|Summary: Louise Halevy and Revive Revival have a lot to catch up on.|
SOME TIME AGO
Louise Halevy is freaking out. It's maybe her first time in a combat simulator. One of them, anyway. In any event, she's still so green that it was flat out too much. She's breathing heavily. Her face is in her hands. She has to be careful -- if she flexes one of them wrong, she could rip her own face off. It's all so new. It's all so much.
Which is why a thin but strong arm slides around her shoulders, pulling her to its androgynous owner. Revive Revival huddles the girl against himself, whispering quietly. When he speaks, he sounds like a woman. He sounds kind. Warm. Maternal. "It's okay, Louise. It's okay. Come on. You did your best. Come on, now. You just need more time. It's only a simulation, anyway. Just a computer game. Right? Come on. Let me see your eyes, Louise. You've got such strong eyes. They shouldn't be so troubled. Do you want your pills? Okay, Louise. I'll get your pills. No, no, I know which pocket they're in. You just breathe, focus, relax. Let your body find its rhythm. It's like walking. One foot in front of the other, left right, left right. Breathe the same way, Louise. One two, one two. In out, in out. Okay. Open your mouth, Louise. Stick out your tongue. Swallow."
"There's a girl."
Things are, of course, different.
In fact, it's been months since Louise saw Revive Revival. He's kept a low profile since the A-LAWS faction was made public. He's been /around/, sure. There are meeting logs, reports, all sorts of evidence to the fact that he does indeed still exist. But he seems to have withdrawn from the girl. He was there one day--
--and then he was gone.
His room on the Blanc Rival isn't hard to find. He's the leader of the GNZ Team, and frankly, all of them are put up rather luxuriously. His quarters are the choicest of all.
And, you know. Sometimes friends need to talk. To figure out where they are.
With Leo Stenbuck gone, Louise has been a little desperate for companionship; she wants to talk to someone -- anyone -- that she can trust. And with Soma likely more preoccupied with Ralla (whom Louise never knew that well, but whose absence seems to have reverberated through the life of everyone she touched), Louise has decided to catch up with some old friends. Revive would know what to do -- Revive always knew exactly what to do.
There's a knock at Revive's door. Once, then twice a second later.
The second knock is the one that gets a response.
SOME TIME AGO
Revive Revival's quarters are dark, lit only by the stars outside. When he moves, it's like a snake slithering. Graceful, fluid, not quite masculine, not quite feminine, not quite human.
Warrant Officer Nicolette Varga is seated on his bed. Most of her uniform is gone. The A-LAWS logo is even branded on her underwear. Revive himself is shirtless. He's on top of her before she really knows what's happening. She's drunk. He's not.
Her hands are on his belt. They're having trouble with it. Revive brings his own hand down to stop her. "Not yet," Revive coos, in that silky voice. "Not yet. First, let /me/ take care of /you/."
"Close your eyes."
Warrant Officer Nicolette Varga closes her eyes. And that's when Revive Revival moves his hand to her throat, rears back, and begins to punch her in the face.
Revive Revival is shirtless. A little sweaty. It's the most masculine scent he's ever given off, and yet it still seems to be tinged with fresh flowers. His hair is perfect. It's always perfect. "Louise?"
The Innovade seems confused for a moment, then breaks into a broad, affable smile. "Lou-/weez/! It's been so long -- look at you! Come in, come in! I'd hug you, but I haven't had a chance to a shower yet. I hope you'll forgive me."
Revive's quarters are as nice as you can get without being Ribbons Almark. Shelves are lined with books on philosophy. Advanced computer terminals indicate a tech level above the average room. A huge set of windows gaze out into space. The only thing remotely out of place are the rumpled sheets of the bed, and women's clothing -- probably not Revive's, but the option can't be ruled out -- scattered on the floor.
There are also faint sounds of sobbing from the bathroom, whose door is slightly ajar. "/Do/ come in," Revive repeats, smiling cheerfully.
Perhaps it's that Louise doesn't notice the sobbing from the bathroom; more likely is that she simply chooses to ignore it. It doesn't fit her image of Revive and Louise has never been one to try to do anything with her cognitive dissonance other than 'ignore it' -- and with Ribbons now having free access to simply /turn it off/ on occasion it's only gotten worse.
"It's fine, Revive," Louise says, with a small smile, as she comes in; it's rare that she's on a first name basis with someone, other than perhaps Leo, and mmmmaybe Soma. She glances around the room, saying, "I really like what you've done with your quarters -- they're very well-designed." The opulence reminds her of home, but in a manner that isn't threatening, doesn't dredge up unfortunate memories.
She glances down to the clothes for a moment, but dismisses those, too; it's like she simply refuses to entertain the notion that Revive has been up to something.
Revive laughs. It's undeniably a girlish laugh. So many qualities of the purple-haired man sit in bizarre stasis between 'male' and 'female,' but his laugh has certainly picked a side of the binary and stuck to it. "Thank you! It's just what I was given, but I've tried to make it home. Ex/cuse/ me for a moment."
Revive steps behind a changing screen. He actually has a changing screen in his quarters. It's a nice one, too. His shadow can be seen behind it, thin but fit. He's like a leaner Leo, in his way. More compact. More efficient. More like some sort of... jungle cat, or serpent, or some kind of animal, anyway. There's the telltale hiss of deodorant -- who gives a shit about aerosol messing with the ozone in space?
"I've heard a lot about you lately, Louise," Revive says. "You've been doing some very, very big things. You know I'm proud of you, right?" From anyone else, this tone would be patronizing, even cruelly so. But Revive's light tones are too sweet for that, in a way. A shirt is chosen, and Revive steps out from behind the screen, pulling it on. It's pink. It's very pink. He neglects to button it, leaving his abdominals exposed, although he does fix the cuffs and make sure the collar is down. "How does it feel, Louise? To touch what lies beyond -- to be the first to know what's coming next?"
Revive Revive feels like he shouldn't need to explain further. His red eyes have a strange luminescence. "I always knew you were special, Louise."
Louise watches Revive change from the other side of the changing screen; she doesn't make the association with Leo, even though it's standing right in front of her. She doesn't really think of Revive that way -- he barely registers as male, sometimes. She could almost treat him like one of the girls, if such an occasion came up.
The almost patronizing tone, to Louise, seems pleasant. It reminds her of another time -- when she was still putting herself back together. When Revive was helping her put herself back together. "I -- yes," Louise says, a little more shyly than she perhaps intends.
"Thank you, Revive. And... I'm not sure." She can express her doubts to Revive -- he's not Ribbons. She can't doubt in the face of the one who's given her so much -- but here, maybe, she can manage it. "Sometimes, it's overwhelming -- especially when I'm with Leo, or --" She stammers there, but it's clear that she's thinking of Ribbons. "But... I'm eager to help humanity reach that same point."
There's a sort of disconnected quality to her words near the end -- as if she's not really even thinking as she says them. She's just on autopilot, letting herself become Ribbons's instrument. It's easier than coming up with her own ideas, than taking responsibility as a moral agent...
...which pleases Revive Revival greatly. Sometimes hard questions need to be asked. Not to coax thought, of course, but to ensure that no thought is put to the answer. Revive pushes a pair of panties out of his way with his foot, gingerly, as if he was not completely thrilled with having to touch them. Certainly, he wouldn't use his hands. How grotesque.
"Leo," Revive repeats. "Your twin." There's a wry, disarming smile when he says that. It's like a very quiet and gracious twist of a knife. "It's a bit of a... misnomer, I admit, but I don't think /spoken/ language can really capture it. I know the feeling. When you can touch someone. Not just their body. Not just their mind. But their feelings. Their desires. There's no such thing as the soul, Louise. That's just religious nonsense that humans invented to make themselves feel better. But you're the closest thing Leo has to one right now. And vice versa. Remember that."
Revive Revival, it should be noted, does not have any 'twin' that Louise Halevy would be aware of. And yet, he talks like--
"But as overwhelming as it is... are you happy? You must be happy. Consider where you are now, Louise." Revive steps closer to the bathroom door, and glances over at it, frowning for a moment. It's only a momentary interruption. He doesn't say anything about the sobbing. He doesn't seem to care, beyond how unpleasant it is. "What would you be doing on Earth now, if none of this had ever happened? Sitting on your couch, watching television? Exchanging text messages with a boyfriend who works at the Slurp-a-Lunch in the mall? Going to college and seeing how far you could go on a liberal arts degree? You were never meant for that, Louise. I knew that when I first met you, and I know it now."
Revive Revival moves again. His quarters are lit, but not completely. The glow of a computer screen casts a blue edge around his shadow, which is cut into somewhat by the light of the stars. The glow of his red eyes is more pronounced. "You're better now. You're the best a human will ever be. Because you helped yourself."
"It's not your job to lead them by the hand, Louise." Revive Revival steps forward, his face still set into that gentle, parental smile. "It's your job to lead by example. Do you understand? You need to be strong. You need to let go of your weak parts. Watch them fall away. Become reborn. Truly and completely."
If the goal was to keep Louise from being prompted to think, Revive has -- for a moment -- failed. The commentary on what she'd be doing had this not happened, so soon after comments about her status as Leo's soul, draws her mind toward Saji, if not for very long. What must he be doing right now, with his furtive attempts at an aerospace engineering degree and his pizza delivery route? What is he doing now that she isn't there to demand things of him, big things, things that draw on his attention and time and money and --
-- would only have gotten more needful if she'd stayed on Earth, crippled, wounded. He's probably mastered aerospace engineering by now and is well on his way to space, working in colony construction. Rebuilding Neo-Japan. Something she would never have been able to let him do, the way she was.
This is better. For everyone.
Glancing to the bathroom door as Revive does, Louise finally registers the sobbing; she assumes it's someone who'd intended to cry /to/ Revive, not made to cry /by/ him. Assuming that she's decided she just needs a good cry (why else would Revive abandon this person to talk to her?), Louise continues to pay the sobbing no mind. "Th-thank you," Louise says, though she lacks the actual self-esteem to believe she helped herself. Ribbons helped her. But then, the way things have been going -- in many respects, that /is/ her helping herself, isn't it? The divide between them has ceased to be so great.
"I understand," she says, tone a little firmer. "I need to cast off my weak parts -- so humanity can let go of its." Her hand -- her new hand -- clenches tight. She can do this -- she can become reborn. "Thank you," she adds, more firmly.
Rather than say anything further, she lets herself look into those beautiful, unearthly red eyes. To some, the red glow, framed by that blue -- it'd be disconcerting, even terrifying. To Louise it's one of the most reassuring things in the world.
Thoughts of Saji -- thoughts Revive is not privy to. But he'd approve, regardless. How pathetic they both were. Beneath even the Innovade's contempt. If Louise can't think back to those times and realize what a waste they were... well, Revive's been wasting his time, in that case. But he knows, somehow, that he hasn't been. He can feel it, in some vague and ephemeral way, like when something makes the hairs on the back of your neck prick up. His smile broadens.
Revive moves close to Louise, now. Maybe dangerously close. Certainly dangerous when it was Nicolette Varga, but this isn't her, this isn't then, this is now, and those red eyes seek to fill Louise's field of vision. Revive's hand comes up and rests on Louise's cheek, his skin soft, smelling vaguely antiseptic, like a perfumed hopsital corridor. His breath is warm.
"Don't thank me, Louise," Revive says, his voice dropping to something akin to a purr, albeit a more self-important one than even a cat could manage. "I did nothing. I stood by you... but that's all I did. Who you are now... /what/ you are now... that didn't come from me. It didn't come from Ribbons. It didn't come from Leo."
With one hand, Revive snaps open Louise's tunic as easily as if he were ripping a piece of scotch tape off of her. He clearly has practice. Letting the tunic open enough to expose her chest, he slides his hand inward. Under her undershirt. Fingers just barely under the strap of her bra. Palm resting on her chest, just at the beginning of the curve of her breast, directly over her heart. "It all came from in here, Louise. All of it."
Revive Revival is a predator in a pink shirt. But he's very good at hiding what he is. Louise might as well be a younger sister to him. Maybe even a daughter. Of course, above all of these things, she's still a human, foolishly trying to become something she can't. He's probably even more contemptuous of her now than when she was a quaking mess. But that just means he needs to bury it deeper. To keep her right in the palm of his hand.
"In the future, Louise," Revive says, his voice dropping to a warm whisper, "there will be no such thing as morality. There will be no such thing as amorality, either. Those are false idols that humans have built their entire worldview around. The same goes with truth. With beauty. With ugliness. You're beyond all of these things, Louise. You're beyond 'right' and 'wrong' now. You're beyond good and evil."
Revive leans in even closer. His hair touches hers. "The next world isn't Heaven, because Heaven doesn't exist. Neither does Hell. The new world is /within/. It casts away all of the nonsense humans have built to separate themselves from their potential. There's no good. There's no evil. There's just you. There's just /us/."
There is a moment of hesitation as Revive neatly snaps open the second Warrant Officer's uniform he's done so with today, as Louise finds herself momentarily a little /too/ close for comfort; when it becomes clear what the Innovade is demonstrating by doing so, though, she relaxes just a little. She's open to that predator's nature, if only because he tells her so much of what she wants to hear.
Drinking in that closeness, Louise matches Revive's lean, letting Revive more fully palm her heart -- just as Revive wants, no doubt. A tiny part of her is worried, but she ignores it -- casts off that weakness. Her mind is a neat, efficient little receiver, just as Ribbons no doubt intended -- in the face of an Innovade telling her what the world should be, what the future should be, she can only listen.
"The next world doesn't need all those things," Louise affirms. "Those are the weak parts I'm going to throw off, so everyone else can throw them off, too." She begins to sort through all of Revive's words, synthesize them together, accept them. It's not that different from when he'd slide a pill into her mouth -- open her mouth, stick out her tongue, accept what Revive is offering her, swallow.
There's a girl.
And finally, the crying sticks in her mind enough to comment on it; when she does, however, it is -- dismissive, to say the least. "In the new world, that crying won't be necessary," she affirms. "There won't be any 'wrong' to cry about." The words come almost unbidden -- she slips into that half-fugue again, not bothering to truly sort through what she's saying, not even bothering to think.
Revive Revival takes a step back, slipping his hand out of Louise's shirt. There's something almost theatrical about the motion. It's so smooth one might think he's rehearsed it. But that's how Revive always is. Between male and female. Between predator and parent. Between precise and flamboyant.
The Innovade grins, his teeth white and flawless. He dotingly smooths Louise's undershirt, before fixing her tunic back up. Dressing her without even the option to let her take care of it herself. But then, contrary to Revive's words, Louise has never /had/ to take care of herself when Revive's been around.
All he needs is for her to /think/ she is. If she bothers to think about it at all.
"You catch on quick," Revive says, shifting tone suddenly -- from teacher to comrade, from parent to friend. He laughs, another airy, feminine sound, and in the same breath gives Louise a gentle jab to the arm with his fist, the very symbol of masculine jocularity. "You're right. And... maybe she'll accept that in time." Revive glances back to the bathroom, then toward Louise once more, eyebrows arched -- a gaze to initiate Louise into the theoretical elite, to establish that not only is he above that woman, but so is Louise. "But there's nothing we can do until she can find it in herself. Tell you what. It's been so long, and we have so much to catch up on. Let's get a drink. I just need to button up."
Revive steps in front of a mirror -- a full-length mirror, next to his closet compartment -- and starts doing up his shirt, before reaching into the closet and pulling out a silk necktie. It's tied swiftly, shirt tucked in, and he grabs a jacket and slings it over his shoulder casually, not bothering to put it on yet. While he grabs the jacket, he says fondly, "Do you know what the future will be, Louise?"
Revive Revival can see it now. Blood. Death. Fire. Ash. Screams. Pain. Open wounds that will never close. Industrial buzz and hum. Mass production. Distortion. Confusion. Fear. If it were remotely possible, he'd be risking giving himself a hard-on. The future is murder. The future is the death factory.
"The future is going to be a song," Revive says, swooping one arm around Louise's to lead her out, to the officers' lounge.
"The future is going to be beautiful music."