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#Leah'sHouse – March 2, 2018
Leah gives a small wave as the shuttle lifts into the sky, simply watching it for a few moments before drawing in a deep breath. She shivers as the cold, night air fills her lungs, suddenly acutely aware of the fact that she isn't wearing a jacket. Still, she's in no hurry to get back inside. A million thoughts flood her mind. Another job she needs to push deep down. Put on a smile for her father's sake. For Tara's sake. The
weight of that fact suddenly feels like a boulder on her shoulders. She clutches her armor crate, dragging it towards the porch. With the thin layer of snow on the ground, the wheels do little to assist her. When she reaches the door, she considers just going inside but finds herself hesitating. Her gaze moves to the small outdoor couch on the porch and she plants herself atop it to watch the Freedom Falls lights dotting the
landscape. Every breath is like sticking her lungs in a freezer, but she doesn't seem to mind. It's a reminder that she's still alive. She made it. They all made it.
Tara hasn't dared to wake the others, but she's been waiting anxiously ever since she got the message, quiet as a mouse. Upon hearing the shuttle she makes her way to the window behind the desk, standing on her toes to peek out. She hasn't turned on any lights, and is still wearing her pyjamas, along with fluffy slippers. Another personal choice made after some prompting from Leah while shopping. Her eyes widen when she spots Leah
sitting on the porch. She seems unsure what to do, and for the moment she remains in place, shooting a glance towards Mendez on the couch.
Tara frowns slightly. She glances towards the door, and then back out the window. She's seems worried about disturbing Leah, but she nonetheless approaches the door, taking her jacket and putting it on over her pyjamas without closing it. One more glance to Mendez, and she opens the door, stepping outside. She keeps to the snowless inner part of the porch, tilting her head as she studies Leah without really announcing herself, the
Leah immediately snaps her head around as the sound of the door opening reaches her ears. She's tired, bruised, and has a pretty bad split lip. But despite all of that, she manages a big, bright smile as she spots Tara. "Hey, you!" she says in a whisper as she stands up, her gaze briefly moving to the window behind the couch to ensure the lights are still off. Once sure that the others haven't yet caught wind of her return she
grows a bit self conscious at having been discovered. "I was just-..." she begins, casting a glance back over her shoulder and cocking a thumb towards the couch, "...I didn't want to wake anyone. Thought maybe I would just take in the view for a little while."
Tara gains a smile of her own when Leah greets her. She lifts one hand to give her a small wave, but the words from Leah that follow cause a slight frown, her gaze lowering to the porch as a quiet "Sorry." sounds, perhaps worried she did indeed disturb her.
Leah puts a hand up, palm outwards towards Tara. "No, no, no, sweetie." she offers, a small, simple snicker escaping her. "Nothing to be sorry about! I'm just happy to see you. Happy to be home." she continues sincerely. There's always that line that needs to be crossed from soldier to civilian. That moment where she has to let go of everything she's done- everything that's been done to her- and just... go home. It was an ability
that not everyone had and that inability to cope has ruined many a soldier's life. Working for Redrock and living on Aite have presented a challenge in keeping that line from being blurred. But her father deserves better than to have to carry the weight of her baggage. Tara deserves better. And that's all the motivation she needs to compartmentalize her life from the nightmares she faced. From the people who didn't make it
off of that ship. Push it all down. Keep moving forward, no matter how much it hurts. The Collectors will still be out there tomorrow. Tonight, she can allow herself to take comfort in being home. "Miss me?" she says cheerfully, a stark contrast to the bruising on her cheekbone, "Dad and Mendez weren't too much trouble, I hope." she quickly follows up with, scrunching up her nose.
Tara brings her left hand over to her right elbow as she listens to Leah, her smile quickly returning. The question causes her gaze to fall briefly before several small nods follow as she looks back to her. The followup elicits a tiny snicker and a shake of her head. Her eyebrows furrow slightly as she continues to study Leah's face. "Are you okay...?"
Leah looks away, her gaze returning to the city lights for a moment as she considers the question. Her smile fades slightly, but it's still present when she looks back. "Yeah..." she nods as she studies the girl in turn. She pulls in a deep breath, her lungs once again filling with cold air as she looks from Tara to her house, her smile widening a bit before she adds a soft: "...Now I am." She quickly follows it up with a small
shrug of her shoulders and takes a step towards Tara, eager to avoid putting any more of her burdens onto Tara. "Hey, where's my hug?!" she asks playfully, arms extending outwards towards Tara.
Tara studies Leah in silence, a thoughtful look on her face. She smiles slightly at the question, and there's no hesitation as she steps closer, wrapping her arms around Leah and hugging her softly.
Leah snickers as she pulls Tara a hug and holds it for a number of moments before pulling back and looking her over once more. Another gust of cold winter air prompts her to release her hold on Tara and hug herself as she fights off a shiver. "Let's get inside, it's freezing out here." she says, taking a step back to reach out and grab the handle of her crate.
Tara nods as her shoulder rise slightly in response to the cold, hands moving to hold her jacket closed. She turns around to open the door for Leah, stepping inside and out of the way.
Leah follows Tara inside, her armor crate clunking against the porch's wooden floorboards. She frowns as she steps into the living room and is greeted by a loud, nasally snore. It cuts itself short as her armor crate makes a loud thud when she pulls it over the door's threshold, causing her to wince.
Thiago snore erupts into a few throaty noises and he begins to stir on the couch. As he rolls over the couch creaks loudly under Mendez' girth. "Tara...?" he grunts through his sleepiness, greeted by little more than darkness as he opens one eye, the other side of his face still pressed against his pillow.
Tara flinches slightly as the crate makes its noise entrance, her gaze immediately going to Mendez. She doesn't respond, deferring to Leah with a look her way.
Leah continues to wince as she realizes she woke Mendez up. "Sorry, Mendez!" she offers in a stage whisper. "Just roll back over and start that engine back up that you've been hiding in your nose."
Mendez lifts his head from his pillow as he looks towards the voice, still only one eye opened. "Leah...?" he asks groggily. It takes another moment before his mind clears enough of the sleep away for him to push himself up into a seated position. The couch creaks again as he rises to his feet and quickly turns on the living room light, unable to subdue the smile on his face as he approaches the pair and reaches out to take Leah's
free hand. "You're back." he points out, a small sigh of relief escaping him even in his tired state. As he gives her hand a gentle squeeze and looks her over, concern settles into his features. Bruises. Definitely combat. "...Is everyone-...?" he asks, leaving his question open ended.
Leah is quick to respond with a number of nods. "Everyone is fine, Mendez." she assures, "Oxaris is in the hospital, but from the sound of things, it's gonna be okay. Li is back safe and sound, and-..." She casts a brief glance Tara's way before offering Mendez an apologetic tilt of her head. "I'll fill you in on all the details later, alright? Right now I'd just like to relax." she continues with a short, tired snicker in an
Mendez nods in turn, clearly relieved to hear that the team is all in one piece. He passes a glance Tara's way as well, catching her drift. "Yeah." he nods, "Of course." Releasing his grip on Leah's hand, he takes a step back and looks back over to Tara, noting the jacket. "Were you outside, little bird?" he asks curiously.
Tara reminds silent as Leah and Mendez talk, but she's listening to every word. She lowers her head slightly as it becomes clear they don't want to discuss whatever happened with her around. She does her best to hide her conflicted feelings on this. As Mendez addresses her she looks up again, quickly nodding. Having been reminded, she heads over to remove her jacket and place it on a hook.
Leah gives a roll of her eyes, her smile remaining. "Not hard to be sneaky when you sound like you've got a lion up your nose." she says in return, "Seriously, how did anyone get any sleep with you around?" With a glance back to Tara, she continues to tease Mendez, "You and dad must've been miserable!"
Thiago face contorts into a frown. His unstyled mohawk is mostly just a lump of hair leaned slightly to one side. "Nobody was miserable." he grunts defensively, his voice monotone as ever. "We had a great time. Didn't we, little bird?" he says, looking to Tara for back up despite most of their interaction being silently watching TV and eating dinner together. Maybe that's what he considers a 'great time'.
Leah cocks an eyebrow, taking Tara's response as a sleight towards Mendez. She gives a smug smile, folding her arms across her chest.
Leah snickers to herself. "Hey, nothing to feel bad about!" she offers with a shrug of her shoulders, "You're just not me. You had big shoes to fill. I'm proud of you for trying."
Mendez slowly glances down to Leah's boots- which it would probably take three of to make a single shoe for him- then back to meet her gaze. He blinks silently, clearly not entertained.
Tara 's eyes widen slightly at Mendez' grumpy response, and she seems to consider saying something, but Leah's comment causes her eyebrows to furrow in confusion. She suddenly finds herself looking down at Leah's boots with a tilted head. She blinks, obviously puzzled, and for a moment she hesitates, but Leah's demeanor towards Mendez, as well as the past few days of acclimation, seems to make her feel comfortable enough to speak
up. "His shoes are a lot bigger." she comments to Leah, hoping for clarification. She's obviously entirely unfamiliar with the saying.
Mendez shakes his head, his smile widening ever so slightly. "Her choice has been made." he decides, zero inflection in his voice, "Don't be a sore loser."
Leah dead eyes Mendez, one hand moving to her hip. She gives a roll of her eyes, but the smile crossing her face betrays her attempt at seeming annoyed. It's not long before the mock-frustration dissipates entirely. "Thanks, Mendez." she suddenly says, sincerity clear in her voice. "Really. It means a lot to-..."
Mendez waves her off dismissively, giving an eyeroll of his own. "Shut up. It was no big deal." he says, clearly uncomfortable with the praise.
Leah is quick to let it go, giving a few small nods of her head and accepting his desire to just let it go. But after a short pause, she steps forward and wraps her arms around him in a hug. Given the size difference, she's practically hugging a tree trunk.
Mendez grunts in frustration and a deep sigh follows. "Yeah, yeah. Knock it off." he mutters, but when it becomes clear that his request is being ignored, he returns the gesture, making a show of being frustrated at having to do so.
Tara 's confusion only grows as she looks back and forth between the two of them, but she puts it out of her mind as they hug, a small smile crossing her face as she stands by silently, seeming quite content to just wait as the two friends reunite.
Francois is heard before he's seen. "What's going on out here...?" he asks, the sleep clear in his voice. As he steps into the living room doorway from the kitchen, he's rubbing at his eyes. Dressed in a pair of comfy sweat pants and a white t-shirt, he scans the room until his gaze comes to a stop on Leah. "You're home." he says, a big smile crossing his lips as his eyes light up. He's quick to cross the room towards her.
Leah releases her grip on Mendez as she hears her father's voice, her green eyes shooting to the doorway. As Francois begins to approach her, she prepares for another incoming hug and isn't disappointed. He wraps her up tightly, squeezing the ever loving bejeebus out of her. She gives a groan, wincing slightly as she returns the hug. "Yeah-... Okay, I get it, dad. I missed you, too." she snickers.
Francois gives an overjoyed chuckle as he releases Leah, quickly bringing a hand up to his face to wipe at his eyes. No tears have escaped, but it's not hard to see that he's emotional. As much as he's tried to hide his worry while Leah was away, her sudden departure and a week without any information has obviously worn on him. As he pulls away, he notices the bruising on her jaw and cheekbone and the split lip. "Are you alright,
sweetheart?" he asks, concern flooding his voice as he brings a hand to her chin to tilt her head and get a better look.
Mendez falls silent, merely folding his arms across his chest when the hug is released and watching Francois and Leah, a small smile remaining on his lips.
Leah gives a humorless snort as she reluctantly allows Francois to examine her wounds. "Should see the other guy." she says, playing down the severity of the situation she found herself in. "Hey, dad!" she continues quickly, not allowing her father a chance at following up with any questions, "Since you're already uppp..." she asks tentatively, trying to sweep the discussion about her wounds under the rug before it can even get
Francois gives a deep, playful sigh, knowing exactly where she's going. "Is food all you ever think about?" he mutters before taking a step back and glancing to Tara. "How do waffles sound?" he offers, seemingly leaving it to Tara to decide what he should make.
Tara 's smile grows as Francois joins them and wraps Leah up in another hug. She snickers slightly at Francois' mutter, and she's quick to nod at the suggestion. She's started to accept that it's not always her role to cook in the house, so rather than speeding off towards the kitchen she asks: "Do... you want help?", a faint smile lingering. It's obvious in both her face and the tone of her voice that having Leah back has lifted
Francois gives an appreciative glance Tara's way, but shakes his head. "I'll take care of it. Go on." he gives a small nod back towards the bathroom, "Get cleaned up for breakfast." He looks between Leah and Mendez next, "That goes for all of you." he instructs before turning back and starting towards the kitchen with a little more bounce in his step.
Mendez is quick to raise a hand. "I got it after her." he calls dibs on the shower, beating Leah to the punch.
Leah scrunches up her nose at Mendez, "Fiiiiine." she sighs, but her annoyance doesn't last. She gives Tara a brief sidehug before grasping at her crate and starting off towards her room to begin unpacking.
Tara is quick to nod in response to Francois' instructions. The sidehug pins her in place briefly, her smile widening for a moment. When she's free she heads off for the bathroom.