disclaimer, etc: remember "timing"? consider that a prologue to this larger, songfic sort of whole. lyrics to "smog moon" are copyright matthew sweet. you wouldn't believe how long i've been writing on this thing-- or maybe you would. (for a fuu fic, 'tis awful long.) square owns the world; these guys aren't mine, ya know? ...i'm just a spoony bard. spoiler warnings, i guess, and **YAOI** warnings too, so proceed with caution. or rush in headfirst, whatever floats your boat.
there's a smog moon, in the amber sky,
wavering and burning like a golden lie
I fell so far, I didn't think I'd make it back
It was raining, again, and the old boarded windows rattled a bit in the wind. The air felt good though, not too cold, heavy with moisture and promise. He couldn't remember the last time it had really rained in Midgar, rained so hard he thought surely moss must be growing on the cement sidewalks, ferns springing up from the cracks in the paved streets.
But it seemed to rain a lot those days, after the ending of the world.
He shivered, and again the sky was full of spinning fire, whirling currents of thunder, and the screams of the dying. It would be years, he knew, before he would forget-- how it was to watch his city crumble, the way that glass melted and whole buildings disintegrated, neighborhoods scattering like so many eddies in the wind. Chaos called, and the whole galaxy was listening.
So many people he had managed to evacuate to Kalm, but he was only one person, could only do so much.
Reeve wondered, briefly, what the Planet he'd gotten himself into. The Sector Seven plate collapse was gummi moogles compared to this.
But for all that-- this little shelter was surprisingly stable, nestled in the lee of the Sector Four pillar. He hadn't been at all sure that it would survive the devastation, though perhaps another miracle should not have surprised him.
What had legend said about the way the world would end?
Calamity from the skies.
Yet, here they were, an ex-President and his ex-Secretary. Or was that ex-traitor? The lines had gotten blurred there, towards the end-- towards the finale they all danced towards, without knowing. Cloud had even said that he thought he'd seen Sephiroth weep, there in the Lifestream, or his subconscious-- he could never remember which. Crocodile tears they may have been, but he was convinced his General had shed them, nonetheless, after he had to kill him. Again. (And with no hard feelings, right?)
It's true, what they say, that anything can happen.
He wondered, just briefly, about one mewling kitten, who he'd watched grow into a sleek and lazy cat, living quite fat and content in his office. This was war, right? Everyone was bound to lose something. Still, he hoped the end was quick, hoped the Lifestream was well-stocked with tuna for one well-deserving friend--
It wouldn't always hurt, he knew. He blinked, chewed at his lower lip. But one look at the slumbering profile of his captive, and it had all been worth it. All of it. He couldn't think too closely about it without his head hurting. Somehow he knew that there was nothing the Planet could throw at him that could be so wondrous as Rufus sleeping, there in the one-room shelter he'd managed to find.
Reeve shook his head, feeling his mind all tied in knots and wishing for his laptop and some nice boring spreadsheets to wade through. But with the latest Cait Sith keeping the company of AVALANCHE, and his job (let alone his office) blown to hell, there was little enough room for delusions of grandeur, these days.
And none of this made it any easier to face the prospect of waking the man he'd kidnapped.
The rain went on outside, sluicing over their heads with a quiet ocean sound, like a lullaby of drowning.
we are all made, as an afterthought,
destined to believe that we are what we are not
I'm afraid, but I don't need to tell you that
"Where am I?" he demanded, before Reeve had even made it all the way into the room. He was sitting up in bed, a pillow held to his chest like a defensive weapon. It might have been the wobbly rain-cast light, but it looked like his shoulders were shaking.
"Finally, you're awake," Reeve said, aiming his tone for pleasant conversation. His relief was genuine-- he had been unable to rouse him for days, sleeping fitfully and not taking any food or drink. "I've brought you broth--"
"I asked you once, where am I?" It was almost pitiable, and Reeve felt his heart twist.
"The pillow's not meant for a nightstick, man. It's all right." He considered the hot cup of soup he was holding, watching the steam rising into the humid air. He answered the question, but vaguely. "You're... safe."
Beginning to sense the tenor of his host's mood, Rufus scowled, lowered the pillow he was brandishing. "Prison, then." His voice was scathing.
Reeve nodded cheerfully. "I suppose you could say that. Just a little place in Sector Four, something for emergencies. Though the captivity has done you some good, I would say." When Rufus did not respond to the outstretched tray, he lifted the steaming mug himself and pressed it into his hands. Rufus started, and his eyes went wide.
"Drink that. You need it."
Very quietly, Rufus complied, and Reeve was gratified to see the soup sipped away. After a while of strained silence, Rufus asked, in a voice that was mostly civil, "Would you turn a light on, please? So that I may at least see you?"
It was Reeve's turn to look startled. "It's already on. I mean, it's just one gas-lamp, and it's cloudy outside, but it's hardly dark--"
Rufus' hands were white-knuckled as he held his empty mug. He nodded only once. "I'm blind."
At a loss, Reeve touched his shoulder. "I'm right here," he said, feeling foolish. "You can't see me?"
"No," Rufus snapped. "I can't."
"It must have been the explosion," Reeve mused aloud, "affecting your eyesight somehow. Here, let me see." Surreptitiously he looked for contusions, signs of concussion. But Rufus' head was sound, all he could find were handfuls of the softest golden hair he'd ever touched, sliding through his fingers like threads of silk. He swallowed.
Rufus seemed flustered for a moment, piecing something together. "My office-- what happened? Why am I even here?"
Wryly, Reeve said, "Well, I rigged a kidnapping. I didn't know I'd also save your life." He tried not to remember the floor-rocking force of the blast, Diamond Weapon's final blow. Tried not to remember the radio soundbyte caught on the airwaves, over and over...
Something dawned on Rufus. "Reeve?" His voice was dark with disbelief and mistrust.
Reeve guiltily dropped his hands, chuckling ruefully. "Well, it's good to see you, too."
Rufus impatiently dragged the hair out of his eyes, a gesture that must have been habit, as it had nothing to do with clearing his vision. "Remind me," he said caustically, "not to do you any favors."
Before he remembered that Rufus couldn't see him, Reeve made a dismissive gesture. "Nah, nah. Don't thank me, I wouldn't want you to sprain something--"
Rufus lashed out blindly, with remarkable speed. He managed to grab a handful of Reeve's shirt, and clutched it. His sightless eyes were oddly threatening, his voice nearly a growl. "Look," he said. "I didn't ask you to lock me in a miserable slum hidey-hole with you. I didn't ask you to bring me lousy soup. I didn't ask you to save my fucking life. My city is gone, my company is gone, my--" he checked himself, the corners of his mouth twitching. "I would rather," he said, fingers tightening, "be dead."
Reeve could only stare, as Rufus violently released him, wrapped his arms around his knees and lowered his head. He might have been sobbing, Reeve couldn't tell. Didn't dare to get close enough to tell. A flash of his own anger flared and died within him, and he swore he would not apologize. Not for this, not for saving a man's life. Everything had a reason.
"Get some sleep," he said, rationally, and dodged the pillow missile aimed for his head. He closed the door behind him-- to block out the sound of the silent raging grief within, and to have something to lean against. Drawing a shaky breath, he closed his eyes. But he could not, no matter how hard he tried, wish anything undone.
there's a lost man, with a bitter soul,
only for a moment, did life make him whole
and while he was, he thought he was invincible
"I've brought lunch," he called, holding the door open with a foot as he carried in two bags. "Unless you're still sulking--?"
"Shut up," Rufus said, but there wasn't any active hatred in it. He was propped up in bed, head tilted towards the window. "More soup? Gruel, perhaps?"
"Sandwiches," he said evenly, shrugging out of his jacket without setting down the food. "Now that you're better. Your maitre-d knows a good delicatessen in Kalm. Ham or turkey, monsieur?"
Rufus didn't quite succeed in sounding contrite. "Oh, whichever you deign to give me, Mr. Jailkeeper Sir."
Sighing, Reeve plopped the sack with the ham onto Rufus' lap, noticing that he didn't jump. He was getting better about hearing him coming; fewer things surprised him. "Here."
"Does it always sound like this, down here?" He cradled the food in his hands, not eating, his face still angled toward the open shutters.
"What?" Reeve paused in the act of sitting and taking off his shoes and unwrapping his own lunch all at once. He hadn't noticed the eerie hum and hiss outside; the breathing of the dying city had become almost as familiar as his own. "Most of that's the effects of the Lifestream," he said, a little surprised at this line of conversation. "Why, have you never been here before?"
"And why would I?" Rufus countered, snidely, running an idle finger along the foil wrapper. "Venture from the glorious topside of my city?"
Your city, Reeve thought, dryly. Oh, really. "I don't know," he hazarded, trying to imagine he were a wealthy spoiled mogul, and failing. "Curiosity? Adventure?"
With deliberate carelessness, Rufus waved a hand. "All the best whorehouses are on the upperlevel."
"Oh, well then," Reeve muttered, disgusted, feeling the heat creeping into his face and glad Rufus could not see. "I'm surprised the HoneyBee--"
Rufus laughed. It wasn't a pleasant sound, but it was a laugh. "I was kidding, Mr. Secretary. You can put away your blackmail file."
Reeve blinked. "Blackmail file? Even if I'd had one, it would have blown up with the rest of the building," he commented flatly. "I don't care about anybody's personal life."
Now Rufus raised an eyebrow, looking speculative. Reeve realized such an expression would well seem deadly, on the wrong end of a shotgun, or a business meeting. He had to look away, taking a bite from his turkey, trying not to imagine Rufus' eyes unfocused on his face. "Really. You know, you have no ambition. I wonder just how you made it as far as you did, anyway."
"Oh, by mistake, I'm sure," he said, around a mouthful. The sandwich really was good, though he didn't much notice. "But if it has to be done, I'll do it."
Rufus pursed his lips, unfolding the foil at last. "Practicing your campaign speech, Reeve?"
Reeve laughed out loud, at that, and at the surprise on Rufus' face when he took a bite. It obviously hadn't been what he'd expected. "Well, what do you think?"
Rufus smiled in spite of himself. "Needs work, I think. You need a better PR person."
"Better than an animated cat sitting on a stuffed moogle? Doesn't get any better than that."
Rufus was laughing now, as well. "Right, right. Who am I to say?" They ate in silence for a while, and it was not as painful a silence as it had been a week ago. When Rufus spoke again, Reeve almost didn't recognize his voice, it was so changed. "I do realize," he murmured, "that you've made your own life a lot more complicated."
Reeve didn't know what to say, ran a flustered hand through his hair. Just when he was starting to get the hang of the arrogance, the carefully articulated venom, now this. "I seem to do that," he said at last, wondering vaguely why he should feel apologetic. "A knack of mine."
"Hn." Rufus might have smiled, he couldn't be sure.
and the dark night, has the strongest pull
we both know that staying young, can take its toll
are you afraid of finding out you're over that
Slowly, he blinked awake. The persistent thrum of rain outside had faded, leaving only the muted dripping sounds of some forgotten drainpipe. Morning air skittered through the window with a half-hearted sort of chill, too lazy to be cold.
To his guilty relief, he found that he was not alone. The light was thin and watery, casting dappled shadows across the face of his-- he stopped just short of thinking of Rufus as a bedmate, though they'd spent a week's worth of nights together in that same bed. His... companion. He was sound asleep, almost in Reeve's armpit, having curled closer sometime in his dreaming, and his troubled face was almost peaceful. The weak sunlight was gentle on him, making his hair look honeyed, his complexion golden.
"Hey, sleepyhead," Reeve said, not allowing himself to sound affectionate. He knew it would not last, and lingering only made the hurt stronger. "Morning. Time to go."
Rufus, still sound asleep, pouted. "I don't want to go," he muttered sulkily, and rolled over. Reeve didn't dare breathe, with Rufus so alarmingly close, nestling in his bodyheat. He was so near that his breath tickled Reeve's neck, his heartbeat a soft murmur against his side. "No," he said, with all the grace and dignity of a petulant princeling. "Father will just send me somewhere away from you..."
Reeve stiffened, afraid to react, afraid to wake him up-- afraid to blink and find that Rufus was not actually wrapping arms around him, nuzzling into him, feathering sleepy-kisses along his ear-- What torture. What excruciating... what... what sweet lips he had, and what delicious forbidden heat was to be found in the circle of his arms.
Huskily, Rufus whispered, "Tseng..."
Reeve had almost forgotten the ache he harbored beneath his heart, but there it was again, hot and smothering. He held his breath, and lay an arm across Rufus' chest, drawing closer that willing body so eager next to his. Rufus stilled, half-smiling in his dream, breathing quiet at his shoulder.
And Reeve cherished it, clutching dearly to the pain-- as if it were all he ever expected to be given.
Not a handful of heartbeats later, of course, Rufus awoke, with a violent start. With seeking fingers he groped for his surroundings, his face mutely suspicious. "What?" he said, as if Reeve were the one who had spoken.
Easy enough, with a blind man, to pretend that he was stretching, to act as if that moment of shared warmth hadn't set his heart to pounding, his ears to burning. "Morning, lazybones," he said, hoping his voice didn't sound strained. Rufus touched his shoulder questioningly, as if recognizing their proximity. One golden eyebrow was lifted, in accusation and curiosity both. "You were having some rough dreams," Reeve said. It had gotten far too easy, the half-truths and slippery not-quite lies.
"Was I?" He didn't sound disbelieving, only sleepy and small and bewildered. A whole minute passed before he regained his condescension and rolled disdainfully away.
"Yeah," Reeve shrugged. "Count your blessings, ne? You'll be all right." Reeve floundered in his resolve, and brushed the ever-unruly bangs out of Rufus' eyes. "Stay here. I'll go get us some breakfast."
there's a smog moon coming, I can always feel it
the cartoon trees cannot conceal it
when it's high up in the sky, it almost looks like it is white
There was word from the Highwind; something had been spotted out in the jungle near the Temple. Something, with a radio distress signal that had been blipping faintly for weeks, unheard for the gibbering chaos that had become the Planet.
Something that Rufus would be glad to see, he was sure.
He rubbed at his eyes and flipped off his radio, trying to steady his breathing. Another miracle, he thought, running a shaking hand through his hair. His eyes flicked to Rufus, sprawled languidly on their modest bed, covers barely up to his hips. He thought briefly of the computer display, those weeks ago, the hostile young man he had first saved-- the distance they had come--
Another blessing unasked for.
Well, Rufus wasn't the most pleasant of house-guests. He should be glad to get him out of his hair, shouldn't he? Tseng wants him; he's all his.
"Come back to bed," Rufus purred from his pillow, his elegant fingers trailing over the sheets, outstretched in invitation. "It's raining again; the bed is cold without you."
More than anything Reeve wanted to close his eyes, not to see the welcome and the latent heat in Rufus' smile. "Are you always so greedy?" His voice did not crack, though he felt his whole self crumbling. Was this how Midgar felt, dissolving from within and with the glory of catastrophe spilling around its ears?
This calamity from the skies seemed so much more terrifying-- and so much more beautiful, for him alone.
The smile was beatific, gracing the aristocratic ShinRa features like sunshine. "Of course. You should know that by now; you've worked for me."
He stepped closer, glad again that Rufus could not see-- could not watch the words stuttering and dying unspoken on his lips. I can't-- I-- Tseng-- But, Rufus-- "I have to go-- just for a little while. I'll come right back." The lies again, lies always. The truth was a scalding brightness just beneath his tongue.
Blind hands sought his face, thumb tracing an ungentle line along his cheekbone. "Don't leave me alone?"
In the end, he couldn't look away, drinking his presence thirstily, trying to memorize the delicious curve of him beneath those humble sheets. Reeve kissed his forehead, and his hands held tight to those fragile golden shoulders, those that had borne the weight of ShinRa, that had carried the end of an age. There was a shining in Reeve's eyes that had nothing to do with the returning sunlight. "I'll never leave you alone, Rufus," he said, grateful for what honesty he could give him, wavering like a spent candleflame. "That I promise."
And then he fled, like the clouds scattering before the coming sun, the last fleeting drops of rain splashing feebly all around him.
when it's high up in the sky
it almost looks like... it's white