Part Two: Covert Agendas


black = Reno's POV

navy = Rufus's POV

Of course, officially I was still off duty after the beating I had taken on the Sector 7 Plate. No such luck. Rufus seemed to think that because he'd stood up to that spiky-haired dimwit Cloud Strife and was up and about, I should be too. The fact that I'd been outnumbered three to one, and didn't have a helicoptor to pull my ass out of the fire when I started to get bruised made no difference, obviously. But he didn't put me back on duty, oh no. That would be far too simple for our scheming new President. Instead, he had me acting as his private sniffer dog. Louiging round the cafeteria, working out in the gyms, and losing a couple of hundred gil in the casino; I guess I was doing pretty much what I always do off duty, except for one thing - I had to have my eyes and ears open all the time. He made me write him reports on anything I picked up; any grumbles, any rumours, anything that could be of the slightest use or interest to him. Of course, I did have to cut out the booze and the girls, for fear of letting something slip. That was the only part I really resented, to tell the truth. The spying I quite enjoyed, always have done. It was what got me into Shinra in the first place. Of course, then I used to play around with my reports a bit, see if I could stir up trouble for my rivals, butter up my superiors, little things like that. However, since my reports went straight to Rufus, I didn't quite dare. After all, I didn't know how many of the people I was spying on were also spying on me.

Meanwhile, I was also getting reports from Rude about how the Turks were doing. Seemed my substitute was that dumb blonde from the SIS......Ellone? Elena? - something like that, anyway - and she spent most of her time drooling over Tseng. Between that and her ghastly keeness, the pair of them were having a hard time of it. I couldalmost feel sorry for her, actually; Tseng wouldn't know a woman if one slapped him in the face, (which they have done, upon occasion). All he cared about was that flower girl, Aeris, who'd given us such a lot of trouble those past few months. I mean, come on, a flower girl? Is that just a really bad euphamism or what? Anyway, I wasn't all that happy about a woman joining the Turks. Now don't get me wrong here, I'm no bigot. Women had their place in Shinra, and I respected that. But the Turks relied mainly on a mixture of dirty tricks, brute force and sheer ruthlessness, and I didn't see how any woman, let alone that scatty chatterbox, could fit in. As if I didn't have enough problems to deal with, most of them not my own, the President wanted to see me again.

Why am I so bothered by him? I asked myself, as I paced fitfully up and down the corridor outside his room. So he's charming, so he's intelligent, so he wants something from me and is prepared to play mindgames to get it - I work with people like that all the time, and I can deal with them just fine. Why should he be any different? The main reason, I supposed, was that I couldn't see his hidden agenda. He had to have one - no-one pretends to like me unless they do, and he seemed to be going out of his way to make a friend out of me. That always, always spelt trouble. Even Rude was only my friend out of habit - I pulled him out of the gutter, and he knew he owed me for that. But what Rufus Shinra needed my friendship for I couldn't even guess, and that put him onestep ahead of me automatically. Until I could even the balance again, I was going to have to be on my guard against him.

Scarlett came out of his office, looking annoyed. Does he have that effect on everybody? I thought, wryly. She gave me an elegant sneer of contempt and gestured to the door. Taking a deep breath, and clasping my hands behind my back so they wouldn't have a chance to shake, I stepped inside.

Scarlett was really beginning to irritate me. Every time she wanted something, she tried to seduce me. The more I pretended to be unaware of it, the more blatant her advances became. Her hair turned blonder and blonder, her language more and more suggestive, her cleavage larger and larger, and her skirt and temper were both growing very short. Maybe this tactic had worked on my father, (indeed, it seemed such a matter of routine to her that I was starting to doubt my parentage), but there was no way it was going to work on me.

When I turned down her offer of 'a little something in my quarters', for the fourth or fifth time, she seemed to give up and, making a flimsy excuse, stormed out. I settled back to what I anticipated would be a far more enjoyable interview.

He'd changed since the last time we'd met face to face. The casual arrogance had been replaced by a soldier's demeanor, smart and emotionless. Ordinarily I would have apprieciated the change, but in his case I found myself making an exception. A military rigidity didn't suit him; he had too much charm and intelligence for it. Nonetheless, if that was how he wished to play it, I was willing to play along.

"Ah, Mr. Reno." As if I hadn't known who it was. "Please, do sit down."

He sat. I noticed his hands, which had up to then been hidden, were twisting together. Nervous, then. I wasn't sure why, but it was worth remembering.

"You wanted me for something, Mr. President?"

Still that touch of brazeness, which would usually have irritated me, but which I found rather compelling in him. It was good to have one person who didn't treat me as if I was made of porcelain.

"Merely to praise you on your latest work. I have found your reports most.........enlightening. Your frank style is very refreshing."

His face seemed cast in stone. The only flicker of reaction showed in his eyes. I read surprize, and something else I wasn't quite sure of.

"In recognition of this, I have decided to give you some real leave. Will, say, three weeks and a small bonus be acceptable?"

"That would be most kind, sir."

The voice was monotonous, the manner still wooden. But the expression in the eyes grew clearer; slight puzzlement, and deep suspicion. I spared a fleeting thought as to what could have made him so completely unable to take anything at face value. The answer, of course, was laughably simple; us. But even so, something, somewhere, must have hit him hard. I determined to find out what it was.

"Before you leave, would you care to join me for a meal somewhere?"

He couldn't very well refuse, and he knew it. I had him. And I hoped that, in a more relaxed atmosphere with plenty of good food and wine, I might get him to lower those defences a notch. The man was known to be a hedonist, and everyone knows the best way to win is to play on your opponant's weaknesses.

"That is very generous of you, sir."

His lips pressed together tightly; he was angry. At leats I had a reaction.

"Not at all. Shall we say, tomorrow night, so as not to delay your departure too long?"

"I am at your disposal, sir."

And didn't he just know it? If I hadn't known how much it would have offended him, I would have laughed. His tightly controlled outrage was quite a picture.

"Well then, meet me in the lounge at 7:00 tomorrow. Wear something casual."

He seemed uncertain whether to go or stay.


He left, perhaps a touch more hurriedly than was polite. I permitted myself a small smile. I had made the first chink in his armour, thrown him off balance. Idly, I replayed how his face had changed over the course of the interview. How the control had slipped. I wondered what he would look like, devoid of all self-mastery, his passion given free reign. And that was when I decided I would have him; in any way I could, and at whatever price was nescecary.

I couldn't get out of that room fast enough. I knew I was dangerously close to giving him some real ammunition to work with. I couldn't absolutely could not, afford to let anything slip around him, but he wasn't making it easy. I didn't see why he needed spies - he seemed to be able to breeze into people's minds, look around, take what he wanted and stroll out again. Unnerving didn't even come close. But what did he want? That was my immediate problem, and I could figure it out. I'd been in Shinra long enough to know that no privilege comes without its price. He was privileging me, and I could hardly think that a meal out was his price. One thing I was certain of, and only one; I was going to have to keep my wits about me.

Part 3   |   Fanfiction