It is a sleepless night.
I walk alone at an ungodly hour of the morning; sleep teasing the edge of my consciousness like an elusive lover teases flesh. Velvety tongue, and hard teeth, and soothing ectoplasmic caresses along the whirling impulses of my brain. I can't hope for sleep this evening, not with the vivid, verdant energy rushing through my veins, throbbing low and steady in my bones, just beneath pale flesh.
So I walk. Taking the stairs from the floors above, heading toward one of the more useful amenities of the tower; the company gym.
The assumption that I would have the room all to myself quickly disperses as I catch sight of a shadow moving through the half open doorway. I bite down hard on an annoyed groan and draw closer to the door, reaching out to push it wide, hoping to spur the exit of whoever is inside.
My hand freezes scant inches from the metal, eyes peering through the opening, locked on the figure poised in the center of the room.
I have seen him before, prowling about the Tower, but never did I imagine him like this.
He is nude from the waist up, his lower body encased in a pair of loose dark slacks, slender feet bare. He stands very still, muscles taught. His back is turned to me but I can see the slow rate of his breath through the subtle rise and fall of his shoulders, hear sighs on the air. He raises his arms, parallel to the floor, palms turned to the walls, and then he begins to dance.
He moves like river water, all silken motions and fluid grace, never a faltering step nor awkward sweep of his arms. Perfection in motion. Black silk flows over his shoulders in graceful waves, trailing teasing caresses down golden skin. The movements are lush, sensual, feral. Muscles smooth and contract beneath firm skin, running in fine trembles down his arms as he sweeps forward, hands cutting the air in hushed whispers.
His eyes are closed when he turns to me, my breath catches in my throat as I watch the tendons pull taught against the lower wall of his abdomen. I've no sense of myself as a free being as I watch the arc of his body in the air, the flowing spin tipped with a forceful kick. Oxygen comes again in shallow sips as he drops silently to the ground.
I've no sense of time...or how long I've stood there, but I'm brought to myself by the glint of dark amber. He is still once more, feet firmly planted, arms at his side, palms parallel to the floor. He is looking at me, over his shoulder through the dark silk curtain of his hair. I can feel the throb of blood against my temples, my cheeks, my ears. My mouth is thirsting, tongue desert dry. His gaze is steady and he seems disinclined to look away.
I'm the first to break contact. Running my tongue over parched lips I back away from the room, turn swiftly and force myself to walk to the elevators, blood singing, sleeplessness forgotten.
He stands so still and silent now, a Wutain doll frozen in time, behind the ShinRa and his pretty son. His gaze never falters and the starched blue suit he wears looks so crisp that it might break into a thousand slivers of fabric if he moves. But I know that those eyes have taken in the room, anything and anyone worth interest, who might be a threat to body or nation; and the creases in that suit will fold easily, move as fluid as the muscles beneath them should he be forced into action.
This is a man with pride in himself and in his position. Head of the Turks, at his age quite an accomplishment, weighted in responsibility.
I wonder what he's thinking, standing there, face serenely stoic. What flows behind those dark amber eyes? Does that hard-edged mouth ever loosen? ...Those lips must have kissed, must have known the silken pressure of skin. What might it be like to run my tongue along them? To hear him gasp as I roll tender flesh between my teeth and suckle the frail skin graced with the metallic sweetness of blood flowing just below the surface...
Would he bury his hands in my hair and respond? Or would those sleek muscles move against me, thrust me back and away from him as his eyes go from calm to cold?
My quiet musings are interrupted by the beginnings of inept conversation through a gap in the crowd huddled around the small dais.
"Ah, General, good of you to come."
The squalid, round man clasps my hand tightly. Again I am thankful for the leather gloves that keep his mottled, pink flesh from touching mine. Once he releases my hand I turn my attention to the boy at his side and hold out a slim parcel. Movement behind him, the dark haired man stepping forward slightly, hovering just behind the boy's chair.
"Congratulations on your 16th birthday, Rufus-sama."
Pale thin fingers deftly unravel the department store wrappings; he discards the paper atop several others beside his chair before lifting the lid off the box. Inside is all white. With a curious frown on his lips he pulls out the long leather coat. In the corner of my vision I see the ShinRa's brows rise in curiosity or pleasure.
"Oh...Tseng, look," Rufus says, holding up the coat for the Turk's inspection.
"Yes, it is very nice...Rufus-sama," he says, glancing at me.
Tseng...is it. A fitting name, it slips off the tongue, flows like silk.
"Thank you, again, Sephiroth-san." The young man rises from his chair, swirls the coat around his shoulders, admiring the angle it falls at against his legs. I feel my lips spread into the hint of a smile. The coat is not too unlike my own, which the boy, during one of our training sessions the ShinRa insists we have (a boy such as Rufus needs to be skilled in at least the basics of defense and attack), seemed to admire.
Black is too harsh for the young man, it leaves his pale skin looking too light, too ashen...but white, pure absence of color suits him perfectly.
Would it be terribly clichÃ©d to compare his likeness to that of an angel? Not the stereotypical angelic visage the masses are so fond of, with their multitudes of flowered wreathes and glittering harps, which would seem inclined to wrap their wings about you in your hour of need.
No, this boy is colder, whiter, stoic, more removed. A human Archangel. He will learn aggression, be sculpted into a Lord fit for ruling the masses, and I'm sure that angelic countenance will not waver. If anything it will grow, strengthened by harsh lessons, cold plans.
I glance up, notice Tseng's eyes on me before they flicker back to the boy at whom I'd been staring. There is something in that amber gaze as he looks from me back to Rufus.
A flicker of realization sparks in the back of my mind as I move to the side, allowing the other hangers-on to crowd around the dais.
Tseng takes up his position again, near the backs of the two chairs in the center stage, and I slip through the throng to stand near his side. He knows I'm there, but his eyes don't flit to my face, so I feign moving closer and he speaks.
"One wonders why a ShinRa General would deign to by a sixteen year old boy such an expensive article of clothing."
I feel myself smile as his gaze lights on my face.
"He is the ShinRa's son, after all. And...as he admired my own coat during one of ours sessions, I thought it applicable."
His gaze is back on Rufus.
"The ShinRa's son... You secure your place early on, then?" His voice has chips of ice in its flow.
"Oh, no. Nothing as untoward as that." I step closer, looking intently at him. "He's much too young, you know," I say, voice low, for his ears only.
There, the string of his spine pulls taught and his eyes move in my direction.
"What would you know of it?"
I smile. "I know that the ShinRa would most likely not be pleased to discover that the bodyguard...the male bodyguard...has an eye out for his young son..."
He makes some small sound in the back of his throat.
"I am a patient man..."
I step a little closer.
"Well, I'm not." He looks at me from the corners of his eyes, face taught. "Don't worry," I wave a hand dismissively, "I have no interest in the boy." I glance back at Rufus. "Though he is very pretty. In a few years time, once the childhood plumpness has faded, and his father's watchful eye has grown lax, I'm sure he'll be ready for picking..."
The change in Tseng's face is startling; he's gone completely blank, a Wutain doll once more, perfect and porcelain. I hold up my hands in a small gesture of surrender.
"But, as I said, no interest in the boy; I find myself seeking something more, in stature and experience, at this time. I believe you meet that criteria." I smile and he narrows his eyes.
"I have various ways of dealing with extortionists."
I widen my eyes. "You wound me. I've not threatened you with blackmail. It is a simple scenario. I want you. You want me. Easily achieved and no extortion involved."
"I've even more methods of dealing with the presumptuous, Sephiroth-san. Do not make the folly of underestimating me." And with that he places his attention once more on Rufus, who is reclining on his pseudo-throne, coat fanning dramatically around him, a suitably bored expression on his face.
Tseng's gaze doesn't touch me again.
He haunts me; his presence shadows me, unbidden, unwelcome. I actually find myself looking for him, turning at the slightest glimpse of dusky skin, or gleam of black hair.
A week after Rufus' sixteenth birthday finds me leaving President ShinRa's office, after having given a particularly droll report on the state of the new candidates for SOLDIER, and meeting with my shadow as I descend the stairs.
Two other men walk slightly ahead of him, a redhead who has the rumpled look of someone who has just rolled out of bed, and a mildly imposing man who's hidden his gaze behind dark glasses.
As much as I hate to give in to clichÃ©s, I must say that the idea of moving in slow motion is an adequate description of that moment. His black hair falls over his shoulder, and he pushes it back lazily. We pass, close enough that body heat can be felt, close enough that I feel the brush of fingers over my hip. His touch burns through the leather. He passes by, no comment or change in demeanor, and the three disappear through the looming double doors of the office.
So he wants to start the game on his terms?
I can manage that.
We'll see just whose terms it ends on.
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