title; Everybody knows
Pairrings; John Shepard/Kaidan Alenko, John Shepard/James Vega
fandom; Mass Effect
warnings; language, alcoholism, angst, spoilers
Shepard often dreamt of Kaidan. Sometimes he was killing enemies like no tomorrow, leaving Shepard in awe over his powers, but also left him with a sweet surge inside, knowing that it was the same hands that would caress him when night fell. Sometimes he dreams that Kaidan was adoringly awkward, mumbling, blushing, falling over his words trying to express his feelings. And sometimes he dreamt that Kaidan was naked, flushed, and moaning ‘John’ in that goddamn sexy husky voice of his as they made love. But in all of those dreams, his lover was alive. And every morning John would wake to the real world, a world that no longer held Kaidan. A world where he had not even been allowed to attend the funeral, being locked up in the stockade, awaiting the councils judgement of him. And every morning he felt the emptyness of his bed. At times he could fool himself to think that someone was next to him, and if he laid completely still and kept his eyes closed he could feel the warmth of a palm on his hip, and a sigh of his name in his ear. The second he opened his eyes it was all gone, and those were the days where he woke up crying. He would beat himself over it mentally, that he could still fool himself like this, torture himself like this. After this many years, he should know better. Someone had just forgot to pass that message to his broken heart.
But sometimes like tonight, Kaidan was indeed dead. Shepard found himself stumbling through the rubble of London, he had a hard time breathing, and his eyesight kept getting unfocused. He could hear chatter on the radios, but he didn’t care. He fell to his knees as his legs refused to work. Shepard let out a very undignified cry, feeling his body giving up on him. He had to find Kaidan, he had promised him! And he intended to keep true to that promise. “Kai-dan.” He growled as he struggled to get to his feet again. He stumbled aimlessly through burning cars and other shellshocked soldiers, clutching his side, he could feel the hot wetness seeping out though his fingers, but he was afraid to look. “It’s the Major!” Someone yelled, catching Shepard’s attention, “Wa-wait..” He tried to call, but it was just a whisper that left his lips. He stumbled towards the two people digging in the rubble, he blinked rapidly to focus. He knew them, they were some of Kaidan’s students. They hadn’t noticed him and he almost fell over them as made it there. “God.” A student gasped gently brushing some dirt from Kaidan’s pale face. “No!” Shepard gasped, “Dear God, no.” He looked down Kaidan’s horribly mangled body. He took Kaidan’s lifeless hand in his own bloody ones, “Talk to me, please say something..” He wept, “Get your ass up Soldier!” He said broken, untill he just fell on top of his dead lover and screamed from the top of his lungs, bleeding out on the dirt. He registered that someone was pulling on his shoulders. But he just wanted to die right here, this was just..
John opened his eyes, his throat felt raw from screaming, he was bathed in sweat and shaking. Holding his side where there were only a gnarly scar now. “Oh God.” He gasped, “Oh shit.” He took a couple of deep breaths hoping to controll his tears.
James didn’t even think, he just buried John in a hug, holding the trembling man close. He thought of a lot of things to say, but they all seemed redundant, like ‘had a nightmare?’ – what a joke. “I’m sorry Shepard.” He just whispered, “But you were screaming.”
Shepard still tried to controll his heart that hammered away in his chest. “I hate that dream the most.” He whispered against James’ shoulder, “Because I know that it’s the truth.” He clutched James’ tshirt, like he was clinging to dear life. “I like the ones where he smiles better.” Shepard whispered. “I need him to smile, you understand that, right?”
Even James who was not easy to shock, felt tears tingle in the corners of his eyes. “I do,” He said softly. “I do.”
Finally Shepard awkwardly moved out of the embrace and though he was still visibly shaken, he got to his feet. “I need a drink.”
“No you don’t.” Vega said, but didn’t stop him. He just got up from the bed and walked after Shepard into the livingroom. “You know..” James tried with a gentle tone, “Maybe we should go for a run? The weather looks nice, and well.. it’s uhm.. four in the morning, there ain’t no one else out there.” He smiled boyish, “Perfect huh?”
Shepard glared at James and tossed down the drink, making himself another. “Why would I wanna do that?” He asked.
James sat down on a chair and stared at John slamming down drinks in nothing but his boxers and dogtags. “To spend time I suppose.”
“I don’t want to spend time.” John said bitterly, “I am just too chickenshit to end it, and don’t think I haven’t sat here many nights with a goddamn gun in my mouth.” The hand that wasn’t holding the drink, grabbed the dogtags. “Once I might have wanted to move on, but I just couldn’t. I don’t care about anything but that fucking empty space at my side, the space that was supposed to hold him! But it doesn’t and now I don’t know what to do! No matter what I do, that empty space just follows, like a clingy one-night stand.” He took a deep breath, “But when I’m drunk, I don’t notice it as much, sometimes I’m actually okay, sometimes I just sit and stare at the stars and think about how lucky I was to fly around amongst them, to belong up there. And I think of all of you, all those who have served under my command. And I hope that you are all happy, you all decerve to be. “Shepard’s head dropped and he took a deep breath. “And sometimes there is nothing but this place, and the horrible emptiness that should have held Kaidan.”
James leaned forward in his chair and looked at Shepard crumbling before him. He knew it should have weirded him out, because the Commander he knew never really showed feelings. Not like this. But it didn’t make him feel awkward, not even the spot on his tshirt wet with John’s tears. “If you want to be alone I understand.” He said, chosing his words carefully. “But I would like to stay a little while if it’s okay with you, maybe I can, you know.. fill that space a little.” He smiled a little embarassed as he realised how his words came out, “I don’t mean it like that, I just mean that you might want another person around. So it’s not just you and the dog, and your drink.”
Shepard nodded, “Why you would want that is beoynd me.”
“Does it matter?” James said with a slight shrug.
“Not really no.” Shepard admitted with a little grateful smile that wasn’t lost on James. He was a lot of things, but he wasn’t an idiot. He knew that Shepard had never asked for anything for himself, always bending backwards for everyone else. And the one thing he had wanted was taken from him. He still remembered that they had to knock him out with brute force to get him off Kaidan’s corpse. So he understood the Commanders sorrow, even if he didn’t. But he knew what it was like to not have things pan out like you wanted them to, and he knew sacrifice.
“How about we get dressed and drive into town and buy some actual food?” Vega said with a little smile. “There ain’t nothing but beer and dogfood in your kitchen.”
“You know how to cook, Marine?” Shepard said in a lame attempt to be funny, when he felt anything but.
“Sure do.” James said, clapping his thighs as he stood. “Let’s get to it.”
A month passed and to Shepard’s surprise Vega didn’t seem like he was leaving anytime soon. He had absolutely improved the food experience in the house, to Shepard’s surprise he had dealt with laundry and general upkeep. At first he had protested, but James had insisted, and in the end Shepard had just let him do the chores, somehow it gave Vega a purpose, and everyone needs a purpose, right? John pulled the Alliance Marine cap down to shield his eyes from the sun, he was sitting in the garden with a beer, just watching the occational car going by on the road. Because everyone needed a purpose. He looked down at the Major who had found himself a shadowry spot. He couldn’t help but to think he might have used up all his purpose, and now all he had to do was keep breathing. Or maybe he had to stick around so the poor dog wouldn’t starve to death, or so Sue had someone to drive home. He frowned, it didn’t help thinking like this, it would drive him mad, and it was the reason that he chose to stay galvanized in alcohol. James had suggested that he could come with him to a meeting for veterans, but Shepard couldn’t really see himself as a whiney old bastard in group therapy for manly men. James had laughed and said it was nothing like that, that people just got together and had coffee, chilling, knowing that everyone else had been though the same as they had, so there was no need to explain the pain. Shepard had shut him down with a haughty snort and left for the bar. Because who had after all been through the same as he had? No one, that was who. “Look who’s feeling sorry for himself again..” He mumbled half to the empty road, half to the dog. “I’m just so tired of waiting.” He took a sip of his lukewarm beer. What exactly was he waiting for? Death? He knew that wasn’t it, Lord knows he had tried so many times that he had lost count, to just end it. But in the end he had put the gun away and went to bed with a drink, and the sour taste of defeat in his mouth. The what was he waiting for? To be alive? Yeah maybe that was it, maybe he just needed to suck it up and get on with it. But how do you just ‘suck it up’ when you feel like one half of your soul is gone? the one reason he could have found to suck it up. He closed his eyes and for once he felt too close to tears in an almost sober state. “He ain’t never coming back you old idiot.” Shepard whispered to himself. He took a deep breath to supress the sadness.
Alenko barked from his shadowry spot, but it was too warm for the dog to actually bother with getting up. “Some killer you are.” Shepard chuckled, squinting his eyes seeing his own car approach out on the road. “It’s just James, you fool.”
James drove in to the side and parked, coming out the car with groseries and a big smile. “Hey there you two. Look who I found.”
Sue came out the other side and smiled a little sadly at Shepard as he waved halfhearted as he downed the rest of his warm beer. “It’s not even twelve yet, John.” She said slightly dissapproving.
John ignored her and got up from his chair to get another beer inside.
“Just don’t.” James sighed, “I don’t need him in one of his moods.”
“Sorry.” Sue said softly. “Occupational hazard I suppose. And I happen to like that grumpy bastard, the last thing I want is to see him drink himself into an early grave.”
James actually laughed, but how could he not? “Oh Sue..” He shook his head amused and picked up the groserybags, “Have you ever thought that it might be exactly what he wants?”
“Still..” Sue bit her lip, “We shouldn’t enable it, should we?”
“Says you? serving him beer from four to four?” James walked grinning into the house, leaving Sue outside.
“What is she doing here?” Shepard demanded to know, when James came into the kitchen.
“Whoa man, what’s with the hostility?” James put down the bags and held up his hands as he surrendered.
“It’s just..” Shepard sighed, he knew perfectly well how unreasonable it sounded, but he ‘liked’ just being him and James here… when it had become him and James he had no idea, he used to like it just fine, just being him. And maybe, maybe he was a tiny bit jealous?
“For me?” James said shooting Shepard a little secretive grin. the sort of grins you give someone who’s supposed to get the unsaid joke. And suddenly it dawned on John, “You and Sue?”
“Nah, I mean I don’t know.. It’s just one of those..” James trailed off, “She does have a fine ass, though.”
Shepard rose a brow, abandoning his unopened beer on the desk to cross his arms over his chest. “Are you expecting me to buy that shit?” He asked.
“Okay..” James sighed and pulled a sixpack up from the grosery bag. “I asked her on a date, that’s all.”
Shepard nodded, “You better be a gentleman, Vega. Or I will hear about it.” He opted for a joke and a smile, but inside he could feel a odd, cold, unsetteling feeling take shape. He knew he was being ridicolous, and that he should wish them both all the luck they could get, He didn’t know about James, but Sue sure could do with a decent man, someone who could sweep her off her feet and take her far away from this place. And perhaps that was the problem? That he didn’t want to see James leave, that he had gotten so used to his company by now that it would be strange and empty to be alone again. – Yeah keep telling yourself that – A nagging voice said in the back of his head, but he ignored it. “So..” Shepard said, realising he had zoned out there for a moment. “When is it?”
James actually blushed slightly, “Tonight, I just wanted to come back and fix you some dinner you could reheat or something.” He smiled goofy at Shepard.
“Just go James, I can fix my own damn dinner.” Shepard said, hating the bitter tone that sept into his voice.
“Don’t be like that.” James said, giving John an oddly sad and betrayed look.
“Like what?” John said in childish defense, picking up his beer again, and this time he opened it with a pop. He had to busy his hands, and his mind. He was sure he was going completely crazy or something, he couldn’t really understand why he was acting like this, but he couldn’t help it.
“Like a ditched prom date.” James said.
John just looked up at James, his eyes were hard and angry. “I think your date is getting lonely.” Was all he could say, pushing off the counter, and walked out of the kitchen with long angry strides.
John stepped out into the small garden, finding Sue sitting waiting in the same chair she had sat in last she was there. “So what are you two up to tonight?” He asked casually, slinking down in his own old wiccer chair.
“No good, I hope.” Sue laughed.
John laughed too. Yeah he was being ridicolous, those two were a good match. “That’s the spirit.”
James came out in the door with a cup of coffee for him and Sue. “What is so funny?”
“Nothing.” Sue said, chuckling, accepting the coffee with a smile.
Shepard went to the fridge to get another beer, he eyed the offending dinner in a container, and closed the door harder than he needed to. He walked outside again, closely followed by the dog. He sat down and looked up at the night sky. “Just you and me and the stars, huh Alenko?” He took a deep breath and petted the dog on the head. “Just like it used to be.” The dog whined and attemted to crawl up on Shepard’s lap, he pushed it down and chuckled, “Exept your breath is atrocious.”
He opened his beer and sighed, “What the hell is wrong with me?” he took a long sip of the cool liquid. Maybe he just liked James’ company? Just like he had liked Kaidan’s? “No..No, nuh uh..” He mumbled to himself, that wasn’t it. Absolutely not it. Except he had to admit that he found James very easy to talk to, and honestly very easy on the eyes too. Maybe he should have said yes to that stupid weekly veterans meeting? Maybe they could have had something… Oh God, what was he thinking? Was he honestly thinking up ways of being in James’ company? Or being more, uhm.. compliable? No, he was just mindfucking himself now. He just felt slightly left behind, and was drunk and sentimental. That was it. Yeah, that was it, right?
When James finally came home, dawn was about to break in the horizon. And as he got out of the car, he was greeted by the dog. “Why are you out here?” He laughed at the dog wiggling it’s way around his legs. He looked up and saw John sitting in his wiccer chair, sound asleep. “You idiot.” He sighed, and walked over to help Shepard inside and into his bed, like he had done so many times before. “Come on Commander, it’s bedtime.” He hauled Shepard to his feet and carried him inside.
“Kaidan?” Shepard mumbled, not opening his eyes, but a little smile played on his lips.
“No, It’s me; James.” Vega said.
Shepard just hummed something that James couldn’t hear, and then he bended over slightly and barfed where they stood.
“Jesus.” James sighed, “That is gonna be a bitch to get out of your carpet.”
Shepard didn’t answer, he just spat on the floor.
With equal measures of will and muscle power, James got Shepard into his bed. Shepard sat down and let James untie his boots. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you did this on purpose.” James stood again, and playfully pushed Shepard flat on his back in the bed. “Sleep tight Commander.” He could hear Shepard mumble something, so he stopped and bend down to hear it. “You want a bucket or something, just in case?” James asked. Instead of an answer Shepard grabbed his shirt and pulled him down into the bed. “What the.. – Shepard?” Vega whispered in the half light of the bedroom, not getting an answer, but instead he felt Shepard curl up against him, wrapping an arm over his chest, holding him tight. James sighed, so this was how it was gonna be huh? Shepard being so shitfaced he didn’t know the difference between him and Major Alenko. He laid there and listened to Shepard’s breath slowing down, and when he thought that the Commander slept, he attempted to sneak out from the rather sudden embrace. “Jimmy.” Shepard whispered against his shoulder. “Don’t go.”