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#Leah'sHouse – October 9, 2018
December 6th. 1:40AM. Leah's house is a modest, single story home just outside of town. A covered porch wraps around the front and one side of the house furnished with a bench and a stack of chairs that don't see much use in the winter. While it's not much of a trip by vehicle, it's probably not exactly fun for Leah who has to make regular trips to town. Still, it's peaceful. It sits off the road a bit atop a hill to the southwest of Freedom
Falls proper, giving a nice view of the town. A small path from the road seems is maintained to allow access to the house which is undoubtedly a pain in the ass to keep clear when the snow is coming down. Spots of light escape windows in the distance to the east, the last signs of life in Freedom Falls from the few souls still up at this hour. Despite the lack of street lights, visibility is good. In large part thanks to Litae. On a
Nathan slowly rolls up to the modest home, his motorcycle gently humming as the engine purrs to a gentle halt. The gyroscopes balance the sleek vehicle before Nate kicks the stand down, the snow crunching beneath his riding boots. He sits back on the seat, resting his arms across his thighs as he looks over her home with tired eyes. In truth, he was very much asleep when her message pinged through (and in a very
pleasant dream involving copious amounts of ice cream for some reason) , but he reasoned that for her to call on him this late that something must be really bothering her. And given recent events, he couldn't really blame her either. He slips off the cycle and locks the controls with a swipe of his omni-tool, the gentle orange glow briefly bathing him in a warm light. He quickly fires off a simple "I'm here," to
Leah, reasoning that it's probably not a sensible idea to bang on her door at this time, what with her sharing the house with Tara and her father. He walks up to the front door, wincing as the sound of snow beneath his feet seems particularly loud in the silence of the night. Nate even carefully slid off his helmet for fear that even that action may wake up everyone within a 5 mile radius.
There's no response to the message, but the door slides open as Nathan ascends the porch steps. Leah is just behind it. Her hair is pulled into a lazy ponytail and she's still dressed for bed. Her thick, warm, wool socks repping the Usaru Maestros match her dark blue shorts and light blue t-shirt. The front door leads directly to the living room. The outside might need a fresh coat of paint after standing up to a few harsh Aitian winters,
but the interior is well maintained. It's warm. Cozy. Lived-in. To the left from the door is a television set, a couch and a coffee table, and a recliner off on its own that seems to have suffered more wear-and-tear than the rest of the furniture in the room combined. A butt-shaped indentation has been permanently left in the cushion and a number of small tears have been repaired, covered with patches that don't quite match the rest of the
chair. A number of family photos are hung on the wall and atop a desk to the right of the door of Leah, her father, and her mother. They're proudly on display, showcasing Leah throughout many stages of her life. It's not hard to see that they were- and still are- a very close knit family. As was mentioned in the message, an open pizza box sits on the coffee table, half of the pizza long since consumed. Along with it are a few datapads as
Leah flashes a brief, toothy smile in greeting to accompany her whispered: "Hey shithead!" But the smile is soon replaced by a scrunching of her nose and the universal pantomime for 'Cold!' which mostly consists of her biting down and stomping softly from foot to foot as tries to hurry Nathan up with a wave of her hand.
Nathan flashes her his own toothy grin, waving off her hurried wave with his own. "Hey shortstack," he whispers back, quickly ducking inside (after stomping off his boots outside, of course. And as quietly as he could. It's not easy.) His gaze drifts around the living room, eyes drawn to the family photos dotted around the walls. For a brief moment, it kicked in the thought process that he really needed to add a few
more personal touches to his apartment. Then that kicked in the thought that he would have to ask Jessica for a few of the wedding photos. Then the thought vanished soon after that. He shakes himself out of his tangent and he looks towards the biotic with a small smile, but he's unable to fully hide that small glint of concern that has crept into his stormy grey eyes. "Sofia mentioned this place was cozy. Had to
Leah is quick to shut the door once Nathan is inside which seems to do the trick of holding back the cold. His comment causes her to pass a glance about the room herself, a small smile coming to her lips. "It's home." she says simply with a shrug. In what look to be the most recent of the family photos, only Leah and her father are present. He's a stout man, contrary to Leah's petite frame. Broad shouldered with a head full of
dark hair peppered with a bit of grey. Outside of his piercing green eyes and the full smile often displayed on his face in so many of the pictures, the two don't share much of a resemblance. She definitely got her mother's looks. It was almost uncanny how similar the two looked. "Besides," she continues as she turns towards the couch and goes to retake her seat, "I got to see your place. Suppose fair is fair."
Nathan hums a soft laugh, stepping to the side as she walks over back to her seat. His eyes briefly look over the most recent photo, lingering on it for a moment before he turns back to her. Now in the warmth of her house, he unzips his riding suit and shrugs off the top half, showing that he hasn't actually switched out of his sleeping gear. A simple white t-shirt is all that's on display as he quietly moves over to
the seat next to her, lowering himself into it as he snatches up a slice of pizza. It would be rude not to, after all. But he doesn't take a bite yet, instead focusing on her as he quietly asks, "So... bad dreams?" He rests his arms on his legs, both hands carefully keeping the pizza from drooping and losing its toppings. "Or did you just miss me that much?" He adds, injecting a little lightheartedness into the
The pizza is a junk pizza. And not just any ordinary junk pizza. An Aite junk pizza. Which means half of the things on top of it aren't recognizable. But there's no such thing as a bad pizza, right?
Leah's smile slips away and her gaze turns to the table as he questions her reasoning for being up. His follow-up causes her to snort and roll her eyes. "You wish." she mutters with a glance his way, but despite her best attempt at hiding it, it does its job of putting the smile back on her face. The bruising along her cheekbone is beginning to fade, but it's still there. A stark reminder of what they only recently narrowly
survived. She takes a moment to reach for her own slice rather than give him any direct answer. When it seems she's finally going to get around to answering, the slice begins to flop over, threatening to spill whatever-the-hell-that-flat-orange-stuff is on the ground and she's quick to jam the slice in her mouth, eyes widening. She looks to Nathan as she chews loudly, dragging the moment on. On multiple occasions it seems
as if she just might start talking with her mouth full, but she doesn't. Eventually she just points at one of the datapads on the table with the remainder of the pizza slice.
Nathan as she takes a hurried bite, he is unable to suppress the snicker that escapes him and her floundering at trying to answer. He sneaks a small bite of his own pizza as he reaches over fo- what on Earth is that flavour? That is something... new. He's had his fair share of questionable junk pizzas but this one comes in at an easy second. He swallows and plucks up the datapad, setting the slice back into the box as
he begins to flick through the contents. "Let's have a look..." He murmurs as he blinks some of the sleep from his eyes, the bags making a guest appearance for the night. His sleeping had, thankfully, started to fall back into a regular pattern but he still experienced the occasional fright when he closed his eyes. It's... hard to erase the images burnt into his retinas. The husks. Li's mother. The Collectors.
They'll always be there. He pushes them to the back of his mind for the time being and focuses on the datapad, giving himself something to distract his brain.
The datapad displays what looks to be a still image from a helmet cam looking through a shuttle viewport. A few buildings in various states of decay and disuse are in the distance and a forest is beneath them. On the side of the buildings opposite of the forest is an open clearing with only a few trees.
Leah is about to go in for another bite but pauses. "From-... ummm-... Jasons...?" she says as she leans over to get a better look at the image. Studying the small text across the top of the image, she nods a few times to herself, seeming a bit more sure. "Mmhmm." she confirms for herself as she settles back into place, "That's where we'll do it." she says without any context, perhaps forgetting that he hasn't been here for the
past two hours looking over this like she has. "There wasn't much footage available, guessing they deleted most of it, but that was from their approach. I think?" she continues in her usual way of talking without allowing the opportunity for a response. "It was the best I could do. But~" she continues, reaching over to swipe at the datapad. The image switches to that of a map. It's a little basic, but it details a general
area and it wouldn't be a stretch to assume it's the place in the photo. "Tada~" Despite her enthusiasm, it's not hard to tell that there's a heaviness beneath it and she draws in a deep breath as she searches Nathan's face for a reaction.
Nathan furrows his brow slightly as he studies the image, only deepening at her explanations. But he has had enough context to piece together what this is. "You've been reconing areas." Well, less reconing and more sifting through what he assumes is archived footage and maps. He studies the map for a few moments, dragging the screen around as he sifts from place to place. It takes him a little longer than usual to
process, but he gets there despite how his body and mind cries out for him to lay down on this very comfortable sofa and nap. He hums once and he sets it down with a gentle clink against the table, looking across to her as his brow shifts from furrowed to partly perked. "This is really eating at you, isn't it? How long have you been at this?"
Leah bites at her lower lip as she continues to study Nathan, a bit of concern slipping into her features at his response. It has been eating at her. He wasn't wrong about that. But even more than that, she's needed something these past couple days to focus on. Something to keep the memory of the taste of bile when she was pulled from that pod at bay. A reason to stay awake to stave off the nightmares for just a little bit
longer. "It's the place I was telling you about, Nate." she says with a sigh, almost pointedly ignoring his second question. She gestures towards the map, sliding it closer to his end of the table. "It-..." she hesitates, glancing towards the kitchen opening as if worried someone may be listening in. With no sign of Tara or her father, she continues, lowering her voice a bit more. "It's away from anywhere populated so that's
one less thing to worry about. You can see the-..." she leans in slightly, drawing a finger around the northern edge of the map, "...north is protected by the forest. That means if we plan the meeting here we know that unless they plan on taking a hike through the forest, they'll have to land their shuttle somewhere around here-..." She drags her finger to the south, circling a few areas. Her gaze darts between the datapad
and Nathan, the oft-unseen military mind beneath the usually-happy-go-lucky woman at work. "It gives us plenty of area to work with. Plenty of cover to fall back to. And, if everything goes ass up then we can use the forest as cover to retreat. It-..." she sighs, tugging at her lower lip with her teeth as she shifts in place and tucks her leg beneath her, "...I think it's our best bet."
Nathan 's gaze lingers on her as she glosses over an answer to his question and shifts the focus to the map. His brow returns to furrowed as she begins to rattle off her reasoning and stratagems. But, he bites back a resigned sigh and instead switches to the map, resting his arms on his knees as he leans forward to study it once more. He can't really blame her for this focus, for the need to be distracted. It's as he
previously thought to himself, anything is better than being left alone with the thoughts of the Collectors, their ship... the pod. Hell, if he was in her place he would probably be doing the same. He nods along with her information, tracing his finger across the forest's edge. "Hm... if we have to fall back, I can map us a route. Preemptively prepare it with motion triggered mines to cover us." His hand then
drifts to the clearing, tapping on the center of the clearing. "Here's the best spot for them to land. Bury a few explosives here, can be used to disable their ship... no, too much room for them to land elsewhere... hard to predict. Hmm, I'll have to give that more time to mull over." He leans back, bridging his fingers beneath his chin and resting it upon them as he focuses on the map. "It's a good location,
Leah draws in a deep breath as Nathan seems to get onboard with the plan. Or at least stops questioning her motives. "I'll send you a copy." she says, her words falling flat as she only briefly makes eye contact with him before her gaze turns right back to the map. She falls silent, pressing her tongue against the split in her lip as she pretends to study the map she's looked at for so long that she has it committed to memory by
this point. Eventually she takes a bite from her slice of pizza just to break up the awkwardness. As she swallows her bite and sets aside the remainder of her slice on the box, she uses her finger to trace a stray hair back behind her ear. "...If you don't want to be a part of this I'll understand, Nate. I-... It's a lot to ask..." she finally says. It seems to be an underlying concern that's been nagging at her. "This isn't
your mess and I shouldn't have asked you in the first place. But I don't know who else to turn to." she begins to ramble, cutting herself off with a humorless snort as she begins to feel the effects of burning the candle at both ends. The Collectors are behind her. Slavers in front of her.
Nathan nods, making a mental note to start drafting up a rough plan on prime locations for his ordnance and firing arcs. It's like she said, there was plenty of cover for them to utilise and that means traps. Plenty of traps. He reaches over for his own slice, about to grasp it when she speaks up again. His fingers linger in the air before he pulls them back and rests them on his knee once more. "Look, stop." His voice
is soft as he turns to her. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to help, would I? I promised you after all." He spreads his hands before resting them again. "You and Tara are my friends and I... I want to help you give her the life that she deserves to have. Not one of living in fear and flinching at every shadow, but one of normalcy." He pauses, then adds, "Well, as normal as you can get around here. Point
is... I'm here because I want to be. So you can stop concerning yourself over that, okay?" He smiles, adding to his reassurance. And, perhaps selfishly, he's here to help because he believes deep down that this may help him redeem a small part of himself. Redeem the part of him that always, always pins the blame on himself for what happened all those years ago. To his squad. To Jasmine.
Leah casts a glance Nathan's way, unconvinced. "We both know you're just here for the pizza." she says matter-of-factly. It's a hollow attempt at injecting some of her own humor into an otherwise heavy situation, and the smile that accompanies it is strained. But her thoughts soon return to the situation at hand and she falls quiet again. She reaches for his hand, silently interlocking her fingers with his. "...I'm gonna kill them
all, Nate." she says as she studies their hands to avoid meeting his eyes, her tone almost apologetic. Perhaps even a bit fearful. Fearful for what he might think of her for being so callous.
Nathan hums. "The pizza helps." He looks down at their hands too, squeezing hers in a reassuring grip. And, yes, perhaps her callousness does... take him by surprise for a moment. But that quickly fades, replaced by a grim understanding of it all. Tara is, for lack of a better term, her sister and this Slaver house threatens everything for them. So long as they exist, they won't stop searching for Tara, hounding her
across the galaxy if they have to. It's a point of pride for them finding her. If a slave escapes and remains free, what does that say of them amongst their own kind? "I know...". He wraps his other hand around hers and holds it tightly between his, shoulders rising and falling in a deep sigh. He desperately searched for something else to say to her, something to try and alleviate the pressure upon her shoulders
but he just... can't. So, instead, he sits there with her hand between his, looking down between them.
Leah returns the gesture, gently squeezing Nathan's hand. "I'm sorry..." she continues in a whisper, gaze remaining distantly set on their hands. That old dread settles in as she considers what he must think of her. Much like Nathan, she has plenty of skeletons in her own closet. But for her this wasn't even just about Tara. Sure, it means everything for her to give that girl the life she deserves. But it also means, in some small
way, giving some meaning to Damien's death. It means doing something with the time his sacrifice afforded her. Something selfless. Giving meaning to his death. A reminder that her mother wasn't wrong. 'Whether it's a gift or a curse comes down to how you use it.' After Cerberus used her as a weapon to hurt the people closest to her, it's a reminder she's sorely in need of. Yet at the same time
she can't deny that she's yet again putting the people closest to her in danger. Nathan. Mendez. "...But this is something I have to do." she says softly.
Nathan keeps his gaze focused on their hands, his thumb idly tracing over the skin of hers. He knew that she had to. Although his belief of her reasons differs to hers significantly. But in the end, no matter the true reason, it was going to end in bloodshed. The slavers were going to die by her hand... no, by their hands for what they’ve done and for what they will continue to do if Leah, Nathan and Mendez fail. He
lifts her hand up to gently press his lips to her fingers, lowering them as he looks up to her with a look of grim acceptance. “I understand. I’ve got your back, Leah.” He smiles gently at her, head dipping in a small nod.
Leah watches the small, but meaningful gesture, her bright green eyes growing glassy. His words cause her to draw in a shaky breath as she nods along. Still, that old fear persists, especially coupled with their last outing together. He was able to see first hand what her powers can do on that Collector ship. And, while her end-goal is to use them to free Tara from her chains, does he see it that way? Or does he see her the way
the rest of humanity does? How they always have? Violent. Unstable. Dangerous. Saying you understand and meaning it are two very different things. That worry lingers with old childhood memories. Schoolyard chants of 'Freak!' It's not fair to him, of course. He's done nothing but show his support and acceptance. But a lifetime of deeply seeded insecurities are a hell of a thing. Those old fears cause her to squeeze his