Star Wars Roleplay: Chaos

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Baby Got Back

Joza loved her son more than a glitter covered crop top.

That being said, sometimes he didn’t let her sleep. Or eat a real meal, or shower properly, because being a single mother was hard. Her heart broke a little more every time she left him with a babysitter, knowing that someone else was tucking him into bed at night. So really, she should cherish the time she had with him, right?

It was kind of difficult to when he woke up nearly every hour, screaming for something that left his mother clueless. He didn’t have a fever or a wet diaper, and swatted all attempts at feeding him to the ground. The fussy toddler had already yanked her hair twice, slobbered all over her sleeve and was currently wailing in her ear. Singing or bouncing didn’t seem to have an effect, nor did reading Wally the Wampa.

“C’mon…settle down for mama. She’s got a meeting tomorrow, hun. Please?” There was a desperate edge to her exhausted voice, gentle demeanor forced at this point. Being the middle of the night and sleep deprived, Joza was decidedly not glamorous—baggy sleep clothes, messy hair and sallow skin were not the Zeltron generally presented herself.

Alan shunned his mother’s plea, inadvertently smacking her in the face with his tiny hand as he twisted in her arms while screaming away. Joza couldn’t even wince, hefting the toddler against her hip as she walked back and forth in the kitchen, rubbing his back and praying for a miracle.

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

If Elly was the miracle the gods were sending her she probably should consider a refund.

It had been a few weeks, hell maybe a month or two since their last meeting, but that wasn't much of his doing. Unless being marooned on an uninhabited world and having to survive for who knows how long could be angled as his fault. Once he was back within the confines of civilization his voice messages were the last thing he was thinking of, first the colony.... everyone dead... starved. Followed by collapsing himself in as much work as possible to keep those dark whispers away from him, it worked quite well for a while, until a particular op took him to Zeltros.

That was when he was reminded of Perl and he decided to send her a message... surprise surprise when he had a bunch of messages from her. Seemed she hadn't forgotten about him after all.

The decision was made to give her a visit - he recalled she told him about a place of her own, away from the energetic nonsense of Zeltros. So, there he was standing in front of her door. There was still some blood on his cuff, that he hadn't been able to get off, but his hair was.... well, it was still a mess, but Elly had done his best to level it out a bit.

He knocked politely on the door and then sighed, while pulling at his cigarette.

It steadied him a bit and these days Elly needed that even more than usually.
A knock at the door startled Joza out of her zombification. It was the middle of the night—who could that possibly be?

Shushing her child to no avail, the wary Zeltron crept towards the door and looked through the peephole to see the familiar yet not unwelcome face of [member="Elliot Locke"]. She had tried calling him several times over the past month and assumed that the SIS agent was either bust with work or had lost interest—which admittedly made her feel a little strange, but Joza had her own things to attend to.

Undoing the deadbolt and other locks, she eased the door open. “Elliot,” She readjusted Alan in her arms, bouncing the child softly as he seemed to quiet down in curiosity over the newcomer. “Come in. It’s chilly outside and you’re letting the warm air out of the house. Oh, and put that cigarette out please.” She didn’t ask for an explanation right away, only that he not smoke around the baby.

She moved further from the doorway to give him room, rubbing Alan’s back while he clutched at her shirt with both hands. A little red, tear stained face stared at the strange man with the sort of rapt curiosity only a child could muster. But he was being quiet not, and for that Joza was thankful. “Is everything alright?” Venturing carefully, she finally took the time to look him over—a bit disheveled, and was that a little blood on his jacket? Wasn’t as if she looked any more put together herself.
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

Door was open and suddenly he had a face full of baby.

Locke blinked, because that wasn't the sight he had been expecting to see. Another drag of the cigarette and suddenly the baby seemed less strange to him, the smoke was blown out into the night and away from the fussy little sentient.

When she asked him to put it out Elly simply complied and stepped inside after her. The cold hadn't really bothered him, but when you been in the warmth for so long sudden changes in temperature could be screwy.

He knew that intimately.

One of the techniques to get a man to talk, if you were feeling particularly extreme. Elly blinked once she repeated if he was okay.

"Yeah, fine, had a job in the neighbourhood and figured I'd step by." The little baby's hands were making grabby motions at him. Elliot's brows rose in confusion, but for some reason one of his fingers went up and closed the gap.

A tiny hand curled itself around the extended finger.

Alan giggled in satisfaction.

"Cute kid, strong grip. How you holding up?"
Typically stopping by unannounced in the middle of the night would be odd—not for them, though.

She watched as Elliot lifted a finger to the child who was making grabby hands at him. And then…Alan giggled?

“Finally,” She heaved a sigh of relief while shaking her head. “I’m exhausted.” Somewhat of an exaggeration, but perhaps Alan would grow up to be some sort of interrogation specialist given how well he applied the sleep deprivation technique. “He’s been so fussy tonight. Won’t sleep for longer than an hour at a time and he’s been inconsolable for the last forty minutes. I tried feeding him and he threw corn at me!” As she spoke, she ran a hand through the side of her pinned up hair to retrieve a yellow kernel.

Alan giggled again.

“At least he stopped screaming when you showed up. Should get you to come over more often.” A bit of a sly grin tugged at her lips, blurred by fatigue. “Hard to stay mad at such a cute face. C’mon, sit down.” She waved Elly over to the couch in the living room, seating herself with the baby on her lap.

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

Somewhere at the back of his head the alarm bells rang because of that sly grin.

The intellectual side of Elliot realized that he had just signed his death warrant or rather Alan did, by being - seemingly - less interested in screaming and crying when he was around. Nothing to be done about it right now, though, so he simply ignored that part of him and settled down next to her. His eyes brushed away from the baby and towards her again.

She looked tired, exhausted and that softened his expression somewhat.

He brushed her hair away, taking some stray corn with it and Elly chuckled. "Straight shooter that one, we will make a soldier of him yet." A joke by the way of his grin growing wider.

Locke leaned back against his seat and shrugged.

"How you been holding up then, besides the baby?" Nail scratched against the rough scruff of his cheek. They always seemed to meet when there was something wrong, but at the very least today it was just a fuzzy baby. Nothing like broken bodies, minds or them beating the crap out of each other for the hell of it.

....or liquefying a dead ex-boyfriend.

Was she okay? Eyes opened themselves and he subtly scanned her for any obvious tells.
Alan didn’t stay still for long, wiggling in his mother’s arms once he realized that the big people were just going to do boring talking stuff. Joza seemed to ignore him—his feet were on the ground and his shirt bunched up against her arms as he tried to gain freedom, chubby toddler belly poking out for the world to see. Finally he managed to escape, toddling over to the toy chest in the corner.

“Alan, no, it’s not time to—“ She stopped short, sighing and sinking a bit further into the couch. Joza typically didn’t show this much of herself around someone else, but this was Elliot—she couldn’t put her finger on exactly why it was easier to talk around him. Maybe it was because he never turned towards her with a judgmental eye and just took things as they were. Or maybe she was just that tired.

Alan was being quiet, so she’d let him play with a toy or two now and probably trip over them in the morning while stumbling to the kitchen.

“Busy.” While answering him, her gaze remained on the occupied toddler. “Heartbeat’s going well so that keeps me busy. Meetings and stuff and all that.” She didn’t sound too happy about it, but she wasn’t upset either. “Busy and it keeps me away from him.” Her chin tilted towards Alan who had turned away from the toy box after retrieving his prize. Tottering his way over to Elly, he placed a comically cute stuffed Wampa in the SIS agent’s lap.

“Buh-buh!” He declared proudly, pointing to the plush toy.

“How about you? Work keeping you busy as well?”

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

Tired, exhausted, slowly being grind down by the wear and tear of the soft churning of life.

No, it seemed that Elly had gotten her right instinctively, but what was there to do? Whilst anyone else might have assumed the words she spoke were relatively free of worry, but Locke knew better than that. It was eating at her, not being able to be with her kid and having to... what? Childcare? Babysitters? That was the way of the world, though, had to make the money to actually take care of the kid.

Before he could say anything to that effect a little weight settled itself on his lap.

He looked away from Jozie and studied the plush toy, before picking it up in a gentle fashion.

It was a good thing he had actually washed his hands prior to arriving here. Would have been very awkward otherwise, but now Elly could jiggle the toy in front of Alan with no worries, while the baby giggled in response. It even solicited a very short smile at the edge of the corner of his mouth, so minuscule it was gone before you knew it and made you wonder if it had been there to begin with.

"Can say that again." He mumbled, before allowing Alan to take the toy from him. Large hand gave a fast brush of the little head and off the toddler was again. Presumably finding another toy to impress the stranger. "Was stuck on this uninhabited planet for a few weeks, s'why I didn't return any of your messages."

No apologies though.

Not when so much blood was on his hands, because he had failed to escape in time.

"Seems like the kid is happy though, so you are doing something right."
A tired little smile appeared on Joza’s face as she watched the exchange. This was the first time she’d seen Elliot interact with a child—this was the first time she hadn’t been alone with him sans a brief Ivan interlude on their way to Shaddaa—and it was surprisingly heartwarming. He didn’t ignore the child or make a face, but rather…was that a smile? She wasn’t sure how she expected him to react, honestly.

“Oh, he likes you.” She commented in a sly tone, settling back onto the couch as Alan paused, placing the stuffed animal beside his mother for safe keeping. “He doesn’t share Buh-buh with just anyone.” Yes, it sounded less cute when she said it. But given that she had corn in her hair and dark circles under her eyes, it was the least of her worries right now.

At his explanation, Joza nodded slowly and rubbed at her eyes with the back of her hand. “Good to see that you made it back in one piece. I figured you’d gone and croaked.” Her voice was light and good natured, as much as it could be with the tired overtone. Clearly the only reason someone wouldn’t return her calls is if they had died.

Not that she wanted to say exactly that in front of Alan. His little brain was like a sponge, and she could have sworn he said “shimmy” the other day. “I just want to do good at raising him. Make sure he has what he needs and gets an education so he can keep away from all this fighting nonsense.” Not like his mother, the high-school dropout. The failed Jedi who’d made her living by bearing skin at one point.

“I’ll get some caf going.” Rising from the couch, she ran a hand though Alan’s hair—red, of course—before moving into the kitchen. The baby didn’t even seem to notice her, making haste towards Elly with what looked to be a colorful book with large print. Placing it on the man’s lap, the toddler looked up and grunted expectantly.

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

Locke wasn't sure what the issue was with a fighting life.

He had fought from the depths of his youth and further and he had turned out- ....point made. It probably also had to do with not having any children of his own, he couldn't know how it was to have a child of your own, but he could empathize. It probably meant a lot, responsibility, love, affection and the deep desire to ensure your baby was safe and sound. A difficult situation to be in, especially because when they grew older?

You didn't really have much in the way of control anymore.

"Thanks." He mumbled, before leaning back slightly and closing his eyes for a moment. At least until a sudden weight settled itself down on his lap again.

He looked down and noticed the book first, followed by the very insistent and expecting face of a toddler looking up at him. Locke raised his brow and then realized what this was. For some reason it only made him chuckle, before taking the little kid on his lap and the book in his free hand.

"Oh, you want me to read for ya, dontcha." Elly's voice rumbled more than it spoke, heavy timber settling itself neatly against Alan and making him giggle slightly.

He pushed open the book at an angle where Alan could read along and watch the pictures as well. There seemed to be various stories in it, all filled with colorful pictures of animals and other comical figures.

"Hmmm, which one do you want, kid?" His hand brushed past the pages, gauging his reactions before settling down for the one that elicited the most pleasant one.
Fully engrossed in the interesting stranger, Alan seemed to forget all about whatever was upsetting him. Fortunately, that was the way it went with little kids—they got distracted easily and shifted moods quickly.

As Elly settled the child onto his lap, Alan pointed immediately to a cartoonish picture of a Wampa that looked strikingly similar to the plush toy he’d first shown the man. A heavy grunt signaled that he wanted the SIS agent to read Wally the Wampa Makes a New Friend, a story he’d heard over a thousand times. His mother had memorized the words already, which helped when you were so exhausted that your eyes started to unfocus from the big, colorful words.

Next, his eyes landed on a certain stuffed animal that rested at the corner of the couch. “BUH!” He grunted, stretching both arms out to indicate that he would need Buh-Buh for this night’s reading.

In the kitchen, Joza was keeping a close ear on their exchange—not that it was particularly wordy, but she couldn’t help the little smile that twitched her lips while hearing Elly talk to her son. Admittedly, she had partially expected the SIS agent to be gruffer with the insistent baby, especially when she turned around to grab some caf grounds from the cabinet and caught the sight of Alan in his lap. Who knew? She’d leave them be for the moment.

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

With some difficult he managed to pull in the little plushy toy and settle it on Alan's lap without breaking his spine.

Absent-mindedly he started to softly bounce the little toddler on his knee while studying the figures on the page. It was curious observation while his mind worked out the voices that would fit the best with the archetypes they expressed: the heavy-set growl that turned soft as timber when growing sad, the high-pitched soprano of the bird and the middle tones of the entourage. They were all set apart within his mind, but it only took him a few seconds. After all, Locke had to do this on the fly in his line of work with higher stakes.

Though the firm set of Alan's jaw as determination settled in to hear his favorite story made him think that maybe karking this up wasn't a good idea.

Instead, Elly give it his all. Slowly, while turning the pages, he started reading and getting into it. The voices were mimicked and something Elly even flashed in a goofy facial expression.

But the trick was to build it up...... and then build it down, until the last note faded and the slow bounce of the knee had trickled the toddler into sleep. Gathered into the night by the soft baritone hum that spoke the last few words, before supporting his little head with a shoulder and an arm. There was a softness around Elly's eyes now, at least for a little while.

This was what he fought for after all, wasn't it? Even if he couldn't have it himself. These were the moments that reminded him of the good he sometimes managed.
Elliot’s efforts paid off, given how engaged the baby was while the reading of his favorite story occurred. Whenever the comically cute and misunderstood Wampa would appear, the little guy would point and grunt excitedly at the sight of his favorite character.

Gradually, Alan became less and less animated though maintained his rapt interest in the book. Towards the end of the story, his little head was nestled against Elly’s chest, eyes following along with the words before they eventually closed as he fell sound asleep, clutching his stuffed toy.

Joza had been watching in the doorway, giving them their space while she listened in and sipped her caf. It was honestly surprising—a pleasant one, nonetheless—to see how comfortable Elliot was interacting with her son. She hadn’t figured him to be the type to take to kids well, then again she had never really given it much thought. Though she knew him to be gruff and casual on the surface, it slowly started to make sense. Underneath he was a man who cared, who maybe cared too much, who probably couldn’t afford to care as much as he did with his particular job. Not that she knew the specifics, but he knew how to dissolve a body and that alone gave her enough of an insight.

But when she looked at him cradling her son, the soft light in his eyes and the serene sleeping baby, her heart fluttered for just a moment. Quiet, calm. She forgot how rare this sort of thing was.

Placing her mug down on a side table, she drifted over to the couch was silently as she could. “If you’re looking for another job, I’d like to hire you as a nanny.” Murmuring softly, she smiled before moving to ghost her hand over Alan’s head. The little one was out like a light, thankfully. Gaze drifting back up to Elliot, she smiled. “Let’s put him back into bed.”

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

Locke had been aware she was standing there for quite some time, but he didn't let that influence him.

Shame or self-consciousness weren't two emotions that Elly usually felt. He didn't feel it right now either, after all... it had turned out he was quite good with the baby and even managed to get him back to sleep. Mission completed and success. It had just felt... right? Weird, very weird, considering he had never held a baby before in his life before this.

But maybe the SIS agent shouldn't have been so surprised.

So much of his work dealt with projecting confidence and strength without being overbearing. Little ones likes Alan responded more to physical signals than verbal ones, so maybe he picked up on that?

"You can't afford me." Locke teased softly, before silently rising himself with the baby clinging closely to him. He tried to give Alan over to Jozie again, but there wasn't a gentle way to do that without risking to wake the little guy again. He shook his head in small amusement. "Think he likes me or my jacket anyway, lead on."

They might be able to detach him once they got to his room.
“Mhm.” Joza hummed, still taken with the sight of her son sleeping soundly in the SIS agent’s arms. One tiny hand was hooked around Buh-buh, the other curled into the breast of the man’s jacket. Without another word, she tilted her head for him to follow her down a short hall, gently opening a door on the left side at the end.

Alan’s room was decorated with cartoonish images of stars, nebulas and planets. Joza always did like to decorate, though this time the theme incorporated more blues, greens and silvers rather than her go-to pink.

“Here,” When they presumably made it over to his crib, Joza reached out to slowly loosen Alan’s grip on Elliot, stopping every time he looked like he might stir. Luckily the little guy was exhausted from screaming all night and was in a pretty heavy sleep. Finally she managed to free the little grasp, hand flopping down to the baby’s side. “One hand behind his head and the other on his back, lay him down slowly.” Drawing the blankets back, she watched Elliot with a critical eye. Not that she was afraid he’d hurt the child, but rather to gage his child-handling expertise. She had high standards for him, after all.

Once the baby was properly tucked in bed with Buh-buh, Joza leaned down to give him a quick kiss on the forehead. “Goodnight, my little man.” Murmuring softly, she couldn’t help but smile before she and Elly quietly maneuvered their way out of the room and shut the door.

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

Locke tucked the little guy in, but not too firmly.

The last thing he wanted was to risk having Alan get constricted in the fabric and choke to death. Perhaps that was the difference between him and other people. Most of them wouldn't even think of that option, too far away into the cute to think of what could happen, if they weren't careful enough.

But Elly always thought of the what if's.

Might not make his life easy or pleasant, but it did keep him and his safe at the end of the day.

The door was shut and Locke leaned against it. Then came the long, heavy sigh escaping from his lips and the head shaking just a tinsy tiny bit.

"That... was more difficult than any mission I have ever been on." Elly confided in her with a conspiratorially smile, before retracing his steps back to the living room and settling himself down on the couch again. The stress and tension was slowly ebbing out of his body and he chuckled softly.

"Cute kid though."
Though Alan was all snuggly and neat now, Joza was positive that she’d wake up to find him sprawled out across the crib, blanket bunched in the corner or covering him awkwardly. He was certainly an active sleeper.

So when the two finished playing the part of quiet parents, Joza met Elliot’s heavy sight and smile with a quirked brow. She still looked tired and far from effortlessly glamorous, but at least there was a measure of relief in those eyes. “Not out of the woods yet,” She murmured as they moved back into the living room. “He has to last the rest of the night now.” Instead of collapsing onto the couch alongside him, she went a few paces more into the kitchen to pour him a hot cup of caf. Her own was half gone, a little luke-warm by now but she didn’t mind.

“Your reward.” Handing him the mug, Joza gave a long sigh and settled next to Elliot. For a moment, she simply looked over him, eyes falling to the bit of drool on his jacket. “Looks like he leaked on ya a bit.” Reaching for a convenient napkin, she brushed away the spit before her gaze noticed the hint of red lining his cuff. Eyes narrowed for just a second and a question lingered on her tongue, best not to get into all that now though. “You want me to get that out?” She gestured towards the blood, it wasn’t exactly a fresh stain but it wasn’t that deep, dirty red color that meant it had been sitting for weeks. A few hours old, maybe? He said that he’d had a job in the neighborhood.

Which made her worry.

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

Locke took the cup of coffee with a thankful nod.

The thought the kid might wake up again and they would have to go through this entire dance again disturbed him immensely. It wasn't the kid himself or fussing about him that made Elly tired, it was the... caution. For some reason carrying around a little toddler with his own life and feelings and being so fragile? Well, it was nothing like carrying around a few kilos of thermal detonators rigged to explode.

"Nah, it's fine. Isn't mine." He didn't notice the concerned look or Locke might have tried to put the worries to rest. No, his gaze was solidly fixed on the coffee and the black liquid swirling around in it.

At least for a moment, before he shrugged.

"Sit with me?"

Free hand patted on the empty space next to him.
Children, while delicate, were surprisingly durable. Maybe that wasn’t the gentlest way of putting it, but babies were made to survive new parents—that is to say that Joza had gotten used to carrying around the squirming weight for two years. The older they got though, the easier it was in some ways—toddlers knew how to latch onto you and maneuver, so you didn’t have to worry about supporting their entire body and their little head falling back. By contrast, toddlers were also mobile and very very curious. There was a lot of falling down, a lot of trying to eat thing that weren’t food.

But all was well in the Perl household for the time being.

A brow arched when Elliot mentioned that the blood wasn’t his. Joza didn’t think that it was, but you could never tell with Elly. The idea of him being on a job in her neighborhood made her a little leery—was this place not as safe as she’d initially thought? Was he alright? He seemed alright, but Locke was a good actor. Conversely, Joza was good at sussing out feelings and not saying a damn thing about it.

After tossing the napkin in the bin, she climbed her way back onto the couch and next to the SIS agent, head settling against his chest. “Good job with him.” Tilting her head back, she reached up to brush some hair from his face. “Is everything going alright with you?”

A risky question.

[member="Elliot Locke"]
tinker tailor soldier spy
[member="Joza Perl"]

The familiar weight settled against him and for a moment everything was good.

He pulled her in a little bit closer - instinctual grasp more so than anything else, but once he realized he had done it... Locke realized that he didn't actually mind it at all. At a later stage, once he was out of here again and back alone on his ship, he would have to analyze his feelings in some detail.

Because it didn't feel like just a fling for him anymore and that concerned him to a degree.

"Hmm?" A blink and suddenly the words pushed back against the fog and made him realize what she was asking. "Oh... fine, yeah, just a lot of things going on."

Alliance was taking a beating at the hands of the First Order and that concerned him as well.

What would happen if it actually fell? Yeah, sure, apparently they prevailed on Skor, but would that kind of Pyrrhic victory really last for a stretch of time?

"How about you?"

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