Hair and Fireworks
Title: Hair and Fireworks.
Important note: The timeline is a bit screwed up considering the characters that I have put in here – but please just call that poetic licence.
Rating: U (What a shame! I have surprised myself!).
Summary: A young Rufus Shinra gets up to a bit of mischief at a corporate fireworks party.
Pairing: None, really.
AN: Please comment, I beg you! (Review whore).
The cries of the Turks sounded distinctly odd that evening.
Although calling for Rufus was an often enough occurrence in itself; the playful four year old was always giving the Turks the slip - it was a constant source of embarrassment to them that some of the best trained personnel in the world were forever losing track of a four year old child. But the voices of the Turks sounded distinctly different tonight.
That could be because they had several different goals that they had to consider.
Goal One: Find Rufus.
Goal Two: Carry out Goal Number One without attracting the attention of the President – he would go ape shit if he discovered that his four year old son had once again outfoxed the people who were supposed to protect some of the most important people in business and industry. Including himself.
Goal Three: Partially connected to Goals One and Two: Shout loud enough for Rufus to hear them over the fireworks, but not attract the attention of any important people, such as the President and his gathering, and the First Class SOLDIERS that were standing nearby. They liked their jobs.
Goal Four: Make sure the mini Shinra did not hurt himself, but still had a good time at one of the rare occasions when he could relax and show the emotion that a four year old should.
Goal Five: They were not quite sure what the fifth goal was, but they were sure there was one. Somewhere.
Tseng sighed and stopped all movement for a minute, momentarily slouching in defeat. He could see the other Turks under his command still scouring, trying to achieve all five goals at once. And mostly failing.
Tseng sighed again. This was hopeless. They would never find the mini Shinra, as he affectionately called Rufus, in this huge throng of people.
It was the annual Shinra Inc. firework display and end of year party. Nearing the end of every year, the company would host a party that congratulated its employees on their year of supposedly hard work (though in Reno's case, hard drinking and sleeping in the office), and gave everyone a chance to wind down.
Everyone except the Turks of course.
Because for the last three years, or however much time had passed since Rufus had learnt to walk, the Turks had had to chase after the boy, who would inevitably wander off on his own.
However, Tseng did not blame him for this – did not even feel any anger towards the boy for making the Turks work hard to find him. In fact, he completely understood why the boy did this.
Ever since he was born, Rufus Shinra had been brought up in a professional, adult world of complicated business and international politics, and had had very busy parents. Therefore, almost since day one, he had been raised in a very formal, almost dispassionate way; his parents had not had the time to spend with their son, so he had never really bonded with them, being raised by people who had little emotional connection with him, and only really seeing his parents when he was summoned to an office to speak with them on usually formal matters.
And he had been brought up being schooled in the correct way to behave at every social event imaginable, and how to deal with situations that no other four year old would have to deal with.
Therefore, Rufus Shinra was not really allowed to have a great deal of fun.
And this was one of the rare times of the year when his au pairs were not watching over him, telling him to correct his posture or some other such tripe that the child had to endure.
And Rufus always made sure to make the most of the opportunity.
And Tseng, even if he did have to find the boy and keep him out of trouble, encouraged this.
However, he really did have to find the boy before President Shinra – OH CRAP!
"Aww, look at all the pretties, Sir!"
"Zackary, how much have you had to drink? And be careful where you are waving that sparkler around. It's not a sword."
Zack Fair grinned at his superior officer, lowering the sparkler obediently as the Silver General himself raised his eyebrow down at him.
"Actually, I haven't had anything to drink, I just like to pretend that I'm drunk so I wont have to answer any questions about work." he explained, once again waving the sparkler around animatedly, smirking when Sephiroth rolled his eyes.
"A cunning plan, Zackary, however, you may want to make sure that you once again stop brandishing that sparkler around like it's that monstrosity of a contraption that you call a sword, before President Shinra looks in your direction again."
"What?!" Zack yelped, looking around wildly.
Sephiroth inclined his head slightly to the left, and Zack twitched. President Shinra was talking to some of his heads of department, but was looking at Zack strangely all the while.
"He can kiss my ass." Zack mumbled, albeit very quietly. "And besides, my Buster is a great weapon! Anyway, I think we should use these things as weapons – they're potentially lethal…"
Zack was about to continue when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
He spun around to be confronted with a very small President in waiting, perched on top of the tree he and the General were standing in front of, reaching intently for the sparkler Zack held.
"Hey there!" Zack grinned, waving the sparkler for emphasis, which caused the child to make an attempt to grab it, which in turn caused him to tumble off of the tree.
And giggle wildly as he landed safely in the arms of Tseng.
The dark haired man sighed in relief as he straightened up, a wriggling but happy Rufus in his arms.
"Tseng-sama!" the boy cried happily, his hands immediately going up to tangle in Tseng's hair as he loved to do.
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow subtly at the boy's form of address for Tseng. It implied that Tseng was his superior. Not quite true, and Tseng had tried to explain it to the boy, but Rufus couldn't drop the habit. He had first learnt Tseng's name when an underling had to him as 'Tseng-sama' years ago, and the name had stuck.
"Rufus-chan, we've been looking all over for you!" Tseng exclaimed, completely failing to sound irritated in the slightest.
Sephiroth's eyebrow rose another centimetre.
Tseng almost blushed. He had no excuse for that one. He should refer to Rufus with the proper title of respect…but he was so close to the boy that it had slipped off his tongue one day, and although he had been mortified at the mistake, Rufus seemed to like the tenderness and familiarity that it implied, so Tseng had continued calling him it…in private of course.
"Good evening, Tseng, are you enjoying this gaudy spectacle? And have you received a promotion that I was unaware of?" Sephiroth asked politely, but with a slight smirk and distinct sparkle in his eyes.
Tseng shifted uncomfortably, and poked Rufus gently as if to lay blame.
"No, Sephiroth, no promotion, just failure to make Rufus understand the implication of the title he has so generously blessed me with." He explained, looking at Zack who was laughing quietly, regarding Rufus with a gentle gaze, and Sephiroth, who had the barest hint of a smile on his lips.
Rufus simply continued twirling his small fingers around Tseng's hair, looking back at Zack with curiosity.
However, Sephiroth's growing smile caught Tseng's attention, making him feel slightly uneasy.
A feeling that was justified by the man's next words.
"A four year olds' confusion I can understand, but you, Tseng, you have no excuse. Chan? Really, Tseng." The General admonished, something that was as close to a grin as the man had ever sported spreading across his face as he watched Tseng squirm.
"It was a slip of the tongue, and he likes it anyway." Tseng defended dryly, knowing even then that it sounded lame.
"Lame, Turk, so lame!"
"It's true." Tseng insisted, turning to Rufus. "Isn't it, Rufus-sama?"
The boy opened his mouth to ask what Tseng was talking about as he hadn't been listening when he suddenly processed what Tseng had called him. He shut his mouth quickly with a snap, and looked up at Tseng with a slightly hurt frown on his face.
Why was Tseng-sama not calling him by the special name that was for them to share only?
Tseng smirked smugly, knowing that even Sephiroth could not argue with that proof – this was President-in-waiting-Rufus-Shinra after all.
His rather sulky silence was enough to prove his point.
"See?" Tseng asked mildly.
Sephiroth nodded solemnly.
"Yes Tseng, I do. It pains me somewhat to say it, but I cannot argue with the somewhat petulant silence of a four year old child." He stated dryly, but regarded Rufus with something that looked suspiciously like a hint of warmth in his gaze.
"Well, not this four year old child anyway Seph." Zack grinned, having dropped all formality a while ago.
"Oh no, not the mini Shinra – sorry Seph, but he outranks you!" He proclaimed smilingly, waving the sparkler for Rufus, grinning when the boy suddenly forgot all about sulking and began reaching once again for the sparkler.
"Please, God don't give him anything that could fuel any destructive tendencies he may be harbouring. We don't really want him to turn out too much like his father." Tseng almost pleaded, managing to keep his air of dignity, but still professing how close he was to pleading.
"Aww, come on Turk, he's having fun, look at him!" Zack whined, twirling the sparkler again as Rufus cheered him on. "You're loving it aren't you, little guy? Can I please give him the damn sparkler, he won't do any damage."
Tseng sighed. "If you really want to make my life difficult."
To which Zack simply grinned handing over the sparkler.
Sephiroth rolled his eyes in vague disappointment and disgust at Tseng, turning away from his pleading gaze as if to say 'Well good lord man, you really did walk into that one.'
Rufus, meanwhile, who was totally oblivious to the silent exchange, was having great fun with Zack.
He was cackling and waving the sparkler, looking at the 'trails' it made in the air, after it had been there with a wide eyed, fascinated wonder. With those huge pupils and wide, ecstatic, wondering look in those eyes, Zack couldn't help but think that the boy looked kind of like somebody who had just discovered LSD.
"Fun isn't it?" Zack cooed, ruffling the boy's hair. Rufus leaned into the touch, a grin the size of the Cheshire Cats' on his face.
"Hey, look, you can spell your name with these babies!" Zack cried to the toddler in genuine excitement. He gently took Rufus' hand and guided it through the air to form various letters.
"Look: R, U, F, U, S." Zack spelled out slowly as he 'wrote' in the air with the sparkler, his head next to Rufus' as they both watched as the mini-Shinra's name was spelt out quickly.
Sephiroth shook his head as he observed silently. It was endearing behaviour, but there was something about it that made him want to wince – distance himself from it.
Perhaps it was the fact that this behaviour from Zack was so warm – something that a lot of people would not equate with SOLDIER's, and something that may very well disadvantage Zack in the future; his ability to form attachments too easily. In their line of work it could be a peril.
Sephiroth had no objection to feelings of affection and care – indeed, he recognised it as something that most human beings needed – or at least wanted greatly.
It was just that…in this type of work, feelings could be a person's downfall.
It was complicated. Sephiroth had learnt that long ago. It was matters like this that prevented one from viewing the world in black and white.
But maybe the other thing about this scene that made him flinch was that Zack seemed so young when he acted like this. And the worst part was that that was probably because he was young.
But it seemed wrong. Someone who at one minute revealed themselves capable of being so young, innocent and carefree could really be in the kind of work that often had him doing ruthless, dangerous – even seemingly cold – things. Killing. Or at least made him capable of doing those things; a type of work that demanded the capability of doing those things.
And then there was the little Shinra. Sephiroth did not know the tiny heir very well. He had seen him a few times, in board meetings that his father made him attend. Shiva, he was four years old and being forced to attend board meetings and the like.
Every time Sephiroth had seen him at one of those, the boy had not been sat in his father's lap, but in Tseng's. And the Turk had never minded having to talk to the rest of the room while patting the squirming youngster soothingly at the same time.
It was slightly – dare he say – warming? To see the child act like this. Like a normal small child should. But at the same time it was sad.
Sad because he should be able to act this carefree and natural way all the time. But he could not. He had been brought up in the cold, efficient, formal way that any big company had to operate by.
He had been brought up by virtual strangers – bar Tseng and the Turks – and even when his birth parents were with him, he had been taught that emotion was a weakness. To show any emotion was weak. Therefore, it was not often that the child got to act like any four year old should; shouting, laughing, running about, being curious. And although he was not crying now, the amount of times that little Rufus Shinra had been seen crying was unnaturally few.
As Sephiroth pulled himself out of his thoughts, he frowned, puzzled at the site before him. Zack had given the sparkler back to Rufus, and was talking to the boy. But Rufus was no longer listening. The child was staring, wide eyed, at Zack's oblivious face.
Sephiroth's frown deepened. Why would he be staring at Zack's face…and then it hit him. The little Shinra wasn't staring at Zack's face, but at his hair. Sephiroth's frown turned into a small smile.
Zack's wild hair had been the topic of many a conversation, and often, people who were new to the SOLDIER were quite baffled by its gravity defying, just plain weird quality.
But now Rufus was reaching out to touch Zack's hair.
With sparkler still in hand.
With movements too quick for the naked eye, Sephiroth darted towards the duo, and gently but firmly pried the sparkler from the future President's small hands.
Both Zack and Rufus gave a yelp of surprise, and the latter turned wide, curious eyes Sephiroth's way.
"My apologies Sir." Sephiroth gave a slight bow to the child. "But hair and fireworks tend not to mix."
Rufus regarded Sephiroth for a moment before breaking into a smile, recognition in his eyes.
Of course, this was the man that he met at all those boring meetings. The man whose voice always made him sit perfectly still and pay attention, no matter how bored he had been before.
Sephiroth inclined his head gracefully in another small bow, and then withdrew, seeing what the boy would do next.
Rufus' gaze lingered on Sephiroth for a moment longer, before turning his attention back towards Zack, who was now talking with Tseng.
Perfect. Time to test out his theory.
"So are you scheduled for this meeting on - "
Zack stopped short in his conversation with Tseng when he felt movement above him.
Both men looked up to see Rufus slowly lowering his hand down to touch the black spikes of Zack's hair.
The boy had an intense look on his face as he lowered his hand first to the tips of Zack's hair, then very slowly moving his hand down, squashing Zack's hair down to his scalp.
He then lifted his hand up, grinning with delight when Zack's black spikes sprang straight back up. He did this several times, cackling with glee every time the wild spikes pinged back up.
He then turned to a chuckling Zack and said, "Not sharp!"
The First Class SOLDIER grinned. "Nope; silky and smooth, with extra bounce factor."
Rufus smiled, but it was suddenly a rather tired one, and he rested his head on Zack's shoulder.
Tseng, who had been observing, highly amused, reached out to take the boy from Zack's arms.
"I believe I shall say goodnight to you then gentlemen." He said, bowing slightly to the two SOLDIERS.
Sephiroth simply nodded, and his companion waved and grinned, shouting out, "See you around Sir!" to a sleepy Rufus.
As Tseng carried his charge indoors, past all the fireworks, Rufus mumbled one sleep filled, half hearted protest.
A gentle laugh rumbled deep in Tseng's chest as he replied.
"Not tonight, young sir. After all, I believe The General was right; hair and fireworks tend not to go together."