|One Of The Worst Times You'll Never Remember|
|Summary: Leo Stenbuck drinks too much. Excellen Browning makes the mistake of entering his field of view while he's drunk.|
Leo Stenbuck is on one of the 'downs' on the emotional rollercoaster that is his life, lately. Louise Halevy is mad at him after he punched Revive Revival in the face following the 'Cyber-Newtype's' reveal of Ralla Traln Triald's fate... which means he's spent the last few nights alone.
This is far more upsetting to Leo than the fact that Revive retaliated so viciously to being struck that he had to be pushed into cellular regeneration therapy... as he usually is whenever he's wounded in combat. It is important, after all, that A-LAWS keeps its aces in tip-top shape... especially aces with fragile space bones.
But, cell regen or no, Leo is still miserable. Perhaps this is why he's currently in his room, sitting at his desk, slowly spinning back and forth, a half-empty can of beer in his hand. That, itself, wouldn't be so bad... but there's another half-dozen, /fully/ empty cans on his desk, along with various other trash; Red Comet energy drink cans, protein bar wrappers, et cetera, et cetera.
The rest of the young Captain's room is in similar disarray. His bedsheets are in a lump on one side of the bed instead of actually on it. Piles of dirty laundry litter the floor, one of which contains the currently 'napping' form of his Haro. Things have apparently fallen off shelves en masse. It basically looks like a bomb went off.
At least the Shirogane is currently within the Earth's gravity; Leo's room is back near the engines, outside of the gravity block, and permeated by the constant hum of engines and Tesla drives. He prefers the lack of gravity whenever the ship is in space, and doesn't mind the hum... of course, right now, he's too drunk to really notice either.
Someone has been avoiding her calls.
Give that Latooni asked her to keep working on the Ralla Case in her absence, Excellen has kept up with what little she can. She is no Ace Detective, nor does she have magical (cyber)newtype powers. But Excellen is much more observant than most people would give the woman credit for -- ironic, given her noted sniper skills -- and her own mix and match word choice is matched by some credible mental multitasking - and inexplicable logic jumps. Occasionally.
She's read the reports, she's seen the crash site and she herself has reservations on who (or what) they may find.. But investigating the trail for the missing GNX Team member would be going much more smoothly if Leo would respond to her radio calls and email. The blonde has grown increasingly irritated by the lack of even a cold shoulder to her requested assistance.
So it is that she takes it upon herself to go in person to Leo's quarters; once again in uniform, but this time with a manilla file, notepad and clipboard under one arm. The notepad is flipped open, with numerous scribbles and lots of balloon bubbles connected by black lines. She knows that the Captain is aboard at the moment, and while she heard his team was called into a meeting with Captain Revival, the gossip network hasn't filtered out the source of his recent injuries. Plenty of speculation on what Leo did this time to get kicked out of Louise's bed, though, something that earns a small frown from Excellen.
She's not sure what to make of all of that, if only for Latooni's sake.. But that can wait for another day.
Arriving at his door, hand raps knuckles loudly. Excellen looks rather bored, all told.
When Excellen knocks, Leo stops his constant back-and-forth swiveling to stare intently at the door into his room, as if it had committed some sort of crime. It takes him several seconds to work out that someone is knocking, and that he should answer it. But it's so /far/... Leo looks down at the can in his hand, and then at the door control panel, and frowns thoughtfully for another few beats.
Then he chucks the can at the panel.
It hits the wall about a foot away with a loud *THUNK*, falls to the floor, and immediately begins to empty its contents onto his floor, beer pooling in front of the door. Scowling, Leo reaches under his desk and fishes out another full, unopened can. He's just lining up his second throw when it occurs to him that he didn't actually lock the door.
"It'sh open," Leo calls, his voice slurred. And then, without any care for what he just did, he swivels back to face his desk, opens the new can, and begins drinking.
The door slides open, pouring brightest light into the room from the well lit corridor. Blinking a bit at such shadowy (and filty) surroundings, Excellen hesitates a fraction of a second before stepping in. Not in the least because of the puddle of liquid spreading from the spilt can, currently staining the carpet dark(er).
Eyebrows arch very slightly. Oooooookay. That is one heck of a lot of cans -- surely he can't have drunk them all in one hit? Only once she has surveyed the mess that is Leo's room do eyes light upon the boy himself, and weight shifts as she can't her hips, witholding a sigh. "So you do exist! Been tryin' ta reach ya, over the thing Lat emailed you and me about." The thing that's probably driven you to drink no less.
Her tone is exceptionally dry as she glances at her surroundings again, then back to Stenbuck. "Or now a bad time?"
Leo could have thought that out better. When the door opens and lets in hallway light, Leo recoils like he was a vampire, lifting an arm to shade his eyes. Unfortunately, he does this without... ceasing the action of drinking, and he ends up sort of jostling the can and spilling beer all over his chest.
Which, by the way, is bare. Leo Stenbuck haet shirt.
Excellen's words elicit, for a moment, only a confused squint from Leo, as his eyes adjust to the new light and he tries to piece together what she even just said. After a few beats, he either gets it or decides he doesn't care enough to keep trying, and raises his latest beverage in something resembling a wave.
"He~ey, no way," he assures Excellen, all but tripping over even such simple words. "Aaanytime'sh a good time for you, gorgeoush~" He clumsily sets his drink down on his desk and reaches underneath it again, coming up with another can, which he holds out to Excellen. "Wan' one?"
THE LIGHT, IT BURRRRRRRNSSSSS.
But only for a few moments, until your eyes adjust. Since Excellen has entered the dark from light, she too has to wait for her vision to adapt; the undergarments strewn over lighting fixtures (such as..the desk monitor, hohoho, nice boxers, Leo) rather defeat the purpose.
Watching the slovenly captain spill his beverage over himself, Excellen's brows arch higher as her smile falters slightly. Oooooookay, what the. The way he trips over his words, too, in addition to his lack of coordination, broadcast everything she needs to know even before she makes note of the text on the can. She doesn't comment on the compliment, which really isn't much of one, given the state he's in. "Thanks, buuuut, I think I'll save mine for later. I am on the clock, after all~!" she teases, head canting to one side as she accepts the offered can and waggles it at him, before setting it (and her paperwork) on the desk. "Aren't you a little young for these?"
If Leo were a little more sober, he would, once again, thank God that all of the underwear he now owns are simple teal, A-LAWS branded boxer shorts, and not embarrassing kid's underoos.
That would be mortifying.
"Your lossh," Leo informs Excellen with a shrug, reaching for the open can again. He doesn't quite get his hand closed around it before Excellen makes her observation about him being too young to drink, and his face contorts into a sneer.
"Ohhh, shure," he says viciously. "I'm too young t' drink, but 'm not too young for- for, uh-" It takes him a little bit of groping across his bare chest to find what he's looking for, but when he does, he points them out to Excellen. "- theshe, right?"
'These' are a large pattern of tiny, faded scars; shrapnel wounds, from back in the day, before he became important enough to push into cell regen. "Or, or for theshe," the young man continues, pulling back his hair and scooting up his headband to show a long, thin white line across his scalp; another scar.
"Old enough to, to kill shomebody, but not old enough to drink," Leo scowls, rising unsteadily out of his seat - accidentally sweeping several empty cans off of his desk onto the floor as he does - and staggering towards his bed. "What a crock of fuckin'... fuck."
"You know," he adds, whirling to face Excellen again and thrusting an accusing finger at her. The action makes him lose his balance, and he collapses gracelessly onto his bed. "The... the drinking age in... ... place, the place with the guys." His brow furrows in confusion, and he gestures uncertainly. "Help me out here. The... Z-word, Z-something, I think..."
When Leo is sober enough to remember any of this, dying of mortification will no doubt be the least of his concerns.
The sudden change in demeanour has her leaning back a bit, if only to avoid froth as Leo gestures about with his new can of beer. He does, of course, have a point about the scars, and her expression softens slightly in sympathy; he's hardly likely to notice, given the state he's in right now.
"Classy language, you talk ta all the girls like that or am I just special today?" There's no sting or anger to her words, still cheerful in the face of his bitterness. "You're not the only one ta bear scars, ya know." Even if it is regretful that he got his so young. Mindful of his shambling pace, and the disgraceful mess of floor and room, Excellen minds her step as she follows beyond arm's length as he moves from one side to the other.
"Zanzibar?" Excellen offers, rather quick to begin rattling off several names. "Zangoro? Zafta? Or do you mean Zaibach?" Arms cross, conveniently adding additional emphasis to her bust, and the gloved fingers of her left hand splay elegantly over her lips as she comes to a stop beside Leo's bed. Excellen's head then tilts to one side, looking down at Leo far too calmly. "There's also Zeon, of course."
She'd be amused, if this wasn't such a sad scene.
Halfway through Excellen's list of names, Leo slumps backwards to stare at the ceiling; when she names Zeon, he lifts a finger triumphantly into the air and declares, "That one!" He opens his mouth as if to say more, but doesn't immediately; there is a pregnant pause, and then...
... "What was I shaying?"
Ah, well, it probably doesn't matter. With a grunt of effort, the young man sits up again... and, thanks to the way Excellen's arms are crossed, his eyes immediately track to her chest.
They're there for a few beats before his brow furrows, as he remembers that there's a beautiful woman in his room; he sits up a little straighter, and asks Excellen's breasts, "Sho why're you here, again?"
The perfect pair aren't much for conversation, though they certainly shift and sway in what's probably a hypnotic manner for the drunken lad still half-sprawled on his bed.
"You were shaying something about drinks," is the amused reply, situated above the point Leo's gaze is fixed on, though Excellen doesn't bother correcting it. Others might take offense, but it's well known Excellen isn't like most women. "I was here cuz we had work ta do, remember?"
Blonde ponytail swishes over her shoulders as she sighs a bit, arms falling to her sides and hands resting on her hips. "But I guess I picked a bad time to come a-callin'. Want me ta leave my notes here with ya for later?"
Leo looks a little crestfallen when Excellen unfolds her arms, but his gaze stays stubbornly fixed right where it is. "Work, right," he mumbles in agreement... but he sounds terribly distracted. It isn't hard to guess why.
When Excellen implies her intent to leave, however, it definitely grabs Leo's attention; his eyes snap upwards to her face, and he blurts, "Aw, n-naw, come on, it's fine, you don't have to- look, we- work, right? Okay, let'sh... let'sh talk about work," he insists, scooting closer to the edge of his bed and swinging his legs over the side.
"S'down," he urges, sweeping aside a pile of blanket and patting the bed next to him. He pauses, frowns for a moment, and then asks, "Uh... what work are we- oh, this- it isn't about Lamia, is it? 'cush, I mean... ... no, wait..."
Just because her arms are no longer crossed doesn't mean the view isn't as fine as before! Gawd, boys are so fickle. Especially this one.
"No, not Lamia," the blonde replies, a hint of bemusement entering her tone of voice. Not that she isn't worried about her absent friend right now, but there's little she can do on that score. "'Sides, she's not an A-LAWS issue right now, and Lat asked me to help you with other stuff, remember. I know she sent you an email about it." Latooni told her so, and Lat isn't the sort of girl to lie -- plus, she's terrible at is.
She does not sit; for one, that would be stupid while he's in this state, and for another, if the /blankets/ are that bad.. Seriously, Leo, you really do need to do some laundry. Instead, she leans forward, which gives him an entirely new angle of distraction, while entering his personal space. Attractive features now wear a frown.
"..Man, you're really out of it." Her nose wrinkles slightly. "Are you all right?"
Leo obviously has trouble following Excellen's train of thought; luckily, he stops having to try when she bends over, and his eyes drop back to her chest. Dimly, in the back of his mind, he wonders if this is what Nietzsche meant when he talked about staring into the Abyss.
More immediately, his wonder is simply whether or not Excellen is wearing a bra, which he quickly decides must be a 'no' regardless of any actual evidence for or against.
He looks up when the distracting sensation of someone being all up in his personal space finally gets to him, and is a little startled to find Excellen leaning so close. Her chest didn't look /nearly/ that close! Depth perception is hard!
The question of 'Are you all right?' actually prompts Leo to tilt his head thoughtfully. E-mail... Lat sent him an e-mail, about...
"... no," Leo admits, after several long, increasingly awkward seconds. Although speaking makes things a little less awkward, he does his best to bring the awkwardness back when he immediately continues, "You have really pretty eyesh."
"Thank you," the blonde smiles. "I'm glad you think so." It's not often someone compliments her for those, usually its her legs or talents with big guns.
Her boobs also get a wolf whistle from time to time, too. There follows a short sigh, and long fingers swoop to catch his chin, brows furrowing slightly as she forms a guess. "...Exactly how much /have/ you had to drink, Leo, dear?" Even if age wasn't a factor, he's still pretty skinny in spite of his slowly successful attempts at bulking up and building muscle. "And what in the world would have you drinkin' so much, hmmm?"
There's a wink to follow. "C'mon, can't be all that bad, huh?"
"Not enough," Leo summarizes curtly, regarding how much he's had already. When Excellen asks what's driven him to drink, his shoulders sag and his eyes close. After the woman's comment about it not being 'all that bad', he slumps yet further, and leans his head into her hand as best he can.
Even such chaste, platonic physical contact is a little comforting. It's a hell of a lot more than he has otherwise, at least.
"Yes," he chokes out after a moment. All of a sudden, it sounds like he's about to start crying. The young man takes a shuddering breath, and continues, "You can... throw away your notes'r... 'r whatever. She's..."
The smile falls away.
"You are sure?" Her voice is pitched low, surprisingly soothing, but it's obvious she doesn't think he's joking about this. It's no secret that Excellen took the news of Lamia's death *incredibly* hard, though Kyosuke was the only one to see her fall apart entirely, having held her in his arms as she cried her eyes out for the both of them. The loss of a teammate.. no. The loss of a friend always hits hard.
Apparently enough times to make Leo empty someone's beer supply. "..It was always a possibility, but--" Throw away their gathered data? Her head shakes from side to side. Well, that's certainly one thing you could do, but she certainly won't. He can't possibly be thinking straight to suggest that. Hand shifts, no longer holding his chin but gently cupping his cheek. It is not romantic in the slightest. "When was she found? Do you know where?"
Assuming he can remember through the haze of alcohol.
"A few days," Leo mumbles; despite how tortured he sounds, he doesn't actually cry. He just keeps his eyes squeezed shut, leans into Excellen's hand, and looks pitiful. "Some... some beach, or something. H-her... her pants washed up, and... and her foot. They think... think she killed herself..."
The floodgates, it seem, have been opened, because he keeps talking, with slowly increasing speed (and slowly decreasing comprehensibility). "It's my fault," he practically whimpers. "I wasn't here to, to protect her- and I didn't- I should have pushed harder when I- I- I t-thought she was h-happy, she /said/ she was, but if she wasreallyhappywhywouldshe-"
About this point is when Leo stops talking, simply because he's too busy hyperventilating to even pretend to form words.
The hand does not move, nor does she slap him one to break Leo from the sudden rush of words no doubt unbottled by all the drink he's imbibed. Excellen does sound surprisingly stern, however, and she keeps her words short and to the point. "She is--was your friend. If you knew her well as you thought you did, an' it weren't like her ta commit suicide, then you gotta hold ta that. Assumin' things you don't know just makes an ass out of you." Now her hand shifts again, tilting his chin back up. "Blamin' yourself for what ifs and maybes won't bring her back." Blunt, like head trauma. "As her captain, ya owe it to her ta find out the whole truth, right?"
Even if it hurts.
There's a pang in her heart for the poor young man sitting in front of her. Once the hyperventilation starts, she watches passively for a minute, before firmly saying: "Slow, deep breaths, Leo."
Excellen's reminder on how to breathe without suffocating himself helps... but only a little bit. "W-what am I shupposed to do?!" he demands, voice trembling. "Ask the f-fucking shark who ate her?!" He struggles to rise to his feet, but his legs fail him, and he instead simply collapses heavily to the floor at Excellen's feet.
Rather than try to stand again, Leo simply slumps backwards against his bed, and insists, "It... it ish my fault. And I- I don't-" He at least doesn't start hyperventlating again, but he does lift his hands and bury his face in them. He's not in any danger of crying; that much, at least, he knows.
But that's okay. He's getting used to the constant, strangling pressure on his heart and lungs.
"Yeah, well," murmurs Excellen, as Leo quite literally drops to his knees at her feet, "not all sharks are acrobatic." Which is not the same as aquatic, but still very true in any case. It is, however, abundantly clear that Leo is in no fit state to think straight or squiggly on this issue, and pressing him further won't help.
"You can go right on believing that if you want," she tells him rather curtly, "or you can finish what Latooni started, and confirm what really happened. Ralla deserves that much at least, doesn't she?"
With that, she ducks down slightly, and calmly hooks one of her arms through his, intent on dragging him to his feet. And, apparently, towards the bathroom. "C'mon, you need to shower and get some rest. I know just the thing ta knock you out long enough ta help."
Just the thing to...?
Leo's brow furrows as Excellen hauls him to his feet and starts pulling him towards the bathroom. No way... she couldn't... could she...? "W-wait," he chokes out, tugging on Excellen's arm to get her to stop moving; it's pretty much the only way he can stop /himself/ from moving, as, through a mixture of despair and drunkenness, he's having trouble... standing, let alone walking.
Either way, after a bit of tugging, Leo unwinds his arm from Excellen's just long enough to half-collapse against her and give her a hug. He leans a little heavily into it, and grips a little tightly, but it's still just an innocent, friendly hug.
"T-thanks, for... ... I... I really appreciate it..."
At least until Leo starts kissing Excellen's neck.
So many, many ways things could be misconstructed, especially by impressionable minds doused in more alcohol than their spleen can handle. Given that Excellen is taller, somewhat stronger and completely in control of her faculties at this moment, dragging Leo to his feet and redirecting him towards the attached bathroom suit isn't exactly a hardship, even if he is staggering around with legs like jelly.
They're already standing in the doorway leading in when Leo's insistant tugging gets her to stop; one eye is currently on the floor, mindful to dodge grotty clothes still left unattended. Give the state he's in, the fact Leo's leaning on her so much doesn't bother Excellen particularly, but the sudden hug takes her somewhat by surprise. Staggering slightly, there's a small sigh as she moves a hand to pat his back--
Until body placement and drooly lips make inebriated and entirely inappropriate decisions obvious. OH EWWW
HE DID NOT
In addition to his shattered soul, it's time to crush Leo's battered ego under foot, apparently.
"Oh geeze," Excellen /sighs/, those beautiful eyes rolling in exhasperation as she abruptly steps out of Leo's misguided form of... 'affection', and shoves him abruptly backwards into the waiting shower stall. "You're sixteen and I'm not interested."
Immediately after this, her left palm swings to the left, striking the dial that controls the water system, thumb hitting the blue switch. Her right hand follows next, slamming the connecting door closed between them.
Two seconds later, water pours. Ice cold water.
Tru Fax, folks: Excellen is not a couger.
Leo's entrance into the shower isn't graceful. The shove sends him stumbling backwards, and he trips over the little divider and falls into the stall, smashing one shoulder against the side of it. His legs are barely even inside when Excellen slams the door to the stall shut. "Whaa--?!"
Aaand then the water starts.
Leo lets out a strangled cry of surprise and agony, and begins thrashing his way to his feet within the stall, limbs thumping clumsily against the walls and the door.
It takes him a good ten seconds just to get to his feet and start clumsily attempting to open the dividing door... which he seems to be having trouble with, even if left to his own devices. Judging from the clarity in his voice when he starts shouting, though, Excellen's plan is working pretty well!
"What the fuck is your problem?!" the young Captain cries through the door. "/You're/ the one who kissed /me/ last time! Aren't you tired of chasing after a gay guy yet?! Fucking... shit! FUCK!"
"No one's ever explained mistletoe to you, have they," is the casual reply from the other side of the door, ignoring the impotent rage in Leo's voice.
Yes, Excellen is still smiling, in spite of the SEXUAL HARASSMENT. ...And sure, why not. The guy is drunk and grieving. Excellen can make allowances for that.
..And apparently thinks she's chasing some gay guy? This baffles her entirely for about five seconds, before she shrugs. Excellen has absolutely no idea who he's talking about and promptly neglects worrying about it.
As it is, the ATX Team member is content to let Leo shriek in anger as the ice cold water scares sobreity back into him, though the dial does shift to much warmer temperatures within a couple of minutes. If nothing else, if he's half as exhausted as she suspects he is once the caffinated drinks wear off, the warmth will start lulling him into a proper state of exhaustion.
Either the rage will die, or hit melting point when the door is finally flung open. Excellen is ready in either case, because a huge, fluffy white towel is flung directly in Leo's face -- apparently the huge stack in the corner are the only clean items in his quarters.
"Dry off, then drink this." A new can is brandished in the air, unmarked by any logos. It might be /more alcohol/. ...But probably isn't. But someone's not getting a say in drinking this either way.
Leo spends a good minute pounding furiously on the door before he, apparently, comes to his senses - or loses them - enough to awkwardly lift his leg and just kick the door open. It slams into the wall of the bathroom and bounces back, so much so that he has to shove it aside again as he storms out of the shower stall.
He is, as to be expected, dripping wet... and, similarly as to be expected, he looks furious. At least for the half a second it takes Excellen to fling a towel into his face.
That stops him in his tracks for a moment, as he reaches up and pulls the towel off of his head; for a moment, the anger is gone, and he glances incredulously at the towel and then at Excellen, and then at the can in Excellen's hand.
Aaand then the anger comes back. Leo's face contorts into a sneer, and he throws the towel angrily to the ground, merely to communicate his displeasure. "Get out of my room!" he demands, pointing a finger angrily past Excellen and out of his room. "Just... leave me alone!!"
There's something almost decidedly scary about the gleam that lights Excellen's eyes; she isn't angry, though she certainly has far more right than Leo does in this instance. Smile remains, but she's unimpressed. She doesn't appear to notice that he's angry. She does care that he is, mind you, but right now, she's not going to pander to a child's temper tantrum anymore than required.
Cue more blunt trauma: "Offering to help a friend does not automatically mean a girl's gonna offer you sexual favours, Leo." /Zing/. Blue eyes hold his gaze for a very long moment, if only to ensure he's aware that she's not just referring to herself here. She'll make allowances for grief -- but only by so much. No doubt Leo will not remember any of this conversation later.
"Drink," she repeats, tapping the top of the can, as if Leo hadn't just snarled at her to exit, stage left. That doesn't mean she's entirely ignoring his request; she's just doing things in her own time, as she's always done. "When you're quite done with the self-pity party, let me know." Because right now, this isn't about Ralla.
For a moment, her beautiful face looks genuinely sad as she turns one last look on the Captain. She's not sure now that it ever was -- and more's the pity.
Excellen then turns and sashays back to his desk and her neglected paperwork, the file and notepad collected and the can (with its abused "Health Drink" label) left in its place. Coy words trail behind her in abused Japanese, Excellen offering a slapdash salute as she sails out the front door. "Ja ne, Leo~"
Although his sneer never falters, Leo at least snaps up the can upon Excellen's insistence... and then he just stands there, holding it in a white-knuckled deathgrip, and staring at Excellen. He keeps staring, jaw tensed, teeth gritted, until she's gone.
It isn't that he doesn't have anything to say; indeed, he can think of /several/ things to say. It isn't even (thanks to the alcohol) that he simply doesn't want to make things any worse by saying them. He just doubts his ability to actually say /words/ at this point, instead of just sort of make angry noises.
He gives it a shot after the door closes behind Excellen, and sure enough, he was right; his attempt to call something after her devolves into a wordless scream of anguish, and he whips the can still in his hand into the mirror of his bathroom, giving the pane of reflective glass a brand new spiderweb of cracks.
That makes him feel a little better, but his hands are still trembling with rage... so it's probably for the best that when he storms out into the main area of his quarters, he only makes it about halfway across the room before he suddenly stumbles and collapses heavily to his knees, slumping forwards onto all fours after a few seconds of dazed swaying.
He stays like that for awhile, his breath caught in his throat, his shoulders shaking.
But he never cries.