|Summary: Madness begets madness. Lies beget lies.|
Being called to Leo Stenbuck's office is, typically, not something that happens. For the past several months, Leo has been mostly constrained to a desk job aboard the Giga-Float, too important to spend all his time dicking around on the front lines... but not quite important enough to be the one whose office people get called to for things.
For the young man from Jupiter (possibly even the young Man from Jupiter (but not the Young Man from Jupiter)), it was like being reassigned to Hell.
But all that is changing, and, in preparation, so, too, are other things. Like the frequency with which people are called to Leo Stenbuck's office!
Leo sits at his desk, working diligently at his big fancy 'computer' with a 'holographic monitor'. (It isn't the Future enough yet for the keyboard to also bne holographic; that would just be ridiculous.) It has been some fifteen minutes since he had word sent to Michael Trinity to come see him in his office.
The door is, helpfully, unlocked.
When the first call to Leo's office came, Michael was sitting in his room, in boxers with switchblades on them (the words Sharp Dressed Man along the waistline), playing a racing game and shouting 'DO IT FAGGOT' at people over his headset whenever someone looked like they might try to overtake him. The intercom bings, relaying the message. The Trinity looks at it, scratches his un-brushed hair, and looks back at his game.
Five minutes later, a mod is in the game lobby, having a calm discussion with Michael which consists of him asking him to calm down while Michael starts shouting "I WILL NAIL YOUR GRANDMOTHER SO HARD SHE'LL GO FLYING RIGHT OUT THE W--banned?! Oh you son of a--" The intercom bings. Michael throws his controller at it, bouncing it back off into his forehead.
The third time, a hapless gofer knocks on Michael's door personally. Hurriedly, he shouts "DON'T COME IN HERE!", shoving a photo album under his pillow, and answering the door while positioning his body very carefully.
Five minutes after that, Michael has brushed his hair, put on his /wicked sweet/ A-LAWS uniform, and is standing outside the door to Leo's office, just outside the range where it would slide open for him. He announces, obnoxiously, "Unlock yer door!"
A man in a flattop haircut shoves Michael in the back as he passes on the way to a little screen time before he dies, sending him stumbling into Leo's office. "Oh, it was... oh. Hah!"
Leo looks up from his work when Michael calls through the door. He just stares for a few beats, and then lowers his head and covers his eyes with one hand.
He is still Picarding when the passing man, savior of all that is good and just, shoves Michael forward enough for the door to open. When it does, however, and Michael stumbles into the room, Leo lifts his head out of his hand and stands up. "Trinity," he says tersely, by way of greeting...
... but then pauses. After a moment, he amends, "Michael." He gestures at a chair set up in front of his desk. "Please, sit down."
Leo has been awfully dour lately - for understandable reasons, to most (if probably not to Michael Trinity) - but judging by his tone at the moment, this goes above and beyond even that. This, it seems, is the /real-ass/ serious business.
Hahaha, expecting Michael to pick up on social cues both subtle and not-subtle. He mutters, "Yo. You got any peanuts in here?" looking around Leo's desk. Finding no peanuts, because that's ridiculous, he grabs the chair, pulls it back a bit, and hammers ass to seat. His legs come up, crossing at the ankles, propping themselves up on the desk as he leans the chair on its back legs.
Michael flings both arms behind his head, giving Leo a completely informal half-grin. Come to think, has he ever saluted something in his life? "Sup? You interrupted my readin'."
He says that with a completely straight face.
Leo doesn't say anything - or even move - until Michael has taken a seat, and propped his feet up. A few beats after that - once the shock and dismay wears off - he steps around his desk, brushes around behind his back to get his uniform's duster under control, and takes a seat again, this time on the corner of the desk, near Michael's feet.
"I've been talking to your therapist," Leo explains, folding his arms across his chest. He considers, briefly, attempting to ease into it... but quickly dismisses the notion. Michael's a big boy; he can handle it.
"I want to talk about what happened to your brother and sister."
Speaking of Michael's reading time, apparently.
The moment Leo mentions 'therapist', Michael's grin twists into a sneer, his mouth opening to say something disparaging. He is still very mad about the flower advice. Once he drops the family bomb, the words die in his throat with a faint grunt, and the sneer drops away into a flat expression. His hands immediately gather fistfuls of beautiful cerulean hair, knuckles whitening.
Leo gets stared at for several seconds as Michael's incomplete suite of emotions try to handle the memories. He was never meant to be alone. None of them were. All together, the Trinities still might not have added up to a single, full-fledged human being. The solo act makes things... difficult. "Whh--what about it?!" He finally manages, head tilting back, jaw thrusting out. A dangerous light sparks in his eyes.
The reaction is a little more violent than Leo expected... but he supposes he shouldn't be surprised. Michael is a big boy, yes, but often, 'big boy' seems to apply in... more than one sense. So he doesn't push it; he waits patiently, watching, arms folded over his chest, until Michael manages to speak.
"I know how you feel, Michael," he says quietly, after the Trinity has finally collected himself. "As I'm sure you know. When Yazan..." Leo's voice falters, and he pauses to recompose himself.
"I know how you feel," he repeats, after a few beats. "Like you lost a part of yourself. A part that you don't think you'll ever get back. That's why..." Leo pauses again, this time deliberately instead of out of obvious emotional agony.
It's not that I want to do this to him, Leo tells himself. But he's uncontrollable; like a wild animal. He can't be counted on, when he's like this. He's a danger to himself... and to others. Especially Louise.
Hnn... Louise. What Leo told her flashes through his mind; that Michael was a tool. A weapon to use against Celestial Being, and all like them, until he broke, and they could discard him. He told her that his service was a death sentence... albeit one slower and more useful than a lethal injection.
So, he notes with only the barest tinge of regret, he supposes that means he lied to her, after all. Or perhaps he's lying to Michael.
Or perhaps, he thinks, he's lying to both of them.
"I want to help you, Michael."
"Nnnnyagh!" Michael tries to shoot to his feet, stumbling as he attempts to pull his legs through the solid matter of the desk, coming up in a twisting, awkward rush, one long leg whipping out to kick the chair. It skids across the floor, triggers the door, clatters into the hall, and totally takes out a sleepy-eyed new recruit carrying a bowl of noodles and a thermos of coffee. The door closes unceremoniously on his yelps of pain. Michael starts to pace, instantly full of restless energy. "Don't act like you know what it's like!" he all but shrieks. "It's... it's..."
It's all relative. To Michael, losing Nena and Johann wasn't /like/ losing part of himself, it was exactly that in as literal a sense as it could be. Trinity: three who were one.
His irises already shrank down to points, he snarls at the wall, pounding it once, twice, three times, before throwing his shoulder against it, the instability usually deep enough beneath the surface for the day-to-day showing itself. He slides down the wall, blood dripping from his knuckles, a sob wracking out of his throat. "You can't help! Give 'em... give 'em back! Or you can't help at all!"
Throughout Michael's tantrum, Leo remains perfectly calm, a beacon of solidity amidst the storm of Michael's pain and fury... at least on the outside. On the inside, Leo's heart is hammering; he's not exactly sure if he's worried about being attacked, or what, but even without being assailed, the outburst is... stressful.
Leo had realized he was 'unhealthy', in the same talks with Michael's therapist during which he learned about the Incident. But it's one thing to be told that he's prone to outbursts like this, and another entirely to actually experience one. But he has to stay calm. If he doesn't stay calm, it'll probably only make Michael worse.
"I can't do that, Michael," Leo says, voice still quiet, rising from where he sits on the desk. Briefly, voices echo through his head; Rei's voice on the new A-LAWS radiowaves, days after she died. Gendo Ikari, carefully evading denying that Rei died even as he says she's being 'loaned out' to the new task force.
Even if I could, Leo thinks, you wouldn't want me to.
Leo steps across his office to stand over Michael, looking down at the man. "But I can do something else," he explains. "I can give you the man who killed them."
"You can punish him. Hurt him. Make him feel the same pain you feel now. Make him beg for his life." To an observer, were there any, it might seem like Leo is simply playing into Michael's sadistic nature. The truth, of course, is rooted far more in simply sympathy.
"I think that's what he deserves... and I know that that's what you want."
Michael huddles in the corner, half-covering his face with one arm, the other darting into his pocket like a snake, getting out his knife. This is danger territory. He doesn't turn it on, merely snapping the blade out with an unconcious flick of his wrist, hand bobbing up and down. His fingers flex, and he twirls the knife at dizzying speeds in his hand, the blade darting between his digits like a whack-a-mole board. "Exactly, then you can't, you can't-" Hardly missing a beat, he stabs the knife into the wall and yanks it out, going right back to spinning it. His eyes snap left and right.
Another downside of his upbringing? His body is so used to being supplemented with controlling drugs that once he gets riled up, he has trouble calming down. He could be like this for hours.
"HIM!" Michael shouts when Leo starts promising revenge, his hand blurring. The knife flicks through the air, slamming into the far wall. "That man, that man, that man in the Turbulenz!" He hurls himself to his feet, shouldering past Leo. "I'll make him beg! I'll smash him and cut him up and rip him apart and! And!" He starts stomping on the knife. The first hit turns on the sonic blade, each subsequent stomp knocking it further and further in. "Bradge! Bradge! Bradge! Bradge!"
It figures that it would get worse before it got better. Leo's eyes slip down to the knife when it comes out, and they stay there; the young man's heartbeat stays firmly locked at a mile a minute. This could go south, very, very easily, and Leo's been stabbed one time too many in his life already.
He almost - almost - loses his calm composure when Michael throws the knife, a drop of sweat beading on the back of his neck and rolling down it. But, just barely, he stays calm. He doesn't even look over his shoulder at the knife; and a good thing, too, as he slips out of the way when Michael pushes past him rather than simply be shoved aside.
He finally speaks again when Michael starts chanting 'Bradge', raising his voice to be heard over the Trinity's psychosis. "I can help you find him," he continues. "I can give you the power you need to destroy him; I can give you a new mobile suit. I want to help you avenge your brother and sister, Michael." Leo pauses, as he draws into what is officially 'game time.'
"But if I'm going to help you, I need you to help me."
Michael drops to his knees, going silent as Leo talks again, wrapping his hands around his knife and pulling at it. Stomped to the hilt, it's being stubborn. "I'll kill him I'll cut him up I'll burn him to ash I'll rip him to pieces I'll fuck his grandm-" The knife comes free, still buzzing, jolting michael back. The blade catches him in the forehead, nickign him, spins up in the air, and clatters to the floor, rotating a slow circle like a cell phone on vibrate.
The shock of the cut sobers Michael. He presses a hand to his forehead, dripping a little bit of blood onto Leo's floor as he stands, turning. The diagonal nick is almost dead center on his forehead, red running down in a thin stream, separating to either side of his nose and running past the corners of his eyes. His free hand shakes.
"I... I pilot the Zwei. It's got all my memories, I can't... I pilot the Zwei." He screws his eyes shut and takes a deep breath. "Whadd-I gotta do to kill... to /destroy/ Bradge?"
Leo watches the knife spin through the air and fall to the ground; when Michael turns, he shifts his eyes to the cut. He is astonishingly relieved to find that it's just a flesh wound; if Trinity had cut his own throat in the course of his tantrum, that would have been... something else.
Wordlessly, Leo steps over to where the knife sits rattling on the ground. He bends over and gently picks the knife up, switching off the vibro function and closing his fist around the weapon. Calmly, he straightens back up and takes another few steps to stand in front of Michael.
"All you have to do," he explains, "Is exactly what I tell you. If I give you an order, you follow it. You don't argue. You don't ask questions. You just obey me."
He pauses, as a thought cuts across his conciousness like a bolt of lightning. He has an opportunity, here, to do more than just ensure Trinity's cooperation. He has an opportunity to prevent him from being... misused, by any element of this new taskforce they're a part of. Among other things.
Leo may not be well-educated, and he may be awfully... thick, sometimes, but he isn't stupid. He's been watching the media, since A-LAWS was formed; as he predicted, already people are screaming that they are the rebirth of the Titans. It may be that they're correct... and, if so, they may someday walk the same path as the Federation's former 'elite task force'.
Leo will not allow that to happen. He will not allow a few evil men to cripple what is a second chance for the Federation to finally win their plethora of wars. And if that requires a little 'insurance', then so be it.
"Me," Leo continues, after only a moments' pause. "Above all others. Regardless of their rank, you obey me." He holds the knife out to Michael, fist still closed around it. "You don't have to have a new mobile suit unless you want to. But I want you to know that if you do, I will get you one.
"I will get you /everything/, everything you need to get your revenge. I want to help you, Michael. If I can, I'd like to be your friend. If it were up to me," he asides, "You wouldn't even wear that collar."
"That's not. But this is. I can help you," Leo says, for what must be the billionth time. "But I need to know that you're going to help me help you." Leo finally opens his hand, presenting the still knife to Michael on his open palm.
"Can I count on you to do that, Michael?"
Leo may never have thought he'd see Michael Trinity straight up /uncomfortable./
The cut to the forehead brought him out of his break along with Leo being all kinds of serious. He meets the younger(?) one's eyes, looks away, meets them again, and busies himself with starting at his bloodied hand, unheeding of the red dripping off his chin and onto his new A-LAWS uniform (which looks amazing despite). "Well, uh..."
If Michael were a savvier man, this would be a harder decision. He'd be more cognizant of the power wielded by the likes of Paptimus Scirocco, of the influence of Ribbons Almark. He's think down the line as to the possible pitfalls of being chained to someone who - at the end of the day - is still young, still possibly inexperienced on a fundamental level despite his hard life.
But Michael is not savvy. He is basically pure id, acting on the lizard brain, and his lizard brain has been flushed full with thoughts of revenge for Nena and Johann. Michael reaches foward, closing his hand on the knife. The blade cuts a flesh wound into the meat of his hand, a single drop of blood welling out and dripping down.
There's worse things he could do.
"Yeah..." A fierce rictus grin suddenly splits his handsome face, turning it, briefly, into a terrifying visage. His copper eyes flash, almost matching the red flowing from his forehead. "Yeah, alright. You got me."
His expression still solemn, Leo lowers his hand once Michael takes the knife, folding his hands behind his back. He simply nods in response to Michael's acceptance of his terms, and then turns away, stepping calmly back to his desk. He makes it all the way back behind his desk and pauses, closing his eyes.
It's several seconds before he speaks again, and when he does, he opens his eyes. They're glowing, brilliant yellow, beams lancing out of his pupils in all directions like someone turned on a kick-ass music visualizer inside his skull.
"Good," Leo says; his voice is still solemn, but the corners of his mouth have quirked upwards, in a small smile. "Go get yourself cleaned up. We're being reassigned, soon; moved out to the front lines. You're going to be joining me in a new MS Team."
Michael doesn't see Leo's eyes, or the smile it just so happens he might've seen one other time in his life. His eyes are locked on his knife, still grinning, turning it over in his hands. With a casual motion, he spins it around his fingers, retracts the blade, locks it, and slides it back into his sleeve with the same kind of easy familiarity as opening a door.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah..." he mutters. Michael swallows heavily, and takes one, two halting steps toward the door before his pace becomes regular. "See you... out there." He passes through the door uneventfully.
..."What the hell, are you still out here? Stop crying on the floor and get yer ass up!" Leo's chair skids back in.