Black Dogs

*******

by nekojita

*******

Leon sat in the chair and watched Davis type something on the laptop as he fought the urge to get up and pace around the room.  During a mission he always had patience enough to spare, but once it was over he could barely sit still while waiting to make sure that everything was safe and the money was paid into the proper account.  That was when things went well….

He finally gave in.  "Anythin’ yet?"

Davis let out a short breath before leaning back in his chair.  "We gotta partial payment, as agreed upon for makin’ tha attempt, an’ natta word from tha boss.  There’s also natta word on Shinra, either, be it his company, WRO or any of tha media whores.  Tha last update is tha footage of tha bastard bein’ shot an those black dogs of his draggin’ him off ta safety."

"He shoulda been taken out," Leon muttered as he pushed himself out of the chair.  "Tha lucky bastard jus’ had ta move when I was takin’ my shot."  All the work in recon, infiltrating the event and setting up the shot, gone because Shinra had been distracted by something and moved just as he had fired.

"Jus’ count us lucky tha’ we got outta there."  Davis tapped a few times on the keyboard.  "WRO’s out in force, but they don’ have any idea who ta look for."

Standing guard by the window, Leon chuckled as he leaned against the wall.  "Let ‘em run around in circles.  Wha’ about Shinra’s dogs?"

"Eh, hard ta tell without crackin’ inta their network.  I’m sure they’re out there, too, an’ we should be able ta track ‘em from tha mayhem they create while tryin’ ta find some leads."

Leon chuckled again.  "All they’re good for is breakin’ knees and hoverin’ around Shinra.  They don’ get ta be all high an’ mighty anymore with WRO out an’ about.  That’ll clip their fangs nice ‘an good."  At least part of the plan was working; if only he had hit Shinra’s heart and not been a bit off-center.  Still, there was a chance the rich bastard might still die.  The longer Shinra’s company waited to make an official news release, the more likely there was that they would collect the full pay after all.  "How long did Trey say he was gonna be?"

"He didn’."  Davis grimaced as he leaned back again in his chair, his hands reaching behind his head to scratch at the short, curly black strands of hair as if he had a headache.  "Jus’ tha’ he was goin’ out for somethin’ ta keep us busy while we’re holed up."

"Fuckin’ great."  Leon rubbed his right hand over his face, forgetting for a moment that he still wore the black leather gloves for sniping.  He sighed as he removed them and crossed the room to put them in the bag with the rest of his gear.  "Tha’ll be beer, drugs an’ whores.  If he wasn’ such an ace with security systems...."  He shook his head as he stalked back to the window.

"I tol’ him no drugs this time.  Might have ta finish wha’ we started an’ all."  Attention returned to the laptop, Davis spared a quick shrug before he resumed typing.  "Leas’ he always makes the waits a bitta fun."

"Tha’ he does," Leon was forced to admit.  He laughed a little as he thought about previous missions and the resulting hangovers from Trey’s ‘solutions’ to killing the inevitable downtime as they laid low to wait out the furor over their latest assignment to die down.  They knew going into this mission that the downtime would be longer than normal, and failing to take out Shinra immediately meant that their employer would be less likely to help them out if the pressure got too heavy.  Hell, for all they knew, they might have more to worry about than WRO and SHINRA right now.  It would be best to lay low until they found out if Shinra had indeed survived the shot and things cooled off enough for them to hightail it somewhere far away.

Davis had made several updates and Leon had gotten a good feel of the neighborhood’s rhythm by the time he spotted a familiar silhouette slinking its way toward the building with three other shadows in tow, all of them carrying various bags.  "Well, a’ leas’ it looks like he brough’ enough for alla us this time," Leon announced with an exaggerated sigh.  As he spoke, he eyed the strangers and noted how they walked, the loose gait that put a purposeful sway to hips and the constant quick motions of their heads, as if they were used to being on the look-out.  The smallest of the three jumped when some neighborhood cat let out a screech, causing the other two whores to laugh even though their shoulders had hunched forward and their heads had ducked low.  It looked as if Trey had saved money on these three, and no one would miss them when they failed to return.  Good.

Davis finished up something on the laptop and shut the lid before pushing it aside, a smile spreading across his face in anticipation as he rose from his chair to go join Leon.  "Hope he remembered ta get tha’ beer from Costa del Sol tha’ I like."

Leon had time to grunt in response before Trey entered the room, a huge grin on his broad face as he made a flourish with his right hand as if to introduce the whores who crept in behind him.  "Ya miss me?" he asked as he set a bag filled with what looked to be a few six-packs of beer on the floor.

"Na’ someone as ugly as you," Leon shot back as he went to fetch the beer, which Davis would be happy to note was his favorite brand.  As he picked it up, the whores took a few more steps into the center of the room, their eyes darting about to take in their surroundings.  

All three of them had made sure to change out their mission clothes, Leon’s gloves a late slip aside, and were dressed in casual jeans and tops that were normal for the lower-class area where they were hiding out.  Their gear was stashed away as well, most of the weapons hidden in the bedrooms’ closets and a couple stashed in the plain gym bags scattered about.  Davis’ laptop appeared battered and nothing special, the same of which could be said about the three of them.  They were just three men in their late twenties in good physical shape, not too strong, not too attractive, not too scary looking.  Most people paid them little to no attention, which was how they liked it.  And once they opened their mouths, most people chose to ignore them, which worked to their advantage.

Considering their background, Leon knew why Trey had picked up these whores.  They were attractive, yes, which would make the next couple of days that much more enjoyable.  They appeared in pretty good health, which was another bonus, as potions were getting pretty damn hard to come by anymore.  But most importantly, judging from the pallor to their skin, the sharpness to their bones at cheeks, chests and wrists, the leanness to their frames - there were signs to be read if you knew what to look for, if you had grown up there yourself, that let you know you were dealing with another Below-Plater.  These three had definitely grown up away from the direct sunlight, good nutrition and steady meals that most people living Above-Plate got to take for granted.  Leon felt some of the tension ease from his body.

"So, who do we have here?"

The smallest one, the girl with the long black hair streaked with purple, jumped at the question.  She blushed as Trey laughed and took the bags of snacks from her hands.  "This is Dee," he said, her blush growing brighter as he tugged on one of the purple strands that matched the skimpy top she wore.  

The other girl, her red hair piled up in a messy, straggly bun, handed the bags of alcohol she had carried over to Davis with a shy smile.  "I’m Cam."  She smoothed her hands down the tight shirt she was wearing as she stepped back, her smile steadying as she bumped her hip into that of the remaining whore’s.  "An’ this is Vinny."  She gestured for him to set the bags down as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, her left hand playing with his disheveled black hair.  "We put on really good shows together, don’ we, sweetie."

Vinny chuckled as he rocked his hips into Cam’s and nuzzled her cheek, his eyes intent on Leon the whole time.  Perhaps it was all the black make-up around them, but their blue color seemed particularly intense.  "Ya bet ya ass, Cammie."

"Na, *ya* ass, once I get ma toys out," Cam replied with a giggle.  She licked Vinny’s ear as her left hand slid down his back and smacked his leather-clad ass.  Then she looked around the room.  "Eh, ya wanna see it?  He can dress uppa bit, real pretty like, or Dee an’ I can do somethin’.  Tha three of us, we can do really good shows.  Jus’ name tha kink."  She motioned to the large purse that hung from her left shoulder, a similar one as well on Dee.

Leon shared a quick look with Trey to ensure that his friend had checked out the purses before bringing the whores here.  "That’s okay, I’m sure we’ll get ta tha’ eventually.  Right now why don’ we have a few drinks."

Vinny laughed again as he squeezed the arm Cam still had around his shoulders.  "Think he wants ta do tha fuckin’ first, Cammie.  Ya’ll have ta wait."

"Like I can’ do it later, bitch," Cam teased her... partner? with a wink before motioning Dee to come join them.  Dee hurried over her friends, her hands tugging at her very short skirt as a faint blush crept up her face once again.  As Cam patted the short girl on the back, Vinny mouthed to Davis to make her drink very strong.   Judging from how comfortable Vinny and Cam appeared in their tight and skimpy clothes, not to mention in this entire situation, Leon was willing to bet that Dee must be newer to the ‘business’ than them.  As Davis set about pouring the drinks, Leon did some motioning of his own to his friends, letting them know that he was picking the girl for the first round.  Trey frowned a little at the decision, but then shrugged as he would get his turn eventually.

Davis took a drink over to Vinny, a pleased smile on his face as he looked the scrawny man up and down; Leon knew the hacker had a thing for guys with long hair and was amazed that Trey had managed to find someone this time for all of them.  "Hope a whiskey sour is all righ’."

"Perfect."  Vinny drawled out the word as he stared up at Davis through the hair falling onto his eyes, a slight, teasing smile on his face.  He took a swallow of the drink and made no complaint with it being over half alcohol.

Dee sputtered a little over her drink, her cheeks flushed once again as she apologized and wiped the back of her hand across her mouth.  "Ah, my lipstick," she murmured.

"‘S okay," Leon assured her.  "It’ll come off anyway, righ’?"

Cam laughed at the joke and sipped her drink, "Tha’s true."  She smiled up at Trey, who was standing beside her.  "So, we drinkin’ ta somethin’?"

He grimaced as he raised his beer.  "Ta hard work an’ Fate bein’ a bitch an’ messin’ things up."  When he seemed ready to say something else, Leon cleared his throat and gave his friend a warning look to shut up.  The whores would not be able to tell tales, but they knew better than to blab about missions than that.

Vinny’s eyes narrowed as he raised his glass.  "Know alla ‘bout tha’," he muttered before he finished off the drink in a couple of swallows.  Then he was back to smiling as he handed the empty glass to a surprised Davis, who hurried to refill it.

Cam and Dee also finished off their drinks, Dee sputtering again as she drank it down.  They appeared willing to get a bit drunk before things proceeded any further, which was perfectly fine with Leon and the others.  If the whores were drunk, then they were less likely to notice any more slips and things could remain ‘friendly’ that much longer.

Like when Cam went to help Trey refill hers and Dee’s drinks and managed to trip over the bag he had left near the wall, giggling all the while she pushed off of it to her feet.  Vinny and Dee teased her about the high heels she was wearing and dying her hair blonde sometime soon, while Leon had to take a couple of breaths to calm down once it was evident that the whore had failed to notice the body armor and gun stashed inside of the bag.  He reminded himself that a Below-Plate whore had no reason to recognize such things, and after watching her for a minute or two, returned his attention to Dee and the way she was slowly wavering back and forth with each sip she took.

When she finished the second drink, this one mostly whiskey as well, he pulled her close for a kiss.  "Oh, one minute!" she slurred as she stepped back, her entire face flushed as she reached into her bag.  "Do ya have mints?" she asked Cam, who had been nuzzling Trey.

"Think so."  Both women began to dig through their purses as Trey and Leon exchanged confused looks and shook their heads.  Across the room, Davis was having better luck with his choice for the night, his hands buried in the whore’s long hair as he kissed the man’s neck.  Vinny fumbled with removing the long, leather belt that was wrapped twice around his narrow waist, a clear sign that they were about to head into one of the bedrooms soon.

"They shou’ be somewhere... dammit."  Cam cursed as something started buzzing in her purse.  She began to fiddle with the vibrator, her brows furrowed with both hands buried in the huge bag.  Meanwhile, Dee applied the lipstick and approached Leon with a nervous smile on her face.

"Can ya help me wit’ this?" Cam asked Trey about whatever was buzzing in her purse.  As Trey asked what was so hard about a fucking sex toy, Leon grabbed Dee by the hips and pulled her forward for a kiss, tasting the whiskey and sour mix as he thrust his tongue into her mouth.  He was surprised when she kissed him back with fervor, her lips pressed hard against his own, and at first he thought it was the pressure making them numb.  Then he heard Trey cry out and choking sound, but as he tried to pull away his body felt weak.  When he tried to open his eyes, all he saw was dancing sparks and encroaching darkness, and then the weakness took over until he passed out.

*******

Leon woke to an aching head, numb lips and pain in his wrists, shoulders and ankles.  He realized that he was seated in a chair with his hands bound behind his back and his feet strapped to the legs of the chair.  As he shook his head to clear his vision, he noticed that Trey and Davis were in similar positions, stationed where they could see each other.  Davis had bruises around his throat and Trey had a gag around his mouth, his eyes bruised and his nose bloodied and swollen.

The whores were about the room, going through their things.  Dee, all signs of shyness and lipstick now gone, was busy tapping away at Davis’ computer, while Cam, her hair pulled back into a neat bun, had all of their gear in a large pile at her feet and was inspecting the gun that he had used to shoot Shinra.  Over by the window was Vinny, his hair pulled back as well into a ponytail, busy talking into a cell phone.  As he spoke, he reached up with his left hand and poked at his left eye.  When he pulled his hand away, he flicked away what appeared to be a contact lens, revealing an aquamarine colored eye that glowed.  

"Yeah, it’s them.  Deidre’s trackin’ shit back ta whoever paid their dumb asses an’ Cyn’s confirmed tha’ we found tha gun.  Should be enough ta make even Reeve all warm an’ fuzzy before ya beat tha confession outta ‘em."  Vinny paused as if to listen to something as he removed the other contact lens.  "Because I knew tha’ ya’d have me in tha fuckin’ sewers with Cyn an’ Deidre if we started before ya got here, an’ ya know how those two feel about rats.  Ain’ no way I’m puttin’ up wit’ them *an’* you all pissed off at me."  He looked up to share a grin with Cam as he spoke.

"Damn straight we’d be all over your ass," Dee muttered as she continued to type.

"An’ not in a good way," Cam agreed.  She laughed when Vinny blew her a kiss.  While the whores were laughing and chatting, Leon tested the bonds and found them too tight to wiggle out of and too strong to snap.  Dammit, the whores knew what they were doing.  Judging from the looks he got from Trey and Davis, they had the same lack of luck in getting free.

"A’ righ’."  Vinny sighed and rolled his eyes.  "*All* *right*.  Sheesh, you sound like Rufus, ya know."  For a moment, his expression hardened.  "Just get here quick, cause we make no promises.  There’s a shitload of alcohol around and they were trying to make us drunk before they fucked us dead."  He ended the call and tossed the phone to Cam, who caught it and stuffed back into her bag.

"Someone bein’ an over-protective parent?" Cam asked as she stashed the sniper rifle back into its case.

"Ya know Tseng, he doesn’t want anyone to have more fun than him."  Vinny made a face as he stood in the middle of the room with both hands on his hips.  "Wanted to make sure there’s enough for him to ‘vent’ on, which means less fun for us."  He sounded bitter about the last part.

Finally managing enough saliva in his mouth to speak, Leon cleared his throat.  "Turks."  The word came out as a croak so he tried again.  "Ya fuckin’ Turks."

"What, you finally figured that out after listening to us for five minutes?" Cam asked with chilling disdain.  "How long were you gonna keep on thinkin’ we were cheap whores, hmm?"

Dee jerked her left hand over her shoulder in Trey’s direction.  "He certainly doesn’t think highly of us."

"Which is why Reno broke his nose.  Never could understand how someone who uses a prostitute on a regular basis thinks he has a right to look down on them."  Cam sniffed as she began to empty the bullets out of all of the guns that she had found in the apartment.

"Because he thinks that it’s fine to buy sex, especially if he’s planning on offing the whore afterwards.  Just a matter of using something disposable," Vinny drawled.  "Probably why he thinks it’s fine to be hired killer an’ look down on us Turks, right?"

"You’re nothin’ but SHINRA’s dogs," Leon spat, and Davis echoed the last two words in a raspy, weak voice.  "We don’ kneel to tha fuckin’ company tha’ fucked over tha planet."

Vinny rolled his eyes and strolled over to Leon.  "Nah, but you’ll take the money from anyone who’ll pay you, and I bet they don’t give a *fucking shit* about the planet."  He smiled as he squatted down on his heels to look up at Leon.  "Shinra Senior may have made a mess of things, but Rufus is making amends."  He reached out, his hands resting on Leon’s knees.  "He’s doing a hell of a lot more than almost anyone else, so I’d ask myself what anyone would have to gain by killing him."  As he spoke the last two words, his fingers dug into Leon’s kneecaps and caused pain to explode in Leon’s legs.  Whatever else he said was lost to the agony.

Then the pain receded, and Leon opened his eyes to find that Cam had pulled Vinny back.  "Dammit, Tseng said not ta start without him!"  She hauled the man onto his feet and stood in front of him until he looked at her.  "I really will kick your ass if you get us knee-deep in shit an’ rats!"

Vinny glared at her for several seconds, his eyes glowing the entire time, and then he leaned forward to give her a quick kiss on the nose and laughed.  "All right, all right, I’ll play nice."

"Good, because Rod told me about those rats and I’m too delicate for shit like that."  Dee looked up from the laptop and grinned.  "My skills are better served groping Cyn when she least expects it an’ hacking bank accounts.  Speaking of which, I’ve found the trail of their employer.  Give me an hour an’ I’ll have a name for you."  She said the last to Vinny.

"I wanna know who put the hit on Rufus."  He practically growled out the words, his eyes shining so bright that they appeared mako-enhanced.  There was something about their color, the shape of the man’s face.... Leon pushed back the haze of pain as he stared at the Turk.

"Ya... ya tha’ bastard’s boyfriend, ain’t ya?"  They had received some intel on Shinra’s Turk boyfriend, a few pictures of a redhead with facial tattoos and unusual eyes.  The Turk had been at the reception, but not working so they had paid little attention to him.

Vinny’s smile was a bitter curve of lips and flash of teeth.  "Ya, that’s me.  Gotta say, not too happy that you tried to kill my boyfriend.  If anyone’s gonna do that, it’ll be me."

Across the room, Davis shook his head as if he had difficulty following the conversation, while Trey continued to try to break free of restraints, no longer attempting to hide his efforts.  "But... you’re Below-Plate, like us.  Shinra is jus’ some rich bastard who thinks he owns everythin’."  Davis stared at Vinny as if trying to make some sort of connection with the Turk.  "Don’ ya... he’s not your kind.  None of ‘em are.  We-"

Vinny’s harsh laughter cut him off.  "Kind?  You wanna talk about my kind?"  He grabbed hold of Cam’s left arm and dragged her to his side, his right arm draped over her shoulder.  "*Here’s* my kind, an’ not because she’s gutter-born like me.  We’re *Turks*.  *That’s* ‘my kind’."  He spat out the words as he looked back and forth between Davis, Trey and Leon.  "Don’t give a shit about anyone not a Turk."  

"What about Shinra," Leon asked, his voice still a little shaky because of the pain in his knees.

"He’s what the Turks protect, so guess that makes him part of us.  He’s the only one who gives a shit about us."

Cam slid her arm around Vinny’s waist as she nudged Trey’s leg with her right foot.  "What did this one call me after I zapped him?"

"‘Fuckin’ dead whore’," Dee offered as she continued hacking.

"Nah, besides that.  Ah yes, ‘black dog’."  Cam smiled at Trey as he tried screaming something at her through his gag.  "All good dogs have a master, after all, though perhaps a pack leader would be more appropriate."

"Hmph, more of a cat person myself," Vinny bitched.

Leon stared at the three of them, unwilling to accept that he and his friends had been caught out by fellow Below-Platers who were Turks.  Who had tricked them so thoroughly, and who could joke around while waiting for the rest of their ‘pack’ to show up and torture them.  "SHINRA dropped a fuckin’ Plate on your own people, can ya forget tha’?  Is Rufus gonna make it better, too?"

If Vinny’s smile had been bitter before, it became downright chilling now.  He stepped away from Cam and approached Leon, his hands held behind his back as if to keep temptation out of reach.  "I’m gonna tell ya a secret, because in about an hour you’re gonna be begging ta die an’ halfway there.  You’re looking at the guy who dropped the Plate.  An’ ya know what?  Jus’ another damn day at work."  He looked Leon directly in the face as he spoke, that cold smile on his lips, his eyes bright and tone even, as if talking about fixing a computer or running to the store.

"Ya... fuckin’... gah!"  Leon tried to break free of the restraints, felt pain in his knees and wrists as he struggled, felt the blood rush to his head as fury filled him.  The sound of laughter could be heard over the rush of blood and pounding of his heart, he could see the amusement on Cam and Vinny’s faces and the shock on Davis’.  More than anything, he wanted to break free and kill them, to make them pay for all of those deaths, to hurt SHINRA in whatever way he could, yet he remained trapped on the damn chair.  All he managed to do was rock back and forth, while Trey actually knocked his chair over with his struggles.  Vinny and Cam merely shrugged and stepped back as they watched.

"Gonna kill ya," Leon swore as he paused to catch his breath, hoping that the sweat on his wrists might help to make the plastic slick enough to move.

"Far better have tried and failed."  Vinny seemed unafraid of the threat.  He appeared ready to say something else before turning away and heading to the door.  "About damn time."

The Turk who entered the room was immediately recognizable, even if he was wearing something other than his normal black uniform.  Tseng was dressed in dark jeans and a long, black hooded coat, his hair pulled back from his face.  Behind him was a very tall, dark-skinned man who nodded at Vinny and went to the table to set what looked to be a heavy box down.  The two other men, one dark-haired and one with reddish hair, carried bags into the room.

"We didn’t want to leave anything behind and spoil our fun."  Tseng turned to Dee, who had paused in her hacking once he entered the room.  "If you don’t mind, we need to have the cameras set up."

"Yes, Sir."  Dee hurried to do as she had been asked, with Cam assisting once the dark-haired Turk pointed out which bag contained the equipment.  

Tseng looked around the room and, after a quick motion from Vinny, approached Leon.  "So, you thought you could get away with wounding Rufus Shinra?"

"Fuck you."  Something inside Leon sank at the wording, at the failed chance that Shinra had died from the shot after all.  "I got ‘im good."

Tseng’s smile was pure condescension.  "He would have survived even if there hadn’t been a potion handy."  His gaze flickered to Vinny.  "Perhaps, if he hadn’t been alerted to your presence in time, you might have succeeded, but the President is better watched than is evident.  Too bad you won’t be able to share that knowledge."

"Fuck you," Leon repeated.  He tried not to think about what he had heard about the Turks and their interrogation techniques.  "You can’ do shit now with WRO aroun’."

All of the Turks laughed at that statement, even Tseng.  "You’ll be surprised what we can do, as long as we have enough evidence and the President has a new bit of technology to share.  WRO is *not* happy about almost losing their prime monetary source, so I’m afraid you’ve been thrown to the wolves."

"Black dogs," Cam commented.

"Ah yes, I’m familiar with that term."  Tseng sounded amused.  "We’ve been called much worse."  He leaned in toward Leon.  "Well, is it time to show you our bite?"

"Fuck you," Leon repeated, doing his best to hold on to his anger to push back the fear.

Tseng smiled, the expression filled with pure malevolence.  "Oh, very good.  I was hoping you would make this enjoyable for us."

*******

Rufus pulled up a new report on his laptop and shifted about on the bed, a slight hiss escaping at the ache in his right side as the mostly healed wound pulled at the movement.  The potion had healed all of the internal damage from the gunshot wound, leaving only tender skin as a sign of the damage.  Annoyed at the small reminder of the wound, he had to keep in mind that Mako-derived means of healing were becoming increasingly rare and there was no sense to waste any more on himself when he was out of danger and mostly recovered.  For a moment he recalled how things used to be....

As if to remind him that things had indeed changed, he heard the slamming of a door followed by muttered curses, which he took to mean that his lover had returned home.  Giving up on work for the foreseeable future, Rufus saved the open files and shut down his laptop for the night before putting it safely out of harm’s way.  It was just set on the nightstand when Reno strolled into the room, dressed in dark blue sweatpants and t-shirt which bore the SHINRA logo, an outfit that usually was worn by Turks during their sparring sessions.  His long, red hair was wet and tangled, the latter of which seemed to be the source of Reno’s curses as he tried to comb his fingers through the gnarled strands.  "Jus’ gonna cut it off one a these fuckin’ days."

"Then what will you have to bitch about?" Rufus asked as he motioned for the man to sit on the edge of the bed.  Reno gave him an assessing look before complying.  Once he sat down, Rufus scooted closer, his legs on either side of his lover’s thighs until Reno’s back pressed against his chest.  The heat that always radiated from the redhead helped to soothe the ache in his right side.

"Eh, everythin’ else."  Reno let out a yelp when Rufus tugged on the damp strands that he had gathered in his hands.  "Wha’?"

"Speak like a civilized human being."  When Reno appeared ready to complain about the order, Rufus gave his hair another tug.  "I’ve been through enough today, I’m not about to listen to you slaughter the language on top of it."

Reno sniffed and tilted his head onto Rufus’ shoulder.  "My, someone’s a bit pissy after being shot, aren’t they?"

He pushed the idiot’s head forward so he could resume untangling the knots with his fingers.  "And someone thinks he’s terribly amusing when he’s not."  He thought that Reno’s hair seemed a shade darker than usual even in its wet state, and that beneath the scent of shampoo there still clung the odor of blood.  He slid his fingers along a ragged strand and almost expected them to come away dripping with crimson, for a moment his mind recalling how it had felt to touch his side and feel his own blood welling against his hand.

"That’s because you don’t have a sense of humor."  Reno was quiet after that, waiting until his hair was mostly done before he twisted around to capture Rufus’ right hand.  "Aren’t you gonna ask what happened?"

"Unlike you, there are some Turks who believe in filing status reports."  Rufus gave his lover a disapproving look as he resumed his previous position in bed, using the grip on his hand to drag Reno along.  "It seems that Killian hoped to increase his business prospects with me out of the way.  I must admit I’m not too surprised, considering the way he had petitioned WRO with that anti-trust nonsense a few weeks ago."

"It all comes down to money in the end.  Those dumb fucks tried to claim somethin’ about getting revenge for Below-Platers, but all they really gave a damn about was themselves and their bank accounts."  Reno snorted in derision as he settled himself on top of Rufus’ lap with a boneless grace, his eyes bright and his lips curved with a cruel grin.  

Rufus twisted his hand free and picked at lock of his lover’s hair, which he twined around his finger.  "Oh, I’m sure I make a very tempting target, with everything my father did and all I still own.  But I’ve yet to have anyone try to kill me who wasn’t interested in taking my place or my fortune."

Reno’s smile turned sharper.  "I don’t know, don’t give a shit about bein’ president and I try ta kill you all the time."

He used the strand of hair to pull the idiot closer.  "My mistake, I should have prefaced that statement with ‘anyone *sane*’," he retorted before kissing away whatever argument Reno could come up with.

As expected when Reno had come in from a kill - and a long, drawn out one at that - the kiss was passionate with a biting edge, a harsh press of lips and teeth that took away his breath and made him feel more alive than cheating death a few hours ago did.  Yet his lover’s hands were unexpectedly gentle as they settled on his waist, the fingers that had just broken bones and torn flesh stroking whisper-soft along his sides.

Releasing the lock of hair in favor of gathering two handfuls instead, he clenched his hands in the damp, thick strands and savored the kiss, the taste of his lover, the heat of him and the evident desire that washed away any remaining pain and worries he had from this afternoon.  He had detested sitting here while Tseng unleashed the Turks on the hired assassins, his only consoling thought that soon enough Reno would return, full of brittle energy and savage passion.  He was not so much ‘hiding’ as sending out his own minion of death and destruction, certain that the irrepressible demon would return to him with a hint of blood and a memory of violence to tell him that those who had sought to tear him down were no more.  There had been many disappointments in his life, but never truly any from Reno.

"Hmm, you missed your chance," he murmured when he broke off the kiss.  "You could have kept quiet and not motioned to me to move when you caught sight of the sniper earlier today."  He slid his left hand down his lover’s back to the hem of the blue t-shirt and then began to tug it upwards.

Reno grinned, his eyes heavy-lidded and his hair falling onto his face, and shook his head.  "Nah, I shoulda waited until we beat the truth outta those assholes, snuck off and made a deal with their boss."  He pointed his left index finger and tapped it against Rufus’ heart.  "How much do ya think you’re worth?"

"No amount of money would make up for a lifetime of boredom if I weren’t here," Rufus pointed out with pride, and yanked off the t-shirt before Reno could dispute that fact.  Then his eyes narrowed when he noticed the fading bruise on the curve where Reno’s neck met his left shoulder.  "Why am I suddenly suspicious of the fact that Tseng’s report had been a bit vague on how you tracked down the three suspects?"  Taking into account his lover’s hyped-up healing ability, he would guess that the hickey was several hours old - hence it had *not* been left by him.  

The bastard had the gall to make a clicking sound with his tongue, as if chiding him for some sort of outré behavior.  "Why yes, Rufus, I did bust my ass to track down the assholes who shot you, not ta mention barely played with ‘em until Tseng showed up."  This time he poked the spot where the bullet had entered Rufus’ side, earning a hiss of pain for his efforts.  "Stop obsessing over the little details like the control freak you are."

Rufus gave his lover’s hair a vicious yank.  "I fail to see how letting another person maul you is a ‘little detail’," he spat, the ache from his wound overcome by the tightness in his chest at the thought of another man touching something that was his.

"Oh please, a little groping is hardly - dammit!"  Reno hissed in anger as he tried to free his hair.  "OI!  Ya think we got ta waltz on in there as Turks?  All he did was a bit o’ necking, and I removed his balls for it.  Literally."  He glared at Rufus for several seconds.  "Wanna see the vid?"

"Yes."

"For fuck’s sake...."  Reno sounded tired as he slumped forward, as much as the hold on his hair would allow.  "You’re one sick bastard, ya know that?"

Taking advantage of his lover’s position, Rufus nibbled on the unbruised side of Reno’s neck before answering.  "Yes, it’s part of what you like best about me," he murmured.

That earned him a warm chuckle and arms draped over his shoulder.  "That and your cock, and speakin’ of which...."  Reno’s smile was wanton, an open invitation that Rufus had to be mostly dead to ignore.

Still, far be it for him to pass on an opportunity to tease his lover.  "I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re implying."  He feigned confusion as he let his hands fall to the mattress.

The look of utter disbelief on the Turk’s face, followed by narrowed eyes and a certain press of the lips that usually was followed by Reno doing terribly nasty things was all of the warning he had before he was kissed breathless.  He truly would have to be dead to not respond to the fresh wave of desire and lust that washed through him, that made it impossible to not touch the feverishly warm flesh within reach, to pull back soft cotton to expose more of it to his hands.

The white robe he had been wearing was untied and shoved open without ceremony, his lover showing the flagrant disregard for his clothes that he showed for just about everything else.  Reno’s hands were almost burning as they stroked along his chest, a soothing brand that made his flesh tingle in a similar manner to the potion earlier.    

Part of him wondered when the fear and anger would kick in; he depended on Reno so much, had spent most of the afternoon at that awful reception keeping track of his erstwhile lover as the Turk had meandered through the large banquet hall snatching drinks and avoiding conversation.  All it had taken was one signal from Reno and he had acted without thinking, had moved in an instant and avoided the worst of the shot.  That trust could so easily be twisted to another person’s advantage, could be used against him.

Yet Reno had put his body in danger and used it to find those who had dared to hurt Rufus, had employed the skills that made him such a dangerous Turk to bring down a rival.  Then he had come home, to Rufus’ bed.  Whatever fears and doubts that Rufus may have about this relationship, there was no way to dispute the fact that the ties between them cut both ways.  Just as he would tear the city apart looking for anyone who would dare to harm *his* Turk, Reno had done what he did best to hunt down those who had dared to strike at Rufus.  

There was probably some disturbing codependency term for it all, yet all Rufus cared about just then was that they were both here right now, that their enemies were dead or well on their way there, and Reno had his hand on Rufus’ hard cock.

So he returned the favor, wringing a low moan from his lover as he wrapped his right hand around the hard, hot flesh, Reno’s sweat pants pushed low on his hips.  Rufus kept his left hand tangled in Reno’s hair, in the strands at the nape of his neck, as they kissed with a savage intent that left both them breathless and their lips swollen.

Reno shifted forward, his knees pressing tighter against Rufus’ side, his hand nudging against Rufus’ until his addled brain got the hint and he relaxed his grip enough to grasp both their cocks, his breath catching at the feel of slick, hot skin rubbing together.  The moan from his lover’s mouth reverberated into his own, the sound slowly twisting into his own name as he broke off the kiss to search out the traitorous bruise and mark it fresh as his own.

The entire time his right hand kept pumping, kept sliding along hard flesh with Reno’s hand clasped around it, ecstasy coiling tight inside of him with each motion, with each scrape of Reno’s nails along his left shoulder, each stuttered moan of his name, each frantic heartbeat against his chest.  Heat soaked into him wherever their bodies touched, contrasted by a cool spiderweb of red silk that fanned along Rufus’ right side as Reno rested his head on that shoulder.  

As always, Reno provoked so much emotion, so much sensation from him, that it quickly overwhelmed him.  He let the moment carry him along, all of the feelings, all of the desires, and gave no thought to resisting.  How could he, when his lover was so blatant about his desires, with the way he cried out Rufus’ name and spurred him on, how he so carelessly gave in to pleasure and came in Rufus’ arms with closed eyes and defenses down.  Rufus drank in the sight as long as he could before his own body betrayed him.

Struggling to regain control of his senses after his climax, he felt a dim flare of pain along his chest and forced his shoulders back against the pillows so he could lift his head and glare at his idiot of a lover, who had just left four red welts along his upper right chest.  "I will declaw you," he warned, a bit put-out over the fact that he sounded more out of breath than threatening just then.

Reno grimaced, which probably had more to do with the hair trailing across his face than the threat.  "Eh, a big, strong guy like you should be able to take it.  Jus’ wanted to see if any of the potion was still working an’ if you’re ready for round two."

"Not all of us have been so lucky with our ‘enhancements’," he pointed out as he set about removing the sweatpants the rest of the way from his lover’s long legs, then used the clothing to wipe his hand and chest clean.  "That said... the night is still young."  He brushed back some of the crimson strands clinging to Reno’s shoulders.  Oh yes, there was nothing like almost dying to inspire one to enjoy all the pleasures of life to the fullest, something he had experienced before after his recovering from the Geostimga.  Reno had been there that time, too, to protect and indulge him.

"Hmph, jus’ think you need to do something about making so many people want ta kill ya," Reno grumbled as he settled himself more comfortably on Rufus’ lap.  "Like get a whole new personality or something."

Rufus gave his lover an evil grin as he tugged him closer.  "Then where would you find a manipulative, sadistic, control freak bastard of a lover, hmm?"

"Oh, those are a dime a doz-"

The best way to stop Reno from spouting his nonsense was to keep his mouth occupied, Rufus had discovered.  And such a talented mouth it was.  There was another scratch from the damn nails that would be trimmed later, if he had to have someone sit on the bastard to do it, then Reno finally gave in with good grace and focused on the task at hand.  

Tomorrow there would be press conferences and dealing with WRO and a dozen other tasks, but for now he was alive, had a mostly complacent lover in his bed and his enemies vanquished with by those he trusted the most.  That was all he needed for the moment.  Tomorrow would come soon enough, when he would face any new challenges with Reno at his side and the Turks at his back.

*******

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