Vancouver in December is cold. Not quite Noveria-cold, of course — there's no snow and probably won't be for another month or two — but it's sweater weather either way, and you don't need a mother to remind you of that (even though she probably will, still). The air's damp, like it usually is, but there's something else to it now. Something that shifted maybe two or three weeks ago, where you just kind of knew it was winter, without having to look at the calendar. The wind's bracing, as it blows up off the water along the Seawall, whipping around Shepard's head — and through the hair he's let grow out, for that matter — before it carries on up towards the city to pass between the glass towers and gather its strength.
The wind's helping, though. Helping him to cool off, to come down. Shepard's not going to fall back on that old cliché and say that he doesn't remember what they'd argued about. Nobody ever really meant that if they said it, and everybody could remember the catalyst in some capacity or another. But he can say that he's going to forget about it anyway, cause it doesn't matter. Of all the things they'd been through over the years, an argument that like that wouldn't even make it into a mission report.
Even now, nearly two full years since the war, he still thinks of his life in terms of what it used to be. Maybe because it's still a part of him, and always will be, no matter how long it's been since he picked up an Avenger. The things they'd been through, he and Kaidan, had been hard, and demanding, and draining, but for all of that, they'd been outlets for stress, too. Shepard's not a violent guy, but blasting through a couple waves of Reaper ground forces had always been a catharsis; a good way for getting stuff off his shoulders and to the back of his mind. But now, life's easy and there isn't much to be stressed over, really. So maybe it's a restlessness… something that's settled deep into his bones, no matter how much titanium grafting the doctors had left him with. Maybe it'll claw its way to the surface once or twice a year, maybe with the shifts in the weather like this, or maybe not. And if that's all it is, then Shepard can keep that in check.
He'll do it for Kaidan, if for nothing else. His light in the distance, like he's always been, even when Shepard hadn't been able to see much into the distance at all. When he'd been spaced, suffocating and alone, knowing that Kaidan was in one of those pods he could see in the corner of his greying vision, somewhere between him and the planet below. When he'd been coming up from the ocean floor on Despoina, too fast but also not fast enough, knowing that Kaidan was somewhere up on the surface waiting for him. When he'd been on the Citadel, between Anderson and that choice he'd had to make, knowing that Kaidan was on the Normandy somewhere, not far but hopefully getting further away. And now, as he makes his way back to the apartment, knowing that Kaidan will be up there somewhere, even though he can't see the building for all the low hanging clouds.
Shepard slinks into the apartment, once he finally reaches it, shrugging off his coat and kicking off his boots, but doing it slowly, carefully. It feels like a precarious kind of quiet once he's through the front door and he doesn't want to disturb it, not this way. He finds Kaidan in the bedroom, propped up on the bed with a datapad, and he's wearing the glasses, which means there's a headache brewing. Shepard crosses in front of the bed to his side, the empty side, and he climbs up, leaning back against the pillows beside Kaidan, but keeping his distance. They lie there for a while in that fragile silence, but it's somewhere on its way back to being comfortable, and that counts for something, or maybe for everything.
Eventually Kaidan moves to rub the bridge of his nose, pushing his glasses up awkwardly onto his forehead. Shepard puts a hand on Kaidan's shoulder and guides him closer until Kaidan's head comes to rest against Shepard's chest. Shepard takes off the glasses and rubs his temples from behind, something slow and gentle with the broad tips of his middle fingers, like he's done for the last three years or so, and like he'll keep doing as long as he's able. Kaidan lets out a deep sigh and Shepard can feel him settle back against him, into him. Like puzzle pieces, finally interlocking together again and making sense of it all. Shepard moves his fingers to stroke through Kaidan's hair, passing through once, twice, and by the third time he can hear him softly snoring. He wraps an arm around Kaidan's chest, holding him in place, in his place, where he belongs — and he's thankful that they've closed that distance.