Figurative Books and Their Deceptive Covers
Rufus followed a quiet Tseng to the viewing balcony located above the training facility both the Turks and SOLDIERS used for self-defense practice. He could tell that the Wutian was upset about something by the tension in Tseng’s broad shoulders and the tight-pressed set to his lips, but the Turk would not give him any explanation as to why. As it was Tseng, he knew that it was more about the Turk’s private nature than the fact that he was treating Rufus like a child and so was not angry at his question being rebuffed. He may have just turned twelve, something that almost no one around him let him forget, but he was not some inept and unaware infant who needed looked after all the time or shielded from the truth. After all, once this visit with Veld was out of the way, he was expected to go see his father and find out what new ‘chores’ were about to be foisted on him in an effort to keep him busy and out of the way.
The Head of the Turks leaned over the balcony, his attention seemingly focused on the figures fighting below. However, Rufus was not taken aback when a smile was sent his way when he quietly approached the middle-aged Turk, despite his best efforts to not make any sound.
"You look well today, Rufus," Veld told him, as always sparing him the useless formalities whenever his father or one of the man’s minions were not around.
"Thank you." Since this was Veld, he was spared in return the lie of saying the same to the Turk, who in all honesty appeared on the edge of exhaustion. He had heard about there being some sort of trouble the last few days and had not seen any Turks other than Tseng and whoever had been assigned to guard his father during that time. "Is there something you wanted me to see?"
Veld nodded and motioned him closer. "We have a new member," he said as he pointed at the smaller of the two figures down in the training area. "Tell me what you think."
Rufus moved to stand beside the Turk, annoyed that the wall of the balcony came halfway up his chest. He was silent as he observed the sparring session, a little surprised at being asked for his opinion as much as by the rush of pleasure he felt upon Veld asking him for it.
He recognized Rude on sight, as there were few Turks who matched the dark-skinned man’s size and none of whom were shaved bald. Because Tseng had taken the time long ago to point such a thing out to him, he was not amazed at the man’s quick, efficient manner of fighting when the normal expectation would be to expect Rude to be a lumbering giant who relied solely upon strength and an almost unnaturally long reach.
What did catch Rufus’ attention was Rude’s opponent, a young man who looked only a couple of years older than himself. He knew that some SOLDIERS were recruited when as young as fifteen or sixteen years old, but that was rarely the case with the Turks, who were expected to be more than just muscle and walking lab experiments. Yet this new Turk had to be that young, moving with a fluidity that Rufus rarely saw in adults. He was very fast, too, easily staying out of Rude’s longer reach and even landing a few blows. Too bad he did not seem to have much strength to take the larger Turk down.
Still, for someone so young he was holding his own, taking the blows that Rude did manage to land and getting back onto his feet every time. He had impossibly red hair and the palest skin that Rufus had ever seen, and what looked to be crimson make-up on his face. There was something about him that drew Rufus’ attention as he had never seen anyone so… so *animated* before. Or so noisy.
"Way ta go, big guy! You’re fast *an’* sexy!" the young Turk laughed as he was almost hit in the chest by one of Rude’s large fists. "Bet’cha gotta run quick ta get away from ever’one wantin’ ya ass!" For someone who was leaping about so much, he somehow managed to chatter the entire time that Rufus had spent observing him.
Grunting a little from a kick to his side, Rude shook his head and sighed loud enough to be heard up on the balcony. "Do you ever shut up?" he asked, sounding no more out of breath than his sparring partner.
"Na. Learned tha’ if ya keep yammerin’ at folks, they ten’ ta ignore ya an’ let ya get away wit’ more shit tha’ way." It took a moment to decipher what the redhead was saying, and Rufus found a good bit of sense to the garbled words. He was beginning to see why Veld had recruited what was obviously a gutter rat.
"He’s quick and smart, and knows how to fight," Rufus told the man since he knew that Veld was waiting for an answer. "Which I’m sure you were aware of before you took him in. Is there a reason why you wanted me to see him?" He hoped it was not in some way a reproach to his insistence that he was *not* a child and so should be treated like an adult. Veld was very good and very sneaky at making his points.
The Turk smiled again and turned so he faced Rufus, who was certain that Veld was still aware of everything happening below. "Tseng is taking on some new responsibilities and so won’t be available much anymore as your bodyguard. Rude and his new partner, Reno, will be taking over most of that duty."
Rufus spared a nod and a quick smile in Tseng’s direction, pleased that someone he liked and trusted had gotten what sounded to be a promotion. However, he wondered why Veld had picked these two Turks to ‘babysit’ him. "Any reason why a new recruit is to protect me?" he asked, a pain in his chest as he thought about Veld betraying him.
"There are several reasons." Veld’s smile was replaced with a
serious expression that contained no hint of pity or mockery. "Reno needs
some of his rough edges smoothed, which I think will best happen if he’s
forced into surroundings where it’s adapt or…." He did not finish that
sentence. "Also, he’s close enough to your age that you should not feel
as if he’s a ‘babysitter’ and he should have some understanding of your
Rufus waited almost a minute for more explanations. "You said ‘several’ reasons, and so far I only count two, possibly three. Is there something else?" It was highly conceivable that Veld did not plan to tell him everything.
However, the Turk surprised him. "Yes, there is. Reno is the youngest recruit the Turks have ever taken in, his situation… somewhat unique." Behind Rufus, Tseng shifted about as if suddenly uncomfortable. "I want you to consider him as yours."
Confused for a moment as to what that cryptic statement meant, Rufus stared at Veld as his thoughts whirled about. He opened his mouth as if to speak before remembering that such honest conversation was not a wise thing in a building owned by his father. Those words could be taken to mean that Reno would be *his* Turk and not his father’s, which was a dangerous thought. It was also a very exhilarating one. He twisted back to look at the redhead once more, pleased to find him still holding his own against Rude even though he now sported a black eye. "It will be nice to have someone run errands for me," he finally said, making it sound as if he had been offered nothing more than a lackey than what would soon be a very well-trained killer.
Despite his calm exterior, something inside of him seized the fact of what he had been given and crowed in possessive joy. *His* Turk. Watching the redhead for a little longer, he could see the wisdom in Veld’s choice. The gap in their age difference was not insurmountable, and his father would only see some punk kid with an over-active mouth who would probably never amount to much in the Turks being foisted off on his equally worthless son. No, the man would never recognize the skill that Reno already showed, would never see past the rough edges that would most likely make a lot of people underestimate the redhead. As if Veld would ever take anyone into the Turks who he did not think held a vast amount of promise.
Veld chuckled at the whispered words. "Consider him a bit of a birthday present, and don’t complain to me if you can’t get him to shut up. At least he’s housebroken."
Rufus did not say anything else, too busy watching the fight to think up an equally bland response. Right now, he wanted to observe *his* Turk a bit longer, to get a better idea of the redhead’s potential. He no longer felt so young and unappreciated, was now aware of new possibilities that had not been there before this morning. History was full of lessons of how much could be achieved if one had enough loyal support. One underfed and overactive gutter rat was not much of a start, but it was more than he had possessed a mere ten minutes ago. More importantly, Reno would be something his father could never take away, not if Veld was offering the Turk to him. No longer annoyed at his lack of height, Rufus leaned against the balcony and continued to watch.
Reminded of the past as he followed Tseng up to the viewing balcony, Rufus reflected on how some things never changed. True, the old ShinRa headquarters had been destroyed and he was much older now, but today’s activity contained a sense of déjà vu. If only he would find Veld waiting for him, an impossible wish that filled him with sorrow for a moment.
That emotion was soon pushed aside as he caught sight of his lover sparring with two new Turk recruits. Reno was holding back, taking the time to gage the two young men’s skills and lull them into a sense of false security. That gave Rufus enough time to make himself comfortable against the railing. "I haven’t seen Elena and Kali in the last two days."
The warmth in Tseng’s deep voice informed him that the Head of Turks was
smiling without him having to look for confirmation. "They are involved in
handgun training. It’s… going well."
Rufus took that to mean that the two women had probably terrified the male recruits and a good bit of the female ones as well, and proven the point that being petite and pretty as well as tall and sexy did not mean they were not two of the more lethal people currently alive. He held back on a comment that he hoped that Tseng was properly enjoying Elena’s happiness at being able to play with both guns and the recruits’ minds.
Besides, that remark would only be turned back on him, he was certain. Reno had been bouncing around in excitement over ‘training’ this batch of recruits all week, which had led to several days free of any fights and filled with quite a bit of pleasurable… amusements for Rufus to enjoy. It probably would *not* be a good idea to remind Tseng about him being late for the staff meeting this morning, even if the blowjob in the seventeenth floor’s supply closet had been more than worth suffering his Head of Turk’s exasperated sighs and aggrieved looks for the rest of the day.
Ah, Reno must have finished taking his measure of the recruits, both of whom loomed above him by at least a head’s difference in height and weighed enough each for two of redhead. Rufus was willing to bet that Tseng had purposely chosen two of the largest recruits for the first sparring lesson to reinforce what was about to be learned.
No longer on the defensive, Reno made the switch in mere seconds, moving toward the recruits instead of away. He clearly was playing with them in that his kicks did not break any bones or knock them unconscious – yet - although they would be covered with bruises by the end of the savage barrage.
"He’s gotten faster," Rufus remarked as he watched his lover execute a perfect roundhouse kick that knocked one of the recruits back a couple of feet, blood now pouring from the young man’s right temple. Neither of the recruits had any chance of landing a blow now that Reno was on the offensive.
"But lost a little accuracy," Tseng was quick to point out, even
though he sounded unaffected by the slight lack of skill in one of his best
Turks. "It’s to be expected, and he’ll learn to compensate for the
increased speed soon enough."
More than likely, Tseng had agreed to these sparring sessions in part to give Reno a lot of practice in adjusting to his increased speed. At least the lucky bastard had gotten something positive out of the sensitivity to anything Mako related and those odd, glowing eyes that were the result of his idiotic action several months ago.
The rest of the recruits were gathered around the edges of the sparring area, their mouths agape and eyes wide from shock as they watched what they had probably considered to be two of their best get their asses ground into the mats by someone most of them had overlooked as being deadly. Reno had not changed much in the years; the few pounds he had managed to put on only enhancing his androgynous looks rather than erasing them. That his hair was a long braid that cut through the air like a fiery whip was a sign that he did not take the recruits seriously since he did not tuck it out of reach, and his lean form with prominent ribs was on display as he only wore a pair of loose black cotton pants. Rufus made a mental note to shove some food down his lover’s throat that evening even though he knew Reno would just burn off the calories in a matter of hours.
Along with the amusement he got out of seeing his lover so happy and the pride of knowing that such a deadly person was his to command, there was that warm sense of possession as he took in the people staring at *his* Turk with obvious awe. As was to be expected by someone trained by Veld and Tseng, Reno’s skills were impressive enough to deserve that awe, though the speed and grace were all his own. Not bad for a gutter rat.
The two recruits were now lying on the floor, one of them unconscious and the other moaning in pain from a dislocated left shoulder. Reno bounced on the balls of his feet for a few seconds, his eyes glowing and his face barely flushed. When Rufus clapped in appreciation of the show he had witnessed, Reno blew him a kiss and winked. Meanwhile, it was clear that many of the recruits had failed to notice him and Tseng watching over the sparring session, which could not really be held against them considering what had taken place before them.
"Alim will be sure to complain," Tseng warned as he tapped something on his cellphone, most likely a critique of the two injured recruits’ fighting techniques.
"Feel free to inform him that it’s better to patch them up now than
deal with major injuries when they fail while on a mission," Rufus pointed
out, amused at the way Tseng then grinned in anticipation. "Besides, I
believe that Reno showed some true restraint for once."
Tseng snorted in response and finished typing. "Only to make them think that he’s not that dangerous. As soon as a couple of them get cocky with him, there will be broken bones." He did not sound very bothered by that prospect.
"I guess that’s the price that has to be paid to keep him out of trouble for a few days." For himself, Rufus did not care as long as Reno did not permanently damage any promising candidates. It was best to see what the recruits were made of now, and he got to enjoy a lover amped on fighting but not pushed to the edge by death or injuries. The next several nights promised to be very… energetic as well as pleasurable. It was a good thing that he had cleared his calendar as much as possible for some time to recover from those delightful activities.
"Oi, who wants ta see if I jus’ got lucky there, eh?" Reno asked, his below-Plate accent laid on thick while his expression was that of a blissful martyr; he looked much too peaceful and innocent to be about to stop just short of maiming whoever it was turned out to be foolish enough to be his next victim.
The recruits exchanged looks with each other, and Tseng typed some more as if noting which ones appeared cautious about Reno’s offer. Then they were clearly sizing Reno up again as if to judge for themselves if he had indeed ‘gotten lucky’ with their compatriots. No doubt they wondered if he had been left winded or exhausted by the previous session, which Rufus could tell them would not be the case for at least a couple of hours. Ah, the benefits of having a lover with such wonderful stamina.
He watched Reno spar three more times with the recruits, each match ending with their utter defeat and him untouched. Over in the corner was Rude, busy all the while taking notes on the recruits while he smiled, no doubt entertained by the way his partner suckered them in and relieved that Reno got a chance to fight that did not endanger him in any manner. Rude called out Reno’s name once, when the redhead had become a bit too enthusiastic about bashing a recruit’s head into the floor.
"I think I’ve seen enough." Mindful of an approaching meeting, Rufus left Tseng to his silent observation and made his way down to the training area. Rod and Cyril fell into step behind him once he reached the bottom of the stairs, Rod grinning in obvious humor over watching the recruits get their asses kicked while Cyril at least maintained a proper demeanor. If anything, the young Turk probably was recalling when he had been in the recruits’ shoes.
Rufus went over to his lover, who was chuckling as he stretched out his arms as if to keep the muscles from going stiff. "If any of them require a potion, I’m docking your pay," he warned, unable to resist tucking back a ragged strand of hair that had escaped Reno’s haphazard braid.
"Aw, you’re always such a tyrant, Boss," Reno teased even as he showed a modicum of respect for once. "I’m trying my best!"
"I don’t accept ‘try’ from my Turks, especially you," Rufus shot back, his voice harsh even as he ran his right thumb along Reno’s left tattoo. Despite all the fighting, his lover had barely broken out in a sweat.
"Yes, sir." Reno was still smiling, but there was no humor in the words. "You never do and we all know it." He stroked his fingers along the back of Rufus’ right hand.
"Just keep in mind that the purpose of training them is to have efficient *and* undamaged Turks in the end." Deciding that it would be best to put a few rumors to rest, Rufus leaned forward for a quick kiss. It was not as if it was a secret anymore that they were lovers, and it would show that he was not above chastising any employee.
Of course the kiss ended up more passionate than he intended, which should have been evident with how wired Reno was just then. When Rufus found himself wondering where the nearest locker room or supply closet was, he forced himself to take a step back from his addictive lover. "Remember, a day’s pay for each potion." The warning repeated, he turned on his heel and walked away.
Judging from the suddenly doubtful expressions on some of the recruits’ faces, he assumed that his lover would soon have more heads to bash in as they once again underestimated the Turk. Anyone who believed that Rufus and Tseng would allow someone to achieve such a high position in the Turks just because of who he was sleeping with deserved such a beating. Making a mental note of those individuals, Rufus decided that he would only dock Reno half a day’s pay if any of them needed a potion.
The sound of someone being slammed into the mat echoed through the large room behind him as he left, a pleased smile on his face as he dwelled upon what would happen later that night. Reno and Elena were not the only ones who enjoyed there being new Turk recruits.
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