|Touch Me I'm Sick|
|Summary: Leo Stenbuck finds someone he can relate to, for now.|
Sometimes, Christina Sierra thinks, she should feel a little bad about how easy some of this is.
This is what Kristin Tsery is sort of thinking as she takes pictures of Leo Stenbuck standing around the 1 Gundam in the docking facility. "Ah, shit, the camera autozoomed," and a billion other excuses. "The light's no good there." "Ugh! That bulky piece put you in its shadow, you look like you're hiding or something." "You blinked!" "Shit, my thumb..."
This, along with moving Leo for every shot, is how she has gotten some twenty-something close-up pictures of the 1 Gundam on her phone. "Okay, /finally/," she says, settling on a generic photo of Leo looking appropriately badass in front of the massive blue Gundam's chest. "I think this one turned out pretty good. Do you want it for your Neo Spacebook or something?"
Truth be told, Leo isn't entirely sure eh should be doing this; he likes pictures that make him look badass as much as the next guy, but he can't help but feel a little doofy doing it. The weird looks from the technicians and miscellaneous hangar workers don't help him feel any less self-conscious about it, either. But, well, Kristin said she wanted to get a picture of him with the Gundam...
... and he's reminded of the reason why he agreed every time she takes a particularly bouncy step, or he gets a glimpse of her from the back.
"Yeah, uh, sure," Leo agrees, as he clambers down from the scaffolding around the 1 Gundam to reunite with Kristin. "You can just-- uh--" Any further speech is cut off when he reaches into his pocket to find his phone not there, because, ha ha, oops, he fucking smashed it. He really needs to replace that, but...
"... just... e-mail it to me, or something," Leo mutters, pulling his hand out of his pocket. All of a sudden, he positively radiates sullenness, like he's a puppy that's just been scolded.
"Thaaank you for /indulging/ me," Kristin Tsery says, a little too sweetly, a little too nicely, a little too grabbing-Leo-by-the-arm-ly as she leans forward. She's off-duty, which means that aside from those dark (ostensibly glare-reducing) sunglasses, she's wearing jeans that run dangerously low, and a top that comes dangerously high, baring a fair strip of midriff. Among other things. It's one of the moments where Christina's particular fashion sense happens to coincide with the needs of the job.
When Leo suddenly dips into a Mood, though, Kristin doesn't take long to pick up on it. "Hey, uh, you okay? I mean, if I was pressuring you, then... I'm sorry, you could have just..." Kristina pockets her phone -- it is tiny enough that it fits in the pockets of her jeans, which is pretty remarkable -- and gives Leo's shoulder a friendly shake as she starts leading him away from the hangar, toward the corridor. "Seriously, are you all right? Didn't you get your team member back yesterday? I thought I saw that in the reports this morning... you should be happy! C'mon, cheer up! Let's see if we can shake some real food out of the mess hall guys or something! One of them's been sending me text messages lately, and I think he liiikes~ me, so it shouldn't be tooo hard..."
As good as Leo is at sulking, Kristin's tactic of oozing positivity (and placing her boobs dangerously close to his arm) is a tough act to follow with moping. He lets her drag him along out of the hangar, and by the time they've made it out into the hallways of the ship, his somber glower has been replaced by a smile... even if it is a weak one.
"I'm fine," he assures the woman half-heartedly. "Just... had a rough night. Things are--" He interrupts himself again, but this time it's by choice and not out of shock. She doesn't want to hear him mope about how awful everything is forever...
... and, really, he doesn't want to think about it. He has to deal with it all, yeah, but... not right now. So instead he shakes his head, forces himself to widen his smile, and says, "Nevermind."
After a beat, he continues teasingly, "So... a mess cook, huh? Aren't you setting your sights a little low?"
"/He's/ sending messages to /me/," Kristin says, giving Leo's shoulder a gentle shove, and in the process releasing him from her clutches. Even so, she's awfully touchy-feely. Not in the sense of 'her parents should have taught her to respect personal space,' but in the course of expressing herself it just seems to happen a lot. "Like I'd date a cook." Kristin's sunny attitude seems to brighten further by Leo coming back out of his dark place, and she skips ahead, which is a lot more fun to do in wacky spaceship gravity.
Stopping so that she doesn't lose Leo, she turns around and says, "Besides, I'm not really, uh, interested in something like that right now. I mean, a whole... committed... thing." Kristin tries to smile, but it comes off as someone trying to smile, as opposed to someone just smiling.
"It's... you know, it's complicated." The girl self-consciously adjusts her sunglasses on her face. "But... sorry, I didn't mean to bring all that up. Look at me, saying to cheer up, then bringing up... ehh. Forget I said anything, okay?"
Kristin's touchy-feeliness is just fine with Leo, because he, too, has become awfully touchy in the past few months. Besides, he's pretty sure the only reason he ever wouldn't want to be touched by Kristin Tsery - even in a purely platonic way - would be because he was dead.
Leo's face, which had been brightening along with Kristin's as he drifted to a stop next to her, suddenly melts back into a worried frown when she trips over the apparently complicated issue of being in a serious, committed relationship.
"Wait, wait, hold on," he insists as she tries to brush off the issue after a little bit of babbling, reaching out to touch the woman's arm. He opens his mouth to say something, grimaces, closes it, visibly hesitates for a moment, and only then gets around to actually speaking.
"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," he disclaims right off the bat. "But you seem... you know, sort of upset, so... if you /did/ want someone to talk to... I mean, you know, you could talk to me."
"Besides, I know what that's like," he explains grimly, reaching up to scratch at the back of his neck with the hand that isn't on Kristin's arm. "Not being up to... like, an actual serious... well, you know."
Kristin doesn't shrug off the touch. She also doesn't meet Leo's eyes while he talks, one of her hands coming up to play with her hair in an agitated fidget as she stares down at some spot on the floor and tries to keep herself from looking too disconsolate.
Eventually, though, she sighs. "Look, it's stupid, it's nothing." Kristin turns to face Leo. Her eyes can be seen through the lenses of her glasses in the right light -- she /is/ making eye contact. "I mean... it's not nothing. But now it'll be weird if I /don't/ explain it, and I don't like being weird with my friends. I've had too much weird lately." Later, Christina Sierra will kick herself about four billion times, but right now, she's letting emotion carry her into dangerous waters.
"I was... there was this guy, and he and I, we were never... together. But we should have been, and I figured I'd have all the time in the... in the world to tell him that. Because I thought it was fine the way it... I thought things would be fine. But then he... Right in front of me, right in front of my... He got... He got torn apart. He died. Right there in front of me. I--"
Kristin suddenly cuts herself off and lunges at Leo in a hug of such power that it actually pushes them to the other wall of the corridor. It's not a hug of affection, though, or a happy one. It's a desperate, needful squeeze of loneliness, and there's no real joy to be savored in it. Certainly not for Kristin, or Christina.
Leo maintains eye contact as long as Kristin does, still frowning with obvious worry, as she opens her heart to him... but that doesn't prepare him for the sudden huglunge. It actually knocks the breath out of Leo - if just a little - and he oofs a second time as his shoulders smack into the wall of the corridor. He's dazed for only a moment before he wraps his arms around the woman and returns the hug.
God, it seems, has a sense of humor, because at precisely this moment Brough Grabbs comes around the corner headed for Hangar #4. He stops suddenly when he sees Kristin and Leo, frowns for a moment, and then lifts his hands to begin silently counting on his fingers with broad, exaggerated motions.
By the time he gets to '4', Leo's glare has withered him enough that he just throws up his hands, turns around, and floats away.
That is about the time Leo decides they should probably get out of the main corridor until Kris has calmed down. He carries her carefully along the wall to a nearby door, stroking one hand up and down the woman's back and rocking her gently back and forth, murmuring, "It's okay... you're gonna be okay... I gotcha..."
It only takes a few seconds to carry Kris down to the door, and he triggers the automatic open clumsily with one hip and drags her inside before shutting the door behind them. It appears to be... a janitor's closet. But, well, at least it's privacy.
Kris is, all things considered, pretty easy to manhandle. She's in shape, but she's not in fighting shape -- instead of leaning close-quarters combat or whatever, she mostly does Neo Pilates to stave off the effects of sitting in the records department for hours at a time. In they go, and Kristin shudders and gets it together. Her arm whacks into a broom and knocks it over, which produces a KLANG, because this is the future and brooms are not only metal but also robotic, which is why they are known as broombas.
"Look," Kris says, in the dark, still kind of pressed against Leo, because it's not like this is a big closet, and he may or may not still be holding her. "I'm... I'm sorry. I just... every now and then, something... reminds me, or sets me off... and I just... All I can think is, I never got to tell him how I... how I felt. And... I don't want, I don't want pity or anything. I know you couldn't understand, but it's like..."
Kristin Tsery breathes. "It's like having this... this sharp weight, right on your heart, and someone keeps... twisting, and twisting..." She shudders again.
"Can we... can we talk about something else? Like..." Kristin is pulling the threads together, reconstituting her composure. "Tell me, I don't know, tell me about work or something, something that's not..."
Leo is, in fact, still holding onto Kris, both in an on going attempt to console her and because holy shit it's dark in here, and after Kris knocks a Broomba automated broom over he's worried that if he tries to maneuver in the dark he'll either mess the room up or elbow Kris in the face or something. So he maintains the hug, rubbing her back as soothingly as he can manage.
He keeps doing so, in total silence, until after she pleads for him to talk to her about something that isn't so awful... but, despite himself, he can't. He's stuck on how similar his situation is with the woman's... although she, presumably, doesn't have a clone of the person she lost hutning her.
Even so, Kris's explanation pulls the same things she's feeling right now to the forefront of Leo's mind, all of them coated in a shiny new layer of empathy. Seeing - or, well, hearing, really, and feeling - Kris suffer because of the same things he's feeling makes Leo hurt even worse, for reasons he couldn't really explain even if he tried. It goes above and beyond shared pain at watching someone who doesn't deserve to suffer do so. It's... it's...
"I do understand," he admits quietly, after several long seconds of silence. "My... last girlfriend, she- she died- in front of me, too. And I never... s-she told me she loved me, but when I-" Leo squeezes his eyes shut, shoulders spasming slightly, and tightens his hug. "I know- exactly how y- you feel," he promises Kristin, voice shaking.
Christina had been bringing herself back together by trying to remind herself that Leo's not /really/ her friend, he's part of a job. He's a dangerous and possibly unstable pilot who personally has engaged Celestial Being so many times, who took Al out, who stole Kyrios, who... all these things that suddenly don't seem to matter much anymore when she realizes that there is, indeed, someone else in the universe who could possibly know how she feels.
It doesn't even matter that he's part of the reason she had to feel it in the first place.
Kristin's arms come back up and she squeezes Leo just as tightly as he's squeezing her. It's a platonic embrace, but a soulful one, one of those moments where it becomes apparent what it sounds like when doves cry.
"I'm sorry," Kris blurts. Her own voice is less shaky, but that may just be because she has so much more practice at this. "I'm... I'm sorry." She doesn't have anything else to add to that, letting the embrace stand as a statement of sympathy unto itself.
Luckily for Leo, he has no such compunctions about comforting and being comforted by Kristin Tsery, because he has no idea that Kristin Tsery is really
Christina Sierra, Agent of Celestial Being!
In fact, he has no idea that /Christina Sierra/ is really
Christina Sierra, Agent of Celestial Being!
Sure, to Christina, Leo is all sorts of potentially terrible things... but to Leo, she's just his friend who happens to have a great body. (Miraculously, he manages to keep his hands to himself (except as necessary) as the embrace continues.)
"It's not... not your fault," he assures her, shortly before, in a total example of not even listening to himself talk, "I'm... I'm sorry, too." He takes a deep breath, to try to force himself to calm down more, and then suggests weakly, "Maybe we should, should talk about something else..."
And as if on cue, Kris does weakly note: "You're -- You're squashing my boob."
She loosened up the hug a bit. Leo didn't. And these are awfully close quarters. "Maybe we should -- yeah, talk about something... something else, in a -- in a not the janitor's closet kind of place. I think my foot might be in a mop bucket."
"It's definitely in a mop bucket." With all of the emotion running rampant, it's easy to overlook the little things. "Like... tell me about what you're up to. I mean, I could tell you about my day, but... I kinda don't think /I/ want to hear about spending eight hours making sure that ZAFT personnel records are in Federation-standard fonts, let alone you..."
At 'it's definitely in a mop bucket', Leo bursts into laughter despite himself. It isn't even totally humorless laughter; for some reason, that simple declaration is tremendously funny to him.
He gets it under control after only a moment, however, and after Kristin mentions how terribly boring eight hours of font-checking is, he finally releases her and backs off a little. When he speaks, his smile is easily audible, even if it isn't /visible/ because, you know, it's God damn dark.
"I think, just... going off of the size difference, it's more accurate to say that your boob was squashing me," he teases.
And then the door whooshes open, llooding the tiny closet with light; Leo backs immediately out of it, looks conspiratorially in both directions, and then gestures for Kristin to come out after him.
"So, um, work, right," he says distractedly. "Uh... apparently I have to go back to Jupiter soon. Want another mug?"
Kristin Tsery, totally trustworthy A-LAWS file clerk, audibly groans at the joke about her chest. As Leo exits, her hand finds his shoulder and helps him along with a push. "You think you're funny," she says, but there's a smile creeping around the edges of her tone, rendering her challenge a bit of a playful one.
"Another mug?" Kris is getting back into the swing of pretending like nothing ever happened -- she fixes her hair, adjusts her sunglasses, adjusts her top, fails to notice the waistband of her underwear showing above her jeans from the close-quarter capering. "I drink too much coffee as it is, don't tempt me with more, haha. What's on Jupiter, though? Or is it a personal thing?"
"God, I don't know," Leo shrugs, shooting a glance down at Kristin's whale tail while she's distracted. He never makes the conscious decision to do it, really, it just sort of happens. "We have to go to Io for something. Louise thinks it has something to do with Celestial Being, but that might just be wishful thinking, she's sort of, uh..."
He trails off, gesturing vaguely in lieu of mentioning Louise's occasional bouts of monomaniacal focus on Celestial Being. Not that she isn't justified, of course.
"And I /am/ funny," Leo protests with faux indignance after a pause, pressing a hand to his chest. Another pause, and he grins and admits, "Or not nearly worried enough about how much you laugh at me."
Leo's faux indignance falls on deaf ears for a moment. Kristin is focused elsewhere -- or, rather, earlier in Leo's comments. The light catches her glasses right, and she stops moving for just a second -- her eyes are hidden behind the gleam on the lenses. "Celestial Being?" she asks, sounding like she's not sure if she heard Leo right.
"You mean, the, the terrorists?" As if there were another 'Celestial Being' out there in space. Christina starts moving again, quickly catching up, shaking her head and trying to pass it off like she's just busy getting herself back together -- clearly, when those sort of things happen it's not just like flicking a light switch, so Christina hopes that her disquieted moment can just be forgiven along those lines. She does kind of hold her breath a little bit, though, realizing that despite that bonding experience that just occurred, she /does/ need to focus. She's not here to make friends or have fun. She's here to...
"Louise, you mean, uh, your..." A number of options arise for the noun to end that question. Kris settles on: "...squadmate?"
The brunette fiddles with her hair as she walks next to Leo. She looks at him sidelong here and there. "Just the two of you? Isn't that... if Celestial Being /is/ there, isn't that dangerous?"
Leo does, in fact, pass Kristin's pause off as her ongoing recovery from their little emotional moment. Or, hell, maybe she just had a bad experience with CB, too; who /hasn't/, really, these days? Either way, he slows to a halt a few steps down the corridor and turns back to wait until she catches up.
Once she does, he gives her a light clap on the shoulder, flashes her a hopefully reassuring smile, and confirms, "My squadmate, yeah. She sort of has... an issue with Celestial Being.
"And I'm not worried about them," he assures Kris, removing his hand from her shoulder and turning to continue down the hallway. "We've got one of them locked up already. I know I can beat the green one, even by myself. The fat one's tougher, but I think I can do it. And the one with two Drives... well..."
Leo's smile fades as his expression hardens into Serious Business Mode. "I'll beat it. They haven't seen the 1 Gundam firsthand yet, so... and beating them is the only way they'll stop. Buncha fucking... hypocrite assholes," he mutters angrily, balling his hands into fists.
"Sorry," he says after a moment, flashing another weak smile at Kris. "I guess I've sort of got an issue with them, too."
Christina Sierra's mind is working double-time. Kristin Tsery's face is masking it. Not exceptionally well -- she's a computer hacker who wears her heart on her sleeve, not a professional spy. But there's at least a token effort. "Yeah..." she murmurs, using one hand to rub the other arm's elbow distractedly.
The 1 Gundam. The thing she just got all those pictures of. Io. Louise Halevy. Celestial Being. All this stuff ticks through her head. She needs to... She can't take out her phone and use it in front of Leo. Or, well, she can, but she can't use the stuff that she's skillfully woven into the aPhone tech -- bouncing things off of satellites and through data havens, working an obtuse, twisting path to her friends back home. Her friends who need to know about this.
Kris clutches her stomach. "Mmngh," she groans, not really having to work hard to affect a pained sound. "Uh," she says, a little weakly, "I... I think I know why I was... kind of emotional back there, uh."
Her cheeks redden just a bit, which isn't faked -- she's as embarassed to be playing this card as if it were real. But if she knows Leo at all -- and she does know him a little bit -- she knows that if she wants to get out of there without him following, or without him even thinking about it more than he has to...
"I... I need to go get a Neo Midol or something," Kristina blurts, her tone low and abashed, but not quite as abashed as: "I mean-- sorry, it's... whoo, okay, foot in mouth, wonderful. But -- yeah, I'll text you, okay? You should clear out your inbox, though, my texts keep getting bounced back for some reason. Look, though, I gotta -- we'll talk, I'll make it up to you! Byeee!"
And then Kristin Tsery is awkwardly scampering away, and Christina Sierra is wondering what she did to anger God to have to be put into these situations.
It takes Leo a moment to get it; he just stares at Kristin, a puzzled expression on his face, as she clutches her stomach and blushes.
Then it clicks.
"OH," he blurts, eyes widening. He blushes a little bit, too, because menstruation is still one of those 'aaagh gross' things for him, and a part of female hygiene that he never even brushed up against until Louise. Rei never begged him to go buy tampons at the canteen, or only wanted to cuddle because she was on her period. He suspets that's just a small, fortunate side effect of them so rarely seeing each other for... most of their relationship.
Before reminescing about Rei drags him down into another pit of sorrow, Kristin goes ahead and pushes him in with the comment about his phone. His expression droops slightly, and he weakly begins muttering something about his phone being broken, but...
... but Kris is already fleeing, leaving him standing in the middle of the corridor, looking sort of depressed. After a few seconds, he stuffs his hands in his pockets, sighs, and mopes off down the corridor in the other direction. He should probably go check on Louise and So-- Marie...
"Fuck," the young man mutters again, as he wanders deeper into the ship.