I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: 'Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear -
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'
"I want to go out."
Not what Reeve expected, backing into the doorway and shifting the weight of parcels in his hands. It destroyed the fragile lines of dialog he had planned. "Why?" he asked, to stall for time, frowning at the packages he'd brought as if he was an actor who'd received the wrong set of props.
"I'm tired of being cooped in here, isn't that enough?" Rufus tilted his head back, the sightless acknowledgment that Reeve had grown accustomed to. Painful, in the half-green light of the one window, to look at all the things that had become familiar so fast, in the wake of apocalypse. Reeve wanted to be the blind one, not to see in all its clarity the dimensions of this small room, the end of this time waiting quietly not far off. Rufus stood by the window, arms folded, coat flung unevenly over his shoulders, the fabric more gray now than white. He tilted his head to the window, blue eyes empty on the corrugated metal shutter.
"What's the point of a blind man going out to see the city, is that what you're thinking?" Rufus's lip twisted, and Reeve let his armful of salvaged rations fall to the unmade bed.
"No, it's just not very safe, that's all. Bits are falling down all over."
"Maybe one will land on my head," Rufus muttered. He didn't sound adverse to the prospect.
Reeve frowned. "All right." He'd learned, at some point in the past weeks, that he had no taste for dragging things out. "It's raining, you should wear your coat."
Rufus obediently slid his arms though his sleeves, and held out a hand for Reeve's shoulder. "Just don't put me on anything I can jump off of." Rufus almost smiled, unfocused eyes narrowing. "After all, it would be such an undignified way to go."
Cold out here, Rufus thought, pulling his coat a little tighter around his shoulders. It had been rather pointless, he knew, to have Reeve drag him out here, not far from their shelter. It wasn't as though he could look at anything. So instead he listened, rain plopping softly off metal, the city eerily quiet. There were still people, Rufus knew, but most of this sector was abandoned and there was no noise of traffic, no rumble of train under the thunderstorm, no familiar hum of mako reactor. He shivered, the back of his neck prickling. He turned around, instinctively, but his darkness did not lift, and all he heard was the sound of the rain, turning his city into a ruin of rust and scaffolding.
He felt like a relic, lost in some crumbling city, an obsolete curiosity of another time, long gone.
What was Reeve thinking, leaving him out here? He said he'd had to go back for something, more vague than usual, and Rufus was suspicious. Of course, this was as good a prison for him as any. Rufus kept his hands wrapped around a smooth metal rail where Reeve had placed them. If he let go, he had no sure chance of finding it again. He considered wandering off, never being found, but the odds were higher of being found sprawled on the ground like a helpless child, and that appealed to him even less.
Footsteps echoed on the metal ramp beyond him, stopping just a foot out of his personal space. Rufus turned, letting out a breath he'd been unaware of holding. "Reeve? What the hell took you so long?" He turned back, as if he was actually staring at a view. "You're getting reckless with your charges. I could have flung myself off of... whatever it is I'm standing on."
Silence met his words, and Rufus tossed his hair, impatiently. "What's the matter, Reeve? Cat got your tongue?"
And from the darkness around him came an answer, and Rufus was grateful to have a firm grip on something.
"Forgive me for being late with my report, Rufus-sama. I was under the impression that you were dead."
The world tilted under Rufus's feet, he felt himself sway before a hand caught his elbow, the supporting touch as familiar as the faint spice smell that moved against his face, and Rufus raised a hand blindly, fumbling for a shoulder, a hand, anything. "...Tseng?" His fingers found the front of a shirt, a coat lapel, and wound tightly around it. His voice threatened to shatter under the weight of the name, demanding confirmation his eyes couldn't give him. "Tseng?"
And those who said of Rufus Shinra that he never laughed or cried would be hard pressed to say which it was he was doing, face pressed to Tseng's throat, hands discovering soft dark hair and familiar shoulders and a hip that rested just so against his own. He found, too, the rumpled bulk of bandage beneath Tseng's shirt, the unevenness of the embrace, one arm still in a sling.
"How?" There was command, still there, trembling under relief in his voice. "What happened?"
"Avalanche assisted me, once I got out of the temple. Reeve's pet project convinced them not to kill me the rest of the way." The pause, Rufus knew, was to accommodate the wry twist of Tseng's smile. "The lifestream rising did the rest, I would say. I'm afraid I don't remember much of it. I do recall--" and this time his voice did falter, "The last message my radio picked up. That the top six floors of the Shinra building were decimated by Weapon, that you were dead."
"I know. He told me, when he and Elena found me."
"Elena?" Rufus hadn't let himself think the others might be alive. The Turks, by nature, were always smack in the middle of any crisis, were always the first casualties.
"We're tougher than even we think, Rufus." Tseng, Rufus knew, hadn't expected them to be alive either. "Reno is in sector five. I believe he is assisting with the evacuations; I think he has family there. Rude and Elena have gone to Nibleheim, to start working on a new base for us."
"Nibelheim?" Rufus frowned with his eyebrows, tilting his head up to Tseng. He looked less blind with Tseng than he did with Reeve, already knowing exactly how his height matched his bodyguard's, how much to lift his own head to meet those dark almond eyes. "What about Midgar? Reeve-- wouldn't tell me."
"Rufus," Tseng said, and there was only the barest hesitation, for he was a man used to delivering the worst of messages as though they were ancient history, "Midgar is gone."
"Gone?" Rufus repeated, his grip tightening on Tseng's arm. "But the upper plate surely--"
"The upper plate is still standing above four sectors, including this one. The central pillar is intact, for now." Tseng was grudgingly admiring. "Reeve knows his city very well. The week before Meteor fell he organized mass evacuations. People he couldn't get to Kalm or the Mythril Mines he placed under the most stable of the pillars-- the ones still standing. The Shinra building has folded in on itself-- most of the middle floors are missing. Reeve says it might be stable enough for us to go in, retrieve vital files, if Highwind will agree to fly us in. There's no other way to the surface."
Rufus was silent, lifting his face to the plate section above him that he couldn't see, blue eyes clouded as he struggled to imagine. "I used to think," he said, very quietly, "That it looked like a sundial. My building in the middle and the reactors to mark the time..." his face went vaguely the wrong shape, as if warring between breakdown and control. Control won, the ripples between his eyebrows smoothing.
"Yes, sir?" As if nothing had changed, as if they were standing in his office, looking out over the city.
"You said Rude and Elena were in Nibelheim? How long before we can move operations there?"
"Give me a week, sir." Tseng hesitated. "I think it best that you remain here. It is safe. No one knows where you are, and Reeve can assist you."
Rufus was obscurely relieved that Tseng did not say ‘take care of,' even though it was quite obvious from Rufus's condition that he was in no shape to do anything, much less restart a company.
"You will stay tonight?" Rufus asked, with seeming disinterest, but his hand had not left Tseng's arm.
Tseng was not to be fooled. "Reeve said he would return for me, tomorrow morning."
Thinking accurately about Reeve was difficult. Rufus blinked, as if it would make his vision sharper. "Tseng, where are we?"
Tseng shrugged. "The train station. What's left of it."
"I was here," Rufus said, almost dreamily. "The night Reno got his scars. That was this sector." He shook himself, and his hand lifted to his eyes, smoothing over his face. "I never want to see it, Tseng. I never want to see what's happened to it."
Tseng's fingers curled gently around Rufus's own, sliding over the silver Turks watch with the missing crystal, the watch-hands blown off by the explosion. "I don't want you to, Rufus."
Rufus did not answer, but his head lowered wearily to Tseng's shoulder, arms curled around himself. Tseng wrapped his good arm around Rufus's shoulder and they stood quietly in the encroaching darkness, with the slow gravity of the city all around them.