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The Second Seal
Summary: In which origins are discussed.
Who: Leo Stenbuck, Rei Ayanami
When: March 27, 2010
Where: Tannanliel


In the final days of the Magical La Gias Camping Trip, the Magical La Gias Camping Trip Crew have found themselves not in the wilds of La Gias, but rather the guests of Tannanliel, an elven city housed in an enormous magical walking tree. Leo has been graciously gifted an officer's suite in the city's barracks, and currently, he is fast asleep in what passes for a bed there.

It's not much, seeing as how these elves don't really... sleep.

Leo's clothing, except for his boxers, litters the floor; it is joined, tonight, by an entirely empty bottle of what looks like extremely fancy elven wine. On the bright side, there isn't anyone else in bed with him.

On the less bright side, the combination of sleeping alone and having probably imbibed most of a bottle of wine on his own means he is currently thrashing around his bed in his sleep.

IN LEO'S DREAMS

Antilia is burning. Leo Stenbuck runs through the streets of his home colony, tears streaming from his eyes, desperately trying to get away from the battle raging between the Earth Federation's meager Phantoma forces and the unstoppable horde of BAHRAM's Orbital Frames.

He trips over something, collapsing to all fours and tearing his jeans open on the pavement. When he looks behind him to see what he fell over, it's the mangled, ruined corpse of his father. Leo's eyes widen even further in horror, and he staggers to his feet again and flees into the nearest building, a cavernous warehouse.

Time passes.

Leo backs against something hard... and then it vanishes, and he falls backwards into the cockpit of an Orbital Frame. Jehuty. The controls flash to life, and a voice declares, in monotone, "Ready for combat operation."

But it's not ADA's voice, the voice it should be; it's Rei Ayanami's. Suddenly, Rei emerges from the controls in front of Leo, the metal rippling like it's liquid. "R-Rei..." Leo gapes, reaching out to embrace her. They kiss.

After a few seconds, Rei lets out a gasp, and her back arches, as a man-sized Schwert Gewehr erupts point-first from her back, spattering Jehuty's viewscreen with blood and gore. "Don't let me forget," she begs, pressing her lips against Leo's again.

And then she dissolves, turning into a swirling mass of LCL that forces itself down Leo's mouth and nose. He clutches at his throat, gasping for breath that won't come. Around Jehuty, the warehouse bursts into flames and begins, too, to dissolve into nothing.

A Xeku Zwei lowers into Jehuty's field of vision, igniting a total of six beam sabers one at a time. Yazan Gable's laughter echoes in Leo's ears, as if coming from a thousand sources at once. He struggles to reach Jehuty's controls, but he can't breathe, he can't /breathe/, and his limbs are so heavy.

The Xeku Zwei lunges--

THEORETICALLY REAL LIFE

Leo lets out a strangled scream and lunges into a sitting position, attacking his blanket wildly. In his fury and panic, he manages to tear the thing in half.

And then he just... sits there, gasping for breath and shaking uncontrollably, his mostly-naked body drenched with sweat. The nightmares aren't anything new, but that one was...

... it's the wine, Leo tells himself, reminded of his little stunt by the pounding headache he realizes he has as he slowly comes down from the nightmare. Just the wine. Nothing to worry about.


"Leo."

It's a whisper, as faint as a distant sound carried by the breeze. It sounds so far away. But at the same time, it's right there, it's tangible. Because so is Rei Ayanami.

How the blue-haired girl got in here is anyone's guess. She's not about to reveal her secrets. Besides, there's no time for that sort of thing. It's already the past.

SOME TIME AGO

Rei Ayanami stares across the distance of a coffee table at Shinji Ikari. She sits in her A-LAWS uniform; he in nerd-slacker chic. The apartment is filthy -- this is because it is Misato's.

"I want us to be friends, too, Ikari-kun." Back to 'Ikari,' yes, but that little suffix -- she hasn't used that one since before she was dating Leo. A slim, pale hand extends downward, offering a hand-up. "But don't cry for what's already happened. If you dwell in the past, you ignore the present. And if you ignore the present, you negate your own future."

NOW

Rei was speaking to herself as much as anyone, there.

But now, she's speaking to Leo.

"Leo," Rei says again, her voice flat, bloodless. She steps out of a patch of shadows, as if she'd simply /manifested/ from nowhere. As if she was a dream that walked out of Leo's addled mind and into the real world. If La Gias counts as the real world in any meaningful sense.

What sort of dream Rei stepped out of is up for debate. She wears a take on the A-LAWS uniform that could generously be described as 'heavily modified,' particularly if 'modified' were taken to mean 'reduced.' The greatcoat is cut differently, more femininely, with a taller collar and a swooping neckline, and a cutout that bares pale flesh on Rei's chest and reminds the world that she has indeed spent some of her teenage years growing modest breasts. A choker circles her neck, marked with the A-LAWS sigil. Most un-Rei-like of all is the microskirt -- it's 'micro,' there's no 'mini' about it -- that seems like one wrong step would send it riding up to her navel. Her legs -- they've filled out since Leo first met Rei, but only marginally -- are covered by thigh high boots.

It's a bizarre sight. But then, this seems like it will be a bizarre time all around.


Leo really, really wishes he was still dreaming, when Rei steps out of the shadows. But he can always tell right away when he 'wakes up' into another dream, and this definitely isn't one of those times. At first, Leo doesn't even turn his head to look at Rei, content to view her through his peripheral vision while he stares into the middle distance, the ripped halves of his blanket clutched in two shaking hands.

Yesterday was... a bad day. He is not at all in the mood for this shit again.

"You again," Leo croaks, his voice hoarse. He doesn't want to talk to her. He doesn't even want to think about the fact that she exists. She gave him his, his 'mission', isn't that enough? Why does she have to haunt him like this? "What do you..." he begins, finally turning his head to glare at Rei.

The glare falters before it even builds up steam when Leo sees what Rei is wearing. His first thought isn't that that is /definitely/ not a standard uniform, or wondering where the hell she got it, or /why/ the hell she got it; his first thought is that she's beautiful.

Which stands to reason. Rei was beautiful... and a copy of a beautiful thing will be beautiful, too. Even if it's a copy of a copy of what must have been a beautif-

Leo takes a deep, shuddering breath, and looks away from Rei again. "What do you want?" He tries for anger again, but only really manages to sound miserable.


Ask Rei no questions, and she'll tell no lies. That's how the arrangement's always worked. Through courtship, through love, and through death. The topic of her clothing fails to come up -- so Rei ignores it as a potential topic of conversation completely.

Ask Rei a question, though, and receive nothing but honesty. Whether it's needed or not. Whether it's needed or not. Rei -- or whatever this beautiful thing is -- moves closer. She walks around the bed. She doesn't have the strut to pull a costume like that off. She looks like a girl playing dress-up and failing to connect the fantasy of her attire to the reality of her movements. Rei sits at the edge of the bed, facing away from Leo. Her hands fold in her lap.

"Leo," Rei says, a third time.

"What do you think I would have done, if you had been the one who died?"

Just like that. No warning. (Well. Three of them, but no hints.)


Well, that's a hell of a question.

Leo opens his mouth to correct Rei, to point out that there's no 'I', just 'she', but the words die in his throat. Even he has to admit it's quibbling, and even if it wasn't, it isn't like picking at the wording would solve anything. He closes his mouth, pressing it into a grim line, and just focuses on breathing for several seconds.

Eventually, he's able to release his death grip on the ruined blanket, and he drapes it as best he can over his lower body. Most women he'd be happy to let ogle him in his underwear, at least now that he's put on some muscle, but it seems... wrong, somehow, with the new Rei. Like he'd be dishonoring Rei's memory, somehow.

"I don't know," he quietly admits, after almost a full minute of silent contemplation. "The same thing as me, I guess..."


"You wouldn't have been brought back," Rei observes. She isn't looking at Leo at all. She's actually looking at the floor. Leo's view of her, despite this tantalizing new costume, is of her back, shrouded by her space-easy greatcoat. Her blue hair is still shaggy. It's a little long, maybe. Due for a trim. Rei usually got it cut around when it got to this length.

Leo's Rei, that is.

"Leo, I want you to understand why I trust you." Rei refuses to look at Leo, still. Her own voice is flat, cold, like touching smooth marble. She seems to be trying to stay alienated. Rei and Leo never really had 'fights,' per se. When Rei was upset, she just shut off for a while. Like she's doing now. Except this time, she's speaking. She's communicating.

"I remember everything, Leo." Rei pauses, then continues, voice seemingly struggling to stay neutral. "Everything. I have every memory that you made. But I can't..."

Rei drifts off, her numb tone quieting. There's a moment before she can continue. "I remember the first time we engaged in sexual relations. It was Christmas. You had given me a diamond necklace. I had given you a picture of myself, at the suggestion of Captain Katsuragi. I did not feel comfortable doing so. So when you moved to initiate relations beyond simple kissing and touching, I felt that I could make it up to you by allowing this to happen."

The discussion of Rei's thought process is delivered as dispassionately as its content. "I enjoyed it. Please don't think I didn't. I remember the awkwardness of struggling in low gravity to keep from slipping too far apart. I remember how it felt when you entered me. It hurt. I made a noise, and you stopped, but I whispered to you to keep going. You were unsure of yourself. As was I. When you felt my blood against your thigh, you were startled. I rememebr being unsure if you were aware that that happened when someone's virginity was lost. I kissed you to make you stop panicking. You finished. We held each other."

Rei lets the story sit for a long time. Nearly a full minute passes in complete silence. "I remember these things, but I don't feel any emotional connection to them. They feel like a past life. Like someone has put a glass wall there. And I can only look through, never touch."

Rei's head dips slightly, the most movement she's made since sitting down. "I know that you would not want me to be able to touch these feelings anyway. But I can't help but look. I can't stop myself."

"Leo."

Rei turns to look at Leo now, over one shoulder, her gaze dead and dazed. "What do you think would happen to you if you died? What would come next?"


Leo barely breathes while Rei recaps the first time he and Rei made love. It's unsettling - horrifying, even - in so many different ways.

There's the obvious, of course; Leo remembers losing his virginity in a much more sensational fashion, all the smell of Rei's hair, and the feel of curves - such as they were, back then - of her body, and the taste of her mouth. To hear this Rei recite the events in that monotone... it's like being dissected. It's unnerving.

And then, of course, there's the fact that /she wasn't there./ She shouldn't have those memories. They're private, personal. They're not supposed to be shared with anyone else, not like that.

His horror and disgust at what amounts to unintentional voyeurism is briefly derailed by a beeping in his head as he gets, of all things, a call. The young man reaches up to poke desperately at his neck, just underneath the left ear, until the ringing stops. He's not about to take a phone call in the middle of this.

Focus. Just focus. What would happen if he died. Just answer her questions, and she'll go away. Don't think about it. Just get rid of her, as fast as possible.

"I'd go to Heaven," Leo explains impatiently. "Eternal paradise... all that crap." He hesitates, briefly; a voice in the back of his mind challenges that that's where he'd /really/ go, with all the things he's done, all the people he's killed. He ignores it, and forges onwards. "That's where she went, too. I'm sure of it."

That, not even the voice can deny. Rei was... strange, in a lot of ways, but she was a good person at heart, Leo is sure of it. An angel. /His/ angel.


'Angel' is a dangerous word to use.

Rei watches Leo's face as he delivers his grand proclamation -- that he's sure of it. And she doesn't have a reply. Not a verbal one, anyway. It starts with her looking slightly to the left. And then slowly, she drags her head the other way, until she's facing slightly to the right. Her eyes stay on Leo the whole time. The movement repeats a few times. Rei Ayanami shakes her head 'no.' It might be the cruelest thing she's ever done.

"Leo," Rei whispers.

"She--" the first time Rei's bothered to make the distinction "--didn't go to eternal paradise. She went back to where she came from. To where I came from. To where the first one came from."

Rei breaks eye contact, looking down at the sheets. She's ashamed. She knows she just did something awful. She wishes she could let Leo continue pretending. She wishes she could let Leo be happy. Unfortunately, there's a lot worse to come. She knows this. "I was wrong, though. Before."

Rei looks back up to meet Leo's gaze again. If she can feel his fury, his impatience, it doesn't show. She weathers them as she weathers everything. As she always did. As she probably always will. "Before, when we spoke. I told you that my soul -- her soul -- our soul -- that it was disease. That it was plague. I was inaccurate. Because now, in that soul..."

Rei swings her legs onto the bed. Somehow, she avoids an upskirt flash while doing so. It'd completely ruin the mood, for one thing. But she sits on her knees, hands still folded in her lap, facing Leo as attentively as a dog staring down its master. "There is good in the soul we came from. There /is/ good. Because you put it there. When... 'she' went back to it... she brought back what you had given to her. To me. It won't be enough. But."

Rei sounds like she's dangerously close to expressing a human feeling. "If anyone could have saved my -- our soul, Leo," Rei whispers, voice cracking.

"It'd have been you."


Leo blinks dumbly when Rei shakes her head. What? You can't... you can't just say 'no, she didn't go to Heaven'. That's not allowed. That's not how God - how /faith/ - works, you don't get to just declare that someone didn't go to paradise.

But the way Rei says it, she sounds so... /sure./ Rei has never lied to him... or, at least, his Rei didn't, and something tells him that this one wouldn't, either. 'Where she came from'...

... what the fuck is she talking about?

He certainly hears the rest of Rei's words, but they don't really click. He'll go over the conversation later, certainly, and that'll bring with it a whole new slew of emotions and implications.

But for now, he's stuck on that denial. What is she /talking/ about? Souls come from... where /do/ souls come from? Leo makes a small sound of annoyance, and for several seconds just stares at Rei, her knees folded underneath her. The young man takes a deep, shaky breath, and then shifts his legs underneath him to climb onto all fours, the blanket slipping off of his lower body.

Once he's on all fours, Leo crawls a little closer to Rei. He stops before he enters what counts as her personal space, but he's still drenched in sweat and wearing nothing put a pair of dark boxer shorts. Suddenly, in light of Rei's memories, staying modest in front of her doesn't seem that important.

"R-" Leo begins. Once again, the name dies in his throat. He really needs to figure out something to call her... he briefly considers 'Ichi', but discards the thought immediately, at least for now. Gallows humor has always been hit-and-miss for him, and he's in no mood for it now; he's a little ashamed the thought even came to mind.

Leo huffs, and continues, "Listen to me very carefully." It's... difficult, being this close to her, especially with their current respective outfits. But this is something he has, /has/, to know the answer to. "I need you to tell me what you mean by 'where she came from.'"


Rei is, for the moment, like a deer caught in headlights. Her position is hardly helpless. On her knees like she is, she could easily get up. She could fall back onto her rear, scoot away, kick out if necessary. She could move. Theoretically, anyway. As Leo moves toward her in the dark, though, Rei is visibly frozen to the spot.

Whether she wants to move, though, is the million dollar question. It always was, with Rei. Whether she wanted anything. Or whether she just took what she was given.

Rei's hands stay in her lap. Her thumb twitches. She clearly just suppressed a movement. Probably a touch. For a long moment after Leo's request is posed, she doesn't do anything. She just sits there. She may or may not be trembling. It's dark in here. It's hard to tell.

"The most recent Angel -- Sandalphon -- was the eighth," Rei says. As ever, she's coming in through the side door. "Israfel was the seventh. Ramiel was the sixth. Gaghiel, the fifth. Shamsel, the fourth. Sachiel, the third."

Rei Ayanami's eyes fix on Leo's. She stares for a long moment. Her face is tight. This is something she can't afford to be emotional over. This is something more important than her.

"If you've reviewed the available information on Angels," Rei says, quietly, carefully, "did you notice that they begin at number three?"

Rei doesn't blink. She never blinks. "Leo."

"Why do you think you are told nothing about the Second Angel?"


Leo's heart skips a beat when his mind jumps to the conclusion Rei so easily led him to. Bullshit. That's impossible. She can't be implying /that/, that's too... it's ridiculous, unthinkable.

The young man's nostrils flare with anger, or perhaps irritation. His emotions are in such a jumble right now, he couldn't explain them even if he tried. Not that he ever could... and although with each passing day, Leo becomes more and more of an adult, in some ways he hasn't changed at all.

"I thought..." Leo begins. What DID he think? He'd read the files, yes, at least those of them NERV would allow him access to. He had noticed that they started at three. He had assumed that the first two were... confidential. Which, he supposes, they still are. The kicker is that he'd never asked why.

When he works through the thought process like that, any assumption he might insist he made sounds foolish. NERV said something, and he believed it, because he had no reason /not/ to believe it.

He's increasingly sure that isn't going to continue.

"Tell me," he demands, voice raspy with a mixture of apprehension and outright fear. "Tell me what... who..." His voice cracks, and he swallows roughly. "Tell me about the Second Angel."


Rei reaches out, now, finally. Her thin arms reach out, for Leo's bare shoulders. She can feel his strength, his tension. But slowly, she guides him down. To rest is head. That she's placing him on her lap is beside the point -- at least, to her. Likewise that there's a stretch of very warm, very real flesh between the end of her skirt and the tops of her boots. Likewise that her skin is smooth and soft against Leo's body. She rests him there not out of desire, but because she knows what she's going to say next is going to hurt him.

And if she places him there, then she won't have to see it quite as much.

"The Second Angel..." Rei begins, speaking gently, quietly, as soothingly as one can be without any inflection or emotion in one's voice. "When she arrived on Earth... that was the First Impact. She was contained. She is under Tokyo-03. She and the First Angel are the sources of NERV's innovation."

Bad choice of words, maybe.

"To do what NERV seeks to do... they will use them both. But in the meantime... they use them for other things. The Second Angel is the subject NERV used for their experiments with the soul, Leo." Rei stops. Her hands rest on Leo's head. Touching his hair. He can feel her fingers tense up.

"To extract pieces of it. One bit at a time."

Rei doesn't have very long fingernails. Otherwise there'd probably be a risk of scratching.

"And to put those pieces into bodies created to be fusions. Part human."

The instant it takes Rei to draw a quiet breath in seems like forever.

"Part Angel."

Rei's lap is so warm.

"Like me."


At first, Leo resists Rei's pull; the thought of being intimate with Rei, even in a relatively chaste manner, only reminds him of how /his/ Rei is gone forever, a reminder that he gets all too often from so, so many little things. Innocent, harmless things. Things that, for one reason or another, remind him of Rei, only for a second, but in doing so ruin his mood for the rest of the day.

But... after a moment, Leo's head sags into Rei's lap. He's so lonely... this little stint of 'medical leave' has done little but seperate him from Louise, one of his few sources of comfort. His attempts at getting similar comforts out of Jung Freud, earlier in the night, were... rebuffed, to say the least, much to Leo's confusion and chagrin.

She's not his Rei, but she's... someone, /anyone/, and right now, that's good enough for him. But... when he was with Louise, he didn't feel this guilt, the same kind of sharp, instant regret that he imagines adulterers must feel.

So why is he feeling it /now?/

Rei's monotone may not seem very soothing, but to Leo, it's the best sound the world can give him right now. As the young woman speaks, he sags ever further into her lap, eventually lifting his arms to wrap them around her waist. Despite Rei's manner of speech, Leo can sense her apprehension. Whatever she has to say, she's obviously not looking forward to doing so.

Somewhere around 'put those pieces into bodies', Leo stops breathing. She can't be about to say what he thinks she's going to. She can't. She can't, she can't, she can't-

But she does.

Leo's entire body stiffens, his grip on Rei's waste tightening. The breath that was stagnating in his lungs sputters out in a gasp that only wishes it was a sob. The implication, of course, is obvious.

"Why?" he asks weakly, after only a few seconds of obviously painful silence. He doesn't sound angry... not at all, in fact. Just shocked, confused, scared. "Why didn't she... tell me?"


Rei's hands stay on Leo's head. She's not looking down. Even when his grip around her waist tightens -- uncomfortably so -- she refuses to look down. Her head tilts back. She stares at the ceiling. Up at the darkness. She wishes she were still in a place where the symbolism would be lost on her.

Rei runs a hand along Leo's temple. It's ginger, but not tender. Like someone who knows that you're supposed to stroke people's heads when they're having a hard time, but doesn't have any experience beyond what they've seen on TV. Or what they've seen in memories of a past life.

"Because before she met you, she was an object. A tool. An experiment. A weapon. A pilot." Rei's gaze settles -- still not down at Leo, but down from the ceiling. She looks at the headboard of the bed. It's an arbitrary point to fix upon. But it's there. "You made her into something beyond any of those. You made her into a person. And she never wanted to let that go."

"Never."

Rei sounds... fragile. Even though her monotone never deviates from its metronomic rhythm, there's some indefinable fracture running across her words, like a long, thin crack in a window. "When she died, she went back. Back to the soul we came from. And she's there now, Leo. You gave her something that can never be taken away. Can never be diluted... can never... absorb back into the whole."

Rei closes her eyes. "She's waiting in there, Leo."

"Waiting for someone to end her pain."

Rei's voice grows quieter. "Waiting for someone to set her free."


Leo told himself he wouldn't do this again, the first time Rei came to see him. But he can't let her go, not now; at least like this, he's not alone. He'll take the knife of regret in his heart over being alone. I'm sorry, Rei, he thinks, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, his cheek pressed against Rei's bare thigh. I'm so sorry...

The more Rei speaks, the more the pain in his heart grows. He was sure that by now he'd be used to it, used to the deep, aching agony whenever he touches the new Rei, whenever he speaks to her, whenever he looks at her, but every time he does it's like he's feeling it for the first time, and everyt ime he's sure he won't survive it.

But he still can't cry. He's sure, by now, that he's broken somehow, that he's lost something he can never get back. But the whys and hows aren't that important, really. All the matters is that relief is impossible. He'll never get rid of the pain. All he can do is look for comfort, distractions.

He's scared that won't be enough.

"I wouldn't have been mad," Leo chokes out. "I don't care... I don't care if she was... what she was... I love her... I love her so much..." He takes a few short, ragged breaths, his shoulders shaking. "And I n-never told her..."


Rei's eyes remain closed. It's hard enough for her right now, hearing Leo gasp his lament. It hurts her in a way she can't understand. It hurts her because she /doesn't/ understand. Because she /can't/ connect. Because she /can't/ look into her memories and feel those same feelings. Because she /can't/ whisper to Leo that 'his' Rei knew it.

Because as much as she hopes that her predecessor did... she just doesn't know.

SOME TIME AGO

"FUCK!" Leo screams, recoiling from the handle. His palms are already seared red from a split second of contact, and for a few beats Leo just stares at the hatch, hands trembling with pain.

Then he squares his shoulders and reaches up, fumbling out of his flight jacket as best he can, ignorant of the sharp pains it elicits in his bleeding - and now burned - hands. Within a few seconds, he has his jacket wrapped around his hands, and he goes for the handle again.

His impromptu heat shield doesn't do a lot to stop the heat, but it's enough, and Leo throws all of his strength into opening the plug, accompanying his efforts with a wordless roar of effort and pain.

Inside the plug: Rei Ayanami is sprawled over her Evangelion's control deck. The LCL of the plug pours out, washing over Leo and spilling in a massive pool around the boy veteran's ankles. Once it is gone, the plug feels... empty, hollow. Dark. Rei's form doesn't move. She's clearly wounded -- plugsuit torn and stained with blood, and the tangy musk of LCL covers the stench of burnt flesh. After a moment, though, Rei Ayanami sputters and looks up, weakly. One eye refuses to open. "L-Leo," she rasps, her voice weak, lips cracked. And then Rei tumbles forward, losing consciousness completely, but still breathing. Still alive.

And that's when Rei knew.

NOW

"This isn't the end, Leo," Rei -- this Rei, the new Rei, the now Rei, the 'fake' Rei whispers. She tries to be consoling. But she's not really sure how. It's difficult, unintuitive. "Nothing ends for us until you end it."

Which 'us' Rei means is left unclear.

"You'll have your chance to say it to her, Leo," Rei says. She starts to carefully extract herself from Leo's grasp, slowly moving herself to stand up. In the process, Leo can see, well, whatever he likes. She's too distracted to try and block him. "You'll see her again. At the end. When you do what you need to."

Rei stands up, and hovers at the edge of the bed for a moment. "I know you're trying to move on, Leo. And when this is all over... when you've stopped NERV... when I'm gone... when the Second Angel is gone... I hope that you can. I don't know you like she did, Leo. But I want you to be happy."

Rei begins to walk toward the door. When she's reached it, she turns again. A sliver of light illuminates her face. Her crimson eyes. "For what it's worth, Leo," she says, softly. "I do believe in an afterlife. In something beyond all of this. There is a better world."

Rei's last words before disappearing through the door:

"There must be."


After the warmth and smoothness of Rei's lap, the bedsheets might as well be sandpaper when Leo's cheek drops onto them after Rei eases her wait out of his grasp. It takes a little doing, but he does, eventually, let go. He doesn't take the chance to sneak a peek up her skirt; he may be an increasingly notorious horndog, but even he has his limits.

As Rei begins her farewell, Leo remains slumped on the bed, his eyes still squeezed shut. How does anyone do this? How is he supposed to deal with it hurting like this all the time? He can barely listen to Rei, now, barely even think. All he can focus on is the pain. He wants, he /needs/, to go back to work, to be with Louise, something, /anything/ to distract him from this suffering.

The door shuts behind Rei, and Leo rolls onto his back to stare up at the darkness. He reaches up to clutch at his head, grabbing as much of his short hair in his fists as he can. Relief. He has to find relief, somehow, he can't do this, he /can't/-

As Rei ghosts her way through the halls of Tannanliel, back from whence she came, a sound follows her; Leo, screaming wordlessly at his ceiling in anguish. It carries surprisingly far.

But it doesn't help.

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