Title: Small Victories
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII.
Content Notes: None.
Word Count: 2546 words.
Request: Tseng/Rufus. This is another meaty, serious pairing built on trust and mutual respect. I have two wildly different directions; pick whichever suits your preferred angst level - either Rufus finding out that Tseng isn't dead (between VII and AC), or Tseng finding out about Rufus's Geostigma. Any rating (but I really like porn).
Summary: Everything that could have gone wrong already had. The words bounced around Rufus's head, even as he leaned over his desk, bracing himself for the shudder that he knew he would be able to feel the moment the Sister Ray fired.
Author's Note(s): Written for the Final Fantasy Exchange community on Livejournal/Dreamwidth.
[[ ... One-Shot ... ]]
Everything that could have gone wrong already had. The words bounced around Rufus's head, even as he leaned over his desk, bracing himself for the shudder that he knew he would be able to feel the moment the Sister Ray fired. The Weapon was bearing down Midgar— on his city— and so help him, he had Reno and Rude both in the room. He was a coward in the end, incapable of standing there and watching the Weapon lumbering across the plains, slowed by nothing.
He jerked his arm to the side, a signal that they could go, and he heard Reno start to ask something. Rude cut him off though, instead grabbing the redhead's elbow and hauling him from the room. The moment the door to the office closed, Rufus walked over to the windows, his eyes closing. He wanted Tseng in the room, wanted to hear Tseng's low voice calling him a damned idiot for keeping up appearances long after they had ceased to matter.
With Meteor hanging overhead, more and more employees had deserted. Everyone from upper management to janitors were fleeing the city, desperate to find somewhere that Meteor didn't look close enough to touch. He laid his hand on the glass, licked his bottom lip, and looked up at the sky. The glow from it washed over the city, made it look as though it were coated in blood. His city. Midgar.
His eyes closed, and he stood there until he heard Reeve's voice cracking over the intercom, announcing that the reactors were sufficiently primed and ready to go. Scarlet cut him off to say that they could fire when ready. They didn't need his order, didn't need him to say a word, but he crossed over to the desk all the same. His hand was shaking as he pressed the button.
His voice was steady though; Tseng would have been proud of him. "Fire." Then again, it was easier to pretend when he only had to say one word. He shielded his face when the Weapon attacked in response, and when he hit the floor from the force of the blast, he found himself staring at a small button engraved with only a single letter. L.
He pushed it— and what would Tseng have said about that? About his instinctive trust in a hidden button on the bottom of the old man's desk? But the floor gave way and Rufus gasped as he fell down a chute. A hidden button for a hidden passage.
It seemed like he fell forever, and when the chute gave way to a room, he slammed against the wall with a sickening crack shooting through his chest. He lay there, upside down, for too long.
Rufus was sick of moving, sick of fighting, sick of trying to salvage everything that was gone. He'd lost everything before it had even touched his fingers. The laughter that bubbled up was hysterical, and it made his ribs hurt even more, but he couldn't stop it. He laughed until he couldn't any more, until the tears outnumbered the actual sounds he made.
He rolled onto his side, hiccuping and unable to breathe, unable to get enough air in his lungs to make himself stop. His chest and throat ached, clenched so tightly that he actually put a hand against his chest in some vague attempt to make it relax. He lay there on the floor, dragging in shallow, desperate bids for air that didn't help.
Tseng would have had him on his feet by that point. Would have shaken him, slapped him, anything to get him moving again. The thought, the memory of Tseng talking him through overriding his baser reactions, was sobering in a way that nothing else was. He forced himself to open his eyes, to look at the room he was in.
His reactions were mechanical, trained into him from the first time he was big enough to be instructed in protocol. He stared at the giant L on the ceiling of the room for a minute. L for Loser. And then he dragged himself over to the chest near the door with the keypad. He found some painkillers— he had broken ribs; he could feel that much— and took them slowly, trying to determine if they were even still good.
That would be about right. Poisoned by ancient medicine.
He tried to focus, to make himself concentrate as he fumbled with the keypad. He couldn't think straight, couldn't think beyond the simply fact that Shinra was doomed and Tseng—
Well, Tseng was gone. For the first time, Rufus leaned back and really let himself focus on that. He'd been avoiding it, been caught up in the rush of the chase, in his attempts to salvage his inheritance.
And for once, there was nothing else for him to look at, no way he could put it out of his head. Tseng was dead. Murdered by Sephiroth, according to the blond Turk, Elena. Her eyes had been red-rimmed when she'd reported it, and Rufus had ordered her to clean herself up before speaking to him again.
He rubbed his forehead, closed his eyes, and fell back, wincing as he hit the floor. Tseng.
He didn't try to stop the tears then. No one knew where he was, no one was going to stumble on him. No one could see his tears, and even if he wore the same red-rimmed expression Elena had, no one would know why. There was more than enough dust in the air to account for it. He hiccuped, putting a hand against his ribs in the motion. It was a futile attempt to lessen the pain, to keep them from screaming with each jerk of his body.
Rufus caught his breath slowly, forcing himself to breathe, forcing himself to calm back down. Tseng wouldn't want him to die in some forgotten room in the bottom of the tower. He knew that much. He stared at the keypad, and if his hand shook when he lifted it to start trying numbers, he ignored it. He had to concentrate on survival first.
It took him what felt like hours, avoiding those particular numbers with a vengeance even though he was almost certain that the code had to be something that he and his father both would have remembered. His mother's birthday. The day she died. His birthday.
He jerked his hand away from the pad, gasping slightly, unable to make himself key in those four digits. He couldn't do it, couldn't succumb to something that he knew his father had put in place just to humiliate him. He started trying codes at random, then forced himself to look at the number pad, to start with the basics.
0000. 0001. 0002.
He made it all the way to 0231 before he broke. His fingers shook as he keyed in his own birth date, and he fell forward as the door slid open. He was vaguely aware of large hands wrapping under his shoulders, and he managed a slurred, "Good work," as he saw the blue suits. A dark figure was standing just past the giant manhandling him, and Rufus smiled faintly.
He woke in an emergency vehicle, bandages so thick around his torso and left arm that he didn't think he could move it. He lay there, perfectly still, just savoring the drifting feeling that had to be from the painkillers. If not the ones he'd taken, then the ones that the EMT had surely given him.
He was so content in that moment, that when he saw the figure sitting beside him, he wasn't even surprised. Of course he was seeing Tseng; he'd only really let himself think about the Turk a few hours ago. Or minutes. He couldn't remember.
For just a minute though, he looked, licking his lips and trying to figure out why he would have imagined Tseng sitting so stiffly. "Sit up straight," he finally muttered, and he was pretty sure that it came out more as 'sisssup srai,' but Tseng looked at him and offered him one of those small smiles, the ones that Rufus had always been almost certain he'd imagined.
"Glad to see that you're awake, sir," Tseng said softly, and he had a slight lilt in his voice, as though he were concentrating a little too hard on what he was saying. As though he were only mildly less drugged up than Rufus was.
"Why... You're dead." It was the obvious, but Rufus didn't feel like trying to pretend otherwise. Elena had reported to him, had told him about how Tseng had stayed behind and the temple had simply been gone when she'd returned. He lifted his good hand slowly, intent on touching that dark hair, on assuring himself that this was the painkillers talking.
"No," Tseng replied, his smile fading. "I'm not. Wounded, but not dead." He took Rufus's hand, squeezed it. "And neither are you."
"Have to go to Kalm. Have to..." Rufus wanted to say something else, to ask something perhaps, but he was so tired. He yawned, and Tseng leaned forward, pressing a brief kiss to his forehead. It was something that he'd done for as long as Rufus could remember. The motion was comforting, akin to being held.
He slept again, this time at a little more ease, even with the medication in his system.
He jerked awake in a bed in what he recognized as the Shinra residence in Kalm. His eyes roved over the ceiling, and he realized with a vague smile that they'd put him in his own room; not his father's. After just a moment of staring at the ceiling, at the single glow star- one of the last remnants of his childhood- still stuck above his bed, he sat up, hissing between his teeth as he did. It was then that he thought about the fact that he was in his own room.
None of the Turks knew which room was his. None of them had ever been to this residence with him. None of them except for Tseng.
Rufus hesitated, and he glanced across the room toward the door. He licked his lips, and when he spotted the wheelchair just beside his bed, he swallowed. There was a note in the seat of it. He picked it up slowly, wincing at the angle he'd leaned over in, and when he read it, his heart skipped a beat.
Tseng's handwriting. Telling him that he had a fractured heel, three broken ribs, and a myriad of other damages that he didn't need to disturb. He didn't need to be out of bed yet, but if he had to get up, he was to use the chair.
The words 'use the chair' were underlined. Twice.
He smiled just a little, and he glanced down at his feet, wondering if he could stand long enough to get to the door. He was actually beginning to swing his legs over the edge when the door swung open, and he looked up, his mouth dry.
Long, dark hair and even darker eyes and Tseng was frowning at him. "Tell me that you were getting in the chair," he said finally, and Rufus hesitated, looking between the chair and the door before he finally held out a hand. Tseng shut the door behind him, crossed the room, and stood in front of him, hands in his pockets.
He looked surprisingly at ease for a dead man.
Rufus reached out then, and not caring what Tseng was going to say, he slid his hands over Tseng's chest and down to wrap lightly around his waist. A low noise, and then Tseng's hand was in his hair, and Tseng leaned down just enough to hug him back. If the pose could be called a hug.
"You're never to do that again," Rufus muttered, and this time his words came out straight and even, properly enunciated so that there could be no misunderstandings. He tilted his head back enough to look up at Tseng, his eyes sharp on that carefully-blank expression. "I mean it."
Tseng hesitated, and then he moved to one knee in front of Rufus, both of his hands lightly holding Rufus's. "So... Am I to understand that I'm not fired then?"
"I should fire you," Rufus shot back rebelliously, but there was that secret smile on Tseng's face. Rufus pulled Tseng closer, made him lean up a little more. His hands slid back into Tseng's hair. His eyes closed as he whispered over Tseng's lips, "I'm glad you're alive."
Tseng managed a quiet, "You too," before they kissed, and Rufus lost himself in it, in the texture of Tseng's mouth under his own, in the way that Tseng pushed him back slowly. Normally, Tseng would have straddled his hips, would have trailed his own hand through Rufus's hair before catching Rufus's hands and pressing them into the bed, but given the circumstances, they were both content with the kiss. For now.
Rufus opened his eyes slowly, looking up at Tseng, who had propped himself up with one hand just beside Rufus's head. He licked his bottom lip. "Elena said you had vanished with the temple," he said slowly, and Tseng's face darkened. He started to pull back, to reestablish the work relationship between them, but Rufus grabbed his wrist. There was no more work relationship, no more division between their time.
Shinra was dead.
He shuddered at the thought, but he plowed ahead anyway, needing to know. "What happened? We... all thought you must have still been inside."
"Tuesti. Reeve Tuesti used Cait Sith to get me out." Tseng lowered himself slowly to sit on the bed beside Rufus. "He called for assistance and had me taken to Junon."
"Why Junon?" Rufus was genuinely curious, but part of him was far more interested in the way Tseng's hair was falling over his shoulder, in the casual movement that Tseng used to push it back. Things Rufus had been certain that he'd never see again.
"I don't know. He didn't think Midgar was safe, I suppose." Tseng leaned back, glancing across the room. He was distant, thinking, and Rufus squeezed the wrist that he was still holding captive. Tseng's eyes cut over to him, and then Tseng pushed him back again. "You should be resting," he decreed, and Rufus wondered if he even had the strength to fight that order.
He didn't think he did. Instead of fighting it, he simply pulled Tseng with him, until they were laying side by side, stretched out over the bed. "You should too, I'm sure," he replied, and Tseng frowned at him only momentarily before he inclined his head, giving Rufus points where they were due. Rufus felt Tseng shift around on the bed, and after just a minute, he heard shoes hitting the floor. He didn't bother to hide his smile.
Tseng lay back down on the bed with him then, and Rufus didn't hesitate before he rolled over, just wanting to look. Tseng started to protest, but after he met Rufus's gaze, he fell silent. Instead, he pressed a soft kiss to Rufus's forehead, then another one to Rufus's lips.
Small victories were often the best.