Reno spared only a second glance at the flowers in the vase on his and Rude's desk Monday morning. The company normally got whatever was in season or on special, so he assumed the fact that they were his favourite kind was a mere coincidence…especially since he'd never admitted to having a favourite flower to anyone.
Rude rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses when the smaller man simply did a double take and then continued walking with a slight grin. He should have known that Reno would not risk being caught admiring flowers at work…which meant he did not look close enough to see the small note that had been rolled up and tucked inside the vase as well.
The brawny man removed the note himself when the redhead left for his meeting with Tseng. It would not do for anyone else to find it if they noticed the unusual flowers and decided to investigate.
A few days later, the pair left work and headed for a restaurant that Reno had never heard of until Rude asked if he wanted to have dinner there. It was much nicer than any of the places they normally ate in after work. Actually, the redhead had never eaten anywhere so nice before, and he found the choice slightly unusual for their post-shift dinner…but then, Rude had always had finer taste than he did.
Rude had to fight back a sigh when his slight partner sat down before he could pull out his chair for him, and then proceeded to chat about all the usual things throughout their meal, clearly not registering that this was not meant to be one of their customary after-work dinners. The bald man nearly groaned when Rod stopped by to say 'hi' upon spotting the pair and Reno invited him to sit with them while he waited for his table and date. He wondered if the auburn-haired Turk could feel his glare as he finally left, just before their check arrived.
The bald man did sigh when Reno asked what his half of the bill was, and decided that he needed to try something a little more obvious after the weekend.
Unfortunately, Reno had run into Kilik, who needed a file from the redhead, on his way to the office Monday morning. The slate-haired Turk had seen the box of chocolates on Rude and Reno's oversized desk while Reno was rummaging through their file cabinet, and picked it up as he asked if he could have one. Since Reno had no knowledge of the chocolates, he assumed they were Rude's and told the other man to leave his partner's shit alone.
Rude entered the office an hour later, having been hailed by Cissnei on the way. Lacking the manners of Kilik, Cissnei opened the box without seeking permission and soon everyone in the office heard that Rude had an anonymous admirer who wanted to meet him the next evening. The burly man had to wonder about some of his fellow Turks when no one noticed the fact that the note requested they meet at Reno's favourite diner.
After a few hours of questions and teasing, Reno dragged his partner out to lunch before he could choke any of their co-workers with the offending chocolates.
A couple days later, after spending the previous day insisting that he would not be meeting any damned admirer anywhere, Rude arrived at the office early to leave a small phoenix plush on Reno's desk.
Rude was the only person to know of Reno's love of old legends. He was also the only one who knew of -and had actually seen- the redhead's tattoo, which was when he learned of his partner's interest in mythology. The brawny man had liked the tattoo so much, that Reno drew a phoenix for him.
When Rude had the image tattooed onto himself, the artist had recognised Reno's work and commented that, while he had drawn at least half of the images on the walls of the shop, it was unusual for the redhead to let anyone know he was the artist when they saw his drawings. That was when the brawny Turk had realised that there was more than simple friendship between him and his partner.
From there, he just needed to get Reno to see that as well. Rude had spent a few weeks trying to feel his partner out on the subject before the flower incident, and the redhead never showed any signs of discomfort when his partner stood too close, asked something a little too intimate, touched him when it was not strictly necessary, or held his gaze just a little longer than normal. However, he also seemed completely oblivious to the fact that these looks, touches, and conversations were going somewhere.
Rude hoped the phoenix would be enough to make the wiry redhead stop and think at least.
The burly man actually dropped his head onto their desk when Reno entered, chuckled, and stated that Rude's admirer or had put his plushie on the wrong side of their desk before handing the little phoenix over with a grin. Misunderstanding his partner's reaction, Reno spent the next several minutes playing with the plush and assuring Rude that was nothing emasculating about receiving a plush and that at least it was a badass one. The smaller man even went so far as to point out that Rude's admirer had likely seen his tattoo and was very thoughtful to remember the phoenix.
The redhead was so jovial that Rude could not help but chuckle before telling him to just keep the damned thing. Since then, the plush had resided atop their file cabinet, next to a small potted plant, and had been named 'Soba'.
Rude spent the next couple of days trying to figure out why his courtship was not working. True, he was not the most experienced person around when it came to romance, but he had never had so much trouble merely trying to get someone's attention in the past. After five weeks of wooing to no effect, he was beginning to wonder if Reno was simply unable to see him as anything more than a partner and friend.
The bald man was pondering this rather depressing thought when Tseng stopped him on his way out of the canteen.
"Rude, have you ever heard the Wutain tale of The Boy and the Torama?"
The bald man blinked behind his sunglasses and tried to mentally calculate how long it had been since their superior had taken any vacation time before he realised that he was expected to answer. He could only vaguely recall something in one of Reno's books. "Is it like The Boy Who Cried Dark Hound, sir?"
"Quite the opposite," the dark-eyed man stated before explaining in a tone that suggested Rude pay attention. "In this story, the boy does not upset his townsmen intentionally and it is not they who stop paying attention, but he himself. You see, he reads a tale of the Torama, and becomes both intrigued and fearful of it. He constantly finds himself imaging what it would be like to come across a real Torama...to the point where he would actually see it in the corner of his eye or hear it behind him at times.
He understood that the things he saw and heard wee actually just his imagination, and so he ignored them. Unfortunately, a Torama actually does start stalking him one day and he assumes it is not real. He had seen false signs for so long, that he failed to see the true ones when they appeared."
The two men stared at one another for a moment before Tseng turned to head back toward his office. "It's just something I thought you should think on," he commented as he walked away.
…And think on it Rude did. He knew Tseng did not walk around sharing Wutain fairytales on a regular basis, which meant he was trying to tell the bald man something. The most logic thought that Rude could come up with was that he was missing something he should be seeing, but the story had been too specific about missing something for having wanted it too badly, and that simply did not fit.
Rude simply stared after his superior, thinking silently for a long time, until he heard a familiar voice beside him.
"Hey, Aibou…you okay?"
Rude turned his head quickly and found his gaze resting on a familiar shock of red hair, and then he lowered his eyes until they met Reno's, which were looking at him in concern.
"Rude…can you say something, yo? You've been standin' here staring at nothing for a solid minute and a half since I got here and I'm startin' to worry that you're havin' some kind of seizure…"
The burly man rolled his eyes, "I'm not having a seizure, Reno. I was just…pondering something."
"Oh," the redhead smiled and his body language lost all traces of worry in a heartbeat. He held up two polystyrene boxes; "Well, I got lunch for both of us…do you wanna head into the break room and ponder it together, or maybe the office?"
The corner of Rude's mouth twisted up slightly. "The office sounds good."
As usual, Rude found it rather easy to talk to his partner -now that the subject was not about he and Reno- and he quickly repeated the odd conversation between himself and Tseng. "…My first thought was that he was trying to tell me I was missing something, but-"
"But that's just too obvious for the Boss-Man when he's in one of his existential moods," Reno finished for him with a nod, clearly thinking as he grabbed a bite of his noodles. "Well…if it's not about you missin' something, then it's about someone else missin' something…and it has to be about you, or Boss-Man wouldn't bother bringin' it up to you."
The bald man nodded thoughtfully as he chewed on a spring roll. He swallowed before answering, "That's definitely true…but what would someone fail to see that would affect me without me knowing it already?"
"Hmm, that's a good question." The smaller Turk bit his lip before sighing and looking at his partner ruefully, "Now don't jump down my throat for this, yo; I already know where you stand with it, okay?" Rude nodded once and the redhead continued, "Could it be about this new admirer or of yours?"
Rude did not hesitate for a second, "Definitely not."
"Okay…why?" Reno indicated the company vase, which was currently filled with pansies, with his chopsticks. "Last Monday we had nicer flowers than anybody else and you know Boss-Man or Shachou didn't do that. Then we get that free torte for two at the restaurant that Friday. Monday, there was that box of chocolates with the note asking you to meet with 'em; and Wednesday Soba was left here.
"Now the Boss-Man is sprouting Wutain pearls of wisdom about someone not seein' something because they've wanted or feared it too badly…what if it's another Turk and they don't want to see you aren't interested or something like that? Nah…that's probably wrong, yo, but I think I might be onto something."
Rude froze while bringing his drink up to take a sip, remembering that Reno was always this thoughtful and observant. The fact that he had been so dim about Rude's flirtations was very odd for the slight man…
"Hey, Aibou…?"The bald man put his cup down and arched an eyebrow to indicate that Reno had his attention. "Feel free to tell me it isn't any of my business, yo, but I noticed that you were sort of…content, for a few weeks all of a sudden. Like, something was just suddenly right with you -not that anything seemed wrong with you before- and then these past couple of weeks, you've been kinda frustrated…and you seem too irritated about all this 'anonymous admirer' stuff. It's almost like you're mad because they aren't someone specific..."
The burly man suddenly had to concentrate to keep his breathing regular. His partner looked nervous, and he was clearly working up the nerve to ask whatever all of his previous rambling had been leading up to. That was almost as unusual as the past several weeks' obliviousness…Reno never had a problem asking whatever what on his mind, especially when talking to Rude.
The blue-eyed Turk suddenly took a deeper breath than usual before meeting his partner's gaze, despite the dark glasses hiding Rude's eyes. "Are you interested in somebody? 'Cause if you are, maybe that's who Boss-Man is talking about. Maybe she just isn't gettin' it…"
Reno walked around their desk and perched on the edge of Rude's side, before placing a hand on his stunned partner's shoulder. He offered a supportive smile, but his eyes held a well-concealed sadness to them, as though it hurt him to say what he was about to say next. Apparently, he decided that Rude needed to hear it anyway, and his voice was completely sincere as he continued.
"I know you like to do things without words and all, but not everyone gets you like me, Tseng, or Cissnei. Maybe you need to just tell her, yo. …Or if that's just not your style, then press her into the nearest solid surface and plant one on her. If she's got half a brain, she'll realise how lucky she is and that she isn't just seeing things because she wants you so much."
Rude slipped off his sunglasses as he stared at his long-time partner and friend. The action obviously confused Reno a little, but the sincerity was still present in his features, and his eyes were still hiding sorrow and something else. Rude was hesitant to label it as regret, before deciding that the overall effect -which would only be clear to a handful of people- was one of wistful resignation.
The bald man wondered on the smaller man's carefully hidden emotions for half a second before everything fell into place.
"Reno…I think you're right." Rude opened his mouth to say that they would clearly owe Tseng, but then he closed it as he realised that Reno had specifically used a feminine pronoun each time. Rude furrowed his brows as he wondered about that aloud, "Why do you assume it's a woman I'm interested in?"
Blue eyes blinked, stared blankly for a second, and then Reno's brow furrowed cutely…in Rude's opinion anyway. "I dunno…I just never knew you swung both ways, I guess…"
The burly man frowned at that. Thinking back quickly, he realised that he and Reno had somehow never touched upon the subject of sexual preferences during all the conversations they had shared over the years, and for some reason, Rude had not dated or flirted with any men since being partnered with the svelte redhead…until his recent flirtations with said redhead.
It also occurred to Rude that Reno had not actually dated anyone that he knew of… but between his position as the Turk's second in command and all the trouble that had occurred since they had joined Turk, it had never seemed odd before. Reno also had a tendency to be a bit loquacious and laid-back around everyone when off duty, so it was nearly impossible to tell if the blue-eyed man was flirting or just trying to make friends whenever he chatted someone up.
Suddenly, Rude was unsure as to whether he owed Tseng a thank you or a good long bitching out…off the clock, of course.
Reno's hand tightened slightly on Rude's shoulder, and the bald man realised his friend was now looking at him in concern. "Aibou…you okay? You're doing it again, yo…"
"I'm all right. I'm just…"
"Thinkin' again?" Reno supplemented before smiling lightly. "Well, everything I said still stands if it's a guy. I just hope he knows that, taciturn as you are, you're definitely not docile, yo. I'm sure you can keep him in his place though…Ifrit knows you've managed to keep me in check all these years."
"Well, mostly," Rude replied as he offered a soft smile in return. "I don't think even I could tame you completely…not that I'd want to, mind."
"Which is why you can handle me better than anyone," stated the redhead with an agreeable nod. "You know where to press and where not to…hopefully, your mystery guy can appreciate that." Reno suddenly looked inquisitive and slightly desolate, "It is a guy, right…or were you just askin' 'cause you thought it was weird I kept sayin' 'she'?"
The brawny man turned completely serious again, "The latter…and I wanted to make sure you weren't going to have a problem with that."
"Why would I have a problem with that?" questioned the smaller man, looking utterly confused. "You think I'm some kind of hypocrite? Come on, you know me better than that."
Rude looked at the redhead thoughtfully for a brief moment before smiling genuinely as he realised that, once again, Reno was right…even if he could not see the puzzle he had solved for his partner. "That I do."
"Damn straight. You-" Reno stopped talking and released a startled gasp as Rude quickly stood, knocked the vase off their desk, and shoved the redhead down against it in one fluid motion.
For anyone else, that would have been a very foolish move, but Rude understood Reno…completely. He knew that Reno's trust in him would prevent the redhead from falling back on instincts, training, and fear. Sure enough, the smaller man just stared up at his partner with wide eyes and a slight flush to his cheeks, making no move to lash out or gain the upper hand.
After indulging himself with the sight for a few heartbeats, Rude leaned down, pressing himself against the smaller body just enough to feel it fully without crushing it, and claimed Reno's mouth in an intense kiss that had been long overdue.
Reno gasped, though in surprise or pleasure, Rude could not determine. Nevertheless, he took the opportunity to deepen the kiss and get a better taste of the redhead.
The feel of Rude's tongue inside his mouth seemed to awaken something in Reno, for his wide blue eyes suddenly closed as he finally returned the kiss vigorously. One of his hands had instinctively found its way against Rude's chest when the larger man leaned in, and now it grasped the bald man's suit while his other hand reached up to caress his partner's cheek.
One of Rude's hands worked its way into Reno's hair while the other one ran up and down the svelte Turk's body. For once, the burly man was glad that his partner never bothered with the finer details, such as tucking in his shirt, buttoning up completely, or even making sure his clothes fit properly…it made it much easier to slip his hand under the oversized and loosely fastened garment.
Reno released another gasp when Rude freed his lips, and this time the larger man knew it had nothing to do with surprise as he started kissing his way along a fine jaw line and down a pale throat. He felt the redhead fisting his jacket and arching into him as much as he could with the amount of weight Rude was pressing onto him. Rude worked his lips over a prominent clavicle and flicked his tongue into Reno's supra-sternal notch as his hand found one of the redhead's nipples under his thin work shirt.
At the sound of the moan Reno released, Rude could not help but bite down onto his partner's clavicle, before pausing and looking up. The redhead had moved his hands from Rude's coat to his shoulders, and the pressure had changed minutely, but it was enough for the burly man to understand the silent plea, even if he did not understand why Reno wanted to stop.
Hazy blue eyes met Rude's and it seemed to take a moment for those ultramarine depths to focus before Reno shook his head lightly. "Don't get me wrong, Aibou, I want this…but think about where we are, yo."
It took the bald man a moment to clear his head enough to comprehend what Reno meant. Then he nearly chuckled as he realised that he had his partner -who was also technically his superior- pinned to their desk and had been one breath away from ripping the man's clothes off in the middle of a busy work day. "Right again…quick and quiet isn't the way I want to take you for the first time."
Reno smiled, still flushed and breathy beneath his partner; "First time? So you're planin' on there bein' more then?"
"Thousands…at least," Rude stroked the smaller man's sides and hips. "Might take years to fit them all in though. You up for that?"
"You know it," the redhead wrapped his arms around the burly man's neck. "You also know I don't share well though, right yo?"
"I know;" Rude leaned his head down until his and Reno's foreheads touched. "I never played well with others anyway…'cept for you."
Blue eyes closed as the redhead released a satisfied sigh before meeting his partner's gaze again as he arched up against him once more for good measure. "Guess I'll have to let you play with me a lot to make up for that then, won't I?"
Rude released a growl of approval. "My place or yours after work?"
"Yours is closer." Reno tilted his head up to kiss his partner, gently this time, but somehow just as passionate. He tightened his grip around the larger man's neck as Rude slipped his arms around his waist and returned the kiss.
Still kissing Reno, the burly man began to stand slowly, pulling the slighter man up with him until they were both standing. They finally parted reluctantly, both panting and looking dishevelled.
Reno suddenly smirked, "Then those weeks you seemed sort of…cosy. That wasn't just wishful thinkin' or my imagination or something, was it?"
Rude shook his head. "I started testing the waters…then I switched to flat out flirting and finally, courting, but it all seemed to go right over your head."
The redhead released a light chuckle, "So the flowers last Monday…"
"Were for you," the brawny man acknowledged with a grin. "You missed the note that was hidden in the vase…and Cissnei took off with the note in the chocolates before you could see it, so you never had a chance to recognise my handwriting."
The blue-eyed man chuckled again, and Rude continued, "And that was supposed to be a date last Friday. They ask after the occasion when you make reservations -which you need to do at least twenty-four hours ahead of time- so they can accommodate you better. Since I said it was a first date, the maître d´ sent a nice dessert for two to...end the dinner on a high note.
…And it took nearly fifteen Gil and over half an hour for me to get that damn plush out of the machine in that little diner you like."
Reno was laughing out right by that point, his head leaning against Rude's chest before he regained his composure and looked up at the bald man. "Damn, I can't believe I managed to write all that off as coincidence or something…"
"Neither can I," admitted Rude with a small chuckle, "But I guess it's like Tseng's story; maybe you didn't see it because you'd wanted to for so long…?"
Reno smirked and shook his head, "Not sayin'"
Rude's eyebrows arched up; "That long, huh?"
The redhead just stepped back and adjusted his clothing so that he did not look any more dishevelled than usual. Rude could not help but smirk as the slighter man started helping his straighten out his own suit. His expression smoothed out when Reno handed him his sunglasses.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"Why didn't you?" Reno countered with a look of interest. "I'm sure you figured out I wasn't gettin' it weeks ago…why'd you wait so long to act?"
The burly man thought for a moment before answering, "I didn't understand why you weren't catching on…"
Reno snorted, "Great, so the strongest and the fastest of the Turks were both acting lily-livered…let's not mention that part if we ever tell anyone how we got together, all right?"
Rude nodded, "Agreed. How about we just jump from the part where I realised I wanted you to when I pressed you into the desk?"
The redhead grinned, "Sounds good." Then he tugged on the tie he had just straightened and leaned up to kiss Rude again.
They were completely tousled within minutes.
Six Months Later…
Tseng stepped back after posting the latest change of policy notice on the notice board in the Turk break room and stepped back to make sure said notice was clearly visible.
Attention all employees. This notice is to inform you of the latest changes in company policy.
ShinRa Employee Code of Conduct Article Seven: ShinRa employees are not to eat or drink off any other employee's person while on duty, regardless if the second employee is on or off duty, or whether or not they are in uniform. This includes licking, sucking, sipping, biting, and any other methods of consumption.
ShinRa Employee Code of Conduct Article Eight: ShinRa employees may not give any other employee a lap dance while on duty, or at anytime while on ShinRa premises, regardless if either employee is on or off duty or whether or not they are in uniform. Please note that removing ones uniform during or prior to the act does not negate this rule.
Employee handbooks will be reissued with all necessary adjustments by the end of quarter to include the newly updated Code of Conduct. ~Tseng, C.E.O. The Investigative Division of General Affairs Department.
P.S. Please keep in mind that these rules remain in effect after normal office hours and regardless of whether or not another employee is present. Also, recall that Turk has security cameras in every office, hallway, foyer, interrogation room, boardroom, break room, and all training facilities. Thank you.
The dark-haired man turned to get himself a cup of coffee as a few other employees approached the notice board to read the changes in policy and ponder among themselves who could have caused the new rules. Tseng felt no need to comment the matter himself, and he knew that the only employee who would dare to ask him directly was his second in command. Reno would obviously not question it, considering that he was mainly responsible for rule eight, while his partner was the main reason for rule seven…not that either man had made any protest to his partners' actions.
As Tseng sat at one of the small tables in the room, he caught part of a conversation from a group a few tables over. It appeared that a couple of his Turks were gossiping with a lab technician from the science department and one of the company psychiatrist's assistants. He made a mental note to stress that Turks were meant to keep secrets for the company -including other Turks- during the next department meeting.
"So they're really together?" the lab technician asked quietly, but eagerly while the head of Turk listened on. "I figured it was just one of those rumours…you know, they pop up whenever a couple of guys seem a little too close."
"Yeah, and it's not like anyone has actually seem them doing anything obvious, like kissing or holding hands," added the psychiatric assistant.
"Well yeah, they're Turks," commented Rod as he leaned back in his chair with a cup coffee, "They know how to move below the radar."
"Cissnei and I corned Reno a few weeks ago and err…well, let's just say we know how to make people talk, okay?" Elena smirked in a way that left no doubt that their methods had been anything but pleasant. Ignoring the slightly frightened and disturbed expressions on her tablemates' faces, the blonde continued, "Trust me, they're together; It's actually a pretty sexy story…especially for a couple of Turks. We don't have a lot of office romances around here."
"Really?" The psychiatric assistant was the first to gather the courage to speak, although Tseng suspected that Rod remained silent because either he knew the story already or he simply did not care enough to ask. "So, how'd it happen?"
"Well, it started about half a year ago, when Rude had this anonymous admirer," Elena began, clearly believing every word she relayed. "Anyway, we noticed that he kept getting annoyed any time one of us asked about it…and Reno got really quiet around that time. Everyone just assumed that Rude had his reasons and Reno was probably well aware of them, but you know he'd keep Rude's secrets to his death so there was no point in pressing the issue…"
"…And there's no point in dragging this story out for much longer," cut in Rod with an over exaggerated eye-roll. He turned to the other two at the table, "Look, long story short: it was Reno that was admiring Rude, and once Rude realised this, he also figured out that he wanted Reno, so he pressed him into their desk and claimed him. They've been together ever since."
Tseng lifted his coffee mug to his lips as the conversation continued, more to hide the knowing smile that had graced them then from the desire to drink the bitter beverage. He knew very well that Elena and Cissnei had not actually gotten the real story from Reno, but he felt no desire to share that information.
After all, if the redhead had the grace not to call him on the fact that there was no old Wutain tale called The Boy and the Torama, then Tseng could return the favour. It would not do to have his Turks thinking that he cared to become involved in their personal affairs anyway.
Unless of course, said personal affairs continued to include a certain pair deciding to show their gratitude by giving him a free show whenever he was covering surveillance by himself. Then, he might just have to intervene again...beyond a few added code of conduct regulations.
After all, it would not due for Rufus to catch him watching Reno strip for his partner or any similar scene; the president could be more frightening than any Turk when he wanted to be.