"Do they really sell steak here?"
The amused drawl at his back startled Kaidan, causing his nervous grip on the menu to convulse and digging the sides of the hard plastic into his palms painfully. "That's what I hear," he managed to say, plastering on a weak smile as Shepard eased into the seat beside him. He forced himself to set the menu down. He'd been staring at it for the last half hour, and still had only the vaguest idea of what he'd read.
The cafe was busy, which was to be expected. With a great open-air view and the threat of imminent destruction hovering over everything, everyone was desperate for a sense of normality. Kaidan couldn't begrudge them this, but he was beginning to wish he'd picked another time for this meet-up. He really didn't think he'd be able to handle having so many witnesses if he made a complete jackass out of himself.
"This is nice," Shepard declared, looking around at the setting with approval. He leaned back in his chair, looking the closest to relaxed Kaidan had seen him since the attack on Earth.
"Yeah." Kaidan clasped his hands on the table because he couldn't figure out what the hell to do with himself. His heart was pounding steadily in his ears, and he had to make a physical effort not to start fidgeting.
"You know, my life flashed in front of my eyes on Mars," he said, surprising even himself. He glanced away, unable to meet Shepard's sympathetic gaze. "Made me think, you know?"
He managed a small pathetic smile. "That there aren't enough moments like this. Just... nice times with people you care about."
"True." Shepard eyed him for a moment, then reached for the menu. "So what're you having? If they've got steak, they've got Earth alcohol, I hope? I'm dying for something to remind me of home."
Kaidan laughed. "Whiskey. And a nice lager. I know what you mean. I used to sit out on my parents' balcony in Vancouver and drink beer. Watch the sunset. It was a beautiful view." He stared up at the fake sky, overcome for a moment with a sharp pang of loss. He forced thoughts of his father, and of the homestead that was probably decimated, far from his mind. How had this effected Shepard? He had to be feeling differently about Earth's loss than Kaidan or even Vega did. Shepard had never known his parents, and his childhood memories were full of violent gang wars. He found himself studying the other man's face again, searching for a childhood scar that was no longer there.
Shepard caught him staring, and Kaidan hastily changed the subject, glancing away. "I feel good about our chances, though. You're doing what you do best: kicking ass and taking names. Getting together the best team you can get your hands on. Doing the impossible. It helps me sleep better at night sometimes, knowing you're leading the charge. If anyone can get us through this, it's you, Shepard. Everyone knows it."
For a moment something dark and haunted flashed across Shepard's face, then he looked away. "No pressure," he joked softly, but he'd gone tense, and the moment's relaxation was easing away.
Kaidan could have kicked himself. "Wait-" he reached out impulsively, putting his hand on the man's arm. "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to put more weight on your shoulders. You shouldn't take it that way. All of us, we have faith in you. That's all. But we don't think you're invincible. You're only human, Shepard. And you're not in this alone. We don't expect miracles from you."
"I know." Shepard ran his hand through his hair roughly, twice, before forcing himself to lay his hands flat on the table. "It just feels like it sometimes."
Kaidan hesitated, unsure which statement Shepard was referring to: loneliness, or miracles. He pulled his hand back, swallowing hard. Now or never. Did he let this drop, continue with a casual lunch date with a friend? Or say what he'd come here to say?
"What about you, Kaidan?" Shepard looked at him intently, catching him a bit off guard. "EDI's not exactly subtle, so I'm sure half the ship knows my sleep's been shitty lately. Bad dreams. But Garrus has seen you pacing the ship more than one night."
"Yeah, uh... I'm not sleeping too well sometimes," Kaidan admitted, staring with fascination at his hands, clutching each other on the tabletop as if his life depended on it. "Restless, I guess."
"Thinking about Earth?"
Kaidan began stammering uselessly. "Well. That, too. Uh. I've been thinking about... um..." Us. You've been thinking about US. Quit being such a coward and say it. He fumbled in his pocket, desperately hoping to gain a bit of courage by touching his odd good luck charm.
The waiter showed up suddenly with a smile. "Would you like to order?"
Kaidan jumped. "Uh-"
"Not just yet," Shepard said at the same time.
The bit of metal fell from Kaidan's pocket as he yanked his hand free, and clattered to the deck. Shepard leaned over automatically to get it, and cracked his head against Kaidan's as the biotic hastily tried to snatch it up first.
"Ow! Sorry." Shepard straightened with a wince and a rueful grin. He rubbed at his aching head with one hand, holding the bit of painted metal in the other. He started to offer it, then hesitated, studying the garbage with growing confusion. "What... is this?"
"My, uh, good luck charm," Kaidan mumbled. He had a feeling his face was probably roughly the shade of a tomato, and hastily hid it behind the menu, feigning interest in the dessert section. "It's nothing."
Shepard stared at the bit of metal, rubbing his thumb slowly against the remnants of red paint. "...This is a piece of my old N7 armor," he murmured. "Isn't it?"
Kaidan forced himself to put the menu down and cleared his throat. "Yeah. It is."
Shepard looked from the piece to Kaidan in surprise. "How did you get this?"
"Liara gave it to me a few years ago. She retrieved what was left of your armor, I guess."
"Yeah. I saw it in her apartment on Illium six months ago."
Kaidan nodded, rubbing at the back of his neck and staring at the armor piece rather than meet Shepard's eyes. "We were all pretty... upset. After you got spaced. She said she thought I should have something of yours. It's kind of my good luck charm. Even more so since you came back from the dead." He forced a laugh. "I guess it's kind of creepy, now that you're actually alive."
"It's not creepy." Shepard handed it back, studying his face with an unreadable expression. His voice was quiet. "Why did you really ask me to come here today?"
Kaidan transferred his gaze once more to his hands. "Shepard, in all the time we've known each other, have you ever known me to... be with anyone?"
"...No," Shepard said slowly, eyeing him strangely. "You and Ash were always pretty gung-ho about getting the job done." He smiled slightly. "Not that I have room to talk. I guess I assumed you found someone in the two years I was being rebuilt." He looked around suddenly. "Wait, is this the part where you introduce me to your fiancé or something?"
Kaidan groaned, burying his face in his hands. This was ridiculous. "No. I... Shepard, what do you think about us? You and me, I mean." The words tumbled out before he could stop them. The stunned silence that greeted these words made him wish fervently that the ground would open up and swallow him whole. This was not how he'd planned this conversation. At all. He stood up suddenly, almost knocking back his chair. "I have to go," he mumbled.
"Wait!" Shepard rose hastily, catching him by the arm. He glanced around, belatedly noting how much attention they'd suddenly gained from the other customers. "Come on," he said more quietly. "Let's get back to the Normandy. This isn't the place to discuss this."
Discuss my transfer to another ship, you mean? Kaidan thought miserably, but only nodded, following in silence as Shepard turned and led the way towards the elevator.
He kept his eyes glued to the floor, but tried to keep his spine straight and his shoulders back. This was quite possibly the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to him, but he'd be damned if he'd let it show. Too much. At least Shepard was enough of a gentleman to let him down easy in private. Though he was seriously wishing he could just be left alone to deal with this crap by himself.
They reached the elevator and Shepard pressed the button for Bay D24. As soon as the doors slid closed, he turned around and fixed Kaidan with a strangely intent look. His face was closed off, as if he was going out of his way to keep emotion off of it. "Did you mean what I think you meant?"
"Look, never mind, I just-"
"This isn't one of those end-of-the-world spontaneous things, is it?"
"What? No! I-" his words strangled themselves in his throat as Shepard abruptly stepped closer, reaching up to put his hand against the side of Kaidan's neck.
"How long, then?" he demanded, and there was an odd note of- disbelief? wistfulness? to his voice that forced the honesty out.
Kaidan swallowed hard. "Feros."
Shepard gave an explosive laugh. "You jackass," he gasped.
Kaidan opened his mouth indignantly, but in the next instant Shepard was leaning in, his own mouth effectively gagging any protests.
It was a rough kiss, desperate and sloppy, and Kaidan reached out blindly, fingers digging into the other man's hips as if he needed an anchor. He didn't remember moving, but suddenly his back was up against the wall. Shepard clutched at his face, kissing him again, hard.
"Why didn't you say anything earlier?" he demanded breathlessly when they finally broke apart for air.
"Why didn't you?" Kaidan retorted with a shaky laugh. He wrapped his arms around the man's waist, dragging him up against him, needing the physical proof that this was really happening.
"Because I didn't want you filing sexual harassment charges, maybe?" Shepard teased. He gave a guilty jump as the elevator chimed and the doors slid open. He cleared his throat, stepping out of Kaidan's reach. "Let's continue this discussion on the Normandy," he suggested.
Kaidan couldn't keep back the foolish grin that stretched across his face. "Aye aye, Commander."
(Note: This was technically all the prompter asked for, which is why it ends where it does. They basically just wanted a fic focusing on how Kaidan comes to terms with and finally acts upon his feelings. As the person who requested this fic so far seem satisfied with where it ends, I have no immediate plans to continue it. Thanks for reading!)