Rating: PG13 for blood/wounds/language.
Length: 3,230 words.
Warnings: Quite a lot of angst, and Cid swearing.
Notes: I write this, as my own idea of what happened after Diamond Weapon. I have not read On The Way To A Smile: Case Of ShinRa yet.
Summary: Rufus escaped ShinRa Building after Diamond Weapon, but he's not entirely sure he wanted to. He wanted to give up -- to just let the Planet open up and swallow him whole so he could be at peace, because although he's lost, he's not sure that he will be found.
Rufus doesn’t remember most of the escape from ShinRa, apart from hard concrete against his feet as he ran, choking on dust and death and air that won’t go into aching lungs, before hurtling down the side of a building, blacking out before he dies.
Should be dead, he thinks slowly, trying to lift an arm. The heavy blankets trap him, and so he slowly thinks on what happened, mentally making a checklist to ensure all of his limbs are present and accounted for. There’s a bandage covering his eyes, completely blocking his vision, and he thrashes against the blankets, kicking for freedom with what little strength remains, until an arm is held against his chest, pushing him down.
“Do not fret,” a voice assures him. Rufus obeys, relaxing. “Sleep.”
But he doesn’t dream.
He can tell it’s daylight when he next wakes, pale yellow light bleeding through the heavy bandage covering his eyes. He coughs once in a futile attempt to clear his throat, before he can’t stop, harsh pain shooting through his chest as he curls in on himself, wanting to die now god make it stop fucking—when there are hands on his chest once more, rubbing soothing circles on his shoulders until the fit subsides.
Rufus is grateful, but confused. “Who are you?” he rasps, and is ashamed at how quiet he is.
“My name is Vincent Valentine,” the voice – Vincent Valentine – responds. “What can you remember?”
sister ray, he thinks. alarms blasting and explosions. a grey tunnel.
“Not much,” He says with all the authority and strength he has. There’s not much of either left in him.
Vincent Valentine (why is that name familiar whywhywhy) shifts at his side. There’s pressure on the mattress, and sharp nails digging into the back of his head as it’s lifted slightly. Rufus closes his eyes as the bandage around them is carefully unwound; waiting until he is placed back down before he attempts to open them.
It’s like knives when he does, white-hot light piercing through his eyes and onto his brain, and he has to shut them after a few seconds.
“I apologise,” he says from far away, and Rufus fights the urge to look for him. “I forgot to tell you; you will probably be very sensitive to light for a few days.”
Rufus nods, but has to stop that too – he feels like one giant ache, each muscle protesting at the mere thought of use, let alone the use itself.
“How badly injured am I?” He asks. It’s not a demand, or curiosity. It’s only asked for the lack of the ability to check for himself.
“Broken wrist and ribs,” the other man says, the sound of his heavy footfalls echoing across the room. “I have set those to the best of my ability, although you would do best not to move around too much for the time being. You have been coughing up blood, though not much. The doctor tells me that will subside. You have also sustained quite a few cuts, and more bruises. They will heal.”
Rufus cracks an eye and looks at him, light bouncing painfully off every surface. His rescuer is too familiar, face obscured by dark hair and darker clothes, a shiny golden claw where an arm should be.
whipping air; a list of names, the old shinra building, a fight
“AVALANCHE,” Rufus spits. Valentine has the courtesy to look bothered. “Trying to get a ransom from what’s left of my company?”
His eyes flash. “I have no reason to blackmail your people, Mr President,” he says icily. Rufus shivers. “I was merely attempting to help you. If you’d like, I could go dig through the rubble where we found you and attempt to find your phone, so that we may contact one of your Turks, although I doubt that would be a fruitful search.”
Rufus suddenly feels very, very small.
“I apologise,” he manages. “How many of you are here?”
Valentine seems to relax. “It is just Cid and I here.” Highwind, says Rufus’ memory, sending him flashes of planes and aborted space missions. “You are in Rocket Town.”
Rocket Town. At least it was safe here, he thought. Oppressively silent, but safe. Rufus shifted, wincing as his muscles protested. Valentine frowned at him.
“You should sleep,” he said slowly. “I will wake you tomorrow.”
“Sleep.” Valentine raises his hand, and Rufus feels the sleep spell wash over him, biting down a protest as he sinks once more into darkness.
He dreams in black and white.
His footsteps echo through the empty passage, but he can still hear the gunshots and explosions going off all around him, and he keeps running, sprinting down corridors he only vaguely knew existed. He is Rufus ShinRa, the most powerful man in the world, and he is running away from a fight. The noble, foolhardy part of him orders him to turn around, fight the enemies and the WEAPONs; to die with the rest of his company.
Instead, he saves himself, and runs.
Diamond WEAPON could have (should have) killed him – left his body hidden amongst the rubble of his building. He runs down black corridors, and comes to a screeching halt at a ledge, looking down at the cars on the street, listening to the groan of steel on metal as the building sways, sways. Diamond WEAPON, Sister Ray. They’ve both done their damage, and the ShinRa Building will not survive it this time.
Rufus wishes (prays) that the same fate does not await him.
True to his word, Valentine wakes him the next morning. Rufus’ eyes still sting from the light, and he requests the blinds be closed before he attempts to open them fully again. The room is still harshly bright to his eyes, but he looks around despite the pain. It was simply furnished – obviously more of a guest room than an oft-used bedroom. The blinds have a crack, which explains the excess light, burning his eyes.
Rufus nods a brisk hello at Valentine.
“Cid found a chair,” Valentine says, gesturing towards a metal wheelchair, clean and harshly metallic against the casual softness of the room. “This way you will be able to move around freely. I believe that will help you in the long run.”
“You’re forgetting something,” Rufus says, and is pleased to hear how much better he sounds, voice cracking less than it had yesterday. “I can’t exactly move without pain as it is. So getting into the chair in the first place will be an issue. Also, you appear to have bandaged both of my hands, meaning that I still can’t move around without assistance. ”
He breaks off, coughing again. So much for healing.
Valentine pushes the chair over, regardless. “I can lift you into the chair.” Rufus spares the other man’s metallic hand a glance, before nodding weakly.
He’s pushed into a sitting position too quickly, and he manages to spit out a word of protest before he’s lifted from the bed like a child, as Valentine carefully sits him in the chair. Rufus coughs roughly, tasting blood on his lips as he glares up, wiping his lips with a bandaged hand.
“That does not deal with the I cannot wheel this chair myself issue,” Rufus spat.
“That is an unnecessary concern,” Valentine assures him serenely. “I will be back in a moment,” he adds, before sweeping out the door.
Rufus watches him leave. The man, while obviously doing this for no other reason than to be kind, or helpful, had a positively shitty bedside manner.
Tiredly, he takes this chance to survey himself. True to Valentine’s words, he’s bandaged around his abdomen, heavy linen straining against the light shirt he has been put into. Both of his hands are also bandaged, although, upon careful testing, it appears that only the left wrist is actually broken. Why the other hand is bandaged remains a mystery. His forehead stings, and so does his cheek. Rufus thinks for a moment that he doesn’t want to know why it feels as though he’s been dragged through glass.
He decides that the windows probably broke as he fell. It would explain a lot, really.
There are footsteps once more, and Valentine appears in the doorway. “Ready?”
Rufus nods, a tad weakly. “Let’s move,” he orders.
He’s still for a moment, as Valentine silently walks around behind him, before he’s being pushed forward, wheels running smoothly over wooden floors. After a few silent seconds, he’s pushed into a small kitchen, where Cid Highwind sits at a table, glaring viciously at him. Idly, Rufus realises all the blinds have been closed.
“Nice to see you up’n’about,” the pilot grunts. “Though you still look like shit,”
“Thank you, Captain,” Rufus smiles. “I appreciate—“
“Don’t gimme that schmoopy you saved my life shit,” He demands, focusing on his cigarette. “It was fuckin’ Vincent’s idea anyway.”
Rufus tries to twist and look at Valentine, but has to stop, hissing in pain as his ribs protest the movement. He relaxes back into the chair, sighing heavily.
“I thank you both regardless,” he breathes. Cid takes another puff of his cigarette, and Rufus has to fight the urge to walk over there and rip it from his mouth, crumple it into dust like he would have if it was Reno.
Reno, who was probably dead. Rude too, along with Tseng and Elena. Something catches in his throat, and he chokes, eyes watering. He can feel Valentine’s hand on his shoulder, but he ignores it. There’s pressure in his chest and building up behind his eyes that he wants to attribute to his injuries, to the fight and fall and pain of the past few days, but knows that if he is being honest, he can’t. He wants to apologise for being such a burden, for forcing this on them, for being weak, even though he knows that’s irrational and he has no reason to feel so--
Cid kindly averts his eyes as Rufus tilts his head down, coughing a few times to clear his throat, shame bubbling in his chest as he feels tears stream down his face.
He doesn’t apologise.
Days turn into weeks.
Rufus grows used to the monotony of Cid’s small home. His vision returns after a few days, and he gets Vincent – not Valentine, Rufus, I have a name -- to open the blinds so he can stare out, across the grassy plains and away from the town, dreams of Midgar swimming in his head. He had removed the bandages covering his right hand after the first day, but replaced them quickly. He must’ve tried to protect his head as he fell from the building, skin scraped and angry red against the white fabric, cracking with movement.
He began to refuse Cure spells, waiting instead for his bones to heal on their own. The old President ShinRa had insisted that they made you weak, made you rely on others for support and you shouldn’t do that, Son, because you don’t need anyone else, Son.. His father had refused them to spite Hojo and his science department, to show that he was made of stronger stuff than them, and to show the world that he was not easily beaten by trivial wounds.
Rufus refused healing because he wanted the world to beat him.
Vincent and Cid had both tried to get him to talk, after his minor breakdown in the kitchen, about what had happened. They’d assured him that yes, Cloud and the others are looking for the Turks now, I swear and it’ll be okay kid, but Rufus didn’t listen. He wanted to give up – to just let the Planet open up and swallow him whole, the way the Planet had opened up and fought Meteor. He wanted to just live out the rest of his life alone and quiet and beaten.
He didn’t want to fight anymore.
Rufus feels hope again, three weeks after he wakes.
Vincent wakes him earlier than usual, helping him move slowly from his bed to the wheelchair, shaking legs and aching ribs protesting still. He’s wheeled down the same corridor again, before he’s turned, pushed into the living room instead of the kitchen.
“What?” He asks, as they round the corner, before he’s faced with someone he thought he’d never see again.
“Elena?” he hisses, eyes widening.
“Ruf— Mr President!” She stumbles over her words, before offering a quick salute. The gesture is so formal in this soft, quiet house that he nearly breaks down into tears upon seeing it. “I’m so glad someone found you!”
He stares at her, blankly. He’s also fairly sure his mouth is hanging open.
“I mean,” she says, pushing blonde hair out of her eyes, white bandage visible under her sleeve, “Reno and Rude, they were looking, but we had no traces of you for miles and Tseng was so mad that no-one could find you, so he was always yelling at us, and – “
Rufus stands on his own for the first time in three weeks, and crosses the room, grabbing Elena roughly and hugging her, burying his face in her shoulder. He feels her tense, then relax as her arms come up, patting him on the back shakily.
“Um, Sir?” Elena coughs politely after a few moments, and he steps backwards, legs shaking. She looks slightly flustered. He can’t blame her.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “You were saying?”
“No-one else knows you’re here,” She blurts, and Rufus has to take a moment for the words to sink in.
“What,” he demands flatly, watching some of the colour leech from Elena’s face.
“I mean,” she rushes, “I was walking through Midgar looking for anything I could find that could tell us where you were, and Mr Valentine just came out of nowhere and told me to come with him. And, well, I figured that because he’s an ex-Turk I could trust him, so I did and next thing I know, I’m here.”
Rufus stands still for a few moments, thinking. He doesn’t realise how much his legs are shaking until Vincent pulls his wheelchair up behind him, forcing him to sit as he sifts through the information.
“Elena,” he starts, looking at her. She looks frightened for a moment. “Did you bring your phone?”
She nods, reaching into one of her pockets and pulling it out slowly. Rufus holds out a shaking hand, careful not to snatch it away the moment Elena drops it into his palm. Flipping it open, he shuffles clumsily though her contacts, reaching one of the numbers and hitting dial.
The sound of the phone ringing is almost unbearable in its length, although it could only have been dialling for a few seconds. His breath catches as there is a click from the other end of the line, and the tell-tale noise of someone’s breath on the receiver.
“Elena,” Tseng says, sounding irritated through the buzzing of the speakers. “I hope you have a very good reason as to why you’re not—“
“Tseng,” He says, and hates the shake in his throat.
There’s a long pause on both ends of the phone. Rufus can hear Tseng breathe, in-out-in-out-in—
“Elena was contacted by Vincent Valentine,” he says, for lack of better words, although he is sure that would change if he was alone. “He, along with Cid Highwind, were the ones who found me after the explosion. “
“You survived?” Tseng sounds surprised, Rufus notes with some humour. It’s nice to know his staff have such faith in him. “How? We thought that Diamond WEAPON obliterated—“
“One of father’s security tunnels,” he remarks, drily. “As it turns out, he was good for something.”
“It is nice to know you’re alive, Sir,” Tseng says, and the relief in his voice is clear. There’s the muffled sound of a door opening. Rufus sighs.
“I will have Elena head back to Midgar,” he says, seeing her nod her agreement from the corner of his eye. Vincent and Cid are blessedly silent.
“Understood. We will come to retrieve you within the week.”
“See that you do,” Rufus orders, and the phone clicks, flashing call ended call ended across the screen. He hands the device back to Elena.
“You understand your orders?” he asks, eyeing her seriously.
Elena nods. “Return to Tseng, tell him where you are. Bring him and the others back here.”
Rufus smiles, rubbing carefully at the healing cuts on his face. “Thank you, Elena,” he says honestly.
It’s worth it to see her smile, although his relief is short lived – it is as soon as she arrives, that she leaves again, dusty uniform fading away into the distance on someone else’s motorcycle. He feels faintly sad, and is only half aware of Cid talking to him, before he places bandaged hands on the wheels and moves them, slowly (achingly slowly) heading back in the direction of his room.
That night, he dreams in colour.
He’s in Midgar, the sun rising over the ruins of city, setting it aflame with orange light. He’s standing at the top of what seems to be the old ShinRa building, wind whipping his coat out behind him, like some obscure bird, or some daytime drama villain.
He takes a moment, staring out at the spectacle the light makes, fire-red on the hills and deep blue in the shadows and cracks, setting the city into motion even though it is too early to be awake. There’s a noise to his left, and he turns. Turks.
He wakes before he sees their faces.
It’s been a month when the cars arrive.
Vincent and Cid hang back, having already said their farewells. Rufus thanks them as best he can, but still thinks that there must be more done, more to thank the people who saved his life out of nothing more than kindness. He makes a decision as he watches the cars pull around in front of the house – a donation to the Highwind and her hometown, made by an ‘anonymous’ donor.
It’s not much, but it’ll do.
He smiles shakily when Tseng hops out of the front seat. He’s managed to walk and stand without his wheelchair for a few days now, but never for long. His legs and ribs still ache, but that will heal, or so Vincent tells him.
“Sir,” Tseng says, nodding. “It’s a relief to see you.”
Rufus smiles fully. “It’s a relief to be able to return home.”
He can see the rest of his Turks waiting beside the cars – Rude and Reno (smiling, how can he always be smiling) beside one, the back seat packed with what looks like provisions and all that’s left of the materia, Elena waiting patiently by the other, saluting him when he catches her eye.
They’re his Turks, he realises with a start. Not his father’s. They’ve fought and bled and almost died for him, and there’s proof of that etched into their skin through scars that will never quite heal and memories of fights they can’t forget. They’re here to bring him back to them, to where he belongs.
“Are you ready to go, Sir?” Tseng asks, snapping Rufus from his reverie.
“Of course,” Rufus says, and smiles.