It probably runs in the family.
Just how much could a child resemble its parent?
He didn’t know about other people, but he could say with certainty that his son was just like him.
Soft-spoken. Intelligent. A cheeky, smug little brat, and, as some would describe, devilishly handsome—just like him.
Rufus would have scoffed and shaken his head, but he couldn’t muster the strength to, and instead just stared listlessly ahead of him, a weary finger fiddling with the unfamiliar trigger of the empty pistol.
Bottom line was, he loved his son, even if he didn’t tell the brat that quite enough.
Or at all.
The brick wall before him was grey in colour, with dark moss tucked in every crack and indent, and graffiti scaling its height. It was grey like the rest of the slums of Edge, and grey like the shade of his life these past fifteen years or so.
Rufus sat alone on the dirty street that was still wet from the downpour, with puddles of what he hoped to be pure water collected in the potholes, reflecting a faded crescent moon drowning in ink.
Head hung, ashen locks falling into his face, he could feel the dampness of the alley seeping into his clothes as he leant against the rough surface of the adjacent wall for support.
This was what the President of Shin·Ra had been reduced to. A fugitive hiding in the slums, hoping that trashcans and a metal staircase would shield him from inevitable doom.
It was so silent around him, save for the sound of critters scurrying across strewn garbage and rubbles, but he’d been with Turks long enough to know silence didn’t necessarily mean absence.
The putrid stench of trash and stagnant mud filled his nostrils, but he hardly cared as long as he was still breathing.
He heaved shallow, laboured breaths, and the pain, oh, the pain was threatening to burn him alive even as the rest of his body mimicked the temperature of a corpse. He felt cold from the chilly autumn wind. From his soaked suit, smeared with black and red, and from the blood loss.
His left hand was laid over his hip, supposedly to press down on the wound, but as had been established he wasn’t the strongest man alive at the moment.
Ha, alive. He’d been a dead man walking for Gaia knew how long now.
He felt so weak, and it hurt. Rufus had been through way worse, but never before had he felt so hopeless and scared and so much like a failure.
It must be because of the person he would be leaving behind. That insolent kid he’d had with the lovely Tifa Lockhart.
Tifa, ah, kind and selfless Tifa. His beautiful wife.
His eyes glazed over as he began to remember and regret.
He’d failed her. Failed their son.
He remembered holding the newborn in his arms, fumbling, standing in that hospital room next to an exhausted Tifa, and swearing, in his heart, to never be like his father. To love and protect their precious Sirius.
But there were things that were never meant to be, and promises that could never be kept.
Like how he’d vowed to protect her and grow old with her on their wedding day, only to lose her to a terrorist attack six years later.
Or how he’d tried to do good, but would always be viewed as the greatest evil that ever graced the Planet.
Granted, his business choices might not have been good ones, but they had been the best considering the wretched times they lived in.
Alas, people still needed someone to blame for their woes and suffering, and, in a world that had branded Shin·Ra as the irredeemable villain, he never stood a chance.
If he was scorned regardless of his deeds, then did the ethics of his choices matter anymore?—was something he’d started thinking, and it wasn’t long before the third incarnation of AVALANCHE came into the picture. And the rest was history.
Rufus supposed that Tifa would still be here with him had he not been the leader of the ever-hated Shin·Ra.
Had he let go of his ambition, let go of his need for control and dominance, if not for their child then at least for Tifa, who’d protected him, had stayed by his side despite knowing very well what kind of man he was and all that he’d done and would do.
If he had, maybe she would still be alive, with him, and their son. And they would be able to end this fucked up tradition of the Shinra family.
But no, he couldn’t let go of his legacy. It was all he knew. All he’d been raised to know.
So he blamed the terrorists, hunted them down. He crushed his enemies and made examples of them so that the world knew exactly what he could do, what he was capable of.
No one touched a Shinra and got away with their lives.
Just like his father had, he controlled the world with fear.
Refroze his heart. Buried himself in work. Be the bloodless, tearless monster that the people envisioned him as.
That left his son in a position much like his own, with a dead mother and an absent father, groomed from a young age solely by tutors and servants.
The kid grew up to be so much like him, maybe he should be proud.
“There you are, old man,” said a soft voice eerily like his own, but only of a time long, long past. It echoed between the two walls of the alley together with the sounds of hard soles crushing loose gravel. “You really made it hard to find you.”
Rufus lifted his head to see his son coming up to him, the black smudge of a Turk shadowing the kid.
Blond hair and blue eyes. Pale skin.
Ruthless and ambitious.
A toxic concoction of pride and arrogance, even if he didn’t let it on with his polite attitude and culled demeanour.
Impatient, and hated—loathed his own father.
Rufus might as well have been looking at himself.
“Who would have thought you’d come here, of all places.” The click of the safety lock being removed rung in the empty space, much like it did in his empty heart, and his sawed-off shotgun was pointed straight at him. “Did you want your grave to be here?”
In the filthy back alley behind a rundown, abandoned bar?
Yes. A thousand times yes.
Her grave would have been ideal, but considering they’d never recovered a body, this was the next best thing.
The kid didn’t know, but this was the place. It had been a pretty nice back alley at the time, still filthy, but not quite as disgusting, when she was still running the bar.
This was the very spot where he’d asked her, both of them battered and limp, in the haze of adrenaline and desperation, as they hid from their pursuers, waiting for his Turks or her friends to come rescue them.
It was one of the few instances where he didn’t carefully vet the words that left his mouth, and there were no craft nor wile to his intention. Just a sincere hope she would be with him, be his even if just for a few moments before their lives ended.
Enchanting red eyes. Raven locks matted with blood and sweat. Skin that seemed flawless even with all the bruises blooming across it. A soft, tired yes that had escaped her cut lips, in response to his unceremonious, four-word proposal, and the prospect of dying had never felt so worth it before.
It was right here that he’d confessed. It was right here that she’d made him a happy man. And it was right here that they’d exchanged hastily uttered vows, not knowing if they were going to make it through the night alive.
But their kid didn’t know any of this. He didn’t know because they’d never talked. He never got to know his mother because Rufus refused to talk about her, because talking required remembering and remembering was too hard, too painful.
Because when the stories ended and the memories faded, he would have to open his eyes and return to a reality where she no longer existed.
“What do you think you can do as President?”
Rufus was genuinely curious, though Sirius probably took it as a challenge, for he answered, “Better than you, that’s for sure. You must realize no one in the company supports you.”
Of course. Those who did support him, those who would’ve taken a bullet for him had taken at least one bullet for him.
His most trusted subordinates dwindled over the years. His family rotted away.
Reno was KIA on a mission, while Rude had long been incapacitated in the attack that took Tifa away from him. Tseng bled to death in his arms a few years ago on the way to the hospital, and he had to fire a heartbroken Elena and admit her to an asylum before she killed herself.
When had everything gone so wrong?
Sirius had a smile on his face, so confident, so cold. So much of Rufus and none of Tifa.
Maybe that was the problem. She wasn’t here.
Tifa wasn’t here.
As he kept his son’s gaze, Rufus was at a loss of what to say, but not for lack of words. At death’s door, he realized there were so many things he wanted to say to his son. But would any of them matter at all?
Would saying Believe it or not, I actually love you make a difference? Make up for twenty years of neglect? Or would it just sound like a desperate attempt to win sympathy and live another day?
He even briefly wondered if his own father had thought remotely the same things once upon a time.
Rufus didn’t know, and maybe it was best that his son never knew either.
Sirius could keep thinking Rufus a deplorable bastard who’d sired then abandoned him. Could keep viewing Rufus as the pitch black villain that needed to be taken out, so that he may keep that clear conscience and live out his ambition.
So Rufus kept those ambiguous words to himself and locked them in his heart. Let them die with him.
Sirius had been covered in blood when they first met. Now that they were going to part, Rufus thought it was a nice irony he was the one covered in blood instead.
It was a point of reprieve, he supposed, because it was always a parent’s greatest fear to bury their own child.
He smiled a crooked smile with what strength he still had left, ragged breaths seeping from his lungs.
“Just you try, brat.”
It was the closest form of encouragement he could afford right now, and even if it was going to be taken as spite he wanted to say it.
He could see the disdain thicken in Sirius’s eyes, hear the trigger being pulled.
And with his last thoughts, Rufus hoped.
Hoped that, if the kid was going to be so much like Rufus, then please, at the very least, let him meet someone who can fix his broken soul, too.