Another Mass Effect story. I love the idea of Zaeed as Shepard’s father. So, this was me experimenting with it. I’m not sure what else I’m going to do with it (or if I’m going to).
She was young and rash with still no sense of how to properly mourn the loss of her men. At sixteen she had laid next to her ailing father, cradling his hand. She rested her head on his pillow, sharing the memories of him teaching her to ride her bike and taking her to the beach. Of the time he brought home that old hunting hound for her or coaching her little league. She talked about missing him while he was gone on leave, trying so hard to help her mother in those desperate times. She remembers crying alone because her brother and mother did not make it in time to see the old soldier pass.
She had clung to her brother then, as she always did when her father was gone. He was strong and tall with a wicked twinkle in his eye that he inherited from their father. He grew up taking care of her- man of the house because their father was a traveling soldier. He had carried their father’s dog tags after he passed and continued to stand tall against the world- shielding her against the storms and turmoils. When he died in an instant- a drunk ramming into his car as he flew to her recital- she felt the ground slip from beneath her feet and she fell.
She hadn’t done the recital. She and her mother continued their arguments. For the two were always either thick as thieves or scratching each others eyes out. She hadn’t seen it then, and did not until long after burying her mother, but the lady had been tired by that point. Hurting, with suddenly no shield between her and the world, the young girl of nineteen had packed her bags and left to the farthest college she could. She would always remember standing at the door, glancing over her shoulder as she stared as her mother hummed that old old song about love, valor, legends, and stories never told.
She was young and rash, and unsure of her place in the world when she didn’t have a protector. She was so incredibly sad, and so very tired of crying. She didn’t know if she was running or searching. All she did know for certain was that she was flying and that in and of itself was glorious. When she landed she spent a very long time with nothing. She didn’t make many friends and fell into sort of empty mood. Not quite depression, but perhaps mourning.
It was a year into her degree, at twenty, and still struggling with the world and realities of it, that she met him. She had figured out how to fake being stabilized and healthy. She kept down a job- she worked at an animal shelter- and she had an apartment. She had many acquaintances, met plenty of people, and even kept a select few as friends. She kept to herself mostly. Research, old literature, and the animals she adored.
She didn’t frequent clubs but Alise did. And Alise pulled her along that night. Dressing her up, getting her all pretty, and practically pushing her into the club doors. She took her drinks, watching the others. It’s what she had always done. Watching, observing, analysing. That was when he approached her, smiling and looking like a scoundrel. He was perhaps everything she shouldn’t have had. Wearing leathers and sporting scars. A tattoo as well, if it wasn’t a shadow. He was brash with a violent streak a mile long. He fitted a curse between every word if he wanted.
Most said he was the opposite of her men. And in a way, they were right. Her father had been a gentleman. Raised her brother to be a gentleman. And he was so far from that. But he had a side to him that reminded her of her men. He was not soft, but he could be so gentle. He was not kind, but he could be so thoughtful. He had grown up in the harsh realities her father and brother had shielded her from. He did not know his father and his mother was whore, he said. He didn’t grow up with a roof over his head. Never had a home.
That was why she was not surprised when she woke up one day to see his boots already on, jacket slowly being pulled up his strong arms. Somehow she had kept him for two years. Two years she had loved this man. She knew every scar and every tattoo. She knew that he secretly loved red velvet cake. She knew he had a gypsy soul. “Good morning,” she said quietly, sliding out of bed and reaching for her shirt.
He didn’t look at her. Another sign. She had always watched her father go. And this was different- of course it was different- but the signs were similar. “Morning.”
“Suppose you won’t want breakfast then.” She stood, wrapping her arms around her as she stared at his back.
He stiffened. “Hannah-”
She shook her head, turning towards the large window. “It’s okay Zaeed.” She watched the ribbons of the morning sun dance across the horizon. “I didn’t fall in love with you to change you.”
She didn’t see him flinch. “I just got this job. It’s big Hannah. I’m going to be big.” He stood behind her, not touching. She never knew if that was because of his own boundaries he wasn’t sure how to break, or if he was scared of touching her. “Vido and I, we’ve got it planned out Hannah.”
She frowned at the name. Vido scared her. Rubbed her wrong. Zaeed didn’t tell her where most of his credits came from. Didn’t let her in on his job. A bad sign if ever there was one. Especially since she knew Vido was involved in his job. But, as she said, she wasn’t loving him to change him. She glanced over her shoulder. “I’ll be back.”
She smiled sadly. “I won’t hold you to that, Zaeed.” She stretched to kiss his cheek and he rested a large hand on her hip. He was gone by the afternoon and that was the last she saw of him. He sent some messages for a while but then even those stopped. It broke her heart, but not her. He had made her stronger. That, there was no doubt. She had matured and grown over those two years. Stealing some of his strength. Which was very important because she found out, two months later, that she was pregnant.
The messages dwindled around then, work apparently taking more of his time. She hadn’t told him. Sometimes she thought that was wrong of her. That she should at least give him the choice. But then she would find no messages in the inbox and know work was his everything. And so she didn’t tell him. Then the messages stopped altogether and she was thankful she had never put the burden of her baby girl on him.
She struggled for three years. For two her mother helped her, before the elder woman died of cancer. The last year was so hard. She worked two jobs to try and give her little girl everything. It was waitressing- she had to drop out of college that last year. Oh she had been so close to getting a degree. But she couldn’t hold down the jobs and go to college and be a mother. Something had to give. It was waitressing, however, that she met him, Joshua Shepard. He was everything a good girl was supposed to want. It was no surprise that he swept her off her feet. But that he accepted her little girl- calling her his own- that was what melt her heart.
Joshua grew up in an old rural colony, proving that the southern gentleman was only on the verge of extinction in the technological age. He came from old money and inherited it all when both his parents died- an only child. His younger sister had been a sickly frail dear that died at twelve. He gave her a grand wedding on a beautiful beach. She had been so happy, her daughter- a Shepard now- dressed like a princess as she frolicked across the sand.
He moved them to Mindoir, buying a large estate. He made their daughter- their daughter- work the farm. He never let her have it easy just because of the credits they had. She took care of the animals, she worked hard at the school. Hannah became pregnant again and that was when some of the problems happened. Her daughter had always shown signs of Zaeed. She was volatile at times. Confident in ways Hannah never had been, and slow to open up. And she loved red velvet- always asked for a red velvet cake on her birthdays.
And when Hannah was about to have a boy her darling daughter rebelled. Scared, Hannah knew. Only eight, but oh so sure she was going to be replaced. While things never were easy after that, Hannah kept her family. She had a happy little boy, Joshua’s boy. Her darling daughter went into her rebel years a little bit sooner than other children, but she was a good girl. She was a happy girl. And Joshua, he loved them all. He was such a good father. Everything was so perfect for nine years. Then, it all ended in an explosion.