Shepard groaned when he tried to roll over and his still mending body objected to the movement. His new knee screamed with pain, and he cursed quietly.

"John?" Kaidan said from the doorway. "Are you ok?"

"Just fine," Shepard growled through gritted teeth. He tried to push himself upright, but hissed in pain when it jostled his leg slightly. "Ship shape, even."

Kaidan's brow furrowed in concern, and he walked quickly to the side of the bed. He sat down the mugs of coffee he held on the bedside table and knelt down next to it. He gently helped Shepard into a sitting position, propping pillows behind his back. "A sorry excuse for a ship," he said with a smile that didn't quite cover up the worry in his eyes. "EDI would take that as an insult."

Shepard's teeth jaw was still gritted against the pain, but he could feel himself relaxing now that he was in a more comfortable position. "I won't tell her, if you don't," he said on a sigh.

Kaidan chuckled as the last lines of worry around his eyes smoothed away. "Knowing EDI, she's probably got our omnitools bugged," he said. They both paused and waited to see if her voice would break the silence.

After a moment, Shepard lifted a brow and smiled wryly at Kaidan. "Somehow I doubt silence proves anything," he said.

"I don't doubt it," Kaidan replied, quirking his lips up in amusement and admiration. "She was smart enough to back herself up… she's probably smart enough to hide her presence. At least until she decides to make us jump out of our skins."

Shepard's grin widened. "At the worst possible moment," he said. "No wonder Joker loves her."

Kaidan leaned forward and kissed Shepard on the mouth gently before leaning back and handing him one of the cups of coffee. More cream than coffee, just the way he liked it. "Are you ready for breakfast?" he asked as he sipped his own coffee (no cream, but a lot of sugar; for calories, not for the sweet tooth he denied having.)

"You don't have to wait on me hand and foot," Shepard grumbled into his mug.

"I kind of like it," Kaidan replied. "Relax and let me take care of you."

Shepard let his head fall back on his shoulders. "Kaidan…"


Shepard chuckled at the scolding tone. "I'll pass on the breakfast," he said. "Thank you for the coffee."

Kaidan watched him with that look that said he was trying to crack a particularly difficult encryption. Shepard smiled wider, and was glad that biotics weren't mind readers. He didn't want Kaidan to know how frustrated he was with the lack of inactivity. They'd come out to this small cabin near Kaidan's parents' orchard once Shepard's last surgery was finished so that he could recover away from the reporters, and the generally curious. The privacy was nice, but he wasn't used to this much inactivity.

But after years of dodging bullets, husks, and reaper lasers, who would be?

Apparently his innocent look either worked, or Kaidan gave up trying to read his mind because the dark haired biotic shook his head and stood up. "We're almost out of wood," he said with a gesture to the fireplace across the room. "I'm going to go out and chop some while it's cool."

Shepard nodded and sipped his coffee, and watched with a touch of disappointment as Kaidan pulled a pair of worn fatigues up over his boxer-briefs. Kaidan's ass in briefs was his favorite view on the Citadel… and anywhere else for that matter. He suppressed a sigh.

"Mind if I borrow this?" Kaidan asked as he pulled Shepard's N7 hoodie out of the closet. "It's chilly out there."

Shepard nodded, and smiled when Kaidan pulled the hoodie on over a plain white t-shirt. It made him feel good to see him wearing his clothes. It was almost like marking his territory without all the alpha male bullshit.

A ring would be even better. He waved at Kaidan as he left the room, then turned and looked at the suitcase that still held some of his belongings. There was a small box in there with a plain gold band in it. Liara had brought it to him just before they left London. Shepard was just waiting for his knee to heal up so he could kneel and propose properly.

He tapped a command into his omnitool and the screen across from the bed lit up. He flipped through the few channels that had managed to get up and running since the reapers had taken out the satellite network. The news was full of images of destruction interspersed with fluff stories about survival. He winced at how often his own image flashed across the screen, and turned it off again. If anything really warranted his attention Liara would forward it to him directly.

He heaved a sigh and looked toward the open door. He could hear the axe cutting into wood, and he wished he could help. He'd spent the last few weeks watching the news, trying to read, and even working on a model that Kaidan's mother had scrounged up for him somewhere. He'd finished it a few days ago, and now the boredom was starting to get to him.

Deciding if he could help then he could at least watch, Shepard carefully maneuvered himself until his legs hung over the edge of the bed. His right leg was wrapped in a brace from the top of his thigh, almost to his ankle, and he glared at it. He hoped the doctors were right, and that would be his last surgery. At least when he'd been in the hospital recovering from burns, bruises and the hole in his side they'd kept him asleep for most of it.

He grabbed his cane, and pushed himself slowly to his feet. Pain flared up from his knee to his hip and he hissed in a breath. "I've had worse," he said out loud. It had become his mantra, and he repeated it as he carefully made his way through the cabin. He stopped in the kitchen and leaned against the counter for a moment so he could grab his meds. He chewed on a pill and washed it down with a swig from a bottle of water he found in the fridge.

His muscles began to relax, and he let out a sigh of relief as his body absorbed the pain killer. It was strong, and it was a testament to how badly his leg hurt that he even took it. He was not a fan of the drug haze, but he didn't want to lay in bed all day fidgeting with boredom either.

Shepard carried the water bottle with him as he hobbled out to the porch that wrapped around the cabin. It was slow going, but worth it once he reached the side of the house where Kaidan was still chopping wood.

Kaidan had removed Shepard's hoodie, and draped it over the banister. His t-shirt was wet along his spine and under his arms. Shepard shivered. He could feel the promise of winter in the air. He'd heard Canadian winters were pretty fierce, and he wasn't sure how he felt about experiencing one for the first time. When Kaidan had told him about it, he'd had visions of Noveria, and hadn't been exactly thrilled with the idea.

Kaidan had chuckled and promised to keep him warm. Biotics run hot, John.

Yes they do, Shepard thought appreciatively as he watched the play of muscles under Kaidan's t-shirt. He picked up the hoodie and pulled it on before carefully settling himself in a chair. He crossed his arms on the banister and propped his chin on the wrist that wasn't still in a brace. The smell of pine trees and Kaidan wafted up from the soft material, and he tilted his face down enough that he could bury his nose in the scent while he watched the man he loved get hotter and sweatier.

Kaidan worked for another quarter of an hour before he stopped and rested the axe against his knee. He pulled the bottom of his t-shirt up and wiped the moisture from his face.

"Need a drink?" Shepard asked. He still held the bottle of water in one hand, and without moving anything but his arm because he'd found a pain free position, he held it out to Kaidan.

"Hey," Kaidan said with a smile. He walked over to the railing and gratefully took the bottle. He took a long swig before he put the cap back on and set it on the banister near Shepard's elbow. "How long have you been out here? How's your leg?"

"Long enough for the painkillers to do their job," Shepard said with a crooked grin. "I needed something to do, so I thought I'd come out and enjoy the weather before it gets too cold." His smile grew sly. "The view is really nice out here."

Kaidan chuckled and gave him skeptical look. "Uh huh," he said with an amused twist of his lips.

"No, really," Shepard said. "Couldn't take my eyes off it." Kaidan was close enough that he was able to reach out and wrap a hand around his neck and pull him forward for a kiss.

Kaidan wrapped his hands around the bars of the railing and pushed himself onto his toes to get a better angle for the kiss. He hummed softly against Shepard's lips, one of those unconscious noises that made Shepard want to pull him over the rail and into his lap. He'd have to settle for the gentle kiss though. Kaidan was worried about his recovery and would probably resist the things Shepard had in mind.

Kaidan slid his tongue over Shepard's upper lip before he pulled away with an exhale that could have been a sigh of pleasure or disappointment. "I'm sure it's ten times worse for you, but I can't wait for you to heal up," he teased.

Shepard's eyebrow went up. "Kaidan, are you flirting with me again? You know you can just tell me you want my hot body." He reached through the bars of the banister and ran his fingers across the warm muscles covering Kaidan's ribs. "I certainly want yours."


"Kaidan, it's been a long time. I'm suffering here," Shepard said. He gave Kaidan what he hoped looked like puppy eyes, and hoped it didn't come across as too creepy.

Apparently he was successful, because Kaidan shook his head with a chuckle. "You tempt me, John, you really do," he said huskily. "But your leg…"

Shepard huffed in exasperation and sat back in his chair. He hoped Kaidan didn't notice his wince when his knee protested at the sudden shift. Crossing his arms over his chest he looked off in the distance. "Yeah, I know," he grumbled.

"Hey," Kaidan said softly, and this time his voice held a thread of concern. "You're getting there."

Shepard gestured with his hand that was still in a brace toward his leg. "Barely," he said with a half smile. "But at least I'm not in a wheel chair anymore." He hoped Kaidan would accept the joke and let things go.

Of course he didn't. He frowned and studied Shepard for a moment. "What's really bothering you?"

Shepard didn't answer because he hadn't really thought about it too much. Dwelling on it made him feel worse. It wasn't just one thing. It's true that he was bored, but it went deeper than that. He was out here in a cabin in the woods recovering while people were out there rebuilding. Even Kaidan was doing something useful, even if it was just taking care of a crippled war hero.

Anyone else would be glad for the break, wouldn't they?

Kaidan waited calmly, as usual. Shepard could see his brown eyes full of concern, his mouth soft with patience, out of the corner of his eye. He had the irrational temptation to start a fight with him, but as soon as he had the thought he realized he was being childish. He sighed and uncrossed his arms. Placing his palms on his thighs, he turned his head and met Kaidan's gaze. "I'm just bored," he said tiredly.

The skin around Kaidan's eyes wrinkled slightly as he smiled. "Yeah, I think I get that," he said softly. And the thing was, he probably did. He'd been a soldier longer than Shepard had, especially if you counted the two years that Cerberus took bringing him back to life. "So I guess we'd better do something about it," Kaidan said. His head tilted and his smile turned mischevious. "I guess I can lighten up on you a bit. I remember going stir crazy in Huerta when the doc kept coming with reasons for me to stay in that hospital bed."

"Well at least you let me walk around," Shepard said with a crooked grin. He glanced at the cane leaning against his chair. "Well, I guess you could call it walking, anyway."

Kaidan's husky chuckle sent heat down Shepard's spine, and he felt himself harden slightly. The front of his sweat pants tented slightly, and he shifted in his chair.

It didn't go unnoticed. Kaidan's eyes dropped to his lap, and widened slightly. He raised one black eyebrow. "Well that's definitely a sign you're getting better," he teased.

"That would make me feel better if you'd take care of it so I didn't have to," Shepard suggested. He expected another denial, so when Kaidan suddenly pulled himself up over the rail and knelt down between his knees, Shepard was shocked into a laugh. But when Kaidan's hands smoothed up his thighs, the laugh cut off with a small choke that Shepard covered with a cough. "Really?" he managed to say as strong fingers stroked him through the soft cloth, and he was relatively proud of himself that it didn't come out too high pitched.

"Yes, really," Kaidan said huskily. "As long as you can hold still." His fingers pulled at the waistband of Shepard's sweats. "Can you do that for me?"

"Yes, sir," Shepard breathed as Kaidan freed him from his clothing. The cool air hitting his skin made him shiver, and he was suddenly reminded they were outside. He glanced around, then looked back down to watch Kaidan's fingers wrap around him and slowly stroke and squeeze. "Uh… out here?" he asked uncertainly.

Kaidan's eyes twinkled with mischief. "My mother said she'd be by tomorrow, but if you're afraid of a few wild animals watching I can stop."

"No, no," Shepard said quickly. "I'm good."

When he shivered again, it was because of the hot tongue running up the length of his erection instead of the cool autumn air. He hissed in a breath when Kaidan teased him with soft lips and hard fingers. One of Shepard's hands came up to brush through black hair, not to control, but to show his appreciation for the treatment.

Kaidan finally took him fully in his mouth and Shepard's spine went limp. He dropped his head back on his shoulders and moaned softly. "Kaidan," he said. "I've missed this." He tilted his head back up and looked down. They're eyes connected, and he saw the enjoyment in the brown ones that looked up at him. Their gazes held until a particularly interesting twist of Kaidan's tongue brought Shepard over the edge.

His head fell back on his shoulders and he gasped for breath. Warmth spread through him, and he smiled languidly. "Thank you," he said as Kaidan tugged his sweat pants back into place.

Kaidan pushed himself to his feet, and leaned over the chair, bracing his palms against the arms so that he could kiss Shepard. "My pleasure," he murmured in between kisses. "We should probably get you back inside. You're not really dressed for this weather."

When Kaidan straightened, Shepard caught his hand. "Wait," he said. "What about you?"

"I'm good," Kaidan said with a chuckle."

"I know you are," Shepard teased, deliberately misunderstanding. "But so am I. Apparently you've forgotten, and need a reminder."

"John, you really don't have to-"

Shepard sat up straighter, managing not to wince as he jostled his knee. He grabbed Kaidan's hips and deliberately pressed a kiss to the bulge under his fatigues. When the biotic didn't protest, Shepard reached up and undid his fly. Watching for any sign of denial, he rubbed his face against the newly exposed cotton briefs.

A flicker of blue sparked in Kaidan's eyes before flashing over his skin. "Yeah," he said huskily. "Ok, John. We can do this."

Shepard grinned, and pulled the rest of the cloth out of his way. He teased Kaidan with his mouth and fingers, seeing if he could push him into losing more control. The crackle of blue flickering over his skin was encouraging. When Kaidan got close, he finally broke and wrapped one strong hand around the back of Shepard's neck. His hips thrust, and he pushed himself deep just as he came with a small husky gasp.

Shepard swallowed, but didn't pull away. He worked his tongue until Kaidan started twitching from overstimulation.

"Whoa," Kaidan said with a chuckle. He gently pulled away, and cupped Shepard's cheek with his callused palm. "Alright, we'll do this more often. And I'll see if we can get you more models to keep you busy too, because we can't do that all the time."

Shepard grinned. "Yes, sir," he said.

He allowed Kaidan to help him to his feet and back into the house. The combination of pain killers and a spectacular orgasm was making him tired. Kaidan sensed it and led him back to their room, and helped him get into bed. When he moved to help Shepard out of the hoodie, he met some resistance.

"No," Shepard mumbled sleepily. "I'll keep it on."

"John, it probably smells like sweat. I can get you a clean hoodie," Kaidan protested.

"Smells like you," Shepard mumbled as he started to doze off. "And pine trees. Leave it. That's an order."

The last thing he heard was Kaidan's soft laugh. "Whatever you say, Commander."

He awoke with a start a few hours later. He'd been dreaming again. Voices, and screams, and losses, and blood. He blinked to clear his mind, and turned his head on the pillow. Kaidan was sleeping next to him on the bed, a data pad on his chest. Shepard smiled, because this was definitely not a dream. He turned his head again and looked at the suitcase that Kaidan hadn't emptied yet.

He was going to forgo the kneeling.

Slowly he sat up, and swung his legs back over the edge of the bed. Of course his pain killers had worn off and fire raced from his knee up to his hip again, but he grit his teeth and ignored it. He grabbed his cane and pushed himself up so he could hobble across the room. He'd only taken a few steps when there was a yawn behind him.

"Hey," Kaidan said gruffly. "What are you doing? Do you need me to get something for you?"

Shepard shook his head without looking at Kaidan. He made it to the suitcase, and was grateful that it was sitting on a wooden hope chest, so he wouldn't have to bend down too much. He retrieved the box with the ring and turned to see Kaidan had rolled onto his side and was watching him curiously.

"What've you got there?" Kaidan asked.

"I'll show you," Shepard said as he limped back to the bed. He very carefully sat down on the bed until he was sitting with his back against the headboard. He held his hand out with the box in his palm.

Kaidan stared at the small box for a long minute then looked up at Shepard. "Is that..?" he cut himself off, and moved to sit up on the bed so that he was sitting with his back against the headboard too. "I'm afraid to open it," he said with a self conscious chuckle.

Shepard felt his heart sink a little. "Why?" he asked.

"I'm afraid it won't be what I want it to be," Kaidan answered.

"What do you want it to be?" Shepard asked.

Kaidan looked at him intently. "Well I don't want it to be cufflinks, that's for sure," he said jokingly, and although his mouth smiled, and his eyes crinkled around the edges, Shepard could tell he was nervous.

Somehow that made Shepard a lot less nervous than he had been a few seconds ago. He grinned widely and moved his hand closer to Kaidan. "Only one way to find out," he said.

Kaidan blinked at him, and then down at the box. Hesitantly he took it, and opened it to reveal the gold band inside. He inhaled shakily and covered his mouth with one hand as he stared at it.

"It isn't cufflinks," Shepard teased. When Kaidan didn't answer right away, his smile dimmed a little. "Still not what you were hoping for?"

"That depends," Kaidan said through his fingers. "Is it just a ring?"

Shepard's smile brightened again. "No," he said with a slow shake of his head. "It's a really poor excuse for a marriage proposal."

Kaidan dropped his hand and laughed, loud and happily. "I'd say you're doing pretty well," he said. He scooted closer and wrapped his arms around Shepard's shoulders, pulling him close for a long soft kiss.

"So is that a yes?" Shepard asked when they broke apart for air.

"If you have to ask, then I'm doing something wrong," Kaidan teased. They both laughed at the old joke. Kaidan tilted his face forward until their foreheads touched. "Yes, John."

Shepard let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "Thank goodness that worked," he said. "I didn't want to try and get down on one knee and try it properly."

"You've been on your knees for me plenty of times," Kaidan teased. "So I think this worked just fine."