IT'S GROWING INTO SOME BIZARRE KIND OF MONSTER.Some Things You Can't Buy, For Everything Else There's The Theoretical Joint Bunansa-Shinra EmpireFandom:
Final Fantasy VII/Final Fantasy XII/The StockmarketCharacters:
Tseng's in New York, Balthier's in London, and Rufus is in the sky as the world burns around them. Hedging on futures can be such tricky things.Functional explanation:
The stock markets exploded. Balthier, Rufus and Tseng are hot. This comment thread happened.Inflicted upon the world by: logistika_nyx
and karanguniPrevious episodes:Part the firstPart the second
You don't really have to read them in any order. I don't even know if we
have an order.2363 words and ho'shit, five thousand backstories! \o\
Precision is an art, of which Tseng has long neared mastery. No one is absolutely precise: no one should be. Tseng comes close.
His home is what Balthier calls "a wreck", but there is no part of it that is not functional, nor is there any aspect of it that does not integrate. His couch is too short for European legs. It fits Tseng's Asian frame fine. It does not suit Tseng to suit others. His table is plastic, cheap, and lasts longer than any glass-and-metal contraption off any of the catalogues that mysteriously end up scattered about his apartment after Balthier's visits. There is nothing in Tseng, or around them, that is composed of excess. His existence is pared, lean, deadly effective. It makes Balthier feel starved when he comes over. It makes Rufus hungry.
It takes Tseng half an hour on any morning to go from sleep to his door. He showers in cold water during the mucky summer, and in lukewarm heat in the winter. He rubs his hair down and allows it to dry while he takes breakfast; cereal and milk and hot water with spare tea. His eyes are always on words or numbers: his phone, his laptop, the Times
a crumpled lot of monochrome in his monochrome world. It makes other people so uncomfortable, his life. He's in black and white again by the time he steps out of the door, leather shoes on gritty Manhattan pavement as he slides into the subway crowds. There, Tseng disappears. He cannot be told apart from the next man. It is exactly as he likes it.
Somewhere near the Exchange, Tseng re-emerges. The barista at his local Starbucks - usually a youngish woman with brown streaks in her hair and an objectively beautiful smile - is always, somehow, crushed when he hands her the precise change for his drink using his left hand. She looks at his ring like it's a brand, which it is, and then up into his eyes, which betray nothing. 'Yours is a double shot, right?' she asks him that particular morning.
'Yes,' Tseng says, a little more bemused than he was the last time he visited. He accepts the receipt from her and does not look back at her as he moves to pick up his cardboard cup.
He's just another man with a caffeine hit by the time he walks into the office. Rufus is there, the way he likes to be at the beginning of every morning now that there is nothing in the world to stop him being anywhere the hell he wants to be. Once upon a time they met in strange places: boardrooms, executive washrooms, the northeast junction of Bryant Park in the evenings. Now Rufus tends to warm Tseng's chair for him, in anticipation or in smug arrogance or both. God alone knows.
'Of all the consumer habits in the world,' Rufus nods at Tseng's coffee. 'Yours are the strangest, all things considered.'
'I could bring my own drink, yes,' Tseng agrees, because he has a fully functional machine in a crook of his kitchen, the use of which he saves for particularly bad days and ergo most of this last month.
'Why don't you?' Rufus asks, getting up and passing Tseng a folder with the day's agenda. They could do this by email. They both dislike email tremendously.
'Camouflage,' Tseng shrugs, accepting the manila as he takes a sip. 'It fits the uniform. Briefcase,' he nods to the slim folio he's set on the floor. 'Suit.' That one is self-explanatory. 'Starbucks.' He shakes the near-empty cup. 'I'm a common man.'
Rufus snorts, and snags the cup to throw away as he leaves Tseng be.
Tseng flips open the file. He has to try not to laugh. Rufus wants to go after Bunansa stock. Wants to own as much of it as he can afford, and Rufus can afford – enough.
Boys and their toys. Children are so easy to understand.
Tseng does not take off the ring when he picks up his phone. 'Your show-and-tell did not impress,' he says across the thousands of miles without preamble. 'If you're still running from your father, you may not need to run so quickly now.' Tseng glances at the figures. 'Unless you're planning on running from Rufus as well. And he
doesn't like cowards.'Years ago.
'You live like a Spartan,' Balthier tells Tseng the second time they meet. Tseng knows that this is an entirely misappropriated assertion: Balthier has never seen his apartment. All Balthier knows is that Tseng dislikes the hotels Shinra puts him in, dislikes the women almost as much as he dislikes the men, dislikes the ballrooms, dislikes the dinners, dislikes the speechmakers, dislikes the politics. They're still strangers. 'It won't kill you to have more than two expressions, you know. Man can only get so far on "content" and "displeased".'
'Occasionally I manage exasperated,' Tseng points out. They're in Germany this time around; the Bunansa business being highly invested in the region, Balthier is here personally. Frankfurt is like any other city; inferior to New York and brighter than London. Balthier's found it hard to find time to talk to Tseng, and has found it even harder to find
Tseng at all.
The Brit crosses his arms over his chest. It's Sunday: he has earrings worn lower than the ones he keeps for formal events, and enough rings on his fingers that Tseng is privately impressed at the dexterity they still keep. Balthier frowns. 'Do you know who I had to bribe to tell me where you were? Do you ever pick up your phone?'
Tseng makes a short motion at his mobile, which is propped up on one corner of the treadmill's console showing a list of missed calls. Balthier's name is there in red. 'I don't deal with Shinra's German investments,' he says in between paces. 'Any calls from you would've been social.'
'I could've been in trouble,' Balthier says.
Tseng shoots him a look.
'Or perhaps I just wanted to speak to you.' Balthier smiles, settling in now that his prey is cornered. 'Desperately.'
'If you do anything with that mouth of yours,' Tseng laughs, 'it's not speaking.' He doesn't break his run as he talks. When Balthier glances at the meter it reads 10 kilometres, the numbers slowly ticking higher. Tseng's shirt is soaked through. It's - 'Eyes up, Bunansa.'
Obediently, Balthier looks up. He would've, in any case. Tseng's body makes him
feel outclassed. 'Will you be done with your exaggerated torture session any time soon?'
'I'm on my last rep,' Tseng acknowledges, legs pumping.
'Good,' Balthier says. 'Let me take you out today. I know Frankfurt well; I think I see this bloody city more often than I see London some days. We could --'
The hum of the treadmill dies down, and Tseng comes off of it with a towel in hand. The look he shoots Balthier is knowing. 'Save your dreams, Balthier,' he says as he dries off. 'If you want to bribe
me, you're better off doing it straightforward and with less filigree.'
'Do you accept cash?' Balthier inquires.
'I'm,' Tseng smiles a smile that Balthier doesn't understand, 'paid better than anything you could offer.'
'One of Shinra's boys,' Balthier sighs. 'The things that man does with his money are obscene.'
'Mmm,' Tseng nods, heading for the showers and trying very hard not to laugh.
It doesn't deter Balthier. 'How about something less liquid, then?' He makes an expressive motion with his hands. 'There's probably a couple of yachts the old man won't notice going missing.'
'You've a lot to learn,' Tseng murmurs, rolling his shirt up over his head once they enter the locker room. Balthier seems unperturbed by the public nature of his flirting. Tseng's equally placid about a man watching him change. 'I appreciate honesty,' he says, turning to Balthier. 'Not money or equivalent assets. Your family business is well known for its military affiliations. Shinra doesn't like its employees smelling of gunpowder.'
Balthier steps in close enough that he can smell Tseng's sweat. His earrings brush the upper arch of Tseng's shoulders when he leans in to say, 'All right. I propose
that we go upstairs and have a good screw for mutual benefit. Gainful trade.'
Tseng tilts his head, silent.
Balthier shifts. 'Please?' he offers.
'Good boy,' Tseng says with a smile, and throws his shirt at the other man as he walks into the shower, shutting - and locking - the door behind him.
'I'm not your bell boy!' Balthier calls out. The sound of water running is all he gets in response. He drops the dirty shirt onto a bench and sighs. 'At least tell me your room number. I'm not going to wait here until you're done. Have a sense of charity, man. Tseng. Tseng.
'(Even more) years ago.
Rufus likes things done on his own terms - Rufus gets things done on his own terms. His existence is the augmentation of the kind of immortality people read of in legend: stubbornness, genius, affluence and the absolute resistance to anything that resists him. Fortune has gifted him with the necessary weapons to wage his war against fate. A silver tongue. A golden, dirty halo. A father who won't fucking die.
'A poster boy
,' Rufus snarls, eleven in the evening on a drizzly evening. The entire world is dark around him, sinister in the way that only a city pretending to be benevolent can be. New York opens her arms to you, sir, and swallows you whole. 'That's all he wants of me, all he makes of me; he thinks that I'm too stupid
to see exactly what kind of a road we'll be going down if he persists in dragging Shinra into ammunitions.'
Tseng leans forward, elbows on his knees. 'If you'd rather your family not maintain its standard of living, Rufus, by all means.'
They're on a park bench. The back of Tseng's pants are filthy with dirty water. Rufus' suit is charcoal grey, the farthest thing from his preferred whites and open collars. Shinra's tie is somewhere else, probably being run over by taxis and stepped on by jaded pedestrians. Rufus goes through them at the rate most people go through tissue paper.
'I want sustainability,' Rufus snarls, 'not stupid aggregation. I want to earn money and be able to spend it instead of wasting all my fucking time making up paperwork to blindside the authorities. If the world's going to dangle by Shinra's fingertips, it's not going to be because we're the ones pointing goddamned guns
at them. Christ. By the time he dies, I'll be inheriting a festering law suit.'
'Strong words,' Tseng says.
'I'm going to take this from him, Tseng.' Rufus stares out across the grime of the feet of Manhattan's skyscrapers. 'All of it.'
'By all means,' Tseng agrees. Rufus looks back over his shoulder in askance. Tseng raises his shoulders a half-inch. 'I say all that I need to, Rufus.'
Rufus' shark smile is bright even in the darkness. He sits back hard against the bench. 'You know,' he confesses. 'Once I thought that I was doing this -' he gestures at Tseng '- simply to piss him off.'
Tseng crosses his legs and waits, patient.
'He loathes everything you are. It's half the reason why he doesn't even notice you most of the time.'
'I could number the reasons,' Tseng agrees. 'I'm poor. Of no particular heritage. Foreign. I look like I'm better suited to selling bagels on a corner near the Chrysler Building. I doubt Shinra likes remembering his roots.'
Rufus makes a pleased noise. 'He's only a generation away from what we once were. He's terrified of the idea of being what his father was. He's got no head for studying, he's a manager. Just a good chess player. If he hadn't had Shinra handed to him on a silver platter, he'd be nothing. He knows it. Sees it every time you turn up in the boardroom.'
'Is that why you persist in sending me up into meetings where I don't belong?' Tseng inquires, pointedly.
'I don't fuck you because it pisses off my father, not anymore,' Rufus says. Then he pauses. 'But it doesn't mean I don't enjoy pissing him off as and when I can.'
'Thank you,' Tseng says, dry.
Rufus' shoulders brush his when he sits back again. Rufus keeps moving, agitated and alive. Tseng is steady in his waiting. Rufus settles, slowly. 'You know what I mean,' the heir says at last.
Tseng uncurls his arm around the back of the bench. He pushes the hair at the nape of Rufus' neck aside, and presses his fingers downwards against the tenseness of Rufus' muscles. 'You had some growing up to do, back then.'
Rufus barks out a laugh. 'You're the only one who dared. You're still the only one who dares. At first I thought you were just a good -- good example of who I could end up being if I wasn't good enough to --' He grits his teeth against the noise that builds at the back of his throat when Tseng's fingers knead down hard.
Rufus feels his fire and cold go down his spine. 'I thought I could push everything you represented out of my nightmares by getting close to you. Purge the fear that my father has for what you represent -'
'Fuck it out of your system?' Tseng asks calmly, fingers making Rufus want to shift and move and do entirely inappropriate things.
'Something like that,' Rufus agrees. 'But you turned out to be more than that.'
'And you turned out to be more than a spoiled child,' Tseng says, shoving his thumb against the top nub of Rufus' spine.
'You can talk
,' Rufus gasps out, finally leaning away and pushing Tseng's hand off. 'Keep doing that and you'll cause an incident.'
Tseng's lips twist. 'You're not any more known for your self control than I'm known for eloquence, Rufus.'
Rufus stands. 'You can
talk, Tseng. The rest of the world's just too ignorant to listen.'
Tseng enjoys the fact that Rufus still hasn't learned to give a straight compliment to save his life. He stands, following as he always does. They're silent on their walk to Tseng's apartment. Rufus won't stay, afterwards. Rufus can't.
Tseng lets Rufus crawl over him for the most part of the night, touching and conquering territory in practice-wars against imaginary foes. He pushes rough material off Tseng's back and forces Tseng to touch silk and expensive weave. Rufus is pushing up against his fingers, sweaty and angry and young, when he says to Tseng, 'I'm -- getting exiled
Tseng pushes him down onto the bed hard enough that Rufus grunts. 'He's sending me off to Chicago. Half of it's the office there, the other half is business school, but it's all just to get me off his back, fuck
, Tseng, don't just stop now, it's not something we haven't anticipated -- We've just been waiting for the when and the where and you can't
be annoyed at me for it -- it's not even --'
Tseng's fingers bite into Rufus' shoulder. 'I know.' He's known. He leans in, fucks Rufus in short, hard movements, and presses close to say, 'Do you want to try something?'
'Try what?' Rufus snaps, hands fisting in Tseng's hair and pulling, so pushy even when he's being screwed over.
'Something that might just drive your father that much crazier,' Tseng says.
He doesn't send Rufus off at the airport - he has no real reason to - but Rufus flies with a ring on his finger and no explanation given to his father for it at all.