It felt like he’d been on the phone call for hours, and he was bored out of his skull. It wasn’t about anything he couldn’t read from the report he’d been sent, but still Palmer insisted on explaining why they should reinstate the Space Program. Rufus had exhausted all the forms of entertainment his pen could provide and had spent the last 15 minutes or so hoping for a distraction.
So when the intercom buzzed, he was barely able to restrain himself from shouting for joy. Instead, very calmly, he spoke into the phone. “I’m sorry, could you hold on for one moment? Thanks.” Reaching over with slender fingers, he put Palmer on hold with a smile and clicked the button to answer. “Yes?” he called into the intercom, praying Elena wasn’t going to rant at him. He hated it when she did that, most of her rants tended to be about Tseng. AND they were loud.
“Sir, your mother is on line two,” she replied, sounding absolutely disgustingly cheerful about it. It was far too early for cheerful. He hated cheerful before noon. But still. A distraction was a distraction.
“Thanks,” replied, clicking off the intercom and switching back to the phone. “Palmer? Yeah… no, I’ll read through your report and let you know. Yes. Whatever. Bye.” Taking a deep breath, he hit the button for the other line. “Hey,” Rufus greeted.
“You know, you’re awfully hard to get a hold of.”
Rufus smiled. “You’re up bright and early.” Briefly, he wondered if he had accidentally stepped into a lecture. The older he got, the fonder she seemed of doing it, as though she thought if she lectured him enough, he’d turn back into a toddler.
“And so are you,” she replied. He heard her tone, pictured her expression, and bit back a sigh. Here came barrage number one. “You work too hard, Rufus,” she continued, blissfully unaware (or aware and completely enjoying it—his mother had a sadistic streak in her not unlike his own) of his impatience and eye rolling. “You should still be in bed sleeping at this hour! You’re only twenty one, young man.”
He rolled his eyes. “Good to hear from you too, mom. Is there a reason you’re up this early or did you realize you hadn’t lectured me about my health in the past 2 hours?”
“Quit rolling your eyes,” she ordered. He blinked and rubbed his chest absently. “I’m just calling to check up on my favorite son.”
“I’m your only son,” Rufus reminded.
She chuckled a bit. He smiled. “All the more reason to check up on you. Your body isn’t going to fully recover if you don’t do as your doctor’s told you, y’know.”
“Mom…” that was a touchy subject and she knew it. And she damn well knew why he wasn’t staying at home like a good boy.
Apparently picking up on the warning, she changed the subject. “Besides, I just wanted to warn you—I looked at the newspaper today, and I saw something that might not go over so well with most of your staff. Have you seen it yet?” she asked.
Rufus shook his head. “I haven’t had a chance—I got in here and got stuck on the phone with Palmer.”
”Well pick it up and look at the front page, boy,” she ordered him.
Rufus saw the headline and froze. ‘Sephiroth Implicated in Murder of President ShinRa—Coroner’s Report Details Death by Stabbing’ was in big bold letters, right at the top. “Oh holy planet,” he breathed.
“Exactly,” she said.
“And on the day of the press conference too,” he sighed. “The pile of shit is never going to end is it?” he asked, starting to shake slightly. A pale hand clutched his ribs. Breathing hurt again.
She was quiet for a moment. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, mom, really,” he said. “It’s just stress.” It hurt. Oh did it hurt. For the sake of the security camera’s he kept a straight face.
“Sounds more like an injury acting up to me.”
“Sounds like stress to me. I’m fine.” He couldn’t help it. He winced.
Rufus knew she was glaring. He could feel it through the phone. “Funny,” she said. “You don’t sound it.”
“Well, I will be fine. It’s just a matter of time, I’m sure.” Personally, Rufus hoped it was a short matter of time.
She fell silent again and Rufus wondered if she’d gotten angry and hung up on him. But that wasn’t his mother’s style. She tended to rope him into family events and gatherings to see if she could force a wife on him. Sure enough, after a couple of moments, she spoke again, sounding oddly cheerful and just a little bit threatening. “You sound like a good meal and some time with your family would do wonders for you. So here’s what you’re going to do.”
“Mom—“ his voice was rasping. Damn.
“Don’t you ‘mom’ me, young man, I won’t hear it,” she cut in.
Rufus smiled a little. “Sorry,” he managed.
“Hmph. You should be. Being disrespectful after all I’ve done for you. Always did have a hard time getting manners to stick with you. So here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to come over here Friday night, and you’re going to eat dinner, and you’re going to visit with family, and you’re going to stop by the store and a birthday give from me for your niece Macy, is that understood?”
He chuckled a little. It did sound good, though he was sure that come Friday, his new fear of leaving his office would make itself known enough at least to make him late. “Yes, ma’am,” he consented. “What does Macy want?”
“She’s a year old, boy, she doesn’t care!”
The blonde rolled his eyes. “Fine, mom, what do you want to get her?” Please not clothes, he added silently. He was infamously bad about clothes shopping—especially for other people. Rufus shifted in his seat a little, trying to take more pressure off his chest and concentrate on details instead of the fiery pain.
“I want you to buy her one of those cute little dolls we got your cousin Clara for her birthday.”
He wrote it down on a sticky note and attached it to his monitor with shaky hands. “What time’s dinner?” he asked. Damn woman tended to change it every week.
“Oh, I think 5:30 would be fine.”
Rufus blinked. That was generally early for her. “All right. Anything else?”
“Yes, go lie down. You sound like you’re having a hard time breathing. Take your medicine, get lots of sleep, make sure you go back to the doctor if you need to.”
He smiled. Nice to know somebody was still caring enough to boss him around regardless of position. “All right. I’ll see you on Friday then.”
“All right. Take care, boy.”
“You too, mom.” Rufus hung up the phone, leaning back in his seat and forcing himself to suck in air. But that stupid headline… At least he knew where the missing copy of the coroner’s report had gone. Rufus clicked on the intercom. “Elena,” he said, once he’d gotten his breathing under control enough to sound normal. “Get me the head of the PR department.”