Emma woke up to dim lights of the Hyperion’s night cycle. She was cocooned in the blankets on Alec’s bed. After her brief meeting with Lexi, she didn’t have the want to return to the Tempest. Instead she hid away in Alec’s room. She doubted the Tempest had left without her. She doubted Scott would leave without her. The lockbox sat on his desk, taunting her from across the room. She had tried to look at the datapads again. She had the privacy and the quiet to do so, but every time she held one in her hands, her stomach rolled and she felt sick. And so alone.
The sound of the doors opening startled her. She jumped to her feet, ignoring the lightheadedness that followed. Scott stepped inside and stopped short of approaching her. He looked concerned. They both stared at each other, unsure of themselves. His short sigh broke the tension and he sat in the chair opposite of the bed. Emma sat back on the bed, crossing her legs and pulling the blankets around her shoulders. Neither of them knew what to say. They looked everywhere but at each other.
Scott was clearly concerned because she had not returned to the ship. What was she going to tell him? That she couldn’t leave this room. That she now had an AI in her head because she wanted to remember. She wanted to reclaim herself. That she was afraid the people who created her, no tried to control her, could be in Andromeda.
She was afraid.
Emma’s fingers gripped the blanket tightly and she huddled into it. The action didn’t escape Scott’s notice. He stood from the chair, ignoring her wary gaze, and sat down beside her on the bed. Not too close, but well within reach.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” His voice was quiet.
Her eyes strayed to the data pads. She just nodded. In fact, she got more than she bargained for. More answers than she wanted.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
She shook her head. That was probably the last thing she was capable of doing. Where would she even start?
“Do you want to talk about it?”
She shook her head. She wasn’t even sure what she would say if she wanted to. Where would she even start? Funny story, I’m a natural born freak and the nanites just made me even more of one. I can move things with my mind, in theory of course.
He just stared at her, waiting to for her to finish her inner monologue. A corner of his lip moved upward into a small smile. As if he knew the kind of thoughts that flitted through her head.
“You’re doing it again.”
“Pushing people away.”
She was silent.
“It’s not something new for you. You did it in middle school. Malik called you a freak and after you punched him in the nose, you shut down. You were too afraid that it was true.”
“That doesn’t sound like me.”
“Oh? So, you just push people away because you enjoy being alone.”
“Do you remember how we used to snap you out of it?”
She just stared at him, waiting.
He smirked and leaned back on the bed, “There was this beach on the Citadel. Not a real one obviously, but it was a really good simulation. You could smell the salt in the air and feel the breeze on your face. We’d all go. For the whole day. Your self-imposed silence never lasted long.”
“You should’ve seen your face when we went to Earth and we went to a real beach. And you saw a real sunset. I thought you were going to cry.”
“I don’t cry.”
It was his turn to scoff, “Please, you’re the biggest crybaby I know.”
“I doubt that.” She tried to sound mad, but she couldn’t help the small smirk that graced her lips.
“When you first came home, when people made fun of you, during movies, songs, when you were ditched at prom, every Christmas…I could go on.” He ticked off every instance on his fingers.
“I will throw you into the nearest black hole.” She threatened.
He clapped her on the shoulder, “There’s the Emma I know.”
“Except you don’t” She shrugged off his hand and the blankets.
He was quiet as she stood up from the bed and paced back and forth. The words started to spew forth from her mouth like vomit. They tasted horrible on her tongue, but she couldn’t keep them in any more. Scott just sat in silence as she ranted. About the lies, about the video she saw, about what she understood of her file. She left out the adoption papers and her meeting with Lexi earlier. She wasn’t quite ready to reveal either of those things. Especially, that SAM was alive and kicking inside of her head. She flopped back down in the chair across from Scott. The words lingered in the air between them, but she felt lighter for it.
“Wow.” Scott just kept looking at her.
“I don’t even know why I told you all that.” She mumbled.
“Because you need people Emma. You don’t do well alone.” Scott reached for her.
“I don’t need-“
Scott gripped her hand in his own, “Don’t even try to give me that shit Emma. You may not remember, but I do. I remember who you are.
“I can’t stop you from going back to Kadara, but living in a shack by yourself, shouldering all this shit. Isn’t going to help you.”
“And you can.” Her voice sounded bitter, even to her own ears.
“Maybe. Or maybe just being around others can. I happen to know a couple of the crew are fond of you.”
“Jaal for one.”
She leaned forward, peering into Scott’s eyes as she spoke, “Alec believed the people that tried to control me are here. That means I’m going to find them, or they’re going to find me. You can’t tell me that you would be okay being dragged into that shit. Or dragging your crew into that shit.”
“Or you wouldn’t have to go through said shit alone.” He countered.
“It’s better for everyone if I do.”
He shook his head, “Will you stop trying to be a martyr. Sara is in a coma. Mom and dad are gone. You are all the family I have right now. I can’t stop you from leaving, but I’m damn sure not going to stop trying to convince you to stay.”
“I don’t know what kind of person I was before this. But it’s easier to do this alone. I don’t have to defer to others or worry about them. If I go back to Kadara, it’s easier than facing that Alec is never coming back. It’s easier than seeing him every single time I look at you.
If you could run, wouldn’t you?” She asked.
He swallowed audibly, “If you had asked me that weeks ago, I would have said yes. I would’ve said that there was no way I could fill dad’s shoes. But I’m not him. I’m me. Just Scott.”
She snorted, “Just Scott, the Pathfinder.”
“It has a ring to it.” He chuckled.
They lapsed back into silence. Neither of them was sure what exactly to say after all that. Emma felt there were more questions than answers once again. Did she want to stay? Would she stay even if the answer was yes? Was he right? Was she? Could she really do all this alone?
Scott stood from the bed and stretched, “We’re leaving for Kadara in the morning. I’d like to get to have some fun with my sister before she leaves.” He stared pointedly at her.
“Sister?” She whispered.
His eyes softened, “Yeah, sister. It doesn’t matter that you don’t remember. You’ll always be my sister.”
She liked it so much she hated it.
She didn’t know what she expected, but it wasn’t the entire Tempest crew in Scott’s room. They lounged on the couch, chairs, the floor, wherever they could fit really. Suvi and Peebee were in one corner with Kallo hovering over them. Probably because he was attempting to stay away from Gil who was on the opposite side of the room with Vetra, Jaal, and Liam. Jaal was staring at a deck of cards in his ridiculously large hands and frowning. Cora was deep in discussion with Lexi, while Drack sat beside them looking as bored as a krogan could. Everyone looked up as her and Scott entered the room. It felt a little overwhelming being under everyone’s gaze. The only thing that kept her from leaving was Scott. He was behind her and she would have to mow him down to get out.
It's like he knew.
“Looks like we’re all here.” Liam laid down his own deck of cards and stood up from his group.
Everyone shifted towards the center of the room and sat in a circle. Emma could see people grabbing cups, and bottles, and various snacks. She didn’t know what was happening right now. Scott moved past her to his bedside table and opened one of the drawers. Emma wasn’t sure who to focus on, the crew or Scott, was there something she was supposed to have been doing. Jaal looked over his shoulder and patted an open spot in between him and Gil. Her feet moved of their own accord and before she registered it, she was sitting beside Jaal. Scott turned to the circle with a box in his hands.
“Oh. No.” Emma groaned when she saw the lettering on the side of the box.
Scott sat in between Cora and Gil and placed the box in front of him. He grinned at Emma before he pulled the top off the box to reveal groups of white and black cards.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve played Cards against Humanity.” Gil reached in to place the cards in the circle.
“This is a bad idea.” Emma muttered.
“How do you play again?” Suvi asked.
Scott answered, “Everyone gets 10 white cards, those are like answer cards. The black cards are topic cards. The card czar for the round chooses a topic card and everyone else chooses the best white card or cards for the topic card. The card czar chooses the best white card and-“
“I’m sorry, what is a card czar?” Jaal interrupted.
“It just means the person who doesn’t play the round and chooses a winner amongst the others.” Emma answered as Gil placed a stack of white cards in front of her and Jaal.
“Right. The goal is to make the funniest or most offensive combinations-“
“Often they go hand in hand.” Liam chuckled.
“Whoever wins the round gets the black card as an awesome point. Since we have so many people, we’re only playing to five points.” Scott placed two piles of black cards in the middle.
“We’re also drinking. So, the card czar picks a winner and a loser. The loser has to drink.” Gil smirked.
“This is a diplomatic incident waiting to happen.” Emma grumbled.
“It’ll be fun!” Peebee drew her ten cards and smirked at Emma.
“Playing a game full of cultural references that someone,” She gestured to Jaal, “Might not understand, is not fun.”
“Trust me. Trying to explain the references is the fun part.” Peebee snickered.
“Alright, alright. Who goes first?” Scott waved his arms to get everyone’s attention.
“I’ll go.” Liam volunteered and reached to draw a black card from the pile, “Blank is my favorite way to achieve orgasm.” He read the card before he slapped it down on the floor in front of them.
The others scrambled to draw their white cards if they hadn’t already. Jaal looked at his hands and frowned. Emma sighed and drew his card for him and pressed them into his palm. He threw her a small smile over his shoulder as he read his cards. She drew her own cards and sifted through them. Giggles and out right laughter echoed through the room as everyone chose their cards. Jaal was still staring at his deck. After selecting her own card, Emma glanced over his shoulder. Not caring if anyone was looking, she pointed at a card in his deck. He shared a questioning glance with her, but she just nodded. Jaal was the last one to put down a card. Liam grabbed all of the white cards and put them in a pile. He was already chuckling at a few of the cards.
“Okay, here we go,” He was trying not to laugh, “The czar is my favorite way to achieve orgasm. Pandering to the card czar, I can appreciate it.”
Cocktimus Prime is my favorite way to achieve orgasm.”
Some of the others started to laugh as well. Based on the way Suvi blushed, Emma assumed it was her card.
Liam laughed out loud before reading the next card, “Hundreds of big black dicks, slapping across your face, in a euphoria of big black dickery.”
Even Emma laughed at that one, “Someone else pandering to the card czar.”
Liam kept reading off the cards, nothing quite as funny as the thought of being slapped by dicks. However, by the time he was done, even Jaal was laughing. Tears of mirth spilled down his cheeks and Emma wasn’t far behind him.
“The dicks have it.” Liam announced at the end of the round.
Jaal cleared his throat, “Ah, that was my card.”
“Nice going man.” Liam handed him the black card.
Jaal placed the black card beside him and looked at Emma, “Too bad we could not share the victory.”
Emma patted him on the arm, “Don’t worry big guy, I’m sure I’ll win some of my own.”
Jaal look down and stared at her hand on his arm. Emma was staring at her hand as well, surprised by her own action. Neither of them said anything. He looked at her, not questioning or annoyed that she was touching him. It was the complete opposite in fact. He looked overjoyed that she had broken a barrier of her own accord. Their eyes met and Emma couldn’t look away. She was utterly captivated by how he stared at her. Fuck. The others continued speaking, only one of them noticing the quiet moment that was being shared. Scott was sitting on the other side of Gil, smirking at the expression on Emma’s face.
There was no way she was leaving.
There was a lot of drinking. Maybe some dancing. At one point Scott had begged for her to play some of her music. It could’ve been her K-pop playlist for all he cared. A playlist she vehemently and drunkenly denied existed. She was sure Peebee had talked her into dancing at some point, but it was hard to remember. Bohemian Rhapsody had played at one point and of course all of the humans broke out into song, herself included.
Hey, she didn’t make the rules.
The one thing she did remember was laughing and smiling more than she had since before even coming to Andromeda. It made up for the fact that she woke up with a killer hangover more bearable. They were all still in Scott’s room, a couple sleeping in puppy piles, others had taken over the couch. She was smarter than that. She had flopped down in Scott’s bed before passing out. Hungover: yes; Sore: no. Jaal was laying on the floor near the side of the bed she had commandeered. He originally fallen asleep on his back, but his snoring was unbearable, and Emma and Scott had managed to coax him onto his side for most of the night. She remembered saying something to Scott right before they fell asleep, but she was having a hard time remembering exactly what it was.
The sound of someone stirring across the room drew her attention. Lexi was sitting up, having fallen asleep with her head on Drack’s shoulder. She made eye contact with Emma, her cheeks flushed, and pressed a finger to her lips. Emma shrugged. It’s not she was going to run screaming to the Nexus about the Tempest doctor’s behavior. It was not something she gave a shit about. Lexi gestured to the door and Emma nodded. Quietly they both maneuvered themselves from where they slept and across the room. Emma had a near miss when Liam nearly swiped her ankle as she stepped over him.
Her and Lexi both ended up inside the med bay, waiting until the doors closed to speak.
Lexi sat down on one of the chairs, “How do you feel?”
“I have the headache from hell.” Emma murmured.
“Anything else? Anything to do with your implant?”
Emma shook her head, “Everything feels fine. Pretty normal.”
“Good,” Lexi folded her hands in her lap, “Did you have a good time last night?”
Emma nodded, “Yeah it was pretty fun.”
“Do you think you’ll stay.”
Emma had her arsenal of reasons why she couldn’t, but she hesitated, “I…I don’t know.”
“You could always try and decide later that you want to go back to Kadara. At least, you wouldn’t regret it.” Lexi suggested.
Emma was quiet. Lexi wasn’t wrong, but Emma could really put them all in danger. She wouldn’t be alone, but that’s incredibly selfish. But why couldn’t she be selfish now and then. Lexi didn’t look like she really expected an answer. She seemed satisfied enough with the contemplative look on Emma’s face. They both looked towards the door as they heard the others getting up. The sound of heavy footsteps walked towards the kitchen.
“Sounds like Drack is making breakfast.” Lexi commented.
“Oh, thank god, I’m starving.” Emma stretched and headed for the door. Lexi wasn’t far behind her, also requiring food to help soak up any remaining alcohol in their systems.
Drack was grumbling over the stove. Cora, Suvi, and Vetra were already sitting at the table, still looking half-asleep. Jaal and Scott were hovering over the coffee pot, their backs to Emma as she walked into the kitchen. Liam and Gil must still be passed out in Scott’s room. Jaal turned around right as Emma walked across to the room to the table.
“Emma! I made coffee!” He proclaimed, holding out a steaming cup.
Scott hid his face behind Jaal trying his best not to snicker too loudly. Suvi giggled loudly behind her, unable to contain herself, and even Cora cracked a smile at his enthusiasm. Emma tried to fight the smile that threatened her lips, but she failed. He just looked so damn pleased with himself.
“That’s great Jaal.” She choked down a laugh.
He held out the cup to her expectantly. It seemed as if he held his breath, waiting patiently for her to take it from him. She murmured her thanks and took the cup, the aroma already helping to wake her up. Scott had one hand on the counter trying to keep himself steady as he laughed into his hands.
“That’s some coffee.” Vetra commented, earning herself a glare from Emma.
Drack grunted and shook his head, turning his attention back to the food. Emma sat down at the table, the cup of coffee in between her hands. Scott had finally composed himself enough to poor his own cup and take a seat beside Emma. His smile infuriated her to the point that she wanted to smack it off his face. Jaal sat in the only available chair to the other side of her. The conversation around the table was light, everyone hungry and still feeling last night. It seemed like it took forever until Drack set down a platter of rehydrated sausages, reconstituted eggs, and toast in front of them. It wasn’t the worst, but Emma couldn’t wait until they had real animals and read meat and eggs.
“Someone should go wake Liam.” Suvi spoke up while reaching for toast.
Everyone looked at each other before Scott sighed and stood up, “I’m the Pathfinder, I guess I’ll do it.”
Gil burst into the room right as Scott was leaving, holding up a small piece of equipment in his hand, looking triumphant. Scott paused and everyone looked to Gil.
“I fixed it. We should be able to pinpoint the Archon’s location with this.” He placed it in Scott’s hand, “Give it a shot.”
Scott stared down at the transponder in his hand, looking equally excited and like he was going to puke at the same time.
“Did you connect the-“
“Nutok sho-lun ka!” A deep guttural voice sounded from the transponder.
Scott fumbled the transponder in surprise and nearly dropped it. Was that what the kett had sounded like? She hadn’t been present when Sloane and her lackeys had cleared them from Kadara. The voice made her stomach roll unpleasantly. Jaal jumped and looked at Emma with confusion. The voice repeated the phrase, making the hair on Emma’s neck stand up.
“What are you doing?”
“Turn it off!”
A couple of them shouted at once, until Scott turned off the transponder. It fell silent in his hand and they all breathed a sigh of relief.
“Careful. That is a direct line to people that want to kill us.” Gil took the transponder back when Scott almost shoved it back at him.
Scott took a moment and drew in a deep breath before speaking, “SAM?”
“I have the coordinates. The signal points to the Tafeno system.” The AI responded.
“We sure we want to do this?” Gil asked.
Scott frowned, and ran his fingers through his hair, making it stand up on end.
“We have to,” He turned to Emma, “Sorry Em, Kadara will have to wait.”