December 8th. Evening.
#Leah'sHouse – December 4, 2018
Leah is sat at the dining room table by herself, a beat up old omni-tool she picked up from the market sat in front of her as she stares blankly through the glowing, default interface. She bites at her lip and rests her chin against her hand, the large, oversized sweater she's wearing digging into her skin as she considers her message for what must be the 100th time. A simple picture of Tara taken in the backyard standing against
the side of the house. Close enough to not give away anything about the location. She had to be careful. Had to make sure any location caching software was disabled before she did anything. As her time with the Alliance had taught her, an operation can fail before the gunfire even starts if you don't plan well. Consider things from every angle. It's the details that matter. As much as it pained her to cause Tara any
discomfort, she had made sure to have her remove her hat and jacket before taking the picture. Just a simple t-shirt and pants. "I came across her during my travels and saw that there's quite a price on her head. If you're still paying, I'm looking to cash in. I won't be around long and I'm not paying to haul her around with me. So if you're interested, I recommend getting in touch soon so we can arrange a handoff." Simple.
To the point. Cold. Don't show any attachments. She's just a mercenary looking to make a few quick and easy credits. Commit. For Tara's sake. Rereading the message and knowing it came from her would normally have made her sick to her stomach, but she's beyond that point. That flip has been switched and all she's focused on is the mission. Making sure it's done right. With a deep breath she brings her hand away from her chin
It takes nearly an hour for the burner omni-tool to let out the telltale bleep of a reply. 'You have reached Facilitator Dakra, acquisition and enforcement liaison for the honored and prestigious House Bar'adon. We thank you for contacting us about this matter. Please submit a scan of the fugitive's barcode for identification purposes.'
Leah is seated on the edge of the kitchen counter when the beep sounds out, her nervous pacing having taken her that way. It's an old habit that her father has tried breaking her of ever since she was just a child and would sit at the counter while her mother cooked. He hasn't been very successful. Her head snaps up towards the dining room and she draws in a deep breath, hesitating for a moment before hopping off the counter and
starting back towards the burner. The message causes her to furrow her brow. The casual, business-like nature of the correspondance when they're talking about the ownership of people causes her stomach to turn. But that doesn't matter right now. What does matter is this new name. 'Dakra'. A 'Facilitator'. It prompts Leah's mind to kick into overdrive once again. It does them no good if it's not Fasha who shows up to pick
Tara up. Surely this 'Facilitator' won't have the power to sign over any rights of ownership. And that's what they need right now. It doesn't matter how many members of House Bar'adon Leah can tear through without that piece of documentation. It inspires a deep sigh from Leah before she sets out in search of Tara.
Tara is seated on the edge of her bed in her room. It's not quite clear what, if anything, she's been doing, but her attention is entirely on Leah as soon as the door to her room opens.
Leah forces a small, strained smile as she spots Tara. "Hey..." she offers, tilting her head to the side.
Tara blinks, studying Leah's expression. She mirrors the small smile with an apprehensive one of her own, responding with a quiet "Hi.". There's hints of unspoken unease in her face as she waits for news.
Leah draws in a deep breath through her nose, eyebrows lifting slightly. "I got a response." she says softly, wincing slightly as her smile slips away briefly, as if worried the news may sour Tara's mood. It's what they wanted, of course. 'They'. It's what Leah wanted. It seems pretty apparent Tara would rather pretend that nothing is wrong and hope for the best. But there's no life in that. Only a timer counting down.
"Facilitator Dakra." she continues. "Does that...?" she gives a small, questioning shake of her head, "...Do you know who that is?"
Leah allows a small, disappointed breath to escape as she gives an understanding nod. "Called themself an 'aquisition and enforcement liason' for House Bar'adon." she repeats, though there's little doubt that Tara will have no idea what that means and she's quick to clarify. "They're the one who collects runaway slaves. But-..." she hesitates, guilt settling in at even bringing the name up again given the fear it inspired in Tara
last time. "...we need to make sure Fasha comes with them, Tara. If-..." she stammers, "Are you sure he'll...?" she trails off.
Tara 's frown deepens, hesitation crossing her face as she shrinks a little into the bed. "I-... I think so...?" she says uncertainly, offering no elaboration as her gaze falls to her hands, curling up in her lap.
Leah draws in another breath, a frown of her own crossing her face as Tara withdraws. She moves over to the bed and takes a seat beside Tara, reaching over to grasp one of her hands and give it a gentle squeeze. "It's gonna be okay, sweetheart." she says softly, looking to the young woman with big green eyes. "You trust me, right?"
Tara tenses up for a brief moment before relaxing. She looks at Leah, studying her for a moment before giving a small nod.
Leah gives a small smile in response. "Good. Because I'm not gonna let anyone hurt you. Okay?" she asks, head tilted as she holds Tara's gaze. "Ever again. You're a Mercier now." She gives a soft snicker that fades into a sympathetic smile. "I know we're not much, but-... but you're a part of this family, Tara." She falls silent for a moment before swallowing, uncertainty settling into her features for just a moment before she
continues. Concern over what Tara might think of her when all of this is through. But this is Tara's life. She deserves an active role in taking it back, so Leah isn't going to sugarcoat it. "I'm going to kill Fasha. I'm going to make him sign your contract over to you, and then I'm going to kill him, Tara. I-... I need you to know that. And when I do, you're free. Free to live whatever life you want. Free to stay here and
keep being a Mercier." the smile returns to her face, if briefly, before fading once more, "Or free to go and be whoever you want to be. But I promise you're going to be free of all of this crap soon. Okay?"
Tara 's gaze falls away from Leah again, uneasy silence taking over for a time before she offers the faintest of nods, saying nothing nor looking away from the arbitrary point near her knee that she's focused on.
Leah lets out a small, strained laugh. It's one born of nerves and it's not hard to tell that there's some tears being held back behind it. "I need you to talk to me, sweetheart." she says, her tone only narrowly avoiding sounding like she's pleading. "I need to-... are you okay with this? Are you-..." she sighs, giving Tara's hand another squeeze. "What's going on in that head of yours?"
Tara reluctantly looks back to Leah, her gaze troubled and filled with uncertainty. "You have to do it...?"
Leah draws in a breath, silently studying Tara, a mix of sympathy and concern in her features. "If I don't, he's never going to let you live a normal life, Tara. He's-... he's going to keep coming for you. He's offering a lot of credits to get you back, so no matter where you go-..." she's quick to correct herself, they're in this together, after all. No matter what's to come. Leaving Tara to face this alone just isn't an option.
"No matter where we go. It's going to follow." She holds Tara's gaze and gives a small shrug of her shoulders before asking sincerely: "What do we do?"
Tara looks away for a moment, but the change to 'we' seems to be what prompts a small nod and a resigned "I understand." as she meets Leah's gaze again.
Leah gives another strained snicker. "Do you?" she asks sincerely. "Because-... because I would do anything to give you back your freedom, Tara. Anything. But it can't just be my choice. It needs to be yours. And all of this talk of 'getting your life back' and 'freedom' means nothing if I make the decision for you." She rotates in place a bit to better face Tara, one hand still gently holding Tara's as the other comes to rest
on the young woman's shoulder as she holds her gaze. "So... So it's time to make your choice, Tara. What are we doing? Are we going to-... to just hide? Hope he never comes for you and run if he does? Or are we going to fight? Take back your life so you don't need to spend every day looking over your shoulder?" Judging by the fire in her big green eyes it's not hard to see which choice she would make.
Tara doesn't say anything right away, and the intensity of Leah's gaze causes her to look down as she processes her words. It's obvious that she's far from comfortable with being put on the spot like this, and the silence starts to drag on. But eventually, she does speak, her voice quiet, full of subdued unhappiness. "I don't want anyone to be hurt."
Leah's brows pinch and her heart breaks a little over Tara's concern. "I know, sweetheart..." she offers almost apologetically. "I know you don't. I don't want anyone to be hurt, either." It's not exactly the truth. She wishes people like Fasha didn't exist so she didn't need to hurt anyone, sure. That there weren't people out there that somehow see nothing wrong with taking the pride and freedom of another person as if it was a
commodity that could be bartered away. But that's not the galaxy they live in. And after all of the pain and trauma Fasha has inflicted on Tara and undoubtedly many others like her? Yeah. She'd very much like to hurt him. But that's emotion talking and you don't let emotions get in the way of an operation and cloud your judgement, so she pushes it deep down. "But I don't think we have much of a choice if we want him to stop
looking for you. Believe me, Tara, if I could just ask him nicely to let you go and sweep everything under the rug, I would. But-... somehow I don't think it's just going to be that easy. Do you?" she asks, trying to nudge the young woman towards seeing that there's only one way any of this ends.
Tara listens silently as Leah speaks. There's no trace of malice in her face. No vengefulness. But it's clear from the frown that forms after Leah's question that she realizes that if she were to remain here without doing anything about the situation, Leah and everyone else around her could be in danger. So soon enough a soft shake of her head follows. "No." she sighs, not meeting Leah's gaze.
Leah gives a couple of small nods, remaining silent for a few moments as she just watches Tara. "I'm not going to do anything without your permission. This is your life. It needs to be your choice, Tara." she repeats, forcing a small but sincere smile into place. "They need a scan of your barcode in order for me to continue and set up the meeting. I'm gonna go-..." she gestures towards the door with a nod of her head, "...and
give you some time and space to think. To decide what's best for you. So if you decide this is a life worth fighting for? Me and many other people are going to be right there by your side. You and I can scan your barcode tonight and start setting everything up. But if not-..." her smile slips away but she gives a resigned shrug of her shoulders. "Then I'll take the omni-tool down to the river tomorrow and toss it in. And
whatever comes? We'll manage it as best as we can..." She props her smile back up as best as she can as she looks down at Tara. Someone who, despite her quiet, timid nature, has become one of Leah's best friends. More than that, she's become family. The little sister she never had. "No matter what choice you make, know that I love you, Tara." she says softly and sincerely as she gives Tara's hand another squeeze. Her big
green eyes begin to glass up as the words leave her mouth but she fights the tears off. "And you're a Mercier." Not wanting to stick around for fear of waterworks, she sniffs hard and rises to her feet.
Tara blinks, her gaze returning to Leah partway through her gentle words. Her attention darts around Leah's face, her expression a confused mix of emotions. She seems unsure how to respond, and doesn't say anything, settling for looking down at her pale, scarred hands in thought as Leah stands to leave, trying to process the overwhelming pressure to decide and the multitude of conflicting thoughts running through her head.
Leah takes her leave, closing the door behind her as she does. She only gets a few steps down the hall before turning and pressing her forehead against the wall. She lets out a deep breath, frustration settling in at being so helpless in the matter. She'd much rather take it into her own hands. Keep Tara far removed from the entire ordeal until it was handled. Until it was safe. Until Fasha was no longer breathing. But if she
makes these decisions for Tara, then is she any better than the people she's running from? Of course she is! Duh! They're disgusting slavers! But Tara has suffered a lifetime in servitude. It needs to be her that decides to take the first step. Decides to be free. To accept that freedom. It's not something Leah can force on her.
Several minutes pass, but eventually Tara emerges from her room. She walks softly through the house in search of Leah.
Leah is seated back at the dining room table, leaning over the disabled omni-tool. Elbows against the table, forehead in her hands, her bangs hang over her face as she stares distantly at the table, her mind somewhere else entirely. But the barely-audible sound of soft footsteps causes her to lift her head and swipe some hair back into place. Tara's presence spreads a smile over her tired features. "Hey." she says softly.
Tara silently takes a seat at the dinner table, extending her arm and rolling up the sleeve to expose the barcode tattooed on her wrist. She holds Leah's gaze but doesn't say anything.
Leah's attention turns to the barcode. She wordlessly stares at it for a number of moments- the impact of the decision certainly not lost on her- before her attention lifts to meet Tara's eyes. "...Are you sure?" she asks tentatively. Her voice quiet. Hesitant. Far from her usual spunky, upbeat self.
Tara 's gaze falls for just a moment, but it returns to Leah before she gives a small nod, doing her best to show determination that isn't really there.
Leah responds with a couple of nods of her own. At first to herself, and then to Tara. A number of additional nods follow as she swallows at the lump in her throat and activates the omni-tool. She very quickly wipes at a rogue tear with the back of her free hand before it can get very far and, with a small sniffle, gets to work scanning the barcode, a heavy silence filling the room as she does. So much so that the dull sound of
The response is much quicker this time. Almost immediate, infact. 'Thank you for providing identifying information for the fugitive. As acquisition liaison for House Bar'adon you can deliver it to me here on Omega in exchange for the specified 10000 credit reward, provided it is in good condition.'
Leah's brow furrows as she studies the message. Not exactly the response she was hoping for. A shitty automated response. A shitty automated response for something as heinous as slavery. It would be laughable if it wasn't so disgusting. And 'it'. Just reading it causes Leah's jaw to clench. Her eyes flick Tara's way. "Says I need to bring you to Omega..." she says, not wanting to keep Tara in the dark. She bites down on her tongue
as she begins to type. "...We'll see about that." she mutters aloud. 'You expect me to bring your slave-..." she begins before deleting. Commit. For Tara's sake, she reminds herself. Her green eyes flick Tara's way one more time before focusing on the message. She doesn't read it aloud. There's no point. 'You expect me to haul your cargo all the way to Omega and shoulder the expenses? Sorry, not happening. I've got
places to be. If you want her ba-...' her eyes slam shut and she draws in a deep breath as she backspaces. 'If you want it back then you can come and get it.' It's her only real play. Going back to Omega isn't really an option. But it's just an automated message. If this Fasha is as interested in getting Tara back as she says, he'll reach out when word gets to him. At least, that's what she's banking on.
Minutes pass without a reply this time. Tara sits in silence at the table, watching Leah and waiting. Hopefully one will come soon.
Leah sits back in the seat, gaze resting uncomfortably on the omni-tool. Her leg bounces up and down nervously to an unheard rhythm as she waits. When it becomes clear it could be a while, she lets out a deep sigh and rises from her seat. She steps over towards the kitchen, her purposely mismatched, bright, colorful socks far from befitting a biotic warrior hell bent on bringing down an entire slaver house. But that's neither here
nor there. When she returns she sets a mug of hot chocolate on the table before Tara. Along with icecream, it's a highly valued commodity in the Mercier household that they stay stocked up on. She then grips her own warm mug in both hands and retakes her seat in silence.
Tara is certainly not one to break the silence. She's also not one to turn down a cup of hot chocolate though, quickly wrapping her hands around the cup and pulling it closer as the silent wait continues.
Eventually a bleep is heard, and a new message appears on the omni-tool display. 'The honorable Lord Bar'adon has decided to arrange for the retrival of the fugitive. You will transmit your name and location as well as a video demonstrating that the fugitive is in good condition. Travel costs and any damage to House Bar'adon property will be deducted from the listed bounty. Instructions for demonstration follow: Stand the fugitive in a
well-lit locale with clear view of face and skin. Have it rotate 360 degrees and then move each arm and leg to demonstrate intactness of body and face, full limb mobility and comprehension of verbal commands.'
Leah remains in silence as the wait drags on, staring down into her dark cup and swirling its contents about. The beep from the omni-tool causes her to sit up straight in her seat. Rather than look to the omni-tool, her gaze wanders first to Tara and she pulls in a deep breath. She activates the burner, eyes moving from left to right as she scans across the message. "...They're gonna come." she says softly. Obviously it's the
outcome she wanted, but you wouldn't be able to tell by her tone. Given what it must feel like for Tara to hear that news- having to come face-to-face with her tormentor once more- it's hard for her to muster much enthusiasm. So instead she defaults back to focusing on the mission. What it's going to take for them to get Fasha to Aite. "They want a video to make sure you're not hurt." she says, offering an apologetic look
Tara's way as she stands up, bringing the omni-tool with her. "We can-.." she begins gesturing towards the hall with a nod, "..umm-... outside of your room? Under the hallway light?" she offers tentatively, doing her best to keep Tara as comfortable as she can given the circumstances.
Tara 's silently sips her hot chocolate as the wait continues. The beep of the omni-tool immediately catches her attention, and she waits anxiously for Leah to speak. She blinks as Leah stands up, giving a faint nod before doing the same, leaving her cup behind on the table.
Leah leads the way down the hallway, turning the light on before heading back towards Tara's room. When they reach the end of the hall, she puts her back to the way they came from and gestures for Tara to stand before her as she begins to fumble through the unfamiliar omni-tool in search of the recording software. "I'm sorry, sweetheart." she says softly, eyes focused on the orange glowing interface, "We'll make this quick,
Tara follows Leah, going where indicated and waiting for her to sort out the camera without comment, her expression inscrutably withdrawn.
Leah manages to navigate to the software she was looking for after a few moments and finally looks up to Tara. Drawing in a deep breath, she begins the recording, ensuring the lighting is good and Tara is in full view. "Turn to your right." she says evenly. Detatched. Tucking her emotions away. Commit. Sell it to these sick fucks. And make them pay for it later.
Leah allows the video to record for a moment before issuing another 'command'. "Do a full rotation. Slowly. Then face me." She makes sure to turn her attention to the holographic interface rather than to Tara. It's just easier that way.
Tara complies immediately, her expression neutral. Resigned. Once facing Leah again she looks straight at her in silence as she waits for further instructions.
Leah purposely avoids Tara's gaze. Even through the display. She hesitates for a moment, swallowing hard as her mouth turns dry. "Lift each leg. One at a time." she says, doing her best to keep the footage steady.
Leah lets Tara finish before continuing. "Now your arms. One at a time and wave." she says, jaw tightening at the end of her sentence causing the final word to be spoken through clenched teeth. She bites back on her anger for now, reminding herself that she'll get to direct it at the right people soon enough.
Leah zooms in on Tara's face without another word, just hitting the checkboxes at this point. She lingers there for a moment to satisfy the request before ending the footage. She draws in a deep breath, focus still on the omni-tool interface before lifting it to meet Tara's eyes. "All done..." she says. She tries to prop her smile back up, but it's clear that the process has left her feeling uneasy. Undoubtedly for Tara's sake
Tara relaxes her stance a little, remaining in place and watching Leah with a faint hint of a frown on her face, uncertain how to react to Leah's discomfort. She doesn't say anything.
Leah studies Tara for a moment, remaining in place, omni-tool in hand. Whatever remnant she might've been able to summon of a smile slips away entirely. Stepping forward, she silently wraps Tara up in a hug. "This is all going to be over soon. I promise." she reminds.
Tara returns the hug, a troubled look crossing her face once its out of Leah's view, but she's quick to push it down as soon as the hug ends.
Leah doesn't linger in the hug for long, merely giving Tara a brief squeeze before releasing it. "I think that should be all we need. I'll just-..." she nods back towards the kitchen, "...go put a response together." she says softly, though as she finishes speaking she remains in place. As if expecting Tara to say something.
Leah draws in another deep breath, giving a couple of uncomfortable nods and bouncing on the balls of her feet for a moment when it becomes clear Tara isn't going to say anything else. "Alright then..." she says, stammering slightly. "I'll just go and-.... and do... that..." she says, dragging her sentence on, very much unsure of what else to say to Tara after the awkward ordeal that just transpired. She clasps both hands over the
omni-tool, remaining in place for a moment longer before turning on her heels and starting back towards the dining room.
Tara follows after Leah, but rather than returning to her seat by the table she takes her hot chocolate and withdraws to her room with the cup in hand, her expression starting to turn distracted as worries float through her head. She ends up sitting on the edge of her bed, sipping the drink in silence as she thinks.
Leah retakes her seat, waiting until Tara retreats to her room before activating the omni-tool. She leans forward, resting her chin back in her hand once more as she watches the footage she just took to ensure it all recorded right. She fast forwards through it, but it's still enough to drain whatever energy remained from her body. "Jacqueline Petit." she types. It's unlikely that batarian slavers will be familiar with popular
music in France. And even if they somehow stumble across it for some reason, it's not like shared names are all that uncommon. "I'm currently on Aite. Handling business in a place called Aroste." Establish a narrative in case things go sideways and someone tries to trace it back to you. Keep the name Freedom Falls out of any discussions. Misdirect. "But I'll be leaving tomorrow. I have some work to take care of at
[Coordinates] so I should be there for a short while. Let me know when you'll be arriving and I'll be there with your cargo." She attaches the video to the message, a sigh escaping as she does. And she hits the send button which is as good as a death sentence for whoever shows up to take Tara from her. It doesn't matter how many come. It doesn't matter how well they're armed. This is the sort of thing Leah trained most of her
life for. Like it or not- for better or worse- she is a weapon. At least this time she'll be pointed in the right direction.
There's a fairly short delay as, presumably, Leah's message is reviewed, before a response is returned. 'Lord Bar'adon has reviewed your details and found the conditions agreeable. He will be in touch once travel has been organized. Bounty will be awarded upon successful delivery and verification of the state of the stolen property. Failure to complete the deal will result in blacklisting.'
Leah scoffs aloud as she reads the final sentence, scrunching up her nose in disgust. The casual nature in which they discuss the terms of slavery. It's stomach-churning. She doesn't deem the message worthy of a response and shuts down the burner omni-tool. She's not trying to build any sort of working relationship with these people, after all. They'll all be dead in a few days anyway. Her brow pinched with newfound determination,
Tara remains in her room, staring out the dark window in silence as she sips her own hot cocoa, the warmth twisting into an uneasy knot of worry and indecision as she continues to think over what's to come.
It's not long before Leah's return is announced by a couple of quick knocks before the door slides open.
Leah steps into the doorway and leans against the frame, crossing her arms and nesting her mug into the crook of her arm as she studies Tara. "It's done." she says softly.
Tara looks over to Leah, studying her face with a faint, lingering hint of a frown. She nods softly in understanding, crawling back into the bed a bit until her back is leaning against the wall, knees pulled in close and cup resting in her hands atop them.
Leah silently watches as Tara climbs back into bed. "I'll call Mendez and Nate in the morning and let them know. I have to wait until I hear back about when they're going to arrive, but I'm guessing I'll be leaving in the next few days..."
Tara 's gaze goes back to the window as Leah speaks, but the final statement causes her attention to snap back to her, frown deepending. "Leaving...?"
Leah gives a couple of nods, glancing down at her cup briefly. "I can't let them come here. But I know a place. It's abandoned and not too far. I wanna be there at least a day or so before House Bar'adon arrives. Me, Ten, and Mendez can get dug in." she explains, unconcerned with the fact that Tara probably has no idea what she means. She's mostly thinking out loud. "Make sure we're prepared for them."
Leah offers a soft smile, the best she can muster. "Make sure that dad remembers to leave his room to eat until I get back." she jokes, doing her best to alleviate a little bit of the tension. Her voice is low and it's not delivered with much enthusiasm.
Leah blinks a couple of times, Tara's hesitation bringing about a bit of confusion. "...Sweetie, it's gonna be dangerous." she says rather than directly answering the question for fear of causing further discomfort, her tone apologetic.
Tara 's frown lingers, her gaze falling to her cocoa as she falls quiet, her worry obvious, and hardly helped by the confirmation of the unspoken given that there will be danger for Leah and the others.
Leah winces at the response she gets, shifting uncomfortably against the doorframe. "Tara-..." she begins but trails off as words fail her. Instead she lowers her head, gaze falling to the floor as she stands in the doorway.
Leah releases a deep sigh. "...I don't want you to get hurt." she says softly, her obvious worries showing through in her voice. "If you're here you're-..." another sigh, her gaze remaining fixed to the bedroom floor, "...you're safe..." Her words sound hollow. There's no safety if her and the others fail. Not here. Not anywhere.
Leah draws in a deep breath, eyes burning holes in the floor. "I-... You don't need to worry about me. I'm gonna be fine, sweetheart."
Tara returns to silence, and her cocoa, unwilling to push the subject any further, but the worry remains in her face.
Leah remains in place. In total silence. Unable to comprehend what must be going through Tara's head right now. The worry. The fear over her captor finding her again. This is a man who helped to keep her in captivity. Owned her as if she was an object. Took her life away. And now Leah is asking her to just sit on the sidelines. No, not asking. Telling. There was no asking. More than Leah- more than Mendez or Nate- more than
anyone else, this is Tara's fight. She presses her tongue against the inside of her cheek, probing it around distractedly for a moment before finally speaking up. "You want to help." she says. It's somewhere between a question and a statement, but not quite either.
Tara looks up at Leah again, seeming surprised as she speaks. She hesitates for a moment, as if not quite if she should respond. She swallows uneasily before giving a series of small nods. It's obvious that she's entirely out of her element here, but it's also obvious that the idea of Leah and the others going off to do this on her behalf makes her more than a little uncomfortable, even if she's afraid to voice it.
Leah still doesn't look Tara's way, but she catches the nod out of the corner of her eye. She gives a small, distant nod of her own in response. "It's going to be dangerous." she repeats, the softness in her voice gone this time. It's an implied 'Are you sure about this?'
Leah nods again in turn. She falls silent once again as she struggles with the idea. Inner turmoil strikes, urging her to just shut the idea down. To treat her like a child. Put her foot down and say 'No. It's too dangerous.' But Tara isn't a child. Not after everything she's been through. Practically her entire life has led to this moment, and Leah has no right to deprive her of it. To deprive her of a hand in taking her life
back. "When the fighting begins, I need you to promise me you'll keep your head down and listen to me."
Tara is quick to nod, her expression serious. "I understand." There's a hint of relief in her face as it starts to seem that Leah will let her help, but it's dampened by lingeries worries and doubts about the plan.
Leah swallows at the lump in her throat. "Okay." she says in little more than a whisper. Quiet overtakes the room once more as she continues to focus on that single spot on the floor. After a moment, she shifts away from the doorframe, finally looking Tara's way. "I'll bring you one of my old dufflebags. Pack warm. Enough for a few days. In case we need to leave in a hurry. Okay?" There's disappointment in her voice. Not in Tara,
of course. In herself. In the situation. She made a promise to herself and Tara that she would do everything in her power to protect her. She made a promise to Damien. An endless number of scenarios where things go wrong play out in her head. There's no guarantee that she'll be able to keep Tara safe if she brings her with. But she owes Tara the choice. That's what this is all about, after all.
Tara nods once more. "Okay." she says, paying close attention to Leah's instructions as she does her best to summon a determined expression. It's... a limited success.
Leah draws in a breath, her lips a straight line as she studies Tara from the doorway. She grips her mug in one hand, lingering for only a moment longer before backing into the hallway to set off in search of a bag for Tara. She forces herself to ignore that pit in her stomach. The one reminding her of everything she's lost. She fills it with grim determination, silently promising herself that she won't allow Tara to be added to