#SteveRenalaApartment – July 18, 2021

Renala stays at the Respite throughout the night until Steve's shift is over, hanging around while he wraps up. She enjoyed a another two beers and a glass of something stronger on Steve's tab during the remainder of the night, however, but the cold walk home has helped sobering up and fending off fatigue after a long day.

It's the past midnight on Christmas Eve, and the wind is starting to pick up speed.

Steve's shift was, thankfully, a quiet one as far as disturbances go. So, for the most part, he was able to spend the remainder of the evening shooting the shit with Renala without much issue. He made sure to pick up a six pack of beer before heading out, leaving Renala to carry what remained of the pizza in a small carry out container. The wind isn't much of a concern with a suit of armor, but with his helmet off it's

still biting enough to raise the hairs on the back of his neck. "...remember my mom would always stay up real late, stringin' up all sorts of decorations." he snickers, shooting a smile Renala's way. The night has been peppered with little stories about Christmas back home. Good stories. Happy stories. But they're all from when he was a child. Little more than flashes of memories. From before the memories of home

turned sour. They're inconsequential, mostly. He's not the sort to get sentimental. Nor is he the type to give too much away. Just small talk befitting the occasion. His gaze turns back towards the ground as he meanders forward without any real urgency, "Would wake up the next mornin' and the livin' room was like a whole different world."

Renala is still wearing the jacket that barely was off during the night, but she's not shivering. Maybe the alcohol is playing a part? She has been happy to listen to his stories during the night, occasionally relating it to her and Aeyna's flawed immitation of the holiday. The story does draws a chucke out of her. "Why did she leave the decorating to the night before, though?" she asks. "Was it meant as a

surprise?"

Steve snickers, giving a small shake of his head. "Nah, she wouldn't wait until the night before. Prolly a-..." he shrugs, the details unimportant, moreso to someone who probably has little understanding of how Christmas is actually celebrated, "...I don't know, couple weeks or so? Just... some random night while I was sleepin'." He gives a small nod to himself over the second part of Renala's question. "Think she just

liked to spring it on me. Make sure it was somethin' special, ya know?" There's a fondness to his tone as if, despite everything, those memories aren't quite tarnished by the storm that devoured his life over the following years.

Renala has noticed the fondness in his tone, and it does bring a smile to her face too. She knows enough about biotics in non-asari to understand that it often isn't known until it starts to manifest. "So it was a surprise then," she says. "She cared a great deal for you." There is a question in that, but one she doesn't want to sour the mood by asking outright.

Steve's smile wavers a bit at the unasked question, but doesn't quite slip away. He continues his slow journey towards their apartment, the thin layer of snow that's stuck to the path crunching under his heavy, armored boots. He gives a small nod of his head. "Yeah..." he offers, the word ending up a bit quieter than intended. Quiet enough that the weight behind it is a bit more clear than he'd like. In an effort to shake

it off, he gives a small shrug of his shoulders, propping his smile back up. "She did what she could." he offers, shooting a glance back to Renala, as if in silent assurance that his mood hasn't been dampened.

Renala frowns a bit as the unasked question does seem to be conveyed, but the reassurance is enough for her to let it go without another word. She has been very sparing about stories from her own childhood, so it's not fair that she pry too much. She lets out a sigh, and looks out to the snowy path ahead. "I think Aeyna would hate being left out of the decoration if I pulled that on her," she says fondly.

"Not that I could; she's the one digging those boxes out of the closet earlier and earlier each year."

Steve snickers, Renala's addition helping to cement his smile back into place as he glances up towards the apartment ahead. "Sounds about right." he says, that adding up with other stories Renala has told about Aeyna. It's another couple of steps before his brows furrow, the gears turning in his head. "What about your folks...?" he asks, casting another glance her way. "I don't think you've-... uhh-... mentioned them a

whole lot..." he says, seeming to realize partway through that there very well could be a reason for that. A can of worms better left unopened. Too late to swerve, he continues, "They get involved in celebrations for the little one, too...?" he asks, his brows briefly pinching once more a moment later, "...Not exactly-... sure how any of that works with your kind..." he admits.

Renala snorts at the mentions of her own parents. "They think it's ridiculous that we imititate your holiday," she says. "I think dad would come around to it given another decade, because she's mellowed a lot since retiring from military service and Aeyna does bring out the best in her, but then again, she's still such a spineless thrall to my hardass of a mother." Renala lets out a strong sigh.

Mentioning them is not enough to sour her mood. That smouldering bridge is very old, and it has seen some crossings in the recent years.

Steve gives the apartment panel a quick pat, stepping aside as the door slides open to allow Renala to lead the way. He gives a quick snort to the asari's statement regarding the borrowed holiday and seems to manage the mental gymnastics to follow an asari family tree, coming out the other side mostly unconfused. "And what about when it comes to asari holidays?" he asks, making no attempt at masking his lack of familiarity

regarding asari traditions. "Birthdays...?"

Renala steps inside and begins leading the way over to the elevator, and calls it down. "We do celebrate some age milestones, but not every year like you do. Janiris was a big deal, though." she says, "but unlike Christmas it doesn't have the advent and the thirteen Days. My mother took it very seriously, though. She would have a solid reason for every flower in the wreaths she gave, and she would be insulted

if I said I just ran down to the florist and got the first one that I thought went well with her favorite dress." She chuckles. "I eventually got better at improvising."

Steve listens to Renala, offering a soft snicker as the elevator doors slide open and he steps on. He might not know the intricacies of Janiris, but the asari holiday isn't completely foreign to him. Hard not to pick up on at least some little bits and pieces when you spend as much time on Omega as he has. Not to mention the security warnings he gets about bigger crowds and rowdy nights at the Respite. He gives a small

tilt of his head as he taps the interface once Renala has joined him on the elevator, small smile lingering. "Well... Thought that counts and all that, right?" he offers through a smirk, seeming to share her lack of sentimentality over such occasions. There's a slight lurch as the elevator rumbles upwards.

Renala chuckles. "Exactly, and she thought I put too little of that into it," she says. "If they only put half the effort into trying to spend time with me with hobbies and games, maybe I would do a good job encoding the past year in flowers too." She lets out a snort and glances towards the closed elevator doors. "I wouldn't have bothered with Christmas either if it wasn't for Aeyna's only real friend

wanting to share it with her," she says, her tone mellowing as the asari looks choked up for a moment before she managed to reign it in; "and how excited it makes her."

Steve leans against the back wall as the elevator during its short trip upwards, a snort escaping as Renala speaks. But as her tone changes, his smile slips a bit, his own thoughts briefly turning elsewhere as well. But he doesn't entertain those thoughts for long, instead reaching out to place his free, gauntleted hand atop the asari's shoulder and give it a quick pat. "Gonna be plenty more Christmases ahead of you to

share with Aeyna." he assures her, that long lived nature implied in his tone. Drawing in a breath as the elevator doors slide open, he pushes away from the wall. "Unfortunately?" he continues, glancing back at Renala as he steps out into the hall, "You're stuck with me for this one, darlin'." he teases.

Renala nods at the first words, but the teasing does bring a brief grin out of her. "Who knows what kind of emergency will drag me back here next year." This year was the Collectors, obviously, but Renala may have unentionally reminded him about the one before. She brings up her omni-tool, blindly initiating the unlock while walking up to the door to their apartment. "If I get stuck here next year, then

you're helping me decorate," she threatens before opening the door.

Steve gives something of an exasperated snort at the reminder of all of their recent 'emergencies'. Not that he needs a reminder. It cracks the door for that encroaching thought that's haunted him throughout most of the night, however. Those ghosts that are still too fresh. Right on his tail. The ones that he hasn't managed to put enough time and booze between him and them to quite shut them out yet. Henrik and Karen. But

he'll get there. Eventually, they'll fade into all the others. For now, he tries not to think of the Christmases spent on Omega with them. Memories of the pointless decorating that he always found himself roped into. He puts a bandaid over those memories for now in the form of propping up a smile as he glances back Renala's way. "Sounds like a plan." he says simply. He brushes a hand against the frame of the

apartment door as he steps inside, "So how 'bout you just gimme a few minutes to get outta my work clothes and cleaned up-..." he quickly raps a knuckle against his chestplate as he steps over to the fridge to slip the six pack into the fridge, "...and then you and I can see what's in that box the doctor dropped off?" he proposes, turning back towards Renala as he shuts the fridge door.

Renala is right behind him to deposit the small pizza box in the fridge, plastic bag included. The propped-up smile and the quiet before it is enough confirmation that the reminder was not lost on him, but she knows better than to pry. "That too sounds like a plan," she says as she returns to the entrance to get out of her winter wear. "I was planning to bring it with me, but I didn't expect I'd be spending

the day at work, and it was already too late to make the detour by the time I was done." Her boots haven't done the best job at keeping the snow out, and her socks need a change, but she will be waiting for him by the kitchen counter by the time he's changed out of his armor.

After collecting a change of clothes, Steve disappears into the bathroom for a good ten minutes or so, the sound of the sink occasionally filtering through the closed door. After putting his gear back in his room, he steps out into the kitchen. He has changed into in an old, faded, grey shirt and a pair of black sweatpants, his hair still a little damp from a quick dip under the sink.

Steve gives a small roll of his shoulders to loosen a bit of that stiffness that tends to settle in after spending all day in armor. "Beer?" he asks as he opens the fridge door, already assuming the answer as he reaches for a pair of bottles from the six-pack.

Renala is leaning against the counter by the time he returns. She is wearing a white fleece jacket over a red top and some simple, well-fitting black jeans, and some solid fluffy wool socks. The asari shuts off her omni-tool, which she was tapping on while waiting for him. "I've had a lot of them already," she contemplates aloud before shrugging upon seeing him having made the decision for her, "but another

probably won't hurt."

Steve snickers as he plucks the beers from the carrier. "That's the spirit." he says, shooting her a wink as if he hadn't just made the decision on her behalf. It takes a few different drawer checks before he manages to find the bottle opener, but a few flicks of his wrist later and the caps are done away with. He drops one off on the counter beside Renala before stepping off towards the living room to collect the box from

the coffee table. Rather than return to the kitchen, he approaches the counter from the living room side, setting the flat, red and gold box down on the counter. "Figure you oughtta do the honors." he says as he begins sliding it across the counter towards the asari.

Renala takes a long swig from the bottle once it's given to her and puts it back on the counter as she watches him go to collect the package. She catches the gift sliding over to her, and picks it up. "If you insist," she says before she turns it over a few times to find the weak point, and she begins to tear it open. "Let's see what the doc has prescribed us," she mutters.

Beneath the wrapping paper is a large, gold and red box of imported luxury chocolates with the words 'Thank You' in cursive on the lid. Nothing big, as the doctor herself promised, but echoing the sentiment given when she dropped it off.

Steve shifts in place, leaning his elbows against the counter as he takes a swig of his own drink. He gives a dip of his head to Renala's response before offering a shrug. "Considerin' that she prolly ain't my biggest fan, I'm just bein' cautious in case it's booby trapped." he says, passing another wink her way. As the paper slips away and the gift beneath is revealed, his smirk tempers back into something a bit more

sincere, remaining silent as he studies the words on the lid. It's not often that he's 'thanked' for the work he does. Maybe it's the nature of the career. It's a thankless job and he's perfectly fine with that. Prefers it even. It's not like he's doing it for charity. But maybe it has more to do with the jobs he's spent a good portion of his life taking on... A thought that's not worth considering. It doesn't lead

anywhere. Not anywhere good, anyway. With a soft snort he lifts his gaze to meet Renala's.

Renala looks down at the gift, and sighs. Part of her wants to make the joke about a doctor giving her something that's the opposite of healthy, or the fact that Steve was offloading the risk of it being booby trapped onto Renala, but the words on the lid makes gives her pause. Ogofau is probably the worst she has experienced, and that's saying something after a long life where most of it was spent on places

like Omega. Not that she feels she deserves thanks for it, even if she can understand how Halisi sees it. She has argued against the more heroic jobs that Redrock has taken at great cost and risk, and Halisi would likely have been another nameless part of the grim figure of missing colonists taken by the Collectors, if she had been able to convince Jason and the Chief. "Can't argue with chocolate," she

says as she looks up, but her words come across as flat, betraying her reflection.

Steve gives a few small, slow nods, his thoughts not far from Renala's. "No. S'pose ya can't." he offers in turn, his own tone lacking a bit of conviction. He draws in a heavy breath, unwilling to give Redrock the credit that it might deserve. He certainly never came here to be a hero. That's a quick way to a shallow grave, as plenty of people that accompanied them to Ogofau found out. Hell, some he even put there

himself... Still, if there's some score keeping to he done, he can't deny that it's nice to have a tally mark in the opposite column, even if he might not outright admit it. "For the record, you are gonna have to share those." he warns, propping what remains of his smile back up.

Renala raises her brows for a moment in mock surprise, and a weak smile does briefly show up. "And here I thought you gave it to me to have by myself...," she mutters as she opens the box, and takes a piece before wordlessly sliding it over to him.

Steve reaches out with his free hand, holding Renala's gaze as he hooks a finger into the edge of the box and tugs it the rest of the way to his side of the counter. "I bet you did." he adds with mock suspicion. He plucks one of the pieces of chocolate out and holds it up, taking a quick look at it before popping it into his mouth, grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Merry Christmas, darlin'."

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Renala T'Iavay
Steven Briggs