Turks Night Out

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Eleven

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Rude looked around his new apartment and sighed. "You do realize that it’s just going to get trashed tonight, don’t you?" he asked, as he surveyed the neatly arranged furniture and knickknacks that he had spent the last two days putting into place.

Kali was already dressed for their ‘new apartment party’, wearing a pair of tight, dark blue jeans and white v-neck pullover made out of some soft, thin material. "Consider it a trial run for future parties," she replied with an elegant shrug, busy lighting various candles around their spacious living room.

He was uncertain about what left him feeling the most unsettled – the fact that he had just moved into a new apartment with his girlfriend, hence taking a terrifying step into formalizing their relationship, or that the upgrade in living arrangement meant that his coworkers would probably make this place their preference for parties from here on out.

He was still a bit hazy on the details that had led to the move, only recalling Kali complaining one morning after a very long and intense mission on his part about how she was wasting money on rent when she stayed at his place almost 90% of the time. He *thought* that he had made a non-committal enough of a grunt in response, but soon realized that it was not the case when she dragged him out to look at a new apartment the next day. What were the odds of a spot opening up in the same building where Tseng lived right then? He knew a set-up when he was trapped in one, but since he did love Kali and they had in effect been living together the last few months, he figured his best recourse was to give in gracefully.

There was also the fact that there was a decided downside to dating someone who could kill you with terrifying ease and no weapons, which he had known going into the relationship. It made disagreeing with them a tad bit dangerous, especially when Kali got that particular glint in her dark brown eyes.

At least they had hired a ShinRa-approved moving company to haul everything but their most ‘sensitive’ belongings to the new apartment, deciding that with the pack of lunatics they called friends, it was best to spend the money and assure themselves that all their belongings made the move safely and that no blackmail material fell into the hands of the people most likely to use it against them. The new apartment was almost twice the size of his last one, was closer to work and less than a block away from Rufus’ penthouse. That last bit meant they were both now qualified for bonus ‘hazard’ pay, although he was unclear if it was because of the added danger of living closer to Rufus or Reno.

"They should be arriving soon." Kali finished fussing with the various bottles on their well-stocked bar to cross the room and give him a kiss and a hug. "You must really like the place if you’re worried about it being trashed."

"It’s… nicer than I expected." Rude settled his hands on her hips and gave a gentle squeeze, admitting to himself finally that he was not displeased with the new living arrangements even if he had little say in them. He just hoped that his coworkers were past the teasing stage about the move by now, or else he would have to ask Tseng about the best way to get rid of a body from the premises a littler sooner than he had anticipated.

He leaned in for a longer kiss, and of course was interrupted by the doorbell ringing. Trust the Turks to show up on time to a party, when they usually straggled in at all hours for a day spent in the office.

Cyril and Midori were the first ones to arrive; Cyril wore a pale blue dress shirt with his jeans while Midori wore something from Wutai, and came bearing a wrapped gift that did not look to be a bottle of alcohol. Behind them, and much more casually dressed, were Rod and Cyn, bearing what turned out to be two bottles of tequila. "Aw, you telling me that we get to break in the apartment?" Rod asked as he walked inside, and barely managed to dodge the smack that Rude aimed toward his head.

"Trash the place and I’ll break a few bones," Rude warned, unwilling to even joke about his new place being destroyed so quickly. He went to the bar to deposit the tequila bottles, and snagged the left sleeve of Kali’s shirt along the way. "Rod and Cyn?" he whispered while making their ‘guests’ some drinks.

Kali smiled as she shook her head, dark hair fanning out around her shoulders, and held Cyril’s gift cradled in her arms. "It’s just a fuck-buddy thing. They got tired of dating for a while and figured that this worked out best for the both of them."

"Ah, okay." That explained why Cyn was settling for a reprobate like Rod when she could do much better. Also, that put to rest the small fear he had of the rest of the Turks pairing up with each other and blaming him and Kali when their relationships inevitably went sour; there was no way those two particular Turks would settle down together, unless some of Hojo’s experimental drugs were involved. As it was, he knew that he and Kali had beaten quite a few betting pools for staying together this long, let alone moving in together.

Deirdre and Ling were the next to arrive, followed by a very unhappy looking Pamela and Jackson. Pamela, well past the rookie shyness that had marked her first few months as a Turk, practically shoved a tall, thin bag containing a bottle of alcohol into Kali’s chest. "Here you go, you fucking bitch," she snarled, her surprisingly fearsome glower turning into a smile when she saw Rude. "Thanks for inviting us." She grabbed hold of a chuckling Jackson’s arm and led the tall Turk off to the bar, where everyone else was gathered around.

Rude stared after her for a few seconds before turning toward Kali. "What brought that on?"

Instead of being pissed off by Pamela’s rudeness, Kali was instead smiling, looking very much pleased by the situation. "Oh, it’s nothing to worry yourself about." When those words were spoken by a woman in *that* tone and accompanied by *that* look, Rude had learned quite a few years ago that it was a very good time to change the topic. Perhaps Jackson could enlighten him later in the evening, once he was certain that Kali was nowhere in earshot. He found himself doing a quick spot-check around the apartment, even though he knew his girlfriend had not been able to set up any hidden cameras in the short amount of time that they had been living here.

More guests arrived after that, and the majority of the ‘congrats on the new place’ gifts turned out to be alcohol – with the exception of a lovely Wutian vase from Cyril and Midori - which was to be expected from his coworkers. He made sure to stash a few of the better bottles out of sight, along with the vase that looked as if it was authentic and so deserved to not get broken by some drunken idiot.

Tseng and Elena were the next Turks to come through the door, Tseng’s expression schooled in such a careful manner that the older Turks were on their guard in an instant, drinks set down on the nearest available surface and hands hovering around what Rude was certain were hidden weapons of choice. Part of his brain made idle note of those locations, and wanted to smack the other part that bemoaned the lack of coasters being used for the discarded glasses. He hurried over to his superior on the pretense of being a welcoming host, and hoped that he knew the reason behind Tseng’s unhappy demeanor.

"So, I guess there goes the excuse about the roads being too bad for me to get into work since I only live four floors down from you," Rude teased as he accepted yet another bottle of alcohol that was held out to him in silent offer. To his surprise, he managed to win a small smile from Tseng while Elena, a very evident pout on her face, went off in a huff in Kali’s direction.

"No, but perhaps we can convince Rufus of the stairwells and elevators being inaccessible one day and take a well-earned break." Tseng glanced around the apartment as if assessing the layout and headed directly for the bar. "May you have nothing but good fortune in your new home."

"Thank you." Rude bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement of the well-wishes and followed his boss, mindful of how everyone in the room slowly relaxed as if a crisis had been diverted. It did not escape his notice that Kali, Elena and a few other of the female Turks had gone into the kitchen, which confirmed the reason behind why Tseng was pouring himself several shots worth of whiskey just then, with only one ice cube to chill the alcohol.

"Sorry, Sir," was all Rude said as he poured himself a drink as well, feeling the need to be a lot less sober all of a sudden. In a way, this was a lot like playing house; looking at a new apartment, signing the lease, living near Tseng and even Reno, indulging Kali…. The fact was, he had made a decision that may greatly impact his career and his life down the line. There was no more ‘playing’ to this situation, he had now declared a weakness to the world that, sooner or later, someone would attempt to take advantage of to hurt either him or Kali – or worse, someone else.

Tseng tossed back the drink and grimaced – Rude doubted the expression was from the taste of the alcohol. "She’s…. She should know that there’s a difference in our status. Her moving in would make things too obvious."

Rude doubted that Elena would easily accept such an answer, especially after he and Kali had moved in together. After all, if Tseng did not want to live with her, why not allow her to get an apartment here as well? She failed to realize that it would be too easy to take out most of the ‘Four Aces’ at the same time as well as do little to fool people that the Head of the Turks allowed his lover to live so close to him just to make it a little easier to have sex. No, as long as things remained as they were, Tseng could still claim a bit of ‘emotional’ distance from Elena.

As it was, he spent a lot of his time anymore away from home on business for ShinRa, which was probably the real reason why there had been an ‘available’ apartment in one of the most desirable buildings in this area of the city. Rude tamped down on the guilt he felt for his superior and friend’s relationship woe’s, since Kali had to have found out about the place ‘somehow’ and manage to convince the best friend of the guy who was currently screwing the president of ShinRa into signing its lease. Oh yes, he definitely deserved the very fine bottle of wine that Tseng had brought to the party tonight, along with that hazard pay.

Which might come into play sooner than expected, considering that several female Turks seemed to be holding a war party in the kitchen, while Tosh, Jackson and Michael were well on their way to being drunk enough to do something stupid and so end up as examples to the rest of the party as exactly what *not* to do in Rude’s new apartment. Rude had just opened his mouth to ask Tseng about the dimensions of the building’s garbage chute when there was a loud, rapid knock on the door, followed by it being pushed open.

"Eh, at least it’s not all pink yet," Reno remarked as he sauntered in, wearing one of Rufus’ white jackets over a tight black t-shirt and jeans and his read hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. Behind him, dressed in white slacks and a white shirt over a black turtleneck, was a bemused-looking Rufus with a long, thin gold bag dangling from the fingers of his right hand.

"Asshole. Kali doesn’t even like pink." Rude clapped his partner on the left shoulder in greeting, the dark mood that had settled in earlier beginning to lift at the sight of the cocky bastard. "And no, she didn’t make me get rid of any of my stuff."

He regretted the words as soon as they were said, after seeing the way Reno’s eyes narrowed in anger. "What, you mean you didn’t move in with an anal-retentive bastard who makes you keep most of your shit in boxes? Imagine that."

The verbal jab must have hit a sore spot because Rufus, with an uncharacteristic lack of smoothness, shoved the bag toward Rude. "I believe it’s traditional to bring a house-warming gift."

A quick peek at the top of the bag confirmed what the sloshing sound hinted at, that it was yet another bottle of something, and Rude was willing to bet that ‘something’ was very old and very expensive. "Thank you very much, Sir."

Unfortunately, Reno did not seem to be in a mood to let go of a fight, which should not have surprised anyone. "What, it’s a tradition that I don’t deserve or something? Don’t remember getting anything other than a damn hangover and a sore ass when I moved in," Reno bitched as he stepped further into the apartment, the center of attention as everyone stopped drinking to watch the show. The chance to have ‘front row seats’ at a fight between Rufus and Reno even got Elena, Kali and the others out of the kitchen.

Rufus’ evident discomfort over the public nature of the argument quickly seemed to fade away as he bridged the space between him and his lover, his gloved hands clenched into fists at his sides and his blue eyes bright with anger. "Were you hoping to be carried over the threshold or something?"

"Ha! Ya’d hafta had told me somethin’ then, wouldn’t ya? Nah, only way ya can get someone ta live with yah sorry ass is ta trick ‘em into it." Reno folded his arms over his chest and gave off the appearance that he was enjoying himself immensely. Considering that he had yet to indulge in a drink, that was quite the impressive feat – except for the fact that he was picking a fight in *Rude’s* new apartment. Somehow, Rude doubted that his renter’s insurance covered an unnatural disaster such as his partner.

Meanwhile, Rufus was slowly regaining his composure, his right hand now unclenched and brushing back the hair falling onto his forehead. "For someone ‘tricked’ into living with me, you certainly give no indication of leaving any time soon, nor of paying any rent or contributing to the bills. One would think that is a ‘gift’ enough."

Reno rolled his eyes as he reached into the coat for something, prompting Tseng to step closer as if prepared to protect Rufus with his body if necessary. "High-handed bastards who don’t bother ta ask first can be stuck with the fuckin’ bills." The tip of his tongue poked out in Tseng’s direction as he handed Rude a folded piece of paper. "Meanwhile, us poor, long-suffering souls who have to live with those high-handed, controlling, sadistic-" he cut off the tirade when Rufus hissed out his name, "*roommates* can think up better gifts than just grabbing something out of the wine cellar." He waved his left hand after Rude accepted the paper and wrinkled his nose. "Closet. Cabinet. Whatever the hell you call it when it’s not actually in the basement."

A little apprehensive, Rude unfolded the paper carefully, as if there was the chance that it could blow up in his face. Either not as cautious or as fond of living, Kali pressed against his back to see what was printed on it. "’Coaster of the month club’," she asked as he stared at the paper in disbelief. "Did you make that up or what?"

Reno gave her the finger over his left shoulder as he headed for the bar. "Fuck off, you uneducated bitch," he replied in a teasing tone, and added a smile as well before he grabbed the first bottle in reach and unscrewed its top. "There is indeed a ‘coaster of a month club’ that will send you a different set of coasters each month to protect your precious furniture so you don’t have to threaten your friends all the time." He made sure to stare at Rude as he said that. "I’ll have you know that there’s more than porn that you can find out on the ‘net if you’ve half an hour to kill." He paused in lifting up his very full glass to consider something. "Though some of those coasters are pretty nasty. Wait ‘til you see June!"

Rufus, in the middle of a discussion with Tseng, stopped what he was saying and turned to face his lover and glared. "*That’s* the very important thing you had to research last night?!"

Reno waved aside his concern with a mostly empty glass. "Hey, don’t put down Rude’s love for his precious coasters! And it’s not as if your hand was broken, right? Not just gonna lie there all night for you to pop your rocks for the third time even if you pay the damn bills," he muttered as he poured himself some more tequila.

While Reno enjoyed his drink, Tseng appeared to do his best to remind Rufus of all the reasons why he should *not* kill Reno and the rest of Rude’s guests made it clear that they were greatly enjoying the night’s entertainment, Rude stood there calculating the odds of what would happen next; either the first attempted homicide in his new home or Reno getting ‘lucky’. Considering the fact that the carpet in the new place was off-white and very plush, he was actually relieved when Rufus grabbed Reno by the right arm and dragged him off toward the kitchen.

"OI! What the hell is it with you and kitchens, eh? You better use something other than butter this-" Thankfully, the kitchen door cut off whatever else Reno was about to say, even if Rude and everyone else already had a pretty good idea and were past the point of being traumatized. Well, at least some of them. Rude wanted to smack the people who were actually edging toward the kitchen, including his own girlfriend, until Tseng made a point to clear his throat and head over to the entertainment unit to turn up the volume.

"Three times in one night? No wonder the man runs half the world," Michael said with evident envy as he joined his partner at the crowded bar.

"He’d run all of it if he wasn’t chasing after Reno all the time," Ling pointed out, and even Tseng had to laugh and nod in agreement over that.

"Hey, it’s a good thing or else we’d never have any time off." Cyn set her drink down – on one of the coasters scattered about, Rude was pleased to note – and plucked the mostly forgotten sheet of paper from his hand. "Somehow, he always manages to find the oddest things. I need to give him a list one day." She folded the paper back into thirds and returned it to him. "Kali, please tell me you got the place wired."

Kali shot a glance in Tseng’s direction, who appeared busy chatting with Midori and Cyril about something, and shook her head. "No, dammit. I was going to ask your help tonight with setting up some stuff I sweet-talked out of Billie in R&D." She frowned as she stared at the closed kitchen door. "*We* haven’t even had sex there yet, so I figured I’d have a few more days."

"As far as I’m concerned, each time the bastard comes over from now on, he’s paying for take-out." Rude felt that it was time to treat himself to a very, very tall glass of vodka to help get over the fact that his partner and boss were ‘breaking in’ his kitchen and his girlfriend was making plans to bug his entire apartment. There were rumors about what went on when the girls got together for their poker nights… and he was smart enough to never want any of those rumors confirmed, or else he would never be able to enjoy anything ever again. So he would drink this down as quickly as possible and pour himself another, and not think about what Kali was discussing with Cyn or what was going on in his kitchen.

Reminding himself that he had the next day off and that Kali could more than handle anyone who was suicidal enough to try to trash their apartment, Rude decided that it would be a very good night to get drunk.

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