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#Leah'sHouse – August 2, 2018
It's morning on the 5th of December, and Tara is up bright and early as always. In fact, she's already stepped out to clear the night's snowfall from the porch and steps. The weight of the snow is a challenge for someone her size and build, but she's undeterred, even by a particularly heavy patch of wet snow near where the shuttle usually touches down, her feet slipping and sliding over compacted snow as she struggles with making the mass in
front of her budge. She's wrapped up in cheerily colorful winter clothes as usual, contrasing her pale, scarred face. The morning offers a rare moment of winter sunshine, making the fields of snow that surround the Mercier house glitter and shine bright.
Mendez is visible long before he enters earshot. A dark spec against the field of white that covers the barely-maintained dirt road leading out of town which the house sits near. Sporting a large, thick, black winter jacket and sporting a tight-fitting beanie, he slowly meanders down the road, winter boots leaving large prints behind as he crunches through the snow. It's not until he's a stone's throw away that he pulls a gloved
Tara is quite preoccupied with her shoveling, little grunts sounding as she leans against the shovel handle at more than a 45 degree angle in an attempt to get it to move. Her eyebrows are furrowed in focus and effort - until she realizes this isn't going to work, at which point she stops, standing up properly and yanking the shovel free, grimming the handle in one mitten-clad hand as she glances around, panting quietly. She blinks when
she spots Mendez not far from her, almost jumping a little out of surprise, but when she realizes who it is she lifts her free hand to wave, a small hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
Mendez gains what might pass as an amused expression as he watches Tara's struggle while continuing through the snow towards her. "Morning, little bird." he greets evenly, snow crunching underfoot. His gaze scans over the snow to the shovel in her hand before cocking an eyebrow. "You sure you know how to use that thing?" he asks. Most likely some light hearted teasing but, as usual with Mendez, it's impossible to tell.
Tara blinks. She's quick to nod insistently, perhaps looking to reassure Mendez out of habit. "It's... heavy." she admits with a momentary furrowing of her eyebrows. "...but I can do it."
Mendez allows a the tiniest of smirks to cross his lips- a slight tug at the corner of his lips- as he gives a sigh and a small shake of his head, extending a gloved hand out towards her. "Let me take a shot." he says, gesturing for her to hand the shovel over.
Tara 's eyebrows furrow again, and she hesitates for a brief moment before placing the shovel handle in Mendez' hand, taking a step back and watching him with a bit of uncertainty.
Mendez maneuvers to replace Tara, driving the blade of the shovel into the snow with one hand. As he taps a boot against the blade to help it bite in, he glances back over his shoulders to Tara. "How is she doing...? Getting enough rest?" he asks, unaware that, even as they speak, Leah is inside snoring the morning away. She's usually a pretty early riser but, since returning from her last job, she's been sleeping in.
Tara 's gaze falls for a brief moment before she nods, looking up at Mendez again. "She's asleep." Tara confirms.
Mendez gives a small nod as he grips the shovel with both hands. "That's good. She could use the rest. Besides, I'm not here to see her anyway." he says as he begins to push forward, effortlessly moving the wet snow aside to join the rest of the mound Tara had already started. "You want to push and lift with your legs." he advises, "Never your back. That's how you hurt yourself."
Tara seems confused as Mendez mentions he's not here to see Leah, but she doesn't comment. Instead she observes his shoveling attentively, nodding as she listens to his advice.
Mendez proceeds to push another patch aside, a small grunt escaping him as the shovel gets snagged on a particularly stubborn bit of hard snow. "I remember Leah mentioning you not knowing what a snowman is." he informs, his voice even and flat as always. He stabs the shovel into the mound of snow and rests his forearm against it, casting a glance across the open space surrounding the house, as if looking for something. "Couldn't
help but notice she never handled that. I planned on fixing that while I was here but between work and-... everything going on-..." he says, avoiding outright mentioning his own worry over Leah while she was away while simultaneously making the process of building a snowman sound more like a learning experience than a fun, recreational activity, "...I just didn't have the time." He casts a glance back towards Tara. "But I
just so happen to be an excellent snowman-builder." he says matter-of-factly. Confidently despite the ridiculous nature of the statement which, between her lack of knowledge and Mendez' monotone delivery, is probably lost on Tara. "So, unless you've got something more important to do...?" he says, allowing the statement to linger as if extending an offer.
Tara blinks, a hint of curiosity showing as Mendez speaks. His prodding prompts her to reply with a small nod and a slightly hesitant "Okay..." She has no real idea what this will entail, and she had planned to make breakfast for the others once done, but she's also not one to turn down a request... and there's a certain personal motivation in her curiosity.
Thiago expression remains that of a stone wall, giving a small, stern nod in response. "Okay." he repeats, his own words far more confident. "Then let's get started." he adds, leaving the shovel upright, stabbed into the mound of snow as he stomps through the 'yard' off to the side of the footpath. "Snowmen aren't like you and me." he explains, casting a glance back over his shoulder towards Tara as he comes to a stop at a patch
of mostly-flat ground where the snow crests the top of his boots. "They have no legs." he continues, delivering his snowman advise with a dry precision that would sound utterly stupid to anyone else if they were to overhear it. "But like you and me, they still require a good base-..." he pats a gloved hand against the upper thigh of his thick snowpants, "...to stay upright. Everything in life needs a strong foundation if
you're gonna build off of it." His confidence and serious tone betray the fact that he has never actually built a snowman. Most of his life was spent on Mars, beneath a domed sky and far from snow. And during the few years he spent on Earth, snowmen weren't exactly near the top of his 'To-do' list. But how hard can it be?
Tara follows after Mendez, trudging through the snow with more difficulty than the massive man she's following. She listens silently but attentively, slight hints of confusion showing in her face - Mendez' dead serious tone does little to help her understand what kind of reaction she's supposed to be having.
Mendez uses his boot to crunch down a nice plot of snow, flattening it out as much as possible. Placing his hands on his hips, he studies the area before giving a satisfied nod. "This will do." he decides aloud. He lowers down to a knee and gives a glance Tara's way, gesturing for her to join him. He reaches for a handful of snow and starts to pack it onto the plot of flattened snow to begin building up the base of the snowman.
"Now we just keep packing the snow on here until we've got a nice solid lower section, you see?" he explains as he continues to slap handfuls of snow against it. "Try and make it round. Like Frank." he continues, a slight smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth as he passes a glance towards the house.
Tara kneels down next to Mendez, watching as he packs the snow. Her confusion only seems to go, but she does as instructed, taking small handfuls of snow and mimicking Mendez as she tries to pack it against the existing base by patting with her mittens. Despite having very little idea what they're actually doing, she seems entirely dedicated to the task. As usual, she's a quiet enough presence that even Mendez seems chatty by comparison.
Mendez continues to silently pack at the base with Tara, the occasional gust of wind becoming the only voice as they work towards building up their snowman base. Progress is slow, but they're chipping away at it. For a time, it seems like silence might be all that's in store for them until Mendez eventually speaks up again. "I understand these are some pretty mean people looking for you." he says, eyes remaining on their creation
as he attempts to begin rounding out the base with his hands, scraping the outside of his palm along the compacted snow to shape it.
Tara has shifted to sit on her knees against the flattened snow beneath them. She withdraws her hands as Mendez starts to give shape to the base, watching him work to get an idea of how to help. Mendez' words cause her gaze to dart over to his face briefly before falling, staring down at her hands as they rest in her lap. A faint nod follows. "House... Bar'adon." she says, her voice little more than a whisper, her posture stiffened now.
Mendez gives a silent nod, not prodding right away as he continues to shape the snow. He looks to Tara as he scrapes along the side with his hand to show her, packing the excess snow that his shaping frees against the top of the base. As his gaze returns to the snowman, he speaks up again. "Leah says you're worried." he says simply, his tone- as per usual- masking any emotion that may or may not be behind it.
Tara goes to repeat Mendez' movements, helping to shape the snow, but what Mendez says causes her movements to stop. She just stares at the snow for a while before giving a series of very small, quick nods that cause the tassels of her knit hat to wobble a bit.
Mendez once again simply nods. "Why?" he asks, his approach far more direct than Leah's. And far less wordy.
Tara blinks. She actually seems a little caught off-guard by Mendez' direct questioning after dealing with Leah's rambling and self-sustained conversations for so long. It takes her a moment to respond, her gaze remaining low as she forms her reply. "I-... I don't want them to hurt her too..." she manages, her voice quiet enough that it might be hard to hear. She swallows hard, just continuing to stare at the snow.
Mendez gives a couple of nods, his focus remaining on the snowman as if its more important than the conversation despite that obviously not being the case. "And she doesn't want them to hurt you." he says, his response remaining even toned. He shifts in place, sitting back against his boots and bringing his hands to rest on his thighs as he looks over the snowman, contemplating how to proceed. "Do you like it here?" he asks,
Tara looks up at the question, and briefly follows Mendez' nod towards the house before looking back at him and giving a few nods. There's no uncertainty there.
Mendez nods as well, his gaze falling back to the snowman. It's round. Ish. Good enough. "Good. So that means now you need to start investing in the idea of staying here." he says. With a grunt, he rises to his feet and nods towards the snowman. Having used most of the snow immediately around the base, he has to go a little further out to collect some more to begin work on the second section. Switching gears, he slaps the snow
atop the base and gestures towards it. "Now we make another section, just like the first but smaller. This is going to be the snowman's upper body." he explains as an aside. Despite the snowman clearly being a vehicle to allow him to converse with Tara, he seems pretty committed to doing it right.
Tara lets Mendez' initial advice go uncommented, but his snowman instructions on the other hand elicits a serious nod as she leans to her side to grab some snow from further away and begin assisting with the shaping of the middle section. She seems focused on their work, despite the apparent frivolity of it.
Mendez takes a step back, as if to get a wider view of the project. After studying it for a moment, he nods to himself and continues on with his work. "Leah says-..." he pauses as he leans down to collect some more snow, compacting it into a big snowball for easier carry back to the construction site, "...you talk like it's only a matter of time before they take you back. You know that's bullshit, right?" he asks. Again, there's no
emotion in his tone. It's not an accusation. His monotone, almost-bored delivery makes it seem as if it may as well be idle chit chat while they work rather than the life-or-death situation it actually is.
Tara seems a little unsure how to react to Mendez' question. She's gotten used to Leah's way of approaching her, and this kind of calling out leaves her stumped at first. She resumes shaping the snow for a moment before letting her hands drop, exhaling. "Leah says they won't..." she replies quietly, with a tone that indicates she's not so sure, even if she's hesitant to voice that outright.
Mendez continues to work as he talks, brow furrowed as he takes all this snowman business deadly serious. "They'll try." he admits flatly as he slaps his ball of snow against the snowman's middle segment. "But this is your life. A life you seem to like unless you're lying to me." he continues, putting his back to Tara momentarily to fetch some more snow. "So it's time for you to accept that you've got a say in all this shit. Time
to accept that these people-... House Bar'adon-..." he corrects, "...aren't the ones who get to decide what happens to you no matter how much they want to."
Tara goes silent as Mendez speaks, continuing to carefully fetch more snow and pack it. Although there's plenty she could say, no response comes even after he's no longer talking. She continues to work on the snowman, gaze downcast.
Thiago too, continues about his work. After a few moments pass and it's clear she's not going to respond, he casts a glance her way. "This is your life." he repeats, finally putting a little emphasis into his words to make sure she realizes that this is important despite his distant approach to the conversation. But his deep voice fades right back into its usual monotone cadence. "And just like this snowman-..." he slaps another
handful of snow against the second segment, "...your life is gonna be on shaky ground until you build a strong foundation. And that starts with making sure you don't need to live every day looking over your shoulder."
Tara gives an unconvincing nod, likely just meant to placate, as she focuses on the snowman, seeming less than eager to look Mendez' way. The conversation has caused her mind to drift in part, to dangerous thoughts. Thoughts of the past. Thoughts of others that expressed such sentiments. She swallows again as her throat feels dry, hands withdrawing from the forming snowman and pulling back into her lap as she drops back onto her knees.
Mendez proceeds with his work for the moment, collecting and packing snow. It's not until he finally notices Tara's change in demeanor that he shifts his attention to her. His gaze shifts from Tara to the snowmen then back to Tara. With a sigh, he lowers to one knee beside her, resting a forearm atop his other knee. He seems to consider his words for a few moments, studying her in silence before finally speaking. "You're scared.
And I'm sure you've got a lifetime of pain to back up that fear. But that's all from them. Don't allow that to ruin a good thing." He places his free hand atop Tara's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. "You can't allow yourself to be so damn willing to give up because of the bullshit they've instilled in you. Not if you have something you don't want to lose. If they want to take it from you, then you make them work for
Tara flinches slightly as Mendez plants a hand on her shoulder, but it causes her to finally look his way. She listens to every word even if she doesn't say anything, and by the end she swallows again before nodding, although it's hard to tell whether there's any real conviction behind it or whether she's just trying to respond in a way that will satsify him.
Mendez holds Tara's gaze, looking unconvinced by her reaction. With another sigh, he shakes his head. "You mean a whole hell of a lot to Leah." he says bluntly. It's not hard to see that none of this is particularly his area of expertise. Heart-to-hearts. Hell, talking in general. He's very direct. But it's clear that all of this is important to him even if his tone rarely implies such. "And that means you mean a lot to me. And I
get it. You're worried that facing these assholes is dangerous and she's gonna get herself hurt." He gives a dismissive shrug of his shoulders. "And maybe you're right. If so then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. But either way you're just gonna have to tough it out and get used to the fact that people care about you. And sometimes that means doing dangerous shit for the people you care about, no matter what the
cost might be." There's conviction behind his words and, by the way his gaze falters briefly, it's not hard to see that he's talking about more than just Tara, "Because we're all in this together now whether you like it or not."
Tara blinks repeatedly. She seems a little uncomfortable at first, but it's undeniable that Mendez' bluntness seems to have an effect. Her gaze falls as he continues to speak, and only when he's done does she meet his gaze again, giving another short series of nods, but something's changed in her expression. While her worry is certainly not gone, her acceptance of his words seems genuine. "Sorry..." she voices as she flicks her gaze
Mendez cocks an eyebrow as he draws in a deep breath, the cold air making it visible when he breathes out again. "What are you sorry for?" he asks plainly, gaze fixed on Tara.
Tara 's eyebrows furrow as her apology is questioned. She gains an uncertain expression as she looks up at Mendez again. "I-..." She gains an uncomfortable look as it becomes increasingly clear that she doesn't have a ready answer. Her apologetic nature is often little more than a reflex when she realizes that she's failed to meet expectations, even when she doesn't fully understand the context. Hints of embarrassment seem to mingle with
discomfort as part of her considers how strange it is to apologize without even knowing what for. A holdover among many. A lesson learned in a different environment, where one was punished for imagined mistakes. "I-... I've disappointed..." is all she manages, her gaze dropping to the snowman once more before she speaks.
Mendez merely watches Tara as she goes through the internal struggle of unraveling her own apology. When she finally speaks he gives a shake of his head. "No you haven't." he says plainly. "You've done nothing wrong. The position we find ourselves in is not your fault." His hand moves from her shoulder to her chin momentarily, propping her gaze back up to meet his. "So hold your head up high. Be proud that you're taking your life
back and know that no matter what happens, you won't need to endure it alone." His gaze searches Tara's eyes. First her left, then her right. "Now I think we've got a snowman to build."
Tara allows her attention to be pulled back to Mendez, although she doesn't seem very comfortable with it. There's obvious uncertainty in her eyes over how to react to this kind of encouragement. There's certainly no pride in sight, and it's only reluctantly that she meets his gaze as he looks into her eyes. The final comment elicits a faint nod and a hint of relief, however.
Mendez gives his pants a quick pat to free some of the snow from them as he stands back up. "Even though they have no legs, snowmen still have arms." he explains as his attention shifts back to their project, his own relief at being done with all that obvious. "We're going to need some branches for that. Think you can take care of that while I finish shaping the body?" he suggests with a glance back Tara's way.
Tara blinks. She glances around and then gives a nod as she starts to climb to her feet. "Okay." she says, not questioning the strange request. She looks around again before starting to head towards the nearest trees, trudging through the deep snow with awkward, waddling steps.
There's enough branches laying around the few barren trees in the immediate vicinity of the house that Tara has her pick.
Mendez turns his focus right back to the snowman and immediately gets back to work on rounding the blocky shape out.
Tara returns soon enough, carrying a pair of branches that should make for fine, if somewhat gnarled and clawlike arms. Clearly she has an eye for snowman construction. She stops as she reaches the flattened area, watching Mendez work with the branches still in her arms.
Leah appears in the doorway wearing a pair of comfy, baggy pants that she just tossed on and her clunky boots still unlaced from being slipped on without much effort. Her hair is tied in a lazy ponytail and she's attempting to fight her bangs with strategic shakes of her head. She scrunches up her nose and shuts one eye as she's greeted by the intolerable sunlight. Hisssss! And such! With one hand she loosely clutches her hastily
thrown on jacket as she clutches the arm of a mug with the other. She slowly meanders across the porch to the railing and leans against it, taking a sip from her mug before setting it down on the bannister. As her eyes adjust to the brightness and she realizes what's going on, a smile crosses her lips.
Mendez is far too busy with super mega important stuff to pay attention to Leah. With an intense focus etched into his features he adds the last few finishing touches to the second segment of the snowman and takes a step back, looking over his handy work. "What do you think?" he asks. Much like the first section, it's mostly round. Round-ish. Round... adjacent...?
Tara nods approvingly as she studies the ambiguous shape of snow that they have crafted. It doesn't much look like a person to her, but who is she to question the process? Her gaze turns towards the porch as she notices Leah out of the corner of her eye, and she raises a mitten-clad hand to wave, the other holding onto the snowman's future arms.
Leah's smile grows as she catches Tara's attention and she raises a hand to return the wave. "Looks good!" she calls out. The bruising on her jaw and cheekbone is still quite prominent, but her split lip is much less noticeable than it was when she first returned. "But I think it's missing a head!" she adds with a snicker, reaching out with one arm to point towards their creation.
Mendez furrows his brow as he continues to assess their work. Noticing Tara's wave and the voice that follows, he glances Leah's way. Her comment garners an unamused glare from him. "Instead of standing there criticizing our work, how about you get your ass down here and help?" he calls back. With a shake of his head he pulls his attention away from Leah and glances Tara's way, his eyes falling to the branches in her arms. "Go on."
Leah makes a loud grumbled noise. "It's collllllllllllllld!" she complains, clutching her jacket a little tighter as she stomps in place to emphasize her point.
Tara furrows her eyebrows as she looks the appandage-less torso over. She holds out the branches to study them for a moment before, with a bit of hesitation, going to stick one to each side of their creation, a tiny hint of a smile briefly crossing her lips as she does.
Mendez rests his hands on his hips as he watches Tara with an expression far more serious than befits snowman building. Once armed, he gives a nod. "Good work." he says sternly, as if assessing a co-workers work. Leah's response gets a roll of his eyes but he doesn't respond. Instead, he focuses on explaining the next- incredibly difficult- step to Tara. "Now we do the same shit. But even smaller." Nailed it. With a gesture towards
Leah stands on her tippy toes as she leans forward over the railing, pointing towards the snowman again. "We should get sunglasses for the snowman!" she says. "When he finally has a head, I mean!" she makes sure to clarify. "He could be a coooooool snowman!" A moment passes before she snickers at her own cheesie joke. "Get it?! Coooooool?!"
Mendez continues to look to Tara, a blank, distant expression crossing his face as Leah continues to speak.
Tara 's eyebrows furrow in confusion. It doesn't seem like she gets it. Or perhaps something's lost in translation. "Sunglasses...?" she inquires to Mendez, albeit a bit hesitantly. It seems the casual nature of the situation has her at ease enough to indulge her curiosity just a little.
Mendez shakes his head briefly. "It was a joke. A bad, bad joke." he explains, making sure to speak loud enough to be heard by Leah. "Just ignore her. I do." he adds before stepping back and leaning down to begin collecting more snow and compacting it into a ball to start on the head.
Leah frowns, scrunching her nose up once again. "Hey!" she calls out, "Come on, that was funny!" she insists. Mendez' grumbling implies that he's not convinced.
Tara 's gaze shifts between Mendez and Leah, but she doesn't comment. Instead she goes to pick up her own handful of snow, adding onto Mendez' work on the head.
Leah remains on the porch, watching them work and sipping at her warm drink. "If you're trying to make a likeness of yourself you're gonna have to hollow out the head, Mendez!" she teases when she eventually grows tired of silently watching.
Mendez is mid snow-collection when Leah begins running her mouth. Unfortunately for Leah. He looks up to Tara with a blank stare and merely shakes his head. As he rises back up, he slings the ball of snow right at Leah.
Leah only has enough time to partially turn her body, causing the snowball to SPLAT against the side of her head. Slowly- slowwwwly- she turns in place, mouth agape as she looks to Mendez.
Mendez seems every bit as caught off guard as she is that the snowball actually made contact and his jaw hangs open. Despite the reckoning that's sure to come, something occurs as rare as a shooting star: Mendez bursts into laughter.
Tara 's eyes widen as she registers what Mendez did. She stands frozen in place as she stares at Leah with no idea how to react. When Mendez suddenly bursts into laughter her gaze snaps back to him, darting between the two of them as she stands completely immobile.
Leah remains still, merely blinking her big green eyes a few times before finally a surprised chuckle escapes her as well. "You-... ass!" she shouts through laughter. "I'm gonna-... Tara! Get him!" she calls out, already zipping up her jacket as she shoots down the stairs, already bending down to scoop up a bare hand full of snow.
Mendez still hasn't recovered from his laughing fit. But as Leah comes down into the yard he snaps out of it, shifting back to try and maneuver behind the snowman to put something between her and himself for when the snow starts flying.
Tara 's startled expression intensifies as Leah calls out to her. Her head swivels atop her shoulders as her body tenses as if she's going to do something, but she's not exactly sure what, and she ends up remaining somewhat awkwardly in place as Mendez ducks behind the snowman, a slight crouch to her stance as if she could leap into action, even though she doesn't.
Leah bounds into the yard of white, snow crunching under her clunky boots as she pats a handful of snow into a nice, compact projectile. She glances to Tara and nods towards Mendez, calling for the pincer attack.
Mendez has one hand atop the snowman's partially-finished head, body poised to dodge if the need should arise. "Don't you do it!" it warns.
Leah feigns as if she's going to throw a couple of times, each time causing the large man to weave his head, anticipating the snowball's release.
Tara pays close attention to Leah's motioning. Somewhat surprisingly, she takes a few careful steps closer to Mendez. Hesitating repeatedly, she crouches down behind him, gingerly scooping up a large handful of snow in both her mittens and, practically on her toes, reaching up to throw it loosely at the back of Mendez' head after looking over at Leah for confirmation. It's not really packed into a snowball, but the near-point black range
Leah continues her threatening feigns as Tara sneaks into position, big toothy smile across her face.
Mendez continues to weave his head as he awaits Leah to take her shot when- suddenly- he's blasted by the shotgun of snowball attacks from behind. He spins around, eyes wide, to face Tara. "You traitor!" he cries through an uncharacteristic grin just as Leah unleashes her own attack, nailing him right in the back of his head.
Tara practically jumps back as Mendez spins around, frozen in place and staring like a deer caught in headlights, arms pulled up against her chest. Despite her wide-eyed stare she's unable to help an almost mischievous giggle that slips out as Leah's snowball hits its mark, one of her mittens shooting up to muffle it.