This is my first FFVII story. I don't own the characters. No matter how much I wish I did…

Pain. So much pain……..

Head….numb and splitting agony all at once….and my arms…..can't move them...but they hurt………

I bite my lip to fight the tears that came forth from my stupid attempt at moving them. I taste blood, and that just added more pain to my already overwhelming load. I groan and attempt to sit up. Attempt and fail. Damn. I can feel my left arm going numb now. I know that aint good. I open my eyes and see mostly reddish blur. I don't know if it's my hair, or if I have blood in my eyes. I blink and feel something run down my face. Blood. Great. Just fucking great.

"Hey…" I groan out, turning my head to the side a little. "Hey, Rude? You okay? Sound off if you're dead…" My little joke. Ha ha. I hear nothing. "Rude…? Hey, really, man, if you're okay…?" I look to my right and see a large blur next to me not three feet away. "…Rude?" The blur I know was Rude didn't budge. A twinge of panic ran through my gut. "…Rude…?" Still no response.

I told the stabs of pain to fuck off as I sat up. It was almost too much; I think I have some spine damage. I almost fell over, but my right arm was still loyal to me. It supported me, but I felt something sharp pierce my palm. I looked down and blinked to see what it was. My throat constricted.

…..Rude's shades….lying in a pool of blood that wasn't mine…

It was as though a shot of morphemic horror was injected into my body. If my spine had exploded, I wouldn't have noticed as I dragged myself to Rude's motionless form. I put the hand that still had feeling on his shoulder and gently shook it as much as I could without tipping myself over. He still didn't move.

"…Hey…Rude…?" I shook him a little harder. He moved with my shakes too easily…too limp-like…"Rude…?" I forced myself to drag my sorry carcass closer to grab his shoulder and roll him over onto his back…

…..Oh…oh god…..Oh motherfucking GOD!

Rude's un-shaded eyes were open and unfocused….no, one of his eyes…the left one was missing, and blood was already quagulating out of the empty socket. On top of that, he had a large hole in his left temple that was still bleeding. His half-open mouth had a large trickle of blood running out of it.

I felt my heart—my lungs—my fucking brain—shut down completely. My hand seemed to move on its own accord as it ran down Rude's face. Every contour I thought I knew just by looking at him was marred; it couldn't be real. Yeah, that was it…hysterical laughter left my throat. It wasn't real. It wasn't real. It wasn't real it wasn't real it wasn't real

"Rude…" I shook him harder. "…c'mon Rude…Don't…don't to this to me…" I felt something roll down my face. Be it blood or something else, I didn't know or care. "Quit fucking around, man…I really don't need…" I choked back the sob I knew was fighting its way up. "I really don't need this…I…I…Rude…?" I ran a hand over his face; his blood soaking my hand. "…Rude…?"

I suddenly felt very cold all over and my body began shaking uncontrollably. "Rude…" It then hit me. It hit me so hard if it was physically tangible, I'd be liquidated where I sat. He was dead. Dead. Dead dead dead dead dead Oh GOD HE' S DEAD!!!!

"FUCK!!!" I screamed, throwing myself onto his unmoving chest. I grabbed at his jacket and buried my face into his shirt. "FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK YOU!!! WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!? YOU SON OF A BITCH!" What self-control I had left was gone. It was completely gone. Tears flowed from my eyes as I ignored the ripping pain in my arms to hold him. From all the times he fell on me and I nearly broke my back, he suddenly felt so light and…not there…He wasn't there…

I pulled his body to mine and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. His head fell on my shoulder; his head wound dribbling fresh blood onto my clothes. I just sat there, tears silently falling down my stinging face, rocking back and forth like a mental patient. This wasn't right!!! What merciless, sadistic, fucked-up god would take someone like him away from me?! It wasn't right! What the hell did he ever do to deserve this?

"…Rude…" I heard myself murmur, "…wake up, Rude…I need you…" He didn't move; I only half-expected him not to. I pressed my cheek against his. "I need you, Rude…don't…" I choked on something violent making its way up my throat. "…Don't leave me, Rude…I mean it…don't….don't do it…" I coughed on a scream and bit my lip again. "Goddamn it, Rude! Don't you fucking leave me like this! Don't you fucking dare!"

Like I expected him to answer, I hoisted his head off my shoulder and shakily held it with my hand, my other arm still around his shoulder. I stared into his remaining eye, which stared ahead dully; lifelessly. I gently shook him again.

"Rude! Answer me! Tell me you're fine!" The back of my mind was telling me to get a grip on reality. My other half told it to shut the fuck up; that he was alive—that he wasn't going anywhere. He was going to stay right here with me…

Again, reality hit me like Cid's airship to the head. He wasn't going to wake up. He wasn't going to be okay. He was dead.

An inhuman shriek resounded in my ears and I found myself hugging Rude's corpse to my chest. It took me what seemed like forever to realize it was me that was making that ungodly sound. And I couldn't stop. I screamed curses to every god I had ever heard about; I screamed Rude's name over and over again, and demanded they give him back; I screamed for them to take me too. I don't know what else came from my throat—I was sure blood was one of them—but my screams were obviously heard.

A name that sounded familiar but unnatural was called my way. I gripped Rude's body closer to me and recoiled away from it. I wouldn't let it take him; no. He was mine. Mine. No one would even touch him if I could help it.

That name was called again, closer this time. Through my partial insanity, it pushed on my numb mind….who was Reno…? That voice was close now. I covered Rude's head with my arm, shielding him from this intruder…I blinked bloody tears from my eyes and looked at the ground. My mind was suddenly blank.

……Where was here….?...Why did my whole body feel like it was crushed under the pressure of several tons of Gs…?...Where was…?

I looked down and began to scream again; my shock dropping the body of my dearest and closest companion. My hands trembled against my mouth for a time before I let out a strained cry of anguish and again buried my face into his dead chest. My hand blindly stroked his face; my fingertips feeling half-dried blood and deep wounds.

….How would I go on…? Rude was my lifeline…he was always the one who always—willingly or not—caught me when I fell. He was always the one to save my sorry ass from whatever was about to fall on me. He never once complained when I accidentally hit him with my weapon or broke a pair of his countless shades. He was always patient with me. Always…

….And I took all that for granted. I took his care and patience and even our friendship for granted…and now he's gone. My partner…my lifeline…my best friend…the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life beside…was gone…I…I never even had the chance to tell him how I felt about him—about us—and now…

…That was a lie. I had plenty of chances, plenty of opportunities. And they were all wasted by my stupidity…by my denial-driven procrastination…

The voice that kept calling 'Reno' was so close, yet so far away now. I became aware of the presence of people around me. I wanted them to go away. I faintly heard someone—a feminine voice—say something about shock, but it didn't matter.

Go away. Go away. Go away.

I lifted my head up slightly and numbly looked at Rude's face again. I used my sleeve to wipe the blood from his mouth and touched his face again. So much wasted time, I thought. So much wasted time…

"I love you, Rude," I whispered. I didn't think anyone heard me. I suddenly felt so weak. My body pitched forward, but someone caught me. For a wild moment, I thought it was Rude, but then a voice calling for medics broke that fantasy…no, that hope. I felt a few more people gently grab hold of me and carry me away from Rude.

"No…" I barely managed to get out. "I cant…I cant leave him…!" I looked at Rude and saw some other people reach out to take him. I felt my blood grow hotter than fire. "DON'T FUCKING TOUCH HIM!!!!!"

One of the men actually dropped Rude's arm, but the others managed to hoist him onto a stretcher. I struggled with what strength I had left before finally going limp in the people's arms. Through teary eyes I saw them cover his beautiful face with a sheet. I let out another sob and fell into painful unconsciousness.

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"Hey, Rude?"

"What now?"

"….Well, wuddya think about renting out that nice place back in Maupin City for vacation?"

"……"

"Rude?"

"I'll think about it. Depends on how much we have saved up…."

I was jerked out of LaLa Land with an unpleasant shot of pain in my side. My eyes flew open only to shut again from the light. I took a few breaths to even out the pain and then slowly opened them again. A white ceiling greeted my eyes. I stared at it like it was something of fascination for what seemed like hours before blinking. What was I doing here? Why does my left arm feel like something's eating it with sharp teeth? Where was…?

Everything that had happened suddenly came back to me. It was almost too much to bear; I turned and screamed into my pillow so no one would hear me. Then again, I didn't really care. I felt a wound somewhere on my body open, but again I didn't care.

"Rude…" I heard my muffled voice cry out against the pillow. I felt the cloth go damp in seconds, but I didn't care. Nothing mattered anymore. My whole world was destroyed…it was dead. He was dead.

…Why…? Why had this happened? How had this happened? It was all too much of a blur to me now. ….Hell, everything was a blur to me now. I couldn't even see my fucking arm clearly, and it was right in front of me.

The sound of a door opening behind me made my body go stiff. A female voice was talking, but I didn't make out any words. I didn't give a damn. It wasn't important to me. Nothing was important to me anymore. The voice stopped and I heard the door shut again. I forced my body to relax. It wasn't easy.

I was suddenly aware that the sheets under my side was wet. I looked down and saw a red blur against white. God damn it. It didn't really hurt. But at the same time it stung like a bitch. I rolled over onto my back and just laid there, numb with pain; physically, mentally, and emotionally. My body was broken. My mind was silently screaming. My emotions were torn between anger, angst, self-loathing, sadness, and a broken heart.

I closed my eyes and opened them slowly to look at the ceiling again. My mind's eye graced me with a mental picture of Rude with my favorite expression of his—his happy-serious face. The one where he looks so serious, but at the same time, if you know him well enough—or study his expressions as I do—you can see the tiny miniscule micro-smile behind the seriousness. My heart clenched when I remembered the best time I saw that expression on his face. It was his birthday, and I had gotten him a very expensive pair of designer shades that had real tiny diamonds on the sides of the lenses. I saw that expression when I gave them to him—but I knew he really loved them when he took off the ones he already had on to try them on. I saw his eyes. His beautiful eyes that had a shine I had never seen in them before when he looked them over in his hands.

Just as fast, that image was gone. I wanted to cry; to beg it to come back. But I forced myself to mantra Get a hold on yourself, get a hold of yourself over and over again. It only did very little good.

I suddenly felt very fatigued. I vaguely shifted my gaze to my side and saw that the red stain had gotten bigger. Fuck. I weakly pressed my hand to my side, but that didn't do much good. My vision blurred worse than ever, and my senses began to fly away…so far away…..I barely heard the door burst open and urgently mumbled voices echo in my ears. Then there was nothing.

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"….I cant believe they're all out of the two-bed rooms…"

"Well, hey, it isn't all bad. It's got a great view of that lake and a big bathroom. It's practically the presidential suite!"

"……."

"…I call the bed!"

"The hell you do! Your fault for not calling in—you sleep in the bathtub."

"Fuck you!"

"Fuck you too, Reno…"

Again, I was gracefully awakened by a sharp pain in my side. And still no morphine…I'm a harbinger for pain. Yeah…that was it…I didn't want to open my eyes, but my awake-ness forced me to. This time the lights were off, and only the light from the hallway was streaming in through the small window on the door. Nevertheless, I looked at the ceiling anyway.

…..Every time I fall unconscious, I relive a piece of our last peaceful history together. It was supposed to be a time of relaxation for the both of us, but I think Rude was the only one who relaxed the whole time…I had some issues during that trip…Hell, I liked the room and all, and the scenery was great, but it was more along the line of emotional issues…like when we were arguing over who got the bed. It was a few floors up, and we were near shouting by the time we got to our room. Then we saw how big the bed was—big enough to accommodate us both. Awkward silence followed, and Rude said we could share it. And we could; there would be at least two feet between us if we each took a side.

And that was where the issues began. Well, it began just before bedtime. I was sitting in bed reading a firearms magazine when Rude came out of the bathroom after a shower. I had looked at him over the top of the 'zine and did a double-take.

….I had never seen so much skin on him before. He was muscular with these tattoos that complimented him very well. They outlined his arms, making his muscles stand out. The ones on his back stopped just above the hem of his sleeping pants, which were pretty damn low. I barely had time to look back down at the magazine before he noticed me ogling him like a pervert. But he was…perfect. If there were any scars on him, I sure didn't notice.

I remember absentmindedly touching my own scars on my face with one hand. Not that I didn't like them—hell, I thought they made me look pretty cool—but it made me feel flawed next to him for some reason. That one little moment had me so confused. I had gone from thinking that I was the big shot that could get anyone he wanted to thinking I was flawed. I remembered suddenly feeling the urge to punch the next mirror I looked into to pieces; feeling the urge to puke; feeling like I suddenly didn't belong in the same room with the beautiful creature next to me.

……Then I felt the urge to bludgeon myself with my metal stick for even thinking such thoughts.

Rude was obviously the type who likes to sleep right after a shower—he crawled right under the sheets and turned out his lamp light, his gorgeous, toned back to me. It had to have been two minutes before realizing that I was starting at him again. I remember feeling slightly disgusted at myself as I threw my magazine to the floor and turned my lamp light off. I generally prefer sleeping in the nude, but no way in motherfucking hell was I going to do that with my best friend in the same bed under the same sheets not two feet from me.

I remember, well, not really remembering…but I know I fell asleep soon after and woke up to an extra weight on my chest. I had opened my eyes to see a tanned tattooed arm draped across me and Rude's face barely an inch from my head. It took every ounce of restraint I had not to freak out or jump right out of that bed and up through the next floor. Instead, I bit my lip and counted to ten before my brain would settle down enough to think. Obviously, Rude liked to sleep in the middle and was just doing this subconsciously. That was rational enough for me. I then relaxed enough to think about how to get out from underneath his arm; but my body didn't move.

It wasn't uncomfortable to have Rude's arm over my chest; in fact, it was kind of…well…I couldn't quite describe it, really. It was…nice. Comforting. And somehow…it felt natural. I suddenly became aware—truly aware—of how close Rude's whole body was to mine. He was lying on his stomach, and his side was barely touching mine. I could feel his breath on my cheek, and his breathing was slow and rhythmic. The experience as a whole was pleasant; intoxicating.

…..Arousing….

As soon as that particular thought/sensation came to me, I did freak. I somehow managed to slide out from under Rude's arm, hit the floor, and run to the bathroom—all without making a sound, or waking him up. I stayed in there, back against the door, for a few moments, my whole body covered in cold sweat and my breathing somewhat hitched. I finally calmed down enough to notice that I had a hard-on. Oh that was just perfect. It made this night so much more relaxing for me. I closed my eyes and thought of anything—Vincent in Chaos Mode, the Sephiroth Clones, Cid in a thong—it sorta helped.

I didn't come out of the bathroom all night. I had slept in the damp bathtub with a towel for a blanket, which I'm sure made Rude stop short and blink for several minutes when he found me….

Fatigue hit my mind again. I heard some faint scuffling next to me and saw someone that looked like a nurse inject something into my IV pack. Probably the damn morphine, finally, I thought sarcastically. My eyes feel so heavy…

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"Are you alright, Reno?"

"…Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"…..Aside from the fact I found you asleep in the bathtub, I really have no reason why to think you're not fine."

"I just figured what the hell—you get the bed. It was kinda my fault we didn't get the two-bedder…"

"………..Alright….As long as I don't find you bathing in the toilet, go ahead and sleep in the bathtub…"

"Aw, no….YOU'RE sleeping in the bathtub tonight!"

"The hell I am!"

Once again I awoke to a dark room, only this time, I cant feel anything. Joy. Freakin' la-dee-da joy. I look to my left and saw that my arm was looking a lot better. Apparently my vision was a lot better, too. I willed my hand to make a fist. It did. I just couldn't feel it. I stared at my fist for a few moments, then diverted my attention to the ceiling again. It took a few moments for reality to slam head-on into my morphine-influenced wall of false security. I barely withheld my scream of anguish and slight confusion. I was also mad. Why were they trying to make me forget him?! Like he never existed? Like he never mattered?

"God…damn it…" I stuttered, feeling my eyes leak tears. This sucked. Every time I fall unconscious for some reason or the other, I seem to forget about what happened. And it was becoming more of a blur every hour, it seemed. I could remember him in the far and not-so-far past, but….not the mission. If you can even call it a mission. More like a complete and total slaughterhouse failure. I can barely even remember how I got my wounds; why my side was now a horrible montage of ugly stitches and God only knew what else. It makes me think back to when I thought I was an aberration next to Rude. Now I truly felt like one.

I forced myself to calm down and relax. The last thing I needed to do was reopen my stitches again. I looked at the ceiling and thought more about that vacation. The next day, I was a bit more relaxed. The city itself had great shops, and excellent food. Rude and I spent the whole day there, then we went to the lake, where he hucked my ass into the water. When I resurfaced, I saw that 'look' on his face as I dried off. I could barely see the smile, but it was definitely there.

I felt a strange feeling in my chest as a watched him take some booze out of the pack he carried and snap the cap off with a flick of his fingers, something to this day I never figured out how he does it. He had that expression on his face the whole time we were there; barely a smile, but 'serious'. I could tell he was enjoying himself, though. It made me happy to see him happy. For all I cared, he could have pushed me into the lake as many times as he wanted to if it made him happy (which he did—over seventeen times).

When we went back to our room, I again couldn't help but watch him as he shed his shirt as he made his way to the bathroom. I was almost sad to see his beautiful self disappear behind the door. I again felt the need to bludgeon myself with my stick.

I am not gay! I remember mantra-ing over and over as I dug the drawers for something clean to wear to bed. So Rude had a nice body—a lot of guys had nice bodies—myself included, I added, somewhat vainly.

Ah, but you never noticed any of those 'others', now did you? Hissed a voice in the back of my head. You only notice your Rude…

"Shut the fuck up," I growled, only to smack myself in the head from my own stupidity. I was talking to myself…for the love of all that was sacred in this world……I didn't need to tell myself that I wasn't gay. I knew what my preferences were, and I was most certainly not….

And then Rude came out, asking for me to throw him his pants. I knew I was gawking this time. He was dripping wet, and only wearing a towel. Ohhhh…sweet merciful Ancients of yore…lead me not to go red in front of him. I would just die. Just….die….if he knew I was looking at his slick, wet chest, his hard, perfect abs…and…

I threw him the pants and pretended to be frantic because I 'lost my good shirt'. I prayed to whatever god gave a damn he would buy it. I prayed hard. He just said he thought he saw it in the third drawer and went back in the bathroom. I then proceeded to thank whatever god gave a damn for having him buy it.

…..I knew it was another night in the bathtub for me…but Rude told me to stop being stupid and go to bed like a normal person. He got into his side and pulled the sheets over him, his tattooed back to me. I watched him until I heard his breathing even out, then I scooched all the way to the end of my bed and tried to go to sleep. No avail. All I could think about was Rude in a towel. And his breathing. And the 'look' on his face when he pushed me into the lake…

When I realized I had another erection, I knew I couldn't sleep in the same bed—let alone room—with Rude without having a wet dream about him. I grabbed my pillow and made my way into the bathroom, thinking of a thong-clad Cid to rid me of my 'problem'.

A sharp pain to my side jerked me back to the present. The morphine was wearing off. I don't really care. Pain let me know I was alive; that I was still here. But that was also a downside. I was here. Rude wasn't…..I hitched back a sob and covered my eyes with the one arm that wasn't throbbing with pain. He would never be here again…he's gone…

I don't know how long I had been hysterically sobbing before the door burst open and several nurses rushed my way. One of them held a syringe of painkillers and was heading for my throbbing arm. Once again my blood boiled over, and I jerked my arm away.

"NO MORE!!!!" I heard myself shriek, hauling my body up off the bed. "I don't want any of that shit!!! STOP MAKING ME FORGET, GODDAMNIT!!!" I pulled my knees up to my chest and clutched at my hair with both hands. "I don't want to…leave me alone…!" Sobs escaped from my chest and my heart began to ache—no—rip from the reality of all this shit. "I don't want to forget him…!"

Another entering the room made all of the nurses back off of me. I looked up and through my tears and fingers I saw someone vaguely familiar…he had light blonde hair and was wearing white…I knew him…but…

I heard him tell the others to back off. They did, and he came up to me. By this time, my brain was shutting down again, and I didn't really hear what he was saying. He finally stopped talking what seemed like hours later, and stood up. I saw him put something on the bedside table, then leave. The nurses went with him, and I was once again left to my blessed solitude. I was too tired to bother looking at what he left on the table, so I laid back on the bed in a fetal position, my bad side up. My mind began to slip into the comfort of darkness…

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"Is there something you want to talk about, Reno?"

"…No, it's….I just don't think it's one of those things I should talk about…"

"Reno, you're acting weird. You sleep in the bathroom, you barely eat, and I've seen the way you shift off the subject every five sentences. Why don't you just tell me what's going on?"

"It's nothing, Rude…really. I'm just having some trouble relaxing…I'm fine, really."

I woke up in the same position I passed out in. It almost hurt to open my eyes, but I managed to uncurl my body and sit up. More like prop up; it hurt my head to sit up all the way. It was dark in the room again, and my wounds were throbbing. I guess they didn't shoot me up with morphine this time. I was partly grateful, partly wishing they had. Then I felt guilty. Rude was dead, and I was selfishly thinking about dulling my temporary pain. Fuck.

I relaxed my body once more and took a deep breath to calm the raging wound beasts. That made me think of singing to calm the raging beast…like Rude once said…I suddenly heard myself humming a small tune…the words singing in my head…

Who can tell me if we have Heaven…who can say the way it should be?

Moonlight holly, the Sappho Comet…Angel tears below a tree…

I began to silently cry again. Rude…of all people you'd expect…sang that song to me as a means to break me out of a fever. It was the second day of our vacation, and I was not feeling well at all. My stomach was hurting bad, and I agreed with Rude that it was because of what little I ate was something bad. I was also running a small fever, and I couldn't stay warm. Rude stayed in the room with me, leaving only to get something to eat for the both of us and some medicine. It was taking awhile to kick in, and I couldn't go to sleep. Rude was sitting next to me in the bed, reading something, and checking on me every few minutes from behind his shades. After about three hours of me not being able to sleep, I thought I heard him chuckle to himself about something.

"I think I know what will make you feel better," he said. He then began to sing—of all things I expected him to do, this wasn't one of them. But he just started to softly sing to me in his low, smooth voice:

Who can tell me if we have Heaven…who can say the way it should be?

Moonlight holly, the Sappho Comet…Angel tears below a tree…

You talk of the break of morning…as you view the new aurora

Cloud in crimson, the key of heaven…one love carved in acajou…

One told me of China Roses…One a Thousand nights and one night

Earth's last picture, the end of evening…hue of indigo and blue…

I know that if I have Heaven…There is nothing to desire

Rain and river, a world of wonder…May be Paradise to me…

…I don't know why, but as he finished, I was silently crying; small tears were just running down my face, and I was finally able to sleep. ….I remember dreaming…of him. We truly were in Paradise. It was just us. There was nothing but beauty and serenity all around us; birds playing their songs harmoniously above us—an endless lake before us, sparkling with water so pure it would heal the unhealable—the tree we were under so tall it touched the heavens, which showered down their endless wonders, just for us.

….And there was Rude. No shades, no shirt…just him. He was holding me in a warm, comforting embrace. I fit perfectly in his arms, like we were long-lost puzzle pieces that found each other. His chest was hard and warm, and the gentle beating of his heart was like a lullaby from Heaven. I was leaning into him, my fingers gently tracing his chest's curves, while he carded his fingers through my hair. He was rubbing his cheek to my head, and I was practically purring. He suddenly stopped and used one hand to gently tilt my chin up. Our eyes met—his dark with my light—and he slowly leaned down to me…

……And then I woke up. I woke up to find my fever broken, my stomach feeling just fine, and the sun gone from the sky. I had looked over to see where Rude was, and found him asleep next to me, no shirt, as was his usual, and the sheets strewn around his waist. He was lying on his back, one arm behind his head. The moon was full, and was streaming in through the curtains to shine on his body.

In other words, he was beautiful.

I spent the best part of an hour just looking at his perfection before tearing my eyes away from him. I just sat there, arms around my knees, in deep metaphysical quandary about my feelings. I had never questioned my sexuality before in my life, and there I was—looking from Rude to the mirror across the room at myself and back again—thinking that the feelings I had for Rude were stronger than purely platonic. I looked back at him and felt a tear run down my face.

…….I loved him.

I loved Rude. Strong, beautiful, perfect Rude. The man I've known and worked with for years—the man I've shared my secrets and thoughts with—the man I knew would save my ass no matter what—the man who took all the crap I caused—the man who cared about me more than anyone—the man who took hours out of his vacation time and sang me to health—I loved him. But more than that—I was in love with him.

The tears came thicker now; my face was damp in seconds. No sound left my lips; just like now, no words could describe the emotions running through me. I finally stopped and wiped my eyes dry to look at the personification of perfection sleeping beside me. He mumbled something in his sleep and shifted his weight a little. A thought then occurred to me. I had to find out. I had to see…

Fueled by pure desperation of an answer, I slowly…slowly…edged my way over to him, being careful not to make a sound or unnecessary movement. I didn't even breathe as I positioned myself so my head hovered right above his; my arm holding me up on the other side of him to keep me from falling and embarrassing the fuck out of myself. I slowly lowered my head toward his. I parted my lips slightly, still not breathing, and paused right before mine touched his. My brain was screaming for me to get a grip on myself; my heart was pushing me toward this; my body screaming for me to do something, probably because my arm was falling asleep, but I ignored it. My conflicted emotions battled my senses; I could feel time slow down tick by tock…..

…….And I kissed him. Nothing moved; nothing was. Everything, for one instant in what we call time, was nonexistent. There was just me, Rude, and this kiss. Eternity passed and I didn't even bother to wave to it as it passed by. Then time began to regain its composure, tick by tock.

And everything went back to its normal place. The wind blew once more. The waves lapped on the shore of the lake. The night birds began to softly sing once more. Just as my bedside clock began to tick again, I pulled away from Rude's lips, painful as it was.

I sat up and looked down at him, my cheeks hot and my breath hitched. He hadn't woken up, but he did hum and shift again in his sleep. My heart suddenly seemed to break into a thousand itty-bitty pieces. I shot up and ran outside onto the balcony, suddenly feeling like crying and throwing up and screaming all at the same time. I would have preferred it if he had woken up while I was kissing him. At least then he would have known…he would have known how I was feeling.

I buried my face in my hands and cried. I sat there, clad in only my boxers, on a very cool night, crying my eyes out, knowing Rude would never know…that he couldn't know…His friendship meant too much to me to fuck up if I told him how I truly felt. I lay down on my side and buried my face in my arms. I wouldn't wake up until Rude would find me the next morning. He would see my tear-stained face and my red rimmed eyes. I would tell him I must have been sleepwalking. And he would buy it. He would lead me back into the bedroom and stay by my side for the entire day as we went back to the lake, and spent one more night together. And this time, I stayed in the bed, wishing he would roll over to the middle again…just once more…

I woke up from my daydream with an opening of my room's door again. One of the nurses with a kind face carted some equipment into the room. I think she said something about not to worry, she wasn't going to hurt me, but I don't really know…

Another nurse poked her head into the room and asked for the nurse in my room. She gave me a smile and walked out with the other nurse. I distinctly heard 'post-traumatic mental disorder' as they walked away. I don't care. They didn't loose the only one they would ever love. I sighed and leaned back onto the pillow and flopped my head to the side—and saw what that one guy left on the table. I reached over and took the two items off the table and into my lap.

….And I stared at them, not knowing whether to smile or scream. One of the items was Rude's shades—the ones I had found next to his dead body. The other was a picture of me and him that someone had taken when we were off-guard. I didn't bother looking at me. I looked at him. And nearly cried again.

He had the 'look'. And even though he was wearing his shades, I could see—he was looking at me. At me. Me….

A bolt of pain shot through my head as visions came flying through my mind's eye:

An explosion pulsated through the air. I was thrown back. My head hit something hard. A piece of flying debris sliced my side. I landed hard on my left arm. Voices of the enemy resounded all around me. I shouted for Rude. I faintly heard his reply. Shots rang through the area. One bullet hit my arm. I screamed and blindly groped for a gun I could counter with. I found one and began to shoot at the nearest thing I heard. I heard one. Two. Three. Four die. I heard Rude shouting obscenities and firing shots himself. I hear a few more die. I hear our main target right above me. Right above me. I hear him tell me to rot in Hell. I see Rude running toward me, firing shots at the target. They miss. I faintly see a gun pointed down at me. I raise my gun up. I pull the trigger. Two shots ring out at the same time, just as Rude covered me with his own body. The target falls dead. Rude drops limply to my side, not three feet away from me and does not move. I reach for him just as my world goes dark…

The picture falls from my hand. Tears fall from my face. He died for me. Rude used his body as a shield and took a bullet to the head for me, just so I could live. So I could live.

"…Rude…" His name slipped from my lips. So undeserving. I am so undeserving to even say his name. I have no right to live when he so selflessly saved my life in exchange for his. I was so selfish…I kept my feelings to myself, and didn't even bother to assume…to assume he might love me back. I felt sick. And I was sick. I leaned over and emptied my stomach into the wastebasket next to my bed.

When I was done, I wiped my mouth and eyes…and looked at the equipment tray the nurse had carted in. On it was a scalpel. My mind and face seemed to relax, but at the same time, if one was to look at my eyes, I'm sure they would see exactly what I have in mind. I reached over and grabbed it. I laid back on my pillow and took Rude's shades and put them on. I held the picture in one hand and the scalpel in the other.

"I'm coming, Rude," I said out loud. "Wait for me." And I sliced my wrist open with the scalpel. I sliced deep. The smell of blood was almost intoxicating as it spurted from the wound. Moments later, I felt the cold, cold comfort of death begin to overcome me from the inside out.

…..And I felt Rude's arms hold me as I exhaled for the last time….

It wont be another hour before the nurse comes back to find a dead Reno holding a blood-stained photo in his stiff hand and a scalpel in the other. The President will be summoned. He will take one look at the scene and understand the situation right away. He will say there was nothing to do but lay Rude and Reno to rest together, side-by-side. Cloud, Vincent, Cid, Tifa—everyone will be at their funeral to pay their respects.

The bloody photo will be framed as is—it will be hung in a secret crypt; a crypt to honor the best of the best. It will be visited every day by Rufus, the only one who knew them well enough to know why they died—and the only one who knew the extent of what they meant to each other.

Whew. Well…okay…This was my first attempt at this pairing. Try not to hurt me too much. The song Rude sang is China Roses by Enya. The inspiration for this story came from a piece of fanart I saw on Deviantart. Kudos to all who support this pairing. I actually have a small sequel in the POV of Rude, but I don't know if I'll put it up. That's up to the reviews.