Title: Aftermath
Author: Traxits
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Rating: General audiences
Content Notes: None.
Word Count: 2845 words.
Summary: Tseng's hand clenches around the bag's strap he's holding as he glances at Reno, at the way that Reno seems fragile in the hospital bed, with the way that, even sedated, he manages to sprawl over the bed, completely own it.
Author's Note(s): Written for Katarik. Missing scene story set just after Sector Seven has been dropped and AVALANCHE has been captured in the Shinra tower, but before Sephiroth has killed President Shinra.

[[ ... One-Shot ... ]]

Tseng is leaning against the door, his eyes roving over the monitors, over the surprising number of machines in the room. His hand clenches around the strap to the bag he's holding as he glances back at Reno, at the way that Reno seems fragile in the hospital bed, with one foot propped up on the bottom rail, with the way that, even sedated (Sedation was required. It always is to keep Reno still enough for anyone but Rude or Tseng to stitch him up.) he manages to sprawl over the bed, completely own it. But he's bandaged, one leg in wrapped so thickly it might as well have been in a cast, and there's a pair of crutches already standing near the bed. The doctors are warning Reno before he's even woken, warning Tseng that his Turk is not capable of returning to work right away. As though he needed to be told that.

(He can't stop seeing Reno, bleeding and broken as he jumped from the support pillar, as he caught the ledge that they'd previously agreed on as a viable pick up point. Tseng had hauled him onto the platform, and Reno had been shaking, had glanced at Aerith, grinned- his eyes had been strangely flat- and shoved to the front of the helicopter. There had been the briefest of struggles while Reno had forced the SOLDIER piloting to the back. He didn't trust the SOLDIER to outrun the plate dropping, and Leviathan help him, but Tseng had breathed a sigh of relief with Reno piloting, even bleeding, even gasping sharply for air as he fell into the seat.)

The hum of the machines is overly loud- no. That's not right. Everything is too quiet without Reno talking, without Reno snapping and snarling at nurses brandishing needles and tape and bandages. Tseng sighs softly, steps into the room, and shuts the door behind him. He pushes the window cover down, making sure that no one else sees Reno like this, making sure that the SOLDIER on guard outside doesn't get more ammunition to use against the Turks. The last thing they need is to look vulnerable, and there's simply no other word to describe Reno after he's been sedated.

He crosses the room slowly, sits in the chair beside Reno, drops the bag at his feet, and simply looks at his Turk, at his second in command, for a long moment. Rude hasn't forgiven him yet. (Tseng's not sure he blames him. He isn't sure he's forgiven himself yet, not without knowing how this is going to end.) There's too many crimes to list, too many decisions that Tseng has made without explaining himself to them, and while Reno sees his game, trusts Tseng implicitly, Rude doesn't. He doesn't have to; Rude is a Turk and he will do his job, no matter what he personally thinks about Tseng's command decisions, but it would make things more pleasant to have his forgiveness. Would certainly make things easier, make things simply work better between them. Especially with the newest addition.

(And, Leviathan's blessed scales, that's going to cause problems all in and of itself, but Heidegger has authorized Tseng to hire a temporary Turk, a replacement until Reno is back on his feet, and Tseng refuses to let the opportunity pass him by. Reno will understand. Rude will understand too, once he's had a little longer to come to terms with the fact that this is a balancing act, a game of Go that Tseng is desperately trying to stay ahead of because it's all rushing to the end-game too fucking early.)

Tseng reaches out, fingers sliding over one of the bandages on Reno's forehead. His touch is feather-light, no where near heavy enough to wake Reno, to even make the wound under the bandage hurt, but Tseng knows that if Reno weren't sedated, those green eyes would have snapped open at it. Reno would have been awake the moment Tseng was in the room. The moment Tseng looked at him for too long.

(Slums senses, bred into him so deep that he will never be rid of them; the same senses that had caused Tseng to recruit him in the first place. He's never told Reno that. Never told anyone that. Everyone, Reno included, thinks that he brought Reno out of the slums. That wasn't the goal; has never been the goal. He wants the slums in Reno.)

He brushes a few strands of red hair from Reno's forehead, then sighs. Reno stirs under his touch. Stirs and shifts slightly, his head turning away from Tseng. For a moment, Tseng doesn't move, then he smooths his hand over Reno's forehead, lets his fingers slide down enough to gather that red hair to one side, to let it fall over the pillow and off the bed. He pulls a metal shard from the tangle, and his throat tightens. A piece of Sector Seven. He drops it on the top of the table beside him, stares at it for a second, trying to figure out when exactly Reno would have gotten a shard-

But no, the helicopter was hit pretty hard with a blast of metal splinters, and Reno had spun them, trying to swing it around where the open door was on the other side, away from the shower of fire and chaos. They'd all been hit pretty hard, and Reno had collapsed to the rubble-strewn floor after the helicopter had landed back at the Tower. They had all- except for Aerith because Tseng had been between her and the open door- been forced to sit as the doctors pulled splinters and smeared salve over the wounds left behind. Tseng had shaken out his own hair shortly after. Apparently, no one had thought to do the same for Reno's.

He opens the bag at his feet then- Reno's travel pack, they each have one, packed with whatever necessities they require on long hauls- and finds a comb shoved near the bottom. He slides his fingers over it, not entirely certain that the thin plastic will survive being dragged through Reno's hair, but he starts at the bottom of Reno's hair anyway. It's slow going. Reno's hair is deceptively thick, and Tseng doesn't want to snap the comb in half, so he works out some of the tangles with his fingers, picks out the largest pieces of metal and rock that he can see before the comb gets near them.

He's not entirely certain how long it takes, but he'd already known he was going to stay until Reno woke, so it doesn't matter. AVALANCHE has tried to infiltrate the building, has been captured and secured in holding cells on the Science Department simply because those are the most secure cells within the building. Rufus has sent word that he's in the air, coming back from Junon to figure out just how insane the President has really gone, but there's nothing for Tseng to do now. There's no other work that could be considered important enough that Tseng would prioritize it over his second in command.

He's half-way up Reno's hair before Reno wakes, before those green eyes slide open and blink, trying to focus on the clock across the room. Tseng slides his fingers through the hair he's already combed out again, but Reno doesn't move, doesn't flinch, just blinks again, sighing slightly.

"Th' hell you doin', boss?"

Tseng snorts slightly at the words, at the slur he can hear in Reno's voice. He lets the hair slip from his hands, leaning back so that he can look at Reno. "Cleaning you up," he finally says, and Reno hesitates before he nods. There's confusion on his face, but he doesn't argue as Tseng resumes his work again.

"Right. 'M a fuckin' mess, yeah?"

"You're fine, Reno. You did your job admirably," Tseng corrects, and he doesn't let himself tense at the words, doesn't point out that Reno could have easily left the bomb alone after he set it, that he didn't have to fight quite so hard to keep AVALANCHE from touching it.

There had been an evacuation effort above the plate though. They both knew it, both knew that Reeve had defied the President's orders and announced that there was a terrorist plan to blow the support pillar. Reeve had not been in Sector Seven himself- he had been still fighting with the President, still praying that someone in the Tower would see reason; Reeve was still blinded by his own ideals- but he'd had crews working the evacuation anyway. He had forcibly taken control of multiple guard troops and even some SOLDIER squads to assist in the evacuation. Had AVALANCHE been left alone with the bomb, it would have blown earlier, because they couldn't not try to disarm it. Reno and Tseng both knew (know) that.

"Yeah. Mission fuckin' accomplished, yo." But Reno's voice is hollow, is uncomfortably soft and serious.

Tseng keeps himself steady as he pulls another metal splinter from red tangles. "Can you sit?" He asks the question neutrally, because if he makes it an order, Reno will do it whether he can or not. As it is, Reno hesitates, starts to sit up, and still grits his teeth before Tseng places a hand on his shoulder, pushing him back against the bed. He opens his mouth, and Tseng shakes his head before he can say anything. "Roll over then," he says, and that is an order. Reno rolls onto his side, baring his back to Tseng. Tseng moves from sitting in the chair, from half leaning over the bed, to sitting on the edge of it just beside his second in command.

His fingers ghost up the red hair to the band still in it, tangled and knotted and definitely not able to be pulled free. He pulls a small knife from his jacket sleeve, and Reno hears it, he has to, but he doesn't move. Just stays there, tensed, and Tseng slides the knife under the edge of the hairband, cutting it easily. It takes a few more minutes, a few more careful cuts of the tangles right around it to make it come free. He drops it on the table with the small pile of Sector Seven that Tseng's already removed from Reno's hair. He returns the knife to his sleeve, then peels his jacket off, leaving it on the back of the chair.

Reno is quiet enough as Tseng resumes working out the rest of the rubble that had he not been tense as a coiled spring, Tseng might have thought him asleep. It's not until Tseng is almost through, working his way through the shorter spikes of Reno's hair, that Reno finally asks, "Talk t' Rude yet?"

Tseng finishes what he's doing first. The very last thing to come out of Reno's hair is a sharp plastic sliver from what was once Reno's sunglasses. He sets it on top of the pile on the table, tucks the comb back into the bag, and brushes his hands off. Reno doesn't move though, and Tseng lets one of his hands drift back to that red hair. He's separating it into sections as he finally answers with, "Yes. He's not entirely pleased with the situation."

"He didn't hit you though." There's a moment of silence, and Tseng doesn't let himself falter, doesn't react to the words as he braids Reno's hair. Reno is waiting for a reaction, waiting for something that he can use as a clue as to what happened. Tseng doesn't give him anything. Reno sighs slightly. "That's something, at least, yo."

Tseng smooths his fingers over the braid he's already finished. "Brought your bag," he says as he works on the last half of it. "You're on leave until the doctor tells me that she's cleared you." Tseng can feel Reno thinking, can feel the number of ways Reno is planning on making said doctor completely and utterly miserable until she has no choice but to clear him. Normally, Tseng wouldn't care.

This day has been anything but normal.

He tugs Reno's hair sharply, and Reno hisses before he nods. "Got it, boss. Fuckin' got it. Be good, get cleared, come back t' work, yo."

The grip on Reno's hair relaxes slowly, and then Tseng is holding the bottom of the braid as he leans down to dig in the bag until he can find a new band. He ties off Reno's hair, and Reno doesn't resist the urge to reach back and feel it as Tseng stands again. Then Reno's rolling over onto his back, and Tseng sweeps off the small pile of Sector Seven into the trash. Reno is staring at the ceiling.

There are questions that most would expect Reno to ask. Things like, 'How many made it out?' 'Was the evacuation successful?' 'What's the reported casualties?'

But Reno is a Turk, is Tseng's man through and through, and the only thing that he asks is, "So, I got a helluva damage report today, yeah?"

Tseng picks his jacket up off of the back of the chair, and he drapes it over his arm as he looks back at Reno. "AVALANCHE caused ten billion gil worth of damages according to Reeve's initial reports. The number might increase, depending on whether or not the reactors sustained damage." The cover story is in place (was in place the moment Reeve started the evacuation procedures), and Reno's eyes flick down from the ceiling to meet Tseng's gaze before he nods again. "So far, it looks as though the reactors weren't affected though."

"Who's my replacement, boss?"

The words come out surprisingly even, and Tseng knows he should have been expecting the question. Rude hasn't thought to ask it yet (hasn't let himself consider that Reno might be out of work long enough to make a replacement necessary, Tseng thinks), but Reno knows the extent of his own injuries, knows better than anyone else in the building that he'll have to have time off. The fact that he asks lets Tseng know that he has been in the right to plan for this.


"... Little blonde bartender?" Reno's gaze sharpens when Tseng nods, and then he's nodding too. (Briefly, Tseng spares the thought that Reno had better be nodding. He was the one who kept tabs on her and encouraged Tseng to look into recruiting her.) "She's good, yo. Rude'll like her."

"He better not get too attached," Tseng replies, and his PHS buzzes in his pocket. He's tempted, for just a heartbeat, to ignore it, to just let it buzz. "He already has a partner," he adds as he pulls the phone out and flips it open. Text from Reeve, asking Tseng to stop by when he gets the chance. Tseng isn't looking forward to this. He flips the phone closed and looks back at Reno. "He said he would stop by after you woke."

There's a question there, behind the words. An unspoken offer that Tseng could take his time telling Rude that Reno is awake if Reno wants a little while to himself. Reno's gaze meets Tseng's, and after a moment of silence between them, Tseng pulls Reno's PHS out of his own pocket, where it was stashed the moment Reno was taken by the doctors, and sets it on the table, just within Reno's reach. Tseng watches the way Reno's throat works when he swallows, and Reno nods but doesn't reach for the phone.

He needs a few minutes then, wants a little bit to himself before he sees anyone. Tseng can understand that. Even in their line of work, destroying an entire sector with the push of a button seems too fucking easy. Destroying that many lives with nothing more strenuous than the effort spent choosing what floor to go to in an elevator is unsettling. Reno might need a little more than just a few minutes. Tseng's sure he would.

He pushes his hands into his pockets, suit jacket still draped over his arm, and he holds Reno's gaze. "Get some rest, Reno," he says, and he makes damn sure that Reno understands that it's an order, not a suggestion. Reno nods once, jerkily acknowledging Tseng's words, and Tseng leaves, pulling the door closed behind him. The SOLDIER outside of the room salutes to him, and Tseng inclines his head very slightly. He leans against the door, his head turning a little as he listens. For a long moment, there's no sound at all, and then he hears some muffled swearing, and the very beginnings of a smile touch his lips.

Reno's moving around then. Tseng would bet money that the young SOLDIER standing guard will end up in a crumpled heap by the door within a matter of hours. Then Reno will be back in the lounge on their floor, on the floor housing the Department of Administrative Research.

Tseng pushes off the door and starts down the hall.

Things will feel more normal after that.