intraspective: ([Iris] judging princess)
[personal profile] intraspective
It had taken her ages to fly across the greater part of a continent, and then over a piece of the ocean, in the dead of winter. Ino never wanted to repeat that journey, but it had given her plenty of time to think. Getting into her emails without being noticed was still a… well, she'd managed. But it had been a challenge. Ino was a born hacker of minds, not of machines.

It had been worth it though, when she'd found the first piece of the puzzle. Her phone bill was higher than it had been in years. At first, she'd thought it was due to her calls to Fandom, but while that made a bit of a difference, the bigger one was… Zack's account was in use.

She'd lost two days to that revelation, what it had to mean, and the rage and guilt and horror that it had inspired in her. What had kept her in one place had been less the rage and more the twin emotions of stark betrayal and incredulous joy. Neither had been conductive to stealth, so she hadn't tried. She'd taken her time.

If Zack's account was in use, if Zack was alive… then she'd been lied to for years. It sent her straight back into the empty, ugly spaces of herself where she could do anything, the empty, broken places she'd retreated into after losing him the first time around.

It took two days for her to shake that off, to pick herself up, to be an adult. She had to know the truth. She had to go home.

Now, she was home.

Midgar was home, in all of its dirty, green-clouded sky glory. It was riveting with electric lights that crackled through the infrastructure. There were a million, a hundred million ways and places to hide in Midgar. Ino loved her home. It was far different from the home she’d grown up in but it was hers, now, and even though anger boiled through her veins just being able to skulk through the streets of home made her feel better.

Not better enough to forgive Tseng, of course, not entirely, but better enough that she stealthed off for a shower—in some rundown hotel in the slums of Sector 4—and when she emerged from the room, her hair was squeaky-clean and loose for the first time in nearly a month. It should have brushed the floor by now, especially as it was weighed down by being wet, but Ino had spent a great deal of time and chakra to make her hair do exactly what she wanted when she wanted. It wasn’t particularly noticeable, though her hair was always noticeable anyway, but her chakra was curling the edges up from the ground, tucking them away and keeping it clean. Despite being wet, her hair had a certain bounce to it, thanks to her chakra. It never touched the floor.

She was wearing her uniform and her blue eyes were ice cold. When the receptionist wasn’t looking, Ino dropped her key off and left, unnoticed, in a swirl of hair, and the softest puff of smoke.

By the time she reached the ShinRa Building, her hair was dry and true night was edging over the city, which only made everything brighter and darker at the same time. Getting into the building was easy. She was a Turk. Getting into it without Tseng or any of her coworkers noticing was harder, but not impossible. Especially since, when she brushed her mind out for their locations, most of them weren’t even around. Irritation spiked, but she smoothed it away.

Like all Turks, Ino knew a great number of places where she could hide out of sight of the cameras and listening devices, and do some of her own listening. She picked a spot down on the twenty-third floor, made certain none of the devices or cameras had been shifted, and then, wrapped in an illusion that she was just one of the row of potted plants, Ino went looking for confirmation to what she already suspected, the reason why she’d been exiled in Icicle.

Professional courtesy meant she rarely delved into her coworker’s minds. But Ino had been stuck in Icicle for months and then had spent a few weeks flying on a stick over the greater part of a continent and then an ocean. Zack was (maybe) alive and no one had told her. For years. She was all out of professional courtesy.

What she found was what she expected, though it still left her feeling splintered.

Still hiding, still wrapped in her illusion, Ino took refuge in the stairwell, and let it go. She wasn't the kind to smoke, still hated anything running through her body other than blood and sugar, and this wasn't like years ago, where she'd just wanted the pain to stop.

She was older and stronger and so very tired. Ino sat on the stairs between floors thirty and thirty one, her hair spread out around her, her elbows resting on her knees as she leaned forward, and she thought.

Silly toddled along her shoulder, cheeping at her. Ino kissed his fuzzy little head and thought.

It was tempting, so tempting, to barge in on Tseng, get the drop on him, even slit his throat with her Crystal Cross.

But while she was grieving and hurt and uncertain of what to do, there was still the fact that, she was a Turk, and she was thinking. She didn't know why Tseng had done what he'd done, why he'd lied in the first place.

She was a Turk, though, and so was he. He'd done the job.

Ino closed her eyes, and waited for him to come to her. It was better that way, than going to him. Now that she'd dropped the illusion, he'd know she was in the building shortly, if he didn't already.

Think, she told herself. He trained you. He loves you. He loves all of the Turks. Why would he do this?

It was a fragile, ephemeral conclusion that she came to, but it was the only one that made sense:

I think he was trying to protect us. Or maybe even just me. But from what, and why?

[For the one she's waiting for, please.]

Date: 2017-01-04 01:18 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Intense)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
"Iris."

Tseng was only slightly winded as he came up the last few steps to where she had been sitting. That was the hell of it, when it came to this building. If it wasn't accessible by elevator, it was the stairs.

And the Shin-Ra tower had a hell of a lot of stairs.

"You're back early."

That came out... neutral. Very neutral. If she was back, there was no doubt in his mind that she knew. That she knew. And this was a situation that had to be handled... carefully. The fact that she hadn't come right for him was heartening, but that didn't mean that standing here talking to her was by any means safe, either.

Date: 2017-01-04 01:20 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Wistful-ish)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
"You never did strike me as the snowboarding type," Tseng allowed, frowning fainty. He pulled in a deep breath before he spoke again, this time in a quieter tone. "What did you find?"

He wasn't asking about Gast.

He figured that much was clear.

Date: 2017-01-04 01:23 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Determination)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
Tseng was silent for a few moments. And then, exhaling softly, he carefully arranged himself so that he was sitting on the stairs, just a few steps below her.

"The company's orders are clear," he said, words sounding eerily numb, even coming from him. "He is to be either apprehended or eliminated on sight. I have most of the team out searching. Their orders are to locate him before the infantry does. Quietly."

It wasn't an answer. Not really. But it was the truth, going forward, that she would need.

Date: 2017-01-04 01:25 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Saaad)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
Tseng hardly noticed as the chicobo landed on his shoulder. The way he lifted his hand to scratch the tiny bird on the head with one finger was idle reflex, more than anything.

It was an odd, unexpected source of comfort. He suspected that Iris would need Silly's comfort more, in just a moment.

"Death would be a kindness," he said, simply. He closed his eyes. Carefully kept his thoughts on anything but what he'd seen in the Shin-Ra Manor's basement while he'd been trying to find a way to negotiate for Zack's freedom. The standing orders for the Turks on the rescue mission. Anything but that. "He won't be apprehended."

Date: 2017-01-04 01:28 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Wistful-ish)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
And in that moment, Tseng was acutely aware that he'd made a mistake.

Aware that she'd looked. But under the circumstances, he couldn't blame her. Could only blame himself. And he let that awareness sit at the fore of his consciousness. His thoughts weren't his own. His mind wasn't his own. He'd known that was going to be the case the instant he'd sent her away.

She was too close to this.

She wasn't remotely close enough.

And they'd taken Zack apart and put him back together again.

"If we turn this into war against ShinRa, they'll kill us. And then he'll have nobody."

Date: 2017-01-04 01:31 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Saaad)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
Tseng didn't have to look at her to see that look in her eyes. He'd seen it all too often, had felt the guilt gnaw away at the inside of his chest until he was certain her eyes would leave scars on his heart. He kept his own eyes closed. Continued scratching the tiny bird with one finger.

Breathed.

"Cissnei and Rosalind are both following leads. He isn't alone, but his traveling companion is... dead weight, mostly. He's been carrying a young infantryman with him who hasn't been conscious in... years."

Which was probably a blessing, for Cloud.

Date: 2017-01-04 01:33 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Determination)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
"If he's found, he'll protect him fiercely," Tseng said, quietly. "With everything he has left, if necessary."

Yes. He was well aware.

Date: 2017-01-04 01:38 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Intense)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
There was the word. The terrifying word. The word that meant that what he had now had better be what he needed to have, or else he wouldn't have a chance to have anything else.

So.

"I needed a chance to make the necessary arrangements," he said, pushing ahead with his answer. He had to be confident that it was the correct one. Had to follow his instincts. He was a Turk. Half of the time, their instincts were the best that they had. "I needed to be certain that ShinRa wasn't going to use you in an attempt to get to him, and that I had everything I possibly could have at my disposal to see the mission through."

Not ShinRa's mission. The Turks' mission. They did the job, but that didn't always mean their goals were one in the same.

"I needed to be absolutely certain that we had the best possible odds of saving Zack."

Date: 2017-01-04 01:43 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Calm)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
"We have better odds now than we did before," Tseng said, simply. "The rest..."

He blew out a breath.

"The rest, I need you for."

He braced himself, whatever her reply.

Date: 2017-01-04 01:44 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Determination)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
"I didn't expect it," he said, after a pause. "But I did plan for it."

He knew her abilities. He knew there was always a chance that she would find her way back, and that she could look. But being a Turk hadn't stopped simply because they had their own mission. There were too many variables. There was too much else on the go for him to search for Zack, continue to do the job, and monitor Iris all at the same time.

Date: 2017-01-04 01:46 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Saaad)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
Tseng's pause went on just a little bit longer still, this time.

"No," he said, finally. "I had hoped to be able to free him before it came to this."

Zack never did make things easy. Getting him out on the Turks' terms would have been so much cleaner. Wouldn't have dragged them into this free-for-all manhunt that they were embroiled in now.

Date: 2017-01-04 01:50 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Seeeerious)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
"I did," Tseng agreed. He wouldn't dare deny it. What good would it do? "I knew exactly where he was, the entire time."

Date: 2017-01-04 01:51 am (UTC)
ponytailedturk: (Wistful-ish)
From: [personal profile] ponytailedturk
"The company was watching. We tried."

Gods, how he'd tried.

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Yamanaka Ino

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