Tseng walked into Heigdegger's office, then stood, waiting to be acknowledged. He was used to this power play that the older man constantly went though. It meant nothing to Tseng. Five minutes was not enough to fight for.
The large man finally looked up. "Recruit." He said shortly.
"Sir?" Tseng blinked. This was not a usual command, despite what the public thought.
"Rude will be completing Elena's training. You and Reno will search for one person to be a high class soldier. We're talking the next Sephiroth, here. Understand, Turk boy?" Heigdegger laughed at his bad joke.
Tseng simply waited to be dismissed. "Sir."
So now he roamed the streets of Nibelheim, searching for the next Sephiroth. Reno was in Mideel, Rude and Elena in Gogonga. He pushed his hair back as the biting wind caught and sang for it to dance. There was a snowstorm coming and the air hummed. Turning, he walked into the only inn the town boasted. He ignored the awe and terror struck passerbys, out of long habit. They all recognized him, and he knew it. The blue suit and long black hair were a neon sign in his case. He was supposed to be dead, and the whispers spread through the tiny common room like wildfire.
He looked to the innkeeper. "Four nights, single room." He commanded softly. "How much?"
"Ahh .250 gil Sir." The boy gulped.
Tseng did a mental tally, finding the boy's math flawed. Without comment, he handed the money over, taking a key. He made it to the stairs before the boy called out.
"Sir! You must sign in " He said hesitantly.
Tseng did so. The boy gulped as he read the signature.
"What?" Tseng nearly let his composure slip enough to sigh.
"I heard you were dead." The boy stammered.
"Bu-b-bu-t-" The boy stammered.
Tseng glared coolly at the kid. "I am dead, boy." He said, his voice toneless. "I no longer exist. Take care to remember that." He started to leave again, then turn back once more. "Where would I find the best fighter in this town?"
"Fighter, sir?" The boy gulped, thinking frantically. "Ms. Tifa Lockhart, or the monster of the mansion. Sir."
Monster? One of Tseng's eyebrows arched, but he nodded again, leaving. Ms. Lockhart was out; she was the enemy. And he seriously doubted there was a monster of the mansion. He still went to check.
There was no answer to his knock, but he didn't expect one. The door was easily disposed of and he entered. As far as he could tell, no one was in the house. He searched anyway.
The labs did not hold his interest; the bedrooms had not been used for years. The piano was badly tuned. The secret passage mildly interested him; the library fascinated him. Utterly enchanted by the sheer amount of books, he started reading titles. How long he lost himself, he didn't know, but the sound of a gun cocking brought him back instantly.
"Why do you disturb my sleep?" A voice asked, soft as the cobwebs that covered the house. Tseng's eyes widened slightly before he turned and found himself lost in a pair of deep sanguine eyes.
Vincent stared at the man before him. He knew this man. The long ebony hair, the sharp Wu-tain features. Eyes the colour of enigma's, gray kissed with mako, and the bearing of a warrior king. Oh yes, he knew this man. One did not forget one's best pupil, no matter how hard one tried.
"Tseng." Said dispassionately as the gun held its mark.
"Vincent Valentine." Tseng held up his hands to show them empty, but there was no comfort in the gesture. Vincent knew just how deadly the hands could be.
"Why are you here?" Vincent asked, eyes narrowing.
"Recruiting. I was told a monster lives here." Tseng tilted his head, his voice laced with venom. "And they were correct. What of you, Master?" The title was mocking, deliberately meant to cut. "Still mourning the beautiful and traitorous Lucrecia?" His words were the weapons he needed not the twin blades of steel that hung across his back.
Vincent ignored the attacks, though they cut him to the bone. "You are rumoured dead."
"I am dead, Vincent." Tseng corrected.
"You walk, speak, breathe. No corpse does such things." Vincent pointed out.
"Not all dead men are corpses, Master Vincent. You, of all people, should know better than that." Tseng moved forward, brushing past Vincent to leave. Vincent caught Tseng's wrist, and both men froze. Neither man had been touched, or touched, anyone, outside of battle, and the casual contact now was a new experience. They stared at each other, not really seeing. Tseng had dreamed of Vincent's touch, once, a long time ago. He'd yearned for it, and now that he had it, he had to remind himself that the boy who'd dreamed of Vincent was long dead. Even if the emotions weren't. Vincent realized he felt pleasure at such simple contact, and jerked his hand away.
Tseng smiled cruelly, noting the movement and knowing the reasons behind it. "What's wrong, Vincent? Do you dislike the feel of another man's skin on your own so much?" The words were bitter.
Vincent's eyes narrowed, and he backed up as Tseng advanced on him.
"Well?" Tseng asked, putting his hands on the wall to either side of Vincent. He was larger in stature than the other man, albeit slightly, but he used it to his advantage. "The idea makes you sick?" his voice was a polite inquiry, his breath feathering over Vincent's lips.
Vincent looked at him. Outwardly, he was cool, inwardly, on fire. Tseng's presence, this close to him, was igniting feeling that had been long dead. But now they sent chills over his skin. He felt unloyal to Lucrecia, felt sick, at the thought of betraying her, but also at the waves of unfamiliar emotion. He was sick, but not for the reasons Tseng thought. He was suddenly acutely aware that if he tilted his head a mere fraction of an inch, their lips would touch. The realization that he didn't know whether he wanted to perform such an action or not scared him.
"I made my choice." He said.
Nothing flashed through Tseng's eyes, and that frightened Vincent more than anything about the encounter had. No pain, no fury. Nothing. Tseng turned, and was gone.
Tseng sat on a bench, staring up at the star filled sky in deep contemplation. He was lost in the past, in the pain of seeing his old teacher again. He hadn't seen Vincent since the other man had left. Their parting had been less than pleasant for both of them. Vincent and he had fought, bitterly, over Lucrecia. Tseng hated her, didn't trust her cool eyes and calculating gaze. Besides that he was jealous as a sin of Vincent's love for her. For a very long time, it had been only Vincent and himself, but then this this woman had entered, and torn them apart. The last night, they had fought, not physically, Tseng was mad, not stupid, and Tseng had left. When he had finally swallowed enough of his pride to come back, Vincent was gone, Lucrecia pregnant. The next time he'd seen Vincent, only moments before he'd died, the betrayal had twisted any emotions left. The man who taught him everything, and had been his life, was fighting for the wrong side.
Now Vincent was back in his life, and the pain was sinking through the cracks of the composure he could not survive without. He shook his head. No. He was a Turk; he would not let one man ruin what had taken him ages to create. No matter how much he loved or hated him.
Vincent stood behind his old student, watching him. It had been a long time since he'd left the relative peace of the mansion, but curiosity over what had become of Tseng overrode any old habits. When Tseng was younger, when they'd been teacher and student, the younger man hadn't been so bitter, no where near as cruel. Vincent had tried his best to teach Tseng that though the world was cruel, he did not have to be. He knew little of the Wu-tain's past, other than he'd lived on the streets during his youth, and became a Wu-tain lord by being one of the best generals in the War. But as to parents, siblings, and specifics, Vincent was ignorant.
He'd recruited Tseng off the streets, and over time, cleaned him up, gotten him off the drugs and alcohol. And over time, the young man had learned to trust him, learned to open up to him. And, as he had found out that last night, learned to love him.
"The stars have always seemed more magnificent here than anywhere else." Vincent said softly.
"They are just stars." Tseng shrugged, still gazing at them.
"You have changed." Vincent commented.
"Yes." He walked over to where Tseng sat. "You have lost the streak of romanticism that you used to posses."
"Romanticism has no place in reality." Tseng looked up at him. "Didn't you teach me that?" And for a breath, Vincent could see all the pain and betrayal in his eyes.
"Tseng?" Vincent whispered, struck.
"I hate you, Vincent, have you realized that yet?" Tseng asked softly, rising. Smoothly, his mask dropped back into place. He rose, but if he expected the other man to move, he was sadly mistaken.
"No, I haven't. And I didn't know. Why?" Vincent stood his ground, gazing at the younger man with eyes that matched his for ice.
"Because I trusted you, and you broke that trust. Because I loved you and there's little difference between love and hatred. Because you didn't listen to me when I told you Lucrecia wasn't good enough for you. Because, because, because, and a thousand other melodramatic reasons." Tseng smiled, when Vincent wished he would cry. "Because when it was all said and done, she meant more to you than I did." He stepped around his old sensei and started back for the inn.
As before, Vincent caught Tseng's wrist. But, this time he jerked him back, forced him to turn and look at him. "I did not chose her over you, silly student. I loved her as a man loves a woman, but you meant more to me."
"Would that I meant nothing to you, and you loved me as a man loves a man." Tseng said softly. "Now I would advise letting go of me, Master Vincent. I am not the little boy you picked off the streets. I'm much more dangerous."
"You were never a boy, Tseng." Vincent answered, just as softly.
"Don't pity me, Vincent. The past is dead, and unlike us, it no longer walks." Tseng jerked away and this time succeeded in going to the inn.
"Yes." Vincent said softly. "It is. But can you accept it?"
Ms. Lockhart made her presence known at the end of Tseng's third day. Tseng had been wondering how long it would take her.
She burst into the small pub where he was eating, her red eyes flashing. Her hair, brown and beautifully long, whipped around her, and she took away the breath of most of the tavern.
Tseng continued to sip his broth, unimpressed.
"Tseng, wasn't it?" She asked, striding over to him.
He merely looked up at her, his face polite. "May I help you?"
"You're dead." She said flatly.
"Yes, I am. How remarkably observant of you, Ms. Lockhart." Tseng set down the bowl. "Did you come just to make sure I was aware of that?"
"No!" She shook her head. "I want to know why you're here."
"My business here is no concern of yours, Ms. Lockhart." Placing gil on the table for the meal, he rose, walking past her. "I would advise you not to bother yourself with it, but then again, it probably won't stop you."
She ran after him, and barely winced as snow slapped at her. "Stop! Tell me why you're here." She grabbed his arm.
Tseng spun, backhanding her, hard enough to knock her to the ground. "Do not presume to think that I need to tell you anything. And do not touch me."
"Foo'. Now your punk @$$ is gonna git it." Cold steel touched the back of Tseng's neck and he cursed himself. Of course she wouldn't've come alone! They traveled like wild dogs, in packs. He sighed, turning back to face the large black man behind him.
"Barret, wasn't it?" Tseng asked. "The one with the girl."
"Leave m'girl outta this, ya scum!" Barret growled.
Tseng mentally calculated whether he could take them both out. He could probably get one down, but the snow was a hindrance. Better to leave and return later. He started to turn and leave when Barret cocked his gun arm.
"I wouldn't be doin' that, right about now." The other man warned.
"Barret, please, leave him be." Vincent's soft voice made all three look up. "He came to see me."
Tifa blinked. "Vincent! When did you get here?"
"I have been living at the mansion." Vincent answered as Tseng disappeared into the snow.
"Dammit! The boy got away!" Barret cursed.
"Tseng is hardly a boy, Barret. He is older than you." Vincent helped Tifa up, and followed the two as they walked into the pub.
"How do you know?" Tifa asked.
"I used to work for the Turks." Vincent held out a chair for her. "Don't you remember?"
"Dem, you used ta be one of them bastards?" Barret asked. "What the hell were ya doin' with the bunch of them?"
"Teaching them, for the most part. There were only three when I was there. My teacher and my student." Vincent took a seat himself.
"What?" Tifa asked, curious. It was a pleasure to see her old friend again.
"I taught Tseng, years ago. He has returned to find a new Turk." Vincent murmured.
"I thought he died." Tifa said, recalling what he said. "How is he here now?"
"I don't know "
Tseng lay on his bed, staring up at the cracked, whitewashed ceiling. So now the woman and man knew he was here. That was fine, he was going to leave tomorrow morning. Nibelhiem had been a complete waste of time in his book.
Had it been? A voice whispered in the back of his mind. Hadn't he been able to see Vincent again? Hadn't he felt again, something more than the pain, than the anger?
He rolled on his side. No, it wasn't worth it. He deserved the numbness more than he did the pain.
Two years. Two years ago, Shinra had fallen, and like the phoenix, risen from her own ashes. First Rufus, then Tseng had been re-awaken, and if the two shared nothing else, it was the extreme hatred for the life they had been granted again. Tseng had finally been able to rest, to ignore the pain, only to be jerked back. And, as Shinra had told him, he was dead. Dead men didn't question orders, like Tseng ever had, they didn't argue or throws fits, or acknowledge power trips. They followed orders. Quickly, efficiently, and without a mess.
Reno, Rude, and Elena. His three students. They knew him, knew the pain. They'd been against reviving him from the first, but when it all was said and done, the Turks were nothing more than a group of people to do the dirty work. They had no real say in what went on.
A soft knocking had him looking up, frowning. No one should be visiting him; no one should be there. Picking up a kotachi, he padded to the door.
"Who is it?"
When there came no answer, Tseng edged the door open. Standing there, eyes downcast, was Vincent, covered in snow.
"Vincent?" Tseng questioned.
"Let me in, raven." Vincent said softly.
The old endearment, one Vincent had called him for years, caught Tseng's breath. He stepped back, allowing Vincent to enter as he wished.
Vincent stepped in, closing the door and walking towards Tseng. "You asked me if the feel of your skin sickened me." He said, ruthlessly advancing as Tseng backed up. "If the idea made me upset. You wanted to mean nothing, and be loved as a man from a man."
Tseng hit the back of the bed and stopped, stunned as Vincent took his hand, turning it so the pulse was facing him.
"Do you want the answers?"
Tseng could only nod, caught without his composure for once. He tried to jerk back, but this only sent him into a sitting position on the bed. "Vincent?"
"Shh. If I don't get this out, I won't, and my gift with words will fail me." Vincent ran the tip of one finger over the smooth skin of Tseng's wrist. "It doesn't. The thought of betraying Lucrecia did. And you can never mean nothing." Vincent shook his head. "Not to me."
"She betrayed you, Vincent." Tseng whispered. "Your Lucrecia was not raped, she went willingly."
"I know." Vincent's lips touched his skin, replacing his fingertips. "I know that now. I know she didn't love me, maybe she did, once." Vincent's eyes met Tseng's in the shadows. "I know what it feels like to be rejected for another. It was never my wish to hurt you."
"You did." Tseng pulled back now, went to the window to put his back and some distance between them. "I can't forgive you for brushing me off, not when it hurt so badly. I hate you." The last was whispered.
Vincent's arms slid around Tseng's waist, drawing the man back against him. "I know. Let me fix it."
"You can't. Nothing can." A tear danced over his cheekbone as Tseng looked back at him. "You can't."
Vincent's lips found the soft skin in the crook of Tseng's neck, tasted it. And Tseng, unable to stop him, let his head fall back, his eyes close. "Vincent." He sighed as the older man turned him in his arms. "Vincent "
They lay in each other's arms, an awkward position, pressed together in the tiny bed. Tseng gazed at the scars on Vincent's torso, tracing them with gentle fingertips.
"I hate you, Vincent " He murmured to the sleeping man. "But I think I love you."
Pip Malloy's Fanfiction