#IlynaApartment – April 27, 2021

Ilyna looks deep in thought, but doesn't show much of an outward reaction before the mention of asari authorities, to which she gives the smallest shake of her head. She doesn't agree that they should have, but they have asserted this right. The guilt doesn't appear to go away at Halisi's assurances, and Ilyna can't stop agonizing over it. "I...," she begins, but falls silent immediately again. "I don't think keeping

it to ourselves is an option," she says, keeping her voice mostly flat and controlled despite the emotions bursting at the seams underneath. "Jason knows, and... Linda must be suspicious, and... well, the authorities will learn of it." She knows she doesn't answer the question; she can't bring herself to.

Halisi sucks in her lips and offers a few small nods. She pulls back a little, her right hand joining her left in her lap, gaze falling to them. "I understand." she assures softly. "I'm not trying to-" Furrowed eyebrows and a sigh. "I just wanted you to know, I suppose. Where I stand." A glance Ilyna's way, and a brief flash of a smile that aims for friendly but ends up awkward. "It-..." An embarrassed noise and a few blinks too many,

silver eyes a bit shinier than usual as her gaze sweeps across the room, still avoiding Ilyna. "...it was a silly thought, wasn't it?" she says with a faint shrug, forcing a light tone in an already-failing attempt to ease the tension.

Ilyna averts her gaze as well when Halisi looks away. This isn't helping her guilt in the slightest. Ilyna opens her mouth to speak a few times, but she can't put words to her thoughts. She shakes her head at herself after a moment, and tries to control her trembling breath. She then takes a deep breath and looks back at Halisi, laying a violet hand carefully on her shoulder. "No, it wasn't," she whispers, a tear

trickling down her cheek. She tries to find Halisi's eyes for a moment. "I... I want....," she trails off.

Halisi looks surprised when she feels Ilyna's hand on her shoulder, gaze reflexively darting back to her face. Her attempt at obscuring her own emotions with forced joviality quickly falls apart when they lock eyes, half-hearted smile rapidly fading into a focused frown. She swallows against the dryness in her mouth and, with a bit of hesitation, reaches up to place her own hand over Ilyna's, giving it a gentle squeeze. There's a

questioning tilt to her head as she waits almost breathlessly for the asari to find her words again.

The toilet can be heard flushing, signaling that Li will soon be coming back into the living room.

Ilyna takes another deep breath as she tries to compose herself enough to give an answer. A sad smile shows up when Halisi lays a hand on hers and tilts her head. "I...," she begins again, before raising her brows at hearing the toilet flush. That puts a time limit on her, and is the spark that finally gets her to speak her mind. "I want.... I want to give us a chance," she whispers. Another tear shows up to join the

first, and her termbling breath just gets worse as she anxiosly watches Halisi.

Halisi 's eyes briefly close as she hears the flushing, a bit of frustration in her face - not at Li, of course, but the timing. She's already resigned to kicking this particular can down the road again, and Ilyna's words catch her off-guard, eyebrows rising and a surprised laugh slipping out, fueled by her own nerves. She wraps Ilyna up in a hug without even thinking, the impulse overriding her usual hesitations, for good or ill.

Ilyna gasps as she's pulled into a hug, but she is quick to wrap her arms around Halisi in turn and close her eyes. Tears are streaking down her cheeks, so the smile showing up on her face isn't doing much to hide the turmoil within. Ilyna is quiet for now, a thousand thoughts milling about in her head about what she just said and the potential consequences. Even with all the consideration she's put into these

feelings, it still feels like a premature decision, even if she fully trusts Halisi to take it one careful step at a time.

Halisi lets out a long breath, heavy with emotion, as Ilyna returns the hug, and squeezes her a little more tightly in turn. One of her hands moves back and forth across her back in a careful, soothing motion, a couple of tears of her own slipping out as she closes her eyes and lingers for just a moment - it's obvious how immensely difficult this is for Ilyna, and all she wants is to be a comforting presence - but she knows that

their time is limited right now, and she doesn't want to inadvertently drop another difficult conversation on Ilyna by waiting too long and making Li ask questions, so she pulls back after a final squeeze, catching both of Ilyna's hands in her own as she does. "Okay." she says with a nod and a small but genuine smile, cheeks still wet. "Then we'll find a way." The words have the weight of a promise - she's serious about making

this work even if it's complicated - and she squeezes the asari's hands for emphasis.

The bathroom door slides open and Li comes running back into the living room. She's reading towards her castle.

Ilyna is content to lie in Halisi's arms as she's gently stroked, and it does calm her enough to reign in the tears. There are a lot of feelings bubbling under the surface, and it's a miracle that she's not shaking. When Halisi pulls back the hug, she raises her brows at first, but understands it when she hears the doors slide open. Her first instinct is to pull a hand back and quickly hide her tears, but Halisi

squeezing her hands makes her refrain from doing so. "We will," she whispers her agreement, returning a small smile of her own. 'We have to,' would be more correct, but right now she can believe in what Halisi said. She does hazard a glance towards Li as she runs into the living room.

Halisi pulls her hands back as Li makes her return, reaching up to wipe at her own tears before glancing the girl's way over her shoulder.

Li stops just before sitting down on the floor, attention turning towards the couch, maybe sensing that the mood is 'off'. "Mom...?" she says, frowning a little. "Don't be sad..." She hurries over to the couch, and with a little help from Halisi - who casts a soft smile Ilyna's way over Li's head - climbs up between them and tosses her arms around the asari, hugging her. That's what you do when someone is crying!

Ilyna looks surprised when Li notices them, and she supresses her first instinct to deny it. What example would she set by doing that when she wants Li to be more open with her? She holds out her arms to accept the hug once Halisi helps her up, and pulls her close. A sad chuckle escapes her. "Halisi didn't mean to make me cry," she assures. "It's... my fault."

Li 's face disappears against Ilyna as they hug, but the asari's words make her lift her head and look Halisi's way in confusion.

Halisi looks a little surprised, but manages to offer Li a reassuring smile, reaching out to give the girl's head a pat, stroking her hair a bit. "It's nobody's fault." she corrects with a pointed - but sympathetic - look at Ilyna. "Everyone cries sometimes, when they're sad, or happy, or... just have a lot of things on their mind." The words are spoken to Li, but with the last bit she glances up at Ilyna again, a multitude of

unspoken, contradictory emotions in her silver eyes. Relief and excitement. Concern and pained sympathy.

Li frowns a little, looking down in thought, and then she nods. "Why are you crying, mom?" she asks, looking up at the asari.

Halisi shoots Ilyna a reassuring look over Li, trying to wordlessly communicate that she'll go along with whatever she decides to tell her.

Ilyna notices the pointed look her way, and sighs, but she does not believe she understands what Halisi is trying to communicate to her after that. "I...," she begins and glances past Li at Halisi for a moment. Embarrasment starts to take over her face as she returns to look at Li. She does not want to lie to her, but the truth may come across as very banal without some crucial context that she cannot provide. "I

have feelings for Halisi," she says, her tone a bit awkward, "and I didn't know what to do, and... it became too much for me." She puts on a slightly strained smile as she adds, "But it's okay now. We talked about it."

Halisi looks a little caught off-guard when Ilyna opts to spill the beans, but she nods in agreement with her final reassurance, hand still idly stroking Li's hair.

Li mostly just looks confused, looking over at Halisi and then back to Ilyna, tilting her head a little. "What does that mean?"

Halisi hesitates for a moment before deciding to jump in and try to help out instead of letting Li put Ilyna on the spot - she's noticed that she sometimes struggles with communicating with Li in a way that's easy for a child to understand - maybe a consequence of differences in human and asari lifespans, she suspects. "Ah-... it just means that... your mother and I like each other a lot. And sometimes that can be hard to talk about.

But everything is okay now." she explains to Li, doing her best to sound reassuring while casting a glance Ilyna's way to try and judge whether she approves or disapproves. It's a massive oversimplification of course, but one she deems necessary, both for Li's sake and Ilyna's.

Li 's attention turns to the doctor when she speaks, listening closely and nodding a few times. After processing for a little she offers a chirp of "Ok!"

Ilyna is about to offer clarification, but she thankfully doesn't have to when Halisi speaks up. She meets the glance with a smile, agreeing with her explanation. She has mostly calmed down by now, but the emotions has taken a toll on her. "I'm still glad you gave me a hug, though," she says as she loosens her side of the hug.

Li giggles a little as she lets go of the hug, sitting between Ilyna and Halisi. "Come play! You can be the knights!" she exclaims, slipping out of the couch and tugging at both of their hands.

Halisi chuckles quietly at Li's insistence, but as she looks to Ilyna her expression turns soft and thoughtful. She had intended on getting going soon, but after what was just said all she wants to do is stay. She hadn't expected an answer today, not really, and she's still processing. The fact that the asari in front of her looks so drained solidifies her decision - she can't leave Ilyna like this. And for once, she doesn't have any

work that needs doing. "Alright, alright." she snickers, raising an eyebrow and nodding towards the castle to encourage Ilyna to join them as she gets ready to go sit on the floor again. Playing with Li will give them both something else to focus on while they process, and maybe there'll be another chance to talk later. A private conversation is a tricky prospect when there's a 7-year old in the picture.

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