Disclaimer: I do not own FFVII

Summary: Rufus and Lazard talk candidly for the first time. Part of the Redeeming Features series.

Rufus didn't know how to be a brother. When they came to the heart of the matter, it wasn't something that could be learned in books, or a duty that could be shuffled onto someone else, and every relationship was different. There was no right or wrong, and too much in between for comfort.

When the half-brother he had never known the existence of was abruptly returned to the world of the living, little Rufus Shinra had found himself with quite the dilemma on his hands. Practicalities came first, and Lazard Deusericus was spirited away as fast as his Turks could arrange. At this time, he wasn't thinking of anything but the potential political ramifications of the ill-timed resurrection. Lazard was another link to the tarnished Shinra name, and all his efforts to regain the support of the populace would be wholly undone if a charismatic alternative with a tragic past came crawling out of the woodwork.

The people did so love a martyr.

It was his duty, no matter his feelings toward Lazard himself, to gain custody of him. Unacknowledged by their father he may have been, but he was a Shinra, no matter that he did not bear the name. He would likely want little to do with his legitimate sibling after he was restored to full health, and after settling him somewhere far and out of the way, they might just maintain congenial enough relations to be considered family. What a concept.

Self-preservation, nothing more. He wouldn't admit to curiosity yet.

He was understandably battling residual disorientation when the medical division got to him. Not only had he been revived with the subtlety of a earthquake, he was unaccustomed to his own body. The reports salvaged from the laboratories that Hollander had presided over revealed that he had been used as a vessel for one of the genetic copies of Angeal Hewley, and had died in his image.

He had slipped in, just once, before he had regained consciousness, long enough to assess that he was being given proper care and then left before anyone could question his motives. The younger was unsure if he could have given any answers as to why he deemed Lazard's health to be paramount in any case, and he was not about to stay to find out. He wouldn't admit to fear, not for his life, but for his principles and deeply ingrained beliefs yet either.

Or to wondering how much Lazard would still resemble him with his eyes open. It was unnerving enough to find out he had a brother, and still more when he had met them some time before, and had never devoted a second glance to the uncanny resemblance. Like looking at a mildly less coiffed version of himself, just enough not to arouse suspicion.

After he had regained consciousness, Rufus had feigned an overbearing workload for not being present at his bedside throughout the weeks that followed. His beloved Turks had not questioned him, but the knowing glint in their eyes did nothing to assuage his unease. They knew before he did the true reason he had not taken the first opportunity to speak to Lazard.

He was afraid. And worse, he didn't know what it was he feared, precisely.

His own childhood had been privileged, the encumbrances of a deceased mother and neglectful father notwithstanding, and he had wanted for nothing that could be touched, or held in the hand. The Turks had been his ever-present shadows since the day of his birth, and had spared him from having to endure all but the most minor of discomforts. He hadn't so much as scraped a knee until he was nearing eleven. When his father had died, Rufus had fallen into the role he was born and trained for.

Lazard, by contrast, was in essence the opposite of all his own upbringing had been. Born out of wedlock, raised by a single mother who scarcely made enough to make ends meet to keep her child and herself from starving. Despite the squalor of the area, almost in the slums, where he was raised, he was educated, and slipped into an administrative role in the lower echelons of Shinra the moment he was legally allowed to leave school. Starting on the bottom rung of the ladder paid off, and after a few years in menial positions he was recruited into the SOLDIER division, where his potential for advancement was noted and he eventually rose to become head of the department when the previous head retired.

One had sought to destroy Shinra utterly, and the other had desired to recreate and make it his own.

Rufus was a product of his environment, as much as Lazard and for reasons which couldn't have been more different. He had encountered no small difficulties in the wake of his company's fall from grace, the disenchanting revelations about the perils of using mako as an energy source and the assorted hazardous absurdity that Reno attracted on a near hourly basis, and yet, there was no foundation for comparison.

Lazard had grown up with nothing waiting for him, no surety for his future. He had braved the dual stigmas of poverty and illegitimacy with his head held high, had forged a path that he knew would likely see him dead before his aims of vengeance against his erstwhile sire were fulfilled. Had known that the path he had chosen would lead him to no fortunate conclusion, had known that there was only the most minute hope of him walking away with his life, and he was prepared to give it up to attain the revenge he so sought.

He had a goal, however fatalistic, and had been determined to see it through to the end. Rufus could not profess to possess that same single-minded dedication in the face of such formidable opposition.

Neither could he claim to despise his newfound sibling. In meetings, when his father was priming him to take the reins of the company and decided that some practical experience was in order, he had been intrigued and not a little intimidated by the older man. Lazard had been, amongst many things, immaculate in dress and demeanour, never saying a word that could be constituted as treasonous or self-serving, and somehow retaining his dignity in an environment where survival of the fittest was the norm, and whoever was deemed unfit became the lesser link on the food chain.

He had exuded a quiet confidence in himself, without delving into egotism, or becoming a sycophant like so many on the board. The young Rufus Shinra had not known how to interact with him even then, when he became clear he was in a league of his own, and had succeeded in remaining true to the best interests of the men under his charge in an organisation that made art of cruelty and deceit.

He had admired him, and he still did, even armed with the knowledge that he had set out to deliberately destroy all Rufus was set to inherit, all he had dreamed of having for his own one day. And he could not fault him in the least. For the simple fact was this, to be able to pursue his revenge with such single minded patience focus, was to be commended.

Also, that he allowed no one else to share in his vendetta. One man against the world, for Shinra at one time had been the world as they knew it.

Rufus was arrogant certainly, it ran almost inevitably in the family, but he had never been under any illusions as to how different his life would have been without the comforting presence of his Turks, ready to step in and aid him in any way they could without him ever having to ask. Without them, the young heir might not have lived to see the age he was now.

Lazard had been alone, and this resonated almost painfully with him. He felt weak by comparison, for all his bravado, Lazard's actions had spoken more of what he wanted to achieve, and how people had responded to that sense of integrity. Rufus was regarded with distrust and hostility, and the notoriety associated with his name cast a pall on all of his dealings with others and to a lesser extent, himself.

He was not proud of his name, not anymore. He wondered if Lazard would be able to see that. The last few years had opened his eyes to what he hadn't seen before, and what he hadn't wanted to see. He would not reign in blissful ignorance as his father before him.

Who would have thought the that a plain door of a hospital could look so forbidding.

Lazard blinked hazily as the sound of a door opening reached him. Swallowing a sigh, he shook off the lingering vestiges of lethargy and endeavoured to drag himself into a reclining position, all the while reminding himself that the continual indignity of being poked and prodded at by the doctors was more than he would have expected, considering that his benefactor must know of Lazard's betrayal to Shinra in his previous lifetime. Second chance or no, he had been perplexed that he had not been arrested the instant his identity was confirmed.

He waited, and a moment later a pair of perfectly polished shoes entered his line of vision, the kind that were too clean and too expensive for any mere doctor. His gaze left them to take in the legs encased in immaculate white slacks, the impeccable jacket to match, a smart tie and finally a face, with literally nary a hair out of place. For a time, he was lost for words, and tried for a greeting before discovering he wasn't sure what to call this virtual stranger.

The younger man finally broke the ice. "You seem to be recovering well I see, Lazard." There was a pause before his name, as if Rufus hadn't known what he was going to call him either until the word had left his mouth. The heir was not as unflappable as he would have the unwary believe, he was uncomfortable also.

Lazard cleared his throat. "Yes, I'm very grateful for the care I have received, it is…more than I expected," he admitted. Rufus stiffened slightly, apparently taking umbrage at the implication that he would have done any less.

"You are blood kin, name aside. I did what I felt was right," he replied coolly. Lazard attempted to tease through the layers of undertone in that statement before he gave it up as a lost cause. Rufus had his game face on, and he was too exhausted to fight fire with fire.

"I hope that I would be similarly merciful were I in your position," he replied, slightly goading. If he was correct in his assumption that Rufus was here to 'clear the air', one of them would need to be bold and address the misunderstandings between them. There had been enough of those already.

Rufus' eyes narrowed. "One would hope." Somewhere along the way it had turned into a battle of wills, and intentions be damned but neither of them liked to lose.

"May I speak candidly?" Lazard asked neutrally. Rufus' mouth was set in a grim line.

"I can't stop you," he said coolly.

The elder raised a brow in disbelief. 'You could stop me, all too easily in fact. A single shot from of those Turks that are so good at hiding themselves would do it. There's probably one of them under the bed as we speak,' he thought, caught between mirth and resignation at the possibility.

Aloud, he said "Then I will. I do not know how to respond to you, I did not have an opportunity to speak to you properly in my previous incarnation and I do not know what we would have said to each other if we had. But that you are here now means you wish a resolution between us, am I correct?" he asked.

Rufus stared stonily at him. "You are, primarily the part about not knowing what to say to you, as I do not know even now."

"Do you hate me?" Lazard asked calmly. Rufus' head snapped up.


"Dislike me?"

"I may begin to if you do not cease this absurd line of questioning-!"

"Resent me?"

Silence reigned in the room. Rufus stared at him, and suddenly looked like the teenager that the President used to bring to meetings again, like an animal let loose in unfamiliar terrain with predators all around ready to devour him if he put a foot wrong. He looked lost.

More importantly, he didn't resent Lazard. A superb poker face he might have, but one didn't work with the likes of Sephiroth without learning something about body language and how it sometimes said what words failed to.

"You do not," he answered his own question. Rufus wavered for a moment, and then unexpectedly took a seat in the hard visitors chair beside the bed. He seemed tired, as if he were waging a war that no one else could see, with an opponent that could not be beaten. His own self.

"I should," he murmured "Shinra was always meant to be fine, I grew up knowing that."

Lazard hoped remaining silent would be taken as assent to continue.

"You wanted to destroy it, take away my only purpose in life, and you almost succeeded," he said accusingly. Lazard nodded unflinchingly, recognizing it as truth. Their sire would not have acknowledged any desires his heir might have had divergent to what he himself laid out for him. He would quash them before they had time to fully take root, and make sure that his son followed the assigned path. That had been the one stumbling block in his plan the last time, he had not wanted Rufus to suffer, but there was little he could do to protect him from what had to happen.

Rufus raked a hand through his hair, mussing it irreparably. It made him look more approachable however. It made him look more like Lazard.

"But I don't hate you, I don't dislike you, I don't even resent you," he said helplessly, seeming somehow disappointed in himself.

"Why?" Lazard prodded gently. Not accustomed to being questioned, Rufus glared for a moment before it fell away.

"Because you were alone," he said finally, eying the elder cautiously to see his reaction to this admittance.

Lazard was confused. "In my vendetta? Certainly, I had my mother to think of, I did not want her involved. After that, the less people knew of my true feelings on the corporation the better, and the less likely it would be that suspicion over my background would arise," he explained.

Rufus hummed in response. Lazard chanced another question.

"Why does this strike you as strange? Were you not alone yourself?" he queried. The CEO startled.

"I had my Turks to protect me," he said guardedly. Lazard held back a sigh, the boy was gone and the untouchable president persona was back.

"You were a target from the day you were born, whereas I had the benefit of relative anonymity," he said diplomatically. Rufus pursed his lips, unable to deny this, the number of kidnap and assassination attempts on his person were indeed considerable.

"It is wise to be aware of ones own mortality," he said meaningfully, wanting to end this line of interrogation. It was true, he had always felt alone, despite the presence of his guardians. He knew his sole surviving parent would care little if he died, if at all, and would simply arrange a marriage with one of his many mistresses and sire another child as quickly as possible. It would have eaten away at him inside if he had known about Lazard at that time.

You could be surrounded by people on all sides and still be alone.

"That is so," Lazard agreed "and it would have behoved your predecessor to remember that."

Rufus didn't have the heart to chastise him for the slight, for the man had hardly inspired the level of familial emotion that would ensure he would be missed after his untimely demise.

"I won't make the same mistake," he said firmly. Lazard gave a small, but sincere smile.

"That's good to know," he said placidly. The younger man felt a curious warmth in his breast, and was too emotionally overwrought to try and interpret it as anything but what it was, the feeling of being cared about, and not being afraid to care in return.

"I would appreciate if you also wouldn't make that mistake twice," Rufus said blithely. Lazard stared at him, before his shocked look melted into a smirk ruthlessly like his own.

"Yes, sir," he said wryly. Rufus snorted, knowing he could not command Lazard to do anything, there were alike that way. They were alike in many ways. Similar in appearance, enough so that it was odd that the likeness had never been taken note of, but raised with drastically different attitudes and ideals.

He had a brother now. Rufus felt a thrill of uncharacteristic giddiness at the thought, this could be fun. Looking back to Lazard, he saw that his eyes were drooping now they were no longer actively engaged in conversation. Throwing pride to the wind, he reached for the others hand before he fell asleep again. Lazard squinted blearily at him, and he was reminded with a start that he had been ill, and quite literally not himself for a long time. Rufus thought it was meant to be the elder sibling who was overprotective, though he could see himself being so when the former director was discharged from hospital. Reno would probably call it possessive, but no one listened to him.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he said, a hint of promise in his voice. Lazard smiled contentedly and closed his eyes as he tightened his hand around Rufus' for a second.

"I'm not going anywhere, little brother, not now I have something to stay for."