Red Sky at Night Ch. 01

Amateur

February 14th, 2186 CE

The Citadel

It had been a tough year for Jane Shepard. Hell, it had been four tough years now since the mission on Eden Prime that had kicked off this whole Reaper madness, even if she’d been out cold for just over two of them. And right now she wasn’t sure if what she had done had made that much of a difference in the end. Was she really stopping The Reapers, or merely delaying the inevitable? She’d stopped Sovereign and put The Collectors out of commission, and ever since then she had been searching for any leads she could to keep The Reapers at bay. Liara was now The Shadow Broker, but information was scarce, and The Illusive Man was keeping pretty damn quiet after she flipped him off and took the Normandy for herself. Most of her old crew had gone their separate ways now, though she still had Joker and EDI. And just a few days ago, she’d destroyed a mass relay and killed more than 300,000 batarians. And even then, she wasn’t quite sure if she’d stopped The Reapers at all, or even if she’d somehow played into their hands.

All in all, there wasn’t much for Jane to smile about lately, as she sat sipping on a drink in a quiet bar alone. She wished that Garrus, Tali or even Zaeed hadn’t left so she could at least have somebody to talk to. The last time she’d managed to get anything off her chest to anybody was when she invited Liara aboard the Normandy for a drink, and her azure-skinned lover finally asked her the simple question she was both wanting and dreading to answer for what seemed like years: “how are you?”

Jane managed to crack a small smile as she thought of that last time she’d spent with Liara. She wasn’t quite sure where they stood right now. There had been an almost instant connection between the two of them when she’d found her on Therum, but then Liara had changed so much in the two years since the original Normandy was attacked, and while they’d grown closer again after the whole Shadow Broker debacle, she knew that while Liara loved her there were doubts still present, and she had to admit she had them too. Liara made her feel special and loved in a way only one other person had in Jane’s life, and despite the feelings that were still lingering for that other person, Jane knew that she had to move on and not look back. Liara was her future, but she still had to make sure there was a future to have.

Jane drained the last of the liquor from her glass, unaware that one of the two people she was just thinking about was about to come back into her life far sooner than she was expecting. Giving the bartender a final wave and nod goodbye, Jane switched on her communicator and patched into the Normandy’s bridge. “Y’there, Joker?” she asked casually.

“Roger, Commander,” Joker answered cheerfully. “Just sitting here as usual. I’d have kept myself busy doing some system checks or something, but EDI has sucked any possible reasons for me to do anything here away from me. I think she’s purposefully trying to bore me to tears and make me feel useless.”

“Diagnostics and ship’s functions are my department, Jeff,” EDI synthetic voice responded through both the Normandy bridge and Shepard’s earpiece. “Perhaps you could spend more time doing things I cannot, such as consuming more than your share of the Normandy’s food supplies?”

“Hey, my disease means I have to consume a lot more food than the average human,” Joker defended. “Also, most of the crew have left since we hit the Collector base and Rupert still gets the same amount of supplies every time we port in. I’m just stopping it from going off.”

Shepard cleared her throat loudly into her microphone, albeit with her lips twisted into a smirk.

“Sorry, Commander,” Joker apologized. “How can I help?”

“Just wanted to let you know I’m on my way back to the ship. I’m thinking of leaving The Citadel in about twelve hours, so if you could notify any crew on the station so they can finish up whatever they’re doing and return to the ship, that’d be great.”

“Aye bursa escort aye, Commander.”

“Shepard, wait!” EDI’s voice stated suddenly. “Something has come to my attention that may interest you.”

“Go ahead, EDI.”

“External sensors fixed towards the docking bay have picked up an Alliance officer approaching the ship. Given your recent destruction of the Bahak System and Admiral Hackett’s warnings about a likely forthcoming court martial, I thought you would like it brought to your attention.”

“Thank you, EDI,” Shepard answered. “On my way.”

Jane double-timed to the docking area, wondering who it could be that was looking for her. Surely she wasn’t already being called back to trial so soon? Even so, Admiral Hackett would likely be the first to get hold of her. Turning the final corner, she only made another couple of steps before halting suddenly. The Alliance officer was a Captain, and speaking with one of the Normandy’s ex-Cerberus security personnel in front of the docking clamps. If the shoulder-length brown hair and the way the uniform fit the person wasn’t a dead giveaway to Jane, the voice near-on demanding to let her inside was. Shepard exhaled, steeled herself, and resumed walking towards her ship. The Captain stopped mid-sentence, then turned around with a warm smile on her face. “Hello, honey. Miss me?”

And there she stood, leaving Jane not knowing whether to salute or hug her. Jane’s mother, Captain Hannah Shepard.

“Mom? What are you doing here?”

Jane’s mother frowned at her daughter’s comment. “Well, that’s a fine greeting considering we haven’t seen each other for about three years now. I thought you’d be happy to see me.”

“I am, Mom. It’s just…. there’s a lot on my plate lately,” Jane said, followed by a heavy sigh. “I wanted to come and see you, but I wanted to make sure things were dealt with first.”

“A lot on your plate is an understatement,” Hannah said with raised eyebrows. “I heard about those batarians and the relay going up. Admiral Hackett contacted me after it happened. He told me that if I wanted to see my daughter as a proud Alliance Officer still, it’d better be sooner rather than later.”

“So you tracked me down?”

“I was going to,” Hannah said, one side of her mouth twisted into a smirk. “The fact is, you actually found me. The Orizaba was already docked in before you arrived. I’m surprised you didn’t see it out there when you came in. When I heard The Normandy had come in, I just had to take the chance to catch up with my special girl again.”

When her mother smiled at her after that sentence, Jane couldn’t help but return the expression. “I suppose you’ll want the grand tour then?” she asked Hannah almost casually.

“Very much so,” Hannah said. “I’ve always wanted to see the famous Normandy I’d heard so much about. Even if I hadn’t heard it from you.”

Shepard told her security man to stand down and let them through, leading the way into the SR2 Normandy. As promised, she gave her mother the grand tour throughout the ship, introducing her to Joker, Rupert, Kenneth, Gabby and almost everybody else that was still aboard and not still off-ship. Hannah seemed both impressed and critical of the ship, with the latter mostly stemming from what she thought to be a lot of wasted space and inefficient design for a military vessel. The term “cruise ship” often came up in many a conversation. Eventually, Jane finished the tour with her quarters, which immediately elicited an impressed whistle from the elder Shepard.

“Well, well. This is a swanky and spacious den you have yourself here,” Hannah remarked. “I think the fish tank alone is bigger than my quarters on the Orizaba.”

“It seems Cerberus believes in creature comforts as much as practicality,” Shepard responded with a hint of derision. She took a seat at her table. “Not what I would have done, but I can’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“I’d say it would weigh a little more on the bursa escort bayan side of creature comforts,” Hannah said, running an index finger over Jane’s model of the Destiny Ascension. “A place for model ships of all things. A lot of them too.”

“I became a bit of a fanatic,” Jane blushed. “Might as well get some enjoyment out of something when you’re on a suicide mission.”

“Admiral Hackett mentioned that too,” Hannah said, the tone of her voice suddenly less cheery. “Though he was pretty vague about the details. I remember being ecstatic when I heard you were alive again, but when I heard the rumors of you joining Cerberus, I didn’t know how to feel.”

Hannah joined Jane at the table and the younger Shepard looked into her mother’s eyes to gauge her mood. She thought there was going to be anger or at the very least disappointment, but if anything Hannah looked reassuring, and perhaps a bit confused.

“I got your message,” Jane said. “I’m sorry I didn’t send something back through a secure channel like you suggested. I just wanted to see you in-person instead of just sending off an impersonal email. But beyond the odd visit to The Citadel, I’ve been mostly restricted to the Terminus Systems lately.”

“Working for Cerberus?” Hannah asked.

“No,” Jane said with a frown, and she got up from the table. “Not at all. I never worked for them, just with them. I wasn’t part of them, I was just using their resources in what was a very uneasy and temporary alliance. They were the only ones willing to do what was necessary to stop The Collectors from attacking human colonies.”

Jane was pacing back and forth as she spoke, and she filled Hannah in on the main events over the past year. She was happy that her mother was listening without seeming judgmental, and whenever Hannah asked her a question there was no hint of suspicion, doubt or accusation in there. Her mother trusted her, and it felt good to get some of this stuff off her chest to somebody in an Alliance uniform without feeling like she was on trial. After the whole thing, Jane felt drained, yet satisfied.

“No wonder you look so stressed,” Hannah commented. “Good, but stressed.”

“Good nothing,” Jane said, shaking her head. “They say you’re as old as you feel, and if that’s true then I feel close to eighty. If anybody looks good, it’s you, Mom. You’re, what, coming up on fifty?”

“Yep. Just over three months away.”

“Yeah, well you don’t look a day over thirty-five,” Jane said.

Jane may have sounded almost sarcastic, but she wasn’t wrong. Hannah Shepard was 49 years old, but thanks to a healthy military lifestyle and an extended lifespan for humans over recent years, she looked closer to her mid 30’s. Hannah had been born in 2136, and had given birth to Shepard only a month before her 19th birthday. Hannah and Jane’s father had known each other in high school and joined the Alliance Military at the same time, which landed them in the same recruit training group. When Hannah got pregnant she married Shepard, and barely took any time off from her Alliance training while she was expecting. While Jane’s own red hair was inherited from her father, she got her mother’s bright green eyes and most of her facial features. After Jane’s profile grew to near celebrity status after the Skyllian Blitz, if she and Hannah were ever seen together they were more often mistaken for sisters rather than mother and daughter.

That wasn’t the only thing that had changed between the two of them since those events though. A fact Jane was soon to be reminded of. She had been able to push it to the back of her mind during her mother’s visit that day, but it was not to last.

“You just need to relax, honey,” Hannah said. The older Shepard got to her feet and walked over to her daughter, placing her hands upon Jane’s shoulders. “You’ve been through a lot, but you’re strong. You always were, and always will be.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Jane said, a tear coming to her eye. “You listening escort bursa to me made me feel a lot better. I appreciate it. I’m glad you came to visit.”

“Me too, honey,” Hannah soothed, pulling her daughter into a warm embrace. “I’ve missed you so much. It’s been too long.”

“I’ve missed you too,” Jane sighed contentedly, melting into her mother’s comforting hug.

The two Shepard’s stood there in each other’s arms for almost a minute, then gently separated and looked at each other from arm’s length. They smiled as they looked into each other’s eyes, and after a few moments Jane saw the look in her mother’s deep emerald eyes change, and the smile replaced by a slight opening of her lips. The gaze that was once loving warmth from a mother for her daughter shifted to an intense heat more suited to a gaze one lover would give another, and Jane noticed her mother’s cheeks redden and her face growing ever closer.

“No!” Jane said sharply.

Jane raised one hand swiftly to block her mother’s encroaching face, finding Hannah’s bottom lip making brief contact with her fingertips before the elder Shepard stopped. At the same time, Jane had closed her eyes and was shaking her head slightly.

“I thought we’d been over this, Mom,” Jane said sternly. “We can’t do that any more. Not since Elysium and the N7 program. Even before then it was wrong. We were already lucky enough that nobody found out back when I was a nobody, let alone now.”

Jane opened her eyes and stared seriously at her mother sideways. Hannah looked hurt, but a few seconds of Shepard’s stubborn glare was enough to make her shake it off and nod.

“I’m…. I’m sorry, honey,” Hannah said, taking a step backwards. “I wasn’t thinking. I just thought…. I thought you may have needed something right now, with all that’s been happening to you.”

“I have somebody, Mom,” Jane said in a voice that told her mother she was disappointed yet understanding. “Remember, I told you about her.”

“Yes. The asari woman. Liara, isn’t it?” Hannah said. “And where is she right now?”

“She’s…. She’s busy right now. I can’t say more than that.”

“So she’s not even here for you when you need her most?” Hannah answered.

“She has been, when she can be,” Jane said in Liara’s defense. “In fact, she was the only one who had really asked me how I felt after the trip through the Omega Four relay. In a lot of ways, she reminds me of you. She’s strong, determined, wise and beautiful. You two should meet, I think you’d like her.”

“Well then. I hope you bring each other happiness,” Hannah said.

She didn’t sound genuine despite trying to feign it, and Jane noticed this. This was followed by a long, awkward silence between the Shepard’s, broken by Hannah as she backed towards the door. “Well, I should probably get going and check in with my crew. Will you be docked here long?”

“Five or six hours,” Jane answered. “I can make it more if you’d like.”

“Tell you what, in about four hours I’ll be having my lunch aboard the Orizaba. Why don’t you come over about half an hour early and I’ll give you a tour of my ship, and then you can join me?” Hannah suggested.

“Thanks. That would be nice,” Jane said with a smile.

“Alright. See you then.”

Jane Shepard again found herself standing alone in her quarters, and it was like she’d shed one weight on her shoulders for another one. Memories began to flood back, ones she’d tried to keep at bay for years now. Not because they were bad, but because they were good. Very good. But it was because of that she had to repress them, because they were memories of when she and her mother were closer than they ever had been. Closer than they should have ever been.

Shepard let out a sigh and traipsed towards her personal bathroom, activating the cold water tap. She splashed some water on her face, then looked into the mirror at her own reflection. She didn’t look quite as old as she felt after all. In fact, her reflection reminded her of her own mother’s face, all those years ago when it first began. The memories flooded back again, back to when the first boundaries were broken that caused Hannah and Jane Shepard to me more than just mother and daughter.

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