|Summary: Noriko Takaya Psycho Crushers Leo Stenbuck.|
True to his word, Leo Stenbuck spent most of last night - save for a brief interlude to make sure Louise Halevy wasn't going to hyperventilate herself to death - and a good chunk of his day so far working on Jehuty. It has been, essentially, a good ten hours of the equivalent of when someone else drives your car and adjusts your mirrors and you're like 'ugh' and have to readjust them so you can actually see anything.
Most of that was actually done last night, though; most of his work so far has been the result of him realizing that now that he has actual important duties, he can't just dick around inside Jehuty all day. Obviously, he has a lot to catch up with ADA on... and he feels bad for leaving her alone, even if he did go out of his way to get her access to the ~*~internet~*~.
Which was either a really good idea or a really bad one.
Either way, Leo is almost ready for the next step of his project; currently, he is winding his way through the halls of the Shirogane back towards the hangar Jehuty is being kept in, his headband and the duster of his uniform's greatcoat billowing behind him. There is practically a spring in his step, and his right hand is stuffed into his pocket as he approaches the elevator that will take him down to the hangar level.
Noriko Takaya has spent the days since their strange visit to Leliel mostly in her room. Strange new impulses, unexpected emotional connections - thoughts, memories that aren't there. It's strange how natural the memory of Jung and Rei in the OGH uniform is. Troubling in more ways than one. Rei's in trouble - she can see it now, the shape of it's clearer in her mind than ever before. Something's going on. Prescriptions; she was joking that it looked like the kind of thing you'd feed a clone, but was she clsoer than she thought? NERV mistreating her. Excellen wondered if she was being bullied.
Fraternity exists to protect humanity from monsters.
A true Top carries everything she needs in her heart.
Noriko finally shoves herself out of her one thousand eight hundredth situp (today) and stalks out into the halls of the Exelion. Air. Motion. It's not like the air anywhere on the ship is better than anywhere else, but still - got to get out, see something that isn't her Space Battleship Yamato poster for the umpteen trillionth time.
The Shirogane is docked - they just had an operation, needed Exelion's resources to get everything back in shape quickly. She read the report, briefly, trying to get her thoughts off of that...thing, that vision. She wanders up the ramp - as usual she is completely ignoring A-LAWS uniform policy, just a short skirt and a simple blouse; thanks to the Exelion's artificial gravity, it's not as perilous as it would be in other ships. Wandering around out of uniform like an idiot is probably frowned on on Lee Linjun's ship, but she's Noriko Takaya and he can eat a dick.
Thus we reach the present: Leo Stenbuck is in a lovely mood, having just gotten Jehuty back and spent some quality time with the AI and possibly a pair of air quotes, while he walks past a hallway connecting one end of the ship to the other. Noriko Takaya is confused, emotionally troubled, dealing with trying to set straight her own head, and frankly tired of thinking and in need of some violent relief. She sees him from across the hall.
Leo Stenbuck, shrieking madly at the whole of A-LAWS, demanding to know who was pretending to be Rei.
Leo Stenbuck, blasting his way out of a battleship just to get to the field faster. Coach told her to be wary of him. Captain Tashiro has politely declined to allow the 1 Gundam onto the Exelion's catapult decks since then.
Leo Stenbuck - no, it's not him, it's just his face, but for just a moment that doesn't /matter/ as she remembers him clawing out Asuka's eye, breaking Noriko's wrist.
Rei was hurt - beaten, badly. Crying frantically. Since when does she cry? Since when does she EMOTE? She pushed into Noriko's arms, just long enough to say - she'd been at Leo's.
A true Top pilot carries everything she needs in her heart.
The gravity is light here.
Her lips curl up. She leaps back - her feet find the far wall. "LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO--"
She shoves off, arms crossed in front of her in an X, and apparently the gravity in this area is on the blink or possibly Noriko is just too pissed to bother with little things like the law, because as she crosses the dozen meters between her and Leo she does not touch the ground once before her wrists lodge in Leo's neck and jam him up against the wall. "STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENBUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK"
The initial cry of his name gets Leo's attention onto Noriko; his focus shifts away from the middle distance as he turns to face the source of the noise, and his hand slips out of his pocket.
When Noriko crashes into him a moment later, it makes sure his attention /stays/ on Noriko.
Leo's back slams into the wall, expplosively emptying his lungs of air; an instant later, the back of his head cracks against the surface, too. For a few beats, the young man can only reel in dazed confusion, his vision swimming...
... and then he comes to his senses and his eyes focus on Noriko. It takes only a heartbeat for him to discern what just happened - and still is happening - and only a second for his face to suddenly flush red with anger. "What the fuck was that for?!" he demands hoarsely, reaching up to pry angrily at Noriko's wrists where they're pressed against his neck.
Noriko can't keep that dive up forever, and her feet hit the ground, skidding to a stop with loud squeels against the steel surface. She holds him aloft - Leo's gotten pretty tough, but Noriko is the most obsessive about the Top Squadron's workouts of probably anybody. The part where she got fighting training from Master Asia and Gentle Chapman probably helps (where else did you think she learned to just kind of ignore gravity?)
Either way: Leo sees the face of a truly furious young woman. She's not wearing her blue headband, so maybe it takes him a couple seconds to recognize Noriko Takaya outside her habitual Top look. One of her wrists is still in a cast; she ignores the fact that slamming it into a person and then slamming the person into a wall was probably unwise (and HURT), instead just curling her lips at him and growling. She presses her weight against him to keep him in place, and yells, "What did you DO TO HER!?" as if she expects him to know what the hell she's talking about.
How bothersome. Leo was sort of hoping a little bit of 'okay get the fuck off' me tugging would do the trick, but that's obviously not going to be the case, and he's pretty sure he can't loosen Noriko's grip. Maybe if he had time to warm up, and better leverage, and was, like, trying to pry a baby out of her jaws, but...
More pressingly, this is becoming rapidly uncomfortable. "To /who?!/" Leo rasps, dropping his hands away from Noriko's arms. They're basically useless there, anyways. "I don't even know what you're talking about!" After a moment to take a short, sharp breath, he adds, "Get the fuck off me!!"
"REI!" Noriko yells back, not even really thinking this through, operating on pure adrenaline and half-muddled thoughts. "And--no, that's...Grrrgh!"
She's strong and that frame packs a lot of muscle and she's /not stopping/, her feet repositioning for maximum leverage against Leo's body, growling out, "I don't even know what's going on anymore! But I know you're part of it!! --No, you know what, the hell with that! She was beaten and crying and she was coming out of your room, WHAT DID YOU DO!"
Beaten and crying and...? "I didn't do... anything!" Leo chokes out; it is increasingly unclear whether the red in his face is from anger or from an inability to breathe properly. "She's... the one who--gghh!"
Rather than continuing to make his case while being (possibly accidentally) choked a little bit, Leo suddenly draws his legs up underneath his body, plants his feet into Noriko's abdomen, and pushes. "I said /GET OFF ME!!/"
Noriko's anger stops her from properly expecting or countering Leo's move, and she whoofs out a gush of air as Leo forces her away from him - staggering back until her hand braces against the wall of the corridor she just flew through. Her breathing is rapid and her eyes are full of anger, her teeth grit. "She's the one--!? Don't you lie to me, Stenbuck! I ran into her! She could barely /talk/, and someone had beaten her, and all she could /say/ was that she'd just been in your room!"
She takes a challenging step forward, and then half-coherently lunges, fist balled angrily, as she swings toward Leo in a nasty haymaker. But there's skill there - she's furious, but she's not just swinging around like an ogre, either. "She was CRYIING! She doesn't /do/ that! All I can figure is someone she cares about had to hurt her, and that's /you/, isn't it!?"
As soon as Noriko's off him, Leo's upper body slumps forwards and he sucks in a series of deep, ragged breaths while she shouts at him. He straightens up again, face still flushed, just in time to see Noriko lunge.
His training and exercise regimen might not be able to compare to Noriko's, but Leo is a far cry from being unable to defend himself; when the girl comes at him, Leo slips to the left. He continues the simple dodge into a half-desperate dive, and bounds a good five feet down the corridor thanks to the power of ~*~low gravity~*~ before he slams his feet down into the floor, skids to a halt, and turns to face Noriko.
Leo takes another few ragged breaths... and then plants his feet and, as the kids say, puts up his dukes. "I didn't do /anything/ to her," he snarls. "And she sure as shit doesn't care about me! She's just, just--!!"
------------------------------------ | THE WHEEL OF FATE IS TURNING | | REBEL ONE | | ACTION | ------------------------------------
Noriko's haymaker swings wide, not helped by Leo and his accursed 'adaptation to low gravity'. COWARDICE. She spins quickly on her feet, sees Leo putting up his dukes, and slips downward herself - not into a boxing stance, but rather a different one, impenetrable because in true Master Asia fashion it mostly just looks cool. She narrows her eyes, eyes still flashing angrily. "Who the hell else could make her cry!? Do you think I'm /stupid/!?" (yes)
She stares him down for a second. What he's saying isn't lining up. If she had a moment of rationality, a few seconds to rub neurons together, she'd think, something isn't adding up, something /isn't right/, and she should stop and just ask him for the information they need and try to figure out what's /really/ going on.
Instead she lunges forward with fists primed to uppercut Leo into the ceiling, hollering, "Don't LIE TO ME!"
That 'adaptation to low gravity' is a life-saver, and no mistake. Noriko is fast even in low-g, and although Leo is more prepared for this punch, he's also unwilling to dodge it via glorified running away.
So when he weaves around the uppercut, it glances off of his cheek. There won't be any serious damage, but it hurts like hell, and the force of impact sends him spinning sideways thanks to the low gravity. He compensates by ducking in close to Noriko and throwing a left-right-left combination of body blows at her ribs, one of which drifts a little high and ends up aimed not so much at her ribs as at her breast.
During the entire exchange, Leo is /also/ shouting. "I'M /NOT/ LYING! YOU'VE JUST ALREADY DECIDED YOU'RE RIGHT!!"
He's fast; she's had low-g training but /fighting/ in low-G was never her strong suit. If anything, she'd be better-suited to fighting under high gravity, with all the weight training she does. He hits her, she's just not fast enough, one, two, three, two to the ribs and one to her breast, which causes a startled yelp, while Noriko drifts away from the forces imparted, not /quite/ hitting the ceiling - the battleship docks might have lower gravity but even here there's some, so she instead just drifts back to the ground, all the while yelling, "What else could there BE!?" She does not shove off again, because actually getting punched in the tit is a fairly painful experience, so she just waits a second and growls, "Nothing else makes SENSE!"
Between his fury and the adrenaline, Leo doesn't even acknowledge that he just punched Noriko in the tit; it really was on accident.
Leo keeps his fists up, but doesn't go on the offensive. "What makes you think she'd tell /ME?!/" he shouts. "She barely tells me anything! She just, just SHOWS UP!!"
-- just shows-- wait--
"You saw her," he blurts, voice dropping out of a shout, eyes widening. "When-- it was-- like, a week ago, right? She was wearing your leotard thing, and she had the bruise-- you saw her, right?!" Leo lunges forwards suddenly, but as he does, his hands drop out of their boxing stance, and he just grabs at Noriko's shoulders.
"ANSWER ME!" he demands impatiently, his voice creeping into 'manic'. He is also... sort of rocking the crazy eyes.
Noriko snarls. She barely even remembers why they're doing this. Everything's a jumble.
She was at Leo's room. She's hurting. Nobody should hurt alone.
He hurt her. Or maybe...not. Someone's hurting her. Someone's doing this.
Her confusion, trying to slowly organize her thoughts, give Leo a chance to surge forward and grip her shoulders, and she opens her eyes a little wide. "Wh-what the!?" she stammers, confused, and staring into Leo's crazy eyes freaks her out a little so she reflexively yells, "BACK, OFF!" and slams her forehead into his.
Shaking the stars out of her skull, she drifts back from the impulse, and mutters, "It was like last week! In the hall, on the Shirogane! She was crying and all beat up and she said had been to your room, then /burst into tears and ran away/!" She lands on her feet, and shoves off, bursting across the distance while arcing a foot at Leo's head. "What the hell else could've even happened!?"
There's a sharp *CRACK* when Noriko's forehead impacts Leo's, and the girl's head comes away with a smear of blood on it. Leo, meanwhile, reels backwards with a strangled cry of pain, turning to half-collapse against the nearest wall and practically doubling over as he does so.
When he straightens up after a few seconds, blood is pouring down his face, a dark red stain slowly spreading across his headband where it lays across his forehead. He doesn't seem to really notice. "I /said/ I didn't touch her," he snarls. "And maybe you should--"
That's about as far as he gets before Noriko flings herself at him, and he ducks his head and lunges in to meet the kick, slipping underneath it and diving shoulder-first into Noriko's stomach. As he makes contact, he wraps his arms around the girl's waist and attempts to force her down onto the floor and pin her there. Maybe then she'll calm the hell down, he reasons.
Normally, Noriko would stop at the sight of blood. Albeit, normally this wouldn't have /started/, so perhaps the note is slightly pointless; either way, she doesn't stop the fight when Leo turns to face her with blood dripping down his face, plowing forward - and then Leo moves fast and unexpectedly, slipping under her sweeping leg and slamming her in the stomach with his full weight, earning a "WHOOF!" of air, and then before she can really recover, slamming her down to the ground and pinning her.
She lies there for a second, growling. The adrenaline keeps her form overthinking why this whole thing is stupid.
"What," she demands, slowly, "is /going on/."
In the brief moment Noriko is dazed from impact, Leo scrambles to pin her arms down; it's not exactly airtight, especially since he's in a hurry, but it works, owing in large part to the fact that he's still just sort of on top of her.
For several seconds, he stays where he is, breathing heavily... but after the first drop of blood runs off his chin and splatters on Noriko's cheek, he at least finds the common courtesy to shift his head to the side so that further blood dripping falls onto the floor, and not her face.
"You attacked me," he explains bitterly, after a few moments of awkward silence. "Because you saw her and decided what happened before you knew any facts." He pauses, and then adds, uncertainly, "But... you saw her. Right? And she said she had been to see me. That really happened?"
Noriko takes slow, deep breaths, trying to...get herself back under control. He says he didn't do it. Of course he says he didn't do it he's SCUM, he said so himself! --rrgh, dammit, Noriko, get it together! She strains against him for just a second, before finally just slumping against the ground, eyes staring blankly into space while Leo asks his questions.
"I..." she mutters. "I think so. ...yeah, it was...before..." Nevermind that Noriko's concept of what actually happened versus the muddle introduced by Leliel has her completely baffled - even now, she's finding herself remembering Jung at OGH, or Rei joining them for patrols on the Exelion, and that just...
With her thoughts that muddled, she has to admit she can't actually trust her memory. "...probably," she finally sighs, collapsing helplessly. "She's...someone's hurting her. She's...in danger, I know that. Why? Do you know anything?"
That, apparently, is not the answer Leo wanted to hear. "What do you mean, 'probably?!'" he blurts... but he seems more concerned than angry. "It either happened or it didn't, you're supposed to know, /you're/ not--" He cuts himself off, and forces a slow, deep breath, similar to Noriko's only moments before.
"I don't know what happened, but /I/ /didn't/ /touch/ /her,/" he says, independently emphasizing each word as can be gathered from the ridiculous abundance of slashes. "I don't want anything to do with her. Not anything more than I have to. Understood?"
Despite Noriko's steadily increasing calm - such as it is - Leo makes no move to let her up. He doesn't trust her not to go berserk and try to tear his heart out again. Fuckin'... /women./ God /damn./
"I...the Angel," Noriko says, eyes staring off into the space about two centimeters above the crown of Leo's head. "I don't...it...did something, messed with my head. I've got memories I know aren't real - Miss Katsuragi at Papa's funeral, or...or Rei, with us on the Exelion. I...I remember seeing her that night. I remember it really clearly, but I don't..."
She emits a frustrated sigh, shutting her eyes. "I can't tell right now. It's all messed up."
And then she glares at him a little more, muttering, "What the hell even happened to you two?"
"She d-" The words catch in Leo's throat, as the last of his anger is overwhelmed by a fresh wave of paranoia, mostly at rest since his last talk with Huang Qin Shi. He squeezes his eyes shut and turns his head to the side, and his grip on Noriko's arms tightens suddenly.
He could tell her the truth, but she /already/ thinks he's a liar; all it'd do is convince her he's crazy, too. Assuming she isn't... isn't...
... isn't what? A NERV agent? The BMC was DC for, like, ever. How could she have ended up in NERV's pocket so quickly? -- but... Rei's working with the Fraternity Unit, so maybe--
Leo grimaces and shakes his head vigorously in a futile attempt to clear it. He feels like he's being pulled in every direction at once; lingering anger at Noriko for /attacking him/, suspicion of NERV and the whole cloak and dagger horseshit escapade he's been pulled into, fear that he's going crazy, the familiar pressure on his lungs and wrenching knife feeling in his heart that make him want to just collapse...
"We broke up," Leo says hoarsely, without opening his eyes. He sounds absolutely miserable when he says it.
Noriko stares at him, hard, at that catch in his throat - watches him consider, eyes narrow and dubious, and hissing, "Ow, you're hurting me!"
This is all wrong. God, she remembers -- but she didn't even know them when they broke up, /whatever/ the hell happend. She just...Dammit, it's so hard to keep /straight/.
His final answer earns him a scowl, but after about five seconds she just slumps back, eyes sliding shut again. "That's a hell of a breakup," she mutters, bitterly. Eyes slide open: "Could you get off me?"
As if on cue, when Noriko asks Leo to get off her, there is a *ding* and the nearby elevator doors slide open. Leo opens his eyes and lifts his gaze to the sound, and is met with the sight of Brough Grabbs standing in the elevator, carrying a few manila folders under one arm. He just stares, for several seconds, at the sight of 'Leo Stenbuck, with blood streaming down his face, on top of Noriko Takaya, pinning her arms to the floor'.
And then, very slowly so as not to startle, he reaches out and presses a button on the elevator control panel. There is another *ding*, and the doors slide shut.
Leo, apparently shocked into stillness for the duration, suddenly mutters, "Yeah." He releases Noriko's wrists, clambers into a kneel over her, and then rises unsteadily to his feet; once he's up, rather than offer his hand down to her, he just slumps against the wall and reaches up to press a hand to the side of his head. Now that the adrenaline is wearing off, the bleeding head wound is starting to catch up with him.
Noriko's head just kind of turns to look at the open elevator in a manner not unlike the latest victim having realized that the murderer is in the room, /right now/.
He respectfully closes the door, so instead of screaming she just rubs at her wrists when Leo releases, and she follows his example - scooting across the hall and rubbing painfully, particularly at her wrist which is still heavily bandaged and in a cast, because that sure was there the whole scene. She doesn't even rise to her feet - just sitting there rubbing at her wrist, trying to take stock of her own brain.
"There's something really wrong," she mutters. "With...with Rei. And NERV. They let her nearly kill herself, didn't even give her a basic pilot's exercise regimen, and then they ask me to shape her up out of nowhere." Not to mention...
The image, bright in her mind: Rei's despairing face. Coach, I didn't want to get you involved.
She shuts her eyes again, gritting her teeth at the ground. "I'm gonna figure out what they're doing to my friend. That's all I can think of. They're hurting her, or.../someone's/ hurting her."
She growls, and finally pushes her hand against the ground in order to rise, starting to stalk back toward the exit back to the Exelion. "I don't even know what the hell your deal is, but it sounds like you don't want anything to do with it. ...sorry about jumping you like that."
As Noriko talks, Leo remains slumped against the wall... but, the entire time, he keeps a cool stare fixed on her. Mercifully, the blood still streaming from his head is at just the right angle to /not/ get into his eyes on the way down... but it still makes him look like... well, like Andrew W.K.
He keeps staring, wordlessly, as until Noriko finally rises and goes to leave. Only as she nears the end of the hallway their little exchange took place in does he call out, "If you find out, come tell me."
He pushes off the wall, takes a moment to steady himself, and then calls out again to add, "And try not to cry." Warning (of sorts?) given, Leo turns and...
What was he doing? -- right, Jehuty. ADA. Right. Right. More important than the bleeding.
He gives her two piece of advice. One, she can handle. It's not like she really has any idea what she'd do /otherwise/.
Noriko barks a laugh at Leo's caution, and then stalks off, out, toward the exit, and one hand lands over her heart. She doesn't even have the headband with her, but it's just a symbol. A true Top pilot carries everything she needs in her heart.
"I promised them I wouldn't cry anymore," she murmurs. "I won't let them make me a liar."