warning: implied child abuse, major character death, bigotry, AU medieval setting.
fandom: mass effect
pairring: kaidan/mshep, implied; miranda/shep, jack/shep
Shepard eventually left the water, lying down on the bank to dry off; he closed his eyes and listened to the silence around him.
The lake was warm and, Kaidan found himself wishing that he would never have to leave the comforting water. When he finally made his way up to the bank, Shepard was fast asleep. Kaidan looked over at his robe, torn between just putting it on and lying down beside Shepard. In the end, his modesty won out and he went for his robe.
The sun was almost set as Shepard woke. He slowly sat up and yawned, shivering a little because the air was chilly now, trying to recall where he was and what he was doing there. He looked over his shoulder and noticed he was alone, but someone had built a fire for him. Kaidan’s robe was gone so he just assumed that he had left. He sighed, cursing that he had fallen asleep. Brushing off dirt, gravel and tiny twigs, he got dressed. When he reached for his shirt he noticed a small bundle of flowers, He took them up noting that they were bound by twine so it was definitely on purpose. He raised an inquisitive brow as he studied the flowers. Did Kaidan leave him flowers?
“You like them?” Kaidan asked behind Shepard.
Shepard spun around and stared wide-eyed at Kaidan, flowers in hand. “Kaidan.” He just stated lamely. “I… Yes… but… did – did you build that fire?”
“Yes…” Kaidan said a little hesitant, answering both questions with one word. “I wanted to give you a gift, and…” Kaidan looked down at the firewood in his arms. “You are right, it is a silly gift.”
“It is not silly!” Shepard said, cupping Kaidan’s face with his hands, he kissed him again. As the kiss ended they just stood there and stared at each other for a while. “What changed your mind?” Shepard whispered, his hands still cupping Kaidan’s cheeks.
“I’m not sure.” Kaidan said softly.
“It matters not.” Shepard smiled, looking down at the flowers in his hand. “No one ever gave me flowers before.” His smile widened. “Thank you Kaidan, they are lovely, truly they are.”
Kaidan nodded and slowly walked over to the side of the fire and dropped the firewood in his arms. “There, should be enough for the rest of the night now.”
“You never stop to amaze me.” Shepard said with a soft sigh as he sat down and stuck his feet out to get warm.
“Brothers are not taught to build a fire.” Kaidan said with a little sly grin, “I did go hunting with my father and cousins when I was young.”
Shepard laughed, “I wondered, I did not ask.” He poked the fire cautiously, just as his words were guarded, not wanting Kaidan to get angry with him again.
“So…” Kaidan gingerly sat down next to Shepard, and on purpose closer than polite, but close like they were closer than close. “Have you given it any second thought? Taking up contract on a ship?”
“No.” Shepard answered honestly, as he wrapped an arm around Kaidan and pulled him even closer. “How come you ask?”
“Because.” Kaidan laughed a little at himself, “When I was picking those flowers, I got some time to think, and decided that if you were to leave, and if you wish me to, I would follow.”
Shepard’s smile faded a little and became a sad expression. “You wish to come with me?”
“Yes.” Kaidan said with a short nod. “But only if…”
“I would love that Kaidan, I surely would.” Shepard rested his head against Kaidan’s. “But I cannot just leave. I have a fami-“
“I know.” Kaidan said softly, cutting Shepard off.
“But I wish we could.” Shepard said softly, “Just take up and vanish. You and I.” He turned his head and kissed Kaidan’s temple, “But as it is, we can just make the best of it.” He smiled against Kaidan’s skin.
Kaidan turned his body so he was sideway into Shepard’s embrace. “I like the fantasy.” He whispered, “You and I on a ship destined for far away ports.” He licked his lips, staring up at Shepard’s blue eyes, which looked slightly dark grey in the orange light of the fire. “I won’t leave this place, I accepted my fate. But maybe you and I could – could love for a little while, just until you go back to your life and your family.”
“And leave you here?” Shepard kissed the corner of Kaidan’s lips.
“Of course.” Kaidan whispered. “You belong with your wife and child. This is… is, just…” His voice trailed off, cause he didn’t know exactly what it was, he wanted desperately for Shepard to love him, but he knew that it was only natural that he would chose his family over him, he had no claim to Shepard what so ever. This was why he had turned him down, because he wanted him so much, but knowing that giving in to it would break his heart.
“Shhh.” Shepard hushed, pulling Kaidan down with him to lie on the ground next to the fire. “Leave the sadness for another day.”
Kaidan nodded a little, closing his eyes in bliss as he felt Shepard’s hands under his robe, touching places that no one had touched before. It was a dangerous path they both set down upon, it was not only the Brothers who frowned upon a union such as this, Shepard had gotten away with the best known secret for years because he was the Knight-Commander, but Kaidan was no one, and a biotic at that.
“Kaidan?” Shepard asked softly, running his hands down Kaidan’s sides, “You won’t hurt me.” He said pulling Kaidan down for a deep kiss.
Not since he had been put on that cart from his parents’ house had he been this unsure of anything, even with Shepard guiding him, it felt funny, and wrong. Shepard wrapped his legs around his butt and pulled him closer; Kaidan stared directly down into Shepard’s eyes, biting his own lip just to make sure this wasn’t a dream, because it sure seemed like it. All the hands, tongue, mouth and sweat left him feeling slightly dazed. Only Shepard’s breathless whispering kept him grounded.
“Second thoughts?” Shepard whispered, laying still, catching his breath.
“No… Yes…” Kaidan finally mumbled.
“Your head is far away my lovely.” Shepard said softly, caressing Kaidan’s cheek.
“Forgive me.” Kaidan said, slowly moving off Shepard, his body screaming at him as he lost the close physical contact.
Shepard ran a hand down over his face, before popping up on an elbow studying Kaidan as he covered himself. “No harm done.” Shepard said with a smile. When Kaidan didn’t look at him or made any other attempt at communicating, Shepard slowly got to his feet and walked down to the water again, jumping into the cold dark water headfirst. He hoped that the cold would rid his body of the intense buzzing under his skin.
When he finally walked up on the shore again Kaidan was seated the same place as he was before he went to the water. “Kaidan?” He asked, teeth clanking from the cold. “Come now, I spoke truth – no harm done.” When Kaidan wouldn’t look at him, Shepard lowered himself onto his knees in front of the other man. “Kaidan, look at me.” He placed a friendly hand on Kaidan’s shoulder. “Forgive me; I thought you wanted it as much as I did.” He sighed heavily as he got to his feet again, and walked over to the fire to get warm. He stared off into the flames, angry with himself for ruining this again. He had honestly thought that Kaidan wanted it too, he had not said no. It was with a heavy heart he slowly got dressed.
“I thought I could make love with you.” Kaidan suddenly said, “But I cannot.”
“I understand.” Shepard said with a little nod.
“Thank you.” Kaidan said, standing up wrapping his robe around himself. He came over to sit next to Shepard, and this time the proper distance.
“Is it because of Jaqueline?” Shepard asked, finally touching on the subject they had both largely ignored.
Kaidan didn’t answer, he just shrugged.
Shepard just looked down at the ground between his feet, “I understand if you think me dishonest when I betray my wife so easily. But I swear to you that –“
“You will leave here soon, I know that.” Kaidan finally said.
“Oh.” Shepard inched a little closer to Kaidan. “You could come with me.”
“To what end?”
“I do not know.” Shepard laughed softly at his own lack of reasoning. “Maybe we could find out together?” He asked softly, wrapping his arm around Kaidan’s shoulder again.
“Truthfully?” Kaidan turned his head and looked at Kaidan until he was cross-eyed.
“Truthfully.” Shepard nodded to emphasize his words.
Kaidan looked away and discomfort rolled off him in waves. “Still I don’t think I can – do that… with you, I want to, but…”
“I already you that I understand.” Shepard said, trying his best not to look or sound disappointed.
“I truly do not think you do.” Kaidan finally said as he studied Shepard with a broken expression. “Lies come so easy to you.”
“You think me a liar?” Shepard asked not sure if he was confused or frustrated.
“Yes.” Kaidan said with a slight nod, “I think you are telling me the same sweet nonsense as any other whom you fancy.”
Shepard took his arm off Kaidan’s shoulder, and clasped his own hands between his knees. “Maybe you’re right.” He said in a near whisper, “But it doesn’t make them less true.”
“I beg to differ.” Kaidan said, getting to his feet, and without a word just walked off from the fire, and Shepard.
“Wait!” Shepard called after him, but he didn’t even slow down his pace, in fact, he practically ran all the way up the dirt path.
Shepard sat for a while, watching the flames die out, rolling the flowers between his fingers. He knew that Kaidan lied; he knew that he wanted it just as badly as Shepard did. So why did he run like a frightened maiden every time? It wasn’t as if Shepard could ask for his hand in marriage or give any guarantees. He would only take so many rejections, and maybe it was just time he gave up and accepted that Kaidan would never be anything but a friendly smile for as long as he resided here at this camp. It was true wasn’t it? He would leave soon and go back to the city, hopefully he would find his wife and child safe and sound, and would there really be room for Kaidan in all that? Shepard knew the answer, he knew that what he had said and done was true, even if he had said those very same things to many others, he had truthfully never meant them before. Maybe that was why it was so hard to understand that Kaidan didn’t want him, it was not a striking fancy, Shepard was very willing to wait for as long as he had to, if he only thought that he would eventually have a lover in Kaidan.
He tossed the flowers into the embers and watched them curl up and blacken. He would make one more attempt to make Kaidan see he spoke the truth, and if he refused to come with him back to the city, he would leave alone.
The next time Kaidan saw Shepard at all was in the middle of camp where he walked about with a fussing baby. He wasn’t exactly sure how Shepard would react to him after that evening by the fire. He was pretty sure that Shepard knew that he wasn’t exactly truthful, just the thought of not having Shepard around filled his chest with the most curious hollow feeling. He was just about to turn and walk away before he was spotted, but knew he was too late when he heard the well-known voice call, “Brother Alenko!”
Shepard stood smiling with the crying baby in his arms.
“Knight-Commander Shepard.” Kaidan said politely and didn’t walk away, even as Shepard came over to him carrying the baby.
“What brings you down here?” Shepard asked, offering the baby his finger as a pacifier.
“I uhm…” Kaidan sighed and smiled terribly self-conscious. “I was looking for you.”
“Oh?” Shepard said, his eyes lit up a little. “How come?”
“I was – “ Kaidan stopped and took a deep breath, this had sounded so much better in his head. “I was worried that you had left without saying goodbye.” He shrugged, “It has been days since any of the brothers had seen you.”
“I’m flattered by the concern, but I would never do that.” Shepard said, and softly added, “To you that is.”
Kaidan smiled and looked away, hoping to the void that he would not blush. “Whose child is that?” He asked, deciding to change the subject.
“You know him.” Shepard laughed a little amused, “You were there when he came into the world.”
“Oh.” Kaidan laughed a little as well at his own stupid mistake.
“The father is away working elsewhere on the camp, and the mother she really looked like she needed a break, so I figured that I would – at least try.” Shepard added a little shyly, “I know nothing of babies.”
“Whatever you are doing seems to work.” Kaidan said noting that the baby had not been screaming its head off for the last minute, and seemed to blink heavily on the brink of sleep.
“Would’ya look at that.” Shepard beamed, “He is almost asleep.” He looked up at Kaidan with a sorrowful gaze, “You know my own child is about this age. I know it was Jaqueline’s idea to get a permit, and I only went along with it to make her happy, but still – “ He paused and smiled a thin smile, “You were right that evening by the lake, I do feel obligated towards my family, but not in the way you think. My son or daughter deserves to have a father, it’s hard to explain. I desperately wish I knew if my child is even alive, or if King James honored the promise he made me when I left for his futile campaign.”
“Of course.” Kaidan said full of understanding.
“I told you that Jaqueline and I was never in love, nor has love ever blossomed between us. She was impregnated because she wished it so. I love her, I will not lie to you – but I do not love her as a wife.” Shepard said, “I do however owe my child the best life I can possibly give it, and I cannot do that from here.”
Kaidan nodded, recalling Shepard’s confession when he arrived. “I respect that about you, I truly do.”
“Come with me.” Shepard said, “I care not how long I have to wait for you to return my love, I know you feel it too. I just want you by my side and hopefully I can prove to you that I speak the truth.
Kaidan’s breath was caught in his throat. “I cannot promise you that commitment as of this moment – I… I need time.”
“To test my word?” Shepard asked.
“Maybe.” Kaidan said inefficiently avoiding answering. “Oh John, I remember you from court, you had a lot of lovers.”
“True.” Shepard said with a little nod, “Difference is that I never once promised them anything, nor would they have wanted me to.”
Kaidan blinked a little confused, and when he spoke, his voice was a whisper. “I don’t know what to do with this, us. I think it better that you return to -”
“Would that make you happy?” Shepard answered in a low voice, “If I left and you didn’t have to make a choice?”
“No of course not.” Kaidan hissed annoyed.
“You want to know what I think?” Shepard said softly, “I think that you cannot go back to what you were, and I think you deserve so much more than what was given you. I can give you everything I am if you only come with me.”
Kaidan stared transfixed on Shepard, “I want to trust you.” He finally whispered barely audible.
“Then trust me.” Shepard said as he reached up with his free hand, caressing Kaidan’s cheek.
“I need a little more time.” Kaidan said, wringing his hands.
Shepard smiled sadly, knowing that Kaidan was testing his resolve and honor, but he wasn’t quite sure why. He had never done anything to make Kaidan think that he was fickle or untrustworthy. “As long as you need.”
“Knight Commander!” A soldier tore through the camp in search of his former commander, he burst in through the tent where he slept, finding Shepard still asleep. “Knight Commander! Wake up!” He shook Shepard’s shoulder roughly.
“What?” Shepard sat up in bed with a start.
“This!” The soldier pushed a poster up into Shepard’s face.
Shepard gently took the paper from the soldier and read it with increasing dread. “He lost his mind!” He looked over at the soldier with a hard expression, “The king finally lost all senses! Have you shown this to anyone else?”
“Alright,” Shepard swung his feet out of his cot. “You did well, thank you. And not a word to anyone – for now.”
“Surely they will come here with a delegation.” The soldier said.
“Eventually yes.” Shepard said “But not today, so keep it to yourself – there is no reason to frighten people.”