[Preplayed with the ridiculously fantastic puppy_fair! NFB, NFI.]
December 10th, 2:34 p.m.
Operative Zack Fair, SOLDIER 1st Class entered the caves precisely three hours ago. Contact has been made and the target remains alive at this time. It is impossible to tell whether the target will continue to remain in said state. Zack Fair has not acknowledged my attempts to speak with him.
I deemed it prudent withdraw rather than keep trying.
The sound of footsteps, muffled exclamations and there was ShinRa’s emergency medical corp. arriving with a stretcher, no, two. Zack roused then, from his staring, though his breathing still matched the soft rise and fall of the small blonde’s chest. The only indication that she was still alive. She did not stir as they lifted her on to a stretcher, not while another operative argued with Zack about his injuries.
His response was obvious, though the words were inaudible. He’d look after his injuries when she has been seen to.
They pressed potions on him anyway and the only reason he took them was because she, the girl, was already being attended to by two others.
December 10th, 6:57 p.m.
The target, known by the name of Ino Yamanaka, has been taken by the ICU. Zack Fair paces restlessly, still bloody, still wounded, eyes worried and panicked whenever an orderly leaves the ICU.
He is not permitted entry and no news has been given out. Tseng has gone to attempt to reason with Zack Fair. His wounds need treatment and his presence as it is, is scaring the staff.
One step in front of another, over and over and over until all the steps blur together and the only thing that mattered was that the doors were still closed, there was still no news—and that was a good thing, was it not? No news was good news?—and he could feel the tug of exhaustion pulling ever stronger.
Footsteps, loud in the silence of the hall. Not his, though, and Zack blinked and looked up.
“Zack.” It’s Tseng, of course, with his arms crossed.
December 10th, 11:53 p.m.
The target will live and is sleeping at the moment. Zack Fair—the same, Tseng’s logic failed to get through to him—has just been let in to see her.
The brush of fabric and mako-blue eyes studying the bandages, the newly healed skin, and sinking, nearly collapsing, into the chair beside the head of the bed. He wants to touch her, but more of her is covered with bandages than not.
Still alive. Going to stay that way.
December 11th, 12:08 a.m.
Zack Fair is asleep when I look in on him. Doctor Sialeeds is muttering about how it’s an ICU, not a ward. I do not believe she will try and wake him.
… I will not permit it.
Exhausted, relieved, there had been no way he’d been staying up any longer. Not when she was right there and he had the word of the best doctors ShinRa could muster that she was going to be alright. The chair he was in wasn’t comfortable but it didn't matter.
Soon enough, he was head down, head pillowed on a spare bit of her mattress and sleeping deeply, soundly. He did not even move when a nurse draped a blanket over his shoulders.
December 11th, 9:28 a.m.
Zack Fair remains asleep. Ino Yamanaka has woken up.
Tseng is here to see her and I am being dismissed.
The soft scrape of a chair being pushed back and a murmured ‘sir’ are given. Then, there’s one less person in the room.
Tseng kept his eyes very carefully trained on the girl in the hospital bed. For a moment, he glanced at Zack, made a mental note to call for fresh fatigues and perhaps a basin for him to wash up with. Zack was... a bit of a sight. And Tseng suspected that he wasn't going to be leaving Ino's side any time soon.
He returned his gaze to the girl, pursing his lips thoughtfully. No, she wasn't what she'd wanted him to think she was from the start. Not even in the least.
But then, he'd suspected as much.
"I hear you've had a difficult week."
That was about as close to exchanging pleasantries as Tseng of the Turks ever got.
It was funny, wasn't it, how the first thing she noticed on waking up was that she wasn't thirsty any more. The second was the absence of great pain and that absence felt almost like a loss.
The product, she supposed, almost clinically, of living with it for a few days.
Ino heard the scrape of a chair and while she supposed she could have looked to see who or what it was, the fact that Zack was right there, peacefully sleeping, added to the fact that she was swathed in bandages and in what was clearly a hospital bed... meant she was safe enough. She carefully, oh so carefully, for her hands were still so covered with bandages as to look more like the hands of a mummy's than hers, lifted one, revelling in the lack of pain that caused and a small part of her wondering how many drugs she had in her system for that to be the way it was, and gently, so gently, placed it on Zack's head. His hair tickled at the place where her bandages met skin and Ino smiled faintly.
Someone was talking to her.
Ino glanced up, blue eyes cool and shuttered. "It," she said carefully, and her voice was still a bit ragged around the edges, "was a walk in the park."
Truly. She was just going to drip sarcasm at him.
... Ino, behave.
Really, though. If Tseng of the Turks couldn't handle a bit of sarcasm, nobody could.
"Mm. It looks that way," Tseng agreed. His sense of humor sometimes needed a bit of work. "You didn't cooperate," he noted, looking again over her bandages. "I have a hi-potion on hand for occasions such as this, should you wish to accept it."
The offer of a potion didn't seem to be the important part of that statement. It was merely an afterthought to the rest. They'd tortured her. If she'd given them what they had wanted, the Wutai would have simply stopped at her hands.
How very intriguing.
Her lips twitched. A small indication that what he'd said amused her, at least.
Ino glanced at her hands. "I doubt I'd be able to get it open," she said, with a cautious shake of her head. Hey, that didn't hurt much either! The rest of it had her eyes narrowing slightly as she glanced askance at him.
"Why would I have?"
Because really... in her head, the idea of cooperating with her kidnappers who'd wanted to get to Zack was an alien idea.
"A weaker individual might have," Tseng replied, on a note so dismissive, he might as well have not spoken at all.
Anybody who knew anything about Tseng knew by now that it was his dismissive statements that carried the most heft to them.
"And," he added, dryly, "I'm certain that I could be persuaded to twist the cap from the potion for you." A beat, and he even allowed himself a small, self-indulgent twitch of a smile. "You'll be wanting a straw for that, as well?"
It totally had to be the drugs that made her think he was funny right now. Truly.
"You don't even like me," she accused, because that was the correct response to being asked if she wanted a straw.
But why would he offer anyway?
Well, at least he hadn't offered her a slice of lime and a little cocktail umbrella.
"Perhaps not. But I'm coming to respect you."
And that was something that Tseng did not find himself saying every day.
That earned him a long slow blink. She'd have gaped but that took too much effort at the moment.
Ino glanced down at her hands. The one on Zack's hair, the one by her side.
"I didn't do that much," she said, finally. "I would like it with a straw, if you don't mind."
Easier, by far, to answer that.
"More than most," Tseng said, with that same soft, dismissive tone that he seemed to be so fond of. He would flag down a nurse for her straw in a moment. First...
"You've got a good deal more discipline than any civilian I've known."
Yes, that was perhaps a touch of an accusation. He wasn't in the mood to dance around the topic anymore, over the phone.
There was a flicker of amusement in her eyes at the tone.
"I don't recall," Ino said carefully, "stating that I was one."
Though, technically, she was a civilian in this world.
Ah, they were playing verbal chess again? Tseng could take her up on that challenge. He was, after all, standing on fresh legs.
His week had been just fine, usual trouble with AVALANCHE excepted.
"You never did explicitly state otherwise, either," he noted. And then he raised an eyebrow. "One of our people found a ShinRa PHS in amongst the belongings that the Crescent had confiscated from you."
And she was tired and he was going to win.
Whatever winning meant in this situation.
"I told you before," she said, with a bit of a sigh. "That a Reno calls me 'Rookie'."
Do keep up, Tseng.
"Clearly not mine," Tseng noted. "He seemed a little put-off on Tuesday when he got a text message saying that you weren't going to be in his class."
Actually, Reno's exact words had been, 'Yo, Tseng. I think your boyfriend's girlfriend is tryin' to pick me up.' Good old Reno.
"You don't wear a uniform," he added, a moment later. That seemed to be the sticking point, yes. Even his most sloppy Turks lived by the suit and what it stood for. "You... aren't a Turk?"
Ino frowned, trying to figure out if the phones had ever gone down when portals were out before for routine work, and tried to figure out how to pick her words.
Or if she should pick them. It would be so easy to say 'I'm not 'cause you're too broken to dare to hire more', but that would be... indiscreet.
And cruel, in a way.
"Not a Turk," she confirmed, with a side-long glance at him. "Not even originally from any Gaia, much less my Reno's."
The beauty of Fandom High.
"Not Gaia," Tseng echoed, his tone edging on thoughtful.
Well. More thoughtful than usual, for Tseng.
"You met... a Reno through that island, then. The same way you met Zack." He furrowed his eyebrows a little. "What are you, if not a Turk?"
Because... again. Civilians did not have the sort of willpower that she'd demonstrated over the past few days.
What, not who.
Her lips twisted slightly as she stared at her hands and when she spoke, it was in fluent Wutaian. "When I went to the island, I was a kunoichi of Konohagakure no Sato."
The village hidden in the leaves.
She switched back, looking tired. "These days..." Ino shrugged.
She'd call him when she had an answer?
"Between jobs," suggested Tseng. He nodded faintly. Made the mental note. His own reply, in turn, was in Wutai. It was a tongue that he didn't use often anymore, since joining the ShinRa. "You graduate soon."
There was some weight behind those words, as well. He was most certainly nudging at something, a thought that he'd had a couple of days to chew on.
The statement was dripping with 'and what then?'
Ino nodded slowly, sure she was missing some nuance to this conversation but not up to... figuring out the underneath the underneath.
"I do," she replied, shifting her hand carefully to brush Zack's hair back. "We haven't really talked about it."
Because whatever she did, Zack was a factor.
And again, Tseng found himself observing. That ginger touch to Zack's head wouldn't go unnoticed. Not much went unnoticed, really, when Tseng was involved.
"You want to remain with him."
An observation. A statement. A hard, solid fact.
Ino set her chin.
She was keeping him, so there. Forever or or or something.
"Then you'll be coming here after you graduate."
Again, only an observation. Or, perhaps, just the way the world worked. Zack wasn't going to leave ShinRa, after all. Not on his honor as SOLDIER.
Another glance down at the SOLDIER sleeping with his head on her mattress. He was going to have such a crick in his neck when he woke up.
"Silly," she murmured, more to him. "I haven't decided for sure. It's possible."
More than that, truly. How often around here did you see one of them without the other?
"You haven't decided yet?" Tseng actually sounded slightly surprised by that. Here was the girl who had spent days being tortured by Wutai's elite, and she didn't know if she wanted to stay here to be with the man that she'd been tortured for.
Her eyes narrowed.
"I will not stay here and be supported by him," Ino said flatly. "I am exploring my own options for potential employment at the moment. Not all of those options would be viable on Gaia."
Tseng looked at her, contemplatively.
"You can do more than withstand torture, I'll assume."
No, he knew for a fact. His Turks had been keeping an eye on her for a while now, after all.
That was amusement in her tired eyes.
"You don't know?"
And even Tseng couldn't help but twitch a hint of a smile. Very well.
"I can hazard a guess." He could write a dossier. "What do you know of the Turks, Yamanaka-San?"
She was the Rookie to a Reno and dating Zack. He suspected that she knew quite a bit.
Even tired and achy and battered as she was emotionally by her week, Ino couldn't miss the implications of that.
"That, barring some exceptions, the skillsets required are not incompatible with my own training." Just don't put her near a computer and expect her to do more than surf the internet, Tseng.
Or drive. She can't do that either.
"Or did you want me to detail what I know about the Department?"
"Perhaps later." Tseng set his jaw, considering her for a moment more before nodding, as though making up his mind about something that he wasn't about to share. "ShinRa," he added, a moment later, "is most always hiring."
Merely a suggestion, of course. In a bustling city such as Midgar, one sometimes needed assistance when it came to scouting out all likely career options.
Silence, for a long moment, as thoughts whirled and considered and discarded several responses.
"If one were to be interested in working for ShinRa," she said carefully, "which is not to say someone is, how would they go about applying?"
And then? A trace of a smile.
"They make a friend, Miss Yamanaka," Tseng replied, switching back to speaking Midgar Standard. "Or, perhaps, they earn somebody's respect."
So, really, she'd passed the job interview already.
Ino's eyes went thoughtful.
"I will have to think about it," she said quietly. "I would not make a decision like that--right now."
All things considered, that seemed... like the path of prudence.
A hesitation, then: "It was not a lie," Ino continued, "that my Reno is from further in the timeline and that I... know some of what happens."
Tseng nodded. He'd have been surprised if she'd accepted his job offer up-front with no time to think it over.
If she had, then he was offering the job to the wrong individual.
"Think it over," he agreed, eyes flicking to Zack again. "You know how to get in touch with me. We'll talk about the future another time."
That much was a promise.
"You both need your rest. I'll have them send up your straw shortly."
She nodded, slowly, thoughtfully.
The faintest touch of a smile at the mention of a straw. "You think you're funny, don't you?" Ino did, which was the bewildering part. He was so dry, how did he get anything done? "Thank you."
For everything, really.
A ghost of a smile crossed Tseng's lips, but you'd have to be looking for it to know that it had been there at all. And to follow that up, he was going to completely avoid any accusations that he might possess a sense of humour.
He knew he did. But if people started to figure that out, then he was clearly letting it get out of hand.
And with that, he turned and left the room, pulling the door shut quietly behind himself.
Ino stared at the door for a long few moments then down at her hands--gently smoothing a bit of Zack's hair as she did so, for that was calming all on its own--and thought about what he'd said.
And his job offer.
But days of what she'd gone through meant that convoluted thought took second place to sleep when her body decided that she'd been awake long enough and before much time had passed, Ino was sleeping again, looking small and almost frail in her hospital bed.
And when Zack finally stirred again, after the stroking in his hair had stopped, the very first thing that he did was look at Ino.
Okay. She was still there.
She was still alive.
It was the faintest hint of a smile that crossed his lips as he raised a hand to gently brush fingers over her cheek, and then, finally, he let himself drift to sleep. The first sound sleep that he had let himself slip into in days.
[Preplayed with the ridiculously fantastic puppy_fair! NFB, NFI.]