#Leah'sHouse – April 27, 2020

December 23rd. Noon. The day before Christmas. There's a light snowfall outside, the flakes drifting peacefully to the ground since the piercing wind that sometimes rolls through the valley is thankfully absent. Daylight comes through the light gray sky. Inside the house, Tara is sitting on the floor in the living room, playing with Zoe. The gzzk has been the focus of her attention the whole morning, much as the day before. Zoe has cleaned

up well - surpisingly, she seemed to like taking a bath, putting up no struggle during the cleaning. Her fur is fluffier and softer than ever now, and without the dirt, the ocean blue color is a lot more striking. Zoe ignored the bedding they bought for her entirely for the first night, showing no sign of sleep at all to begin with. Tara tried to stay up to keep an eye on her, but eventually fell asleep. In the morning she found the gzzk

curled up under her bed.

Leah did her part to assist Tara in bathing Zoe and set up her bedding. And, of course, take a ridiculous amount of pictures of the adorable creature. But today she's spent the better part of the morning wrapping gifts in her room, occasionally checking up on Zoe (And losing plenty of time getting caught up in showering her with attention). Occasionally she'll skulk out of her room with a box wrapped in festive paper to sneak

none-too-subtly under the tree, playfully casting suspicious glances Tara's way when she does. The amount of wrapping paper in the Mercier household rides a fine line between 'worrying' and 'impressive'. Reds and greens and blues and whites. Snowmen. Reindeers. Christmas trees. Snowflakes. The French flag surrounded by cookies (???). A varren wearing a Christmas hat with a speech bubble that simply says, 'IT'S CHRSITMAS!'.

Yes. Chrsitmas. The mis-spelling was endearing, okay? What was she supposed to do? Not buy it? The wrapping paper patterns are near endless, and Leah seems dead set on wrapping every one of her presents in different paper. The things Francois has wrapped, however, can be neatly divided into two categories: Those for Tara are wrapped in paper resembling candy canes, and those for Leah are wrapped in paper that has a print

that may as well be a declaration of war. The logo of the Beijing Shockers. The rivals of Leah's beloved Usaru Maestros. Obviously this close to Christmas all of the lights are on and the television is playing an unending rotation of holiday classics.

The familiar, steadily increasing thrum of the shuttle's thrusters can be heard as it descends outside. After it has landed Halisi steps out. She's wrapped up in full winter wear, her long red coat accompanied by tall, fur-lined boots, a loose knit beanie and sleek leather gloves. Her purse hangs off her right shoulder, and a shopping bag off her left elbow. There's a quiet noise of effort as she struggles with the oversized, cubical

Christmas present in her hands. It's wrapped in plain, deep blue paper and tied with silver ribbons, caringly curled on top. She manages to shift the weight of it to one arm for a brief moment to give the shuttle a wave. "Thank you as always, Jasper! I will walk back into town."

Tara looks up from petting Zoe, who seems to have tired out from all the playing, giggling as she spots Leah dropping off another present. The sound of the shuttle soon draws her attention, causing her to stretch to see if she can spot who it is without getting up. No such luck.

Leah finds herself momentarily playing Tetris with the presents to get her most recent addition beneath the tree without it sliding off of another gift and back out from under the tree. Tara's giggling causes her to glance back over her shoulder, big, toothy smile spread across her face. Despite the heaviness of the previous day, she seems to be in high spirits. But her gaze is soon pulled to the front door as the telltale sound

of a shuttle setting down outside garners her attention, brow furrowing. She studies the door in silence, concentrating on the sound outside. Given their location, there's not much of a reason for a shuttle to set down within earshot unless they're about to have a visitor. After a moment she rises to her feet and makes her way over to the window to cast a quick glance outside. Upon spotting the good doctor approaching she

draws a deep breath in through her nose. "It's Halisi..." she relays as she steps away from the window, shoulders stiffening. While their last encounter didn't leave off with open hostility, things were certainly rocky enough for her to want to give the doctor a wide berth.

Tara tilts her head as she watches Leah, a hint of confusion surfacing over her tension. She had been too preoccupied with the liberated slaves to pay much attention to Leah's interactions with Halisi after their return.

Halisi approaches the front door, face half-hidden behind the large box. She struggles on the porch, face scrunching up with focus as she tries to angle herself so that she can press the doorbell.

Zoe stirs when the doorbell sounds out, four wide eyes looking around in confusion for the source of the unfamiliar noise. Tara reaches out to try and calm the startled creature - and perhaps to make sure she doesn't end up darting around the room again.

Leah's lips curl into a frown, gaze dropping down to her outfit. Not having expected visitors, she's in her typical 'lounge-around-the-house' wear. A plain white t-shirt, blue sports shorts and a pair of long socks. Unable to match the effort Halisi put into her outfit she stammers a quick, "Umm-..." as she divides her attention between doing battle with her unruly bangs and addressing Tara. "...Keep an eye on her." she instructs,

briefly glancing back Tara's way and leveling her big green eyes on their furry, blue escape artist. Settling her attention back on the front door she draws in a long, deep breath through her nose, holding it in her chest before releasing it in a futile attempt at exorcising her tension. As she reaches the door, she once more looks to Tara, as if waiting to ensure she's ready in case opening the door prompts Zoe to try

taking off again.

Tara has plucked Zoe off the floor and tugged the gzzk into her lap, wrapped up in her arms. Memories of what happened the day before are still fresh in her mind, and she's not eager for a repeat. Zoe fidgets, and she does her best to calm her. "Sorry... it's just while the door is open." she assures quietly to the suddenly restless animal in her arms.

(*retcon)

Tara has plucked Zoe off the floor and tugged the gzzk into her lap, wrapped up in her arms. Memories of what happened the day before are still fresh in her mind, and she's not eager for a repeat. Zoe fidgets, and she does her best to calm her. "Sorry... it's just while the door is open." she assures quietly to the suddenly restless animal in her arms. Tara is in her pyjamas, and on her head is the ever-present Christmas hat. She seems

unconcerned about not being dressed right for guests.

Leah gives Tara a moment to get situated before drawing in a breath and putting on her best smile as she tugs the door open. "Heyyyyyy~" she offers in an overly enthusiastic sing-songy tone. The cold front she's greeted by is an unwelcome one, causing her to nearly immediately wrap her arms around herself and forcing her smile to shift into an exaggerated grimace with equally exaggerated teeth-chattering. "Come in, come in, come

in!" she urges, already stepping in place on the balls of her feet as she scoots to the side ever so slightly to afford Halisi room to get in while strategically remaining positioned to POUNCE if the little furball gets loose. Her gaze inevitably moves to the large box in Halisi's arms, curiosity slipping into her green eyes.

Halisi seems a little caught off-guard by Leah's rushing, although she's quick to step inside despite her confusion. The box remains an awkward barrier between them as she tries to get her bearings and scrapes the snow from her boots, careful not to drag any in. "Hello." she offers, before shifting the box to hold it out for Leah, perhaps a little eager to be free of it. "...and, well, Merry Christmas." she adds with a small smile, barely

visible on the other side of the ribbons that adorn the top of the box. On close inspection there's a tag with Leah's name on it.

Tara watches curiously from the living room, still holding onto Zoe. The gzzk shrinks back a little in her arms at the sight of an overencumbered Halisi.

Leah is quick to close the door once Halisi is inside, shooting an almost suspicious glance back towards Zoe to ensure she's not already half-way to Adrasteia by now. The box thrusted upon her garners a furrow of her brow as she reaches out to recieve it and the accompanying words cause a soft, "...Oh." to slip out. But it's not until she spots her name on the tag that it settles in that it's a gift. For her. After all of

the trouble she caused. Another, "Oh!" slips out, this one sharper than the last and colored by surprise. There's another second of delayed reaction as she studies the box in silence before familiar guilt begins to bubble back up in her chest, causing a frown to spread out across her face. She delivers a softly muttered, distracted, "...Joyeux Noël..." in response as she continues to study the gift. After a few silent

moments, her frown deepens and she peers over top of the large box to look Halisi's way, little more than her green eyes and the top of her head visible due to the way she's holding it. "...You didn't have to do this, Halisi." she says, that guilt manifesting in her words.

Halisi adjusts the strap of her purse, which had been in danger of slipping, once her hands are free. A soft smile manifests at Leah's words, and she shakes her head slightly. "I wanted to." she assures, an odd emotion in her voice that's hard to place, but there's no sign of the frustration that was there a week ago. She looks less exhausted to - maybe she's had time to rest and re-energize a bit. Maybe it's the imminent holidays. And

maybe part of it is just the fact that she's had time to do her makeup. Noticing Tara out of the corner of her eye she glances her way, her smile growing a little. "Hello, Tara." she says, seeming a little amused by the fact that the girl has just been looking at her. She lets the shopping back slip down into her hand, lifting it a little. "I have some things for you to." she assures, grinning slightly.

Tara offers a small wave, echoing her hello. The mention of gifts causes her eyes to widen slightly, expression a mixture of embarrassment and curiosity. She lets Zoe slip from her grasp now that the door is closed, and the gzzk at first takes cover behind Tara, peering at the stranger cautiously, but the calm atmosphere seems to reassure her, and she soon approaches, sniffing the doctor curiously.

Halisi raises an eyebrow at the animal, shooting Leah a quick, questioning glance before setting the bag aside by the door and crouching down to reassure the gzzk that she's friendly, carefully reaching out to try and pet her. "Who's this?" she asks, voice all warm amusement as she looks up to Tara for answers.

Tara stands up and follows after Zoe, maybe worried about the potential for another burst of energy. "Her name is Zoe." she says quietly, remaining on standby, but Halisi strokes the fluffy animal's fur without incident.

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