The Brimstone Tower
New World Part3: Reunion
A/N: An edit update, did some editing for this chapter and descided to put it up.
At the dog's statue he bathed without the benefit of soap. Still, he managed a sketchy state of clean. The smell of dung, dirt, and exertion was dulled at least. Friction and water could do more than most thought, but only if applied in force.
His hair however, wasn't as cooperative. He'd bent over double to give it a good soak, and after lifting his head the waters had been... less then pristine. Still his hair felt less like a mass of dried blood and muck and more like it's silken normality. Raking an only mildly sullied digit through his damp locks he managed to push the locked back. After some consideration he forgo style, settling for merely slicking the black mass out of his eyes. He'd acquire a comb later when he found the others. For now, such a minor vanity as style could wait.
Other, less minor indulgences however, could not. There was, as always, company image to maintain. For the sake of that image... that honor the Wutia stripped out of the outermost of his garment. Despite being mildly illegal the Turk soaked his suit in the pool and laid them to dry in the water sources' chiseled rim. Black little lines of dye trickled down from his suit, like lines from severed veins, filling in the traces with wet shadows that mere light wouldn't banish. While he worked, Nation exercised the better aspect of valor and padded a safe distance away. The panther-hound had lived long and proud amongst his odd two legged pack members to know the dreaded "bath" when he saw one. Once out of the relm of a easy grab and drag from the artificial pool the panther-hound caught the slant eyed hum's eye and showed him the proper things were done. With a vigorous shake to dislodge the thick layer of dust that had settled on him like a second coat Nation then lolled out his tongue and got to grooming. The soft rasp of tongue gliding over hide and the cheery blurble from the fountain was the only sounds for a long while.
Nipping a bur out of the tip of his tail Nation snorted, and to that sound the hum lifted the thin black furred bar that ran over his left eye. With a mew to enunciate his meaning the panther-hound scampered across the stony ground pointedly not trailing a line of water. With a grimace that spoke of a man stealing himself for the unspeakable the hum's lips pressed into a thin line. Ritual done, the hum exuded a thick miasma of annoyance, but despite the acidic reek the hum reached for the still saturated garments. Nation's bark of horror didn't stop the man one bit, and in moments the slant eyes hum wasn't trailing a thin line of water like before, he stood in a black tinged puddle of it.
Ears slicked back, the panther-hound shook himself vigorously, the thought of being near his water logged pack mate made his hackles rise.
Never mind the "no supper" overture to that voice. Nation was not moving a paws length in the dripping alpha's direction. No force on gaia would break the panther-hound's resolve against getting wet.
"Get back here!"
With no leash to rein the panther-houd in Dark Nation was able to follow whatever whim he had at the moment. It was nice, this freedom, and he exercised it to his greatest extent. On silent paws he bound into the dark, his tail and tentacle tucked low and held tight to prevent the pursuing hum from gaining a paw's grip on either. A low growl and series of squelches told the creature that his saturated pack mate was not far behind.
To that Dark Nation ran all the harder.
"Thank Leviathan, running water!"
With her slightly sacrilegious prayer done Elena thrust her hands under the facet, her pale face twisting into a expression of rapture as the dirt washed away. Letting the clear liquid fill the span of her cusped hands Elena splashed at her face and neck. Throwing her traditional Turk reserve to the winds Elena giggled like a girl at the wonderful chill liquid. Tossing water too and fro the Turk half cleaned, half played, oblivious to her audience of one's chuckles. After a few moments of her sport the once pristine porcilyne sink developed a series of gritty black stripes.
Sitting on the edge of the room's sole bed, Rufus Shinra, president of the Shinra Company, shook his head, still laughing. His hands, ignorant of his mirth, nervously folded and opened a pamphlet he'd acquired at the front desk. He'd read the contents when Elena had begun to modestly dab at herself, but as the Turk's resolve towards stoicism had faded in the pleasures of the moment Rufus had set aside his reading to better enjoy the show. Now, fully bored with the image of the frolicking Turk, Rufus finished the last page and set the glossy packet aside for good.
Again, oblivious that this was supposed to be a time to rest, clean up, and relax his hands snatched a shell shaped paperweight from the nearby nightstand and rolled the item over and over again over his calloused palm. He'd exercised the powers of his rank upon entering. Commandeered a shower and scrubbed and cleaned with such vigor that his flesh was flushed from his forehead on down. His hair, once an indeterminate shade of brown-gray was now revealed in it's familiar blonde glory, and the white of his trench coat, shirt, and pant combination were well on the way of being restored via a soak in the tub.
Elena, tolerant even for a Turk, had gamely taken the sink he'd left for her. She made do with the limitations, cleaning what she could and refraining from protest what others would consider cruel treatment. She knew the President, knew that if she hadn't toed the line when he was feeling vulnerable he'd bite her head off. And despite her frivolous front she knew in this new world they fond themselves in friction was the last thing they needed.
She was a delicate slender slip of a woman all clad in the softest hues of pink and white. With a ready smile and a swift laugh she simpered here and there, oblivious to the world. Drifting past the pained and suffering multitudes with only the barest lessening of her smile she hummed odd tunes, snatches of songs half familiar yet long forgotten. How she'd drawn Tseng's interest was one of the world's greater mysteries. her green eyes were wide to the point of being vapid. The woman's breathy voice, while pleasant, had nothing of strength or resolve to it's tenure. Yet, despite these many flaws the Wutia Turk had been smitten.
Time and death had brought Tseng to his sense. Her death, least of all had brought home the fact it wasn't supposed to be, then with the girl gone Elena had made her move. With Tseng's interest firmly cemented where it belonged the world had fallen into a recognizable pattern, and though the sky itself had fallen all was well.
Now, staring impossibility in the face, Rude had to winder how well his world -and that of the leader at its' center- were going to fare against this. He stared at her, eyes wide, face chill and tinged a sickly gray. Oblivious to his state, the child who'd approached him was busy playing with the device that had caught his eye while two other specters of Rude's budding insanity looked on.
Only a lifetime of associating with the occasionally infantile Reno gave Rude the education necessary to identify these two.
Wong Quack and Goof Flop-ear dressed in satires of a Midgarers garb that were made satires by the multitude of jagged stripes and zippers that found roost on the top of those stripes. The child who'd traveled with those twin impossibilities seemed nice for a pipsqueak with cloud styled hair cast in earthy brown. Spotting Rude, recognizing him only as "someone new" the kid had started the encounter.
Annoyed by the salutation Rude had stopped, turned and glowered. Glower had turned to gap as his gaze slid past the child and settled on the two figures from a childhood unlived. When she had rounded the corner his gap had bypassed all expressions of stupefied shock. He had rocked back on his heels, not daring to breath, unwilling to believe. The ground had lurched to an outré angle without the benefit of booze, and he suddenly had an aching for booze on seeing her for the first time.
Satisfied that he wasn't going to run off the kid who'd started it all had slowed his mad dash to a more sedate run. All the while the kid was trailing fiction and delusion wrought persons behind him without a care in the god forsaken world. He could only stare, and gap as the kid, in grabbing distance -dangerous that, ever dangerous to get that close to a Turk- had declared Rude "new" and had tendered salutations across the board to alleviate any "hurt feelings".
"Arieth Gainsborough." The woman had murmured, demurely offering her hand, the stereotypical pink of her gender rustled about her shoulders, a silver bracers made of countless little bracelets jangled.
"Rude," He swallowed down something bitter and hard. "of the Turks." He stared at the pro-offered limb, wondering what on Gaia to say, wondering if she was even solid. "You look nice for being dead" just wasn't the way to start a chat with the girl your boss used to like. Seeing he wasn't gong to take the shake, the impossibility lowered her hand and the omnipresent smile thinned a bit...
"Not very friendly, is he?" Goof... or rather Goofy whispered to his feathered companion, holding up thick hands as if they would cover the words. The duck creature, aptly named Donald Duck let out a sound half "humph", half quack, and let his scrawny arms cross over his chest.
His phone had rung without ringing. The result was one missed call that had been utterly silent. When he had opened the device to see who had called the screen had been a mess of lines and motion, disgusted he had closed his phone and moved on. Eyes half closed, tapping scan and precognition materia with his thoughts alone, he wandered through empty streets, seeming in a dream beyond waking. A patch of friendly dark padded besides him, blue eyes gleaming.
The reunion between President and Turk was highly emotional. Tseng actually smiled wide enough to show his teeth, at least Elena thought he had. Things became muddied after Rufus all but threw himself into the Wutia man's arms, so she wasn't sure. Descending the red stairs, Elena took her time, allowed Tseng and Rufus their reunion. As if unsure that it was right but braving the unknown anyway, Tseng's arms slung over the Continental young man's shoulders as Rufus Shinra proved at long last that he was three parts wrong. Despite his familial name he could feel, did bleed, and at last cried.
And about time too.
Hands tucked into her pant pockets she trotted down the last few steps, her steel soled boots clocking against the cobbles marking her descent in a crisp staccato beat.
"That's my husband your crushing." Elena noted clinically. Than, since Tseng had taken a hell of a long time to find them Elena added. "Really Tsengy, the way your cuddling the President, I could get jealous.."
Even that faint allusion of.. a non-conformist relationship worked like magic. Both men jumped back, faces tinged red, embarrassment obvious. With a cruel chuckle the Turk strode up to her husband, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. She broke the embrace off while his eyes were still wide and only when she'd had a proper span to muss his hair. Only when Tseng was the perfect image of shock did she let go and walk away, acting like nothing had happened. Composure safely in hand, Rufus smirked as the sole female Turk drifted past.
"Marriage must be really lively for you if she's this conniving all of the time."
Preoccupied with running a hand through his black locks -as if settling each strand into place would set his unflappable facade back in place all the faster- Tseng refrained from making an answer.
Which, in it's own way, was comment enough.
There reunion with 'Nation was a noisy affair. With a bound and a leap the panther-hound soundlessly sailed out of the dark. Noise came on impact with the chosen target, and he took them down one by one starting with Tseng and ending with Rufus. Rumble crawled out of the onyx throat and once firmly perched upon his prey the creature rubbed his furry snout along the back of his victim's head, mashing the recipients' nose and mouth against the stone.
A barked syllable from the Wutia Turk made the shadowy beast hop off of the wheezing President with a contrite "yip". Face as red as Tseng's had been the President took the Turks' proffered hand. Nation, tail awag, Tentacle held high, and tongue lolled long, looked up at his master with wide blue eyes. Embracing the panther-hound's furry skull Rufus gave Nation's head a good ruffling that ended with an affectionate shake. For a while Tseng seemed content to watch President and pet play, but too soon he cleared his throat, drawing Rufus back to the real world.
"Mr. President, we should see to locating the last member of out party."
To that Elena rose an eyebrow. Tseng's word choice was at best... neutral. An odd thing considering that "the last member of their party" was a Turk. She tried to catch Tseng's eyes so she could draw him into a quick, silent, chat, but he pointedly ignored her. With a hand set behind Dark Nations' tentacle Rufus lead the way out of the dark plaza, his Turks a few steps behind.