by llamajoy

disclaimer, etc: this one is for my boss, who asked me today (i kid you not) about the costs of labor and materia. ^_# square owns the world, this is full of sexy implications (of the non-yaoi sort, for once), i wuv weeve, you know the drill. (and my boss is NOTHING like scarlet, which is a shame, 'cause then at least my workplace would be a bit more interesting. heh.)

he may play the jack of diamonds
he may lay the queen of spades
he may conceal a king in his hand
while the memory of it fades
--sting, "the shape of my heart"

There were days when he liked his job. Kind of fun, almost like a computer game: balance the books (accounts payable and receivable running parallel in a sort of double-helix of sixteen-digit code), man the generators (juggling schedules, dialing phones, smiling at everyone no matter the piles of papers they bring), watch the clock, get it all done on time.

There were days, naturally, when he disliked it.

And then there were days when one catastrophic decimal misplacement slammed into another, and companies didn't ship, and phone calls were returned too late, and none of the ShinRa brass would deign to speak to him, and fax machines became excuses for justifiable homicide and-- and-- he couldn't win a game of solitaire if the planet depended on it.

Today was definitely shaping up to be one of the latter.

He hung up the phone for the umpteenth time, resisting the urge to slam the handset into the cradle and yank the cord from the wall. No good, it wouldn't do anybody any good if he chucked the phone through the fifty-seventh floor window just to watch its little phone innards crash on the sidewalk below, twitching ringers still going. He suppressed an evil smile. Ahem. It wasn't their fault, of course, it was never anybody's fault.

But he'd have to stay late to set it right, because it was inexcusable to have three out of eight generators offline at the same time for maintenance checks that should have been performed months ago. Years maybe.

He rubbed his temples, briefly, wondering just when his headache had started. Fumbling in his desk drawer for the little lifesaver bottle of painkillers, he was not surprised when he fished it out and found it empty. No comforting rattle of tiny red pills, no psychosomatic relief of swallowing something down with yet another tasteless company vending machine cola.

"Bye!" called his secretary, ducking her head into his door with a parting smile, not before he noticed the folders sticking haphazardly out of her briefcase, the gazillion colored post-its adorning its once-slim shape. They all carried their job home with them, these days. "Tomorrow, same time, same channel. Don't stay too late, 'kay?"

He made a vague noise in her direction, trying not to drown in the envy. Leaving... already? He frowned at the clock, looked despairingly at the oceans of confounded paperwork on his desk. Nothing more depressing than being alone with the laptop afterhours, he mused, digging in at random.

Until there was laughter in the hallway and, his curiosity piqued, he looked up. First he saw Reno, walking casually backwards and keeping up conversation with Rude and Tseng, who followed. He should have guessed it was the Turks, really, strolling down the deserted corridors after the rest of the Company had gone home. Then Reno seemed to see something behind them, and made a comical face of displeasure, his loping gait picking up a bit. "Here comes Trouble," he chuckled, the capital "T" evident in the lift of his eyebrows. The three of them moved swiftly out of his range of vision, unflappable in their professional Turkness, even though they were obviously in a hurry.

Reeve was just getting around to actively wondering just what Reno had seen--

--When Scarlet stuck her coiffed blonde head in his office door, looking displeased.

The first inane thing that came to mind was how grateful he was that he'd taken down the dartboard with the pictures of the other ShinRa execs on it. As gratifying as it was to hit a bull's-eye right in the center of President ShinRa's fat head. Ahem.

"They deliberately avoided me," she said, leaning against his doorjamb with a sigh, running one hand through her perfect bangs. "I wanted to speak to the Turks about that incident in Sector 2, and they deliberately went out of their way not to speak to me."

You don't say. In the attempt to look busy, he bowed his head over his paperwork, not meeting her eyes. "Evening, Scarlet," he said. Or thought he said. Most of his attention was distracted, as he was too busy praying to the Gods of Urban Engineering that if he made it through the night with his work done and his dignity intact he'd never be a bad boy ever again, honest--

Scarlet pouted, idly fingering the lock on his office door, clicking crimson nails against the mechanism like some sort of lock-picking femme fatale. "Oh, Reeve, I just hate working late these evenings. Everyone else has gone home..." She dipped her elegant head and looked up at him through manicured eyelashes. "Now what do I do?"

He couldn't think of many things worse than this. There had been the time he'd had to explain to the President that "" was already in use by The Society for Herpetologists In Need of Reptilian Augmentation--

Scarlet smiled.

--No, this was worse. Definitely worse. There were no Gods of Urban Engineering, or if there were, they were sitting on his generators and laughing their divine asses off.

"Are you busy?"

Ah, those three magic words. Easy enough, all he'd have to do was look up, oozing confidence, explain in no uncertain terms that he was a busy man-- frantically so!-- that the operations of Midgar depended on his very existence, and then nod her out the door. Right? "I'm afraid so, Scarlet," he mumbled, waving a vague hand over his desk. "Got to get this done tonight."

Wrong. He'd breed gold chocobos too, while he was dreaming. Dammit, dammit.

While he was berating himself, Scarlet's high heels clacked quietly across his office floor, till she was close enough to rest her elbows on his desk. He started, realizing with panic that the neutral area of carpet at which he'd been staring steadily was suddenly occupied by a rather fantastic display of cleavage. Eyes flicking upwards in self-defense, he came face to face with her dangerous smile.

"That's too bad," she cooed, absently picking a paper from his motionless hands and frowning prettily over it. "What is this stuff, anyway?"

He flushed, almost grateful for the anger. "Don't be ridiculous, Scarlet. They're spreadsheets for Generator Output Cost Effectiveness-- I borrowed the template from your Weapons Cost sheets. It was your suggestion."

For a moment she looked surprised, leaning off-balance across the desk from him-- and then she laughed. She handed back the offending paperwork and straightened, carefully smoothing the seams of her skirt. "Only because you insisted on using those outdated model sheets, if I recall," she said evenly, "And I was tired of Heidegger bitching about your reports being too hard to read."

Reeve watched in mute amazement as she assumed a professional demeanor, smile gone. "So what's today's difficulty down in Urban Dev?" She sat down on the desk, slowly crossing her legs.

He felt much like the proverbial rabbit caught in the snake's stare. "Difficulty?" he managed, for his voice seemed to have sought shelter somewhere less imminently threatening than his throat.

Rolling her eyes, she tapped him teasingly on the shoulder, leaning conspiratorially close. "I got no less than a dozen frenzied phonecalls from your office, this afternoon alone." Her winterblue eyes narrowed and he swallowed reflexively. "We can't have you working too hard, Mr. Secretary. Bad for company morale."

Somehow he located his voice, cowering though it was between his heart and his kidneys. "What, are you single-handedly upholding ShinRa morale?" He couldn't help the snide remark, and her lips twitched in the beginning of a rebuttal. Hastily he shook his head, amending, "It's nothing I can't handle tonight, really. It'll get done."

"Oh, Mr. Secretary," she purred, and once again he was too aware that she was a woman who knew how to get what she wanted. "Don't do it all alone. You don't need to play it... solitaire." And the volumes that were not spoken in her smirk were more than covered in the wink she offered him.

He would have given a twelve-hour day without overtime or lunch breaks not to blush. But of course, he did, and she looked supremely gratified. She opened her painted lips to speak again--

"Can it, Scarlet," he said, surprising both of them. His office door was still open, dammit. Anybody could walk by. The conversation had gone far enough, and his generators were waiting. "Would you like to help reorganize generator schedules? I'd love the company and I'm sure my techs would love to have your pager number as well as mine."

"I'm not your secretary--" she began, coldly.

"No, I've never seen you work half so hard," he countered levelly, standing and putting a hand on her shoulder, to see her to the door.

Scarlet all but hissed, a veritable physical sound of displeasure. "Did I say you could touch me?"

The threat hovered in the air between them for a beat, the heat in her blue eyes almost palpable. Like you didn't want me to, he thought. But that was a battle he knew he could not win, so he did not even try. "Sorry, Scarlet." He dropped the hand, finally able to back a comfortable distance away from her. "I would like to finish this tonight," he nodded to his desk. "And you, I'm assuming," he inclined his head politely to her, "would like to... have something to do."

She pursed her lips, crossing her arms unsubtly across her chest, though she did nod assent. "You... could say that. So?"

He held out a hand, classic business handshake-style. "So we work together. Truce?"

Something other than conquest glimmered in her eyes, and her eyes flicked away. Casually, she swung her legs a little, manicured hands fondling the edge of his desk-drawer. "In other words you're going to play hard to get."

With an effort he swallowed the blush that fought to creep up his cheeks, hand still extended for the partnership-shake. "Maybe," he said against a tight throat, "you need a man who will make you work, for a change."

Her head came up sharply, venom on the tip of her tongue-- but it turned into a considering smile, taking his words for the challenge they were. "Something I've never heard before. Original, Reeve. I can appreciate that." Thoughtfully, she tapped a tooth with one long fingernail. "And if I help you out tonight?"

Reeve cast about for something mild and innocuous. "If you behave," he said, floundering for that self-confidence that had come so easily just a moment ago. "...I'll owe you a good game of cards, some evening."

Scarlet's smile didn't reach her mouth, but her eyes were keen. "So I can teach you a few games better than solitaire," she purred, and before he could protest, she took his hand in a firm shake. "Deal. Our truce. So what are we doing?"

Wondering just what on earth he was getting into, Reeve cleared his throat, gesturing to his desk and manfully trying not to notice her flawless seams. "Well, for starters you're sitting on all the paperwork."


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