Post-game piece; a disturbing dream.
Reeve had never got on well with women. They got on quite well with him/, but never seemed to grasp that it didn't go both ways - that he could be, in fact, quite pleasant and polite while firmly wishing they would go the hell away so he could get some work done. He got on best with the female engineers in his department - and /that was only because they were more properly described as "engineers who happened to own a set of mammary glands". An engineer, properly trained, had neither sex nor gender. They made jokes about it, even.
In Reeve's case it was more that Midgar was all the 'she' he could ever want, ever need, or in fact ever handle/. Mother, sister, daughter, wife - and most of the time he didn't even notice the lack of all the other things that might have filled his days. The Shinra merely /owned the place. It was Reeve's hand that loved it. He walked down a street on the Sector 1 Plate, heading broadly widdershins - toward Sector 8 - and simply took it in. The Plates were definitely the society section, green and beautiful in a manicured sort of way even in moonlight. (Whole and unfallen under a clear night sky. This was a good dream.) He remembered laying the plans for the re-zoning of this part of the Sector; a business had collapsed and its headquarters had been so bizarrely styled that, while an architectural feature, the real estate agents had found themselves unable to sell it -
"Beautiful, isn't it," said a child, perched on a smoothed boulder. "Even when you know what's under your feet."
"Yes," Reeve said - or admitted. The child's tone wasn't accusatory, but somehow it demanded acknowledgement. The slums were under his feet. And, in a way...a hole in the world.
The child was beautiful, in an undefinable way. Whereas the dream of the city was sharp and clear, every blade of grass distinct and real, the child's features blended and blurred, so that Reeve couldn't say what color his eyes were, or his hair, or his skin, from moment to moment. He hopped down from his rock and took Reeve's hand...and Reeve let him, because he had an idea that a dream like this came with a price tag somewhere.
The child tugged him along the streets...and Reeve lost himself in the beauty of the city at night. Whole and unfallen under a clear night sky/...the stars above just grew more orderly and precise as they became street lamps and office lights, and the softer glow of apartment windows in the highrises. /I shouldn't love it this much. The neat precision of the plate was mirrored by misery and poverty in the slums below. He knew that. He had friends down there now...
"It's never as easy as it seems, is it Reeve?" asked the child, his tone somewhere between amused and sympathetic.
"Is it wrong to love it, even knowing what it costs?" Reeve asked curiously. He had an idea that the child might know.
The boy's face turned to look up at him. "Is a statue less stunning because the sculptor was a prisoner in chains?" he asked in turn.
Reeve wasn't really sure what to say to that, or if he'd been answered or not. He had a feeling that he had been, and - "We're in Sector Seven."
And they were/, too. He'd somehow missed Sector Eight entirely - he looked out to the edge, to see the reactor identification to be sure, but Reeve knew his own city, and /this Sector was....
"Hurts, doesn't it?" asked the child inconsequentially as he let go of Reeve's hand, and hopped up into the lower branches of a manicured apple tree. "You let yourself be sent to Costa Del Sol for a week, and now all this is gone."
All right, that hurt, yes - hurt in the sharp, cold way of a knife to the stomach. Reeve put his hand on the trunk of the tree. I remember this place. There's a great little Wutaian take-out -
"Right around the corner," the boy agreed with a nod. "Or there was. It's gone now."
"Can I dream a memory of perfection in peace?" Reeve asked quietly, looking around at what was and never would be again.
"Do you know who I am, yet?" asked the child. It sounded as if he really didn't know, and was curious.
Reeve dragged his eyes away from the city - with reluctance - and studied the changeling child instead. He didn't try to memorize or fix the shifting features, but let intuition - a trait he'd never really been comfortable with - be his guide. "This...place..." he said slowly. "Not...Midgar. Not the planet. This...place."
"What was before Midgar, what will be after Midgar is gone." The boy idly swung his heels as he patted the tree branch. "Not the whole planet, just the part you're standing on...that you feed and wound in equal measure."
"I -" What did you /say/, to a sentence like that? Did you apologize? Ask questions? Play riddle games? Reeve wasn't a mystic. Not by choice, certainly, the demands of his conscience notwithstanding. He was an engineer by training and a geek by inclination, and took his reality neatly added up at the bottom of the page.
"That's your knife," said the boy quietly. "What isn't alive, can't suffer - can't die. What's beyond your facts and figures isn't real."
/This isn't real/. He knew that. Sector Seven was gone. The reactors for sectors One and Five were gone. /What isn't alive can't suffer, can't die/...that was wrong. It might not be alive...but it could die. And if it was aware...then it could suffer. The tree bark was cool and smooth under his fingers. Only knowing that where he stood no longer existed told him that this was a dream. "I didn't understand."
"You still don't," said the child. "You need to."
"I agree," said Reeve quietly. The tree felt so real under his hand - and yet, at the same time, it was two different things. A living tree, and rotting deadwood. He knew, in the waking world, just where this tree had been buried....it wasn't something he'd known before, but somehow he knew it now. He looked at the boy. "Are you here to teach me?"
"Me?" asked the boy, and the changeling features smiled - innocent, pleased, predatory. "I'm just a messenger." And then he was gone.
Reeve spent a while longer with his hand on the living/dead tree, then put his hand in his pocket and kept walking. My city to love, he mused. Mother, daughter, sister, wife. And now it was evidently sending him messages. He didn't have it in him to be surprised. There was a quality of love that could only be returned, that granted and expected responsibility. If the city came to him...well, it didn't really have anywhere else to /go/.
He looked up at the stars, and they started to swirl...
Reeve opened his eyes and for a moment thought he was still dreaming, until the swirling stars resolved themselves into the faintly green glimmers of a mako furnace's emissions. Scrubbing his face with one hand, he threw off the thin blanket and got up to turn the furnace down. He'd told his housemates that it had to be minimal use, but they'd taken him in while he'd worn the company logo on a keychain and it had become a local mark of patriotism to ignore what any "Shin-Ra" had to say. /I don't know why you make such a big deal out of it. The only people who listened to me inside the company were the ones in my own department anyway. Catch Heidegger taking suggestions? Not bloody likely./..but Heidegger was dead. Scarlet was dead. Hojo, thank all the gods, was dead. And he, somehow, wasn't.
Reeve stepped down rickety stairs, pulling what had once been a suit jacket over his shoulders but now served as jacket, coat, and general arm protection. He opened the door on ruins, on people crawling over ruins like children or cockroaches...on a new day. Funny how the last overwhelmed all the others; it was dawn, it was a new day. /There's nothing we've lost that we can't rebuild/.
He considered his dream...looked out at his city. What was left of it.
/You still don't understand. You need to/.
Reeve pulled out his PHS, checked the (dwindling) battery reserves. He didn't understand, no. But it was a reasonable bet that Bugenhagen /would/.