"A Father Figure"
Athena Shaia Magnus
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its storyline, and its characters belong to Squaresoft!! Don't try to make money off of it or you'll have to face their wrath. ^_^ Now, all you Rufus fans out there, don't kill me for this story! This was induced by a splendid piece of fanart that was so unique that I couldn't help but write about it.
Started: May 23, 1999 / December 12, 1999
Finished: June 16, 2000 (Last day of school. . .! Woo hoo!!)
The door opened soundlessly for him, allowing him an entrance filled with stealth. He looked around carefully, his eyes falling on a man bent over a table covered with beakers and test tubes to the far side of the room. The only sounds he could hear were those of his own heart beating and the liquids within the vials bubbling away over burners. He steeled himself, then murmured, "I've finally found you."
To his credit, the other man didn't jump at the sound of another's voice. He calmly set down the beaker he was holding and turned, his cold gaze meeting the intruder's. "It took you long enough."
Was that anger tinged in his voice? He couldn't be too sure. "How has life been treating you?"
They both scrutinized each other for a moment. "Apparently," began the other man, rubbing his hands on his labcoat, "a lot better than you." He directed his eyes to the man's bloated belly. "You've let yourself go since the last time I saw you."
"I'm surprised. Really, I am," he said, lifting the cigar from his mouth and holding it in his right hand. "I would have thought you would have forgotten me over time."
The other man looked disgusted at the sight of the cigar, but spat out in reply, "Forgotten you?! You actually thought I could forget about you? After all that you've done?" His expression darkened considerably. "You've always thought so little of me, even eighteen years ago. . ."
He could feel the stinging pain in his face still, although he had been sitting in the corner of the room nursing it for over half an hour. The area around his eye ached so much that he knew there had to be a bruise there. He had long since wiped away the blood from his lips, the discarded rag balled up and thrown into the waste basket nearby, but there were still traces on his clothes. Red showed up incredibly well on white.
What had he done to deserve this beating? The thought escaped him, as he had been beaten senseless so many times before that he rarely remembered what had happened before them. He whimpered and buried his hurting face in his hands, tears mixing in with the blood that had still clung to his face. Did his father have to do this every time he opened his mouth to speak? A shiver ran through him and he winced. Everything hurt at this point.
The sound of footsteps came to his ears and his blue eyes, one swollen shut, widened as much as they could in horror. Was he searching for him now? Was he looking for him to hurt him more?? He pushed as close to the corner as he could, wishing he could become invisible. Shutting his eyes, he waited for the harsh voice that belonged to his father.
He opened one eye warily, looking at the speaker slowly. The tentative gaze of the boy focused on a dark-haired man whose black eyes peered at him through thin silver glasses. "M-- Mr. Hojo?" the five-year-old whispered, his voice cracking from pain and worry.
Professor Hojo's forehead creased as he beheld the small boy that was the son of President Shinra. His left eye was black and purple, swollen to the point that it was shut. His face was streaked with blood where his tears hadn't mingled with it. He had curled up to the corner of his laboratory as much as possible, apparently not making it to the lower floors after fleeing from his father's office. He had heard of the way President Shinra had treated his son, but had never believed it. No pity, however, came for the boy; he had, in fact, been crueler to his own son quite some years ago. His son, now a rebellious child of eleven, hated everything about him, despite his lack of knowledge of his father.
"Come here, boy," he ordered, gesturing for him to approach. Rufus Shinra, shivering in fright, withdrew from the corner and half-crawled, half-dragged, himself to him. Hojo, flicking the boy's blond bangs from his face, examined the black eye. With a sigh, he picked up Rufus, amazed that the boy weighed so little. Dismissing his surprise, he carried the boy to a nearby table and set him down before properly examining him. There was a gash on his forehead from which some of blood seeped from, more flowing from his split lower lip.
"He-- he doesn't love me."
The voice was tiny, strained, and filled with pain. Hojo looked at the boy's face, seeing the anguish in the large, blue eye. He didn't speak, a slight frown creasing his face as the small child babbled on. "I. . . I knew he didn't like me. . . He-- he's said that a lot. . . B-- b-- but . . . he said he didn't love me. He screamed it." Small hands came up to his ears, as if trying to block out some sound only he could hear. "He screamed it . . . and screamed and screamed. . ." Sobs wracked the little boy's body as he sat on the table, bending over to bury his face in his hands.
Hojo continued to frown at the boy. "You are a very weak child."
Rufus' teary gaze snapped up to meet Hojo's, and he stood there, stunned. That hadn't been the type of reply he had expected at all. . .
The professor went on, turning his back to get a towel. "You shouldn't be crying over something like that," he said, taking the towel to a nearby sink and turning the facet on. "You must be used to his beatings by now. Stop crying about it." Hojo squeezed the towel of excess water and returned to the boy, mopping the blood off his face. When he put the towel down, he noticed the boy's look. He stared at his with one shining eye, which no longer held tears, but astonishment. The black-haired man scowled. "Don't look at me like that."
Rufus lowered his eyes, cringing slightly. ". . . . Sorry," he apologized.
Hojo looked hard at the boy, then snorted. "Apologizing just allows someone to take advantage of you," he stated, turning again and rummaging through his drawers. He took out a small bottle of ointment and brought it back over, dabbing it on the towel and offering it to Rufus. "Press this to your eye and keep it there, unless you want your eye to get infected." The boy took the towel and held it to his black eye, his other eye still on him. "If you don't want to get smacked around, keep your mouth shut. That's what I have always done . . . and look where I am now." He shook his head scornfully and glared at a far wall.
The little boy wasn't sure why the professor sounded so strange at the moment. Being as young as he was, he couldn't describe the emotions he heard in Hojo's voice. "So I just stay quiet?" he questioned, pulling the towel into a ball so it only covered his eye and not his nose and mouth. "Is that it?"
"Of course not," Hojo said, focusing his eyes back on his young patient. "You must always think. All the time, you must think. Through every mistake there comes a lesson; learn from your mistakes. Follow that advice and you will transcend over all those pathetic executive suits and surpass your father."
Rufus nodded, although he had absolutely no idea what "transcend" and "surpass" meant. "What should I think about?"
"Ah, that one is important. Think about yourself and your position in life, and how to go up from there. Don't think about inane things, such as toys or playing. Thinking about those things won't do anything for you in the future."
The son of President Shinra was in awe by those words. He continued to nod as the professor went on.
"Professor Hojo, the President would like to see you."
He scowled and looked up from the syringe he was preparing, staring hatefully at the intercom that had blared the message. His eyes averted from the system built into the wall to Sephiroth, who was bound and strapped. The little boy was struggling against his bonds and glaring silently at him, his mind probably filled with all types of ways to say "I hate you."
"Don't move," Hojo sneered at his own son, turning to exit the lab and climb to the sixty-ninth floor. He wrung his hands together out of habit, wondering what President Shinra would want to see him for.
With those thoughts in mind, it didn't take long for him to reach his destination. He strode through the huge room, stepping towards the huge desk that sat at the far end. The large swivel chair on the other side of the desk was turned away from him -- something Hojo had always thought rude instead of intimidating. Crossing his arms in annoyance, he queried, "Why did you want to talk to me, Mr. Shinra?"
The chair swiveled, revealing a man of thirty -- two years his junior -- with a clean-shaven face and frigid blue eyes. He was certainly handsome; he had wooed women and made men envious since his early teens. However, his demeanor towards anyone other than the women he seduced was always cold, trite, and dark. Hojo was not an exception.
"You know exactly why you are here, Professor Hojo," President Shinra replied, his voice devoid of any emotion. He pointed to the computer to his right, resting firmly on the desktop. "Does this look familiar?" Tapping at his keyboard, the President brought up a black-and-white video. Hojo frowned, then tensed upon seeing a dark-haired figure tending to a little boy, speaking to him from time to time as he retrieved ice. He heard no voices, but Hojo didn't put it past the President to have muted the recording.
It was a video of him and the President's son.
Abruptly, President Shinra shut off the video and leaned back in his chair, folding his hands over his lap as he spoke. "I don't appreciate others getting into my personal business," he said coldly. "Especially when it concerns Rufus. I suggest you leave him be."
Hojo's hands clenched into fists while his arms were still crossed. "The boy was leaving a trail of blood through my laboratory," he hissed. "Was I supposed to allow him to do that?"
The other man shrugged, running a hand through his thick, blond hair. "That boy will someday be your superior," he reminded the scientist. "Besides . . . I suppose I could break his legs to keep him from getting that far. . ."
As a scientist, Hojo had always had low morals; he would do literally anything for science. However, as a man, even Hojo could see the wrong in President Shinra's words. "If you continue with that abuse, he'll be dead before he's my superior!" he growled, glaring.
A frown presented itself to the black-haired man, causing him to frown back. "Do not give me that tone, Novehar," he said harshly. "I could fire you without a thought!"
Hojo met the President with a tone that matched his. "Then what are you going to do?" he snapped. "Are you going to beat me like your son?"
President Shinra's eyes went wide at Hojo's brusque reply, then burned with such rage heat practically emanated from them. "Out!!" he screamed, one hand on his desk and the other pointing towards the stairs. "Get out of here, Hojo! You're fired! I'm stopping all your funding and projects! I'll make sure you never work in Midgar again!!!"
Face contorted with anger, Hojo balled his right hand into a fist and sent it flying into former superior's face, watching him reel backwards in pain and shock. Then, not waiting to see the blond fall to the ground, Hojo turned and stormed out of the office.
My God . . . I think I broke my thumb. . .
His right hand throbbed painfully as he walked down the long staircase, his thumb frozen in its position. He ignored the secretaries that asked him what had happened, his destination being the elevator. However, he was stopped by a person that blocked the elevator, staring at him inquisitively. And, for the life of him, Hojo couldn't take it upon himself to remove the person.
"Mr. Hojo . . . what happened?"
Hojo frowned. "You happened," he ground out, seething. "Until today, I would never had stepped up in defense of anyone -- let alone a child."
Rufus Shinra stared at him, then swallowed hard. His wounds from two days ago were nowhere to be seen; there was no doubt in Hojo's mind that the President had used materia to see to that. ". . . Father fired you," he whispered.
In a way, Hojo was surprised by the boy's statement; it hadn't been a question searching for an answer, but the answer without the question. "Yes. . . Get out of the way."
The boy didn't move.
"Rufus, I said 'move.'"
He stood there, aiming those sparkling blue eyes at him. Unlike before, there was a sense of determination in his gaze.
Hojo clenched his good hand into a fist. ". . . You're going with me." It wasn't a query.
Rufus nodded, moving forward and latching himself onto Hojo's leg. The scientist looked down at the blond boy for a long moment, then took hold of his hand and led him towards the elevator.
Neither of their lives would ever be the same again.
"Funny," President Shinra muttered, puffing his cigar as he gazed at the man before him. "I always thought that kidnapping and ransom was part of the puzzle . . . son."
Rufus Shinra glared at the red-suited man before him, pulling a pencil from his labcoat and turning to consult a notepad on the table. "Don't call me that," he hissed, keeping his blue eyes hidden as he spoke. "You lost that right when you began beating me."
"You are still my son; nothing will change that," the older man growled, his moustache twitching. "I am sure you know why I'm here. . ."
His twenty-three year old son shrugged fluidly and turned around again, then flicked back bangs that hung low over his left eye. "It's obvious; you're here to kill us. You believe that I've been tainted by Hojo by staying with him for so long. Destroy the corrupter and the corrupted, isn't that right?"
". . . Well, I was planning on killing off only Hojo, but you do have a point there," drawled the other man. "Son, you missed out on so much by leaving."
"Like what?" Rufus spat bitterly. "The construction of the Sister Ray? The stealing of Cid Highwind's airship? Sephiroth's insanity? You think I don't know about those things, Mr. President?"
At the mention of Sephiroth, President Shinra laughed. "Sephiroth? You believed that drivel? No, son, Sephiroth didn't go insane. On the contrary, he is still very sane." He raised a hand, snapping his fingers. Through the door stepped a tall figure, silver-haired and Mako-eyed. "He has been observing you two for the last five years from afar."
Rufus' brow shot up at the sight of the head of SOLDIER; the closest thing to surprise he had shown since the President's arrival. "I knew you couldn't go insane," he said, directing his statement to Sephiroth and blatantly ignoring his blood-father.
"Rufus? What is going on up there?" came a voice from the lower room.
"You may want to come up here, Father," Rufus called, narrowing his eyes on President Shinra in hopes of a reaction. A glower was his reward. "We have some guests."
Footsteps could be heard as a man climbed up the stairs, joining the small group in mere moments. Time hadn't been merciful for the scientist; he had begun to hunch over as his back weakened. He raised black eyes, scanning the scene in front of him before making his way to Rufus' side. "It appears we have a reunion here," he said, amusement slipping into his voice. "President Shinra, I would say it's a pleasure to see you again . . . but then I'd be lying."
"No worries, Hojo," Shinra replied dryly. "There's no need to amuse me."
Hojo, as unflappable as ever, smiled coolly and glanced at Rufus before returning his gaze to the red-suited man before him. "I hope I have done a suitable job raising your son, Mr. President." He clasped his hands behind his back. "He's nothing like you."
". . . So I see," murmured the President. "Sephiroth." Sephiroth's hand came up, unsheathing the legendary Masamune from its sheathe at his waist. He held it firmly in his left hand, but did not move from there. "So . . . how would you like to die, Professor? I am sure your son here could come up with multiple, creative ways to kill you."
"I am sure as well," agreed Hojo, meeting Sephiroth's Mako gaze levelly. "My sons are both brilliant in all aspects of the word."
"Rufus is not your son, Hojo," President Shinra growled. "He has my blood, not yours."
"Not by choice!" Rufus hissed, glaring daggers into the other man. "I hate you!"
"Many people may hate me, including you," began Shinra, "but I still have enough followers to maintain my seat of power."
". . . . . . . . Not enough, apparently."
That was the last thing President Shinra heard as a sword went slicing through his back and driving through his chest. He gasped as his blood spurted out, eyes wide with disbelief as he slumped over, falling away from the blade and landing at Hojo's feet.
Rufus smirked, raising his hands and clapping lightly in approval. "Wonderful timing, Sephiroth," he declared. "I thank you."
Sephiroth glanced briefly at the young blond before him, then began wiping the blood off his sword. "I owed you, Rufus Shinra," he said, finishing the task quickly and sheathing his blade. "You took that damnable father of mine away and Shinra stopped the experiments." He scowled at Hojo. "If it hadn't been for you, Rufus, I might have been turned into some monster."
". . . I am surprised that you would actually help," remarked Hojo.
"Not for your sake," Sephiroth retorted quickly, his eyes on his father. "It's not good to flatter yourself, Hojo."
Before the tension could rise any higher, Rufus intervened. "Shall we leave?" he queried. "I'm sure that they will be expecting the President back soon."
The silver-haired general let out a short laugh, turning his head to look at the younger man. "Yes, they will expect the President," he agreed. He then made a mocking bow, smirking ever-so-slightly. "Shall we go, President Shinra?"
At the title, Rufus sneered. "President Shinra is my old man's name," he said, kicking at the fat corpse near him. "President Rufus will do."
The three turned to leave the Icicle Inn house, Sephiroth already out the door when Hojo stopped Rufus. ". . . Son," he began, frowning at the blonde, "what do you plan to do as the President?"
"Well, first and foremost, I plan to get your lab back for you," Rufus replied, offering a small smile of triumph to his foster father. "Then, I plan to get Midgar and Junon cleaned."
"A very big step, I must say," commented the former Shinra scientist.
"Yes, well . . . I need more room to open academies in the two cities."
Rufus flicked back his hair. "Of course." There was a significant pause. "You'll need competent assistants in the lab once you begin your projects again, won't you?"
Hojo smiled broadly at his adopted son. "You are too good to me," he sighed.
The young man gave a small nod. ". . . Besides, I have some projects I want to do as well."
"Oh?" The black-haired man raised an eyebrow. "I would have thought you would settle in as the President and as an executive. . ."
"Are you kidding?" laughed the other man. He tugged at his labcoat. "You've raised me to be a scientist, Father. I need to correct some of your and Gast's mistakes with the Jenova Project; I've noticed some important parts you overlooked. . ."