But then it became evident that he wasn't going to die- or if he was, the planet was taking its sweet time getting him. The dreams shifted them, becoming more twisted, angry, the demons of his past rising and twisting around him.
He thought he cried out in the midst of a fever-dream, and thought he heard Elena soothing him, speaking quietly to him, murmuring how she loved him, how he had to stay, how he should wake up now and tell everyone he was all right.
Elena, oh, Elena, I love you too, I do, I want to wake up, help me wake up, Elena...
That was when his dreams shifted for the better, when he dreamed that Elena held him close, soothed him, and he had the strength to roll her beneath him and make love to her as he should have been able to that night.
When he opened his eyes, he realized that it had been just a dream. There was no sun-dappled ceiling above him, the bed he was in was hard and the sheets scratchy, and Elena was not naked in his arms. She was, however, asleep and sitting in the chair beside his bed.
He opened his mouth to speak, and realized he couldn't. His tongue was sticking to the roof of his mouth- Gods, he was thirsty. "Elena," he finally managed to croak, after the third or fourth attempt at finding his voice.
She jerked awake, eyes snapping open immediately and reaching for a gun. When she realized she was unarmed, and Tseng was awake, she squealed and hugged him. "Tseng! You're all right! You're awake! I was so worried!"
For a moment, Tseng thought that everything- Kadaj's attacks, the following mission- that it had all been a dream. That Elena was a rookie again, overreactive and hyperactive. Then that thought was gone as Elena calmed down and sat back. "Sorry, sir... I just- we all thought the worst, really. I need to call Shachou..."
Tseng's eyes still felt feverish. "Where am I?"
"Shin-Ra infirmary," Elena put a cool cloth on his forehead. "Relax, I'll be right back."
Shin-Ra infirmary? What the hell did I do to myself this time...?
Oh, now he remembered. He'd fallen in a river. A cold, cold river. And he'd almost drowned. Ye Gods. I really am an idiot.
But he'd saved Elena... Surely that won him points somewhere?
I really must be sick if I'm thinking like that. Never mind the fact that his fevered, delirious mind had already forced him to admit the truth, if only to the void of his nightmares. No. I can't. I have to stop this. We were both caught in the moment, surely that's changed now. Surely we can return to the calm, casual business relationship we had before.
And maybe I'm a chocobo. He shook his head weakly, as Elena hurried back into the room. "I called him, he's on his way with Reno and Rude."
"You didn't disturb him, I hope?" Gods, his voice was soft, hoarse. He coughed to clear his throat and found he couldn't stop the explosive coughing. "Gods," he panted after he could stop coughing and catch his breath. "What was that?"
"One of the worries was that you had pneumonia," Elena said softly, tucking her knees up to her chest for a moment. "Someone's been with you the whole time you were here." She didn't mention that for roughly forty of the forty-eight hours he'd been unconscious in the bed, it had been she herself sitting with him. "How are you feeling now?"
"My lungs feel clearer," he admitted, sitting up slowly. "I'm starting to feel less fuzzy."
"You probably didn't have pneumonia then."
Elena jumped to her feet, and, on instinct, Tseng attempted to rise as well, grunting at the weakness in his limbs, and also the extremely unpleasant feel of a catheter. No dignity whatsoever. "I'm fine, now. Can I please have a nurse to untie me, Shachou?"
Rufus swept into the room, looking immaculate and as calm as ever. "I've called for a nurse already, Tseng. Elena, kindly go outside and wait."
While it wasn't phrased as a direct order, they all knew it was one. "Sir," she said quietly, and hurried out, as the nurse walked in. She checked Tseng's charts, vitals, keeping up a steady stream of happy chatter, such as "Oh, your lungs sound much better now", and "Well, let's make you a bit more comfortable..."
Rufus stood politely on the opposite side of the curtains. Tseng suffered in silence as IV's and the catheter were removed. The nurse patted him, called him a "good boy" and pulled the curtains back, nodding to Rufus before heading out of the room. "Anything to- sss- report, Shachou?"
"Ghen Yu's body was found a kilometer away from where we pulled you out," Rufus said mildly, leaving Elena in the hall. "The unit has been... reprimanded."
"I'm sure." Tseng sat up slowly, wincing at how weak he was. Damn. "And Elena?"
"Is fine, except for lack of sleep. Relax, Tseng. Don't push yourself. You did well." Rufus laid a hand on his shoulder, and the Turk winced. Rufus quickly withdrew his hand. "Apologies."
"They're sore still, Shachou." Tseng apologized without apologizing. "I did very poorly," he added, stiffly. "I was careless."
"You did as I ordered," Rufus disagreed. "You held true to the ruse. Yes, Tseng, Elena has already- rather haltingly, I might add- told me what occurred, and I watched the surveillance tapes." His lips quirked faintly. "I must say, the two of you reacted quite well for... being interrupted."
Tseng flushed faintly. "Well, all things considered, sir, yes..." He looked at his hands, then back at Rufus. "I would like to go home, sir."
Rufus nodded, looking quietly at Tseng for a long moment. "...I am glad that you're all right." He finally said, turning on his heel and pushing the door open. "Elena, I think he's ready to go. I'll handle the paperwork."
"Yes, sir." Elena hurried into the room, offering her hand to Tseng. After a moment of hesitation, he took it. In what faith are you offering this to me, Elena? As a partner? A friend? More? Then he banished those thoughts easily and attempted to stand, taking a moment to get his feet before taking a slow step. He was shaky, but he moved well enough.
"I'm fine, Elena, I can walk," he gently pushed her away, taking two steps on his own. He immediately regretted it as his balance was thrown off, and he wavered slightly.
Elena was back at his side immediately. "With all due respect, sir, I think you still need my help."
Sir. So it was back to that level of formality, was it? Oh, hells. I destroyed it, didn't I? Gods. "Thank you, Elena," he said, attempting to subtly persuade her to be less formal with him. Perhaps she's just tired. Rufus did say...
"Here we are." Elena glanced around, but Rufus was still back in the hospital, filling out paperwork, and Reno and Rude were with him. "Into the car..." she helped him in, and he was relieved to be sitting again.
I've got to get my strength back. "You're exhausted," he pointed out. In the sunlight, it was much more evident than under the pale fluorescent lights that washed everyone out. Her skin was pale, and there were dark bruises under her eyes. He doubted they came from the fight.
"I'm fine," she demurred, shaking her head. "Someone needed to stay with you... I'm your partner, and I felt responsible..."
"For my stupidity? Stay at my place tonight," Tseng insisted, even though the more cautious side of his mind was screaming at him. "I'm already feeling stronger, I'm sure we can take care of each other, rather than you simply running yourself ragged."
For a moment, Elena looked like she was going to refuse. Then she nodded. "All right, sir... thank you."
Tseng settled back, pleased for once to be the passenger in a car and not the driver, as the vehicle headed towards his place. He was already feeling more awake and aware, now that he was away from the hospital. I actually invited her to stay with me. Oh, Gods. Now what?
He closed his eyes, letting himself relax. I have to be calm, relaxed. I can't let myself be overwhelmed as I was last time.
"I don't have clothes to sleep in," Elena mumbled suddenly.
"I have sweatpants and you can sleep in one of my shirts," Tseng said, without thinking. Oh, yes, brilliant. Why not just carve your initials into her forehead? With his eyes still closed, he could easily picture Elena dressed in his clothes, sitting on his bed, unbuttoning the shirt, sliding it down, baring her perfect-
He forced his eyes open, rubbing his forehead. Dammit! Enough!
He got out of the car as it pulled up to his apartment. Leaning on each other, the two Turks stumbled into Tseng's home. She's tired... good. Now the two of us don't have to do anything stupid...
Elena was looking at him oddly. He couldn't place the expression on her face, until she leaned up and kissed him slowly. For a minute, Tseng let it happen, relaxing into it, and letting her lean against him as his back hit the wall. Why are you doing this? Why- don't you- we have to- we shouldn't... Even his thoughts were disjointed and hazy, unfulfilled lust and exhaustion taking their toll.
Gathering the last of his mental abilities, he pushed her away. "Elena, stop," he said, as firmly as possible. She froze, staring up at him. Don't do it, her eyes begged. Don't push me away... Please...
He took a deep breath. "Come on, you need rest..."
"No, Tseng, I don't," her voice was very soft, very quiet. "I need you."
Don't do this to me, Elena... Don't... Tseng shook his head, pushing himself off the wall. "No, Elena, you don't."
"Why are you doing this?" Elena's tone turned angry and frustrated. "What is the matter with you? Are you so damn busy being a martyr for Shin-Ra that you can't stand to take a chance with someone-"
"Elena," Tseng allowed a note of sharpness to enter his own voice. "Elena, it isn't like that-"
"-with someone who loves you?" Elena overrode him, eyes blazing. Tseng felt like he'd hit the water all over again, breath knocked out of him, and he hit the wall again. "Tseng, this isn't fair... Don't tell me that it was all about the mission..."
Tseng kept his silence, unable to answer her. How can you say that? How can you love me? You can't... He shook his head, attempting to find his voice. "It-"
"It can't just be about the mission..." She touched him now, resting a hand against his chest, staring up at him. "It can't be. Tseng, we're Turks, we both know the importance of our jobs, but that doesn't mean they have to consume us to that level... Can't we take time for ourselves? Shachou gave us the entire week off..."
He shook his head again, finding his voice. "You know we can't do that, Elena..."
"Reno and Rude are!" Elena fisted a hand in his shirt. "So you outrank me! Just because you're my lover doesn't mean I wouldn't follow your orders on the clock, or even off of it! Tseng, I'm a Turk, same as you. I'm not a stupid, useless rookie anymore... I know what I want... what I need..."
"You say that, but do you really?" Tseng grabbed her hand and pulled it off his shirt. "Elena, you're exhausted, you have no idea what you're saying..."
"Quite the contrary, Tseng," Elena shook her head. "I know exactly what I'm saying." She let her hand fall to fist at her side. "And I guess I understand what you're saying too." She took a step back, posture stiff, refusing to slump in defeat. "My apologies, sir. I won't strain your hospitality anymore." She turned on her heel before she lost control of her expression. "I'm sure the car hasn't gone far."
What the hell are you doing, you asshole? His inner voice screamed at him, as she started for the door. She loves you! She tore her heart out of her chest and offered it to her, and you ripped it from her hand and fucking stomped on it! You want her- you need her as much as she needs you, idiot, don't throw her aside!
"Elena-" he started, before he stopped, unable to encourage her to stay or go.
"Sir?" She didn't turn to face him, her shoulders obviously tense.
Gods, I'm sorry, Elena, I'm sorry... "I-"
Do it. Give up, you idiot.
I can't. I can't just use her like that. I can't. I don't- I don't love- do I?
He just looked at her, vibrating with tension, before taking a step towards her and holding out his hand. "I- I'm sorry, Elena, I-"
"Can I leave now, sir?"
Tseng set his jaw and closed the distance between them, clamping a hand on her shoulder and turning her around. "No, Elena," he said, looking down at her. "You may not."
He watched the expressions play over her face, surprise first, then anger, obviously thinking this was a game. No, Elena. You're going nowhere. I won't let you. Not this time.
"No," he repeated. "This time, there will be no interruptions." He had the brief joy of watching shock play over her face before he leaned down and kissed her.
Not this time.
Elena had no chance to push him away, though she wanted to- for about the first thirty seconds, before he slid his tongue into her mouth and his hands up her shirt. Oh, my. He's not wasting any- ohhh- any time this time is he...? She arched into his touch, gasping. "Tseng- what-"
"No interruptions," he purred in her ear, biting down on her earlobe. Her knees buckled, and she started to collapse, exhaustion forgotten. He scooped her into his arms- how she never knew, wasn't he still supposed to be ill and on bed rest?- and carried her to his bed.
"Tseng, are you sure about this?" Suddenly she was the voice of reason, moving back to the headboard, watching with slightly-wide eyes as Tseng unbuttoned the loose shirt he had changed into from the hospital.
"Very sure," he said, throwing the shirt aside, over a chair. "Extremely sure. I've wanted this for a while now... even before the mission. You're right, Elena, it wasn't about the mission, and it never was." His lips were at her neck now, and her breath sobbed in her throat as his hands quickly divested her of clothing. "Never was..."
"Tseng, you're ill..." But her protests were falling woefully flat. Why protest, when it was what she desperately wanted herself?
"I feel much better now." He murmured, and his arms were steady as he rested over her. "Really."
"But- the doctor said-"
"Fuck the doctor," Tseng growled, dropping his full weight on her, making her gasp. She'd only heard him swear a handful of times. "Though I'd rather have you instead."
"Tseng..." Elena mumbled, giving up, going limp and placid beneath him. She wanted him, why the hell was she complaining? "Gods."
Tseng chuckled, the sound low and hungry, and he claimed her lips again. "Don't just give up on me, Turk." His voice was still low, a hungry growl that made her shudder and arch up.
"Never, sir." She managed to say, hands sliding up his back. Gods, he was so strong and smooth and hard, all muscle and scars and silky skin.
"Do you really love me, Elena?" His lips rested at the hollow of her neck. "Did you mean that?"
"I wouldn't say it if it wasn't true," Elena whispered, eyes closing. Don't reject me, Tseng... Please... Do you love me? Tell me...
"Good," was all Tseng said, and she could feel his smirk against her shoulder. Moments later, he'd left a decent-sized mark at the junction of neck and shoulder, low enough to hide if she wore her uniform.
Well, it wasn't an "I love you too," but it was better than rejection. That was enough, for a Turk.
She slumped back, spent. Trembling with exertion, Tseng simply collapsed on top of her as his arms gave out, too weak to remain above her. "Elena," he mumbled again, lips finding her own.
Elena sighed into his mouth, eyes closing. She felt warm and content, and so, so good. Everything I'd dreamed of and more…
Arms slid around her, and Tseng held her close. "Mine," he murmured, his tone a possessive, low growl. Elena shivered, the sound of it sinking into her very soul.
"Yours," she agreed quietly, relaxing in his arms. They were Turks first, lovers second, it was true. But she would certainly take what she could get.
And if this was what she could get? It was far more than she'd ever expected.
She felt relaxed, relieved of tensions she hadn't known she'd had. This was good. She could do this forever.
A/N: Pr0n edited out. Sorry, y'all. XD Anyway, that's the end. Hope you liked it, sorry it took me so long to get off my bum and post it.