Request chapter! I've already done a date chapter, but I think I did something different with this one, even if some elements are the same. Enjoy!
Ashley huffed as she looked through her closet, disgusted at absolutely every piece of clothing she saw. The tops were too revealing, too conservative, the wrong color or type. The pants were ugly and didn't match anything. The dresses just weren't right, none of them. So she sighed angrily, and began flipping through them again. This was so unlike her, to fret over what she was going to wear. Normally, she was satisfied with throwing on just about anything, only worrying about impressing anyone if it was required, such as meetings with superior officers or ceremonies. This just felt different though, she wanted to look good and nothing she saw was satisfying her urge to look good. It had to be the hormones, she thought bitterly. In the two and a half months since she gave birth to Maddy, she just felt ugly. No matter how much Shepard told her otherwise, no matter how much her sisters told her she was glowing, she thought she looked gross. She pulled out a skirt, knee length, that Lynn had given her a year ago, looked it over, and threw it with the rest of the clothes she was at least considering.
Her disgust with her looks is what prompted her sisters to insist she and Shepard go out for a night on the town. Apparently she was a drag, no fun at all to be around, and her husband needed to take her out and maker her feel hot in more ways than one. Ashley tried to explain to them that Shepard had never, not once, done anything to make her feel anything less than beautiful, but they would take another look at her, see the disgust with herself in her eyes, and refuse to believe her. So Sarah and Mom were going to watch Maddy, while Shepard took Ashley out for a night on the town, and they just would not take no for an answer.
Just when Ashley was on the verge of deciding on an outfit, a pair of dress pants and a tight fighting blue blouse, a cry echoed through the house, a sound already as familiar as breathing. Dropping the blouse from her hands, and not even bothering to throw on a shirt over her bra, she left the bedroom, but only took a couple steps before a hand gripped her arm and stopped her. "I'll take care of it," Sarah said, holding Ashley back and walking past.
"No, I'll take care of it," Ashley said, wrenching her arm free.
"You're supposed to be getting ready for a night out," Sarah argued. "Get to it."
"Damn it, she's my daughter, now back the fuck off," Ashley hissed. She loved her family, but if they kept insisting on getting between her and her infant, two month old daughter then she was going to end up punching one of them out. Thankfully, Sarah backed off, no fear in her eyes but she backed off all the same. Ashley hurried to the baby's room, where Maddy was not crying quite as loudly anymore. She picked her daughter up, emotion building up immediately. That was another annoying emotional thing that kept happening to her. At any moment while holding or just being around her daughter, tears would form quickly and render her an emotional wreck. Joyful tears, frightened tears, random tears that fell for no reason, they would just happen. Right now, they were joyful tears.
Maddy calmed immediately upon being lifted in her mother's arms. When she giggled and reached a hand up to Ashley's face, the new mother could not hold back the tears any longer. She hated being so emotional, thought it would be over when she had the baby, but how could she not get emotional when she was holding her daughter, a living, breathing baby girl that she had given birth to, that she and the man she loved had created? Jesus, this was her baby! As familiar as the routine of taking care of Maddy was already becoming, this moments of awe at the fact she was a mother still came upon Ashley unpredictably, often making her look like some psychotic weirdo in front of others. It was so unlike her. Ashley Shepard was not a woman who cried. She was not a woman who was soft. The only emotion she had trouble reigning in was anger. And now she was a crying, soft, emotional mess. Ugh, no wonder she didn't think she was attractive right now. How attractive could a woman trying to burn off baby weight that was prone to random outbursts of tears possibly be?
The tears came and quickly went just the same, and when Maddy had calmed down again, Ashley put her down. She called out for Sarah to bring a bottle, and when her sister entered the room, Ashley reluctantly went back to the bedroom, where the pile of clothes was still waiting for her to choose from. The blue blouse she had nearly chosen was still on the bed, but when Ashley picked it up, she made a noise of disgust and threw it on the ground.
Shepard's eyes wandered to the clock in the car for the tenth time since he began his drive home, sweat continuing to trickle from his hairline and down his face. He was already ten minutes late, and was another fifteen from the apartment. Dreadful scenarios of insults flung from furious lips and punches bruising and swelling his face and body ran through his mind, making him reconsider going home at all. That would only make things worse, and he knew such thoughts were stupid, but Ashley was such a hormonal mess that he knew she would not react calmly to his being late. He loved her, of course, but she was still scary.
Shepard was already dressed, wearing his blue Alliance dress pants and a blue t-shirt. Since everything he owned that was not at home was Alliance issue, he didn't have much in the way of options, and figured the clothing choice was the best he could do. The plan wasn't to go anywhere particularly fancy, and he didn't want to wear his full Alliance dress uniform anyway. Since he was late, he probably wouldn't have more than a minute or two to see his daughter, which made him a little angry. He was always so busy, talking to leaders of every race and overseeing rebuilding efforts and overseeing efforts to wipe out the last remnants of Cerberus cells still out there. He had probably spent two weeks at most with his daughter so far, and the guilt was beginning to get to him. If Shepard had the choice, he would spend the night at home, sitting on the couch with Maddy in his arms and Ashley sitting with them, telling him everything he missed. Apparently he didn't have that choice though, he thought bitterly.
Twenty more minutes passed before he reached the front door of the apartment, the extra five minutes because of some incident at a nearby apartment building. He opened the door to the sight of an angry Sarah Williams. "Its about time," she said angrily. "Where have you been?"
"Don't even start with me," Shepard told her, not even remotely in the mood to deal with his wife's youngest sister.
"You were supposed to be here half an hour ago," Sarah continued.
"And I was unable to." Shepard walked past the young woman, ignoring her completely. He could hear frustrated sighs coming from the bedroom, and walked in to see Ashley looking disgustedly at herself in the mirror. She was wearing a pair of dress pants of beige dress pants, hugging the curves of her hips, a blue blouse, and was messing around with her hair, apparently trying to decide how to wear it. "Hey Ash…" he greeted, but before she answered an arm pulled him away. "What is your problem?" Shepard yelled angrily at Sarah.
"Wait until she's done!" Sarah yelled back.
With a furious shake of his head, Shepard went to Maddy's bedroom, where his building fury quickly dissipated. Maddy was sitting up in her crib, a small plush animal in her hand, which she was shaking around, mindlessly moving it and hitting it on the blanket below her. His daughter's hair was continuing to thicken, the dark strands so like Ashley's. He could see it already, Maddy was going to look just like her mother. She looked up at him, continuing to play with her toy, and when Shepard smiled at her she smiled back. He must have watched his daughter for a while, because eventually Ashley entered the room and stood next to him. She had apparently decided to wear her hair down. "Ready?" she asked while they watched their daughter together.
Reluctantly, Shepard stood straight, taking his gaze away from his daughter. He took his wife's hand, smiled, and said, "Yep. Let's go."
Their first destination, to see an action movie both were interested in, did not go well, and should have served as an omen of the evening ahead. Because Shepard had been late getting home, they missed the showing they had planned on and the next showing was not for another four hours. They moved on to their next destination, an outdoor free concert being held in a park, only to find out that the band putting on the concert was not going to show because the lead guitarist had the flu. Both Ashley and Shepard were frustrated, but decided to move on again. Next up was a dance club named Seven, a stupid name, Shepard thought. They got inside quickly, the evening appearing to go their way for the first time. Shepard did his best not to embarrass his wife as they danced, and the two of them managed to have a good time for about an hour, alternating between dancing and having some drinks at the bar. They each only had two alcoholic drinks, not wanting to get drunk. The depressing mood over the theater and concert finally began to disappear.
Shepard came back from a trip to the bathroom to find Ashley scowling as two men no older than their very early twenties hit on her. He hung back for a few moments, figuring that Ashley would enjoy the attention for a few minutes, despite the scowl on her face. If she was going to refuse to believe him when he tried to tell her she was still beautiful, maybe getting a few jerks making lewd comments would convince her otherwise. The two men were crude, immature, every few seconds trying to plant a hand on her arm or shoulder to test the boundaries, which were always shrugged off annoyingly. After about five minutes of watching Ashley's scowl grow in intensity, he walked over to rejoin her. He pushed past one of the young men, and threw an arm around his wife. "She's taken, guys. Get out of here."
"Fuck off, maybe she wants someone new," the guy to the right said. The other one backed off. It came as a surprise that neither of them knew who he was. Everyone in the galaxy seemed to know who Shepard was, especially guys in their twenties who usually told him how much they looked up to him.
That triggered Ashley, who stood quickly and glared. Shepard had to give the kid credit, he held his ground and continued to stare lustfully at her. Shepard knew better than to get into fights with these type of people, and took Ashley's hand. The two of them began to walk away, when the young man grabbed Shepard's arm, spun him around, and threw a wide, slow, easy to dodge punch. He ducked under it, but rather than throw his own punch, caught the attacker's arm and twisted it. The young man, eyes now wide with fear, tried to yank away until he realized it would only cause more pain. Shepard was willing to let things go at that, but Ashley apparently was not. Shepard did not see her punch until it was connecting with the man's jaw, knocking him to the ground. Security chose that moment to step in, three very large men built like bulls. Shepard and Ashley were promptly escorted out of the building, which he had to admit was much to his delight. He had had enough.
The two of them stood next to their car, letting their anger boil off. Ashley, in particular, appeared to be ready to run back inside the club and continue beating the shit out of the kid that started the fight. With no other idea what to do, Shepard just rubbed her back, hoping she would calm down. "This little date night idea refuses to go right, huh?" That made Ashley giggle, which was a minor victory anyway. "I don't want to sound like a jerk, but I'm ready to go home. How about you?"
"I don't want to sound like a jerk either, but I've been ready to go home since the movie theater. I've been lukewarm about this all day."
Shepard wasn't sure if admitting he felt the same way would make her feel better or worse. "I guess at this point going home would be nice. I would like to spend some time with my daughter, after all."
Ashley smiled, a good sign. "Maddy hasn't left my mind since the moment we left the house." Her eyes started to tear up, and she immediately wiped them away. "Are you kidding me, even here and now? I hate this so much."
Shepard couldn't resist a chuckle at his overemotional wife. Thankfully, she chuckled as well. "Let's go home, Ash." Shepard drove, following the increasing traffic. Ashley was too quiet, and Shepard could feel her moodiness overpowering them both. "Well, at least you got a little proof that you're still smoking hot."
Ashley scoffed. "All they did was make me mad." Her voice wasn't entirely sincere. "What, do you like that kind of thing? Were you hoping I would?"
Now he regretted bringing this up. "No, I just thought you would be happy to hear from someone else that you're still beautiful."
"I don't need to hear it from anyone else," Ashley argued. "I don't care what anyone besides you thinks."
"You get mad whenever I tell you you're still gorgeous."
"Because I know you would never admit if I'm not!"
Shepard did not know what the hell to say. "That doesn't make any sense!"
"I just had a baby, I'm allowed to not make sense!"
That was it. That was the final straw. Shepard pulled away from traffic, parked at the first opportunity, and began to laugh. He laughed loud, heartily, and for minutes on end. At some point Ashley began laughing too, and the two of them did so together for a long time. When they finally stopped, rubbing the tears from their eyes, they shared a kiss, and Shepard began driving home again.
Sarah was sitting in the recliner in the living room, eyes closed and Maddy asleep against her upper body, when Shepard and Ashley got home. As carefully as she could, Ashley removed Maddy from her sister's grasp, only to be surprised by a hand gripping her wrist hard enough to hurt. "Its okay," she whispered. "Its me, Sarah, go back to sleep." Sarah blinked a few times, muttered something that wasn't understandable, and then closed them again. Ashley carried Maddy to her room, Shepard by her side the entire time. The baby never woke, adorably asleep in her arms. Surprisingly, the tears did not come. Ashley looked over at her husband, noticing the longing in his eyes. "Here, Skipper," she said, gently handing Maddy over.
Shepard was surprised, and his gratefulness showed just as much as his love as he took Maddy in his arms. The frustrations of the day melted away as Ashley watched her husband and her daughter. She felt her own love, overpowering her, making her regret any ridiculous thoughts or doubts she ever had about whether Shepard still cared for her, whether he had regrets over having a child in his life. She knew they were stupid doubts to have, but her mother assured her they were normal. Not that she believed that. She wondered if Shepard ever felt any doubts like that about her. "You are absolutely amazing, John," she whispered, a beaming, bright smile on her face, stretching from ear to ear.
He looked up at her, the fatherly love from before replaced by a different love, the love she also felt towards him, as well as pure, physical, animalistic lust. Carefully, Shepard placed Maddy in her crib and pulled her blanket over her. Ashley had backed up to the doorway by this point, intending to make Shepard work for this. They had not had sex since Ashley was eight months pregnant, and even that wasn't particularly good sex. Shepard did not disappoint her, stalking forward hungrily, every step quicker than the previous. She backed out into the hallway, and when she turned to jog to the bedroom it was too late. A pair of arms encircled her from behind, lifting her from the ground. Ashley found herself carried into their bedroom, and thrown to the bed. Her own clothes were discarded before Shepard could even remove his shoes, and she did not let him remove the rest before dragging him down to her.