The days following the election were some of the quietest that Midgar had ever had. Reeve spent most of them meeting new staff, arranging for programs that he had proposed when he'd been assistant that had been quietly shuffled off into the folders in the file cabinets in which the former Mayor had more or less tucked away anything not given to him by Shinra. He saw Rufus rarely, mostly during meetings with the new heads of departments within Shinra, and even then, they rarely had any time to just the two of them. Tseng had taken to delivering notes between them— wordlessly, of course; he would come to see Reeve for a moment, and when he'd leave, there would be a little note left on Reeve's desk. It took Reeve two more visits before he figured out that Tseng wasn't talking about it, and he had simply pressed a note of his own into Tseng's hand the next visit, prepared for it. Tseng had smiled, slow and easy, and Reeve had been left very mildly breathless under the force of it.
That had been two weeks ago, and Reeve was in his office again, working through the newest information and trying to decide the best way to begin breaking down the barriers between above and below the plates, when a paper appeared in front of his face. He blinked, his eyes focusing a little slowly on the pictures— two men with guns in place of one of their arms— and he ignored the headline in favor of reading the caption. Barret Wallace and Dyne Vicks were placed under arrest two weeks ago, and after their trial, they have been transported to the Midgar Correctional Facility in Under-Two...
He looked up past the paper, raising an eyebrow to the blond who had come brandishing it, blue eyes flashing with amusement at Reeve's expression.
"I thought you might be happy. Means we won't have to worry about the terrorists any longer."
Reeve glanced down at the picture, and he noted the state of their clothes— ragged, probably from the slums— and the fact that one of them had rust on his gun. Presumably, the picture was from the night they were arrested and not the trial day itself. The guns would have been removed and they would have been fitted with prosthetic arms instead for their trial. He flipped open the paper to find the rest of the story, and sure enough, there were other pictures of them being escorted out of the courthouse, ill-fitting arms that didn't quite match their skin-tones in place of weaponry.
"I expected to see you at the trial," Rufus added, and Reeve hummed as he skimmed the article. Rufus had offered a quote, had expressed that he had always held complete faith that the Midgar Police would be more than equipped to capture the terrorists responsible for the bombings, for the assault on the newest mayor. Reeve spared a brief thanks for the fact that he hadn't been required to testify at the trial.
"I had other things to do," he replied absently, and then Rufus was pulling the paper from his hands. Reeve glanced up, and Rufus moved until he was leaning against Reeve's desk just beside Reeve's chair. Reeve leaned back, and the next thing he knew, Rufus was actually sitting on his desk, feet on the arms of the chair, and he was leaning in close to Reeve.
Reeve's heart was thumping almost overly loud in his chest. Could Rufus hear it?
"It was a tedious affair," Rufus murmured, and he was pulling Reeve's chair closer to him. Reeve licked his lips and he leaned forward, tilting his head with the most even smile that he could manage.
"Then I didn't miss much, did I?" His smile widened when Rufus laughed, low and soft, and then they were close enough for Rufus to touch his lips to Reeve's, to kiss him and let Reeve kiss him back. One of his hands lifted to wrap around Rufus's ankle— in easy reach with his foot still on the arm of Reeve's chair, and Reeve wasn't sure he'd realized how flexible Rufus was for this to be even remotely comfortable— and Rufus made a low sound before he drew back.
"Might not have missed much, but I could have seen you more," he replied, and he tilted his head, blond hair falling to loosely brush over his eyes before he swept it away with a flick of his fingers. "In any case, we do have a public appearance shortly. Did you get the memo?"
Reeve nodded. An award ceremony for the detective that had tracked down and brought the terrorists to justice. He remembered, had been looking forward to it on some level just because it would have been another chance to see Rufus, to see Tseng and Rufus's Turks who would undoubtedly be there. He very nearly blushed at the thought now, and he leaned back in his chair, his fingers pushing just under the cuff of Rufus's slacks. "Yeah. Who is officially supplying the medal? From what I gathered, it was to simply be a city award."
"It is a city award. That's not to say that Shinra Electric doesn't greatly appreciate what the detective contributed," Rufus retorted, a laugh in his voice and eyes as he rolled his foot a little under Reeve's stroking fingers. "He did me a great service, Mister Mayor. I might want to thank him personally."
Reeve did blush at that, and he glanced up to the ceiling for just a heartbeat to compose his expression before he glanced back at Rufus. "Are you planning on antagonizing him?"
"Oh, Reeve, you wound me. I am quite well behaved, thank you." Rufus was laughing aloud though, and it was addictive, was enough to make Reeve grin.
"Right. I remember the last time the two of you were in a room together, you know. You nearly bit his head off, and he was practically growling at you."
"Luckily, we won't be in a room together then. We're doing the ceremony on the front steps. Open air for plenty of reporters to get their pictures and try to chase us down afterward. Think you're up for that?"
"I was shot at. I think I can handle a few reporters," Reeve replied.
"Oh, all big and bad now that you've been shot at?" Rufus's grin widens, and Reeve flushes darkly as he shakes his head, reaching up to cover his mouth with his free hand.
"Hardly. I just. I meant—"
But Rufus is leaning in close to him again, his feet sliding off of the arms of the chair as he wedges his knees in on either side of Reeve. It's not particularly comfortable— the chair is really not wide enough for it to be— but then Rufus is almost sitting in Reeve's lap, is leaning in close enough to move Reeve's hand and take another kiss, and Reeve ... Reeve can't help but to kiss him back, his hand sliding down to rest against Rufus's thigh.
His suit is going to be wrinkled. He just isn't entirely sure that he cares enough to make Rufus stop, to pull back from this, and by the time Rufus finally does draw back, blue eyes flashing amusement, Reeve's breathless.
He's pretty sure that he's never been kissed by anyone like that in his life.
"Knew what you meant," Rufus murmurs against his lips, and he takes another shorter, softer kiss before he's sliding off of Reeve's lap to stand just beside him again. "We should head down there."
"Right. I ... Wait. The medal—"
"Tseng has it. He'll make sure you get it in time to give it to our illustrious detective."
Reeve licked his bottom lip and nodded, and he stood, brushing off his suit in a vague attempt to get the wrinkles to shake loose. Rufus watched him curiously, tilting his head to one side, and then they were heading toward the elevator.
Reeve couldn't help but note that Rufus's suit didn't wrinkle nearly as easily as Reeve's did. Clearly, he needed to figure out where Rufus ordered his suits from. He could ask Tseng later.
When they got to the front steps, a small platform had already been set up— presumably under the direction of Rude, who was studying it so intently— and Tseng caught Reeve by the elbow and guided him easily around to where he'd be sitting. He had a small box in his hand, and it wasn't until he opened it and handed it to Reeve that he realized it was the medal. "You've already prepared your statements, haven't you?"
Reeve looked up from the medal to nod at Tseng, a smile on his lips that quickly faded when he realized how Tseng was looking at him. "What?" Suddenly, he wondered if he looked like Rufus had just been kissing him close to senseless, but all Tseng did was narrow his eyes and shake his head. Then he finally reached up and adjusted Reeve's hair, shoving it back out of Reeve's face.
"Nothing. So, the detective will come up—"
And it was all standard protocol. Reeve had been to these ceremonies before, had watched Mayor Domino hand out awards to detectives before— Angeal, Genesis, Sephiroth— and even though he was listening as attentively as he could manage, he couldn't stop his gaze from drifting past Tseng to study the crowd already gathered. The detective was there, with a pretty brunette and a very small girl— did he have a family then? Reeve couldn't remember if he'd looked it up before— as was his partner, who was sitting just beside him, holding his stomach as though perhaps it still ached a little. Another brunette was handing him a glass of water and saying something... lecturing him, if her stance was anything to go on.
Another pass of the crowd and he noticed Reno near the back, dropped in one of the chairs and talking with the pretty blond girl— Elena, he corrected himself. Elena was in her suit, was standing there with her hands on her hips as she spoke to him, clearly not buying whatever talk Reno was trying to sell her, but Reno wasn't in his suit. It was odd seeing him in plain clothes, seeing in anything but the dark blue that Reeve had only ever seen him out of when he was in the hospital. He tilted his head, and then Tseng was snapping his fingers, bringing Reeve's attention back to him.
"You've not heard a single word I've said," Tseng accused, and Reeve shook his head, a sheepish grin on his face.
"Sorry. Was distracted. Reno's not working?"
Tseng glanced over his shoulder toward the crowd, and then he looked back at Reeve. "No. He's still limping too hard to work. Now, listen to me. How many of these have you seen?"
"I was present for most of them, Tseng. You know that."
Tseng pursed his lips and raised an eyebrow, giving Reeve one of those looks that made Reeve shift under it, made him fidget until he finally sighed.
"Shiva, Tseng. I know what I'm doing. Really."
Tseng tilted his head back, clearly considering Reeve's words, and then finally he nodded and he pointed to the chair. "Sit. Rufus will be speaking to the press after the award, and he wants you with him for it."
Reeve wasn't entirely sure why. Rufus was perfectly capable of speaking to the press without him, but he wasn't about to argue with Tseng. Instead, he simply nodded, and he glanced from the crowd to the press members that he could see from his seat. He swallowed.
There were a lot of them.
It seemed like even more when he was at the podium, could see them all, and Rufus was standing with him, holding the box for the medal. "Detective Fair," Reeve said with a bright smile as he very carefully pulled the medal out, "we, the people of Midgar, greatly appreciate this service that you have so faithfully rendered to us, and we would hope that you can take this medal as a small token of just what it means to us."
The detective bowed his head, and Reeve slipped it around his neck, turning to smile at the crowd— at the press— just as Rufus added, "We do hope that you continue to serve the city of Midgar with such distinction, Detective Fair."
Reeve smiled at Rufus before he focused on what he was doing again, and then they were standing there in front of the press crowding around the podium. The detective had slipped away the very first moment that he could; Reeve noticed that both his brunette and the girl were missing as well, and he couldn't much blame him.
He really wished that he could have disappeared too, especially as the cameras began flashing. He kept his smile easy and even though, and when Rufus began speaking—"As many of you undoubtedly have heard, the terrorists recently jailed for their attacks on the reactors have claimed that it was a direct reaction to the use of mako."— he let his gaze drift over the reporters, recognizing more than just a few of them from the events of the past few weeks.
He counted himself lucky that he didn't know their names to go along with their faces.
"But Shinra Electric would like to announce that this will no longer be a viable excuse for such vicious attacks." Rufus's voice was a little more tense suddenly, and Reeve looked back at him. He had to work to keep his curiosity out of his face. "Mako is hardly the only energy source on our Planet, and it is not the only option that we will be providing. I would like to formally announce the creation of a new department within the company, one that will be funded just as well as any other department we have, that will be dedicated to creation of alternative energy sources."
For a moment, no one moved. Then six hands shot up and Rufus smiled that sharp, even smile, and Reeve was pretty sure that he completely failed at keeping his own surprise out of his face. The cameras flashed, and Rufus looked over at him. Reeve's chest was tight, and he snapped his mouth shut the moment he realized that it was open.
"Things that need to change," Rufus said slowly, but he wasn't looking at the reporters any longer; his attention was solely on Reeve, "will be changed."
It was a shame when you had to bolt from your own awards ceremony. Zack was well aware of that, but Tifa didn't protest, didn't argue when he'd gently brushed her arm and tilted his head toward the aisle. She'd simply nodded, leaned over and murmured something to Miss Gainsborough who had come to sit with Cloud, and then they were headed out. Zack would have been lying to himself had he not admitted that Tifa slipping her hand in his own and letting him lead her out thrilled him.
He was looking for the Turks when they left, and he saw three of them. The Wutaian was on the platform, sitting just beside where Shinra had been, and the bald one was in the back of the crowd, standing at an attention that would have made any military man proud. The redhead— not in a uniform, but still so damned distinctive— had been lounging in the chair just in front of the bald one. The blond though... she was missing, and somehow, that concerned Zack more than anything else did.
Almost more than anything else did. What had his attention on the train ride home was not a preoccupation with where the pretty blond might have slipped off to. He kept seeing that expression Shinra had given him when he'd so smoothly leaned around Tuesti to tell Zack, "We do hope that you continue to serve the city of Midgar with such distinction, Detective Fair." And Tuesti had all but beamed at the words, nearly nodding as he looked back at Zack. It had taken everything in him not to punch Shinra right there. ... He was pretty sure that the commissioner would not have found it very amusing or justified though.
When they reached the apartment, he put the key in the lock and twisted, only to realize belatedly that the door had already been unlocked. He sighed, twisted it again, and pushed it open. Tifa was already shaking out her hair, letting it fall loosely behind her as she stepped in, and she smiled widely at the two women sitting at the dining table Zack had tucked in the corner of his living room.
"Elena!" She rushed over and wrapped her arms around the blond Turk, and Zack wondered if the Turk knew that she was in his place— he didn't really see how she couldn't— and then, his eyes widened as he noticed the way Elena hadn't quite let go of Jessie's hand.
"Tifa. You look well," Elena said lowly, and she smiled very slightly at Tifa before she sank back down in the chair. Jessie nodded her agreement, and Tifa took the chair across from Elena.
"It's all this sunlight," she replied, and her smile widened for a moment.
Zack shut and locked the door, then moved into the kitchen. He started pouring glasses of tea— Tifa had been kind enough to make a pitcher the night before— and Tifa, upon seeing what he was doing, moved them to the table one at a time.
"Elena, what are you doing here?"
"I heard you and Jessie had come up," she murmured, and Zack lifted his head at how tense she sounded when she said that. He caught a glimpse of her reaching out to brush her fingers over Jessie's face. There was no bruise now, but Jessie held herself differently ever since that night, ever since that evening that he'd stumbled out of his bed to Tifa and Jessie knocking on the door, Marlene on one hip and bags on their shoulders and Tifa begging him to keep them safe.
She hadn't even needed to ask. He could do no less.
"We came up just before the election," Tifa said, and she leaned against the counter for just a moment as she wrapped her fingers around the last glass of tea. His glass. Then she was moving, and he watched her carry his glass over to sit it on the table at the empty chair. The one between her and Elena. He wondered if she'd be really pissed if he picked it up and left them to it.
He decided against risking it.
Instead, he put the pitcher— mostly empty now— back up and moved to the chair Tifa had picked out for him, lowering himself into it slowly. He felt uneasy with one of Rufus's people so close, but Tifa was at ease with her, trusted her, and Zack couldn't insult that. Not in front of Tifa and Jessie, at least.
"I heard." Elena's hand dropped from Jessie to the table, and she leaned forward a little, tilting her head. The motion sent blond hair cascading over her shoulder around her face, and she didn't bother to brush it back. "Have you been back to Seventh Heaven yet?"
Tifa hesitated, then shook her head. She glanced over at Zack.
He had been at the raid, he had been the one who knew where the clothes with the chemical from the reactors were, and he had been the one, much to the Commissioner's annoyance, directing the entire show. He had no doubt that as soon as his mandatory leave was up, he'd catch hell for that.
"It's... pretty bad," Zack finally said. Tifa hadn't wanted to know when he'd first come back. She hadn't asked, and the few times he'd attempted to approach the subject, she'd pointedly avoided it. He couldn't say he blamed her there. They already had too many things to work through, too many details for them to have to sort and manage and just plain figure out. She hadn't needed the stress of what the police raid had done to her bar.
The damage Barret had caused when he'd discovered that they already had Dyne, that Tifa had taken Marlene and Jessie and run.
In all honestly, taking Barret in had been much harder than Dyne had been. Dyne had hardly seemed sane, had been ranting and raving the entire time as they strapped him onto the stretcher and sent him to the hospital to be patched up from the shot Rufus Shinra had fired. He had been screaming about mako and puppet mayors and the sickness within Midgar.
Zack had been grateful that Reeve Tuesti hadn't seen, hadn't had to hear the sort of things that Dyne Vicks had been raving about.
Barret on the other hand had gone of the deep end the moment he figured out what had happened, but once they had caught him and cuffed him, he'd gone quiet. He'd gone quiet and hadn't said a word except during his trial, when he'd asked, his voice low and rough, if he'd be allowed to see Marlene.
The judge had deemed that up to Marlene's guardian— Tifa had, Zack noticed, simply allowed everyone to believe that she was Marlene's mother, and no one had ever considered that she might not be— and that had been that. Zack had plans to approach the subject later, offer to take Marlene down to see Barret in the next few weeks or so. Just enough that she didn't completely forget him.
(She was, Zack thought, better off forgetting Dyne all together.)
"It is bad," Elena agreed, and she leaned back in her chair, still holding Jessie's hand. After a moment, Jessie glanced over at Zack— weighing something; his reaction perhaps— and then she moved so lightly perch on Elena's lap. Zack had to admit that they looked good together.
Tifa sighed, and she propped her head up on one hand, using her other to push her hair back from her face. "It doesn't surprise me," she finally murmured, and she didn't look at any of them as she bit her bottom lip and just thought for a few minutes. Her eyes were unfocused and staring at nothing. "I imagine Barret didn't take it well, and I can only imagine what the police— no offense, Zack— did to the place."
Elena smiled slightly, and with Jessie in her lap— her hand was in the middle of Jessie's back, petting absently— she leaned forward so that she could capture the hand Tifa wasn't propped up on. "It's bad, but I didn't say it was the end of everything, you know."
Tifa glanced up at her, and for a moment, they were both quiet, and then Tifa's brow furrowed as she tilted her head. "I can hardly afford another bar. Even under the plate, that's a lot of money to invest. Seventh Heaven didn't bring in that much, Elena. I cleared out the register when we left, but..."
Jessie cleared her throat. "Technically, we don't need to start another one. We could always simply find work—"
"I would prefer you working in a bar that Tifa runs," Elena interrupted with, and she exchanged smiles with Jessie. "There's something comforting about how Tifa does things. Reassures me that you're safe."
Zack didn't miss the way Elena's eyes flicked back to Jessie's cheek, her jaw tensing slightly when she spoke. Maybe she wasn't quite as comfortable with the safety Tifa provided after all. Or maybe, maybe, she was thinking of what she would have done to Dyne had she seen Jessie before Zack had caught him. Zack let himself consider that for a moment, then added in the fact that if Elena had gotten Dyne first, the rest of the Turks would have gotten Dyne first, and there probably wouldn't have been much left of the bastard for Zack to arrest. Somehow, Zack wasn't sorry at the thought.
"Besides, there's a place a few blocks from here if you like Two. Small place that would be perfect for a bar." Elena tilted her head again, her smile widening. "Even has a proper stage, not the little platform you two made do with in Seventh Heaven."
Zack watched the way their faces lit up at the thought, and he sighed as he leaned forward, his fingers on the glass of tea. He hated to do it, but someone had to, and he broke into the conversation with, "And just what would they serve in Two, Elena? Alcohol's still illegal up here."
But that didn't seem to dampen Elena's mood at all. If anything, her smile widened into a sharp grin. "For now," she agreed, and then she looked back up at Jessie. "But things are changing, Detective Fair."