Evening, December 12th. Darkness has fallen on the ruined compound, but Litae shines bright through the clouds, illuminating the disturbed, bloodsoaked snow. The stains look an odd black in the gloomy light. The temperature still hovers just above freezing, roofs dripping as more snow turns to sludge, the impressively massive piles drooping and sinking in on themselves. There's a sizable path of bare ground where the second shuttle once
#Kalus'Compound – April 8, 2019
landed, the one that now lies crashed in the marshland. Little holes dot the snow, some signs of combat, others places where Nathan has painstakingly removed the various explosives he planted. The rigged system had proven thankfully unneeded, but the remains of a more direct application of his speciality still litters the former battlefield. A mess of that sort is hard to clean. Tara has kept to herself after the departure of the injured
and the freed slaves. Where exactly is unclear. It can be hard to find someone with the presence of a mouse when she doesn't want to be found. But by the time darkness falls she's in the main warehouse, cooking dinner on the portable stove, as if she worries the others might starve if she doesn't heat up the canned food for them. She works by the light of a small electric lantern stood on a nearby crate, which casts long shadows and
Leah has, likewise, been sparse since sending the slaves on their way. After spending some time in the long-abandoned a rec-room with Nathan, she eventually needed some time alone and slipped away. With the clanking of cookware, she descends from the ladder to the roof and exits from the security room. She's still in her hardsuit sans helmet and gauntlets. Her Carnifex is holstered to her thigh, but the rest of her weapons have
been stowed away. As she spots Tara she brushes a bit of stray hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear, and forces a ghost of a smile. "Hey..." she offers meekly, that usual energetic enthusiasm of hers lost somewhere during the day. Her eyes are red, a fact that's only partially hidden by the dim light of the room.
Tara hears Leah's arrival long before she announces herself, but she still stiffens a little upon hearing her voice. Her gaze darts briefly in her direction before returning to the pot, which she continues to stir. She's in full winter wear, the inside of the building almost as cold as the outside. The quiet roar of the burner and the bubbling of the pot's contents are the only sounds, at least until she shifts her stance, the fabric
Leah folds one hand across her midsection, her hand absently resting against the wound in her side. Her other hand clasps against her opposite shoulder, as if just needing something to keep her hands busy. Her posture is closed. Wound up tightly. She slowly approaches Tara, gaze fixed on the pot of food. The small, hollow smile is gone almost as quickly as it appears. For the moment, she merely stands on the opposite side of
the pot from Tara watching distantly as the contents are stirred. She looks spent. Whether it's from the toll of extensive use of her biotics or just sheer emotional exhaustion is anyone's guess.
Tara looks up as she realizes Leah is sticking around, her eyebrows furrowing a little. Discomfort grows in her face, and she looks like she's on the verge of saying something, but no words come. Instead her gaze falls back to the simmering pot as she stirs it again. The silence grows heavier.
Leah continues to just... stare- distant and closed off- as Tara stirs the food. The tip of her nose is red from being on the roof for so long. Likewise, she slowly runs her icy fingers back and forth along the fabric of her undersuit in an attempt at getting the blood flowing. A number of moments pass before she opens her mouth but instantly closes it again. She swallows at the lump in her throat and licks at her wind-dried
lips. "...We need to talk, Tara." she says, tired green eyes remaining fixed on the food. "I-... I want you to talk..." she clarifies, her voice growing quieter with each word, "...to me. Please..."
Tara shifts a little, but nods softly, pale blue eyes rising again to meet Leah's briefly, hovering on the details of her hardsuit for a time afterwards. "O-..." she cuts out immediately, voice hoarse, and swallows. "Okay..." she adds with another nod.
Leah doesn't respond immediately, the stare of her green eyes still steadied on the pot and the glow of the burner. Just a small, subtle nod of her head in response. It's another few moments before she seems to blink away whatever thoughts were keeping her occupied and sniffles against the cold that's likely settling in. "You're upset." she says. It's not a question, just an observation voiced aloud. Her own words are met with
a frustrated roll of her eyes. Of course she's upset. "I just want-..." she stammers before trying again. "I need you to talk to me, Tara." she says, her voice cracking under the emotional weight of everything that transpired throughout the day. "It's okay to be upset. It's okay to be-... be angry." she says, leaving the phrase 'at me' that accompanies the words in her mind unspoken as she hazards a glance across at
Tara through her brow, "...But I need you to talk to me about what happened. We-..." she swallows, what little energy she was able to muster up seeming to deflate, "...we need to talk about it."
Tara continues to shift in place, gaze darting up to Leah again as she addresses her. It's obvious that being put on the spot is causing her unease, but she nods again. Locking eyes and seeing the drained, emotionally weighted look on Leah's face causes her to quickly look down again. She tries to open her mouth to speak, but no words come. Silence takes over, but she soon tries again, gaze rising to Leah's, but she just ends up
Leah gives a few small nods as Tara tries- and fails- to speak. "Okay..." she says softly. A few more moments pass as she idly presses her tongue against her lower lip, green eyes distant as she searches for the right words. "People died today." she finally says, eyes flicking to Tara for only a moment before returning right back to the cooking food. "And-... and I know that bothers you. It bothers me, too." she admits with
another crack in her voice, her grip on her shoulder seeming to tighten as she gives a small, self conscious shrug. "And maybe-... maybe you're blaming me. Maybe you're blaming yourself. I just want you to know that none of this was your fault, okay? None of this is-..." she trails off again, eyes briefly closing as she gives a shake of her head and swallows again as the lump in her throat returns. "...It's not your
Tara 's gaze falls to an arbitrary notch in Leah's armor, drawing anotehr breath. She looks down at the food completely again, stirring halfheartedly. "That's not true." she blurts out, her voice quiet but firm, eyebrows furrowing as she stares at the simmering stew.
Leah pulls her gaze from the food to look to Tara, studying her in the dark silence of the cold warehouse. Her first instinct is to double down. To assure her. But she reigns in that sisterly instinct that has naturally cultivated the more she's been around Tara. The urge to protect her and make her feel safe. She can't just shut down Tara's feelings. "...Why do you think that?" she asks softly.
Tara 's gaze darts up to Leah again. "No one would have gotten hurt if we hadn't come here..." she says, her voice losing steam and gaze flicking back down. "No one would be dead." There's no accusation in her words. Just regret, discomfort and a tired, subdued sadness.
Leah watches Tara, glassiness in her green eyes. She gives a few subdued nods of her head, but otherwise remains silent for the moment. "...I know." she eventually says. "...But that doesn't mean it's our fault." She rests her chin against the forearm draped across her chestplate. "...Fasha did this." she continues. "I know all of this is still new to you, sweetheart, but what he does? What he did?" she corrects. Past
tense. Because now he's in a ditch outside. Buried beneath those who helped him and those he forced into slavery. Earth piled atop him by one of his own kind. "To you? To them? It's not okay. He's a-... he was a bad man. And-... and yes. If we hadn't come here? Maybe people wouldn't be dead. But then Fasha would keep on hurting people." She allows a moment to pass, biting on the words in her mouth before letting them
breathe, "Tara... He would have found you and he would have come for you one day. You-... you understand that, right?" she asks, brow furrowed as she studies the young woman from across the makeshift kitchen setup.
Tara nods almost imperceptibly as she turns the heat on the stove down, placing a lid over the strew. Her hand lingers on the lid, just staring down at it for a moment before blinking and meeting Leah's gaze again. "...I should have gone back." she says quietly, emptily, as her hands fall away from the field kitchen, wrapping around her midsection. She holds Leah's gaze for a moment before looking down again.
Leah's brows furrow even deeper, a brief flicker of energy seeming to find its way back into her in the form of anger as she lifts her chin from her forearm. "Wha-... no!" she snaps. She seems to catch herself and her expression softens, but a small frown remains spread out across her features. "Gone back and-... what? Let him win? Let him continue to hurt people? Use people? Tara that's-..." she bites down and glances off to
her side as the emotion begins to bubble up again from just thinking of everything Tara has had to endure. "People died today because Fasha decided that he could play with people's lives." she says, her tone growing cold. "Because he decided that he could buy and sell people. Because he decided that he was better than others. Worth more than others. And I wish-... I wish it could have been different sweetheart, I
do." she continues, finally looking back to Tara with a small shake of her head. "But it wasn't. But because of what we did? Nobody else needs to suffer through the things that you had to, okay? Those people we rescued? They'll get a chance at a life-... at a real life!" she says, releasing her grip on her shoulder as she shuffles around the crate tentatively, as if Tara may not want her to get close.
Tara flinches at Leah's outburst, gaze snapping up to her and taking a small step back. The words that follow cause her to look down and out into the darkness, off to the side, as she hugs herself a little tighter. Leah's words don't seem to reach her. Or at least, they don't seem to convince her. It's hard to say just what she's thinking, but it's blatantly clear that it's nothing good.
Leah stops a few steps away from Tara, merely studying her through her frown. The energy once more seems to drain from her and she's left just looking... tired. "...You're my family now, Tara." she says, blinking at the burning in her eyes as she says the words. She gives a small, defeated shrug as if she doesn't know what else to tell her other than the unfiltered truth. "And so-... so I have to protect you. Because I care
about you. You didn't deserve any of this. Any of what Fasha put you through... Any of what I put you through today. But-... but none of this is your fault." she repeats, emotion behind her words. "Because I was going to come here with or without you. With your permission or without it. Because I-..." her voice cracks again and she draws in a shaky breath, "...Because I'm not going to let anyone hurt you.
Ever. So-... so blame Fasha. Blame me, it's okay." she continues, but despite her words a tear manages to slip free and trail down her cheek at the thought of Tara holding resentment towards her over what transpired today, "...I'll understand. But the only thing you're guilty of is wanting to have a normal life. Something that nobody had the right to take away from you. Something that-... that everyone deserves..."
Her voice grows quiet towards the end and, for just a brief moment, one might almost suspect she's talking about herself just as much as Tara. She's quick to bring a hand up in an attempt at wiping away the tears that have begun to flow freely with the palm of her hand.