Break the Game

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chapter three

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"Here’s the last of the dishes," Kali told Rude as she handed over the glasses they’d used during dinner. He accepted them with a soft grunt and put them in the dishwasher before reaching for the detergent. Part of him wondered when the hell things had gotten so domesticated in his life – when he’d come home to find his girlfriend had already ordered out for their dinner, changed into sweat pants and a t-shirt before sitting down to eat and then finishing all that excitement with doing the dishes. Part of him felt that this was some truly odd dream, a look into a life he’d chosen to leave behind and never expected to find again. He was a Turk, after all, supposedly leading a life filled with violence and depravity.

"So, are you going to tell me what’s up with the white box in the fridge?" Not bothering with his sunglasses in the privacy of his own home, he raised his eyebrows as he stared at his girlfriend and waited for an answer. He’d been warned away from the fridge as soon as he’d returned home, and had only caught a glimpse of what was inside of it when Kali had put the leftovers away.

Kali leaned against the counter by the sink, a devilish grin on her face that made her loose cotton pants and t-shirt appear out of place. "That’s dessert." The words were almost purred, which made Rude slam the dishwasher shut and not care about setting the machine.

"Oh really?" Stepping closer to his lover, he rested his hands against the counter on either side of her. "What did you get?" His own voice had roughened as well, growing deeper as he thought about all the different ways one could interpret ‘dessert’.

"Something with lots and lots of whipped cream that I can spread over your chest then lick off." Kali’s tongue flicked out to swipe along her full bottom lip.

Rude’s breath hitched while he spoke again. "Just my chest?"

"Oh, I’m sure I’ll find something else to spread it all over." Kali placed her right hand over Rude’s tumescent cock, her smile now more hungry than wicked. "But that’ll lead to a whole different kind of dessert."

Suddenly, things didn’t seem so ‘domestic’ or ‘normal’. The thought of spending the evening with his lover and a lot of whipped cream, possibly some handcuffs and definitely a fully charged camera made Rude’s lousy shift at work become a distant memory. All that mattered right now was leaning forward so he could kiss Kali to show his appreciation of her ‘thoughtfulness’.

Soon enough they were both left panting from the kiss, with Rude’s shirt tossed somewhere behind him and Kali’s ending up in the sink. He’d just managed to undo the torture device that was her bra’s fastenings when his phone rang. Normally, he’d ignore it for an important moment like this, but there were two special ringtones that always grabbed his attention and made him search out his phone. That the current ringtone was one he rarely heard since it meant that he was being called by Rufus made him forgot all about the damn bra and race to the living room. Kali was right behind him, having recognized who was calling as well.

Finding his phone on the coffee table, Rude snatched it up and flipped it open. "Sir? What do you need?" he asked, doing his best to hide the fact that he was partially out of breath.

"Oooh, now is that a loaded question or what, partner?" Reno’s pleased tone put Kali’s purr from earlier to shame, and to Rude’s horror made his cock start to harden again. "There are a lot of things that I… *need*, and I bet you’re the right man for the job."

Rude had to close his eyes and count to five before he answered. "Reno, if you’re not calling to inform me that there’s a crisis involving the president, then I’m going to kick your ass the next time I see you." He shook his head as he spoke to let Kali know that it didn’t seem to be any sort of emergency, for a moment distracted by the fact that she was standing in the middle of the living room while naked from the waist up.

Reno snorted to show what he thought about that threat. "You still have six more days to go before that’ll happen."

"Which reminds me of the fact that you shouldn’t be calling anyone right now, especially on the president’s phone." Rude watched with some disappointment when his girlfriend returned to the kitchen, most likely to retrieve her clothes. Dammit, he’d been so close to one hell of an enjoyable evening, and his best friend had to ruin things for him. Now he’d probably have to go to Rufus’ apartment and save the idiot when Rufus found out that Reno had used his phone without permission.

Reno chuckled in response, the sound so carefree and sinful that Rude was beginning to wonder if he should continue this conversation in the bathroom while he stood under a cold shower. "Please tell me that you didn’t steal his phone," Rude pleaded, much preferring to stay here and have sex with Kali than going to save Reno’s ass.

"Relax, I got his permission. I can use it while he’s in the shower so let’s get down to the fun and naughty stuff right away. What are you wearing, hmm? Anything leather, or have you been in Kali’s lingerie drawer again?"

Wishing that Reno was the slightest bit sane and not so damn good at laying on the innuendo, Rude pinched the bridge of his nose as he thought back on how quiet the last week had been. "You’re supposed to be under punishment now, so how did you get him to let you make this call?" The last thing he needed was for Reno to lie to him about this and to have Tseng and Rufus after his head. It was one thing to use Saint John’s phone, which Rufus wasn’t likely to check, but he’d definitely notice Reno calling on his own phone.

Reno chuckled again, even more wickedly than the last time. "Stop worrying so much, Rude, it’s okay. As long as I… ‘pay’ for it… he’s willing to bend the rules a little." How the hell the redheaded bastard could put so much sexual insinuation into such few words, Rude would never know. As it was, he couldn’t get the image of Reno dressed in the maid’s outfit that Kali had worn just the other night out of his head – and a cold shower was definitely in his very near future.

About to start banging his head against something to get rid of the image, Rude really did wonder if he’d done something awful in his past life to deserve this. "Don’t even think to tell me how you ‘pay’ or I’m hanging up." The last thing he needed was more fuel for the fire, so to speak, not when Reno had finally realized that he loved Rufus.

This time the laughter was only amused. "Nah, I’ll save it for when I can show you the pictures." The bastard actually chuckled when Rude couldn’t help but whimper. He sat down on the couch since he had the impression that this wasn’t going to be a short phone call.

"What do you really want, other than to cause my blood pressure to go through the roof?" While he was happy to speak to Reno again and not have to sneak around to do it, he was more than a little curious as to what this was about.

"Just seeing if I’m missing out on any fun." Reno’s tone turned serious and contained a hint of exhaustion. "You still stuck babysitting the newbies?"

Rude rubbed his left hand over the top of his head. "Yeah. You better believe that they won’t fuck up on security procedures like those other two." He winced a little when he thought about how the rookies’ mistake had led to the current situation. "If you can manage not to piss off the president or Tseng in the next week, then you’ll be back in time to assist with the defense and attack portion of their training." As he spoke, Kali returned to the room, wearing a t-shirt once more – his, in fact - and holding a mug in each hand. The fragrant, spicy aroma let him know that she’d been in the kitchen making some chai to drink. He smiled in thanks when she settled on the couch next to him and handed him a mug.

"Promises, promises." Reno actually sounded a bit wistful, and Rude would have given a lot to see his friend right about now. The Turks assigned to make sure that Reno didn’t break his ‘house arrest’ let Rude know that the redhead was physically all right, but Rufus was well-known for being able to royally fuck with a person’s mind.

"How are you doing?" he finally asked, and sipped at the hot chai to keep himself from elaborating any more with the question.

Reno let out a long sigh. "Bored out of my mind, and save the comment about how little I have of it in the first place, partner. I finally got my game console back the other day, but it’s not quite as much fun playing for several hours when I’ve nothing else to do." He was quiet for a few seconds. "Any word on Rod and Cyril?"

"Only that some girl connected to the royal family has latched on to Cyril." Rude smiled when he thought about the latest email from Rod. "Apparently she saw, she liked, and she’s well on her way to conquering." Beside him, Kali chuckled and nodded in agreement.

There was a gagging sound over the line for several seconds. "Please tell me it’s not that loud-mouthed klepto-bitch. I’ll shoot her if he brings her back here!"

"Ah, no, it isn’t." Rude figured that his friend was referring to the Wutian thief who had a thing for materia, and didn’t want to imagine how Strife would take a Turk shooting her in the head because of a case of serious annoyance. "So Rod’s having the time of his life laughing at his partner, drinking lots of Wutian sake and hitting on all the women."

"Then he’s doing fine. Nice to know I didn’t drag him into too much shit, then." The relief in Reno’s voice was evident even though he was talking a bit quieter than normal. "So what are the odds of me killing Rufus before my suspension ends, hmm?" That he’d changed the topic was a huge relief to Rude as well as a cause for concern.

"Five to one. You might like to know the odds are three to one in favor of him doing that to you." Rude grinned and held his phone away from his ear while Reno squawked about that tidbit. "Everyone thinks that he must have the edge since he hasn’t come to work with any obvious injuries."

"It’s because the bastard has more than enough potions," Reno muttered.

"Does he really need them?" More importantly, did Reno need them, but Rude wasn’t going to ask that when he wasn’t sure if there was some way for Rufus to record this conversation – and from the way that Reno was bouncing around with the topics, he suspected that it was being taped.

Reno was quiet again, then moaned a little as if he was sore. "I doubt the bastard could be any healthier if he tried. Certainly has a hell of a lot of energy to burn off, I’ll vouch for that." The smugness in his voice clued Rude in on what the president was doing with all that energy, so he figured that it was only a certain part of Reno’s anatomy that might need a potion or two. "It’s… odd. For once we’re trying not to kill each other all the time, which mostly works out; the only downsides are not that much make up sex and me being stuck watching a bunch of boring as hell movies."

"From the sounds of it, your sex life isn’t lacking even without the fights, and I think he’s trying to expose your uncouth ass to some culture." Rude felt better when Reno laughed at the teasing and enjoyed some more chai since his fears were mostly put to rest. Beside him, Kali sipped her drink as well and snuggled closer, her free hand stroking along the back of his neck.

"Nah, it’s certainly not lacking, but ya gotta admit there’s an added thrill to make up sex. And I don’t think it’s ‘culture’ that he wants to expose my ass to, Rude!"

Joining in the laughter, Rude had to agree that it most likely wasn’t the case. Yet he couldn’t push aside the thought about how he’d never have imagined Reno and Rufus curled up together on the couch watching movies or enjoying a drink, much like he was doing with Kali right now. Once again, the fact was driven home that the two men seemed to have finally found a balance with each other and moved past their twisted games – at least, he had some hope in that regard for a short while. He wasn’t sure how much more the Turks could take at this point, or his poor nerves.

From the sounds of it, Reno was rummaging through a cabinet or fridge on the other end of the line. "So, did I miss any good gossip in the last few days?"

"I wish I could tell you that you did and then torment you by withholding it, but things have been very quiet lately. It’s the slightest bit odd how things calm down when you’re not around," Rude told his partner and smiled when he heard Reno grunt in annoyance. The expression faded when he thought about how the Turks were too leery about setting off Tseng or Rufus since they still weren’t sure what had caused Reno to get into trouble in the first place.

"Ha, ha. You so missed your calling as a comedian. And it’s not ‘calmed down’ but ‘boring as hell’, is what you mean." Reno actually sounded a bit put out over the teasing. "Just wait and see how fun it is when I get back and start beating on the newbies."

As much as Rude hated to admit it, he had to agree with the bloodthirsty idiot; his days would be vastly more amusing while he watched the latest batch of Turk-wannabes learn that size and obvious muscle did *not* make for a dangerous opponent. "I’ve already set up a betting pool on how many times Alim’s going to complain to Tseng about you." Beside him, Kali snorted in amusement and set her empty mug on the coffee table before draping her legs over his lap.

"Six more days," Reno sighed, the longing heavy in his voice. "That is, if I don’t die of boredom first." Only he would be so upset about the enforced vacation, which most likely was why he was being punished in such a manner. While Reno did love his sleep and the chance to be lazy, the restrictions placed on him must be driving him mad with frustration; he thrived on adrenalin and split-second decisions, after all.

"Just don’t do anything stupid to add another few weeks to it, all right?" Rude warned, half expecting his partner to verbally lash out at him for his concern. Instead, Reno sighed and there was the loud noise of something being slammed shut.

"Right, look where my last stupid act got me." The level of frustration and malice in Reno’s voice made Rude push Kali’s legs off his lap and to sit forward, body ready to move in a hurry if he had to go rescue his friend. "Unlike what some people think, I do learn my lessons, dammit." Now something breakable had been thrown on the other end of the line, glass shattering as Reno cursed under his breath. "I fuckin’ *hate* this."

Not sure what exactly the hissed words referred to – the punishment or being with Rufus or a dozen other things that Rude could think up at the moment – Rude took a risk that might get him in a lot of trouble. "Then just leave. I told you, I’ll watch your back." That statement made Kali sit up as well, her expression concerned as she stared intently at him.

For once, Reno was silent as if actually considering things before making a decision. "That won’t really do me much good, but thanks." He was so serious at the moment that Rude almost didn’t recognize his voice. "Besides, Tseng would kick my ass for shirking my responsibility."

Rude didn’t know what Tseng had to do with the matter, but he knew when Reno was resolved to go through with something and that certainly seemed the case now. As much as he worried about the redhead and wished that he’d find someone who wouldn’t be so cavalier about using him as Rufus did, he’d finally accepted that the decision was Reno’s. "I can’t believe that you know what ‘shirking’ means," was all he said after a moment’s pause in an attempt to pull the conversation away from such dangerous waters.

"Fuck you!" Reno laughed, sounding like himself once more. "Just for that, I should come over there and show Kali how it’s done, you bald bastard!"

"What? Show her what it looks like when I kick your ass? She’ll make a bowl of popcorn while you’re on your way." He shared a smile with his girlfriend, who appeared put to ease by the insults he was trading with Reno. Kali had proven herself very loyal to Rude, but he wasn’t sure if she’d just sit there while he risked his life to save his partner over a personal matter.

"Right, it won’t be my ass that gets-" Reno stopped speaking, and Rude could hear his friend’s name be spoken over the connection. When it was repeated, he had the feeling that the conversation was about to be finished. "Great, *someone* didn’t spend his normal hour in the shower. What, did you run out of bubble bath or something?"

 

Rufus’ voice was a deep murmur, not so much conveying words as it did a sense of annoyance. Reno heaved a particularly deep sigh before saying anything else. "Okay, see you in six days. I gotta talk to a certain guy about some ‘payback’." His voice did that dip into the seriously sexy side again, which made Rude shiver in reaction.


"Remember, keep the damn details to yourself!" he yelled at the inconsiderate bastard before ending the call, Reno’s damn near pornographic laugh the last thing he heard. Half-tempted to throw his phone as far away from him as possible, a little voice reminded him just in time about how grumpy Tseng got when dealing with a request for new equipment. Rude set it and his mug on the table instead and slumped back against the couch. "I need a drink."

Kali laughed, the sound warm and seductive as she once more draped her legs over his lap and her arms around his shoulders. "Yet again proof that being associated with Reno is one of the leading causes of alcoholism." She was smiling despite the serious note in her smooth voice. "He’s your partner, you know, not your baby brother."

Rude gave her a mostly gentle thump on the small of her back for that statement. "Oh, so you weren’t the one on the phone almost non-stop with Elena a few months ago? I can recall someone yelling at her to not give into Tseng until she got the promise she wanted out of him."

At least Kali had the grace to blush the slightest bit even as she grinned in response. "Okay, so he’s your baby brother. You still need to give him enough space so he can deal with Rufus on his own." She was one of the few Turks who knew the whole story about what had happened last week, and she didn’t seem too upset with Reno over his insane actions. "In the spirit of gambling, I’ll agree to whatever you want that Tseng was the one who came up with the whole house arrest idea. He wants them to work things out, too, which won’t happen when everyone’s interfering."

"Because no one wants things to implode and to deal with those two when they’re driven over the edge," Rude pointed out, reluctant to listen to common sense. The problem was that Reno wasn’t his ‘baby brother’ – if it was merely familial affection and concern he felt for his friend, then things would be fine. Even as he acknowledged that there would never be anything between them other than deep friendship and that he was more than content with Kali, there was that damn annoying little voice that kept whispering ‘what if’. Combine that with his strong desire for Reno to be happy, and he couldn’t help but wonder if maybe Reno would be better off with a lover who didn’t treat him like a toy or a piece of property. Then again, Reno would merely take all that consideration and drive the poor, considerate bastard who loved him insane, even if it was Rude. Upon further reflection, *especially* if it were Rude.

Kali snorted, the inelegant sound very unlike her usually composed self. "I’m not saying that it’s easy to be around those two when they’re fighting, but things are a hell of a lot better than they used to be before Rufus took over. Yes, Reno pisses him off on a weekly basis, and *Reno* is usually the one to take the brunt of all that anger." She laughed and gave his shoulders a hug. "Well, him and the cleaning crew."

"So it’s all right to ‘sell’ a fellow Turk to our boss as long as we benefit in some manner?" Rude asked, voicing something that had bothered him for a long time now, ever since Reno started wearing the earring. He was well aware that he’d screwed up that assignment and had received a rather light punishment, while something had changed between Rufus and Reno around that time. There were also the comments he’d heard amongst the Turks about how if one of them messed up, all they had to do was send Reno to the president’s office to smooth things over.

She frowned and pulled back a little as if giving the question serious consideration. "I doubt the only reason we’re treated with respect now is because of Reno; a lot of us stuck by Rufus after Meteor and Tseng’s always looked out for him. We’ve proven our loyalty a thousand times over, and with that said, I’ve no problems with that loyalty being returned in part because of who Rufus is screwing. I’ve told you before, I believe our job is made easier by the fact that he’s not involved with some rich bitch or asshole who would be another person to guard and possibly be abused by in the long run."

Rude couldn’t exactly argue with that, not after Earth First’s attempt to kidnap Rufus. He just… it was so damn hard to think straight when he was so worried for Reno. Most of that was because they’d spent the last several years together as best friends and partners, relying on each other to keep them safe. That was probably why he’d follow through on his offers to rescue or protect the redhead – and he knew that if their positions were reversed, that Reno would give his all to keep Rude safe. They’d already done so for each other more times than he wanted to remember right now.

"I just realized that we’re sitting here talking about Reno while there’s something with lots of whipped cream waiting for us in the kitchen," he said, unwilling to dwell on the matter any longer tonight. Nothing would be changed as long as Reno wanted Rufus, and Rude doubted that the day would come when Reno would stop doing that. So, he might as well focus on a bit of pleasure of his own.

Laughing once more, Kali tossed her head back, dark hair flying over her shoulders. "Hmm, but it’s such a long walk to the kitchen and I’m all comfy here." Her laughter filled the apartment when Rude picked her up and stood to his feet, then carried his lover to the kitchen so they could fetch the dessert.

*******

As much as Reno detested alarms, waking up when one wasn’t ringing incessantly always left him feeling disoriented for a few seconds; he never knew if it was too early to be up, if a suspicious sound had set him off or if he was going to get his ass kicked by Tseng for being late for work. So the last week and a half had left him feeling out of sorts when he’d constantly woken up to an empty bed, repeatedly trying to figure out why he wasn’t at work and being reminded of the punishment.

That it was still dark out this morning and Rufus wasn’t in bed was an added annoyance; if he was woken up for sex and allowed to go back to sleep, then the disorientation wasn’t so bad. However, he doubted he’d get to enjoy a bit of pleasure since his lover was absent, the space in the bed behind him cold to the touch. Fuck, the anal-compulsive bastard must have left at least half an hour ago, which meant he was serious about getting ready for work and then leaving.

Reno’s theory was proven true when Rufus walked out of the closet, mostly dressed for business and his hair already neatly slicked back against his skull. The thought of being left behind in an empty apartment without any sex to start his day made a sour feeling build in Reno’s chest. Oh sure, leave him with a morning woody while Rufus got to go off metaphorically raping and pillaging ‘innocent’ companies all damn day.

"Dear Relationship Wanda, what do I do when the spark is gone in my love life? The unfeeling bastard I’m living with won’t molest me in the morning while I sleep anymore. I think he has something going on with the stuffed chocobo he keeps in his office, but I don’t want to leave him for the sake of our children – all twenty of them. Signed, horny and neglected."

Rufus actually chuckled a few times while he finished arranging his tie. Once that was done, he sat on the edge of the bed by Reno and brushed aside the hair falling onto Reno’s face. "It’s nice to see that the unique imagination you put to use during sex extends to other things." His fingers felt cool against Reno’s temple and he smelled wonderful, a mix of expensive cologne and soap.

"Yeah, well stick around and we can come up with something to send to ‘Big Cocks Monthly’," Reno drawled as he rolled onto his back and tried to use the grip on Rufus’ arm to pull his lover downward. Bastard that he was, Rufus resisted without too much visible effort. "Come on, spend the day with me. I’ll do whatever you want." Reno sat up so he could brush his lips against his lover’s and pitch his voice into its most seductive whisper. "Wear whatever you want, say whatever you want, be fucked wherever you want." The boredom was getting to him, the repetitious nature of the last several days wearing on his nerves until he was about ready to pick a fight with whoever was watching the door today just to *feel* some excitement again.

Rufus groaned and kissed him with almost bruising force, a mash of teeth and lips that made Reno’s breath catch in his throat. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given enough time to turn the kiss into something else before Rufus broke it off and pulled away. "I wish I could, Reno." His touch to the left side of Reno’s face was surprisingly tender and his expression one of open regret. "I’ve too many important meetings scheduled to take the day off."

Annoyed that someone other than him was able to have a fucking life and do their job, he shoved his lover’s hand aside and fell back onto the bed. "Fine, go fuck off then and see many poor bastards you can screw over today. I’ll just sleep some more." He draped his left arm over his closed eyes and did his best to control the impulse that shouted for him to shove Rufus off the bed, straddle him on the floor and… he wasn’t sure if he wanted to have sex with the asshole or to beat the shit out of him, which was a cause for concern. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’d only get into more trouble and be stuck here for several more weeks, he’d start tearing things apart just to relieve the intense frustration that he felt. Three more days, including this one. Three more fucking days and he could do his job again, could do more than just sit around the damn place and wait for Rufus to come home.

So when his arm was tugged away from his face, he only snarled a curse and didn’t physically lash out, settling on a potent glare instead. He didn’t even part his lips when Rufus bent down to give him a lingering kiss. "Don’t cause any trouble today and we’ll go out for dinner tonight."

The quietly spoken offer surprised Reno, the emotion vying with the discomfort he felt upon realizing just how well his lover knew him and his moods. Still glaring at the too observant bastard, he grunted in annoyance and tried to pull his arm free. "Go to hell; the offer to be fucked wherever you want is null and void if you leave for work."

It was apparent that he wasn’t the only one annoyed considering the look on Rufus’ face. "That wasn’t my intention, damn it. I’m tired of eating take-out and thought that some reward might be in order considering your good behavior. If you’d rather remain here, then I’ll go out by myself." His snobby, ‘listen to me since I’m so much better than you’ tone of voice made Reno grit his teeth and want to punch that handsome face, but he did have some sort of impulse control – that and there was no way he was going to be stuck here for any additional days or stationed in the sewers for the rest of his career.

"Fine, I’ll just stay home and make something for myself." There was an internal little crow of triumph when he noticed the way his lover’s eyes narrowed at that remark and he spared a moment’s thought to wonder why the hell him cooking got Rufus all hot and bothered in the best of ways. Probably some reason he didn’t really want to uncover since it would just make him have to kick Rufus’ ass, but it was nice to know he had something to use against the manipulative bastard if he had to.

"Reno." The snobbishness was replaced with obvious anger as Rufus did his best to pull Reno into a sitting position. "Free dinner or you remain here for another three nights. You have one minute to decide since I have a meeting in half an hour."

Pretending to consider the offer for about fifty seconds, Reno finally sat up and kissed the manipulative bastard. "I pick the place," he murmured against Rufus’ lips, a sigh escaping him when he felt long fingers tangle in the hair on the back of his neck.

"Fair enough." Rufus whispered the words before initiating another kiss, this one forceful enough that Reno desperately wanted his lover to fuck him, to stop time and immerse his too-dull world in ecstasy and motion. When the kiss ended without him flat on his back and a cock in his ass, he groaned in disappointment and actually hit Rufus on the right shoulder.

"Fucking bastard."

"I think your problem is that I’m not going through with the first part." Rufus sounded much too smug and barely managed to prevent another hit. "Behave or you’ll be eating alone tonight."

"That might not be such a bad thing," Reno spat and yanked his left hand free so once more he could lie down on the bed. "I thought you had a meeting or something."

Rufus was quiet for a few heartbeats and leaned down to give him another kiss. "You actually make me reconsider going to work. However, I’m not in the mood to deal with Tseng’s disapproval of me placing pleasure before duty." He moved away from the bed, hands once more busy putting all those damn layers of clothes into order.

Reno punched the mattress since it wasn’t breakable or human. "See, this is why you’re supposed to let me go to the whorehouses again, so I can drag Elena with me in hopes that she picks up a few pointers from the staff. She’s not doing things right if Tseng’s still acting as if he has a whole fuckin’ tree up his ass." That made him think of Kali’s strap-on and he had to smile.

Pausing in fastening the many buckles of his black vest, Rufus glared at Reno as if he’d just suggested giving all the people in the Edge free electricity for the month. "No whorehouses. If I hear of you so much as stepping foot inside of one, you’ll find yourself in possession of both a collar and a leash."

Some people’s buttons were just too easy to push, Reno thought as he hid his pleased smile from his furious lover. "I believe both are hanging up in the closet, Rufus." He had to bite the inside of the bottom of his lip to keep from laughing when he heard his lover’s teeth grind together. "Right, no more whorehouses; now go ruin someone else’s day," he said as he pulled the covers up to his chin. Besides, he could just sweet-talk Rude into throwing a party and invite a few professionals he knew once he was released from ‘prison’.

Missing his friend so much that his chest ached, Reno dragged Rufus’ pillow over his head and breathed in his lover’s scent. Dammit, did anyone other than Rude care about how he was ready to take a fucking leap off the balcony simply for a rush of excitement right about now? He could handle Tseng kicking his ass or being stuck on some shitty duty where he could bitch up a storm and have some hope of a fight, but he couldn’t take being so damn useless. All his life he’d been busting his ass to keep himself alive or to get ahead in the Turks, even if most people thought he was a lazy bastard. What it came down to was that being one of the Aces made him happy; he got the chance to fight often yet avoided most of the paperwork and bureaucratic bullshit that made Tseng such a tight-ass. As far as Reno was concerned, it was the best of both worlds and something he’d strived for ever since he’d been pulled in off the streets.


Rufus had sworn that he wouldn’t lose his job, and Tseng told him he could bash in some newbie skulls once back to work next week. That gave him some hope, but it wasn’t doing much to alleviate the crushing boredom he felt right now. For as long as he could remember, he’d been driven to prove himself useful and able to watch out for himself, and that had been snatched away from him as soon as he’d been drunk enough to kiss Rod.

At least his friend wasn’t in too much shit over that act of massive stupidity on both their parts. Reno liked Rod, enjoyed having a fellow slum rat to tease and share jokes that Turks like Elena, Rude and Kali would never really understand; they didn’t know what he and Rod had gone through before joining up, even if they spent half their career below-Plate.

Thoughts of Rod brought him back to Rufus with the way that he had felt an utter lack of attraction for a former lover. Reno punched the bed again in frustration and a touch of fear, still not certain how his newly discovered emotions were going to work out in the long run. It was bad enough how much he caved to Rufus already, concerned about his job and his friends as well as very aware that his lover was willing to do *anything* to keep the illusion of control. Normally the latter amused the hell out of Reno and led him to come up with new ways for Rufus to try to remain ‘in charge’, but what it came down to in the end was Rufus led and he followed. He just made sure that his lover didn’t think of him as some weak-willed sap who’d jump to obey the smallest of orders instead of someone who had willingly given trust and loyalty. No, something told him that – Rufus’ odd fascination with domesticity aside – if he ever stopped fighting and gave all control to Rufus, that the relationship would be over shortly after that.

It was so fucking difficult, trying to figure out a balance between not being the doormat his feelings urged him to be and not pushing Rufus too far. Before the fucking revelation that made him still want to punch Kali, Reno hadn’t been too concerned with stepping over that line with Rufus. He’d figured that he could still walk away and that Tseng and Rude would cover his back. Now, he didn’t want to think what sort of shit he’d drag his best friend into if he did leave, and Tseng’s main concern had always been Rufus. Since their last conversation together, Reno had the feeling that his boss wouldn’t be pleased if he ran for the hills and embarrassed ShinRa’s president. Why the fuck anyone would care if the hired help Rufus was fucking left him high and dry, Reno still couldn’t figure out, but he knew a carefully worded warning when he heard it.

And to top it all was the fact that he really didn’t want to leave. Go back to work, yes, have an excuse to spar with Rufus and be able to let loose without fear of them trying to kill each other, yes, but to break things off? No. He was so fucking screwed because of his own traitorous emotions, yet he also felt an odd sort of peace. All these years, there’d been *something* that had made him put up with all of Rufus’ shit, that had prodded him to see how far he could go with the obsessive bastard and not be dumped, and he thought that he finally had a name for the damn thing. Love: worse than a shitty compulsion spell for messing up your life.

He shuddered in fear and rolled over to lie on his side as he thought about *that* particular emotion. What would happen if Rufus ever figured out that Reno would never willingly leave him? Would the bastard go through with his plans to fuck around with a few rich bitches to make it look as if he wasn’t really serious about Reno, or would he get stuck with another damn brand like the earring? Reaching up to toy with the long chain, he didn’t see why the latter really mattered – everyone of importance to him knew that he belonged to ShinRa and Rufus in particular. Why he was so concerned about people knowing that he loved the manipulative bastard, he didn’t really understand.

Besides, he was sure that Rufus was on to the big ‘secret’, thanks to his drunken almost confession last week. Things had been… ‘strange’ between them since then, oddly peaceful and lacking in the usual violence. Well, there had been that fight over Reno spending the night watching some sappy, four hour long subtitled Wutian melodrama which had ended with Rufus shoved off the couch and Reno with a bruised left wrist and sore ass, but that had been a hell of a lot more fun than watching the ridiculous movie. Something had definitely changed, leaving Reno confused when he couldn’t anticipate just how his emotions would affect their ‘relationship’.

Whatever the hell was going on between them, he wanted to see what happened when they were back at work. Rufus wouldn’t continue leaving ShinRa business at the office for much longer so he could torture Reno with boring as hell movies and not so subtle requests for home cooked meals, which meant that Reno would be even more bored than usual if his suspension wasn’t lifted after this weekend. All he wanted was to go back to work so he could resume his job and watch his lover’s back. Despite all that had happened lately, he knew that part of why Rufus kept him around was because he was useful – not to mention that Rufus gave him the proper respect afforded to that Turk. That respect was very important because Reno couldn’t see the man caring for someone who was useless and beneath his notice.

Three more days. If he could fall back to sleep, then he wouldn’t have to wait much longer to his ‘reward’ of a dinner out and a slight reprieve from all this fucking boredom. Then the next two days should be spent with Rufus home from work, which would help make the time go by faster as well as lead to a lot of fun. Once past the weekend, Reno would be back on the job and things would return as much to normal as possible anymore. That’s all he wanted right now, for things to go back as much as possible to the way they had been before last week. He was smart enough to know they wouldn’t completely be the same, but he could work better with what he had and make it into something manageable for him and Rufus if he was at least a little familiar with it. Considering the fact that he’d never been stupid enough to fall in love in the past, he could use all the help he could get.

*******

Tseng handed the first of several information discs to Rufus, sitting with his back perfectly straight and several inches from the chair situated in front of the president’s desk. "That is the list of all the current Turk trainees and their progress so far. Two more were weeded out in the past week." While he wasn’t happy about the situation that had brought it about, he was pleased with the progress that Rude was making with the new recruits. The experienced Turk was proving himself to be a skilled instructor and evaluator – which shouldn’t be so surprising considering that he’d been given Reno as partner when the redhead had been fresh off the streets and had helped make him into one of the Turks’ best. Rude had also helped train Elena as well, so Tseng had to seriously considering making the man more involved in the process in hopes of turning out more reliable new Turks.

Rufus accepted the disc and popped it into his computer’s disc drive. "Quality is much better than quantity, but at this rate we’ll need to recruit more people." He didn’t sound as if he was complaining, just pointing out something that he felt was important.

"Finding enough volunteers isn’t a problem, so I’d rather put a little more time and effort into building up the department and then not have to repeat the process for a couple of years." Now that the Turks were ShinRa’s main source of protection as well as information gathering and control, he would take every opportunity to build his department into the best that he could make it. The main thing was recruiting enough reliable people so he could divert the experienced Turks who had long proven their loyalty and efficiency to the more important projects and leave the ‘grunt’ work to the rookies.

"Either way, Reno should be happy to have a suitably long list of people to torment." The corners of Rufus’ lips twitched in amusement that even Tseng shared in, despite the fact that he was still upset with the Turk. He told himself that the Wutian Embassy assignment would make a good testing ground for Cyril as well as allow ShinRa the chance to expand a few projects into that country. Despite the fact that he’d had other plans for Rod in the upcoming weeks and didn’t like not being able to fully rely on his best Turks for the time being, he wasn’t foolish enough to not take whatever opportunities presented themselves.

About to hand Rufus a disc which contained an update on the security rooster for some of ShinRa’s secret laboratories, Tseng was caught off-guard when the president grimaced and sat back in his leather chair. "You’ll need to change security for tonight since I promised Reno that I’d take him out to dinner." He stared across the desk in a manner that reminded Tseng of when Rufus had been several years younger and testing to see how far he could push people. The tension in the white-clad shoulders informed Tseng that Rufus probably expected an argument of sorts.

Well, he wasn’t going to get one. "Any particular reason for allowing him to leave the penthouse before Monday, sir?" he asked, more curious over Rufus’ explanation than the fact that Reno was getting a reprieve of sorts.

Rufus tapped something on his laptop for a few seconds, as if looking to delay his answer. "His behavior during the suspension has been… surprising exemplary. However, the strain is getting to him so I thought it best to offer him some type of reward before he managed to get himself permanently suspended." There was no sense of doubt or plea on Rufus’ deep voice, which meant that he’d made a decision that he wouldn’t retreat from if pressed to do so.

Tseng would have bet a large sum of money that Reno would have ‘broken’ by now and done something foolish, be it attempt to pick a fight with his guards or to sneak out of the apartment. That he hadn’t meant that he had taken Tseng’s threat very seriously and he’d accepted the punishment. Both facts went a good way to appeasing Tseng’s anger at the redhead; he’d been more upset over Reno getting another Turk into trouble than anything, which seemed to be something that Reno was truly remorseful about.

"I’ll assign Ling and Michael to you for the evening, President," he replied with a curt nod, his amusement growing at the slight twitch from Rufus who had clearly not expected him to ‘give in’ so easily. "Have you decided on a restaurant?"

"No, I left that choice to Reno."

"I suggest that you contact him soon so things can be properly arranged." Tseng was sure that Reno would pick someplace low key with a reputation of great food – he always did when allowed to choose the restaurant – so Ling and Michael would have sort of a reward tonight as well. There would be less headaches that way than if Rufus dined at one of the more expensive restaurants in the area, which would attract a lot of unwanted attention.

Tseng considered it unavoidable at this point, the press publishing stories and photos of ShinRa’s president dating a Turk, but there were certain actions that would cause him less of a bother than others. He was sure that Reno wouldn’t be the one to play up the relationship between him and Rufus, not when he usually was so good at avoiding any spies sent out by the media. However, Rufus had become unpredictable in regards to the image he showed the world and would use whatever he thought would serve him best. If he decided it was letting the press know that he’d been in a long-standing if rather unconventional relationship with another man who happened to be a respected employee, then Tseng couldn’t do anything to stop him. Tseng wasn’t even sure if he *wanted* to stop him; it was easier to manage Rufus while he was distracted by Reno, and the Turks wouldn’t be hurt by the fact that the president of the world’s biggest company chose to live with one of them. He couldn’t help but wonder if this was all part of Veld’s plan to protect the department, even if he couldn’t possibly see how Veld could have guessed so correctly on what would happen in the future.

"Tseng?"

Distracted from his thoughts, Tseng bowed his head low. "I’m sorry, President, I was considering some security details," he lied with ease.

Rufus let out a huff of air, a slight smile on his face. "I said that I’ll call after this meeting. However, I’d like you to make arrangements for in a week’s time at Isabella’s; dinner for two at seven pm." He went back to typing on his computer, either making notes on something or sending out an email.

"Am I to assume that you and Reno will be dining out?" Tseng revealed no emotion when Rufus nodded and pulled out his PDA to make note of the request. If pushed to make an assumption on the current situation, he’d say that Rufus wasn’t going to hide the fact of his relationship any longer. "I don’t believe the staff there has ever been traumatized by Reno, sir. There will be several Turks volunteering for that shift," he remarked in a wry tone of voice.

Rufus’ lips twitched again. "I expect him to be too worn out from sparring with the recruits to misbehave."

"I’m glad to see that one of us is an optimist, sir." Perhaps he’d assign guard duty that night to Elena and Kali, with the promise to his lover that if she enjoyed the restaurant despite Reno’s antics, he’d take her there himself the following week. Elena had been upset over two of her best friends being punished for a drunken slip, although she hadn’t remained angry at him for very long. He admired her loyalty to her fellow Turks and was hoping that his intervention in the matter would ensure that such an incident would never repeat itself again. Most certainly not if Rufus and Reno had finally realized that they were stuck with each from now on.

Tseng didn’t appreciate the extra work the relationship forced upon him, but he had to admit it was worth it. Rufus had actually been in a good mood for the past two weeks, once the initial jealousy had died down, and there was finally a leash on Reno that could be used against the unpredictable Turk. If Tseng was to keep Rufus alive and from following in the footsteps of his father, then he would use whatever means he could, including another Turk. He would never allow his people to be so badly mistreated again, to do all the dirty work and only receive scorn in return. Any guilt he might feel in regards to Reno was appeased by the fact that Reno was more than independent and strong enough to walk away from Rufus if he so desired. He hadn’t, so obviously he wanted to be with Rufus. May heaven help them if he ever changed his mind....

Tseng cleared his throat and handed over a few more discs. "Here is the information you requested in regards to the security around the Reactors. I’ve ordered several Turks to Reactor Three as there’s been a lot of activity in that area lately. I suspect that spies have been sent in hopes of finding out information on the new thermal collector." The disc dealing with Rod’s report he kept to himself, to be handed over before he left Rufus’ office. The president was in a good mood right now, and he’d rather not ruin it until absolutely necessary in case Rufus’ unfounded jealousy resurfaced.

Rufus nodded and pulled up the information on the first disc. "Tell the Turks to not use lethal force unless absolutely necessary. Reeve’s been asking a lot of questions about that Reactor, and hasn’t been too pleased with me citing the need to keep some of our new technology under the strictest of confidentiality to avoid it being leaked to other companies. He may have sent some of his agents to investigate even though they’ve been over the Reactor enough to ensure that we’re not using Mako." His smile just then took on a feral edge, and Tseng knew that he’d been extremely happy to tell that to Reeve. The traitor wasn’t taking the fact that ShinRa was now using newly developed technology not connected to him in any way – to be fair, the technology was actually quite old, the theories created back before the use of Mako and reworked until ShinRa could put them to use today.

"We wouldn’t want to cause any problems with WRO," Tseng said, his voice as dry as he could make it. The more earth-friendly energy ShinRa produced and the more that Rufus worked to redeem the company’s image, the less that WRO was needed. Soon enough, they could plant several untraceable moles into WRO’s infrastructure and ensure that the watchdog group never fulfilled its promise of being a potential threat.

"No, we wouldn’t." They shared a predatory grin and then returned their attention to work. A thought flitted through Tseng’s mind that no one could ever say that love had weakened Rufus ShinRa’s competitive edge, not when they spent the next fifteen minutes discussing what to do if WRO was behind the espionage attempts. If anything, he had a feeling it would make the man that much more focused and ruthless, determined to not lose something that he’d come to cherish. If Reeve knew what was good for him, he’d stop requesting Reno’s presence at the Reactor inspections… and of course Tseng hoped the traitor remained clueless in that regard.

*******

Rufus was busy unbuttoning his white over-shirt as he walked into the bedroom, accepting the fact that he’d have to change into something less… ‘noticeable’ for dinner tonight. Reno had picked a small but quite good restaurant that served some of the best fish dishes Rufus had ever eaten, which meant that it would be best if ShinRa’s president didn’t show up tonight. No, it would be a quiet, enjoyable dinner, and next week’s would be the one that attracted all the attention.

He found Reno in the closet trying to decide what shirt to wear, dressed in a pair of clean, mostly new pair of jeans that weren’t in too much danger of sliding off his hips. That they were held up by the grace of being almost indecently tight made Rufus’ breath catch in his throat, and he couldn’t resist sliding his hands around the naked skin above the beltless waistband. "Wear the white one," he told his lover, his lips brushing against neck left exposed by a high ponytail.

Reno grunted and rested his hand against a dark blue shirt. "I refuse to take fashion advice from someone who dresses like the ice cream man."

"A very wealthy ice cream man." Rufus had to smile at the jab and the way his lover leaned against him. "The white shirt," he repeated, this time the tips of his fingers pushing past the jeans’ waistband.

Sucking in a deep breath, Reno rested his head against Rufus’ shoulder. "It’s your shirt. Why do I have a feeling that if I wear it, something’s gonna happen to it and I’ll ‘owe’ you for the damn thing, hmm?" He smiled to show that he didn’t mind Rufus’ future act of sabotage, not with the way his ass pressed back against Rufus’ crotch.

"Because no matter what everyone says, you do have a brain. You just don’t use it very often." There, now they were even.

Reno grunted again and pulled away, his hands busy removing the white shirt from its hanger. "Who needs a brain when they can get by with devastatingly good looks and a knack for breaking bones?" He flashed a grin to show that he was still in a teasing mood and made the act of pulling on the shirt into something indecent. Oh yes, the man was certainly very talented in some areas.

Wanting to push that shirt off of his lover’s shoulders, Rufus busied himself instead with changing his clothes. Dinner first, then they could indulge in sex for the rest of the night. It would be best to give Reno his reward without too much delay in an attempt to keep the mayhem to as little as possible. Besides, a grateful lover was ever so much fun in bed, and he knew that between the chance to be out of the apartment and the restaurant’s extensive wine collection, Reno would be *very* grateful tonight.

The last week and a half had gone just as he’d planned, Reno unbalanced by both the punishment and the lack of fighting to the point where he was going along with things, doing his best to avoid getting into more trouble. Between the threat of losing his job and Rufus ending things between them, Reno was in a more… ‘pliable’ mood than normal, which was what Rufus wanted. If he pushed too hard or too fast while Reno was left dealing with the realization that he couldn’t just walk away from what had surreptitiously built between them, he’d be left chasing after his lover and most likely turning Reno into an enemy. This way… this way he got what he wanted, which was Reno tied to him even more tightly and by the redhead’s own emotions at that.

In a couple of days, things would be back to ‘normal’, Reno busy with work and out of Rufus’ reach for most of the day. He was certain that there would be a fight not long after that, Reno testing to see how far he could push things once more now that their relationship had been redefined. Only now, Reno knew that he couldn’t replace Rufus, had been forced to acknowledge that he didn’t *want* to do that.

It had been a risk, letting Reno use his cell phone the other day, and he was sure his lover probably suspected that the call had been recorded. That didn’t change the fact that Reno turning down Rude’s offer of ‘help’ had seemed genuine – as well as it not being the first time he’d heard such an offer. Rufus’ eyes narrowed in anger and he snatched up the shirt in front of him without really seeing it because of the strong pulse of jealousy that accompanied his thoughts. No, Reno had basically admitted that he couldn’t leave Rufus.

Long arms wrapped around his chest and his left shoulder was nipped, distracting him from his thoughts. "Oooh, way to walk on the wild side, Rufus. I didn’t know you owned something other than black, white or grey." The earring was cold against the side of Rufus’ neck, a stark reminder of all the promises and obligations binding him and Reno together.

Looking at the dark red shirt that he was certain that he’d never bought for himself, he shrugged and tugged at the wrist resting against his stomach. "It’s in honor of the fact that for once, you’re wearing a pair of pants that aren’t in danger of falling off or disintegrating into bits." He pulled the shirt over his head and turned to face his lover, pleased with the picture Reno presented while wearing a slightly large white silk dress shirt, the buttons undone around the neck and the bottom, cuffs as well, dark tight jeans and bright red hair pulled back into a neat ponytail that cascaded down his back. He didn’t resemble a Turk in any form – unless one noticed the watchful tension in that lean body. "Well?" he asked as he combed back the hair falling onto his face.

"Change the pants and you’ll be ready to go." Reno leaned against a shelf containing sweaters, a mild leer on his face as he watched Rufus strip off the dress pants in favor of a pair of grey slacks. "So, do you feel naked with only wearing one layer of clothes?"

"Thank you for pointing that out." Rufus picked out a black blazer to be worn over the fitted red shirt, a bit more at ease with the familiar weight on his shoulders. Even if it was supposed to be a casual dinner out with his lover, he’d spent too many years critiqued for his appearance to match Reno’s slovenly attire.

"Too damn anal for words," Reno muttered, and allowed himself to be yanked into a passionate kiss that prevented him from any more snide remarks. He’d grown more on edge with each passing day of his punishment, and tonight was as much as a reward for his restraint as to ensure that Reno didn’t do something stupendously impulsive that would make Rufus truly reprimand his lover. No, that went against what he had in mind for the upcoming future, not to mention ran the risk of Reno trying to leave before he got even more entangled by his emotions for Rufus.

That wasn’t an option anymore, not when Rufus was aware how much they needed each other and how vulnerable that made them. That it made *him*. No, soon enough Reno wouldn’t be able to run away even if he did want to, wouldn’t be able to be ‘saved’ by anyone. He was Rufus’ now, more than ever before.

Ending the kiss, Rufus couldn’t resist combing his fingers through that brilliant cascade of crimson strands. "How about this – for each hour that you can go without any insults at my expense, I’ll buy a bottle of wine."

Reno licked his lips, already a little swollen from the kisses. "Make it half an hour."

Rufus tugged on the hair wrapped around his fingers. "We’re not going out so you can be inebriated to the point of passing out. We’ll start with one bottle as soon as we get there, then go by every hour."

"It better be a big bottle." Reno snorted and smoothed his left hand down the front of Rufus’ shirt. "And that’s just for me, you can have your own damn bottle."

"Naturally." Oh yes, he could have a *lot* of fun with an inebriated, happy Reno. With luck, he could carry that good mood through the weekend, tying Reno to him with passion and pleasure. His lover was a very sensual creature, prone to seeking out what he liked the more he experienced it. That Reno’s first day back at work should be sufficiently busy to keep him out of Rufus’ office meant that he’d be racing home for a bit of ‘fun’ once the shift was over.

All his live, Rufus had carefully analyzed and meticulously planned to get what he wanted. Those plans hadn’t always been successful… at least not initially and in the manner he’d originally intended. He’d learned from his past mistakes and put that knowledge to use, and now ShinRa Electric Power Company was on its way to eclipsing what it had been before. That same desire to be in control, to ensure that he’d never be without what he wanted was applied to Reno now, and this wasn’t something he was willing to turn into a failure. The time for games was over now, his intentions much too serious for that.

And by the time Reno realized just how much things had changed, he’d be hopeless trapped in the new reality that Rufus was painstakingly setting into motion. That thought made him smile in victory.

"Oi, I don’t like that look," Reno informed him along with a jab in the ribs. "You better not try to stiff me with the tab or anything, or have the dinner cut short by a call from Tseng." He appeared too suspicious for words, prompting Rufus to turn him around and push him out into the bedroom before Reno continued his guessing game.

"Just deciding if I want to spill the wine or some sauce on your shirt," he answered as evenly as possible, mind latching on to all the wonderful possibilities of what he could ask from Reno tonight once they returned home.

"Hmph, it better be your own damn wine, that’s all I’m sayin’." Reno’s pace quickened until he was practically dragging Rufus toward the front door. "Come on, feels like it’s been years since I’ve gone outside."

"One day you’ll learn the virtue of patience." Rufus grinned when he got a rude noise and obscene gesture as an answer. As much as he tried to figure out why it was Reno of all people that he’d fallen for, he had to admit that the man was amusing as hell. There were worse ways to spend the upcoming years than in a constant game of check and balance with the sexy, clever Turk. He just had to make sure that Reno eventually recognized him as the one in charge.

"There’s that look again, makes me want to have you locked up on the principle of the damn thing," Reno sniffed. "Don’t go starting any trouble before we get to the main course and second bottle of wine."

"Of course not," Rufus promised, and smiled some more when his lover very wisely didn’t seem to believe him.

*******

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