Tseng always hated Nibelheim. It was cold and isolated, a small town out in the middle of nowhere with an even smaller population and well known for being one of Hojo’s favorite experimental grounds. Even in the middle of summer, where all around the world people were suffering with oppressive heat, the chill wind blowing down from the mountains made Tseng consider returning to the helicopter for a jacket.
Except now, the town wasn’t so sleepy any longer. It was little more than a burnt pile of wreckage, only one structure remaining standing. It figured that it would be the ShinRa mansion, ironic since it was ShinRa who was the initial cause of the massacre. The smell of burnt flesh filtered to Tseng’s nose, making his stomach queasy, and he swore he could still hear the echoes of screams, despite the fact he hadn’t been there.
He only half-watched as men and women alike, all in ShinRa uniforms, rushed by, doing their duties as they had been ordered. It was typical. Clean up the mess, hide the evidence, pretend as if their best and most powerful employee had not gone crazy and destroyed a town along with every person living within it. That was what ShinRa was best at.
Actually, that was only half the truth. Two people had survived, just barely. Both Zack and Cloud had tried to save their friend, and had nearly paid for it with their lives. Now they were in Hojo’s hands and there was nothing Tseng could do about it. When one worked for ShinRa, you pretty much signed over your life for them to do whatever they pleased.
Tseng sighed, scraping a hand over his forehead as he turned away from the clean-up crew. He headed towards the gates of the town, no longer wanting to look at the spires of the reactor in the distance, or the charred remains of people’s homes. Nor did he want to see the ShinRa mansion standing proud and whole, towering over the rest.
Sephiroth was… gone. He supposed that was the best word for it. Truthfully, Zack and Cloud were in no position to talk and no one really knew what happened. A few survivors had managed to gasp out tales of the insane General setting everything ablaze and cutting down those that tried to stop him. Zangan had told his tale before leaving the town. But still… no one knew why Sephiroth lost his mind in the first place.
Not even Tseng could fathom the truth or the reason. It wasn’t as if he and Sephiroth were ever truly close. Fucking each other didn’t really imply any sort of deeper feeling.
So why did he feel as if he was suddenly missing something very important?
His mind turned back to their last encounter, at the hotel room, when Sephiroth had been acting strange. Truthfully, he had been behaving oddly for the whole week prior and Tseng had been simply pushing it aside. There wasn’t room for care or worry between them.
There wasn’t room for tenderness.
He wasn’t sure how he felt about Sephiroth now, or if he was even supposed to be feeling anything at all. How was he supposed to react? Should he pretend impassivity? Should he attempt sadness? When had the lines become so blurry? Did he have any right to care at all?
Suddenly, Tseng’s body stiffened. Care? When had such a word entered the picture? Silver eyes widened as his hand came up to his own accord to his mouth. His stomach twisted in his abdomen as he half-turned, his eyes raking over the burnt out town behind him. It was a place of nightmares, worse than anything he could have ever imagined.
“Never thought I’d see the day,” a voice announced from behind him, one that recognized almost immediately. “I knew there was a reason he was so fuckin’ whacked, yo.”
Tseng’s eyes hardened as he glanced over his shoulder, seeing Reno standing there with a cocky set to his body, Electro Rod balanced on his shoulder. “I believe there is a job you should be doing,” Tseng remarked coldly, unwilling to deal with Reno when his own emotions were currently swirling in turmoil.
“But boss,” Reno leered as he stepped nearer, draping one arm over Tseng’s shoulder and sidling close. He got right in Tseng’s face, nose nearly touching a tanned cheekbone. “I’d much rather be right here with you.” His breath was warm and moist against Tseng’s face.
The Turk commander was unamused however. He shrugged off his subordinate’s unwelcome touch, as he had been doing for the past two years. “Leave me alone, Reno,” he commanded in an authoritative tone. “I have no interest in you.” He started to head back towards the gate, intent on re-entering Nibelheim.
He couldn’t let his personal issues get in the way of his duty after all.
Behind him, Reno snorted, his boots crunching against the gravel as he stepped to follow. “Sephiroth is dead, boss,” he grumbled coarsely. “He ain’t here to tell you who can fuck anymore, yo.”
Before he knew what he was doing, Tseng snarled and whirled around. His hand rose of its own accord, grabbing Reno about the neck and shoving him backwards so quickly that the boy practically tripped on his own feet. Tseng’s face blazed with emotion, far too many and too contradictory for Reno to identify, and definitely the first sign that Reno had ever seen.
“Don’t pretend that you know the slightest bit about what was between us,” Tseng growled, his fingers clenching around Reno’s throat as aquamarine eyes widened in shock. “You know nothing,” Tseng hissed, surprised by his own anger. It had welled up so quickly, he had scarce time to recognize it before he was reacting.
Reno gasped, one hand rising to grasp onto Tseng’s wrist as he managed a smirk. “Looks like I won the bet,” he stated in a mocking tone. “Not that Zack can pay it off right now.”
Silver eyes narrowed, highly unamused. “What the hell are you talking about?” Tseng growled, his voice dangerously low and on edge.
The younger Turk shook his head, attempting to pry the fingers free from his neck. He rather liked breathing and living both. “Too bad you will realize way too late, boss. I would have liked to see you admit that you loved him, yo.”
Tseng’s hand fell away limply as he abruptly released Reno, his eyes widening in unrestrained shock. Love? When had he ever professed anything as useless as… love? That wasn’t how things were supposed to work, that wasn’t how things were supposed to be. It was meaningless, it was lust, it was nothing more special than helpless desire… it couldn’t possibly have been anything more. Or else…
“Wh… what?” Tseng stuttered, taking an unconscious step backwards. “I don’t…”
But Reno was already adjusting his tie and walking away, a whistle and a smirk on his lips.