Description: Troubles and tribulations among some of the Ikari. A troubled Lita Luwanda is approached by fellow Ikari Leona Heidern. Fears are put to the air, regrets are allowed into the open. And the bond of Ikari continue to form.
The Ikari gym is filled with the sounds of the heavy bag. The staccato sound of fists, feet, elbows, and knees echo through the room and can even outside of it. Let no one accuse Lita of not having a strong work ethic Ikari or otherwise. There may be other Ikari in the gym but in that moment, for her, there was only Lita and the heavy bag.
Then there's a twitch as if she heard some type of an alarm in her earbuds. She reacts to it and is suddenly on the ground for push-ups knocking them out for a good 30 seconds before she stands up once more.
A hand moves up to her forehead to brush the sweat matted hair out of her eyes. Her other hand reaches for a bottle of water, chugging it down as she lets herself get a few moments of rest.
Physical training. Always a key part of a healthy Ikari regimen. Many of the Ikari forces are out and pushing themselves to the peak of health in the chance that someone, somewhere needs the help of the Warriors. It's also a good place for Leona Heidern. The people are focused here. There is the mission at hand; increasing health and fitness. There is a world of understanding in it's almost calming series of repetitions.
It matches the beat of the drums in her heart and in her head, it silences the riot within her blood.
Leona wears a towel around her neck, though otherwise she tends to exercise in the same kinds of clothing she uses for her sorties. She has long rebuffed questions of comfort with claims that if she is fighting in the clothes, she must know how to move in it, and not entertained much else otherwise.
But it's with good nature, hard as it may tell, that she finds Lita Luwanda. A former Delta Red that has esteemed herself among the Ikari. And whom Leona considers almost as close as Clark and Ralf.
As Lita finishes her water, she can find an outstretched arm with a gloved hand holding a towel. "Leona, offering missions support," she states in a stern, potentially overdramatic way. Her face stoic, but somehow moreso. Somewhere, under everything, there is a joke. Leona finding humor in being even more official for something as simple as offering a towel to a comrade.
As looks at the towel and processes the words that Leona just said, there's a moment of silence before a change comes over Lita's face. First there's a smile that gives way to the puckered lips struggling to refrain from performing a spit take and spraying water all over Leona from laughter. Lita barely holds it together or at least enough that she can quickly swallow the water before letting out laughter that was /almost/ as loud as the sounds that she made from the impacts on the heavy bag.
"Thank you, Leftenant Heidern. Greatly appreciated."
She performs a salute before allowing herself to take the towel. Lita at this point is at the tail-end of her workout where she gives herself an option of going for more if she/her body is up to it or she can end the workout right there. At the moment, she decided to choose the option of pausing.
"I've had some stuff on my mind lately."
It is not entirely a smile that crosses Leona's face, but there is a palpable feeling of accomplishment and personal pride when Lita breaks and laughs loud enough to match her impact. She almost tugs at her glove, but stops, and sets her hands behind herself in a loose 'at ease'. A great deal more comfort than some of her more recent postures. "You are welcome, Lita," she says. "And. . ."
The woman looks with some concern, uncertainty, and distant trepidation. "I would appreciate being addressed as Leona outside of briefings and missions necessities."
Her words are stated bluntly, fast for Leona and packing more emotional emphasis than the stoic lieutenant is generally capable. But they needed to be said, and that moment was the best because Lita is quick with something that may be important. Lita's words could mean much, but so recently having had a very strange discussion with Ralf, who also 'had stuff on his mind', Leona finds a distant drumming in her heart getting louder.
"Experience has told me this is prelude to foolish behavior," Leona preempts. But then she closes her eyes and shakes her head hard enough to make her ponytail wobble back and forth. "Forgive me, spoke out of turn. I am here to listen, Lieutenant Luwanda."
"Fair enough, Leona."
The sweat drenched blonde wipes her forehead with the towel as she nods to Leona. It almost feels like an exercise in futility since just as she wipes and dabs away sweat, it just seemed to come back just as quickly.
"As for the foolish behavior, I think the foolish behavior might have been a prelude to me having to say those words in my case."
There's a pause as she thinks back to her most recent fight in the Neo League against Daniel Little.
"I had fought a former King of Fighters team member in my last professional fight. Daniel Little. He managed to arrange the fight so I didn't know I was facing him until I arrived."
Lita's hand grips the towel tightly, her knuckles turning a pale white as she does so. Her breathing is slow.
"I spent time morning my friendship with the guy because of what he became during the Mortal Kombat tournament. I heard testimony after testimony about how he betrayed humanity. So I fought him while he was apologizing and I fought him like I was trying to kill him on live TV."
Leona being quiet and listening is something she is quite good at. She lapses into a stony silence, cold and dark eyes look at Lita, almost through her and she deeply listens. No clear reaction, but that's because she's putting so much into paying attention to the words that Lita is saying and the little gestures and looks. She is actively trying to see Lita as a whole picture of a million little cues and clues.
Evidence place and list out. She tries to seek the source of pain. Former team member; emotional contact, but fighters fight all the time. Mortal Kombat, a known factor, dangerous, deadly. Lost colleague? But then no reason to fight, dead do not fight. So not dead. Alive. Something else.
Leona gives her head a little shake. Her at-ease slips to a light tug on her glove. "You do not feel comfortable with your reaction?" she asks, uncertainty creeping into her tones as she tries to find the difficulty. "Would it not have been more effective to apologize after the official fight?"
The former Delta Red let that question bounce around in her head. She takes a deep breath before taking another sip of her water out of the bottle. Only after giving that question a lot of consideration does she feel comfortable answering it.
"I'm not even sure there was a right time. During, and you're probably going to be dealing with someone trying to kill you because of betrayal, after, one or both of us might be unconscious. Before and the fight might not even happen. That being said, for some reason, he seems to feel more confortable talking while fighting."
It's unfortunate that Lita is not privy to the dead do not fight line of thought. She'd be able to mention the fact that multiple reports had Daniel dead multiple times on that island and she had her own actual death experience and has a skeletal hand and a femur from her original body to prove it.
"He didn't seem to take too well to me telling him he can't force people to forgive and betrayal on a global scale is harder to forgive than something like a little white lie."
Reasons and rationale being given bring comfort to Leona. It allows her to observe the difficulty of the moment from better angles. She can understand more and more with each explanatory sentence. Like uncovering the fog of war to reveal the battlefield. She nods, and her at-ease returns.
Though she is still focused on the situation as a situation; something to solve. She knows the primary objective in these cases it to present herself as an open source of comfort rather than a solution seeking agent. So she nods once in agreement with Lita's assessment. "Those are not similar in scale."
A moment where Leona's silent, and then she feels like she needs to press more for the situation to clear itself. "But what is it that troubled you about your actions?"
Lita had to admit that Leona was asking damned good questions right now. Not only are they questions that needed to be asked, she seemed to be asking them at just right moments.
"Multiple things. The fact that I found myself attempting to use deadly force on someone who I once considered a friend. The fact that I failed him at multiple points which may have prevented his fall. I didn't step up to tell him to be more cautious when dealing with Fio Tessitore. I didn't call out the Interpol Chief when Sergei Dragunov destroyed a bunch of steps to keep Daniel pinned while a Russian team could capture him right after one King of Fighters match. I got Daniel down and somehow Dragunov got Daniel captured right before our fight in the finals. We were supposed to be on the same. bloody. team. Not calling out the Interpol chief for his denial of the supernatural, like darkstalkers. Hell, he got reports of me dying during the Mortal Kombat tournament and he outright denied it in spite of me bringing back proof of my death."
Leona is only asking questions she feels she needs the answer to in order to best assess the situation. She does not feel she is very capable of reading people and guessing what they intend, so it always helps her to wait it out and to get people to say things directly.
She was not expecting things to be this direct. This was becoming very much like Ralf. Were her friends relying on her for guidance like this? Leona's lips pressed thinly as she considered that reality.
Heidern fought her when she was troubled. But, Leona had to remind, the purpose of that fight was reassurance that she could be taken down if she lost control. Leona needed conflict in that situation. So Leona had to think of what was being said by Lita would reveal the true objective of the moment. Once that was discovered, Leona could attack the problem as it needed.
Leona takes a breath. She thinks she has found it. "You are worried that your emotional response compromised the situation and will lead to further trouble for a person you consider a friend." She makes the statement more for herself than Lita, it's her putting what she thinks together.
"Second," she starts, and now she is numbering her own fingers, "You mention a team. So he is friend and comrade. These are things you value as a soldier. So you worry that you are a failure at what you consider core aspects of yourself, your mission objective."
Leona nods. "Am I incorrect in my assessment?"
There were multiple responses that she feel compromised that situation. The response to having the fight sprung on her, the response to having to come face to face with someone who had turned his back on his entire world, the response to the question of whether Daniel would need to apologize forever. In terms of the last item she didn't feel she was wrong. You can't force people to forgive and you have to live with it if the forgiveness never comes. She just wondered if that was precursor to something happening.
As for the second part, that part is incredibily accurate to the point that it cuts her deep. She was glad she doesn't have to face MURDERHOUSE because more images are being added to the failure montage.
Leona nods. More than one response is at the core the matter. Technically correct. She should have considered that things are compounded. She considers that, reconsiders how to approach. This has been a good conversation, one that's helped her feel like she might know what she's doing when it comes to understanding people and keeping control of herself. This whole time, the beat has been at bay.
Furthermore, she's correct. Good. That means she doesn't need to reassess the situation that much further. Only enough to figure out a proper approach. "Lita," she says after her long moment of contemplation. "I like knowing that you are a part of the Ikari. You have earned it. Even if you do not feel adequate. You are. And, I think it is best that when you have these problems, you allow us to back you up."
She pulls on her glove, and she nods as a decision is reached in her own head. "If there is more direct impact that I may have on your problems, I can promise the Ikari will assist you. I will assist you."
Lita had to smile. Getting reassurance from someone who Lita holds in high esteem does help a little even if she does feel as though she had failed Daniel on multiple levels. She may not have the trust of everyone yet but that's to be expected. She's the FNG(Fucking New Gal) of this particular outfit.
"I appreciate that, Leona but for now, just having someone to talk to should be sufficient. By the way, I have to remind you, this isn't a one way street. I may not understand what you go through but I'm here if you need a sympathetic ear, okay?"
With a quick snap, Lita drapes the towel around the back of her neck as she takes one more sip of her water.
A smile is a good sign. It means the tactic is working. That Leona's concern is appreciated. It is, in Leona's focus, a success. It gives her a warmth that makes the drumbeats distant.
But the beating of the drums of war. The red haze falling. It is always there. The truth of that makes Leona falter and frown.
But it can be useful.
"Lita," Leona starts. "There is something that I would like to tell you. Privately. But I need to know if it would be too much of a burden for you to carry. Considering this latest development."
There's a sense of a release of tension. Lita is sure of it on her end but part of her wonders if there was a release of tension on Leona's part as well. Mission accomplished as it were with her being allowed to decompress from the Daniel fight.
Then there's a tension that settled upon them once more along with the frown. She wonders if something was wrong.
"Something to tell me?" If not for the sweat matted hair covering her one eye, it would actually look like she was raising an eyebrow. "It would be hard to know without knowing what you want to tell me, but I did say that I would listen if you had anything to talk about."
Leona tugs on her glove, feeling the tightness closed around her hand, the seams digging into the webbing of her fingers. She does this and looks straight to Lita. And then she stops, and she nods. "This is a mission," she states, "One without detail approach or expected parameters."
She turns one way. She turns another. She considers the volume of her voice. She considers that anyone here in the Ikari are good enough to not eavesdrop. "I understand you have trouble raising your weapon against a fellow warrior. But I must ask you if you are still capable of doing so against me."
Direct words, spoken quietly but clearly. Leona seeks reassurance, but she also seeks to assure Lita that she is trusted with difficult duties. It's a balancing act, and one Leona is not comfortable with. But so far, her forthrightness has helped better than being completely taciturn.
The glove tug. It is a tic that Lita has observed multiple times. It had multiple meanings that changed depending on the context of the conversation. Does it mean a sense of nerves or is it more about putting more care and thought into selecting the right words to convey the meaning that she wishes to put into what she was saying. It could have been either of those and Lita wasn't sure how to read that glove tug.
When Leona speaks, it's clear. The tic of glove tugging is both. "I was capable of raising my weapon against Daniel with killing intent and if I have to, I would be capable of doing it again. I just didn't actually succeed in the act due to him being the better fighter. Just because I'm capable of doing it doesn't mean I have to like it though. Just as I would you if I was forced to for some reason. It would have to be a bloody good reason and I still wouldn't like it."
A part of her wonders why she asking that though. Lita would not be on the list of people capable of dealing with Leona normally. Leona is still a bit ahead of her on skill level and so she figures she probably need to call in assistance rather than take Leona down herself.
Leona's face is cold, distant and serious. "Capable of being able to stop me is not a requirement. I was unable to stop Justice alone, but I still had my duty," she explains in direct steady tones. "If you cannot stop me, delay or distract me long enough for Clark, Ralf, or Heidern to arrive."
She closes her eyes and takes a short breath before opening them again. "I do not worry about you ability to do this. I do not want to put undue burden." Explanations, or as much as she feels able to. "What is happening is growing stronger. There are others. I see red."
"And that right there is bloody good reason."
Putting that seed of having to stop whatever is going on inside of Leona's head was uncomfortable but the weaponmistress had to look at the silver lining. Leona was acknowledging the danger, and putting in place a support system to stop herself from betraying humanity.
There's a twinge of guilt in the back of Lita's head. She was never able to be that support system for Daniel. She resolves herself to not fail Leona like she did Daniel.
"I'm glad that you have that support system in place and I'm grateful that you included me in it. I don't think it'll be an unmanageable burden. I'll be sharing it with other capable people."
A second chance. It may not be close to what Lita needs. It might not be the correct method of approaching the situation. But Leona has her needs, and if those needs can help Lita, then she will make herself vulnerable. She had seen Ralf's near flight. She does not know if Clark will be available in the moment. She cannot always trust on Heidern, her father, to come defuse her a second time. She needs people.
She needs the Ikari.
Leona stands a little straighter though, at the positive news. The affirmation from Lita. Despite her trepidation over skill, Lita makes the promise to her. She thanks Leona even. And that makes Leona, the silent soldier, of all things, smile. A light smile, a small one, one of relief rather than mirth, but it is a smile.
"Thank you," she tells Lita. "Your service to the Ikari, to me, is always appreciated." She then adds. "I have been observing your progress. I think you are more capable than you know. While my own performance has not been adequate for the challenges and threats we face."
The ex-Delta Red soldier nods as she looks at the now smiling Leona. Lita can't help but think about all the details that make this scenario different. That make it more likely to succeed. Leona is benefitting from leadership that was supportive. Daniel had leadership that would abuse him just because they could. If the Ikari were the type of outfit to knock out their soldiers and then send them to fight in a deadly martial art tournament just because of a grudge or recruit a member onto a King of Fighters team just because they were happy that said member put a subordinate in traction, Lita wouldn't want to be a part of them. It was unfortunate that Lita wasn't capable of calling the Chief out until she had to start mourning her friendship with her former team mate.
"I don't think I've progressed enough though. I'm thinking about challenging Velvet Blue for my belt back. Take care, Leona. Heavy bag is all yours."
With that, Lita heads to the cart filled with discarded towels, tosses the towel into it and makes her way out of the gym and back to the barracks.
Log created on 19:50:45 05/16/2021 by Leona, and last modified on 13:37:11 05/18/2021.