|K (karanguni) wrote in roads_diverged,|
@ 2008-05-12 02:00:00
|Entry tags:||final fantasy vii, karanguni:tseng, theme 26: small town|
Final Fantasy VII, Tseng: Outward From Midgar (crossover Lucifer/Tseng); theme 26: small town
Title: Outward From Midgar
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII: Tseng; crossed-over with Lucifer (comic)
Characters: Tseng, Lucifer cameo
Warnings: Crossover. Midgar AU. Smashee-crashee of various real cultures. The Devil.
Theme: 26. small town
Summary: Sometimes you just got to get bored with life before you remember to start living it.
5141 words and the loosest ever interpretation of a theme. Oh, and the most desperate crossover ever, too! You really, really don't need to know Lucifer. At all.
It was one of those things that he just had to do. Sometime in between one board meeting and one long night, the pin dropped, and everything changed. He couldn't tell you why, or what for, or when, or how; didn't want to, and didn't need to. He packed his bags without telling anyone. Took only the things that were important - a change of clothes, a gun, a few pieces of technology, his wallet. Went out and bought thousands of gil worth of transferrables - some of it was cash, some of it was super-refined mako, most of it was in diamonds and other precious metals. Took out the chip from his phone and snapped it in half, thrashed the handset in a bin. The advantage of a city that did not sleep: at 3 in the morning, he moved all his liquid assets out into off-city fixed deposits, a number of anonymously managed funds and a discreet cashing account just in case of emergency. His destruction was methodical and without reason.
Then he got into his car, drove for two solid hours until he hit Kalm, then bought himself a train ticket to nowhere, and dozed along with three other men cramped into an economy class sleeper as he rattled his way away from tar, scars and Midgar.
By the time seven thirty a.m. hit, there was no trace of a man called Tseng left in that city, just a shadow of where he'd been, and a whisper of what he'd done. Rufus was probably throwing a fit - their plans had been good ones, but they were plans built on plans built on plans relying on contingencies which required Turks to do their jobs. Things would probably fall apart like a fragile deck of cards, but it'd be only for a month, a quarter at worst. Tseng'd seen enough men come and go to know that even he was not irreplaceable. Reno would grow into bigger shoes, or Elena would, or failing that, Shinra'd find a way. He always did; that was part of the reason why Tseng was sitting with his legs up against his chest, watching the fields (green fields) go by and listening, idly, to the slight, cockney slang of his travelling companions.
He'd gone without the blazer and tie. It'd been a long while since he'd taken it off, but the act of doing so made him realise that he required them less than he would've thought. He didn't feel naked, or under-armed, just different. Still too rich, though, so when they made a stop at Corel he got out, and spent a night sleeping in a rest-house that stank of coal and grease. He tossed out his clean dress shirts and button-downs for someone to find, and bought ratty woollen half-gloves and more rough cotton clothing than he'd ever owned in his prior life. No more collars and no more leashes. Day two and there were still only open horizons in front of him. Tseng bought another ticket, got back on another train, took day three in his stride when it came. It felt good, felt right, felt a lot better than walking the streets for the eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh year of his life.
Two hundred miles out from Midgar and no one knew his face anymore, much less his name. The train conductors stopped avoiding his eyes after the third or fourth border check. In his new clothes, no one gave him passing glance or even the time of day. The aura of fearful respect disappeared; now Tseng got elbows and impatience and rude finger gestures as he queued up in the mornings for a shot at the two rickety showers the carriage had. The anonymity that came with being far from the Turks' reputation made Tseng realise how insignificant a human life could be; as if he didn't already know that from the way he used to tick them off like check-boxes on glorified paperwork.
Why'd he leave? Even he didn't really know. Enough was enough, he supposed. There were only so many people to kill in so many ways for so many reasons. World domination got boring when you got good at it. Rufus still got off on the lights and the magic and the power; Shinra men liked basking in the glory and waving to the masses and could well live off manipulation and strategic, circular chess games all their lives. Tseng wasn't that kind of a man. Once they'd done the circuit of artful monopoly, there really wasn't anything left. What did you get a man who'd got everything? What did you do when you ran out of things worth doing?
Take it all away and start over from scratch.
The big city wasn't challenging enough. Midgar, queen bitch to rule all other metropolises, wasn't challenging enough. Tseng'd done the job that no one wanted to do, and did it so fucking well that suddenly everyone wanted to be a Turk. Tseng'd climbed the ladder that they all said couldn't be climbed; he was an immigrant and a sub-culture war-mongering Wutai bastard, and he also knew the sectors better than anyone, the niches and the kinks and the pissy watering holes, and then he knew the boardrooms and the executive suites and the very fast cars and faster women. He'd walked the streets at two in the morning and strolled the slums at eleven in the evening and nothing wanted to touch him anymore, nothing could. He'd guarded the guards and thieved from the thieves and killed all the killers.
Leaving really had nothing to do with Shinra or his men or Rufus. They were all important to Tseng, just not important enough, not relevant enough. Rufus could do as he liked; Rufus always did. The President could take a fucking and stand up right afterwards, because that was the type of man that he'd grown up to be – Tseng'd been there with him and for him for a long, long time, and somewhere in the past year or two Rufus'd stopped needing him. The President didn't know it yet, but then the President had practically only just stopped outgrowing his clothes every year. He'd learn, get better, rule the damned universe. Tseng didn't share Rufus' ambitions; that was all that it was. He didn't want to sit in leather chairs and have men down on their knees in front of him. Tseng'd had his go at grovelling and had his go at ruling and things had turned out like this – he liked neither.
So he left, broke the circle, or so he wanted to. Laying on a paper thin mattress on a less-than-solid bunk and staring up at the ceiling of the train, Tseng headed off in no direction, looking for no destination. Challenge everything if you don't know what else to do. Put yourself up against the entire goddamned world, and see if anything could bring you down. Was there any other way to do it?
'Go to sleep,' the guy sleeping on the bunk beneath him grunted, kicking the frame and making everything shake. 'You've been up all three fucking nights, ain'tcha. You think so damn loud I can't get to bed myself.'
'My apologies,' Tseng said, partially amused at finding better character introspection here out in the middle of nowhere than back at the nexus of the world's greatest minds. 'Do you want me to count chocobos aloud instead?'
'Smartass cityswank,' his bedmate grumbled. 'Can tell from your accent. You're a right ripe one, top o' the plate, I'm guessing. Come down here for a sec,' he thumped the bunk frame again. 'Lemme show you the right way to turn off that thinker of yours.'
Tseng pushed the threadbare coverlet off of himself and ducked his head down. His bunkmate was rummaging in the depths of his bag; the man pulled out a metal flask a second later, his calloused fingers whipping the cap around. The smell of strong, strong alcohol permeated the carriage. The man poured Tseng a capful. 'Throw that down,' he nodded, sage. 'Betcha you'll be out like a light in ten.'
'I'm not such a lightweight,' Tseng said mildly, taking the shot in one mouthful. It hit like a ton of bricks; fine fire going down his throat and warming his insides like the really good brandy that Shinra kept in all its bars; except rougher on the edges, more real. He passed the cap back.
'Gonna bet on that?' his bunkmate grinned, his smile missing two teeth while the ones that he did have gleamed yellow and brown with tobacco stain. ''Cause you shouldn't make claims you can't keep.'
'I'll do you a hundred gil,' Tseng said, climbing down and wedging himself into the other end of the man's sleeper. He tossed down a crisp note onto the bed space between them. The other man matched it with a grubby, dog-eared bill.
'Thassa spirit,' the old man cackled, taking a hit. Then he passed Tseng the bottle; Tseng drank from the mouth, passed it back, swallowed, and felt a certain gratification in the toothy, approving expression on his bunkmate's face.
Neither of them won the bet; the flask ran dry before either of them backed down. The world span a little bit, and for a while, looked properly aligned. Tseng fell asleep sitting up, and woke with a backache from hell and a matching pain in the head. They used the two hundred gil to buy themselves a good breakfast, and the old man showed him how to mix a remedy from a raw egg and god knows what else before he got off at the next station, waving at Tseng until the train disappeared from sight.
Bunkmate gone, the ennui set in again. The other two in the cabin were uninteresting and apprehensive; travellers who looked like they just wanted to get home and out of the unending rattle of the train. They had places to go, and knew exactly how long it'd take them to get there. They were waiting; impatient and obviously so. Tseng ignored them and played solitaire with himself until the train finished its under-ocean run and took them back out into proper sunlight again: eight days after Corel, there he was on the Western Continent. Wutai.
Tseng got off before they hit any of the major cities; he knew that Shinra had its hold on at least the capital, and probably also on a number of the major trading centres even on the outskirts. Ever since the end of the War, mako had done its unstoppable, creeping and inevitable duty: it brought light and communications and technology, and everywhere it went the stench of the Company followed. Tseng was fairly certain that Rufus knew that he didn't mean any trouble in leaving, but politics were politics, and if Rufus didn't want him dead for defection, then there were probably others who wanted to ensure that Tseng stayed defected. Survival was one of his stronger traits: Tseng decided to lay low. He shouldered his bag and disembarked at a small town ten or twenty miles from the sea.
The first impression it left on him was this: roads leading everywhere and nowhere, too much sky, too much land, too few people. The trains hadn't given him much space for perspective: a fortnight in an eight-by-eight carriage cabin is a fortnight spent in suspended animation. The world only zoomed past him. Getting off and back on solid ground again was like being reborn into an utterly foreign environment, just that this one was one where everyone looked just like Tseng and spoke a language that Tseng remembered, vaguely, from days before Midgar Standard and where there were characters on all the signs which jogged his memory and made him feel human instead of inhumane. The skyscrapers were missing and the lights went down in the evenings instead of coming up and he could see a horizon without being forty floors up in the air. Everything was wrong, and that was probably what made it so very right.
Tseng had had a harsh reputation back in Midgar: they said that he did his job for Shinra without flinching and with very little reason. Out here, walking down the streets, Tseng thought to himself that there really wasn't anyone worth the kind of attention that he'd delivered to the citizens of Midgar whilst working as a Turk. No reason to kill anyone out here where everyone was simple. It was like walking out of hell and into something more resembling limbo than anything else: the urge to run the streets and weed out the weak dropped away as easily as the city's walls had fallen back.
Nonetheless, Tseng kept the gun holstered and its cartridges full; he might have felt his ignorance for the first time in years out in the small, Wutainese town, but it was no excuse for acting ignorant.
For the sake of appearances, he went to a barber's shop and said, 'I want my hair cut short.' He pulled off the tie that'd been keeping his hair in place, and a tumble of black hit his shoulders and went everywhere. Tseng'd kept it for a very long time, because it'd been a signifier of his past – now he was in his past, and there was no reason to have it encumbering him.
'Good hair you've got,' the barber commented, his speech accented with one of the many Wutainese dialects that Tseng could not name (in spite of his being able to identify every variation of Standard that probably ever existed). 'But it's your choice. You young guys always do these crazy things.'
The barber gave him "the latest fashion", which Tseng recognised as something out of Midgar from two or three seasons back, but he shrugged at himself in the mirror and decided that it didn't look too bad. He looked younger even to his own eyes. The barber made him buy a bottle of gel as well, and then packed Tseng off with recommendations for good places to stay, and even better places to go. "Why not head back over the mountains, boy, if you're out here looking for yourself?"
Looking for himself; that was a funny turn of phrase. Tseng left the shop ponderous, and followed the given directions until he ended up at the boarding house that the barber'd pointed him to.
Second impression: religion, or austerity, or a deep philosophy, or something like it.
The boarding-house was a single-storied place, built almost entirely out of rooms of cool, dark wood and bordered by light, white paper screen doors which provided separation, but not isolation. It provided permanent housing for the neighbouring temple's staff, and the spare rooms they had were free for rent. Their gardens were rock and sand and carefully tended bonsai, all of it ageless and aged. The old proprietor was a venerable old woman, who acted vaguely archly towards Tseng when he met her eyes and did not blink in the face of her stare. 'Come this way,' she told him in strictly instructional terms, turning and walking towards one of the rooms with small, precise steps. There were traditional paintings all down the corridors: brushwork in red and black inks that told the stories of the sun and the moon and the land and everything in between; all tradition and honour and bravery and the endless gods that made up the Wutai pantheon, if you could even call it a pantheon, if you could even call them gods, if you could call any of this mysticism religion.
He offered to pay her the price she stated for his room, and a little more on top for the privacy which he desired, but she looked at him coldly and said that everyone under her roof would be treated equally, and that if Tseng had so much money to spend then he had best be elsewhere and not in this small town of honest, hardworking people. Tseng raised his eyebrows at that direct confrontational approach, but then he sketched her the small bow that she was expecting and she nodded her approval and left him alone. He could, however, still hear her muttering down the hall about the rudeness of the younger generation and their audacity and lack of manners.
Truth be told, he was more used to respect going only one way – toward himself. Tseng wondered if he was supposed to get angry at being deprived of it; wondered if he should be reacting more vigorously to the yawning emptiness where everything from Midgar had once held place of honour. He was everything that he was: his hands were still stained through, he was still as evil or cruel or bad a person as he'd always been, and yet out here, out here, out here, nothing seemed to matter: none of that seemed to have any consequence. They did not know, and he did not see the need to be what he once was.
So he changed clothes and skins one more time: he took a bath in a steaming tub warmed from beneath by live coals, and came out and dressed in the traditional robes of the area. The edging of his clothes had pictures of demons and what he supposed were the equivalent of angels; fighting back and forth along the fringing in an endless battle that had him rather amused, irony all considered. Putting on the sandals the house provided, he wandered out into the quiet night (quiet night) and walked through the temple, listening to the evening mantra chants and the ringing of the bells and gongs. Tseng stayed there, quiescent, until everything went still.
He went back to meet the dinner hour, arriving punctually at the shared dining hall so that the mistress of the rooms would not have reason to spite him again. The temple staff were in a different room, considering that they were vegetarian and probably, Tseng thought to himself wryly, holier-than-thou. The boarders were a different matter: earthly and beyond grace, they ate the meat of dead animals and had hot sake and jiu to drink. There were only two other boarders aside from Tseng himself: one of them was the proprietor's son, and the other was a man as foreign (or not) as Tseng was – blond hair, out here? Yet he spoke common Wutai dialect better than Tseng himself could: his words were richer, and his vocabulary more dense, not to mention riddled with many choice examples of the hundreds and thousands of sayings, proverbs, adages and metaphors that the language had at its disposal.
Tseng caught the man's eye as they ate; his eyes were as gold as his hair, and just as burnished.
They did not speak much over dinner, neither of them seeming to be the sort for words. Indulging the mistress was the order of things: they nodded when she blathered, and commented politely when she demanded their opinion, and bade her goodnight after thanking her for the meal. Having her gone was a relief: the house was far better silent. As Tseng stood, about the leave, the stranger said, in Standard: 'Do you have anywhere you need to be?'
'Odd choice of languages,' Tseng said, turning his head to look back, suspicious but not openly so. Blond hair out of Midgar: perhaps trouble, though Tseng didn't know who would possibly have gone so far as to send so competent an assassin after him. Most of the men whom Tseng made enemies of – or whom made enemies of Tseng – were no longer alive, after all.
The man got up on his knees and rose. There was a grace and a strength in his movements which Tseng could acknowledge; a Turk never failed to notice those things. 'Only as odd as this is as a vacationing spot,' the stranger retorted. 'Why are you here, Tseng? For the nightlife?'
Tseng did not bother with questions like how do you know my name. 'There's better nightlife a long, long way away from here,' he said, reaching casually into his robes.
'Leave the gun,' the stranger said, standing. 'I've no interest in melodramatics.'
'What game are you playing,' Tseng asked, directly.
'Or politics,' the stranger added, thoughtfully.
'What are you here for,' Tseng continued, sharply.
'Or interrogations,' the stranger said, holding up a hand. 'Before you kill yourself with your curiosity, let me tell you that I'm not Shinra's lapdog, or anyone else's.' He took a step away and towards the door. 'You could call me a kindred spirit, if you'd like. It'd fit,' he said, wry, 'in every sense of the word.'
Tseng stayed where he was, and said nothing. The stranger slid open the door to the hall. 'Join me for a drink in my room,' he said. 'If you think you can trust me, or – if you'd like – if you think you can trust your own abilities.'
It was an insult and a dare, but Tseng rose to it in any case. What was there to lose? If he'd run all this distance across the world only to end up being discovered the first night of his freedom, then he deserved to be shot in the head, if that was what would come of it. The ex-Turk followed the blond, and slid the door closed behind him when they entered the man's private room. No point letting bad business slip out from under the cracks.
The man was removing a bottle and two glasses from a small bureau. They were foreign to Tseng; and though he recognised the drink (brandy), he didn't know the name or vintage. 'I like my alcohol hard,' the man was saying as he poured out two balloons worth of the rich liquid. 'But smooth. Have one,' he offered, passing Tseng the drink. Tseng accepted it. 'In toast,' the man said, whimsically, raising his own.
'Toast to what?' Tseng asked, taking a sip. The brandy was cool and warm and good. It went down his throat easily; and for a moment he thought that everything that had happened on the train was just a foreshadowed moment of this one, a mirror in a mirror of what was and what is and what could be in the future.
'To our shared purposes,' the man said, sitting cross-legged on the bare woven-mat floors and leaning against a corner of the small room. 'Should I tell you my name?'
'I believe that'd be appreciated,' Tseng said, coolly, but with a flat expression in his eyes.
'You won't believe me,' the man pointed out.
'I'm inclined to believe many things,' Tseng replied. 'And the things I do not, I choose for myself.'
'A man of independence and will,' the stranger chuckled. 'I can appreciate that. My name is Lucifer, and that should mean nothing to you, shouldn't it?'
Tseng took another sip of his drink, resting the glass against his cheek as he regarded the man in front of him. 'Lucifer,' he said, flatly. 'As in the Lucifer that the mad church in the slums preaches about. A fallen angel and a demon.'
'Yes.' Lucifer looked at Tseng with a simple honesty. Gold eyes. Tseng'd never seen gold eyes until that night. Something held him back from asking the rhetorical question at the back of his throat: are you crazy? There was a quality to the other man; a confidence, a boredom, a personality that Tseng recognised in himself as much as in the stories he'd heard from the times he sat in on sermons while watching after Aerith: Lucifer, who followed his God and was most beloved, and then Lucifer who fell, Lucifer who sought his own way, Lucifer who bored of following the dictums of heaven.
'Come to a decision, have you?' Lucifer asked, breaking the silence that'd fallen. He reached over, and topped Tseng's glass up. Tseng hadn't noticed how much he'd drunk. Time must have crawled, or perhaps it had sped past. Or perhaps it was timeless, in that room.
'I don't think it matters to me,' the ex-Turk said slowly, 'who or what you are.'
'You'd be a hypocrite if it did,' Lucifer agreed, and he was closer now, close enough to brush the lip of his glass against Tseng's. Ting. The sound seemed to vibrate through the very room, ting ting ting ting ting. 'But you're not, which is why you're here. Looking for something after everything else.'
'Is that what you're doing as well?' Tseng observed. Gold eyes again, gold eyes with a fire somewhere deep inside of them. Lightbringer, wasn't that what the name Lucifer meant? 'Walking away?'
Walking away; walking away as Tseng walked away, looking for something, going on a pilgrimage, abandoning the big and the beautiful and the brilliant for something smaller in lieu of there being nothing left. In that room in the middle of nowhere, Tseng felt like he didn't care if he was in a dream or something like it – sitting there with the devil when he was a devil himself, what else would have been more fitting? Tseng's own black eyes to the light in Lucifer's.
'There was a time I desired everything,' Lucifer said, putting his glass away, 'and then there was a time I desired nothing. Now I desire to find out everything there is about nothing in particular. Live life the way humans do: ephemerally.'
'Ephemerally,' Tseng repeated, moving closer, drawn in, made to believe.
'If you can't live with eternity,' Lucifer murmured, pushing Tseng's glass away as well, 'live with the moment.' He put a hand on Tseng's shoulder. His fingers were warm. Then he leaned in, and Tseng leaned in to meet him. His mouth was also warm.
Nothing like the city or the depths of hell, whichever one either of them chose.
Lucifer pushed Tseng up against the thin wooden wall. Tseng refused to be pushed so easily; he ran his tongue against the devil's and tasted something like fire and wine. Tseng sucked on Lucifer's bottom lip, the sound of it slick until he pulled back to breathe. He hadn't wanted anyone in a long time. He wasn't sure he wanted this, which made it better. Neither of them spoke. Tseng leaned in again, taking his time. He slid his tongue back between Lucifer's lips, thrust in and out of the heat of Lucifer's mouth, dirty and wet and slow.
Lucifer fisted one hand in Tseng's short hair, and pulled them closer together. They kissed as they tangled together, Lucifer fighting to straddle Tseng as Tseng rubbed up against him, the friction too little, barely enough. He pushed Tseng's robe aside, leaning down to bite at a bared shoulder. Tseng hissed, but kept his voice down low. 'Wouldn't want the woman walking in,' Lucifer murmured into the shell of Tseng's ear, his exhalations warm and moist. Tseng thrust his hips up, impatient, and dragged Lucifer's own robes away. The devil's skin was smooth against Tseng's scarred body.
They rutted against each other, stifling groans. Tseng wrapped one hand around both of them, and stroked in time with the push of Lucifer's tongue in his mouth. Fingers slick and breathing laboured, he muffled a moan against Lucifer's lips, his stroking speeding up.
'Finish,' Lucifer said against Tseng's ear, 'and I'll fuck you with our come to slick the way.'
Tseng's breath hitched, but then he grabbed Lucifer by golden strands and growled in a low voice, 'If you want that, then suck me wet first.'
Lucifer chuckled and let Tseng drag his head downwards. He bent to lick at the tip of Tseng's cock, savouring the taste and teasing before Tseng pushed his erection into Lucifer's mouth and ground his hips into the silky wetness. Lucifer sucked, and then started to swallow around Tseng, coaxing and relentless until the man tensed. Lucifer pulled back as Tseng came, catching the slick with his fingers instead of his mouth and rubbing it into the skin of Tseng's stomach, dipping his fingers down to slip between Tseng's ass, not bothering to wait before pushing a finger in and curving it.
Tseng's back arched as he shuddered through his orgasm; it was too much, almost too much when Lucifer pushed more of his own come back up into him, added another finger, scissoring them, then another; almost too much when Lucifer shoved him down and stretched him too quickly for comfort. 'Do it,' Tseng hissed, flushed and shaking from sensory overload and pushing up again, looking for more, needing more, needing to break all limits. 'Fuck,' he swore quietly when Lucifer did, his eyes sliding shut as Lucifer's cock pushed into him, slow and deliberate and too damned much. 'Harder,' Tseng said, when it started to hurt.
Lucifer's smile was bright, and he fucked himself into Tseng, holding Tseng's head back so that he could see when Tseng grimaced, so that he knew when too much became too little. 'Not enough?' he asked when he was buried inside of Tseng and pinning the man down, just waiting.
'Mercy isn't what I'm looking for,' Tseng growled, and he reached up and grabbed Lucifer by the back of the neck and pulled. Lucifer screwed slowly Tseng against the floor, thrusting slow and taking his time to feel the clench of Tseng's muscles every time he pulled out. When he reached a hand down between them, Tseng knocked it away. 'I'm not looking for constant gratification either,' he said. 'Fuck me, and make it honest.'
When they finished, Tseng was bleeding and breathing hard. Lucifer threw a towel at him.
'Satisfied?' the devil asked.
'For now,' Tseng said, cleaning himself up. A calm had settled over him, unshakable and steady. He felt more alive now than he had ever felt when he stood at the top of the world, sixty-eight floors up in a glass palace.
'Will be another day,' Tseng replied. 'And some other moment.'
They shared the room for the night, fucking again once more in the early hours of the morning before falling back asleep, the night silent and infinite around them. When Tseng rose after dawn, Lucifer was gone, and the room spotless. The mistress had never heard or seen or ever roomed a blond man; no blond men came to that part of Wutai, and it was unlikely that they'd ever stay at a temple even if they did.
Tseng stayed one more night in that town, but the next morning he packed his things and moved on; there would be other trains, and other places, and other people; other times, and other challenges, and a whole world ahead of him, disparate and independent of the worlds he chose to leave behind.