|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2006-10-13 23:17:00
Was going to write the next of the streetsigns series this weekend, except I looked at the calendar and went "oh yeah you've got three fics to write by the end of October, you should like go do those or something." So here's one of them...
Title: Close Encounters
Disclaimer: totally not mine; never even played it in fact...
Warnings: ...no smut? Should that be a warning around here? ^^;;
Pairings & prompt: Zack/Reno, Sephiroth/Tseng. An interdepartment mission turns into a double-date. [for animekittysama]
Neither of them quite flinched, when Zack swung Reno into a spin followed by a flashy backbend in the middle of the dance floor; they were both well experienced in not-flinching, after all. They'd both survived the upper levels of Shinra management for this long.
Still, that had to have hurt. It hadn't been that many hours earlier that a shotgun blast at point-blank range had nearly severed Zack's arm, and even though Cure materia stopped the bleeding and patched the holes, it usually took a while for the nerves themselves to recover from the sensory overload.
Reno had claimed that getting drunk always helped. Zack had been more than amenable to the suggestion. Sephiroth suspected that Zack's Mako levels, like his own, were far too high to allow drugs as simple as alcohol to affect his judgement enough to be that giddily making a show of himself on the dance floor with his more-human, more-drunk, and equally-enthusiastic dance partner. But coming that close to death tended to alter one's perceptions by itself, with or without the alcohol to assist.
On the other hand, Tseng, who'd taken a Bolt to the chest hard enough to stop his heart until Sephiroth had managed to counteract it -- Tseng didn't seem to feel the same compulsion to become intoxicated and embarrass himself and his unit after a near-death experience. Perhaps he was simply leaving an allotment for Reno. Reno, who hadn't come anywhere near as close to dying, usually took care of providing all the embarrassment Tseng's unit could withstand. ...And then he always added some more, because it was his nature to be unusually generous with humiliation.
Their subordinates suited each other, really, Sephiroth mused, sipping at the brandy that Zack had ordered for him without so much as a by-your-leave. They were both exuberant and impulsive and had learned enough evasive tactics to survive the inevitable explosions that surrounded the other -- and having them focused upon each other also spared the worst of their personality-whirlwinds from spilling over onto unsuspecting bystanders like their commanding officers.
Not innocent bystanders, necessarily -- no one lingered in a bar that had been descended upon by off-duty Turks and Soldiers after a bloody mission. That drastically lowered the number of innocent bystanders present for physical or mental trauma and the resulting lawsuits. But nearly anyone who did remain had a certain amount of unpreparedness about them, because there really was no preparation for the types of things that resulted from Zack and Reno in the same room as each other and alcohol all at the same time.
Once, when he'd been younger and more optimistic, Sephiroth had thought he'd grow accustomed to the kinds of events his second-in-command and Tseng's second-in-command could produce in conjunction. More recently, he'd come to terms with the fact that there really was no getting used to it, because it was never the same thing twice. Predictability might have led the bystanders to mount some sort of defense, after all.
He mentioned this theory to Tseng; the Turk's only response was a slight, amused quirk at the corner of the lips, but that was sufficient between the two of them.
It wouldn't have been sufficient for the others; Reno and Zack nagged, teased, and complained about their 'stonefaced' bosses, but, really, there was a distinction between stonefaced and understated. Tseng appreciated the distinction as much as Sephiroth did, and the almost-a-smile said as much as one of Reno's intoxicated ramblings, only much more clearly and concisely.
Time was valuable, especially time like this, when they were between missions and both relatively unencumbered by their positions and titles for a few hours. He had no intention of wasting this time.
Particularly since he was newly conscious of the fact that those around him were... uncomfortably fragile, at times. A brush with death didn't only affect the one who made the encounter.
"You should have let me take that hit," he murmured, because it was nothing but the unvarnished truth. Tseng, for all his lethal expertise and self-controlled poise, was still human. Human in a way that Sephiroth himself hadn't been for a long time, if ever.
"I must respectfully disagree, General."
Sephiroth glanced away from the flailing of their intoxicated subordinates long enough to see that Tseng was perfectly serious.
"Commander," he murmured, "I was there as bait. We both know it. I was there as bait precisely because I make a tempting target for the resistance, and because I can withstand most of what they throw at me. You should have let me take the hit."
"The Turks' duty is to protect Shinra's most valuable assets," Tseng replied, and took a sip of the steaming beverage in the tiny cup he held steady between thumb and forefinger. He hadn't been nearly as steady earlier, with nerves shorting from the lingering effects of the Bolt spell. "You are the third most valuable asset in the company, after the President and the Vice President. In their absence, it was our duty to protect you. I mean no slight to your prowess as a warrior, of course; but in the midst of cowards, traitors, and assassins, an unsullied blade marks a rare target, not a typical weapon of the field. The Turks are accustomed to working in the midst of politics and poison, treachery and murder and deceit-- this battlefield was mine, General, not yours."
"An ambush is an ambush for all on the field, regardless of who has claimed it their own," Sephiroth replied, studying the gold of the brandy he swirled lightly in its glass. "And being, as you have observed, the third in Shinra's chain of command -- I am more than familiar with politics, treachery, and deceit. The poison and murder are simply natural offshoots."
With a flash of hair bright as burning embers, Reno was wobbling in his tipsily effusive glee; he ground against Zack with a fake plastic rose between his teeth and a vinyl tablecloth wrapped around his hips, dancing something which resembled a rather sticky and hip-gyrating tango. Zack was nearly laughing too hard to stand, clutching at one of the ceiling posts with one hand and Reno's hips with the other, trying to keep them both upright and pressed fiercely together.
"Nevertheless," Tseng said, watching them dance with something a bit wistful in the darkness of his eyes. "I believe my course of action was correct."
The general in Sephiroth wished he could simply order the man to stand down. But the politician in him recognized when a debate could no longer be won with words -- and at times, the politician and the general agreed. If he could not order Tseng, he would simply need to ensure that the scenario never presented itself again.
He could order Zack to avoid such incidents, and had done so. On many occasions. And Zack's cheerfully selfless insubordination continued to place him 'accidentally' between too many weapons and his commander's body. But then, Zack was a Soldier, and unnaturally enhanced, and Tseng was not. Sephiroth was fairly confident that his reflexes could best any unmodified human, even one as well trained as the commander of the Turks.
It was, perhaps -- and the concession was bitter enough to require a mouthful of brandy to wash the sting away -- perhaps futile to task himself with seeing to it that Zack was kept unharmed throughout the thick of battles, when Zack's speed rivaled his own and Zack's stubbornness exceeded his by far. But Tseng he could handle. It was simply one more variable he could train himself to adjust for; from the vantage point of more-than-human reflexes, the unmodified were a step closer to chess pieces, easier to predict and to maneuver.
He would need a practice partner, though, to help him adjust; the new girl wasn't yet as swift as her commander, but she was fiercely devoted to her duty, and he suspected that she would apply herself diligently if he presented it in terms of helping him guard her commander...
"You're thinking too much," Tseng said, and Sephiroth blinked.
Tseng chuckled, softly, and refilled his own cup from the ceramic bottle beside him. "I've learned to brood less visibly," he said. "Otherwise, Reno decides I look sufficiently distracted to present an easy target. I believe yours may have acquired a similarly weighted targeting system, to judge by the number of times the rediscovery of the ad agency's chocobo mascot costume and the rigging of the elevator soundtrack to announce floors in warks overlapped with the times the President has assigned you something particularly ...unpalatable."
He made a slight salute with the cup he held, and drained it, and then added, "You might try to stop thinking so visibly, or else we may find ourselves dragged onto the dance floor 'for our own good' as well as for their entertainment."
Zack and Reno were leaning on each other, nose to nose, murmuring to each other; that in itself wouldn't have been suspicious, and even the giggles weren't court-admissible evidence, but the little glances they kept shooting toward the bar followed by the other one's wild attempts at redirecting the glances in combination with the giggles... well.
Sephiroth finished his brandy, and set the glass on the bar, and stood -- and then offered a hand to Tseng. "Shall we head them off at the pass, then?"
It was the first time he'd seen the man actually taken by surprise. Tseng wasn't even surprised in the middle of gunfights. He recovered admirably, though, quirking a brow and asking, "The best defense is a good offense, General?"
"You suggested that we need to be perceived as thinking less," Sephiroth replied. "This may be the least well-thought-out idea I've had for a long time."
When Tseng made a dry little sound of amusement, Sephiroth said, "No slight intended to yourself, of course -- it's simply that I can't quite believe I'm considering handing them the ammunition."
"That would make two of us, sir."
Gazing toward the dance floor, where a sudden explosion of half-muffled giggles had escaped the two schemers propped against the pole since they apparently couldn't stand under their own power any longer, Sephiroth added, "On the other hand, I'm fairly certain we can't do a worse job of dancing than they have."
"Also an excellent point." Tseng said. "Besides... sometimes it's tiring, being the predictable ones, isn't it." He stood and took Sephiroth's hand calmly, and didn't flinch at the thud when Reno lost his balance in shock and hit the floor like an alcohol-sodden sack of grain.
Zack didn't quite fall on top of him, but that might have been due to the fact that he fell mostly on top of a bar table instead. Both of them looked like their jaws were in danger of coming unhinged from the gawking.
There was a certain satisfaction to be had in being the one to surprise the pranksters, Sephiroth thought, putting his arm about Tseng's waist and nodding slightly as Tseng set his free hand to Sephiroth's shoulder. Reno wouldn't likely recognize formal ballroom dancing, but Zack's incredulous, knee-slapping howl of glee was not to be missed.
If he'd had a little more foresight, he might have waited to lead Tseng into a slow dance on a song with a better rhythm than Baby Rocks Down in Midgar. And a better melody. And better lyrics. ...And a better performance, while he was itemizing the faults of the bar's musical ambiance.
But then, this was a lesson in not thinking.
It seemed to be going fairly well so far. Assuming, of course, that Zack relearned how to breathe before he collapsed a lung, and that Reno hadn't actually knocked himself cold on the way to the floor...
..not thinking. Right. Not thinking at all.
As long as he was not thinking, Sephiroth decided he might as well make an utterly thoughtless event of it. He tilted Tseng's head back with a hand cupped to the nape of his neck, bent closer, and...
...yes, that beverage he'd been drinking was Wutain after all, that rice-based alcohol with the faintly floral taste.
The second thud meant that Zack had likely fallen onto the floor (or Reno) as well, but Sephiroth wasn't uncouth enough to pull away in order to look. Interdepartmental negotiations were to be handled with delicacy, after all.
And what to do about the fact that Tseng's hands had twined about his shoulders and woven themselves through his hair and Tseng was kissing back somewhat heatedly -- that decision would be saved for later, when thinking was permissible again. Right at the moment, he was still savoring the fruits of thoughtlessness.