Zell being Zell found himself torn between running after Zack or running after Rufus, at least until he meets Cal’s flat glare and catches the brief jerk of her head to right.Blink.Oh.Oh.He darts after Zack. And within centimeters of the side door, finds a fist in his jacket hauling him bodily inside and then slamming him up against the wall.“What the hell’s he going to Wall Market for,” Zack hisses, exhibiting a remarkable recovery in his complete absence of retching now and slamming on the water faucet to cover the lack of appropriate sound effects. “I don’t know!” “You're his bodyguard, Dincht, it’s your bloody job to know!” Another snarl and then Zack stalks away, pacing angrily. “Avalanche has spies all over the Slums. If they figure out where he’s headed…”“The Turk’s going with him.” Zell felt compelled to point that out. “The entire bleeding army could go with him and he wouldn’t be any safer. A guy who stands out as much as he does can’t just waltz around in the open and not expect to get noticed.”Zell couldn’t argue with that. “Couldn’t he….I dunno, go in disguise or something?”A snort from Zack. “Young corporate executive out for a night on the town, maybe? Rich boy slumming it up? He can’t act worth a damn, someone would see right through it unless…..”Pause. A look of almost unholy glee had appeared on the older SOLDIER’s face.Zell prudently takes a step back. “Unless…?” he prods warily.Zack beams. It’s like watching a tiger yawn. “Go get him.”Even more warily, as that look had never boded well for anyone: “Why?”Zack makes a shooing motion rather than answer. “Hurry up or he’ll get away! Tell him I’ll allow him to go to Wall Market on one condition, and if he doesn’t agree he’ll find the entirety of Shinra on alert for a Vice Presidential escapee.”“That’s kinda low, isn’t it?”“Better that than a bullet in his head. Go get him. I’ll have to make a few calls real quick…”“You should probably put some pants on too.”“….oh right.”******Fortunately or unfortunately for Rufus, Zell's experience with chasing down fleeing prey has been made up of chasing down the most elusive quarry of all, the solitary and wily Squall Leonhart, and it would be safe to say that Zell is by now very, very good at catching up to people who didn't want to be caught up to."Mr. Vice President sir!" Waving arms and all. It looks a little retarded, but it also makes it impossible for Rufus to ignore him.Repeat Zack's message. Wait for automatic suspicious 'and just what is this condition' response.Zell tries out his very best innocent look. "No idea. Better go back and ask him, yah?"
Rufus resists the urge to snarl at the threat. Getting threatened and blackmailed is right on the top of the list of the Things He Can't Stand. 'Escapee' indeed, although sometimes he does feel like a damn prisoner in this gilded cage.Being utterly /stupid/ and miscalculating to this degree is a /very/ close second on that list. That's /two/ reasons to be utterly pissed off, and that in turn is a good reason not to cooperate. That and not allowing people to get into the habit of threatening. "You may inform Captain Darklighter that threats are useless," he says evenly, and continues on his way, neglecting to even check if Rafe is following. At the back of his mind, he begins running through the possibilities of counteracting such a situation. And wondering what Zack will do when he calls his bluff. Indeed. What would he do? Chase me down with a chocobo?
Typical Rufus. Only on his terms. Zell doesn’t have anything better to offer at this point except ‘but you really can trust him, except when he’s drunk or beaming like a madman or when he’s suggesting get rich quick schemes or on Saturdays as a rule and sometimes Wednesday too …’Yeah.“He didn’t mean it as a threat! Just. You know. He’s…”Thankfully Zell didn’t have to flounder any longer than that. As silently as she had shown up in the first place, Cal is there at his back.“He is merely concerned for your safety, Shinra. If you feel that you can slip into Wall Market on your own and avoid complications, by all means you are free to do so. We,” and she briefly but deliberately presses the tags that indicated name and ranking, making sure the emphasis on ‘we’ was not referencing Zack, but rather the name on Cal’s tags and who it was that stood behind that name, “would only request that you let us help when we are in a position to do so.”
There is something distinctly disconcerting about a member of the military, no matter how high up on the hierarchy, threatening the Vice President. Twice. In a row. Rafe decides the corporate top-down structure needed an impromptu overhaul."I believe it is the Captain who should come forward and address the Vice President regarding his proposal," the Turk replies icily. "Or did I assume wrong regarding the Shinra military's hierarchy here?" Then again, considering the circumstances of that Zack's arrival, he wondered if there was a hierarchy at all. At least, one with teeth. Spoiled corporate suits.He turns and follows Rufus back down the hall.
“Hey!” While Zell usually considers himself a polite sort of person (in that he makes any attempt, unlike Irvine, to observe social niceties and act like a professional), it’s more than a little irritating to be written off like some inept trooper by a man who’d been in Shinra’s employ for less than a week. Rafe certainly didn’t have all the answers if he’d been originally planning to go along with Rufus’ Let’s Just Go Ahead and Walk Out in the Open and Present a Big Fat Fucking Target To Every Assassin Within Fifty Miles idea. “Zack’s not allowed to designate himself as the Vice President’s personal bodyguard, but /I/ am, so I get to deliver whatever freakin’ proposals I want and you, Turk, should respect the fact that as personal bodyguard I outrank you.”Zell isn’t actually too sure about that, but he’d never let uncertainty stop a rant when his temper had snapped before, and he isn’t about to now. “If Zack or anyone else wants to talk through me, you’ve got no reason to protest.”
"Don't act like you don't know what I mean," Rafe responds irritably. "I'm not talking about myself, I'm talking about the Vice President, who shouldn't have to wait while his subordinates point shotguns at him, retch into a toilet, and then force some kind of negotiation after an order from his superiors. What is this, the - " He cuts off abruptly as he sees Rufus step in to smooth over matters with a cold tone of finality.
Rufus pauses, eyes narrowing. 'C. Meridius', the nametag reads, and he wonders for a moment why it sounds so familiar.Then it clicks, and it feels like all the warning systems in the Shinra building have gone off, simultaneously, in his head. His expression instinctively shifts to ice, and freezes.There will be a contact, a certain General had told him.It feels uncomfortably like the jaws of a trap closing around him, and he wonders just when he got himself in this deep, and whether it will ultimately destroy him. Or actually help him to survive a little longer in this rat race from Hell.He glances sidelong at Rafe, who appears to be catching up after some pause. He's puzzled for a moment by the Turk's lack of reaction to getting waylaid by so many SOLDIERs. But if their conversation earlier is anything to go by, Rafe is far too new to the Game to know of the traditional animosity between the Turks and SOLDIER."Very well. If he has something to tell me, he may come here and tell it to me himself."
When Zell fails to reappear with Rufus in tow, it’s a pretty solid assumption that the Shinra Heir 1.) threw a hissy fit and outright refused or 2.) threw a hissy fit and outright refused because Zell was fucking up the persuasion bit and now Zack would have to smooth it over. Zell was too honest to lie convincingly and he would have no doubt phrased the proposition in the worst way possible, like a threat.Which it was, of course, but one didn’t /have/ to make it sound that way.Zack’s personal requirements for making himself presentable are, as always, haphazard and quick, so he’s out the door and trailing after Rufus and Co. in about two second flat with pants undone, wearing someone else’s shirt, and dripping water all over the floor from the ducking his head perfunctorily under the sink to clear it. On the way he pauses momentarily for his other underling, who casually waves off Zack’s apology for the shooting thing. “I’ll live. Have fun in Wall Market. Get me a present.”“How about you getting to call Feather and see if she’s on shift right now?”The look Irvine gives him is deeply disappointed. “That’s not a present, that’s work.” “Do it anyway,” Zack suggests in an uncompromising sort of tone before taking off. Rufus is getting away.But not too far, thankfully, due to Cal’s timely intervention as Zack catches up to the lot of them. He would have winked but she’d likely break his jaw. Cal’s sense of humor could occasionally mirror Sephiroth’s, especially in the part where neither of them had one, which was probably why they got along.He catches the tail end of Rafe and Zell’s little hissing contest, which earns Zell a hard look and a promise of future violence, but more importantly also catches Rufus’ answer to Cal. Poor chibi Shinra. One can almost hear the conflict of instinctive distrust warring with apparently necessary pragmatism in Rufus’ brain. It would be much, much easier for everyone involved if Rufus would unclench enough to just trust the people that were only trying to help him, but that’s not really an option and Zack knows it. Rufus not having very many people he could trust was what had led to this entire situation in the first place.Before anyone can say anything else, Zack takes his convenient cue for an entrance. “Alright alright, you want it in person, here I am.” He rakes a hand through his hair, ignoring the general state of half-undressed. He’s still wearing the chocobo boxers underneath the undone pants.“Bottom line is, you’re too high profile, Mr. Vice President. If I were less of an all around nice guy, I’d say you shouldn’t even be allowed to go, as I don’t see any possible way of ensuring your safety outside the walls of this building. As I’m sure you know it would be a drastic risk.” Like Rufus needed the reminder with all the assassination attempts he’d endured.Also, don’t look at the Turk. Don’t look at the Turk even as the implication is being made that Rafe isn’t enough protection. If Rafe is smart he’ll realize that one man, even a Turk and even a professional ex-mafioso is not enough to give Rufus the cover he’s damn well going to need, so hopefully the man won’t protest the apparent insult to his abilities. “But. I said I’m willing to give you any help you need and I meant it, so here’s our options instead. I can get you out into the city unrecognized and relatively well protected so you can do whatever it is you need to do, but you’re going to have to go along with what I ask of you in order to get there.” No point in cushioning the blow, and Zack’s voice is candid. “You won’t like it, I can tell you that already, but I guarantee it /will/ work. So now you get to decide: are you going to trust me and my decisions on this or are you going to take your own chances?”
A lot practice in avoiding Palmer and Heidegger batting their eyelids at each other and avoiding Scarlet bobbing her cleavage at him during meetings allows Rufus to completely ignore the chocobo boxers. The Heir of Shinra, and probably the leading negotiator in Shinra Company, is too good to be ensnared by distraction techniques. And besides, he has bigger things to worry about. Rufus has long since learnt that whenever someone adamantly tiptoes around the proposal and refuses to say it outright, it's bad news. Usually for him.Son, I have this excellent proposal for you...And what would that be, sir?You'll love it. I'm sending you to on a suicide business trip in a war zone new area......At least Zack is honest enough to come right out and tell him to his face that it was going to be nasty.Fifteen years old, and Rufus Shinra has long since decided that he hates his life. He can also write with the 90 page Masters' thesis to back it up. With graphs."Perhaps telling me more about this proposal will better allow me to make up my mind," Rufus says, his tone neutral. There's always the choice of not going at all, of course, and sneaking out another day.And getting killed. Mentally, he sighs and adds another entry to the list entitled: 'When I'm President...'
"Weeeeell," and Zack looks up and down the hall to make sure they aren't being overheard, "we're going to need to put you in some sort of disguise that you wouldn't possibly be recognized in, but also one that'll allow you some freedom of movement around the city and the excuse to stay close to a bunch of armed men, namely Zell and Rafe and I. Now no doubt Rafe is fairly well known in certain parts, considering his job, and I'm not all that inconspicuous myself, so we'd need a cover that ..how should I say...fits in with our usual dealings in Wall Market."Cal's got one of those Looks on her face again, either knowing or guessing where this is heading, and Zack can't resist winking at her before delivering the blow."Rufus, I apologize in advance for offending your dignity and all that, but the easiest way for you to get around Wall Market is if you'll pretend to be my rentboy." Pause."Or Rafe's, if you'd prefer." Now here's hoping he didn't get shot.
Re--Rent---Rent---Error: Unable to process. Please stand by. Retrying...Error: Unable to fix brain processes. Unable to connect to higher mental processes. Retrying...Error: 99% system resources currently frozen.Rentb--Error: Unknown system error. Brain processes have crashed. Dumping kernel.Error: IP conflicts between 196.163.0.dignity and 196.163.0.rationality."I--"Error: Brain processes still unavailable. Restarting."Uh--"Error: You encountered a fatal error on start up. Press F2 to access BIOS."WHAT THE FUCK?"
Only someone with a master's degree in bullshit could take that explosion with an absolutely straight face and a slow blink, like there's nothing wrong at all and Zack can't figure out why Rufus is turning such interesting colors."Rentboy. Rent. Boy. You know, male prostitute? Boywhore? Gigolo? Guy who rents out space in his trunk--""STOP JUST STOP." Rufus is whiter than his suit, and Zack amicably obeys the command. Garbled strangling noises off to the side as well as a frigid sort of absolute silence indicate Zell and Cal's reactions."Rafe can tell you all about it," Zack suggests innocently.
"Actually, I think you meant 'male escort', since rent boys usually find themselves on the low end of the economic spectrum, so to speak." Rafe scrambles to offer a suitable explanation that uses enough glossy euphemisms and avoids the 1089234723 or so pitfalls of such a pitch (1089234722 of which no doubt had already occurred). Unfortunately, this is a futile venture, as the most euphemistic phrase he's heard the Don use in regards to male prostitutes is 'those pretty boy cock munchers over at the girly club'. "The captain's idea actually has some merit," Rafe volunteers cautiously. "We're going into the red light district here, and the next most popular commodity class of people in that area of town next to winos and sex perverts bartenders and tourists are those in the...sex service industry. Besides which, no one would suspect the disguise of you. Though..." There's a pause, as the Turk marvels at the amount of bullshit that sentence required of him. Already picking up on the corporate double-speak, I see. Didn't get enough of that when you were back at the - He squashes the inner voice before it can go any farther. Presses on with the line of suggestions."If you're really looking to avoid suspicions, might I suggest attending with a body double or some sort. Or perhaps crossdress."
No. NO.It's the only answer his brain can come up with. It's the /only/ answer period. He's incapable of even contemplating the alternative. And Rafe's suggestion? Body double is good, if they can find one on such short notice. But CROSSDRESS?He's vaguely aware that he's making strangled noises.Alternatives run rapidfire through his mind, most of them discarded as soon as they surface. The big "Let's not go" is the only thing that seems to be occurring to his utterly shell-shocked brain. Look. Friday evening. Go home, lock self in room with large amounts of alcohol......Admit defeat.The strangled noises modulate to a strangled curse. Rufus Shinra does not back down. Rufus Shinra does not run away. Rufus Shinra is lodged between the frying pan and the fire thanks to his stupid dignity."Not crossdressing," he's aware of saying. "Not... is there any other alternative? Surely one can simply dress normally. Like any other person. Surely there are some of those hanging around at Wall Market. Surely... surely ... that suggestion would draw more attention rather than less." At any other time, he would be proud of his control, and the inability to say of that sounding only vaguely traumatized (he thinks). And without actually saying what he's currently thinking:You two. Are so. Fucking. Dead.And here he thought that Rafe was a good guy.CROSS-DRESSING.The Turk had a fetish. OBVIOUSLY.
[OOC: Typo: 'inability to say of that' -> 'ability to say that'All past tense to present.Not focusing here, obviously. Blame it on Rufus spazzing horribly.]
"Oh it won't be so bad as you think," Zack replies brightly, while his estimation of Rafe immediately rises a few points at the Turk's willingness to go along with the scheme. There weren't many that would, not if Zack was the one who'd come up with it. "Some leather, a little bit of steel, collar, maybe a leash...and the double thing is a brilliant idea. I know just who to use."Poor, poor chibi Shinra. The look on his face is priceless."More attention? Not really. You have to dress the part down there or they'll peg you immediately as an outsider, and I'm afraid you're just a bit too pretty to pull off gang member or junkie convincingly." Bright, completely fake smile to hide the howls of laughter threatening to spill over. "But couple that face with some straps and skin.." do NOT leer at the boy do NOT leer at the boy ohwelltoolate, "..and no one will look twice at you, since you'll already be bought and paid for in the company of your clients."Okay, so that part's a lie, since a whore with Rufus' looks would probably be a rare commodity below the plate and draw plenty of stares, but they'll be stares for a matched set of blond almost-twins and certainly not for anything resembling the Vice President.A glance over at Rafe, speaking over the top of the traumatized Heir's head. "I think you should probably take him. He seems to be used to clinging to you anyway,"--insert smirk here--"and I know the 'twin' won't agree unless I stay close to him."
"Captain Darklighter's right on that account. There's too many initiation rites related to the gangs for that to work - they can tell a poser right on the spot - and drug dealers are not a group we want to get involved with right now. Trouble between the factions and the weapons traders recently. They'll take you for a spy." Rafe gives the boy something of an apologetic look. "The only disguise that won't raise questions is, unfortunately, a prostitute."He turns back to the black-haired SOLDIER. "Don't overdo the kink wear though. You know the kind of clients that draws." Apparently, this Darklighter character had quite a bit of experience in the area. First-hand experience, by the way his eyes gleamed at each image. Rafe decides he really doesn't want to know. The only way they were going to get through this scheme alive was with cold professionalism, and cold professionalism dictated that they take every detail of a disguise into consideration. He'd seen many men, experienced spies, get done in by as minute a flaw as the wrong brand of glasses or a slightly askew cane.He'd been the one to kill them, after all.If they were going to go through with it, better make it look good. A half-assed whore was a whore without tricks, and a whore without tricks was more than likely the next dead body to be found in a back alley ditch. With a scrutinizing eye, Rafe turns his much-vaunted expertise on the blond. "Hm...from my experience, the Vice President's build is more suited for the 'innocent young thing' look - a cherub, maybe, or a schoolboy. Cut off the jacket sleeves and ride up the pants tight to show some skin. I've seen a couple twin pairs pull it off brilliantly." He pauses, considering. "Just make sure to rub some dirt into the face and nails. And while you're at it, rouge the lips. Make the claim look authentic." There weren't many tricks strolling around Wall Market who wouldn't demand a quick appraisal of their money's worth first, after coughing up the gil for a night."Fortunately, the ring heads've been lax abuot branding after the last war. So you won't have to worry about that, Mr. Vice President." The Turk shrugs, pointedly ignoring the smirk, as he's pretty sure by now any acknowledgement of the dark-haired man's absolute glee at this idea will just dig this hole deeper. Professionalism, that's all you have to think about. A simple calculus of the odds. Surely a businessman like the Vice President would understand."A twin? You've someone else you can call up on short notice with experience in these things?" Hopefully not an actual boy whore, though he didn't put it past the SOLDIER's cracked scheming.
Outnumbered and outgunned."I might as well go in a wheelchair with a sheet over my head," he hisses, unwilling -- unable -- to give in without a fight. He doesn't trust Zack as far as he could throw him (was that a leer?!), and if it were Zack's suggestion alone, he'd have vetoed it straight away. But Rafe. Rafe is a professional. Rafe is supposed to be a professional. More importantly, Rafe doesn't have job security.Rafe, at least, will take the threat of getting hunted down and killed seriously if he's lying about this.Or Rafe could be trying to get revenge for a certain drunk Vice President hitting on him.Rufus shoots them both a glare that clearly reads: If I find out that you're pulling a fast one on me, there will be Hell to pay. "And yes, who is this twin you speak of?" He's well aware that, despite instinctive attempts to modulate, his tone is sharp enough to start entire departmental wars if used in a board meeting. "Surely not that MP--"He pauses."It is him, isn't it?" Sudden anger. "So those rumors of a harem were right." Suddenly everything makes a horrible amount of sense. Zack accousting him. Sucking up to him. Blackmailing the General to go and see him. All in the name of whatever twisted fetish he has----stop, Rufus. Relax. Think. He catches Cal's eye, noting the silence but no overt objection from that direction. Even if Zack is the farthest thing from professional, the General -- and the General's representative -- would surely not stand for this if it were really a farce. "Tell me," he says directly to the SOLDIER. "Are these two really correct in their assessment of an apt disguise?"
“Schoolboy is good. He’ll have to learn how to blush and keep his eyes down, but that shouldn’t be too difficult.” Zack rather specializes in making other people turn red, either from embarrassment or anger. He takes a step back and eyes Rufus in that way he knew Cloud hated, the I’m Mentally Undressing You Again look. “Glitter. And mess up the hair, make it look like you just finished getting tumbled.”Broad grin at Rufus’ spluttering. “A sheet over your head would be terribly conspicuous, Your Highnessness.”Of course he was going to use Cloud. Better than a real boywhore, because Cloud still blushed no matter what Zack talked him into or how often it happened. “Harem?” Expression innocent as can be. “That’s ridiculous slander against my good name. I can’t help it if I’m popular.” Rufus’ deferral to Cal is noted with a great deal of satisfaction. If the boy can’t trust Zack yet, fine, but at least he’s listening to Sephiroth. And so long as Cal doesn’t say anything too terribly unflattering about this venture…Her dead voice crushes that hope immediately. “The Captain is indulging his pathological habit of wreaking chaos wherever he possibly can,” she states flatly, ignoring his wounded and accusatory look. “But,” she concedes, “from a purely logical perspective, such a disguise would grant you anonymity and freedom of movement in the lower world, as well as excuse your escort of a SOLDIER and a Turk and their …possessiveness over your person.” That’s almost certainly directed at Zack, reminding him to keep his hands to himself.“Aside from the indignity, Mr. Vice President, I can’t offer a better solution that would fulfill your requirements.”“Might broaden your horizons, too,” Zack adds unnecessarily. “Rafe and I would be more than happy to show you a few…tricks of the trade, to make the performance as authentic as possi—OW.”Cal finished grinding her boot heel into his foot and steps aside, satisfied.
Hm. The girl's judgment was quite apt. Rafe is silently thankful for the slightly more professional opinion, even though he knows his earlier assessment to be true. Something about nesting with fools courting derision, and all that."It shouldn't be a hard act. We won't be staying in one place long enough for the regulars to take notice." He turns with a decisive twist of his heel to face the blond. "Now, if you've made up your mind, Mr. Vice President, we should probably start preparing right now. Better to catch the Wall Market crowds around evening than wait till well into the night."
And the nails in the coffin go ding ding ding..."It looks as if I don't have a choice, do I?" Rufus says, as evenly as he can possibly manage. Do your worst, a little mental voice says at the back of his head, throwing its arms in disgust. If one is going to be dress up as a slut, one might as well go the whole way. Why don't we all go traipsing around in Wall Market wearing nothing but towels while we're at it?"Get what you need and meet me back here. I draw the line at any physical harm to my person, no matter how necessary," he says, unconsciously and instinctively taking charge even on the doorstep of getting his dignity beaten, trampled into the ground, and left to die. He shoots a sour look at Zack. "Go ahead and laugh, Captain. I can see that you're dying to."
"Oh I wouldn't do that, sir," Zack replies. "As the Vice President you could have me written up, and then Seph would break all my bones for causing him paperwork, and then who would be around to protect you?""Don't worry about physical harm, either. A few piercings would look dandy, but as we're pressed for time and your father would surely complain, I think we can skip that part." Beam. "You'd have more attention in the boardroom if you showed up with a nosering, though."
Fascinating.Rufus stores that nugget of information away for future use. And he refrains from scowling further. Scowls and glares are limited use affairs -- their effect diminishes the more you indulge in them. And then you have to deal with the problem of people calling you sulky. Or thinking you're /cute/.Growth spurt. NOW. Kthx."Perish the thought," he murmurs instead. "The old man will think I've become gay. And throw a massive hissy fit. And marry me off to Scarlet."