7: Shadow Of A Ghost

Now as the lights go down
Deeper now it seems than long before
There are no noises here
Just a silence gone bad

Haven by Dark Tranguillity

It's just a dream, he thought.

Still, he could almost feel the soft kisses the other man was planting over his face. Like the whispers of a ghost. He moved his lips to taste, to feel, but there was nothing there. His hands clasped the emptiness.

He woke up, eyes wide open, staring out into the darkness of his room. No Tseng next to him.

But someone was in the bedroom.

"Rufus?" he asked as the other man took form in the corner.

"You were dreaming," the shadow moved closer. "I didn't want to wake you. Couldn't tell if it was a bad or good dream."

"Neither can I," Reno sighed softly. He didn't care that being a Turk was the same as having a sixth sense to most people, whenever his sleep was disturbed at..., he peered over at the clock on the bedside table, 5:30 in the mornig, he'd gladly admit to being caught a bit off guard. "What do you want?" he inquired. "Please tell me the building is on fire, or we're being invaded by green little men in high-tech flying saucers."

"Sorry, Reno, no such thing," Rufus chuckled.

Reno could feel the mattress give away as Rufus sat down next to him. He shifted slightly, putting up an invisible wall between him and the president.

"I think I'm going crasy," Rufus began, "I need to tell someone, and I can't think of anyone who'd understand besides you."

He said nothing, still a bit dazed about the fact that Rufus was sitting on his bed, about to confess something which he apparently thought no one else would understand. Not even Tseng?

"I... I'm seeing someone."

Reno's body stiffened in the bed, this what not the sort of thing he wanted to discuss with Rufus.

"Really?" he feigned shock, "I didn't know that."

No one does. They wouldn't understand anyway."

"What makes you think I would?" it was a bold move, Rufus would either retreat or spill it all, and to be perfectly honest, Reno was hoping for the latter. Ignorance was never a bliss, of that, he was a firm believer. Besides, this gave him a chance to get to know the inner thoughts of Rufus Shinra, something that could very well give him the upper hand in the game he was playing. A game he'd learned from someone special, a very long time ago now. He smiled, but masked it quickly. I'm going to beat you at your own game in the end, Tseng.

Rufus sat completely still, annoyingly calm for what the situation called for Reno thought.

"Because of what we shared, Reno," he said, as if it was obvious.

"You're about to confess your deepest, darkest thoughts to me because of one drunken night three years ago?"

A painfully bright flash hit his eyes as Rufus turned on the lamp by the bed.

"Hey," Reno grunted and shielded his eyes from the light with his hand.

"Look, as I said, I'm seeing someone. It's... Tseng."

Reno quirked a brow. "Tseng?" he asked. Playing stupid was one of the things he did best.

The city lay quiet at this hour. Not the time of night you wanted to be out on the streets of Midgar. At times the wall of a building was lit up by the lights of a passing car, and you could see a shadow sliding along it, only to be lost in darkness once more. The inhabitants of the sectors, nothing but fading phantoms, materializing in the dark.

There were no honest people out this late. Only the ones who had a reason to stay away from the light.

So why was she out, he wondered. Her lithe form and the glowing beauty could not just melt into the city as everything else did. She didn't belong there. She was just another one of natures errors, a mistake. Her perfection was the final proof that nothing was perfect.

His pace did not alter as she disappeared around the corner. She had a pattern, a map of the slums only she knew, and following it meant not having to see what everyone else saw. A filthy place where only the abandoned and cursed ended up. But the paths she walked always led him astray, to some place that seemed more like home to him that nothing ever had before.

The big oak door squeeked as he opened it. She was in a kneeling position by the flower clad altar, but the sound startled her and she spun around.

"Tseng," she gasped, and he couldn't tell if it was out of relief or fear.

Silently he walked over to the row of benches and sat down, watching her as she returned to her work with the flowers.

"This one," she said while carefully tending to one of the plants, this one bigger and more colorful than the rest, "is Zack's flower."

Tseng just nodded although her back was turned against him.

"I guess I'm selfish, though, I care more for this flower than the others." She gently stroked the petals, careful not to harm the fragile life.

"Do you have a flower for everyone?" Tseng asked, his head resting on his arms which where folded over the back of the bench before him.

"Everyone I've ever met."


She was half-turned towards him now, and he could see her smile. "Of course," she said and picked up a ceramic pot with a blue flower in it. "This is you."

"Why am I not in the earth with the others?"

"Because your roots are weak. You're stronger on your own, I'm not sure you'd survive with the others."

For a moment Tseng wasn't sure if she was talking only of the plant, or of him as well.

"Why do you care," he asked, "if I'd survive or not."

For the first time since he'd stepped into the church she turned and looked straight at him. Slowly she walked over to him, slipping in between the benches and sitting down on her knees on the one infront of him. Her hands were so cold he almost shivered as she placed them over his.

"Why haven't you brought me back to the lab yet?"

He looked into her big brown eyes, radiating innocence, although he knew she already had the answer to her question. "Because I made a promise."

"But that was a long time ago, and he's dead now," her voice cracked slightly, as she finally uttered what she'd known to be the truth since the day he disappeared.

"All the more reason not to break my promise then," Tseng smiled weakly.

"You're a very honorable man, Tseng," her eyes were blank, and she blinked to get the moist away. There was no point in crying, she knew he had it well, where ever he was now.

"Zack was my friend, Aeris, he asked me to look after you if something were to happen to him. Don't think I'd hesitate one second about turning you in otherwise."

She touched his cheek softly, and smiled. "I don't believe you."

Tseng shrugged. "But maybe you should."

Aeris watched as he stood up, walking over to a table by the wall, right below one of the color stained windows. Flowers planted in small boxes hung their heads in the absense of light.

"And what about these flowers," he asked, "why aren't they with the others?"

"They," Aeris said as she joined him by the table, "are people I have not yet met."

Tseng glanced over at the torn up floor, now a bed of flowers. "You really have a flower for everyone you've ever met?"

"Yes," she nodded, "I like to think that by giving them a flower in here, then maybe they'll actually find some peace. Maybe." Then she added, as if afraid of sounding childish, "At least it won't do any harm."

He lifted her chin with to fingers, and smiled. "You're too good for this world," he mumbled.

She held his hand in her's, briefly, before he withdrew.

"Can I plant one?" he asked.

A smile cracked her face, and he could just about see where she'd get her first fine lines in the corner of her eyes. Just another witness to the time that had passed. He'd know her since she was a child, and it was hard imagine her ever being anything else. But she was twentyone now, same as Rufus, and he'd recently come to discover that nor he was any longer a child.

"Of course you can."

"Do you have any more of those pots?"

"I'll go get one, you just pick out the flower you want to plant."

"Can you get two?" Tseng called after her as she headed into the small room at the back of the church.

He looked down at the flowers again, scanning over them all, quickly settling for one of the yellow ones, one that had just begun to bloom. Then he found the other, bright red, impossible to miss.

"Will you keep these two close to my flower?" he asked as the two plants sat steadily in their new homes.

Aeris didn't ask, she just nodded in silent understanding.

"Thank you," he opened the door to leave.

"When can I expect to see you again?"

"I don't know."

Their next meeting was not something neither of them were looking forward to, knowing very well what it might mean.

"Take care, Aeris."

"You too, Tseng."

It had started raining again. The slums were even more awful when it rained. It wasn't like it was up on the Plate. Down here the rain didn't actually fall, it was the water filling the streets above that fell, dirty and polluted, turning the whole place into when big puddle of mud.

Tseng was glad he'd taken the train down, going down to the sectors in a car was usually a big fuzz, and when it rained it was even worse.

He stepped on the train. No one else was in his car, and he was left with nothing but the sound of the train riding through the early morning.

There was a time when visiting Aeris got him in a better mood. But it had shifter throughout the years, becoming more of a painful reminder of a better life than a relief for his mind.

Now it was more than that. It was another thing standing between him and Rufus. Another dirty secret that would forever keep them apart.

For how could he ever tell Rufus that he'd had plenty of chances to capture the Ancient but let them all pass him by.

Rufus looked down at Reno's hand, resting on his thigh. He'd known all along that Reno would understand.

"But is everything really so perfect?" the red-head asked.

"Yes, of course it is. I just told you," Rufus frowned.

"Look," Reno said in a soft voice, "I know what you're like, and I know Tseng pretty well, and I can't imagine him being up to that kind of stuff."

"What do you mean?"

"What I'm saying is that I don't think you can live like that, submissive, and to one of your employees none the less. You, the future President of Shinra Inc, a man who no one should have any control over."

"It's not like that." I love him.

The hand on his thigh moved slightly, teasingly.

"C'mon, Rufus. I know how much you like being the one in control." Reno smiled lazily, invitingly.

"It doesn't matter anymore," the words were caught in a small hiss as Reno's fingers touched a sensitive spot.

"I don't believe you," he smirked. He sat up a bit further, his face close to Rufus's. "You can have me," he whispered, "I'd obey your every command." He closed the distance between them and pressed his lips to the other's.

"Mph," within a split second Rufus had slap his hand away, broken the kiss and stood by the side of the bed, staring down at him. "Reno! Didn't you get what I just said? I'm in love with Tseng, and there's no way I'm going to do something that will make me lose him." And with that he stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him.

Reno was up on his feet, quickly following the other man. Fine then, I guess it's about time you found out what your dear Tseng has been up to lately.

8   |   Fanfiction