Inquiring Minds

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by nekojita

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Dr. Stephanie Mornello made sure that everything was in order for her next appointment. Per her habit for the week, she had spent her lunch break going over the notes of her afternoon sessions, re-familiarizing herself with the cases that she had studied the night before. On the advice of her predecessors, she had saved the more ‘advanced’ cases for the end of the day, and the worst one to wrap up the week.

Dr. Fenzl had left detailed notes for his successors on how to deal with this case, from removing the couch or any type of lounge furniture from the room to hiding any and all psychopharmacological drugs. Both he and Dr. Diana had suggested that the case be scheduled for later in the day, to ‘remove the possibility of the subject showing up and promptly falling asleep’. In Dr. Diana’s case study, there was a heavily underlined comment about *not* attempting to wake the subject up should that happen. Dr. Zhou had strongly advised against having any weapons in the room, despite the comfort they might provide considering the nature of the subjects, and had even left a carefully worded comment about looking for new employment.

Dr. Mornello had dealt with many troubled subjects in her ten years of practicing psychology, although not even the fallout of the devastation from WEAPON had prepared her for the past week. She would have to be very careful about any jobs that she accepted from WRO in the future, but the various psychosis and disorders that she had seen here at SHINRA, somehow managing to work together… it promised for quite the interesting scientific study. Well, once she figured out a way around the privacy clause she had been ‘requested’ to sign, that was. There was no way she would ever break client confidentiality, but to ignore the wealth of data and research that she had come across would be just as criminal. For example, she had sat in sessions with at least four individuals who by all accounts should *not* be able to function in society, let alone hold down jobs. Yet according to their files they did just that without any type of medication or therapy. And if she was to believe the notes on her next appointment….

There were several red flags that she hoped to address in their time together – if she could get him to cooperate at all. That was the one consensus of all the previous psychiatrists whom SHINRA had hired to check on the ‘well-being’ of their employees. While the last few days had been rather difficult, she refused to consider the matter hopeless until she dealt with him herself. She typed out a few notes as reminders while she waited.

She wasn’t surprised when he was late showing up for the session, and decided to give him a few more minutes before calling the head of the Department of Administrative Research to track down his erstwhile employee. She’d had to do that a few times already and it never made for good session, the subject being sullen and uncommunicative and she a little thrown off from dealing with the very efficient and cold Tseng. The man had made it very clear that he did *not* appreciate her presence even if he was ensuring that his people complied with the request for evaluations.

Just as she was reaching for her phone to call Tseng, there was a creak of leather that made her look away from her desk. She gasped when she saw someone lounging in the padded black leather chair a few feet away, a redheaded man with pale skin wearing the familiar black uniform of the ‘Turks’. He had a smirk on his face that made it clear that he had enjoyed startling her, the expression crinkling the red marks on his cheeks. "Yo."

"Ah, Reno, I assume?" Dr. Mornello asked, forcing her voice to sound normal as her heart still thudded against her rib cage in shock. She should be use to these people sneaking about on her, but how had he gotten into the room without her noticing at all? He’d done that on purpose just to frighten her, clearly proving Dr. Fenzl’s point about his antagonistic behavior.

"What, don’ ya know?" He waved his left hand toward her desk, the motion lazy as he slumped lower into the chair. "Thought ya shrinks got all tha goodies on us."

There were extensive notes on his childhood and lack of education, along with Dr. Zhou’s belief that the subject used his Below-Plate accent to mock and cause people to underestimate him. From what Dr. Mornello had come to understand over the last few days, if there was one thing that unified all of the Department of Administrative Research, it was that they were of normal if not higher than average intelligence - that and a disturbing lack of morals.

"It’s always best to be certain, especially as this is the first time that we’ve met each other." She smiled as she inclined her head. "I’m Doctor Mornello. It’s a pleasure to meet you."

He made a rude noise and toyed with a strand of his long hair. "Right. WRO’s gettin’ all nervous about tha Turks an’ wants ta make sure we’re not gonna pulla Sephy on ‘em since there’s na SOLDIERs ta take us down if we do. So here ya come ta poke around in our heads, as if we can’ tell ya we’re all fucked up in there but inna good way." He waved his other hand around as he talked. "Gotta be fucked up ta do tha job. Been sayin’ that for years. Not gonna blow up tha world because of it, where the hell’s tha fun in that? Maybe a block or two, yeah, now *that’s* fun, but we’re not psychos."

Well, that had definitely been one of the bluntest summations of the reason why she was here, and she had caught the ‘block or two’ comment at the end. Which, sadly, wasn’t anything that Reno hadn’t said before in previous sessions, leaving opinion evenly split on if he was being honest or not. The only that that was clear by the end of a session with the man was that no one wanted to take him on as a full time patient.

"So you don’t believe that you’re a threat to the planet?"

"Not unless it’s a threat ta tha company," was his instant answer, his eyes narrowed and bright. She had no problem believing that he was giving her an honest answer this time, as it was a similar response to his fellow Turks’ when she had asked them. One thing was very clear – SHINRA was doing an excellent job of inspiring employee loyalty from this particular department. It was almost… fanatical, suspiciously so.

"So the company comes first?"

Reno was quiet for several seconds, his bright eyes intent on her the entire time. She had seen a wide variety of clients over the years, people with serious problems ranging to those who just needed someone to listen to them vent. The last few days had ingrained in her that appearances could be deceiving as many of the subjects didn’t look as if they spent their days… tending to whatever ‘dirty’ work a huge corporation such as SHINRA required. Reno was a prime example of that, appearing younger than the age noted down in his brief biography, body slim beneath the black suit and lacking the stature that some of the other Turks had possessed. Yet that gaze unnerved her to the point that she seriously regretted listening to the advice about forgoing any weapons.

"Look, Rufus ain’ an idiot. Can’ be a company if there ain’ a planet. He’s not a fuckin’ asshole like his old man." Reno practically spat out the last few words as if there were no worse insults that he could think of just then.

Dr. Mornello schooled her face to show no emotion as she nodded. "I understand." She typed a few notes about the conversation, the animosity shown to the previous president and the adamant belief in the current one. It was a very good segue into a topic that she wanted to cover during this session. "You seem to have a lot of faith in President Shinra."

Considering the animosity and thinly veiled threat from moments before, the sudden laughter took her by surprise. Reno now seemed relaxed and very amused, the mercurial shift in emotions almost unnatural. "Eh, that your way of askin’ me if I trust ‘im? Should by now, considerin’ how I let ‘im fuck me alla time."

Well… someone wasn’t shy of hiding their relationship. Yet the way he phrased things made her wonder if there was an abuse of power going on here. "So you engage in sexual relationship with the president because of his status?" As always, she was careful to keep her tone perfectly neutral.

Reno lifted his head up enough to give her a scathing look as if she was an utter idiot. "Wha’ tha hell does *status* have ta do wit’ *anythin’*?"

She did her best not to sigh as she elaborated. "Mr. Shinra is in a higher position of authority-"

He cut her off with a rude gesture. "Tha’s like sayin’ Tseng’s fuckin’ alla female Turks, then. Rufus don’ fuck *anybody* because of who he is, shit like that turns him off. An’ those fancy reports o’ yours don’ tell ya shit about ma bank account, obviously." Reno rolled his eyes as he sank back into the chair. "Bashin’ heads in pays good, yo. I fuck Rufus because I wanna, he fucks me because he’s messed up, it works." His tone dripped contempt, which was aimed at her to judge from the look she was receiving, as if he expected her to understand maybe one word out of ten.

There was an interesting sense of denial going on there, a refusal to admit to any emotions other than pleasure, but judging from the tension in Reno’s body she decided to not question it any further at this moment in time. "So you would be open to other… opportunities at this time?" she asked instead to test his feelings for the president.

"What, that an offer?" Reno scoffed as he tilted his head back against the back of the chair, easily deflecting the probe. "You’re so not doin’ it for me."

"Because I’m a doctor and in a position of some power over you?" If the initial query failed, why not see what this one lead to?

"Because I’va jealous as fuck boyfriend," Reno shot back as if talking to an idiot.

Dr. Mornello typed the response down so she could come back to it. "And what type of woman do you usually prefer if it weren’t for your ‘boyfriend’?" she asked as she focused on her laptop in order to avoid expressing too much interest. "The shy type?" There might be a conflict because of his mother’s… ‘profession’, leaving him unable to respond to most women and hence constantly search out relationships with other men, as had been noted in previous sessions. Well, until the recent development with President Shinra.

"Eh?" Reno twisted about to look at her with a disgruntled expression on his face. "Why would I bother with some twit who needs all tha’ work? Nah, if I’m gonna fuck with a woman at all they gotta be confident. Not all gold diggin’, like tha ones who try ta get their hooks in Rufus or snag a Turk for tha paycheck, but tha ones who like a game." He smiled as he slunk a little lower in the chair. "Tha ones who let ya know they’re interested an’ wait ta see what ya do next. Bit o’ back an’ forth between ya, see what happens an’ what each o’ ya come up with, no hard feelings if somethin’ comes along an’ ya gotta go your own ways."

The answer surprised her when taken into context with his past and what was noted of his past relationships with men. "So you enjoy an equal relationship with women?"

Once again Reno twisted in his seat to give her a scathing look. "I enjoy an ‘equal’ relationship with all my fucks. What, jus’ because ya the one lyin’ on ya back mean whoever doin’ the fuckin’ is tha one in charge?" he asked with clear disdain.

The question shocked her enough that she actually answered. "If you’re implying that I have an unequal relationship with my husband, the answer is no."

"Then don’ think tha same." He leaned forward and motioned toward her laptop. "Fenzl got his rocks off askin’ about how I got fucked an’ that, an’ Diana couldn’ get past any guy takin’ it up tha ass, even one who was a ‘borderline sociopath with a histrionic personality disorder’. Doesn’ matter who or how I fuck, just tha’ it feels good in tha end. Guys do it better for me, end o’ story." He flipped her off as he sunk back into the chair.

She looked away for a moment before typing notes of the conversation onto the laptop. "I see," she commented when she felt her voice to be steady. "I hadn’t meant to spend so much of our time together on your sex life."

"Eh, beats goin’ on an’ on about staring o’ ink blots while whinin’ about how lousy I was supposed ta feel over my mom not buyin’ me a bike when I was a kid." Reno shrugged as he toyed with a strand of his uneven bangs. "All tha’ shit looks like someone witha bad case o’ STD’s came on a bunch o’ paper or somethin’."

Oh hell, she was never going to be able to look at the Rorschach tests again with a straight face, now, was she? Still, she attempted to rally and regain control over the session. "Did you want a bike when you were a child?"

She had thought it impossible for him to look at her with any more disdain and had just been proven wrong. "Ya actually gotta degree for tha’ brain o’ yours? Where tha hell would I ride tha damn thing? No damn parks Below Plate, ya know," he pointed out in a voice thick with derision. "Was happy ta have things like *food*. No wonder ya Above Platers are so fucked up."

She was beginning to understand why Dr. Fenzl had insisted that Reno be the last appointment of the day, and why Dr. Diana had retired after one year of dealing with the Turks. "Are there any particular pleasant memories of your childhood that you would like to discuss during our time together?" Why did she have the impression that she would regret this question?

In the process of shifting on the chair so that his long legs dangled over the left arm, Reno paused to give her an incredulous look. "Eh? What, am I supposed ta go on about how me an’ my puppy Spot chased rats an’ swam in tha sewers an’ cuddled up at night together? Did ya even bother ta read tha fuckin’ files? Let me sum ‘em up for ya, okay? Mother a prostitute, father unknown but tha best we’re hopin’ for is tha’ he actually paid, yeah? Rat-infested apartment, johns in an’ out all tha time, out on my own before they raped my ass onna daily basis." He smiled when she flinched at the brutal way he summed up his childhood, much the way one would the plot of a horror movie. "Petty crimes ta support my ass, graduatin’ ta full on felonies when I joined tha Turks. An’ ya bright people wonder why I’mma such a ‘sociopath’." He actually motioned with his fingers as he said the last word.

The room was quiet for a minute before he spoke again. "Actually, there was tha time where me an’ what’s his name, Phelan, climbed up tha one support an’ jacked into tha power. Rained sparks for hours an’ fried our hands, but like fireworks it was." He smiled as he let his head drop back, his long hair brushing back against the floor. "SHINRA came an’ hauled Neek away instead, ‘cause he’d been tappin’ the juice ‘round there. He died bein’ ‘questioned’." He smiled as he reminisced, the expression amused and a little cruel. "Guess he was too small fry for tha Turks."

Somehow, she suspected that she knew the question but had to ask it anyway. "Did you feel any guilt over his death?"

The answer was instantaneous. "Hell no."

She waited to see if he elaborated, yet he just sat there in the chair, legs kicking back and forth as he played with his bangs. He looked a bit bored and his unusual colored eyes were glowing a little, a fact that unnerved her.

She looked at her laptop as she struggled to consider what topic to move on to next, to either touch upon his relationship with President Shinra again or bring up his field assignments, when he spoke up. "Look, ya really sure ya wanna do this shit? Keep on diggin’ I mean? I know I’mma all fucked up, Rufus knows it, too. Honestly? Think it turns him on." Reno’s voice slipped lower, took on a husky tone that made her look away from her laptop and at him, notice how his eyes were heavy lidded and glowing, how his bottom lip was fuller than his top with the way he was smiling like that, as if he was in on a secret that would amaze everyone else. "Not like you’re gonna do any good, ya know? You’re gonna be gone soon, I’m gonna go back to bashin’ heads in an’ blowin’ up shit, an’ not like anythin’ ya say is gonna stop that. Meds don’ seem ta work an’ therapy is a fuckin’ joke."

"If you are a threaten-"

One moment he was lounging in the chair, the next he was leaning over the desk, inches away from her face. She had never seen anyone move so fast in her life, and none of the other Turks had approached her like that, had come so close. Yet there he was, smiling in a manner that disturbed her more than any clear threat ever had; it was the inherent *promise* in the smile that made her shiver in fear, the look on his face that made it clear that he was holding back more darkness than she could ever comprehend, just barely, and his idea of a good time would be to let it all go….

"There are no threats, here," he explained as he loomed over her desk. "See, ya don’ understand wha’ we do, yeah? An’ I think ol’ Reeve has forgotten, as he tries ta distance himself from tha fact that he used ta *BE* SHINRA. We do tha shit that no one else can do, not your pretty SOLDIERs, not your angst-puppy heroes, not even your demon-ridden ex-Turks who grew a conscience." He smiled as he spoke, the expression so terrifying that she was unable to move. "Yeah, we’re fucked-up. We have ta be. Because we get tha job done. Worry about tha Turks who can do this shit an’ NOT be fucked up, yeah?" He reached out to tap her on the right side of her head, against her temple, and she whimpered in fear. "As much as Reeve an’ his friends want ta improve tha world, it ain’ atta point where we’re not needed." He smirked as he rested his arms on the desk. "So we’re gonna keep killin’ an’ blowin’ shit up until then, an’ that means sociopaths like us are needed. Halleluiah."

Moving as fast as he had before, he was suddenly halfway across the room. "So, we can talk about my sex life and how my mother didn’t love me and a bunch of other bullshit, but really, so boring," he said, for the first time speaking clearly. "Been there, done that, really need to make up a t-shirt to save myself the time in the future. Just means that a bunch of voyeuristic shits like you are deprived of hearing the juicy bits, sorry. But I’d much rather go fuck my boyfriend than tell you about it." He gave her a salacious wink over his right shoulder before he sauntered out of the office.

She sat there stunned for another few minutes before she was able to move again, and that was to close her laptop before fleeing the room and the SHINRA office building.

*******

Rufus was pouring himself some whiskey when Tseng entered his office, and after an inquiring look, poured a second glass of the liquor. He offered the drink to the head of the Turks and smiled. "I sent Dr. Mornello’s report to Reeve today."

Tseng tensed at the announcement and didn’t speak until he finished the whiskey. "I still don’t understand why you went through with the evaluations, Sir."

Rufus motioned for Tseng to sit down as he went over to his desk. "Because it wasn’t the loss that you think it was." He smiled as he sat down, the glass of alcohol held between his hands. "I’ll have to send you Dr. Mornello’s report."

Something in his tone must have tipped off Tseng, as the man relaxed into the chair and a slight smile curved his lips. "Ah, I had wondered why you allowed her to dictate the schedule."

"I saw no reason to rearrange things." He smiled himself as he thought of the previous week, of Reno appearing in his office at the end of the work week, pleased with himself and in an amorous mood. By the time they were finished, there had been an email from Dr. Mornello that had only heightened his good mood. "All that had mattered was her attitude before she reported to WRO."

"I’m amazed that you gave in to them in the first place."

Rufus sipped the aged whiskey before he answered. "It only appears that way. Yes, Reeve’s request instigated this recent round of evaluations, and the psychiatrist was sent from his organization, but that was it. I decided that after Mason’s betrayal that it would be a good to undergo these sessions, which would be recorded and examined by our own psychiatrists to decide if any follow up sessions are necessary."

Tseng arched an eyebrow at that declaration. "How did you manage to undermine Reeve’s attempt to attack the Turks?" He sounded impressed despite himself.

"I merely pointed out that it wasn’t in his best interest to analyze too deeply the Department of Administrative Research when he routinely employs a kleptomaniac, a person with multiple personality disorder and a former Turk who harbored several demons, not to mention the various actions he went about while an employee of SHINRA." Rufus smiled with pride as he thought of all the blackmail material he had on the leader of WRO.

There was silent for a moment before Tseng chuckled, the sound evil and low. He held up his empty glass before rising to go refill it. "I suppose that you had to allow him his moment before smacking him back into his place. One day he’ll learn to leave us alone."

"In a way, I find his attempts amusing." Rufus stared into his glass for a moment before tossing back its contents and holding it out to Tseng for it to be refilled. "He takes my money yet thinks he can dictate terms whenever he wants. Sooner or later he’ll learn that while I’m honest about making good on the damage that SHINRA has done in the past, it doesn’t mean that I’ll allow him to control my future." He glared as he stared off at nothing, his temper overtaking him for several seconds until he felt cool glass be placed against his right hand.

"As you said, it’s rather amusing waiting for him to learn." Tseng stood by his desk and stared out the window overlooking the rebuilding city. "One thing we’ve never tried to escape is our past. None of us are ashamed of what we’ve done or what we have to do, and I don’t think that any of the doctors they send to talk to us ever understand that. Reeve set up his fancy organization as a chance at ‘renewal’, yet he doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that one can never escape their past." The smile on his face was one of grim understanding. "The past defines us all. He should have his own evaluation sometime."

Rufus laughed. "And have all of his dirty secrets exposed? Somehow I doubt that. But we know them, which is what matters." He shared a satisfied grin with Tseng as they raised their glasses in a silent toast.

After the drinks were finished, Tseng left with an excuse about needing to finish some paperwork. Rufus watched him leave before going over a few reports that needed reading before he could leave for the day as well, to go home to a certain redheaded Turk who would ‘rather be fucking him’.

Although it would be rather interesting one day if there ever was a psychiatrist who could get a straight answer out of Reno in regards to their relationship. Rufus was tempted in ordering more evaluations for his boyfriend, but reconsidered in light of the inhumane suffering that would be inflicted on the poor psychiatrists.

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