8: All My Sins

Waiting for you
All my sins...
I said that I would pay for them
if I could come back to you

Angels of the Silences by Counting Crows


Rufus spun around, facing Reeve. It took a moment for his brain to register that it really was Reeve standing there, in the dark, early morning, wearing a bathrobe. His dark hair no longer tied back but falling lose and wild. For a brief second, the remnants of night and traces of dawn fooling him, and it seemed like Tseng was standing before him. Rufus opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.

"Sir," Reeve cut through the silence, "news from Midgar, bad news." He held out some papers that seemed to have been spit right out of the fax machine to Rufus.

"What's happened?" he asked.

"One of our..." Reeve trailed off as Reno suddenly strode in to the room, his temper as fierce as his red unruly hair.

Rufus had to give Reeve some credit for not bolting right there and then, the sight of Reno scaring him off for good, but the other man just quirked a brow, cleared his throat before picking up right where he'd left off. Not such a frightened little rabbit after all.

"...reactors has been attacked, by whom is still unknown and there are no suspicions as far as I know. I recieved a phone call from Midgar not long ago, and they sent this fax over for you with all the current details."

"Was it one of the reactors in Midgar?" Rufus asked while eyeing the report.

"Sector 6, if my information is correct, sir."

"Any idea of what kind of damage we're talking about here?"

"From what I can make out of Heidegger's phonecall and the facts stated in that report I'd say the reactor is gone. According to Heidegger 'the whole fucking rathole was blown to hell,' I'd take it he means the sector, not just the reactor. Also, all trains has been cancelled, not just the Sector line but also the city trains on the plate, as far as I can tell there are no trains running between the sectors and the Plate, due to collapse of the railroad."

Rufus sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Damnit," he muttered.

"But that is not the worst, sir. Take a look at the death toll. About twice as many as that has lost their homes tonight."

"Let's hope it really is the act of a rebelgroup," Rufus said, more to himself than to the two other persons present in the room, "and not a failure with the reactor. If it is, Shinra is going to have a lot of angry people on their back after this."

"The President requests your presence in Midgar, the plane is ready when you are, sir."

"We'll leave right away. You two, go pack. Reno, notify the pilot that we will be at the airport within fourty-five minutes."

Reno nodded. "Yessir," he muttered and left.

"I should be going too. Is there something I should do, sir?" Reeve asked.

"Just go pack, there is nothing we can do as long as we're still in this goddamn place. Did anyone cancel my conference in the morning by the way."

"I'll be right on it, sir."

"Thank you, Reeve."

Rufus was usually a careful packer, picky about what he brought as his luggage. Always spending days calculating where his shirts would lay in the suitcase. Where his formal, neatly pressed trousers would fit in the best without getting wrinkled. Where his casual slacks he wore when alone in his apartment would be, usually tucked into some spare space between his turtlenecks and boxers.

But today he couldn't care less. Whatever was in the closet got thrown into the suitcase that lay wide open on top of his bed. The bed that had seemed far to empty without Tseng in it.

He froze, t-shirt in hand, just about to drop it into the bag. This was not the time to think about his lover. Although he longed to meet him again, to once more be able to touch him and feel his warmth next to himself, he felt guilty thinking about Tseng in a time like this.

I'll give him a call, he thought. Tseng is the one reasonable person who can give me a clear image of this whole mess. Nothing personal, just business. All very proffesional, he convinced himself as he picked up his cellphone and dialled Tseng's number.

No answer at his apartment.

He pressed the button to cancel the call and dialled the number to Tseng's cellphone instead.

The sudden joy of hearing Tseng's voice again came as a shock, only to be replace with disappointment as he realised it was his machine.

He could hear himself stutter and mumble, leaving some obscure message that he hoped Tseng would be able to decipher, even though what he'd said was basically just 'hello, it's me. I'll talk to you later.' The moment he hung up he cursed himself for sounding like such a fool.

The next moment he remembered his reason for calling and his face grew stern again and he returned to his packing, throwing things into the suitcase with more force than before.

Reno tossed his bag over to the door and sat down on the bed. The others would not be ready for another twenty minutes.

He threw himself backwards, bouncing on the soft mattress before rolling over to the side and reaching for the phone on the bedside table. There was no way he was going to use his own phone making a long distance call to Midgar when Shinra could pay for it.

Nimble fingertips danced over the dial, pressing down the digits.

He let six signals go through before hanging up, dialling another number.

The sober, monotone voice of Rude was at the other end after the first signal.

"Rude, man, it's me. What's going on over there."

Nothing was heard from the other end of the line and he imagined the always so silent Rude shrug.

"I'm not sure," came the rather unhelpful reply seconds later.

"So what do you think? Is it another group of rebels we have to deal with, or did the whole fucking thing just blow up because one of Shinra's employees screwed up?" Reno studied his nails, chewing on the sharp edge of one of them.

"Gonna be hell down here either way."

Reno rolled his eyes, Rude was not his favorite guy to pump for information. Sometimes he wondered if Rude at all had understand that 'top secret information' was in fact something he was supposed to share with the people he worked with.

"So what's the boss' theory?" his voice not as detached as he wanted it to sound.

"Dunno, still waiting for him to come in."

Rude paused, and Reno could hear someone else talking in the distance on the other end of the line.

"Look, Reno," Rude's voice returned, "I've got to go, they want me down on the scene."

"I thought Tseng had the nightshift," Reno continued, taking no notice of Rude's words.

"No, we swapped, there were some things he needed to take care of down..."

The sudden halt of Rude's words made Reno sit straight up on the bed, not really knowing why, just that something had to be wrong. A neglected piece of the puzzle that suddenly fell into place.

" ... in the slums," Rude finally picked up again. "Shit, Reno, he was going down to the slums. I'll try his cellphone, maybe he's just..."

"No," Reno breathed slowly, "I just tried that, no answer." Suddenly he felt sick, his body going from warm to cold, cold to warm. "Did he say that he was going to Six?"

The other end of the line was silent save for Rude's breathing.

"Damnit, Rude," Reno almost yelled, "did he say where he was going?"

"No, he didn't. I'm sure he's alright, you know Tseng, there's nothing he can't get out of."

Rude said something more, but Reno did not hear for a very anxious Rufus stepped into his room.

"Come on, Reno, we haven't got time for this, we've got to go."

"I'll talk to you late," Reno said, looking over at the vice-president and hung up the phone.

"Come on," Rufus repeated, "we can't wait any longer.

Reno grabbed his bag off the bed, halfway out the door he stopped, turning slightly towards Rufus. "Tseng might have been down in Six."

Somehow he knew it wasn't real, this world he was now in would eventually fade, revealing the world he could live and breath in. Still there was no way he could escape the sanctuary that was slowly turning into a nightmare.

Images, flashing on the inside of his eyelids, blending with the light of fire. All too quickly to be grasped and understood, hidden behind a curtain of grey, yet so bright it was painful.

The thick unbreathable air was filled with screams and prayers for mercy. Strings of a guitar were softly picked, the intro of a familiar but nameless tune. Another song was added, a record playing the same part over and over again, dimming the rest of the sound that filled the vacuum he floated in.

Every night these silhouettes appear above my head
Little angels of the silences climb into my bed and whisper
Every time I fall asleep
Every time I dream

Rufus strode through the ruins, his trench coat white and spotless as always, even though dust and dark ashes whirled around him, sweeping over the remains of what had once been the city.

At first sight the man looked completely indifferent to the scene he'd entered. But as he came closer he saw that the pale face was smeared with dirt and tears. His body was warm against his as he folded the young man into his arms, the slight pressure setting off and unbelievable pain in his chest.

Little angels hang above my head
and read me like and open book
Suck my blood, break my nerve,
offer me their arms

Once more he was alone, the screams were still there, distant but the sound rang in his ears together with mumbled prayers that were holding on to the last dying flame of hope.

There was something just ahead of him. An amorphous shape on the ground, lying on the cracked streets and fallen buildings.

A body, unmoving. The colourless chest revealed by the torn shirt did not rise. The bloody, slightly curled fingers grasped at nothing without moving. Red hair spilled like blood over the unharmed face, falling into unseeing eyes.

He fell down to his knees, cradling the body in his arms. Silently he cried, nothing but his choking sobs and the smell of flowers filling the vacuum as he started to slip out of it.

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