Don't act so weak, Elena. The memory of Reno's words stung, although she would never have admitted it to anyone other than herself. Snippy little twerp, she thought disgustedly. He thinks he's so smart. To think she had even thought he was cute! Elena reflected in disgust. Even the way he wore his uniform disgusted her, right down to the shaggy red mass he called his hair. As for Rude...he could go and drink himself sick, for all she cared. The man grated on her nerves nearly as much as Reno. The two of them were always discussing silly, inconsequential matters such as who liked whom and who was going out with whom. And Reno was the! worst gossip! To think that Rude has a crush on Tifa! Any half-witted idiot could tell that girl was totally hung up over Cloud. In Reno's words about Rude's situation, "That's a tough one." Elena smirked silently. Rude was going to need all the help from Reno he could get. She scoffed at the behavior of the two men, if they could indeed be termed "men". She'd seen five-year-olds that were more mature. But Tseng was...different. There was something she admired about the man... He always appeared so calm, so in control. He rarely--no, never, she decided--lost his cool, a noteworthy feat since many of the characters she'd met since being promoted to the Turks had been...quite shady, to say the least. But Tseng always handled himself with a certain detached coolness that never ceased to impress her. The very first thing she had noticed about Tseng had been his dark, prominent features and neatly groomed hair. She also remembered feeling an inane! feeling of inadequacy next to him. Elena had yet to prove! herself worthy as a Turk, but this man looked as if he belonged in his uniform. His expression had been an impenetrable mask, yet he exuded a sense of rare insight. Those dark, fathomless eyes, always probing...searching... "You must be Elena," he said smoothly. "I'm Tseng, your boss. But call me Tseng." Momentarily taken aback, she had managed to stammer, "N..nice to meet you, sir." He smiled, and Elena felt her heart skip a beat. She thought she felt a faint brush creeping up her neck then immediately despised herself for her weakness. She was a Turk, and this man was her superior, as far as her job was concerned! Elena had always prided herself on her level-headedness, but now she was irritated to find it slipping away in the presence of a man she had just met. Quickly regaining her composure, she smiled back coldly. "I presume President Shinra promoted me because of the unfortunate...injuries AVALANCHE inflicted on Reno." ! She silently congratulated herself for her quick recovery. "Very well, I will prove I am worthy of fulfilling my position as a Turk." Tseng smiled again, rather coolly, but in his eyes, Elena detected a flicker of...amusement. Once again, she felt her countenance begin to waver. Oddly, she felt a strange sense of exuberance, mixed with...what? She had never had feelings like this for a man before, but now... "Your first assignment is to accompany Rude and track down the remaining members of AVALANCHE. I will also be there, but don't expect to call on me for help. My purpose in this assignment is otherwise. I will be...watching you." He did not mention this mission was to be a test of sorts on her abilities as a Turk. His unspoken words hung in the air, and she heard them as clearly as if they had been voiced. "We'll meet at headquarters tomorrow at seven sharp. Don't be late." You didn't need to say that, Elena thought. ! Instead she nodded and replied, "Understood, sir." "Good. Then I'll see you tomorrow at seven." Elena had proceeded to walk haughtily out of his office, but not before she sneaked another glance at the man which caused her heart to pound wildly. Blushing furiously, Elena headed out of the office. No, she decided. It wasn't Tseng's handsomely mysterious looks that attracted her, nor his cool, detached manner that she so admired. It was everything about the man, from his deliberate, precise manner, to his calm, measured way of speaking. It was true that Tseng sometimes smoked, a habit that Elena found revolting, but she still felt inexplicably drawn to him nonetheless. Would he ever like someone like her? Sometimes, he seemed to be universes away, but at other times, she felt unexplainably close to him. Still, Elena mused to herself. It would be interesting to find out... But I'd better finish this job first. Yes, here it was. Tseng must be inside, she decided after a bri! ef scan of the area. She wondered if Rufus was expecting trouble? Reno and Rude had been sent on another job, and she had been relaxing in her apartment when she'd received a call from Rufus to report to the Ancient Temple. There had been rumors lately, of the return of Sephiroth... No, that couldn't be it. She strode purposely through the entrance of the temple after dismissing the Shinra guards who had accompanied her. There he was, standing just beyond the glowing altar. She approached him swiftly, like a woman embracing her lov---no, she rebuked herself harshly. If he has his way, I will probably never be anything more to him than what we are now. He turned as she neared him and regarded her thoughtfully. "What is this?" she asked curiously, gazing at the glowing altar. "Can we find the Promised Land with this?" "I wonder..." he said slowly. "Anyway, we have to report to the President." She turned to go, then could ! not help adding, "Be careful, Tseng." Fool! Her mi! nd screamed. Why must you worry about him? You know he must hate it when women treat him like that... She told herself icily. Why do you act like this when you're around him? Maybe it was the memory of the way his eyes sometimes lit up when she came to see him every morning. Maybe it was the vulnerability beneath all those invisible walls he put up around his heart. Maybe it was how his nearness always made her want to be enfolded in his strong arms forever, for him to protect her, and sustain her. Maybe it was because she loved--- "Yeah..." came Tseng's reply, startling her out of her trail of thought. There it was again, the indiscernible expression he so often wore. Would she ever be able to reach this man? Would he ever allow her past the barriers so carefully guarding his soul? "Oh, and...Elena?" he added casually, completely taking her by surprise. "How about dinner after this job's over?" The words stopped her de! ad in her tracks, and she stared at him almost with an incredulous look on her face. She felt her cheeks grow hot. Could it be that he felt the same way for her, too...? Her heart was drumming in her ears, and the noise was deafening. Once more, she felt her composure begin to crumble in his presence. She nodded once and managed to stammer, "Th...thank you very much. If I may be excused..." Blushing furiously, Elena hastened out of the temple. Once outside, she allowed a smile to spread across her face. She was looking forward to that dinner. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Author's Note: I had always found it extremely ironic that Tseng was killed by Sephiroth before he could ever go on that date with Elena. In my opinion, Tseng's death was an event that was as equally (if not more) sad compared to the death of Aeris. I also did my best to portray Elena's character as realistically as I! could, with all her weaknesses as well as strengths. Oddl! y, the Turks were my favorite characters in the game, with the exception of perhaps only one or two of the heroes. Oh, and the reason I named this story "Perspectives" was because the entire story was from Elena's perspective. ^_^ Well, I hope you enjoyed my story. 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