#IlynaApartment – August 22, 2021

December 26th. Early morning. Snow-reflected white light is filtering through the window. Once a suitably sappy and Tanner-free romance vid had been found it didn't take all that long for Halisi to fall asleep right there in the couch, half-lying against the armrest and the pillows stacked there. Although she hides it well most days, it's an exhausting life she lives, and a genuine chance to relax is rare. Of course, no such thing lasts

forever, and it's still early when the chirping of her omni-tool disrupts the peace, sounding from inside her purse on the coffee table.

Ilyna is woken immediately by the chirping omni-tool, and she reaches out towards where her nightstand would be to silence it. When her hand finds only air, she snaps her eyes open and lifts her body a little bit. Living room. Halisi. It dawns on her that she must have fallen asleep during the vid. She reaches into the purse to stop the alarm in an attempt to give Halisi another ten minutes of sleep while she makes

breakfast.

Halisi unfortunately starts to stir not long after Ilyna, blinking the blur of sleep from her eyes with a deep sigh as she looks around, a bit disoriented. Her gaze lands on Ilyna just after the alarm is silenced, a small smile crossing her lips as the previous night comes back to her. "I do believe I fell asleep." she comments quietly, hair messy from sleep as her head lifts.

Ilyna sighs at the first signs that her plan had failed, and she retracts her hands from the purse. She mirrors Halisi's smile when she looks back at her. "We did," she says with a chuckle. "Yesterday was a long day, we... should have known this would happen." She looks at the messy hair with a fond smile, but it fades slightly as she seems a bit deep in thought.

Halisi lets out a quiet, slightly hoarse chuckle, scooting up into a slightly more upright position. "I suppose we should." she agrees through a smile of her own. Ilyna's contemplative look goes unnoticed as she reaches for the omni-tool herself to quickly check the time, brushing back a strand of hair that's in her face as she does.

Ilyna manages to shake her concerns off for now, and after a glance towards the bedroom door, she inches closer to Halisi to look at the time on her omni-tool. "How long until you have to go?" she asks.

Halisi lets out a sigh as the interface fades and she sets the omni-tool down on the table. "Not very long, unfortunately... but I have time for breakfast." she suggests, flashing a small, slightly tired smile.

Ilyna looks a little disappointed, but she stands up and rounds the couch at the mention of breakfast. She considers going to the bedroom to check on Li, but since it's so early she'd rather not risk waking her. "It's a matter of time before the others know," she says on her way to the kitchen, reiterating one of her concerns from yesterday. She opens the fridge, and starts carefully transferring Tunga eggs to the

kitchen counter.

Halisi sits up fully as Ilyna stands, looking after her as she heads off towards the kitchen. "Perhaps." she acknowledges, gaze turning towards the TV, long since gone to sleep mode, eyebrows furrowing a little as she thinks. She stands up with a sigh, bringing her purse as she steps closer to the kitchen to talk. She needs to stop by the bathroom to get cleaned up for work, but that can wait a moment. "However you want to handle it is

fine with me, Ilyna." she assures, the hand not on the strap of her bag reaching out to brush against the asari's arm to get her attention. "If you want to keep it to ourselves for now, we can do that. I don't mind. If you want to get ahead of it, tell our friends, guess what? That's alright too." she says, tone a bit lighter towards the end, a smirk crossing her lips as she studies Ilyna's face for insight into what she's

thinking.

Ilyna grabs some milk and butter from the fridge while listening to Halisi, not wanting to send the doctor to work with anything less than a decent breakfast. She is about to reach for a bowl when Halisi brushes against her arm; instead, she relaxes her shoulders and turns towards her. She looks a bit anxious despite Halisi's reassurance, as neither option is without problems. While she's not ready to face the

potentially passionate concerns from their friends, keeping it to themselves might risk putting that responsibility on Halisi were they to go to her first, She sighs. "I... I'll have time to think about it," she says, kicking the can down the road. "I'm not going to the office today, me and Li has a lot more work to do here first, so maybe I'll be ready for... whatever they'll think about it."

Halisi 's expression softens in the face of Ilyna's anxiety and she nods a little. "Whatever you want." she says, before her eyebrows furrow a little, still studying her. "You're worried about what they'll think?"

Ilyna gives a small nod, the anxiety persisting in her expression. "I do," she says. "They won't be surprised, but... I'm sure they'll be worried about us. Especially Linda." She casts a glance towards the bedroom door, but she leaves the specifics of these worries unsaid regardless.

Halisi lets out a quiet sigh at the mention of Vasquez, gaze falling away from Ilyna for a moment, but then she steps closer, placing her hands on the asari's upper arms. "They're our friends. They know you. They'll trust your judgement." she says firmly, silver eyes meeting Ilyna's. "Even Linda." she adds with a small smile.

Ilyna sighs. The hands on her upper arms does bring a brief smile to her face, but she keeps her own hands where they are. "I know I should expect that, after she eventually accepted me after learning about... it," she says, lowering her voice, "but... what if she's not okay with us? What if I don't tell them ahead of Jason hearing it from Li and... they see it as a breach of trust?"

Halisi 's smile fades into something softer, and she leans a little closer as she speaks. "It's none of her business, to start with, and she'll understand that." she says quietly. There's an implied 'or else she'll get a stern talking to from me' in the tone of Halisi's voice, and she does her best to look encouraging, but her expression falters a bit as she's forced to admit that "It... might be better for her to hear it from us

though. I could talk to her, if you want." An offer to spare Ilyna in case Vasquez reacts badly. Give her a chance to cool off and process.

Ilyna can't help but smile at the first part as she gets the implication there, but it doesn't last long before it fades. It does sound reasonable at first, but it's clear that they both know that it's not true. The complication is bound to make this others' business whether they want to or not. She is quick to shake her head at the offer, however. "No, that wouldn't be fair to you," she says. "If someone should tell

her, that should be me."

Halisi 's eyebrows furrow a little, and her hands slide down Ilyna's arms to clasp her hands. "We could do it together?" she suggests with an inquisitive tilt of her head. "No reason you should have to handle it on your own."

Ilyna ponders that for a few moments, frowning in thought. It even takes her a few seconds to clasp her hands back. On one hand, it could feel like they're ganging up on her, but on the other hand, it'll give Halisi a chance to offer her side of this rather than leave Vasquez to corner her afterwards about it. "Yeah," she says in almost a whisper. "That may actually be better. She'll want to hear your side of it."

Halisi flashes a smile. "There we go, it's settled." she says. There's a twitch of movement, leaning a little closer, but then she stops herself, hesitating, only for Ilyna's words the night before to come back to her, renewed determination crossing her face for the brief moment before she tugs her hands a little closer and closes the distance between them, pressing a soft kiss against Ilyna's lips.

Ilyna returns the smile, and she's happy to let it go for now. She has another day at least to really think through this, and hopefully unpacking new toys with Li will give her mind a break from pondering consequences. The subtle movement towards her does make her tilt her head a little, but Ilyna leans in too when the intent become obvious, and returns the kiss.

Halisi 's smile returns as she pulls back. This is still new territory, tricky to navigate, but it's still a relief to know where they stand after dancing around things for so long, and her smile just widens, a quiet laugh even slipping out. "I think I could get used to this." she comments, tone a little teasing. One of her hands lets go of Ilyna's, rising to brush across her cheek, settling on her neck as she leans in for another,

deeper kiss. There's a surprising lack of morning breath from her despite falling asleep before she had a chance to brush her teeth, just the faintest trace of the brandy she had the night before, the last of which is still sitting in her glass on the coffee table. What a waste.

Li peeks out from the bedroom door, hands on the frame as she looks cautiously around the apartment as if searching, eyes going to the couch first. "Mom...?" She sounds worried.

Ilyna mirrors her smile as Halisi laughs. "Me too," she says, and reaches around to place her now free hand on Halisi's upper back to better support the deeper kiss. She closes her eyes and is content to hold it for a while, until Li's voice snaps her out of it and causes her to pull back without much warning. "I'm here," she says, retracting her hand and tilting her head to the side to look over Halisi's shoulder at

her.

Halisi doesn't seem in any rush to break the kiss, her right hand sliding up Ilyna's arm again as she shifts closer still, but when Li's voice sounds and the asari pulls away she's quick to take half a step back off her own and withdraw her hands, looking a little flustered as she ducks her head, looking off to the side as Ilyna calls out to Li.

Li 's attention quickly turns to the kitchen at the sound of Ilyna's voice, already having been headed in that direction. "Mom!" She runs over to the kitchen area, one hand going to her own arm and holding on loosely as she comes to a stop. "I-... I woke up and you were gone." she says, gaze on the floor, sounding like that rattled her a bit. She's gotten used to not sleeping on her own after the kidnapping. She seems unfazed by

Halisi's presence.

Ilyna looks flustered too, but she was not as quick to hide it further than pulling back. Concern takes over when she gets a good look at Li and she crouches down to try to meet her eyes while speaks to her. "I'm sorry, we fell asleep on the couch too," Ilyna says, reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder, "and I don't have anyone to carry me to bed like you do."

Li looks up when Ilyna crouches, a quiet giggle slipping out at her words before she hugs her. "Hi Halsi." she says to the doctor over Ilyna's shoulder.

Halisi lets out a chuckle, reaching down to pat Li's head. "Good morning." she replies through the smile that's already replaced the brief, flustered look that was on her face.

Ilyna smiles as the explanation is accepted, and she returns the hug by holding on tightly. "Why don't the two of you go get ready for the long day ahead?" she suggests to Li, loosening but not breaking the hug, "I'll get started on breakfast in the meantime."

Halisi snickers to herself and offers Li a hand to take. "Sounds like a good plan, don't you think Li?"

Li nods a few times. "Ok!" she exclaims before taking Halisi's hand, freeing Ilyna from the hug in the process. "Come on!" she says, starting to lead the way towards the bathroom with long steps - of course, her feet just end up sliding when she gets too far from Halisi, who isn't matching her pace.

Halisi chuckles as she's tugged towards the bathroom, looking back over her shoulder towards Ilyna with a big, warm smile on her lips, but saying nothing.

Ilyna meets Halisi's look with a big smile of her own, trying to stifle a laugh at Li's eagerness. She returns her attention to the fridge to get the last few ingredients, having no time to lose getting this omelette ready. It's not soemthing she has made many enough times to really nail down, so they should manage expectations.

Halisi and Li make their return soon enough, teeth brushed and hair in order. The omelet is well-received, and Li seems happy to have someone new to talk to at the kitchen table, regaling Halisi with the latest animal facts that she's learned as they eat, much to the doctor's amusement. Sadly, duty calls, and Halisi doesn't have time to stick around after eating, offering a goodbye-hug to Li, who's quick to run off to the couch to

simultaneously play with the figures she got for Christmas and watch the latest episode of Super Centurion while Halisi makes her way into the hallway and starts putting on her boots and coat.

Ilyna has been more than happy to let Li fill Halisi in on the latest animal facts, and there's a persistent smile on her face. As Li runs off to the couch, she instead follows Halisi out into the hallway. "It's been good having you over, Halisi," she says, a slight bit of sadness in her voice at seeing her leave despite her best efforts to suppress it. "Our home is always open for you, even if it's very late."

Halisi turns to face Ilyna while zipping up her coat, a small smile on her lips, colored by the underlying emotion in Ilyna's voice. "I had a good time." she says softly, just in case that wasn't clear. After finishing with the coat and putting her knit hat on she steps closer to Ilyna, glancing past her down the corridor for a moment for any sign of Li before her hand goes to the asari's side as she leans in closer, speaking quietly,

almost in a mumble. "I'll try to make time to come over again as soon as I can, but I'm expecting to be kept quite busy with work. Maybe we can find some time while I'm at the Redrock office at least."

Ilyna smiles at the hand on her side, and she reaches out to place her hands on Halisi's side in turn while listening to her. "I know," she sighs. "Let me know ahead of time when you got a free moment at HQ, though, so I can order lunch for us or cook something upstairs."

Halisi snickers quietly. "Now that's an idea..." she muses. "I'll be sure to do that." she agrees, smile widening briefly before dropping as she leans closer, pressing a slow, soft kiss against Ilyna's lips. There's an almost fascinated look on her face as she pulls back and her silver eyes open, as if she's still processing that this is a thing now. The smile is quick to return and she lingers close, gaze flitting around Ilyna's face.

She looks like she wants to say something, but all that comes is a soft chuckle. Even though she's about to rush off to work that underlying tension and weight that she always carries seems lighter today. She looks... almost carefree for once.

Ilyna has a big smile on her face after the kiss, and she resists the temptation to pull her in for another, especially after seeing the look on her face. The concerns she discussed earlier has been at the back of her mind all morning, and will continue to be until it's out in the open, but Halisi's lightened mood is infectious enough to keep it there for this moment. "You...," she begins, but she trails off

imediately with a flustered look on her face. "I'll keep you posted throughout the day about what we get up to," she says instead, barely above a whisper.

Halisi 's expression brightens even further with this, and she leans in for another, quicker kiss. "I look forward to it." she says, lingering silently for a moment before forcing herself to get going with a sigh and a faint roll of her shoulders. Her hand shifts to grab Ilyna's and give it a squeeze as she steps back, but she remains in place for a moment, still looking at her. Her gaze falls away for a moment, the laugh that sounds a

little embarrassed over how hard she's finding it to leave. She swallows and meets Ilyna's gaze again. "See you soon." she settles on before letting go and turning to leave. A promise to make time as soon as she can.

Ilyna would not have been the first to let go, but she does not put up any resistance when Halisi does pulls back. She hides the hints of sadness in her expression as Halisi meets her gaze again, as to not unintentionally guilt her into another kiss. "See you soon," she repeats. She takes a step back when Halisi turns to leave.

Halisi puts on her gloves as she walks out the door, turning while walking to offer a small, last-minute wave-and-a-smile before the doors close and she disappears from view. Time to get to work.

Ilyna returns the wave with a grin, stifling a chuckle. She lingers in the empty hallway for a few moments after the door closes to compose herself. The sounds of the TV comes into focus, and she lets out a long sigh. Hopefully cleaning up the breakfast and a trip to the bathroom to get ready for the day is enough to bring her down from the clouds and into a state of mind conducive to engaging with Li and reading

manuals.

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