Doves Cry: Lessons
"Dream if you can a courtyard,
An ocean of violets in bloom...
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat-the heat between me and you..."
A square of white light appeared in the blackness of Rufus's apartment, making the man in the doorway look like a figure cut from black paper. He waited for acknowledgement, but there was none.
"Rufus-sama? Your father sent me."
Something stirred restlessly in the shadows. "Which one are you? Forgive me, but you all turn into a pinstripe blur."
The shadow shifted. "Tseng. I don't believe we've met."
"Lovely. Then you have nothing but my father's opinion of me to go on. " There was a clink of ice, as in a glass. "Go away. I have no use for a spy."
The presence in the doorway did not budge. "Your father respects you very much, Rufus-sama. Otherwise he would have just had me come kill you, not spy on you."
The shadow tilted its head, strands of blond hair catching the light. "And if he ordered you to come kill me, would you have?"
No hesitation. "Of course. I am a Turk."
Rufus stood up, black against the lit skyline outside his window. "You certainly are a bloodless lot."
"Forgive my bluntness, sir, but we think the same thing about you."
Rufus turned around slowly, the broken illumination from the doorway washing over his tired features. The black double-breasted suit he still wore from the funeral was not a color that complimented his complexion. In addition, his sapphire eyes were red from crying, his hair rumpled carelessly. "Really." He gripped the back of his leather swivel chair for support. "You think so?"
Tseng shifted his weight, reconsidering. "Sir. My condolences, about your mother. She was an extraordinary woman. I only got to meet her once, but she was very... vibrant. You must miss her very much."
Rufus lifted his head, his smile tight. "Thank you, Tseng. I think you're the first person today to say that to me and mean it." He gestured to the dark room. "Come in. I'd appreciate honest company, even if it is one of my father's spies."
"Sir." Tseng inclined his head slightly, shoes crunching on broken glass as he entered. He looked at the remains of the scotch glass, but knew his place better than to ask.
Rufus sat back down, gesturing at the bar. "Feel free to make yourself a drink."
Tseng bowed again. "Thank you sir, but no."
Rufus ran a hand through his hair, as if realizing he must look unkempt. "No drinking on duty, mm? Well have a seat, then. Unless you don't sit on duty, either?"
Tseng smiled faintly, and settled in the chair opposite Rufus. The room was not as dark as it seemed to be from the bright hallway, and he could see as the president's son eyed him shrewdly, summing him up.
"How old are you, Tseng?"
"Twenty six, sir."
Rufus rattled the ice in his glass. "You must find it tiresome, being sent to babysit a little boy."
"I do my duty, sir. And you're hardly a little boy."
Rufus smiled thoughtfully at his scotch. "Perhaps. I'm afraid spying on me is going to be dreadfully boring, Tseng. I don't do much."
"You must do something, Rufus-sama, or your father would not be afraid of you."
Rufus stilled, his fingertips hovering delicately over his armrest. "Afraid? Of me?"
"You've been raised to be his successor, Rufus-sama. I'm afraid that makes you a very dangerous young man. Especially with no love lost between you."
Rufus raised an eyebrow. "You tell me this to let my guard down?"
"I tell you this because it's true." Tseng cleared his throat. "I'll be blunt with you, Rufus-sama. Yes, your father wants me to spy on you. That is obviously why I'm here; you are hardly in need of a bodyguard in your own apartment. Everyone but your father seems to know you hold no plots against him. All you have to do is wait, and it will all fall into your hands. But your father believes that everyone is as impatient as he is. He expects you to move against him because it's what HE would do."
Rufus was silent a long moment, looking out at the skyline. "I hope," he said at last, "that after my father is gone you will remain with Shinra. I would appreciate having your honesty. "
"I am a Turk, sir." Tseng smiled. "It's not the sort of occupation one quits."
"Bored out of your mind yet, Tseng?" Rufus sat at his computer desk, changing the screen colors for the umpteenth time. "It's been two whole weeks and there's been no attempt on my life yet."
Tseng, at his chosen post by the window, shook his head. "You don't need a bodyguard, Rufus-sama. We both know why I'm really here."
"Mmm. Perhaps I SHOULD plot to overthrow my father. Just to give you something to do?" He flashed a smile. "Here." Rufus opened up a program, and typed in an enormous, dreadfully silly font: PLOT TO KILL MY FATHER. STEP ONE: GET A GUN. STEP TWO: SHOOT HIM. He printed out a copy and tossed it over his shoulder to land on the carpeting. "Oops! GOSH! I sure hope my BODYGUARD doesn't find that! He might be a SPY!"
Tseng, in spite of his professionalism, was laughing. An edged sense of humor was the last thing he expected to find in Rufus Shinra. His father certainly didn't have one to pass on and Rufus, at public functions, maintained a façade that was nothing short of glacial. Charming, polite, and beautiful, yes, but deadly cold, and vaguely ominous. This Rufus that was shaking his head with amusement must have inherited personality from his mother.
"I'm afraid you might need to take up crochet, Tseng." Rufus shredded the paper into confetti and deleted any traces of the unsaved file. "I spent most of my time in my mother's company and now I'm afraid I'm rather at loose ends."
"With your mother?" Tseng knew better than to ask directly.
"Doing what, you wonder?" Rufus eyed him askance. "Well, certainly not what my old man thinks. She was my tutor, really. I had all my schooling under her and we would read together a great deal of the time... or play chess... I was four the first time I beat her."
Tseng looked out at the city, just beginning to sparkle for the evening. "While I admire teaching political strategy so early, you must have wanted to go out into the city from time to time. Did you?"
Rufus rose fluidly, standing at Tseng's shoulder. "Not often. Mother disliked it, and anything I wanted for myself could be brought to me. I admit to a certain curiosity, but I couldn't very well go alone."
Tseng was silent for a moment, thinking. "Rufus-sama, if you would indulge me- " He lifted Rufus's favorite white trenchcoat off the back of the chair, and held it out. "I would love to provide you with an escort."
Rufus smiled, and turned to let Tseng drape his coat around his shoulders. The Turk's hands lingered a moment too long on Rufus's upper arms, the utter privacy of the two of them together suddenly very strong to Rufus. It occurred to him that Tseng had never touched him, not in all the long hours they'd spent in each other's company. Soft strands of dark hair teased Rufus's ear- for a moment Rufus expected Tseng to pull him in closer, to nuzzle his hair and let Rufus linger long enough to identify the exotic spice scent that clung to Tseng's skin.
But he was released, not abruptly but with the same smoothness of a rehearsed dance move, leaving Rufus feeling childish for thinking it was anything but a subordinate's courtesy. Rufus fidgeted with the lapel of his coat, too aware that his hands were trembling. "Well. I'll just phone down for the car-"
"If you don't mind," Tseng said, sliding into his own coat, "I'll drive us."
Rufus hesitated over the call button, but finally he shrugged. "Living dangerously, mm, Tseng?"
Tseng bowed. "If going somewhere without your chauffeur is living dangerously, then I should let you have my job for a day."
Rufus snorted. "I'd shoot myself in the foot." He held out his hands, crossed at the wrists. "So are you kidnapping me or not?"
The sleek black car pulled into a reserved spot on the street, situated nicely in front of a line of shops and cafés. It was a section of town Rufus hadn't been in, but that wasn't saying much. Though it wasn't quite as tidy as the museums and boutiques he was used to, it was still one of the better sections of upper Midgar. The pavement was shining with a faint oily sheen from the light rain and the windows all looked warm and inviting, colored splashes of comfort against the cold asphalt streets.
"Where are we?" he asked, as Tseng turned off the engine and came around to open Rufus's door.
"Favorite place of mine. I think you'll like it." He escorted Rufus to a narrow brick storefront with only one fogged window and a painted wooden sign reading "La Vitesse." Tseng opened the door, gesturing for Rufus to precede him.
A warm scent floated out onto the street: expensive coffee, really good Alfredo sauce, and candles. Rufus stepped into the dim room, Tseng a reassuring presence at his back. The small space was made cozy by deep plush booths, the sound of a saxophone somewhere playing softly and the murmur of cutlery.
"Follow me, Sir." Tseng led Rufus through the maze of booths, moving with an ease of long familiarity. He stopped at a circular booth set back from the rest of the tables, and raised an eyebrow at the two occupants who seemed deeply engrossed in doing nothing.
"Making your tab worse, boys?"
The scruffier of the two blinked, abandoning his pastime of spitting gummi moogles on a toothpick and melting them over the small guttering candle on the table. "Tseng! Where the hell you been, man?" His green eyes focused on Rufus, standing just a step behind Tseng and unconsciously radiating confidence. "Hey, I get it. You got a new pet, huh? No wonder you ain't been around, with a tart like that." The redhead smirked at Rufus. "Whatcher name, cutie?"
Rufus froze, fumbling for a reaction to this, lucky that his natural expression was one of slightly insulted arrogance. Tseng's spine stiffened slightly, and he seemed torn between apologizing to Rufus and beating the living shit out of the young man in the booth.
"Reno," the other booth member lifted his head, candlelight flickering over his sunglasses. "Try to overcome your moronic tendencies for once. That's Rufus Shinra. His daddy's name is on your paycheck."
Reno looked like he expected the name to show up on his execution order as well. "Ru-fuck! I mea, I-I didn't-I thought you were Tseng's uh-his um, not that you WOULD be or anything but-shit." He took a nervous gulp of his espresso and tried not to look petrified.
"Relax, Reno." Tseng chuckled softly under his breath. "I'm sure he won't fire you. Will you, Rufus-sama?" Tseng glanced over his shoulder and Rufus, catching on, shrugged.
"No. It'd be less paperwork if I just shot him."
Reno went white. "Shot?"
"God, Reno, have some balls. He's jerkin' yer chain." Rude scooted over to make room in the booth. "Have a seat, sir. Can Reno remove his boot from his mouth and get you a drink?"
"Absolutely," Reno nodded, fleeing to the bar before taking Rufus's order. He seemed to need the drink more anyway.
"You'll have to forgive Reno," Tseng said, settling down in the youngest Turk's abandoned seat. "He's only been a Turk a few months and hasn't quite developed the proper demeanor."
"He looked petrified," Rufus commented, mostly to himself. "He can't be much older than me."
"Seventeen." Tseng folded his hands on the table. "We just lost a member unexpectedly, so we had to pull from the ranks a little younger than we usually do."
"Lost a member?"
Rufus glanced at Rude, but the shaved Turk was inscrutable behind his shades. For a moment, though, Tseng's gaze on his fellow was deeply sympathetic.
"I uh, I ordered you a house cappuccino." Reno reappeared, shifting his weight and looking none the better for the shot of something Rufus had seen him toss back at the bar. "Is that alright, sir?"
Rufus nodded, with a smile that lacked the greasy quality of his father's. "Relax, Reno. I'm not going to take your head off."
"Might mess up his suit," Rude muttered, "If Reno's guts are as spastic as the rest of him."
"Fuck off, Rude." Reno said affectionately, flopping down next to Tseng with an air of relief. "Geez, Rufus. Your old man woulda tossed me out the window for that."
President Shinra's office was on the seventieth floor; and it had been previously proven to be a fatal drop.
Rufus's expression stilled, blue eyes cool and distantly ominous on the youngest Turk. "One thing you should know, Reno. I am not my father."
The air seemed to thicken with implications, and Reno nodded his spiky head, swallowing hard. "Yes, sir."
Something shivered down Rufus's spine, a manifestation of the ghostlike vestiges he'd felt before. Power. It made his fingers tingle, his heart speed up just a fraction. Reno was a Turk; he had to know fifty different ways to kill a man with his bare hands before he could even be considered for the rank, and he was petrified of Rufus. Rufus could have laughed out loud. He didn't even know how to fire a gun.
These will be MY Turks, he thought, a flush coming to his cheeks. I will make them mine. And then they will give me this Planet on a tray.
Tseng watched the quietness settle over Rufus's body, watched the faint darkening of his irises and the barest touch of blood ruddy his cheekbones. He smiled into his coffee cup. Now you know who you are, Rufus Shinra. You know why your father fears you. Crush him if you want, the old slug is careless and he deserves it. Thank your dead mother for making you angry, Rufus Shinra; but I will make you ruthless.
Rude set his mug down irritably. "Crissakes, Reno! Quit twitching!"
On cue the background noise of the restaurant seemed to come back into the atmosphere of their booth; the tension evaporated. Rufus blinked as if wondering where he was, and wrapped his half-gloved hands around the oversized mug of cappuccino. "So," he began, putting on his best charming expression and innocent eyes, "What exactly do you DO?"
"No no no no no," Reno said, two hours, two sushi platters and about six rounds of drinks later, "Get this. We walk in this place and Tseng says he's looking for a blonde he met in a bar topside, right? So the guy thinks Tseng's looking to, y'know, rent for the hour and not hold somebody for questioning. So we wind up in this posh suite in the Honey Bee with this... this..." adjectives failed Reno, he held out both hands and gestured lushly over his chest. "RACK, who's REALLY enthused about her work. And Tseng don't even LIKE girls-man I thought we were gonna hafta pry her off with a crowbar or somethin'. You shoulda seen his face though, it was effing priceless..."
Rufus listened attentively, pretending he had half a clue as to most of the places and activities that Reno assumed he knew. As if just being born Rufus Shinra made him instantly worldly-wise; as if most of his sixteen years hadn't been spent in the same six rooms of his apartments. Rufus's gaze flickered to Tseng on the line about not liking girls; being sheltered didn't mean he was stupid. But the sleek-haired Turk was drinking his coffee calmly, ignoring Reno for the most part and only offering occasional corrections.
Rufus continued to nod absently, his mind going back to when Tseng wrapped him in his coat. If Rufus had been the kind of person that Reno assumed he was, what would Tseng have done? Tseng HAD hesitated, Rufus was sure of it. Those long fingers had tightened on his shoulders; the warmth of his breath had been feather-light on the back of Rufus's neck, just a centimeter too close.
Reno laughed about something Rude said in response to his grand finale and Rufus started, realizing he'd been staring intently at Tseng's face for some time now. Tseng, dark eyes narrow and shining, was staring right back.
The room was abruptly too hot; Rufus had to keep from looking like he was fleeing in panic as he rose to his feet. "Excuse me, but it's a bit stuffy in here and-"
"Oh Hells yeah," Reno agreed, fanning himself with a stray napkin. "There's a garden out back if-"
"I'll escort him," Tseng interjected, sliding out of his booth. "You two stay and enjoy your drinks, we'll be right back. Sir?" Tseng gestured for Rufus to follow him and Rufus, almost wishing it were Reno instead, complied.
The door was almost hidden in an alcove of plants behind the massive aquarium, and the keypad concealed by a false light switch. Tseng punched in a complicated code and the door shivered open.
A small garden was nestled behind the coffee shop, safe within high brick walls and lit by tiny lamps along the paths. Rufus had expected a stone courtyard with carefully raked gravel and no flowers; the only kind of garden he had ever seen in Midgar. But this was a riot of life and roses, lush and secret and warm despite the cold rain a few hours ago.
"I didn't know there was such a place in Midgar."
"Do you like it?" Tseng quietly shut the door behind him.
Rufus took a few steps deeper in, the wet stones gritting under his shoes. "It's beautiful. But why is it here?"
"La Vitesse is run by one of the few Turks who ever lived long enough to retire-she built it." Tseng lifted a burgundy rose, velvet petals jeweled with rain. "She always loved roses, and complained that there was no point in having off days without a decent place in Midgar to hang out." He inhaled the flower's rare scent, fingers lovingly brushing the thorns.
"Why did you bring me here tonight, Tseng?" Rufus gazed up at the milky-green clouds, smog reflecting Midgar's mako-lit glow.
"The Turks will be very useful to you, once you're president. I thought it best you get to know us now. Don't let Reno fool you; he is a very dangerous young man."
"Who is afraid of me." Rufus countered, perhaps jealous at the praise.
"Afraid of your name. You cannot rely on that forever." Tseng cleared his throat. "Sir. Someday you will have to fall into that name. You had best have allies and ammunition when you do."
"Well see to it, then, Tseng," Rufus retorted, mocking. "My father put you on me as watchdog; if you want-"
"There are ways around your father, Rufus." Tseng paused. "I do not think there should be ways around you."
Rufus folded his arms, deliberately turning his back on Tseng. "Then I have a lot of catching up to do. I'll get nowhere if everyone thinks I'm your pet."
"I'm sorry for that, Rufus-sama." Tseng bowed, and Rufus granted him half a glance in curiosity. "I should have told them we were coming."
"Was it an unlikely assumption on his part, Tseng?" Rufus turned. Tseng was standing stiffly, eyes on the ground.
"No sir, it was not." Tseng looked him in the eye. "I am usually in the company of well-dressed beautiful young men."
Rufus felt the blush before he saw the slightly triumphant lift to Tseng's lips, and became fascinated with a nearby wisteria tree. "Well," he said briskly, "I'm afraid I'd be a sad excuse for one of them. I lack the required skills."
"I hope this doesn't make you uncomfortable, Rufus-sama." Tseng's eyes narrowed speculatively. "I am just your bodyguard and well aware of my position."
"I am not uncomfortable," Rufus returned, sharply. "I am simply stating fact. You may fuck whomever you choose, Tseng. It makes no difference to me."
For a moment Tseng remembered what it was like to be sixteen and wildly jealous. "Doesn't it."
"You have my permission to stop picking at me." Rufus tossed his hair. "If you are so concerned about the matter you could procure one of your boys for me to practice on."
"I'd rather not," Tseng said, and something about his tone made Rufus look up, surprised. "Whores talk, Rufus, and if you wish to get involved with one it should be someone you either trust or can dispose of. Rentboys only fit one of those categories, and killing them is a rather pathetic waste of life and time. Keep your innocence and you keep your reputation and your cold distance. Your father never learned that, and it has cost him."
Rufus was silent a long moment, wondering how many of those beautiful, well-dressed young men were still alive. "You're a spy, Tseng."
"Would you tell my father?"
"Tell him what, sir?"
"If I asked you to kiss me."
"There is no reason to." Tseng shook his head. "It's no threat to his authority."
Tseng hesitated. "Do you trust me, Rufus-sama?"
Rufus smiled. "No, Tseng."
"Smart boy." Tseng reached out with both hands, lifting Rufus's face. "Let me show you."
Tseng's lips closed over his, gentle and coaxing. He tasted like bitter chocolate and cinnamon liqueur, warm and spiced and dangerous. Rufus surrendered to the lesson, instinctively sucking on the tongue that slipped into his mouth, caressing him from the inside out. It seemed to last forever; every motion of Tseng's lips against his own made the heat between Rufus's legs double, until even the kiss was torment, ruthless in its intensity. Tseng murmured words of encouragement and instruction, to linger more here, to suckle a little more gently, to do it back to him. His long fingers were tangled in Rufus's immaculate hair, one leg pressed against Rufus so that the Shinra heir was half-straddling him, clutching the lapels of his suit. When Tseng pulled back it caught Rufus off balance; he stumbled back against a wrought iron bench, his mouth tingling and still tasting of cinnamon invasion.
"Do you think you have it now?"
Rufus nodded, resisting the urge to touch his lips and see if they were as swollen as he thought they were. He grimaced at wet seeped from the bench onto his pant leg, and brushed at his suit, trying to imitate Tseng's nonchalance. "Thank you, Tseng."
"Perhaps this was not the best place for this," Tseng commented under his breath, frowning thoughtfully at the small garden.
"Would you like to go back inside?" Rufus asked, smoothing a hand over his hair. It wouldn't do to come back looking rumpled.
Tseng smiled ruefully. "You are too used to the company of your mother, Rufus-sama. I am your subordinate. If you wish to go back inside, we go back inside. If not, we stay here."
"Oh." Rufus obviously hadn't thought of it quite that way, but he caught on quickly. "Well then." He reached out slowly, the black silk of Tseng's tie cool against his fingertips as he wound it around his fist. "Then I'd like another lesson, Tseng."
Tseng's exotic eyes glittered dangerously. "That does not mean I'm your plaything, Rufus."
Rufus tilted his head. It was a rare experience to be refused something. His grip on the tie tightened, knuckles going white. The heady rush of power added force to the heat between his legs, blending with the intoxicating smell of roses and Tseng. "Did you," he asked quietly, "Just tell me no?"
With the smallest noise of impatience, as if the whole ordeal were tiresome, Tseng reached up and with his thumb and forefinger casually applied force to Rufus's wrist. Rufus gasped silently but to his credit did not flinch as his hand went painfully numb. Reflexively, his fingers let the tie unravel.
"You want a lesson, Princeling? Learn this first." Tseng leaned in closer, his greater height suddenly very imposing. "Don't misunderstand me, Rufus *sama.* I would dearly love to peel you out of every designer stitch you're wearing and push between your spread thighs until you came all over yourself like any little whore in Wall Market's silk pavilion." His fingers tightened, letting Rufus know how easily Tseng could shatter fragile wristbones. "I may be subject to orders but I will not be a personal trinket for a spoiled brat to do with what he pleases. In bed, if nowhere else, I am your superior. I suggest you think very hard about that before you *request* anything else." He released Rufus and politely turned his head as the young man clutched his hand to his chest, squeezing his eyes shut for the agonizing seconds it took for sensation to return. Then Tseng bowed, eyes lowered, and motioned for Rufus to precede him into the coffeehouse. "After you, Sir."
Rufus, who had gone from flushed to deadly pale, lifted his head proudly. "Perhaps we can continue this conversation later, Tseng." He spared the Turk only the half-glance required. "In private."
Tseng delicately straightened his tie. "As you wish, Sir." His bodyguard followed him back into La Vitesse, the honorary three steps behind.