Author's Note: Don't look at me. I know. I'm working on other stories too, but in honor of the remake coming out, I knew I had to dip my toe back into this fandom. So I wanted to do a different take on Tseng than I've done with any of my other characters, as he was born and raised in Wutai, and people tend to give them a different language, I wanted to make him duolinguistic. I, for one, am not, but I work with a lot of people who are, and I'm emmulating their actions to his and hope that it's believeable. It probably looks fake as all people who don't speak two languages seems to make it, but I'm open for assistance with it. Either way, let me know what you think! Enjoy!
It started when he was five years old.
Rufus remembers her taking his hand and leading him away. He knew he trusted her, but doesn't remember her very well. She was the secretary of a secretary working under one of the directors; Palmer. He wandered away from his nanny for one reason or another, and she found him. He wasn't afraid of her and no one else thought to be either. As far as he knows, at that time, no one thought that he would be in danger. This was long before his father grew obsessed with their family before he began to see Rufus as an extension of both himself and his own power.
Ironic, Rufus was cared for more as an object or a symbol, not as a son.
Rufus remembers seeing her in the hall, and when her eyes found his own, she was by his side in a moment. She hugged him to her softly and was in the elevator heading down to the lobby before he knew it. She gave him her phone, he remembers. It distracted him as he played a game on it. No, maybe now that he thinks about it, maybe that was how he knew her. He knew the game, as he had played it before, but his nanny didn't like those things. She focused more on coloring and playing with toys instead of games on phones.
Other than his nanny, there was someone else he saw a lot. It was the Turk Director, Veld. He's had a revolving door of nannies his whole life, but he's seen Veld's face more than any other. He doesn't even immediately remember his own father's face as easily as he remembered Veld's. The man was more like a father to Rufus than his own father was.
When they made it to the lobby, Rufus remembers looking across the way and seeing Veld, able to pick him out of a crowd anywhere. He was always so kind, always had a soft smile on his face whenever Rufus saw him. But he didn't see Rufus, too busy talking with someone standing next to him. His expression wasn't soft like Rufus had always seen it. His expression was hard, business-like and his posture was rigid. Veld didn't see them when they entered the lobby but Rufus did catch the attention of the young man standing next to him.
Rufus knows now that it was Tseng. He's newly recruited to the Turks, fresh from Wutai. He didn't know Midgardian just yet, barely able to speak the language when he saw Rufus being carried toward the exit. Even though he doesn't know the language very well, his powers of observation are incredible, even so young. It's perhaps because he didn't fully understand the language that he wasn't distracted by it. In fact, all he was focused on was a dark-haired woman basically sprinting toward the exit with a small child in her arms.
It wasn't until years later that Rufus learned that as terrible as it was, Tseng knows the behavior of adults running away from a place with a child that isn't their own and they shouldn't be in possession of. He grew up in a small village near the border of one of the nearby countries, Acrea, and has seen plenty of people rush off with other's children. Tseng recognized the panic and was immediately put on alert.
He didn't recognize Rufus right away, still very new with Shinra hierarchy, but when he realized that Rufus was waving at Veld, something in him clicked and he was immediately moving forward, going after Rufus.
Rufus doesn't remember much, only that, at some point out in the streets of Midgar, not too far from the tower, it ended with both the secretary and Tseng being shot. She shot him in the arm, and he shot her in the forehead. Veld found them only a few moments after with Tseng cradling Rufus in his arms. He was bleeding from his shoulder but he was cradling Rufus, a boy almost ten years younger than him.
Tseng didn't realize who Rufus was until after Veld told him. Tseng got medical attention and was commended by the President but Rufus knew the truth, he hadn't done it for Shinra. He did it because it was a child that needed his help. And Tseng has always been good like that.
After that, Veld decided Rufus was to be on constant guard, and the President agreed but left it for Veld to control. His son was a means to an end, but it wasn't like he was too overly invested in him. Rufus was his heir but was currently useless to him. Too young to offer anything that he would want. So that's when babysitting Rufus became a Turk job.
And so he got to know them over the years. And as fun as it was, Rufus got to learn how to speak with Tseng. He was really developing a full personality and was showing it off to the young Turk learning the language. It helped him, Tseng told him once, to have so many different people with varying linguistic skills to show him how to speak properly. When people would correct Rufus on pronunciation, Tseng would file it away for later practice. He always listened when Rufus asked questions and made note of the answers.
And all those times he was forced to read a bedtime story to Rufus, helped too.
Rufus was nine when he was given his beloved Dark Nation. His black hound was a "failed" experiment of Hojo's. As far as Rufus knows, Hojo ordered someone to put her down for her docile nature. She couldn't be aggravated, she had no self-preservation instincts. She was like a nursery animal and despite her massive fangs and claws and heightened strength, speed, and ability in magic, she was too gentle for Hojo's taste. Veld thought her sweet nature would make her a good bonding animal.
And he had a lonely young ward who was in need of someone other than Turks in his life, the closest of which to his own age at the time was still almost ten years his senior.
And she certainly was a good bonding animal. She took to young Rufus so easily. She adored him, followed him everywhere he went. She let him teach her all sorts of tricks with Rod's help. He had a strong pertinence with animals, especially those in the hound family, like Dark Nation. But she's smart, Rufus's girl is, and she took to new skills easily.
Rod taught him to have her sleep on a little bed near his own, but young Rufus wanted the closeness that she offered. He was starving for attention, for physical attention that something like Dark Nation was able to offer unconditionally. He was kind of lonely without anyone his own age around and so Dark Nation slept in bed with him.
With the revolving door of nannies in his life, a distant father, absentee mother, and Turks that have to leave at a moment's notice, Dark Nation is a constant. And Rufus loves her. He loves her so much he takes her everywhere that she can go without either of them getting into trouble. And even then, not a lot of people would yell at the wealthiest man in the city's only - legitimate - son. Not when a Turk was no more than a foot behind the small blond, shaking their head slowly.
It wasn't until Rufus and Rude were on their way from one of Rufus's "friends" house and on his way back to his own when he was unknowingly approached by a purse snatcher. It had nothing to do with Rufus, yet the purse snatcher was armed and Dark Nation saw it. Rude, wisely, yanked Rufus behind him, ready to use his own body as a shield when he saw the man running towards them with a gun in his hand. Rude was already reaching for his own when Dark Nation sprung into action.
Hojo's loathing for her steamed from being unable to awaken the legendary aggression her species was known for. Vicious and violent. He theorized that somehow in the experiment they somehow bred out the aggression, which was unbelievable.
Turns out, her aggression steams more from her insane protective instinct. She was lonely and without having bonded with anyone in her little cage drained her of her will to fight and survive. But meeting Rufus... loving him and being loved by him, awakened that need to protect. It never took her long to pick up new tricks with how smart she was, but apparently, that wasn't the only time she was paying attention. She could sense everyone's distress as people ducked and dodged out of the man's way, and thought that her beloved Rufus was in danger.
Dark Nation didn't wait for him to get within five feet of Rufus before she launched into action. She grabbed his hand, the one holding the purse, and threw him to the ground and was on him in seconds. She ripped him to shreds even after she tore his throat out for extra measure. She didn't stop until Rude ordered her to heel.
Rufus was crying. He didn't understand what was going on. All he knew was his beloved Dark Nation was snarling and covered in blood. Rufus's crying seemed to pull her out of her rage and bring her back to him. She sat next to him, resting her body against his own and whined every time he whimpered. Rude was already calling the situation in as people gave them a wide berth, horrified by what they saw. Rufus didn't care, he dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around her. He didn't care about the blood dripping from her teeth or it matting in her black fur.
Rufus was relieved to not have to visit that "friend" anymore. It was his father's business partner's son. Rufus didn't care much for him. Even though he was lonely and wanted some form of companionship, he wasn't desperate enough to be interested in a kid that was snobbish and rude. It probably didn't help that he was terrified of Dark Nation and Rufus had to threaten to leave multiple times because no one would let her into the house. That was one of Rufus's selfish conditions for coming over. And, wanting to impress Hector Shinra, the father would do just about anything to make sure that Rufus stayed and had a good time.
Rufus might have had a little fun, but everything with Dark Nation was enough to dissuade him from wanting to go back.
Rufus wasn't even ten at the time.
That's when Rod began something new. He started teaching Dark Nation how to sense danger, and what to look for to better protect her master. And like simple commands, she took to those too. Rod and Tseng helped teach her. She liked Rod, her ears always perking up when he would walk into the room, but she loved Tseng, maybe because Rufus and Tseng were introduced to her together.
And in their own way, they are a lot alike.
From five-years-old to now, Rufus has spent more time with Tseng than any of the other Turks. He was, by far, Rufus's favorite person in the world. And out of all of the traumatic things that happened to him, up until this point, those had been the ones that really stuck to him.
"What are you doing?" Rufus asks, leaning over in his bed, watching as Dark Nation paces around the sitting room that leads to the door of his home. And it was home to just him. His father owned a few homes in Midgar and beyond to other cities. But this was the one that Rufus liked the most outside of the apartment at the tower. It was secluded and quiet in the rich part of the city so there were plenty of patrols and his father rarely visited so it sort of felt like his own.
Rufus watches as Dark Nation paces back and forth in the sitting room.
"What is who doing?" Tinsley asks over the video chat playing on his laptop. She leans forward a bit, looking at him with raised eyebrows, chomping away at her gum.
Tinsley is his only friend outside of Dark Nation and whatever he should consider the Turks. He had friends, but honestly, they were more like acquaintances that hang out a lot. Tinsley was his only real friend. She was the only one that he felt comfortable talking to. He met her a few months ago at his twelfth birthday party - her dad works for Shinra, and everyone was invited to celebrate, yay - and they've been close since. She thought that the whole birthday situation was ridiculous - "It's just a reason for old men to gather together and have business deals that have nothing to do with you," she said. - and he's liked her ever since.
"Dark Nation," Rufus says, still leaning over and watching his girl pace back and forth. "She's very agitated."
Tinsley spins the end of her long dyed blond braid, pursing her lips. "Is that normal for her?"
Rufus sighs, pushing his laptop off of his legs and onto the bed. "I don't know. I'll be right back." He climbs to his feet, hips, knees, and ankles crack from being in one position for too long.
He walks over to her. He runs his hand over her back, feeling the short fur stand on end and her skin crawls uncomfortably. Not at him, but at whatever has her attention.
Rufus walks over to his door, opening it up as it leads into the hall. Dark Nation rushes a bit ahead, making sure that she keeps in front of him in case something tries to jump out at him like she was taught to. She ensures that she gets down the stairs and into the foyer before Rufus so that she can look around and make sure that there isn't anyone there to hurt him. She's a good girl like that.
Rufus wraps his arms around himself after opening the front door and looking around the darkened night with Dark Nation pressed into his side, looking out with dark eyes that glow when it catches the light around her just right. Rufus's eyebrows pull together, not really seeing anything out of the ordinary. Dark Nation nudges his elbow looking over her shoulder back into the house, not wanting him to be out there anymore.
"What's wrong with you?" Rufus asks, looking down at her.
"Is something wrong?"
Rufus and Dark Nation both jump. Dark Nation shoves herself between Rufus and the voice, her tentacle waving back and forth threateningly. Her entire body goes rigid, lips curling in a snarl.
"Parava, Dark Nation," Tseng says, stepping out of the darkness and into the light of the porch that Rufus usually keeps on. He comes closer, to the steps leading up to the porch and holds his hand out for her to sniff, but she's already calmed down, not associating Tseng with danger to Rufus.
"You scared me," Rufus says, wrapping his arms around himself. It's hot out and the air is heavy. It's probably going to rain soon, which is rare in Midgar. "Did you just get back?" Last he had heard, over a week ago, Tseng was sent out to the Golden Saucer on a mission of some sort. Everyone was very hush-hush about it, as usual.
Tseng nods, petting Dark Nation's head. "I'm sorry, I didn't intend to scare you but you shouldn't be out here so late. May I come in?"
Rufus also nods, moving back into the house with Dark Nation and Tseng following, Rufus makes his way over to one of the sitting rooms, turning on the light and walking over to the couch to sit down. He draws up his legs, crossing them as Tseng stops in the entryway of the room with Dark Nation stopping at Tseng's feet to lean against his legs to look up at him with bright eyes.
"She loves you, especially when you speak Wutanese to her," Rufus teases as Tseng lets go of the strict control he has over his own emotions if only a bit so that he can softly pet the top of her head. Dark Nation's head tentacle swooshes back and forth a bit as she stares at him dreamy-eyed.
Tseng smiles lightly, running the pad of his finger over her muzzle. "She's a good girl."
Rufus beams happily at that, proud of his girl. "She is. So, what brings you here?"
"I'm checking in," Tseng says easily, pulling dark eyes away from Dark Nation and up to Rufus. "I wanted to make sure that you were doing alright."
Rufus rolls his eyes at Tseng's overprotectiveness, secretly flattered by it despite his next words, "You worry too much. I'm fine." He rests his cheek onto his fist and props it up on the arm of the couch while staring into Tseng's near-black eyes with his own soft blue ones. "You just got back from a mission, right? You should be going back to the tower and get some rest. I'm sure you only got a few hours before you have to go back to work."
"I'm a Turk," Tseng says smoothly. "I am always working."
"I think that's your problem," Rufus says easily. Tseng quirks an eyebrow at that, waiting for the Shinra heir to continue. "You never give yourself any time to relax. You're going to burn out at this rate."
"I'm fine," Tseng says easily. "How is your homework going?"
Rufus shrugs. "I'm moving up to the advanced program - the gifted one, they say. Apparently, the classes I'm in now aren't challenging enough for me."
Tseng nods slowly, hand running over the top of Dark Nation's head, and she melts at the action, lovingly staring up at Tseng. "I am not surprised. What classes?"
"Math and languages," Rufus says flippantly. "Oh, so I wanted to ask you, there's an elective course on Wutanese that I'm in and I need your help with the proper spelling. Turns out, being able to speak it, understanding it, and write it are entirely different things."
Tseng nods. "Spelling is the hardest to do."
Rufus knew Tseng would agree, seeing as writing was the hardest for Tseng, even now. Short, quick sentences in speech were fine for him, as he can say it in his head quick enough, but long, drawn-out explanations are harder for him. Tseng usually talks very slow through those to ensure he's saying what he's meaning. Always careful, always calculating.
"I don't need it until the end of the week," Rufus says, stretching his arms up over his head, his arms and shoulder cracking a bit. "So, next time you're free, can you help me?"
Tseng nods. "I can help now."
Rufus gives him a long look, debating on just sending his friend home to rest or just get it over with, but Rufus knew Tseng. The dark-haired young man would always rather do whatever needed to be done right away rather than put it off until later.
"You should be relaxing, Tseng," Rufus says, knowing it was futile to say anything.
"Believe me," Tseng says slowly, preparing Rufus for a longer, more calculated thought, "of all the things that I have done in the last few days, teaching you spelling is going to be, by far the most relaxing thing that I have done. "Be thankful that this is standard Wutanese and not of my village. We picked up bastardized words from Acrea and their language is... is... porolavala etair... eh... " he takes a moment trying to find the word. "Exsos ulcol..." Tseng's eyebrows pull together as he looks around the room like the answer was floating in the air.
Rufus definitely doesn't know what those words mean, so he guesses based on what he heard in Midgardian. "Difficult? Over-exaggerated?" Tseng shakes his head, that's not the word he's looking for. "Excessive?"
Tseng nods. "Yes, excessive. They have a lot of... unnecessary letters in their words, I think."
Rufus shakes his head. "We have a lot of those too." A pause, then, "Is it getting easier for you? The language, I mean?"
Tseng nods again, petting Dark Nation's head. "Eight years is a long time to focus on one thing. It's kind of hard to rewire my brain, though. I... think in my language, and then have to translate it as best I can when I speak aloud. It's getting easier, though."
Rufus runs his fingers over the soft fabric of his pajama pants. "That's good. I was just telling Tinsley the other day that..." Rufus jerks, blue eyes wide.
Tseng tenses up, dark eye wide. "What's wrong?"
Rufus rubs at his forehead. "I forgot about Tinsley. I'm on a video call with her upstairs." He pushes himself to his feet and heads for the stairs, knowing that Tseng will turn off the lights and make sure that the door is locked before following. Probably do a perimeter sweep to check the windows and doors too while Rufus goes to his bedroom. Dark Nation races after him, she never liked being left behind.
"Hey," Rufus says, bouncing back onto his bed and looking down at his monitor. "I'm sorry. I got distracted."
Tinsley looks up from her doodling. "Huh?" She blinks her dark, narrowed eyes a bit. "Oh, I didn't notice, to be honest. I've been drawing," she admits, looking back down at the paper in front of her to continue drawing. "Where'd you go?"
"Nowhere. Tseng came over to check in on me and we got to talking," Rufus says slowly.
It takes Tinsley almost ten seconds for the words to register in her head. She jerks up, narrowed eyes blown wide before she looks over at the side of her room where Rufus knows her full-length mirror is. She literally chokes at the sight of herself before jumping up and away from the camera of her laptop. Rufus can't help but laugh as she rushes to try and mend whatever perceived damage the last two days of self-isolation in her house for the weekend has done to herself.
She rushes back, her face close to the camera as she snarls, "You better shut your freaking mouth, Shinra, this isn't funny!" Before she races off again.
Rufus can't help himself, or the laughter that escapes him as he leans back against his headboard and pulls his laptop onto his lap, closing the window for the video, knowing it was going to take her some time. He goes into his assignments folder on his laptop to pull up the one that he needed help on as Tseng makes his way into the room, as quiet as a mouse.
Dark Nation curls up on her bed in the corner knowing that Tseng disapproves of animals sleeping on the bed. At least not until bedtime. Tseng believes it teaches her discipline. She's smart, though. Once Rufus is ready for bed, she'll get to hop up there and curl up nice and cozy. Until then, she can send him dreamy eyes from her spot on the floor.
Tseng sits on the corner of the bed, taking a look at the email that Rufus pulls up on the assignment, taking a few minutes to read it over before looking to read what Rufus had so far in his essay.
"Oh man," Rufus laughs, "I've seen you shot before and it didn't bring you this much physical pain."
Tseng sends him a level look before rubbing at his eyes and goes back to reading, a crease forming between his eyebrows as he tries to decipher the atrocious attempt at spelling by the Shinra heir. And he doubts his grammar is anything to be proud of, too. And more than once, Tseng had to ask what word he was trying to spell - and he got a good laugh at the butchering of pronunciations too.
Tseng stares down at the assignment for a few moments, mentally working out how he was going to deal with the epic shit storm that sat before him before looking over at Rufus. "Was Tinsley able to help you at all?"
Rufus shakes his head. "No, I bet if she realized you were helping me with mine, she would have asked you to help her too. You know her written language is garbage."
Tseng frowns at that. "Her family hails from Wutai, too. Wasn't she born there?"
"She was," Rufus says, shrugging his shoulders. "But they moved right after, so she grew up here."
"But she can speak the language," Tseng says slowly.
"She can," Rufus agrees. "But writing in it? Nope. She's trash at that too."
"You're trash, Rufus," Tinsley's voice comes over the computer.
Rufus laughs, taking his laptop back and opening up the window so that he can see his friend. She glares back at him with a towel wrapped around her hair that he knew she didn't need and she was wearing cute pink pajamas and had lowered the lighting in the room to hide any blemishes she feared Tseng would be able to see. Rufus wiggles his eyebrows at her, amused, and she glares back at him.
She sticks her tongue out playfully to him before looking over at Tseng as Rufus turns the laptop to include the dark-eyed man. "Miyani'hao, Tseng," she says softly, fluttering her lashes a bit in embarrassment.
Tseng tips his head a bit. "Miyanu'hao, Tinse'chely," Tseng says quietly and Rufus watches Tinsley melt as he uses her true name and not the bastardized Midgardian version people grew accustomed to using because it was easier. As far as Rufus knew, only her family called her by her birth name. Rufus can sympathize with his friend. His name is so easy so it's impossible to not be able to say, but Rufus could listen to Tseng talk in his native tongue forever. He's just so much more comfortable talking in it.
She rubs at her cheeks a bit, smiling before asking, "So, what are we up to?"
"Tseng is helping me not to make a fool of myself in this essay," Rufus says easily.
Tinsley grins crookedly, leaning forward, toward the camera lens with her dark eyes sparkling. "You really are trash."
Rufus feels his laptop slowly being pulled from off of his lap and out from under his hands. He's not sure when he fell asleep, just that at some point, long after Tinsley has already gone to bed, Tseng starts pulling his laptop off of him and off to the side. Rufus opens his eyes, yawning deeply and stretching out his limbs, looking over at the Turk as he turns everything off and turns to look over at the boy on the bed.
"Get some sleep," Tseng says. "You have class tomorrow."
"I know," Rufus yawns again. "But you just got back..." He sinks into his bed a bit, despite his words. He has been up late the last few nights getting homework done and on calls with Tinsley until the wee hours of the morning. Rufus wasn't allowed to go to school and attend classes, he only went to online classes that were usually with private tutors. It was with electives like that Wutainian that he is able to do it with other people. He convinced Tinsely to take it with him because he thought it would be easy for her. He hadn't thought that it would be a dialect she wasn't as familiar with.
Well, apparently it wasn't.
But she hasn't said anything about it and he's not going to open up the can of worms that leads to her getting mad at him for making her take an unnecessary class that is causing her more headache than he's sure that it's worth. But Rufus is having fun with it, regardless. Especially with Tseng willing to help out.
"Tinsley has a crush on you," Rufus laughs, half asleep.
Tseng glances over at him, blinking dark eyes slowly. He stares back at him for a moment. He turns away to make sure that everything attached to the laptop is out of the way before straightening up and walking to the edge of the bed, folding his hands neatly in front of himself. "She will get over it."
Rufus sinks deeper under his blanket as Dark Nation jumps up onto the bed, circling it a few times before lowering with her head on Rufus's stomach and her back to Tseng to avoid looking at the disapproving look that crosses his face. Rufus laughs a bit more, lovingly petting his girl's head a bit. She's too smart. And funny.
"I don't know," Rufus says, teasingly look back over at his friend and protector. "She's very smitten."
"Smitten..." Tseng murmurs softly, dark eyes flickering a bit as he files the word away for later. No doubt he uses context clues to keep the conversation going, despite not knowing that word. "She's twelve. It will pass."
"I know," Rufus says nonchalantly, lightly rubbing Dark Nation's silky ears as sleep tugs at the corners of his mind. "But it's kind of funny to watch her fawn over you. Especially when it doesn't look like you noticed."
"I noticed," Tseng says easily. "I offer her nothing because I cannot. I am not looking for someone's company, especially not from a child." His words are flat and finite. There is an edge to them, though, that Rufus recognizes as Tseng being fed up with the conversation.
Rufus stares into the darkness of Tseng's eyes, diamond-hard and focused. "I'm sorry," Rufus murmurs softly. "I was just joking."
Something swims in the darkness of the Turk's eyes, and he looks away for a moment, sighing. "I apologize. It has been a long week. I did not mean to snap."
"No, it's okay..." Rufus says slowly. "I know you're tired, I shouldn't be keeping you. But you should stay here tonight. There is no point in wasting more time going back to the tower when you can just stay here."
Tseng shakes his head, lips pressed into a thin line, obviously still bothered by something. "I shouldn't. I have a meeting first thing tomorrow."
"I'll fake an emergency first thing in the morning to give you an excuse," Rufus offers, wanting to make up with his friend.
The tenseness in Tseng's lips relaxes a bit into a little curve of a smile. "No calling the wolf, Rufus. Sleep. I will come and see you tomorrow, okay?" He tips his head respectfully as Rufus nods mutely, before walking over to the side of the room, flipping off the light and flipping on the fan. Rufus watches as he goes around the room, securing it one last time before disappearing into the hallway and down the stairs. Rufus strains his hearing, counting in his head for a total of three minutes and twelve seconds before Tseng is walking out the front door and locking up the house after double-checking the house and setting the security system Rufus never remembers to set.
The house, too large for a single boy and his trusted four-legged companion, falls completely silent aside from the hum of the fan. Dark Nation sucks in a slow, deep breath before letting it go, her eyes drooping shut as Rufus whispers, softly, into the darkness, "It's crying wolf, Tseng, not calling."