A/N: Just a snapshot update where I deal with everyone at once.
The ghosts we don't see…
He froze, eyes wide, face pale, hands shaking. He froze as he stared down at the truth, the bloody mangled truth. Unblinking eyes, body a mangled memory, half recalled but distorted be the mess of red tossed all around. He looked, unseeing, sickened at the sight before him…
Shaking his head Reeve banished the fantasy. He hadn't had time for stupid Turk dares, he had more concrete needs to peruse, and so he had turned down Tseng's little offer. He'd left the Shinra tower, abandoned its familiar confines and after picking up a copy of the "Mako Metropolis" had found a place with a decent sale on woman's clothing. With rough memories in his mind giving him an edge to what to buy –as well as a short span where he actually had lived with his girlfriend- Reeve felt fairly confident that he could tackle buying one little girl and one elderly woman some clothes.
He should have known better, and five minutes later after entering one of the smaller scale clothing stores his mind was reeling. Textures, styles, colors, cuts, there were a hundred different variables. Less than a quarter of an hour in and he was already dreaming of a simple suit section with at most five styles and only a handful of colors being permitted by corporate.
It didn't help that his imagination, which was relentlessly challenging him to go back to the Turk's office and actually see, was going non-stop. Damn Tseng, the man knew how Reeve was, he knew that once his curiosity had been awakened it wouldn't go to sleep. As he moved his hands over the rack, the screech of plastic over metal set his teeth on edge.
And he wasn't even seeing the clothes, not really, not with his mind locked on something else entirely.
Finally, knowing only that he needed to get back, he picked out two sets of dresses for Marlene and one set of business styled pants and shirt for Elmyra, as an afterthought he also snatched up a dress for the elderly woman. Not much of a purchase, but with luck and with the Turks busy -it went without saying that when Tseng actually left his office some massive project was going down- Reeve would be able to go down into the slums and fetch some clothes from the Gainsborough home.
In a few days, he promised himself, he'd go down. Just not yet.
So he paid and gave gil and lies over the counter. The clothes, they were for niece and grandmother from a half sister's side of the family. Why so little? Well the girl was ill, he wanted them to be present so they could pick out what they wanted. This was just an emergency run after a hasty trip from the doctor's. Thank you for the concern. Yes, he nodded, yes he'd forward whatever prayers, hopes, and other empty platitudes they had to offer to a perfectly healthy little girl. With a smile pasted to his face Reeve let himself out, his stomach was a mess of anxiety that clung to his backbone with a death like grip.
He managed to make it to his car, open the trunk and toss the clothes in. It was on closing the trunk that his sensibilities revolted in full. A bitter taste flooded his mouth and he sank to his knees, retching all the while. Pale, shaking, he wiped vomit from his lips and tasted the bitter acidic taste that came after such a fit. Another clench of his gut and Reeve shut his eyes, knowing without knowing how that he was going to be violently sick again.
And he was.
Gently holding Marlene in her lap Elmyra combed the girl's hair. It was too dark a hue to be her Aeris', but the contact and soothing motions brought froth a million memories. The scent of wet little girl, the brush, the sweep of each stroke.
Marlene was quiet, not inquisitive as say... Aeris. She didn't talk much, and when Elmyra asked what style the little girl wanted her hair set in the child merely shrugged. But then, the child was fixated on something else entirely. Flashing saucer wide eyes, orange fur, a slowly waving tail. Perched upon the long desk was the thing Reeve had dubbed Kath. It stared down at them with glass eyes that were an off sky blue hue. Ignoring the creature's scrutiny was easy for Elmyra since it hadn't made a peep, but Marlene, uneducated in what was right and proper found the unnatural thing fascinating.
"How would you like a braid, dear?"
Lightly rapping the girl with the back of the brush Elmyra gathered Marlene's complete undivided attention. Rubbing her head with a small hand Marlene looked up, her blue eyes a touch hostile. Ignoring the look Elmyra set the brush down.
"Now dear, what would you like me to do with your hair today?"
Elmyra tisked, disappointed in the child's lack of interest in something that was important.
"Really... whatever did your mother teach you?" Elmyra scolded
"I don't have a Mommy. It's jus' Daddy an' me." Marlene said, clearly she was not interested Elmyra in the least.
Her eyes were riveted on the creature, Kath.
"Sir," Elena gave him a salute as approached.
Tseng nodded indulgently, aware as always of the press of SOLDIERS around them. There was somehting wrong about them, something that set his teeth on edge. It might of been bias, but he wasn't supposed to biased. Tell that to the man who had watched the Jenova specimen crawl out of it's cage though... Tell it to the man who had to impassively watch as it crawled upon it's stumpy limbs and devoured and dismembered a troop of mundane security, SOLDIER, and the Turk team it had encountered on it's way out. Even now, after watching the video twice, Tseng couldn't tell how the monster had done so.
Only that the flesh of it's swollen decapitated neck would expand and contract and odd shaped pieces of the people in it's hands would disappear into that tube like carapace. Yet the shape of the bites were erratic, as if the mouth that had left it's mark had been different every time.
At least Sephiroth, for all his adjustments, was at his core human. Insane, yes, but human. There was a sliver of comfort in that, odd as it may seem. Tseng had seen the depths the human soul could plunge to, but it was still human and not some headless slimy atrocity.
"Elena, any confirmation on that idiot's claims?"
"Yes sir." Dropping her hand the Turk also dropped her gaze then raised it again. Not quite a bow, but so much like one that Tseng felt a wave of calm crash over him. Familiarity, he ached for the patterns of familiarity, and Elena was providing it. First for being a Turk, and then for offering him a bit of a cultural puzzle. It was the fascinating... no alluring... mix of Wutian reserve and Continental straightforwardness to her manner that made his eyes linger on her more often than not. "If we may retire to some private area..."
"Understood." Tseng didn't smile, he wouldn't among the morass of SOLDIER troop around him, but Elena was a Turk. She caught the slight softening of his tone, if nothing else. "We'll retire to the civilian target's headquarters."
Turk slang for Aeris' home, raising a brow Elena followed him. They left the gathering of SOLDIER'S to watch over the church and entered a different world. Steel grey and the eternal overhanging was worn away by blood hued rust, enough so that beams of golden sunlight made it through the omnipresent smog clouds and cast the world in a off gold color. Green licked at pavement, at stones, and the wonder of living grass coiled around one impoverished house among the cluster.
"Even the President... I mean even old man Shinra didn't have such a luxury." Elena noted.
"Fake grass, bits of plastic made so soft it almost passed for the real, yes. The genuine article, no." Tseng agreed with his Turk with a grin. "I hear Rufus plans to have all of it ripped out, one of the first goals of the company."
"You're joking, right?"
"Do I ever?" Tseng countered.
"Sometimes." Elena met his dry humor with a bit of her own.
Then dropping her Turk reserve she went ahead, not quite skipping on the grass, but her feet did linger between steps. She clearly appreciated the cool, living, covering over their world of stone and steel. As for Tseng, he kept to the stone walkway, enjoyed with sight the still plant life without degrading his honor to the point of touching it. Still he smiled a bit at her antics. The scent and sight were enough to satiate his senses, but hedonistic continental she was she might go so far as to take her shoes off and frolic if he didn't put his foot down at some point.
He cleared his throat, only that, but she went still at the merest hint of reprimand.
"Elena, there is a garden in the back, if you'd be so kind as to join me there we can talk in relative silence."
The twittering of bird song originating behind the Gainsborough house answered her question before he could.
"Relative." Tseng reiterated. Then with that he turned on his heel. Elena, slipping her gun back into it's holster, sheepishly followed.