A/N: This is a oneshot that overlaps the events that occur in Chapter 3 of Blackwork. This is also my first attempt at M/M. It starts with fluff, but has a distinctly citrusy flavor in the second half.

Music: The Knife/Heartbeats (Live), and Stateless/Bloodstream (The original Heartbeats is by Jose Gonzalez, but I think this version is particularly appropriate for Mass Effect. It's included in the playlist linked in my profile.)

Disclaimer: I do not own Mass Effect, nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

It had been a couple hours since the door to the Normandy's lounge had whooshed closed behind Commander Shepard and James. The room's four remaining occupants had heard a loud and distinctly feminine squeal from the other side, followed by a deep, mischievous male laugh.

The four of them had remained at the poker table chatting for some time before Allers and Traynor, still topless after the crew's impromptu game of strip poker, finally gravitated to the other side of the room, leaving the two men alone together.

Steve looked at Kaidan where he still sat beside him, elbows propped on the green felt of the table. He tried to gauge the other man's mood.

Kaidan just smiled faintly into his nearly empty glass and shook his head. "It was good to hear her laugh again like she did tonight," he said quietly.

Steve thought he heard a little tinge of regret lingering in the words. He was referring to Shepard, he knew.

"You really loved her, didn't you?" Steve asked, feeling an irrational need to be bolder than he normally would. It must be the whiskey talking. Or maybe it was the other man's bare skin so tantalizingly close. They were still both half-dressed from the game that evening and sat wearing only their pants at the moment.

Kaidan glanced at him in surprise, then looked back into his glass, contemplating his answer. He took a drink.

"She's a hard woman not to love. I'm sure you've figured that out."

Kaidan's eyes met his again and studied his face intently. Was the Major implying that Steve was in love with their commander?

"Ah, you know my history... Major. The commander's a good friend, and I agree: she's hard not to love. But I don't swing that way. And if I did, you know James would beat me to a bloody pulp if I ever made a move on her. She's his Lola."

Kaidan laughed and nodded. "Yeah, he still gives me this weird look sometimes, but I think he's finally caught on that what Shepard and I had is ancient history. She's clearly crazy about him even if she hasn't realized it yet. And he's good for her."

Steve nodded. That was good to know, he thought. He studied the other man more closely.

They'd become friends over the past few weeks, but there was something different about Kaidan tonight that he couldn't quite put his finger on. His eyes darted to the Major's bare, toned shoulders, the edge of his elaborate tattoo of the Normandy SR-1 barely visible from this perspective.

Kaidan had said it was a memorial, and Steve knew the small scar beneath it must have once displayed Shepard's name and the date she died. He couldn't even begin to imagine the conflicting feelings Kaidan must have had when she'd come back from the dead and was working for Cerberus.

He idly touched his left pectoral where his own personal memorial was etched into his skin for the one he had lost all too recently.

"Don't make me an anchor," Robert had said, making Steve promise just before he'd died. So what did he go and do? He got a tattoo of a fucking anchor. No words or dates, just the symbol itself was enough of a memorial for him.

It had been the hardest day of his life, but thanks to both Shepard and Kaidan, and especially thanks to his ever-present friend, James Vega, the agony of loss had begun to subside over the past few months until it had finally become bearable.

He laughed softly to himself.

Kaidan's eyebrows raised as he took another swig of his dwindling beverage. "Something funny, Lieutenant?"

Steve just shook his head and sighed. "Just thinking about a promise I made Robert before he died." He hesitated for a second before continuing, "By the way, I'd like it if you called me Steve when we're off duty..."

His voice trailed off. He'd been about to say "Major" but realized what a contradiction that would be considering the request he was making.

Kaidan was still studying him with an inscrutable gaze.

"Fine, Steve, but you have to return the favor." Kaidan's mouth quirked into an amused smile and his eyes twinkled.

There it was again... something was different about the man. It was the way he was looking at him now. It suddenly hit him that the Major might actually be interested in something more than friendship. Was he flirting with him? Had he been that oblivious all along? He felt an excited flutter in his gut at the idea.

He thought back over their interactions the past few weeks. They'd talked frequently, but their conversations had been for the most part professional, even when they delved into more personal subjects. He got the sense it was just his superior officer ensuring his emotional well-being. He'd gotten the same treatment from Shepard. He had thought it odd that they'd be doing double duty on the informal therapy sessions, but the attention had been a welcome distraction from the dark thoughts that would overtake him when he was alone in between missions. He'd grown quite an emotional attachment to them both as a result, he had to admit.

Little details he'd apparently missed before suddenly became glaringly obvious to him. Shepard seemed to show up most often after more stressful missions, with the clear intent of praising his work and setting his mind at ease that everyone had made it out with merely a few minor injuries, if any. She knew he worried.

Kaidan seemed to come see him at random times... or what he had previously thought were random. Thinking back now he realized it had begun shortly after James had started sleeping with the commander. Kaidan only seemed to show up when James was conspicuously absent.

But at a certain point something had seemed to shift. They'd become friendlier and Kaidan had started visiting him at his station in the shuttle bay more frequently, often offering his tech assistance with shuttle repairs or weapon upgrades. The man was wickedly intelligent and adept at pointing out necessary repairs quicker than Steve could have figured them out himself sometimes.

They had talked a lot during those visits and Steve had felt himself opening up to Kaidan in a way he hadn't with Shepard. It had been the catharsis he'd needed to get past Robert's death and finally think about moving on with his life.

But the knowledge had remained in the back of his mind that Kaidan had been Shepard's lover once. He'd just assumed the other man was only interested in friendship with him. It wasn't until now that he'd even considered the possibility that the Major might have been spending time with him because he was attracted to him.

He regarded Kaidan in quiet contemplation for a second, pondering this new possibility. There was just one thing he needed to know.

"You're over her now, right?" Steve ventured tentatively.

Kaidan turned his head and propped it sideways on his hand, his elbow on the table, his drink held in his other hand. He nodded. "Yeah, I am. Although I admit when I joined the crew again I wasn't sure what I'd feel, but over the past few weeks I've finally realized it serves no purpose to hold on to the past the way I'd been doing. I think you actually taught me that, you know." Kaidan tilted his glass slightly towards Steve, then took another swallow, draining it dry.

"I did?" Steve asked, surprised. Then he remembered a conversation they'd had recently and laughed. "Funny thing, it was Shepard who made me come to that realization myself. I was just quoting her." But you're the one who helped me get over the final barrier.

Kaidan chuckled softly. "Somehow I'm not surprised. She was always good with words."

Kaidan's eyes lingered on his and Steve's heartbeat sped up perceptibly. Yeah, there was definitely something there, he thought.

Kaidan tore his gaze away and set his empty glass on the table.

"Ah... yeah..." Kaidan said gruffly with that soft rasp that Steve found so unbearably erotic. The Major let out a low laugh and shook his head seeming a tad flustered. He found the whiskey bottle and picked it up, shaking it and finding a small amount left in the bottom.

"Want to help me finish this off?" he asked.

In response, Steve tossed back the remaining watered-down liquid in his glass and set it empty in front of Kaidan, who distributed the alcohol between them.

They both held up their glasses. "To the future," Kaidan said, holding Steve's gaze and giving him an almost contemplative look.

"To the future," Steve echoed.

They clinked their glasses together and both tossed back the small measures of whiskey in one gulp.

From the background they started hearing low murmurs of delight and pleasure. Steve turned his head abruptly to see the two women across the room practically in each other's laps, engaged in a passionate embrace.

"Seems like they have the right idea," he said, turning back and giving Kaidan a suggestive look, deciding he'd take a chance and test the waters between them.

Kaidan's eyes held his steadily but he made no move, only sitting slouched in his chair with his elbows still propped on the table, empty glass clutched in one hand. He studied Steve with an expression that could only be described as lustful. His eyes positively smoldered, his lips were parted slightly, and his muscular chest rose and fell in deep, steady breaths.

Steve had a brief incongruous thought about promises kept when he impulsively leaned over and reached his large hand up to grip the back of Kaidan's neck and pull him closer. The other man didn't resist, and his heart sped up when his mouth found Kaidan's soft, warm lips. He darted his tongue out, probing for entry and was gratified when he felt the other man open up to him.

He tasted the woody warmth of the whiskey on Kaidan's tongue as their mouths merged and their tongues tangled together briefly.

He heard a low groan and Kaidan pulled back abruptly, scooting back in his chair and putting some distance between them. Kaidan closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them again and stared at him. He could see some internal struggle going on in the man's eyes and wondered what it was all about.

"Kaidan..." he said hesitantly. "You okay?"

"Yeah, man... it's just. Regs... shit." Kaidan swiped a hand over his face and gave Steve an apologetic look.

"You are kindof a stickler for regs, aren't you... Ah, I apologize for kissing you just now, Major. Not sure if that helps, but there it is," he said with a small smirk.

"You apologize... but you don't sound like you feel any remorse, Lieutenant," Kaidan said almost jokingly.

"I said I apologize, but fuck if I'm sorry. No offense, but I'd do it again if you'd get over your hangups and let me."

Kaidan seemed to bristle a little at the comment.

"Respecting the chain of command isn't a hangup."

Kaidan looked sullen but somehow still amused. He definitely hadn't been offended or frightened off by what Steve had done. That was a very good sign. But Steve sensed there was still some kind of conflict he was dealing with.

"Maybe this is a bad time to bring this up, but how did you get past it with Shepard?"

"Shepard was a Spectre. They pretty much trump regs..." His voice trailed off strangely.

Steve ventured, "But aren't you a Sp-" ectre, too? he continued the thought in his mind, but before he could get the syllables out, Kaidan's mouth was on his again, his large hands gripping the sides of his head. Holy shit, the man was a fantastic kisser.

The noises from the other side of the room were becoming more intense. When Kaidan pulled back from the kiss, Steve said breathlessly, "Let's get out of here."

Kaidan nodded in reply. "Okay, where to? It's tough to find a private spot on this ship, unless you're Shepard."

"Just follow me," Steve said, standing up and offering his hand. Kaidan took it and grabbed their shirts where they were still draped across the backs of their chairs. They made their way through the door and Steve took an immediate left, pulling Kaidan into the men's bathroom.

"Um... here?" Kaidan asked dubiously.

"Trust me," Steve said, turning around and pulling the other man close again. He reveled in the feel of Kaidan's bare, muscular chest against his own as they fell into another deep kiss. They embraced and Steve began walking slowly backwards towards the showers, urging Kaidan to follow and trailing his hands over bare skin as he went.

He felt fingertips drift down his bare abdomen and tug at the waist of his pants. They broke from their kiss as they became absorbed in undressing each other. After a moment, they were both standing naked near the men's showers, their clothing discarded in a trail behind them.

Steve was almost vibrating with desire as Kaidan's hands drifted over his body. When Kaidan whispered his small request in his ear he pulled back and looked into the man's eyes. Steve's gaze was met with a raised eyebrow and he couldn't help but laugh a little bit at the apparent shyness in Kaidan's tone.

"Yeah, I think I do..." he said. "Be right back. That water had better be hot!"

He grabbed a clean towel from the cabinet by the door and quickly wrapped it around his waist, hoping he didn't run into anyone in the corridor.

He exited the bathroom and trotted quickly to the crew quarters. Everyone in there was asleep, which he was infinitely grateful for as he rummaged as quietly as he could through his belongings until he found the small container he was looking for. As an afterthought he grabbed his shower gel as well. He gripped both bottles in his hand and headed back down the corridor.

He pulled up sharply when he saw the back of Shepard's familiar figure striding towards the closed door to the lounge.

He cleared his throat loudly to catch her attention.

"I wouldn't go in there just now, Commander," he said. She turned with a look of surprise, her clear blue eyes taking in his lack of attire.

"Oh?" she asked, curious.

"Well... not unless you were hoping for a threesome with those two. I highly doubt they'd turn you down if that's the case."

"Oh," she said and drew back from the door. "Um... which two exactly?" she asked.

At that moment, Kaidan's voice called from the men's bathroom. "Get in here, Steve, the water's nice and hot."

Her eyebrows shot up as she studied him.

Steve flushed and coughed softly into his fist. He stared at his bare feet for a second, trying to think of a good explanation for the situation he'd just found himself in. He was at a complete loss.

"You'd better not keep the Major waiting, Lieutenant," she said in a stern whisper that was tinged with amusement. She nodded her head towards the closed door to the bathroom.

"Yes ma'am," he said, looking at her with a knowing smile and a bit of gratitude. There was a reason she was hard not to love, he thought, and he supposed he could understand why James was so smitten with her.

He watched as she turned and headed back to the elevator, then just shook his head and headed back into the bathroom.

He groaned softly to himself when he took in Kaidan's densely muscled and toned body standing beneath the steady, steaming stream of the shower. He was facing slightly away from him, one strong arm braced against the side of the shower and his head tilting around languorously as the water fell over him. The intricate tattoo of the Normandy SR-1 rippled slightly on his left shoulder beneath the water that trickled over it.

Steve just stood and stared for a moment, enjoying the view. How did a tech like Kaidan end up with such a fantastic physique? Steve was no slouch himself, especially not after a month of working out with Vega, but he was nowhere near as ripped as that. It had been hard to appreciate fully at the poker table earlier tonight once they'd begun stripping, and he supposed everyone looked small in comparison to James Vega, who was a hulk in his own right, but damn. Not to mention, he'd noticed what Kaidan was packing below the waist and his estimation of the man had grown considerably.

His eyes drifted down lower and he caught Kaidan idly stroke his erection. He must have made a noise in response that caused Kaidan to turn his head and look over his shoulder.

"It'd be more fun if you were over here with me," Kaidan said with a low chuckle.

"Yes sir," Steve said with a smile and sauntered over. He set the containers he'd been holding on the narrow ledge that lined the wall.

Kaidan made room and he slipped up behind him, standing beneath the stream of hot water. He dipped his head beneath the water, resting his lips softly against the wet nape of Kaidan's neck. He wrapped his arms around the other man, enjoying the feel of his smooth, wet skin as he drifted his hands over his thick chest and down the sculpted muscles of his abdomen.

Before he could go further, Kaidan turned to face him and gripped him gently behind the neck with one hand, pulling him into an ardent kiss. He responded hungrily, his lips sliding against Kaidan's, his teeth nipping gently at the warm, soft flesh of his lower lip. They were the same height and Steve could feel Kaidan's arousal brush lightly up against his own. He groaned softly against the other man's mouth at the jolt of pleasure the contact sent through his body.

He slid his hands down over Kaidan's wet back and gripped him by the hips, pulling him tighter against his own hips, then slid his hands further down and gripped both of his tight ass cheeks and squeezed gently before sliding his hands slowly up over his muscular back.

He pulled away from their kiss and a quick, heated glance passed between them. He realized suddenly that this was something real that was happening. This moment was a new beginning for both of them. He felt a little surge of elation at the thought.

As though reading his mind, Kaidan gazed at him in earnest and said, "Before we go any further, I'd like to make sure this is going to be more than just a one-night thing."

Steve smiled and dipped his head in a slight nod, "I'd really like that, too."

"Good," Kaidan said and tilted his head close, laying a soft kiss beneath Steve's jawline.

He tilted his head back as Kaidan's mouth dipped to the side of his neck and began gently kissing and biting his way lower, trailing fervent kisses down his chest. Kaidan knelt before him and Steve let out a soft gasp and had to brace his hand on the wall for balance as Kaidan's velvety tongue darted out for a taste and swirled around the tip of his cock. Then talented lips wrapped themselves around the head of his erection and slid slowly down his hard length, engulfing him fully within seconds.

"Oh God," he moaned in pleasure. He gripped the side of Kaidan's head lightly with one hand as it bobbed slowly at his hips, his mouth sliding up and down his shaft while his hand gently palmed his heavy sack between his thighs and slid his thumb across the delicate skin.

Before the pleasure became unbearable Kaidan stood up again with a look of unbridled desire on his face. Steve found himself turned abruptly and his back pressed against the cool, steel wall of the shower. Kaidan glanced up at the shelf behind him and grabbed the bottle of shower gel, turned it over and squeezed a measure into his palm, then offered it to Steve. He held his hand out and took a bit of the spicy scented gel, smiling as he lathered it up in his hands.

He slid his soapy hands over the sleek planes of the Major's chest and abs, then slicked them down the tops of his thighs, enjoying the look of pleasure he got in response as he drifted his fingertips against the delicate skin of his balls. Kaidan moaned and tilted his head close to capture his lips in a deep, penetrating kiss.

He gripped Kaidan's thick shaft solidly in one soapy fist and began stroking slowly. At the same time, he felt expert hands drift down his own chest, tease gently at his nipples, and move lower to return the favor.

Goddamn he felt good. Their tongues twined together and Kaidan's slightly calloused fingers teased at the tip of his erection and slid slowly over his length. Steve recalled how deftly the other man had completed a particularly complex repair on the Kodiak's barrier generator and thought he'd never be able to watch him work again without thinking about what he was doing with his hands at this moment.

He heard a soft murmur and almost didn't register Kaidan's words, he was so lost to the pleasurable sensations.

"What was that?" he asked breathlessly.

Kaidan moaned softly and leaned his head closer. His lips tickled Steve's ear as he murmured, "I said, I want you to fuck me."

Steve thought it was endearing how shy he seemed to be making the request.

He stopped stroking to grip the sides of Kaidan's head, kissing him again.

"It would be my pleasure," he said huskily, turning them again so Kaidan was against the wall with the water streaming between them both, washing the suds down the drain.

Kaidan turned his back to him and reached up to grab the other container that stood next to the shower gel. Steve quickly grabbed his hand and held it in his own.

"Slow down, we can take our time a little longer," he said. "Now that I've finally got you here, I want to make it last."

He pressed himself against Kaidan's back and wrapped his arms around him. He trailed a series of soft bites down his neck and over his shoulder as he ground his hips against the other man's firm ass, enjoying the feel of his hard length sliding against soft, wet skin. He slid one hand lower and gripped Kaidan's thick erection again, stroking gently, while his other hand trailed delicate caresses up and down his torso.

Kaidan let out a gruff moan and tilted his head back onto Steve's shoulder.

"Fuck. You're going to make me beg, aren't you?" Kaidan said in a tone of quiet desperation.

"You want it that bad, do you?" Steve asked.

"It's kindof been awhile... years, really," Kaidan explained.

"I promise to be gentle," Steve said huskily against Kaidan's ear. Kaidan gasped when Steve slipped his hand in between their bodies, sliding his fingertips gently between the cheeks of his ass, teasing at his delicate flesh.

Kaidan moaned in pleasure and leaned forward slightly, bracing his hands against the wall while Steve continued stroking his cock. Steve explored with his other hand, drifting a fingertip over sensitive puckered flesh and applying the barest pressure.

Kaidan moaned and his breathing quickened perceptibly. Steve drew his hands away and grabbed the other small bottle from the shelf, squirting a small measure of the slick liquid into his hand. He teased slick fingertips between the cheeks of Kaidan's taut ass and found the sensitive opening again. He slipped one digit in and began thrusting gently for a moment before adding a second digit. He enjoyed the sounds of the soft moans that drifted back to his ears.

"Oh fuck yes," he heard Kaidan gasp when he gradually slipped a third digit in, thrusting more slowly and deliberately for several more moments.

His own erection was throbbing almost painfully as he worked his fingers gently in and out of the tight opening. He squirted more of the slick lubricant onto his shaft and distributed it quickly with his other hand. In one smooth motion he replaced his fingers with the tip of his cock and slid in partway.

"You good?" he asked breathlessly. He was aching to be deeper but wanted this to be pleasurable for both of them.

"Mmm, don't stop. I want it all," Kaidan groaned.

Steve thrust in to the hilt, eliciting a sudden cry from the other man. He felt strong fingertips reach back and dig into the flesh of his hips. He held still for a moment, struggling to regain his bearings after the exquisite pleasure of that first stroke.

"You like that?" Steve asked.

"I'd like it better if you didn't just stand there," Kaidan said between panted breaths.

Steve couldn't help but chuckle a little at his tone. He wrapped one arm around Kaidan's broad shoulders and buried his face in his neck as he began thrusting slowly. He slid his other hand down to grip Kaidan's hard length in his fist and began stroking again, occasionally dipping his hand down to caress the smooth skin of his balls.

"Is that better, Kaidan?" he whispered huskily, his lips brushing against the other man's ear. The pleasure was overwhelming but he tried to pace himself. He moved with slow, steady thrusts in time with the strokes of his hand on Kaidan's thick erection.

"Oh yeah, Steve, that's so good," Kaidan moaned.

After a few slow strokes, Steve felt the other man begin pushing back against him with increasing urgency. He sped up his pace, enjoying the sound of Kaidan's raspy groans. He gripped him tighter around the shoulders and grunted softly with the effort of his thrusts, the pleasure building ever quicker with each movement of his hips.

Kaidan let out a desperate groan and Steve thought his head would explode at the sudden clench he felt around his cock.

"That's it, come for me," he whispered huskily against Kaidan's ear, stroking him faster and thrusting in time. He felt his own climax begin to build abruptly, urged on by the sound of Kaidan's moans.

"Oh fuck," Kaidan gasped and his arm shot out to steady himself against the wall. Steve felt the hard flesh in his grip pulse and Kaidan let out a loud groan as his orgasm hit, his thick juices running hot over Steve's hand. Steve's vision went white with the sudden surge of ecstasy that gripped him, building at the base of his shaft and erupting from the tip with sudden, violent and ecstatic release of pressure. He sank his teeth into Kaidan's shoulder with a guttural grunt and a final, solid thrust.

They stood like that for several moments, breathing heavily. Steve's cheek rested on the back of Kaidan's shoulder and he continued to hold him, one arm still wrapped around his shoulders, the other now across his waist. The hot water of the shower still streamed steadily over them.

"Mmm," he heard Kaidan murmur. "I could get used to this. Are you always like this after?"

"It's my second favorite part," Steve said. "Especially when the first part feels as good as that just did."

Kaidan chuckled softly, "Yeah, that was... fucking incredible." He slowly extracted himself from Steve's gentle embrace. Steve sighed as they parted and Kaidan turned around. He was pleasantly surprised by the deep kiss Kaidan gave him.

"I'm already looking forward to next time," Steve said with a wry smile when Kaidan pulled away from the kiss a few seconds later.

"Give me a minute and we can go again," Kaidan said.

Steve laughed and grabbed the bottle of shower gel, tossing it to the other man.

"Tempting," Steve said. "But it's late and we're on a mission tomorrow, so I don't have an excuse to sleep in. I need to get my sleep. I watch you guys run into hell every day. I need to be alert to make sure you make it back safely."

Kaidan nodded as he finished washing, "Shepard's got me on rotation for this one, so I don't have an excuse, either. It's a shame, really. I mean... it's a shame we can't spend more time together now."

Steve nodded in agreement. "You should ride along next time you're not on rotation."

"I'd like that," Kaidan said as he stepped out of the stream of water and walked across the bathroom to grab a dry towel.

Steve watched with admiration as Kaidan dried off and then dressed. He finished washing and had to will his arousal back under control at the sight of the other man's unconsciously graceful movements. He supposed he'd earned his Spectre status somehow. He'd believe it if Kaidan told him it had been for being incredibly sexy.

"Actually, I was thinking," Kaidan said, then paused and looked back at Steve, tossing him a towel once he'd turned the water off.

"What's that?" Steve asked.

"Next time we dock on the Citadel and we have some shore leave, we should take a day... maybe get a room at one of those fancy Presidium resorts. Get room service. Stay in bed all day..."

Steve grinned and nodded. This was a very good beginning, he thought.