They heard Tseng's voice the instant they stepped out of the car. He was running toward them, his normally impeccable suit rumpled and dirty.
"Where's President Shinra?" Rude immediately asked.
"He managed to barricade himself in the third floor bedroom after his guards were shot down. The enemy is headed in that direction, though, there's no telling how much longer he'll be safe."
"Have the other Turks been notified?"
"Who cares, let's just go!" Reno said anxiously, practically vibrating with excitement as he started toward the mansion. Rude sighed, giving Tseng a helpless look before following the redhead. Reno was already halfway up the stairs to the door, rod in hand, ready for a fight.
It was the kind of enthusiasm that was contagious. Rude felt as if it was his very first Turk mission all over again.
"I'll wait here for the backup and brief them on the situation," Tseng called after them.
Immediately upon entering the front doors, the fight began. The enemy certainly had more in numbers than Rude had expected, but they weren't as well trained as the Turks, by far. Rude's brute strength and Reno's speed and agility were mowing them down with relative ease.
Two floors of it, though, was taxing on their energy. By the time they got to the third floor hallway, they were both worn down, scraped, and bruised.
The third floor was unique in this vacation residence- it had a circular room in the middle of the floor, and the hallway circled around the outside of that room with floor-to-ceiling windows to the outside. Normally no one but the president was allowed up here, but this was obviously an exception.
"Well, well…if it isn't my two favorite Turks, once again."
Reno and Rude spun around, and standing at the top of the stairs was a heavily bandaged Fawke. It wouldn't have been such a matter of concern- if the man hadn't been holding a small bomb.
"Should've known I couldn't get rid of you," Reno growled, and Fawke smirked.
"I'm glad you came. Now I can get rid of both the president and you, for putting me in this state."
"I'll put you in a state," Rude snapped, and then he lifted his gun and shot Fawke square in the forehead. Reno didn't even flinch. He and Rude rushed to the body, inspecting the bomb.
"This could take out the whole floor," Rude said, turning the bomb over. "Seven seconds. Shit."
"Through the window?" Reno asked.
"Too light. It might detonate on impact or just bounce off the glass."
Reno got a determined look on his face, his gaze traveling from the bomb, to the bedroom door, and then to Rude. "Then…I'll make it heavier."
With four seconds to go, Reno took the bomb from Rude, who'd just begun to realize what the redhead was planning to do. Reno held the bomb tight against his stomach, and then took a running leap through one of the windows. Once through, he threw the bomb as hard as he could while airborne.
The bomb went off.
Rude was thrown back against the wall, and every window on that side of the mansion shattered with the force of the blast. Rude blacked out for a few moments, and when he came to, his ears were ringing and he was seeing double.
Reno. Have to find Reno.
He pulled himself to his feet, barely able to put one foot in front of the other; he couldn't seem to find his balance. He headed for the stairs, and by the time he got there, he was at least able to walk without feeling as if he was about to fall over. He knew he could be fired for not attending to the president's needs first, but it didn't matter right now. Reno had saved them both. He had to find Reno.
He stumbled more than once going down the stairs, and even fell once. The shock wave from the bomb alone was enough to put an average man in a coma. Reno had been too close, for sure.
Tseng was at the bottom of the stairs on the first floor about to head upstairs when Rude reached the bottom. His eyes widened when he saw Rude's state.
"Rude, the president, is he okay?"
Rude shrugged, pushing past Tseng. "Have to find Reno."
"What happened up there?"
Once again, Tseng was ignored. Rude finally made it outside, forcing his legs to carry him around to the west side of the mansion. He could hear footsteps behind him, and Tseng yelling orders for the other Turks to go upstairs and attend to the president.
"Rude! Rude, wait!"
Can't wait. My partner, he's dying. Dead.
Rude found Reno in the grass beside the house, grass that was now littered with pieces of the bomb and broken glass. The redhead wasn't moving, and the blades of grass around him were sprinkled and smeared with dark red blood. Rude dropped to his knees next to the body, looking for any signs of life. Anything.
At first, there was nothing. Guilt suddenly hit Rude, so hard that he nearly broke down right then and there. It was his fault that Reno felt like he had to prove himself. His fault he hadn't known what to do with the bomb in time. His fault, all of it, and he'd never shown anything but malice for the Turk when he was working so hard just to have a partner.
"Reno," Rude said, the word cracking in his throat. He reached out and touched Reno's face, expecting nothing but cold skin, chilled by death.
Suddenly, Reno shifted. Rude looked on in disbelief as the young Turk moaned and shifted, blinking a few times. Tseng caught up to Rude, kneeling on the other side of Reno.
"Reno, can you hear me?" Tseng asked. There was no reply from Reno- the young man's eyes fell shut again.
Rude wasn't surprised. He was just beginning to get the ringing out of his ears, and he hadn't been as close to the blast as Reno. The blood trickling out of Reno's ears made it pretty clear that he would need some specialized healing to regain his hearing, if he did at all.
"We have to get him to help," Rude said, carefully picking Reno up. As he stood up, it honestly scared him how limp his partner was- it was like picking up a life-sized doll. "Where's the helicopter?"
"This way," Tseng said, starting to walk at a brisk pace. Rude followed, glancing down at the half-conscious Turk in his arms.
And I thought he didn't have it in him to be a Turk.
Two weeks. Two weeks of healing, of sitting by the bed of an unconscious Turk, and it had been tearing away at Rude's sanity.
But now he stood by the infirmary room door, a cup grasped tightly in his hand, and he wasn't sure he could bring himself to go in. He just stared at the door, a part of him wondering if the doctor had lied. If he would go in only to find Reno still comatose.
He gathered his wits and slowly pushed the door open, stepping into the sun-lit room. Reno was propped up with a few thick pillows, and unsurprisingly fiddling with the TV remote.
"There's nothing good on TV anymore. Just news. I hate the news," he complained, switching the TV off. His tone was as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn't almost died and been in a coma for two weeks.
"I brought you coffee," Rude said, setting the cup down on the bedside table. "Three creams, three sugars."
Reno raised an eyebrow.
"…I watched you make it before our second mission."
That seemed to appease Reno's curiosity. He said a quick 'thank you' and took the cup, taking a long drink of the barely-coffee-concoction. Rude hesitated, studying the floor for a few long moments before speaking.
Reno set the cup down. "The bomb thing? Just doin' my job."
"You could've been killed."
"But I wasn't."
Rude smirked. "And that's what makes you a Turk."
Reno looked up at Rude, his expression one of surprise. "So I'm worthy of the title now, oh great Turk master?"
"You little smartass. If you weren't my partner, I'd kick your ass."
The door suddenly opened, and a soldier stuck his head in the room. "Rude, President Shinra would like to see you in his office immediately."
Rude nodded, assuming this was about the mission. About him leaving the president in that bedroom and going after Reno instead. Fully prepared to defend his actions, he turned and started toward the door.
"Have fun, partner. Thanks for the coffee," Reno said from behind him as he walked out.
He made his way from the medical wing to President Shinra's office, where the president's secretary quickly showed him inside. The door shut behind him, and Rude took a deep breath as the president looked up from the papers on his desk.
"Ah, Rude! I heard that Reno woke up today."
"He did, sir. He's doing quite well."
"Good, good," Shinra said, pulling a paper out of the folder in the middle of his desk. "I couldn't help but notice his superb performance on this mission. I believe he's quite prepared for any Turk responsibilities I should assign to him."
"I would agree wholeheartedly, sir."
"And since that is the case, I have an offer to make you."
Rude's eyebrows rose. "An offer, sir?"
President Shinra slid the paper across the table to Rude. "One of my best officers is being promoted. He's going to become a Turk. Seven years combat experience, twelve years of unblemished service to the company…he's quite capable of handling the duties of a Turk. I remembered that you were unhappy with your assignment, and now that you have finished the task at hand, I'm offering you the opportunity to switch to a new partner. A veteran."
Rude glanced down at the paper, a profile on the man Shinra was speaking of. This was what, two days before, he would've prayed and begged for. Today, though, he didn't even read it.
"With all due respect, sir…I would accept no other partner than the one I have right now."
Shinra looked surprised- and then his expression changed to pleased. "I'm surprised to hear that. However, considering your own record of service to the corporation…I will accept your request."
"Thank you, sir."
"This means you will continue to have the responsibility of keeping Reno in line and out of trouble, for the most part. It will be a permanent partnership until one of you is physically incapable of fulfilling your duties."
"I understand, sir, and I accept that responsibility."
Shinra smiled. "I admire your courage. Then, it is done," he said, and with a kind of finality that made Rude's heart skip a beat, the president took the partnership contract he'd had written up, crossed out the veteran's name, and wrote in Reno's, stamping his official seal beside the correction. "Sign here," he said, pointing to a bottom line on the document.
"My cat got out, yo. Had to catch it," Reno said, straightening his suit jacket as he walked up to Rude.
"You don't have a cat."
"Oh…well then, I guess the neighbors will be wondering where little Shiva went pretty soon then, huh?"
"You make that sound like a bad thing."
Rude rolled his eyes, starting to walk. "Come on. We've got a building to blow up."
"Oh, about that bomb…"
Rude froze. "Don't you say it. Don't you dare say it."
"Okay, I won't."
"…You lost the bomb?"
"Why do you have to make everything sound so drastic? I temporarily misplaced it. No worries, it'll turn up, yo."
Rude was about to snap at Reno when he noticed something. His face. There was now an exact copy of the scar Rude had given him, right on the other side of his face.
"Reno…did you get a tattoo?"
Reno grinned. "Oh, yeah! See? It's all…what's the word…"
"Nothing else about you is symmetrical."
"There you go again with that 'glass half empty' stuff."
"…Let's go find that bomb."
"Wow…I had no idea there was so much behind it."
Rude nodded, smirking at Cloud. "Your boyfriend was a handful from the very start."
"I guess that shouldn't surprise me."
A pair of arms suddenly wound around Cloud's shoulders from behind, and Reno bent down to nuzzle at Cloud's neck. "I'm horny. There's a bed upstairs."
Cloud chuckled. "You're insatiable."
"If that means I'm getting sex tonight, then hell yes I'm insaptable."
Cloud rolled his eyes, and then shrugged at Rude. "Duty calls. I'll give you a good story next time."
"Not involving anything about tonight, I hope," Rude said, eyeing Reno with amusement as the redhead nibbled at Cloud's earlobe. Reno then pulled Cloud to his feet, his patience wearing thin quickly, as usual. Cloud allowed Reno to pull him toward the stairs, and then he glanced back at Rude.
"Hey, Reno…how'd you get those marks on your face, anyway?" Cloud asked as he was dragged away.
"These? Oh, that all started when this huge carnivorous mutant chocobo got set loose at headquarters. You wouldn't believe it…"
Rude laughed, turning back to his drink. Liar, thief, impatient, reckless, drunkard, nympho, impulsive…
Reno. All of the above.