*******

Rufus refused to allow himself to wince as Dr. Alim carefully cleaned the bullet wound in his left shoulder. Off to his right side stood Tseng, busy talking into his cell phone in a low voice. Rufus focused on what the man was saying to distract himself from the pain and to help clear his head.

"… already back? We’re still in Medical. I want you and Rude to assume responsibility for guarding the President while I… question the suspects." Tseng paused to listen to something that the person on the other line, presumably Reno, said. "Is that correct? Then get here as soon as possible." He closed the phone and slid it into his suit jacket’s interior pocket as he turned his attention back to Rufus. "Reno just informed me that during the questioning of one of the saboteurs of our offices in Sector One there was mention of something about serving as a distraction for others of their company." By the door in the small, cramped examination room, Elena’s already straight back went a bit stiffer and her lovely face was marred by a scowl as the importance of that statement sunk in.

Even with a rather large hole in his shoulder and his head muddled by painkillers, Rufus grasped what Tseng was saying. "They guessed that if they caused enough trouble that I’d send at least a few of my best Turks to handle the situation, thus leaving myself exposed to an assassination attempt." He didn’t need Tseng or Elena’s curt nods to tell him that he’d spoken the truth. Annoyance washed through him, stronger than the pain, at the thought that he’d acted exactly as his enemies had planned. No matter that he hadn’t had much choice but to send Rude and Reno to handle the situation in Sector One as they were among the most experienced of the Turks available. Meteor and his years in seclusion had cost the Shinra Company much in the way of valuable resources, chief among them the company’s ‘Administrative Research’ branch.

"They underestimated your choice in security," Elena commented, ever the one to put a positive spin on things. Rufus began to glare in response but the expression changed into a wince when something sharp poked into his wound.

"I believe that is the last of it," Dr. Alim muttered as he set the bloody forceps onto a tray littered with what Rufus belated realized was scraps of his clothes that had been forced into the wound. The doctor picked up a vial of elixir and held it out. "Please drink this, President."

Relieved that the injury would soon be nothing more than a memory, Rufus nodded and eagerly swallowed the elixir. Within seconds, he felt warmth spread through his body and concentrate in his mangled shoulder. When the pain began to fade, he turned to face Tseng. "Begin ‘questioning’ the suspects but do not break them until I join you. I have one or two matters to attend to before I can join you." He had to prove to the department heads that he was still alive and in charge and ensure that no negative news leaked out over this incident. Foreseeing a very busy day ahead, Rufus wanted to strangle his Head of Media for suggesting that visits to the newly refurbished Reactors would be a good way to garner positive publicity. At least the assassination attempt had occurred on Shinra property – which was troubling in and of itself. The Shinra Company had always had its enemies but the ones it faced now seemed especially determined to bring it down. That was something he refused to allow to happen, not after sacrificing so much and working so hard to restore his company to its former glory.

"Let me see." Dr. Alim used an alcohol wipe to clean the remaining blood from Rufus’ shoulder and reveal healed skin. "You shouldn’t exert much pressure on the shoulder for at least half an hour but the injury is healed now." Once the blood was gone, he stacked the tray of discarded wipes, medical instruments and so forth onto the empty one and picked them up. "Good day, President." He bowed slightly, his face haggard and his body tense, and went to knock on the door. One of the Turks stationed outside opened it to allow him to leave.

Rufus knew that he could trust the doctor but now he felt free to discuss some things he hadn’t been willing to while Dr. Alim was in the room. "I want every lead to the Earth First Energy Corporation tracked down and scrutinized. I want to know who they are employing and what their weaknesses are. Once that data is accumulated," he stared directly at Tseng as he spoke the words, his eyes narrowed and voice cold," I want the corporation quietly but completely annihilated." He didn’t need to explain in depth what he wanted done since he had faith that Tseng would do whatever was necessary. While it was important to cultivate an image that both he and his company had ‘softened’ since Meteor, he was not about to let some upstarts destroy all of his hard work. Old tactics could still be employed as long as that was done with some discretion.

Tseng bowed his head. "Understood, Sir. I have a feeling that the interrogation will be a long one so there is no need for you to hurry to join us." He smoothed his hands down the front of his suit and stared at the door. "I’m hoping Rude and Reno have some information that will assist us in the endeavor."

"If I haven’t arrived by the time the suspects are about to break then call me. I don’t plan to take very long," Rufus commented as he slowly eased off the examination table to his feet. The elixir had healed his wound and eliminated the pain but he still felt a little light-headed, either from the painkillers administered before he arrived here or the loss of blood. There was still some time needed before he would be completely recovered from the injury but he felt it was a condition that would soon improve if he just moved around. Wobbling a little on his feet, he ignored the hand that Elena offered him and forced himself to walk steadily to the bloodied garments draped over the room’s only chair.

After a moment of sorting through the clothes he realized that everything but his pants had been ruined. One good thing about wearing so many layers was that his black shirt, white vest, jacket and long coat had soaked up all the blood from his injury. However, he couldn’t exactly go wandering the hallways dressed only in his trousers without causing a fuss he seriously hoped to avoid.

When he turned to order Elena to fetch a change of clothes from his office, he heard a loud voice drift through the medical room’s thin walls and doors. "Oi, Cyril! I take it that the President is in there?" Trust Reno to never quietly ask a question when he could shout it instead.

"Yes, sir." Cyril was still new enough to the Turks to refer to Reno as ‘sir’, a habit that he would surely be broken of soon. "Tseng and Elena are in there with him, although Dr. Alim left a minute ago."

"Huhn." The sound of Reno’s loud voice grew closer. "So, you and Mason were assigned to him today, right?" There was an odd note to Reno’s voice, a seriousness that it didn’t usually possess. Intrigued, Rufus quietly approached the door, his right hand held up to prevent Tseng or Elena from speaking.

"Yes, sir," Cyril repeated and was echoed by Mason.

"’Yes, sir’," Reno mocked, and there was a loud, derisive snort that Rufus assumed was from Rude. "So how the hell did the President end up shot while on your watch? I helped to train your asses so I know you’re not completely incompetent." There was no trace of Reno’s usually easy-going manner. In all the years that Rufus had known the redhead, he didn’t think that he’d ever heard him like this, so angry yet cold.

"Sir?" Cyril stuttered, and it sounded like Mason had mumbled something as well. "We did our job to the best of our abilities."

"If you think Tseng is going to accept that answer then you’re shit out of luck," Rude contributed to the conversation, and Rufus looked over his shoulder to see the Head of Turks smile grimly and nod once. He had the distinct impression that Tseng was only waiting until after the interrogation to deal with the two new Turks outside and their failure today.

Sounding defiant, Mason decided to defend himself and his partner. "We did exactly what we were trained to do. The assassins must have been there before we arrived early to for security setup."

"Probably but you should have spotted them during a sweep of the place. From what I’ve heard the guy had a pretty clear shot at the President, who was lucky to notice him in time. Your boss isn’t supposed to do your job for you, asshole." There was a truly nasty note to Reno’s voice, a tone usually reserved when he was about to beat the shit out of some unlucky target. "Let me guess, you were so pumped up at being trusted with an important job that you were too busy jerking off to protect your employer."

"The hell you say!" Mason’s loud cry was probably heard all throughout Medical. "We take our job seriously, not as an excuse to fuck the boss! You have it eas- oomph!" Something heavy impacted very hard against the room’s outer wall, causing an insipid watercolor of a tranquil seascape to fall to the floor. Rufus once more held his hand up, this time to prevent Elena or Tseng from leaving the room.

"Ya know, the funny thing is even when I’m fucking the President, I still keep him safe. And if you think he cuts me any slack because I happen to enjoy bending over for him then you just insulted the hell out of your boss, you stupid shit," Reno snarled.

There was the sound of a throat being cleared. "May I also point out that the walls here are very thin which means you insulted the President within his hearing, Mason. That isn’t a very intelligent or healthy thing to do." Rude’s already low voice became even deeper. "May I also point out that *I* don’t engage in sexual relations with the President yet I still manage to do my job and keep him safe. I would be more careful with my insults and allegations in the future, if I were you." Again, something impacted against the wall, followed by a whimper of pain.

At Tseng’s questioning look, Rufus gestured that it was now safe to interrupt the conversation outside. He walked a few steps to the right so he could look out the door when Tseng opened it to see a dazed Mason sitting slumped on the floor with Cyril standing beside him, face flushed as he glanced back and forth between his partner and Rude. The tall Turk stood with his right fist clutched in his left hand and beside him was Reno, as rumpled in appearance as ever.

The redhead looked at first Tseng and then Rufus and smiled. "Guess I don’t get to take things over just yet, huh? You two are still around." His tone was its normal blend of humor and antagonism, his smile amused but his eyes seemed brighter than normal as they stared intently at Rufus.

"The thought of you in charge is too frightening to contemplate," Tseng coolly replied. "Cyril and Mason, you are relieved of duty for the day. I expect to see you in my office tomorrow morning at eight o’clock with detailed reports of what happened today and what you will do in the future to ensure that such an incident never occurs again." His voice slipped from cool teasing to icy disapproval, only to warm when he regarded Rude. "Do you have the information?"

Rude handed over a small data disk, his hands bereft of gloves and a smear of something reddish brown on the right cuff of his white shirt. "We recorded the interrogation. You should find some useful information to deal with the guys you caught today." He sounded as if he was discussing a shopping list or something equally inane.

"Thank you." Tseng glanced over his shoulder at Elena, who quickly joined him outside. "I want you to guard the President until further notice." For a moment the look he gave Rude appeared to be rather sympathetic. "Hopefully I’ll have suitable relief lined up later tonight."

"Understood," Rude nodded and took up guard outside while Reno merely smirked and saluted with his baton as he sauntered into the examination room. As the door closed, Elena could be heard admonishing Mason to get his butt off the floor.

Rufus folded his arms over his bare chest as his lover approached, his left should aching slightly at the movement. "I wasn’t aware that our relationship was a matter to be discussed loudly in the middle of the Medical department," he remarked with faint disapproval. Not that their relationship was much of a secret but a sense of decorum in regards to it was a good thing – and apparently something that Reno utterly lacked.

Reno’s grin turned into a grimace and he came to a stop about a foot away. "Hey, I wasn’t the idiot who brought it up." He stared at Rufus’ upper body and reached out to lightly run his fingers along newly formed scar tissue. "Must be nice to be the boss; elixir’s too precious for us grunts."

"One of the perks of being the president," Rufus answered. His right hand twitched to comb through Reno’s tousled hair and pull the redhead closer for a kiss. The thought of almost being killed made him horny as hell, made him want to see just how much Reno really did enjoy ‘bending over’ for him. He had to strictly tell himself that there was work to be done now and that his body’s illogical need to prove that he was still alive would have to wait until later. First he had to reassure his employees that he was uninjured then deal with an increasingly hostile attempt to destroy his company.

"Yeah, perks like being shot. You ever get the impression that some people don’t like you?" Reno taunted, the brightness in his eyes slightly fading as his right hand gently massaged Rufus’ healed shoulder. "Maybe it’s your personality or something."

Chuckling under his breath, Rufus allowed his hand to reach for that improbably crimson hair and entangle its fingers deep within the ragged strands so he could tug Reno closer. "All today proves is that there are people out there who consider me a threat to their plans. I can live with that." He didn’t stop pulling on his lover’s hair until Reno’s face was centimeters from his own.

Reno’s arms slid around Rufus’ shoulders in return. "Just as long as you keep living since there’s not much fun in being dead." Reno leaned forward to brush his lips against Rufus’, his eyes drifting shut as he was kissed.

Holding his lover close, Rufus allowed himself this moment of peace and quiet. The feel of Reno’s lean, warm body against his cleared the last of the light-headedness from his mind and energized him. Once again he felt the overwhelming urge to back Reno to the examination table and bend him over it for a fast and furious fuck but he firmly squashed the impulse. Sighing in regret, he broke the kiss off before his hormones got the better of him.

Reno made a low sound of disappointment when Rufus pulled away, his eyes snapping open and a frown settling on his face. "What’s wrong?" he demanded, his hands skimming down Rufus’ back to settle on Rufus’ ass.

Putting a bit of necessary distance between them, Rufus slid his left hand inside his lover’s unzipped jacket and smiled when he felt fine silk. As he thought, Reno was wearing one of his shirts today. "Take your shirt off." he ordered as he reluctantly released his hold on Reno’s hair.

The command got him a wicked grin and an arched eyebrow. "Oh, I see, I can’t talk about sex in Medical but there’s nothing wrong with doing it here," Reno drawled as he quickly shed first his baton and then his jacket. His fingers flew over the few done buttons on his shirt and the garment was soon shrugged off and about to be dropped onto the floor.

Rufus snatched it before that could happen. "Sorry, but we’re not having sex now." His lips curved into a smirk that put Reno’s to shame for a moment and stunned his lover. "We’ll most definitely do so later, but now there’s work that needs to be done." He pulled the shirt on, the fabric warm from Reno’s body. Going over to his ruined clothes, he appropriated the gold cufflinks from his black shirt to use with the one he currently wore.

"You ever think that maybe people are trying to shoot you because you’re such a killjoy?" Reno muttered nastily as he picked his jacket off the floor, shook it twice and shoved his arms into its sleeves. "Work, work, work, didn’t you ever hear to stop and fuck the roses whenever you can?"

"That’s ‘smell the roses’," Rufus corrected, the corners of his lips twitching at the surly expression on his lover’s face. "Also, I don’t think I’d ever use the word ‘rose’ to describe you."

Reno definitely didn’t appear very happy at the moment. His face was drawn into a glower and his eyes were a pale blue that signaled the beginning of a terrible temper tantrum. "Whatever, all I know is I’m not getting any sex and that you’re a damn cocktease," he grumbled.

His patience finally growing thin, Rufus grasped his lover’s chin with his right hand and gave it a painful squeeze. "Behave yourself or you won’t have any sex for some time to come," he warned, his voice and expression cold. He needed Reno focused on work right now, not in the mood to fuck things up just for the fun of it. The man could be such a child at times - a destructive one at that. Rufus normally didn’t mind as long as it wasn’t his possessions being destroyed.

For a moment there was a dangerous light in Reno’s eyes that made Rufus want to draw back but it quickly faded. "You steal my shirt and make me work all night, and I don’t even get to have any fun." If he wasn’t one of the deadliest men that Rufus knew he’d say that Reno was pouting. "You’re ordering takeout tonight for Rude and I from that fancy Wutian place he likes so much."

If anyone other than Reno had given him an order like that, they’d received a chilly look at best and a gun in their face at worst. However, Rufus merely gazed evenly at his lover as he tucked the hem of his shirt in. "First off, this isn’t your shirt, it’s mine." Something hot and acrid began to burn in his stomach when he thought about how Reno was demanding something for Rude. "Secondly, what makes you think you’ll have any time to eat?" he asked, his voice no longer cold but rough with desire as he once more tangled his right hand in Reno’s hair and grasped the strands tightly.

Mercurial as ever, Reno went from pouting to threatening to smiling happily in the space of a couple of minutes. "That’s why I said to order Wutian so Rude won’t bitch at me too much tomorrow for having to sit alone in the kitchen all night," he purred.

Satisfied with that answer, Rufus allowed himself one more kiss before he returned to work. His mouth crashed into Reno’s, his tongue thrusting demandingly into the redhead’s mouth as he savored his lover. More than anything he wished he could indulge the insatiable bastard but duty called. Promising himself a night of pleasure once work was finished, he nipped Reno’s bottom lip hard enough to bruise the sensitive flesh then stepped away.

"I need to go to my office and finish dressing before I can assure everyone that I’m still alive," he explained as he adjusted the cuffs of his shirt, his voice only slightly breathless from the kiss. "Then we’ll sit in on the interrogation and see what Tseng finds out."

Playing with the zipper of his jacket, Reno nodded in a distracted manner. "Those bastards aren’t going to stand much of a chance against him. If they’re smart they’ll save themselves a lot of pain and tell him what he wants." He looked at Rufus, a nasty smile on his face and his eyes pale with anger once more. "Then again, they were pretty stupid fucks to try and kill you so I’m sure we’ll be in for a fun show."

"Yes." Excitement pooled in Rufus’ stomach at the thought of seeing Tseng in action, in him and probably Reno joining in as well. He wasn’t inclined to pity people in general but felt absolutely nothing but satisfaction at the thought of torturing someone who thought to kill him and destroy his company. "Let’s go."

"You’re the boss," Reno drawled and opened the door. After a slight pause to make sure everything was all right outside, he stepped aside to allow Rufus through.

"Never forget that," Rufus murmured as he walked past his lover. Reno flashed him a wink and obediently fell into step behind him. Feeling perfectly secure now that he was flanked by his Turks, Rufus strode through Medical toward his office.

*******

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