Two days later, Tseng was back in his office.
"Sir, Rude found him," he said said.
It was the best news that Rufus had ever heard in his life.
"W…where?" he asked, his breath catching in his throat.
"At his business," Tseng smoothly said, affecting not to notice. "We never dreamed he would be so careless, so it was, naturally, the lowest on our list of places to look. He has apparently moved himself and his daughter into the apartment above-stairs. It was why his prior apartment was empty when we checked. Sir? What will you do?"
Rufus was already on his feet, reaching for his jacket.
"Get Elena to pull the car around," he ordered, yanking it on with trembling hands.
"Sir, you cannot go down there without protection," Tseng softly told him. "Reno was a Turk, Sir—you could be in danger—"
"Tseng, just have Elena pull the car around!" Rufus said, and flushed when he realized how snotty he sounded. How like his father. He gave Tseng an imploring look and gently asked, "Please, Tseng, could you have Elena pull the car around? She is more than enough protection."
He saw the doubt on Tseng's face and knew the man was thinking of Elena actually crossing wills with Reno. The red-headed Turk would win, hands down. He hadn't been Tseng's second for nothing.
"Very well, Sir," he murmured, and dipped his gentle Wutain bow before leaving the office.
Rufus was shaking on his way down to the street, trembling with nerves and determination. Elena opened the door for him, her face grim, and drove him with silent disapproval.
"I'm not going to have him killed, Elena," he offered. He was trying. He was really trying. They were his people, his Turks—people who loved and had friends and children and families.
"It isn't really my business, Sir," Elena stiffly said.
"He's your friend, Elena," Rufus said. "That makes it your business."
Her stiff shoulders relaxed and she breathed a little easier.
"Was I the only person who didn't know he had a child?" Rufus inquired.
"Sir, only the Turks know about her now," Elena told him. "Christa was so sickly until just the past few years that Reno was always afraid she might die, so he never spoke of her to people he didn't consider family. He didn't like having to discuss her illness, he felt it was degrading to her and that such a thing shouldn't be used to define her."
"And her mother?" Rufus murmured. There had been nothing regarding a spouse or girlfriend in Reno's file, no sign of an adult female living in his apartment when Rufus had dropped by.
"Reno never knew who Christa's mother was," Elena said, shocking him utterly. "She was left on the doorstep of Nina's as a baby. Reno had a test done a few years ago, to make sure she wasn't Rude's—just in case, Sir. He would never have given Christa up."
"And?" Rufus asked, curious despite himself.
"She's Reno's, Sir. And he loves her more than life, he always has, though he's spoiled her something awful and turned her into the worst kind of brat…"
No wonder he'd been so lenient and indulgent with her. Rufus knew that if he had a child in danger of dying, he'd do his best to make sure that child had every whim satisfied, every desire indulged, done everything possible to make that child happy. It was something to think about.
They arrived at the parlor and Elena parked around the corner before opening the door for him.
Rufus was nervous, his palms sweaty. He realized at once that he looked grossly out of place here, but there was nothing to be done about it now. He strode to the glass doors, took a deep breath, and walked inside.
Reno was sitting on a low stool, laughing at someone's tale, more relaxed than Rufus had ever seen him and more enticing than he could ever recall. He was shirtless in the swampy heat of the small shop, the colorful twists and turns of his tattoos bared for the world to see, those rings gleaming against his pale skin. A pair of oversized cargo shorts hung low on his sinewy hips, threatening to slip downwards at any moment should he decide to stand up. He wore his worn and scuffed combat boots with just the bare shadow of white socks showing above their tops. He looked liquid and graceful, unguarded, utterly in his element.
Rufus allowed the door to fall shut with a clatter, Elena taking up a position just inside it.
Reno's sparkling blue eyes landed on him and his laughter tapered off, though his easy grin remained. If he was shocked to see Rufus, he gave no sign of it, and the man didn't think for one second that this seemingly carefree demeanor was anything other than yet another carefully constructed façade. Reno was on his guard, and Rufus didn't blame him one bit.
"What you want, yo?" he asked, as if he had no idea who either Rufus or Elena was. "Lookin' for ink? You came to the right place, man."
The others in the shop went about their business, paying no mind to Reno or his potential customer.
Rufus smiled at him and went to the portfolios near the door, finding Reno's. He flipped through it, aware of those amused blue eyes following his actions. The pictures within were gorgeous, even if the subject matter wasn't always considered so. Quality and attention to detail, the subtle signs of a true artist who not only cared about his work, but loved it. Much to his amusement and embarrassment, near the front was a four-leaf clover, so high up on the inside of a tawny thigh that a protective palm hid from the camera what panties could not.
Sighing, Rufus turned back to Reno, who was exchanging low, amused conversation with a man whose entire face was covered in whorls and tribal markings.
"Something small, I think," Rufus said, getting those blue eyes to flick up to his own. He smirked at Reno and purred, "Perhaps a four leaf clover?"
Reno laughed, slumping a little farther back on his stool, his wolfish grin at once familiar and achingly missed.
"Right thigh, yeah?" he asked, and cocked his head, his grin fading to an amused smirk. "Arrogant fucking ass. And I thought you were all educated and shit, you dumb fuck."
"Dumb fuck?" Rufus echoed, and gave him a cool smile. "Well, only a dumb fuck would chase down a compulsive liar, so I guess we're even."
Reno's head cocked the other direction, his smirk fading as well. He absently reached into one cargo pocket and pulled out his cigarettes, removing one to push it into the corner of his mouth. He lit it, inhaling deeply while giving Rufus a thoughtful frown.
"What you want, yo?" he asked again. "If it's about the pay—fuck you, you shoulda shut it off sooner, you cunt."
"Why would I take you off of payroll, Reno?" Rufus asked, still standing before him. "You're my Turk, my Fastest Turk. You had vacation time coming to you, but it is running thin."
"How much longer?" Reno asked, a shrewd light in his blue eyes.
"Just today," Rufus murmured, and stifled a pretend yawn. He looked around the shop and commented, "What an interesting place."
"It's home," Reno shortly told him. He smoked in silence for a moment longer, and then asked, "Why you come all the way here, yo? Ain't like you to take the time. Coulda sent miss prissy-pants over there to come get me."
"I realize, Reno, that not taking the time was something I have been grossly guilty of," Rufus told him. "Had I but 'taken the time' I would have discovered yet another level to your playful little game and realized much sooner just what you were about."
Reno looked mildly annoyed and stood abruptly. Those shorts clung stubbornly to his hips, his tattoos rippling over the muscles of his lower belly in a fluid way that made Rufus want to lick them.
"Let's go in back, yo, you're getting weird," Reno shortly said, and headed to the rear office, the inked pictures on his back moving atop the supple shift of his lithe muscles.
For a brief moment Rufus was shocked not to see the rhythmic sway of that long red ponytail. It was such a part of Reno that its absence was disturbing, and Rufus felt yet another uncomfortable flood of emotion when he thought of the day that had sent Reno into hiding.
He followed the slim, supple man into a dimly lit office cluttered with magazines, spent coffee cups, and cigarette butts.
Reno leaned back against a desk, still watching him with something that approached a glower, his blue eyes wary and withheld.
Rufus closed the thin wooden door behind him, rather at a loss now that he finally had his Turk alone.
"Spit it out, I ain't got all goddamned day," Reno told him, sucking on that smoldering cigarette. He crossed his corded arms over his hard chest and waited.
"I want to know why you did it," Rufus said, watching him, trying to puzzle out some answer to even one of the enigmas that constituted this dangerous and compelling man.
Reno's brows rose, a smirk curving his fine lips.
"It seemed like it might be interesting."
"You were deliberately misleading me about Monica," Rufus said, calling him out. "You let me think that you'd slept with her. Why?"
Reno shrugged and stubbed out his cigarette, grinning and saying with absent casualness, "It was funny to see you so riled, yo. Such a touchy bitch."
Rufus realized that he would never get a straight answer from him, never in a thousand years.
"You knew you already had my attention," Rufus softly said, and felt a kind of triumphant glee to see Reno's eyes shutter, his face falling into that protective, blank mockery of an expression.
There was a very long silence.
"You're notoriously fickle, yo," Reno finally told him, his voice neutral.
Rufus cocked his head. "And the only way to keep me interested was to play up my assumptions?"
Reno shrugged a little, bored by it all. "Whatever, yo. You do what you want, the Turks are just dogs. You get what you ask for."
"Or what I expect?" Rufus guessed, and saw a flash of some faint amusement on that cautious face, some sign that Reno was impressed with him now that he was finally digging through the layers of their game to find the heart of it. "Reno…Did you honestly believe that I would lose interest if it turned out you weren't a goddamned sociopath only interested in killing, flying, booze and women—in that order?"
Reno blinked at him, watching him for a long moment.
"What makes you think I'm not, yo?"
"Because now I'm taking the time," Rufus reminded him. "I had all the answers I needed, you made sure of it—I could've read your personnel file, I could have even spoken to Tseng or any of my Turks. I could have shown the least interest in you as a human being instead of just my attack dog. I could have actually fucking listened to you when you spoke to me."
Reno's eyes narrowed but he didn't fidget or betray himself.
"I scared you, I see that now," Rufus sighed, still saddened by it. "You were trying to keep me safe and I wasn't interpreting it properly—I saw only what I wanted to see, and not the truth. You scared me, too, Reno. More than you can know."
Reno dropped his chin a little to stare at Rufus from the tops of his sly eyes, his face pulling tight with anger.
"Real scared, yo—you shucked me the second I stopped heeling."
He never was very good at explanations. No wonder Reno had hidden in plain sight. He hadn't expected to be looked for.
"Reno, the way you behaved that night…" Rufus trailed off, still raw from that collision. He decided to risk making a fool of himself. He decided to risk everything. Even if he came out the loser, at least he would know he had tried. "You scared me really badly that day, Reno. Your reaction to me…well, I thought you were reacting to something else. I thought that prostituting yourself to a monster was kicking the foundation out from beneath you. I pushed, you reacted with self-destruction, it wasn't a far-fetched guess as to what would come next if I asked you for more. Only, I knew I would ask you for more, Reno. I was afraid that it would end up with you dead because I wanted you, not just within the terms of our little deal, either. It scared me to death, so I cut you loose and hoped that if you ever truly needed anything, you would come to me and let me know, no expectations on my side."
Reno's narrowed eyes glittered with cold reserve and he lowly said, "Bullshit."
Rufus shrugged. "If you think that, Reno, I can't convince you otherwise. But you made me believe that you never were my lover because you wanted to be, only because there was something you could gain from it—I don't blame you for that, I was a remarkably easy mark—but now I know it goes much deeper. If you want to play your games, Reno, at least play them as my Turk."
He stepped closer.
The man didn't move away.
"I'm the beast," Rufus whispered. "I'm the animal. All this time you were telling me that there was a living, thinking, feeling person in my grasp but the only thing my arrogant, stubborn mind would see was my Turk. I'm unutterably conceited, a perfect ass, a blue blooded idiot…"
He stopped before that slouched, tense body, standing between those spread legs, Reno's worn combat boots on either side of his expensive leather shoes.
"You really could do a lot better," he murmured, giving Reno a small smile.
The Turk just watched him, unwilling to be bought so easily. But Rufus would never buy him again, would never treat him like a thing, would never condescendingly assume that the man would do anything and everything he wanted or that he was even expected to.
He stepped up between those spread legs, letting his hands fall to the desk on either side of Reno's lean hips. He leaned close, giving his Turk time to pull away, to turn his head, to deny him. He felt the warm waft of the man's breath on his lips, saw something move in those shuttered eyes.
They had never shared a kiss. In all of their sordid dealings, never something so tender or personal as a simple kiss.
Rufus pressed his mouth to Reno's, as chaste a kiss there ever was. Smooth, warm skin, so soft and delicate, the same lips that had trailed hot kisses up his flesh, had sucked dark bruises on his skin. There was no cataclysm of realization, just this cautious sharing, a single moment of gentleness in something that was overwhelmingly violent and cruel.
When Reno didn't pull away, Rufus gingerly lifted his hands to cup that warm, muscled back, expecting any moment to be shoved aside and mocked. That smooth, inked skin twitched beneath his hands but Reno didn't push him away. That surprisingly soft mouth opened a little and Rufus tilted his head to fit himself better to all that wet heat. The touch of his tongue was electric, the metallic taste of another surprise piercing somehow more arousing than just that nimble tongue alone. He let one hand come up to cup Reno's jaw, to stroke him while they kissed. The man's arms stayed stubbornly crossed over his chest, but his kiss was scorching in its intensity.
Rufus found that he was trembling when they finally parted, shaken. He felt raw and exposed, but Reno needed that from him, needed him to be nothing more than tender nerve endings and utter truth. He didn't need to speak aloud the thing that had coiled in his chest, that had dictated his reactions to Reno ever since that first confrontation in his penthouse. Reno had little faith in words anyway.
Those big, glittering blue eyes were still open, still languidly shuttered. A small smirk crossed the man's fine lips. He tipped his head in much the same way as a playful dog and nipped Rufus's lower lip hard enough to sting.
It could be a subtle warning. It could be an invitation. Rufus knew that assuming it was either, both, or neither could only lead to more misunderstandings. So, instead, he sucked that full lower lip into his mouth and gave the man his own gentle nip. Whatever happened, however things fell out, hurting Reno or allowing him to be hurt wasn't something that Rufus would ever willingly do.
"I woulda come back eventually, boss," Reno finally volunteered, still wary.
Rufus gave him an inquisitive look, still so close that all he could see were those huge blue eyes fringed in thick black lashes.
"It's the only place I get to tuck people and get paid for it, yo," Reno told him.
His inked arms uncrossed to rest against the desk. No embrace, not yet, maybe not ever. Rufus would have to wait and see. He might have to wait a long time, but at least it wouldn't be a boring wait.
"You do enjoy your job, don't you, Reno?" he breathed, and pressed his luck with another kiss, knowing that at any second a turn of the man's mood could send him sprawling, impatiently shoved aside.
Reno allowed it, and bit his questing tongue before giving Rufus the most thorough kiss of his life. High-bred, cultured, and spoiled Rufus ShinRa had never had someone try to crawl inside him through his mouth before, and he wanted it to happen as often as his Turk would allow.
Reno broke the kiss and grinned at Rufus. With a shrug, he said, "Yeah, you know, yo. Dog will hunt."
Rufus smiled at him and moved away, giving him room.
"You want anything while you're here?" Reno asked, a soft smile on his gorgeous face. He really did have fine bone structure—it was something an aesthetic like Rufus had always appreciated.
"I don't know, maybe," Rufus said, and laughed when Reno cocked an eyebrow. "Maybe I'll get my tongue pierced…"
Reno chuckled, an altogether unholy gleam in his blue eyes. It was a look Rufus would so enjoy getting used to.
"You want a tatt, I'll mark you up, yo," he offered, and then said with a sly look. "But it ain't free, boss."
"Reno, I would sooner expect to be given a masterpiece than not fully reimburse an artist of your caliber for his work," Rufus smoothly told him, and couldn't hide his delight when Reno smirked at him, actually taking the compliment for what it was worth instead of tossing back a snide comment.
"So, what, then? You ready to go home, yo?" Reno asked him, scratching his head in a comical way before absently rubbing his lean belly and tugging on the small ring there.
"Provided you come with me," Rufus told him, and added with a self-depreciating laugh, "Your little 'lover' can come, too."
Reno's throaty, ornery laughter was as welcome as it had been missed. He gave Rufus an indecipherable look and left the office, shouting loudly for Christa.
Rufus watched him go, admiring that lean, long back, the easy gait, the unconscious, predatory beauty of him.
No, it wouldn't be easy, and it probably wouldn't always be pretty, but at least it would be.
And that was enough for both of them.
A/N: Okay, that's it! The End! If you liked it, please let me know, okay? If you're one of the "lurkers" please break your silence long enough to tell me what you thought of the end—even a "cool" (silvermane, I'm looking at YOU) or a "sucked" is sufficient, this story was an experiment for me and I can't make a decision without result. Thanks to all of you who've been reading and reviewing this whole time through my first ever "dark" fic, and I'm sorry if it wasn't as dark as it had first promised to be…maybe I just don't have it in me? Anyway, thanks to everyone! Etrixan, you're a peach, and thanks for taking a look at my squicky chapter! Much love!
And for the record, a warning: If you like my writing and have any interest in rereading or seeing anything I may come up with in the future, now would be a good time to check out my profile page and bookmark my Live Journal Site. In case I ever get deleted from , see, then the LJ will be the only place to find me!