"—Children…Marriage…we just traded house keys.”
Death, his death at least, it didn’t bother him. He used to try and guess how he would die, what would get him in the end. He had been extremely cynical about it; he had never expected someone to care about him, or for him to care about another person that death became a concern. And now? Now that he was in Shalua’s arms, now that they had come so far?
Death scared him.
It scared him more than he ever knew. Too many what ifs he could not answer. Too many scenarios he could not stop. Yet she did not leave. Not now, she said. Not ever, he hoped. A hand resting gently on the small of her back, the other around her waist, he wasn’t sure how to answer her.
"Would you care to do the honors of putting it back on correctly?"
There were reasons she feared death, overwhelming darkness and the immortal abyss were troubling topics— however, the idea of a mortal death and leaving behind all they have ever known was frightening— however the idea of losing someone was far worse. The pain of being alone, having to fill the gap…
She did not want to think about her own death, or his.
There was no reason for her to leave, she did not hate him, nor was she overly angry with the man. True she was disappointed and angry with his actions towards the barmaid and towards her.
"I’d be more than happy to help you right yourself, Rufus— all I can tell you is what to try to do. First you can apologise to Tifa, and then to Rude— because he wants the both of you to get along, and then finally you can apologise to me.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline
"—you can’t be serious though."
Fear was not something he should have been feeling. Fear, being scared, being afraid, those were emotions he boasted about being impervious to, but here he was, terrified. But why? Did he even know?
Had they ever talked about what they were afraid of? No. Rufus knew that for certain. He always acted as though he had no fears. He always thought he had no fears. But then Alicia died. Then his world came crashing down. He lost.
Could he handle that again?
No, he told himself, it would not happen again. But what if it did? Could he stand there and pick himself back up again? No. he knew he could not. He had stood next to too many caskets, seen too many families shattered because of him.
And so, he was terrified.
Because he could not lose her.
The hug made him visibly shake. She wasn’t supposed to hug him. She was supposed to yell, to turn him away, say it was over, that he was not worth her time and she was going back to Reeve. That was the answer, wasn’t it? Her leaving him. Her living.
But would she be happy?
"I…I don’t know…" he told her, "I…you should walk away…you need to leave me…but I don’t ever want to let you go…"
I will get you killed. I get everyone killed. I cannot bare another life….but I love you…
Being human was dangerous. Humans were not impervious, they were feeling beings with blood in their veins and breath in their lungs. The felt pain, they cried, they laughed and loved. She had been assured with all of her impairments that she was still human, blood flowed and tears stained her face— and she had loved, fallen in love with a man that had once boasted that he was impervious to pain that humans endured.
He wasn’t the only one who had lost. She had put her mother in the ground with her own hands, her father had never returned from the ShinRa buildings, and Shelke— there was Shelke’s pain. Love and loss was part of being human, things happened that they couldn’t control— and one day something could happen to either of them, but they couldn’t dwell on that now.
She was not scared of death, it was life that scared her. Life was complicated without conversation.
She wrapped her arm around her neck, placing her chin on his shoulder. “I’m not going away, not now— you however have to get your head on straight.”
Perhaps he wanted her to just hit him. He understood physical anger, verbal anger. He was not yet used to anything else. He was not used to anyone being able to challenge him mentally.
"I…." he started, but it was like a pin touching a balloon. He deflated, and found himself looking at the ground. A child. Acting childish. He wanted to lash out at her, prove her wrong, keep battling, but he was scared. If he kept pushing, would she abandon him like everyone else did? Wasn’t that the point? He had let her too close. It wasn’t safe for her here. He needed to push her away. But something was different this time.
This time, he didn’t want to push her away.
He let her pull him close, flinching at the touch, his mind screaming hate me, just hate me and leave, though his face said nothing. Empty.
"Nothing’s wrong. I’ve just…" he started, but he swallowed, burying his head in her shoulder, hating his weakness, hating his inability to fight, his inability to prove to her that he was anything more than a coward.
That one little word meant so much. Fear in itself was an expression, admitting to fear was something else entirely. They’d never expressed fears, always believing that they were still untouchable, two people who had escaped death by the skins of their teeth.
She had been that as a child, then she had to become brave and big, face the things she didn’t think she could. And was he any different? For a while, in the earliest parts of their relationship, she didn’t think he feared anything. He’d been the man whom had stood at the top of the world and then lost it all— what did he have to be scared about—
Her sigh was breathy, and normally eyes filled with compassion were baron— he wore a mask to hide what else was lingering below the surface, so she moved, wrapping flesh and metal around him, the ticking in her ear subsiding.
"Oh— Rufus, I have no idea why you are scared, talk to me please. I’m not going to leave now. I may be angry, but I’m not walking away right now— you have to talk about this."
"Bullshit? Or the perfect manipulation? How do you know I am not just playing along, waiting for my next big move? How do you I won’t turn into the fucking idiot of a man my father was? Because the way I see it, I am right on track to becoming just like him," Rufus shot back, "I don’t deserve a shot at another life. I deserve to be the world’s enemy. It seems the fucking flea ridden world cannot function without one, so who better to be the scapegoat than me?"
He froze, looking down at his hands then. What had caused him to think like this? Was he afraid? Afraid that he had started to become happy? Was he afraid he was going to lose it all again, so he had to just throw it all away before that happened?
"…I don’t know…"
At that comment she wanted to scream. How dare her, how dare he play to her emotions like that, if he’d turned around and faced her, she would have slapped him across the face. But what would that solve?
"You are so fucking thick. You can’t become something you never were, oh you know how to be a businessman, you know how to rob them blind, but put a gun to my stomach, rob me of my family— kill me, can you do that? Can you do that, can you send men and women to war in which you know they won’t return. You can’t do that, maybe then, but not now— I’ve seen compassion. I’ve seen brotherhood, and I’ve seen love from you. This petty behaviour astounds me, how dare you— you’re like a child lashing out.”
Oh she’d been harsh, but had she been too harsh? But she had still reached forward, drawing him to her, “Something had to have happen, what’s wrong— this isn’t like you…”
"It’s the only way I know how to act!" he almost shouted, "all I do it make things worse. It’s my role. It’s my title. Gods damn it, Shalua. I am a Shinra. I cannot make things better. I am the living embodiment of hatred. I am, and will always be, the bad guy. No matter how I try, it will always end this way!"
He shook his head, turning away from her to try and collect himself. He shouldn’t have been effected as much as he was by all this. He had done worse in the past and not batted an eye. What made this any different?
"That is absolute bullshit and you know it, I have seen you make things better. I have seen you do great things for the people you care for and I have seen you bleed and actually give a fucking damn, Rufus Shinra.” She paused, “I once only saw you as the bad guy. I blamed you for so much and you changed my mind. You showed me people need a second chance— that people deserve another shot at life.”
It took her a moment but she reached out, placing her hand on his shoulder. “What happened that made you start thinking like this again.”
"In my partially irrational defense, she did give me a black eye, and thus start this whole fiasco to begin with," he said, though it was half-hearted. He looked down, shaking his head.
"I realize my faults, Shalua. Please, just be angry with me…it’s…easier for me to comprehend…"
She let out an angry huff at the man. She’d seen the black eye in the beginning, but that didn’t excuse his retaliation. Shalua did not believe in an arm for an arm or an eye for an eye, no matter how ironic it was.
"Yeah, and? That doesn’t mean you continue the petty argument with more violence!" She’d fought in wars, climbed mountains and made many enemies in her time. "When you do that it makes things worse for you Rufus— and I’m…furious."