He’d been in the hospital for a while and the now-greening bruises on his face reminded me anew each time I visited how close I’d come to losing him before we could do this again. The weeks he’d lain here, first unconscious and then too badly hurt to touch, we’d talked about what we’d been doing for the past four years without one another.
He’d told me he still loved me, that coming so close to death had proven to him there was no reason to hold back and no time to start over. Then he’d held my hand while I swallowed the relief I’d thought might burst my heart. He knew I was no good with words but his smile, even through the wince it caused, told me he knew what I couldn’t quite bring myself to say.
The first second he could take it I’d climbed in with him, tight quarters be damned. We’d been lying here quietly, waiting for the doctor to come kick me out again. She seemed to think I was going to slow down his recovery. Hell, if I stayed in this bed I just might.
For the moment we lay still, the confining bed pressing us together, fingers entwined. I could tell something was on Kaidan’s mind by the growing tension in the muscles under my cheek but I wasn’t going to rush him. Finally he came out with it.
“There was never anyone else, Shep,” he said softly, laying a kiss on my forehead, “not when I thought you were dead and not when I knew you were alive.” I looked up in time to see the corners of his mouth quirk downward. “Every time I thought I was ready to move on there you were again, doing something insane just to get my attention.”
I slid an arm across his chest and squeezed as tightly as I dared. “Yeah, I arranged the whole Collector thing just for you,” I said. “Blowing up the base was a master touch, don’t you think?” He chuckled a little, his skin buzzing under my hand. He was lucky he had broken ribs or I’d have jumped on him right there, glass walls or no.
Then his face tightened, a familiar sign that he wouldn’t let me get away with my usual flip answer. “Was there someone else…y’know, for you?”
“Christ, Kaidan, when would I have had time? I was dead for a couple of years and then I was off saving Humanity. Have you commanded your own ship yet? Ach, the logistics! The sheer number of spreadsheets for tracking fuel and money and objectives!”
My gaze wandered off out the window, watching the taxis swoop down the traffic lines of this arm of the Citadel. I couldn’t say it, couldn’t admit how many times I’d sat at my desk holding his picture and wondering if I’d lost him forever. Making light of the pain kept me so much safer.
The patient sound of his voice saying my name recalled so much, the too-brief time we’d had together. He wasn’t going to let me off the hook any more than he ever had.
I sighed. He knew how much I hated to talk about this kind of thing. It made me squirm inside, to open myself up so much. Everything in my life until Kaidan had taught me to protect myself first, to hide what meant the most because it would be the first thing taken.
He’d grown up in a world where it was safe to say you loved someone, where you didn’t have to pretend indifference. For the few months we’d had, he’d tried to show me that I was safe with him and then he’d been gone.
Just when I was at my lowest, in jail and despairing, everything came back, Kaidan included. I wasn’t going to run away from this chance. He was worth the risk, worth shoving myself through my own shell, and he deserved a real answer. I steeled myself and gave him one.
“No, Kaidan,” I said, looking straight at him. He relaxed beside me and that soft sweetness I’d so missed came into his eyes. “There’s never been anyone else.” Then I buried my burning face in the cool expanse of his chest as his arms finally came around me, back where they belonged.