Kaidan looks up from the datapad in his hand when he hears Shepard shuffle across the tiled floor of the kitchen. Kaidan knows he doesn't drag his feet because he's tired or because he hasn't had any coffee yet that morning; it's just the way Shepard moves lately, as his body still adjusts to the titanium reinforcement braces in his legs. And yeah, it's something that Kaidan has to adjust to as well, seeing him move that way, but given the alternative… well, he's not about to complain.

"You look good this morning," he says, watching as Shepard shovels a few scoops of grinds into the coffee machine. Shepard's always looked good, but now he looks healthy, finally.

"Feel good too," Shepard replies. He leans back against the counter, and Kaidan can tell he's angling himself just so, probably so that the hard edge of the granite doesn't dig into his back too much.


"Yeah." The side of Shepard's mouth hitches upwards a little. "Good."

Kaidan turns back to his datapad, and flicks at it a few times in vain, no longer able to concentrate. The smell of the brewing coffee's getting stronger, and he looks up. The hem of Shepard's t-shirt is hitched up over his wrist, and he's absentmindedly running his hand over the expanse of his lower stomach, his eyes transfixed on something on the opposite counter. Kaidan can't draw his eyes away from the exposed skin – taught and still tanned somehow, even though most of Shepard's body hasn't seen sun in, well, at least a year or more, with house arrest and hardsuits and hospital beds getting in the way.

And then Shepard's fingertips brush through the soft brown hair that disappears down past the waistband of his sweats, and Kaidan lets out a little huff.

The sound catches Shepard's attention and his eyes snap over, from the mug or the bowl or whatever he's been staring at, to meet Kaidan's.

"Hey," Shepard says, as Kaidan moves to stand in front of him, but it's not so much a word as it is an exhale of breath that sounds like something else.

Kaidan doesn't respond, not with words. Instead, he pulls Shepard's hand out from under his shirt and threads their fingers together. He sees Shepard glance down at their hands slotted together, and then he looks up again, meeting Kaidan's eyes. His expression is flat, but his eyes are anything but. Shepard's face is often stoic – it's the only part of him lately that's any part Commander. But his eyes are expressive, and so damn blue.

Kaidan leans in and kisses Shepard, drawing the hand that he still holds behind him, letting it rest at the small of his back. Shepard's lips are soft and warm and pliant, and when he brings his free hand up to cradle the back of Kaidan's neck, Kaidan can't stop thinking about how gentle he is.

It's gentle. Until it isn't, when Shepard firms his grip on Kaidan's neck, drawing him in closer and punctuating it all with a small nip at his lower lip. When their tongues meet, it's clumsy and warm but so perfect. And when Shepard unlocks his fingers from Kaidan's and draws them down to grip his ass, Kaidan grunts and pushes his hips forward into Shepard's.

But he tries to still be cautious, somehow. Shepard's still in recovery, technically, and maybe it's because Kaidan's seen every step of it, and knows how much ground he still has left to cover. Shepard knows it too, even though he'll grit his teeth through it and brush it off. Even now, as Shepard's hand is splayed across Kaidan's lower back, a long middle finger ghosting down past the cleft of his ass and pulling him as close as possible, Kaidan knows he's probably in some degree of pain, somewhere.

So, Kaidan pulls away; he's a little reluctant to do it, but not enough that it outweighs his pragmatism.

Shepard has a small smirk on his lips, and he cocks an eyebrow at Kaidan, questioningly.

"I don't think we should… Not yet."

"I'm fine, Kaidan," Shepard says, his voice slipping a little into that Commander Shepard tone that Kaidan hasn't heard in a long time.

"Yeah," Kaidan replies, running a hand over Shepard's shoulder and down his arm. "I know you feel fine, but I think we should give it more time."

Shepard isn't a passive-aggressive person – he's direct and blunt and sometimes a little awkward for it – so Kaidan's fairly sure that when Shepard pushes past Kaidan, hooking a thumb under the hem of his t-shirt and pulling it up over his head in one motion, he doesn't meant to make Kaidan second guess everything he'd just said. But Shepard's shoulders are broad, his arms defined, and it's obvious that the several months of recuperation have done little to diminish his lean musculature, and it's hard to argue against that.

"I'm going to shower," Shepard mumbles and Kaidan sees him toss the shirt in the general vicinity of the washing machine as he passes it.

Kaidan leans back against the counter, listening to the coffee gurgle as it brews over his shoulder, and then to the shower start up down the hall. He thinks of Shepard, as the water sluices over his body, the heat of it warming his cold, stiff muscles. He thinks of his hands passing suds over his body, fingers glancing over his dick, maybe stroking it a little.


It's been so long. But not without good reason. They'd done some things, cursory stuff, to take the edge off whenever they needed to, because sometimes - a lot of times - they really needed to. But nothing strenuous, which Shepard's docs had warned him against. It's hard, waking up next to a guy like Shepard every day, spending so much time just the two of them, finallly, and going to sleep at the end of it all, and not being able to give into it, or into each other, all the way. They're adults, and both have gone through longer dry spells than this – much longer. But with each other in such close, constant proximity, and after the hell they've been through? Well, it's hard. But they can't risk an injury, not when Shepard's so far along in his physio program. He's taking it two steps at a time lately, no sense in taking three steps back.

But still, the ache is there, and Kaidan can't deny that.

He switches the coffee machine to the setting that'll keep it hot after the brew, knowing that Shepard will want it, eventually. 'Can't really call a day started without it,' he says some mornings, as though Kaidan, or maybe Shepard, still needs convincing. Can't really call a day started without a shower, either, but Kaidan's already had his. Maybe he'll have another, with Shepard. It's pretty damn tempting, but the shower is too many slick surfaces and too many risks.

It's shaping up to be a pretty cold day already, so Kaidan thinks to grab a sweater from the bedroom. He stoops near the washing machine on his way and picks up Shepard's discarded t-shirt, bringing it to his nose and breathing in deeply, twice, before dropping it into the hamper. As he crosses the threshold of the bedroom, the shower stops. Funny how the sudden absence of a sound is sometimes more noticeable than the sound itself.

A moment later, Shepard emerges from the ensuite, his longer, postwar hair slicked back, and a towel slung low over his hips.

He sees Kaidan standing at the end of the bed, sweater in hand, and he stops where he stands for a moment.


Usually it's Shepard that breaks every silence that way, but this time it's Kaidan. It's easy to pick up habits when you spent so much time with a person.

"It's getting pretty cold out," Kaidan adds, gesturing vaguely with the sweater.

Shepard shrugs and moves towards the closet. "Still pretty hot from that shower, myself."

A warm current courses through Kaidan when Shepard says that. It might have been intentional, but it might not have been – it's always hard to tell with Shepard. He's a guy who kind of chances into his good one-liners, and flirting's even more inadvertent.

Kaidan glances over at Shepard's back as he stands in front of his half of the closet, deciding which shirt to wear. It doesn't matter to Kaidan, which one he goes for – it never does. They're all soft and fitted and they all smell like Shepard, even the freshly laundered ones. Kaidan looks down at the sweater he holds but he can't bring himself to put it on just yet. And when he sees Shepard reach into the closet, Kaidan doesn't want Shepard to put anything on either. There are already too many layers, barriers, between them as it is right now.

Kaidan puts down the sweater and sweeps his t-shirt over his head, letting it fall wherever it does.

"Hey," he repeats, moving up behind Shepard and sneaking a hand around to lie across his belly.

Shepard doesn't say anything for a while, and they just stand that way, back to chest, skin to skin.

"Kaidan…" There's a exasperation there, laced through Shepard's voice.

Kaidan muffles his acknowledgement into Shepard's shoulder, his lips pressed against warm, still-damp skin. He curls his fingers inward a little against Shepard's stomach.

Shepard stays still at first, while Kaidan's lips travel along the back of his neck, from one shoulder to the other. But when Kaidan's hand drifts down from his stomach to palm him through the thick towel, Shepard lets his head fall back, the wet ends of his hair resting on Kaidan's bare shoulder.

"Kaidan…" The word, the name, is the same, but his voice is changed now – thicker, more urgent. "I don't… if you keep this up, I'm going to need it. Everything."

Kaidan moves his hand up to rest where the towel meets Shepard's skin, and he turns his head to kiss Shepard's cheek. "I know. Same."

Shepard huffs out a sharp, short laugh. "Oh, now you too?"

Kaidan shrugs and rests his chin on Shepard's shoulder. "Yeah. I mean, I still don't know… you've just made so much progress. You know?"

"Yeah. But I feel good, Kaidan. Best yet."

"Yeah. There's that."

They stand still for a moment, and Kaidan's fairly sure Shepard's leaving it up to him. Until Shepard rubs his ass back against his dick, anyway.

Kaidan's breath hitches at the friction. "I guess if I'm gentle. If we go slow…"

"Slow's good. Gentle, too, but I'm not that fragile. Probably more metal than bone in me by now. Has to be."

"Yeah. I guess if you can survive a couple of support beams—"

Shepard turns suddenly and gives Kaidan a half-grin. "Exactly," he says, before kissing him.

It doesn't take long after that, for the towel to hit the floor and for Shepard to have Kaidan's sweats hooked down under his ass.

Shepard kneads his fingertips into the muscle, and Kaidan feels a shiver run along his spine, punctuated by a deep exhale.

Shepard's tongue is warm and soft, but strong at the same time as it twists and tangles around Kaidan's. Their kisses aren't graceful, but it's only a testament to their need for each other now, as Shepard grinds into Kaidan's hips, using his hands on his ass to keep the rhythm. And then Shepard's lips drop to Kaidan's neck, and Kaidan can feel the days-old stubble prickling against his jaw.

Kaidan runs a hand down Shepard's side, and then in front and between his thighs. He grips Shepard's half-hard dick and gently works him up and down, glancing his thumb over the tip, pressing down slightly as he does. Shepard grunts into Kaidan's shoulder, his breath hot, and his hips buck up into his hand. Kaidan pulls back a little and Shepard looks up to catch his eye. His hair's started to dry and the shorter layers in the front are falling forward into his eyes. Kaidan doesn't brush it away just yet; instead he cups Shepard's balls and rolls them in his palm, and he watches as Shepard's eyes screw shut and his mouth falls open slightly.

And Kaidan thinks, for all of the bruises that have since faded, and the scars that probably never will, Shepard is the most perfect man he's ever seen. Back when Shepard was just an old soldier, there was a harshness to his appearance – the military buzz, the stark angles of his face. But now, there's a softness to him, with the flopped hair and the greying stubble. The cheekbones haven't changed, though, and if anything, they'd been more pronounced for those first few hospital-bound months, but that was probably inevitable, when a guy subsists on nutrition from a bunch of tubes. Now though, and where Kaidan's concerned, he's a perfected version of the perfect he'd always been.

"Keep staring at a guy like that, Kaidan, and he's going to think something's wrong," Shepard says, pushing his hips forward against Kaidan's hand.

Kaidan chuckles and shakes his head once. "Maybe a guy shouldn't be so damn hot all the time, then."

"Yeah," Shepard says, returning the laugh. "Same to you."

They kiss again, and this time Kaidan brushes Shepard's hair away from his face, off to the side. He turns them around, directing Shepard to the bed and when Shepard sits, Kaidan pauses to pull his sweats off all the way.

He bends down to kiss Shepard but it quickly turns into a groan when Shepard takes him in hand. They've done this before, during Shepard's recovery, but now it feels better, more consuming, knowing that it's not going to end with just hands or lips this time.

Kaidan pushes at Shepard's shoulder, and he scoots back towards the pillows to make room. Kaidan crawls after him, and they hold onto each other's gaze as they move.

"I'm not sure…" Shepard says then, sitting up and looking around the bed. "My knees."

Kaidan nods and runs his hand behind Shepard's neck to cradle the back of his head. "Lie back," he says and he follows Shepard down. He kisses along his jaw, making his way to the hollow behind his ear, and he hooks a hand behind Shepard's knee, drawing it up alongside his waist. He leans forward, moving his hips against Shepard's, and Shepard groans a little when their cocks rub up against each other.

"Is that okay? For your back?"

Shepard nods quickly and grips the back of Kaidan's neck, kissing him forcefully. "Damn okay," he mumbles when they separate.

Shepard's hard now too and Kaidan takes them both in hand at once, rocking forward slowly. Shepard grunts out a sharp exhale as his head falls back further into the pillow. Kaidan's moves are deliberate and he's careful not to put too much weight onto Shepard, bracing himself with his free arm up against Shepard's ribs – the ribs that were nearly black with bruises a month ago. Kaidan wonders briefly if he'll ever really be able to look at Shepard without seeing those bruises, and the burns and the gashes, superimposed over his skin in a semi-opaque layer. Eventually, maybe, but not right now, so he brings his eyes up to Shepard's face, contorted in pleasure.

Shepard grips at Kaidan's shoulders, digging his blunted nails into the skin. "Kaidan…"

"Yeah," Kaidan whispers. "Yeah, okay."

He pulls back and leans over to the bedside table, fumbling around for lube, his eyes still on Shepard. He's lying against the pillows, his head turned to the side as his eyes follow Kaidan's movements, and his hair's fallen into his face again.

Kaidan comes back to kneel between Shepard's thighs, rubbing the lube on himself. He leans forward to kiss Shepard again, and he slowly works a slick finger inside. Shepard hums against Kaidan's mouth, and it turns into a gasp when Kaidan replaces his finger with his cock. The breath is caught in Shepard's throat, and Kaidan's not breathing either, as they both adjust to this closeness that they haven't had in so long, even in amongst all the ways they've come to know each other since the war ended.

Soon, Shepard moans and pulls Kaidan close, and Kaidan starts to move his hips, slowly. He holds himself back, trying not to remember the times when he's been in the same position, held in the same place by Shepard's thighs, but free to drive into him at a pace that nearly matched his heartbeat. He keens, waiting for any sort of signal from Shepard, some indication of pain, or no, or stop.

But it doesn't come. Instead, Shepard moans again, louder this time, and he rocks his hips upwards a little, trying to match Kaidan's thrusts however he can with his stiff muscles. The sound reverberates in Kaidan's head and he leans down, snaking a hand behind Shepard's neck and pulling his mouth close. Shepard responds with a hand clasped at the back of Kaidan's head, and they kiss, and Kaidan can hear Shepard's breath rush through his nose, coming in quick bursts.

"Yeah, Kaidan…"

Shepard breaks the kiss and his head falls back and to the side, his mouth hanging open, hot breath ghosting over Kaidan's forearm. He looks down as Shepard grips himself and starts stroking, and it's that, the sight of his long, slender fingers around his own shaft, that makes Kaidan come undone. Maybe it's the sign that Kaidan needs, that Shepard's truly okay, or better than okay. Or maybe it's just that hot. But really Kaidan doesn't think about it that much – all he can do is move his hips a little harder, a little faster. And his mouth falls open too, and they're both breathing in stuttered breaths.

Shepard braces a hand in the space between Kaidan's neck and his shoulder, and Kaidan leans into it a bit, bracing himself too. He's close, real close, but he'll wait for Shepard.

"Shepard," he pants, closing his eyes. "Shepard, cum for me." His voice is rough and it scratches through his throat, as Shepard's stubble scratches against his arm.

Shepard hisses in a breath and on the exhale he shouts, some base sort of noise, and it only takes a few more thrusts until Kaidan cums too, with a groan rumbling out from deep in his chest. He stays kneeled between Shepard's thighs for a moment, as they catch their breath together, and then he moves for the discarded towel at the end of the bed.

"Worth the wait," Shepard says eventually, once they're cleaned up and Kaidan's flopped next to him on his stomach, arms touching, faces turned towards each other.

"Yeah," Kaidan breathes out. "Well, we'll see how your back is in the morning."

Shepard laughs once, and then they just lay like that for a little while, until Shepard asks if the coffee's still on.

"Can't really call a day started without it," he says, when Kaidan nods in response. "Not even when a day starts like this."