Chapter Eight - A Fast Dash
SSV Olympus, Mindoir Orbit
Riley didn't fully know what to make of Lieutenant Commander Anderson. Everything about him screamed confidence, but the way that he acted around her just confused her. He would stammer and forget words, then blush and try to carry on as if nothing had happened. He didn't always act that way though. Riley saw the way he interacted with the doctors and nurses. There was no stammering and blushing there, just a whole lot of 'yes, sir,' 'no, ma'am,' 'I'm her godfather, sir.'
Shaking her head, Riley let her mind fall blank, drawing closer behind Anderson as a pair of crew mates passed by. She wrapped her arms around the baggy sweat-shirt that she had been given, stepping awkwardly around her loose pants that were just a tad too large on her frame. She still managed to keep step with Anderson though, sticking close to him. The crew-mates walked past her without even a glance, continuing their own quiet conversation.
Anderson felt more than a little awkward as he led Riley through the bowels of the Olympus, the silence between them both not bothering him, and piercing all the way through his steely exterior. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. He thanked god that such a miracle had dropped in his lap, because there was no way he would have ever been able to raise any child on his own.
Even with his comfortableness with the silence, Anderson thought that he really should say something. He might have been okay with it, but Riley was just a teenage girl. He opened his mouth to ask a question, but nothing sprung to his mind and instead he closed it again.
He shook his head, no. Riley was just a girl, a victim in circumstances beyond her control. He would do better for her.
"Was there anything that you liked to do for fun, Riley?" Anderson finally asked, settling on what he felt was a fairly safe question. It shouldn't draw up too many memories of the attack.
Riley looked up at Anderson, drawn out of her thoughts by his voice. She had to look up at him a fair bit to see him, and he slowed down so he was walking side by side with her. Even so, he was still a foot taller than her. She thought for a moment on whether or not she actually wanted to answer him.
"I'm a..." She looked him over with careful eyes. "I'm a dancer."
Anderson didn't miss a step at the revelation smiling down at Riley. He didn't show it on his face, but it truly was a surprise to him. Hannah never seemed like the mother who would push her children to do anything they didn't want to, and her father had absolutely no knowledge of the arts. It must have been Riley then that had decided to dance. He hadn't thought of her as someone who would be interested in that.
"Any particular style?" He asked, truly interested.
Riley blushed, rubbing the back of her neck as she looked down at the floor. "... Ballet."
"Do you like it?" Anderson asked, smiling. He could see it now, as he looked her over. She had the right build and even as she slouched and tried to present as small a form as possible to the world around her, he could see it in the way she moved.
"Yeah." Riley nodded without hesitation. It was one of the few things in her life that hadn't been destroyed. "I do."
"After you," Anderson said, pausing in front of the mess hall, the large doors open revealing the moderately empty room. Anderson lets her go first.
Riley timidly walked into the room, relaxing ever so slightly when no one turned and looked at her. Her trauma on Mindoir wasn't a flashing sign proclaiming for all to see that she was broken, like she feared. Taking her elbow, Anderson led her to the food line. The spread of food before her was overwhelming and she just filled up her plate as quickly as possible, paying no mind to what she was actually grabbing. It didn't matter anyway.
Anderson was a bit more careful in his own meal choices, but he was ready soon after she was. He paid swiftly at the register before leading Riley to a table that sat in the corner. It had clear sight lines to everywhere in the room, and Riley relaxed even more as she sat in the corner. She could see everything, and no one would be able to sneak up on her.
They started to eat in silence.
Only moments after they had started eating, Riley watched as Rainbow and Firefly entered the room, followed by a small blue filly that bounced around them excitedly. They made their own way through the food line, paying, then they began making their way towards Riley and Anderson's table.
"Excuse me, David," Prism said, a smile in his voice.
Riley stared down at her food, not wanting to make eye contact.
Anderson smiled at the family, watching the little filly as she hid behind her parents, peeking around her mother's leg as she tried to get a better look at the two humans above her.
"Prism, Firefly, please, take a seat." Anderson gestured for them to take a seat across from him and Riley.
They did so quietly, first helping Rainbow sit and setting her tray before her, then taking their own seats on either side of her. Rainbow sat cautiously between her mother and father, looking at Riley nervously as she started to eat her meal.
"How are you today, David?" Prism asked, breaking the ice.
"I am doing alright," Anderson answered, a thankful smile on his face. Looking at Riley, he gestured at Prism, Firefly, and Rainbow. "Riley, this is Rainbow Prism, Firefly, and their daughter Rainbow Dash."
"We've met..." Riley said softly, watching them carefully.
Prism and Firefly glanced at each other, silently communicating between themselves.
"Riley, you know that David is your godfather, don't you?" Firefly asked as she leaned forward.
Riley nodded slowly, glancing up at Anderson.
"As your godfather, your parents specified in their will that I was to be your guardian should anything happen to them." He smiled reassuringly at her.
Riley nodded in understanding.
"I don't know if you know anything about what I do, but I'm a marine." Anderson put a hand comfortingly on Riley's shoulder, though she ducked out from under it. He held up a hand in peace, not wanting to push past her own comfort zone. "One of the best, an N7."
"I know what an N is." Riley looked up at him suspiciously. She didn't want anyone touching her, ever again.
"What I am trying to say, child, is that I am not the right man to raise a child." With a sigh, Anderson shakes his head, shutting his eyes. She didn't trust him. She probably didn't trust anybody. "Much less a teenage girl. I don't have anyplace to call my own and I am constantly on the move."
Riley studied Anderson carefully. Inwardly, she couldn't help but add him to the list of people that were abandoning her.
"I might not be able to care for you," Anderson said quickly, seeing the dark emotions playing across her face. He wanted to reassure her in whatever way he could. "But Prism and Firefly have been talking with me."
Prism and Firefly watched the ongoing discussion carefully, knowing just how incredibly important the next few minutes were for all of their futures.
"They would like to adopt you," Anderson said, spitting it all out.
Riley turned her gaze on Prism and Firefly, watching them carefully. She didn't say anything for a whole minute, watching them through half-lidded eyes.
"Your mother asked me to make sure that you were safe." Prism shifted in his seat, glancing down at his daughter who was happily eating the pears piled on her plate. "The more time that I spent with you, the more I realized that I wanted to make sure you were safe."
Riley crossed her arms over her chest, unconvinced.
"If you'll let us, Riley, we would like to adopt you," Firefly said, smiling hopefully.
"I'll still have joint guardianship," Anderson said as he leaned forward, interjecting. "But Prism and Firefly would see that you were safe and cared for, and if you let them, to be your family."
The table fell silent as Riley did her best to process what everyone had just told her. Her thoughts raced at the speed of light, swirling through her head in a veil of confusion and emotions.
Rainbow looked up from her meal and glanced around at everyone, noticing how serious everyone had turned. With a frown, she sat up and looked at Riley in confusion.
"Who are you?" She asked, pointing a small blue hoof at her.
With a flap of her wings, Rainbow jumped up onto the table, rushing forward until she was nose to nose with Riley, all earlier nervousness forgotten. She looked her in the eye, deadly serious and adorable all at the same time.
"My name is Riley."
"Riley, huh?" Rainbow looked for all the world like she was trying to be a tiny detective, questioning Riley on her motives. She was making her parents serious, and that just wasn't allowed! When her parents got serious, thats when the time outs came and Rainbow was not going to be having a time out today. There were pears to be eaten after all.
"Are you some sort of spy?" She poked Riley with a hoof, getting even closer, forcing the human girl to back up a bit.
"What?" Riley paused at Rainbow's question, confused.
"Are you a spy?" Rainbow asked again, trying to put as much warning and menace into her voice as possible. She flared her wings to make herself look bigger. Being only a small filly, all she was able to manage was looking cute beyond belief, though no one had the heart to tell her.
Riley cocked her head in confusion, staring at the little blue filly. Prism and Firefly watched their daughter with barely contained amusement. Anderson watched all of them carefully, ready to intervene if necessary. Rainbow was nice and she meant well, but she was also just a filly and she wouldn't know when to stop.
"No..." Riley finally drawled out.
"Good!" Rainbow backed up nearly instantly, smiling widely. She held out a hoof for Riley to shake. "My name is Rainbow Dash! I'm the most awesomest pony in Equestria!"
"I can see that." Riley giggled quietly, shaking the filly's hoof.
Anderson, Firefly, and Prism shared a relieved look.
"Are you going to be my new sister?" Rainbow asked, looking at her curiously.
Riley was taken aback for a moment, disappearing back into her own memories. Rainbow waited patiently for her to respond, as did Firefly, Prism, and Anderson.
The moment dragged on, the tension building. In her head, a flurry of emotions raged through Riley. Anger, rage, fear, anxiety, nervousness, depression, and confusion. Memories of fire and gunshots, blood and smoke. It all welled up inside of her to create a very scared girl.
"I..." Riley took a deep, shuddering breath, biting her lip as she stared down at the table. "Maybe... We'll see..."
Rainbow nodded in acceptance, before punching at the air. "Cool!"
"We think you'll like it with us, Riley," Prism said, leaning into his wife's embrace.
Riley was quiet for a moment, but then she looked up at them. She spoke in a small voice. "Can I..."
"Can you what, darling?" Firefly sat up, compassion clear on her face.
"Can I keep my last name?" Riley ducked her head, hiding behind her hair.
"We would never dream of taking that away from you, Riley." Firefly smiled encouragingly at her.
"Ok," she said simply, giving a single nod. "Ok."