[identity profile] first-seventhe.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] brokenprism
Speed, Accuracy, and Precision

Fandom: FFVII: OGC
Characters/Pairing: Elena/Tseng
Rating: PG

For: The Alphabet Meme, [livejournal.com profile] churched, for E: "Efficient weapon cleaning strategies, Tseng and Elena" ...and also for her birthday. Late, because I wouldn't be Sev if I delivered gifts on time, would I?

Notes: I am completely unaware of most of the FFVII Compilation besides OGC and AC, so I guess this is technically AU of Elena's backstory, whateverthefuck it is "officially".

Summary: Impressing Tseng once was difficult, but possible; impressing Tseng twice in a row was nearly impossible, because his standards rose right along with the quality of your work, until you had to work exponentially hard to surprise him.

- - -

Elena took to the Turk shooting range on her bad days; yes, she had bad days, and she had them at times having nothing to do with her cycle (an assumption which had once earned Reno a bullet in the foot) and everything to do with her job - being a Turk was glamorous, yes, until you were panting and covered in blood and gunpowder with a broken ankle half-healed by Cure magic and you had too-hastily pegged the only guy who could've given you useful information because he'd aimed his gun at your boss.

The shooting range loved Elena, and she loved it back, an example of the strange unhealthy passionate relationships Turks preferred: Reno loved his E-Mag, and while Rude fought with his fists he actually preferred strange archaic shit like staves and maces in private; Elena liked guns. Loved guns. It had been her marksmanship which had lifted her up from ShinRa Grunt status in the first place. The shooting range was her guilty pleasure, the one place she knew her name, her title, Elena, written in the tiny perfect holes across each target's chest in a perfectly-ordered sweep of the concentric rings and the ringing in her ears (she hated to muffle her gun; the noise stung like a bitch, yes, but she preferred to let it sing).

It was a guilty pleasure, yes, because often she felt like she should be out – doing something else: cleaning up some mess she'd made, or apologizing to Tseng for the one millionth time for some minutiae of Turk protocol she'd overlooked (like, for example, don't shoot the guy with the intel), or buying the shots she'd wagered against the chances of Reno getting laid the night before whatever mission they'd just completed. And she felt guiltier when she put the pieces together, that she needed the shooting range after her mistakes, to tell her who she was and why she was here: my name is Elle Delaney, said the holes in the walls, and I am a Turk, no matter what it looked like yesterday. (Elena was technically her alias, her pseudonym, just like Reno's name wasn't really Reno and 'Rude' was a childhood nickname gone either wrong or right depending on your sense of humor: their real names spiraled down and away into ShinRa bureaucracy along with Hojo's darkest secrets and hundreds of years of accounting mishaps.)

This time she'd run the night simulation, something she'd set up with Reeve while on a medical leave that had lasted a few weeks too long; she kept it private, for herself, and that made her feel guilty too – but it was hers, she'd written it, and as she spun through the randomized paces crouching and firing at the shadows pre-programmed to surprise her, she felt herself, surprisingly, relax: missed one, but caught him on the way down and then fired over the head of the innocent hostage to clip into the shadows behind him, a ducking roll to miss the obvious retaliation shot from the corner, and when she came up beside the waiting unsuspecting shadow, her breathing was even as she leveled the gun into Tseng's face and—

--froze, her breath catching in her throat, and Tseng didn't even blink as he lifted a small remote control and paused the simulation. Elena stood, still frozen, her gun planted directly between Tseng's eyes and her fingers itching on the trigger (nobody expected a Turk to carry blanks into the shooting range), her heart still hauling adrenaline as her lungs caught up with her and she expelled everything in one long hiss. It could have sounded sinister (from Rude) or mocking (from Reno), but from her lungs it merely sounded exhausted, like a sigh. Unprofessional. My name is Elena. Weak.

She still couldn't move the gun, arms frozen in place; Tseng hadn't moved an inch, other than the hand holding the remote, and because she was Elena and feeling stupid and gun-happy and bullet-headstrong, she said, "Don't you find me threatening at all?"

Tseng didn't even raise an eyebrow at her; he merely widened his eyes, a little bit, and said simply, "I find you trustworthy."

"Oh," she said, and everything expelled from her in another long breath-like sigh as she lowered the gun, her arms finally responding. They stood for a long moment, she with her gun still warm in her hand, he holding the remote, and the flickering lights of the now-ended simulation creating shadows she still felt like shooting around and behind them.

Then Tseng blinked, and rewarded her scrutiny by allowing a curious look to cross his face for – less than a fraction of a second, but Elena was a marksman, and hungry for emotion besides. "What were you running, anyway?"

She glanced around, shrugging. "Night simulation." What was it about Tseng that made her alternately blabbermouthed and terse?

"Night simulation." Tseng looked carefully down at the remote in his hand, and then back up at her. He didn't have to raise an eyebrow; Elena was a Turk, and they all knew how to answer that particular look.

"D'you remember that medical leave you made me take six months ago for my lung? Well, I was cooped up that entire time, and pretty bored with it, so… I badgered Reeve until he gave me the password for the sim." She laughed, one brief chuckle she chopped off early. "Never give a bored Turk your passwords. He was lucky this was all I did." And that wasn't entirely true, but Tseng probably didn't want to hear about the simulation she'd made Reno where the shadows were all giant balloon-shaped Hojo-Palmer hybrids. It was only for stress relief, not marksmanship practice, although Elena liked to think the scary attacking Sephiroth dragon at the end was pretty impressive.

"This is good work," Tseng said, and his voice was so even and conversational that it took a few seconds for the sentence to sink in – and then a few more seconds for Elena to realize it was so surprising because she'd expected to be chastised: the guilty feeling was hovering at the edges of her perception, ready to rush in, and she banished it with a dim but triumphant flicker of pride.

And this time she caught the stammering in her throat, the litany of excuses – or, worse, descriptives, all the details about how she'd had to reprogram the civilian holograms eight times. "Thank you," she said, and lifted her gaze right back up to Tseng's, direct and forthcoming. My name is Elena, the shooting range said, the evidence of her work hanging around them, still-smoking holes in paper targets the simulator turned into criminals. I am a Turk, you know.

Tseng looked back at her, meeting her eyes just as directly and evenly – and he must have been waiting for something, maybe waiting for just that, for her to straighten her spine and claim her own name (or alias, or title, or calling, or handiwork), because he smirked: just a small twitch of his lips, but she was caught so off-guard she must have jumped a little, or maybe raised an eyebrow, because the smirk became much more smug and satisfactory, and Tseng reached out to take the gun from her willing fingers before she could even protest.

He jacked the clip into his hand in one smooth motion, his eyes still on hers, penetrative. "You wouldn't have missed the second man," he said, voice low, "if you had properly cleaned this gun before use."

She didn't want to break that gaze – it was a challenge and a window, something she'd been waiting for since her second day with the Turks when she'd realized just how badly she wanted the man (and then had quashed all subsequent thoughts relating to the issue forever) – but his comment distracted even her one-track brain, and her gaze flickered down to the cartridge in Tseng's hand. It was a little dirty, true; not badly, but one of the Materia was half-loose, which would have affected the mako-powered alignment the pistol used to fire.

"Sometimes you have to use what you have at hand," Elena said, and she was proud that she wasn't breathless with it. "We don't always have a chance to check our equipment in the heat of a fight."

"…which is your way of saying you just signed a gun out from the window at random," Tseng finished for her, and now she did blush.

But she remembered, and she turned her eyes right back up to his, meeting his stare with one of her own. "…which makes it no less of a challenge," she countered, and flicked a piece of hair from her eyes. "Flexibility. Creativity. The ability to adjust to the situation at hand." She deliberately dropped her gaze to the clip for a moment, then looked back up. "The ability to do precision work with all else unknown."

Now Tseng did lift an eyebrow, and Elena had to stop herself from a victorious chortle – although not really, because there was now something between them, some sort of tension thick in the air, thick with apprehension and expectation and not all of the bad kind, either. "Quoting the manual at me," Tseng mused, and his mouth turned up in a smirk again, this one amused.

"If only I'd memorized it yesterday," Elena said, because she was feeling daring with this energy between them, this new respect brimming on interest – anticipation, maybe, and of course she'd probably just shot herself in the proverbial foot by mentioning her botch of last night's mission, but Tseng's gaze was still ringing with a faint bit of admiration and she had always been very good at pushing her luck.

"It would depend," Tseng said slowly, and when had she become so good at reading him, to be able to tell that he was suppressing another of those amused smirks all through his lips? "It depends on whether you'd take section two, Regarding The Defense Of A Fellow Turk At All Costs, or section five on Interrogation And Other Useful Techniques For Obtaining Information." She'd always been amazed at the way Tseng pronounced his capital letters, as if words in his mouth were more than just sounds; now she realized she was maybe staring, handing on to his language a little more than necessary.

"Section two comes first in the manual. And for me," Elena said, simply, and to her surprise (and embarrassment) everything was audible in her voice: her love of the job, her passion for her own position and her team, even her awkward inappropriate love for guns and her boss (not necessarily in that order) – but then she straightened her shoulders and pinned Tseng with her most open look. My name is Elena. Is there a problem?

And Tseng – smiled, although just barely, and he reached out to grasp her hand, putting the handgun back into her palm and wrapping her (slow, clumsy, unresponsive) fingers around it. Elena grasped the gun, and tried to pretend the glancing touch of his fingers on hers wasn't giving her the shivers.

"I was wondering what kind of Turk you were going to be," he said, eventually. It sounded like approval.

She nodded, in reply and thanks. Tseng didn't give out much praise; he didn't really need to: Reno and Rude both knew how well they did their job, and neither praise nor criticism would change the way they handled business after so many years as a team. She'd starved for praise for her first two weeks, until Reno had taken pity on her (after a six-pack of shots) and explained that praise and credit came in additional mission assignments, and the fact that Tseng was still sending them out together was a good sign, not a bad one. Since the incident with the bullet in her lung, she'd been paired more and more with Tseng; it hadn't occurred to her that maybe this wasn't the punishment she'd thought it was, the experienced teammate keeping a watchful eye on his young blundering assistant. Maybe it was just... trustworthy.

"You see," Tseng said, his voice cutting smoothly through her thoughts like it always did, and when she looked up his eyes were still on the gun joining their hands together like links in a very Turk-like chain (two palms and a handful of bullets). "The last Turk I was paired with was not as quick-handed or nearly as good of a shot as you. Although," he added, eyes flicking up at her in dark amusement, "having now seen exactly what you're capable of," with a brief gesture meant to imply the shooting range and the hologram both; it wasn't a difficult gesture to interpret. "I realize I've been utterly underestimating you, and I lay the blame for that entirely at your feet, not mine."

Elena squared her shoulders, but as she wasn't really able to sort out whether that was criticism or praise – or both, or neither, or maybe just a casual comment the way Tseng liked to comment on the weather, or the status of ShinRa stock, or murders above the Plate – she said nothing, and tried not to twitch the hand clutching her gun.

"Also," Tseng added, conversationally, "he was the… second kind of Turk. He would have chosen… information." He looked at her, scrutiny in his dark eyes, and finally let go of her gun; Elena automatically tucked it into her holster (never mind that it was a sign-out gun and didn't quite fit). "On that note, at least, I will say that I'm happy to have judged you accurately. It is more that I now need to retrain my own instincts to compensate."

"Retrain," Elena said, because she was an idiot who said things that came to her mouth without wondering what in the world Tseng was talking about or whether he'd change his mind about wanting to work with her in the first place.

"We've been paired together on missions for a while." Tseng's eyes were dark and heavy on her, heavy with the weight of this thing in the air between them, buzzing with potential and ringing with approval all at once. "And while we make a good team, we've never trained as one. Which would turn a good thing into an unfathomably unstoppable thing." The corners of his mouth twitched in a not-smile. "Perhaps that is arrogant of me to say, but I think it true. Dangerously true."

Team. Reno and Rude were one, so much that they could predict the other one's motions and thoughts and sometimes even sentences. She'd never thought – never thought Tseng would even consider her in that way (let alone the other way, the one she dreamed about but never acknowledged) – but here he was, nodding at her with acceptance – not just acceptance: support, respect, admiration – minutes after she'd plunked a barrel right down between his eyebrows.

"Tomorrow," Tseng said.

"Huh?" So maybe she hadn't become entirely suave and confident in one day; never mind that. She was still herself, after all. "Isn't tomorrow paperwork day?"

He nodded. "Usually I plan myself a small distraction. Stress relief, to keep me from shooting holes in my office." A small shrug. "This will be more than a distraction. Something to look forward to – which will hopefully motivate me to not spend the afternoon shooting holes in my office."

He flipped the remote in his hand and held it out to her in one smooth movement – but when she reached out to take it, he held on, his head tilting just slightly as their fingers brushed across the buttons. "I'll take care of your paperwork. Try your hand at something meant for a team of two." His inflection made it a suggestion-command, the kind Tseng was so despicably good at delivering.

"Of course, sir." Her voice was low, but Elena tucked her hair behind her ear and swallowed it down, reaching for that cool efficiency – and finding it, barely blinking, her hand steady on the remote. "What do you have in mind?"

"It doesn't have to be anything complicated, yet. I don't want to start out this partnership by shooting you in the back. We'll work on it as we train together." He let go of the remote, finally, except that her fingers suddenly lacked for warmth; Tseng wasn't necessarily a warm man, but he was so - intense, the aura around him already rich without this regard tingling between them. "Once we've put something together and completed it, we can run Reno and Rude through our paces."

Elena laughed, a breathy sound. "Now sir, that isn't fair at all." Her lips turned up in a smile. "You know Rude's shit with a firearm."

"Ah." Tseng pursed his lips. "Perhaps it's their turn to be buying the shots, then. I've bought for years. It will be nice to have a chance to finally win." And the look he gave her, wow, it was burning with Tseng's cool approval, and Elena almost faltered beneath it, her heart pounding – but her gaze steady; she inclined her head, a little, in a small simple recognition of the vast compliment he'd just paid her.

Tseng nodded. "For now, let us keep it easy. Remember I will be doing paperwork all day tomorrow. Try for something… fun."

"We can certainly take it slow." And weren't there a dozen levels in that statement, and her dirty mind was thinking of at least half of them – but Tseng just smiled, as if fully aware of all of the levels of implication (and then some; she wouldn't put it past Tseng to be able to decipher her every thought, just with the power of his eyes alone).

"Come up with something interesting," he said, the smile turning sly on his lips, "and we'll run through it before dinner."

Elena couldn't help her own reaction; her eyes widened, slightly, eyebrows rising in surprise. She met Tseng's gaze dead on, her own mouth twitching in a did-you-mean-that? response, and Tseng gave her one of his little nod-bows, eyes closing for a fraction of a second as his head inclined, so faint a movement you might think he'd merely blinked, or twitched – except that Tseng never twitched. Or blinked, if he didn't want to.

She couldn't keep the smile completely off her face, although she tried her hardest to let it emerge as a smug smirk rather than the shit-eating grin her beating heart was trying to produce. "I'll try to make sure we both make it to dinner, then, rather than the infirmary."

"I look forward to it." Tseng nodded, again, and now he turned to leave; at the door, he did turn, giving Elena one last long look over his shoulder. She looked right back, and tilted her head a little as if to say, anything else?

Tseng smiled. "Until tomorrow," he said, and the door closed behind him.

She keyed Reeve's private code into the remote and watched as the lights came on and the walls came down, revealing the computers and trackers behind the bullet-proof screens.

Impressing Tseng once was difficult, but possible; impressing Tseng twice in a row was nearly impossible, because his standards rose right along with the quality of your work, until you had to work exponentially hard to surprise him. Elena looked down at the remote in her hand, and then up to the alcove in which the trackers collected when not in use: the line of hanging paper targets bearing the accurate signature of her gun, her name writ in bullet-holes across and through them.

At least one person wants my autograph.

Elena smiled and sat down, the empty dimness of the shooting range a faint comfort at her back as she got to work.

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