"May This Not Be An Omen" - Rufus comes to give Reeve news of his promotion
Sitting at a rooftop table, Reeve picked his way through a sushi dinner - forgoing the Wutain eating implements in favor of a fork - and looked out at the city. At night it was gorgeous, the various office and residential lights hanging in the dark like a starfield, with the more ordered lights of traffic running below. There was a feeling of accomplishment in being somewhat responsible for that measure of order.
Of course, there was also a pretty good feeling of accomplishment in getting a lot of work done before nine at night, thus allowing for a pleasant sushi dinner at a damn good, reasonably priced restaurant. Reeve was more than willing to take what victories he could get. He worked his way through a traditional sushi dinner, taking his time, and idly calculated visibility based on what lights he could see between himself and the distant circumferential reactors - those that still functioned, anyway. Mako power did wonders for atmospheric clarity; at this population density coal power would have rendered the air all but unbreathable. Still, there were families that continued to use coal and wood-burning sources as backup; there was only so much to be done...
"You have a complete and utter disrespect for a good meal," came Rufus Shinra's voice from behind him, and Reeve startled as badly as if he'd been caught sleeping at his desk - nearly upsetting the table. Rufus, evidently both expecting and pleased by the reaction, caught the table's edge and steadied it as he slid into the table's other chair, and his grin made Reeve think of nothing so much as a young panther being inordinately pleased about a successful rabbit-catching. He pulled out a pair of chopsticks from somewhere, and snagged a piece of nigiri-zushi.
Reeve had to take a few minutes to get his breathing under control. "Should you be here?" he almost hissed, looking around. The Shinra building wasn't more than a few blocks away, there could easily be a dozen employees in view of his table. Reeve was terrible at office gossip and knew it; he dreaded having to come up with explanations he knew probably wouldn't be believed anyway.
"Relax," grinned Rufus, quite definitely pleased about something. "It's semi-official this time."
That didn't help. "Is there a - no, there can't be a problem, you're too happy." Reeve frowned across the table at Rufus. "You're more than happy; I think I'd almost call you smug. What did you do?" And how illegal was it?
Rufus seemed to know very well the sort of things Reeve would fret about; he lost a little of his apparent glee. "I didn't do anything, for once, but that doesn't mean things aren't happening," he said quietly. "I checked your office first, of course; you're lucky you're here. I was going to drag you out if I had to; better you're witnessed elsewhere."
"You're not doing a damn thing for my nerves, I hope you know that," said Reeve levelly. "What's going on?"
"The old man's cleaning house," said Rufus quietly, snagging a piece of tamago. "Before this time tomorrow, you'll be Head of Urban Development."
Rufus was watching him very closely; Reeve managed to keep most of the shock from his face. "But -" he caught himself. Takei hadn't been that bad - a bit slow to adapt.. "...Oh." The terrorist attacks on the reactors had thrown the whole department into a frenzy - it was the main reason Reeve had looked on getting out before ten as an accomplishment. The loss of the reactors in Sectors One and Five had thrown the load balancing off for all the rest, and he'd spent more than one day out in the reactors with the other engineers when a telephone conversation hadn't looked likely to do the job right....of course the company had to lay blame, but...he looked at Rufus' carefully neutral, watching expression. "President Shinra asked you to tell me?" he ventured quietly, hopefully. Please let this not be as bad as it feels.
"No." Rufus shook his head. "As you asked...this...to be kept private..." he shrugged, and sampled the rao. "And the old man hasn't got that much tact in him, anyway. Tseng let me know."
Tseng. The Turk made Reeve's blood run cold and he was sure, absolutely certain, that Tseng enjoyed and even encouraged the reaction. The Turks belong to you but it's the President that cuts their paychecks... and he knew, everyone knew, the kind of jobs the President tapped the Turks for. "...Oh, God."
"Don't panic," said Rufus quietly. "Don't say anything. Sometime tomorrow the old man is probably going to call you into his office and make it damn clear that Takei won't be back, his office and everything in it is yours, and the usual speech about the rewards of hard work. Scared is fine - he likes intimidating - but don't buckle, don't lose it. You understand?"
You've just told me I've been promoted via dead man's boots, terrorists have blown up two reactors and for all I know are aiming for the rest, and if I don't do a damn good job I'm next and you don't want me to 'lose it'? How much sanity do you think I've got, Rufus? No. No panic. No distress.
Rufus' expression softened, though his eyes didn't. "This is how it's done," he said quietly, leaving no room in the statement for compromise. "This is how he runs things. You're good at surviving and you work your ass off - you'll /be okay/, Reeve. Whatever projects he's got you working on, he wants them done and done right. As Head, you can do your job better." Apparently unconcerned, he snagged another piece of Reeve's dinner.
And President Shinra saves on retirement packages, thought Reeve numbly. Takei couldn't have forseen the attacks, could he? He'd quite lost his appetite; Rufus was welcome to finish it. "I'm...not to go back, right?"
"Not tonight, no," Rufus agreed, and handed Reeve the little cup of sake. "Stay visible for a while longer. The Turks know their jobs, all I'm concerned about is you not getting caught in the inter-office crossfire." Stay with me.
Reeve heard the unspoken words, but it honestly took a great deal of willpower to stay in his seat - he wanted nothing more, right then, than to get as far away from the office as he could. The rabbit runs to ground. He was no predator. He knew it. And now.../Now I'm going to be dropped in the shark tank./ And the only way out.../I could quit. Now. Tonight. Run -/ no. He already knew too much, didn't he? Who on earth could call President Shinra to task for...for anything/? Who would mourn Takei, who would miss him.../for that matter, I know pretty well there aren't many who'd miss me, and those that would could be silenced pretty easily...I'm stuck, aren't I?
"Reeve?" Rufus asked quietly, several questions in just the name.
If your father kills me, what will you do then? Reeve almost asked aloud. He didn't, because he was fairly sure Rufus knew survival in this world better than he did. Rufus would pull himself together and continue. What else was there to do? "...Don't give your father a reason to kill me, Rufus," he said quietly.
Rufus frowned slightly at the implication. "That's beyond my control," he said, somewhat harshly. "It's a good thing I came out to find you. If you took the news like this in front of the old man, you really would be in trouble. He hates bad PR." Again, he offered Reeve the little cup of sake, and this time wrapped Reeve's fingers around it. "Listen to me. The only thing that officially matters to you is you're being promoted. Board members are ranked by seniority, you'll be the low man on the board totem pole, but from here on in the only people you answer to are me and the old man. That's it. As far as he's concerned you should be honored; practice being honored and for Ramuh's sake don't quibble about how."
Reeve knew very well how strong sake was. He knocked the contents of the cup back in one go, and then refilled it. And you? Do you think I should be honored? he wanted to ask. Do you see the bodies? Do you care? Or do you only care that you're not one of them? Maybe this was a bad idea. This might, in fact, be an extremely bad idea, but no matter where he looked, there were no exits. He wondered when the point of no return had been passed, and knocked back the second cup.
"That's enough." Rufus' hand covered the top of the little cup before a second refill could be poured. His voice was quiet, but very firm. "Reeve. Look at me." When Reeve obeyed, Rufus caught his eyes and held them. "There is nothing - not a single damn thing - I can do to change how things are. Right now. I can shout, I can argue, every now and then I can pull off a minor coup here and there, but I can't change the whole damn company from where I am now. This is the world I know. It's just about all I know, so don't glare at me for being good at surviving in it. If you want it to be different, show me how and I'll give you your chance when I'm able, but you can't do a goddamn thing for anyone if you fall apart and the old man decides you're a liability. You're being watched here. We're being watched here. Don't fall apart."
Reeve stared back, wishing he could ask the questions he wanted to ask. Do you approve of this way of doing things? Is it just my reaction that makes you back away? Do you care at all, really, or are you just saying what you think you need to? Carefully, he set the cup down. "I won't...fall apart," he answered quietly. "I...will be honored when I'm...officially told whatever I get told."
"Good." While the tone sounded relieved, Rufus was still watching him closely, frowning a little. Reeve wondered why, but shock and alcohol were combining to cause a state of numbness. And this is the person I'm attracted to... Or maybe it was all smoke and mirrors, charm and looks.../no. I shouldn't say that. Not so soon, not yet. As he says...it's his world, not mine..../ Rufus checked his watch, looked at Reeve, and sighed. "Get home. Get some sleep. Learn/. I know you can - I understand one word in five when you get going. Learn this, too." /I need you alive... "Go on, Reeve. I'll take care of the bill."
Given a clear dismissal, permission to do what he wanted to do - get away - Reeve obeyed, getting to his feet and letting reflex get him out of the restaurant. He had wanted to get to the top. He just...hadn't thought it would be like this. He headed for the train station, wondering if the reason he hadn't was simple ignorance, or willful blindness.
Rufus, from Reeve's table, watched him go as he finished the sushi dinner, feeling curiously tired. The news hadn't gone over at all how he'd thought it would; Reeve's reactions were...odd, and a little disturbing, but not in an off-putting way. Just...odd, unexpected. But Reeve's always been kind of odd. When Reeve reached the train station, Rufus paid the check. There were a few things to take care of, yet, before it was his turn to head home.