Warning contains spoilers for Before Crisis and makes more sense if you're familiar with that.


9 Years Later...

May 2003

It was over, years of espionage, years of funneling information and money to terrorists. Rufus Shinra had been captured at Corel after the very group he'd been aiding turned on him. Now he was in Turk custody, locked in a room normally used for interrogation and temporary holding. The room was barren except for a couple chairs and a bed, half the wall taken up by a large mirror.

Rufus paced, and wondered if on the other side of the mirror someone was watching him some animal at the zoo. He stopped when he heard someone at the door and turned to face it.

Reno crashed into the room like an oncoming tidal wave and punched Rufus in the face.

The blow sent Rufus backwards a few feet, and left his nose bloody. Rufus disregarded the pain and wiped away the blood with the handkerchief in his pocket. "You know you'll get into trouble for this," said Rufus. He sat on the bed, and closed his eyes for a moment.

Reno just laughed. "Yeah, I know," he said. "It's easy to get in trouble around here. Unless you're you. If it were up to me, yo, there'd be a bullet in your head right now!"

Rufus said nothing, his breathing remained calm. Unmoved.

"How could you do this?" asked Reno. "I thought we were-"

"We were never friends!" said Rufus. "You knew that was never a possibility. You knew that from the beginning!"

"Yeah, guess you're right," said Reno. "All the same never thought you'd try to sign my death warrant, and theirs. One of ours nearly died because of you! They're in a fucking coma and might never wake up!"

"Because of AVALANCHE," corrected Rufus. "I didn't order them to target that reactor!"

Reno just rolled his eyes. "You seemed pretty comfortable with the situation when you told them to kill us."

The blonde shrugged. "I used what I had. I suspected my father had caught on, and I needed a way out. There was no guarantee he wouldn't kill me, you know? I thought if I joined with AVALANCHE and eliminated those who knew of my betrayal I could continue with my plans for patricide. If I managed to dispose of the old man, well then there would be no one alive to know I'm a traitor and nothing to keep me from claiming my inheritance, my world. It wasn't personal Reno, the only person I wanted to kill was my father."

"And how many people, innocent people, have died because of AVALANCHE, because of you? Because some spoiled brat couldn't wait?" asked Reno. "You were a good person once, yo."

"I was shiny?" scoffed Rufus; he rolled his eyes. However, when he spoke next his voice was dead serious. "You were a good person once Reno. But tell me, how many innocents have you killed at the company's behest? Monsters aren't really in the position to call others of their kind evil, are they? Try washing the blood from your own hands before pointing out the stains on mine."

"I'd never turn on my own!" said Reno. He began to pace the small room.

Rufus chuckled, "What about Veld? He's left, you know. Father won't allow it. You'll be ordered to hunt him down. Tseng's probably getting the order as we speak."

Reno rounded on Rufus. "You told the President!" He grabbed him by the collar and hauled him up. "You-"

"He would have found out eventually," said Rufus. "It's better he learns now, he'd order all your deaths if he thought you were protecting a traitor."

"You're the traitor Rufus," Reno spat, before throwing him to the bed again. The redhead turned to leave, but stopped when Rufus spoke.

"Yes, and because of that my father's just as likely to order my execution," he said. "However, while I doubt he'll be able to catch Veld, he already has me."

"He's not gonna kill you," said Reno. "Don't play victim, it doesn't suit you."

Rufus laughed, "You honestly think he won't?" He got to his feet, and walked to the long mirror. It was in fact a window, mirrored on one side, but Rufus stared at as if he could see beyond his refection. "Veld told me, before he left, that parents care for the well-being of their child. I was never my father's baby, this company was. I threatened that. I left him in a hard spot. If he kills me or arranges my disappearance, whatever tragic accident they inform the press about, then his name dies with me. However, his name's on the company. That's his legacy. He doesn't truly require an heir, as long as Shin-Ra survives to bear his name. So it's a difficult choice. On the one hand I threatened what he holds dearest, and anyone who crosses him or his company must die, on the other, I think his vanity compels him to keep this company in the family, to have a son to pass it to. He's weighing his options." Rufus turned away from the mirror to look at Reno. "I'm not sure which he'll choose." Rufus smirked. "If he does order my death, will you volunteer to take the assignment?"

They were silent for a long time.

At last Reno spoke. "Why did you tell him about Veld?"

"I had to give him something!" snapped Rufus. "A sign of repentance. A sign I'm still useful. Perhaps, it was merely to give him a distraction. Another betrayal to take his mind off of mine. I don't want to die."

"Right, you'd sell us all out to save your own sorry skin," spat Reno.

"I'm not going to apologize for what I did," said Rufus. "It was my life or yours. Kings don't put pawns before themselves."

"So that's all I am to you?" asked Reno.

Rufus looked away again. "When we first met. I thought things had worked out like a fairy tale." He turned and walked towards the bed. "When I saw you with the Turks, it was like you'd found where you belonged, like the ugly chocoboling finding the family he lacked. You were one of them." A smile as Rufus sat down, but in vanished soon enough. "Life isn't like a fairytale though, is it? There aren't happy endings, not for men like us."

"As I recall, you acted like one of us, too."

"Veld insisted I learn how to shoot, and you and I trained together," a ghost of a smile at the memory. "I hung around there even though it wasn't my place."

"I remember," said Reno. "Then you just disappeared."

"I discovered something," said Rufus. "When I was sixteen I hacked into several secure files. I've had a knack for that sort of thing. I'd been meaning to for a while, ever since I'd found out my father was letting that leech Don Corneo grow fat in the slums off the people's blood. I wanted to know the things that went on. I found things, lots of things I shouldn't have. My father ordered my mother's death." Rufus turned to look at Reno. "The order was carried out by the Turks."

Their eyes met. "I...why would-"

Rufus laughed, cold and bitter. "Because of who my mother was," said Rufus. "Everyone loved her, and she loved everyone in return, with smiles and the blush on her cheeks. My father still keeps a painting of her in the pint house. I used to think, foolish child that I was, he kept it because he had loved her. In truth, he loved the painting more than her. He said to me once that the painting looked as if she were alive. He preferred that, close to life but not quite. The painting couldn't blush, but mother-well she blushed and flirted without even trying. There were men who'd smile at her, and she'd smile at them. She'd accept these smiles and gifts of flowers. My father-he'd given her the Shinra name. That should have been enough for her. It wasn't; he got angry, and so he gave the orders and all the smiles stopped."

"Rufus-" Reno began.

"Oh, I understand why he did it," said Rufus. "Father likes things he can buy, objects he could own. I'm certain my mother, beautiful woman that she was, was a trophy for him. However, it turned out he couldn't own her, nor control her. But he could end her, and he did. He had his reputation to uphold, of course. President Shinra, the most powerful man in the world, can't control his own wife? He couldn't have people think that, and sooner or later the tabloids would have published something. My father saw a problem, and had the Turks deal with it. It's what they do, after all."

"I didn't know," said Reno. "I swear, I didn't-"

"No," said Rufus. "That mission was before your time. Tseng knew, of course, and Veld he...I was never close with my father, but with the Turks, I'd almost thought...I should have known. You can't trust anyone, and you're better off if you learn that." A ghost of a smile crossed his face. "I thought it's something you would have known. Yet you act as if my betrayal hurt."

"It did," said Reno. "I wanted to kill you, or beat you to a bloody pulp, and you're the last person I ever thought I'd want to hurt."

"Betrayal cuts deeper than any blade, pierces swifter than any bullet. I know from experience. I guess you could call what I did revenge."

Reno nodded, and Rufus wondered if he'd made it harder for the Turk to hate him. "So kill your dad for what he did to your mom, and take out the Turks for carrying out the order."

"Oh please, the Turks were never a target, you just got in my way. I knew there'd be collateral damage from the get go, there's always a price. I didn't care if the Turks were destroyed, but I didn't want to kill everyone and burn the company to the ground because I miss my mother. I'm not that pathetic or that psychotic. Yes, when I learned what my father had done I decided then and there that I was going to kill him, but it's not the only reason. If anything I did what my father wanted me to."

"What?" asked Reno.

"I was always a disappointment to my father, never good enough, never given a word of praise despite my efforts," spat Rufus. "He thinks I'm a loser, well what better way to prove him wrong than to beat him. To show him that I am worthy to be his sucessor to show him I could bring him and his precious company to it's knees. Now I've lost," Rufus laughed and shook his head, "but maybe not entirely if I manage to escape with my life. Either way, at least I have his attention now."

"Rufus! Do you have any idea how many people you could have killed yo?" asked Reno, once more seeming disgusted. "I don't care about your revenge or your cries for attention, this isn't a game."

"Oh I realize," said Rufus. "Don't mistake me, there was more than this than attacking my father. There was so much more that I'd wanted to do. I was going to remake this company in my own image. I had plans, Reno. Plans for a better future, a better Shinra."

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," said Reno. "Someone said that, I think. It's not Loveless, is it? Whatever, the point stands. What you did-"

"Was despicable," supplied Rufus.

"Dirty," said Reno.

"That too, I know. But you've done some dirty things yourself. The only difference is where our loyalties lie. Your loyalty is to the Turks, to Shin-Ra. My loyalty is to myself."

"You are Shinra," came a voice. The men turned to see Tseng standing at the door. "Even if you despise your father, you cannot change who you are. You are his son, and the future president of this company. As such, our loyalty is still to you Rufus, or will be one day. If you were anyone else you would be dead for what you did. I'd make sure of it personally. But you're Rufus Shinra. You are our future."

"So I take it my father isn't going to order my death then?" asked Rufus. Despite his calm fa├žade, he'd been expecting the bullet. He also expected Tseng to want him dead for what he'd done. He'd put the Turks in danger and practically sealed Veld's death sentence, if the anyone managed to catch him.

"You are going to remain in our custody indefinitely," said Tseng.

"And what are you going to do to me?" asked Rufus. He'd betrayed Tseng, and put him in the worst position imaginable. Veld had been like a father to Tseng and now Tseng had no choice but to...

Rufus didn't want to think about what Tseng would do to him. He hated that it had come to this. Tseng had watched over Rufus since the young Vice President was just a child. He'd been five or so when he'd met the Turk, then just a teenager. Veld had told Rufus that Tseng was assigned specifically to him. Tseng had been one of the best even early on, but perhaps Veld had chosen him to look after Rufus for another reason. Tseng was young for a Turk, so he would be there with Rufus all his life. Maybe Veld wanted to foster a strong relationship between the two of them.

Any seeds Veld had sown were ruined when Rufus discovered the truth about his mother's death. After that, he'd ordered the Turks to stay away from him. An order they'd obeyed whenever possible. The Turks had breached his trust, and broken whatever heart Rufus had left to give them. Because Rufus had had plans that he wouldn't the Turks get in the way of. Those plans had now made the Turks his enemies.

"We're going to look after you," said Tseng.

"What?" asked Rufus. Tseng sounded too calm. He should be out for blood.

"Don't get me wrong. You will be punished: severely," said Tseng. "But not because I want to get back at you. There's been enough revenge plays. I understand your motives. The reasons you did all you did. Don't think that you're forgiven, or that we trust you. You'll be our prisoner, but one day we'll be your Turks. So yes, we're going to look after you."

"You aren't angry?" asked Rufus. He'd expected Tseng to want to tear him apart as much as Reno had.

"Angry? I'm seething," said Tseng. "But Veld taught me that part of my job is keeping my emotions in check. And right now I need you to understand we aren't your enemies. You will be punished, but it won't be because we hate you. It will be because you are getting what you deserve. That is what you must accept. Part of looking out for someone is ensuring that they learn from their mistakes."

The words struck Rufus, and drew his mind back to another place, another time. To when he and Reno were different people. Rufus looked to the red head. "What about you, Reno?" asked Rufus. "Do you still want to look after me?"

Reno looked long and hard at Rufus. "Honestly, I wouldn't mind hitting you again and not stopping until you're good and bloody," said Reno. "But the thing is. I always sort of saw you as one of us. Like back in the old days when you used to hang around, and just, the way you are. You're one of our kind, and like I said, I don't turn on my own. If you want me to forgive you, well then you're going to have to make up for this. But I'll give you a chance, yo."

"Thank you," said Rufus.

The redhead shrugged again. "Never figured you as one to care what I thought."

No, Rufus Shinra wasn't one to care what anyone thought, or at least that's what he liked to believe. Except their words made him feel almost loved. That after everything they'd still be by his side.

"Well then," said Rufus. "I'll find a way to make things up to you, one day. Then maybe you'll forgive me." It was the closest Rufus could come to saying he was sorry. "As long as you're on my side, I'll be on yours." It felt good to have someone on his side. He hadn't even realized how isolated he'd been until that moment.

"I hope one day I'll be able to believe that," said Tseng. "For now, I'll take that as an apology."

Note: So this was originally written as an epilogue for this fic but I didn't include it because I wanted to use part of it for another fic "Pedigree" however, I originally intended for this to be read directly after this fic, and so I'm putting it back.