Is the world a flawed paradise or a glorified slum? That depends on where you're looking from.
Reeve had always liked the view from the elevators. Beyond the glass the city spread below him, the glow from the reactors and the street lights making the underbelly of the smog filled sky glow. It was eerie and industrial, but it was home. It spoke of hard work and progress and, most importantly, it spoke of people. As the elevator lowered down the side of the tower, it brought the bustling of life closer into view, people coming too and from work; people with families and dreams; people with lives that he was touching, whether he ever met them or not. For all of its steel and smoke, it was beautiful.
Now, as he stood against the glass, looking out into the night, his eyes were irresistibly drawn to the black pit stretching from the borders of sector six out of view and around to sector eight. He tried, every time he stepped in, not to look, but it was a sore tooth that he couldn't help but worry. Bad enough that his protests, his statistics and death tolls, hell even his financial report about how much revenue the loss of business would do went ignored, but even under Rufus' rule he couldn't get the funding to fix it. He couldn't fill the hole in, help rebuild the families that had been torn apart, heal the damage.
He'd nearly given Cait Sith a tarot deck to do his fortunes with instead of slips of paper, but the temptation to redraw the Tower had been too strong. He doubted even Rufus Shinra's sense of humor would have forgiven him.
The world rising up to meet him slowed, then stopped with a light ding. Behind him the doors opened and he watched in the glass as the phantom of a man entered the elevator. He tried not to grimace, tried to ignore the slim shadow the way he'd ignore a stray dog in the street, tried not to anticipate the inevitable greeting of...
"Evening, Mr. Secretary. Nice night, huh?"
"Reno." Reeve wasn't going to give any night that involved the red haired Turk the distinction of "good", especially with sector seven gaping off to his right like an abandoned cemetery. Of course, to be fair, even if Reno hadn't set the bomb, hadn't pushed the button, someone else would have. It would have been Rude or Elena or Tseng or some new recruit the president would have hauled in for the express purpose of blowing the city to hell. It wasn't Reno's fault.
However, it was hard to remember that when the other man walked over to look out the window over Reeve's shoulder, not quite close enough to touch but close enough that his arched eyebrow and hollow smirk were plainly visible in the glass. His voice almost laughing he asked, "Some view, isn't it? You seen it on the ground? You're just walking down the street and then bam! Everything just rips off and there's nothing, just a bunch of wires in the air and rubble below you hundreds of feet." He hesitated, then tilted his head towards Reeve's ear and all but whispered, "They didn't feel anything, you know. From that high up? Dead the second they hit the ground."
"They felt fear." Reeve didn't turn, didn't meet Reno's blue-green gaze. He simply watched the other man in the glass, watching the empty spaces in the glass hollow out already high cheek bones, empty out the sockets under the other man's heavy lids, carve the lines of his neck into sharp relief. In reality Reno was saved from the distinction of pretty by his slightly off facial structure, the lankiness of his near scrawny figure, and the carefully planned sloppiness of his appearance. In the world of the glass, he wasn't even human. Reeve had to wonder if the glass didn't tell the truer story. "The people on the plate felt fear and confusion because they didn't know what was happening. The people of the slums felt the fear of the sky falling on them. It doesn't matter how quickly they died, they felt that at least. And how many died? There's no telling the loss."
"You'd be amazed." Here, Reno did laugh. His head tilted to the light and the twin red tattoos that ran along his cheekbones jumped into sharp relief in the glass. "Oh, your innocents in their houses on the plate, they died just like you imagine they did. But down below? You've never been there, have you? If you did, you'd save your pretty words about the sky falling. The only people who died there were those too sick or stupid to get out, the people too close to the pillar to reach the perimeter, and the people who tried to stop us. That's still a lot of people, granted, but not so many as you seem to think, Mr. Secretary."
Reeve's eyes narrowed at the reflection, at the city superimposed behind it. "Do you have family down there? Or do they live in a different sector?"
The question was dismissed with a shrug. "Who knows? What's more, who cares? In the slums, family is either everything to you or nothing. I was nothing to my family, they're nothing to me." Teeth flashed white, his tone turned sly. "It's a dog eat dog world out there, yo. Stupid phrase and Shiva is it over used, but there it is. We can't afford to sit in offices bitching about what other people do to each other. Too busy worrying about our own skins, you know?"
"You're not in the slums anymore, Reno."
This time the Turk leaned in close enough that he pressed against Reeve's shoulder, the vivid spikes of his hair which, if the shadows spoke true, were beginning to show dark at the roots, brushing the secretary's cheek. Heavy lidded eyes slid almost closed and lips turned to a snarling smirk. "The world's a slum, Mr. Secretary. It's just that some criminals get paid more than others."
Thankfully he pulled away and paced to other side of the elevator.
Reeve released the breath he hadn't quite meant to hold, relaxed the balls of his fists until the nails didn't bite his palms. He hadn't been paying attention to the floors they'd gone down, but he desperately hoped that the ride would be over soon.
He met his own eyes in the glass. Perhaps it was the way his dark, neatly trimmed beard vanished into the cityscape, perhaps it was the way his eyes, like Reno's, hollowed out into pits, but he looked worn down. Then again, maybe he was. Maybe the years of trying to accommodate too many people with too small a budget, of setting aside his own goals for those of his superiors, of trying to make the world a good place for everyone rather than the extended, segregated slum Reno saw it as was finally taking its toll. Perhaps he should just give up and let the stray dogs of humanity take over the world, or at least leave the fight to someone younger, more energetic, with more training in what it took to live on the streets and in the mud.
"Come look over here." Reno raised his voice to call across the elevator, despite the closeness. "Sector six still looks nice and dressed up, what with its pretty lights and all. That should make you feel better, huh?"
"Is that how you live with yourself? Just look away, find something that's still whole?" In his ear, the transmitter connecting him to Cait Sith brought him the whistle calls and bells of the Golden Saucer, a hint of all of its decadence and vice, a slum dipped in gilt. It seemed no matter where he looked tonight, he was going to see decay.
"Hades in a dress! You're depressing, you know that?" In the glass, Reno turned to look across the elevator, his bangs and goggles providing enough shadow to blank out his entire face except for the tilt-tip of his nose. "Man, here I am, fought my way up the food chain to the point I can finally afford to be a moping ass, and you're the one moaning about the state of the world!" His voice dropped to a contemptuous snarl. "You've never even lived in it."
For some reason that reached beyond Reeve's morbid calm to touch anger. It wasn't much, a small rise of irritation, but he met the other man's eyes in the glass and glared. "I'm at least ten years older than you. Don't forget that."
"Oh, of course not!" Hand flopping against his chest, gangly frame drooping in a mocking imitation of a wounded, abandoned puppet, Reno purred out over exaggerated innocence. "How could I ever forget that you've spent more time on the plate than I've been alive, living all the dangers of the plate, fighting all of its dirty, oh-so-dangerous fights!" The red-head lurched drunkenly back across the elevator. "Why, you clearly have so much more experience at living than I do, President ShinRa should step down and let you take over! I bet you'd sit in your office and end hunger! Poverty! Ifrit's balls, you'd turn the entire planet into a ten star hotel! Such a fucking saint!" By the end, the words were being spit like curses down the length of an accusing finger.
There was an answer to that. There was a reply if Reeve could just work his way past the anger; the sickening, helpless feeling that Reno was right, that he hadn't really lived; the sudden wave of uselessness. As it was, he could barely grasp the idea of it, the basic principle. "You're wrong." A simple start. "A world like you describe can't be created by just one person, if it can be created at all. ShinRa is a corporation, a group of people, -"
A bell sounded on the edge of his consciousness, the start of the next chocobo race. Place your bets.
"- a group that's supposed to be supporting each other in their goals, not tearing the world apart."
Reno's thin fingers clamped over his shoulder, spinning him with strength that belied the Turk's wiry frame, slamming him against the glass. Fortunately the elevators were built with paranoia in mind, strong enough to hold a truck and withstand shots from anything short of a cannon. He gasped involuntarily at the impact, leaving himself vulnerable as Reno stepped in and kissed him.
It was quick, a brush of lips, a quick slip of tongue against teeth, and the red-head was backing off even as Reeve brought his hands up to shove him away.
"And where are you, without the rest to support your pretty dream, yo?" Being faced with the real Reno was a sharp contrast to his shadow reflection. The elevator lights caught in his lazy, hooded eyes, making them almost glow, like the mako under the clouds. "Your high horse is crippled without funding, isn't it? Tell me," he tilted his chin down, looking up slightly at Reeve, holding the other man's dark eyes, "if the world ended tomorrow, which of us would be more likely to survive?"
And suddenly Reeve had to remind himself that he was a ShinRa employee on ShinRa company property and Reno was not going to, didn't dare, attack him, was not going to maul him like a pampered house cat that's escaped from his house and found his way down the wrong alley.
"Why don't you try taking a few risks sometime, Mr. Secretary?" Reno grinned, baring his teeth, his tone a challenge. "Live a little dangerously, huh? We'll see how smug you stay, up here on your soap box."
The elevator slowed, dinged, and Reno left, left Reeve standing with his back pressed against the glass watching the doors slide closed and the side of the building start speeding past once more as the elevator started back up.
Half a world away, a small black and white toy rolled a pair of dice.