A Sense So Subtle

"I never should have shared a bed with that man," Tseng breathes out after sitting on his bed for almost an hour after Genesis left.

Then he moves to the edge and feels along the floor with his feet while letting out a heavy sigh.

"It's funny, Seph," he says to the air, "I suppose your relationship with him was much like Rufus' and mine… You couldn't understand it as much as I couldn't understand yours."

Sure, I think, Only I never slept with either of them…

Almost like he can here me, he lets out an irritated breath and carefully stands while pushing the chain from his collar aside. He stands there and listens as the metal links slither from the side of the bed to the floor and then he places his hands on his freed neck and rubs at it as if it had been too long for him.

"He's insane, Seph…"

Which one? I think, knowing that they both were as I watch him feel along the nightstand towards the window and he lightly smirks while saying Genesis' name like he's answering me.

"I know he needs me," he quietly says and he feels for the window and runs his fingers curiously over the tape that keeps them shut, "but there's more to it and I can't figure out his other motives… He's been cautious of drawing attention lately, like something's going on that he's not telling me about."

He says it curiously as he carefully pulls back the tape and pushes the curtain aside to reveal a broken window covered by wooden planks.

"I heard him bolting these in," he mutters as he rests his head against them and lightly knocks on one of the boards. "He thought that nailing them would have made it too easy for me to kick them loose. I have no idea why he bothers to tape the curtains shut though…"

Then he dances his fingers along the splintery boards as if he's feeling for cracks and he muses while quirking his brow, "Maybe he's more afraid of something from the outside…"

With a cynical chuckle, he steps back and stretches with his hands on his back and then he rubs at his neck again. Then he lets out another heavy sigh and counts his steps to the door and softly closes it as if to say that he prefers to stay in there.

In a way, his room has become a type of sanctuary for him. It's where he prefers to stay.

About the best I can figure is that it's quiet and it's the one place that Genesis doesn't enter as often like he has some kind of contradictory respect regarding Tseng's space.

Tseng doesn't bother to muse over it though. Instead, he sits on the bed and kicks his feet up while crossing his hands over his stomach and he breathes out, "It's too bad we have no electricity… some classical music would go nicely right now. Even a violin or an acoustic guitar would suit me fine…. Now that he's gone.

"What do you figure, Seph—another hour until he returns?"

With a subtle chuckle, Tseng closes his eyes and takes another deep breath, and then another as if he's finding tranquility in a meditative state and he mutters that, "Either way, I suppose I should take the time to appreciate the sanity of his absence."

Hours later, Genesis unlocks the door and enters the cabin with a disturbing look in his eyes. He's carrying a bucket of snow and he places it on the wood stove before using a fire spell to light it. Then he brushes off his hands and calls out, "Tseng?"

Tseng doesn't answer him though. He rarely does.

Instead, he sits on his bed with his eyes closed and his ankles crossed while he rests his clasped hands over his abdomen. Genesis knows he does it on purpose and he frowns while letting out a frustrated breath. Then he angrily walks towards Tseng's door and abruptly opens it.

"Don't you ever knock?" Tseng calmly asks while he keeps his eyes closed and acts as if Genesis is unnecessarily disturbing him.

"After everything I've done for you," Genesis responds as he sneers and walks over to the side of the bed, "I don't see why I should have to."

Then he sits down and places his arm over Tseng so that he's leaning over him.

"I see," Tseng breathes out, "I suppose I should be thankful for your mere existence."

"Enough with the mockery!" Genesis snaps as if he's suddenly irritated.

Then he charmingly smiles and picks at a patch of dried blood on his coat while looking somewhat distracted.

"I was thinking that you should pack your belongings—whatever you feel you must have."

"Why?" Tseng asks before he yawns as if he's bored.

"You're unhappy here."

"You won't let me go that easily," Tseng grumbles, and then he quirks his brow and adds, "What's the catch?"

"The catch is," Genesis coyly responds while leaning closer, "is that I never said I'd let you go."

"More cat and mouse," Tseng dryly breathes out as he turns to his side as if he's decided he's going to take a nap. "When you decide to tell me why we're hiding or running in a way that isn't cryptic, I'll pack my imaginary bags. Until then, I have no desire to spend any more time with you than I have to. Nor do I care to jump to your bidding"

"Hm… release the dog and he starts barking thanklessly again," Genesis muses as he takes a quick look at the chain on the floor. "Though I don't recall you ever being thankful." Then he curiously asks, "Why are your eyes closed?"

"It makes no difference," Tseng says. "It all looks the same whether they're opened or closed… At least this way, I can pretend it's by choice."

"I see," Genesis says before he thoughtfully runs his eyes over Tseng's face and gets up. Then he pushes at the chain with the toe of his boot and quietly says that, "You're in one of your moods again."

"Whatever causes them is a mystery," Tseng duly responds as he turns to his side and curls up.

The implication doesn't go unnoticed and Genesis merely frowns down at him before he tilts his head and studies the last of the fading marks on Tseng's neck. Then he snorts and walks out while pulling his sword from its sheath.

It's covered in blood and Genesis suspiciously glances back at Tseng as if he's trying to work something out in his head. Then he frowns when he looks at the curtains that Tseng pulled back and he grabs a sponge to dip in the melted snow on the stove and asks, "Why did you tear your curtains down again?"

All he receives as an answer is a subtle rumble in the air before Tseng's door is slammed shut by some unforeseen entity, and Genesis darkly smiles with a satiated sparkle in his eyes as he wipes the blood from his sword with a cloth and then he takes the sponge and runs it over the dried blood on his coat.

"I see you're getting better at controlling it," He darkly muses, and then he lets out a heavy sigh and stares at the covered kitchen window as if he's contemplating something that has been weighing heavy on his mind for a while now.

Months passed and I was still having no luck trying to get an answer from Hojo. I tried everything I could think of from following him, trying to sneak into his lab only to find that he practically lived in it, to outright asking.

Unfortunately, all I could discover was that Hojo had a disturbing fascination with Tseng that confused me more than any question I could ever ask.

Sometimes, he would look at the Turk like he adored him or something about him. He would go out of his way to touch him in a consoling manner, which was a quality that I knew Hojo lacked. Other times, he looked at him like he couldn't have detested him more. His fingers would tense up and his jaw would clench while he glared at him like he wanted to strangle him, and all of this would happen within a matter of seconds.

In many ways, it was making me uncomfortable.

There were other questionable things as well, and the more Hojo tried to pry us apart, the more I started to question his motives. It was mostly because I started to suspect that it had more to do with Hojo's fascination with Tseng than it had to do with anything else.

"Why?" I sarcastically asked at one point, "Are you in love with him?" and I was promptly met with a stinging slap to the face while being reminded of the Soldier I recently slept with while I was away on a mission.

"Or was it two?" he asked, and I quickly stepped back while glaring at him and threateningly thinking, You wouldn't dare…

"I really don't think he'd be happy to hear about it, considering that I'm only bringing up your last mission!" he threw in for good measure while telling me that, "You keep him to yourself like a bird in a beautiful cage! You've won your prize and now you're bored with it! Do you really think you'll be able to keep up this charade of yours without him ever finding out…? He's a Turk, Sephiroth! It's his job to find things out! I can't help but wonder what he'd do to retaliate… You think you know him well enough… What do you think he'd do?"

He'd probably get even, I assumed while making no attempt to offer more ammunition to Hojo's musings.

He made no attempt to hide the fact that he could always stoop low enough to use it if he really wanted to break us apart. He could always leave a trail that could make things so much easier for him to achieve his goal but he'd chosen to be the better man by letting me screw up in my own time. Eventually, he believed that it would be best if Tseng discovered that he was being deceived on a regular basis if it was me that told him.

Then to add fuel to the fire, he openly wondered if Tseng didn't already know, and I suddenly had to leave with a feeling like I was being suffocated. I needed air and I walked out of his office as fast as I could while Hojo's mocking laughter trailed behind me and I focussed on my last mission with a spiralling regret.

What am I doing? I relentlessly thought to myself as I made my way home that night, and why do I keep doing it?

Hojo was wrong though. I wasn't bored of Tseng. I doubted I could ever be bored of him. Every moment that I was away from him was a form of torture and when I opened the apartment door, I let out a long-held breath of relief when everything was as it should be.

Tseng asked me how my mission went and I told him that everything went fine while leaving out the seedier details as I hung my coat and he grew quite. Then I wondered that maybe he did know since he wasn't saying much and I found myself unable to look at him.

"Is something wrong?" I reluctantly asked as I sat beside him on the sofa and he slowly shook his head and breathed out, "No…"

"Oh," I responded as he calmly took a deep breath and placed the papers he was reading face down on the coffee table.

Then he leaned back and placed his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling while keeping his silence. Something felt cold and I took a look around the apartment to see if anything was out of place.

The only thing I could find was a container and a receipt on the coffee table. He'd ordered a meal from the diner across the street and he'd already eaten it.

Though I couldn't say that it was odd. I never told him I was coming home that day. On the other hand, given his position in the company, he probably would have known anyway.

"Are you sure nothing's wrong?" I asked again while I stared at his container and he kicked his feet up onto the coffee table while he continued to stare at the ceiling.

"Nothing's wrong, Seph," he said in a daze, and then he grabbed his papers and put them in his briefcase, locked it, and walked to the room while muttering, "I'm going to bed."

He never asked if I was coming and he didn't bother to say 'Good night' like he normally did, and I sat there as he left the door open to our room. The only thing that gave me hope was that he didn't go into the other room that we pretended was his, and I watched him pull the elastic from his hair while he started undoing the buttons on his shirt and walked into the private bathroom.

All the while, I wondered if I was supposed to follow him or if I was supposed to sleep on the couch.

Days later, I discovered that Tseng's withdrawn mood was about one of his missions that threw him off. I remembered it was a while ago that Lazard had asked him to infiltrate the temple that Tseng was already a member of, and as it turned out, Tseng had gotten close to the leader.

It was his job to get close to him but at the same time, Tseng developed a personal liking to the man and when he had to take him down, it left him with the feeling that he had no one to talk to.

He knew that I didn't fully approve of his faith since I'd often voiced how superstitious it was, and as I thought about it afterwards, I probably left him with the sense that he couldn't talk about it with me due to the assumption that I wouldn't understand. He was probably right too, except for the part where a slight jealousy started to rear its ugly head concerning exactly how close did Tseng get to the leader.

It was something that was starting to happen more often. With nearly everyone that he spoke to, I grew suspicious and jealous, and the worst part of it was that I couldn't express it without the fear of losing him because it would possibly expose us.

"I call it Dissolution," Hojo said in answer to my question about a painting that was hanging in his office. I'd been trying to get an answer from him for over an hour and my head was starting to spin from the circles he kept spinning me in. With every question that I had about Tseng, he countered it with an offhanded remark or needling question of his own, but when I explained anything unusual about Tseng, he became quiet and started taking notes in his head as if it were important.

He wasn't willing to share any of it with me though, and I was growing more agitated by the second.

That was when the painting caught my attention. I didn't recall seeing it before and I studied it while Hojo continued to rant about why Tseng and I shouldn't be together and about how much of an ass I was concerning my 'sordid affairs.'

"Turks and soldiers don't mix!"

Yes, I'd heard that one before, many times.

I was growing tired of it and in my eyes, it wasn't a good enough reason to kick Tseng out. We made progress and I kept that information to myself while I sighed with frustration and walked closer to the painting. It was aged and worn, almost colourless. It looked like someone had attempted to restore it at one point, and I raised my hand to feel the flaking surface before Hojo pulled me out of my trance.

"Don't touch that!" he yelled, and I quietly backed away while still staring at the painting and wondering why he'd have something like that in his office.

"What is it?" I dumbly asked while I noted the figure closest to the centre. It was slender and frail looking—almost androgynous. It was crouched down with one hand on the ground. Dark trails ran from the place it was touching and it gave off a sense of destruction while it blindly stared with no sense of direction. Behind him was a legion of demons.

What caught my attention most though, was the demon closest to him. Unlike the others that seemed to be wreathing in agony while they're legs looked stuck in some kind of crystalline structure, it stood close and stared at him with a calming serenity. It almost looked sad and appeared to be reaching out to him.

Upon closer examination, there was a strange black swirl that seemed to be wrapped around the demons hand and wrist, almost like it was holding him, and the demons fingers were partially closed as if it were holding it as well. It was hard to tell for sure though.

"Magnificent, isn't it?" Hojo asked as his eyes ran over the painting as if he were proud of its existence.

"I guess so," I quietly said, still confused over why he'd hang something like that in his office. "I thought you didn't like art."

"This isn't art!" he snapped at me as he spun around and added, "It's a piece of history!"

"History?" I noted as I turned my head to see where he was going and wondered what demons had to do with history before I concluded that he must have been talking about the painting rather than the content.

"Yes, that magnificent work was brought here from Nibelheim! Before that, it was found in a remote location! Lucrecia brought it to our lab and hung it on the wall!"

Then he took a moment to laugh about something when I asked, "Your wife?"

"She treated it like a shrine!" he screeched out and laughed even louder before he answered, "Yes! That vain and insane creature was my wife! She got too ambitious for her own good!"

That's right, I silently noted. He told me she died while giving birth to their stillborn child. He rarely spoke of it and I chose to respect it as a topic that he didn't want to talk about. Though I always suspected there was more to the story since he always referred to her as a creature that he found pathetic and repulsive.

It didn't explain why he had a picture that she apparently liked, however, and I was about to go back to the topic I originally came to discuss with him.

"You still didn't answer my question about Tseng," I said as I turned and he was walking back to the painting with a notepad and pen.

He was ignoring me while he pointed at the creatures in his painting and rambled on about something that had nothing to do with my question.

"Omega, Chaos… Those two I know for sure! We call the one in the middle Dissolution because there are no concurrent records on him, and that is Chaos standing behind him!" he stated in distaste before he leaned closer and adjusted his glasses to see better. "I haven't been able to figure out what the relation is between them!"

"It's a painting," I grumbled, wondering why he was wasting his time trying to make sense out of someone else's vision.

"It's more than a painting!" he angrily yelled at me.

Then he decided to explain that the creature he called Dissolution was not the same as the other creatures. It was some sort of distant cousin of Bahamut, or it was Bahamut, or it controlled, was a shepherd, gave birth, played games or whatever with Bahamut.

Looking back, I wish I'd paid more attention to what he was telling me but at the time I thought he was just rambling on about nothing like he often did.

The only thing that did catch my attention was when he said something about the possibility of Chaos and Dissolution being close and that he wished he'd noted it before—that he didn't know Dissolution wasn't one of them before it was too late.

"Otherwise, I might not have made such a grave mistake!"

"What mistake?" I asked, suddenly curious about what he was talking about while he laughed hysterically and walked into his adjacent lab.

"He's nothing like them!" he explained, "Nor are his motives from what I can gather! As far as I can decipher, he's the one that trapped them in mako prisons before he imprisoned himself into what historians believe to be the very first Summon Materia! It was the beginning of the end for all of their kind and the myth states that the rest of the summons followed his example!"

"So… It's mythology," I gathered as I shrugged my shoulders and looked at the painting again. The creature had what looked like grey or opal eyes that were missing the pupil, and when I looked closer, I noted that there was something in the background that I didn't notice before. It almost looked like it was made from the shadows and I assumed it was Bahamut since it had a similar appearance and Hojo was going on about it and I shrugged again.

I had nothing against art. I had a few paintings on the walls in my apartment and even went to the art gallery with Genesis on occasion. I just couldn't say that I ever put as much effort into deciphering the artist's story as Hojo was trying to do with this one.

"It's not mythology! You're not listening to a word I'm saying!" he screeched as I turned around and walked over to his desk.

"That's because you're not telling me anything I want to hear," I grumbled and I looked at the clock and realized I'd been trying to get answers from him for over two hours.

"That's right!" he exclaimed. "You wanted to talk about your lover!"

I'm not sure why I cringed when he called him my lover considering that what he said next was far worse.

"I hear President Shinra is trying to set him up with a female he thinks would be perfect for him," he said before he laughed and turned around to see my expression. "I believe he mentioned something about a date earlier!"

"A date?"

"Yes! I overheard them talking in the President's office this morning! As I recall, your lover appeared interested in what Shinra had to say about the woman!"

After a long bout of hysterical laughter, Hojo pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his forehead while breathing out in amusement, "I can't say that I recall him refusing the President's offer… Not to mention that he's never shown an aversion towards women in the past… He was married and fathered a child, after all."

Maybe I was angry. I'm not really sure that I can label what I was feeling. All I really know is that something set me off at that moment and I slammed Hojo's face into his painting when he leaned closer to it. It was an automatic reaction.

He said something about Tseng showing an interest in some woman that the President wanted him to meet and then I grabbed the back of Hojo's head and pushed him forward. Then I started to walk away while he yelled at me because I ruined his painting.

Like I care… I thought to myself, before I voiced my next thought while I continued to walk away from him, "You can buy shitty art anywhere these days."

Then I went to open his door and thought I heard a faint click before I discovered that it was locked, and I stared at it in confusion for a moment before I angrily grumbled that, "We're locked in," and he laughed at me like I was an idiot.

I think he said something else, but I'm not too sure if I imagined it.

After that, there was a female voice in my head that drowned everything out and I reached for my head before I awoke on Hojo's table with his glaring light shining in my eyes.

"What?" I asked, confused and disoriented when I tried to sit up and I was pushed back down.

Was I dreaming?

"What happened?" Hojo screeched while he tore something from my arm and I winced. Then he helped me sit and told me to, "Stay there!"

"I was hoping you could tell me what happened," I mumbled as I rubbed at my head and stared at his office when he walked in the opposite direction and grabbed something from one of his cupboards.

His door was open and I could see the damaged painting I think I slammed his head into. It was half-hanging on the wall and his furniture was toppled over like there was a struggle of some sort.

Did I do that?

"You slammed my head into the wall and then you passed out!" Hojo told me as he returned with a needle so that he could take a blood sample. "You knocked over my furniture in the process and I had to drag you to the table! Do you want to tell me what came over you?"

"Nothing," I dizzily muttered and felt nauseas over the strong scent of dream powder on Hojo's clothes and my attention fell back to the toppled furniture.

"Nothing?" Hojo angrily recanted. "You could have given me a concussion!" Then he stabbed his needle into my arm and I instinctually pulled away before he gripped my wrist and held my arm in place with a cruel hold. "Don't you realize how damaging that could have been to my work?"

"Oh…?" I muttered, somewhat angry that it was always about his work instead of anything else, and I sarcastically grumbled that, "We couldn't have that."

"Did you hear that voice again?" he asked. "Is that why you did it?"

"What voice?" I asked.

"That woman's voice?"

I never told him about the voice.

"I don't know what you're talking about!" I angrily told him when I pulled my arm away and he held up the blood sample to visually inspect it or whatever it was that he was doing.

"You're sounding more like him every day," Hojo pointed out as he placed the sample in some kind of device on his counter.

"What are you talking about?"

"Lies! Sephiroth!" he spat out. "That's what Turk's do! Not you!"

"Are we done?" I asked, annoyed that he was behaving like he always did, and then I swooned from another dizzy wave when the waft of dream powder hit me again. I noted it when he walked by and then I thought about the faint smell of it when we were at his table as if it were lingering on his clothes and I hesitated with my attention back on the turned over furniture while wondering if he was the one who was lying.

Could he have…?

With a shake to my head, I shook off the thought that he might have knocked me out for whatever unknown reason and I decided that it was time to leave. I figured I'd had my full dose of madness for the day and I wasn't feeling very well all the sudden either. Not to mention that I couldn't come up with a valid reason that would make him do something that drastic, and as he slammed his door behind me and locked it after I left, I suddenly remembered that his door was locked when I tried to leave before I passed out.

Again, I wondered as I stopped and turned around to stare at his door with a blank expression, Did he…?

Or was I just imagining things?

As far back as I could remember, Hojo was the most trustworthy person I knew. He was eccentric, arrogant, and many other things I could label him as if I had all day but I could always trust him.

With another shake to my head, I convinced myself that I was only imagining things. I imagined everything, the conversation about Tseng, the painting, and all the other questionable things that happened. I must have been plagued by another one of my dizzy spells and did, said, and dreamt of a few things that didn't happen and that I couldn't recall.

I think I'm losing my mind… I reluctantly thought as I wavered my hand towards Hojo's locked door with the intention to tell him about some of the other strange things I think I'd done, seen, or heard. Then I quickly pulled my hand away, suddenly convinced that I was just tired.

Even if I was going slightly mad, I convinced myself that my will was strong enough to overcome it and that I didn't need to start making premature confessions to madmen or insecure lovers, and I calmly walked away with a gradually clearing head.

I decided that I could use some familiar and less insane company and I faintly smiled when I found Angeal exactly where I was expecting him to be.

"What are you doing?" I asked while leaning against a nearby post and looking down at him.

"Taking Genesis' advice," Angeal serenely replied.

He was lying on the tarmac with his hands behind his head as he watched the clouds overhead and I sat on the bench beside him with an amused smirk.

"Cloud watching?" I assumed as I leaned forward and rested my forearms on my knees so I could watch his expression. "I don't think that's what he meant when he said you needed to get out more."

With a hearty chuckle, Angeal sat up and shook his head. Then he sat beside me and leaned back on the bench with his arms outstretched while suggesting that, "We both need to get out more, but that wasn't what he suggested."

"What did he suggest?"

"He said I had no imagination," Angeal told me with a light chuckle. "Then he said that I needed to learn to appreciate the little things. He suggested going to an art gallery or the theatre and I told him that I wasn't into the same fruity stuff he was into."

With another light chuckle, Angeal leaned forward and quietly confided that, "he takes things too personally sometimes."

"He's a hothead," I admitted. I could only imagine what Genesis' reaction was. He was different with Angeal than he was with me.

He would happily banter with me and turn everything into a challenge or a game, but with Angeal, he took everything too personally.

In a way, I looked at it as a testament to how solid their friendship was and how much Angeal's opinion of him mattered, not to mention that Genesis was defensive to begin with. I pared it down to his aristocratic upbringing and that maybe he felt that he was alone in the way that he viewed the world.

He was different from us and I rubbed my cheek while squinting from the intensity of the evening sun while I leaned back to rest more easily. Then I snorted when Angeal shook my hair from his arm after the breeze blew it in his direction and he sat back to relax with me.

"Something on your mind?" he asked in a nonintrusive way.

"I don't know," I honestly answered while Angeal clasped his hands behind his head and looked up to the clouds again.

"That sounds like you don't know where to start," Angeal mused. Then he playfully grinned and nudged the side of my leg with his knee.

The comment was unobtrusive and he didn't push any further. Instead, he pointed at the clouds when I decided to join him and asked me, "Is it my imagination, or does that cluster look like an angry cactuar?"

"It looks like a mad scientist," I responded.

"Mm," Angeal mused. "Genesis tells me that we see our own subconscious in what we see."

"You mean like ink blots?"

"I guess," Angeal thoughtfully responded. "Although I think the goal is different from sitting in an office and being assessed on what you see."

With another light chuckle, he shook his head at the irony and pointed out another cluster that he mused over.

"I see two people in love over there…" he said as he pointed. "See how one is holding the other?"

"It looks more like one is trying to stab the other in the back," I grumbled as I narrowed my eyes while wondering if what Hojo said about the President setting Tseng up with a random female were true.

"Okay…" Angeal awkwardly breathed out as he slapped his hands onto his lap and stood while admitting, "I don't think this is your thing."

Then he smiled and waved me over to an open area and pulled his sword out in invitation.

"I think you have some aggression you need to work off… Go easy on me, okay?"

Go easy on you… I bitterly mused before I caught the jesting light in his eyes and smirked at him when I stood and unsheathed my sword.

Sometimes I wondered if he knew me better than I knew myself, or if it was just his way of dealing with emotionally awkward situations. It was hard to say because he dealt with me and Genesis differently. With Genesis, Angeal would grow sullen and tell him to deal with it himself. As a result, Genesis would grow moodier until he did what he was told. Whereas with me, it always turned into a friendly spar that seemed to lighten my mood and clear my head.

Part of me assumed that Angeal guessed there was something going on between Tseng and me that day. Though I never told him that the real issue was Hojo's insensitive attempt to drive a wedge between us. In some ways, I wondered if I should have said more of what was on my mind to them back then. Maybe if we were more open with each other about our individual and unspoken suspicions, the reality of our situations wouldn't have hit us as hard as it wound up doing.

We were both clueless and free as we danced on the tarmac with our weapons of choice, clashing against one another and meeting each others resistances. Something inside of us both probably flowed outward as the area we claimed grew wider and we defied gravity with the dangerous game of hunting the hunter, back and forth. Though worst of all, I don't think either of us were aware of it.

"I win," I told him as he laid on the ground and struggled for the wind I knocked out of him with the last blow.

The breeze blew my hair and I felt free as the last ounce of confusion I had washed away with the arrogant pride that replaced it. I stood as if I'd found the perfect meditation as the sound of my leather coat blew with the growing winds and I closed my eyes while keeping my sword steadily aimed down at Angeal's chest.

"A storm is coming," I purred, feeling lifted as I turned my face to the wind and felt the static and moisture mingle in the air, and Angeal nodded.

Then he tiredly pushed my blade to the side and stood before I walked to the edge of the building and looked over the city of Midgar, onto the horizon.

"Sometimes," I lowly started as I lifted my arms out like a bird and kept my sword aimed downward while I continued to hold it and the wind blew me slightly forward, "I feel like I could fly away."

Angeal only nodded, saying nothing as he leaned his back against the railing while he continued to heavily breathe. He kept his eyes on the ground like he was lost in his own thoughts. Then he nodded again and lifted his face into the wind with his eyes closed like I did, and he quietly admitted, "me too."

It was close to nine-hundred hours when I made it home and it didn't take me long to discover that the power was out. Luckily, a flash of lightening helped me locate the drawer where the candles were kept and after I lit a few of them to place around the apartment, the lights came back on. Then I frowned when I noted that it appeared that Tseng hadn't been home that evening. There was no sign of dinner and nothing left in the fridge. His teapot seemed unused and the newspaper was still on the kitchen table where he left it that morning.

With a sigh, I blew the candles out and gathered them onto the kitchen counter so that they could cool off. Then I decided to pass my time by mindlessly staring at the window and watching the rain fiercely beat against the glass until I noticed the flashing light on the answering machine.

It was Tseng.

He said he was called out to investigate something and I frowned when I heard the President's laughter in the background and what sounded like a handful of women. With a sarcastic thought brought on by Hojo's venomous tongue, I stabbed the erase button. I was too angry to listen to the rest of the message and I numbly stood there for a moment with my sword pierced through the middle of the machine.

That was dramatic, I thought as I blankly regarded my actions, thinking that what I did was something that Genesis was more likely to do than me.

Then I ripped the machine out of the wall and growled while throwing it at the window without thinking.

Look at what he's doing to you, I thought as I stared at the shattered glass in the kitchen and stepped closer while ignoring the sound of broken glass beneath my feet. The wind was blowing the shear curtains towards me like it was an entity reaching out to me, beckoning me to come closer. The kitchen table was soaked from the frozen tears of the beast that wailed outside and I pushed it aside without minding my own strength before I closed my eyes when another flash of lightening struck and the power went out again.

I could always kill him, I thought, I could kill them all…

Then I gave my head a shake and reminded myself that it would do no good and I stepped closer to the window to look outside. The entire city was black for as far as I could see. The only visible light was from the sirens and a few fires scattered about, and I smirked at the bitter thoughts that ran through my head.

Fools, I thought while I narrowed my eyes at the peons below and convinced myself that they deserved it, and then I was yelled at when the door opened and Tseng stepped in while taking off his soaked blazer and draped it over his arm.

"What the hell are you doing?" he disbelievingly asked as he quickly waved his hand at the mess I made and he shook his head at me in disdain.

Then he abruptly ran to the bathroom while practically tearing at his bloodstained shirt like he couldn't wait to get it off and I slowly turned around while wondering what the hell he was doing.

How nice of you to decide to come home, I sarcastically thought while I looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it had only been half an hour since I came home and made the mess that he didn't approve of.

"Hmph," I snorted without any sense of feeling, and then I coldly looked over to the bathroom where Tseng was running his shirt under cold water and scrubbing it under the light of a small flashlight that he placed on the counter.

"Where were you?" I accusingly asked and he grit his teeth while cussing under his breath and reminding me that, "I left you a message on the machine."

"I got that message," I coolly said as I slowly walked towards the bathroom while dragging the tip of my sword along the floor as if I were in a trance. "It sounded like you were at a party."

"I was," he admitted as if it shouldn't have concerned me in the least.

Then he sighed and shook his hands from the water while he stood back and stared at the counter while asking, "Do we have anything that can take out stains?"

"I can take out stains," I lowly purred while glaring at him.

He didn't seem to notice though. Instead, he asked me what I used and it angered me.

If this was what jealousy felt like, it was terrible and desirable at the same time, and rather than answer him, I moved faster than he could anticipate and I grabbed him from behind while he quickly held up his hands to defend himself from my blade at his throat.

"What the hell is the matter with you?" he yelled as my blade cut into his palms.

"You were with a woman!" I lowly accused into his ear while I held onto him by the waist and he abruptly jerked his head back to bash me in the mouth with his skull. The reaction caused me to let go of the sword and he threw it into the next room so that it was out of my reach.

Then he quickly pushed me into the tub and the shower curtain came crashing down on me when he asked, "Are you insane?"

After that, he kicked me in the shin as hard as he could and I winced from the sharp pain from those damned steel toed shoes that the asshole didn't bother to remove when he came home and he quickly jerked his hand to the kitchen and demanded, "Is that why you tore the kitchen apart?"

I don't think he cared about an answer though, because instead of letting me answer, he yanked on the cabinet over the toilet to tear it from the wall and then he pushed it in my direction where it toppled over me and I growled at him for being the cursed tonberry that he was.

Honestly, at the time, I couldn't figure out what his problem was.

At least, I couldn't figure it out until he turned and I saw the deep graze across his shoulder that looked like he was shot at. It was healing from the obvious use of restore materia, but it hadn't fully healed yet.

"For the life of me, Seph," he panted out as he rested his arm above his head against the door frame while he stared into the other room, and I carefully pushed the busted cabinet to the side so that I could try to get up, "You really piss me off sometimes."

Then he stared at his bloodied hands and frowned while he explained, "I was undercover at a party, you dumbass… Of course there were women there!"

Well, in the end, he grabbed a roll of plastic that he kept in the closet and he taped it over the window while I swept the glass away. During that time, I kept my head down and my mouth shut while he mused over the fact that my jealousy had gotten out of hand lately.

"Seriously, Seph," he scolded, "I can't even look at another woman without you going crazy."

Well… you 'were' married to one…

Then he confessed that he often suspected that jealous people were jealous because they were the ones that were screwing around as he walked passed me like it meant nothing and he put the plastic roll away. I'm not sure if he noticed my pause when he said it though. I wasn't sure if he was telling me something in a roundabout way or if I should have responded to it.

Truthfully, it was mostly women I was jealous of. I didn't know how to compete with them and I knew that he wasn't opposed to being with them. It drove me crazy and I was sure it was driving him crazy too.

When I was finished cleaning the mess in the manner that he suggested I do so, I walked into the bedroom with my head down and noted that he was already under the covers and had fallen asleep.

Then I kneeled at his side of the bed and gently brushed his hair from his face while admiring how beautiful he looked in the dim light from outside. He looked so peaceful when he slept that I could watch him for hours and I sighed as I lightly ran my fingers down his shoulder towards his hand and frowned.

The marks from my sword were still on his palms. Though they'd grown faint from the rapid healing of the potion he poured over them and I noted that he seemed to be healing slower than he used to—before the incident at Nibelheim. Then I turned my attention to the bullet graze on his shoulder. It had barely grown fainter.

"My tonberry…" I lovingly breathed out as I kissed the side of his head and let out a deep breath, "What would I do without you…?"

The thought made my heart sink as I dressed for bed and carefully got in beside him. I couldn't sleep though. It was like there was something that I needed to prove and I moved closer to him so that I could watch him as his eyes fluttered and he tensed for a second while muttering out something that sounded like, 'valentine…'

"You have no idea how much I love you," I confessed while looking up before a slight chill crawled up my spine with the feeling of being watched.

It was quickly brushed away the moment he turned and partially fluttered his eyes open. They appeared silvery in the low light and I wanted nothing more than to merge with him. I wanted it to last forever as our mouths met as if it were the first time and a dizzying blackness made everything feel like I was being touched everywhere at once.