Layla's one of Aria's pet hackers. Bray is one of her enforcers. ...Why is she friends with him again? (Semi Bray/OC))
An insistent beeping broke through Layla's dreams, and dragged her back to the land of reality with a sharp snap. She jerked upright, blinking incomprehensibly at the tangle of computers, electronics and monitors that served as her workstation. It was several seconds before her mind was able to focus enough to identity 'back office' as her current location. Damn. She had been working late last night, but she didn't think she had been that tired! Half her face was numb where it had been resting on her desk, and when she dragged her hand across her cheek she dislodged a stray washer that had somehow gotten stuck to her face. It fell to the floor with a sharp ping and Layla stared at in for several seconds as her sleep fogged brain tried to dreg up the energy to wonder about it.
It was the damn beeping that penetrated through to her brain enough to start shaking her to awareness, and she growled in irritation before turning to see where it was coming from. The message scrolling across the monitor made her heart rate ramp up and she shot out of her seat, knocking it over in the process.
"Fuck!" Intruder alarm. Sentries activated. Someone was in her front office that shouldn't be. She yanked open the desk drawer next to her and groped for the gun she kept inside. Guns weren't usually her thing, but this was Omega. Only an idiot would go around without at least one in their possession. She double checked it as her mind went running off in different directions, trying to figure out if she should run or try to stand her ground or wait to see what damage her sentries did first. As soon as she was sure the gun was loaded, she called up the sensor map of the next room over.
She relaxed marginally when she realized there was only one person in her front office, but her plans didn't change significantly. A real professional could still be more of a threat than an entire armed gang. Especially if it was a krogan. An armed krogan in a small space would be a nightmare she knew she couldn't handle.
Probably not a krogan this time, she determined as she crept towards the door, taking great care to avoid the wires snaking across the floor. She would have expected a lot more sounds of destruction in that case. Actually, she realized, there was a worrying lack of noise from the other room. Shouldn't there at least be shooting by now? If the sentry turrent had been enough to cut the idiot down, then the security system would have deactivated itself. Come to think of it, she hadn't heard any gunshots at all. That was outright bizarre on Omega and was actually starting to make her more worried than the thought of a rampaging krogan. At least the krogan was something she was familiar with. Who could be so confident that they hadn't even fired off a single shot yet? She was beginning to regret making her sentries defense instead of offensive. They would only react if an actual shot was fired. Maybe that wasn't the smartest choice to have made.
She reached the door and placed her back against the wall next to it for the few moments it took her to call up the security feed from the camera in her office on her omnitool. When the picture sprang to life, she spent several seconds staring at it in sheer disbelief before cursing and turning to slap the 'open' panel on the door. It slide into the wall with barely a whisper of sound, and she stormed through, brushing aside the curtain that hide the door from the rest of the room.
"Dammit,Bray, what did you..." she started to say, but stopped short when she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun. Her heart skipped a beat and she stumbled backwards, hands automatically flying in a placating gesture before she could catch herself.
"Would you up that thing down? It's me, idiot."
"...Layla," a gravelly voice said with some surprise, and the bartarian on the other end of the gun slowly lowered his weapon. "You're here?"
"Of course I am! It's my office, isn't it?" she swept the arm without the omnitool out wide to indicate the rest of the room. It was a very nice office too. There was her nice big desk, a couple of chairs a chairs across from it, and the sofa next to a plant against the back wall. Granted, it was a fake plant with holographic leaves but that didn't matter. She had made sure the whole place looked completely professional, and far, far more expensive than it really was. There were even pictures on the clean walls. It had a tendency to intimidate and throw off balance half the mercenaries she worked for, something she worked to take advantage of.
Although the effect she had been going for was being ruined by the sentry turrent currently hovering over an open compartment in the middle of her desk, and the dozen or so dinner plate sized spider bots that had crawled out of every hidey hole she had been able to squeeze into the place.
"You messed with my desk computer, didn't you?" she demanded, taking a quick peek at the defenses before turning back to her companion. A tap shut down her omintool and she dropped her arm. "I told you not to touch it for a reason!"
"I didn't think you meant you booby-trapped your computer," Bray growled. He sounded slightly annoyed, but he had relaxed once she had walked out. He hadn't put his gun away, anyone who worked for Aria wouldn't relax that much in the presence of something that could shoot you. At least it was Bray here, and not someone who was more likely to shot her. Bartarians were annoyingly hard to read but she knew this one well enough to be sure of that.
"Hacker, information broker," she said out loud, and pointed at herself, "remember? It would be weirder if I didn't have anything blocking it!" She dropped her hand and crossed her arms over her chest instead.
"Okay, even if that makes sense, why something like this," Bray jerked his thumb at the sentry turrent and robots, which caused all of them to whir and focus on the bartarian again. He froze for a few seconds, hand tightening around his gun before continued, "instead of something logical, like a bomb or shorting out the computer?"
"Because this is Omega, and only an idiot wouldn't protect themselves," she brandish her gun at him to make that point, "and sentry turrents because I would rather get rid of any unwanted visitors without having to replace something that's actually valuable if I can." She did grin at him though, "although I'm not that stupid. If the turrent goes down the computer self-destructs anyway. I wasn't going to take any chances with it."
Bray just shook his head at her, "Now I'm starting to get worried," he said, although there was no menace in his voice. She was almost sure he was teasing her about it, but she didn't see what she could say to that.
"You should be," she shot back. "What were you trying to do with it anyway? You're crap with computers, it's not like you would be able to get anything useful off of it." It worried her actually, that he would try to get into her systems like that. He might be one of Aria's enforces but they had developed something of a friendship. Granted friendships in Omega rarely lasted long, but she had thought she was pretty good at reading people. Bray didn't seem to type to sneak around her back.
"I'm not that bad," Bray growled, but then settled somewhat. "I wasn't trying to hack anything anyway," he said, and although Layla knew that logically she shouldn't believe him, she still did , "when you were late for the meeting I figured I would check my messages to pass the time. Didn't think it would blow up in my face."
"It didn't blow up," she said as she frowned, "and what are you talking about? Our meeting isn't until.." she checked the time display on her omnitool, promptly froze for one wide-eyed moment when she realized the display read past ten galactic standard time, then turned and fled back through the curtain with a curse.
She dropped her gun on the nearest clear space she could find as she sprinted over to one of the consoles,ripping her headset off and attempting to finger-comb her black hair into some sort of order as she double checked that the data had been complied while she slept. Why the hell hadn't her alarm gone off? She thought she had set it before she started working!
There was a faint whir from the main office, and a growled oath from Bray. "Dammit Layla, call them off!"
"Fine," she yelled and broke off a few seconds to type in the security deactivation code in her omnitool. As she did so she couldn't help noting, with some annoyance, that security logs said Bray had used the private code she had given him weeks ago to get into the outer office. That explained how he had gotten there, but not how she had missed it. It would have saved her from the near heart attack if she had just seen that.
She had turned back to the terminal by the time she heard the heavy thud of combat boots against the metallic floor of the room. The footsteps stopped behind her, and there was a faint creak of metal as Bray leaned against a table. For a few seconds there was the silence except for the faint hum of machines before Bray's brilliant comment of "You look like hell."
"Oh, thank you so much," she snapped, "I'm glad that someone pointed that out to me." With a last scan of the data to make sure it was all there, she pressed the button and turned around to face him. Bray was half-sitting on a table that held a half-repaired spider-bot, arms across his chest. "And that might be because I was playing tag with an Eclipse hacker for over half the night and barely got any sleep. It's not like that makes you look your best, although if I had known I would offend your sensibilities that much I would made sure to pretty myself up before I came out." She opened her eyes wide and battered her eyelashes at him in an exaggerated way at the last line. That just got a grunt from him, and she wondered if he even understood human humor.
"Never said I was offended," his voice was even and almost teasing. "I guess you won out in the end, otherwise I can't see how you would have slept at all."
"If you mean that I managed to make sure he didn't find me, then you're correct," she rest her weight back against the table, fingers curling around the edges of it. "Have I told you how much I hate dealing with the Eclipse? Human, bartarian, human...yeah, they can be really good but I'm usually better. Eclipse though?" She waved vaguely with her hand, "Eclipse has salarians. Do you know how hard it is to deal with someone who only has to sleep a fraction of what you do? It's the universal definition of 'unfair' I tell you."
"But you got the information?" All four of Bray's eyes focused on her and she found herself hiding a flush by looking down to check on the data transfer progress.
"Of course," she said without looking at him, "I'm a professional after all. It's riiiiight.." she drew the word out as the datapad flashed with the 'transfer complete' message, "here!" she picked up the datapad and held it out towards the bartarian with a smile on her face.
Bray took it, looked it over for a few seconds before nodding it and tucking it away in a pocket. For some reason the fact that he put it away without looking at it, that he trusted her enough to not even double check the data on it, made her feel happy for some ungodly reason she couldn't name. She was lucky that it had been Bray who Aria had assigned as her contact. Layla could still remember the dread she had felt when she realized she was supposed to report to a bartarian. It could easily have been one of Aria's overly ambitious bully-boys, one of the bartarians who hated humanity enough to blame them for every ill in the universe ever, or worse, both at once. So to have someone like Bray, who was so laid back he wouldn't even mention her being over an hour late with for a meeting with him as long as she had the data she had promised...that was something of a miracle in and of itself. That she had actually become fond of him in some way was something she didn't want to think about.
"You know," she said, more to distract herself from the nature of her thoughts than for any other pressing reason, "if it had been anyone else I would never have taken on that Eclipse job or would be charging out the ass for the trouble it caused me. But, you know it just happened to be Aria, and she.."
"Owns your ass?" Bray finished with some amusement.
"Yeah, thank you for reminding me of that," she grumbled. "I might have forgotten if you weren't here to remind me. I would never ever remember all the times she's reminded me that I owe her my life." She fell silent, brooding over it. Aria had saved her life when her pride had made her underestimate the intelligence of a gang leader, and without the help of Omega's uncrowned queen she would be dead or worse by now. That help, however, had come with the price-tag of being Aria's lacky, part of her information network and required to drop any other jobs she had whenever one of Aria's lackeys brought her orders.
Bray was still there, and he didn't seem in a hurry to leave either. Instead, he had used her silence as an opportunity to snatch her pistol off the desk he was leaning against. She couldn't really object to him looking at it. The guy she had bought it from was one of the few honest dealers in the area and swore it was good, but she was computers, not guns. The bartarian would say something about the model if it didn't meet standards, or at least he had proven vocal about stuff like that in the past..
She was so sure that his next words were going to be about the pistol that when he finally spoke, he caught her off guard. "So Aria's the reason you haven't been around Afterlife lately?"
"You noticed?" she said, so shocked that apparently her brain had shut down the filter function. For some reason the fact that he had actually noticed her absence from the club had made her heart jump up into her throat. Quickly she turned around and made a show of picking up her chair with hands that trembled. "And no, it's not Aria causing it. If I hated her that much then I wouldn't have ever visited Afterlife. You can't exactly separate the name Aria T'loak from Afterlife."
Behind her there was the metallic click of the pistol being set down. "You're one of the few people I can talk to in Afterlife that I don't have to worry about watching my back around. You notice when something like that disappears, but I couldn't figure out why. I thought something might have happened until I heard that I was supposed to pick up information from you."
For some reason a knot of something that felt suspiciously like guilt settled in her gut. She supposed she should have sent him a message or something, but she hadn't thought he would even notice. "Yeah, well," she said out loud, "most of the reason is because of how busy I've been. Your boss doesn't pay me, so I do have to take on work from other clients so I can pay for little things like food." Which was true, sort of. While she did get occasional pay from Aria, it wasn't steady work and she prefered to have other work lined up so she wouldn't end up totally broke.
Behind her the desk creaked as Bray shifted. "Makes sense. I just remember you being busy before and still turning up at Afterlife to bitch about it. What else was keeping you away?" Layla could feel her neck prickle and knew the bartarian was staring at her. Damn alien, he had twice as many eyes to stare with too. Another point in the 'aliens have unfair advantages' column.
"Let's just say that having a crazy bartarian bartender poisoning any human he sees hanging around Afterlife doesn't really inspire me to go all the way there. How do I know he won't decide I'm next?"
"You mean Shen?" Bray sounded almost surprised. "That's all you were worried about?"
Layla straightened up and half turned to look at him incredulously. "You actually know the guy?"
That got a shrug out of the bartarian. "Just knew him from hanging around Afterlife and listening to him complain. I don't see why he scared you so much, if you knew who he was. He worked the lower floors, and we usually hung around the upper ones. Would have been easy to avoid him."
"According to you," she said, "but what if he was transferred to the upper floors? Even if I avoided getting any drinks for him, what's to stop him from slipping something in my drink when I look away for a second?" She shook her head. "Sorry, Bray, that wasn't worth the risk to me." It had seemed easy to say that she would say away from Afterlife. She had never been a party girl or a social butterfly who went there just to hang out. The club had been a way for her to meet clients or contacts, and then a place for her and Bray to hang out. She suspected the last reason was why she had started to miss the club atmosphere. That was what had scared her.
"I would have made sure he stayed away," Bray rumbled. Layla turned around a little more until she was looking at him fully, even if she was still standing sideways towards her desk. He grinned at her. "It's a moot point anyway. Shen got himself shot a couple of days ago."
"I heard about that," Layla said, trying to cover her surprise. She had heard that someone had been shot at Afterlife, but that was hardly unusual. Since her sources had confirmed it hadn't been anyone important, she hadn't paid any attention to who it could have been.
"Then you don't have to worry about it anymore," Bray shrugged. "Might as well show up once in awhile."
"Wow, you almost sound desperate to have me go back," she said trying to make her voice sound light. "Things must really be slow if you're asking me to come sit around in a bar."
"You're usually the most interesting person in Afterlife," was the bartaria's answer. "So sue me if I like talking to you when you're there. Beats most of the other people I have to talk to each day. It's relaxing."
She had absolutely no idea what to say to that. Afterlife was the center of Omega. Aside from the constant, obvious, Aria presence, it was the usual meeting place of anyone who was anyone on this chunk of rock. Saying she was the most interesting person there was like saying vorcha only sometimes got violent. As much as you would like to think it was true, you knew deep in your heart that it wasn't. She was far, far from the most interesting person to grace Afterlife at any point in time, and if it was anyone else she would have been sure they were using flattery to get something they wanted.
It was just that this was Bray. He wasn't above lying, but she knew him well enough to read that he wasn't, at least not this time. There wasn't anything he had asked for either, well, aside from her company. It couldn't be something Aria had put him up to, she wasn't nearly that important. That terrified her. It meant that he really meant it, and if he thought that much of her...well, she wasn't sure what to do about that.
Hell, she had only been telling him part of the truth earlier. Murderous bartarians and work aside, she had been avoiding Afterlife because of him, and how close she had let him become. Being an information broker on Omega meant that you had to be cautious. Betrayal was as much a part of Omega economy as credits were. You expected it at some point. That was why this strange connection she had with Bray worried her. She trusted him, and she could not pinpoint why they had become so close. She had even given him the code to her office, and that was something she hadn't done for anyone else. There were moments she let herself relax around him completely, even though she knew that logically she shouldn't. Logic just didn't seem to be working for her right now. It was beyond insane. He was a bartarian and any friendship she had with him shouldn't have happened, yet it had.
He was still watching her so she cleared her throat. "You're thinking a little much of me, aren't you?" she said.
"I don't think so. Like I said, I don't need to worry about watching what I say around you. You're probably the only person there who isn't just waiting for a chance to get back at me. An enforcer doesn't exactly makes a lot of friends."
"What makes you think I'm not just gathering information about you? I could be waiting to see something incriminating to someone who would take you out." She said the words, trying to drown the frantic beating of her heart. Half of her was afraid that he was going to really believe what she was saying. The other half of her was scared that he wouldn't.
Bray just laughed. "Not really you're style," he said and grinned at her. She looked away from his four eyes and took a deep breath, hoping he wouldn't notice. "Look," he said, "Shen is gone and the replacement Aria hired is human. Female too." Like having a bartender of her own sex was supposed to reassure her in some way. Layla glanced over at him again. It wasn't just the words that he said, it was the hopeful way he said them.
"You must be really bored if you're bothering me about coming back this much," she said half heartedly. She hoped it was just boredom that was driving him this far.
"Just a bit," he shrugged. "I figured you're probably bored playing with computers all day too."
"I happen to like computers," she retorted, "they make more sense than most people." But she felt a combination of disappointment and light hearted relief that it probably was just boredom that was making him want conversation with her this badly. Truthfully, she had been a bit bored herself. Somehow she had grown used to complaining at him and listening to Bray's tales about work. If she was being honest, she had missed that a bit. It wasn't like she was harming herself but just doing that. Bray was one of Aria's enforcers after all. No harm in being friends with someone like that. "Although if you're that desperate, I'll have to take pity on you and turn up afterall. I would hate to think of you brooding in a dark corner somewhere, all alone."
That brought a snort of laughter from the bartarian, but he did straighten up and step away from the table. "So you'll be at Afterlife later?"
"Later tonight," she corrected, turning to work at her computers again, so the bartarian couldn't see her expression.
"I"ll buy you a drink then, to celebrate," she heard him say.
"You'd better," she said without turning around, "since this was all you're idea." She paused for a second to check the time. "You'd better get going. I don't want Aria getting pissed at you for taking so long."
"What, worried?" he chuckled. "But you have a point. See you later?"
"I already said you would," she snapped. Behind her she heard a chuckle and the sounds of footsteps going away.
"Then see you later, Layla."
She glanced back just in time to see Bray brush aside the curtain to leave the room. For several seconds she just stared after him, then quickly turned back to her work as she attempted to ignore the fluttering her stomach.
Stupid bartarian. It was all his fault.