Fortunately for Rufus, it turned out that Reno valued his life above good gossip, and so it remained secret that he had needed to clean his sheets in the middle of the night for an undisclosed reason. If there were no rumours flying around, then he would not have to worry about his men's opinion of him. More importantly, he would much rather spend his time researching Vincent Valentine. The previous night's lack of success made Rufus realise that Vincent must have been a member of Shinra itself; and a high-ranking one at that, to own such privacy. Sure enough, on searching through the files of previous Shinra employees, the page threw up in black and white the name V. Valentine, and the link to Vincent's personal files. Having been brought up in Shinra, Rufus knew that the password granting access to the files would be one drawn up by the employee themself, and the only other way to gain access was to ask the computer assistants to crack the code. Not wanting to attract attention, Rufus went about finding the password himself, trying Vincent's first name and second name.
After about his twentieth attempt to gain access, Rufus remembered his conversation with Hojo - that the professor had 'stolen' the woman Vincent loved. Fortunately, the number of women Hojo had conquered could be counted on one finger, and sure enough, as soon as he typed in the name Lucrecia...
Rufus scanned through the photographs, video clips, voice clips and random pieces of media containing Vincent until he came across what he was particularly interested in; 'Research into human physiology by Professor Hojo.' Upon opening the file using the password of one of the other Professors who had only recently retired, Rufus almost vomited. The pictures were graphic, showing injections of various serums and their results, and scalpel cuts to find out how the skin reacted in different areas to chemicals. "Sick bastard," Rufus whispered around his search. "Sick, sick bastard." And yet, somehow, a strange part of him only found Vincent more attractive because of how he had suffered. Some of the pictures did not merely disturb him, but genuinely frightened him, in particular a video clip where Vincent transformed into a demon with black wings and fangs, referred to only as 'Chaos'.
A knock at the door nearly made Rufus fall back out of his chair and he quickly shut down his system, only opening the door after switching off the P.C. "Sir, what is the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost?" Tseng's voice soothed Rufus' raw nerves and he replied,
"I'm just... I feel rather ill, Tseng. I may have contracted mild food poisoning." Tseng nodded, accepting his President's answer quietly. "What is it you want me for?"
"It is the memorial service for your father today. To mark the time that has passed since his death." Rufus walked over to his window and looked out to the distant mako reactor, its green glow oddly soothing.
"Must I go?"
"Mr President, you are his son..." the young blond's brow creased slightly.
"That is not what I asked. Must I go?" There was a pause and Rufus tilted his head to look back at Tseng while waiting for an answer.
"Then I shall not." Rufus turned back to the window and Tseng sighed, closing the door quietly behind him as he left.
Once Tseng had gone, Rufus fell to his knees in front of the window, his folded arms on the ledge. He tried to keep his composure but couldn't, and he rested his head on the his arms, began sobbing. The sheer force of his emotions made him dig his nails so hard into his clenched hands that he broke the skin and drew blood. "Why couldn't he love me?" Rufus gasped to the air around him, despite being alone. Even if someone had been there, it would have been worthless, as no-one could give him the answers. "What did I do wrong? I was... I was clever, healthy, I was good enough a businessman to be made his heir... why wasn't I good enough to be his son?" Rufus allowed himself fifteen minutes to weep before he returned to his desk, face composed so that his sadness was not visible to the security cameras. Plenty of people were looking out for signs of madness in him in order that they could have him removed from the office, so showing strength was deadly important.
A few hours later, after finishing the day's paperwork on his computer, Rufus picked up his phone linked directly to his secretary, pausing when he heard her talking to someone else over the phone. "But Tseng, he's such a freak! I'm really uncomfortable working for him." He leant back in his chair and continued to listen to her talking, having figured out that the topic of conversation was himself.
"Hey, if the kid's cruel, he's got his own reasons. I mean, just take a look at what he had to call a dad. Even if it was the old man's memorial service today... says something that only five people who actually knew him turned up."
"Tseng, you know your problem? You're just too nice. That little shit'll walk all over you if you're not careful."
"He's NOT a little shit." Rufus smiled to himself at Tseng's loyalty. "And I'll tell you why he's so fucking cruel. It's 'cause that kid is still a kid. He puts on a great show of being grown up and strong, but underneath that he is still a twisted, spoilt, hurt kid who no-one could be arsed to love when he needed it. You understand?"
"Fuck it, Tseng. You think too much. I'll phone ya later."
Rufus allowed a few seconds to pass before speaking, not wanting Tseng to realise he had listened in to their conversation. "Have I any visitors today? Or messages?"
"Oh! Hi boss, how are you?" Rufus smirked at her faked politeness.
"Fine. Nice to know you care." There was a quiet embarrassed cough on the other end of the line. "Anyway, messages?"
"Oh, nothing. Y'know how it's been recently. There's always a slow in business at this time of ye..." Rufus nodded and put his phone down, returned to the window, admiring the ethereal green mako glow of Midgar. Beautiful Midgar. This city was the legacy of Shinra, this city where the rich lived luxurious lives and the poor lived in poverty. The way things always had been, and always would be. Survival of the fittest.
The young president found his thoughts occupied by Tseng's speech. Only five people who had known his predecessor had shown up to the funeral. Such a popular man. Looking up to the sky, Rufus wondered how many people would turn up to his own funeral, were he to have one. And of those, how many would know him. More importantly, how many of them would actually like him. Tseng was guaranteed to be there, if he was still around. The turks and Shinra soldiers would show up because of tradition. Maybe some of his tutors, if they were still around... strange how he only truly enjoyed the company of people older than him. His peers seemed too immature for decent conversation. Particularly when the closest person in the higher ranks of Shinra to being Rufus' age was Reno of the turks. The young president's eyes narrowed as he thought of the red-haired boy - arrogant, brash, careless - he had more faults than winning qualities. How on earth he got to be a turk, Rufus would never know. With Tseng being straight, he certainly couldn't use Scarlett's method of gaining influence. He smirked as he thought of her horrified expression when he told her why she could never hope to get a romantic hold over himself. It was absolutely priceless.
'You're WHAT?! Sick! That is absolutely...' 'Are you trying to make me sack you? You're certainly going about it the right way.' 'No but... eww! I mean, you actually want other guys to DO you THERE? SICK!'
Yes, he had never seen anyone run quite as fast as Scarlett ran from his office that day. She could have won a chocobo race at the rate she was going, and with the particularly foul shade of blonde her hair was that day, she certainly resembled one of the peculiar birds.
Returning to his computer, Rufus closed down the work files after double-checking that they were all saved with back-up copies, resumed his search through the Shinra files for information on his new obsession. His practise at net-surfing came in very useful as he scanned through the dozens of reports, trying to find actual pictures, until he finally found the page where all the 'censored' photographs were kept. If it was necessary for an assassination to take place, a whole specialist group would turn up, most of whom were busy disabling security cameras in the area, or stealing recordings from the cameras after the event. And those stolen videotapes would remain here, accessible only to the highest ranking Shinra employees - the head of the turks, the head of security, and the head of Shinra itself. Typing in his password, Rufus performed a quick scan, and was pleased to find that there was plenty of video footage featuring Vincent Valentine.
Rufus looked at the images of Vincent in his turk uniform, his neatness putting even Tseng to shame. Here was a man with pride in himself. Caught up in daydreams about the dark-haired man, Rufus barely noticed the time, saving the videos to disk almost absent-mindedly. After a while, Rufus shut down the system and made his way through to his shower, locking the door tight. While soaking himself in the water, the young president found his thoughts growing more explicit, and he was thankful for the hand-grip on the wall as he tried to regain stability. Realising he was never going to get to sleep with the ache in his hips, Rufus relieved the tension with his hands, swallowing water from the shower as he gasped for air, whispering his imaginary lover's name to no-one but himself.
After towel-drying his hair, Rufus found a comb and ran it through his hair, careful not to pull hard on any knots. An unusually serene smile made its way onto his face as he imagined lying in Vincent's arms after making love, his imagination allowing him to forget about the older man's metal left arm temporarily. When his hair had dried fully, the young president let out a quiet yawn and pulled back the sheets on his bed, slipping in and enjoying the feel of cool material against his skin.
Part 3 | Fanfiction