Chapter 5: Beyond Horizon

Ash stepped onto the small ship assigned to her team and dropped heavily into a seat. The rating designated as pilot verified her orders and called the remaining team members to check in and return to the ship.

He's alive.

The thought of Shepard's presence her on Horizon was bittersweet. Seeing him again was wonderful of course. But the Cerberus insignia and personnel confirmed the reports; and had made her see only red.

She boiled up with rage at the betrayal. How could he work with them, after all the missions she'd assisted him on to take them down? And then to act all hurt and defensive? Of all the nerve!

A quiet little corner of her mind pointed out that Jack wouldn't work with them if the situation weren't as bad as he'd claimed. And it was normal for someone to act hurt and defensive when they were attacked and accused.

After a few minutes, the only part of the whole mess that she couldn't resolve was his lack of effort to contact her. He'd implied that he was invested in them for the long haul. And everything she'd seen and heard when the Normandy – the old Normandy, apparently – had suggested he was dead. Why wouldn't he have found some way to let her know he was really all right?

Unless…he was telling the truth about being on a medical slab for most of the last two years.

Pity began to swell within her, only to be stamped down by her rage as it bellowed back that he'd been active again for a while now. Why no contact?

Still…her heart demanded she reach out to him once more. She realized now, after her tirade and dismissal of him, that she still wanted – no, needed – Jack Shepard. She grabbed a datapad and prepared to write a message to him.

Now…what to say…She mulled over several approaches, rejecting each in turn. Finally, she gave up thinking about it.

After two years, it was time for her heart to speak again.

She began to write, stopping periodically to review what she'd written and make corrections. The team members began to file in and get settled for the trip back to the Citadel, but she barely noticed their presence. A rumble through the cabin told her that the ship was lifting off, but it only just registered.

Finally, it was finished, with wording she was comfortable with. She hesitated for a brief moment, then smashed the send button before she could second-guess herself.

For better or worse, she'd reached out to him. And this time, she did not want to say goodbye.

A/N: Finally, after over a year since its beginning, this story is done. I originally intended it as a prequel to my other story, Give It Wings, but ME3 has quite likely rendered that AU. This works just fine without it, though. I hope you enjoyed reading this story. If you did, please leave a review. Thank you.