"A slip of the pen" that really wasn't. The 'execution' in Junon.
Most of the reason was simple common sense; Rufus had the attitude of a caged panther when angered, and was pacing the office as if issuing a general challenge to the universe to take him on. Reeve had only recently caught up on his sleep - no need to watch Avalanche when Rufus had them secure, after all - and was therefore in no mood to play poke-the-tiger.
"What kind of excuse for a scientist is so damn thrilled to be right he misses the part about the planet blowing up?" Rufus snarled, one fist lashing out to punch a wall - though he still had control enough to not do so while near enough for Reeve to take it as personal. "He played me. Played the whole damn company for all I know."
Reeve didn't say most of the things he could have; that he'd found the Promised Land a dangerous delusion from the start, that he hadn't liked Shin-Ra's plans for it even if it had proved to be real. He already had, more than once, and it would now be only an I told you so that would do nothing at all to calm Rufus' temper. A week of sleep - of mere eight hour days and doing nothing but resting for the other sixteen - had done a lot for him. It was, he reflected a bit lately, a pity Rufus hadn't tried it. "Barret has all the tact of a brooding dragon," he said instead.
"Won't leave - whatshername, Tifa - and won't say a word while she's unconscious," Rufus snapped. "While the Meteor is scaring the shit out of the people, the Weapon is loose and making a hash of my troops, and I'm left to fix it all. I'd like to see how much his problem this isn't when he can't get rounds for that goddamn gun-arm of his because the population's hit the panic button."
Cait Sith came in, then - sans the huge Mog it needed when traveling with Avalanche, and the ridiculous costume it wore - and set the tray it was carrying on Reeve's desk. Reeve bent down and petted it as he sampled the coffee. Ah... he'd definitely missed having his Cait around to look after him. "Come on up here, Cait," he told it, and the cat obediently climbed up onto his lap for him to put his arms around. Just like old times... It was so much easier to think with his chin resting on Cait's furry head. It certainly made Rufus' pacing less of a threat. (Not that it really was one, but angry predators tended to put him on edge no matter who they happened to be.) He listened to Rufus' pacing and snarling with half an ear, to Cait Sith's contented purring with the other, and thought.
Hojo was definitely hiding things - insanely dangerous things. It was hard to imagine him hiding anything that was more dangerous than what he'd already been proven to have hidden, but if anyone could top it, it would be Hojo. Firing him would just mean never finding out what it was he was actually doing - Rufus was no wizard, and Reeve's own skills were far more in the realm of robotics than network security. Heidegger, Palmer and Scarlet...
Reeve couldn't stand them, really, and the feeling was generally held to be mutual, but that didn't necessarily make them the enemy save in the usual whose-budget-gets-the-most-leeway sense. On the other hand, if they were hiding things, there was so much chaos going on that Rufus stood a good chance of never seeing any plot until it was a long way too late. Though, really, if Palmer was capable of the level of scheming required, Reeve would eat his keycard...which still left the other two. And whatever Hojo was really doing. Finding out what Hojo was really doing would be very nice...
"Use Avalanche," he suggested aloud. "Use Avalanche to draw their claws out - make them show what they can do."
"We've got Avalanche," Rufus snapped back. "Or most of it. They're useless. And they don't trust us."
Nor should they, Reeve knew, though not for the reasons Avalanche thought. Avalanche thought very ...simply. Shin-Ra was hurting the planet, therefore Shin-Ra was evil, therefore anyone working for it had a better than average chance of being evil or was flat out irredeemable. Tifa was considered quite open-minded for her belief that not every employee was a scion of greed and destruction. Don't trust Shin-ra, the group believed, because Shin-ra is Evil.
Reeve would have said, Try, 'Don't trust Shin-ra because we make our living using our brains instead of our fists'. If Shin-ra had been played - which seemed entirely likely - by all reports, Avalanche had been snowed a hell of a lot worse. Hojo had at least had to work at it to deceive the company.
"They're not like us," said Reeve slowly. "If they were, they would either have never followed you onto the airship, or they would have left here as soon as they could. Dragging Tifa if they had to, so you couldn't hold her hostage."
"Don't think I haven't been tempted," Rufus growled, putting his palms flat on the wall in an effort to force them to stay unclenched. "I must be seen to be doing something. And they've already tried to kill me once. They'd make first-rate scapegoats with almost no PR work at all."
Reeve hid a wince. While he did agree that Cloud attempting to cleave Rufus in half was a very bad thing...he'd gotten to know Avalanche fairly well in his months of watching them. Cloud was quite possibly insane, but his intentions had been broadly in the right place. Very broadly. What it boiled down to was Cloud's inability to do anything with Things He Saw As Bad that didn't involve cleaving them in half with his sword. On the other hand, he never ever wanted to see Rufus in the shape he'd been in after that fight again. He'd learned a measure of tolerance for Avalanche's brutal tactics, but that didn't mean all was forgiven. Not by a long shot. He absently scritched behind Cait Sith's ears - and you, poor thing, have to work with them... he stopped, and looked down at the robot cat.
Cait, sensing it was being studied, tilted its head back and looked up at him with its artificial green cat-eyes, and /mrrrr/'d a question. Reeve grinned at it.
"Then kill them," he said quietly, pleased, as the idea unfolded. "Set it up - and kill them. Pin it all on them."
He had to snag Cait - who thought he'd been talking to it - as Rufus' jaw dropped. "You're serious?" he asked. "I know you've gotten attached to them, Reeve, you're not that good an actor."
"Nono, Cait, not you!" Reeve said quickly, getting the robot to sit still. "I am attached to them," he admitted to Rufus. "They're not bad people, except for Barret, and the rest of them sit on him when they have to. But the fact remains that they're no good to you here except as scapegoats. They're fighters, not thinkers or even leaders. You can't hold them up as examples to be followed, only examples to be avoided. So do that."
Rufus was no fool, even furious. Reeve advocating anyone's execution - and so cheerfully - was cause for suspicion on its own. "And?" he asked, inviting Reeve to finish his idea with all the subtlety of a sword point.
Reeve grinned at him. "And let Cait rescue them from you."
"Let me see if I understand you correctly," said Rufus shortly, stalking over to put his palms flat on the desk, to give Reeve a level and quite lethal stare. "I've got a huge monstrous Weapon rampaging my territory. I've got a meteor heading straight for said territory, death and destruction impending. I've got the ultimate party responsible hiding behind a barrier I can't break, which adds up to a three-of-a-kind in utter fucking /uselessness/, and you want me to pin it all on Avalanche and then /let them get away/?"
If Reeve hadn't been holding on to Cait Sith, that glare would have been very very worrying. As it was, even Cait could recognize the implied threat, and was staring at Rufus with its ears slightly tilted back in warning. Rufus knew the cat would defend Reeve; the tilted ears were probably more than enough warning.
"Hype it up," said Reeve. "Make it look like they're really just that tough. Or execute dummies in their place - a little CGI can go a long way. The important thing for you is that you have a scapegoat - and that Cait Sith helps them get away."
Rufus had apparently lost his anger - he was just staring now, dumbfounded. "Do you really think they'll buy it?" he asked, stunned. "Are you seriously telling me a group of people who have caused me this much trouble are that /stupid/?"
Reeve's grin was a little rueful. "Actually, sir...yes. Avalanche is very good at blowing things up, breaking into places...violence, really. But they're not complex thinkers. Barret won't talk to you because, bluntly, you're Rufus Shinra. You could be pissing rainbows and spitting sunbeams and he'd sooner let you burn to death than shake your hand. The others aren't as bad as he is, but they're still pretty simple thinkers. And, of course, Shin-Ra is the evil empire. The enemy of their enemy is their friend."
"You." Rufus stared blankly into space, almost - but not quite - missing the chair as he sat down. "You've got to be kidding."
"They still don't know who I am," Reeve pointed out. "And the board doesn't know Cait's under my control, either - the Turks have seen to that. Avalanche knows that Cait answers to a Shin-Ra employee - and that's all they know. Even that much has been clouded, to their way of thinking, because frankly I really didn't like the whole hostage business and still don't, even though I'd happily hand you Barret's head on a platter if I could do it and still keep an eye on the rest."
Rufus flicked his fingers at the mention of Marlene. He hadn't liked taking child hostages, but then again he hadn't liked being assaulted in his own headquarters, either. All bets had been off for a long time. "And because you don't like it, you must be not-really-Shin-Ra?" he asked, trying to wrap his mind around people who could think like that.
"Basically," Reeve nodded. "Set up the executions. Let Cait rescue them. Give them the airship. They will go after Sephiroth for you, Rufus, and Weapon if they can, and you don't need to pay or reward them. What they'll never say to your face, they might well say to Cait once they think he's really on their side after all. And I can feed them information through Cait to reaffirm that - and use them to draw out the knives the rest of the board may still be hiding from you."
"Because if I threaten to execute them, of course I've been lying all along, and we're all evil," said Rufus quietly, eyes wide as he thought through all the available options. "Hell, I can even arm them, as long as they think they're being clever, can't I? And the others...if I make Avalanche my enemy, then kicking their ass is of course bonus-worthy..."
Reeve just grinned into Cait's fur. No one would ever call Rufus stupid. Palmer, Hojo, Scarlet and Heidegger would all dutifully attempt to kiss up by taking out the dangerous terrorists - and in the process, show Rufus what they were capable of. And all the while, Rufus would be able to direct both sides of the game of chess.
Rufus got up, went around the desk, and put both hands on the back of Reeve's chair, just above his shoulders, bent down, and kissed Reeve thoroughly. "I like it," he purred. "Yes. Do that." With a little grin, he added, "I'll arrange for Scarlet to be here." One hand gestured graciously. "Purely to lend veracity to the proceedings, of course." He knew what Reeve thought of Scarlet - at least well enough to know that turning her into 'evidence' that Cait Sith had switched sides would have appeal.
"/Thank/ you," Reeve confirmed. Dislike was far too mild a word for his opinion of Scarlet. For that matter, so was /loathing/.
Rufus frowned slightly at the vehemence. "I'd appreciate it if you don't hospitalize her. She's not going to show her claws if her tongue's busy licking wounds."
Reeve made a face. "Of course not," he said, in a tone that made it clear he really hadn't thought of that. "But I will definitely appreciate a chance to deck the bitch without repercussions." He paused. "Sir."
"Don't worry about it," Rufus advised. He patted Cait. "You up to this?" he asked it.
Cait Sith nodded enthusiastically. "I can do whatever Reeve needs me to do!" it said proudly.
"Well," said Reeve softly, into one of Cait's ears, "Reeve needs you to get off his lap and go find a good disguise for you and the Mog. You're going to get to be a hero."