AN: For TsengxRufus on deviantart, on the theme of memories. Sorry, I've been trying to write other chapters, but life is crazy right now. It'll settle down by the end of the mont.
Pairing: Tseng and Rufus
Warnings: Mentions of violence and romance.
Tseng stared straight ahead, knowing that he had to remain brave, even now, even as he was terrified. He had been a Turk, a good Turk, for a long time, but now everything had changed. He was never going to wear that dark blue suit again. He'd lost his second skin. The crowd had their eyes on him, and he knew he had to walk. Thirty steps to his destiny.
His mind drifted back, to several years before, when he'd sat in that plastic chair, a stranger in the land, in front of the then head of the Turks. Veld had smiled at him then, and had said he would go far. He wondered if the other had known, even then, just how far he would go. He could remember the way the man had stared at him that day, and thought that he probably had.
One. His foot hit the first stone slab, and he felt a jolt run through him. It reminded him of the way his head had spun after he made his first kill wearing that blue suit. It was strange. There had been many after that woman, but she was the one he remembered, who appeared in his dreams. The Gongagan lady in a red silk dress, who had held his gaze, and commented on the fact his finger was shaking on the trigger. Her dress had been white, before she had bled, but she still faced him. He'd realised she was stronger than him, and had fired the shot.
Two. He was walking at normal pace, but the distance before him stretched out like an eternity. In his mind blood ran past him, pain and screams, power and bullets sliding past him as he walked on, climbing the ranks of the Turks. Going from the rookie to the second in command.
Three. Of course, no matter how much he tried to stay among the Turks, he couldn't avoid the rest of the company. His first meeting with the then-President, Rufus's father, made him feel sick. It wasn't exactly anything the man had said to him. But he was left with the feeling the man despised him due to his race, felt he was not worth being a member of the Turks. Worse, he felt that the other showed the same disdain to those that Tseng cared about.
Four. He realised in an offhand way that he shouldn't be thinking so fast. He'd nearly died before, and his thoughts had raced then as well. The next memory nearly made him stumble. The day he was informed that he would be in charge of guarding Rufus, and then being introduced to the other. The child that had been curled up in the seat had stared at him. It was so different then from now. There had been anger and a lack of trust that he could do nothing to soothe at that time.
Five. More of the young individual he was meant to guard. The way Rufus fought his protection, refused his care, even when the boy so desperately needed to be looked after. He quickly came to despise the child and his lack of respect, the lack of social skills which he had taken for an attempt by the young man to prove his authority.
Six. He realised his mistake when he had given the child a guard hound for his birthday, and seen how he reacted. The boy couldn't communicate easily with people, but the happiness he showed then proved what he meant, even if he didn't put into words. Tseng had felt proud of himself that day.
Seven. Tseng felt proud of Rufus for the first time when he met him in Junon and realised that the other had taken the risk whilst knowing about it, that Rufus had chosen for himself to stand up for something which felt important to him. Seeing the boy, the teen now, staring up at him despite his injuries, looking triumphant despite the pain, Tseng had found himself returning the other's smile.
Eight. He had begun to glimpse Rufus's determination in Junon, but as time went on, he realised the scope of the boy's ambition, how he planned to reshape the world, to make life better for all of them as he changed from his father's methods to his own. Rufus wanted the world to echo his dreams, and was willing to put in the work to get there.
Nine. He stayed by Rufus's side as the boy re-earned his father's trust. It was not a quick process, it was hard for the boy to pretend to agree with the man he despised so very much, but he gained his trust and with it the ability to have control of the company should his father be incapacitated or killed.
Ten. It wasn't long after that that Sephiroth struck, and his father was killed. Rufus, no longer a child, was propelled to control of a company in a way that no matter what he had previously believed, shook him. His father was dead, he was alone, and he had to take control. He held onto Tseng as he began to make his first orders, and rebuild the world to his own plans.
Eleven. Rufus didn't cry after his father's death, didn't mourn. But he mourned once Cloud had killed his pet, the creature he had loved, that Tseng had given him. He lost Dark Nation, and his fragile grip on reality shattered further. It was all that Tseng could do to grab it back.
Twelve. After the explosion, Tseng moved from being his friend to being his nurse, guarding the other and caring for him when the nightmares got too bad, or the wounds pained him too much to move. He held him when the nights got too bad, and when the screams wouldn't stop. The explosion had opened a floodgate of emotion which Rufus had fought for a long time to hold back, and once it was opened, it took many months to close again. Not all the way, but far enough that Rufus could maintain his role.
Thirteen. As he walked closer, his steps speeded up, and his thoughts mirrored them. Moments flashed by, leaving him dizzy. Rufus, already injured by the explosion was left crippled and nearly blinded by geostigma. Tseng cared for him, stopping him from working himself into an early grave.
Fourteen. Tseng wasn't there when Rufus had to ask Cloud for help, had to plead with the man who had killed his best friend in an attempt to get his friend back intact and to protect the world he had tried so hard to rebuild. Tseng had been being tortured, in agony as fire and ice burned him, as a blade pierced his skin leaving wounds that were still there. As Yazoo had laughed down at him, only the thought of Rufus had kept him sane.
Fifteen. When the red cloak had come, stained like his own once white shirt in blood, only one thought filled his mind. He was as strong as that woman he had killed, as strong as the Gongagan he had faced first. He had survived, and now, now he had to get home to Rufus.
Sixteen. Thanks to Vincent, he had got there in time. He was able to shoot, and to save the President, and was able to take the place he belonged, at the other's side, in the rain. They were together, as the wounds began to heal and the world started to rebuild itself, this time with Rufus aiding rather than controlling.
Seventeen. Recovering from Geostigma wasn't instant of course. The infection faded, but the wounds remained. Tseng continued to nurse the other, getting him over the secondary illnesses in one piece, staying by his side and holding him as he regained the ability to walk.
Eighteen. When the other was able to make a board meeting without a stick for support, Tseng had decided to give him a treat. He had bought a present for the other, as a thanks and as an act of kindness. A new guard hound. The one walking behind him now, with the ornament on its collar. Rufus's eyes had lit up in a way that they hadn't for a long time, and just for a moment, Tseng had glimpsed the child he had been before.
Nineteen. Having recovered, Rufus worked harder than ever before, and Tseng had begun to find it too much. He had pleaded with him to take time off, but his wishes had been ignored, and they had argued more and more.
Twenty. Moments flashed through his head as he saw the men waiting for him. The fights had continued, but had stopped one morning when he had been woken by Rufus's hand on his. The other had stared into his eyes, and promised to make it better. They had leant together, and for the first time, their lips had brushed.
Twenty one. That kiss didn't get repeated for a long time. Instead, Rufus had been busy working with Reeve, trying to rebuild the world. Improvements had been being made, and already the children in the slums were being provided for. It wasn't much, and there was a long way to go, but it was a start.
Twenty two. Rufus couldn't work all the time though. One night, Rufus had come into his room, in a smart suit, and asked if he could take the other out for dinner. Tseng had agreed, and only once they had eaten had he realised the significance of the date. That day was the one day in the Wutaian calendar where courtships could be begun without the approval of either person's parent. It had been so long since he had been among his people that he had forgotten, but Rufus had remembered.
Twenty three. Rufus courted him, but there was a certain word he never mentioned. He said like, and want, and need. But never love. Not love until the night he had handed the Wutaian a box, and stated in his normal, casual, wonderful way that he loved him, and that he wanted Tseng to marry him.
Twenty four. Tseng had accepted, but had not been prepared for what would come next. In the same breath, Rufus had asked him to give up his job. To step down as head Turk, as a Turk at all, and remain by his side as his personal bodyguard. He had felt stunned, and Rufus admitted he would not have asked if the other had said no to his earlier proposal. But in his mind, now Tseng had agreed to be his, he was too precious to risk losing. Tseng understood the other's reasoning, even if he wasn't happy about it, and agreed to Rufus's second request.
Twenty five. Tseng had learned a lot about Rufus before he proposed, but he was still unprepared for how seriously Rufus was going to take this wedding. He was determined that everything had to be perfect, that every single thing would go according to his plan. Tseng was reminded of Rufus's previous plans for Gaia, and wisely decided to remain out of his way whilst he plotted the day.
Twenty six. With Tseng no longer in charge of the Turks, Reno had been promoted. Though Tseng was upset to see someone else take his place, to see his shoes filled by the feet of another, he could tell how much it meant to the redhead. He was glad for him, and he remained happy for the other even as Reno joked about the control Rufus had over his beloved. That didn't mean he didn't rig the coffee machine to splash Reno though. Reno had done it to him enough times.
Twenty seven. There was one part of the wedding plans that could have caused more difficulty than the rest combined – Rufus' simple insistence that it had to be Tseng who walked up the aisle. His reasoning was simple – Tseng was of lower status, and was a foreigner. For him to be seen to do so, would shake the peoples' faith in their leader, on the day that Rufus was to return to the world's stage. Tseng had understood, and as he braced himself for the final three steps, it was clear he had accepted Rufus's points.
Twenty eight. Tseng wasn't the only one who'd been uncertain. At the rehearsal a few days previously, Rufus had looked visibly pale. Tseng had told him that he didn't have to do this, that if they just wanted to remain friends or lovers, he understood. He wanted to marry Rufus, but not if doing so would destroy the other. Rufus was too precious for that. Rufus had told him, quite matter of factly, that he had just been concerned that Tseng would end up being hurt for him. Tseng had reassured him it was a price he was willing to pay.
Twenty nine. In the mirror, less than an hour ago, the hands of his reflection had shaken as he had fastened his tie. This was it. Everything had been leaving to this. He'd left to finish his preparations.
Thirty. He gazed into Rufus's eyes as they drew level, seeing the other as absorbed in his own memories as Tseng had been. They were together now, and Tseng was ready. He was prepared to say I do, to complete the ceremony, and to make new memories with Rufus at his side. He took Rufus's hand.