Tseng's on guard duty today, and I'll admit I'm more than a little glad to see him, at least when he's here he can relax a little. He works himself to the bone. There are times I wonder if he's eating properly or getting enough rest. He's gotten thinner and there are dark circles under his eyes. Then again, the stress of recent events has taken a toll on all of them; even Asher seems less bright eyed. I of course look the same as ever, blonde, pale, blue eyes that sometimes hold more happiness than they ought considering I'm technically the Turks' prisoner.

Reno was here last night and I noticed how cheerful I looked today when I went to brush my teeth. Having him around changes something in me; it's like getting an elixir after a fight, or a fix of something dangerously addictive. I know I have to be careful not to let it show too much. If I come off like a satisfied cat they'll start to wonder what canary I got to…

Not that seeming too cheerful around Tseng is a problem. One look at him and the only thing in my eyes is concern. Everyone's under a lot of stress, but it's worse for Tseng because he takes on everyone's problems as well as his own. Tseng feels ultimately responsible for the fate of everyone in the department. He really needs to take some time to worry about himself.

It's a bit strange, me worrying over him. It was always the other way around, him playing nanny when I was a boy. His official title was bodyguard, of course, but his concern for me went beyond whether or not I was in danger of being kidnapped or shot at. No, he looked after me, lectured me, and in many ways took more of an interest in my upbringing than my parents.

Perhaps it's natural that our roles would switch. Isn't part of growing up having the chance to look after those who've looked after you? Of course, Tseng's hardly an old man…even if he does look as exhausted as one at the moment. He's in his early thirties, which is young enough in my book and he's still beautiful.

I try not to think such things, because the crush I've harbored since I was a teenager feels just as wrong now as it did then. I mean, on the one hand it was perfectly natural for a teen to feel attracted to someone in their early twenties and it's even more natural for a man to like someone a bit older, but it still feels like having a crush on a teacher. Besides, he still sees me as someone he has to look after, even if I am in my mid twenties.

I actually somewhat hate being twenty-four because it sounds so very grown up but given my circumstances I feel anything but adult. I'm essentially a child grounded for misbehaving and at the moment still under the watch of the same baby sitter as when I was five.

"Is something the matter?" asks Tseng.

"You look tired," I say. It's the truth, after all. "If you want to go lay down I won't tell anyone. You know perfectly well that I'm not going to leave." Frustrating as my confinement may be at times I would never think of escaping. The Turks need me, even more than they yet realize.

"I'm fine," says Tseng.

And people say I'm a compulsive liar. I don't call him on it, not out loud at least, but I give him a look.

"If you need someone to talk to, I'm here," I say, even if it is stating the obvious. Even if it doesn't really need to be said…Tseng's had no trouble burdening my mind with his troubles in the past. I encourage it. In truth it's no trouble, I like having things to think on and if it allows him to feel even a bit less burdened then all the better.

"Nothing's changed," he says. "We need to find Fair."

Yes, if the Turks lose this idiotic competition my father has devised it won't bode well for us. Reno's out there now, looking as always. My only hope is that the army doesn't get the bright idea to win by taking out some of the competition. Although, I doubt they're clever enough to cover anything up, even by claiming "friendly fire", and they're certainly not clever enough to out smart the Turks in that regard. Scarlet on the other hand is more troubling…

Things are building like the force behind a bullet in the time it takes to pull the trigger. It's going to be explosive, and more than likely people are going to die. Well, not if I can help it.

I push my hair back and get to my feet, beginning to pace. It's easier to think while moving and although I've maintained an exercise regiment throughout my captivity which makes the pacing superfluous in terms of physical activity; I still prefer to spend more of my time moving than sitting around.

"Is that Reno's shirt?" Tseng asks.

I stop dead in my tracks and look down as though I'd forgotten what I was wearing. I hadn't been thinking when I'd put it on. No, correction, I'd been stupid when I put it on.

Reno had left his clothes in a pile on the floor this morning when he'd ran to shower and change into a fresh uniform before the next Turk came to relieve him from guard duty. The make shift prison where they've hidden me is quite self-contained and includes a kitchen of sorts, showers, two bedrooms and a washer/dryer. A place like this on the plate would probably fetch a decent rent. Concrete chic. Note the window-less charm.

I'd told Reno I'd throw his things in the wash, insisted he should put on a fresh uniform.

"You don't always have to wear whatever clothes you slept in," I'd said, "You do realize this, yes?"

"Didn't sleep in that last night, barely wore it yesterday. You had me out of my clothes as soon as I walked in the door." Sometimes I wonder if Reno's goal is to make me blush. Other times I wonder if he succeeds. I try my best not to let him.

"Regardless, it's been sitting in a heap on the floor all night, there are extra clothes here. Why not wear something clean for once. I can take care of this." I like doing things for Reno.

When he got out of the shower there was hot coffee waiting and toast. He'd be out the door soon, but he should grab something to eat. The washing machine was all ready going, but…well I hadn't quite gotten around to washing that shirt.

I'd meant to, I'd picked it up and then I noticed the smell. I swear his clothes are practically stained with the scent of cigarettes. It's not all that bad of a smell though, it's mingled with other things, the cheap spray on deodorant he soaks himself in and whatever body wash he uses when he's at home. The shirt smells like Reno and something made me want to keep it.

It's ridiculous, here I am a few months shy of my twenty-fifth birthday and acting like a love struck schoolgirl. Actually wearing the shirt had been unforgivably stupid. With Turks surrounding me at all times, someone was bound to notice it.

I remain calm as Tseng questions me, borrowing someone else's shirt isn't a crime.

"Is it?" I ask, "How can you tell? The Turks' clothes all look alike to me, uniform as it were…I guess I grabbed whatever was on hand."

Tseng doesn't call me on my lie but gives me a look that makes it clear he can see right through me. I take a seat the couch opposite the one he's currently sitting on.

"You were sixteen the first time, isn't that right?" asks Tseng, "I assume you know we discovered the affair. Do you know how?"

"No, it wasn't in the report." I don't bother lying; Tseng either knows or assumes I'd given myself access to all of Shin-ra's files years ago. Well all the ones it was possible for me to gain access to at least, no doubt my Father still has plenty of secrets hidden too deep for even me to find, but the Turk's files had been child's play.

"Reno was wearing one of your shirts," says Tseng.

"He thought no one would notice?" I ask, "I can't believe he was so careless." Reno was lucky word hadn't gotten to his father. Lucky Veld has decided to try to use the situation rather than having Reno killed for it.

"You're one to talk," says Tseng. "He was only seventeen, even Turks can be careless at that age. I'm sure he's learned. As for you-"

"I should know better," I say, "you're all ready convinced I'm sleeping with him, aren't you?"

Tseng looks at me as though he's studying me. "There's no need to be defensive. I'm on your side Rufus," says Tseng, "Even when you don't like what I have to say."

"You want us to end it?" I ask. He was going to have to talk to Reno too wasn't he? I sighed heavily. I know Reno doesn't fully trust me, even if we have picked up our affair where we left off years ago he's still…I don't want him to think I've done this deliberately. "I'm not trying to sabotage your working relationship with him. I didn't mean for…" I stop myself. I'm not sure what to say exactly, and I know I'm beginning to sound somewhat desperate.

I find the more ardently you try to convince someone of the truth the more certain they'll be that you're lying.

I run a hand through my hair again, pushing my blond fringe back away from my eyes as I sigh. I'll let Tseng say his piece.

"I won't mention it to Reno," says Tseng, "and I'm not going to tell you what to do with your personal life. Part of Reno's job is to keep you safe and your relationship doesn't create any conflict with that goal."

I wasn't expecting that. Then again, Tseng has always been somewhat indulgent when it comes to me. Not that he sparred the rod when my treason was discovered, but he always made it clear this punishment was not out of hatred; that in the end he would still be on my side if I was willing to let him.

Tseng doesn't want to hurt me, so he'll allow me my indiscretions with Reno. Its still surprising…Tseng is practical and this is risky. Perhaps he reasons that more strife is the last thing the current situation needs.

When I nod Tseng continues. "What I am going to tell you," he says, "is that you cannot allow yourself to become distracted by anything. You cannot afford to be careless, now or ever. You should know your position does not afford such indulgences…" The lecture goes on. He informs me that if he does notice Reno's performance slipping, if this distraction interferes with Reno's ability to do his job, he'll have to have a talk to him about that. Tseng can't guarantee Reno won't end the relationship if it becomes a problem and he wants me to be prepared for that.

"I'm not a child," I insist, "I understand that." Tseng's not going to tell me to end the relationship, just suggest it. Maybe somewhere along the line he's learned the futility of trying to tell Rufus Shinra anything and has settled for persuasion. He's hoping I'll volunteer to end it myself rather than be the one dumped.

"With how things are going, now might not be the best time for such things," says Tseng.

"With how things are going there might not be a later," I point out.

Tseng says nothing but he closes his eyes and lets out a heavy sigh. I suppose my reply wasn't the most encouraging…

I can't help it, if anything I'm compulsively honest. People like to sugar coat things, but not me, I face the truth but can choose to forget it when necessary. Focusing too much on the fact we might all die won't get us anywhere, after all. Sometimes you have to let go. The trick is taking something useful from everything, no matter how terrible.

The situation at hand is far from ideal, but if anything it makes what I have with Reno all the more important. I'm a firm believer in living while you can and although I consider myself just as much a pragmatist as Tseng, I value my own happiness and factor it into my calculations where possible. Sometimes I wonder if Tseng gives any weight to his own desires or if such a thing would seem too dangerous.

Then again, I've always been too selfish, recklessly selfish. I wonder if he and I could find a balance if we'd been the ones to come together in secret rather than Reno and I…of course, it would most likely have been a disaster. Reno and I share a streak of irresponsibility…or perhaps that's too harsh. We value what makes life worth living, and I think to a certain extent it's healthy to do so.

The Turks may be expected to die for their jobs, but they shouldn't have to live only for their duty. You have to live for yourself and for the things, the people, that matter most. I've lost sight of what should truly matter before and it's not a mistake I'd care to repeat.

When I made the decision to aid a terrorist organization against Shinra I didn't care what I might pay for my actions. I knew there might be a lot to lose, kill the Turks or get myself killed along the way, but none of that had mattered. I had an objective: winning at any cost, taking in any risk, and that's all that I'd thought of then.

I know better now. All things have to be balanced, risk and reward, living for yourself and living for other people, what you give for duty and what indulgences are worth keeping.

"I'll go change," I announce. I leave the room and pull Reno's shirt off over my head rather than bothering to unbutton it. It smells of my lover and for a moment I'm lost in that scent. I pull on a loose fitting white sweatshirt and pad out of my bedroom heading to the washer, Reno's shirt in hand. I did say I would wash it and a man's word is his bond, after all. Hasn't Tseng drilled that into me?

I don't mind Tseng's lectures. He means well, and I do listen. However, Tseng's not my father and he isn't the boss of me. I make my own decisions and will take my own risks. I'm grateful Tseng respects me enough to offer counsel rather than trying to put a stop to it. Reno does have to listen to him, after all.

I want to thank him, but I'm at a loss as to how. I suppose the best way is to show his trust in me is not misplaced. "I appreciate your concern," I tell him, "And I'll be more careful, in the future." I mean it, but I'm not sure if he believes me. I suppose words don't matter so much as deeds, I'll prove my care by not allowing this to become a problem, just as I'll prove my full trust worthiness to Reno and the rest of the Turks by being there when they need me most.

For all my carelessness today, and the other mistakes I've made in the past, the future is mine. I look forward to a day where I can choose to forget the past as easily as forgetting the troubles of the day, when all there is, is the future I plan to build.


AN:

I've told a A Darker Shade that I loved the details about Reno wearing Rufus's clothes in her fics. She asked to see my take on that. Given that's it my nature to do a cost benefit analysis of most actions, my first thought was it probably wouldn't be the best idea for people in a secret love affair to wear each others clothes.

LicoriceAllSorts commented a while back that she'd like to see me do first person, so here's my attempt at 1st present tense. I generally work in 3rd person past tense so I'm not sure how well this turned out, but I tried it. Also, my thanks to Licorice because I'm sure I've been influenced by her in writing this.

And I'm sorry if this wasn't very exciting (it's a hastily written Drabble what can I say?) and for letting down anyone who was hoping Rufus and Tseng would wind up in bed together.