A/N: We've all seen Shepard in the prologue as he gets bolted back together; this story is to look at what Ash, her family, and his mom, went through in that time. This is a prequel to my fanfic Give It Wings. As mentioned in that, "Jack" is Jack Shepard (Paragon/Spacer/War Hero/Soldier). This might be followed by one more story in the same arc.

Disclaimer: Don't own it, or I wouldn't be publishing here, I'd be releasing this as DLC…

Saying Goodbye

Ch 1 – Not Fair

Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, formerly of the SSV Normandy, awoke with a start. She'd been dozing and had seen one of Jack's old vid compilations from back in the 20th in her dream. She snickered as she thought about the old show's relation to her current situation. I can see it now – Jack Shepard is…the Six-Billion Credit Man. She stood, looked herself over in the small room's mirror and straightened her dress uniform. A tear escaped and dripped onto the floor next to her foot as she continued to review her present circumstances..

It wasn't fair. While she wasn't naïve enough to think that this day would never come, she'd hoped that it wouldn't come for a while.

She was burying her beloved.

She thought back to her father's funeral. At least her mother had had his body to kiss goodbye. Ash didn't even have that. There would be no casket lowered into the ground today. Jack's body was somewhere in the system the Normandy had been blown to bits in, maybe even on the planet they'd been near at the time of the attack.

She stood and checked herself once more in the mirror, straightening medals and lining up her uniform. She'd be immaculate for this. She could do that much.

A soft knock on the door to her room announced a visitor. She sighed, wishing whoever it was would just leave her alone. Still, propriety demanded she acknowledge them. "Enter."

She turned to the door just as Hannah Shepard entered, dressed in her own uniform, complete with brand new captain's rank insignia. The auburn hair and the shape of her face were enough like Jack to instantly verify her identity…enough so that Ash couldn't hold back the tears.

The older woman was immediately in front of her, holding her but saying nothing.

A minute passed before Ash regained her composure. "Thank you, ma'am. I'm really sorry to just break down like this; it's not normal for me to do so-"

Before she could continue, Hannah gently smiled and held a hand up. "Don't worry, Chief. I've been there, too. I had to bury my husband seven years ago."

Ash's eyes bulged. She opened her mouth to deny it, then took note of Hannah's expression. Yes, that was the same expression her own mother had when she knew she had Ash dead to rights on something.

Ash slumped into a chair. "How'd you know?"

Jack's mother snickered. "I'm a mother; I know everything. And then there's the fact that he wanted me to meet you. He's had a few girlfriends through the years, but you're the first he ever talked about introducing to me."

The chief felt honored at this revelation. Then she scowled. "When we got your message about getting promoted, Jack was really excited. He couldn't wait to bring me to the ceremony, he said."

"He wanted to share the special moment with you. Our family is oriented around the service, so this is as big as it gets for us. He wanted you to be a part of that."

Ash nodded silently before a small alarm went off. She activated her omni-tool to mute it, then looked back at her guest. "I guess we'd better get out there. They'll all be waiting."

Hannah smirked. "They can keep waiting." Her face took a more concerned expression. "Ash, are you sure you're okay?"

Williams bravely smiled in response. "I'll make it through the service." The answer apparently wasn't satisfactory, so she continued, "I'll be fine. I owe him that much."

She opened the door and stepped aside. "After you, Captain."

Hannah chuckled as she stepped out into the hallway. "You really are a brat in more than one sense of the word, Williams."