Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any cavities or sudden onset diabetes that may result after reading this fic.
As Kaidan stepped into the house, he could smell something delicious—the warm scent of cinnamon.
He followed his nose to the kitchen to see his wife—Andie Shepard—up to her elbows in flour with a delighted grin on her face. "Mmm, what're you making?" He walked over to investigate.
When they'd first gotten married a few months back, he'd been surprised to discover that Shepard was a fair cook. She explained that she used to help her father cook when she was a teenager on Mindoir, so she'd picked up a few things. Still, it was a special occasion when she did take the time to make something. With both of their busy schedules—his splitting time at the Alliance Academy and the Citadel Liaison Office, hers on Spectre duty—they usually relied on the auto-meal food processor in their kitchen.
"Cinnamon rolls," Shepard said, tongue in the corner of her mouth as she worked her hands into the dough.
"Wow, you're really going old-fashioned on this." He glanced around the kitchen. The automatic mixer was on a clean cycle but still harbored bits of sticky dough. A flour canister sat open at her elbow next to a few measuring cups. The cinnamon smell was coming from a bowl she'd set aside of what looked like mixed cinnamon and sugar. Kaidan licked his finger and stuck it in the bowl and popped it in his mouth. Mmm.
"Yeah," Shepard replied, folding over the dough and kneading it down with a puff of flour. "Old-fashioned was about the only way we had for a long time. Mindoir was still a new colony even when I was growing up there. We had pretty primitive kitchen; not even an auto-meal. Dad had to do most of the cooking at home when he had time, since Mom was always too busy in the labs. But this was a recipe that had been handed down from Dad's side of the family—this is the way they made cinnamon rolls a century ago! Mom started making them when they were still dating on Earth and continued the tradition on Mindoir. It was for special occasions—birthdays, Christmas…." Her voice grew quiet. Kaidan reached over and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, leaving his hand on the back of her neck.
"For the anniversary?"
She compressed her lips and nodded, continuing to knead. He stayed silent, his hand rubbing her back. The anniversary the batarian raid on Mindoir was tomorrow. She'd already been granted leave—not that anyone in the galaxy was in a position to refuse her anything. If Shepard said she was taking a day off work, she was taking a day off work.
After a moment, she smiled and lifted her face to his for a quick kiss. "So how were the kids today?"
Kaidan was a teacher at a small biotics program the Alliance was trying to start as a branch off of the Ascension Project. Once kids finished at Ascension, some of them wanted to enter the military. That was where Kaidan's program came in: basic training for biotic cadets. After regular basic with the rest of their squad, they left to have additional training with him and two other biotic teachers to learn to use their skills in combat situations. It was stressful but satisfying on a very deep level to see his students learn to hone their talents. There was no Vyrnnus looming over the back of these kids' minds—just determination and a good grounding of the importance of responsibility.
"Pretty good," he replied, leaning against the counter. "They work well together—even though it's likely they'll all be separated onto different units to spread out the talent. They're learning quickly to work as a team and to know their own strength. Ana is very close to creating a singularity—extraordinary in someone her age." He shook his head. "She'll be the first to graduate I have no doubt."
Shepard formed the dough she was kneading into a ball, dropped it into a bowl, and put the dough in the oven.
"Wait, you forgot the cinnamon!" Kaidan pointed out.
Shepard laughed. "Not yet. It has to rise first. It's a little drafty here in the kitchen, so I wanted to make sure the dough won't be disturbed." She washed her hands off in the sink and tossed the rest of her equipment in the dish washer. "Now while it's rising… paperwork." She made a face.
"You're supposed to be on break," he protested.
Shepard raised an eyebrow. "You have a better idea?"
"Well we could watch a movie…" He paused as she walked to him with a swing in her hips; her eyes full of promise. "Or not."
"Good idea," she said, and pulled him to her.
Kaidan sat at his desk a few hours later, wincing at the atrocious writing his students were submitting to him as acceptable answers to the written part of the exam he'd given the day before. He had to remind himself that though they had received a basic education at the Ascension Project, it didn't mean that everything they wrote would win a Pulitzer. Kaidan sighed and started his comments at the end of the essay: Parvati, though your answer to the question was well-thought out and a creative application of biotics in a combat situation involving multiple enemy snipers, your writing could use some improvement. Your superior officers will expect clear, concise writing that makes sense. Give them what you gave me today and you'd probably find yourself rewriting your AAR ten times over. Here's some additional reading you might want to download…
He rolled his neck and stood from the desk. Coffee would help for the next one, he decided. And, he thought hopefully as he smelled baking cinnamon wafting through the air, maybe the rolls are done?
When he got to the kitchen, Shepard was standing at the oven. He walked around her to get his mug—his old favorite, a chipped Alliance blue with Normandy SR-1 stamped across it.
Kaidan glanced over at her and froze. Fat, glistening tears were rolling down her cheeks. Panic seized his gut for a moment—he'd never seen her cry. There had been times where she'd gotten a little misty-eyed, sure, but this, this was uncharted territory.
"Andie—uh, sweetie? You okay?"
"No!" she hiccupped and gestured to the top of the oven with her mitt. "Look at them. They're ruined—they're…" Her chin wobbled, and she seemed unable to complete the sentence.
Kaidan looked. She'd pulled the cinnamon rolls from the oven and they… didn't exactly look like they were supposed to. Instead of enormous, round, and fluffy, they were hard little spirals. Sugar and cinnamon that should have been glistening in the whorls of soft dough was instead oozing over the bottom of the pans and smelled slightly burnt.
Kaidan smiled. "Hey, it's okay. No big deal. I mean, that recipe's a century old, right? I'm sure there was just a conversion issue."
"No there wasn't," Shepard sniffed, dragging the heel of her palm across her eyes. "My mom used this exact recipe. I've had it on my omni-tool for over 17 years."
Kaidan paused. There was a note of anger in her voice that he didn't understand, so he tried a different tactic. "We can just buy some if you really wanted them. I heard some good things about a bakery not far from here—"
"You don't understand!" Shepard fumbled with the knot on her apron, gave up and stomped out of the kitchen, trailing a scent of burnt sugar.
"No, I don't!" Kaidan exclaimed following her. "What's the big deal?"
"I wanted them to be perfect!" she ground out, scowling. "Where's my shotgun?"
Kaidan grasped her shoulders. "Shooting the oven isn't the answer," he said with an uneasy laugh. She gave him a look that said otherwise. "Shepard, please." He sat down on the couch, pulling her down with him. For a moment he didn't say anything, just held her hand.
"These rolls… this is the only thing I have of my mother's," she said after a moment, in a calmer voice. "When the slavers attacked… I didn't have time to grab holos, vids, anything. I was lucky to even have this recipe on my omni-tool. Even that picture," she gestured to the holo of herself and her family taken a few days before the Mindoir attack, "only survived because we sent it to my Aunt Esther offworld." She swallowed hard, wiping her eyes again. "Every day I lose them a little bit more, Kaidan." She put her head in her hands. "I thought… I thought this would make it feel like Mom was here. And she's not because she's dead. They're all dead and nothing I do will ever bring them back." She gave a shuddering breath. "I know—I know that it's stupid. They're just cinnamon rolls—"
She stopped as Kaidan gathered her in his arms. There wasn't anything he could do or say. Shepard wasn't a piece of tech he could fiddle with or tweak. She was a person he loved, and she was hurting.
"I'm sorry I can't help," he said truthfully a moment later. "Seeing you like this… makes me want shoot the damned oven myself." He smiled at her watery chuckle. "But… you know, I'm sure you couldn't have made these perfectly every time with your mom. Right?"
Shepard frowned. "They were perfect every time. I remember—" she paused, something dawning on her face. "Wait… they weren't. I just remembered. Dad wanted some for his birthday. But he gave short notice and Mom was in a hurry. I was trying to help, but the dough didn't rise properly. They were really gooey—not at all like they usually were. But mom got so fed up she just gave him a bowl of raw dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar—daring him to eat it." Shepard laughed. "He did! He didn't even crack a smile but dug in as if that was what he'd been expecting. Called her bluff. They laughed about that for weeks."
"See?" Kaidan squeezed her hand. "You haven't lost them at all."
She nodded, eyes bright, and stood, looking toward the kitchen. Kaidan followed. He helped scrape off the too small, too done rolls into the incinerator. Shepard lifted a bowl he hadn't noticed from the other side of the counter.
"At least the frosting turned out fine," she said, inserting a finger into the bowl and licking off the creamy white fluff. "But what are we going to do with it?"
Kaidan smiled slowly and pressed his mouth to hers, tasting the sweet frosting on her lips. "I have… a very good idea."
"Mmm. Yes, this was a good idea." Shepard dipped the strawberry into the whipped frosting and bit into it.
"What can I say? I was inspired." Kaidan leaned over his wife's shoulder to snag a strawberry for himself as the opening music to Blasto's Revenge started. "Need anything else?"
Shepard settled herself more comfortably against his chest. "No, nothing at all."
* AAR = After Action Report
A/N: A oneshot inspired by my own cinnamon roll fiasco (;_;). This takes place several months, maybe even a year or two after my Shenko fic On My Way, but you don't need to read it to understand this one. Feedback welcome.