Rufus shook out the sleeve of his jacket before he stepped out of the car. Tseng was waiting for him, hands folded behind his back, and he smiled, feeling surprisingly good, given the situation. He inclined his head to Tseng, who smiled slightly in return, and the two of them started across the street toward the polling booth. Rufus was not at all shocked to see Tuesti, in what had to be his best blue suit, already smiling and shaking hands as he walked the lines. Rufus realized in a flash that they would make for a memorable pair, Rufus in the Shinra white and Reeve in the Midgar blue, backed by matching flags. That was good.
He really should have thought of it on his own.
His eyes narrowed a little as Reeve stopped to speak with a pair of young women. They were showing him their identification cards, presumably asking him something, and he was pointing back to the polling booth. "Who is he talking to?"
Tseng was quiet as he scanned the group, but his smile widened as he spotted the two women. "Our detective's leash," he replied.
Rufus let his gaze roam a little more thoroughly over the brunette's body, and he nodded appreciatively. "I can understand that," he decided after a minute. Anyone with half a brain would be leashed by that. The other woman with her though... She was sporting a bruise on the side of her face, and her attempt to conceal it with make up only made it more visible in the bright light glinting off of the streets.
"And the other one?"
"Ah... Elena's girlfriend." Tseng hesitated, and then he added, "They're hiding from some violent drunks under the plate."
Rufus nodded slowly, realizing from the slight pause that there was something more here (had Tseng's game spiraled out of hand for a moment? Getting Elena's girlfriend assaulted didn't sound like Tseng had it under control), then Reeve turned, caught his eye, and he smiled. The motion left a funny feeling in Rufus's chest, and he shook it off before he glanced up at Tseng. "Might as well join Reeve in the duties, eh?"
"You really should be in another sector," Tseng said lowly as they crossed the square, closing the distance between themselves and Reeve. "The safety issues that arise from having the two of you spending so much public time together—"
"Rufus! I thought you'd be in Six today." Reeve's good mood was impossible to ignore though, and within only a moment, even Tseng's more severe expression had yielded to it. "Do you think it's wise for you to be here?"
"I'm not the one running," Rufus replied with a lazy grin, and he waved to the crowd all the same. Several giggles erupted from a group of made-up teens near the back of the line, and Rufus glanced back at Reeve. "Besides, I wanted to see what this whole politicking thing is about. Not my realm, you know."
Reeve shook his head, his smile softening, but walked beside Rufus all the same. "Could have fooled me."
"Oh?" Rufus pushed his hands into his pockets as they walked, and he nodded and smiled to pretty much everyone who looked at them. He was pleased to note that Reeve did as well.
By the time they reached the front of the line, there was a definite cheer pulsing through the crowd. Rufus and Reeve didn't have a whole lot of time to speak after that though. They spent most of their time laughing, exchanging jokes and pleasantries, and thanking everyone for the support of both Midgar's voting system and, hopefully, the Midgar Standard Party.
They retired around dark, when the booths were still wrapped up with people, and Rufus invited Reeve back to the Tower to wait for the results. Reeve didn't even hesitate before taking the invitation, and Rufus was satisfied. Perhaps Tseng hadn't misled him after all. Reeve was biddable enough, and the important thing was that he would actually make certain that the government pulled its weight. Rufus wanted to keep the Midgar government in his pocket, but it was a waste of manpower and resources to have to run the thing as well.
Besides, why waste money on it when he could simply keep someone that he could manipulate in the office? Not someone to run over though; he'd watched his father and Domino long enough to realize that it ended up demoralizing the employees more than it was effective. He glanced over at Reeve, sitting in the car beside him, and he tapped his finger on the arm of the car door slowly. Reeve was a good choice on more than simply one level. He would understand the technical aspects of running such a city; understand them far better than any other politician would. Perhaps an engineering degree (or two) needed to be a requirement to run for the office.
They made it to the tower without incident, and Rufus spoke lowly with Tseng just long enough to make certain that the tower was secure. Safe. It had more guards posted on it than any reactor ever had. Until the terrorists were removed from play, Rufus had decided to err on the side of caution. He'd funded them so that they would kill his father and Domino. Not him and Reeve.
He spent his first few minutes in the tower looking over the lobby, his eyes seeking out all the major players they had. Himself and Reeve were the most obvious, and Rude and Elena and Tseng were all on guard duty outside, checking the security and generally making certain that everything was going well. The detective was there, along with the pretty brunette, although he noticed the other girl was missing. Perhaps still hiding her bruises from Elena. There were several more people there— the other candidates, for one, as well as the new heads of departments in Shinra— and there were even more people that Rufus didn't know immediately by name.
In a motion of support for the voters in the slums, at least one trainload of people had been brought up. Knowing that they were there made Rufus uncomfortable, but he wasn't about to send them out. It had been one of Reeve's decisions, and Tseng had quietly supported it. That thought made Rufus a little uncomfortable as well. He knew that their game needed to end. Tonight, preferably, and Tseng had assured him that if he did this, it would end tonight. Instinctively, he double-checked for the gun hidden under his jacket, and once he was reassured that he had it (as though he ever went anywhere without it), he began the mingling.
He'd been lying through his teeth when he'd told Reeve that he wasn't used to politicking. He'd been rubbing elbows and smiling and clenching his teeth to keep his real opinions to himself his entire life. Reeve knew that, on some level, which had accounted for his disbelieving expression, that slight smile and raised eyebrow that had answered Rufus's statement, but they were both far too polite, too polished to actually call one another on it. Instead, they chose to pretend that they were both telling the truth: Reeve when he acted as though he didn't know Rufus was pulling the strings, and Rufus when he acted as though Reeve belonged to anyone but him.
It wasn't long before a reporter caught Rufus's eye, and he let himself offer his opinions, smile cheerfully and word his statements so that it didn't sound as though he already knew how this was going to go play out. He was good at that. Good at keeping his opinions behind carefully constructed phrases. Finally, the candidates were all gathered to sit at a long table by the young woman in charge of reading out the election results, and the room held its collective breath.
For just a minute, Rufus let himself absorb the moment, let the rush of power flood him, let a small smile curve his lips as he looked up at Reeve and the other candidates. Reeve's eyes met his own, and there was something in the moment, something that Rufus wanted to grab and hold on to. He didn't want that lightness in his chest to vanish, didn't want it to pop like the bubble it was, the fleeting moment of absolute perfection. He'd been striving for that moment his entire life. It wasn't fair that it came to him then, when he was so unprepared for it. But Reeve's slow smile in response was enough to make it stretch. Rufus decided in that heartbeat, that space of time, that he couldn't let go. Even after this was all said and done, he would be holding onto everything, keeping it running exactly the way he wanted it to.
He was so caught up in the moment that he missed the announcement of the election results, and the crowd surged forward with a cheer that caught him off guard. Someone grasped his elbow, kept him from being knocked around in the most undignified manner, and he glanced back to exchange a look with Tseng. Tseng leaned forward and whispered in his ear, "The beginning of the end, sir."
Reeve was shaking hands with the other candidates, smiling and congratulating and thanking and whatever was appropriate for him to do, and there was a flash of something glinting in the crowd before them. Rufus turned, and he felt the flow wash away thanks to an icy splash of fear. Without thinking, he pulled the gun from his hip— there was shouting around him— and he fired in the moment that it took his mind to register that the flash was actually a gun that he'd spotted. Tseng's self-defense training had taken over before Rufus had actually had time to analyze what was going on, and just as the gunman fired, he was shouting and grasping his upper arm, where Rufus's bullet had lodged.
In moments, chaos broke out. Rufus looked back toward the platform where the candidates were, and he felt his mouth go dry at the sight of Reeve, clutching the table's edge so hard his knuckles were white. Reeve hadn't ducked down like the others though, hadn't let himself move even as the bullet had struck the wall just to the side of him. He'd stood his ground, and even if he did look as though he might consider fainting after being shot at, Rufus was both proud of him and had the most overwhelming desire to shake him. He was pleased at the flashes of the cameras for the press. The picture would be a good one to introduce the new mayor with.
The detective was in the lobby, handcuffing the gunman, and Rufus felt a laugh bubbling up to his lips as he realized that the man's hand was actually a gun. A gun arm. Reno hadn't been hallucinating then, and from the look on Tseng's face, Rufus suspected that the entire thing had been orchestrated. Composed by a manipulator far more clever than himself. Not for the first time, he was grateful that Tseng worked for him, although he knew he needed to rein the Turk back in at least a little. Couldn't have him endangering key people like that. He left them to it, left Tseng to clean up the last of the loose ends, and instead took the stairs up the platform two by two.
He wrapped an arm around Reeve's shoulders, waving to the cameras so merrily clicking away as he swept them both out of sight and into the elevator there in the lobby. He shoved a key into the lock to remove the restriction to the upper levels and tapped the button for the top floor. He had no doubt that as soon as possible, one of his Turks would arrive up there to verify that he was secure. Reeve's hand clutched at his arm, and he pushed Reeve back against the wall of the elevator, his own relief unmistakable as it coursed through him.
"They shot at me," Reeve whispered, and Rufus leaned forward, pressing a soft kiss to pale lips. Reeve kissed him back, almost instinctively, his hand digging a little more into Rufus's arm.
Rufus pushed one of his hands into Reeve's hair, and he murmured, "You're safe," over those lips. Reeve made a low noise, and Rufus repeated the words until Reeve kissed him again. The elevator chimed as they reached the top floor, and Rufus took him by the hand, leading him into the presidential office. He shoved everything off of the desk and gently urged Reeve to sit on it. Reeve was still wide-eyed, still in shock, and he didn't require much instruction.
He would have gotten them both something to drink, anything to help take the edge off, but Reeve wouldn't let go of him. Surprisingly, it didn't bother Rufus as much as he thought it should have. He simply rubbed Reeve's arms, reminding him softly that they were both safe, that no one had been hurt except for the gunman himself, and didn't he deserve it? Who shot in the middle of a public room like that? He could have hit anyone.
It was less than an hour when Tseng found them in the office, both of them sitting on top of Rufus's desk and staring out the window toward Midgar. Reeve had leaned over to prop his head against Rufus's shoulder, was alternating between almost dozing and trembling. Tseng cleared his throat, making them both look up at him and when Reeve sat up straight, Tseng announced, "The shooter has been apprehended. Detective Fair has taken him to the hospital in Seven, where the rest of the Midgar police force will he questioning him. I want the two of you to stay here until we get everything taken care of though." Tseng hesitated, and then he added, "Detective Fair seems to think the shooter might have been responsible for the bombings."
"What?" Reeve tensed slightly at the words, and Rufus reached over to rub his arm again; the slightest of touches, just enough to remind Reeve that there was someone with him. Tseng nodded, and he rolled one shoulder in a sort of shrug.
"Detective Fair will be questioning him later to make certain, but he has witnesses. One of them even assures him that she can locate the clothes with the chemical on them." Tseng offered Reeve a faint smile, and Reeve immediately smiled back. Even it was faltering, hesitant, it was a start. It was enough that Tseng and Rufus could be satisfied that the pressure and the game hadn't damaged him too badly. Rufus leaned back a little, and Tseng added, "The press is also waiting for the mayor's statement. As well as your own, President."
Rufus stood and turned back to offer a hand to Reeve. Reeve raised an eyebrow at him before he slid off of the desk, and they headed back to the elevator. Rufus cast a glance at Reeve, assuring himself that Reeve looked appropriately pale, the perfect combination of nerves and bravery. The people of Midgar would respond well to that. They liked seeing their leaders look just a little shaken, seeing them work through their own fear for the sake of their duty. Rufus had no doubt that reporters would wax poetic about that.
It wasn't as bad as it could have been, standing there beside Reeve as they both spoke to the press. Rufus had to be careful to limit the number of times that he took over the conference, had to make certain that the press viewed Reeve as an equal to him. After the fear and the stress of the bombings had faded, after everything returned to normal, they would begin the accusations that Reeve was little more than a puppet mayor, no better than Domino. Rufus would need to encourage Reeve to start some sort of project, something that didn't have anything to do with benefiting Shinra.
That would help.
When it was all over, Rufus made certain that Rude accompanied Reeve back to his own apartment. He ordered Rude to stay there for the night, to make sure that nothing happened before Rufus could figure out a way to arrange for unmarked, private security. He wasn't about to let go of everything he'd just risked it all for. He didn't have to motion for Tseng to follow him. Tseng knew his moods, knew the way things would go between them. And true to form, the moment they were back in the penthouse, Tseng poured him a drink— some kind of almost black motor oil that Tseng secured in some hole-in-the-wall below the plate.
Rufus sipped it slowly, grimacing at the taste but needing it in his hands, needing the familiarity of it. He looked up at Tseng. "That was a bold play," he finally murmured, and Tseng simply gave him one of those half-smiles.
"It was. I didn't care for that sort of play. Next time, less risky." Rufus swished the contents of his glass, raising an eyebrow. "Or at least have your own gun to correct the problem when necessary."
Tseng chuckled, and he finally sat just beside Rufus. "Your gun worked just as well, I thought. A sort of... poetic justice in you being the one to defend the mayoral candidates from someone so against the justices of Midgar."
"I didn't think you were much for poetic justice, Tseng," Rufus said lowly, and he sipped the drink again before he finally abandoned it on the small table just within reach. Tseng's smile widened, and Rufus shifted on the couch until one leg was tucked under him and he was facing Tseng, his elbow on the back of the couch. "And really, Reeve could have been killed."
There was a flicker of something across Tseng's face then, and after just a moment, he inclined his head again. "You are correct, of course. I didn't think he would just stand there." Whatever it was that Tseng was feeling, he kept it to himself, but Rufus was satisfied with that slight furrow between Tseng's brows.
"He needs some sort of defensive training," he murmured, and it was practically an agreement more than anything else. He reached out and wrapped his fingers around a lock of Tseng's hair, pulled him closer, and oh, Tseng just went where Rufus tugged him, all compliance and acceptance of whatever Rufus wanted from him. Maybe Rufus didn't need to rein him in just yet. "Rude could do it. He'll need something to distract him anyway with Reno in the hospital, won't he?"
Tseng nodded slowly, and he glanced up at Rufus, his dark eyes completely focused on Rufus. That was intoxicating. Far more so than any alcohol Rufus had ever had. He slid his fingers down the lock of hair, letting them drop off and fall back to Rufus's lap. Then he reached for the glass Tseng had poured him, sipped it, and offered the rest of his Turk. "Drink that. And we will need to find a better place to get alcohol from. That's awful."
Tseng smiled sharply, and he obediently took the glass, tossed it back and finished it in a single drink. Rufus shuddered just watching him do it.
"If we start revoking the alcohol control laws, there will better things to drink," Tseng said, looking down into the empty glass before he set it back on the table.
Rufus nodded. "They can't be revoked all at once though. That would be unpopular with half the city."
"Can't be an unpopular President," Tseng agreed, and Rufus caught that lock of hair again, tugged it.
"Brat," he murmured.
Reeve was still shivering just slightly when Rude guided him to the car, and he drew a breath as he sank into the back seat, his elbow almost tingling from where Rude had so lightly held him. The door shut— it was almost overly loud, but that was ridiculous given that Reeve had just left a circus of reporters and cameras— and he focused on tracing the grains of leather on the back of the passenger seat. Rude got behind the wheel, and just as he cranked the car, Reeve leaned forward, touched the very tips of his fingers against Rude's arm. "Can you take me to see Reno?" he asked, and for a moment, there was just quiet between them. Then Rude twisted in the seat to look back at Reeve, and he hesitated before he nodded.
It was a very slight nod, but that didn't matter. Rude had said yes, and when they hit the overpass, they took the exit for Sector Seven. Reeve was grateful.
His apartment would be overly quiet, would be huge and empty and Reeve's might not have been able to stand it.
Instead, they pulled up in the parking lot of a hospital, and Reeve pulled his jacket closer around him as Rude led him inside. He started to stop at the nurses' station, to ask for directions, but Rude simply tilted his head toward a hallway. He apparently already knew where Reno was. That shouldn't have surprised Reeve— the Turks always knew almost exactly where one another was, or ... at least, Tseng did— but for a heartbeat, he was completely floored, and then he managed a smile and followed Rude's direction to the room that Reno was in.
Reno glanced up when they walked into the room, and he managed an easy smile as he waved to Reeve. He looked surprisingly small in that hospital bed, bandaged up. Reeve felt a slight twisting in his chest, and then he was shaking his head and pushing his hands into his pockets. "Tseng says you're already terrorizing the nurses," he offered, and Reno grinned sharply.
"Just the ones worth terrorizin', yo. The pretty ones, yeah?" He leaned back against the pillows he was propped up on, and Reeve stepped to the side as Rude moved closer to the redhead. Reno reached up and wrapped his hand around Rude's forearm, and they were quiet then, just looking at one another. Reeve averted his gaze until he heard Reno say, "So, hear you made mayor, yo. True?"
Reeve looked back at him, and Rude had sank into the chair just beside Reno's bed— there were two newspapers on the table there, one in pieces and with tattered edges, as though it had been sorted through by someone incapable of sitting still, but the other was neat and folded open to show the crossword puzzle; it looked like Rude's handwriting on it. Reeve tilted his head. Rude had spent time in here maybe, had stayed with Reno when Rude was off of work. "Yes," he murmured, and he focused on Reno again. "Yes, I won the election earlier. I'm surprised you heard about it—"
Reno shook his head and then jerked his chin toward the door. "The nurses were talkin'. Sayin' you got shot at and the shooter was taken to Eight." He tilted his head, and his grin widened. "Gettin' shot at's a badge of pride, you know."
Reeve could feel himself beginning to blush, and he shook his head. "Nonsense. It was all over so fast that I hardly remember it." That's sort of a lie. It's not like the recollection is crystal clear or anything, but it's ... moments, incredibly crisp, detailed moments. The barrel of the gun, the sweat and the sheer fear that had coursed through him in that heartbeat, that knowledge that it was all over, that it didn't matter that he'd won the election—
"Rufus shot him," Rude told Reno, and Reeve jerked himself back to the present, back to the redhead and his partner and the fact that Reeve was standing in the hospital. The night was over. He was safe— Rufus had told him so, had whispered it damn near into his mouth on the elevator ride up to his office— and Tseng had assured him that this— whatever this was— was over. It was over, and when he went into work in the morning, he would be more than simply acting mayor of Midgar. It would be his office, would be his decisions.
And it would be his job to make certain that Shinra wasn't running his city.
Reno was laughing, and he glanced at Reeve again. His eyes had darker circles under them, and they were very slightly glazed over— tired, maybe— but his voice was even when he said, "So, you and the Pres, yeah?" When Reeve blushed, Reno laughed and offered, "Rufus doesn't protect just anyone."