A/N: Okay, a few things to start out with – 1)any references to "Jack" in this story refer to Shepard – this is my character that I named eight or so months ago while playing ME1, before I knew any of the characters in ME2. 2) Paragon, Spacer, War Hero, romance with Ashley Williams and staying with her. Any relevant details I missed should become clear in the story. 3) This is set just after the end of ME2's story.
Disclaimer: I don't own…(snore)…uh, yeah, you get the idea. You honestly think I'd be writing fanfiction if I owned it?
Give It Wings
Ashley Williams, Operations Chief, Systems Alliance Marine Corps, woke up five minutes before her alarm was due to chime, as usual. She immediately began her daily routine the same way she had for the past week of this leave – by laying in bed, staring at the dark ceiling, wishing that the last two years had really been a horrible dream.
It had very nearly taken a direct order to get her to take the two weeks' leave given her after the Horizon Event, as some paper-pusher with a lousy sense of humor had christened it. She'd taken it a month after Horizon, after realizing that her emotional state was still too erratic after seeing him again.
Jack Shepard. A commander in the Alliance. The first human Spectre.
The man she loved with every fiber in her heart.
The alarm interjected with its controlled radio burst. She reached over, shut the unit off, and, after a moment's hesitation, grabbed the datapad she'd left on the night stand. She'd received its contents the second day of her leave and had read it repeatedly every day.
Her eyes took a moment to focus on the text, but the words on the display were unnecessary – she'd long since committed them to memory….
TO: Williams, Ashley M.
FROM: Shepard, Jonathan T.
I'm sorry that I took so long to reply to your message. Recently, I've been busy helping the squad I've assembled make peace and tie up loose ends in their pasts. It occurred to me that I should do the same.
Since I can't risk seeing you face-to-face for this, I'll say it all this way.
I know you probably still think I've betrayed the Alliance by working with Cerberus, but hear me out. A few weeks before we crossed paths on Horizon, I went back to the Citadel to speak with Anderson and the Council. They did nothing but give me a token – I was reinstated as a Spectre. All that means in a case like this is that I've got my "do whatever I want and get away with it" badge. Anderson wouldn't even authorize a single ship to come out here with me. So I had to do whatever I could to stop this threat. And that meant Cerberus. Now, you're likely still skeptical, so I've attached a whole mess of data we've found that shows that the Council has their collective heads up where no sun shines on all this. I sent a copy to Hackett at Alliance Command and to Anderson; hopefully, it'll open their eyes, so we can stop the Reapers.
Well, now that I got all that out of my system…
I have to tell you the most important stuff. The reason I can't say it in person is that one of two things will happen: either (a) you'll slap me, hit me, or somehow inflict a great deal of pain on my person, or (b) you'd demand to come with me. And I can't let you do that.
I know – you'll do whatever you want anyway. But I'm actually glad you can't follow me into this storm. There's every possibility that I won't come out on the other side. I want you to survive, even if I don't.
I'm also sorry for not letting you know I was alive. I don't know if Anderson told you, but I tried to track you down. Even Cerberus couldn't get their slimy claws into where you were; it left me torn between wanting to get in touch with you and feeling glad that at least some Alliance data is still safe. Anderson and the Alliance wouldn't tell me anything, either. But all that wasn't the only reason.
Another reason was … I was afraid. I was told that two whole years had passed since my last memory, and I was afraid. I feared that you'd died or perhaps moved on and forgotten about me. I was afraid that you had let what we had die with me on the frontier. I was afraid to find that you'd found a man truly worthy of you (and who could handle you) and were happy without me. I was afraid that if all that was true, that I'd ruin your happiness by returning.
Your happiness is what matters. I'd be lying if I said that I'm doing this for a bunch of people who are too busy hating each other's genes and species to look out for their fellow beings. Let the galaxy think that. The truth is that I'm doing this for you, Ash. I'm doing this for my mother, for your mother, for your sisters. But mostly, I'm doing this for you. I'm doing this for the woman I love.
Yes, Ash, I still love you. And if I die, I'll die loving you. How could I not?! After all we went through, I could never turn from you. Our relationship might have started with geth shooting at us and with debates about aliens on our ship, but it took only a couple weeks and a few missions to find common ground in our faith and in places we'd trained. And that connection grew right up until the Collectors destroyed the Normandy.
I've missed you this whole time, Ash. I'd hoped it would be easier to deal with your absence by spending time with Garrus and Tali, but all that did was remind me that you were not here with me.
And now we get to "making peace" part. I can understand if you delete this and never want to see or hear from me again. If you want to actually move on this time. If that's your wish, I'll accept it.
I was able to draw the love you feel out by showing you love and care. Now, to make peace and be ready for this, I have to stop holding on so tightly. I have to be willing to let you go.
I love you, Ashley Madeline Williams. I miss you. And now, I'm saying goodbye to you.
"The quickest way to receive love is to give it; the fastest way to lose it is to hold too tightly; and the best way to keep it is to give it wings."