Disclaimer: I don't own any of this.


He paused by the lab door, the distinct clicking of a keyboard giving her away. It was long past midnight, and he was usually the last one out of the W.R.O. headquarters, except… Maybe she hasn't been leaving at all. He regretted the offhand comment he'd made a few weeks ago, about how the two of them should just get cots in their offices and stop wasting money on rent. He sighed. It was too late to head back into Edge when he'd practically have to turn around and come back, anyway.

So he keyed in the code to open the locked doors of the lab, the soft swoosh of the door making her pull back from the computer for just an instant. He liked to believe it was guilt or something similar, but he knew she kept her gun strapped under the desk, and that twitch had not been coincidental. She gave him a brief glance as he stepped into the long room, undisturbed by his presence. "I finally traced the signal from that broadcast earlier. Just like we suspected, somewhere within Midgar. Those Deepground bastards." She continued clicking with one hand, the deftness of it fascinating. He watched it move, the long, manicured nails with white tips, one thumb chewed down to an achingly red, swollen stump, the only thing betraying her anxiety.

He studied the screen. Blueprints of Shin–Ra headquarters on one side, maps of Edge on the other. He became somewhat alarmed. "I already have someone in Edge to take care of them there."

She glanced at him before the one blue eye slid intently back to the flickering computer screen. She wasn't going to argue, of course, because she was the only one who wasn't cowed by his authority. "I know. But if Deepground is moving in on Edge…" She trailed off and he finished the sentence in his mind. …She might be there. Her reason to live, the sister she'd been desperately searching and mourning and fighting for, the reason she'd shown up on his doorstep the day after they'd announced him as the Commander of the W.R.O., that sly smirk and assured frankness that had drawn him to her like a child to a flurry of fireflies. And for some reason she soothed his doubts and made him plunge headfirst into the barrage of responsibilities and duties, knowing she was putting in hours matched to his, unearthing Scarlet's scattered files as he organized wind and solar power plants. And he'd always known why; she never kept it a secret.

And he'd seen her through the lengthy surgeries, the one to replace her failing kidneys and punctured lungs; he'd held her hand up until the moment she passed through the swinging doors, groggy from the anesthetic. He'd been there as she'd tackled the difficult physical therapy to adjust to her bionic arm, as she learned its uses and limitations; he'd replaced every beaker and computer screen that she'd ever broken out of frustration.

He stood behind her and watched as the computer analyzed likely troops movements and espionage points, watched as she plotted her course for the next day, as her thick blonde hair glistened in the low light, half the fluorescents shut off to conserve power, tapping one of those ridiculously high heels against the tiled floor, sending chart after chart to the printer. He gripped the back of the chair she sat in and wondered why she never trusted him, trusted that he'd do anything to give her that reason to live, trusted that he knew what he was doing and that she didn't need to go out and fight on the streets like she had for so many years. But in the three years he had known her, been her companion, he knew she needed to find it herself.

And so he dropped one hand onto her hunched shoulder, giving it a light squeeze before turning toward the door. That unrivaled, blazing bravery… His thick–soled boots echoed against the too–empty room as he hit the code to let himself back out. "Try to get some rest before heading out, alright?"

She nodded absently, and he left, knowing she'd become so focused on her reason to live that she failed to realized that she'd become the center of his.