A/N: Hello, readers. A short, kinda angsty how-Rude-joins-the-Turks fic that latched onto my frontal lobe and refused to go away until I wrote it. The style was semi-inspired by the second installment of Roots, by La Editor, which you should go read now because it is much better than anything I'll ever write. Anyhoo, enjoy. And for those of you that care, yes, I do intend to update Need for Dates, despite the fact it's giving me major headaches and I have three different versions of the next chapter. But if all goes well the next chap should be up in the next few days, because holidays are wonderful things.

Disclaimer: I don't own FF7 or any part thereof.


Hero


He is five years old.

He sits in front of the television, staring wide-eyed at the grainy image.

The cop shoots the bad man.

"Bang bang!" he yells, excited, happy.

Because the good guys always win.


He is older now. He can do simple division, though it may take him longer than some of the other kids in the class.

He is walking home, and a newspaper drifts by. On the front is a picture of a tall, giant, cloud scraping building, and surrounding it are large wedges of concrete, some still skeletal, surrounded by scaffolding and tarps and dreams.

He does not notice.

He gets home, puts his backpack neatly away, tucks his shoes into the closet.

He goes and sits in front of the television. The image is still grainy. The cops and bad men still fight.

But the good guys always win, and he smiles.

That night, at the dinner table, he tells his mother –

"You'll see, mommy. I'm gonna be a hero and save the world. Just watch."


He is older. He can do division just fine now, and he can do it faster than anyone else. No one teases him anymore. He's much taller than he used to be, one of the tallest kids in his class now, and he's proud of it.

He is walking home, and something catches his eye.

Sitting in the window of a shop is a pair of sunglasses, just like the detective wears in his favourite TV show, and he is excited. He looks at the price tag, and his excitement fades somewhat. They are expensive. They will cost him nearly two months worth of allowance.

But...

He walks out of the store three minutes later. The shades cover his eyes, and he feels like strutting. He's the detective now. As he finishes the walk home, he pretends to shoot bad guys.


He is walking home again, just like every other day. Not a week has gone by since he purchased his shades, and he never goes anywhere without them now.

There is a poster up on a lamppost. He stops, stares.

ShinRa Electric Power Company, it reads. Striving for a new and better world every day! A picture of a smiling little girl reading a book under a lamp adorns the middle of the poster. In the bottom corner, there is a logo. A red diamond.

The girl looks like one from his class, he thinks, and he moves on, the poster already forgotten.


A month later, he still wears his shades. There is a man standing on the street, handing out pamphlets. He tries to skirt by, but the man sees him, smiles disarmingly.

"Here ya go, kiddo, take a look at this! You could be a hero with ShinRa!"

Hero catches his attention, and he takes the offered pamphlet. As he walks, he reads.

When he gets home, he throws his backpack down, kicks off his shoes, excited.

"Mom! Mom! I'm gonna be a Turk! I'm gonna be a hero!"

He laughs, fully and loudly. The pamphlet rests in his hands, open to a page that will later become worn and faded from being opened and closed and read and hoped upon too much.

The Turks: ShinRa's Elite Police Force. Providing safety for all of Midgar's citizens, the Turks are the best of the best.

There are pictures on every page of the pamphlet but that one. He does not notice.


From that day on he becomes focused. He has a solid dream now, a plan. He is quieter than he used to be. He does not talk in class; he listens, absorbs, memorizes, learning what he must learn whether he enjoys it or not. His marks skyrocket to the top of the class.

His parents are proud of him. Even his father, who is so rarely home, rubs him good naturedly on the head, messing his hair.

As a reward they pay for him to enrol in a mixed martial arts school. It is expensive, he knows, and it will be hard for them to afford it, so he is very grateful, and he trains hard.


It is his birthday. He is eighteen years old.

His shades have long since become too small for his head. He bought new ones.

His dreams are still the same though. And now he is eighteen.

He is old enough to enlist with ShinRa.

He wakes early, waits for the recruiting office to open. A man in a pinstripe suit nods at him as he unlocks the door, smiles.

"Ready to join up, lad?" he asks him.

He nods, and can't stop a smile from escaping. The man sits down behind a desk, pulls out a pen, and a stack of forms.

"First name?"

"Rude."


Tomorrow he leaves for basic training. His father actually comes over for dinner. They have beef casserole, and his parents even offer him some beer afterwards.

They wish him luck. His mother is crying, but he reassures her. He dwarfs her now, looks down to see her, rather than up like he used to. He is fully grown, and he is ready to be a hero.

The next day he hops into the back of the flatbed alongside a dozen other boys and girls. He waves goodbye to his parents, before they are obscured by dust and left behind.

The others talk, get to know one another. Five of the thirteen in the truck, including himself, are gunning to become Turks. They trade rumours regarding a program called SOLDIER, of a man who is a legend. They wish to be like him.

He does not wish that. He wants only to be a Turk.

The trip is long, but he's too excited to sleep.


Everyone must go through the same basic training before they can move onwards to the different programs. The twelve who travelled with him are in his class, along with one hundred and sixty four others.

He keeps his mouth shut and trains, doing whatever the drill instructors tell him to do without complaint. He keeps to himself, focused on his training. His martial arts experience proves to be incredibly beneficial, both for basic fitness and for hand-to-hand combat training.

Some of his classmates drop out. The rest struggle onwards, determined like him. Sometimes, he notices a man in a dark navy suit with long hair pulled back in a ponytail watching them. For a moment he will wonder who he is, but then the man is forgotten, like every other distraction. There is only his training.

Halfway through training there is a lice infestation. Everyone's head is shaved. At first he doesn't like it, but gradually grows fond of it. Easy maintenance.

He keeps it shaved from then on.


He finishes basic training at the top of his class. As he exits the parade ground, the man in the navy suit approaches him.

"Rude?"

The informal address puts him slightly on guard, but he nods, coming to attention.

"Yessir."

The man holds up some papers. "It says here you'd like to become a Turk."

His heart beats loudly in his chest.

"That's correct, sir."

"Then come with me." The man turns and walks down the hallway without further ado. He quickly falls into step behind him, following the man until they reached a plain, unmarked door.

The man turns, looks at him, face stoic.

"As Turks, it falls to us to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of Midgar. Sometimes that means we have to do things that are unpleasant. Sometimes we have to use force. Do you understand?"

The question is loaded and dangerous, and he doesn't hesitate.

"Yessir, I do."

The man makes no reaction other than to open the door and says –

"Call me Tseng."


He is nineteen when he first kills a man.

That night, he lies in bed, and he sleeps soundly.


He is nineteen and seven months when he first kills a man on orders and with no explanation.

That night, he lies in bed, and his mouth tastes like vomit and disillusionment. He does not sleep.


He is twenty when he gets the tattoo. He has the artist put four black vertical lines on his left shoulder blade, then strike them through with another. He then has the artist put three vertical lines on his right shoulder blade.

After that day, every time he kills a man he adds a line to his left shoulder blade.

Every time he saves somebody he adds a line to the right.


He is twenty-one when he gets a partner.

The man is loud, lazy, and very good at being a Turk. His name is Reno. He likes Reno.

Reno has tattoos as well, one red gash on each cheekbone. He does not ask why. Reno does not tell him.

His own tattoo is a habit now, its original purpose forgotten. The left side has nearly a full inch of additional lines compared to the right.


Reno asks him a question one day.

"What'd ya wanna be when you were a kid, Rude?"

He frowns slightly.

"I wanted to be a hero," he responds. The world is muted from behind his shades.

"Hn," Reno grunts. "So you joined the Turks?"

He just shrugs. Reno doesn't pursue the topic.

That night, he pulls out an old, faded pamphlet. He flicks it open to that page he'd stared at for so long, so long ago. On that page, in invisible ink, his dreams and hopes are written.

He quietly closes the pamphlet once more, and places it in the trash.


He finds some sort of happiness.

He is good at his job. He enjoys it. The killing, the torturing, the pain are all neutral to him now. The fighting, the test of physical endurance, the feel of a gun in his hand, he enjoys. He has become the Turk specialist in explosives, something he is proud of.

People are afraid of him. He doesn't see why. All they have to do is keep their head down. All they have to do is learn how to keep quiet, keep to themselves.

All they have to do is not play the hero.