"Anger is a brief insanity" - Rufus makes a trip to Rocket Town, and things begin to fall apart.
Reeve now considered that Rufus also had diamondlike anger - sharp, hard and ungiving. It was a conclusion he would have happily avoided coming to, as that diamondlike anger was glaring at him from about two inches away from his nose.
"Would you mind," Rufus growled, in a tone that said noncompliance might make him reconsider the wisdom of scorpion pits, "telling me what the fuck you thought you were doing?"
"...I couldn't have stopped it," Reeve said quietly, looking down. "Cait did shout..." He remembered the mad scramble to get on the thing as it was moving - Cait, even steering the lumbering Mog, was first on board, but the controls were out of reach. No! It's going to take off!
"Useless," Rufus growled. "Fucking useless." Abruptly he backed away, snapping pencils one-handed. "You've been tagging along with them for /how long/, now?"
Reeve rested his elbows on his desk, pinching the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "A few months. I'm honestly surprised they got out of the prison."
"Dio does love his shows of independence," Rufus snapped. "And now that you've gotten Palmer /hit by a truck/, overseeing the man is going to be a lot more difficult." Rufus' pacing didn't hint. It said very clearly that getting in his way would render the obstacle into a fair target for his wrath.
"I have no idea where the truck came from," Reeve answered honestly, but couldn't hide a wince. Roughing the man up had been one thing, but... "The mako gun worked...well." He tentatively pushed a slim folder forward. "Scarlet did a good job with it." Much as he hated giving the woman credit for anything.
"You got Palmer hit by a /truck/," Rufus almost singsonged, now staring at the ceiling. "Palmer. The only use the man had was in managing the air and space programs, or eating leftover doughnuts. Inoffensive as a gerbil, /which is more than I can say for you right now/." That blue diamond glare was back on Reeve's face. "Give me one good reason I shouldn't assume you just took out some of your revenue competition."
"Because I didn't!" Reeve snapped back, finally pushed to anger himself. "What the hell would I gain, Rufus, killing off the only other board member I could stand/? Cait Sith's attacks were such a joke that - " he stopped, and sank into his chair. "That he /really thought the rest of them couldn't hurt him," he finished brokenly. "I've got the video from Cait's feeds, if you can stand to see it. He really thought he could hold them off and win." At least the waddling little man had gotten to die ...well. Ish. Almost heroically. Being hit by a truck while running away wasn't exactly heroic, after all. But /almost/. "And I don't kill, Rufus. Not even - especially not even - through Cait." Reeve's forehead rested against the desk, eyes closed. "I didn't kill him." Though the squish as Palmer's bulk had encountered the truck was going to give him nightmares - if he ever found time to sleep again. He didn't ask how Rufus could possibly believe that of him. In a raging temper, Rufus could believe anything of anybody.
Unmollified, putting both fists on Reeve's desk, Rufus grated, "Palmer is dead. And the Tiny Bronco, that I had driven across a continent with that giggling moron to retrieve, is now useless to us. On top of which, we've got the formal defection of the best pilot the company's ever had. What fucking use is that cat?"
"You don't understand," said Reeve, irritated and tired. Whatever trial of guilt or innocence was going on in Rufus' head, Reeve would do his case no good by pretending. The man was, in general, able to read Reeve like a book. "Avalanche got there first. I did try to warn you about that - but more than that, Avalanche talked to Cid rather than at him. You damn near broke the man, Rufus, it's no wonder he defected."
"I was honest with him," Rufus retorted in disbelief. "His dreams? We funded his dreams. We built his dreams. Does he have any idea how much twenty six rockets actually cost/? How much capital it took to get his precious Highwind /built/?" Rufus' hands gestured widely, his tone incredulous. "And I wasn't even going to /confiscate his goddamn homebuilt. I was just going to borrow it, which implies returning it, until the damn thing nearly took my head off with your useless CAT on board!" His voice rose through the last words until it was almost a shout, his hands clenched into fists that trembled with rage.
Reeve's head snapped up. He'd only ever been this angry once before, and it had gotten him sent to Costa del Sol for a 'vacation', but he was as powerless now as then to stop himself. Pushing himself to his feet, he all but snarled, "If you're going to accuse me of murder and attempted murder, President/, spit it out now. Call your Turks or do it yourself. I didn't intend to kill Palmer and I /damn sure didn't want to hurt you/!" Indeed, even as angry as he was, Reeve raised no hand to Rufus - not as he'd done at Heidegger. He wasn't sure, in that exact moment, what he thought of the little President, but murder was not on his mind. "I did the best I could to keep Cait's cover - since you definitely gave me no instructions to /blow that cover to steal the Bronco - and I definitely had nothing to do with that goddamn truck!" The words kept coming, all the things that had made him twitch about the whole situation pouring out of his mouth. "And if Cid defected, President Rufus/, it's because the man has only one love and only one dream and you've /played fucking hopscotch on it three times in a row/. The man hasn't got the patience to wait for a cup of fucking /tea/, how long did you think he'd stand for it? You ripped his heart out - your father ripped that whole /town's heart out - and you've got the balls to snarl when they turn on you? You've given better treatment to your /pets/!"
Reeve stood there after he'd finished, almost visibly shaking in reaction to unaccustomed anger. Part of him was quite sure he'd signed his own death warrant, shouting at Rufus like that - and indeed, Rufus had gone quite still somewhere during the recital, white and cold as if carved from marble and snow. His small smile had the sharp, cold brilliance of a diamond in winter sunlight, but his voice when he spoke was soft. And, perhaps, lethal. "Don't hold back, Reeve; tell me how you really feel." The biting sarcasm was faint but all the more palpable for that. He turned to the door. "This isn't over. I have a few jobs for my Turks, a little research..." The sharp smile widened a bit, his hand making a gesture that could be smoothing or cutting. "And then I'll have a job for you. Unless, of course, you feel I'm playing hopscotch on your dreams?"
My heart, maybe. I don't dream anymore. All that shouting, and in one soft sentence Rufus had won the upper hand. Reeve sank into his chair, drained. "Of course not, President Rufus," he answered sadly, tiredly. "I'm sure you would never stoop to playing hopscotch."
He put his face in his hands, and so he didn't see the look on Rufus' face, the shift in his posture. He only heard the sound of the door opening and then clicking closed as the President left his office.