Emma his behind Alec Ryder’s legs, as close to his back as she could get without running into him. He threw her a small smiled over her shoulder. It was meant as a reassurance, but that didn’t abate her fear. It had been a month since he had rescued her. A month spent with him and Shepard arguing in her defense.
She’s a weapon.
She’s a CHILD.
The others, the council, looked at her as if she was a rabid animal. A ticking time bomb. Their lips curled in her direction, but their eyes betrayed their fear. They hadn’t seen how she covered her eyes when the sun shone on her face. How her fingers curled as she tried to reach for the giant ball of warmth. They hadn’t seen the tears wet her cheeks and the way her shoulders shook when she realized she was free. The world was so much bigger than steel walls and men in lab coats.
They missed when she sat with Joker in the cockpit, as he pointed out stars and galaxies and planets, and the way her eyes shone. Or when Garrus had shown her how to take apart his rifle and clean it. And how Shepard had lectured him about how inappropriate it was to let her handle a gun. The council never saw the times she stood in front of the galaxy map, in her pajamas and bare feet, her fingers finding all the places she wanted to go.
They finally relented and left her in the care of Alec. He was to provide them reports and keep an eye on her, but she wouldn’t spend another moment of her life in a cage if he could help it. Then came the real fear. He had a family. A wife and two children her age. He was taking her home, giving her a normal childhood he had said. What if they hated her? What if they were afraid?
What if she hurt them?
He stopped and she had no choice but to stop as well. Her heart thudded in her ears as they stood in front of an apartment. The hallway stretched out on either side, beckoning her to run down the deep red carpet. Alec touched her shoulder gently before he pushed the door open and stepped into the entry way. Exclamations followed his entrance and she watched as two kids, Scott and Sara he had told her earlier, ran from a beige couch to launch themselves at him. She watched as their arms wrapped around his neck and waist when he kneeled down to greet them. A woman came around the corner, smiling and chastising her children playfully until they let go and Alec stood to receive a kiss on the cheek.
Emma was frozen, feeling like the outsider she was. She should’ve stayed at the Normandy or taken the cell the Council had offered. She didn’t belong here. The love reflected in their irises as they greeted each other was not meant for a thing like her. She should run as far as her feet could take her, but she couldn’t. Deep blue eyes slid to meet hers. Evelyn Ryder stepped away from her husband and kneeled in the hallway where Emma was rendered immobile. Her eyes were soft and kind, with an edge of hard steel that reflected her strength. The twins stared around their father, their eyes curious but not unkind.
Evelyn Ryder held out her hand and smiled, “You must be Emma.”
Emma stared at the outstretched hand as if it might bite her. She nodded, unable to form words, her mind still screaming at her to run. Evelyn didn’t draw away and her smile did not falter.
“Welcome Home Emma.” She spoke softly, reaching for the girl.
Emma covered her face and cried.
Emma woke up, feeling the cold bite of metal against her back. The lights weren’t as harsh as she would expect for a med bay. It must be the night cycle. She still took her time to situate herself to her surroundings. She knew she had boarded the Tempest for answers and was ambushed by Sloane’s cronies when she attempted to leave. Of course, they would notice her the one time she didn’t feel like fighting. She remembered Scott, the big bumbling idiot, attempting to save her from an attack and instead she ended up protecting him.
It had to have been because he was Alec Ryder’s son. There would have been no other reason to take a blade for him.
“I see you’re awake.”
Emma turned to the asari that eyed her with equal parts wariness and fascination. She was standing next to the monitor monitoring Emma’s vitals. Emma noted the way the woman’s hands twitched as if there was supposed to be something there. Wincing at the soreness around her middle, Emma sat up and turned, dangling her legs off the bed. The doctor was watching her movements, waiting for her be still again.
“I’m Dr. Lexi T’Perro. Do you know where you are?”
Emma opened her mouth to speak, but her mouth felt as if it was full of sand. It was the same as when she took a dive to dodge a bullet and ate a mouthful of Kadara. Dry and slightly sulfuric. Needless to say it was not pleasant. Lexi looked satisfied at her answer and looked back to the screen.
“You healing speed is remarkable. Under normal circumstances this wound could have killed you.”
Emma fought the urge to roll her eyes. It was always the same with doctors. They were so needlessly excited over her abilities and the nanotech she shared a body with. They would expect to be able to poke and prod her until they could unlock all of her secrets. Good luck. Even she didn’t know all of her secrets. Alec had promised to one day show her all the files he had pulled from the facility. She was never ready enough for him.
Not that it matters anymore. He’s gone now.
The thought left a bitter taste in her mouth and she twisted her lips in a grimace. The chatter that had filled her ears like background noise ceased causing her to look up. The doctor had been talking to her and she had no idea what was said. Emma shifted uncomfortably, dropping her gaze.
“You have an implant, similar to the Pathfinder’s, but it is not active.” Lexi proceeded.
“Yes.” Emma confirmed, her voice betraying how dry her mouth was. She did not like where this was going.
Lexi turned and grabbed a bottle of water from her station and handed it to Emma, being careful not to invade too much of her space. “SAM had requested to activate it, but you were not awake. I could-we can- turn it on, if you want.”
Emma opened the bottle and took a slow, deliberate swig. The water filled her mouth and soothed her throat before she downed the entire bottle. She was putting off answering. It was nothing personal against SAM, but after being Alec’s guinea pig for the AI, she wasn’t too keen to turn her implant on and have another voice beside her own to bother her.
“No.” She set the empty bottle down beside her before stretching her feet to the floor and standing.
“Of course, but should you change your mind-“
“I won’t.” Emma shook her head and stretched her arms above her head, feeling the satisfying pull of her muscles.
The doctor nodded as if suspecting as much. She admired Emma’s form with nothing short of appreciation, in a purely clinical standpoint of course. Lexi turned back to the monitor, her eyes once again looking over Emma’s brain scan. Her slender finger pointed to a set of clothes at the bottom of the medical bed and a bag of the few things that Emma had been carrying with her. She noticed the absence of her bow and her sidearm.
“There is a bathroom down the hall to the left, the crew is in a meeting. You shouldn’t be bothered.”
Emma muttered her thanks and grabbed her things to depart the med bay. Medical rooms were always too polished, too sterile, and too full of memories for her to ever be comfortable. Emma followed the doctor’s directions to the showers, her feet padding softly across the floor. Despite the cold appearance of the hallway, the floor was warm underneath her feet. Emma entered the bathroom and set her things down on the sink. The door closed behind her.
Emma looked into the mirror, noting how pale she looked after the amount of blood she lost and the dark circles underneath her eyes. Although the latter was due more to never getting proper sleep. She reached up and pulled the elastic from her hair and let it fall in soft waves down to her back. She combed her fingers through, making a face at how oily it was. Emma pulled her bralette over her head and dropped it on the floor, her pants were next, laying in a heap at her feet.
She stepped into the shower and turned the knob for the hottest water she could stand. A sigh escaped her lips and she turned letting the water soothe her back. It felt like eons she had last had a proper shower, with hot water. Emma eyed the products that lined the shelves in the shower and grabbed a bottle that was unlabeled. Wedging her thumb under the cap, she popped it open and brought it to her nose. The smell of gardenias and honeysuckle filled her nose and she smiled softly as if there was a memory attached to the smell. Emma poured some into her palm and rubbed it into her hair.
Perhaps she could ask where they procured this. She may not be able to walk around Kadara freely, she still knew people. She was used to the grainy soaps and shampoos, which made her feel gritty instead of clean. There was no need to walk around feeling covered in sand just because she lived on a planet covered in sand. Emma squeezed her eyes shut and tilted her head back and just stood under the water letting it sluice down her skin. Just some conditioner and soap and she would be clean and refreshed and less likely to punch Scott Ryder in the throat. Well only marginally less likely.
Emma rinsed the last of the conditioner from her hair and reached past the stall to grab a towel. She turned off the water and flipped her hair over to wrap it in the towel. Emma pulled back the curtain and stepped out of the stall to grab another towel when the sound of the door opening drew her gaze. Her hand was still reaching for the towel when she paused. The large cat-like creature filled the doorway, his eyes focused on her, the pupils swallowing the galaxies in his eyes. The skin of his face and neck, and flap thingies, turned from pink to purple.
“I didn’t realize…I didn’t know…my apologies.” He stammered out before turning around abruptly, almost slamming into the doorframe, and exiting out of the bathroom like there was a fire under his ass.
Emma covered up a snort with her hand as he left. He acted as if he had never seen a woman naked before. Maybe he hadn’t. At least not a human woman. Emma dried off and pulled on the black leggings and tank top the doctor had laid out for her. She grabbed her things and stood in front of the door. Schooling her face into a neutral expression and squaring her shoulders she stepped towards the door until it opened. She was only staying until they circled back to Kadara and then she was back to her life.