by nekojita


Reno bared his teeth and rocked onto the tips of his toes, knowing very well how much his jittery actions annoyed his partner and not really caring. He *hated* assignments like this where Rufus was in plain view for any sniper or would-be assassin to take a shot at him; no matter all the time the Turks spent pouring over the location beforehand in an attempt to secure it, there just wasn’t a good enough way to lock down a fucking outdoor playground. Why the hell Rufus had to waste money building and donating such a useless thing to the city’s orphans was beyond him. He’d made do with playing on the streets when he was a kid, exploring abandoned buildings and warehouses, climbing up the supports that held the Plate above them, even sneaking into the sewers a time or two. Shit like that built character, even if no one believed him. At the very least, it sure as hell made for one very impressive immune system. Nope, kids these days were wimps who settled for stupid day-glow colored plastic pipes and swing sets and sandboxes.

"Kids are fucking spoiled today," he muttered beneath his breath and did his best not to bounce on his toes. Beside him, Rude uttered another long-suffering sigh and cracked the knuckles of his right hand as if he wanted to reach out and throttle something… most likely Reno.

"What the hell do you know about kids?" Rude’s deep voice was pitched low so it didn’t carry very far.

"That they don’t need all this shit." His attention mostly on Rufus, Reno jerked his left hand through the air in the direction of the playground’s equipment, mindful of the baton tucked into his sleeve. Since the press was here to take what seemed to be a hundred fucking pictures of Rufus in front of the various parts of equipment, he and Rude had to be on their best behavior. Whatever amusement he planned on deriving from the fact that there was a bunch of kids standing by Rufus - all part of the photo opportunity to redeem ShinRa’s name - who the standoffish bastard had to actually interact with once he was done with his speech, was tempered by his growing sense of nerves over the assignment. Too bad this whole thing was taking place in the middle of a clearing surrounded by a bunch of buildings instead of in some gym or warehouse. By Reno’s last count, there were over one hundred and twelve windows from which a sniper could fire a bullet or a materia bolt.

While Rufus prattled on about ‘building the future’ and a bunch of other nonsense, Reno kept his attention flickering about all those windows and the buildings’ rooftops as well. Half a dozen other Turks were stationed about, and he could hear them talk over the comm tucked into his left ear. Joel and Carmen had just finished their sweep while an arguing Pamela and Tosh were halfway through their sector. That left Emmanuel and Greg, who had been quiet since their last check-in.

A strong gust of wind blew some of Reno’s long bangs into his eyes, and he cursed out loud both the weather and the fact that he was having a hard time keeping his hair tucked back today. Why oh why was Rufus dedicating a playground to some brats when it was so fucking cold and windy? He grimaced as he fought to tuck back his hair, purposely ignoring the angry glare Rude sent his way for swearing in front of the kids like that. Little fuckers had to learn sometime, didn’t they?

Shaking his head, he blinked his eyes and all of a sudden the world turned into a kaleidoscope of colors. What had been people were now flares of light, the smaller figures burning brighter than the large ones Reno knew were adults. Beneath the ground and through the air were streams of various intensities flowing around voids of darkness that he took to be objects like buildings and cars and other man-made things. Whenever someone touched an object, a faint glow remained for about a minute, helping him to figure out the shapes of things. Water and electric lines also helped to define the objects around him, everything a riot of color that somehow made an odd sense.

He guessed that a lot of people would be ‘ooo-ing’ and ‘ah-ing’ over the pretty lights and such, but this was getting *damn* annoying. Ever since that kidnapping attempt by Earth First, his vision kept going all fucked up like this, and his skin tingled as if bugs were crawling on it whenever he was around materia – the reaction much worse whenever the materia was being used. He’d been hoping the effects would wear off as he finished recuperating from his injuries, but if anything, they just got worse. The attacks would almost definitely happen whenever he felt anything strongly, and he was growing annoyed at how often he had to hide his eyes lately. They felt as if they were burning whenever the attacks came at him, not entirely a painful sensation but not something he wanted to draw any attention to, either. Rufus would just send him down to Medical for Alim to poke at him and he’d probably end off duty for a while until the doctor figured out what was happening. He wasn’t willing to sit on his ass and do nothing for however long that took… and hope that was the only amount of time he was forbidden to work.

About to duck his head before Rude noticed anything, he felt that awful tingling sensation and noticed a flare of bright green with red flames flickering around its edges out of the corner of his eyes. Situated about five stories up in the building at nine o’clock, the flare began to burn brighter as Reno’s brain kicked into gear and sent his body moving. He had his baton out before he was two steps away from Rude, busy screaming over the comms as he ran toward Rufus. "Target, five-twelve at nine! Materia, you assholes!"

Rude was in motion as soon as the words were said, racing toward the building with his gun already drawn. While he and the other Turks went after whoever was about to fry Rufus’ ass, Reno finally reached his boss, shoving in front of him some kid who’d been standing in the way. Once he was close enough, he activated the barrier to protect him and Rufus, his skin downright twitching as it formed around them and the brat.

Two frantic heartbeats later, fire slammed into the barrier, completely deflected before it could do any harm. Reno stood in front of Rufus, his arms around his lover and the sniveling brat trapped between them, and waited for another attack. After a couple of anxious minutes and the growing impulse to kill whichever kid was screaming so shrilly, he realized that another blast of fire wasn’t coming and slowly straightened up. "Rude?"

"Got him." His partner didn’t say anything else, which was rather understandable considering the situation.

Smiling in relief, Reno stepped back a little, trying to judge Rufus’ reaction to the incident but unable to do so since his lover was still only colored lights in human form. At least he’d gotten the hang on things enough to realize that Rufus wasn’t injured since that usually translated into spots of darkness. "The one threat’s down," he said. "Check for others."

Rude’s response was a rather eloquent grunt that clearly conveyed, ‘don’t tell your betters what to do, you slack-ass bastard’. The quiet man definitely had a way of getting his meaning across, Reno thought with an amused smile as he looked around for any other signs of danger.

The new playground was thrown into pandemonium, filled with screaming reporters and kids who huddled behind whatever they could in fear of another attack. Rufus, however, stood up straight and didn’t seem afraid – though he did have Reno’s barrier around him, still. No, he reached out with a quickness that surprised Reno and grabbed his chin tightly enough to hurt.

"What’s wrong with your eyes? They’re glowing." Rufus’ hold grew even tighter, which made Reno hiss in pain and try to pull free. Inwardly, he cursed himself for not flipping down his sunglasses or keeping his eyes downcast as he’d checked things out.

Dammit, funny eyes right now was the least of their problems. He tried to tell his lover that they needed to get out of here since the shield wouldn’t last forever, but Rufus’s hold prevented him from being able to speak clearly. Gritting his teeth in annoyance, he blinked his eyes furiously for several seconds, hoping that they’d go back to normal quickly. That seemed to work most times… but no such luck today. He was left with ‘glowing’ eyes and trapped in a very small space with a kid screaming her head off and a boyfriend who wasn’t focused on the proper priorities right now.

Managing to jerk his head free, he glared at Rufus for a moment and tapped his fingers against the handle of his baton. "This won’t hold out forever, so we need to get somewhere safe." He didn’t want to wait around to see if someone could blast the barrier with a spell strong enough to break it.

Rufus nodded, his attention still seeming to be focused directly on Reno, though it was hard to tell when he couldn’t make out a person’s features. Rufus picked up the screaming kid, something that Reno couldn’t do right now since he had to keep both hands free to use his weapons, and waited for Reno to drop the shield.

On the count of three he did just that, letting the hot baton fall from his hand and swing on its strap as he pulled his gun out of his coat. Holding it ready, he ushered Rufus and the brat toward the limo, constantly searching for another threat all the while. He felt more than saw the sudden flare of materia and whirled around in time to shoot the woman who was readying a fire spell in Rufus’ direction. The first bullet went through her right shoulder, making her stop in the middle of the spell to scream in pain, and the bullet in her lower belly would make sure she wasn’t in any shape to cast another one while leaving her alive for questioning.

"For fuck’s sake, Rude!" Reno snarled as he got Rufus and the kid into the limo, slamming the door shut as soon as they both were inside. The car was fortified enough to withstand most bullets and should do okay during a fire attack; it was still a hunk of steel sitting in the middle of the road when Reno would much prefer to be in the air and getting the hell away from here.

"She slipped out of the building while we were busy with the rest of them. That should be all of them. Greg’s in bad shape, but Mannie’s with it enough to give us a headcount," Rude reported. "More backup’s on the way."

"It better fuckin’ be, an’ Mannie’s gonna lose his fuckin’ head over this!" Even though Rude said they got all the assassins, Reno didn’t stop looking around, waiting for his skin to start crawling again. He knew that Rufus had to be on the phone with Tseng right now, and he couldn’t relax until more Turks showed up to fully secure the area. "Someone get the *fuck* out here, secure the bitch who just trie’ta fry my ass an’ shut the fuckin’ brats up!" While he wasn’t Tseng, he sure as hell expected to be obeyed right now and didn’t stop cursing until Pamela and Tosh ran out of one of the buildings. Pamela went straight to the injured assassin, pushing aside some idiot aside before removing the gauntlet and supposedly bandaging up the bullet wounds so the assassin lived long enough to be questioned; Reno wasn’t exactly sure since everyone was still glowing, but he noticed the black spots lessen a bit after a few moments of Pamela’s attention. Tosh didn’t have much luck getting everyone to shut up, not until Rude walked into the center of the playground, loudly cleared his throat and told everyone to *be quiet*.

Reno’s partner sure as hell didn’t talk that much when around non-Turks – hell, sometimes even to other Turks – but when he did speak, people damn sure listened. Leaving that situation to Rude, Reno told Joel and Carmen to start searching the bodies of the assassins in the building for any info on who the hell had hired them, certain that once Reeve’s goons showed up, WRO would try to take over things. He had no problem letting them deal with a bunch of screaming kids and nosy reporters, but he had to give Tseng some information or his head would be just as sore as Emmanuel’s.

The Turks were the first back-up to arrive, with Tseng leading the charge. Their boss calmly climbed out of the helicopter, headed straight to the limo and grabbed Reno’s right arm. He didn’t even pause when Reno glared at him, just opened the car door, reached in for the still-screaming brat, pulled her out and shoved Reno inside. "Stay," he ordered, deep voice taking on an edge of sharpness that signaled he was to be obeyed *or else*. Reno barely had a chance to say something before the door was slammed in his face.

"What the hell is that about!" Reno pounded on the glass a few times before being yanked back from the door. "An’ what’s your problem?" he asked Rufus, right before his chin was grabbed again. "Hey!"

"Shut up." Rufus leaned in close, a bright green sphere in his left hand that made Reno’s skin twitch to be near. He’d mostly gotten used to the materia in his baton by now, but this ‘felt’ brutally cold, so most likely it was one of Rude’s ice materia that had been stashed in the car. "You’re flinching from it."

"Fu’ yeah. I’s col’," Reno slurred, doing his best to talk when his skin was crawling harshly enough that he thought it would break free from his body and Rufus had a death grip on his jaw. "Ba’ th’ fu’ off."

"No." There was enough anger in that one word that Reno stopped trying to shove his lover away, now more worried about backing up as far as possible from the man. That was impossible to do since Rufus refused to let go of him. "Your eyes start glowing like one of those damn Remnants, you reacted *before* there was any sign of that materia blast, and you don’t seem very bothered by any of this. You’ve been hiding something from me, Reno."

Oh shit. Reno attempted to pry Rufus’ hand from his jaw, only to end up pulled forward then slammed back against the seat. "Ow, you fu’er!"

At least Rufus finally let go. "Tell me what’s going on or you’re suspended from duty for the next six months."

"For fuck’s sake, don’t you think that’s a bit much?" Reno yanked the comm from his ear so he wasn’t distracted by Tseng barking out a bunch of orders. Since he couldn’t go much on visual cues right now, he needed whatever help he could get on reading what sounded to be a very pissed off Rufus.

"Not at all, especially when you’ve been using your sunglasses a lot for the past month or so. You’ve deliberately kept something hidden from me and Tseng, Reno, and I am *not* pleased." As if one couldn’t tell that from how utterly cold Rufus’ voice had gone.

Jerking his hands through his hair, Reno wished again that he’d thought to cover his eyes earlier. "It started after I got injured a few weeks ago – I kept waiting for it to go away once I got better but it didn’t," he admitted, just wanting to get this over with.

Rufus was quiet for several seconds. "So it would seem that it has something to do with your exposure to so much Mako. What else aren’t you saying?" He held the sphere toward Reno again.

"Keep it away, dammit." Reno batted weakly at Rufus’ hand, not wanting to start a physical fight right now. "Yeah, I can sense that shit, too. I’m even figuring out how to tell the different materia apart." More than anything, he wished he was out of the car and dealing with sniveling brats and reporters.

"What about enhanced strength or speed? Have you noticed any physical traits associated with SOLDIERs?" Rufus asked, setting the materia back into its metal container as he spoke.

Reno wished he could start the day over again. He’d done his job, kept Rufus safe and now he was being treated as if he was nothing but a problem. "No, I’m sure Cloud could still kick my ass if he tried so don’t get any ideas of having me take him on." Reno folded his arms over his chest and began to scoot away from his furious lover. "Look, Alim checked me out from head ta toe before lettin’ me back on duty, an’ the only thing he noticed is that my metabolism is still a bit jacked. I ain’t a damn SOLDIER an’ I’m certainly not gonna change into Sephiroth. My eyesight gets a bit funky at times an’ I can tell ya what type of materia ya got in your pocket; that’s *it*." Nearly blasted to shit by his own bomb, and all Reno got out of it was the urge to scratch his damn skin off when around materia. Life so wasn’t fair at times, but he’d always known that. "What’s the big deal?"

Once again moving with a surprising speed, Rufus grabbed hold of Reno’s coat and yanked him forward, until he almost fell onto Rufus’ lap. "I rely on you to keep me safe, and you hid a potentially debilitating condition from me," Rufus hissed. Reno was sure his weren’t the only pair of eyes glowing at the moment, not with the amount of frigid fury in his lover’s tone.

He tried to pull away, only to be shoved back into the seat across from Rufus’. "I-"

"You *hid* it, Reno. What if you had another reaction like when Alim attempted to heal you? I’d be down a Turk and left vulnerable to an attack." Rufus swiped his right hand through the air, sounding even more furious than a minute ago. "Just shut up and sit there."

Doing what he was told without bitching for once, Reno straightened out his coat and folded his arms over his chest. Dammit, he’d been hoping the damn spells would go away and was too worried that Alim would keep him from returning to work if he’d told anyone. He’d done his job the same as always for the last few weeks, hadn’t once let Rufus or Rude down and hadn’t suffered anything that would leave him unable to work. No one seemed to remember that he’d saved Rufus’ life this morning, let alone other Turks and a bunch of kids. Nope, he was the one at fault here, somehow.

The atmosphere in the car grew tense as hell while he sat there not saying anything and Rufus talked to Tseng over Reno’s abandoned comm. After a few minutes, the doors opened to admit Rude and Elena, who sat on either side of Reno. The limo started moving, most likely driven by Kali since Elena was here. When Reno tried to twist his head around to see if he could recognize the woman’s ‘glow’, his shoulder was shaken by his partner.

"Just sit there." Surprise, surprise, Rude didn’t sound too happy, either. Reno cursed under his breath and slumped down in the seat, his temper growing more frayed by the second. Okay, he probably should have told Rude something since they were partners and best friends, but again, the weird vision thing hadn’t affected his job or anything. Well, hadn’t mostly affected it since Rude always drove the cars and Reno knew the helicopters well enough that he had all the switches and gears memorized. He’d had a bit of trouble landing the helicopter last week when he’d suffered an attack, but had blamed it on turbulence.

Rufus talked to Reeve on the phone the entire ride back to headquarters, giving details about the attack and allowing the few assassins left alive to be taken into WRO custody on the agreement that Tseng would be there during their questioning. Reno spent the time constantly blinking his eyes in hopes that they’d go back to normal and had no such luck, either because he was so pissed off or from all the materia that he’d been around today. He was actually beginning to get worried that his vision would be stuck like this and didn’t notice when the car came to a halt. That was, until Rude’s right hand wrapped around his upper left arm and dragged him from the limo.

"Hey! There’s nothing wrong with my fuckin’ legs!"

"I know," Rude rumbled, his hand yanking Reno’s arm out straight so Elena could quickly remove his baton. "Gun’s in the back."

"That’s where he usually keeps it," she answered as Reno’s other arm was grabbed before he could stop her from taking his weapons away. "What about the knives?"

"Hey! Leave me the fuck alone!" Reno tried to kick Elena, only to be yanked off his feet for a couple of seconds. When his feet touched the floor again, Rude wrapped his right leg around Reno’s to keep him from kicking.

"Right pant leg, left pants pocket, right inner coat pocket." Rude wasn’t phased by Reno trying to smack his head against his partner, only managing to hit Rude’s shoulder since the bastard was so tall. While he cursed up a storm and struggled as much as possible, Elena got his three knives, his spare gun that Rude hadn’t noticed he’d been packing that day, and a set of long pins he kept on hand for lock-picking and other things.

"-damn traitors," he muttered, his tirade cut off by Rude forcing him to walk forward. "Where the hell are we going’, you fuckin’ bastards?"

Both Rude and Elena were quiet, and dragging his heels didn’t do any good since Rude just hauled him forward. He managed to get a kick in Elena’s direction when they got to the elevator, his foot glancing off the side of her head before he was shoved face first against the metal wall and pinned there by Rude’s bulk.

"You okay, Elena?"

"Yeah," she answered, her voice tinged with pain. "That’ll teach me to pay more attention to him."

"Let me the *fuck* go," Reno snarled, enraged that he was being treated like this by fellow Turks.

"No," Rude told him, not hitting him back for kicking Elena or anything, just keeping him immobile and barely able to breathe. "This is for your own good, you stubborn asshole."

"Like hell it-" Reno stopped when he heard the ‘ding’ that meant the elevator was about to open its doors, unable to clearly make out the number the electronic voice called out with the way he was caught between the wall and Rude’s chest. "Where are we?" He had a sudden panic that he’d pissed Rufus off enough to end up in one of the detention cells for a while.

Rude was quiet for a moment then ordered Elena out of the elevator first. A few seconds later, Reno ended up dragged forward again. "Can’t you read the floor numbers?"

"No, but I can damn well tell where the hell you and ‘Lena are an’ kick your asses!" He lashed out with his left leg again, doing his best to hit his partner and jerked off-balance as his foot connected with Rude’s upper thigh. Dammit, he’d been a little high there, not quite willing to pop the bastard’s kneecap until he knew what was going on. For his moment of restraint, his ass ended up on the floor, his arms stretched over his head as Rude dragged him that way along the hallway. "Fuckin’ let me go!"

"We should have gagged him," Elena muttered, a slight darkening to the colors on the right side of her ‘head’ that let Reno know he’d nailed her better than he’d thought. All around him, he could tell the shapes of the walls from the glowing lines that ran up, down and along them, and he twisted around enough to see a large glow ahead of him that meant a lot of people. He still had no fucking idea where he was since he couldn’t read the numbers on the doors or the plaques above them.

However, the mystery didn’t last for long, not when he was dragged through a door and yanked onto his feet. He had a second to recognize a familiar ‘glow’ before something sharp bit into his upper arm, which Rude held too tightly for him to move.

"Dammit, Alim!" Reno yelled, doing his best to kick out again even as the colors around him blurred and his body refused to move. He managed to spit out one last curse before he passed out.


Rude lifted his unconscious partner and put him on the waiting stretcher, then stepped back out of the medical staff’s way. While Dr. Cavish and a nurse quickly fastened the restraints around Reno’s wrists and feet, Dr. Alim began to cut off the black suit the redhead wore.

"We already confiscated his weapons," Rude said by way of protest, still feeling a bit guilty for dragging his friend down here like that, even if he *knew* that Reno would never have come willingly and Tseng hadn’t given him much of a choice.

Dr. Alim looked up for a second and glared. "Right, I made that mistake *once* before," he huffed as he removed Reno’s pants, leaving him in just his boxers. As he got rid of Reno’s coat and shirt, he shook his head. "Besides, it’ll be easier to run some tests this way. The sedative won’t last forever and I want as many scans taken as possible before then." Reno’s uniform removed and tossed aside, Dr. Alim began to push the medical bed down the hallway, barking out orders all the while.

Rude motioned Dr. Cavish toward Elena, who was leaning against the wall. "She got kicked in the head," he explained, and waited for the doctor to exam his friend before asking any more questions. "What’s going to happen to him now?"

Dr. Cavish patted Elena on the shoulder. "You don’t have a concussion, but I’m sure you’ve one hell of a headache. I’ll give you a few pills to help with that." She stuck her hands in the pockets of her white coat and looked at Rude. "Dr. Alim ran a series of blood tests on Reno before clearing his return to work. Now… he’ll draw more blood to compare to those results, as well as every scanning test imaginable, from what I understand. He’ll check to see how the Mako’s affecting Reno’s body and brain activity, as well as his cellular make-up." She appeared a bit rueful and glanced down the hallway that the doctor and patient had vanished down. "We’re going to be busy for the next few hours. Did you notice any changes in your partner in the last few weeks?"

Rude shook his head. "No. I’ve noticed that his eyes have been bothering him lately, but he’s done a good job of hiding them from me." He hadn’t been helped by the odd natural color of his friend’s eyes that seemed to almost possess a Mako glow even at normal times.

"All right. Wait here while I get those pills." Dr. Cavish went into one of the offices, leaving Rude and Elena alone.

"It’s going to be a war zone down here when he wakes up," Elena pointed out as she gingerly rubbed the side of her head. There was already some bruising around her right temple and eye.

"No shit." Rude let out a slow breath and shrugged. "The president and Tseng wanted him brought here immediately and checked out to make sure he wasn’t suffering any ill effects from his condition. Anyone who knows the idiot would bet that he’d never come on his own, so he got what he deserves." He was pretty upset with Reno from hiding things from him, although he knew it more had to do with Reno’s fear of being taken off active duty than anything else. They could trust each other… but Rude would have hounded his friend into going to Medical for a check-up if Reno had confided in him.

He got the feeling that Rufus wasn’t taking the subterfuge as well as he was, and seriously hoped the president calmed down now that the danger from the attack was over. Things could have been very ugly today if Reno hadn’t noticed the assassin, so while Rude felt that his friend’s ‘secret’ could have been revealed under better circumstances, Rufus should be pretty thankful all the same. Most likely, though, all Rufus cared about was Reno hiding something important from him, and possibly the fact that Reno had been in danger during the attack.

Dr. Cavish returned with some pills and a bag of ice for Elena. Once she was thanked they left Medical, not wanting to be anywhere around the department since Reno was there unwillingly. Rude had the thought that Elena was pretty lucky to spend the rest of the day doped up, all in all, considering what was likely to happen once Reno woke up – or Rufus found out his lover’s test results.


The day’s events were beginning to weigh on Rufus; the incident at the playground, the resulting meetings as he assured people that he hadn’t been injured nor was ShinRa under attack, dealing with WRO and Tseng’s need to fine-tune the security details even more. He wished the Turk much luck on that, as he refused to be seen in public surrounded by a swarm of Turks or security guards, and he wouldn’t let any attacks keep him from making such appearances. As it was, the media was having a field day with the failed attempt at assassination by some fringe group that believed itself to be taking on AVALANCHE’s role in protecting the earth – by using materia, of all things. Rufus much preferred it when they shot at him with bullets and possessed some intelligence.

However, there was a chance that he’d be dead today if that was what had happened, the dark thought dredging up the anger once more. He relied on Reno to keep him safe, to protect him, and the asshole hid something like that from him. All those months that he’d suffered from Geostigma, that Reno had seen him at his worst, and Reno hadn’t revealed a *damned* thing.

Rufus was about to throw something in frustration and anger when his cell phone rang. Seeing that it was from the Medical department, he picked it up and leaned back in his chair. "Yes, Dr. Alim?"

"Good evening, President." Alim sounded exhausted but unconcerned. "I’ve most of the test results back on Reno’s condition. As far as I can tell, he’s not suffering any adverse effects."

Rufus’ eyebrows raised at ‘most of the test results’ "What is the likelihood of that assessment changing once all of the results are back, Doctor?"

"Very little." Alim let out a slow breath. "So far, the blood work that’s been processed is showing the same results as when he was last here for a complete physical. His metabolism and healing rate is still slightly accelerated, but not to the point that it is putting any strain on his body. Most of the effects associated with receiving exposure to large amounts of Mako just aren’t there, President. He seems to have developed some sort of sensitivity to it, something very dissimilar from the SOLDIER program."

Taking a moment to digest that information, Rufus checked his inbox and found that Alim had sent him Reno’s medical reports. "What about his eyes? They were glowing, Doctor." In a manner frighteningly similar to Kadaj’s, although Reno had never been exposed to any Jenova cells. Rufus checked to make sure that the contamination didn’t show up in his lover’s most recent blood test and was relieved on that front.

There was another slow exhalation. "That’s where I’ve found the most changes. There’s been some alteration on a cellular level, something that allows him to see in different wavelengths than humans. There are corresponding changes in the visual centers of his brain, but nothing that’s affecting his thought processes." Alim was quiet for a moment. "I’m very sorry, President, for not noticing any discrepancies before."

As much as Rufus wanted to blame someone, he didn’t make a scapegoat of Alim. "You didn’t know what to look for then. Now you do, and I want new protocols created for whenever a ShinRa employee is exposed to any type of Mako." Not that he expected to have a repeat of the incident that had led to this situation in the first place. "In your opinion, Doctor, is Reno’s condition stable or in any danger of worsening?" Dammit, he shouldn’t be this concerned about someone, especially a stubborn idiot.

This time, there was no pause on Alim’s part. "No, President. I’m not quite sure what Reno is experiencing, but it doesn’t seem to present any danger to his health. I’ve a theory that he’s now sensitive to anything to do with the planet’s Lifestream, which would explain how he can sense Mako and his description of what he sees when he’s experiencing one of his ‘spells’. More testing is required, of course; I’d like to monitor his reaction when exposed to materia and try a few spells against him to ensure that there isn’t a repeat of the rejection he suffered immediately after his injury."

Reno, the lab rat. The mere thought made Rufus smile until he imagined how much the damage that Reno would inflict on the Medical department would cost him. Then he thought some more on what Alim had just told him. "He’s talked to you about his condition?"

Alim managed a tired, bitter laugh. "After cursing me and my entire family for over half an hour, he did calm down enough for a mostly civil discussion. I give credit to Tseng, sir, who stopped by and informed Reno that he wouldn’t leave my department until he cooperated." The doctor paused for a few seconds. "He also made Reno promise to cooperate in any future testing or be permanently suspended from the Turks."

Rufus wasn’t surprised by the wave of bitterness he felt over that news. He knew that Reno respected him, both as a lover and an employer… but Reno gave Tseng the most respect on a professional level. The redhead would test Rufus’ boundaries in ways that would never occur to him to do to Tseng, would be more cautious around the Head of the Turks than Tseng’s own boss. That fact had always been a minor annoyance, and right now it only increased his anger at his lover. Whereas he could have made the same threat to Reno’s job, it would have taken him hours to get such an agreement from Reno that Tseng had probably gotten in minutes.

"He isn’t in any danger from his condition, correct?" Rufus snapped, anger shading his voice despite his best wishes.

"Ah, no sir, he’s in perfect health *at this time*. I can’t say anything about future exposure to materia, although he seems to have no complications from what happened earlier today," Alim replied, stuttering slightly at first. "I’d be willing to release him back to work if there’s a guarantee that there won’t be any exposure to materia or Mako."

"He’s not to be released for duty until you have all of the lab results back as well as conduct any experiments you feel that are necessary." Rufus rubbed his left temple to relieve the headache that had appeared during the phone conversation. He’d just managed to get rid of the one from the screaming girl he’d been trapped with behind Reno’s shield and in the car, and another one popped up.

"President, I don’t want to keep him in Medical tonight – it’ll take a while to set up the tests and… well, my staff has better things to do." Alim sounded a bit nervous, as if very unsettled by the thought of having to deal with Reno overnight or longer.

"Wait half an hour and discharge him. I’ll arrange for someone to escort him home." Rufus began to close down the applications on his laptop, determined to go home and enjoy the quiet for a short while before his secretive lover returned.

"Yes, President."

Ending the call, Rufus made another one, to both notify Tseng that he was on his way to the penthouse and arrange for Reno’s departure as well. Whoever Tseng picked to escort them and keep guard of the penthouse tonight, Rufus hoped would be able to put up with what promised to be several hours of yelling and most likely lots of thrown objects.


Reno took a deep breath before entering the penthouse, his eyes narrowed in a glare over Saint John’s amused grin and Becca’s stifled laugh at his expense. Oh yes, he was in trouble yet again with the President, everyone should just fucking laugh. Except him, of course, since he was sure he was about to catch twenty different types of hell.

He’d been forcibly dragged to Medical by two people he considered close friends, sedated, woken up to find his uniform had been ruined and he’d been stuck with enough needles and shit to appease a junkie for a month, then been royally bitched out by Tseng before ending over an hour of question and answer time with Alim. The only good thing that had happened to him since this morning was that his vision was back to normal, something that he was sure wouldn’t last for too long since Alim was going to treat him like a fucking guinea pig for the next week or so. Oh, yeah, and he was suspended from duty again. The last he wouldn’t mind so much if he’d done something enjoyable to earn the suspension, but no, he was denied even that simple joy; Tseng had told him that if he laid one finger on Alim today or at any point of the testing, he’d lose his rank in the Turks and would be assigned a new partner. The fucking killjoy.

Once inside, he kicked off the slippers he’d had to borrow from Medical since he hadn’t any spare shoes in his locker, shrugged off Rod’s coat and strolled into the living room to find Rufus waiting for him, handsome face set into a ferocious scowl. "Give me two damn minutes," Reno grumbled as he held his left hand up. To his surprise, Rufus didn’t say anything as he went to the bar, poured a tumbler full of whiskey and gulped it down. He sputtered a few times from the burn traveling down his throat, but just the thought of facing what was ahead of him with a bit of alcohol in his system was comforting.

Setting the empty tumbler aside, he went to the sliding glass door and stood right in front of it, his hands pressed against its cold surface. It was dark enough outside that he caught his lover’s reflection as Rufus approached and wasn’t startled when he was effectively trapped between glass and a warm, solid body.

"Are you hiding your eyes again?" Rufus asked as his arms were braced on either side of Reno.

"No." Looking over his shoulder, Reno stared at his lover. "They were back to normal when I woke up." Rufus just had to grab his chin again, this time the touch almost gentle, and intently examined his eyes. "They’re still the same, just not glowing now."

Rufus closed his own eyes and shuddered for a moment. "Do your best to keep them that way," he ordered, causing Reno to snort in sarcastic amusement.

"Yeah, like I’ve a chance of doing that." If so, he wouldn’t be in so much trouble right now. "Okay, I’m off work until Alim’s done with his fuckin’ tests, and I know that’s not all you have in store for me. Just get it over with." He resumed looking outside, doing his best to focus on the glittering lights rather than his lover’s reflection.

"Such a masochist," Rufus murmured, shifting closer so he could brush his lips along Reno’s exposed neck. His left hand slid with ease beneath the sweatshirt that Reno had borrowed from Rod and toyed with the belt that kept Cyril’s spare pair of work pants from falling down Reno’s hips. The touch was almost affectionate and would normally make Reno smile if it weren’t for the cruel, mocking note in his lover’s voice and the way Rufus wrapped the long earring’s chain around his right forefinger. The bastard took advantage of the fact that Reno’s hair was pulled back into a ponytail and bit him hard on the left shoulder, just above the sweatshirt’s collar. "You kept your condition hidden from me, Reno." The cruelty and anger was blatant in Rufus’ deep voice.

"Yeah." Closing his eyes, Reno rested his head against the smooth, cold glass. "Didn’t want you to keep me from going back to work, so I didn’t tell anyone. I thought… it really would just go away eventually." Things had seemed shaky enough back then, between his injuries and Earth First thinking of him as a target, that he hadn’t wanted to give Rufus or Tseng any excuse to hold him back from his job.

Rufus let out a derisive snort and pressed harder against Reno’s back. "You hid what could become a debilitating condition from me, one that must have affected your work from what you told Alim. You *were* affected by it when you were flying me back from Junon last week, correct?" His tone made it clear that he already guessed the answer.

"It’s not so bad when I’m flying," Reno complained while wondering why the hell his lover had to be so damn observant. "Not exactly a whole lot of traffic up there." He could actually *see* the wind currents so it had made flying easier in a way – though he’d be screwed if he was flying an unfamiliar helicopter and landings were a bit tricky.

"When did you find that fact out, hmmm? While I was in the helicopter with you?" Rufus grabbed his shoulders and forced him to turn around, his back slamming against the glass. "Did you care that you put my life and possibly Rude’s at risk?"

Okay, Rufus had every right to be livid about that, but Reno wasn’t too happy himself at the moment. "But I *didn’t*, and I even saved your fuckin’ life again today – just like the day when all this weird shit started happening to me! Why the hell doesn’t anyone focus on that?"

"Because you take too many risks, Reno, and one day the odds won’t be in your favor." Rufus had stopped yelling and spoke with a chillingly quiet voice. "One would think you’d realize that after surviving your cobbled-together bomb, yet you keep *pushing* things." He emphasized his point by slamming Reno’s shoulders against the door.

"Yeah, but it works out in the end." Reno stared directly at Rufus, unwilling to look away and concede any points to the bastard. Yes, he pushed things… but he usually kept them under some sort of control and won in the end. That’s what made him such a good Turk, one of the four Aces.

Rufus returned the look and waited several seconds before replying. "Perhaps you shouldn’t be allowed so many opportunities to test fate, then."

"No. *No!*" Reno grabbed hold of Rufus’ upper arms to shove his lover away, arresting the movement after a second to pull him closer instead. "You’re not taking my damn job away from me! *That’s* why I didn’t tell you or Rude or Tseng jack shit about my eyes, because I’m a fuckin’ Turk and won’t put up with sitting around being useless!" Because then Rufus would have no use for him, and his lover didn’t care for useless things. That realization literally took his breath away and made him duck his head, unwilling to look at Rufus any longer. Being a Turk had been the thing that had mattered to him the most for so many years, and that was still true. It was just the reason for that being so important had changed. Whatever it was that Rufus had done to him with this screwed up relationship, it meant that he was as unwilling to walk away from it as he was to leave the Turks.

"Reno." He ignored his lover until his chin was forced up by the fist beneath it. "Reno, did you think you’d be fired?" Rufus sounded as if he didn’t believe what he’d heard.

Shrugging his shoulders, Reno focused his gaze on Rufus’ mouth, a habit he’d gotten into the last few weeks. The sight before him flickered back and forth between reality and ‘glowing’ several times, the flash of colors making his eyes and head ache before his vision returned to normal. "You and Tseng were acting weird, Rufus. You wouldn’t let Alim release me back to work for almost a month, Tseng found stuff to keep me in headquarters for that first week back… you said I was a target because of you and I didn’t want to lose my job because you didn’t want the hassle of me being around. Why give you an excuse to put me back on Medical leave indefinitely when I felt fine?" he finally admitted

The room was quiet for what had to be a couple of minutes, Rufus not budging at all until Reno shivered from the constant feel of cold glass against his back. "All I would have done then is what I’m doing now – placing you on leave until Alim runs enough tests to decide if this new condition of yours is any type of threat to you or others." Rufus once again applied pressure to Reno’s chin and forced him to look him in the eye. The bitterness in his lover’s expression shocked Reno. "Though maybe you’ll believe me if I have Tseng tell you that."

"Eh?" Reno did his best to bat Rufus’ hand aside so he didn’t feel as if his neck was being stretched. "What about Tseng?" He had the impression that they’d just changed topics, and while he was grateful to be off the subject of his eyes, this one seemed to make Rufus just as upset.

"You won’t say one word to me about your vision problems, but a few words from Tseng has you telling Alim everything." There was a dark, deadly note to Rufus’ voice that made Reno wonder where the hell his lover’s gun was.

Finally getting his chin free, Reno rubbed the back of his sore neck and frowned. "Yeah, well, after being dragged into Medical and sedated, I got the feeling that people weren’t in a good mood anymore. So when Tseng told me that he’d break my bones until I promised to cooperate, I thought it might be wise to listen to him." He’d rarely seen Tseng that pissed off before, and didn’t really blame Rude and Elena for their ‘betrayal’ if they’d been ordered to get him to Medical by any means necessary. When Tseng was like that, you jumped to obey or ended up screaming in agony.

"Is that all it takes? A few broken bones?" Rufus snatched at Reno’s left hand and pinned it against the glass. "Will that make you listen to me better in the future?" His expression was perfectly impassive but his voice rough.

Reno stopped resisting just then, forcing his body to relax in hopes that would make Rufus back off a little. Call him crazy, but he couldn’t help but wonder if Rufus was… jealous or something – of Tseng, at that. "He’s my boss, Rufus," he tried to explain, and even as the words left his mouth he realized just how bad that sounded.

He was already wincing before Rufus grabbed onto the earring and yanked it hard enough to damn near rip off his ear. "And I’m your president."

"Shit, Rufus!" Reno managed to slide away from his lover, kept on a ‘leash’ by Rufus’ hold on his earring but no longer trapped against the door. "Yeah, I know that, you sadistic bastard!"

"You don’t insult Tseng like you do me." Rufus was back to that too-cold tone of voice again, his blue eyes blazing as if he was the one with the damn ‘condition’.

Wanting this latest argument nipped in the bud, Reno wrapped his right hand around his lover’s and glared. "Because Tseng doesn’t think it’s a turn-on or a sign of affection, dammit. You wanted me to treat you like Rufus, not the damn Vice-President when we first got together, remember? Don’t bitch at me about what I do or don’t call Tseng when I’m not fucking him!" he shouted, so damn tired and wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and hide beneath the covers. Days like this should be limited to once every ten years or something.

While he knew Rufus didn’t appreciate being screamed at, something seemed to sink into the idiot’s head – for a couple of seconds at least. "You still obey him quicker and more often than you do me," Rufus said through gritted teeth, though he did let go of the earring.

"Rufus, you’re a fucking dog, I swear, always got to dig your teeth in deeper instead of letting go of something." Reno rubbed his sore ear and glared some more at his lover. No wonder the bastard had gotten along so well with that dog/cat/whatever the hell Dark Nation was; they both liked biting way too much. "I listen to Tseng because he has his priorities straight, all right?" That and Tseng had no personal reason to keep him alive if he didn’t do his job.

It was almost worth all the screaming and the aches that had settled into his body to see Rufus’ expression just then. How many people could claim to stun the president of ShinRa speechless, he had to wonder. "You just don’t get it," Reno said with a weary sigh. "Your main concern is ShinRa. Tseng’s is *you*. Hell, most of us Turks don’t give a damn about the company except for the fact that it doing well means we’re gonna be paid. We’re busting our asses for *you* and *your* company." He didn’t get how people could swear themselves to what was in essence a fucking abstract or object. Years ago, Reno had joined the Turks because he had no other choice, really. What made him loyal to the organization had been first Veld and then Tseng, and once he’d realized how much respect both men held for Rufus and why, then he’d stuck around for Rufus. "So yeah, I listen a bit better when he’s telling me something because…." He shook his head and refused to think about the subject any more.

Thankfully, his lover seemed to need a few seconds to digest all of that, so Reno went over to the bar to pour both of them a very much needed drink. All the while, he hoped that Rufus didn’t bounce back and come up with yet another thing to yell at him about.

The second glass was almost full when Rufus wrapped his arms around Reno’s upper chest. "Should you be drinking?" he asked, sounding back to his normal self for the first time since that morning. The warmth and hint of concern in his voice made Reno relax against his lover, even as he mentally became wary since Rufus never gave up a fight so easily.

"The sedative wore off hours ago, and despite being down a pint or two of blood because of all the samples Alim took, I’m fine." Dammit, don’t let the fight that started all of this resume again, or one of them was going to end up jumping off the damn balcony; he wasn’t sure exactly who just yet, which confused the hell out of him.

He held up one of the glasses and Rufus accepted it, the two of them standing there as they enjoyed their drinks. Once his glass was empty, Reno set it down and turned around to face his lover. "Look, I’m *fine*. Besides a few bruises from bumping into things, the attacks don’t really cause me any problems. Can we stop arguing about it until Alim tells you the same thing and clears me for duty again?" Alim *better* clear him for duty or he’d do a hell of a lot more than just strangle the bastard this time.

Rufus seemed to mull over the offer while he sipped the whiskey slowly enough that Reno was about to add another person to his ‘to be throttled’ list. "As long as Dr. Alim says you’re not a threat to yourself or anyone else by working during an ‘attack’, then you can resume your duties." He reached behind Reno to set the glass down, his arm then encircling Reno’s waist and pulling him closer.

"Gee, thanks, Boss." Reno rolled his eyes as he let his arms creep up to Rufus’ shoulders and drape over them. He was about to make a comment that he hadn’t been a threat to anyone but the damn enemy for the last few weeks before remembering that he didn’t want to fight any longer. So far, no one had been punched, nothing had been thrown and no death threats were uttered – it was a pretty civil fight in their book.

"Just remember who’s in charge," Rufus murmured before kissing him, giving him an almost cold look before their lips met. He must have been trying to prove a point or something because the kiss was the exact opposite of cold – was so passionate that Reno felt as if the damn fever was back for a moment.

They made their way to the bedroom, Reno forced to walk backwards, of course, but not needing either of his visions to find his way there. As they went, they worked on getting each other naked, Reno having the most difficulty with the task thanks to a formal coat, buckled vest, two dress shirts and a fucking cravat of all things to undo, and that was just on the top. The day Rufus started wearing two pairs of pants, the man needed to get his head checked out *pronto*.

"Whose clothes?" Rufus asked while Reno lifted his arms so the sweatshirt could be pulled over his head.

"Rod’s and Cyril’s." His glare made a comeback for about three seconds. "Blame Alim for your shirt being ruined this time." Dammit, that had been one of his better suits, too, and he was going to turn in an expense report for the new suit he bought to replace it.

Rufus sighed while letting his hands fall from Reno’s ass so Reno could push down the dress shirts he was wearing. "I *know* you have clothes of your own."

"Not at work today." His lover’s top half finally bare, Reno set about undoing the too-complicated belt around Rufus’ waist just as they entered the bedroom. "I’ll tell you what – I’ll start wearing my own clothes if you stop wearing so damn many."

That got a laugh out of Rufus, who managed to get Reno’s borrowed belt undone in record time. Gravity did the rest for Reno’s pants, leaving him clad in a pair of silk boxers. "But it’s so fun to see you concentrate on getting them off me." Rufus smirked as he undid his own belt and pushed his pants down, for once leaving them to lie on the floor. Next went both of their boxers, leaving them to tumble onto the bed naked.

Reno ended up on the bottom, not too big of a surprise and not something he was about to complain about since he could feel Rufus’ body on top of his. Rufus’ skin was so smooth, only marred in a few places by the scars that Meteor had left behind. The Geostigma had been completely healed, and Reno shuddered when he recalled just how much of his lover’s body those black splotches had covered.

Meanwhile, Rufus seemed to enjoy tracing fingertips over the various scars scattered over Reno’s body, and the ridges of bone that protruded past muscle. Reno had given up on trying to gain any weight years ago, damned by a fast metabolism and unconcern for dietary needs. Besides, it was odd in the best possible way to feel his lover’s fingers caress his collarbones, to sweep down the indentation beneath ribs, to fondle his hipbones. Rufus didn’t posses much in the way of body fat, but he at least could pack on the muscle and be a solid, reassuring weight that pressed Reno further into the soft bed coverings.

As it had recently, the weird vision spells came back during sex, flickering in and out at particularly strong bursts of pleasure. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, only to feel Rufus’ fingers tangle in his hair and force him to look forward.

"Open your eyes."

Doing as he’d been ordered since he didn’t have much to hide now, Reno stared at his lover, wishing that it would stop so he could see Rufus’ expression. For once the damn thing listened to him, and he blinked his slightly teary eyes to focus them on Rufus’ face.

"It’s quite the sight to see them glow here and now." The words were rather cryptic, leaving Reno to wonder if it had been a good or bad sight, before Rufus leaned down to kiss him again. Having an excuse to close his eyes once more, he sucked his lover’s tongue into his mouth the same time as his hips rocked upward.

They both moaned at the sensation of their hard cocks rubbing against one another, their skin growing slick from sweat and breathing labored. The sex from last night seemed like days ago, leaving Reno to feel empty and horny and damn near desperate to have Rufus inside of him once more. He spread his legs wider so Rufus could settle between them, about to hook his feet behind his lover’s knees when Rufus pulled away.

About to complain, he let his mouth fall shut when he saw Rufus reach for the lube, his feet coming to rest against the bed with his knees bent and legs splayed. When Rufus pulled him into a sitting position, he figured that he’d get to be on top this time and was about to push his lover onto the bed and straddle his hips – and found himself pushed down onto his right side instead.

"We’ll do this my way," Rufus said as he spooned against Reno’s back, his left arm lifting Reno’s leg and dropping the container of lube onto the bed in front of Reno. "But you can do the work for now."

Not used to what promised to be ‘nice and slow’ after a fight, even a mild one, Reno glanced over his shoulder at his lover and was amazed at Rufus’ wicked and very pleased grin. The man was up to something… but really, when wasn’t he? Since the smile was more along the lines of devilish than cruel, he figured it would be worth his while to go along with whatever Rufus wanted. As if that wasn’t what happened in the end, anyway….

Telling his brain to shut up, Reno flipped open the container and squeezed some cold lube onto his fingers. He rubbed them together to spread the liquid about and to warm it up a bit before reaching between his legs, having to hunch forward a bit for a better angle. Rufus moved with him, appearing more intent on watching his face than his hand as he stretched himself.

Months of regular, frequent sex – albeit a week or two without here and there because of work related injuries or a certain blond’s inflexible nature and stupidity – meant that Reno didn’t have to put up with that ‘one, two, three’ nonsense that he only bothered with if he was putting on a show. Besides, since he was half expecting Rufus to pull out some monster dildo or something because of the man’s odd mood, he hurried things along as much as possible, not wanting what should be great sex to be turned into some torturous lesson.

As his fingers curled and scissored apart inside of him, Rufus leaned over and kissed him on the left temple. "You seem to listen to me well enough in situations like this." His hand pressed against Reno’s left wrist, forcing him to still his preparations. "Whatever my priorities, it should be yours to obey me. There isn’t anyone more important in your life than me, Reno, here or at work or anywhere in the damn world." Something colored his voice at the end, something that was almost as virulent as anger but not quite, something that made Reno’s heart race faster yet not provoke the urge for him to lash out and fight.


Rufus cut him off before he could go any further with the familiar litany. "Yes, yes, possessive, sadistic, manipulative and whatever adjectives you want to use, I’ve basically heard them all." As if his swearing was some sort of signal, Rufus chuckled, the sound low and pleased, and let Reno finish stretching himself. "I want you to tell that to Tseng one day, while I’m there."

Breathing a bit heavily from what he was doing to himself and in growing anticipation, Reno shook his head a couple of times before tilting it back far enough to see his lover. "Nah, he’s… he’s not possessive." Well, not to Reno at the least, though Elena might have something to say about it. "He’ll give you a run for your money on the ‘sadistic’ part, but he’ll never be as manipulative or perverse."

Rufus chuckled again, his hand back on Reno’s wrist to make him pull his fingers free then reaching for the lube. "No, of course not, but I’m sure you’ll come up with a suitable insult none the less."

Reminding himself that he had to breathe if he wanted to remain conscious to feel any pleasure, Reno swallowed hard and nodded twice. "You better be prepared for me to hide behind you after I tell it to him." His eyes drifted closed and he moaned when he felt something slick and hard rub against his entrance.

Whatever it was that Rufus said in reply was lost to another moan and the wondrous sensation of slowly being filled, of his body stretching and stretching as it accepted Rufus’ cock ever deeper inside. This position let Rufus pull his hips back until he was completely filled, until he felt his lover’s balls against his ass. His leg was shifted up a little higher as Rufus flexed his hips, pulling out slowly to snap right back inside of Reno.

His right hand fisted the pillow beneath his head while his slick left hand wrapped around his cock. He arched his back and cried out at the feel of Rufus’ lips brushing along his shoulder, his lover taking a moment to pull his long hair free from between their bodies before thrusting in hard again. The pace wasn’t as frenetic as when Reno rode Rufus or ended up bent over something, but it sure as hell wasn’t slow, either. More like it was relentless; an ecstatic, driven, hard fuck that quickly left Reno begging for more as pure pleasure sizzled through his body. A series of sharp, deep thrusts left him literally seeing stars and made him forget to stroke his own cock. The bite to his left shoulder snapped him out of the pleasure-induced daze, the pain adding to the sensations of being so skillfully and thoroughly fucked.

Rufus murmured his name time and time again while proving just how well he knew Reno’s body, driving it to the brink of orgasm with a relentlessness that left Reno struggling to breathe. Occasional pain mixed in with pleasure – the bite of teeth on neck and shoulder and long scratches of nails up and down on his chest – and just the right touch, the right amount of pressure on just the right spot at the right time…. Reno’s eyes were pressed tightly shut but he knew that if he opened them, the world would be reduced to glowing colors again, that Rufus’ glow would be thoroughly mixed with his own as he was fucked to the point that he was screaming and didn’t care. Rufus continued to pound into him, pushing his leg up higher as their sweat-slick skin grew slippery and over-sensitive. Reno felt a tingling wherever Rufus brushed against or touched him, mingling with the bolts of pleasure that speared through his body with each thrust. He wanted to reach back for Rufus, pull his lover closer for a kiss that he hadn’t the breath for, to urge Rufus even deeper inside him although that was impossible, but he couldn’t get his body to listen. His right hand remained clenched around the pillow, his left pumping his cock in jittery movements as the ecstasy grew so powerful that it finally tore through him.

By that point his throat was so raw that he could barely manage Rufus’ name, his body shuddering as he came and mind blanking from so much pleasure. His chest actually hurt as he struggled to inhale, nerves afire and overloaded and….

It took an endless amount of frantic heartbeats to pull himself together, his heart gradually slowing down and his breathing evening. He was aware enough to know when Rufus came, his lover’s teeth biting hard against his already aching shoulder. Somehow, he managed to grumble about the abuse as he shifted against his lover, not trying to separate them but to find a more comfortable position as the pleasure faded but some of the pain remained. He must have moved too much, however, as Rufus’ softening cock slipped from his body. Grimacing at the feel of wetness trickling down his thigh, Reno wiped his left hand on the bedspread and draped his arm over his face.

Rufus shifted about too, eventually spooning against Reno’s back and draping his arm over Reno’s waist. They were quiet for a few minutes, either loathe to say something that would start a fight or just recovering from the sex; for Reno it was a mix of both, and he was beginning to drift off to sleep when he found himself pulled into a sitting position.

"Get up." Rufus didn’t give him much choice, the bastard, so Reno mumbled curses under his breath as he did his best to walk to the bathroom. Getting a shower now meant that Rufus didn’t plan a round two tonight, which was good since he’d barely survived round one and was already exhausted from the long, trying day.

"Can’t wait until Alim gets a look at what you did to my back," Reno croaked as he stepped into the shower and slumped against a tiled wall. His chest was pretty scratched up, too, bleeding in spots and red as hell. For someone who bitched up a storm whenever he returned the favor, Rufus had no qualms with using him as a combination chew toy/scratching post.

And of course the bastard had to look rather smug as he surveyed the damage, his smile faltering after a minute. "Alim needs time to put together the tests, so you should be mostly healed by then." Rufus gave him a cold look while he turned on the water. "You *will* stay out of trouble while waiting to report to Medical."

"Yes, President." Reno sneered a little before he ducked his head under the stream of water, not exactly sure what Rufus thought he’d do with both Rufus and Tseng breathing down his neck at the moment. He’d catch up on some sleep for a day or two, and if Alim took any longer than that, he’d go down to Medical and hound the man into starting the damned tests. The sooner they were finished, the quicker he could resume working. For someone who everyone thought of as such a slacker, he did enjoy doing his job and it kept him from being too bored.

Rufus joined him under the water, nuzzling his right ear before giving the earlobe a nip that he took to be a reproach for being so sarcastic. Reno grumbled a little and turned around, his intentions clear that he expected to get his hair washed after all the shit he’d been through that day. Not needing much of a reason to do it at the best of times, Rufus laughed as he complied, then turned around so Reno could return the favor.

Once they were both clean, they got out of the shower and dried off. "I haven’t eaten since this morning," Reno pointed out as his stomach rumbled, tired enough to collapse in bed and sleep but pretty damn hungry just the same.

"I’ll heat up something." Rufus left him drying his hair, the long strands a pain in the ass at times even if they turned a certain manipulative bastard on. That and he got to tease Tseng that his hair was longer and much sexier. He always got a very amusing eye roll and annoyed grunt for that comment, along with a slight lip twitch that proved that Tseng had a sense of humor buried beneath all that stuffiness.

Reno made his way to the bedroom and bitched a little as he stripped off the bedspread and replaced it with a clean, dry one. He only bothered to pull on a pair of soft cotton pants, not about to put much effort in getting dressed when he hoped to be in bed soon.

Rufus was in the kitchen, nuking one of the prepared dinners his chef stocked the freezer with every week. Not sure how well curry was going to react with his now-scratchy throat, Reno took another whiff of the delicious smelling dish and figured ‘what the hell’. He sat down on one of the island stools, wincing a little as he did and figuring that was what he got for some great sex.

"I need to do some work tonight in my office," Rufus said as he set the plates of food on the marble countertop, along with two glasses of some fizzy water.

"Eh, that’s fine since I’m gonna crash after this." Reno looked forward to a day or two of sleep and watching movies. Taking a bite of the lamb curry, he groaned in delight and focused on eating as quickly as possible, before his throat could complain.

It took him a bit by surprise when, halfway through the meal, Rufus started speaking again. "Reno, I won’t accept you hiding things from me in the future."

In a mostly good mood because of the sex, Reno set his chopsticks down and pushed his glass of water aside before he ended up throwing it at a certain someone. "That’s pretty interesting, Rufus, coming from a guy who hides things from me all the time." At Rufus’ dubious look, he folded his arms over his chest and raised his eyebrows. "’Jenova’ ring any bells?" He knew there was a lot of business stuff that he wasn’t privy to, was smart enough to know that ShinRa wasn’t just involved with supplying electricity but figured that Rufus would tell him what he needed to know when it was important. Well, for the most part….

Rufus actually snorted and looked almost amused by the jab. He pushed his plate of curry aside, too, his expression one that he usually wore while at work or when dealing with Reeve: giving absolutely nothing away yet not truly cold. "You said it yourself; we’ve different priorities. As yours are in regards to me, I expect to know *everything* that will put me, my employees and my company at a disadvantage. That means no more hiding… ‘quirks’ in your physical condition, things like Porter," his smooth voice roughened at mention of the man’s name, "or even what building you ‘inadvertently’ destroyed while out drinking with your friends." He made sure that Reno was looking directly at him. "*Everything* of importance, Reno."

Wincing a little at having his own words turned on him, Reno struggled to control his temper since he knew that Rufus had a point. It was bad enough that he was one of the top Turks, someone who Rufus clearly relied on for support while at work, and now they were living together. He knew his actions could screw things up for his lover… he just hated how it seemed that he was always the one giving shit up. His apartment, his freedom – fuck, his ability to go to some bar and really let loose, and now he had to give up something else while Rufus could be the secretive, manipulative bastard he always was. Why the hell he still stuck around – no, he didn’t want to think about that right now as it would just make his head hurt. "Give me something in return."

As much as Rufus appeared surprised by the demand, it caught Reno all the stronger when his lover actually seemed to consider it. "Such as?" Rufus sipped his water while waiting for an answer.

Racking his brains, Reno put his elbows on the table and rested his chin in his hands. "Ah…." Okay, this required more thought than he’d expected, and he wasn’t exactly at his best right now. He’d ask for a guarantee that he’d have his job back in a few days, but Rufus had already agreed to that. "Let’s just say you owe me a huge favor now, whenever I want to cash it in."

Rufus didn’t look pleased by the request, but nodded after a moment’s pause. "Most likely you’ll waste it one night by asking not to be shot for leveling a city block." Rufus’ expression just then was one of pure disgust and he even sniffed for added effect.

"Yeah, maybe," Reno laughed and picked up his chopsticks again. Who knew what he’d end up using it for, but all that mattered was that he had one chance to stop Rufus if he needed it.

Dinner wasn’t so quiet after that, as if both of them agreed that they needed to talk about something else before the night got any weirder. Rufus grilled him on everything he’d told Alim, clearly trying to decide for himself if Reno’s odd vision would be an asset or problem for the company. Reno was mostly truthful with his answers, not breaking the new agreement with his lover just yet but watching out for himself all the same. Once Rufus got an idea in his head he was damn reluctant to let go, and the last thing Reno wanted was to become the company’s newest lab rat. Then he’d end up like Strife or Valentine, and brooding just wasn’t his thing. No, there were much better things to do than sit around and be a big angst-puppy all day – such as curl up in bed and do his best to steal all the covers before Rufus turned in for the night.


Rufus was skimming over Alim’s report for the fourth time when Tseng entered his office, Reno trailing at the Wutian’s heels. "You wanted to see us, President?" Tseng asked, standing at attention before the desk while Reno was a hunching, muttering presence beside him.

"Yes. Dr. Alim as sent me the result of Reno’s experiments, which I’ve forwarded to you." He pushed his laptop aside and sat back in his chair. "The meat of the reports is what the doctor has said all along – Reno has gained a sensitivity to Lifestream energy." He used his fingers to tick off several important points. "His physical condition is basically the same, except for his eyesight. Dr. Alim’s suggestion is that he be returned to active duty and that some hi-potions are kept handy in case he’s injured since he’s developed some resistance to lower level potions. I agree with them, and he’s allowed to return to duty with your approval, Tseng." A slight smile toyed with the corners of Rufus’ mouth when his lover instantly stopped slouching and stood up straight, hope restored that he’d soon be working.

Tseng eyed Reno for a moment before returning his attention to Rufus, and didn’t miss the subtle signal that Rufus wanted to talk to him privately later. "Tomorrow will be soon enough for him to return to duty." When Reno protested the decision, Tseng turned to face him. "I don’t have any assignment ready for you today, and can easily manage that for the next month," he said in way of a warning to behave.

To his credit, Reno did his best not to sulk over being put in his place. "I’ve been off for a week already," he complained and ran his left hand through his loose hair. "Getting’ twitchy from not doing anything other than jumping through Alim’s hoops, dammit."

A pleased yet cruel smile curled Tseng’s lips. "Yet you’re so eager to jump through mine. You’ll report for first shift tomorrow and be assigned to the President; get used to it, because that’ll be your assignment for the next week or two."

Reno cursed under his breath and stopped fussing with his hair. "Bodyguard duty?" He glanced at Rufus for a moment and shook his head. "What about tracking down those assholes who tried to kill him, eh?" The smile he gave Tseng just then was almost enough to inspire jealousy in Rufus, it was so blatant in promising almost anything if Reno got his way. However, he knew that Tseng was more likely to throttle his lover than take the bastard up on the offer.

"That’s being tended to by people who are lacking certain skills when it comes to protecting the President," was Tseng’s smooth reply. When Reno frowned at the answer, he raised his right hand and motioned with two upheld fingers Reno’s eyes. "You’ll be able to protect him against a surprise attack or use of materia, and so are the best choice for guarding him."

"What, so I’m a damn guard dog now?" The animal image Reno brought to Rufus’ mind just then wasn’t canine, not with the way he practically bristled as he hissed the words at Tseng.

Rufus decided to join the conversation in hopes of not wasting his day listening to the Turks squabble. "I think that might be an insult to dogs, considering their ability to obey their masters." He smiled in the face of his lover’s glare before schooling his features into a serious, slightly annoyed expression. "You’ll do what you’re ordered to do, and you *won’t* hide any more spells from now on." While he knew how much being a Turk mattered to Reno, he wouldn’t put up with any more deception on the redhead’s part, and neither would Tseng.

The Head of Turks nodded in agreement, a very dark look on his face as he stared directly at Reno. "I assure you that you will *not* care for the repercussions if we do find out that you’re hiding your condition from us." The coldness in his voice left little doubt that he was perfectly serious about the threat. Holding Reno’s gaze for several seconds to prove his point, he then looked away and bowed to Rufus. "The reports you requested will be finished in another two hours, President."

"Thank you, Tseng." Rufus nodded once in acknowledgement and watched Tseng leave the room before focusing his attention on his lover, who was stalking toward the desk. He pushed his chair back from the furniture a mere second or two before Reno straddled his lap, arms snaking around his neck and face hovering inches from his own. "Yes?" he asked, doing his best not to show any emotion to his lover’s very close presence.

"There’s no reason to hide things now, you know, and I promised I wouldn’t," Reno pointed out before bridging the distance between them to brush their lips together. "So don’t waste any time thinking up some punishments for me as if I would, okay?" He stared deeply into Rufus’ eyes for several heartbeats before giving him a proper kiss.

Letting the matter drop for the moment, Rufus combed his fingers through Reno’s long hair and resisted the urge to undo the buttons of the black shirt his lover wore. "Never forget that we’re not serious about this, Reno. Your job is to listen to the *both* of us." He gave the strands entwined around his fingers a quick tug to emphasis his point.

Reno let out a sharp breath and rolled his eyes. "As if I could forget." He leaned back as much as he could, his expression sultry rather than annoyed. "So, I’m back to work tomorrow." As he spoke in a devastatingly husky voice, his hands stroked up and down Rufus’ chest. "That mean’s today is for fun." In one smooth motion, his face was once more only a hair’s breath from Rufus’, his arms back around Rufus’ neck. "Come on, play hooky for once. Blow off work and we can spend the afternoon in some ridiculously expensive hotel." He licked along the part of Rufus’ lips. "Or in one of the new love hotels that opened up. It’ll be fun." Impossibly enough, his tone and expression became even sultrier. "I promise to make it fun."

Rufus was about to give in before he remembered his one o’clock meeting today and his plan to discuss a few things in regards to Reno with Tseng. Using his hold on his lover’s hair to force the man closer, he ravished Reno’s mouth, drinking in its heat and the pleasure it provoked in him until his breath grew ragged. "Not just yet." When Reno began to sulk, he combed his fingers through long crimson hair until Reno shivered in response. "Go home and wait for me. I’ll be there in a couple of hours." Then he resumed the kiss, his hands sliding through his lover’s hair until he could grasp Reno’s ass and squeeze it while his tongue thrust in deep and flicked about Reno’s mouth. He could feel his lover’s growing erection – was growing hard himself but he kept the fact that he did have to work to finish today in the front of his mind.

When he pulled back, he was pleased to find Reno panting and his eyes glowing, even brighter than usual in comparison to his flushed face. "Go home and think up something ‘fun’ for us to do tonight," he said in between nibbles to his lover’s neck.

"Bastard." Reno shuddered in pleasure and slowly pulled away, having to adjust himself in his jeans once he stood on his feet. He shook his head several times until his eyes returned to normal. "Maybe I’ll decide ‘fun’ is playing poker, what do you think about that, eh?" There was an impressive scowl on his face, ruined by the fact that the corners of his mouth kept twitching.

Rufus waved his right hand and shifted his cock into a comfortable position in his now tight pants before moving his chair closer to the desk. "Whatever you say, Reno." He was more successful at hiding his smile, the expression brought on by the thought that even if Reno did insist they play cards, it would end up a game of strip poker within an hour.

"Hmph." Reno mostly combed his hair into order then shrugged. "Whatever we do, you’re buying dinner tonight." He whistled as he sauntered out of the room, calling out ‘goodbye’ as he went through the double doors.

His office quiet once more, Rufus allowed himself a few seconds to dwell on what most likely awaited him once he finished with work before concentrating on getting said work done.


Return to Archive