"You don't fool me, Enila Aehan," Ilyna said. "Next time we meet is when you invite me to the Enila-Corp skyscraper."

Enila shook her head and continued into the hallway without a word, Ilyna not far behind her.

It still haven't quite sunk in yet. Enila was near the top of the list of people she never thought would set foot on a world like this, and here she was. Enila had of course explained herself repeatedly, and her reasons were almost too believable, for Ilyna knew well how far she stretches for what she believes is right.

"You're in a mood today," Enila said and turned around, interrupting the asari's thoughts. They were standing in the middle of the Respite owner's apartment, in a room serving as kitchen, living room and office. Ilyna has been in the back of the Respite before, but not here.

"It's just that... it's...," Ilyna stammered. "You're here, Enila!" Ilyna looked on the verge of crying, holding back tears as the stress of the everyday and the joy of seeing an old friend overflowed.

"That I-," she had barely a moment to brace herself before Ilyna threw her arms around her and held her tight to the point of discomfort. Enila kept her hands to herself, leaving the hug one-sided, but that did nothing to deter Ilyna.

Ilyna buried her head in her shoulder, and her breathing was starting to get uneven.


Questioning hum.

"Are you okay?"

"No," Ilyna said, her voice muffled as she spoke into Enila's shoulder. There was no immediate questions following up, which Ilyna took to mean that Enila understood everything behind her answer. After all, Ilyna had laid it out many times in their written correspondence.

Only now did Enila move her hands, placing them loosely on Ilyna's upper back. "It'll be fine," she whispers. "You've got this."

An unsure hum.

"I'm worried for you, though," Enila said.

Ilyna lifts her head slightly, but doesn't say anything.

"I think you'll be a great leader, a wonderful mother, and Ehanis will eventually understand what she's missing out on," she said, "but... you're trying to be all at once, and don't think I haven't paid attention to how you've described a certain person in your letters." The last part was especially pointed.

"I... know," Ilyna muttered, her voice still heavy with emotion.

"All I ask is that you be careful, Ilyna," she said. "You should... focus on Li and... if Redrock Agency don't understand that, they don't deserve your service."

"They're important to me," Ilyna said. "And Li."

"Then they'll let you focus on her, right?"

Ilyna offered an unsure nod in response, and her hug was starting to loosen. Enila followed suit by retracting her hand, but Ilyna had not yet let go.

"But most importantly, don't pursue that relationship... at least for now," she says. "You're not actually thinking of doing that to yourself on top of everything, right?"

Ilyna looked away, and her hold on Enila had lossened completely.

"Ilyna," Enila groaned.

"It's not that easy!" Ilyna raised her voice, and tears were starting to well up under her eyes.

"No, it's not," she said. "I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it is."

"You don't understand, Enila," Ilyna said. "You haven't changed since the military, at least Natia and Illeya did. I... I just wish you would too, just... I'm not the same anymore."

Enila shook her head. "Only you changed, and at a worrying pace," she said. "You just stopped saying no to Nat' and Ille's antics."

"That's... not true," she mumbled. "Natia respected my boundaries before without asking... most of the time, and so did Illeya."

"And I respect where I think they should be," she said. "We're asari, Ilyna, we can afford to take it slow in an unpredictable arispace. We'll arrive in the end anyway."

"But I'm not around asari," Ilyna frowned. "Li, Jason, Linda,... Halisi,... -- those are the people around me. Va'ynna is the only asari, but she's.... I... I just..., I don't know."

Enila reached out to place a hand on Ilyna's shoulder, grasping it tightly. "But they're not salarians, are they?" she says. "You can still slow down."

"I suppose," Ilyna said, the lack of commitment most certainly not lost on Enila.

Enila gave her shoulder a gentle shake before letting go. "I'm not going to tell you what you can and cannot do, Ilyna," she said, "I'm just worried, that's all."

Ilyna nodded. "I know," she mumbled.

Enila walked over to the corner behind the desk, sighing. "You have no idea what kind of operation you set in motion when you told Natia about your present dilemma," she said to change the topic, pulling out a box covered by a plastic bag

Ilyna raised her brows as Enila walked away, but what she said made a smile break through the otherwise heavy moment. "I saw the group messages," she said.

"I'll spare you my opinion on the whole holiday," she said as she put the box on the table. The plastic bag did not allow Ilyna to see through it, and the group messages was vague about it; right now, this was just as much of a surprise to her as it will be for Li in a few days. "It has some proprietary software and networking hardware, so you should get your tech to look at it before you wrap it up."

"Couldn't you, Enila?"

She shook her head. "It's probably thrown together on Illium by the lowest bidder," she said, some distaste in her tone. "You don't do that to your dear friend, I hope?"

Ilyna chuckled and put a hand on the plastic bag. "I'll have T'Iavay look at it, then," she said.

"Thank you," she said. "Now, let me get us something to eat before you introduce me to Li."