A/N: This story takes place about three years before FF7 begins.
Loyalty Runs Deep
Rufus hung up the phone with a distracted clatter and rubbed his fingertips together, staring blankly at his desk as he remained locked in thought. The phone conference he had just finished had been particularly dull and had ended up going absolutely nowhere. Despite his best efforts, the takeover of a small alternative energy company was not proceeding as he had expected. The investors were resistant to sell, even though he'd offered more money than the company was worth, several times.
At first, he thought they were just against selling to Shinra (since they were technically a competitor), but as time went on, he began to suspect it was something else altogether. However, even though he had many theories, he still wasn't sure what exactly was impeding their progress. Takeovers were usually only about money; at least, that's what his father had told him. Honestly, it didn't surprise Rufus that his old man was wrong though; the older Rufus became, the more he doubted his father's ability to maintain Shinra as a viable business. If it were just about money, he'd be sending people to finalize the details, but the way negotiations had ground to a standstill, he had begun to wonder if he ought to just focus his efforts elsewhere.
"Sir, a suggestion, perhaps?"
Rufus looked up at Tseng, allowing his mind to abandon his fruitless thoughts, as he studied his subordinate with interest. He'd almost forgotten the man was standing there, patiently waiting for the conference call to end. Tseng was immaculately dressed and groomed; his straight, dark hair was pulled back in a tight, short ponytail, and his posture was attentive, even if a bit rigid. Rufus genuinely appreciated the sight of him, but showed no sign of interest. As usual, he chose to remain aloof and distant; as a professional, it was and had always ever been his only option. Rufus leaned back in his chair, and with a wave, gestured his permission.
"By all means."
Tseng paged through a small stack of folders in his briefcase, before choosing one, and placing a thin manila folder on Rufus' desk. He opened it, revealing a thorough summary of their current business venture. Rufus skimmed the page quickly, taking in the important and underlined details, before turning his focus back upon Tseng.
"As we have seen, OilTech Incorporated does not appear to want to sell to us," Tseng began. "Their refusal has been immediate and adamant each time, no matter how we have approached them. Money does not stir them, nor does the threat of competition. We have not been able to get a covert foothold on their assets either; it has been damn near impossible to purchase their stock, no matter what corporate identity we have used."
Tseng leaned close to Rufus and turned to the second page in the folder, tapping his nicely manicured index finger on the page. From this proximity, Rufus could smell Tseng's light and pleasant cologne, and he could see the thin-lined texture of his shirt, which from a distance did not reveal a pattern at all. Rufus brushed Tseng's hand away, momentarily letting the back of his hand absorb some of the man's radiant warmth, before he turned his attention back to the text. Tseng had always been a little overprotective and patronizing, and that concern had become even more evident as the years had passed. It didn't seem to matter that he was an adult now; Tseng still hovered over him and did things for him. Sometimes it genuinely irritated him, after all, he could certainly read the paper in front of him without help. Tseng acquiesced, and silently withdrew with a curt nod.
"On page two and three, you will see a list of the current OilTech stockholders. Rude went to great lengths to get this information," Tseng said. "If you will take notice of their names, most share the same surname. Those with differing names have been traced, and it has been our determination that every single stockholder in this company is a relative by blood or marriage. In essence, they are 'keeping it all in the family', if you will."
"That certainly explains why they won't sell to us," Rufus said, as his eyes continued to skim the list of names. "I don't suppose you were able to find anyone with a familial tie we might be able to convince to assist us?"
"Not exactly," Tseng said. "Page four, outlines several individuals who may or may not be available to assist us in gaining access to the company shares. Each shares a vulnerability that I think we may be able to exploit to better serve our purposes."
Rufus turned to the next page, dismayed that only four named were present. Three male, and one female. "You mean, people we can coerce?"
"Well," Tseng hesitated. "It is possible that standard suggestion tactics may work on the men if all else fails, but there might be a less conspicuous way..."
"What did you have in mind?"
"Kanya Steadson. She is single, of marrying age, and has had very few suitors, despite the fact that she is actively seeking to be married. From what I understand, she is quite unappealing, if you get my meaning. However, she is still of interest to us; she holds a substantial amount of OilTech stock. She is the daughter of one of the original investors, who has unfortunately met an early end."
Rufus' eyes widened, and he made an insulted, disgusted sound, displaying his indignation quite deliberately. How dare Tseng imply that he, Rufus Shinra, was desperate enough to marry someone for financial or material gain?
"What are you suggesting? Are you insane?"
"No, sir, you misunderstand." Tseng had a knowing expression on his face, as if he understood all too well what Rufus had been thinking.
"Explain," Rufus said, his tone very irritated.
"I would be willing to shoulder the burden of such an arrangement. In this case, a marriage. I would not even begin to suggest that you take such a chance. If you married, you would put your own interests at risk, which of course, is not a viable option."
Stunned, Rufus stifled his overreaction. Tseng was willing to marry this stranger, so that they had the chance to covertly acquire stock from OilTech? The idea was ridiculous, yet made perfect sense, even though the thought of Tseng being with another person, regardless of motivation, sickened him to his very core. Not that Tseng knew anything about his possessive feelings, of course. Their professional interactions had always prevented Rufus from being truly open and honest with Tseng on a personal level. After all, mixing business with pleasure never seemed to be a good idea; at least, that's what he'd been taught. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, well aware that Tseng was watching his reaction very closely.
"It would be strictly business, sir," Tseng said. "Once I have her indicate me as her benefactor..." Tseng paused, and smiled for the first time during their meeting. "I am sure Reno would be more than happy to help us 'end' our arrangement. As you know, he has become quite good at making deaths look like accide-"
"Are you serious?" Rufus said, interrupting.
"You would actually marry someone, to give me access to their assets?"
"I would do anything you asked, sir," Tseng said, head slightly bowed. "Have you any doubt?"
"No," Rufus said finally, after a brief pause that felt much longer than it actually had been. "I suppose not."
"Then shall I make arrangements?"
Rufus stood up from his desk chair and wandered over to the window, taking long, thoughtful steps along the way. The sun was setting and darkness was encroaching upon Junon, as the day was coming to a close. The streets were desolate and empty, reflecting Rufus' sudden mood swing almost perfectly. Just how close had he come to asking Tseng to do the unthinkable, just for the chance to outplay his father? The fact that Tseng had suggested this move on his own, made Rufus realize just how dedicated his Turk was to him. That he had considered the idea viable, even for a second, made Rufus' blood run cold with anger and regret. He couldn't afford to so easily lose sight of what was important to him. He would not share Tseng with anyone else. Nor would he allow Tseng's feelings of loyalty prompt such a reckless suggestion again.
"Absolutely not. We'll find another way," Rufus said. "Never, ever suggest something like that again. Understood?"
"As you wish," Tseng said, without a hint of a question in his tone.
The two remained silent for some time. Rufus knew that Tseng would not speak, or ask to leave unless Rufus addressed him directly, or dismissed him. It had never quite dawned on him exactly how loyal Tseng actually was. Now that he thought about it further, Rufus realized that the man had never refused an order and always obeyed him to the letter, as far back as he could remember. Sure, there were times that Tseng offered his own insight and advice, but ultimately, the decisions had always belonged to Rufus. Now, all he wanted was to know exactly how deep that loyalty ran, but he wasn't sure exactly how to go about asking in a tactful manner. As he strove to find the right words, he finally gave in, and just asked what he wanted to know.
"You'd really do anything I'd say?"
"Of course, sir."
"Anything?" Rufus asked, still not quite letting himself believe what he was hearing. "That's a broad list, Tseng."
"Anything," Tseng said, dropping all formalities, and leaning in close enough that he could whisper the word into Rufus' ear.
Tseng's sudden closeness and his emphasis on the word "anything" could hardly be missed; Rufus had complete comprehension of what was being implied. Delighted with the new direction things had taken, he decided that he was terribly curious to see if Tseng was serious about that statement.
"Really," Rufus said, his eyebrows raised with intrigue. "Then, I have a few orders for you."
"A suggestion, perhaps?" Tseng said, echoing the words he had used earlier, only this time, his eyes were narrowed and his normally professional demeanor was replaced with something much different: his expression had softened considerably, and Rufus was sure that Tseng was actually flirting with him. He waited for Rufus to nod, and then continued. "Locking your office door might be a wise and logical first step..."
"I'd have to agree with you," Rufus said, carefully considering his next order. "Yes, lock the door." Rufus watched, his lips curling up deviously, as Tseng nodded and did as he was told without hesitation, then returned to him.
"Put your cellphone on silent."
"Done," Tseng said, after pressing a button on his phone. "And...?"
"Come here," Rufus said with a whisper. "And kiss me."
As Tseng willingly did what he commanded, Rufus' body reeled with satisfaction, and his mind raced to queue up his next order. As he began to lose himself in experiencing a fantasy he'd had countless times, he couldn't help but wonder what had taken him so long to realize what he'd been taking for granted. Regardless, he knew one thing for certain: things were definitely going get a lot more interesting at the office.
A/N: Please let me know what you thought by leaving a review. Thanks for reading! ^_^