A Night Out with the Turks


part six


"Well, if it ainít the prodigal child," Rod sneered, his head propped up by the heel of his left hand. Rude stopped pouring shots for him and Kali and looked over to find his partner standing by the table. Reno blended in with the majority of people in the room by wearing black and white; the black jeans and one of Rufusí black shirts over a white t-shirt wasnít his uniform, but it was close enough. His hair was actually neatly combed for once and mostly pulled back into a low ponytail.

"Fuck you, too," Reno shot back, and both Turks shared a grin as he set two bottles of what appeared to be fifty year old whiskey on the table. "Just for that, you donít get to drink anything, you stupid bastard."

Sitting up straight, Rod shook his head while Rude tried to figure out if he was imagining the liquor. "No, no, I take back all the nasty things Iíve ever said about you, Reno. You donít fuck chocobos on the weekends or dress up like Wutian schoolgirl whenever possible, or sneak into Medical to steal catheter bags so you can- ow!" He laughed really hard when Reno smacked him on the back of the head before flopping into the empty chair behind him.

"Stupid bastard," Reno muttered again, but he was smiling so it was clear that he hadnít taken any offense at the teasing. He glanced around the room, his smile fading somewhat. "Quite the turnout, eh? Rufus really came through this time."

Rude finally grabbed one of the bottles and was inspecting its label for signs of forgery while everyone else at the table nodded. "Everyone whoís off-duty is here, along with a good bit who arenít," he said, looking around the room himself for a moment before returning his attention to the whiskey. Rufus had indeed come through for Jared and Saraís wake; the banquet room was filled with Turks and a very attentive wait staff who seemed almost too eager to supply them with whatever food or drink theyíd want. One could tell the Turks who were still on duty or had to report to work in a couple of hours by the glasses of soda, juice or flavored water they held, but Tseng had told them that the party would be staffed until tomorrow afternoon so everyone had a chance to partake. Rude was willing to bet a monthís worth of pay that the room wouldnít empty out until the remaining Turks were kicked out; they all took mourning for their fallen comrades very seriously and had put off doing it on their own until Tseng felt it safe enough to organize this party.

No one had really minded, though, since it meant that for once their loss was being acknowledged. Rufusí father hadnít given a damn whenever a Turk had died while on duty, but it was clear that Rufus did. A small, cynical part of Rude whispered that Rufus was just binding the Turks to him even tighter, but he couldnít make himself care even if it was true; Rufus treated them with respect so that was all that mattered in the end. Though he was wondering if theyíd be mourning one Turk in particular once Rufus found out that two bottles of expensive as hell whiskey had been stolen from his penthouse. "Youíre not even cleared for work yet and youíre willing to get your ass beat up over some alcohol?" he asked as he tugged his sunglasses down far enough to stare directly at his friend.

Reno shrugged then picked up one of the empty shot-glasses littering the table and pushed it toward Rude. "Rufus told me I could grab two bottles of anything but some really old wine and bring it. Donít worry too much because he still has about seven more bottles at home."

"Weíll have to make sure to thank the man." Kali moved her shot glass closer to Rude as well, and the others around the table quickly did the same. Rude deliberately refilled Rodís glass first, then his own before everyone elseís. Rod, Reno, Kali, Pamela, Tosh, Elena, Cyril, Becca and Saint John joined him in raising their glasses for a toast.

"To Jared and Sara."

Rodís lips twisted a little before he tossed back the shot, and Cyrilís head hung a bit low for a moment, too. Rude noticed the motion and figured that heíd have to have a talk with the kid at some point tonight; Cyril seemed to feel a bit guilty that it was it was inadvertently due to his ex-partner that Jared had been killed, something that needed to be straightened out immediately since Tseng had paired him with Rod. But right now, Rude had whiskey to drink, very fine whiskey at that - the best heíd ever had.

"Now Sara was a mean bitch whoíd burst one of your balls for looking at her funny, but a fuck-up like Jared doesnít deserve something as good as that," Rod said as he set his glass back on the table and motioned for Rude to fill it again. "Damn, thatís *really* good." He gave Reno a sly glance. "I guess thereís some benefit to being the Ďmissusí now, eh?"

Reno bared his teeth, the expression containing a hint of hostility to it. "Dumb Earth First fuckers should have shot you instead of Jared." He pulled out a cigarette and lit it as he spoke.

"Hey, itís not my fault that *I* know when to fucking duck!" Rod glared at Reno for a moment, both of them looking ready to kill each other, before laughing and shaking his head. "How many times did Tseng yell at him for not ducking during training, eh?"

"Not enough," Reno replied, his angry expression changing to sadness for a moment before returning stronger than before. "I bet Jared would have told me about cleaning out my apartment, though, since he wasnít a bastard like the rest of you." He blew a cloud of smoke in Rodís direction.

Rude picked up one of the feta cheese and spinach appetizers that heíd been snacking on for the last hour and tossed it at his partner. "You were too busy being an asshole for us to tell you anything," he complained as Reno caught the food and popped it into his mouth.

Reno chewed a few times and shook his head. "Yeah, whatever." Thankfully he swallowed before sticking out the tip of his tongue. "It just goes to show that once again, the best of us pay the price." His tone was in solemn contrast to the slight smile on his face.

Everyone quickly raised their shot glasses again. "Sara never once compared me to my sister," Elena said after she swallowed the whiskey. "Told me that Iíd get my ass kicked if I went against any target who was older than a ten year old, but she didnít make me feel like I was a replacement." She closed her eyes for a moment, while Rude and he was willing to bet a few others at the table remembered her sisterís wake.

Kali was the next to speak, her right around wrapping around Elenaís shoulders to give her a comforting squeeze. "She said that Iíd obviously been hired to go undercover at strip bars and whorehouses. I think she was just jealous because my chest was twice the size of hers." She looked at Rude and gave him a small, sad smile.

"Meanwhile, she told me that I was only in the Turks to act as a human shield since other people could hide behind me." Rude smiled as well, a little bit in sadness but mostly in fond remembrance of Saraís teasing nature. Sheíd been barely bigger than Elena and had taken a lot of shit, especially from Heidegger, and had some fun being able to zing well-aimed barbs that were actually malice-free at her coworkers.

Reno chuckled as he reached across the table for more appetizers. "She was the first one to ask me if I was a natural redhead or not, and laughed when I dropped my pants to prove I was." He shook his head and dragged the plate closer. "Told me that I obviously hadnít hit my growth spurt yet."

Not about to be without snacks, Rude put his longer reach to good use and hauled the plate back in his direction. For a scrawny bastard, Reno sure as hell could eat, so Rude waved a server closer with the intention of his partner having his own plate of food.

Glaring at him for depriving him of food, Reno shrugged and sat back in his chair while a server gingerly approached the table, standing as far from Reno as he could manage while still putting a plate filled with appetizers down by him before scurrying away. Rude was under the impression that the servers had probably been warned to stay away from the presidentís boyfriend and fought not to laugh.

Pamela frowned nervously as she removed her black suit jacket and draped it behind her on the chair. "I never really knew Sara," she admitted before sipping from a glass of water.

"Yeah, well, she and Dom were pretty much in semi-retirement by the time you were hired." Rod gave his empty shot glass a dirty look so Rude quickly refilled it then several others. "She was such a mouthy bitch that you didnít miss much. The first time I met her, she sniffed and said that obviously the Turksí hiring standards had fallen pretty hard."

Saint John laughed pretty loud and tugged on the long braid heíd draped over his left shoulder. "She asked me if Iíd chosen a sword as a weapon because I had Ďcompensation issuesí, and when I did a ĎRenoí," Rudeís friend stuck out his tongue over the comment, which prompted a huge grin from Saint John, "gave me her phone number." He shuddered slightly. "I was too terrified to ever call her."

"Poor baby." Becca yanked on her partnerís hair and blew him a kiss when he called her a bitch. "She never really insulted me when we first met."

"Yeah, because you bitches instantly recognize each other," Kali pointed out, smiling when Becca gave her the finger.

Pamela, Cyril and Tosh appeared a little upset; the party had started an hour ago and it was only now, thanks to the alcohol kicking in, that the wake took on the particular Turkís flare of insulting the hell out of the dead. Anyone stupid or unlucky enough to be killed in the line of duty deserved to be mocked in their opinion, as well as shown proper remorse and respect. The sad fact of it was that too many people were happy when a Turk died, so theyíd gotten in the habit of saying all the bad things about their own first. Now that Rufus was in charge, maybe the wakes would change over time, but Rude suspected that everyone had too much fun with the way things were. He knew that his friends and lover would be insulting him if heíd died during the battle at the Reactor and was fine with it because theyíd just be telling the truth.

"Well then, hereís to one hell of a bitch," Becca said, and Rude had to finish refilling glasses in a hurry for the toast. "She couldnít hit a target with a bullet to save her life, she made Dom do all her paperwork and I know she was the one stealing sugar packets from the coffee room, but a bitch of her magnitude deserves some respect."

"Should weÖ I mean, what if Dom hears us?" Pamela asked after she set her empty glass back on the table.

Rude scoffed and began refilling the glasses again, a little worried over how fast the whiskey was vanishing. Something this good deserved to be sipped and cherished, but it also seemed fitting for it to be gulped down in the honor of two fallen friends. "Domís probably cussing up a storm about her right now and telling every one of her dirty secrets." He glanced around the room to find Saraís partner surrounded by most of the oldest Turks, all of them laughing hard at the moment. More than likely Dom had already shed his tears over his partner and best friend, just so as to not ruin the mood tonight.

Reno nodded as he chewed on another pastry puff. "Wake rules are simple; if youíre dead, youíre fair game. Itís not as if we wouldnít say any of this stuff to the personís face if they were still alive."

"Besides, Jared deserves it for missing out on this party." Rod was once again leaning over the table, his head supported by his hand. "Bastard would have given anything to enjoy this spread, and him being too slow to duck is what made it possible." There was a brittle edge to his voice and smile, a clear sign that he did indeed miss his partner and best friend, but he wasnít going to fail tradition. "And, considering the fact that he never paid me back that hundred and fifty gil before he died, he deserves all of the abuse." Something seemed to make him perk up a bit and he looked hopefully in Elenaís direction. "Do you think Tseng will pay me back the money Jared owes out of his last paycheck?"

Elena rolled her eyes and snatched a mini quiche from Rudeís snack tray. "I doubt it, but it would be amusing as hell to see you ask." She popped the food into her mouth and moaned in delight. "Oh, those are good! We need more of those." She rose from her chair to wave to one of the servers.

"One thing that must be said; Reno, your boyfriend knows how to throw a party." Kali took a quiche as well and ate it in two neat bites.

"Look, Iím still alive so leave me the fuck alone tonight," Reno complained as he slumped down in his chair. "I didnít get my brains blown out, okay?"

"Because you were sleeping while we did all the work." Rod pointed his finger at the redhead and shook it. "Nope, weíre stuck on double shifts while you get a cushy vacation at Healin Lodge."

Before Reno could start bitching up a storm, Becca grabbed a pastry puff and shoved it in his mouth, her dark eyes narrowed in displeasure. "We agreed to never mention that place again, dammit! Cyn pulls out her gun while Deirdre jumps on top of the highest possible surface whenever those two words are spoken, and I still have bite marks from a certain redheaded bastard, thank you very much!" She smacked Renoís left shoulder, causing him to almost choke on the food.

Tosh chuckled suggestively at her remarks. "Oh, Reno bit you? Isnít that daring, screwing around right beneath Rufusí nose." He immediately let out a yelp of pain when Saint John whapped him hard on the back of the head.

"Donít even joke about something like that." Saint John had been one of the few Turks to see Rufus fuss over Reno when heíd been injured and to witness the presidentís odd behavior. "Explain to me again why the hell it isnít the rookies who die?" he complained with a disgruntled look on his face.

"I keep telling Tseng that we should just throw them at the enemy with bombs strapped to their chest, but he wonít listen to me." Reno pouted at his empty shot glass for a moment. "Said it takes too much paperwork."

"Very funny, smart ass." Pamela glared at Reno before being distracted by the server whoíd brought two more trays of appetizers to the table. Rude couldnít tell from where he was sitting, but he had the impression that the guy had a really good ass, judging from the way Pamela stared at it. "How much longer are you on medical leave? I like how quiet itís been lately."

Reno wrinkled his nose and gave her the finger. "Iíll be back next week, bitch."

"Which means that office guard duty wonít be so boring for long," Rod pointed out with a wicked grin. "You know, for someone who claimed to be a hundred percent straight, Jared certainly got off on listening to you and Rufus fuck."

"Because your partner was a damn pervert." Reno grunted and licked at a drop of whiskey in his glass.

Kali nodded in agreement, while Rude sensed that thereíd be another toast, soon. "He was always hanging out around the ladies shower, you know."

"Tseng caught him trying to install cameras in there once," Elena contributed to the conversation, which prompted laughs from everyone, especially Rod.

"Fuck yeah, I remember that! Dumb shit didnít even get the right type of cameras and had to pull double shifts for two weeks." Rod laughed some more as he leaned back in his chair. "What a pathetic excuse for a Ďladies maní. No wonder all his girlfriends dumped him after a few weeks."

Cyril cleared his throat, speaking up for the first time in what had to be almost half an hour. "He tried to teach me how to pick up women. I used the lines he gave me once and was slapped so hard I almost lost a filling." He cringed a little as if afraid he was going to be yelled at, but relaxed when Rod smiled and patted him on the back.

"He had the worst pick-up lines," Rod agreed. "There were nights when weíd take bets on how many times heíd be slapped or have a drink tossed in his face." There was a fond smile on his face as he bummed a cigarette from Reno and began to smoke.

Pamela giggled a couple of times. "He even tried to use them on me when we first met. I told him that anyone who was trying so hard to get into my pants had to have a tiny dick and no knowledge on how to use it."

That prompted Elena to giggle as well. "Jared tricked me into giving him some shooting lessons once. I thought he was going to shit his pants when he put his hand on my ass and I shoved my loaded and cocked gun in his crotch in response."

"No!" Rod pounded the table a few times, sending ash flying and almost falling out of his seat from laughing so hard. "I always wondered why he seemed so hot for you one day and then flinched whenever I mentioned your name for about a month! Such a stupid fuck," he said as he shook his head.

"To stupid fucks," Rude called out and raised his glass, and once again everyone joined in on the toast. "Iíll never forget that time he bet us he could pick up the bartender in that club on Tenth Street. We made him give Tseng a kiss on the cheek for losing it."

That prompted more laughter, then Elena demanding to know details. The whiskey was finished as those of them whoíd known Jared the longest shared stories on all the stupid bets that Jared had lost and what heíd been made to do as a result. Looking back on it, Rude was surprised that the idiot hadnít been killed by someone, especially Tseng, over the years.

The very fine whiskey might be gone, but the wait staff brought over bottles that were pretty good in their own right along with more fancy snacks. There was mention of proper meals if anyone wanted something more substantial to eat, probably after everyone had a few more shots in them and got worried about being hungover all day tomorrow.

Rude got up to go to the bathroom and stopped to talk to Dom on the way back to the table, giving the older Turk an affectionate pat on the back and exchanging insults about Sara for a few minutes. Seeing how drunk Dom was and determined to honor Saraís memory, Rude recalled the rumors that the partners had been more than just friends and left before he asked if it was true. He really didnít want to know because it didnít matter now, and was only yet more proof that Turks shouldnít have relationships with their partners. It seemed too late for a Ďno Turks screwing around with the bossí rule, while Tseng and Rufus came across as two men who werenít about to toss their respective lovers aside and look for new ones anytime soon. That certainly wasnít going to happen if Rufus had allowed Reno to bring the whiskey tonight and Tseng had caved in to Elenaís demands after two days.

Rude came back to the table to find that Rod and Cyril were gone, and gave Reno a curious look. His partner, busy braiding his long ponytail as if bored or something, merely shrugged. "Cyn dragged Rod away to drink with some other people and Cyril tagged along."

When Rude sat down in his chair, Kali patted him on the upper right thigh. "I think heís trying to look after Rod. Itís sweet in a puppy dog way."

"More than likely, heís still upset about Mason." Saint Johnís lips twisted in anger when he mentioned the traitor.

Shaking his head as if to clear it, Reno gave up on playing with his hair and raised his shot glass into the air. "Right, one Turk we forgot about. Hereís to Mason; may the bastard burn in the lowest hell for all eternity." The venom in his voice was absolutely lethal, his eyes narrowed with hatred as he spat out the words.

Now that Cyril wasnít here, everyone raised their glasses and echoed Renoís sentiments. For himself, Rude wished that heíd had longer time to torture the bastard whoíd given the enemy an opportunity to hurt and kill his friendsÖ which reminded him of something. "I hear the video of the bastardís torture somehow got leaked; itís up on the message board."

That seemed to get Renoís attention. "Really, partner? Thatís good to know." His grin just then was pure evil. "At least that way I donít miss out on all the fun."

"Remember that the next time you decide to play with bombs," Rude said as he gave Renoís right foot a gentle kick.

That got him the tip of Renoís tongue stuck out at him again. "Right, next time Iíll just let them shoot you and Rufus." Rude had an uncomfortable moment when he realized that most likely heíd have been killed once the Earth First pricks had secured Reno and Rufus since he was the expendable one. "Iíll have to use Rufusí computer to download the file since mineís not set up yet."

"You mean itís not set up by now?" Becca asked, her dark, slanted eyes appearing narrower than usual, a sign that she was well on her way to being very intoxicated. "What have you been doing for the last four days?" Further sign of her inebriated state was the fact that she didnít seem to understand why everyone at the table was sniggering, even Reno.

"Letís see, two weeks no sex and lots of fighting over where my shit is going to go means that when weíre not trying to kill each other, weíre fucking like bunnies," Reno proudly announced.

"Look, Reno, nothing personal but if I ever have to babysit your ass again because of your relationship, Iím keeping an armed tranq gun on me at all times," Saint John complained, his words slightly slurred as he attempted to glare in Renoís direction. "Youíre a pain in the ass, Red."

Reno waggled his eyebrows and poured himself another shot. "Nope, itís the other way around."

Rude wasnít so polite about kicking his partnerís foot this time. "Weíre not here to talk about your sex life." He gave Reno a warning scowl, not in the mood to listen to the idiot go on about Rufus after what Rude had suffered over the last couple of weeks. Reno didnít appear offended and only shrugged in response.

Elena hiccupped slightly and tugged on a lock of her hair as if to try to clear her head. "Who are we going to count on to provide us the amusement of watching him constantly be turned down now, eh? Rude and Reno are taken, Rodís too much of a slut and Cyrilís got that whole puppy thing going on that makes the women want to take him home and corrupt him." She pointedly turned to look in Tosh and Saint Johnís direction. "Itís up to you two to carry on in Jaredís name."

Both men looked offended as hell, especially Saint John. "I believe it falls onto Toshí shoulders," he sneered and attempted to comb back the long strands of hair that had escaped his unraveling braid.

"Bullshit." Tosh slammed his fist onto the table and glared at the older Turk. "I bet women just love tossing drinks in your snooty-assed face."

Becca giggled and nodded several times. "They flock to him because he looks good, but once he starts talking he scares them away." It seemed that she meant to whisper the words, but they came out a lot louder than intended.

Saint John stopped glaring at Tosh long enough to give his partner a crushed look. "Becca! Do I talk about the men you pick up all the time?"

"I notice that you didnít say anything about the women. Youíre jealous that I have better luck with them than you." Her smile just then was very pleased and almost predatory.

While Elena and Kali congratulated Becca on her attraction to both sexes, Pamela nudged Tosh in the side with her elbow. "Donít make me bring up your abysmal track record, partner."

"Says the woman whoís regularly dating a vibrating appliance!" Tosh shot back, his face flushed in either embarrassment or anger. "You must go through ten packs of batteries a week!"

Elena, Kali, Becca and Pamela instantly regarded their fellow Turk with the coldest expressions imaginable. "Never mock a womanís relationship with her vibrator," Kali warned, her tone of voice one that Rude instantly recognized as it set off various alarms in his head. At least it wasnít directed at him, he thought with relief as the four women tore into Tosh, releasing a constant stream of insults and pithy comments. He scooted his chair closer to Renoís while Saint John actually got up from his seat and took one the farthest away from the women as possible.

"I guess that settles whoís taking Jaredís place in the pecking order, then," Reno smirked as he set his empty shot glass onto the table. "Life goes on, blah blah blah, some other platitude or two, letís have one more shot."

"As always, your eloquence stuns me silent." Saint John smiled at Reno and seemed to have some trouble grabbing the half empty bottle of whiskey. "Wait a minute, why arenít we drinking tequila tonight?"

"Because Jared liked whiskey best," Rude explained. He felt a wave of sadness, possibly from the alcohol starting to catch up to him, and couldnít maintain a fun mood for a few seconds. They were sending Jared and Sara off in style, but it still didnít hide the fact that heíd lost two friends and that he missed them.

"At least the bastard had the sense to like a decent drink. Remember how we all got stuck doing shots of Grand Marnier at Cyreís wake? I was so fucking sick the next day," Reno complained. He frowned as he blinked his eyes several times, and Rude didnít know if it was the alcohol or not, but he swore that they glowed for a moment. Before he could make up his mind on if he was imagining things, Reno cursed under his breath and rubbed his eyes for a good minute.

"Everything okay, Reno?"

"Yeah, just fuckiní peachy." Reno careful kept his eyes adverted while he blinked furiously for several seconds, then let out a sigh and gave Rude a wan smile. "You know, I just realized that it canít be a proper wake for Jared unless thereís strippers involved. Do ya think that Tseng remembered to order a few?"

Saint John scowled fiercely at the table top. "Thatís a very good observation, Reno. I certainly hope that Tseng remembered. It would be a shame if Jaredís love for the fine arts isnít memorialized."

Reno and Rude shared a look at Saint Johnís behavior, Reno mumbling Ďlight weightí under his breath as he stood from the table. "Yeah, well, Iím gonna go find out. It would indeed be a shame if Jaredís not sent off by at least half a dozen breast implants bouncing around in his memory," Reno snickered. He waved goodbye to Rude and quickly left the room, his left hand rubbing his eyes again.

Rude watched him go, an anxious feeling to his stomach as he thought about how much things had changed in the last few weeks. The feeling died down a little when he looked around the room at all the Turks drinking and laughing together, several groups holding up glasses in toasts as the party showed no sign of ending soon. Rod and Cyril were across the room, Cyril clearly supporting a wavering Rod as the older Turk chatted with an equally drunk Dom.

He was startled when Kali suddenly landed in his lap, a cruel yet pleased smile on her lips. "Itís official Ė Tosh is the new king of the idiots."

Rude glanced over his girlfriendís left shoulder to see the man in question slumped down in his seat and drinking straight from the bottle while Becca, Elena and Pamela continued to harangue him. "Thatís what Reno said a couple of minutes ago."

Kali glanced around and seemed to notice that the redhead wasnít present at the table. "Eh, heís gone already? Normally Renoís the last to leave."

"He said something about tracking down Tseng to see if any strippers were hired in Jaredís honor." He shared a look with Kali before she tossed her head back and laugh.

"I donít know if itís a good thing or bad that he probably dated about half of whoever Tseng gets to show up. Maybe thatíll rate a discount or something." Her smile faltered for a moment, replaced by a flash of sadness. "Itís a nice party." She sounded thoughtful as she glanced around the room again. "I think itís actually a bit difficult, getting used to being treated with respect."

Rude wrapped his arms around her waist. "Iím sure after Rufus gets the bill for tonight, Tseng will give all of us one hell of a lecture about how we better not die while on duty any time soon or itíll come out of our budget." It wasnít one of his better jokes, but it did make Kali smile and smooth her right hand over his head in a gentle caress.

"In honor of Jared, Iíll make a bet with you. I wager breakfast in bed for the next month that Renoís not going to come back tonight." She giggled and leaned forward to use her teeth to tug on one of his earrings. "Heís probably going to make sure that Rufus doesnít spend the night calculating how much profit weíre drinking through for the party."

Shaking his head before he shivered in response, Rude gave her a smack on the ass. "Iím not stupid enough to take that bet." He wasnít happy with the thought of Reno leaving his fellow Turks to go see Rufus, but that seemed to be the way things were now. Considering that Renoís relationship with the president probably had something to do with the way Rufus treated their department, Rude couldnít feel that bitter over the situation. He justÖ he missed the way things had been, mostly, back when he and Reno basically only had each other to count on. Now Reno was living with Rufus and Kali kept bringing a bag of new stuff with her whenever she spent the night. If Rude wasnít so amused by her actions, heíd be freaking out over the fact that they were going to end up living together in another month or two.

Kali laughed again and pulled away enough to look at Saint John. "Hmm, maybe heís drunk enough to take it, then. Iíve a few night shifts Iíd like to get rid of." She turned back to Rude and gave him a sultry smile.

"By all means, go ahead." Rude even gave her a shove in Saint Johnís direction since he had an idea of what sheíd be doing on those free nights.


Rufus poured twenty year old brandy into two crystal glasses. Once they were filled halfway, he set the decanter aside and picked up both glasses, offering one to Tseng. The Head of Turks bowed his head slightly as he took the glass and clinked it against Rufusí.

"To Sara and Jared."

"To Sara and Jared," Rufus echoed before he tilted his head back and let the brandy run down his throat. It settled in his stomach and warmed him through, the alcoholís fine taste made bitter by the toast. The Turks were there for him to use, to protect him and ShinRa, and that was something he felt no remorse over. However, it was a shame that two of his people had to die to destroy an enemy that never should have been allowed to grow so powerful in the first place. As ShinRa Electric Power Company resumed its spot as the worldís most powerful energy supplier and weapons developer, the Turks would come under more fire. He allowed himself the slightest bit of regret before pushing the useless emotion aside.

"Are you going to the wake now?" he asked as he leaned against his desk.

Tseng nodded once and set the glass down. "Yes, President." He hesitated for a moment before looking Rufus directly in the face. "Youíre welcome to attend. The Turks are very grateful for your generosity tonight.

That prompted a laugh from Rufus, who shook his head when Tsengís expression grew worried. "No, Iíve no doubts that they are indeed grateful and that nothing would be said if I did attend. However, I think itís best that I donít." He inclined his head slightly. "Please pass on my condolences, and my desire that they enjoy themselves tonight. That includes you, too."

Tseng nodded again. "Thank you." He smoothed back his hair and smiled. "Iíll make sure that Reno doesnít blow anything up tonight."

"Not funny, Tseng." Rufus glared at his employee for a moment before his lips twitched and he smiled. "Please keep in mind that heís currently on company premises."

"Yes, sir." Tseng bowed and left the room, his pace increasing the closer he got to the door. Rufus imagined that the man wanted to join his coworkers in saying goodbye to Sara and Jared. He also thought it was a good thing that he had no plans other than to work from his office tomorrow since many of the Turks would likely be very hungover. If Tseng was included in that number, then heíd never let the man live it down.

He refilled his glass and went to stare out the window, in no particular hurry to go home tonight. Reno probably wouldnít return until someone carried him into the penthouse tomorrow morning, and Rufus figured heíd allow his guards tonight a little longer to enjoy the party before they had to escort him home.

Heíd finished the second drink and was staring at the few twinkling lights that were spread out before him when he caught sight of something reflected in the dark glass. Barely registering the fact that he wasnít alone in the office anymore, he dropped the glass and was reaching for his gun when long arms covered in black silk wrapped around his waist. "Itís more fun to watch a movie, ya know," Reno breathed against his left ear, cold metal pressing against his neck.

Rufus let out the breath heíd been holding and reached up to give his loverís earring a harsh yank. "Iím going to shoot you one day for stunts like that."

Reno chuckled and rubbed his cheek against Rufusí shoulder. He smelled of cigarettes and whiskey and was a warm, steady presence against Rufusí back. "I was hired because Iím so sneaky, remember? Just keeping those skills from getting rusty."

Turning around to face his lover, Rufus leaned against cold glass and pulled Reno closer. "Then donít complain to me when you get shot, since itís obviously a failure on your part." He tilted up Renoís chin to kiss his lover, his hands sliding into the cool, silky strands of Renoís ponytail. "Donít tell me the partyís over already," he sighed against his loverís lips when he pulled back slightly.

Reno shook his head and rested more of his weight against Rufus. Judging from how clear his eyes were and the lack of his below-plate accent, he was only a little intoxicated so far tonight. "Nah, itíll last until at least noon tomorrow, Iím willing to bet, especially since some people are coming off shift in a couple more hours. We just remembered that there should be some entertainment in Jaredís honor, so I tracked down Tseng to get his approval."

Noting his loverís wicked grin, Rufus sighed again and felt the urge to shake his head. "íEntertainmentí? What kind and how much is this going to cost me?"

Reno laughed and trailed his lips along Rufusí jaw. "Donít worry, Jared always liked the cheap strippers best. Shouldnít cost you more than a few hundred gil." His teeth scraped along Rufusí left earlobe before he pulled back.

"And is there anything special that needs to be done in Saraís honor?"

"No." Renoís smile slipped as he shrugged. "Sheíd be happy with the thought of people toasting her all night and talking about how she put them in their place over the years." He closed his eyes and tightened his hold around Rufusí waist. "Itís a good wake so far. Thanks."

"Youíre welcome." Rufus pressed his lips against Renoís forehead, relieved that there was no sign of the fever that had plagued his lover for the last couple of weeks. "So, I guess youíll be back down there for a front row seat of the strippers?" A slight edge crept into his voice as he recalled that night in the strip club.

Reno surprised him by shaking his head. "Nah. I spent a few hours downing shots in Jared and Saraís memory, bitched about them and got a bit mopey. I think Iím done for the night." He slid his arms from Rufusí waist so he could rub his eyes. "Hate to say it, but Iím still a bit worn out." The words were spoken with an obvious reluctance.

Rufus smiled and pulled Renoís hands from his eyes. "Perhaps we should stop by Medical to have you checked out. Considering how much you yelled over Dr. Alimís insistence that you not report back to work yet, there must be something wrong."

"Bastard." Reno rolled his eyes and tried to step away, but was stopped by the arms draped over his shoulders. "Whatís going on is that Iím not stupid enough to stick around and drink all night when Iím not feeling a hundred percent well. Iíll only get drunk, pass out and wake up hanging from the twentieth floor flagpole while wearing one of Kaliís dresses or something."

"Ah yes, I remember that New Yearís Eve party, though it was Rod who ended up out there." Rufus smiled at the memory of how much his father had yelled over the incident and threatened to do away with the parties. Tseng had pointed out that ShinRa didnít pay for the parties in the first place and brought up all of the incidents that some department heads found themselves in after various company functions, and Rufusí father hadnít made any more threats.

Reno snorted and stopped trying to step back. "I *know* that assholeís dying for revenge, and heíd have a roomful of people real happy to do whatever he wants." He shook his head, loose strands of his crimson hair flaring around his face. "Letís just go home."

"What if I want to make you wear a dress once we get there?" Rufus teased as he undid the clasp holding back the rest of his loverís hair, a feeling of warmth in his chest when Reno said the word Ďhomeí.

"I know pictures of that wonít end up on the message board," Reno shot back as he smiled and stepped closer. "Is that what you want? Me wearing that black dress with the garters and the high heels?" His voice was practically a purr at that point, his body pressed against Rufusí in such a manner that Rufus couldnít help but react to his loverís presence.

Nuzzling the right side of Renoís neck, Rufus pushed away from the window and moved them both further into the large office. "Not tonight." Heíd enjoy having Reno dress up another time, he thought as they bumped against the side of his desk. "Arenít you more in the mood for sex here, instead?"

Reno laughed and sat down on the desk, yanking on the lapels of Rufusí coat to make him nestle between Renoís legs. "Itís not the same unless Iím on the clock. Thatís half the fun of it."

Rufus smiled in spite of himself and let his arms rest over Renoís shoulders. "I guess we could just go home and have sex on the kitchen counter again." His smile took on a sharp edge when he barely prevented his lover from punching him in the ribs.

"Bastard," Reno muttered before nipping at Rufusí chin. "Look, Joel and Carmen will be pretty pissed off if they miss out on the strippers, so letís head on home now so theyíll be back in time to catch the act. We can crack open another bottle of whiskey while I tell you all the shit that Jared and Sara pulled over the years that you never were supposed to know about."

The offer was very temptingÖ which left Rufus wondering why Reno wanted to leave a party where there were unlimited free drinks and food. He supposed that the same could be said about drinking back at the penthouse since it was his liquor collection that would be seriously depleted, and found himself mostly unconcerned about his loverís motives for the moment. At the least, it would give him something to do tonight as he attempted to find out the real reason why Reno wanted to go home early.

"Just keep in mind that one of us still has to report to work tomorrow," he warned as he reached for his phone to recall the Turks assigned to him for the evening.

Now busy nibbling on the left side of Rufusí jaw, Reno grunted softly. "Like I care since itís not me. Besides, part of the tradition is spending the day after the wake sick as hell and cursing out the person stupid enough to get killed." In contrast to his words, his tone was tinged with sadness.

Something painfully sharp and bitter burst into life in Rufusí chest and he grabbed a handful of his loverís hair to force Reno to look at him. "Just make sure there isnít a wake held for you any time soon, or else Iíll be down there showing everyone those pictures of you in a corset and stockings," he threatened, his voice uncharacteristically rough.

Reno blinked at the vehemence behind the words and frowned. "This isnít going to turn into another lecture about how I canít play with bombs anymore, is it? Because Iím about to start reciting that one in my sleep, Iíve heard it so many times by now."

"Idiot." Rufus yanked on Renoís hair, and while his lover cursed him, called Joel so the Turk and his partner would return to the office.


Return to Archive

Next Chapter