He’s glad Kaidan let him come by. Back when he was first starting out on the Normandy things were pretty hush hush about the kid with the wonky biotics. And when he did finally meet him, Zaeed was under the impression he wasn’t the most collected piece of work the Alliance ever pumped out. But war often brings people together. As does loss. And fuck if he’s not getting sentimental in his old age. Having a beer with a fellow comrade –and someone who knew Shepard as well as he did- isn’t an opportunity he passes up these days.
Of course, Kaidan’s got kids now. So he’s understandably wary about having good old Uncle Zaeed with his tattoos and cigars and foul mouth in his house with a five year old and a four year old. So is his wife for that matter, but she tolerates him. She’s a pretty thing. Youthful, undamaged by the war. A ray of light that someone like Kaidan, with the shit he’s been through, deserves.
Taking a long pull of his beer, Zaeed thinks about what it might have been like to live this sort of life. If Shepard had survived, would they have settled down like this in the recovering parts of the Earth? Pop out a couple of kids and watch the sunset and all that shit? The thought makes him chuckle. Probably not. Shepard would have been too goddamn stubborn to sit around on her ass while the world rebuilt itself. She’d be on some ship somewhere working herself to death. And he’d be right at her side, putting slugs through anything that stood in her path. As for the kids? Having them was something he never pictured for himself anyway. There hadn’t been time to talk about that kind of future when Shepard was still around, so he never knew how she felt about it. But she never seemed the type. Odds were, they’d be having a lot of rough, sweaty, mind-blowing sex instead. And satiate themselves by visiting everyone else’s kids, like he was now.
Kaidan’s are damn cute. Zaeed’s always been under the impression they’re more damn trouble than their worth at this stage, but even his rusty old heartstrings get pulled when the littlest one climbs up on his lap and starts to trace his tattoos with a chubby finger. “Heya there, sweetheart,” he grumbles, popping her up a little on his knee. Kaidan smiles from the opposite chair. His daughter blinks up at Zaeed with these big, round eyes. They’re her Daddy’s, no doubt. A sting crosses his chest. Even though he was pretty sure he’d make a shitty father anyway, he couldn’t help thinking what his and Shepard’s kids might have looked like.
Maybe they’d get her green eyes. Or her shock red hair. They’d be tough, punk ass kids no matter what they looked like, that was the only thing he knew for sure. Any product of his and Shepard’s relationship was usually volatile, kids wouldn’t have been any different. But Kaidan’s kids are like him. Soft-spoken. Good manners. Sharp as fucking tacks, too. The boy sits at his feet putting together an old model ship.
“Uncle Z?” the girl asks, blinking those big doe-eyes up at him. He wonders how in the hell Kaidan ever manages to say no to a face like this.
He gives her a little smirk in answer and then she surprises him.
“Can you tell us a story about Commander Shepard?”
With all the innocence she asks it with, she’d never know how direct a blow the question is. It’s been years and yet –memories still spark hot and vibrant in his head. Her touch. Her laugh. The arch of her neck. The way she held a gun. He’s never really come to terms with it, if he’s being honest. Doesn’t plan to, either. The pain is as sharp as ever. But he steels himself for the kid. From the corner of his eye, he notices Kaidan stiffen in his chair.
“Carin,” he scolds her gently.
But even the name, her name, still hurts him. Not that he called her by it much. Only in those brief, quiet moments when they were truly alone and no one else could feel how much their two sorry souls really loved each other.
“What?” the little girl blinks, at a loss. She doesn’t understand. How could she?
Zaeed shakes his head with a little laugh, “Naw, s’alright. What do you want to know, baby girl?”
The boy picks his head up then and sets the model ship down. He cocks his head, eyes flickering.
“Daddy says she was a big hero,” he says.
Kaidan smiles a little sadly and leans forward to brace his elbows on his knees. Zaeed smirks, mismatched eyes sliding to the floor for a moment to conceal the flood of pain that threatens to darken them. Fuck. Just when did he hit menopause exactly? He reigns in his emotions in the time it takes the boy to scoot a few feet closer to him and watch him expectantly. Zaeed raises his head, smirk still dutifully intact, and nods.
“She was,” he murmurs. A big, goddamn hero. “You wanna hear about the time she took out a Reaper with nothin’ but the guns on her back?”
Both of the kids start with excitement. Kaidan leans back with a smile that eases into one of content. He rests his beer on his thigh and looks like he’s just as ready to hear the story as his children are. Zaeed chuckles a little before he clears his throat and begins.
“All right, so there I was on Rannoch…”