The helicopter ride had perhaps been the single most awkward thing Reeve had done in years. He sat in the back, right across from one of the most powerful men in the world, a man ten years his junior and three inches shorter than himself. Somehow, Rufus managed to look as comfortable as ever, leaning back, one ankle propped up on his knee as he watched the countryside go by under them. Reno and Elena, Rufus's private bodyguards were up front, actually piloting the machine.
Reeve did his best to keep from staring, burying his nose into the reports Rufus had so casually handed him in the office. He tried not to think about the fact that he was missing his own party, the first recognition he'd gotten since he'd been approached for his designs of the 'floating city.' He swallowed and refocused his attention instead, looking for a document that would explain the whole problem with the Junon reactor, although he doubted it would be so simple. As deep underwater as the reactor was, the problems that it developed tended to be unique, something that he had to actually look at to figure out.
By the time they finally arrived, he discovered that there was one benefit to traveling with the Vice President of Shinra Electric: the direct pass through everything. He scarcely had time to even realize where they were (even with the terrible traffic) when Rufus was already getting out, leading the way into the reactor. Reeve hesitated when he noticed that both Reno and Elena stopped short of the door, Reno pulling out a pack of cigarettes while they waited.
"You're not-" He started too soft though, because they were talking over him without even realizing that he'd spoken at all.
"Butt me." Elena held out her hand, and Reno handed her a cigarette before pulling one out for himself. "He probably has his hands all over her right now." Elena scowled as she lit and took a drag off of cigarette, blowing the smoke into the air. "I'm going to have to remind him about that, you know? That bank is closed."
"Hell, can you blame him?" Reno lit his, and then he noticed Reeve still in the door. He grinned and waved a hand. "We'll be out here," he called, and then he turned back to the little blonde standing at his side. Reeve blushed, feeling almost as awkward as he had in the helicopter. This night just kept getting better and better.
Rufus was waiting for him just inside the door, leaning against the wall. He rolled his head a little to look at Reeve and smiled before holding his arm out, motioning for Reeve to head down the hall first. Blushing, Reeve did, his hand tightening as he realized he'd left his bag in the car. He'd need the change of clothes, he was sure, but he would have to go and get them later.
"What can you tell us?" Rufus stopped in the office, picking up a clipboard from the first desk he approached and glancing over it. The young man at the desk stared up at him, clearly shocked to see the Vice President hovering, looking for all the world as though he belonged no where else. Reeve felt the smallest of smiles touch his lips.
"S-sir! We weren't expecting you tonight!"
Rufus arched an eyebrow but didn't look up, instead choosing to drag one finger down the report on the board. "The output is still unstable?" It wasn't a real question, as Rufus wouldn't have been there for any other reason, and he certainly wouldn't have dragged along Mayor Domino's assistant for anything short of an emergency.
"Yes, sir." The man looked relieved to have something to discuss, although he kept glancing over his shoulder, waiting for someone higher ranked to hand the Vice President and his guest over to. Reeve almost felt sorry for him, and then he stepped out of the office onto the catwalk that overlooked the reactor itself. He drew a deep breath before he headed further in, stopping only at a safety station to gear up- gloves, helmet, and safety goggles- and leaving his suit jacket. He was pleased when he saw Rufus following suit, putting on exactly what Reeve did, leaving his heavy white overcoats (he wore two?) at the station.
Reeve picked up a toolbox and practically bounced down the stairs, reaching out and laying one palm against a pipe in the reactor. It hummed under his touch, and he forced himself to forget about Rufus, to reach inside of himself and find that string that connected himself with the very essence of just about anything engineered. This was his reactor design, the one he'd spent the most time on out of all of them; he could feel her, hear her whispering to him. For another moment, he stood there, perfectly still.
"What are you doing?" Rufus's whisper seemed loud on the other hand, and Reeve almost jumped at the sound of it, so close to his ear. He looked over his shoulder, where Rufus stood, eyebrows drawn. "Reeve?"
"Listening," Reeve answered before he started walking. "If you pay attention, you can hear where the problem is." He left his hand on the pipe, feeling the pulse of the mako in the reactor. Rufus followed him, still watching him curiously. Reeve moved, unerringly, guided by the reactor herself until he found what promised to at least be a major portion of the problem. He knelt down, ignoring the puddle of black goo on the floor, so that he could look under the pipe, and he frowned.
"I'll be back," he said, ducking under the pipe and disappearing. He heard Rufus calling to him, but he was already set to work, listening carefully for the whispers of the reactor. An hour passed, maybe two, but then he found it. There was a heavy cold under his fingertips, even through the glove when he reached out to touch the next pipe, and he frowned, following it until he had to jerk his hand off of the pipe, the cold was so strong.
He looked over, his eyes widening as he noticed Rufus, wearing the same layer of grime that Reeve was, one hand on the nearest shut off valve. A boyish smile played over the Vice President's lips, and he shrugged a little. "Problem with authority figures," he offered, clearly entertained by Reeve's expression.
"I can imagine," Reeve replied, but he nodded anyway, glad for the extra hands. He just wasn't used to anyone so fearlessly following him off of the beaten path in the reactor. "Yeah, pull that one for me." He waited until Rufus pulled it, and then he set to work, opening up the pipe to check on the source of the cold. Blindly, he reached in, managing a small smile to Rufus when he found something. His hand wrapped around it a few times, trying to figure out how to grab it before he pulled it out.
The mass caught light and glittered while Reeve lightly shook his hands, glad for the gloves suddenly. Rufus took the thing from him- he wasn't even entirely certain what it was- so that Reeve could check the pipe once more. Satisfied that it was actually clear, he secured it and then threw the shut-off switch once more. The rhythm of the reactor hummed all around him, and only once he was sure that everything was back in proper working order, did he turn to look at the beast causing all of the trouble.
Rufus turned it over and over in his hands, his brow furrowing as he studied it. Reeve watched how it reflected the light for a moment, just admiring its appearance, and then it occurred to him what it was- what it had to be. Immediately, he snatched it out of Rufus's hands. The blond frowned at him, and Reeve flushed before he had the presence of mind to explain.
"It's mako," he murmured, and when Rufus's expression didn't clear, he added, "Exposure to mako can be dangerous, particularly for someone in your position, Vice President." With that, Reeve tucked the massive crystal under his arm and nodded toward the way they had come in. "I'll carry it out, and you can examine it up there. With proper safety protocol."
"I was wondering where you got them," Rufus said lowly. Reeve felt something cold ripple down his arms, and when he looked up, Rufus was studying him intently.
"Got what?" His mouth was dry as he looked at the younger man, and when Rufus stepped toward him, Reeve's instinct was to step back. Something about Rufus kept him on edge; the blond was... predatory. Then one of those hands shot out and gripped Reeve's chin, keeping him in place while Rufus closed the distance between them. When they were so close- Reeve could feel Rufus breathing- everything else seemed to just fall away, inconsequential. Rufus's other hand lifted to pull Reeve's safety glasses off, presumably so that he could look at Reeve's eyes more closely, without the glare off of the plastic.
"Mako eyes," Rufus murmured, and Reeve blinked. Slowly, Rufus tilted Reeve's head, looking at him until Reeve flushed again, uncomfortable under the scrutiny. "Been exposed through work?" He wasn't letting go, and Reeve wasn't sure that he could make him. Rufus was focused on something, on some answer he wanted.
"N-no." Reeve tentatively tried to lean back a fraction, but there was a pipe back there and it only served to trap him further, cold mechanical design behind him and Rufus's impossibly warm body in front of him. He shivered. "Got exposed when I was young." Was Rufus leaning in closer? Reeve licked his bottom lip, his eyes narrowing.
"That right?" Rufus's breath was warm, not entirely unpleasant, although Reeve had to admit, the position was incredibly awkward. It was intense, intimate, and he wasn't sure that he liked it.
The voice caused Reeve to gasp, then weakly let his head lean back against the pipe behind him, but Rufus didn't even seem fazed by it. Instead, he simply tilted his head back a hair so that he could call back (without shouting in Reeve's ear), "What is it?" Reeve was frantically thanking his lucky stars that the machinery had them completely shielded from view; it wouldn't do for the mayor's assistant to be caught necking the Vice President of Shinra Electric in the middle of a reactor. And no qualms about it, Reeve knew that look on the younger man's face; another moment, maybe two, and necking would have been a definite possibility.
"The output has stabilized. Whatever you did, it worked."
Slowly, Rufus placed the glasses back on Reeve's face and backed away, and then he sank to the floor to crawl out. How he made it look graceful, Reeve had no idea. He took advantage of the brief privacy, pulling himself together before he followed the Vice President out. He cradled the crystallized mako to him, and they all three walked back up the stairs to the catwalk.
"How did you know what was wrong?"
"I didn't. Mr. Tuesti here found the problem." Rufus glanced over at him, and Reeve pointedly looked at the floor, watching his step. His grip tightened a fraction on the crystal formation he was carrying.
"Reeve Tuesti?" The tech stuck his hand out to Reeve, who smiled and shook it. "It's a pleasure, sir. You designed this reactor, didn't you?"
"I had a team of engineers working on it, sure."
"He's modest." Rufus stripped off his gloves and safety gear the moment he could, picking up his overcoats and folding them so they wouldn't be stained by the layer of grease coating both his and Reeve's clothes. Walking in the reactors tended to lend itself to purchasing new suits. "That same team works on other projects and still doesn't come up with anything half as ingenious now that Reeve isn't there."
"So, you don't work for Shinra Electric, Mr. Tuesti?"
"No." Reeve didn't remove any of his gear until he had secured the crystallized mako in a biohazard container. Only once it was sealed and labeled did he start peeling off gloves and glasses and helmet. He blew a soft breath up, moving his bangs from his eyes. "Listen, you need to have this looked at." He nodded toward the bucket that he placed carefully in the arms of the tech. "You'll have to shut the reactor down in sections and make certain that there aren't any other clusters. If these clog the pipe, the whole place will go."
Rufus nodded when the tech looked at him, lending his agreement to Reeve's words. "Perform a preliminary analysis on it, then send the container to Midgar, along with any others you might find. I want this reactor checked, top to bottom. The last thing we need is another Gongaga incident." He lifted his gaze to Reeve, who refused to look directly at him. Reeve didn't want to see the accusation that would accompany those words, that always accompanied those words.
Instead, Reeve focused on folding his suit jacket, on making sure that he didn't smear it with any of the reactor's byproducts. Suits were expensive, and he didn't want to have to buy another jacket as well new trousers. He murmured, "We need to get our bags so that we can shower and change. This won't come out of the car seats."
Rufus did something, waved his hand or whatever, and then they were walking again, this time heading down the hall toward the locker rooms. Reeve blushed and fidgeted the whole way, picking at one of the seams on his jacket. By the time they reached the room, he'd managed to worry a string loose on the sleeve. He frowned as he set the jacket down.
He stilled, then looked up at Rufus, his eyes narrowing. "Yes, Vice President Shinra?"
"Please, call me Rufus." Rufus reached up and peeled the black turtleneck sweater off, dropping it over one of the benches. Reeve felt his face growing hot again and sighed slightly before he averted his gaze, focusing on his own clothes. "Reeve, why are you the Mayor's assistant?"
Reeve carefully unbuttoned his own shirt, taking his time. "Trying to steal me back to Shinra Electric, sir?" A little smile curved his lips, but he didn't look up.
"No." The answer was flat, and Reeve arched an eyebrow, sliding the shirt down over his shoulders. "I was actually wondering why you didn't run for mayor. You could have; it was well within your rights."
"I … I had other things to worry about at the time." The Wutaian's smile faded; his brow furrowed. "Are you saying I should have been the mayor instead of Domino?"
Rufus laughed, and he stuck one of the towels under Reeve's nose, forcing him to look up. "Reeve, Domino only got the position because President Shinra liked him for it. He wanted someone he could control."
Hesitantly, Reeve took the towel, still frowning. He watched Rufus slip into the first shower stall, and he slowly followed suit, taking the next one. He tossed the towel over the shower curtain rod, and he turned the water on full blast, not even caring that the first of the water was freezing.
He washed up quickly as he could, and even then, by the time he shut off the water, dried off, and got out (towel wrapped around his waist), Reno was in the locker room, holding out Reeve's bag. Gratefully, he took it, fished out a fresh white shirt and black suit pants, and dressed.
"Tuesti, they wanna see you in the office." Reno jerked his thumb toward the door, and Reeve nodded as he tugged his suit jacket back on. He shouldered his bag, and then frowned as he looked up at the redhead.
Reno offered him a little grin. "What makes you think I'd know?" He shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Somethin' about Midgar, I'd imagine. They want you and Rufus both in there, soon as you got out."
Slowly, Reeve nodded again, and as he turned toward the door, he heard Rufus's water cut off. He didn't hesitate but walked on out. The last thing he really needed was this complicated thing- no. There wasn't a thing. There was a Vice President who seemed to think that everything on the planet revolved around him. He would get bored and eventually move on to more interesting prey. They always did.
Having reaffirmed himself, Reeve smiled and opened the door to the office, his eyes flicking up to the clock on the wall. Ten-fifteen, Midgar Standard Time; all reactors ran on it, so that there could be no confusion when ordering upgrades. That meant that it was only nine-fifteen in Junon proper, and Reeve was already getting tired. He reached up and rubbed his eyes, leaning back against one of the desks. No one else was in the office, but he figured they'd be there soon. No one would risk keeping an upper executive of Shinra Electric waiting.
"What do you mean, there's been an incident?"
Reeve lifted his head at the sound of Rufus's voice, at the tone of it. The Vice President sounded upset as he stormed into the room, a swirl of white fabric and flashing blue eyes. A tiny smile lit Reeve's face, but he hid it behind one hand as Rufus rounded on the man holding up his hands.
"It's not my news, sir," he shot back quickly, trying to look as disarming as possible. He was taller than Rufus by a good three inches or so, and yet he still managed to cower effectively. A Shinra Electric employee requirement; Reeve had been quite good at making his own frame much smaller before he finally quit. … Sadly, he had to admit that it was a skill he still used.
"Well, it's not news at all unless you actually tell me what happened." Rufus was aggressive, closing in on the man. "Calling it something like an 'incident' only causes further panic."
"There's no need to panic at all yet, Vi-" Reeve caught himself, smiled, and added, "Rufus." He reached out, touching the Vice President's arm with the lightest of his fingertips. "We don't know what's happened yet."
Rufus shot him a look, one that Reeve wasn't sure he understood, but then he nodded curtly, drew a deep breath, and leaned back against the desk beside Reeve. Suddenly, the Wutaian couldn't help but wonder if perhaps it would have been better to allow Rufus to rage a few more minutes. With him standing so close, Reeve felt self-conscious, felt like the heat arcing between them was too much, too intense. Maybe that was just Rufus's effect on people though. Idly, Reeve reached up and rubbed his arm lightly.
"We've had calls from Reactors 04 and 06 in Midgar." The secretary looked so nervous that Reeve wanted to reach out, to pat his hand and smile encouragingly, but something held him back. The news seemed rather dire if it couldn't wait until they'd had a little sleep. "Reactor 05, sir... There's been an explosion."
Reeve's eyes widened, and he pushed himself off of the desk, his mouth suddenly dry. "W-what? How bad? Did they say what caused it?" Mentally, he pulled up the reactor schematics, trying to identify anything about Reactor 05 that had bothered him, that had stuck out in the construction as being 'wrong'.
"No, sir. There's no news yet. It only just happened. Your Turks have been informed, and they're waiting at the car, sir."
Both men exchanged looks, and without another word, Rufus and Reeve were headed out, Reeve gripping the strap on his bag so tightly that his knuckles ached. The trip back was passed quietly, Reeve's attention focused as he watched for Midgar on the horizon. When it finally did, all of the bracing in the world couldn't have prepared Reeve for it. The city, his city, was ablaze, and for one terrible heartbeat, he felt like the entire plate was alight with fire.
Then his vision cleared, and he narrowed his gaze, understanding that it was only panic blinding him that way. Reactor 05 had been on fire for a while, at least two and a half hours by the time they got there, but it was under control. There were people working on it, and the spotlights in the area had it lit almost as lightly as during the day. Reeve swallowed, and when a heavy hand rested on his shoulder, he leaned back into it, grateful for it, no matter how suspicious he might have been of the motives behind it. Rufus's touch was welcome in that moment, as it lessened the ache in Reeve's chest.
Reno landed the helicopter right there, and Rufus stepped out easily, as though he did this everyday. He reached back and offered a hand to Reeve, who admitted freely that he didn't go bouncing out of helicopters everyday. He stood there, in the heat of the fire, for several minutes, long after Reno had taken back off, and Rufus had stormed off, the cloud of white coat and angry shouting.
When he finally did move again, he found himself slowly slipping out of his jacket, letting it drop to the ground, and rolling up his sleeves. He walked into the wreckage, reaching out to touch the twisted fragments that were still attached to the plate, his fingertips burning from the lingering heat, even though he was careful not to get too close to the flames. He felt something in his chest aching, and he closed his eyes, his fingers tracing patterns over the heated metal.
He slowly disconnected himself, reaching out for the reactor, following the thread that seemed to connect him to her. It took a long time, a lot of digging and reaching and pleading and calling for her before he finally found her, before he could finally hear her last whispers as she succumbed to the flames and the abuse her 'rescuers' were putting her through, cutting wildly in the metal as they searched for survivors. Reeve gritted his teeth and dug his fingers into the metal, trying to hold on to her, trying not to let her slip away from him so easily.
It was a futile battle. She had held on as long as she could for him, waiting for him to arrive, waiting for him to save her. But there would be no saving that night; she understood that. It would be easier to simply rebuild instead of trying to repair. Reeve sighed as she escaped him, leaving him with her final whispers, her final legacy to him. Look in the parts. Look at the power core.
Reeve drew back his hand then, letting her go, and he turned his attention to the nearest groups of engineers, of rescue workers who were throwing parts to the side carelessly as they rushed, their sense of urgency still high even after so long of working. He walked over, feeling as though he were in a daze as he dug through pile after pile of parts, looking for the faint blue glow that was the core, the heart of his reactor design.
He finally found it wedged under a larger piece, and by the time he got it out, his fresh white shirt was stained from sweat, the oppressive summer heat bearing down on him as much as the flames finally being put out did. He dragged in a deep breath, and he studied the core, his fingertips touching every inch of it. He swallowed thickly and looked around, his eyes landing on the one man still in a full suit, dark sunglasses over his eyes.
"Hey. Hey, are you one of Rufus's Turks?" Reeve coughed, but the man heard him, because he was still for only a moment before he came over, kneeling down beside Reeve in the rubble.
"Mr. Tuesti, what can I help you with?"
Reeve blushed a little, but he was already beet red from exertion, so perhaps the Turk wouldn't notice. "What's your name?" They still had to shout a little to be heard over the roar of the rescuers, of the screaming reactor, the crackle of the flames.
"Right. Okay, Rude, listen. We need to get this part out of here. It's important." Reeve coughed again, and Rude nodded slowly before he stood, peeled off his suit jacket and draped it over Reeve's shoulders. Reeve stared as Rude hoisted the core up and over one shoulder. It wasn't that the core was particularly big, but it was quite heavy, quite dense. No matter how big Rude was, carrying it that easily was impressive. "Right. Okay then." Reeve pushed himself up.
"President Shinra is in the tent over there, coordinating the search teams." Rude's voice was low, pitched only for Reeve's ears, and Reeve nodded, drawing a deep breath. He hated talking to President Shinra. The tent looked innocuous enough though, so Reeve braced himself and headed over to it.
He ducked inside, holding the flap open for Rude behind him. Rude immediately settled the core on the ground in the corner, careful to keep holding onto it, so that it didn't fall over. Reeve looked up, and his eyes widened as he watched Rufus delivering orders. President Shinra wasn't in the tent at all. Patiently, he let Rufus get the fresh batch of searchers caught up to speed and sent out, and then Reeve approached him carefully.
Rufus looked up at him, and his expression softened just a bit before he asked lowly, "Reeve, have you heard yet?"
A frown. "Heard what?"
"You haven't. … Reeve, President Shinra was in the reactor when it blew." Rufus hesitated, then added quietly, "Mayor Domino was as well."
"What? Why?" Reeve's eyes widened. Both the mayor and the president in the same moment?
"The party." Rufus shrugged, and Reeve reached out to touch his arm lightly. The blond didn't look at him though, instead just putting his other hand up to his mouth for a moment. Reeve saw him swallow, and he felt a pain in his chest. The president had been Rufus's father; surely he hadn't had any time to grieve. Instead, he had plunged into his position thoroughly, taking charge and delivering orders as though it had all come naturally to him.
"R-right." Reeve squeezed Rufus's arm lightly, trying to give whatever measure of comfort he could. Then he looked back at Rude, blushed, and added, "Rufus, you need to call the police."
"They said it was reactor malfunction, Reeve. Not foul play." But those blue eyes narrowed, studying him intently when they finally lifted up. "Do you have evidence otherwise?"
"The core." Reeve motioned and Rude moved it over, placing it carefully on the table. Reeve offered him a smile, and then rolled it to display his find. Scorch marks, in a distinctive pattern. "This wouldn't have been caused by the fire," he said, tracing them without quite touching them. "They're different. Evidence of an incendiary device." Reeve looked up at Rufus, adding, "A bomb."
Rufus studied the marks for a moment, and then he reached over for the emergency phone that had been rigged for their use. He dialed a number, holding the handset up to his ear. "I need the police commissioner," he announced into the phone. He was quiet for a moment before asking, "Commissioner Lazard Deusericus? This is President Rufus Shinra speaking. I need you to send someone down. … To Reactor 05, yes. We have reason to think this might have been an attack, not an accident."
Breathing out a sigh, Reeve looked back at the power core, and he traced it for a moment again, studying it carefully. The detectives could sort out who did this; he had done his fair share, making certain that everyone was notified. He glanced up and frowned for just a moment when he noticed Rude looking at him- or maybe he wasn't? Those glasses made it impossible to tell- but then the bald man turned toward the entrance to the tent, folding his hands in front of him.
Reeve jerked back to the present, dismissing Rude and looking over at Rufus instead. "Hm?"
Rufus set the handset back in its cradle, looking at him curiously. "Are you ready?"
"For what?" Reeve frowned, his brow furrowing. The blond narrowed his eyes, leaning forward just a little to put his hip against the tabletop.
"To deliver a speech. The press is waiting."
Reeve's eyes widened, and he glanced between Rufus at the entrance to the tent. For another long moment, he was enveloped in visions of stampeding reporters, glaring cameras, and microphones being shoved into his face. Then he felt Rufus's hand against the small of his back, and he drew a deep breath.
"Yeah," he said, smiling with a bravado that he didn't feel. "The public needs to be reassured," he whispered.