Advent Children missing scene. Tseng and Elena, before Vincent finds them.
"Elena." No answer. Tseng hadn't really expected one, but confirmation of his fears was no reason to rejoice. "Elena, can you hear me?"
Nothing. Her breathing was shallow, and the shadows under her eyes were as dark as the bruises on her arms. She hadn't been raped, yet, but their captors' leader had promised them both some extremely unpleasant things in explicit detail before he left. Tseng didn't want to find out what the quiet one had planned for the rest of the implements on the table, either, and he certainly didn't want to watch them used on Elena.
He took a deep breath. When he was twelve, he'd broken two of the bones in his left hand in a fight. They'd never healed quite right, one of the reasons he'd stopped training in hand-to-hand combat -- one good impact and they'd fracture again.
Broken, he could probably pull his hand free of the cuffs that pinned his hands behind his back.
Before the fear of more pain could eclipse his resolve, he lifted his hands and slammed the left one down against the floor. He swore he could hear the crunch as the weak bones gave way, and then the fresh hot pain rushed up his arm and he tried to swallow a pathetically childish whimper.
Elena stirred at the sound, opened her eyes. "What...what are you doing?" Her voice was still hoarse from screaming.
Tseng gritted his teeth, pulling his broken hand through the cuff. It was awkward going, scraping skin against steel, bone grating together inside his hand. He could feel himself breaking a sweat, heat and cold washing over him in turn. Adrenaline wouldn't last him much longer.
"We have to," and his voice was shaking, "get out of here." Cradling his injured hand to his chest, he shuffled over on his knees to the table. "Before they get back."
At the mention of their captors returning, Elena cringed for a second, probably involuntarily, before her control returned and she nodded. "Right."
Tseng fumbled for the bolt cutters on the table. "Sit up," he said, "and spread your hands as far apart as you can."
She choked on a little sob as she sat up, and Tseng realized how much the movement must be affecting her burns. "Is that --" she held her arms out, stiffly -- "enough?" Her wrists were bruised, chafed, bloody.
There was no way for him to do this one-handed. "Yes, just -- don't move." He held the bolt cutters out, guiding them with his left hand as little as possible, trying to prepare himself for the pain. "If I -- it's possible that this will make me lose consciousness," he said tightly. "You'll need to take care of the other sets."
"Tseng," Elena started, looking back over her shoulder. He expected something disapproving, reproachful, but all she said was, "Thank you."
He tried to smile. "Thank me afterward." He wrapped both hands around the bolt cutter's handles, took a slow, shaky breath, and squeezed.
There was a roaring sound, like the ocean rushing up to meet him, and everything washed red, then gray -- and then Elena's voice, distant and somehow still urgent, calling him: "Tseng! Tseng, stay with me. Come on." He could feel her fingertips against his face, cool and gentle, and as his vision cleared there she was, looking down at him.
"Get the other cuffs," he managed.
She nodded. "Right." Moving was clearly painful, but she only fumbled once, her jaw set and her hands almost steady as she cut the chain that linked the cuffs around his ankles. "What did they do to your hand, sir?"
She had to be badly disturbed to call him sir anymore. "Nothing." She looked up from positioning the cutters one more time, and he went on, "I did it myself. Couldn't think of another way to get my hands free."
Elena shook her head. "Goddamn, sir." She cut the chain between her ankles, and let the cutters fall, reaching for him.
"Maybe this time you can owe me dinner," he suggested as they climbed awkwardly to their feet.
"Dinner and dancing," she countered, smiling weakly.
Tseng nodded. "I'll hold you to that."
If they made it back to Midgar in one piece, anyway. They weren't really bleeding anymore, but the exertion of trying to walk out of here could easily change that. What was left of their suits would be poor protection against the cold, never mind the predators they might encounter between here and civilization.
Still, even dying of exposure in the wilderness was preferable to either dying under torture or giving those renegade experiments information that could lead to the death of the Planet. Carefully, slowly, Tseng and Elena made their way out of the Ancient city.
It looked as though there had been a path once, a bridge over the water, but it was gone now, just the smooth dark lake surrounding them in all directions.
"We're not going to make it, are we?" Elena asked, leaning against him a little more heavily.
"Probably not," Tseng agreed, squeezing her shoulder with his good hand.
She let out a slow breath. "Let's go, then."
He stopped her as she took her first step toward the lake. "Elena...you're a good Turk."
Surprise flickered over her face for a second, and then she smiled. "Thank you."
The water was cold, dragging at their limbs, weighing them down as they waded further out, until it was chest-deep, numbing, slowing. Tseng stumbled once, his footing lost, and Elena caught him with her arms around his waist. Neither of them had the breath left to waste on words.
Five minutes or ten minutes or five hours or an eternity later, they staggered out onto the far bank, dripping and shivering and aching down to the bone. Tseng stared out into the eternal twilight of the forest beyond, trying to keep the despair from his face. There would be no point to this if they didn't at least get far enough away that the renegades couldn't find them again.
He looked over, and caught her looking at him; for a second it seemed she'd say something, but she just nodded at the resolve in his face and they limped into the trees.
Their breath fogged in the damp air. Tseng could feel his fingers starting to go numb, dulling the pain in his hand, making him feel clumsy and slow. He leaned against the trunk of one of the trees, trying to marshal his strength, trying to find words through the fine white mist settling over his mind. He should say /something/. "Elena...."
And there was a swirl of red between the trees, and he swallowed the words as the shape resolved, became more man than monster. "You need some help," Vincent said, and it wasn't a question at all.
Tseng nodded anyway, at the same time as Elena said, "Yes," and Vincent stepped closer and there had been a time, years ago, when Tseng would have found it repulsive to be that close to him, knowing what he was, but it seemed so unimportant now, and then Vincent was between them and there was a sharp pull and wind rushing past his face. It seemed like flying, like falling, and he may have lost consciousness for a little while, because the next thing he remembered was the warmth of a fire and Vincent draping his red cloak around Elena's shoulders as she huddled beside him.
"Did they learn what they wanted to know?" Vincent asked.
"No," Tseng said quietly. "Not from us."
"Well done." Vincent reached out with his left hand, the claws glinting dull, and Tseng tensed until he caught the green shimmer of materia.
The cure spell washed over him, warm and tingling, relief so potent he could taste it in the back of his throat. Beside him, Elena made a little grateful sound as the magic settled into her flesh, too, and her shoulders slumped under the cloak.
"Get some rest," Vincent suggested. "I'll contact the company, and arrange for a car."
Tseng nodded, already drowsy with the warmth and the effects of the healing spell. Elena shifted, wrapping Vincent's cloak around both of them, resting her head on his shoulder. It didn't matter that he hadn't found words. She knew what he meant.