|Summary: In the wake of Leo Stenbuck's metaphorical explosion about Ralla Traln Triald's literal one, Latooni Subota comes a-calling.|
Leo Stenbuck sits in his room aboard the Shirogane, slumped at his desk. Unlike most of the quarters on the ship, Leo's is outside the gravity block, back near the engines; the room has gravity so small it might as well not exist, and is filled with the constant low hum of engines and Tesla Drive operating.
He doesn't mind the latter, and prefers the former. Theoretically, now, he could even switch it off if he wanted to, thanks to Ilyse Amsel's handy dandy wizard brain... but the gravity manipulation device she built for him he has yet to bother to figure out how to work. He's been... busy, let's say, since the moment he got back to the Shirogane.
Leo's A-LAWS uniform is rumpled and wrinkly, which is because he slept in it. Well... 'slept'. In fact, he lay in bed for six hours staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. And now he's awake, and - theoretically - working on something on the computer on his desk.
That's not going so hot, either. He keeps forgetting what he's supposed to be doing. He can't concentrate. And, every once in awhile, he just puts his elbows on his desk, clutches his head in his hands, and just... sits there.
This happens to be what he's doing right now.
Latooni Subota wanted to go to Leo last night, to talk to him. She felt guilty that she hadn't told him ahead of time, having assumed that A-LAWS had done it. She felt extra guilty after her attempts to talk to him were rebuffed. Had she made a mistake? She knew she occasionally did, in social situations... and his behaviour was odd enough that she might have read it wrong.
But she waited. He told her to, and she wanted to let him cool down a little. Latooni stayed long enough to check in the Fairlion and pick up a shuttle, something more useful for getting around. The lack of Wildraubtier hurt there. She hopes Ingram appreciates the damn thing.
Having docked with the Shirogane, Latooni found her way to the low-gravity segment. It doesn't bother her very much; she takes long, loping steps and is pretty coordinated for someone who is wearing a shortish skirt while doing it. It helps that she's used to the Shirogane and knows more or less where she's going.
Latooni knocks at the door. She has not bothered to call ahead.
Leo doesn't lift his head from where it's buried in his hands, but his shoulders do tense up. Fantastic. Someone has come a-calling. Well... he wasn't going to be able to put off talking to anyone forever, he supposes. Who'll it be, he wonders? He's too tired - physically and emotionally - to even muster a guess.
He just hopes it isn't Revive Revival, because if it is, he's not sure his visitor will be leaving his room the same way he came in.
"Come in," Leo croaks, still without so much as moving. He does open his eyes, at least, and glance sidelong at his door to look at whoever'll be entering.
The door slides open a moment later.
Latooni is not in uniform. She is wearing a white blouse and a dark violet skirt slightly shorter than her uniform skirt (Garnet picked it). This is probably her way of attempting to put Leo at his ease, though she doubts that it will actually work.
"Hello," Latooni says, followed immediately by: "Are you feeling all right? I don't want to intrude..." That is a lie, she /does/ want to intrude and find out what's up.
It takes Leo a moment to actually put together what he's seeing when the door opens to reveal Latooni. He may not have been able to manage a guess as to /exactly/ who would be at the door, but there was definitely a List, and Latooni was just as definitely not on it.
She is right, though, in that her attire doesn't do much to put him at ease. Her appearance at all might, a little, but it's hard to tell; he's visibly exhausted, and when he lowers his hands away from his head, there are dark circles under his eyes.
"It's fine," he says quietly, turning his chair to face the door and rising uncertainly to his feet. He only manages it awkwardly, thanks to the fatigue, and has to grab his desk with one hand to keep from floating up into the middle of the room.
"Come in," he offers as he rises, weakly gesturing Latooni further into the room with one hand.
Latooni Subota had doubted it. But Garnet suggested it, and Latooni learned long ago to just do what Garnet 'suggested' because it was much faster than any other possible resolution. And she usually lost the arguments, anyway.
This time, Lat wishes she'd tried. She hadn't counted on Leo's room being in near-zero gravity.
"You didn't sleep," she says, as she glides in. It doesn't take an analyst to spot /that/. She didn't much either, but then again, she can get away with it. Leo can't.
Latooni is unsure where to go from there. She ends up standing (floating, mostly) awkwardly for a few moments, and suddenly says, "Do you want to talk now?"
The door hisses shut automatically behind Latooni, because this is the God damn future.
Leo stares tiredly at Latooni for another few seconds after she asks her question. He doesn't bother confirming that he didn't sleep; it's obvious, he's sure, even to people who aren't nearly as smart as Latooni is.
After a few seconds, though, he does answer her question... if in an unusual way. Specifically, he answers it by pushing lightly off of the floor and gliding across it towards Latooni.
He doesn't force himself to a stop before he actually bumps into her, but it isn't like the impact is very hard, and the moment it happens Leo wraps his arms around her and leans in to rest his forehead on the top of Latooni's head. "... I'm such a fuckup," he murmurs miserably.
That part was unexpected.
Latooni freezes up as Leo wraps her arms around her, but almost immediately relaxes in exactly the way she /wouldn't/ have as recently as six months ago. It takes her a moment after that for her to raise her own arms.
"You are not," Latooni says, quietly. "Nobody can do everything. Nobody. I ... I tried, once. But it isn't physically possible. You are doing everything you can, now, aren't you?"
"I don't know," Leo sighs in response, his voice muffled by Latooni's hair. "Does it matter if I am? It's like... I ruin everything I touch. No matter how hard I try, everything always falls apart." He sounds miserable enough to start crying at any moment.
He's certain he won't, of course, as much as he'd like it to happen.
Leo tightens his grip on Latooni, pulling her against his chest, and lets out another shuddering sigh. "I'm sorry... God, I'm such- such an asshole..."
Latooni Subota does not know what, precisely, brought this on. Before he was angry. Now he's not. She supposes it is an improvement, though, that he's not flipping out on the radio. Or on her. She didn't really want to be yelled at like that again.
"... You said some things you didn't mean." Latooni is less muffled, because she refuses to talk directly into his chest; she turned her head a little. "Princess Shine apologizes, by the way. She told me to say that. But you don't ruin everything. It's... "
She tries to look up at Leo rather than have him talk to her hair (which still looks totally wild, especially in no gravity). She does not pull away. "You're trying. It's hard. But..."
Leo lifts his head to allow Latooni to look up at him, and even in his current state of mind doesn't hesitate to meet her gaze. /He/ certainly wouldn't have done /that/ six months ago. "... I guess," he admits begrudgingly. Only now is he starting to piece together that she doesn't actually know what he did to Louise. Of course she wouldn't; it isn't like it went up on Neo-YouTube.
He wonders, briefly, if he should tell her. But... it isn't like it's any of her business, right? And he's going to make it right. Soon. He just needs to... ... just... soon.
After several seconds of silently looking Latooni in the eye, Leo unwraps his right arm from around her and lifts it to brush some hair out of her eyes and tuck it behind her ear. It is tougher than it seems, because zero G + Latooni's hair = ???. "I'm sorry," he mumbles, eventually. "For yelling at you."
Latooni Subota's hair, under normal conditions, is 'uncontrolled'. Just imagine it being uncontrolled in three dimensions.
"It's all right. You were very stressed," Latooni says, finally breaking the gaze; she looks down but doesn't manage to get further than about Leo's shoulder. "But I thought I would have information that you would like to hear. I don't know if you got it already, as I know Soma was looking, too..."
Trust Latooni to bring it back to business while she is in what could pass for a 'tender embrace'. She is not, howeve,r letting go - so there's that, at least.
She also has no idea what happened to Louise. They aren't close. Leo is probably lucky.
Probably lucky in-/deed./
Leo shakes his head. "We had a meeting," he explains, "But we didn't... do a lot of talking. If you know anything... please..." He gives Latooni a light squeeze with the arm still wrapped around her body in lieu of continuing the sentence.
He still sounds pretty miserable, but he already sounds better than he did when Latooni arrived; maybe it's the reminder that there's yet someone out there who doesn't hate him. Maybe it's her reassurances that he's not the monster he spent the better part of the last twelve hours convincing himself he was.
Or maybe it's just the physical contact. That one seems awfully likely, in act, especially considering how after Latooni drops her gaze, he gently brushes the backs of his fingers down her cheek and neck to rest his hand on her shoulder.
Or maybe he's just crazy.
Latooni Subota is normally quite aversive to physical contact, but today she's managing it. She trusts Leo like she trusts almost no other male her own age. Very few females, too, but there's Shine.
She actually lets him rest his hand there. It's harmless. She just tells herself that and does not flinch even once. "Okay," Latooni says, closing her eyes for a moment so that she can bring all the details back to memory. She doesn't really /need/ to, but it makes it easier.
Opening them again, she looks up. "Ralla was caught between two enemies for a very long time. One was in a Dom variant I am relatively unfamiliar with; I had it identified as a Dom Funf. The other was Yazan's unit. She lost the main cameras early on, so I got this from secondary sources. Her machine was - badly damaged. It looks like they attacked the engine."
Latooni pauses for a moment. Leo isn't going to like the next part. "We found the cockpit block seperated from the machine with severe damage. The seat was removed from its mounting. This was not only combat damage; the restraints were cut. There was blood on the chair, and a very bloody uniform coat near the wreckage."
Another pause. Longer. "We did not find a body. There were also no reports of anyone else finding one. It is likely that she is alive. Further, there was no blood trail - so she may have been treated there."
Leo does his best to keep up with the telling of the story, but it's kind of tough; he can barely think straight, thanks to his involuntary all-nighter, and he keeps getting distracted by little things like how Latooni's hair smells nice.
'Yazan' definitely gets his attention, though, judging by how his entire body tenses up at the mere mention of the name. Leo anxiously licks his lips and lifts his eyes away from Latooni's face to stare into the middle distance; his hand slips off her shoulder, and his arm wraps around her again.
The young man is silent for several seconds after Latooni finishes her explanation. "So," he begins eventually, "What do... you think happened? The DC force her down and then... capture her, or?" That's not a fun thought; there's only a few reasons he can imagine why the DC would want her.
The first one that springs to mind is, of course, the new School. But... they'd want her younger, wouldn't they? And probably not... well, frankly, already broken. Leo sighs heavily, closes his eyes, and leans into Latooni's head again, although at least this time he turns to press his cheek against her instead of his forehead.
The School likes its 'recruits' as young as possible. Latooni was brought in before birth. Arado and Seolla were barely two. An adult would be unheard of. Setme can't brainwash them unless she gets her hooks in early.
Latooni does not respond to that for a long time. She stays in Leo's arms instead, but doesn't actually give him a response short of putting her head on /his/ shoulder. It's about as high up as she can reach. She wishes she was taller, again.
"I don't know," Latooni eventually says. "It doesn't seem to be the Crusaders. They would have made it more obvious - they would have sent troops down immediately to recover her if that was their goal. Or, if it was... Koch... he would have bragged."
There's another one of those annoying pauses. "I consider it likelier that she was found by someone else, unexpectedly. But I don't know who. Or why she hasn't checked in, other than she is not concious. There was a fair bit of blood..."
"Mmm..." Leo 'says' vaguely, without lifting his head or opening his eyes. The discussion is, at least, helping him sketch out possibilities. So it probably wasn't the DC. That leaves... what? Katharon. Trailers. Some civilian... would there even have been civilians there? Leo tries to remember where the sortie even was, but he can't, his mind is all... fuzzy.
He didn't really care when he was reading the AAR, anyways. He just cared about Ralla.
Ralla. Focus on Ralla. Why hasn't she checked in? No comms access. Comatose. Imprisoned. An infinite number of things more worse than any of those, he's sure, even if he can't think of them.
'Doesn't want to' never even crosses Leo's mind; of course she'd check in. She'd know he was worried about her. She'd check in, if it was possible. Knowing Ralla, she might check in even if it wasn't.
"Promise we'll find her," Leo urges dazedly. It's a childish request, and he realizes it, but he wants to hear Latooni say it anyways. "Even if... if she's dead."
'Because she doesn't want to' didn't occur to Latooni, either. She knows Ralla well enough to know that, barring amnesia, that isn't an option.
Her mind is not fuzzy, and she's read the same reports, but they didn't help her come to a conclusion. If they /had/, she would be out there right now, trying to bring Ralla back, make sure she's all right...
...but, because this is Latooni, if she actually wanted to stay gone, she would make that happen, too. Cyber-Newtypes need to make their own decisions. They're people, too.
"I promise," Latooni says, "that I will do anything in my power to find her. I don't want to just - leave without knowing." Latooni feels that way not just about Ralla, who is personally important to her friend, but to most soldiers. It's why she's good at keeping track of them.
Leo isn't sure what he'd do if Ralla wanted to stay gone... again, because the thought has never even occured to him. ... at least not in this specific case. He had talked with her, before, about whether she was happy in the military, as a Cyber-Newtype. She had told him that she 'was happy when she could be of service.'
Leo also wasn't sure how he felt about that.
Leo doesn't respond immediately to Latooni's promise, save to give her another squeeze. A few seconds pass... and then a few more... ... and then a few more...
Around second twenty two, Leo's grip on Latooni slackens slightly, and he slumps against her a little more heavily. This is the point at which it becomes obvious that he has fallen asleep.
Latooni Subota seems content to hold (or be held) for a few moments. She assumes Leo is thinking.
Then, after he shifts in her arms, she realizes that no, he's just exhausted. Poor boy, she thinks to herself. He couldn't sleep. He must be really broken-up about Ralla if a promise like that was all he needed to rest...
"I promise," she repeats, though only to herself; Leo is in no situation to respond.
That done, she starts the ardurous process of actually getting him to his bed. The one thing she does /not/ know is how low-gravity sleeping works. This could be an adventure in and of itself.