Title: Trust and the Blue
Rating: Teen and up audiences
Characters: Elena, Reno.
Status: Completed. 2789 words.
Summary: She knew in a moment that she had screwed herself over, trusting SOLDIER to have her back. She knew because she was fighting with one of the Don's hired idiots when she saw the SOLDIERs exchanging looks, and she felt the sinking in her stomach that always happened before something bad.
Notes: This has been one of those fics that I have kind of bounced around in my head for years before I actually committed to writing any of it down. I have to admit, I'm really pleased with how it turned out!

[[ … One-Shot … ]]

She knew in a moment that she had screwed herself over, trusting SOLDIER to have her back. She knew because she was fighting with one of the Don's hired idiots when she saw the SOLDIERs exchanging looks, and she felt the sinking in her stomach that always happened before something bad. She sucked in a breath, and they ran, and that left her fighting off four men. She could have taken two, or even three, without too much problem, but four at once, with three of them fresher than herself, she was outmatched. She still went down fighting, and the last thing she remembered was the fact that Reno was right, that she should have sat her ass down and finished her drink.

Fuck him.

She woke bleary eyed and trussed up in the back of some room. No windows that she could see, and she made herself focus as she worked on the knots tying her wrists behind her back. She couldn't quite get the angle right to get out of the ropes though— screw those Wutaian bastards the Don had hired, Odin take their damned souls and spear their damn knots with them— and she worked until she was sweating, until all she could think was that she was thirsty and that her wrists ached. She'd rubbed them raw. She half expected them to be bleeding.

She fell over and lay on her side for a few moments, sucking in warm air— near the mountains then? Maybe inside of a mountain? She was pretty sure the Wutaian mountains still had active volcanoes and that would account for the sheer heat— and doing her best not to tense up. Tensing did her absolutely no good.

She heard the other girl shrieking long before the door to the room opened, and she lashed out, kicking the guy's shins and throwing herself toward him as much as she could. The girl he was holding hit the ground (it took Elena a moment to realize that it was the little ninja Cloud's group had picked up); "This is just my luck," she yelled, but Elena noticed that she was on her feet faster than Elena could manage, and she wasn't looking back as she scurried out the door. Elena lurched to follow her, but the guy she'd kicked grabbed her before she could go anywhere, and he hauled her in close. Another guy appeared in the doorway, the girl thrown over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

Elena could remember being carried like that.

Then the guys were exchanging some kind of signals that Elena couldn't follow— her gaze was unsteady; was she drugged?— and then they were moving again, wordlessly carrying both Elena and the girl to ... somewhere.

She must have been drugged because she dozed on the journey, and when her eyes opened again, she was sucking in sharp breaths to keep herself relatively steady. She was tied up on the face of the damn mountain, and she couldn't stop the frantic, immediate jerking of her arms. Thankfully, she didn't pull herself free (had she managed it, she would have plummeted to her death, and Reno would never let her hear the end of that), and she glanced up toward the sky— endless blue sky with white puffy clouds, the sky she'd admired in her first moments in Wutai and now she would have gladly traded it for the dingy ceiling in Turtles' Paradise.

Reno and Rude would be looking for her by now. She was going to be fine.

She glanced over at the girl, made herself focus on the screeching that she was doing— "GAWD, NASTY OLD MAN! YOU BETTER LET ME DOWN!"— and did this girl do anything but screech like a harpy? It wasn't doing them any good, and if anything, the Don was enjoying it, was leaning forward and leering entirely too close to the both of them for Elena's comfort. He was breathing them in and licking his lips, sweat on his forehead and in that greasy blond hair, and one of his hands reached out to catch the edge of the girl's shorts, tugging on it slightly. It only caused more bucking and more screeching, and then he was laughing. Elena nearly threw up when he traded that in for reaching for her jacket, his fingers lingering over the zipper between her breasts. He raised an eyebrow at her, and she locked her jaw, focusing straight ahead past him on ... sky. Sky and treeline and Reno and Rude were coming for her. They wouldn't leave her.

She wondered how long she'd been missing.

The zipper was almost overly loud in the quiet on the mountain— nothing but wind (and the girl's screeching) in her ears and sky in her eyes— and she breathed steady and even. It took an eternity for the zipper to slide down and let her jacket hang open, and the Don was leaning in closer to her, his eyes half-closed as he licked his lips. If she'd had a foot free, she could have kicked him clear off the damn mountain, had both of her legs been free, she could have gotten him close to her and snapped his damn neck.

But she was tied fast to the mountain, and she couldn't go anywhere, and his fingers were trailing up her front, sliding over the buttons of her dress shirt. She swallowed, the only movement she could let herself do, and his smile widened. Then the girl beside her was bucking, and Elena hissed, "Stay still, damn you," even though she didn't mean to. The girl went still, and the Don leaned back, his fingers dropping off of Elena to rest at his side. He crossed his arms, studied them both some more, and Elena didn't let herself move again. The girl stayed still beside her for a total of two minutes (Elena counted the time off in twenty second increments in her head; every one of them was a victory, was another twenty seconds that she didn't have Don Corneo touching her, debasing not only her but the blue and how the hell could she let herself get in this position in the first place?), and then she was squirming, fidgeting and stretching her fingers in an attempt to reach the knots holding her wrists in place.

Elena had never been so grateful to see terrorists in her life, and when Cloud and his group found them, it was everything she could do not to breathe relief, not to buck and fight and join the ninja in her futile struggles and screeching. Then the Don was laughing at Cloud, was saying something about a trump card and it didn't matter that they had slaughtered his little pet.

She felt the thing she was tied to lurch and swing and then she was upside down, and she felt the panic setting in. Her eyes widened and her lips parted, and she was sucking in shallow little breaths, firmly telling her body that she would not be throwing up.

We'll have smashed tomatoes.

Smashed. Tomatoes.

Was that what she would look like if she hit the ground from this height? She shuddered, and so help her, when she heard Reno's voice, her heart stopped. Then it was thudding in her ears, and she could hardly hear anything over it, could hardly see him with the way her vision was swimming— remnants from the drug, maybe. Someone threw something, knocking the Don over— had to be Rude; she didn't know anyone else with an arm even remotely similar— and she spared the briefest thoughts for wondering where the hell the Don's hired goons had gotten off to. Then she didn't care because Reno was standing on the edge of the mountain, his foot on the fingers that the Don was clinging with, and he glanced back at her for just a moment, his eyes narrowed sharply. It was his lesson expression, the one he always had when he was about to do something that she needed to pay attention to.

It wasn't hard to watch him stomp the Don's fingers (she wished she could have heard the snapping when Reno ground his foot into them), but it was hard to focus, hard to keep her attention steady and even, and when Reno looked back at her, she couldn't stop her mouth from opening the words, "Oh, thank you so much..! I never expected you to come-"

Because for all her bravado, for all her insisting that they would, she had known better. In her secret heart, she'd known that they would be well within their rights to not come for her. To leave her to her own stupidity, to everything that she'd brought on to herself—

"Don't act so weak," Reno snapped, and his tone took her breath, made her back stiffen and her hands clench into fists. His eyes sharpened, and then he raised an eyebrow. "You're a Turk."

Air rushed back into her lungs, and she nodded. "Y... Yes, sir!" She was a Turk. She was in her blue and her fellow Turks were here, and they had come for her.

The ring of Reno's phone was reassuringly normal, and Elena tilted her head up slightly as he answered it, glancing up her body— momentarily thanking whatever impulse had made her clip her tie to her shirt; it was the only reason it wasn't in her face. Reno was speaking lowly, just loud enough for her to hear if she concentrated, and when he closed it, he sighed, looking away from them all for just a moment.

She drew a breath. "Was that the company?" she asked, and his gaze cut back to her before he nodded.

"We're to find Cloud," he replied, and immediately, everyone on the mountain side tensed. Even the little ninja went still. The silence stretched, and Cloud's hand tightened on the hilt of his sword as the pretty brunette at his side adjusted her gloves. Elena heard... something. Must have been Rude, if the way Reno's attention snapped to the speaker was any indication, and then Reno was offering them all an easy smile.

"Today's our day off."

Cloud and his little band seemed to relax slightly, and Reno shoved his hands into his pockets. Elena forced herself to breathe. There wasn't going to be a fight, not with her trussed up and stuck on the face of the damn mountain, and she was grateful. It would have been hard to watch and not work at getting herself free, even with the risk of dropping to hit the ground. The ninja started screeching again, and Cloud and the brunette rushed to her, started working to get her down.

Elena found herself staring straight into a familiar little black and white face, and she stuck her tongue out at Reeve— she had no doubt whatsoever that Reeve was watching this— before she started stretching her fingers, testing the knots. A hand reached for her, and before she could even see who it was, there was an ominous cracking from Reno's mag rod.

He dislodged whoever it was from her wrist, and he tapped the mag rod against his shoulder. "Don't touch her." He jerked his head toward the ninja. "Get your own, yo. We got ours." There was no arguing with that voice, and Elena shivered slightly. Reno wasn't moving to take her down yet, wasn't even looking like he wanted to, and instead, he just hovered near her, keeping a buffer of space between her and Cloud's crew.

(She didn't think any of Cloud's people saw the way he idly brushed his fingers over Cait's head when he passed, though.)

It took them forever, and the brunette lingered, hesitating and glancing between Elena and Reno and Rude, who had just reached them. Finally, Reno offered her a sharp smirk and tilted his head.

"Plannin' on stayin' with us, pretty lady? Sure we can make room for you, yeah?"

She flinched, and then she sighed. "Just. ... Don't hurt her," she said, and then she was gone, trotting to catch up to her crew and leaving Elena with Reno and Rude both.

Rude started to reach for the knots on Elena's wrists, and Reno caught his hand. He crouched down beside her, raising an eyebrow. She really wished he would let her be taken down. Her head was beginning to kill her.

He studied her for a moment, quiet, and then he pulled a knife from his boot and slid it under the rope beside her hand. "So," he said lowly, and he tugged the blade forward, slicing the rope from her easily enough. "Why don't you tell me jus' what th' fuck you were thinkin' when you wen' off with those SOLDIERs, yeah? 'Cause I've half a mind t' leave your ass right here."

Elena blinked slowly, and she glanced past Reno to Rude—

"Don't fuckin' look at him, yeah? He's not goin' t' help you 'less I tell him to." Reno's fingers caught a hold of her hair, forced her to look back at him, and she drew a breath, working on just focusing on him, on figuring out what the hell he wanted her to say. The knife was slid in under the other rope, but Reno didn't move to cut it yet. She tugged on the arm, just enough to remind him, and he tilted his head.

"I... It was stupid. I shouldn't have done it, Reno," she said softly, and she knew from the flattened line of his lips that wasn't what he was looking for, but hell, she couldn't think like this, with the Wutaian countryside under her like this. What the hell was he expecting? "Please let me down."

Reno hummed, and he loosened his grip on her hair just enough to slide his fingers through it. The movement was almost affectionate if she ignored the fact that he had her dangling above her damn death. "See, 'Laney," he said lowly, "you runnin' off with those SOLDIERs makes us all look bad, yeah? An' th' shit thing here is that you got caught, got held prisoner by fuckin' Don-Damned-Corneo, yo. That jus' looks worse."

Not to mention she'd caused Reno and Rude to team up with Cloud. But he wasn't mentioning that, so she didn't either. She just nodded. She shouldn't have trusted that they would have her back. They weren't Turks, and she... she wasn't SOLDIER. She wasn't even a sparring partner anymore. She was nothing to them. She sucked in a breath, and she tilted her head just enough to look up at Reno.

"I shouldn't have trusted them," she said firmly, and he tilted his head to one side, raising an eyebrow. "Not Turks, yo," she added, and she expected ... something. A slight smile, something out of Reno. But he didn't offer her anything, just reached up and he cut the rope holding her wrist. Before she could react, he'd flipped the knife and cut the rope holding her ankles too, and for just a moment she was falling, was dropping like a rock to the ground under her—

But no, a hand had her ankle, and she drew a breath, her scream stuck in her throat with no air to give it life. She pulled herself up, twisting to see Rude holding her. Reno shoved the knife back in its place in his boot.

"We have your back, Laney," he said, and his voice was almost cold. "Not them. They'd let your ass fall in a heartbeat 'cause it makes them look better, yeah? You trust Turks an' only Turks. You trust us."

She nodded jerkily, and Rude lowered her to the path. He didn't flip her over or anything so demeaning, he just lowered her until her hands were flat on the ground, and as he let go of her ankle, she tucked and rolled and pushed herself up to her feet.

She ignored the way her legs were wobbling.

She started down the path, doing her level best to keep herself steady and even and to not look weak in front of her fellow Turks, and when a hand landed in the middle of her back to steady her around a particularly rough patch of the path, she glanced back, expecting to see Rude. Reno was the one steadying her though, and she drew a breath, feeling another shiver run down her back. He caught her eye, and a slight grin touched his face.

"Got t' trust both of us, yeah? Not jus' Rude, yo," he said, and she nodded again.

They both had her back.