#Emma'sApartment – August 13, 2021

December 25th, afternoon. The skies are clear, Aite's bright band splitting the pale blue in half, with Litae looming on one side. It's a windy day, lending an extra bite to the cold. Emma's apartment is on the western outskirts of town, not too far from the Redrock base. At three stories it stands taller than the rest of the buildings in it's immediate area. It's made from prefab parts - a sturdy-looking turian pattern. The

front door to the building has a code lock and an intercom for requesting entry.

Leah is usually the bright-and-early sort, but a late night with perhaps a bit too many drinks tends to lead to a late start. As seems to be the case today. But it's nothing that a shower and a trip into town can't shake out. Dressed in a pair of form fitting black pants, chunky, loosely laced boots, and a thick, blue winter jacket. As might be expected by this point, her head is again adorned with her stylish new Christmas

hat. Red and white with a fluffy pom on the end of the floppy point, her name is printed along the trim to let everyone know just who is spreading Christmas joy all throughout Freedom Falls! Which is, of course, the reason she's wearing it. Not because she didn't want to deal with the fussy blonde hair that's spilling out the back of it. As she approaches Emma's building she gives it a quick once over, adjusting the

plain-looking canvas bag hanging off her shoulder. She reaches out to give the panel a tap before realizing it's code locked, causing her to scrunch up her nose and look about the panel for the correct apartment to buzz.

Emma Nordström's apartment is thankfully clearly marked in the list of apartments. It takes a couple of tries before there's a response, however, the annoyed, groggy "What?" of someone that just woke up sounding from the low-quality speaker. At least the voice is Emma. Probably. It's a little hard to tell between the speaker and her current tone of voice.

Leah shifts in place as she awaits a response. Just as she's about to impatiently tap the button a third time, the voice comes through. She blinks a couple of times, frown forming across her features at the rather harsh greeting. Brows furrowed, she glances over the interface once more to ensure she got the right apartment. "Emma...?" she asks once she's convinced she didn't just buzz some complete stranger.

There's a brief pause before the voice sounds again from the speaker. It does sound like Emma, although her accent is a bit more noticeable than usual, and she doesn't sound in top shape: "...that is my name." A grunt. "...Leah?" Recognition. There must be a camera as part of the intercom.

Leah opens her mouth to respond when Emma speaks her name, causing a big, bright smile to slip out. "Joyeux Noël~!" she offers in a sing-songy tone, tilting her head to better frame her face in the camera- assuming the camera's perspective to be from the panel itself- and lifts her hand to give a few small waves. But she quickly seems to realize that she doesn't exactly know where the camera is. Could be an overhead security (Dante

camera for all she knows! This revelation pushes her to cover her bases, tilting her head back and looking along the apartment wall above her as she continues to wave.

Leah's enthusiastic greeting is met with silence at first, and then a tired sigh before the door panel turns to green with a click and a buzz, the call ending.

Leah's big smile turns to confusion as the call ends abruptly, gaze shifting from the potential-camera-location above to the interface. It's not until the panel shifts from red to green that she seems to realize what happened. "Oh-... uhh-... I'll be right up!" she calls out, splitting her attention between the perceived camera and the intercom's interface.... which she is immediately reminded is no longer transmitting her

voice to Emma. She's quick to shoot an embarrassed glance back to make sure nobody else is around before entering the building and starting towards her destination.

The stairwell is empty right now, the trip to the third floor passing uneventfully. The door to Emma's apartment is unlocked, presumably in anticipation of Leah's arrival.

Leah has no intention of just barging in to someone's home who she barely knows unannounced, instead stopping just outside the door and giving it a quick rap of her knuckles. "...Emma?" she says to announce her arrival first, waiting a breath before giving the interface a tap.

The door slides open to reveal a small, relatively spartan apartment, the lighting a bit dim as the blinds are closed. The doorway leads directly into a room with a small couch, coffee table and TV, a kitchenette located behind the couch, with a slight backlog of dirty dishes in the sink. There's no kitchen table. There's two doors, bedroom and bathroom presumably. Emma is lying in the couch with the pillows stacked against one

armrest to prop her up, wearing the same clothes she wore last night - black pants and gray turtleneck, her injured leg extended across the couch. Her Phalanx is still in her underarm holster. Her braid is messy from having slept with it, and she looks more than a little tired, one hand rubbing at her eyes as the other waves Leah in. A much less sharp impression than usual.

Leah does her best not to let her gaze linger on any one spot in the apartment as she steps in, not wanting to seem like the nosy sort. Just a quick glance about as she seeks out Emma. Once she spots her, she props her bright smile back up and starts in her direction. "Hey~" she offers in far too cheerful of a tone.

Emma lets out a groan at Leah's infuriatingly cheerful greeting. "Morning." she mutters a bit hoarsely, hand dropping from her face as she looks around the apartment, realizing there's nowhere for Leah to sit given that her injured leg is taking up the entire length of the couch. Her hands shift to the couch and she braces herself before scooting into a more upright position to make some room, a wince accompanying

the motion. "Fu-... can you-..." A stalling gesture and then a point in the direction of the doorway. "Painkillers. In my coat. Right pocket." she requests, voice clipped and strained.

Leah thinks better than to correct Emma on the time of day, given her apparent mood. Instead, she merely gives a small shrug of her shoulders as she comes to a stop beside the couch, glancing about idly for a moment as if searching for where she should be sitting. As Emma begins to stir, she's quick to object with a lift of her hands, albeit a bit too late. "No, that's not-..." she manages before Emma has already shifted, a

small wince of her own slipping out. The request is met with a few quick nods. "Yeah-... of course!" she assures. She starts in the direction indicated and suddenly stops, green eyes shooting about briefly for a place to sit her bag before hurriedly setting it gently on the floor beside the coffee table. She gives Emma the universal gesture for 'one second' before setting off towards the doorway in search of the coat in

question.

There's only two jackets on the hooks by the door - a long, blue winter coat and the camo hunting jacket she wore during their unsanctioned excursion. The former has a bottle of painkillers prescribed by Halisi in the right pocket. To be taken with water.

Emma closes her eyes, one hand cradling her head while the other goes to the thigh of her injured leg, sitting very still as she waits. Regrets are plentiful right now. Steady breaths.

Leah goes right for the winter jacket and, after a quick rustle through the pocket, success! Her lips move silently as she gives the label a quick once over to make sure it's the right thing. She lifts the bottle as she shoots a glance back Emma's way. "Found 'em!" she announces. She starts back towards the couch before suddenly realizing she's still wearing her boots. She was good to try and dislodge as much snow as she could

down by the apartment entrance, but she still doesn't want to track moisture all across Emma's floor. With a muttering of, "...shit." to herself, she quickly turns back towards the door and begins to step out of them. Given the loose lacings, it's a hands-free experience. Just a quick, frantic step on the back of each boot's heel and she's free of them, leaving them off to the side of the door. Today's selection of

Christmas-themed socks are meant to look like Christmas stockings. Red with a white lining along the top that was just barely visible over the top of her boots previously. She scampers back over to Emma's side, dropping the bottle into her hand before hurrying off once more towards the kitchenette. "...Where do you keep your glasses?" she asks distractedly as she moves towards the cabinets.

Emma accepts the bottle with a quiet, mumbled "Tack.", too low to be picked up by the translator, and shakes out a pair of pills. "Cabinet above the sink." she replies in response to the question, pretty obviously still trying to keep a lid on her pain judging by her voice.

Leah nods to herself as Emma directs her, paying no mind to the dirty dishes as she rises onto her tippy toes to collect a glass from the cabinet indicated. After the sound of a few soft clanks and some running water, Leah makes her way back to Emma, half-filled glass of water in-hand. "Here..." she offers as she extends it towards the couch-ridden woman.

Emma takes the glass with a nod, and soon enough the painkillers have been taken. She remains silent and still as she waits for the pain to ease to more manageable levels, in no rush to make conversation right now.

Leah remains where she is, standing awkwardly off to the side of Emma, lips sucked in. After a few moments, a small frown slowly forms across her features when she passes a glance towards Emma's leg, but she's quick to wipe it away. "...Guessing that right about now you're probably~ regretting getting involved, huh...?" she asks. There's a snicker that accompanies it, but it's not hard to tell that there's some guilt

associated with the fact that Emma is only in her present condition because she decided to help them, the fact that she was never asked for said help neither here nor there.

Emma lets out a strained single-breath laugh, tilting her head back as her hand drops. The other remains on her thigh. "No." she assures simply, a shake of her head before she turns to look at Leah. She gestures towards the space at the end of the couch. "I mostly regret being talked into going out for drinks and dancing last night." she admits, offering an explanation for her present state. Far too much movement for

her recovering body, even though she tried to take it easy, and definitely too much alcohol. Halisi would not be pleased if she found out.

Leah doesn't particularly look convinced at first, but a small smile forms at the edge of her mouth with Emma's assurance. She collects her bag before plopping down onto the couch, sitting her bag on the floor between her feet. As the woman beside her admits to a night of dancing, she shoots her a dubious look, one brow briefly raising before realizing it wasn't meant to be a joke, culminating in a snort slipping out. "You...

went dancing on a broken leg?" she asks.

Emma doesn't look very amused. "...yes." she sighs. "Not the brightest move, I know." she says, to preempt the obvious being pointed out. There's an obvious bit of embarrassment at her own stupidity under the grumpy exterior. She's usually responsible. Careful. "It was just supposed to be a quiet drink at the Miner's Respite." On Christmas Eve.

Leah seems more amused than judgmental, a short snicker escaping her. "I don't know..." she shrugs, "...I mean, as long as you were careful-... It's Christmas! Special occasions and all that, right?"

Emma lets out the faintest snicker of her own, spurred by Leah's reaction. "I thought I was, but... my body is disagreeing right now." she comments, the strained frown caused partly by pain and partly by embarrassment easing a bit. "Jason's old squadmates invited me to come along to Club Cobalt. I think you know them...?"

Leah scrunches up her nose as Emma mentions who she went out dancing with. "Some more than others..." she offers in a tone that implies a less-than-ideal impression as she offers a sympathetic look Emma's way, "You have my condolences." But it quickly gives way to laughter, "No-..." she shakes her head, "...they seem like a good group." she says, qualifying it with a shrugged, "Mostly." After a sigh, she turns her attention

fully to Emma, seemingly feeling the need to admit, "Shane kiiiinda makes me want to choke him out." A flash of disgust shoots across her face along with a sudden, muttered realization, "...Knowing him, he might actually enjoy that."

Emma 's eyebrows rise a little as she listens to Leah, the final mutter drawing a surprised snort from her, face half smile and half grimace as her eyes close and she shakes her head. "I'm used to guys like him from the Alliance. It's like... familiar background noise." she muses, expression almost approaching a smirk.

Leah snickers. "...Yeah..." she sighs, certainly no stranger to 'the type'. But she relents with another shrug, gaze turning towards the coffee table. "He's not that bad." she admits begrudgingly, "...I guess. He-... uhh-... came through with some solid contacts after-... everything." she says, passing a look Emma's way. "Contacts that he thought might be able to ensure that the people we rescued got the help they

needed." Her smile softens. Even though they didn't end up needing to go that route, it still carries weight with her. "Soooo, I suppose I'm obligated to give him a pass for now." she explains with a bit of playful, overly dramatic flair, as if it pains her to do so.

Emma 's almost-smirk slips away, expression turning more serious as she nods, a sigh slipping out as the conversation inches in the direction of their excursion. "They seem like good people. All of them." she agrees. There's a pause, and a slight hitch in her breath as she shifts a bit to find a position more comfortable for her bruised ribs. "Have you heard anything new from Sandbeck?" she asks, even though she

guesses that's unlikely so soon after everything went down.

Leah's smile fully manifests at Emma's addition regarding Ironheart, offering a quiet nod. The question that follows causes that smile to taper back a bit and she draws in a deep breath, filling her lungs. She gives a small shake of her head, confirming Emma's assumption. "...Nothing yet." she admits. "I'm gonna give it a little more time before I start bugging Nate to reach out to them for an update. Especially with the

holidays and everything going on? I imagine nothing is moving fast right now." she sighs, unable to turn her thoughts away from those they rescued from Fasha, a fact that's reflected in her expression. How did they spend their Christmas. In a strange, scary place, filled with people they don't even know? Shuffled through a system that they don't fully understand? It's not a warm and cuddly thought, but it doesn't take

much mental gymnastics to remind herself that it couldn't possibly be worse than the lives they had before. And it's just one step of many that leads to them getting their lives back.

Emma nods, the response expected. Her gaze travels out across the room for a moment, thoughts not far from Leah's. "I would like to know if you hear something." she says as she looks back to her. "What about Tara? How is she?"

Leah gives a few small nods. "Of course." The question about Tara causes her smile to slowly return, though it briefly falters, the weight behind it finally showing itself. "She's worried about the others, too." she admits. "But... she's safe. She's home." she continues. "And I think she really enjoyed her first Christmas." she adds with a snicker.

Emma gains a small, genuine smile at the news. It's pretty clear that the question wasn't just small talk - she cares. "That's good to hear. It really is." she admits, blinking against the shine in her blue eyes. Easily excused by the pain coursing through her body, but there's something else there too. Different wounds. Older, but far more painful.

Leah gives a nod. "It is." she agrees softly, seeming to pick up on the tone in Emma's voice. "Look-..." she sighs, shifting a bit to better face Emma. "...I know that I wasn't too happy when you stepped into that hangar demanding to go with us." she admits, "But-... Tara means a lot to me. She's family." she explains, the honesty of that admission showing through her bright green eyes. "And now has a chance at a life-... a

real life. And that's in no small part due to you. So-..." she shrugs against the couch as she finds Emma's eyes once more, "...Thank you."

Emma 's smile grows a bit firmer, gaze fixed on Leah as she listens. "I'm just glad I could help. She deserves that chance. That's more than worth a few bumps and bruises."

Leah gives a sharp nod, having no doubts regarding that sentiment. "She does. They all do." she says, a quiet fire behind her words. An acknowledgement that neither Fasha nor anyone else had the right to take that chance from them. But that goes without saying. Especially with present company considered. Besides, she didn't come here just to try and darken Emma's Christmas. She draws in a breath, straightening up in her seat a

bit. "I just-..." she stammers momentarily before finding her words, "...I want you to know that the risk you took for her? I don't take that lightly. So if you ever need anything-... anything. All you have to do is ask. Okay?" she offers, her expression softening once more, a slight glassiness to her eyes.

Emma 's gaze drops to the coffee table, an odd shadow falling over her face. "I-... I appreciate that, but..." It doesn't really sound like she does, in fact it seems like the sentiment has made her uncomfortable. "Like you said, you didn't even want me there." she says as she looks back to Leah, forcing a small chuckle. "You don't owe me anything."

Leah lets out a sigh, offering a small shrug, dismissive of Emma's reluctance to accept her gratitude. "I do." she insists matter-of-factly, tone careful as she props up a heavy smile.

Emma lets out a sigh of her own, looking like she wants to shift in her seat, but the protests of her body keep her from doing so. She's too tired to argue right now, so she relents with a half-nod, gaze falling away from Leah again.

Leah gives a sharp nod, smile widening in that annoyingly cheery way as if declaring herself the victor. "But that's not the only reason I came here today." she admits, already leaning down to rustle through the bag sitting on the floor between her feet. Her posture causes the pom on her hat to fall forward, hanging in her face. The sound of a few items getting moved around each other within the bag can be heard as she speaks

while searching for something specific within the bag. "I-... figured that since you're probably gonna be doing a whole lot of sitting on your ass and watching TV while you wait for your leg to heal-..." her brow furrows as she seems to struggle to move everything around without taking it out of the bag, causing her to fall quiet for a moment. A look of focus quickly shifts back into a big, bright smile as she manages

to get ahold of the item she was looking for that was at the bottom of the bag, picking up right where she left off. "...What goes better with couch potatoing thaaaaaaan-..." she draws her word out for dramatic effect as she looks to Emma, hands still buried in the canvas bag for a moment before lifting a wide, round tin from it. "...an excessive amount of chocolate!" she announces, presenting the tin to Emma with a

goofy flourish of her hand.

The tin is made to look like a Christmas present. Dark green with lighter green stripes running across it, a metallic sheen to the whole thing. A decorative red ribbon is wrapped around it, held in place by a red bow on top. Judging by the name emblazoned across the top, it's actually a popular, name brand. While there's certainly nobody in Freedom Falls supplying this sort of thing, it's not all that uncommon for a few cases of

something like this to get "lost" during transit on a cargo ship and miraculously find its way out in the far reaches of the Terminus, selling for a markup. It's not the sort of thing you can confidently go shopping for, but a browse down at the market tends to turn up plenty of odds and ends of the sort every now and then.

Emma 's discomfort lingers as she watches, but Leah's enthusiasm and theatrics actually manages to bring out a small smile as she accepts the gift. "I-..." A quiet, slightly embarrassed breath, gaze falling to the tin of chocolates once it's in her hands. "Thank you."

Leah gives a shrug, as if to imply its no big deal before repeating her earlier sentiment of, "Joyeux Noël."

Emma 's gaze lingers on the tin, her smile wavering as it's weighed down, but she draws in a long breath and forces it back into place before meeting Leah's gaze. "God Jul." she replies. "Sadly I haven't been able to do any Christmas shopping." she says with a pat against her brace, as if that's the only reason she doesn't have a gift to offer in return.

Leah is quick to bring a hand up and wave off Emma's explanation, the pom of her hat bouncing about as she shakes her head. "No, no, no, no!" she insists overtop the end of Emma's sentence, "That's fine!" she continues, not wanting Emma to have to feel like she needs to explain herself. She certainly hadn't expected anything in return. "But I'm not quite done." she offers, a slight wince coloring her smile, seeming to have

picked up on the fact that Emma may not be the most comfortable with receiving... well, anything it seems. "I wasn't sure what you were doing for Christmas-..." she explains, already leaning back down to rummage through the canvas bag, "...but I thought you might like a good home cooked meal." She seems to realize something and lifts her head from the bag, shooting a glance Emma's way, fluffy pom against her face.

"Uhh-... cooked by Tara and my dad, mostly." she corrects, not wanting to take undue credit for their work. In rapid fire mode, she begins placing small tupperware containers out on the coffee table in three stacks. "Salad. Mashed potatoes. Soup. Tunga-... which is kind of like turkey? Maybe? Or more like chicken? No-... definitely turkey." she decides after a quick debate with herself. "Sausage-..." she continues to

list off, pausing after the last one and once again glancing Emma's way with an almost apologetic shrug and a stage-whispered explanation of, "...Nathan is German." before producing another tupperware container. "Pie, for dessert." she explains and slaps one final container atop that one, "Annnnd cake, for second dessert." Because that's a thing. Despite it only being a single portion of each, it's still probably enough

food for two full meals. Finished, she takes a deep breath as she sits up straight once more and allows her arms to go slack, as if to imply that tired her out.

Emma 's eyebrows furrow, gaze going cautiously back to the bag as Leah starts digging through it. As she starts bringing container after container of Christmas leftovers out of it her eyes widen a little, surprise overtaking discomfort for the moment. She doesn't seem sure what to say, just watching as Leah stacks the containers on the coffee table. Even afterwards she just watches the food for a while. "I-... Leah,

this is-... I-I really don't-..." She looks simultaneously touched and immensely uncomfortable. There's something else there too, but it's hard to place. One hand rubs across her mouth as she eyes the containers, blinking a bit too much again.

Leah interrupts Emma's protests with a shake of her head. "Trust me. We have waaaay more leftovers from last night's dinner than the three of us will ever be able to eat on our own!" she assures.

Emma 's hand rises higher up her face, thumb rubbing under her eyes as it passes. She turns her head away and hovers her hand close to break line of sight to her face in a futile attempt to conceal the tears that have slipped out. Maybe Leah will at least pretend she hasn't noticed. "I-..." An embarrassed, uneven breath. "Thank you." The words are fast and a little choked, and she swallows hard against the lump in

her throat.

Leah's smile begins to slip as she recognizes the emotion on Emma's face, tempering into something softer. "No, Emma..." she says softly, giving a small shrug of her shoulders. This woman put her life on the line for Tara. Risked life and limb to do the right thing when it wasn't even her fight. Some cold leftovers hardly seems like an even trade. "...Thank you."

Emma takes a moment to wipe away the wetness under her eyes and clears her throat, not that there's any real hiding the emotion in her face. Still, she looks back to Leah. "You're a good person, Leah. Tara is lucky to have you looking out for her." she says before glancing back towards the food. "And... thank you. Really. I'm not much of a cook." she says with a small smile and quiet chuckle still laced with emotion.

Leah's gaze turns towards the table as Emma speaks. She certainly hasn't felt like a good person this past year. Even the good she's done for Tara has been the result of so much blood spilled. Necessary, sure, and there's not a bone in her body that regrets what they did to guarantee Tara's freedom. But it still wears on a person. All of it. But those aren't matters that should concern Emma. She sweeps those thoughts under

the rug for now, propping up her smile and even offering a snicker of her own to Emma's final comment. "Well... lucky for you, I happen to know all the best places around here for takeout..." she says, bringing one leg up onto the couch in order to better face Emma, arm moving to atop the backrest.

Previous Logs

Emma Nordström
Leah Mercier