#Leah'sHouse – October 10, 2018

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Nathan 's smile persists, even as her eyes become glassy, her breath shaky. And, unsurprisingly, mistakes the tightening of her hand as merely a replication of his own action, rather than the lingering fears that plague her. He looks back to the datapads for a moment and then, with a soft shrug, says, "Take a break, okay? A few minutes, have a drink, let your mind rest. Then, if you're up for it, we can start building

on the framework we have. Sound good?" He looks back to her, giving her a somewhat pointed look that implies that this is more on the side of an order than a suggestion. Hell, he's guilty of staying up all night drafting plans and prepping for his own personal ops when he was freelancing across the galaxy. He knows what it can do to the mind if you don't take small rests in between.

Leah allows her gaze to settle on the datapads in turn. Nathan's implied order causes her to give a couple of small, distant nods. More reactionary than any sort of conscious movement. But she blinks away the emotions bubbling up and swallows at the lump in her throat. "It's fine. It can wait. I'm sure you're gonna want to look over the intel before we make any solid plans, anyway..." she says, seeming to shake off his suggestion,

but a bit of lingering discomfort is apparent on her face. She glances his way only briefly before her attention lowers once more. "It-... wasn't why I asked you to come by, anyway." she admits, wincing ever so slightly. "...Not entirely, anyway!" she's quick to clarify.

Nathan blinks a little and peers at her with a curious gaze. "Okay? So, what else was there?" He asks, rolling his shoulders in yet another shrug. The look of discomfort on her face doesn't quite escape him, but he puts that down to the whole situation in general. The planning of an ambush without the rest of Redrock knowing, the battling an entire slaver House with three people and somehow getting out of it alive. If

it had been a few months earlier, Nate's pretty sure that the idea of it would've made him rock in a corner. But after their recent ordeal, it almost sounds like a walk in the park in comparison. Okay, that's underselling it a little. He refocuses from one of his little mental tangents and tilts his head marginally to try and just shift a part of him into her fallen gaze.

Leah gives a rise of her eyebrows as she looks back to him, slipping her hand out of his as she reconsiders bringing it up. "Drinks!" she says with renewed interest, her tactic for buying time quite transparent, "...You mentioned drinks, right? I-... uhh-... Is beer okay?" she asks as she swings her leg off the couch and begins to stand up. "We've got some batarian stuff." she offers before Nathan has a chance to respond,

"Dor'thok Ale!" she says, deepening her voice to a comical degree as she pronounces the name. "It's kind of gross? Buuut I think I like it...?" she continues to ramble with a shrug rather than giving him a chance to interject, taking a few steps towards the kitchen. "Ummm, there's a couple bottles of Jasper's stuff left in the fridge, too. I wouldn't recommend it. Dad likes it for some reason but it kind of tastes

like-... shampoo?" She halts in place, swinging around to face Nathan as her big green eyes widen, "But don't you dare tell Jasper I said that!" Yes, yes, sufficiently distracted. Excellent. "Oh! We've also got some stuff I pick up for dad from some guy down at the market." Lowering her voice to a stage whisper once again she scrunches up her nose in disgust as the word vomit continues, "I think he brews it in his bathtub." A

dismissive shrug follows as she draws in a breath, levels a smile on him, and concludes. "So?"

Nathan blinks. "Wai-" And there she goes again, her motor mouth running faster than his bike can with the limiters turned off. And, perhaps stupidly of him considering how many times he's experienced this, he tries to cut in. And naturally... it fails. Horrifically. "I did, bu-. No I-. Wait, Jasper brews his own-... I-I won't tell him bu-... wait, bathtubs? Why wou-..." His sentences stop-start like a broken engine,

his mouth opening and closing each time he tries to answer her, only to be cut off with her deflections. As she finishes, giving him the chance to speak, he only finds himself sighing heavily with a weary chuckle and a rub of the bridge of his nose. He pauses for a few seconds, half expecting her to rev up again, but she seems to granting him a grace period of silence after her question. "A beer is fine." He

stands up himself and walks over to her, folding his arms across his broad chest and looking at her expectantly. "With a side of unsubtle deflection thrown in there too." He levels his own genuine smile shining through. He won't openly admit it, but her rambling is rather endearing.

Leah scrunches her nose right back up as Nathan FAILS to answer her question. As he begins to call her out on her deflecting, she pointedly talks over him. Verbal suppression fire. "Yeah but what kind of beer?!" she groans before shaking her head and deciding against giving him a choice in the matter, "Know what? You just got yourself some bathtub beer, mister!" She turns away from him and continues through the archway into

the kitchen, heading straight to the fridge. The kitchen, much like the living room, is unimpressive. To the left is a hallway that leads to a T that continues in both directions. Directly across from the living room entry is a counter that lines the wall with a row of cabinets hanging above it. A simple stove. Sink. Fridge. Nothing out of the ordinary. To the right is a small, open room with a dining room table that's

accessible from both the kitchen and the living room.

Nathan watches her stalk off towards the kitchen and he rolls his eyes back, threatening them to do a complete spin with how hard he's doing it. He follows after her and decides to lean against the counter lining the wall. "Leah, yo-" Clonk. He leans his head back a little to far and knocks the back of his skull against the counter. He hisses out a quiet swear in his native tongue, hand rubbing the impact zone. "Leah,

come on. What is it? And, no, I'm not talking about the contents of the bathtub beer. Although maybe I should..." he adds in a low mutter.

Leah collects a beer for each of them from the fridge and takes them over to the counter beside Nathan. As he calls her name out, she glances his way but a hand quickly shoots to her mouth to suppress a chuckle as the cabinets attack him. His temporary distraction allows her time to shuffle through a drawer for a bottle opener for a moment and pop the top off of each of them. As he continues and it becomes clear he's not going to

let her stall tactics succeed, however, the smile fades from her face and she passes one of the bottles Nathan's way. Its label is black with big, bold, and with just about as basic of a font as you could find. It's so basic it's almost impressive in its basicness. 'BEER' is all it says. The liquid inside is vaguely beer colored, and the smell wafting out is most certainly alcoholic in nature, so it checks out. The bottle

Leah holds on to has a pair of crossed serrated blades on the label behind a stylized batarian script of the booze's name. 'Dor'thok Ale'. "It's-..." she begins, but trails off in a deep sigh. She sets her bottle on the counter just next to Nathan, hand remaining on it as she studies the label and considers her words. Truth is it wasn't only the Collector ship that has been getting in the way of her sleep these past few

days. "...Why did you come here, Nate?" she asks, the curiosity clear in her voice as she finally looks up at him.

Nathan takes the beer with a grateful nod, even as he gives it a very hesitant look over. BEER. He... really doesn't believe that. However, he doesn't drink it as her question rather catches him by surprise marred in with apparent confusion. "Why did I... what?" He sets the beer down with a gentle clink against the counter top and her looks across to her with a gentle frown. "Because you asked me to. And low key bribed

me with pizza." He pauses and, in that moment, it seems that his brain tries to catch up with her question by looking a little deeper into it. He sighs and tears his gaze to the BEER, plucking the bottle back up by then neck. "That's... not what you meant, was it?" He takes a swig from the suspect beverage, steeling himself for what's to come. As in the effects of whatever this BEER is made of and for Leah's real

meaning behind the question.

Thankfully it might actually be beer! It's incredibly potent, sure. And it may be a little syrupy. But yeah. This could be beer.

Leah opens her mouth to respond, but it closes before anything comes out. Contrary to popular belief, it seems she is capable of pumping the verbal brakes. Her bottle makes a number of gentle clunks as she idly rotates it against the hard countertop. "You know I typed up that message almost two hours before I sent it...?" she asks with an embarassed snicker. Of course it's not really a question. More of an admission. "Eventually

I guess I figured you'd probably be asleep anyway, so what's the harm, right?" she continues with a shrug. "Buuuuut here you are." she adds pointedly, as if putting the blame on him for getting her message. "It's nearly two in the morning, Nate. Why did you come here?" she repeats, her lazy ponytail flopping to one side as she tilts her head.

Nathan grunts noncommittally at first, taking a moment to think. As she said, it is almost two in the morning and his brain is still struggling along. "I haven't been sleeping so great," he admits. Granted, he has been getting better quite quickly, but that's probably due to how... use to these kind of dreams he is. The husks and Collectors aren't the only monsters he's seen or faced after all. "And I'm a light sleeper

mixed in with that, so... add two and two together and, boom. You have me." He spreads a hand, attempting a lighthearted smile but it falters and he shakes his head softly. But instead of properly answering the question, he takes a page out of Leah's book and goes for some classic deflection. "You... asked me to come here... to ask me -why- I came here?"

Leah's expression shifts as Nathan continues to talk, ending in a pouty frown. "Mendez was right, you are dumb..." she mutters under her breath as she brings her free hand up to her forehead dramatically. Using her hand to swipe her bangs out of her face, she shifts in place. Her other hand remains closed tightly around her beer and her elbow rests against the counter. "Forget it. I-... I just invited you over to-... to go over

the plan. Decide what we should-... I've just been thinking about it a lot..." she relents in frustration, seemingly having given up on actually getting into whatever was really on her mind as she gestures back towards the living room coffee table. But after that 180 flip, she immediately flops, wincing as a long, low whine escapes her. As her big green eyes open back up, they lock on to Nathan. "And-... And I've been

thinking a lot about what comes after, okay?!" she adds, her voice still a whisper for the rest of the house's sake despite her obviously getting a bit worked up. "And I've been-... I can't stop thinking about you, you big idiot!" She punctuates her statement with an aggressive jab of her index finger into Nathan's chest.

Nathan opens his mouth before it closes again, the man muttering to himself, "Mendez thinks I'm dumb...?" He can't help but feel... a little wounded at that. And he wouldn't call himself dumb! Maybe a little oblivious or lacking in common sense, but not dumb. He sighs, feeling a bit put down as her frustration seeps from her as clear as day. In all honesty, he's reluctant to admit he came here just because he enjoys

being in her company. Their previous talks have always left a small inkling of- his train of thought comes to an abrupt halt as her words hit his sleep deprived brain and her finger jams into his chest. He blinks once, twice, three times before it properly clicks and he has the courtesy to look embarrassed. "Wha- oh. Oh! I-... well, why didn't you just... why you gotta tip toe around it?!" He hisses back in a low

voice. "Look, I-... you... fine, okay, if we're putting it all out in the open, yes I came here because... because you're..." The steam behind what would probably be a match to her aggressive admissions fades and instead his voice grows soft. "Because you know why. I care about you. I like being around you." He leaves the bottle on the counter and instead reaches up to take the hand at his chest in his own.

"And... Warum ist das so schwer?" He falls back to his native tongue again, keeping his gaze focused on their hands.

Leah's frown only seems to deepen as Nathan speaks despite the relative positive nature of the conversation. It's not until she feels his hand over hers that the facade begins to crack, replaced with confused frustration. Thankfully her Alliance implants mean the omni-tool in the living room isn't required for translation, so his words don't fall on deaf ears. "I'm not tip toeing around anything, Nate..." she lies, her own voice

growing soft as the aggression drains from her, replaced with a gentle weariness. "It's just-... It's like I told you before. Our lives are fucked." she repeats her previous sentiment. "But-... But maybe that's not reason to-..." her attention lowers to the floor between them as she trails off and steps closer. "The Collectors could be here tomorrow. Whisk everyone up. Take us who-knows-where. Maybe this time we don't

wake up. Maybe we don't make it out of those pods. Don't make it off of that ship. Maybe-... Maybe that's it. Right?" she asks, lifting her gaze to meet his once more. She doesn't outright say it, but it's clearly been weighing on her mind these past few days. Since their talk on the balcony. "I keep telling myself that I'll figure this out-... I'll figure us out once everything has settled down. Once Tara is safe. Once

the Collectors are dealt with. Once the fighting is over with. Once we can breathe..." she lists, a hint of exhaustion creeping into her voice as she recounts their emotionally taxing lives, "...But maybe that time doesn't come. Maybe we don't get that. Because there's always another fight. Always another-... And I don't want to wait until it's too late." she shakes her head, her eyes turning to his chest. "So just-... Just

tell me this isn't some weird-... 'sleep with the creepy biotic chick' thing?" she asks. It's a ridiculous question, but there's no mistaking that it's sincere. There's very real fear behind it. And guilt. Guilt for even considering it and putting the weight of her own insecurities onto a man who has been nothing but good to her. "...Tell me that you actually like me...?" she adds, her voice cracking slightly as she says

it aloud. "I'll believe you-... I just-... I need to know..."

Nathan looks up to her as she begins to speak and he keeps quiet throughout, listening to her reasoning, her words... her fears that almost echo the thoughts that he had but was unable to say. And she was right, he thought. None of them seem to have the luxury of waiting for things to settle down, to make sense, to think. From the moment he set foot on this world and joined Redrock, it seems that his life consists of

shifting from one battle to the next, and the next, and the next. A cycle that seems to have no end in sight. His own thought was uncharacteristically pessimistic for him and, in his more reasonable part of his mind, untrue. There is always an end, if one looks for it. But right here, right now, her logic and admissions click. For all they know, tomorrow could be their last day as the Collectors fall upon them in

retaliation for their escape, for their small act of defiance against the boogeymen of the galaxy. And as for her question... His free hand reaches up to gently cup her cheek in his hand, guiding her to look up into his eyes. "I. Like you, Leah Mercier. A fucking lot." And it was genuine. True. And the straight forward admission of his feelings lifted a weight off his shoulders that he hadn't realised he was

carrying. No matter the moment, no matter how bleak everything looked, when he was with her he felt that he could smile, relax and just be himself. He had shared with her his burdens, the first person he had done so in years. They had danced with one another as music filled the air. She had bore the guilt that she carried with her to him. And they had fought tooth and nail besides one another to escape an almost

certain death. So, yeah... he was certain that what he felt for her was real.

Leah leans into Nathan's grasp, eyes tightly closing as she presses her cheek against the palm of his hand and releases her hold on her beer, leaving it behind atop the counter. As her attention is guided upwards, she slowly opens her big green eyes and searches each of his. Despite the whirlwind of emotions behind her eyes, there's no tears as he makes his statement. Just a fluttering in her chest brought on by the sheer honesty

in his admission. She draws a breath in through her nose, giving a few small, hesitant nods against his grasp. "Okay-..." she says, the words sounding soft and distant, getting lost as she swallows hard, forcing her to repeat herself. "...Okay..." A lifetime of hardships and heartache aren't overcome in an instant. It takes time. And plenty of those wounds are still fresh. Maybe it's the near death experience still visible in

the rearview mirror- or maybe it's the sleepless nights spent staring at her bedroom ceiling dwelling on the wedding night when they first kissed- but, as she holds his gaze and allows herself to feel the sincerity behind his words, she stows a lifetime of concerns away. At least for the moment. She sucks in her lips as a nervous chuckle escapes her that seems to release all of the tension she was holding on to with it

and she settles her left hand against his side. "Okay." she repeats in a sniffle, this time a more confident nod accompanying it. She reaches up with her right hand, hooking it around the back of his neck. Without her big clunky boots, she's lacking an inch or two of verticality so, even standing on her tippy toes, she's forced to pull his head down to meet his lips. "I'm gonna kiss you now, okay?" she mutters awkwardly, nearly

spitting it out between breaths as she presses her lips against his.

Nathan smiles warmly at her, her gentle motions and quiet words drawing a soft laugh from him that's more akin to a rumbling hum. It's as he said to her before, when they were stood on his balcony looking over the twinkling of lights that was the rest of Freedom Falls, time is what she needs. But, sometimes, its better to just cast caution to the wind and take that step to see where it takes you along the road. And this

is a step that he was oh so very glad she took. She didn't need to say the same words as he for it was as clear as day what she thought and felt. (If her aggressive jab and words weren't enough to confirm it.) His hand slips from hers and rests at her side, his right still gently holding her cheek as she pulls him down. "Okay," is all he says, echoing her own words before their lips meet and his eyes close. He

holds her waist tightly, perhaps an absentminded addition to his confession to her to help cement it in rock. For the moment, everything else could be put on hold. The Collectors, the Slavers, Redrock... all of it could be pushed to the side for this little slice of peace afforded to them in the dead of a snowy Aite night.

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