As is usually the case at this time, it has been a quiet walk back to the house. Not many people are out and about at the time Leah and Tara get off of work. Just light snowfall, the howling wind, and Litae to keep them company.
#Leah'sHouse – September 8, 2017
Leah stops as they reach the porch and turns to Tara. She's remained uncharacteristically silent during their walk home. "Hey, kiddo. Mind if we talk for a minute before we go in?" she asks hesitantly.
Tara does, of course, have no objections. She nods quietly, staring attentively at Leah. Her blue eyes and the pale skin around them are about all that's visible between her hat, and the scarf pulled up over her mouth and nose in response to the biting wind.
Leah climbs up the few steps and onto the porch, taking a moment to wipe the small amount of snow free from the old cushions on the porch bench. The porch doesn't get much action in the winter, but it's covered which keeps the snow from accumulating too much. She takes a seat and pats the cushion beside her for Tara to join her. "I know it's cold, so I'll try to make this quick." she promises, her breath leaving a visible trial
Leah shifts in place to better face Tara, but remains silent for a moment as she attempts to organize her thoughts. "I'm glad you're here, Tara." she says with a small smile. "You're-... you are happy here, aren't you? You can be honest with me..."
Tara 's slightly confused smile is mostly unseen under her scarf, but she nods, still staring right at Leah.
Leah sucks in a deep breath, bringing her hands up to her mouth momentarily to breath into them before stuffing them back into her pockets. "You're a smart girl. I don't want to treat you like you're not. So I'm just-..." she sighs, tilting her head apologetically before turning her attention to her lap, "...I'm just going to be honest with you, Tara. The Terminus is a dangerous place. And, as calm as things seem to be out here,
we still get a good portion of traffic coming in and out of Freedom Falls all the time with the spaceport. And they're not all merchants..." She finally looks back up to Tara, "....You know what I'm getting at?"
Tara furrows her eyebrows slightly. She looks down towards the porch floor briefly, sounding hesitant as she replies. "You are... worried?" Her gaze darts briefly up to Leah's face, and she seems scared that her assumption is out of line.
Leah glances out towards the snow as she gives a short nod. "House Bar'adon has a ten thousand credit reward out for you, Tara. And-..." she pauses, worried her words may be interpreted harsher than intended, though she continues out of respect for Tara. The girl deserves to be treated as an equal. Not to have everything sugarcoated. "...Well you're not exactly doing much to cover up your past. The markings... The tattoo..." She
gives a deep sigh before continuing, "It's only a matter of time before trouble finds us, Tara. That's why I think maybe we should find them first."
Tara 's gaze snaps back to Leah, her eyes widening for a moment. She swallows hard and then lowers her gaze again, her previous deference returning. After a moment's silence she gives a resigned nod, even as a muffled sob escapes underneath her scarf despite her efforts to keep it together. "I... understand." she says, her voice markedly different from usual. Indeed, it is not hard to hear what frail sparks of hope that have grown
Leah is visibly shaken by Tara's change in demeanor. She removes her hand from her pocket and reaches out to place it on Tara's shoulder. "This is your home now, Tara. For as long as you want it to be." she assures her, her voice cracking ever so slightly as she speaks. "But you're never going to be free so long as those monsters have a document that says you belong to them. I know these are dangerous people, but you saw what
I'm capable of. I'm a soldier and I have plenty of people who I know will help me if I ask. And-... and I know that these are people who you have spent most of your life with, Tara, but-..." she pauses, biting her lower lip for a moment as she considers the severity of her words and just how Tara is going to react to them. She sucks in a deep breath and moves her hand from Tara's shoulder to her chin, propping the girl's
Tara 's gaze darts rapidly back and forth between Leah's eyes, a bewildered look on her face. It takes her a moment to process what is being said enough to speak. "You're... not turning me over?" she asks in disbelief, the idea that Leah would fight the people after her not even having occurred to her.
Leah's expression contorts into one of absolute heartbreak upon hearing the question and a tear instantly frees itself from her left eye and trails down her cheek. "Wha-... No! No, Tara. Never." she assures, accompanied by numerous shakes of her head. She removes her hand from Tara's chin, placing it back on the girl's shoulder as a sniffle escapes her. "I would never do that to you."
Tara looks overwhelmed with relief as Leah's words sink in. Despite previous reassurances, the possibility of being sold off or cast out has never truly left her mind. She blinks as her eyes start to tear up, a noise somewhere hallway between a ragged exhale and a quiet laugh of relief coming from underneath her scarf, followed by another sob as she does a one-eighty, going from failing attempts to contain her panic to an unusual
display of spontaneous joy as she suddenly wraps Leah up in a hug. For just a moment her cautious nature is nowhere to be found as she squeezes her tightly despite her limited strength, likely near enough pinning her arms to her sides. Quiet sobs are muffled as she presses her face against Leah's shoulder despite how cold the jacket is.
Leah is caught off guard by the sudden- and out-of-character- display of affection. But soon enough she's unable to keep a chuckle from escaping despite the tears that have welled up in her eyes. A loud, unflattering sniffle sneaks out as she attempts to use whatever movement still afforded to her arms to awkwardly return the hug as best as she can.
The sound of the nearby front door opening can be heard a moment before Leah's father leans out from the doorway. He's dressed in the usual blue shorts he sleeps in and a t-shirt. He wraps his arms around himself, rubbing his forearms to fight the chill he's instantly greeted by. "Thought I heard something out here." he says in a whisper, as if worried he may wake someone up despite being surrounded by nothing but fields and snow. He casts a
brief glance out towards the snow drifts that occupy their front yard, "You two are going to freeze to death! Come on, get inside." he continues, waving them over, "I'll make some hot chocolate." The kind older man doesn't wait around for a response before shuffling right back into the house.
Tara lets go of Leah when she hears her father's voice. She sniffles quietly, her cheeks wet from tears. She looks over at him, saying nothing and deferring to Leah, but her still-obvious relief is palpable.
Leah peers over Tara's shoulder to her father, merely nodding her head against Tara's shoulder until the hug is released. As her father disappears back inside, she looks back to Tara. "I can't do this without you, though. I'm gonna need your help, Tara." she explains, reaching over to give the girl's hand a squeeze. She gives a small smile as she sucks another deep breath in, attempting to regain her composure as she wipes at her
cheek with her free hand. "But that can wait. We've got more important things to worry about right now. Like hot chocolate." she says as she bounces to her feet.