Author: AngelOfDeath10 PM
COMPLETE, epilogue added, RufusTifa, After the first assault on Shinra HQ a captive manages to be taken, mistaken identity brings Tifa to Rufus, she wants to help her team but to what lengths must she go for her friends?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Rufus & Tifa L. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 32,663 - Reviews: 64 - Favs: 80 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 06-16-05 - Published: 01-18-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2224714
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
So, there's a little story to this. . . I was totally not going to write a followup. Then I thought one up, then I wrote out about 14 pages of it and then. . . mistakenly deleted the only copy. S'abit discouraging, that. It took a month and a half to regroup and get over my grief (14 pages is a lot of work to magically lose through my own stupidity.)
Here is the epilogue, hope ya'll like it. I tried to stay true to the flow of the game as much as possible what with the new little bit I included. It's difficult to do this within game time, feh.
Big heart to those of you who think this is a worthy little imaginary jaunt. You should write some Rufus/Tifa of your own. I think they are cute beyond words. Well, maybe not beyond all words, else I wouldn't have anything to say. Maybe not cute precisely, either. Grah. I don't know what I mean. Just that people should write it:P
This is dedicated to Zelda, who has (mis)placed incredible faith in me. Whatever happened to you? Truly. . . I don't know if I would have picked this up again if not for remembrances of your kind encouragement while going through my email.
That's it. No more. This fic is finito.Sayonara. Vale. Adios. Goodbye!
P.S. This went in a direction I didn't plan at all. O.O Rufus really had his own plans and they surprised me as much as they surprised Tifa. Gosh he's sly. And selfish. That's a Shinra for you I guess. So don't blame me for the ending, blame him!
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Final Fantasy characters! Final Fantasy 7 isn't my property. . . if it were I wouldn't be so darned poor.
Normally Tifa would not have been this bitter, but tonight was a special night. Tonight was "Enchantment Night", and even thinking it brought a crinkle to her nose and frown to her face. Everything was free tonight, so she could have been indulging herself and her misery in something mindless, but she didn't enjoy much of anything in this place besides the chocobo racing. However, it was Cloud who was the registered one, and if she didn't have him there then she couldn't race.
She felt doubly sour when that knowledge reminded her of why she was out here in the first place: Cloud and Aeris were on a date. Tifa would be the first to admit that she hadn't been trying terribly hard to curry his favor in recent days, but this turn of events still stung. If there was any doubt left in her mind whether she should pursue her childhood dreams of settling down with the blond SOLDIER, then they were dashed by this new development. It was strange, seeing a dream crumble like that, even if it wasn't what she wanted any more. In her heart the possibility had always been there to reflect on, but now it was gone, or at least cracked beyond repair. A sentimental creature in private, Tifa wanted to get away from the hotel and all her traveling companions to contemplate her pain in peace.
On the bright side, her naturally optimistic brain supplied, you can feel like less of a traitor. Her hand clutched near her heart at the unseen item lying just below her layers of shirt. The balcony was being slowly vacated, and Tifa realized that people were probably going to attend that play which was being put on for the benefit of all the happy couples. She moved to the banister at the edge of the long drop, and looked down instead of up at the blank desert and the prison she knew lay below. No one even looked down. Why would they want to spoil the magic? Tifa felt a bit like she didn't have any magic left to be spoiled.
She had been so young and so sure of Cloud. It had seemed like destiny. But then as she was lying down in her hotel room, seeing if she had any clean clothes left in the beaten pack she had dragged everywhere with her since this began back in Midgar, she heard the distinctive twang of a feminine voice in the other room and Cloud's deep responding mumble. Leaving Red XIII to whatever unpacking he needed to do in the room they would share, (it took a while when you didn't have opposable thumbs) Tifa walked out into the hall and shamelessly pressed her ear against the door to hear what was transpiring. Aeris pressured, Cloud relented, and Tifa took off down the hall and rounded a corner to hide before they could exit and discover her voyeuristic activities. They were probably at the play right now, watching the mediocre acting and sitting closer to one another than was appropriate, knowing Aeris. She was far bolder than Tifa had ever been, even when Tifa had been pretty sure that Cloud returned her affection back before that other woman imposed herself upon the group.
Inundated with self pity, Tifa had practically run out of the hotel and tried to find the highest, loneliest spot in the entire pleasure garden. This balcony was pretty high, and in another couple minutes it was going to be as lonely as she could have wished for. With a sigh she sank down and leaned hard against the railing, letting the cold metal dig into her arms.
"Damn it all. . ." How could things get any worse?
"With as many people as you travel with, I can't believe not one of them could have been persuaded to escort you." Disdainful and haughty, the voice came from behind her. There had been several people who were on the balcony without a pair, and she had noted this man's form with little to no interest previously. He had been part of the greater sweep she had made with her eyes, a mere body count. Now she realized her folly, for who else flaunted fashion conventions so much as to wear all white? It would have been tasteless, tacky even, if it weren't for the fact that he backed it with more personality and ego than his entire staff put together. It was a description that wasn't necessarily complimentary, but then few people had anything complimentary to say about Rufus Shinra when they were not in his presence.
Tifa, however, was in his presence and she still felt no remorse about abusing him. "What are you doing here? Leave me alone."
Those blue eyes of his, hard and impossible to read, narrowed as he advanced calculating steps towards her. "What is this? No welcome? Not even a smile? I think I have behaved with the utmost restraint up to and including this moment, and foolish me but I thought you might recognize that and offer me a little bit of your regard. But no. . ."
"Stop acting like an injured innocent. You're not supposed to be here, and you know it. We had a deal."
"Barely even a verbal agreement, if I recall. You couldn't possibly consider that binding. Not to mention the fact that you said nothing about me seeing you, just that we couldn't be permanently together until one or the other of us took care of Sephiroth." His voice was deceptively light, as if he were telling a humorous anecdote of some sort. Rufus had advanced forward to the point where if he laid his arms on the banister behind her then he would box her in. It was a strategically bad position, and yet she couldn't pull herself away.
"Speaking of him," Tifa said, clearing her throat to keep her voice from faltering. "Aren't you supposed to be at the Temple of the Ancients?" Rufus shrugged impassively. The man was damnably good at being unreadable, she thought with some envy.
He turned a question back on her instead. "Shouldn't you be with. . . your party?" The words were husky, and his face tilted forward so that his loose blond hair fell into his eyes. The implication was clear to her. He had had them watched for quite a long time. The way she stuck close to Cloud probably had led to him misunderstanding the situation. As if she needed to verbalize her pain. . . but it seemed as if Rufus' jealousy might run rampant if she didn't. He was as possessive as Cloud had been dismissive.
"Cloud is on a date tonight. So you see, my party is spending our forced vacation in very different ways." Her voice was bitter, but Rufus seemed to cheer up as a smile pulled at one corner of his mouth.
"So the bastard finally made a real decision. Never thought he would have it in him. Can't say he made the right choice, but I benefit from his folly so I fully approve of his stupidity." There was no love lost there, it seemed. Rufus hated Cloud since the day they had fought on the roof of Shinra HQ, and his involvement with Tifa certainly had not given him any reason to improve upon that bad opinion.
Tifa, who had been thinking something roughly similar not too long ago, sidestepped and tried to brush past Rufus rather than linger any longer on her own negative emotions. In addition, she felt suffocated by Rufus' presence. It was hard enough to be on this mission without having him tempt her into straying away for something as indulgent as personal reasons. There would be time enough later, well, assuming they both survived.
"Wait." Rufus' hand shot out, faster than she ever would have thought him capable, and caught her wrist before she could make it all the way by him. "Don't go." It was an order, not a request, and Tifa felt her temper build at such an autocratic gesture.
Before she could get anything out of her mouth Rufus turned his face up to meet her eyes again. Tifa choked on her words, floored by the emotion he allowed her to see before he went back to his sneering self. "Give me tonight Tifa."
The sense of doom she had been unsuccessfully fighting ever since the party had discussed the Temple of the Ancients in the hotel came back to her in full force. Maybe Rufus felt it too. They didn't know what would happen, or what might greet them up north besides a murderous and insane Sephiroth. Sephiroth alone should have been enough to give sane adventurers pause.
"Damn it all, Rufus," Her voice was thick with emotion. "I've thrown myself off of buildings, climbed through sewers, sped around at breakneck speed in cars while being shot at. . . and all I can think of is that those situations were not half so dangerous to my resolve as what you're asking for right now."
"You flatter me, Tifa, but you also avoid answering the question."
"I didn't realize it was a question."
Rufus lost some of his jocular expression. "Stop stalling. Are you going to spend tonight with me, or aren't you?" He leaned back on the balcony, letting his coat fall open. But all the while his casual pose belied the way his sharp eyes stabbed through her. "Strife gets his date. . . don't you want yours?"
"Promise me you won't bring him up any more tonight and I'll think about it." She snapped, although she realized that if she were really going to refuse him she would have walked back inside long ago. He probably sensed that as well and relished the game of cat and mouse they played.
"It's a yes or no question, Tifa."
Tifa looked up into the air above them and thought. At this point she knew it was probably a yes, or a no that would then be disregarded as he kidnapped her for the evening. Rufus didn't take no for an answer. As long as she did things on her own terms then maybe she wouldn't feel any worse about enjoying herself with the Shinra than she had to.
"You shall return me at a reasonable hour of the night. I get to go back to the hotel room and clean up, and you will arrange it so that there is no chance that anyone on my team will possibly see us, understood? If you can agree to all of that, then I will say yes."
Rufus looked genuine glad. "Easily done. But don't take too long. I'll be waiting for you by the gondolas. All the rest of the fools are at the play, so I doubt anyone will see us. And after that. . . you'll see."
"Twenty minutes. I'll be there." Tifa felt a smile stretch across her face despite the fact that Rufus was insufferable and Cloud was a jerk. She tried to remember if she had anything nice to wear when all of a sudden a slightly naughty and utterly wonderful thought popped into her head. Tifa knew where she was getting a dress from, and it was the only time she was mad enough at Cloud to feel entirely remorseless about rifling through his things.
A part of him, a rather noticeable part actually, had hoped that these feelings that had developed would fade in the weeks that followed their separation. Finding and taking care of Sephiroth had been a personal goal of his anyway, without needing the added bonus of Tifa at the end. However, as each report came in of Strife's rag tag group he felt a nagging apprehension. What if Strife changed his mind, realized how much Tifa meant to him, and stole back the affection that Rufus was still not entirely sure he had won. Humans were fickle creatures. He knew it, he counted on it, and he hadn't often been surprised in that regard.
To leave Tifa alone was impossible for him. Rufus wanted to claim her, to brand her as his publicly, directly. But she would never stand for that, not while she had a job to do (maybe not at all), and while Rufus liked to push her buttons he was a canny enough businessman to know how far was too far to push someone. Tonight, this date was more a renewal of their sentiments. It was a reminder. To Rufus, it was the only thing he knew to do to keep himself on her mind. How basely unfair it was that she could go about her life without giving him another thought while she was there in his mind during those snatches of sleep he managed, or during long sessions of paperwork.
Rufus' fist came down with bruising force on the side of the little booth where the man took gondola tickets. The sniveling worm inside the tin can made some sort of a whimpering noise, and Rufus sneered. It felt good to put terror in a lackey. People were running around a lot these days showing too much defiance to him and the Shinra employees in general. A subdued populace would be a happy populace, but it seemed he needed to convince them of that even if force was needed. He didn't want to be a cruel ruler, simply an absolute one.
The dark nature of his thoughts abruptly shifted and lightened as he caught sight of some swinging dark hair, loose and swirling around a curvy feminine form. Rufus loved watching Tifa walk, especially in that dress. It looked a little too tight for her, but that was fine with him, since instead of those long steps she usually took that buried the grace of her movements behind an efficient marching gait she was being forced by the dress to take little steps that exaggerated the swing of her hips. The rest of it hugged her form most deliciously, and he allowed himself a leer before she got close enough to see him and therefore get mad at him for staring at her.
When she got closer he saw, with an open laugh, her boots. His old friends this age, would she never have another pair of shoes? Perhaps that would be impractical while traveling, and Tifa was nothing if not practical. Except for the fact that he spied no chain around her neck, he was put almost entirely at ease by the return of his beautiful companion.
"Sorry I took so long," she had jogged here so she huffed a little as she spoke, shaking slightly damp hair around absently. "I tried to dry my hair, but it turns out that I have more of it than I thought." He was inspecting her with an intensity that seemed to make her uncomfortable.
"I see you took my ring off." Rufus said it in an offhand manner, arching an eyebrow and smiling tightly.
Tifa looked down at her hands, running calloused fingers over one another as if she were washing them. "Actually, I thought that I could wear it for tonight on my hand since it's just us." She held out her right hand, where it rested on the ring finger as nicely as he had hoped when he had had it sized.
"You have it on the wrong hand." He kept his tone joking, light, but they both knew what he was pushing. There was no way he couldn't; Rufus hadn't gotten to where he was by stifling his demanding nature.
"I like it on this hand, thanks." Defiant, blushing, he wasn't sure if she was feeling shy about how fast their relationship had gone and would go in the future, or if she was angry again at being ordered around indirectly. Tifa was such a touchy creature when it came to free will and making decisions on her own.
Rufus shrugged, hiding his displeasure by sticking one clenched hand inside of his coat pocket, feeling blunt nails try to break the skin with their pressure. He led her to the gondola waiting, and signaled to the man who ran them. The man looked relieved that the Shinra was about to vacate his presence shortly and nodded tightly. There was sweat shining on his forehead. How someone so nervous and incompetent had gotten a job at a place like the Golden Saucer only showed Rufus how Dio's leadership here was probably sloppy. It would only be a manner if time before Rufus would buy Dio out. Or have him killed, and then buy the place out. He scratched the latter idea as he looked over at his brown haired companion. If he resorted to old Shinra tactics for hostile takeovers then he would be no better than his cursed father. Tifa expected better of him, and he expected better of himself. But still. . .the casino and resort took in too much money not to be Shinra affiliated. He would find a way.
"You look very serious."
"Here I am, with you, and I'm still thinking business." Rufus forced his thoughts to ground themselves in the present situation. "Do you like the view?"
Tifa's eyes grew warm, and lit up. Something tight inside Rufus' chest began to loosen. "It's better than I thought it would be. The Golden Saucer is much prettier on the outside than it is on the inside."
"If we did this when all the rest of the couples were taking their gondola rides, there would be fireworks." He added as a sidenote. "But lucky for us, the festivities haven't started yet, because that would have made it slightly more dangerous than I would have liked."
He stood and unbarred the door to the gondola, easily overpowering the safety mechanism. The door swung open and the wind whistled around them, forcing Tifa's hair to flap and swirl about her head. At least Tifa wouldn't have to worry about drying it the rest of the way.
"Are you crazy!" She yelled above the ruckus of wind and something else that seemed to be getting louder as she listened for it.
"Don't you trust me, my dear?" It was difficult to use a sarcastic tone effectively when one had to shout at the top of one's lungs, thought Rufus. The helicopter was placed very well, it was following the gondola without much problem, and soon they would reach a curve so it would behoove them to get out before things got much trickier. "Grab this!" Rufus shoved a strap with several loops in it at Tifa. She watched Rufus secure the loops of his own cord about each leg and around his waist and she did the same. The gondola made its turn, going about its rounds and returning to its point of origin, while Rufus and Tifa were left behind, suspended uncomfortably in the air.
The gondola operator was going to have a fit, Rufus thought, and laughed. Meanwhile, he had to deal with these straps and a slightly alarmed date right next to him. The straps chafed and his weight made circulation difficult in his legs as he rested on them awkwardly, but when Tifa latched onto his waist as they began to move forward, Rufus ceased to notice the discomfort. He might as well enjoy this while he could, since things would no doubt get unpleasant upon landing.
"So, Mr. I Have a Plan for Everything, what am I supposed to do about my hair?" The ride several miles away from the desert hadn't taken long to this makeshift house-in-a-tent, and her hair had made the trip only to resemble something out of a horror movie. A rat's nest would have been a vast improvement from its current condition.
Rufus hummed to himself. "It does look rather, eh, exotic at the moment, I'll admit." He left and came back shortly with that self satisfied look that told her she would have a brush in the time it took a helicopter to get to town, and a Shinra employee to harass some shopkeeper into opening his store so that a brush could be purchased. It seemed like an abuse of power, but she wanted the brush badly enough not to be quarrelsome about details at the moment. While she hated the obvious signs of privilege, he had seemed to have gone to some trouble to plan this. Her brain caught up to the thought and she frowned deeply.
"You assumed I would say yes!"
"I had thought there was more of a chance than not, yes." He discarded his coat, ran a hand through his wind tousled hair which managed to repair all the damage of the ride, much to Tifa's chagrin. It seemed unfair that he could be so collected, confident, and. . . and. . . correct!
Rufus held up a hand. "Can you lecture me about my arrogance some other time? I'm sure we'll have years of it ahead of us. I asked you for tonight, and I think we can put aside our problems and enjoy ourselves this once."
With a grumble, Tifa moved to where he had gone to pull out a chair for her and wait for her to take her seat. "You always enjoy yourself anyway." He didn't argue, he merely smiled in that way that made Tifa's pulse race and pushed her chair in for her before taking his own.
"You're right. I do." He made some sort of motion with his hand, and more food was brought in. They were served and then left alone to eat. Neither one seemed to be very hungry, but Tifa picked at her food in an effort to enjoy some of the expensive dishes that Rufus' chefs had presented to them. With a clatter, Rufus practically tossed down his silverware. "Let's be honest, Tifa. And that isn't something I suggest very often, so you must know I'm sincere."
"If you're about to say something like, 'We could die at any time, and you know that couch turns into a bed. . .' then I might have to hit you. Hard. Someplace impolite."
That made him laugh, in a manner that was so real and infectious that Tifa smiled in response. It had only been half a joke, however, and he recovered quickly. "How did you know it turned into a bed?" He said with a wink, and watched her face go blank with shock. "While I'll admit the thought had crossed my mind more than once, I wanted to suggest something slightly different."
Tifa gave him a confused look. Rufus was always full of plans, self serving plans for the most part, and she always seemed to fall right into them. "Go ahead, I'm listening."
"You know that your charms are considerable." He gave her a look that she had seen before on men in the bar while she worked, the kind where she felt as if she had been undressed by their eyes, and all of them had gotten a punch that left them reeling and apologizing. Rufus only got a glare across the table. "And, unfortunately, your virtue just as insurmountable."
"I knew it! This is just a fancy way of trying to. . ."
Rufus held up a hand, and she silenced herself, letting him finish before she got more indignant. "If you'll make an honest man of me, tonight, then your virtue won't suffer and I can face whatever will greet me in the next few weeks with a clear conscience. No regrets. Maybe even more purpose."
"This is so fast." Tifa rubbed the ring, moving it around her finger in a way that broadcast her nervousness. The suggestion was surprising, to say the least. It was too much, after feeling so vulnerable and rejected just an hour earlier, to feeling wanted so overwhelmingly that she was dumbstruck. Fatalist feelings of doom about what greeted them up north, of the slippery slope upon whose rim they had been treading, complicated her decision even more. It was a mess of emotion and paralyzing uncertainty inside of her.
"It isn't about the sex, Tifa, though I admit freely I want that too."
He was serious. If he was playing this straight and really thought that things were getting ominous, then she could understand why he would go to all this trouble and insist on seeing her tonight. To him, it wasn't jumping the gun, it was taking action while there was time and opportunity to take it. It was a very Rufus kind of maneuver. Or a typically Shinra sense of opportunism. Either way, she was in a tight spot. This was not how she had pictured getting married.
"I told you I can't stop this quest I'm on. My friends are counting on me."
"I'm not asking you to abandon them."
"I barely know you."
"You know me better than anyone else on this planet, living or dead."
"We're just two sets of people after the same thing, but with different ideals about what it means. It would take very little to become allies, and you know it."
"It's too fast!"
"There's no more time!" Composed face flushed, his fist came down on the table with enough force to joggle the dishes. He hadn't meant to say it, what hung between them, this impending doom. They both felt uncomfortable now, and Tifa knew it was her fault. "Stop thinking up stupid reasons to say no to this. There's only one way I'll accept no for an answer."
With arms crossed over her chest, a pitiful attempt at a defense mechanism in this situation where Rufus and the fear of their mortality was everywhere around her, Tifa looked at him with soft eyes. "Oh? What way is that?"
His hand was gripping his water glass so hard she was afraid he would shatter it. Tifa thought she saw him grind his teeth a little before he plastered the smile on his face again and forced his hand to relax before he took a sip of water. "I think you know. Do you, or don't you?"
Rufus can't even say it. I wonder if he even believes in it. She saw the question, the deadly seriousness in his intent. This is what he really wanted from me tonight. Not some time, or even my signature on some marriage license, he wants proof. He wants to know if I love him. If nothing else, Tifa knew her own heart. Duty, conflicting obligations. . . she knew what she wanted but she also knew she had had to deny it so that she wouldn't be living two lives. There was no way she could lie to her friends, lead a double life among them, with her heart in one place and her body in another. She wouldn't be able to fight like that.
"You ask everything of me. You know it isn't about what I want, but what I have to do."
The deep breaths he was taking, slow and deliberate, showed her that he was fighting an inner battle intense enough that he had to fall back on something as basic as closing his eyes and counting out breaths. He had grown since she had last seen him. The Rufus of a few weeks ago would have thrown something on this table by now, a quick burst of violence and then a return to his smiling and false cheerful mask. The Rufus who faced her now was fatigued, worried, and letting his guard down in a way that made her feel honored to love such a man. For all his flaws, and there were a lot of them, she knew as she watched him that she did love him even if she didn't understand him entirely. Tifa could grasp the spoiled man-child, but there was very little of that Rufus in the Rufus before her.
"I offer you a blind eye to your quest, and aid to you and your companions should you ever be in trouble. All of them." He looked at her. "Even Strife." He spat out.
She wanted to either cry or laugh. "You can't bribe me." All at once she felt heavy, and strangely old. "Besides, you knew my answer the day you gave me the darn ring." And that was the cruel truth. She had been split since the beginning, and it did as much good to continue to ignore it as it would be to leave an infected wound untreated. "I love you, ok? As much good as that will do me, when one or the other of us might not make it out of this mess with Sephiroth."
Rufus appeared at her side while she hung her head down, intent on her misery and the knowledge that she was taking a serious step in her life, one that could leave her even emptier if things went sour on this quest. The solemn manner in which he picked up her hands and moved the ring to the finger he had told her to use at the start of the evening brought tears to her eyes which she fought against and won. She wasn't weak or blubbery, and she wasn't about to start now.
"I'm not an easy person to love, are you sure?" He wanted to hear it again? The smile tugging at his lips told her that whatever display of mood had prompted the outbursts from before, he had retreated to where she couldn't follow again. Back to being cool as ice, totally assured. What a cocky bastard he could be. And damn it all, but she did love him.
"Stop fishing for compliments and get me the paper to sign, you brought it, I assume." They smiled at one another. "And for the love of everything, get me that brush too, please."
It took both of them, and a lot of swearing, to figure out how to get it to transform.
But it was worth the effort.
"Not much different than before. Maybe bossier, I'm sure it will only get worse with time." He pinched her somewhere squishy and she squealed before she retaliated with a laugh.
Rufus closed his eyes and tried to imprint all of this into his mind. The scent in the air, the way her skin felt next to his, the tone in her voice, and those cinnamon eyes that searched his icy hued ones for a sign as to what he was thinking. She was years away from being able to read him, and it would be fun to tease her once this mess was over. . .
There were those thoughts of the future again. That was the Shinra for you, always scheming, looking ahead and setting up fate's dominoes to fit their desires. Sephiroth was in a position to knock it all down, and Rufus felt more certain than ever that he couldn't let that happen.
"I suppose I should take you back."
"I suppose you should." Tifa moved her body in closer, despite the fact that both of them were far too warm. That didn't matter. Discomfort was part of life, and this was more important.
They closed their eyes and began to fall asleep, content to have now and worry about the future later. She could always say that she took a walk; her team wouldn't leave without her. Rufus opened his mouth, sure of her sleeping state, ready to confess his own feelings when he stopped himself. There would be plenty of time for that later. He would save those words for after they had won and all this destruction was over. After all, timing was everything.