All I Want For Christmas
Final Fantasy VII
"No," Reeve said, angling his phone directly in front of his mouth and raising his voice as much as he dared, "not that kind of avalanche. An actual avalanche."
On the other end of the phone, over a distance that felt twice as far thanks to the crummy cell reception in Nibelheim, Rufus Shinra made a noise of understanding at last. "Got it. Any casualties?"
A normal boss would just ask if everyone was okay, Reeve thought, but Rufus was not a normal boss. He wasn't even technically Reeve's boss, not anymore, but that didn't mean Reeve felt comfortable shouting at him over the phone. He was also acutely aware of everyone listening in behind him, trying to glean the other half of the conversation.
"We're fine," Reeve said, with a confidence he did not entirely feel. "Well, I'm assuming the chopper is fine, but since all I can see of it are the blades, I'm just extrapolating. But we're not going anywhere."
The phone reception was crystal clear for just a moment, long enough for Reeve to hear the distinctive click of Rufus' tongue followed by a tiny sigh, the only evidence of Rufus' acute aggravation. It was their only working chopper, and they both were thinking of that. "How long to get it out?" Rufus said, at last.
"Oh," Reeve said brightly, "Maybe a day?"
Behind him, Reno made a derisive snort.
"Probably three or four," Reeve amended.
"I'll see what I can do," Rufus said, tersely. While he could control many things, the weather was not one of them, and right now that thought was particularly galling. "I'll call back when I can."
Reeve looked at his darkened phone, and at Elena standing in the cave mouth, just inches from the massive tidal wave of falling snow that had consumed their chopper.
"Well?" she asked, hopefully.
"He'll--see what he can do," Reeve answered, starting on a note of cheerful assurance that couldn't make it past the first few words.
"Unless he's growing wings," Reno said, shivering violently, "I'm not sure what he's gonna do to get us off the side of this mountain." The ends of his bright hair were already stiff with frost.
"No way back through the cave," Rude said, brushing bits of snow and dirt from his sleeve. "It's shelter, though."
"I have a fire materia," Elena said, sliding her armlet off and looking hopefully around the cave walls. "We just have to hold out a little while. Rufus will think of something."
"Probably he'll think of the money he's going to save on not giving us a funeral," Reno muttered.
Reeve opened his mouth, then, looking back at the warped blades of the helicopter jutting up out of the snow, he shut it again. He didn't really have anything more hopeful to say.
Rufus Shinra stood by the window of the Nibelheim inn, staring hard through the falling snow at the white flank of the mountain above him. Somewhere up there, his employees were waiting for him. His only employees. Everyone else was dead or not coming back. Everyone except for--
"If you've got any ideas, Tseng, I'd be happy to hear them."
Standing in the doorway of the small room they shared, Tseng scowled at the cracked screen of his president's cell phone. "Perhaps, if we asked Cloud-- "
"No." Rufus balled his fists on the windowsill. "I think we've asked more than enough of Cloud Strife, don't you?"
Tseng declined to answer.
Rufus thought of all the things that had once been simple for him: travel, money, cell phones with unbroken screens. The ability to save people that he needed--that he would now admit, if only to himself, that he cared for. Soon after the thought came a rush of other wishes, more thick and fast than the snow falling outside. Wishes for plentiful hot water and decently tailored suits and a thick duvet and a double-strong whiskey and soda. He laughed softly to himself, fogging a pane of glass with his breath. What a Yuletide list he could make right now. Might as well ask for a wind-up train and his own chocobo.
"Even if we had a chopper, we'd never get it out in this weather. We'd have to--sir?"
Rufus had started as though at a sound. He squared his shoulders and when he turned to Tseng, there was a light in his cold blue eyes that Tseng had not seen there since before Meteor.
"Tseng," Rufus said, in a tone sharp enough to make Tseng snap to attention, "Get me Dio on the phone."
"Well, this sucks," Reno said, holding his stiff fingers out to the tiny fire. Fuel had been hard to come by, and most of what they found was wet, iron-hard wood. Even with the globe of fire materia at its heart, the fire hissed and sputtered. "Didn't think I'd die like this. I imagined more gunfire."
"We're not going to die," Reeve announced, with a calm he wished he felt. Rude raised his eyebrows at him over the rim of his sunglasses, and Reeve made an aimless motion with his left hand. "Okay we're all going to die eventually but we're not going to die here, I mean yes, the odds of that happening are higher here than they would be if we were back at base and secure, but you have to factor in antagonistic anti-government factions v/s weather conditions on a hazard scale and we could survive here possibly a week or more if--"
"Oh, god," Reno groaned, hands to his face, "a week isn't dying soon enough if we have to listen to this idiot the whole time."
"Probably only take three or four days anyway," Rude put in. "Two for your skinny ass, tops."
"Thanks," Reno snapped. "When I die and you have to eat my skinny ass just to live one more day, I hope I give you all botulism."
"I'm not eating any part of you," Elena said, her face scrunching up in disgust. "Much less your ass."
"Not even enough to go around, anyway," Reeve put in, and looked at his phone again. Rufus had not called back, and Reeve did not expect him to now. The sky had grown dark with the early onset of night, and through the narrow crack of the cavern opening he could see bursts of snow blowing in a stiff wind. By morning they'd be lucky to even see the tips of the chopper blades.
"I think Reno's ass has been around enough already," Rude said, and they couldn't help but laugh, all four of them. It dwindled quickly, like the soggy twig Elena fed to the fire.
"I wish we had some more fuel," Reeve said, allowing a note of frustration to creep into his voice.
"I wish we had something to eat," Elena said, wistful.
"Wish I was drunk," Rude said, and everyone made a noise of agreement. That ended the conversation for a little while, though it continued in their thoughts.
"I wish we were home," Reno said, after a long moment in which they all four moved a little closer to the fire, to each other. "I wish we had a home to wish we were at," he amended, soon thereafter. "I wish Father Odin would come in on his big white horse with a sack full of presents and beer and helicopters and hookers and--"
"There is no such thing," Elena said, with some temerity, "as horses."
"Then he can come in on a solid titanium aardvark for all I care," Reno said, hugging his knees in an attempt to get some warmth through them. "Not that he will. He only comes for good kids, and we're... well." He scrubbed his hand hard against his face, then jerked his head up in startled surprise, green eyes wide. "Hey, did something just go kweh?"
"Hallucinating already?" Rude grunted, but Elena and Reeve scrambled to their feet, both listening intently to the howling wind.
"I heard it too!" Elena said, and then they all heard it, a great whirring and rustling of motion somewhere outside of the cave. "Chocobos!"
"Rufus!" Reeve shouted.
"Boss!" Reno joined in, waving his arms and stepping in the fire for good measure.
With a rattle of claws on stone, the cave mouth was suddenly blocked by a warking cacophony of green and black feathers, filling the cave with their echoes, cold sluicing off their gleaming flanks. Astride a great gold bird in the front was Rufus Shinra, looking as at-ease on the back of a chocobo as he ever had in a boardroom. Behind him, Tseng rode one of the blacks, the bridles of the other four birds tied to his saddle.
"I hope you know," Rufus said, yanking his ice-covered scarf away from his face, "I'm taking the price of these birds out of your paycheck."
"I hope you know," Tseng said, from the depths of his own coat and somehow more ominously, "I'm allergic to these things."
"Yaaay we're not gonna die!" Reno cheered, flinging his arms around Elena, who was happy enough to allow it.
"Well--" Rude began.
"Come on, Rude," Reeve said, tossing him the reins of the larger green bird. "Not that again."
"Fine." Rude allowed himself a small chuckle. "...Maybe not today."