#Leah'sHouse – September 7, 2019

December 20th. It's a cold, overcast morning but no snow has begun to fall. Not yet. It doesn't look like that sort of luck will hold throughout the day, however. The Mercier home has been alive with thumps and bumps from the attic all morning. The small stairway that's lowered from the ceiling in the hallway has been a bit of a hinderance throughout the morning, requiring anyone that needed to get to the bathroom- or Leah's room- to work

around it.

Leah has been home for the past few days rather than staying at Mendez' place. After clearing the air with Tara, it just seemed like the right thing to do. It has made her days packed affairs, having to head into town to check on Mendez and take care of anything he can't handle himself. But it's not hard to see that there's a whole lot less weight on her shoulders than there was a few days ago. In part due to the comforts of home.

But most of that weight was dashed away by an all-day marathon of The Bold & The Burdened with a friend she had been so worried that she had pushed away. This morning- aside from her morning exercise- has mostly consisted of making sure her stubborn father doesn't hurt himself in the attic. She has been banished from the attic by him, but has pretty much rooted herself at the bottom of the dropdown stairs leading up there.

Which is where she currently stands in her usual sleepwear. Long, Usaru Maestro socks, matching blue sports shorts, and a white t-shirt. As a loud thump sounds out, she winces, leaning forward as if somehow physics may break and provide her with a better view of what her father is doing. "What was that? Are you alright?!"

Francois' disembodied voice calls back, muffled by the floor between them. "For the last time I am fine." he assures, words thick with annoyance. He gives a deep sigh, relenting. "Leah, sweetheart, I'm old. Not useless. I think I can handle moving around a few boxes."

Tara 's mood has lifted noticably as well since Leah's return home. There's still a lot of questions and contradictions swimming around in her head, things she doesn't know how to deal with, but the catharsis of her little breakdown and the relief of just... spending a day in front of the TV with Leah, letting herself embrace the new normal again, has made a whole lot of difference. She woke early as always today, frying up a breakfast

omelet for herself and the others. She's since retreated to the bathroom for a morning shower. As usual for her, it's been a long one, relishing the comforting embrace of the hot water and the privacy of the bathroom. She emerges changed out of her pyjamas and into jeans and a long-sleeved, double-layer t-shirt. She nearly walks right into the attic stairs, blinking as she freezes in place with an almost startled look on her face.

She joins Leah at the bottom, looking up with curious confusion.

A few boxes surround the opening, corraled into place by Francois.

Leah scrunches up her nose, standing up on her tippy toes as she fails to get any better of a view into the attic. As she falls back onto her heels she gives a deep sigh. "I just don't understand why you won't let me help you!" she scoffs. When Tara joins her, she passes a glance her way and lets out a sigh, shaking her head in frustration at her father's antics.

Francois grunts, seemingly continuing to work as Leah pesters him. "Because this is our tradition!" he calls back, most of the annoyance replaced by amusement as Leah refuses to give up. "I bring it all down, and you and-..." he stammers, old habits dying hard. "...you put it up. Right? This is how it has always been." he explains. It doesn't seem to alleviate Leah's concern, judging by the scowl still etched into her features.

Something he seems to realize when he's met with silence. "It isn't a big deal, I'm almost done anyway." he assures as an attempt at further calming her worries. "Just need one more thing..."

Leah allows her head to lull all the way back, resulting in her looking straight up, absolutely over dealing with him by this point. "Fiiiine!" she sighs, "But I'm not moving until you're down here!" With another shake of her head she looks back to Tara. "He's gonna break his neck going up and down these stairs." she complains in a whisper.

Tara seems a little bewildered. She hadn't realized there was another floor to the house, and the sudden stairs has caught her a little off-guard. She's also more than a little puzzled by the unusual morning commotion. Her eyebrows furrow slightly as she listens to Leah and Francois' exchange. "...what is happening?" she asks quietly with another blink.

Leah snorts loudly. "What's happening-..." she begins raising her voice purposely so Francois can hear her, "...is that dad is being unreasonable and would rather slip and fall on his head rather than let me help him because he's-..." she raises her voice a bit more to punctuate her point, looking up through the hole in the ceiling, "...stubborn!"

Francois gives a loud scoff from the attic. "Don't let her fill your head with lies, Tara!" he calls out playfully, "I am fine!" he continues. Another thud sounds out, causing Leah to jolt back up onto her tippy toes. A scraping sound fills the air for a moment before the edge of a box pokes out over the side of the opening and, soon enough, Francois' smiling face joins it. The box has the words 'Inès X-Mas' written on the side.

"You see? You worry too much, sweetheart."

Tara 's eyebrows furrow a little further, her attention going back and forth as she listens to the two of them. She does not seem about to get involved in their little argument, remaining silent until the box, and then Francois' face, comes into view. She remains in place, puzzled, before glancing Leah's way in search of her reaction to his apparent success.

Leah gives a quick roll of her big green eyes as Francois appears in the attic's opening. "You're not carrying those down, dad." she says, sounding as though she's not willing to budge on that.

Francois gives a loud scoff. "Leah." he warns as he slowly maneuvers to back down the precarious stairs. "It is tradition!" he reminds, getting a couple steps down the staircase, upper body still in the attic. His house slippers have a bit of dirt on them from stomping about the dusty attic. He shifts and swivels as he tries out a few grips on the box he perched at the edge. "I have been-..." he continues, grunting as he

scoots the box around, "...doing this since before you were born. Now stand back and let me work." Indeed, he is no stranger to manual labor. But- as he shifts, turns, drags, and tilts the box about- it begins to become clear that age has begun to creep up on the older man. As it does with everyone eventually. Still, he seems determined. With the box hoisted, getting down the steps is an awkward affair that he doesn't

dare do at any faster than a snail's pace. The cramped space requires him to do it blindly, feeling about with a slippered foot for the next rung of the staircase. "You just need to-... trust that I-... I-..." he mutters as the struggle becomes real. With a frustrated sigh he drops the box right back down at the edge of the attic opening, looking none-too-happy as he shoots a glare down to Leah.

Leah takes a step back from the stairs when instructed, deciding that if he's not going to let her help, she may as well do her best not to hinder him. Concern is written all over her face as she watches him juggle the box, precariously perched on a step with one foot. At one point it even looks like she might just reach out to try and keep his leg stable, but she resists. When the older man seems to give up rather than do

something stupid, her concern is replaced with a big, smug grin. Hand on her hip, she tilts her head to the side as she peers up at him. "What's the matter? You were doing soooooo well." she offers insincerely. The unamused, flat look her teasing is met with gets a snicker out of her as she steps back against the wall. "Come on. Get down from there and let me handle it, dad." she offers with a bit more sincerity.

((Inès Noël*))

Tara watches with increasing concern as Francois struggles with the box, but remains silent. Leah's irreverence when he seems to give up causes her eyes to widen slightly, shooting her a sidelong glance and... did... did she just sidestep away from Leah?

Francois makes a face and gives a few fake laughs, taking his daughter's teasing in stride. "You are hilarious..." he mutters as he backs down the steps one at a time. "You know a day is going to come when you are old, too. A day when things that you once found simple are a chore." he warns as he reaches the bottom of the stairs and steps aside as he begins to dust himself off. "I pray that I live to see that day so I can say

'I told you so'." he says, reaching down to pat at his pants as he imparts some wisdom.

Leah sucks in her lips with a snicker as she studies her father fondly. "Maybe... But by then you're gonna be ancient, soooo..." she teases.

Francois is unable to mask his smile. He reaches out to pat Tara on the shoulder to get her attention before gesturing to Leah. "You see how she talks to me? So disrespectful." he says none too seriously.

Leah continues to snicker before pushing away from the wall and retaking her position near the bottom of the steps. She leans to the side and peers up through the opening, as if gauging how much room she has to work with, before a small blue shine envelopes her. Raising her right hand triggers the box that Francois was struggling with to lift off the ground and gracefully begin to lower through the hole. It looks effortless on

Leah's part, left arm folded across her torso.

Tara lets out the tiniest snicker as Francois addresses her, glancing Leah's way. She's gotten used to the way they talk to each other by now, even if she's still a long way from participating. Teasing, lighthearted or otherwise, isn't exactly in her nature, and she's always very respectful around Francois. As Leah's biotics flare to life her gaze follows the descending box with interest.

Leah gently sets the box down on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. "See? It won't kill you to accept a little help." she asks through her big, bright smile.

Francois watches the display of biotics, his smile fully manifesting. Despite what the rest of the galaxy may think of his daughter's abilities, there's not an ounce of shame or fear in his expression. It's only pride that he watches his daughter with. "Nobody likes a show off, sweetheart." he offers.

Leah gives another snicker as she steps forward and peers back up through the hole. "All of them...?" she asks, gesturing to the boxes piled up within view.

Francois gives a few nods of his head. "I've gathered all the ones that need to come down right here." he instructs with a gesture of his own. Foreman is probably a better role for him anyway these days. As Leah begins working on the other boxes, he crouches down beside the one already set down and begins peeling it open. Inside of the box are a whole bunch of items packed in paper and he's quick to reach in and grab one, freeing

it from its packing material. It's a small, ceramic angel. No more than a few inches tall. It wears a long, flowing gown and has a halo attatched to its head. A pair of wings are folded around itself. He gives a fond snicker, studying the object in silence.

Tara once again watches in silence. When Leah begins moving the remaining boxes and Francois crouches down she peers curiously over his shoulder, looking down into the box. She has absolutely no idea what's going on, but she doesn't ask either, her gaze focusing on the unfamiliar little figure.

Leah passes a glance towards Francois, her gaze drawn to the small angel in his hands. It causes a small smile to spread out across her face, a large box left hovering in the attic opening as she does. After a moment she tears her attention away and returns her focus to the task at hand. The next box she works at is long. Rectangular. It's so large that she's forced to reorient it downward to even get it through the opening.

"Bigass box! Coming through!" she warns as she begins to float it overtop Francois and Tara, keeping it close to the ceiling as she carries it past them to set it down further down the hall.

Francois seems to feel eyes peering over his shoulder, causing him to glance up towards Tara, kind smile on his face. He raises the small figure a little higher so she can get a look at them. "Leah's mother loved Noël." he explains, seemingly not even considering the fact that Tara might have no idea what that means. "She liked to collect these-..." his thoughts are interrupted by Leah's warning, causing him to glance up towards

the long box. "Language." he reminds Leah, cocking an eyebrow her way.

Leah is quick to correct herself as if it erases her transgression, "Biiiiiiiig box! Coming through!"

Francois merely shakes his head at his daughter before returning his attention to the figurine. He draws in a breath as his mind begins to wander, unable to keep his thoughts from drifting to his departed wife. His smile wavers, if only briefly, before he tries to expel those thoughts. "We have dozens of the ridiculous little things." he explains as he extends the figure Tara's way, his tone colored by fond memories.

Leah chimes in as she passes the pair by on her way back to the bottom of the stairs, briefly stopping to examine the figure. "Mom had soooo many of those." she snickers. As she looks to Tara something seems to occur to her, causing her to hurry over towards one of the boxes she set down by the stairs and crouch down beside it to begin going through it.

((get a look at it*))

Tara listens with clear interest as Francois talks, her expression shifting slightly at the mention of Leah's mother. Her eyebrows furrow slightly at the unfamiliar word, her translator offering no help even as the rest is converted to the batarian dialect she's accustomed to. She hunches slightly as the box passes above, gaze briefly distracted by the hovering object, but her attention soon returns to the ceramic angel. She hesitates a

little before reaching out to carefully take the figurine and study it more closely.

The small figurine is lightweight. It's certainly nothing special. Just a cheap little knick-knack. It seems to be sturdy, though, evident by the number of little dings and chips caused by plenty of falls and drops. The tip of one of the wings is gone entirely.

Francois watches as Tara studies the small figure, smile still etched into his features. He gives a small, almost embarrassed shrug of his shoulders. "They're just-... something she liked." he explains softly, as if worried that the value of the cheap object may be lost on Tara. "She was-... she was a weird one." he snickers, his words laced with affection. "...One of a kind..." he adds a bit softer.

Leah seems to have found what she was looking for in the other box. Red and white and fluffy is the hat that she holds up in her hand as she returns to the pair, big bright smile on her face as she displays it to Tara, the soft white ball of fuzz on the end of it flopping about while she tilts it from side-to-side.

Francois gives a snort as he looks up to his daughter rhythmically flopping the fuzzy white ball about. "Telle mère, telle fille..." he mutters softly.

Tara seems far from dismissive of the trinket. On the contrary, she seems quite fascinated, continuing to study it as Francois speaks. Her thumb traces one of the wings from where it starts at the back all the way to the chipped tip as she turns it over in her hand, an odd look on her face. She shoots Francois a soft expression, the faintest hint of a smile on her lips, before Leah draws her attention. She blinks as she spots the object

in her hand, gaze darting between Leah and the hat.

Leah's big bright smile widens as Tara turns her attention to her and lifts the hat a little bit higher. She excitedly raises the hat and begins to gently tug it onto Tara's head, adjusting the edges of the fluffy white lining of the festive hat so it sits just above Tara's brows after accidentally pulling it just a little too far and covering her eyes. Taking a step back, she inspects, eyes opening a big wider in excitement.

"Perfect!" she announces.

Francois looks up at the pair, watching them through furrowed brows. When Leah finishes adjusting the hat he gives a little snicker and a shake of his head. With a small grunt he brings his hands to his thighs and forces himself back to his feet. "Alright, well it looks like the two of you can handle it from here so I'm going to go for a shower. It's filthy up there." he explains, muttering the last part with a nod towards the

opening above them. He leans over and casually presses a quick peck against the hat atop Tara's head before moving on to Leah and pressing one against the side of her hair before continuing down the hall.

Tara 's nose twitches as the hat is pulled down over her eyes, head reflexively jerking back slightly. Once her vision is restored she blinks, a bewildered look on her face as she studies Leah, having absolutely no idea what is going on, or why she has suddenly been provided with a fluffy hat.

Leah gives a snicker as her father takes his leave, pleased that he's no longer atop that deathtrap of a staircase. She turns her attention back to the box she opened, peering down into it. "Usually we do this a whole lot earlier but with-... wll, with everything going on-..." she winces slightly, shooting another glance Tara's way, "...we haven't exactly had the time. But it's fine!" she assures, "We still have a few more days to

spare! We'll put out all the decorations and-..." she gestures towards the larger box she set further down the hall, "...set up the tree and string along the lights and-..." she exhaustively lists, giving a small dip of her head at each bulletpoint. The confused look on tara's face causes her own brow to begin to furrow, "...and decide on what we're going to eat and you have absolutely no clue what I'm talking about do you

ohmygod." she finally concludes with barely a breath between thoughts as if she was just struck upside her head by Captain Obvious mid-rant.

((well, everything going on*))


Tara just watches Leah in puzzled silence, listening to her ramble. Her confusion only grows the more she speaks, gaze darting briefly to the large box. There's a tree in it? When Leah catches on to her confusion her eyebrows furrow in a faint, uncertain grimace, as if she's afraid to admit that she has no idea what is happening.

Leah blinks a few times. "I'm so sorry! This must be so confusing!" she blurts out. She brins her hands to her hips as she looks about all of the boxes, "Okay... okay..." she mutters to herself as she tries to decide how in the hell to explain Christmas to someone who probably has absolutely no concept of it. "Okay!" she decides, turning her gaze back to Tara. "So-... so Noël is in just a few days. It's a holiday." She furrows

her brows once more, "You-... you know what that means, right?" she asks, though she doesn't await an answer, instead shaking her head at herself, deciding better than to potentially make Tara admit that she doesn't. "It's a-... a special day! A celebration where we put up decorations and lights and-..." she draws in a breath as she loses momentum and begins to realize this is harder than she thought. "Ummm... It's

about-..." she switches gears, treading water as she falls silent for a moment. She sucks in her lips, gaze lowering briefly, settling on the small box of wrapped up angels and the name printed along the side of it. A gentle smile crosses her features and something just seems to click, causing her to turn her attention back to Tara once more. "...It's about family." she settles on with a small shrug. "Being with the people

you care about. And we-... we give each other gifts. Put on fun music. Wear silly hats-..." she scrunches up her nose briefly as she reaches out to swat at the fuzzy ball hanging from Tara's hat, sending it bobbling about, "...and eat a bunch of good food!" She seems particularly excited about that part.


Tara does certainly have a concept of what a holiday is. It's not like batarians don't have any. She's never been part of the actual celebrations, though. Just facilitating them. And Christmas is entirely unfamiliar. She listens closely to Leah's description, her gaze focused, nodding along ever-so-slightly. The description brings a small smile to her lips, although it turns into a flinch as the fluffy ball that decorates her hat hits her

cheek. "...oh. I-... I didn't know." she says, suddenly frowning instead, concern entering her expression. "What-... what do I do?"

Leah's panic seems to subside as Tara's smile resurfaces and the question causes her to once more look out over the few boxes scattered about the hall that make it a minefield to navigate. There's still plenty more that need to be brought down, too. "That depends... are you busy?" she asks, flashing a bright smile her way. "I could use some help putting all these decorations up..." she dangles out there, leaving it in Tara's

hands to decide whether she wants to participate or not.

Tara is quick to nod at Leah's suggestion. "Okay." It's her day off, and there's little chance she's going to just watch Leah work on preparations. Her gaze falls to the boxes, looking uncertain, and then down to the angel figurine that's still in her hands, lingering on it for a moment.

Leah gives a single, sharp nod in response. "Okay!" she agrees. The holidays haven't exactly been the same since her mother passed. How could they be? But Leah and her father have done their best to do right by Inès. To allow Christmas to remain cause to celebrate rather than a time for grief. It hasn't always been easy. Especially when they find themselves surrounded by so much of her. Boxes of memories. Her gaze turns to the

small figurine in Tara's hand, a distant look in her green eyes. Something about it feels right. Tara being here for Christmas. Helping decorate. It was an activity Leah and her mother always did together. Tradition. She props her smile back up, a bit more restrained now as she studies Tara's face. Somehow, she knows her mother would approve of this new tradition. "Well, let's get to work."

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Francois Mercier
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Francois Mercier

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