Title: The Unforgiven
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Characters: Cloud, Tseng
Prompt: 022: Enemies
Word Count: 1068
Summary: He wondered that the other man never seemed the type to cry, while trying to ignore the fact that he wasn't either...
Author's Notes: Two quick one-shots, one for Tseng, one for Cloud...I drew a lot of references from Last Order for Tseng's, but the story is nothing we don't already know...Brief reference to Before Crisis, which I have never played so I probably screwed the canon up quite a bit... :-\ A bit of a prologue to the dialogue from the next story XD And apologies for the Meredith Grey-esque narrative for Cloud's!
A career at Shinra taught you a lot. It taught you to appreciate good opportunities, to not worry about tomorrow as long as you were happy today, and that ignorance truly was bliss. A career as a Turk only expanded on the lessons of Shinra.
It taught you to literally rob from the poor to feed the rich. To look down on a starving mother trying to comfort her two crying children and tell her she was being evicted without a hint of remorse. To threaten the life of a child as a method of bartering with an adult. To hold a gun to the head of someone the day before you called a friend...and to pull the trigger.
Shinra trained you to prepare for the worst. To view the world as an assignment. Every person you met was a potential enemy. We are strong, they are weak. Survival of the fittest at a level too grim even for nature to comprehend. Because Shinra specialized in desensitization--in the loss of personal humanity.
After almost a lifetime with them, he knew this better than anyone.
He gave the orders for the mission that killed most of his subordinates, even knowing that was a risk. He stepped aside and watched as the gurneys wheeled off human lives that had become nothing more than experiments, as a man he'd come to regard as a friend was carried away to be stripped of dignity and respect, to be used as a toy. He had stood in the bare, oversized office that unwavering stoicism had bought, staring out windows that showed him the city he was helping to destroy, listening to the shots and screams from the cell phone he never turned off. Numbly watched the Midgar wasteland fly beneath him from the seat of the helicopter and the only emotion he ever showed was a slight tightening of his jaw.
He had stopped her when he knew he could take advantage of her biggest weakness--the weakness he had always loved about her--and forced her to chose between her freedom, or the life of another. Slapped her in front of her friends because he had to do something to convince himself that this was his job and she was no more than a file that had lain open on his desk for the past ten years.
A career in Shinra taught you many things, but it did not teach you to stop and feel. To appreciate the good. And a lifetime in the Turks could never have prepared him for the day he would embrace a man whose execution he had ordered, whose life he had helped to destroy, wondering how that man had never seemed the type to cry and trying to ignore the fact that he wasn't either.
As children it's easy to dream of being the Hero. For girls, it's the dream of being the Princess whose knight rides in to save her only to find she's already slain the dragon. Boys want to slay the dragon whether there is a Princess, a desperate village, or nothing more than honor. Whatever the action, the motives are all the same. Protect yourself while defending others: never let fear stop you from doing the right thing. Always be the strong one, the last man standing, the one who never has to ask for help because you're always the one who rides in to save the day.
With age, reality often begins to reshape these dreams. We still yearn for the role of Hero, but the fantasy tends to disappear. The Princess turns into a woman who can take care of herself, and thus in turn can take care of those she loves. The Knight is a man struggling to bring money home to his family, or doing his best to contribute to his society. More often than not, the Dragon turns out to be another human being, driven not by animal instinct, but by hate and greed.
He only ever wanted to be that Knight. But no matter how many times he failed, his dreams never seemed to reshape themselves the way they were supposed to. He always wanted to protect the Princess, even when he was grown-up and there were two Princesses and he wasn't sure anymore which one he was *his* Princess but decided he didn't care and would try to save them both.
But he never could. Even when he was young and a Dragon was just a dragon, he had knelt beside her as she lay unmoving, and when they accused him of being responsible he never tried to argue because he knew it was true. Because a real hero would never have let her fall. Then when the Dragon turned into a man with silver hair a black cape, he let the heat of the burning village wash around him as the real hero ran off to save the day. He once again knelt beside the wounded Princess as she cried tears that stung his hands with the acid of his own failure.
And when the second Princess came along, he couldn't help but wonder if maybe all of his failures before had been because he was fighting the wrong battle (even though in his mind for a real hero there was no *wrong* battle as long as he was fighting for the good of others).
Only this time when he knelt beside the fallen Princess did his dreams finally begin to reshape. He was not the Hero or the Knight. He wasn't even the Oaf or the Sidekick or the Jester--he was just deluded, nothing more than a shadow of the real hero, someone who was never in the story in the first place. Somehow who foolishly played a part that gave hope but brought only death.
He slay the Dragon anyway, but it was not enough to restore his dreams. The real Hero and Princess had died, and there was nothing left for an adult waking up over twenty years later who had no place in the world.
It was a strange sensation, finally giving in to physical contact after so long avoiding it. Feeling the arms of another around him, weeping onto the shoulder of his equal, his opposite: the Dark Knight, whose role turned out to be just as illusory as his own.
Part II: Breaking the Silence