Oddly enough, based by a dream I had after playing FF7. While centered on my favorite characters (Rufus and the Turks, I -oddly enough- don't like most of the PC's in FF7) it also has something of a twist to it. The setting of the story is set on or about the "endless" Shinra stairway.


Chapter one

The secret of play...

It was amazing, how fast a child could become loss in the press of the crowd. Ignoring the veiled knowing looks from his peers, the new Turk grimly scanned the heads around him, hoping to catch the elusive strawberry blonde that would have been torso level with most of the adults present. No such luck. A quick glance at the feet around him didn't ferret out a pair of small white leggings, and Tseng was starting to get a bit worried. Only supreme will and training will kept him from... say frowning. Granted his lips did turn down -just a bit around the edges- and the numerous worry lines that were forming around his brow deepened, but those were minute changes. They were so small as to be negligible from the casual observer.

The older Turks assigned to his charge's father were not casual observers however. They noted, and snorted in scorn at his failure. Not concern, Tseng noted, just scorn. Any questions he would have felt but refrained from asking were answered, in the most discomfiting of ways.

"The newb seems to have lost your brat, sir." The mission leader noted coldly.

Eyeing the crowds, prepared to mingle with his peers, the elder Shinra shrugged, just that. The small gesture was enough to convey volumes of indifference, and it spurred the white clad woman who leaned upon the elder Shinra's arm to make a token protest.

"Perhaps... could we send someone to look for R-"

"He got lost, he can find his way back. Now shut up and at least pretend to be pleasant." When the woman -Rufus' mother- opened her mouth to protest more violently the elder Shinra exerted a tight grip on the woman's arm. "Come along dear." He hissed, his tone unpleasant as he all but dragged his wife along. "We need to mingle."

"Go after him, if you want." The mission leader grunted, then after waiting a short span he began to follow the elder Shinra.

Tseng considered all that had been said and unsaid. Clearly the boy Rufus wasn't important, yet he had tactic permission to do as he pleased. Silent, still, he realized it would be best to do his job. Abandon the boy and guard President Shinra, follow orders and nothing more. Tseng looked upon the dancers around him with a gaudicated eye. Black and white were the only colors as far as he could see, the colors evoked images of shadow and steel, the scent of expensive cigar hung about the men and women around him was reminiscent of the smoke that wafted around the slums, and about as aromatically appealing. Wrinkling his nose in distaste he considered the hands of those not dancing and smoking, they clasped red drinks.

Soon he'd be imagining blood and other dire things. Disgusted in part with the wealthy aristocrats and in part with himself, Tseng walked across the thick carpeted floor. He slid between the dancers, a restless shadow which cut through their little lands of polite distance and left those violated to glare at him in impotent anger.

You never crossed a Turk, even an "incompetent half blood foreigner" like Tseng. In this alien world ruled by Shinra power was the only satisfaction, and he used his with relish. The elevator was clogged with a mess of wealthy guests. If escape was the child's goal he'd more than likely find a different path that decided the Turk. He turned his back from the revelers and hunted up the familiar glaring red sign, reasoning that even a president, for all his vain glory, wouldn't hide the neon sign. Guests got edgy when they couldn't find a fire escape...

There were glances, numerous gazes, and they drifted towards him with interest. They picked out his path then dismissed him. Only a savage would be interested in escape at a time like this, with opportunity ripe for currying the president's favor... A savage... That title had been his name in Wauti for years, and he could almost here the word rattling around in those half empty skulls.

A sneer wanted to form on his lips, he checked the expression, and with a small shove pushed open the door and entered another world. It was a narrow world, as tall as it was thin, it redoubled upon itself, cement steps made a stark hard path marked with green stars that indicated the portals between floors and path. The place was as abundant with gloom and dust as the party had been with glamour and wine. A fastidious man having accidentally stumbled into this dreary world would have wrinkled his nose in disgust and ducked back into the glittering world build by the Shinra.

Tseng was a thorough man, not a fastidious one. He squinted at the gloom, taking every avenue of ambush with tired patience. Satisfied he was in no immediate danger the Turk closed the door behind him and began his descent. Odd sounds, laughter being one of them, came from some point below. Bemused, he allowed his ears to be his guild, considering how in this gloom his eyes were all but useless...

What he stumbled upon three turns down the stairway surprised him.

Small kitten clutched to his chest, a small boy sporting strawberry hued hair and a miniature white suit cast in the image of his father's had picked a small dusty corner as his own. Toys, small figurines cast in plastic baring some resemblance to those in SOLDIER, were scattered about the small landing. Oblivious, the boy happily made loud tromping noises necessary to carry the blue clad SOLDIER forward. The kitten mewed, squirmed, and with a laugh the boy let it down onto his lap.

With a fierce meow the small black creature pounced on the blue figurine, and folded its tiny fore limbs around it, kicking with his hind and biting with small white baby teeth.

Rufus laughed, moved to save the toy "Bad 'Nation. Bad cat!"

The "kitten" in question barked and let out a squeaky growl. It's gaze went up, and the boy's followed. With a gasp the boy hastily snatched up the toys and stuffed them into deep pockets, he looked ready to bolt. Not relishing the idea of a chase down the whole Shinra stairway Tseng lifted his hands to show peaceful intent and he worked his face into a smile that wasn't pure malice. The gesture seemed to surprise the boy, who froze after stuffing the last toy in his vest pocket. Of course considering how artificial his "friendly" smiles were, it might have been the smile more than the hands that made the boy stiffen like a corpse.

"Who are you, what do you want?" The boy's gaze was guarded, cold, and utterly adult.

Suppressing a shiver Tseng lowered his hands. "Your mother sent me." He offered. It wasn't a lie, more like a half lie, so it didn't cause Tseng's guilt the slightest stir. "She was worried."

Cocking his head to the side the boy considered him, his green eyes conveying worlds of distrust... and curiosity. The accent, Tseng realized, the boy had never heard anyone talk with so much of a trace of Wauti accent before.

"Father didn't send you?"

"You father..." Tseng checked the words "didn't care" with some effort. "-was busy."

The boy laughed at that, shook his head and snorted. Utterly adult in mannerisms... yet there was a secret of play squirreled away in those pocket. Tseng smiled then, a real smile, a warm one.

He understood, had found his own small hiding place where he'd left his toys. A plastic katana, the blade bent, a handful of shiny rocks from a stream were his "materia". Quietly he turned his back, made a show of scanning the upper levels. Curious eyes followed his every move as Tseng went to the rail and looked down. The Turk nodded to himself as if satisfied, and turned to face the young Shinra heir.

"This sector is secure, Mister Rufus Shinra. You may carry on."

The boy giggled at the Turk's professional tone, then slowly, -as if expecting Tseng to take back his words- pulled his toys out of his pockets and went back to his play.