did you know the late miss Williams before going to Omega?" Jondum asked.

"No. No I did not."

"You stated in your report that you called your coordinator officer, as soon as you realised she was missing. When exactly was that?" Jondum asked.

"Must have been a week after, she... uhm..." Kaidan resisted running a hand through his hair. "The coroner's report said she died the twenty-fourth of April, and I must have realised something was wrong around the thirtieth. I didn't run into Ashley often, I was working the early morning shift, and she worked evening, or nights. Also, we didn't spend much time in private."

You stupid fuck!

I can handle it!

Kaidan looked down at his hands, his perfectly manicured fingernails. "We didn't exactly get along very well to be honest. I think she resented me a little for taking over where she failed."

"Please explain this to the court."

"Well..." Kaidan resisted to look up at where he knew Shepard would be sitting. "She had been working that undercover job for a very long time, and the brass decided that she was getting no where, but in order to not let her work go to waste, they sent me. I used her to get in, and all her hard work ended up as a footnote. I think she handled that pretty uhm... She was pissed." Kaidan looked up at Jondum, "Can I even say pissed in court?"

Jondum nodded and smiled amused. "So you and Miss Williams were not close."

"No, not the slightest."

"What did you do when you realised that she was missing?" Jondum asked.

"What I did?" Kaidan looked up at the judge again who nodded. "I called James Vega who was my coordinator. He told me to relax, and maybe she had just decided to take a break. And he told me that she had sounded very upset last time she had contacted her own coordinator, but he wouldn't tell me why."

Jondum rolled his shoulders and blinked, "James Vega told the court that Miss Williams had called her coordinator, worried that you compromised the entire operation because you were getting too involved in your target."

"Yeah." Kaidan nodded hoping to hell that they couldn't hear how hard his heart hammered in his chest. "We had a fight over that the last time I spoke with her, she accused me of getting too personally involved, and I told her I knew what I was doing." Kaidan wet his lips nervously, "I slammed the door and left in anger, and never saw her again. I admit that I did suspect that she would call her coordinator and complain about our dispute."

I can handle it!

"And were you? Too personally invested?" Jondum asked, making Kaidan cringe, the question was a knife to his already bleeding heart.

Kaidan opened his mouth to answer and then closed it again without a word. Knowing that John was right there looking at him, knowing he had his own job and title at stake. But, he should do the right thing. "Yes." He finally mumbled. He heard Jondum ask for him to speak up, so he repeated it "Yes, yes, Ashley was right, but then I didn't see it that way." Okay so a little white lie he could get away with. Finally he looked up at where Shepard sat, he looked gaunt and listless, not at all like the angry, fire spitting mess he had talked to last. Kaidan was a little glad that John was staring down at his own hands on the table, and didn't catch him looking, he didn't think he could bear to see the resentment and despair he was sure would be there. "John, the defendant, is a funny, caring and charismatic man; it's hard not to get caught up in that. And, I admit that I cherished his friendship, and it was hard for me to see it end."

"So Ashley's assessment was right?"

"Yes." Kaidan sighed, "In hindsight, she was the professional, and I was a blundering fool, untrained and uhm – caught off guard." He added with a tiny voice.

"Did you speak with the defendant about this?"

"Yes." Kaidan nodded thoughtfully, "I told John that I was worried because I couldn't get a hold of her, and no one seemed to know where she was." Kaidan smiled to himself, remembering John kissing his jaw from his ear to his lips breathing, 'Let's kick down her door then'. "He suggested we went for a visit."

"Had you not tried her apartment at this time?" Jondum asked sounding slightly bored.

"I had, but I had not been inside her apartment." He shifted in his chair again. "We found no clues to her whereabouts in there though. It looked like she had just got up and vanished. Her coffee pot was sitting on her kitchen counter, like she was just about to make coffee, and her fridge was open."

"You went there with the defendant, John Shepard?"

"Yes, we went there together." Kaidan said.

"Just the two of you?" Jondum asked.

"Yes." Kaidan said with a nod.

"Is it possible that the defendant could have hidden evidence from you?" Jondum asked, "I assume you weren't looking at his hands all the time."

Kaidan hesitated replaying the scenario in his head, and with a sigh he answered, "Yes, that is possible."

"So, is it possible that the defendant manipulated you to let him into Miss Williams apartment, in order to get rid of some evidence that would lead back to him or his companions?"

"I don't think he would…"

"Answer the question please." Jondum said sternly, placing a long fingered hand on the witness desk, next to Kaidan's own.

Kaidan looked over at John again, who was staring back at him intensely this time. The red in Shepard's eyes was ruby red and drilling right through him. Kaidan had learned to look past Shepard's cybernetics and only saw the part which was blue like the ocean; but this was impossible to ignore. And God, how Kaidan wished he had a different answer to this question. He looked away with a defeated wheeze. "Yeah, that would have been possible."

April 22nd 2183 – Omega.

Kaidan was so confused, his mind was riddled with thoughts that kept contradicting themselves. Most of all, he just wanted to jump off the station. When he had called James and told him about Vito and Shepard setting out to some revenge mission or whatever it was, he had told himself he was just taking care of John, they wouldn't arrest John, and if they did – he saved him from whatever surely terrible deed he was about to do for Vito. Any deal with Vito was bad fucking news, Kaidan knew this, and even Shepard had been worried about it. Yeah, it had been the right thing to do. But when he heard that Shepard had returned to Omega, but hadn't come to see him, he was worried. Steve had told him that Shepard had been by Afterlife to throw a tantrum at Aria and be escorted outside none too gently.

And now he was here outside John's door. Why hadn't he come to see him? With rising horror he realised that maybe Ayah had not reported back to Alliance HQ, but had instead given her knowledge about Kaidan to – to… nah she wouldn't do that. But why wouldn't Shepard see him? He had sent him several messages for the last two days, but go no reply.

"John?" He knocked the door, "Are you in there?" He knocked harder. No answer. "I swear I'm gonna kick in this fucking door if you don't answer." He yelled.

To Kaidan's surprise, the lock on the door clicked, and he could open it. He stepped inside the apartment's dark living room. "John?"

"What do you want?" John asked with a rough voice from the dark, from somewhere over by where Kaidan knew the sofa was located.

"To see you." Kaidan said, blindly fumbling his way towards the sofa.

"What the fuck for?" Shepard scoffed.

"What the hell is this John? Jeeesh - Because I was fucking worried alright?" Kaidan rammed his knee into the corner of the sofa and bit down a string of profanity as he lowered himself down into the seat. The smell hit him as he sat down next to John. "Are you drinking?" He turned and tried to focus on John in the dark but saw only a dark profile. "Are you hurt?" He moved closer, "John answer me, are you alright?"

"No I'm not fucking alright!" John roared.

Kaidan got so surprised he forgot to breathe for a moment, "Sorry." He muttered, placing a hand on John's shoulder which he meant to sympathetic, but mostly it was himself who needed a physical link. This scared him, this odd angry Shepard that he had never met before. "What happened?"

"It all fucked up, Aiden… everything just – Fuck!" John reached for what Kaidan guessed was a bottle on the floor. Shaking his shoulder to rid himself of Kaidan's hand, he mumbled "Don't touch me."

Kaidan let his hand slowly ease down on his own knee. "Sorry." He just said lamely, not sure what else to say.

For the better side of fifteen minutes they just sat like that in silence, before John finally spoke. "They left. Jack and Garrus – they, left."

"But why would they do that?" Kaidan asked in a whisper, "What happened, John – please."

Shepard sighed "She was waiting. That fucking bitch, she knew I'd be there. And, she loved every fucking minute of it. Fuck! And she took them! She took them and left me…" He turned his head and looked at Kaidan in the dark, "She just fucking left me behind."

"Who?" Kaidan asked, but as soon as the words left his lips he was pretty sure he knew who. Surely the Alliance wouldn't be that cruel.

"Jane." Shepard sneered, "Commander motherfucking Shepard, shit! bitch!" he tossed the bottle so it smashed into something. Kaidan couldn't see him throw it, but he head the bottle break against the wall, and glass splinters fall to the floor below.

As Kaidan's eyes got a little more used to the dark, he could make out Shepard hiding his face in his hands, and he wasn't sure what he found most unsettling, the realisation that this was his design, his fault, or, that he was quite sure that Shepard was crying. Acting without thinking, he leaned in and cupped Shepard's face with his hands, "Look at me." He said softly.

Shepard slowly let his hands fall and looked at Kaidan. John looked absolutely haggard. "Hey," Kaidan smiled, "Take a deep breath," He ran his thumb across Shepard's chin, noting how Shepard smelled of whiskey and sour defeat. Maybe Jack had been right, John didn't care any more really. "You're drunk, take a nap, and if you want, I don't mind staying."

Shepard closed his eyes. "I don't think I can be your friend any more." He whispered.

"Why?" Kaidan asked, wishing he knew what the fuck had happened when Commander Shepard had arrested everyone but John.

"Because," Shepard paused, "Because something happened that wasn't supposed to happen." He turned his head, to get out of Kaidan's touch, but Kaidan would have nothing of it.

"John, you're speaking in riddles man." Kaidan's grip became firm, holding Shepard in place, not letting him run and hide in the shadows.

"For what it's worth I never planned on telling you," John smiled sadly. "I wanted to be your friend, I really did."

"But…"

"I can't do this." Shepard finally pulled out of Kaidan's hands and stood from the sofa. "Just go home Aiden. I have stuff to do." He almost tripped as he made it past Kaidan in the sofa.

"Goddammit John!" Kaidan stood too, and grabbed Shepard's arm hauling him back in front of him. "What the bloody hell is going on?" He wanted to sound tough, but he just sounded scared.

Shepard reached up and cupped Kaidan's neck, and before Kaidan had time to think, Shepard's lips touched his in a soft and gentle kiss. As it ended Kaidan opened his mouth to speak, but didn't, he just leaned his forehead against Shepard's. John's breath smelled like bourbon, and distress rolled off him in waves. "Now you know." He just stated with a whisper.

"John." Kaidan whispered, he wanted to react but his body was rooted to the spot.

"I wanted to be your friend, really I did." Shepard breathed, still having a firm grip on Kaidan's neck, his fingers threading through the dark hair. "I can't put my finger on when it happened, but -" He paused, clearly not sure how he felt with this confession himself. "Take care Aiden."

Kaidan just blinked in the dark, never in a million years had be imagined this, he knew that Shepard had dismissed him, told him to go. Leave him like everyone else had. Kaidan's heart beat so fast it felt like it was on it's way out of his chest when he reached up with his left hand and caressed Shepard's cheek. "You've grown a beard." He mumbled lamely.

When Shepard didn't answer, he just pulled back and let go of Kaidan. John turned around and walked out of the living room, from what Kaidan could tell he was on his way to the kitchen.

Kaidan looked at the front door panel, still blinking green to indicate it was not locked, and then towards the pitch black hall where Shepard had disappeared. 'You can't leave like this' he thought to himself, and his rational mind answered with 'all your work will be for nothing', but another and deeper part of him which made his insides coil up on lust and fear; whispered 'you want more, admit it'. And then with a first few hesitant steps he made his way to the kitchen, he saw John in the light of the open fridge, pulling out another bottle of some booze that Kaidan couldn't tell what the hell it was. "John." He said softly from the door to the hall, amazed when Shepard actually turned around and in the light from the fridge he could see the dark rings under his eyes. "Can I stay?" It came out all wrong and he could tell from Shepard's expression that it didn't have the desired effect. "I mean... I want to – uhm stay, so can I?" Damn, he had wanted to be more suave, guess it really wasn't the same, he had known what to say if Shepard had been a woman, but this whole thing made Kaidan terribly insecure, he felt naked just by admitting that he wanted to stay, that he wanted it too.

"No." Shepard just said, "I told you, I can't be your friend Aiden. And it's because I respect you that I told you the truth, even if it means that you'd either be upset and repulsed, or like this," He gestured with the bottle unopened in his hand towards Kaidan, "Trying to save the pieces, and ignoring what I just said and did." Shepard unscrewed the lid of the bottle. "It doesn't matter any more Aiden, I'm leaving Omega."

Kaidan fisted his hands in anger, "You were gonna leave and not tell me? Even after you made me promise never to do the same to you! Fuck you!"

"Yeah." John nodded, "I was. Suppose I make a crap friend."

Kaidan seethed with anger, taking a step out into the kitchen, towards Shepard. "Why the hell did you have to kiss me?"

"I'm sorry," Shepard said sounding genuinely apologizing, "I shouldn't have done that."

"Why goddammit!"

"Because I wanted to!" Shepard yelled back, surprising even himself over his outburst. "For fucks sake Aiden, I didn't want to fall in love, I just wanted to be your friend. And I knew that the moment you knew, it was over – And I didn't want it to be over, I wanted it to last for ever." He kicked the fridge closed too hard, making it rattle. "But I did, and I feel like shit, okay?"

"You should have told me dammit!" Kaidan argued angrily.

"And just why the hell would I wanna do that?" Shepard put the bottle down hard unto the kitchen desk. "Please just leave."

Kaidan took two strides across the floor and wrapped his arms around Shepard's neck, pushing him up against the kitchen desk; taking advantage of the momentum, he kissed Shepard back. It was shy at first, and Kaidan felt his knees tremble a little, not sure what he was getting himself into, but it felt right, Shepard's lips were soft as his. As Shepard kissed him back it went straight to his chest and made it hard to breathe from tension. "I want to stay." He whispered against John's lips.

One of Shepard's hands rested on Kaidan's hip, while the other found it's way up under all the fabric and unto Kaidan's bare skin, Shepard's rough, hot fingers left goose bumps in their wake. Kaidan's breath hitched, not even he had been aware how much he wanted this. "I don't believe you." Shepard's voice was thin and tired, "I don't want you to pity me."

"I'm not." Kaidan said, surprised that his voice wasn't shaking. "I want this… I want to – uhm, do this with you." He sighed, knowing he didn't exactly sound convincing. "John, I – " He let go of Shepard and took a step back, mentally noting that the hand on his back reluctantly withdrew from under his shirt. "I've never done done this before okay?" Kaidan ran a hand through his unruly hair which had started to get so long that his annoying curls returned. "I would probably not believe me either, but trust me, I am not here because I pity you."

Shepard stared intensely at Kaidan in the dark, apparently making up his mind about this, his eyes never leaving Kaidan's when he reached up and slowly unzipped Kaidan's jacket, pushing it off his shoulders, Kaidan wiggled his arms letting the jacket fall to the ground. "This is crazy." Shepard mumbled as he pulled Kaidan close again, his hands running up and down Kaidan's now bare arms, feeling the soft warm skin.

"Tell me about it." Kaidan whispered back.

Shepard laughed, it was nervous and amused at the same time. His hands left Kaidan's arms to rest on his hips again. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure." Kaidan let out a slow breath before he leaned in for an open-mouthed wet kiss. It went straight to Kaidan's crotch, the way John's tongue slid against his sent filthy but delicious promises of things to come straight to his cock. It was just like being a teenager again, shooting your load five minutes into fingering Irene in her parents utility shed. Like excitement, perplexity and fear made a perfect trembling storm inside, threatening to burst wide open.

Shepard ended the kiss, his breathing fast and irregular. "Come," He just said, taking Kaidan's hand and leading him out the kitchen, and into the living room and to his bed. There he stopped and turned to Kaidan, "If you want to stop, just say so." He whispered.

"Okay." Kaidan whispered back, not sure why he was whispering.

Shepard's bed was narrow, but they both fit just fine, Kaidan on his back, and John on his side fit down between the wall and Kaidan. He pushed Kaidan's shirt up, letting his hand roam over his stomach and chest, brushing over his nipples.

Kaidan was tight as a bowstring, kissing was one thing, but this was real. Too real. He had not noticed he had closed his eyes and started to almost hyperventilate before Shepard's warm, broad hand came to a still on his stomach, and soft lips kissed his earlobe with a whisper. "Want me to stop?"

"No, Yes… I don't know." Kaidan admitted in defeat. He turned in the bed so they were face to face, "I just don't know how we – what you expect." He finally whispered, unwilling to admit that he was scared, but he was pretty sure that John already knew.

"We don't have to do anything, Aiden." Shepard answered, placing a warm hand on Kaidan's hip.

Kaidan smiled lovingly, he knew that John was a caring guy, but he had still not expected him to be so considerate, especially not when he had been drinking. It felt weird to be a virgin again, because that was how he felt. "Kissing was good." He finally admitted.

Shepard chuckled, a deep rumble in his chest. "Yeah." He scooted a little closer and gently pushed his leg in between Kaidan's. As the kiss got wet and horny, Kaidan could feel Shepard's leg tremble, and a low moan were followed by a frustrated whimper of a sorts. Shepard pulled from the kiss, panting slightly. "Hang on." He mumbled, trying to catch his breath and willing his body to still.

"Sorry." Kaidan whispered.

"Don't be." Shepard said softly, nuzzling his nose against Kaidan's cheek. "You are just so damn hot." He smiled against Kaidan's skin. "I can't believe you are actually here, in my bed."

"Oh?" Kaidan couldn't help but to chuckle, his fingers running up and down Shepard's arm idly.

"Yeah." Shepard whispered, but offered no explanation other than the one Kaidan could think himself to.

"There is nowhere I would rather be." Kaidan said.

Shepard grabbed Kaidan's shirt and pulled it down over his exposed chest and stomach best he could. "Good." Shepard just whispered back, kissing Kaidan again but this time a soft, gentle and quick kiss. "Wanna stay till tomorrow?"

"Would that be okay?" Kaidan asked, suddenly unsure of himself now that all the moment had passed, Shepard seemed smiling and caring still but somehow it felt like some polite but blank mask had slipped back in place.

"Of course." Shepard said, kissing Kaidan again before he sat up to leave the bed. Kaidan laid there and watched as Shepard locked the front door, and then walked to the bathroom. Kaidan sat up in the bed, wondering how the hell he had managed to get himself in this situation. He wanted John, there was no doubt in his mind, but this nagging voice in the back of his head wouldn't let him alone. Like Ayah's hard words on repeat, berating him for blurring the lines. Time to be a big boy and decide what he wanted, and he already chose that when he didn't leave earlier. Kaidan stood from the bed and opened his belt, stripping to his shorts.

Shepard came out from the bathroom and came back to the living room to find Kaidan in his underwear on his bed. He smiled but still stopped in the middle of the floor.

Kaidan stood up and walked over to Shepard who didn't move a muscle, he just waited. "It's not you, it's just that I'm really bad at this." He took a deep breath and pulled at the hem of Shepard's shirt, hoisting it up to get it off him. "It feels weird, right, wrong and so fucking hot all in one. I'm not apprehensive, or confused. I'm just… I don't know how to adapt."

Shepard dropped his shirt on the floor and his fingers twitched as if he cancelled the move he was about to make. "Tell you what, let's sleep on it, and if you still mean it tomorrow I'll believe you."

"Okay." Kaidan said, he knew what Shepard said was right, there was no need to rush into this, it was just that he had this nagging feeling that if he gave himself time to think, he'd regret what happened – and that would fuck things up even more.

Shepard pulled the blanket over them, curling up against Kaidan's back, his breaths little hot puffs of air on Kaidan's neck, and a strong arm was wrapped around him holding him tight like John was afraid he would bolt. Kaidan could feel Shepard's hot skin against his back, he could almost feel his heartbeat.

October 30th 2184 – The Citadel.

Aleena was Shepard's defence lawyer, Kaidan was a little impressed that Jane had been able to make her take this case, she was a serious big shot, usually representing politicians and stars. But then again, being Commander Shepard's brother was some sort of fame, or something. Aleena tapped her lip while reading something on her data pad, then walking straight for Kaidan. "Alenko," She said, "Congratulations on your promotion, Spectre – that is something, huh?"

"Thank you." Kaidan said, "And yes, it's a great honour."

"Captain Anderson told you that if you aced this mission on Omega, you would be sure to get that promotion, am I right." Aleena asked.

"Well, yes." Kaidan said, "I was told that if I could pull it off, I would be considered by the council, yes."

"What was your mission precisely?"

"To gain information that would either apprehend Aria T'Loak, or corrupt her effort to unite the gangs under her banner." Kaidan said, "My objective was to befriend John, because the people who had analysed the situation had decided that he was the weakest link."

"I see." Aleena said, "And one asks one self why you would succeed where Miss Williams had failed, mayhap because you are a fit young man, and the defendant is single and gay?"

"No." Kaidan said, "I was chosen because it was my time to prove myself in the field."

"You don't believe that do you?"

"Objection!" Jondum yelled, and the judge nodded, "get to the point Aleena."

"Yes your honour." Aleena said, "You were friends, right?"

"Right."

"Were you friends with Jack and Garrus?" Aleena asked.

Kaidan worried his lower lip and nodded, "Yeah, I like to think we were friendly."

"Yet you sold them all out to get to Vito," Aleena said, "Great detective work."

"It wasn't like that!" Kaidan argued lamely, "I wanted to save them from whatever Vito had planned."

"But, you still called your coordinator and told him that Vito had hired the defendant through Aria, and when it was going down." When Kaidan didn't answer, Aleena smiled. "I have that phone call here if you need to hear it to jog your memory."

"No, I recall it." Kaidan said looking down at his hands again, "Yeah, I called James Vega and warned him that something was going down, but I had nothing to do with how the alliance chose to use that intel." He resisted the urge to bite a nail, and just brought his hand up to scratch his cheek. "It was damage control!" He suddenly burst out, "I didn't want either of them to get arrested for something serious."

"You told your coordinator, and I quote; arrest the others if you must, but leave John alone."

"I might have said that, sure." Kaidan squirmed a little.

"You did." Aleena stated drily. "If you got his friends arrested, he would only have you to fall back on, am I right?"

"No!" Kaidan exclaimed, "It wasn't like that!"

"Really?" Aleena walked over to the jury, "I have Steve Cortez' written statement here, which clearly reads that Alenko was distraught and acting weird the days up to the defendants return, and this odd behaviour only intensified when he learned that the defendant, John Shepard had returned to Omega, and had not made contact. Steven Cortez have stated here that Alenko was very intent on tracking the defendant down." She turned to Kaidan, "Why was that, Alenko?"

"I was worried." Kaidan said looking straight at Aleena. "I didn't understand why he hadn't gotten in touch with me."

"Were you worried your cover was blown?"

"That too, yes. But it was not my main concern." Kaidan said with a stern nod.

"But you already contacted your coordinator, so you knew what had transpired on Edolus, so why would you be worried?" Aleena asked.

"Will the prosecution get to the point?" The judge stated with a frown.

"Yes, your honour." Aleena said, and walked all the way over to Kaidan. "Mr. Cortez said that you were well aware of the defendant being sexually attracted to you, and that you did not return the notion. You are in fact straight, aren't you Mr. Alenko?"

Before Kaidan could answer, Jondum yelled for objection. He turned his head and looked up at the judge who seemed to think it over, "Overruled, answer the question Mr. Alenko."

"Yes, I knew he was interested." Kaidan said unable to look up at Shepard who sat only feet from him in the courtroom.

"And you used that to your advantage." Aleena stated, "You were pretty ruthless when you isolated John Shepard from anyone who could have questioned your influence. And you dangled yourself as the prize in front of him, didn't you?"

"No!" Kaidan exclaimed mortified. "I never used him."

"That is a lie Mr. Alenko." Aleena said, and before Jondum could correct her, she hurriedly added "You left that note for Aria did you not?"

"No." Kaidan said shaking his head.

"Look, I understand it's a dog eat dog world," Aleena said with a little smile, "You wanted Miss Williams out of the way, before she outed you."

"Yes, of course I was worried if she was gonna sell me out, but I didn't tip Aria off." Kaidan said, crossing his arms over his chest.

"See, I think you did." Aleena said, "The message was sent from a public terminal, not far from your flat. Mr. Alenko, now tell me, were you not aware that your own connection was being watched?"

"I knew it was surveyed, but I did not send that message to Aria." Kaidan argued, "Correct me if I am wrong ma'am, but I am not the one on trial."

"Maybe you should be." Aleena stated.

"Obj-" Jondum hollered, but was cut off by Aleena "I withdraw that statement."

April 27th 2183 – Omega.

"Hey stranger." Shepard said popping his head around the corner to where Kaidan was mopping the floor.

"Hey!" Kaidan cheered, putting the mop away and walked over to John, letting himself be hauled into a tight embrace, followed by a long drawn kiss. "What are you doing here?" Kaidan chuckled.

"Aria asked me to come." Shepard said, kissing Kaidan swiftly again. "Didn't tell me why" He kissed his way down Kaidan's neck, grinning wickedly as Kaidan squirmed. "So when are you off Sailor?"

"John..." Kaidan laughed while he pushed Shepard off him. "In an hour maybe."

Shepard looked around and then pulled Kaidan close again, "Alright, I'll be back when I've heard what she wanted to tell me." He kissed Kaidan again, before he let go. After adjusting himself in his pants with a goofy grin, Shepard walked across the dance floor and towards Aria's office, he stopped halfway and turned around. "Hey Aiden, what do you say we make some food and watch a movie later?"

"Sure." Kaidan called back, "Sounds like a plan. I'm all yours."

"That you are." Shepard grinned back.

October 30th 2184 – The Citadel.

"Commander Shepard sat on this very witness stand and said that you had been reluctant to join her on Illium for the defendant's arrest." Jondum said.

"Yes, Sir." Kaidan said, he recalled Jondum's advice, that he would rather look slightly unprofessional. "I was. I didn't know how John would react."

"Commander Shepard already stated that she and the defendant, her brother, have a complex relationship." Jondum said, "Did you think you would make a bad situation worse?"

"I... eh, we had hoped to get to him before he got to Udina, and talk him out of it. Explain to him that what he was about to do was very stupid, and that he would take the fall for someone else." Kaidan said. "But we didn't make it in time."

"You shot a non lethal round to stop the defendant. Why didn't you just kill him, it would have been a clear cut ending, some paperwork and that was it. Instead, you chose to spare the man. How come?"

"Saving Udina was important." Kaidan said, and then took a deep breath, "But John was my friend Sir, I was there to save him from himself, and I suspect so was Jane." He shifted in his seat, "I know it wasn't exactly professional of me, but I am not made of stone. I was not personally invested in Councilman Udina, but… but…" He took another deep breath, "The world need John Shepard in it."

"That does sound like your personal opinion clouded your judgement."

"Of course it did." Kaidan said with a little shrug. "I spent an entire year together with John, talked to him every day, we laughed, watched movies, cooked food, went to parties, made plans for – for the future," the last part was a whisper, and Jondum had to ask for him to speak up. "We made plans for the future. We talked about going hunting on Tuchanka, as I said – we were close friends."

"You were there to learn information on Aria."

"Yes." Kaidan said with a little nod, "But, I would like to see the sort of man who can spend every day with another person, without never creating a bond with then. And the reason I was hesitant to come to Illium was because I was ashamed. I didn't want him to hate me, I didn't want to lose his friendship."

"But you did it anyway." Jondum said.

"Yes, I did." Kaidan answered, his voice thick with emotion. "I lost his friendship, but I knew it was my duty to protect Udina, the political ramifications if he was assassinated or kidnapped could have been catastrophic." He wet his lips, "So in the bigger picture, It was a sacrifice I was ready to make."

"When you say that you didn't want to lose your friendship, does that mean that you expected to retain the friendship, even after you ended your mission?" Jondum asked staring at Kaidan, like he tried to will him to answer it like Jondum wanted him to.

"Yes." Kaidan said with an affirmative nod, "I hoped that our friendship was strong enough so he would understand that even if I had deceived him, it was nothing personal. And the friend he knew was still me."

"But he is a pirate and you are a Spectre."

"Objection!" Aleena yelled.

"Sustained." The judge said and gave Jondum a hard stare.

"Privateer." Kaidan said softly, "That's what he calls it."

"Very well, privateer." Jondum repeated.

"John didn't do anything criminal in the time I knew him, and whatever he had done before were little things, he only landed on the alliance radar because of Aria started using him as her go-to guy. So, to answer your question, I saw no problem with continuing our friendship after my mission ended." Kaidan said. He knew it had been a childish hope, but it didn't change the fact that he still hoped that John would see it for what it was, and forgive him.

"Did the defendant tell you why he took the Udina job?"

"No." Kaidan said, knowing he lied, but nothing good would come from the truth. "If I were to guess, he was broke." Another white lie, but who was counting?

April 27th 2183 – Omega.

"The mushrooms are gonna burn," Kaidan chuckled, but Shepard ignored him and just continued to pull his shirt loose, while he had him flat up against a kitchen cabinet.

"Let them," Shepard mumbled, "We can order in." He kissed his way up Kaidan's neck, along his jaw and met his lips.

"I thought we were supposed to cook." Kaidan whispered against Shepard's lips.

Shepard just hummed affirming, but didn't stop touching. He took Kaidan's hand and led it to the front of his pants, rubbing himself though the fabric with Kaidan's hand.

Kaidan froze for a second, he knew that if he pushed Shepard away or went along – it was a crossroad. He wasn't sure why the whole sex part scared him, so if he were to be completely honest with himself, he had never been with someone like this… Shepard wanted him now, and tomorrow, no matter what his reaction was in this very moment. It wasn't that Shepard was a man that scared him any more, it was the ferocity of his desire, and that he wasn't some faceless one night stand. Kaidan kissed Shepard back and then used his hand which wasn't trapped to open the belt buckle. John's pants fell to the floor, and Kaidan was sure no one was more surprised over this than himself. Shepard let go of Kaidan's hand and started to battle with Kaidan's belt buckle.

Before Shepard made any leeway, Kaidan's hands slipped under the band of John's shorts and pushed them down a little. Kaidan was not surprised that Shepard's cock felt much like his own, the same soft, warm skin. A tremor ran through Shepard as Kaidan started to move his hand up and down.

"Aw, shi–" Shepard whispered in a broken moan.

Kaidan decided that he most definitely had the upper hand here and with little effort flipped them around so it was Shepard backed against the cupboards. His free hand grabbed Shepard's and pinned it over Shepard's head, against a cabinet. He moved his other hand a little faster and bit Shepard's lip playfully. No, this wasn't scary at all, it was an absolute trip to feel Shepard come apart under his hands and lips. Out of the corner of his eye Kaidan caught Shepard holding on to the counter with his free hand, his knuckles white, but made no effort to free his other hand above his head.

Moments later as Shepard caught his breath, he wrapped his arms around Kaidan's neck pulling him in for a sloppy kiss, grinning as Kaidan winced about getting come on his clothes. "That was unexpected," Shepard whispered, "Really nice, but unexpected."

"You know me… the enigma." Kaidan grinned.

"You were right about the food by the way." Shepard muttered.

Hours later when the take-out arrived, Kaidan was in tears, laughing, at the look on the delivery man's face as Shepard accepted and paid in the nude. Shepard didn't even blink.

Placing the food on the table, he let himself fall sideways down in the sofa, head on Kaidan's lap. Looking up at Kaidan his smile was happier than Kaidan ever remembered seeing, it made him both happy and sad. "This is how you spend a Friday evening." Shepard said.

"Yeah." Kaidan smiled back, caressing Shepard's chest idly. It was different to touch from a woman's, but apart from the scars, his skin was just as soft. He ran his fingers over the muscles that flexed under his touch as he mapped out Shepard's chest. John had little to no chest hair but it wasn't like Kaidan had any opinion on that. The nipples were hard, if it was from the cold air in the apartment, or if it was from his fingertips he didn't know, but he liked how Shepard made a deep humming rumble in appreciation.

He spread out his fingers and let his hand travel down over Shepard's stomach, he could feel it rise and fall with Shepard's breathing, he circled his bellybutton and playfully pulled in the hair line that went down further. "Ow." Shepard laughed, and Kaidan did it again. He abandoned the happy trail to let his fingertips dance out to meet Shepard's pelvic bone, funny how the texture of his skin changed there, from the silky soft skin like on his cock, to regular skin. Kaidan leaned over a little to reach Shepard's inner thigh, and to his amusement Shepard let his leg fall up against the sofa, granting Kaidan better access. "You tickle." Shepard mumbled, and then sucked in his breath as Kaidan's fingers came dangerously close to his scrotum. "And tease." He added, but didn't sound the least upset about it.

"Just.. looking," Kaidan said with a wink. "I'm used to tits and stuff, remember?"

"So, is it that different?" Shepard asked in all honesty, blue and red eyes fixed on Kaidan.

"Yeah," Kaidan said, "but not in a bad way."

"Oh, I'm glad." Shepard said in a sarcastic tone. Hesitant fingertips brushed over Shepard's balls making him squirm, "It tickles goddammit."

Kaidan took his hand back only to have Shepard grab his wrist, bringing the hand to his mouth, Kaidan watched in awe as Shepard kissed his fingertips, and then sucked on them, to finally taking two of his fingers inside his mouth. Kaidan was suddenly all too aware of Shepard's head against his lap as his cock twitched under the fabric of his shorts.

Shepard let go of Kaidan's hand and rolled over on his stomach, and slipped down on the floor on his knees. Kaidan hardly dared breathe as Shepard pushed his knees apart running his hands up and down Kaidan's inner thighs. His eyes were focused, and as he moved in between Kaidan's legs his smirk grew, he turned and kissed Kaidan's inner thigh, biting it gently and then licking the spot he just worried, and then kissed his way up to the hem of Kaidan's shorts leg. Suddenly, he looked up directly at Kaidan, as if he needed to know it was okay. Kaidan wasn't sure what to think, but his cock didn't care, it knew what it was being promised, still looking at him, Shepard mouthed Kaidan's cock through the thin fabric.

When Kaidan's breath caught in his chest, and he lifted his ass off the seat to push his shorts down, Shepard took it as all lights green, and pulled Kaidan's shorts all the way down to his ankles. Shepard smiled widely, teasingly running his hands over Kaidan's inner thighs, cupping his ass pulling him closer. "You are so fucking beautiful, and you don't even know it." Shepard mumbled.

Kaidan's hand came to caress Shepard's cheek, shoulder, head, scalp, anywhere he could reach. When a hot, wet tongue slid all the way up his cock, circled the head, closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the sofa.

When a soft mouth closed around him, he was already about ready to lose his shit, and he felt sudden sympathy for Shepard's white knuckles earlier.

October 31th 2184 – The Citadel.

Jane Shepard woke at 3am to the sound of someone holding down the buzzer on her door. She reached for her gun and went to check her security camera. "Kaidan?" She mumbled and opened the door.

Kaidan almost fell in over the doorstep, he looked terrible and smelled like a distillery. Jane sighed and hauled Kaidan over to her couch, settling him down. "Hang on, I'm gonna fetch you a blanket."

"I'm sorry." Kaidan slurred, "I didn't know where else to go."

"It's fine." Jane said, "Come on, we'll talk about it in the morning, huh."

"It's eating me up." Kaidan sniffled, "I can't eat, I can't sleep… I miss him so much."

"Hey." Jane sat down on the sofa, scooting over so she could caress Kaidan's unwashed hair. "I know you love him, I'm sure he knows it too."

Kaidan just started crying in earnest, and wrapped himself around Jane as if she were she his anchor, the only thing left that would keep him sane. "I should have told him the truth." He whimpered, "I should have said something."

"Kaidan, you can't turn back time," Jane said softly, still running her fingers through his hair. "No need beating yourself up over it."

For a while Kaidan just cried, until he took some deep breaths, trying to stop. "It hurts." He managed to get out.

"I know." Jane just said soothingly.

November 1st 2184 – The Citadel.

Kaidan woke to the smell of coffee, he opened his eyes and stretched. He felt like he had gone four rounds with a Krogan, but he still recognized Jane Shepard's living room. Had he really come here last night? Made sense, he could have gone other places that would have been worse to wake in. Sitting up, he groaned and swore to himself that he was never drinking again.

"Awake?" Jane called from the kitchen. "Coffee?"

"Yes, please." Kaidan got to his feet. His joints felt like they had wool in them. Slowly, he made his way to the kitchen.

"Feeling better?" Jane asked handing Kaidan a mug, "You were in a pretty bad shape when you came here last night."

"Yeah... no..." Kaidan sighed, "Honestly, I don't know how I feel."

"You know what? I've been thinking – I could need an extra hand on the Normandy, if your'e up for it." Jane said, "Just for a while, till you sorted yourself out."

"I don't know, maybe it would just…"

"Kaidan… I can't change John's mind, but I can help you." Jane said, "Maybe he just needs time?"

Kaidan took a sip of his coffee, "I can trust you right?" He asked cryptically.

"Sure." Jane said, "You know that."

"I know John didn't have anything to do with Ashley's death, because he was with me all week, but I know who did." He paused, "It's sorta ironic really, because apparently Ashley had gotten sloppy, and Steve had seen something he shouldn't have, I don't know what it was, but it was enough so he could put two and two together. When the Vito job got botched, everyone knew there had to be a mole, no one knew who though." Kaidan said with a sad expression, staring down into his coffee swirling around in his mug. "He had a crush on John, and when I arrived on Omega he used to warn me about what a terrible guy John was. How was I supposed to know Steve had an agenda? But, when we started dating, Steve was furious. He still talked to me at work and seemed pretty normal, but he would ask me all these weird things about Ashley, about her parents and shit. I just figured it was because he needed something new to talk about besides John, cause he never once mentioned John to me after he saw us together."

Kaidan took a careful sip and looked directly at Jane's green eyes, "It was Steve who sent that message to Aria. Maybe he did it hoping that either John would think that I was a mole too, or that I would suspect and resent John for the situation – seriously I don't know what his plan was."

"It's not your fault that he went off the deep end." Jane said with a motherly smile.

"No, but I told John." Kaidan admitted, "I told John that it was Steve who had sent that message to Aria, trying to hurt me. And John he… he kicked the living shit out of Steve for even suggesting that I knew that Ashley was the traitor. When Steve lay bleeding on the ground, he begged John to think about it; if Ashley was a mole, then what about me her supposed cousin." He looked away from Jane, "If he had only known that Steve was actually right."

"And?"

"And then I begged him to come with me to earth, Sur'Kesh… anywhere!" Kaidan sucked in his breath and willed himself not to show the turmoil of feelings inside because he didn't think his tears would ever end if he let go of the pressure that had built up in him. "I never wanted him to look at me like he had looked at Steve, all steel and loathing. I wanted him to always smile and… and…" He stopped talking, fast losing the battle of his despair inside wanting to come out. "Contempt." Kaidan made a little pitiful frail sound. "That is all there is now."

"Let me tell you something about my brother, he has a terrible temper, always has." Jane said, "When he was dismissed after Torfan, he hated us all. Me, Mother, even my father. He couldn't deal with his own frailty, or acknowledge that he had made a mistake. So he blamed everyone else." Jane went over to the coffee maker and took the kettle, pouring some more in both hers and Kaidan's cup. "He resented me and Mother for years, he even started calling her Captain Hannah, to her face no less, but he never really cut ties. Once in a while Mother would still get a short voice message. And when he met you, he sent her a message, she told me that he sounded happy, and that he and ended the message with 'see you soon'. So you see? He might hate you right now, but its because all he sees is the betrayal. Let him simmer down and settle, and maybe then he will be reminded of why he loved you."

"You really think so?" Kaidan asked, clinging to the hope that Jane was right, and wasn't just telling him something, anything to make him feel better.

"Yeah." Jane said. "One of my first stops is Omega because we need to get some things for the ship that are easier to get there, but I also need to go get his stuff – if you wanna come, anything you want to take is yours."

"Alright." Kaidan said shooting her a genuine smile, "Maybe I could do with a little change of scenery."

May 5th 2183 – Omega.

"James!" Kaidan said urgently, pacing in front of his monitor. "James can you hear me?"

"Loud and clear." James said as his picture fizzed to life on Kaidan's monitor.

"She is dead, she is fucking dead – man." Kaidan whispered, his eyes wide and frightened. "They goddamn executed her like… like I don't knowman. Fuck!"

"Hey, wait! Slow down. What are you talking about?" James asked.

"Ayah... Ashley... whatever. She is dead, didn't you hear me?" Kaidan hissed angrily, careful not to yell.

"Are you sure?" Came the hesitant reply.

"Of course I am goddamn sure, do you think I'd call you and fucking tell you if it wasn't?" Kaidan said picking up pace in his restlessness. "When did you hear from her last?"

"I'd have to ask her coordinator." James said, "But I'd reckon sometime last week. All I know is that she called her very upset with you."

"Imagine that." Kaidan spat. "She got careless, and someone caught on."

"Are you in immediate danger? Do you need me to pull you out?" James asked, his voice not quite as steady as it was just a minute ago.

"No." Kaidan said calmer, "But it's only a question of time till someone catches on."

"Agreed." James said, "Well, you gotten good results already –"

"I'm not going anywhere right now." Kaidan said, "I'm real close to getting something. Something big, James."

"It's your call." James said, "And I'll have to look into that whole mess with Williams."

"It's solid, believe me. I had to go identify her at the morgue here. I'm her relative remember?" Kaidan sighed. "I wasn't a fan of hers, but no one deserves this. Send me an address you want me to ship her body to, and I will take care of it."

"I will check in with some of the informants, and get back to you, okay?" James said.

"Sure." Kaidan said, shutting the monitor off. He pulled the cords from behind the computer and went to his bedroom, grabbing some clothes and tossing them into a sports bag. It was true that he was upset about Ashley, but not for the reason that he let either James or John to believe. John thought he was upset because his cousin was a mole, and that she was dead – in that order. James thought that he was upset because he was afraid for his life should his cover were blown.

Too much James Bond double agent shit going on. He knew the only way for this to work was to just go underground, hide for a while. Take John so some far away damn planet and forget about Omega, Aria, the Alliance, Spectres – everything. In time he would tell John the truth, and maybe he could get his life back. He couldn't just leave his parents like this, so faking his own death was out of the question, but he could still disappear for several months without anyone bringing out the heavy machinery.

He tossed his things around, turned tables over and as the last thing he picked up a screwdriver and slammed it into his door mechanism on the outside , making it fizz and die. He then called John over his omnitool.

Twenty minutes later John walked through his apartment door with Kaidan and two bags. "You can stay as long as you want babe." He said, "Welcome home."

"I thought you were to carry me over the threshold." Kaidan chuckled as he tossed the bags on John's bed. "Or, does that only work for married couples?" The next thing he knew he was swept off his feet, and over John's shoulder.

"I don't know, we could test your theory, maybe it works for boyfriends too." Shepard laughed but slung a laughing Kaidan down into the bed instead of walking him over the doorstep.

"Boyfriends, huh?" Kaidan reached up and pulled Shepard down into the bed with him. "I like that."

"We should close the door." Shepard laughed, poking Kaidan in the side so he would let go.

Later that night, Kaidan was standing in the shower, trying his hardest not to think about what the hell he was doing, he heard the shower curtain being pulled aside. "John?" He asked, wiping water from his eyes.

"Yeah." John said as he stepped in under the soft rays of water with Kaidan, flush against his chest. "Are you okay? You've been in here for a really long time."

"I'm okay." Kaidan said, "I'm just tired." He kissed Shepard lightly.

"Alright." Shepard said turning off the water, and handing Kaidan a towel, "I'm beat too. It's been a long day."

"So, how did your first day of your new job go?" Kaidan asked casually, knowing that John had been reassigned as a personal bodyguard to Aria till things calmed down.

"Fine, I guess." John shrugged. "It's credits, so I'm good."

Kaidan wrapped his arms around John's waist from behind, resting his chin on Shepard's shoulder. "It also means that you stay here with me."

Shepard placed his hands over Kaidan's on his stomach. "I'd never leave you." He whispered.

"Good." Kaidan whispered back, kissing John's still wet neck. "Cause then I'd have to hunt you down."

Shepard laughed amused. "I'd like to see you try."

"Is that a dare Mr. Shepard?" Kaidan squeezed Shepard's midsection making him cough.

"Maybe." John said softly, turning in Kaidan's arms to face him. "But truth is, you already have me."

Kaidan smiled and kissed Shepard lightly, "There's that."

"I've never done something like this before either." Shepard said softly, resting against Kaidan.

"Could've fooled me." Kaidan chuckled.

"I mean this whole live-in boyfriend thing." Shepard said, turning in Kaidan's arms so they were chest to chest, he bit his lip unsure of how to ask. "So you think whoever broke in to your place was looking on something related to Ayah?"

"Why would they do that?" Kaidan asked innocently.

"Don't tell me you don't think something is off?" Shepard said, trying his hardest to remain eye contact with Kaidan, "Someone killed her Aiden, and your place was trashed. You were pretty freaked out when you called me, so don't tell me you didn't think something is wrong."

Kaidan let go of Shepard and passed him to his way to the sofa, Kaidan sat down with a sigh. "I don't know, I just – "

Shepard came over and sat down next to Kaidan in the sofa, "Hey you." He took Kaidan's hand. "I know it's hard to trust someone, and I promise you that I don't think less of you just because your cousin was an Alliance informant."

"Thanks." Kaidan said, his chest lurching. He couldn't get another word past his lips; If John only knew. And for the first time ever he was terrified of what would happen if John ever found out the truth.

"Garrus." Shepard said softly, "He was hired by my sister to keep me in line, I thought he was my friend." Shepard looked directly at Kaidan with a empathic expression, "What if people knew? Maybe they'd think I worked for my sister too."

"I'm sorry, I didn't know." Kaidan said, and he didn't. He pulled Shepard into an embrace, poor John who wanted so desperately to belong that he trusted all the wrong people. Kaidan included, it almost made him want to cry.

November 10th 2184 – The Normandy.

"Knock knock," Kaidan said as he stepped inside the compartment where the Normandy's canons were maintained, "Commander Shepard told me I could find you here."

"Hey." Garrus got to his feet, "Yeah, she mentioned you'd come along for a while."

"Kaidan," Kaidan said holding out his hand to Garrus, who seemed visibly relieved.

"That'll take some time to get used to." Garrus said as he shook Kaidan's hand.

"Yeah," Kaidan said looking anywhere than on Garrus, "So, canon calibrations huh?"

Garrus just blinked, "I'd guess you didn't come down here to talk about heat sinks and weapon recoil."

"No." Kaidan admitted. "John was your friend right?"

"Yeah." Garrus said, "He was a good friend, I'm sad that he reacted like he did. I guess it's understandable, I just wish he'd understand that I was there because Jane cares. I grew to care too, I was with him for two years after all."

Kaidan nodded, "I'm glad to hear it. John needs friends, even if he doesn't want them."

"True." Garrus nodded. "Hey, remember when we threw that birthday party, he is a terrible shot when he's drunk." Garrus laughed at the memory.

Kaidan laughed too, "Yeah, I remember, that was crazy… and fun." Kaidan pocketed his hands, "What about Jack?"

"She went to prison." Garrus said with a sad tone. "The Commander is working to get her out, she wants to put her to work instead of…" He shrugged, "Maybe it's her way of saving John."

"Maybe." Kaidan said nodding. "Well, it was good to see you. I'll be around somewhere – when Jane figures out where to put me." He laughed a little hollow.

"See you around, Aid – Kaidan." Garrus corrected himself.

May 18th 2183 – Omega.

Kaidan had been fed up with John's slow pace and had flipped them around in bed, one leg bent and the other with his knee in the mattress pushing John's leg put to the side, allowing him to fuck him harder. Kaidan smiled as John arched his back, meeting every thrust with as much ferocity as they were given. Experimentally, Kaidan slowed down a little and pulled almost all the way out to slowly press inside again, Shepard had popped up on an elbow and looked down his own body, biting down a moan. "Fuck that is good."

Kaidan couldn't answer even if he wanted to, he just watched John's eyes in the half light, his pupils were blown wide and lips was swollen and red. He ran a finger over those lips, gasping softly as John's tongue came out and licked it, still maintaining eye contact he watched as his finger disappeared in between John's lips. Kaidan wasn't even able to make a real word, it just came out as a sound, he took his hand back, and leaned awkwardly down to kiss those sinful lips while his hips picked up pace again. Open-mouthed kisses swallowed each other's moans, hands slipping on sweat.

"Love you," Kaidan whispered in a breathy moan, "Ow, fuck... mmm Love you."

Shepard wrapped his free arm around Kaidan's neck and held him down for more kissing, "Yes." He moaned into Kaidan's mouth. Shepard's hold got a little tighter and his eyes fluttered shut, he sucked in his breath through his teeth.

When Shepard went silent and just trembled slightly, his breath coming in irregular puffs, Kaidan knew he was close, and doubled his effort. Shepard's back came off the mattress as all his muscles spasmed and tensed up, his moans so loud it almost sounded like his orgasm was painful. Kaidan could honestly say he hadn't heard anything like it.

John was catching his breath, twitching slightly as Kaidan slid out of him, and fell over in the bed next to John, chuckling and panting for breath. "Damn."

"Say that again." John laughed breathlessly, with a heavy arm Shepard pulled Kaidan close so he could kiss his forehead. "I think I love you too." He mumbled against the sweaty skin.

"I really said that?" Kaidan asked amused.

"Yeah, you did."

Kaidan laughed softy, "Must be true then." He turned his head so he was nose to nose with Shepard, "What was your first thought when you met me? Did you ever think we'd end up here?"

Shepard smiled, "Yeah."

"Liar." Kaidan poked Shepard's side making him squirm half in delight, half in pain.

"I thought you were fucking hot, and that's the truth." Shepard chuckled, trying to pry Kaidan's poking finger away.

"Really?" Kaidan smiled a lazy smile, "I thought you were terrifying."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, all the metal and…" Kaidan traced a crack in Shepard's cheek where the metal gleaned underneath, "I don't even notice it any more. You must have had the most spectacular blue eyes before the cybernetics."

"Hardly." Shepard said, "You should have seen me before my butt implants." He smiled and let the confession slide with humour.

"Is it that hard to receive a compliment?" Kaidan cupped one side of Shepard's face with a hand.

Shepard said nothing he just smiled and pulled Kaidan closer and nuzzled his head on Kaidan's shoulder with a happy sigh. "If I could I would take you far away from here, somewhere where we could see the sky."

"I'd love that." Kaidan mumbled, "I sorta miss the sky."

"What do you say we go out?" Shepard mumbled against Kaidan's skin, "On a real date. You know, like real lovers."

"You need a dinner to feel like real lovers?" Kaidan chuckled, "But, sure I'd love to."

"I don't know…" Shepard laughed a little too, feeling a little stupid, "I just want to do this right. Of course, we just could wait for the next Blasto movie to come out, if you'd rather - ."

"No! Yes!" Kaidan said quickly, and then smiled awkwardly "I mean I'd love to! Dinner, Blasto – whatever you want." Staring at Shepard till he was all cross-eyed from the close proximity. "That's some serious commitment right there."

"Leave it to me to corrupt the universe's finest." Shepard said with a grin, again dejecting important emotions with lame humor.

"I mean it," Kaidan said.

"I know you do." Shepard whispered, "So, that is a yes to the date? Now, and if there are ten more Blasto's in the future?"

"Goddamn it John." Kaidan laughed pushing Shepard playfully away, "Can't you be serious about this for five seconds?"

"Sure." John said, his smile still stuck to his face, "What do you want to hear?"

"You suck at this." Kaidan mock pouted.

"I'm still expecting to wake up." Shepard said dead serious.

"And when you do, I'll still be here." Kaidan said softly, rolling over to wrap himself up in Shepard's limbs again. "Promise."

Shepard looked like he was about to say something, but chose not to. Instead he just kissed Kaidan softly.

February 14th 2185 – Earth.

Kaidan didn't know what to feel about John getting convicted for the attempted murder of Udina, but luckily, there had been no evidence linking him to Ashley's death. And because he refused to talk, he had to do his time. Both he and Jane had pooled their resources together and made sure that he would serve out his sentence on Earth, lobbying for an early release.

He was as nervous as he had been on the first day at Brain Camp when he walked through the metal detectors at the prison, he wasn't sure what to say even if John would see him. John had agreed to the visit, but he had cancelled on Jane in the last moment a couple of times, and his mother, he flat out refused to see 'that bitch, Captain Hannah'.

Kaidan walked in clutching a parcel in his hand.

Shepard was waiting for him as he was guided into the private visitation room. He just sat there and turned a plastic cup in his hands. He looked skinnier than Kaidan remembered. Maybe it was the colour of his jumpsuit, or the unforgiving light in the room that made Shepard look grey and old, Kaidan didn't know. "Hey Shepard." Kaidan said trying to keep his voice even, and not let Shepard know how shaken up he really was. "Thank you for seeing me."

Shepard looked up, his red iris' focused at Kaidan, but unlike at the court room, he didn't look angry, he just looked tired. "Spectre Alenko." He said. The words sounded foreign and wrong to Kaidan, but he'd take what he could get.

"How are you?" Kaidan asked, "Is there anything you need?"

"No." Shepard just said. "Now, what do you want?"

"Nothing." Kaidan said, and his voice trembled a little, "I just wanted to see you, and give you this." He handed the gift over the table.

Shepard looked at it for a long time before he reached out and pulled it close, feeling the sides and edges and then slowly started to peel off the wrapping paper.

"I had it re-framed." Kaidan mumbled, twiddling his thumbs, not sure what to do with himself.

Shepard looked at the photo, and then up at Kaidan.

"I uhm, I have the rest of your stuff in storage." Kaidan said unable to look at Shepard. Funny how he tended to forget the cybernetics, and then in situations like this it came back to him tenfold.

"Thank you." Shepard said softly, looking back on the photo again with a little tick that could have resembled the beginning of a smile.

"It was a great day, wasn't it?" Kaidan said leaning in over the table a little.

"Yeah." Shepard agreed, "it was."

"We could..." Kaidan said, but almost jumped out of his chair as Shepard slid the picture across the table with so much force it bounced off Kaidan's hand.

"What do you want Alenko?" Shepard said, his tired expression exchanged for anger.

"You." Kaidan said with as much conviction he could. "Why won't you let me –"

Shepard took a deep breath, and just stared at his hands on the table.

"I am not going to give up till you give me a chance." Kaidan said, reaching out for Shepard's hands.

Shepard tore his hands off the table the second he saw what Kaidan was trying to. "Don't fucking touch me."

"I don't understand you John." Kaidan said with a frown, "You let me visit, but you don't want to see me."

"I don't understand me either." Shepard muttered, "Maybe I'm just being a sentimental fool."

"You are not a fool, John." Kaidan leaned in further over the table.

"I want to hate you, I really do." Shepard said with a deep sigh, "You used me, betrayed me, and broke me." He looked up at Kaidan, "Was it worth it, Spectre?"

"No." Kaidan stated with a wince.

"Good." Shepard said flatly as he reached over the table and pulled the picture back on his side. "Not that it matters any more."

"It does matter, John... it matters to me." Kaidan said making a second attempt at Shepard's hand, and this time he didn't pull it back. "Are you going to let me try and fix what I broke?"

"Don't see how." Shepard shrugged.

"You could get to know me again?" Kaidan asked with a little smile.

Shepard looked up at Kaidan with a sad expression, "I can't do that. I'm sorry."

Kaidan squeezed Shepard's wrist harder, "Why?"

Taking a deep breath Shepard looked Kaidan directly in his eyes, "I fell in love with a fictional man" He paused, "Tell me Alenko, how would that make you feel? To know that what you thought was the one, was an illusion… You're a good actor I'll give you that."

"But it wasn't an act." Kaidan said desperately.

"So you say." Shepard said, finally pulling his hand free of Kaidan's grasp. "But you said a lot of things."

"God!" Kaidan wailed as he slammed a fist down into the table. "It was my job to gather intel on Aria, it was not my job to be your boyfriend!"

Shepard shrugged. "Like it wasn't Garrus' job to be my friend."

"Shit..." Kaidan hissed, "We all care, that is why we did what we did."

"I don't know if you can understand why that rings a bit hollow from where I am sitting." Shepard said softly, but his mouth was a fine bloodless line of repressed anger.

"I do." Kaidan admitted, "I just wish… I don't know what I wish! That you'd stop being stubborn and just give me a chance to prove it."

"I'm being stubborn?" Shepard laughed mirthlessly, "Great."

"John, come on." Kaidan sighed.

After some long minutes of silence, Shepard finally spoke. "I saw you on Battle Space last week."

"You did?" Kaidan said with a little smile, "I thought it was a horrible interview"

"Well, you are no diplomat." Shepard said with a little huff that sounded like a laugh. He looked down at the photo of him, Kaidan and Blasto and frowned. "What I don't understand is what you are doing here asking me to forgive you, when you are fucking that reporter, Diana something…" He looked up at Kaidan with the same sad gaze that Kaidan remembered from Omega.

Kaidan opened his mouth to object, but Shepard broke him off with a hand gesture. "Don't fucking insult my intelligence."

"Alright." Kaidan sighed, a cold knot formed in his chest. "It happened once. And that is the truth."

Shepard nodded, and then added sadly "You smiled at her in that interview like you used to smile at me."

"I was drunk and –"

"Stop," Shepard shook his head, "You got it wrong. You don't owe me an explanation. Hell, I don't even know you."

Kaidan hung his head, "I didn't mean to." Not sure what question he was answering.

"I know." Shepard said softly, "But it's okay. It really doesn't matter any more." And for the first time Shepard reached out and took Kaidan's clammy hand in his, and smiled a little sad smile, "Don't come back. Please."

"No." Kaidan shook his head, placing his other hand on top of Shepard's, "I can't do that. I love you."

"Kaidan." Shepard said with a sigh, Kaidan thought it sounded as alien as it probably felt in Shepard's mouth. "No you don't. You never did, you just got wrapped up in your cover act and went with it. Suppose it could have happened to anyone." He wet his lips, "I don't hate you, if I hate anyone it's myself. I ignored the signs because I wanted you so damn much, and I wanted it to be true."

"But it was true." Kaidan whispered, "Every damn last bit of it."

"Goodbye Alenko." Shepard said as he pulled his hand out from between Kaidan's and pushed his chair back under the table. "Thank you for the picture." The guard started punching in the key code for the door, and when it slid open Shepard turned around and looked at Kaidan with a weird indecipherable expression. "Tell Jane… tell Jane to leave me the fuck alone."

"Why won't you believe me?" Kaidan called out, standing up so fast his chair fell over.

"I did." Shepard said drily, "I believed you the first time you told me you loved me." He looked up and down Kaidan with an arrogant sneer, "That's not going to happen again."

Kaidan just stood and stared at the door as it shut behind Shepard, before he too walked over to be let out.

July 1st 2183 – Omega.

"Been thinking," John suddenly said as he handed Kaidan his coffee and sat down in the sofa. "Let's leave… You and me, we should go somewhere and start over." He smiled as he reached for the control for the tv, "Somewhere where no one knows us."

Kaidan smiled, "Yeah." In the moment the words left his lips, cold panic settled in. He couldn't do that, could he really pretend to be Aiden for ever? He would have to come clean if they were to have a future… Or, did he? He thought of his parents and felt terribly guilty, and then he looked at John as he zapped through channels on the tv, light scowl on his face cause every channel only broadcast bullshit game shows. He would follow this man to the end of the world! The thought settled and the more he thought about it, the more it felt right, he had no problem being Aiden for the rest of his life as long as it meant John would be there. "Anywhere special in mind?"

Shepard shrugged, "Not really." He gave up on the tv and just left it on the channel it happened to be on. He put down the controller and turned to look at Kaidan. "So you want to come with me?" His smile widened.

"Yes." Kaidan said and then chuckled nervously, "Is this is like a marriage proposal or something."

"If you want it to be." John said smoothly scooting closer to Kaidan. John caressed Kaidan's neck and jaw and then leaned in to kiss him. "Just you and me." He whispered.

"Perfect." Kaidan whispered back, wrapping his arms around John as he climbed up and sat in Kaidan's lap, knee on each side of Kaidan's thighs. Kaidan leaned back with a sweet sigh as one of Shepard's hands found it's way up under his shirt, "My coffee will get cold." He whined with a smile.

"We'll just have to be quick about it then." Shepard laughed as he growling bit unto Kaidan's jaw.

"When do you want to leave?" Kaidan whispered, squirming a little as John flicked his nipple between his fingertips.

"Soon." Shepard mumbled as he expertly ditched his own shirt. "I just have to do this one last thing first. It's a lot of fucking money baby, we could live like kings."

"Back up." Kaidan said and sat up, staring directly at Shepard, "That's what you said last time, the Vito job... a lot of money, and what did you get?"

Shepard ignored Kaidan and kissed him while fumbling with Kaidan's belt buckle.

"Come on." Kaidan didn't stop Shepard but he didn't make it easy on him either.

"Alright." Shepard said as he finally got Kaidan's belt buckle open and tore his pants down with a swift drag. "I have to do one more thing for Aria before she will release me from my contract." He admitted, "C'mon Aiden, do we have to talk about that now?"

"Damn! Yes!" Kaidan said but still tried to wiggle out of his pants without moving.

"Been thinking of you all day." Shepard cooed, moving back a little so he could kiss his way down Kaidan's chest.

"You said you weren't working for Aria." Kaidan said biting his lip, and resisted the urge to relax back into the sofa.

"I lied. Obviously." Shepard mumbled, biting Kaidan's hipbone playfully.

"Aww, fuck." Kaidan whined as he gave in and settled back into the sofa, trying to will himself to ask another question and not let Shepard get away with this, but John's lips around his cock interfered with his ability to say relevant things.

Shepard let go of Kaidan's cock with an obscene plopping sound. "Hold that thought." He grinned at Kaidan's flustered expression as he got off the sofa to kick off his own pants and get the lube.

March 22nd 2185 – Earth.

This time Kaidan was in the visitors room before Shepard, he looked at the two plates with steak, vegetables and potatoes and two beers on the table. Maybe it was a bit much, but he wanted to make John happy, he knew it was his favourite.

When John finally entered the room, Kaidan was a fidgeting mess even if he tried to keep his composure. "Hi John" He smiled a big genuine smile, and was happy to receive a small tug of Shepard's lips into something that could resemble the beginning of a smile.

"Kaidan." Shepard said, making Kaidan smile even more because he remembered his name, and said it without disdain.

"I was beginning to think you wouldn't come." Kaidan admitted.

"I wasn't gonna." Shepard admitted, "But –" He paused as he sat down, a guard fastened his legs to the chain links in the floor, and relieved him of the cuffs on his wrists so he could eat. "Thanks." He said to the guard.

"I'll be right out here if you need me Alenko, Sir." The guard saluted Kaidan, and Kaidan just nodded.

As soon as the guard was gone, Kaidan gingerly picked up his plastic knife and fork, "But what?"

"But then I figured you had come all this way, and yeah." Shepard shrugged as he too picked up his utensils. "Is Jane in town too?"

"Yes." Kaidan said calmly.

"How is that working out for you? Staying with her." Shepard asked casually.

"Fine, she is really… competent." Kaidan said carefully, and with a bated breath added, "She wants you aboard the Normandy too."

"What?"

"You heard me." Kaidan said, knowing it was a dangerous discussion to have, and odds were that Shepard just walked out on him.

Shepard chuckled coldly, "Yeah, she is insane alright."

"Why?" Kaidan said and put down his fork and leaned in over the table as much as he could. "You are a good soldier, you get things done, and you're fiercely loyal. I can't see how she could find anyone better for her crew."

"Hmmm." Shepard hummed, and for the first time since that horrible day at the landing pad of the human embassy at the Citadel, did Kaidan see a crack in Shepard's shell. "You really think so?"

"Yes." Kaidan said with a firm nod and a doting smile, "I really do."

"Whaddya know." Shepard mumbled as he carved himself a piece of the steak.

Kaidan just watched him eat in silence for a while, till he too started digging into his meal. "Cheers." He said holding out his beer to Shepard.

Shepard took his beer and clinked it with Kaidan's.

"What are we toasting to?" Kaidan asked airily.

Shepard didn't answer, he just took a sip of beer and put down the bottle on the table. But after a short minute he suddenly started poking his plate with his fork. "You know Kaidan, you clean up pretty okay. I mean that haircut and uniform looks good on you."

Kaidan's chest swelled with love or pride or something else he couldn't quite define, he wasn't sure. "Thank you John." He said softly. "Sadly, I can't say the same about your getup."

"Are you implying that orange isn't my color?" Shepard said with a smile, and for a second looked up at Kaidan.

It felt good, it felt like home. "Yeah." Kaidan said smiling, "You'd look much better in Alliance blue."

Shepard laughed, but Kaidan wasn't sure it was a good kind of laugh.

Deciding to once more take a dive off the deep end Kaidan wet his lips. "I would also get to see you every day, and we could... I don't know – get to know each other again. I really, truly miss you terribly, John."

Shepard caught a piece of meat with his fork, and dangled it over the plate for a thoughtful moment. "I want to believe you, but."

Kaidan sighed softly. "Maybe you could just try and see what happens?" He took a sip of his beer, "What do you have to lose?"

It took Shepard some long moments before he answered with a slight nod, "True." And then he looked directly at Kaidan his fork still dangling back and forth between his fingers. "There is just this one little issue – I would be surrounded by liars and -" He plunged his fork down into his meat on the plate.

Kaidan closed his eyes, he wasn't sure why he had thought he had been getting through to Shepard to begin with. "I wish you wouldn't see it like that."

Shepard sighed, anger collapsing , "Explain it to me then. Please."

"I told you over and over – I did what I did to protect you." Kaidan said, his voice taking on an annoying whine that made him twitch.

"Right." Shepard picked up his fork. "Tell Jane I'll think about it."

"Yes?" Kaidan said a little too eagerly for his own liking, his smile widening.

April 14th 2185 – The Normandy.

It had been really strange to greet John aboard the Normandy, and to be honest, Kaidan had avoided John as much as he could because he simply didn't know how to react to this distant, professional John Shepard. Maybe it was his way to deal with the situation? He just needed space, and Kaidan was more than ready to give him that space for as long as he needed.

He couldn't help but to scan the crew quarters for him when he entered, morning, noon and evening - John was a constant thought. He knew he would have to gather up the courage to speak to him eventually, but it was just different somehow, more brutal truth and less daydream. One thing was to ask for John's forgiveness when they were apart, but here they were right next to one another, and Kaidan couldn't even come up with as much as a coherent sentence. If he didn't ask, he wouldn't be rejected.

It stung when he saw John smile to one of the other crew members, that smile, he knew exactly what it meant. He had done exactly the same hadn't he? But that was different! He had not thought that John would ever forgive him, John knew that Kaidan wanted him still. Garrus had joked and told him he needed a more healthy hobby than stalking John, but there was truth inside the joke. Kaidan had dug deep and found that determination he had used when he had decided to join Jane.

"Can you believe this shit?" Someone said as the bench dipped a little when the person sat. Kaidan knew that voice, and he had to ground himself for a moment before he turned and smiled at John.

"Believe what?"

"This!" John placed his foot on the bench and rolled up his pants sleeve, "They goddamn tagged me like a crazy Krogan."

"It's just a precaution." Kaidan said softly, ignoring that John's eyes shot thunder and lightning.

"Precaution? What the fuck man? We're in the middle of space!" John pulled his pant leg down in a jerky, angry move. "Weren't you the one who talked about forgiveness and trust?"

Kaidan nodded weakly, "It wasn't my call."

"But you're a fucking spectre!" John argued, "You could stop her if you really wanted to!"

"Jane is the commander, I can't tell her what to do on her own ship." Kaidan said in a tiny voice, "I'm a guest too."

"Bullshit." John yelled, making the other crew members in the room look at them. "Fuck! I don't know why I even asked you!"

"Hey John!" Kaidan said grabbing John's arm as he was leaving. "Are you ever gonna stop being angry with me? Please, there has to be something I can do."

"No." John said cooly as he looked over at Kaidan.

July 21st 2183 – Omega.

Kaidan's stomach knotted up, his palms were sweaty. He had to stop this craziness! He had done everything in his power to stop John from taking that Udina job. He had begged and pleaded, he had tried to manipulate and promise things he knew he couldn't promise – anything and everything to stop John from ruining his own life. Maybe it was more like stopping him from bursting Kaidan's bubble, he liked it here! He didn't want things to change, or worse yet, to blow up in his face.

He had been looking at Shepard's omnitool last night when he was sure John was fast asleep and found the contact info on his sister. If anyone could help him, or help John now, it was Commander Shepard. He knew what he did was nothing less than betrayal, and he knew that if John ever found out he had gone behind his back like this, he would most likely shoot him on the spot.

So, was he ready to drop everything to stop John making this mistake? He would sacrifice everything no matter what wouldn't he? He just didn't see any way this would pan out. He couldn't understand why John believed he would get away with Udina, that was crazy! He would take the fall for Aria because she wanted to get rid of him now. She had no more use for John because he had wanted out, what better use of him, than to throw him to the wolves while she still got what she wanted.

Kaidan looked at the door to the utility room door, making sure it was locked. The Afterlife wasn't exactly the best place to carry this conversation, but he couldn't risk doing it in Shepard's apartment, he knew that was bugged to hell, and the Alliance was listening in.

He took a deep breath and tried to calm the storm of anxiety inside as he dialled Jane Shepard's contact information and waited.

May 5th 2185 – The Normandy.

John had followed Jane on a couple of successful missions, rescuing Alliance soldiers caught in enemy territory and restoring trade routes to outback systems. Kaidan could tell that Shepard got more and more frustrated with the deal, taking orders from his sister, and she cut him no slack. Kaidan figured it was because she knew what John could do that she pushed him so hard, but he couldn't help but to wonder if she pushed John a little too much.

Coming home from this specific mission to hunt down some mercenaries which was setting up a larger operation, left John pale and listless upon their return. Kaidan happened to be in the hangar, John walked straight past him as if he didn't see him there at all. Kaidan looked over at Jane who just shrugged.

Later that night Kaidan gathered all his courage and went in search of John. He wasn't at the crew members chambers, not at the mess hall. Kaidan turned around himself, unsure where to start searching. "Hey," He grabbed a hold of the first crew member passing him by, "Seen John Shepard?"

The crew member shrugged "Last I saw him he was on his way towards the shuttle bay."

"When was that?" Kaidan asked, trying to sound casual even if he felt anything but.

"Like an hour ago." The crew member said with a friendly smile.

"Thanks." Kaidan said, nodding his appraisal as he sprinted down the hall with as much dignity as he could muster.

The shuttle bay was dark, Kaidan walked into the dark with shuffling hesitating steps. "John?" He called, "Are you here?" It took a long while before he heard a vague "yeah." From behind some crates. Kaidan walked carefully towards the sound "Why are you sitting here in the dark?"

John was sitting on the floor, resting his elbows on his knees. "It's silent."

Kaidan slid down next to John, "I sorta see what you mean." He said softly.

"What do you want Kaidan?" John asked annoyed, "I can't deal with more apologies, and corny declarations of love"

"I know." Kaidan whispered as he wrapped his arms around his knees hugging them tight. "I just had a real hard time understanding the extent of my uhm… wrong." Shepard said nothing, so Kaidan took a deep breath, "But we were friends too right? Maybe we could be friends again?"

"No." Shepard said in a gentle tone.

"Oh." Kaidan mumbled, resting his chin on his knees, staring out into the dark. "What happened today?"

"What?"

"What happened on the mission today? You came back whiter than a ghost." Kaidan said without looking at Shepard.

"I had to shoot someone I once knew." Shepard said his body so tense that it was almost audible in his voice. "It was what it was, still just made me think about things."

"What things?"

"This." Shepard said flipping his hands towards the dark in front of them. "I can't do this Kaidan, I should have stayed at prison… I refuse to be Jane's charity case to command about."

"I could probably arrange a transfer back if you want it." Kaidan said.

"I am not going back there." Shepard sighed, "And I am not staying here."

"but –"

"The monitoring bracelet, I know." Shepard said sadly. "A spectre clearance could open it." He looked at Kaidan in the dark.

"No!" Kaidan gasped, "That would be –"

"A crime." Shepard finished with a strange little smile, "I know."

"No John, I can't do that." Kaidan said shaking his head.

"Sure you can, you just don't want to, because it could harm your career as the universes squeaky clean boy scout… the hope of humanity!" John chuckled a little. "It's fine, I'll find another way."

"Do you really hate me that much?" Kaidan whispered listlessly.

"I don't hate you." Shepard said, "I resent you, that's a whole different thing."

Kaidan opened his mouth to counter Shepard's argument, but remembered he had just promised not to apologise any more. "Alright." He just mumbled. "So uhm, who is that guy you're flirting with?"

Shepard laughed mirthlessly. "He's no one."

"Okay." Kaidan said, but couldn't help to shiver as a cold wave of unease washed over him. He would just have to deal with this somehow, he had tried all he could to make John understand that doing what he did had been the only way he could think of to protect him, and how he had wanted and hoped that their love would have overcome whatever obstacles. Childish he knew, but it didn't change the fact that it had been exactly what he had wished for. John didn't love him any more, and he had done irretrievable damage to them both. So he couldn't really speak up against John moving on, but he didn't have to like it – he just had to get used to it.

May 17th 2185 – The Normandy.

Kaidan had been driving himself crazy with the thoughts tumbling around in his head, like bubbles with no sense or direction, shooting off randomly. He was a knot of worry and sleepless nights when he finally made up his mind.

None of this was worth it! Fuck the council! Fuck the Alliance! Fuck Commander Shepard! Fuck the lot of them! What good was this life if it meant just existing, breathing, but not knowing why he kept doing it. Everything had always been so straight forward; do well in school, enlist in the alliance, get a good job, get a promotion – and then everything got muddled up, all because of John Shepard. He had spent months trying to convince John that he had done what he had done for all the right reasons, if only he would see it. But had he? Had he really done it for the right reasons? Or had he done it because he was afraid what would happen if he went against what he knew was expected of him? Did he really have John's safety in mind or had he been more concerned about the backlash if he didn't follow procedure?

It was way past midnight when he finally overcame his doubts and went to find John, he knew exactly what cot he was in, so it was easy to tiptoe in and shake him awake. But when he made it to John's cot he just stopped and stared, a sad smile spreading on his face, he had loved waking before John watching him sleep for a moment before he got out of bed, sleep took years off John's face and it wasn't hard to imagine him in his early twenties. Kaidan took a deep breath, "John?" He whispered, gingerly shaking his shoulder.

John woke and blinked rapidly confused before he could orientate himself. "Kaidan?" John whispered, "What the fuck are you doing here? Alright, that is just creepy!"

"Shut up and get dressed." Kaidan whispered urgently. "Meet me at the shuttle bay." He turned on his heels and marched out the door and down the hall. Things had been set in motion, it was the point of no return, but he felt good about it. It was going to be alright! His parents might give him a hard time about the possible dishonourable discharge he would undoubtedly face, but he also knew that if he explained it – they would probably understand. There were a very few select people he cared about what they thought of him, his parents were two of them , and John Shepard was another.

He worked silently prepping one of the shuttles, plotting in a course to the nearest space station with people on it, figuring that Shepard could ditch the shuttle there and find some way off the station on another ship, disappearing into the stars.

"Alright, what is going on?" Shepard said as he entered the silent, dimly lit shuttle bay, it almost sounded like yelling even if he was soft spoken, because there were no other sound at all, except weak blipping from machinery, and the constant hum of the air ducts.

"I made up my mind." Kaidan said as he turned around. "And I am going to set things right."

Shepard looked from Kaidan to the door "Don't…" he just stated, holding up his hand to stop Kaidan from speaking as he turned back to leave, "I am done with you apologies and excuses."

"Wait!" Kaidan called out, stepping away from the workbench and closer to Shepard at the door. "Would you please hear me out, one last time – I swear."

John sighed and his shoulders dropped, his face was grim as he turned around. "When are you going to give up?"

"I got it John…" Kaidan mumbled, "I know you're not going to forgive me, and I'm not even sure you should forgive me. But it doesn't really matter any more." Kaidan looked up at Shepard as he beckoned him closer. "I did this to you, and I can undo it."

"What the fuck are you on about?" Shepard asked puzzled, but none the less slowly walked over towards Kaidan and the workbench, his curiosity peaked.

"You were right, I can undo your monitoring bracelet." Kaidan said softly. "If you still want me to."

"It won't change anything." Shepard said, "Between us, I mean."

"I know, and I'm okay…" Kaidan wanted to add more to that sentence but it was like the words didn't want to pass his lips, so instead he took a deep breath and focused on the task at hand; "Stand still." He knelt down and gently pulled Shepard's pants leg up and started to push buttons on the monitoring bracelet.

John just stood there and looked down at Kaidan at his feet. "Why the change of heart?" He asked in a tiny voice.

Kaidan punched in some clearance codes on his omnitool, waiting for the monitoring bracelet to beep and flash. "Because, as I said, this is all my fault." He said hoping to sound casual. "I thought I was saving you, and I thought that if I could only keep you close, things would work out." He smiled sadly as the brace beeped, flashed and clicked open. Kaidan gently removed it and stood up, he wasn't able to look at John. There were two possible reactions on his face and Kaiden didn't want to see either, not pity because he was such a sad idiot, or resentment because he was waiting for the punch line. "There." Kaidan put the brace down on the workbench next to them. "I hope you know how to fly a shuttle... I uhm... I took the liberty to plot a course to the next station." He cleared his throat, still looking anywhere than on Shepard. "I transferred some money to you, so you could pay for a ride off the station, and some new clothes, identity and stuff. Hope that is okay." Kaidan pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to hide the fact that he felt like crying, he had promised himself he wouldn't… he had acted desperate and foolish enough for a lifetime, no need to lay more on John than he already did.

"Yeah... yeah I know how to fly a shuttle." Shepard said, his voice steady but sounded a little off. "Thank you."

Kaidan drew a deep breath and straightened up a little. "You should go, you only have a couple of hours till someone notices that you and the shuttle are gone." He had not expected John to wrap his arms around him and hold him tight. John just stood there and held him for a while, and Kaidan tried desperately to map the feel and smell of John, knowing that it would leave a big empty hole inside. It was not so much that he was leaving, it was that he would never come back. This was the end, and the only thing Kaidan could do was to make the best of it.

Shepard kissed Kaidan's temple gently. "Good luck." He whispered, and then let go of Kaidan, taking a step back.

"You too." Kaidan said, quickly looking up to meet Shepard's red eyes, but just as swiftly looked away again. "I'm gonna start the launch sequence, you – get into the shuttle." Kaidan started to prepare the shuttle for launch, hoping that no one would notice.

"Yeah." Shepard said lamely, turning and making his way to the shuttle.

As Kaidan punched the button that would open the shuttle bay doors, he nodded and smiled to himself. Yeah, this was the right thing to do, and whatever came was his penance for allowing himself to be blind-sided to what really mattered.

As the shuttle left the Normandy, Kaidan closed the doors after it, and left the docking area, tomorrow he would turn himself in, first thing in the morning he would give Jane the brace and his stripes, it would be fine.

March 5th 2186 – The Citadel.

Kaidan had done as he had set his mind to, he had turned himself in, and Jane had turned the Normandy around to haul Kaidan back to the Citadel to stand accountable to the council. They had taken his Spectre status away, they had even kicked him from the Alliance for gross misconduct. He was sad to see his life's work account for nothing, but he knew it was the inevitable price he had to to pay for letting John escape.

There had been trials and news coverage, Jane, Garrus, James, Anderson… all of them. They might have been disappointed in him, they might have understood – but most of all, they couldn't afford to associate with him. So, he had left for Earth, he had run home to his parents and hid till the commotion was over. Eventually, Bailey from the Citadel C-sec had offered him a job. It wasn't much, but it was absolutely the best he could get, and he had to be a little moved that anyone still believed he could be trusted.

And this was where he was, on the Citadel wearing his c-sec uniform, about to go buy some coffee from that café with the cute Asari when his omnitool lit up with a message. He ignored it, thinking that it was the main office who wanted him to deal with something minor during his break, so it could wait, he just wanted to have his coffee and relax, watching the traffic and the ponds far below him in peace.

He ordered his coffee and sat down by the railing looking out. He loved the illusion of a blue sky and sunshine. He had pretty much stopped wondering what became of John, all he knew was that he had never been captured, so that was something. But sometimes, just sometimes – he still thought about him. A banner flashed with the new Blasto movie, which made him smile, "That's some serious commitment," He whispered down into his coffee. Kaidan just sat there and looked at the bustling traffic flying by, letting a melancholic feeling come over him. For a moment he entertained himself with the what if's, and could have beens, it did nothing for his mood – but some days it was just harder to shake the feeling than others. In the beginning he had just stared into the wall of his old room in his parents house, not caring about his career in shambles, just torturing himself over the void inside him where his self-respect and pride used to be. And the huge ever-present tug in his chest, wishing that John would change his mind and somehow call him, forgive him and tell him everything was gonna be alright. His mother meant well, but the words sounded terribly hollow coming from her.

Halfway through his coffee he decided to check what Bailey wanted, and with a bored expression checked his omnitool.

From: Shepard, John 04112154-IL-0103-HU-M

Subject: Cinemaxx at seven?

Kaidan looked up and looked frantically around, was he here? On the Citadel? How could that even be? Why did he still have the same identity? He had given John almost all his money back then, so he could disappear in comfort. Kaidan's stomach was a chaos of butterflies fighting to get stuck in his chest and throat. What if it was a cruel joke? But what if it wasn't? He chose to believe the latter and a wide smile formed on his face, so much so that the couple seated at the next table smiled at him. He instantly typed 'Absolutely' and hit send, he didn't want to think to much about the how and why.

He was ready an hour early, so he dragged out his time walking to the cinema so he wouldn't end up standing in front of Cinemaxx embarrassingly early. But now that he was here, a sense of uncomfortable déjà vu hit him as he looked down at the time; quarter to seven. Shepard should be here by now shouldn't he? Maybe he changed his mind? Maybe it had been a test? Maybe he had been too quick to accept? Maybe he should have written more in his reply? Maybe he should have said no only to reschedule to not sound desperate?

"Hey Stranger."

Kaidan turned around so fast it made him dizzy, looking up from his omnitool his eyes widened, "John?" He recognized him, but he had never seen him as he was supposed to look, without the bad cybernetics. And, if he had thought he was beautiful with them, he had no words for the man who stood in front of him, shirt and jeans – earth fashion. His eyes deep blue and his dimples intact. "You – uhm... you got a haircut."

Shepard laughed, "And you stopped using all that hair product." He rolled his shoulders and shifted a little in the spot. "I like your curls. It suits you better."

Kaidan felt his cheeks heat up and much to his disgrace, he couldn't stop it. "Thanks. It suits you too, I mean the uhm, look at you man." Shepard sure did look the part, even down to his perfect nails. Somewhere in the back of Kaidan's head a little voice murmured that John had these terrible ridged, bitten-down nails, and even if he quit, they wouldn't look this perfect.

"Mother knew someone who could fix it." Shepard said with a little shrug.

"I thought it didn't bother you." Kaidan said with a little uncertain smile and shrug, not really sure what to do about this. It was like a fucking dream come true, John standing here looking like a million bucks, completely relaxed and even if he thought it was a tad strange, then who was he to look a gift horse in the mouth?

"It bothered Mother." Shepard said, his voice fell a little to a secretive mumble, "And it bothered you, right?"

Kaidan stopped himself before he shook his head, it had never really bothered him, at least not when he had gotten to know John. But instead he just smiled a little shy and said nothing. Kaidan had a million questions, like where had he been? How had he found him? And when had he started calling his mother, Mother? She was always Captain Hannah. But back on the Normandy he had promised Shepard he wouldn't push him, so he just shrugged and figured he'd tell him if he wanted to. And really, for now it was just something close to a miracle that John was here, and he wasn't angry or resentful, his eyes not darkened by sadness and hate. They were bright and smiling, inviting.

"Come on, popcorn is on you." Shepard said as he started to walk into the cinema, not waiting for Kaidan.

Baby steps Kaidan thought to himself as he followed Shepard into the belly of the cinema, baby steps– and maybe it's all gonna be fine anyway. Popcorn and Blasto was as good a start as any.