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Pretend Or Surrender

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Pretend Or Surrender
Chapter One

Reno closed his eyes, letting the hot water from the shower fall without challenge onto the back of his neck. Sweeping his hair to one side, he let out a soft groan of contentment when he felt the hot water begin to loosen the muscles in his shoulders and back. Reaching a hand out, he let it rest against the cool tiles of the shower, keeping his balance as he rolled his shoulders, his eyes still closed as the water washed over him. Eventually, he tipped his head back letting the water plaster his hair to his scalp. Rubbing his hands over his face, he smiled. He had the rest of the evening off, and then tomorrow as well.

 

Feeling lighter at the prospect of some free time, Reno picked up the soap and began to lather himself. He watched the swirl of grit and blood spiral down the drain along with the soap bubbles and wondered vaguely just how much money the soap companies made from Turks alone. He was fairly certain they went through more soap than nearly anyone. He’d have to ask Rude how many bars he went through a week.

 

When he’d gotten himself sufficiently clean, Reno stepped out of the shower, wrapping his towel around his waist. He wiped the fog off the bathroom mirror and blinked at his reflection. He looked pale. Well, he always looked pale, but with his hair flattened to his head and wet his skin looked even paler. His light freckles stood out more clearly and he could practically see the veins through his skin. He was tired. He felt it and he looked it. Letting out a huff, he straightened himself up and dried himself off.

 

When he’d gotten dressed and spent a good amount of time styling his hair, Reno grabbed his old jacket as he headed for the door. Smiling softly as he pulled the jacket on, Reno felt himself relax at the familiar feel of it. His jacket was the only thing he still owned from his days living on the street before ShinRa had given him a job. When he’d been offered employment with ShinRa, one of the conditions had been that he sever all ties with his past life. Connections like that would make him weak. Vulnerable. ShinRa would not allow that, and so he was to start afresh. Reno had done so as best he could. With the exception of the Jacket. He’d loved this jacket and he didn’t think it was such a big deal if he kept it. He did, afterall, need something to wear when he wasn’t in his uniform.

 

Stepping out on to the street, Reno headed in the direction of the other thing he had been unable to leave in his past. His friend, Aura.
While Rufus mightn’t mind much if he discovered that Reno had kept his old jacket, he would be more than furious if he discovered that he’d kept contact with his friend. More than kept contact. When Reno had gotten work with ShinRa, he’d gotten Aura off the streets. He’d found her somewhere to live and he’d supported her with his paycheque. Every time he had a few days off, he would take her some money. It wasn’t much as he had to be careful that nobody would notice large chunks of money being taken from his account regularly, but it was enough for Aura to buy food and other necessities. ShinRa may have taken him off the street and taught him a few new things, but he still had his own code of honour. He and Aura had taken care of each other on the street back then, so when he had gotten out of there, there was no way he was just going to abandon her. That just wasn’t the way things worked. Reno may not have had all the fancy morals that some other people had, but he had loyalty. Loyalty was the basis of everything for Reno, and his loyalty to Aura would not see him leave her on the streets alone.

 

When he got to the part of town he’d gotten Aura a house in, he turned the collar of his jacket up and looked carefully around. It wouldn’t do to have anybody recognise him here. Reno walked up the quiet street, trying to look inconspicuous. He hoped Aura would be home. Flicking a glance at his watch, he bit his lip, thinking. He should have let her know he was coming. She could still easily be down at the market. If she could afford anything that was . She still should have some money left. It hadn’t been quite a month since he’d last gone to see her and had taken her the usual bag of Gil he gave her.

 

He pulled out his phone and thought about calling her to see if she were home, but caught himself before he did. He didn’t want to leave any kind of evidence that he still had contact with her. Putting it back in his pocket, he continued up the street towards Aura’s house. When he arrived, Reno knocked on the front door and waited silently. He looked up the street, his eyes seeing far more than anyone observing him would suspect. Hearing a small noise behind the door, he turned back around. Seeing a slight ruffle in the curtains in the window, he knew Aura was doing as he had told her, and was checking who was on her doorstep before she opened the door to them. He looked at her when she then did open the door.

 

“Reno.” She smiled. He smiled back. “I didn’t expect you for weeks yet.”

“I have some time off.” He said, moving into the house as she stepped back to allow him to enter. He smiled again and he looked back up the street quickly before she shut the door.

“The curtains.” He said.

“I did as you told me... I checked before I let you in.”

“I know... I saw you.”

She blinked, “Oh.”

“If I was someone who intended you harm, I would have forced my way inside once I had proof you were here.”

“Okay.”

“So, you must look out the window without being seen, yo.” He moved to the curtain and demonstrated. “Don’t touch the curtain... and make sure you do it from the side of the window furthest from the door.” He looked at her. “Also, it’s probably a good idea to bend down a bit when you so... different heights and all.”

“Okay...”

He looked at her and stopped, seeing her biting her lip. “I don’t mean to unsettle you...” he said, wrapping an arm around her. She hugged him and he held her firmly.

“I know. Thank you.” She murmured.

“So, I brought somefood.” He smiled, trying to lighten the mood. She grinned.

“I do have food here...”

“I know... I also brought wine.”

“Oh, I see.”

“I have some time off. Let’s celebrate.”

 

Aura nodded and headed into her small kitchen before coming back with two wine glasses. Reno set about opening the bottle and pouring them some wine, before sitting down on her old couch. Moving a cushion from beneath himself, he blinked at it.

“This is new.” He looked at her. She smiled and nodded. He blinked again, wondering how she had the money to pay for such things. She only had the small amount of money he brought her from his own salary from ShinRa. It wasn’t much but it was enough to keep a roof over her head and food on her table. He’d always wished he could give her more, but he’d been afraid that a larger sum of money going missing from his account regularly would be noticed. As it was he was pleased that he’d gotten away with it for so long. He’d gotten himself an apartment that was smaller than he could afford, but still nice enough not to arouse suspicion, but he could still hardly believe that his co-workers and, more still, his boss, believed that he was drinking and whoring away so much already. Sure, sometimes he would go out for a drink, and sometimes, he’d even take a woman home for the night. If he could help it, though, she generally wasn’t a prostitute. Reno didn’t like to pay for it. Also, it made some memories from his life on the streets harder to forget.

 

He blinked yet again at the cushion in his hand, concerned now over what Aura was doing to be able to afford such things.

“You... can afford this?” he asked softly.

“I didn’t use the money you gave me.” She said. He closed his eyes. “I’ve been making some money of my own.”

“If you need more, I can give you more.” He said, sure he could figure out a way for that to work. He started to calculate how much more he could possibly get away with before Rufus began to wonder what he was throwing money at.

“No.” She said, and he looked at her. “I’ve been selling some potions.”

“Oh.” He smiled.

“You thought I was whoring.”

“Well...” he didn’t know what to say and so fell silent.

“Reno, I... I couldn’t do that...”

“I know.” He ran a hand over the back of his neck. Back in their days on the street, he’d whored for the both of them so that she wouldn’t have to. “I just... I know I don’t give you much... and I wish I could... I want you to be able to make a home and buy random things like this... and I know you barely have enough for basic stuff...”

“Reno.”

“Yeah..?” he murmured, looking at her.

“You do a wonderful job of taking care of me.” She told him, “You don’t even have to. Most people would have left me where they found me.”

“You’re my friend.” He said, trying to shrug it off.

She nodded.

“So, these potions... They sell well...?”

“Sold ten so far...”

“How many have you made?”

“Ten.”

He laughed, “Okay, so that’s good progress. How much are you selling them for?”

“Fifty Gil.”

“You could be selling them for more than that.”

“The people around here don’t have more than that.” She replied, looking at him.

He nodded silently. “If you went to the market, in the centre of town...you could bump the price up a bit.”

“I suppose so.”

“As long as you were careful, I mean.”

“Mhmm.” She nodded and then smiled softly. “I want to open an Apothecary.”

He looked at her, smiling widely. “That’s a brilliant idea, Aur.”

She took a sip of wine, smiling more broadly. “I can’t believe you thought I was whoring.”

“Sorry.” He wrapped an arm around her, “I apologise.” He watched her, wondering how the thought had even entered his mind. She knew what he’d done to keep her from that in the past. There was no way she would just do it now and make his sacrifices be for nothing. Looking at her now, he wondered if she’d even ever had a lover. He didn’t think so. He would have known about it. He was sure of that. But then, he only visited her every couple of weeks... there was plenty of time for her to have a lover over that he would never encounter.

 

Not sure why he was gritting his teeth at the thought, Reno took a mouthful of wine and tried to relax, telling himself that he would find out about any threat to their security and make sure that it was no longer a threat.

“What’s wrong?” her voice brought him out of his thoughts. “You suddenly got this really... intense... look on your face.”

“Do you ever have... visitors... here?”

“Uh...” she blinked, “Sometimes...”

He tried to keep his face neutral. “... Who?”

“Maati.” She blinked, “The old man who lives next door... sometimes, when he goes trading to other towns he brings me ingredients for my potions and stuff that I cannot get here easily. Sometimes, I have him over for dinner. He’s alone since his wife died...”

“Ah.” He nodded.

“Is that bad?” she looked at him and he thought about how lonely she must be here on her own.

“No.” He shook his head, “That’s not bad.”

He made a mental note to have a talk with this Maati. If the man could be trusted, perhaps it could ease his own mind to have someone keeping an eye on Aura when he could not. Maybe the man could even tell him if she had a secret lover. Or, maybe Maati would make him as a Turk and Aura would be made vulnerable. He tried not to sigh.

“How about we have some dinner... “ she said, getting up and heading back into the kitchen. He followed her and watched as she turned the oven on. “Come on, make yourself useful.” She grinned, tossing vegetables at him. He smiled and took a knife from the drawer. He looked at it. It was good quality. Another purchase from the profit of her potion sales. An apothecary would need a good knife, he would assume. He quickly peeled the vegetables and made short work of cutting them up. He was, afterall, extremely skilled with a blade. He was finished well before Aura was done preparing the meat. When she was finished, she put it in the oven, and then looked at what he’d done.

“I can never get them all exactly the same size like that!” she complained. He just smiled, “Do they teach you how to cook at ShinRa?”

“Not exactly.”

He watched the way her eyes moved over him, and then, as she always did when the discussion came too close to what he actually did for ShinRa, she changed the topic.

“The meat will take an hour, the rest can go in after half.”

“Alright.”

 

She then busied herself getting out plates and cutlery. He watched her set the table, silently wondering what it was that she had convinced herself he did for a living. Aura wasn’t stupid. She knew that he worked for ShinRa, and she knew that he’d had to cut all ties with everything in his past to take the job. He wasn’t certain if she knew he was a Turk specifically, as he had not told her that, but she seemed to suspect enough that whenever they came close to talking about anything relating to his work, she would back away. Or maybe, it was due to the growing hostility toward ShinRa employees on the streets lately. Maybe she thought that the less she knew, the better. He certainly agreed with that. He dreaded to think of the way she would look at him if she knew what he had done... what he did, just about every day... what he had been doing not four hours earlier. He was quite happy with Aura not knowing that he was a killer.

 

It wasn’t that he enjoyed keeping a secret that big from her, it actually made him rather sad. Aura was his oldest friend. She knew things about him that nobody else did. The things they had endured on the streets together had formed a bond that he could only compare with the one he now shared with Rude. But he just didn’t think he could take her horror or disappointment, or even disgust if she knew what he had become. He needed her. Her good opinion of him. That source of light she provided that comfort of knowing that no matter what unspeakable thing he did for ShinRa, she would be there for him to go to and forget it all. She had become something for him to protect, something pure, and he could not lose that

“Do you want more wine?”

He blinked, realising that she had finished setting the table and was now looking at him.

“Yeah.” He followed her back into the living room and sat back on the couch once again. He filled their glasses and she turned the television on. Reno set a cushion comfortably on his lap as a news report on the latest riots in the towns flashed across the screen.

“Two more ShinRa employees killed...” Aura murmured. “Yesterday there were three...”

“I know.” He said quietly.

“They’re even attacking the families...” she turned to look at him. “Is that why you never come here in your uniform?”

“It’s become part of the reason.” He nodded, “But originally it was so nobody knew I’d kept contact with you...”

She nodded. “These attacks... has anyone had a go at you...?”

“No.” He said firmly. He watched her accept that and nod.

“If they did...you’d be okay, right?” she asked. He looked at her, and she twisted her hands, clearly uncomfortable with what she wanted to ask, “I mean... you can fight, right?” she gave him a queer look. “Really well, right?”

“Yes.”

She nodded and let out a soft breath. “Okay.” She then smiled and leaned against him. “You always were fast...” she murmured, “It’s cause you’re so skinny.”

 

He gave a soft laugh, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and watching the rest of the report.

When dinner was ready, they ate that in front of the TV and finished off the wine. Reno was watching the TV completely zoned out to everything until he’d finished his glass of wine and blinked slowly at it. “Hey Aur, I should have brought more wine...” he said, before turning to look at her and discovering that she was asleep. He grinned, looking at the way she was curled up against a cushion at the other end of the couch. “Aura,” he nudged her leg, “Wake up, yo.”

She mumbled something and didn’t move. He got to his feet and touched her shoulder gently. “Come on, go to bed...”

She groaned and opened an eye, looking up at him. “Go to bed.” He grinned. She sat up, pushing her dark hair back.

“Kay...”

“Good.”

“... Are you staying?” she murmured.

“Yeah. That okay?”

“Mmm.” She nodded, getting up. “You need anything?”

“Nah, I know where stuff is.”

“Mmm.” She pushed her hair back again, “Okay...”

“’Night.” He smiled as she staggered off for the hallway. He watched her bedroom door close and then he got a spare blanket from the cupboard and curled up on the couch. Yawning, he turned the TV off stretched out comfortably. Closing his eyes, he tried to work out a way to talk to that neighbour in the morning.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

 

Aura awoke the next morning to silence. Yawning, she sat up, realising that Reno must still be asleep. She got dressed and went quietly out into the living room. Reno was sprawled across the couch, the blanket down around his hips and his vibrant hair splayed wildly across one of the cushions. She smiled and headed into the kitchen to start making breakfast.

She turned on the stove and got a frypan out. Not long later she was dishing out eggs and bacon onto two plates and carrying them into the living room. Reno was still asleep across her couch, so she nudged his foot. “Shift it, yo.” She said loudly, sitting herself on his feet when he didn’t move them immediately. He groaned and flailed a bit before eyeing her balefully.

“Unpleasant morning person.” He muttered.

“Oi. Don’t be mean. I made you food.” She retorted, setting his plate on him. He sat up, looking at the plate with interest.

“Okay, better...”

“Thought so.” She smiled, chewing on a piece of bacon.

They ate in silence for a few minutes before he stretched and she looked over at him. “What’s your plan for today?” he asked.

“Gotta go get some stuff from the markets.” She replied, licking some grease from her fingers.

“Can I come?”

“If you want...” she replied, “It’s going to be boring... I just have to get some stuff for potions...”

“Are you kidding? That sounds fascinating...”

She eyed him. “Righto...” She watched him grin at her and return to cleaning his plate off. She then took the plates to the kitchen and washed the dishes quickly. “I’m just going to shower before we go...” she told him, heading back through the living room on her way to the bathroom.

“Take your time.” He replied, folding the blanket he’d used during the night.

 

*

Reno put the blanket he’d used away and then listened until he heard the shower running. He then straightened himself in the mirror by the door and stepped outside. A quick glance at the neighbour’s yard had him smiling. Perfect.
He strode across the yard to the fence separating the properties. The elderly man watering his garden looked his way and raised a hand in greeting.

“Morning, yo!” Reno called.

“Good Morning to you...”

Reno watched as the man approached the fence.

“You’re Maati?” he asked, looking the man up and down surreptitiously. He was a portly man, Reno would have guessed him to be in his mid sixties. Still had most of his hair, and seemed to be able to move fairly easily.

“That’s me.”

“I’m Reno.”

“You’re Aura’s friend...” Maati said, his pale blue eyes now looking Reno over critically.

“Yeah.”

“I know about you.”

“...what do you know?”

“I know you found her that house and that you help her out...”

“True.”

Maati moved closer until he was standing right at the fence. “... what do you want?”

Reno nodded, he could appreciate wanting to get right to the point.

“Does Aura have any... other... friends... who visit her?”

“Men, you mean?”

“Men, women... whatever.”

“Not that I’ve seen.” Maati said, “Sometimes people come here looking for her to heal them, though.”

“Does that happen often?” he asked, wondering if it were a good idea for people to know where she lived.

“Getting more common...” Maati mused, “Now that people are getting sick...”

“Okay...” he nodded, “So... she’s okay...?” he looked at him, “I mean, when I’m not here...?”

“Seems well enough...” Maati looked long and hard at him. “I drop in on her from time to time... to see how she is.”

“I appreciate that.”

“I expect you don’t get much time off...” Reno watched Maati look him over again, “It’s a good idea... you not coming in uniform.”

“Come again?” Reno asked, his face carefully neutral.

“You heard me, boy.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, yo.”

“Fine. But you keep in mind this neighbourhood wouldn’t take kindly to any meddling by ShinRa.”

“I would expect as much.” He said simply.

“I don’t care what you do as long as you take care of that girl in there.” Maati gestured at Aura’s house. Reno just nodded simply. “I’ll watch her as best I can for you.”

“Thank you.” Reno backed away from the fence and Maati returned to watering his garden. Turning back to the house, Reno went inside.

 

“Hey,” Aura said, coming into the living room, drying her hair with a towel. “You ready to go... or do you want to fix your hair...”

“Like I could go out in public looking like this...” he grinned, gesturing at his hair that was still looking like he’d just woken up.

“I dunno... could have been the look you were going for...”

“I think you know me better than that.” He grinned, heading for the bathroom.

 

It wasn’t long later that they were walking up the street to the small but busy market. “Oh...” he heard Aura murmur, before she was weaving off between people toward a stall
with her basket. Reno blinked and tried to keep up. By the time he got there she was thanking the old woman running the stall and putting a small bag in her basket. She smiled at him, “Next.”

“Okay.” He replied, following her back into the crowd. He looked around, instinctively taking in everything from people entering the street from nearby side alleys to children running from stall to stall, weaving in between unsuspecting people who were not keeping a close enough eye on their purses.

They’d gone past three more stalls before Reno’s eye caught on a group of four men having a hushed discussion on a nearby corner. He couldn’t quite place what it was about them that caught his attention, or why just looking at them seemed to trigger a rush of adrenaline throughout him, but he couldn’t shake the feeling at all. Seeing Aura heading right in their direction, he stepped quickly up beside her, putting an arm around her shoulder and gently steering her away from them. “Let’s just go this way, yo.” He said quietly.

He watched her green eyes flick at the men and then up to him.

“What’s wrong with them?”

“I dunno.” He replied, “Just... something...”

“Okay.” She nodded and then stopped at another stall. “I need some bottles for potions...” she said, directing her attention to the wares on display. Reno turned back to watch the men on the corner who seemed to now be arguing with one another, but trying to remain quiet enough not to make a scene. After a few moments, they turned and went down the alley and through some side door which was then slammed shut. Reno blinked, not knowing what to make of it. He then took Aura’s basket from her as she bought some bottles and set them in the bottom of it.

“Oi.”

“I’m helping.” He replied easily.

“I’m perfectly capable...”

“Yes, but I feel useful now.”

“Fine.” She sighed, and he watched her try to resist a smile. “I need to get some fresh food.”

“Okay.” He followed her to a few more stalls, all the while looking back at that alley.

After Aura had visited all the stalls she needed to, they wandered slowly back up the street. Reno stopped to look at the building to which that door belonged. “Is this a bar?” he asked Aura who nodded. “... do they do lunches?”

“Not unless you want to get propositioned by half the whores in town.” She murmured.

“I think I can handle the attentions of a few ladies.” He grinned, seizing her hand and pulling her inside.

“Reno...” she complained.

“Yeah?” he looked at her. She sighed. “Ten minutes, I promise.” He smiled.

“Okay.” She sat at a small table and he headed off to order some drinks.

 

Leaning on the bar, Reno lounged comfortably, looking around the room and assessing everyone in it. When he did not see the four men from the street he eyed another door behind the bar, clearly leading further into the building. When the barkeeper came to take his order, he gave it easily, giving the man a friendly smile.

“Is there a bathroom for customers?” he asked lightly.

“Not during the day.” The man replied after a moment.

“Ah.”

“There’s one down the street...”

“That’s fine.”

 

He nodded when the drinks were placed on the bar before him and he paid the man quickly before heading back to the table where Aura sat. He sat opposite her so that he could see the entire room. He passed her a glass and surveyed the room again.

“What are you doing?” She asked him simply. He looked at her to see her eyes narrowed slightly.

“Uh...”

“Yes?” she waited.

“I don’t know, exactly.”

“Right...”She nodded and he looked past her when the door behind the bar opened and the four men from the street came out. Laughing loudly as they made their way to a table in the far corner of the bar, they yelled orders to the barkeeper and Reno sat straighter, suddenly more alert as he watched them. “Reno,” Aura leaned across the table toward him, “You’re acting like you used to when somebody was gonna get knifed."

He closed his eyes and tried to relax. “I feel like... something is going on here.”

“Like what?” she asked softly. He shook his head. “... Like... the attacks against ShinRa?” she whispered. He looked sharply at her.

“What?”

“There are rumours... that... meetings are held here...”

“Aura!” he hissed “Why didn’t you tell me that...?”

“You didn’t ask, yo.” She replied, leaning back. “Also... I know you. I knew you’d come running down here to look...”

“So?”

“So, I didn’t want you getting yourself killed.” She said, staring at him.

“Aur...”

“Shut up, Reno.” She cut him off and he blinked.

“Aur...”

“Shh!” She hissed, making some weird hand gesture that he stared at for a second until he realised that one of the men in the corner had gotten to his feet and was now calling to everyone in the bar to listen to him. Reno looked at him. He was of medium height, and was probably around Reno’s own age.

“We’re having a party tonight, boys!” he called and Reno blinked. “Anyone who wants to get involved needs to be back here at nine tonight!”

Aura shook her head slowly while Reno watched the room, noting those who cheered in response to the announcement. It was evident that some people in the bar understood the meaning behind the announcement more than others.

He watched as several women got up from their own seats at the bar and head across the room toward the men in the corner. “Oh, our big, strong heroes!” One simpered loudly.

“Yeah, baby.” The one who had made the announcement replied, pulling her onto his lap. She giggled loudly and Reno almost laughed at the disgusted look that crossed Aura’s face when she turned to look.

“Here’s a lesson to you, lads!” Another of the men called to the rest of the bar. “The Cause gets you the ladies!” He laughed when another of the women seated herself on the table right in front of him.

“Yeah, if you pay them.”Aura muttered. Reno smirked. He finished his drink and continued to survey the room. He heard the door open and a moment later his hair blew into his eyes as a breeze swept through the room. Pushing his hair back he looked at Aura to see that the blood had drained from her face, leaving her paler than usual. Looking toward the door, he watched the person who had just entered stagger toward the bar. They could both spot a junkie without a second glance.

Looking back at Aura who seemed nearly frozen, he got to his feet. “Come on,” he murmured, taking hold of her sleeve and tugging her up. “Let’s go...” He picked up the basket and walked her to the door. He watched her look back over her shoulder stiffly, before he’d moved her out the door onto the street. She didn’t speak until they were halfway down the road.

“Been a while since I’ve seen a junkie.”

“Yeah...” he nodded, “This isn’t their usual area...”

“Mmm.”

“You okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Yeah?” he asked, watching her from the corner of his eye as they walked, “Will you be more than fine if I sing to you?”

She gave a small smile and he grinned, starting to sing some random song in a high pitched voice. He’d wondered from time to time how Aura’s reaction to junkies or drugs of any kind was coming along these days. Back in their days on the steet, he’d saved her from some junkies who were trying to inject her with some crap or other, and since then she’d been terrified of anything to do with it. Since there weren’t as many junkies in Edge as there had been under the plate in their old slum, he’d been hoping that her fear would lessen. He guessed it hadn’t.

 

Soon enough they were back at Aura’s house and he watched her unpack the things she’d bought. She put everything away silently and he continued to watch her.

“Aur...” he began and she turned to look at him. “Are you really alright?”

“Yeah.” She nodded.

“Just... The junkie...”

“Not even thinking about him.” She answered. He must have looked confused because she shook her head, “I know you’re going tonight... back to that bar...”

“Yeah.” He agreed. She gave an annoyed hiss.

“You’re going to get yourself killed. Reno, that’s what they do. It’s what they’re all about and they like it.”

“I know.” He looked at her, “That’s exactly why I’m going back.” He watched her face as she obviously bit back what she wanted to say next. He understood her frustration. She thought he was being an idiot, running head first into a situation he had no control over. It made sense. He did that a lot. But this wasn’t one of those times. He couldn’t tell her that he’d be perfectly fine because he could beat the shit out of everyone in that bar if given the chance. He could try and appease her, though.

“I won’t be going alone.”

“No?”

“No.”

 

He watched as she stopped herself from asking anything more. “Fine.” She murmured. “Just... don’t be an idiot.”

“I’ll try my very best.” He grinned. His grin faded when she didn’t smile. “I promise.”

“Okay.” She breathed. He stepped forward and hugged her, then kissed the top of her head when he felt her arms come around his waist.

“It’ll be fine.” He murmured, holding her firmly.

“If I turn on the TV tomorrow to see you’re dead, I’m going to kill you.”

“Duly noted.”

She looked up at him and he let her go. “Okay...” he said, straightening himself. “I should go.”

“Okay.”

“Yeah... here, I brought this.” He took a small pouch of Gil from his pocket and gave it to her.

“Uh... I don’t need it. I can live off what I make selling potions.”

“Just in case.” He replied, pressing it into her hand. She let out a huff and took it. He nodded and headed for the door, pulling his old jacket on again.

“I want to know.” She said from behind him, “Tomorrow... I want to know that you’re okay...”

He looked back, to see her leaning against the couch, watching him. “Yeah.” He nodded, “Okay.”

“Good.”

 

He gave her one last look before he headed out the door and quickly up the road. He headed straight for Healin Lodge, eager to tell Tseng what he’d learned about the recent attacks on their people. If he were fast enough, then perhaps Tseng could get Rufus to sanction an official mission for them all to head to that bar tonight to check the situation out. Hell, he knew he’d be going anyway, with approval or not. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up. They couldn’t just sit back and do nothing while every day more ShinRa employees were attacked and killed. Okay, so they weren’t doing nothing, but they hadn’t had a lead this good since it all started. He saw no reason why this wouldn’t be given full approval.

 

As it happened, Tseng had the same opinion Reno did. The dark-haired man had hurried off to find Rufus as soon as Reno had finished explaining what he’d discovered, and so Reno sat waiting with Rude and Elena in the relaxation rom.

“There’s no way we won’t be told to go.” Elena commented, “I mean, this is a chance to learn so many things. Who’s involved, what their plan is... even a base of operations...”

“Yep.” Reno commented, putting his feet up on a table.

“Of course, we could learn none of those things.” Rude put in, looking at Reno. Reno shrugged.

“Worth a shot, yo.”

They fell into silence, thinking, until Tseng returned and informed them that all four of them would be visiting that bar tonight. Reno jumped up.

“Alright. Let’s all go and make ourselves sexy.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

Reno found Rude waiting outside the bar when he arrived at about half past eight that evening. “Looking sharp.” He smiled, patting his friend on the back as they headed inside. He nodded, looking Rude over. The loose pants and shirt made him look like he belonged. It was Tseng he was worried about. If he arrived looking all brisk and businesslike as he usually did he was going to look incredibly obvious.

“I’ll find somewhere to sit...” Rude told him, heading toward a corner, while Reno sauntered toward the bar. They may as well get started on blending in. Upon sitting down opposite Rude at the table his partner had chosen near the back, he pushed a beer toward his friend and looked around.

“No sign of Tseng and Elena...?”

“Not yet.”

“Right... Well, I don’t see the guys from earlier in here either...”

“We’re early.”

“Yeah...”

 

It was about ten minutes later when the door opened and Elena strode in. Reno watched her look around and spot them, before she headed right for them.

“Damn, Laney.” He smirked when she reached the table. “You’re looking exceptionally sexy this evening.”

“... Wasn’t that the idea?” she asked, placing her purse on the table.

“Well, I suppose so.”

“Then what’s your problem?”

“I don’t have one.” He smiled, looking at her. His smile widened when he noticed the faint blush begin to stain her cheeks.

“Great. I need a drink.” She picked up her purse and got up, heading toward the bar. He blinked when Rude looked at him.

“What? It was a compliment.”

When Tseng arrived, he’d gotten halfway across the room toward them before Reno even noticed him. He seated himself at the table and looked at them silently. Reno looked him over.

“Tseng. I got you a drink.” Elena said as she returned and placed two glasses on the table before sitting beside him.

“Thank you.”

Reno continued to look at Tseng. “What?” the dark haired man eventually sighed.

“Would you take the hair out?” he said almost exasperatedly.

“Why?”

“Because you look...” he blinked and leaned forward to whisper the rest of his sentence, “...like a Turk.”

Tseng regarded him silently for a moment before reaching up and pulling the small piece of leather from his hair. Reno watched the dark tresses fall about his face and raised an eyebrow. Tseng looked much softer now. More at ease.

“Better?”

“Ohyea.” Reno nodded, “I bet you make women jealous with that hair.”

Tseng blinked, his drink halfway to his mouth. Reno just grinned. “While you’re at it... That shirt...”

“What’s wrong with my shirt?” Tseng looked at him. Reno looked back at him.

“Nothing... It’s a fine shirt.” He replied, his eyes moving over the crisp white fabric. “But... The buttons. Undo them. At least three.”

Tsengs fingers traced the buttons up his shirt. He sighed and undid the top three.

“There, now.” Reno said, lounging back in his chair comfortably. “A glimpse of chest never hurt anybody. Just ask Elena.”

The small choking sound from Elena had Reno’s eyes flicking straight to her. He tried to hide his smirk as he watched her try and work out if he were referring to the amount of cleavage she was currently displaying or her appreciation of the fact that she now had a view of Tseng’s chest. He didn’t know what she decided on, but she went bright red.

“Hey, Laney.” He smiled, “Why don’t you come sit next to me?”

“Uh...” she blinked, looking at him. “I’m fine next to Tseng.”

“I’m sure you are...” he looked at Tseng “Don’t you think Laney is looking fine tonight?”

Tseng looked at Elena. “Very appropriate.” Elena went even more red and stared hard at the table. Reno smirked and then looked past her to where one of the men he’d seen earlier in the day had walked past them.

“He’s one.” He said, sitting up slightly. As if someone had flicked a switch, Tseng sat up straight, his dark eyes following the man across the room. Reno looked at him. “You might wanna relax, yo.”

Tseng leaned back in his chair.

“Just try to look like you’re here to have a good time.” Reno offered.

“If I were looking for a good time, this would not be where I’d come.”

Reno couldn’t resist a snigger. He looked at Rude who also smiled. Tseng sighed.

“Right.” Elena said, getting to her feet. “I’m going to actually go see what I can find out...” She picked up her glass and walked slowly across the room.

“... she purposely walkin’ like that, yo?” Reno asked, watching the way her hips seemed to sway more than usual.

“Probably.” Tseng replied, his eyes also following her.

“Right, well, I think I’ll go blend in, too.” Reno got to his feet and headed for the bar. He slid onto a stool and spun to watch the room. He watched Elena as she went over the group of men by the wall and smiled at the one Reno had identified as one of the men he’d seen earlier in the day. He couldn’t see her lips so she didn’t know what she said when she leaned forward and whispered something in his ear. He guessed it must have been good, though, as the guy laughed loudly and wrapped an arm around her waist, drawing her in close to himself.

He forced himself to look away. It wouldn’t do for someone to notice Elena being watched as she tried to integrate herself into that little group. He glanced back over as someone pushed another drink into her hands. “Don’t drink it, Laney.” He murmured. He sighed when she raised the glass and took a sip. Tomorrow, he was going to have a talk to her about accepting drinks from randoms in places like this. For now, he’d just hope that there was nothing that could hurt her in that glass.

When someone sat on the stool next to him, Reno spun to smile at them. “Hey.”

“Hi.” The man replied.

“Seems like there’s a bit of a party going on in here.” He said, resting an elbow on the bar as he looked the guy over. He wasn’t one of the ones he’d seen before, but he still might know something useful.

“Yeah. I guess.”

“Someone’s birthday, maybe.”

“A job well done, I think.” The guy replied, downing his drink.

“Oh yeah?” Reno asked, gesturing to the bar keeper for another drink. “What job?”

The guy shrugged, “Dunno. Happens from time to time.”

“Must be important.”

“No idea.”

 

Reno nodded, deciding against pressing this guy. It was clear if he knew anything he wasn’t about to say so. The guy collected his next drink and walked away. Reno surveyed the room again. He didn’t think this was going to work as well as they’d hoped. It was clear that some people in the bar were here simply to have a good time, and there were those who were here for some other purpose. That group seemed to be keeping to itself. He didn’t think he would be able to just chat one up. But Elena...

 

He looked at her again. If she played it right, they may just talk in front of her and she could just listen and report back. He frowned when she sank into a chair, looking slightly dazed. Casting a glance toward Tseng and Rude he noticed them watching her too. He watched the guy who had been holding onto her push her drink back into her hand and help her take another mouthful. Sliding off his stool, Reno went back to Tseng and Rude at their table.

“Elena...” Rude said quietly.

“Yep. They’ve given her something.” Reno replied softly. He sat down and looked at Tseng. “What do you want to do?” he asked.

“Just watch...” Tseng murmured, “She may still be able to learn something.”

“Not if she’s unconscious.” Reno replied hotly.

“She’s not.”

“Not yet.” He looked back to Elena to watch the man standing over her trace a finger down her throat and across her shoulder, taking the strap of her red dress with it until it hung uselessly off her arm. “Yeah, no.” He got to his feet.

“Reno, sit.” Tseng ordered.

Reno blinked at him. “I’m not going to sit here and watch Elena get ... molested.”

“You’ll do what I tell you to do.” Tseng replied calmly.

Clenching his teeth, Reno sank back into his chair.

“How long are we going to watch this?” Rude asked stiffly.

“Until I say otherwise.” Tseng replied.

“Then say otherwise...” Reno growled, “Because I’m about to go over there and kick that guy’s teeth in.”

Tseng’s dark eyes suddenly flicked to Reno, piercing straight into him. “You will not move from that chair until I say you can. Is that clear?”

“Yes.” He murmured.

They all then watched as Elena was helped to her feet, and then half walked, half carried out the door. Tseng was the first to his feet. “Move.”

By the time they got out on to the street, Elena and the two men who had taken her outside were gone. Reno swore.

“Find her.” Tseng ordered. Reno bit back a stinging remark and moved further up the street. Rude immediately took off the other way and Tseng looked around.

Hearing a soft laugh from the darkness, both he and Tseng moved toward a shadowed area of the street and discovered a mostly concealed alleyway. Glancing at Tseng, Reno headed down it first.

“Lemmego.” Elena’s voice came out of the darkness and Reno froze for a moment.

“C’mon, baby. Don’t be like that...”

“Yeah, come on, we’re your friends...”

“No...”

 

As they crept closer, they saw Elena leaning back against the brick wall, clearly struggling to stay on her feet with two men before her.

“C’mon, sweetheart, you were all friendly inside...” The first man moved toward her, his hand outstretched when Elena swung, punching him in the face as hard as she could and immediately losing her balance and falling against a nearby bin. The man fell back against the opposite wall, holding his face and howling something about a broken nose while the second man laughed loudly.

“Oh, feisty. You’re gonna be fun.”

 

Reno watched as the second man moved toward Elena, bending to reach for her again. Before he could touch her, Reno stepped closer and grabbed a handful of the man’s hair before bringing his knee up hard into the guy’s face. He then tossed the guy backward onto the damp ground where he lay unconscious. By now, the first guy had gotten to his feet and came at Reno with some sort of metal pipe. Reno easily knocked the guys hand away and snapped his arm easily at the elbow. His screams echoed up and down the alleyway as Reno then tossed him to the ground out of his way.

Turning, he saw Tseng down on his knees beside Elena. “She okay?” he asked, moving closer.

“Mmm.” Tseng replied, lifting her into his arms and getting to his feet.

“Tseng...” Elena murmured, wrapping her arms around his neck. “They... put something... in my drink.”

“I know. You’re okay.” Tseng replied softly, “We’re taking you home.”

Reno watched her lay her head against Tseng’s shoulder as her eyes closed. He then followed Tseng out of the alley. He waved to Rude who hurried toward them up the street, and then they headed home. Elena didn’t open her eyes again until Tseng was pushing her door open with his foot. Reno flicked the lights on and watched as the dark-haired man lay her on her couch.

“She may need to be checked over...” He said. Tseng shook his head.

“I don’t think so.”

“I’m fine.” Elena murmured. “Just wanna sleep...”

Moving closer, Reno watched her eyes flutter closed again and he shifted his attention to Tseng.

“You go home.” Tseng told him. “I’ll watch her.”

“Okay.” Reno nodded and headed back over to Rude who was waiting by the door. Casting another glance back at them, he followed his partner out the door and back onto the street. “Hope she’s okay.” He murmured.

“She will be.” Rude replied simply.

“I don’t know how Tseng waited that long...” he began, “We were almost too late as it was...”

“He knew what he was doing.”

“But if Elena... I mean, it’s Elena...”

“She’s a Turk,”

“I know...” he sighed. Rude clapped him on the back and they continued up the road.

 

*

 

Tseng knelt by Elena silently. His eyes moved over her as she lay still on her couch.

“Elena.” He murmured, touching her arm. She stirred softly and he pushed a lock of her blonde hair gently away from her face. When her eyes did not open, he held the lock of hair gently between his fingers, surprised by how silky it felt. Letting out a slow breath, he tucked it behind her ear. Then, moving his hand lower, he pulled the strap of her dress back up onto her shoulder. His eyes moved over her again. Reno had been right. She had looked wonderful this evening. That gorgeous red dress had suited her body perfectly, and he wished he’d had more frequent cause to see her in such things instead of her daily uniform. Rocking back on his heels, Tseng pushed such thoughts from his mind with agitation. He had no business thinking such things.

“Elena.” He said again, a little more loudly.

“Mmmm...”

“Do you want to get into bed?” he asked. “You’ll be more comfortable.”

 

She gave a half nod, unable to do more. Going down on one knee, Tseng lifted her into his arms once more and carried her up the narrow hallway to where he was assuming her bedroom was. Finding a large bed in one room he carried her over to it and lay her down gently. She didn’t move.

“Elena...” He watched as she still didn’t move. He frowned and checked her pulse and her breathing before coming to the conclusion that she was now out cold and would unlikely wake again before morning. Looking her over again, he noted just how tight her dress was. She would be far more comfortable without it. With that thought, he stepped away from the bed. He couldn’t take it off her. Annoyed with himself, he thought about how Reno and Rude would have taken her dress off without a second thought. It was what she needed and they wouldn’t have hesitated at all. There would have been nothing sexual or inappropriate about it, just straight business. However, he knew that if he took it off, he would certainly be looking at her. What was wrong with him?

 

Sighing, and pushing his hair back, he decided he could at least compromise. Rolling Elena gently onto her side, he unzipped the back of her dress slowly. Managing to at least resist the urge to stroke his hand down her soft skin, he rolled her onto her back once more. This way, he could leave her dress on but allow her some free movement as it was now looser than before. Satisfied with that, he picked up the folded blanket from the bottom of her bed and laid it over her. Heading back toward the door, he pulled it halfway closed and went back out to sit on the couch.

“Shouldn't have waited that long.” He muttered to himself, running his hands over his face. He was responsible for Elena. He was the one meant to look out for her. But he’d been so focused on getting information. He closed his eyes as he tried not to imagine what could have happened if he’d waited even a moment longer.

Sighing, then, he took his shoes off and turned to lie along the couch. He would stay here until morning to see how she was. That was the responsible thing to do. At least, that’s what he was telling himself.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

 

Elena stared at her desk. Her headache was nearly gone. She now just felt stupid. She didn’t know much of what had happened the previous night at that bar after she’d gone to talk to the people they’d suspected to be part of the group attacking ShinRa employees. When she’d awoken this morning to find Tseng in her apartment he had told her that she’d been drugged and that he was there to make sure she was okay to work. She’d told him that she was fine and he had left quickly. Elena had then gone to have a shower where she sat on the tiles under the water and wished that she could die she was that embarrassed.
Would she never stop proving time and time again that she was just a rookie?

 

When she had arrived and sat at her desk, she was sure it would just be a matter of time before Reno appeared to tease her. She’d groaned when she spotted his red hair moving among the desks as he headed for her. She’d been more than surprised when he’d just sat himself on her desk, knocking half her files to the floor as he did so and then just looked at her.

“So, how you doin’?” He asked.

“Fine...” she murmured, glancing at him.

“Yeah?”

“I feel stupid.”

“Mmm. You did okay, Rookie.” He smiled, ruffling her hair. She pushed his hand away, irritated.

“I screwed up. Again.”

“You told Tseng what you heard, right?”

“What I could remember.”

He nodded. “That’s all you can do.”

“But I should never have let myself get so... “ she made a frustrated sound.

“You punched one of ‘em pretty good.” He smiled, “Broke his nose...”

“Did I?” she blinked, looking at him. He nodded. She gave a small smile of her own, feeling slightly better. “Oh.”

“Then Tseng lifted you into his arms and carried you home.” He grinned. She went bright red.

“No...”

“Oh, Yes.” He smirked. She whacked him in the leg. He made a pathetic whining sound and got off her desk. “Did he stay the night?”

“Reno...” She warned. He backed away.

“Did you wake up all warm and comfy wrapped in a Tseng blanket?” he teased.

Elena got to her feet and he took off through the desks, laughing. She swore and sank back into her chair feeling even more embarrassed than she had before. Tseng had carried her home? How could things get any worse?

 

It was then that Rude stopped by her desk. “Elena.”

“Yeah?” she looked up, trying to keep her face neutral.

“Tseng wants you to get checked out in the infirmary.”

“I’m fine...”

“That’s what he wants.”

She sighed and got to her feet. “Why didn’t he tell me himself?”

“No idea.” He replied, before continuing on to his own desk.

 

Elena headed down to the infirmary and pushed the doors open, already steeling herself for what was to come.

“Elena!”

Elena turned, “Zena.” She replied as the tall women with curly blond hair, who had been hired as one of ShinRa’s doctors, hurried toward her.

“Tseng said you would be in here today.”

“Did he?”

“Yes... he seems strange today.” Zena replied, taking Elena over to a bed, “Well, more strange than usual. Don’t you think?”

“I haven’t seen him today.” Elena said simply. She closed her eyes as Zena moved around gathering what she would need.

“I need to run a blood scan.” Zena told her.

“Fine.” Elena watched Zena silently. She wasn’t really in the mood to put up with the woman today. It seemed as if Zena didn’t notice this as she kept chatting away.

“So you have no idea why Tseng is being weird today? That’s too bad. I thought of going to try and cheer him up a bit, but he would probably just kick me out.” Elena looked away as a syringe was pushed into her vein, “I mean, I could ask him out after work, but that maybe seems a little forward, you know? Does he even go out after work?”

“He doesn’t often come out with us.” Elena murmured, irritated that Zena apparently had her eye on Tseng.

“Us?”

“Reno, Rude and I.” She answered.

Zena gave what Elena considered to be a giggle. “Now, I’m sure if I asked Reno out, I’d stand more of a chance.” Elena looked at her.

“What? You like both of them?”

“What’s not to like...?” Zena replied, removing the syringe now full of blood. “Besides, a girl had to keep her options open.”

Elena shook her head silently.

“Y’know...” Zena continued, “You and I should hang out some time. Girl talk and stuff. There aren’t that many women here to talk to.”

“That’s true enough.” Elena replied, trying not to agree to anything. Zena had a point, though. She sometimes wished there was someone she could talk to who wasn’t male. Or her superior.

 

“Okay, just sit here while I run this blood.”

“Yeah.” Elena watched Zena move to the other end of the room to some machinery and start messing around. Why did Tseng want her to get checked out anyway? She felt fine.
Whatever those bastards had given her should have worked its way out of her system by this morning. This seemed like a waste of time to her. She couldn’t wait to get out of here and go and do some training. She was sure kicking the shit out of something would make her feel better.

 

*

 

Reno had just gotten changed into something he could sweat all over when Elena entered the training room. “What’s up, Laney?”

“I need to punch stuff.” She growled, heading past him into the changing rooms.

He just laughed and began to warm up. He was just about done with that when Elena came out, now in loose clothing with her short hair pinned back off her face.

“Warm up, Rookie.” He instructed, “I’ll give you something to relieve some tension.” He watched her carefully. It was clear she was in a bad mood when she didn’t even notice the innuendo in that and try to have a go at him. He watched her just begin her warm up. One of ‘those’ days, he guessed. They all had them from time to time. What she needed was a good work out, and then a stiff drink after work. She’d be good as new tomorrow.

When she had finished stretching he looked at her again. “Let’s go, Rookie.” He headed over to the side of the room and picked up some nunchaku.

“Really?” She asked, “For real?”

“What?”

“We’re going to end up messed up.”

“That’s what you want, isn’t it?” He asked, looking at her, “To do some damage.”

“Uhh...” She blinked.

“You need to get it out of your system. Let’s go.” He began to circle around her as she moved, watching him carefully. He attacked without warning and she blocked him, within seconds they were both a quick series of movements both giving and taking space back and forth across the mat. Knowing what Elena needed, Reno backed off a little, slowing his movements just a bit. He saw the moment Elena gave a small smile, believing him to be tiring, before she gave him a hard blow across the face. Reno caught himself down on one knee, and looked back up at her from under his now messy hair. She’d raised her weapon, about to strike him again before she caught herself.

 

“Oh...” She let out a shaky breath, looking down at him. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” She dropped her nunchaku and Reno got slowly to his feet. He returned the weapons to their place and gingerly touchd his cheek where she’d struck him. It would leave an impressive bruise by tomorrow.

“You let me do that...” She murmured, looking at him. “Why?”

“Do you feel better...?” he asked, watching as she blinked and then nodded. “That’s why.” He said simply. She looked at him silently and he shrugged it off, ruffling her hair. “I’m gonna get changed. See you later, Rookie.”

 

When they had finished for the day, Reno and Rude cornered Elena and dragged her to 7th Heaven.

“Trust me, Laney.” Reno told her, making her slide into their usual booth. “You need a good stiff one.”

“You better be talking about alcohol, Reno.” She muttered.

“That’s what Tifa sells here...” he grinned, “Not sure about the other thing... Ask Rude.”

He smiled when she laughed softly and Rude looked at him over the top of his glasses. He just winked at his partner and took a seat.

An hour later the three of them were a little bit drunk. Reno was becoming increasingly amused at the lengths Rude was going to to keep an eye on Tifa. “She’s just out the back, Rude.” Elena giggled, “She’ll be back in a sec.”

“No NO... Maybe I should get a job here...” Rude nodded, tapping his finger on the table. “Y’know... To help...”

“Help her what?” Reno snickered.

“Pour drinks.” Rude drawled.

“Yeah, right.” Elena chuckled.

“Maybe she needs a plumber.” Reno giggled, then looked at Rude, slapping him on the shoulder. “Wouldn’t you like to check out her plumbing?”

Rude elbowed him hard in the ribs and Reno fell out of their booth and onto the hardwood floor. “Owww.” He whined.

“No, don’t be mean!” Elena told Rude, clumsily manoeuvring herself out of her seat and down to kneel by Reno where she tried to pull him up. Reno just lay on his back making no effort to help her get him up. Even numbed by the alcohol, he knew he’d have a nice bruise on his ribs to match the one on his face. His friends seemed to be rather violent lately.

“If you lot are drunk enough to be on the floor, it might be time for you to go home.”

Reno looked up when Tifa’s voice startled him.

He quickly got to his feet. “No... Don’t make Rude go.” He said, wrapping an arm around Tifa’s shoulders. “He’d miss you...”

“Reno...” Rude stared at his partner. Reno let Tifa go and sat down next to Elena who was now back in her chair. He looked up again, watching Tifa who was looking from one of them to the next. When her eyes moved to Rude, Reno was sure he saw her smile slightly, and then she’d turned and walked back to the bar to her customers who were demanding more drinks.

“You didn’t ask her about the plumbing.” He said, turning his head to look at Rude.

“I’m going to kill you.” Rude said firmly. “Tomorrow. When I can see straight.”

“I’ll pencil you in, yo.”

“Zena has her eye on Tseng!” Elena suddenly blurted out. Reno turned in his chair to look at her.

“Okay, Random.” He blinked. She gave a small blush.

“She does! She told me so today in the infirmary.”

“Good.” Reno replied, “Tseng could use a good fuck.”

“Uh.” Elena’s jaw dropped.

“Well he could.” He replied, taking another mouthful of his drink, “He’s been acting weird.”

“But... Zena.” Elena blinked. “She’s ridiculous.”

“She’s hot.” Reno smirked.

“Well, why don’t you fuck her, then?” She muttered, folding her arms.

“What makes you think I haven’t?” he replied, smirking again. She stared at him.

“The fact that she’s after you, too.”

“Oh?”

“Mhmm.”

He made a face.

“What happened to her being hot?” She smirked at him.

“My drink is wearing off?” He suggested. She shook her head.

“I see.”

“She’s hot... but the woman can’t shut her mouth for two seconds.”

“Bit rich, coming from you.” Rude put in.

“Well, yeah... but she’s more annoying than me. But, I suppose... if she’s given something better to do with her mouth...”

“Ugh.” Elena now made a face. “Reno... The images...”

He just laughed. The laughter died in his throat when the door to the bar opened and Tseng walked in with Zena. He then looked at Elena when she spotted them and a small sound escaped her. A few moments later, Tseng and Zena stood beside their table.

“Sir,” Rude greeted, “Are you joining us?”

“Yes, thank you.” Tseng sat down beside Rude and Zena smiled at them as she squeezed in beside him.

“Hey Elena,” Zena grinned, “I did what we were talking about earlier.”

“I see that.” Elena replied flatly. Reno just stared at Tseng. Tseng on a date? He was as confused as hell. He needed another drink.

“Zena.” He said, looking at her. “It’s your turn to get the drinks.”

“Oh? Okay.” The woman got up and smiled at Tseng before heading over to the bar. Reno kept staring at his superior.

“You’re on a date?”

“Yes, Reno. I date.” Tseng replied drolly.

“Since when?”

Tseng just looked at him silently.

“And...” Reno continued, “I wouldn’t have thought Zena was your type, yo.”

“Maybe I need a new type.” Tseng replied. Reno glanced at Elena who was staring at the table.

“I dunno. I think your old type is fine.”

“I don’t recall making my personal life your business, Reno.”

Reno sat back in his chair as Zena returned with drinks for them all. He watched her place the tray on the table and then squeeze back into the booth beside Tseng, her hand on his arm.

“Reno, move.” Elena murmured, before crawling across his lap, “I need to throw up.” He just blinked, watching her hurry off toward the women’s bathroom. He then looked to Rude, who was looking back at him.

“Is Elena sick?” Tifa asked, now standing beside their table.

“Uhm... She’s a kind of sick...” Reno replied, looking up at the dark haired woman. He watched as Tifa’s eyes moved to Tseng and Zena before she nodded.

“Right. I’ll check on her.” She said, turning and heading in the direction of the bathroom. Reno drank the drink Zena had put in front of him and looked back to Rude.

“Think we’ll be takin’ Laney home tonight, yo?”

“Possibly.” Rude replied simply.

“Oh, I knew you all did it.” Zena put in, grinning. Reno looked at her, confused, until she continued, “You’re all so close. It’s so obvious.” He blinked. The woman thought they all slept with eachother.

“Uh. No?”

“Sure, sure.” Zena winked at him, “If you say so.”

He looked at Tseng, speechless. The way the dark haired man’s eyes were slightly narrowed told Reno clearly that Tseng was irritated by the women now stroking his arm. Tseng was not interested in her in the slightest. That was obvious. So, what was he doing with her? Why did he have to bring her here? In front of Elena.

 

A few minutes later Tifa returned. “Elena is done for tonight.” She said, “She wants to go home.” She looked from Reno to Rude.

“Yeah,” Reno got to his feet. “We’ll take her.” He looked at Rude who also got up. Reno then followed Tifa to the bathroom to collect Elena while Rude got around Tseng and Zena.

“Laney, you okay?” he asked. He watched as she nodded slowly.

“I just wanna go home.” She said, “I don’t feel good.”

“Okay. C’mon.” He took her back out to the others. “See you tomorrow, Sir.” He said, glancing at Tseng. Tseng nodded, watching them. Rude took Elena’s elbow and led her toward the door.

“Bye, guys.” Zena’s high pitched voice followed them out into the cool night air.

“You’re right.” Rude said, looking at Reno. “She is more annoying than you.”

Reno just grinned at him.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

Reno hurried up the street toward Aura’s house as the sun rose. He gave a slight shiver and turned his collar up, wincing as his hand accidentally brushed against the heavy green and purple bruise along his cheek from where Elena had belted him across the face the previous day. Hurrying up her path to her door, he was just about to knock when it opened and he came face to face with Maati. Blinking, he stepped back as the older man came out.

“Hello.” The man greeted.

“’Sup, yo.” He replied, wondering what he was doing coming out of Aura’s house first thing in the morning. Surely this wasn’t her secret lover. No. That was ridiculous.

“Reno?” Aura asked, stepping outside and immediately wrapping her arms around herself. “What are you doing here? Come inside. It’s freezing.” She turned and hurried back inside and over to the fireplace, standing before the flames to warm herself. He looked at her in her flimsy nightdress.

“What was Maati doing here so early?” He asked, keeping his tone casual.

“He’s going to Junon.” She replied, “He was asking what I’d like him to look for. Ingredients for my potions.” She blinked. “He’s not been able to find this one root I need for a few weeks now. I can’t make some Potions without it.”

“Oh.” He said, taking his jacket off now that he was inside where it was warmer.

“Sweet Shiva, what happened?” She breathed, moving straight across the room to him and looking at his face.

“Oh.” He said again, raising his hand to the bruise and wincing again when he touched it. She pulled his hand down, away from his face, so that she could see better and Reno watched her frown. He then allowed her to pull him over to the couch where he sat slowly.

“What happened?” She repeated, tilting his face for a better look.

“Just a little exercise gone wrong...”

She made a noise that told him she knew there was more to it, but would not ask.

“Alright,” she murmured, “Don’t move.”

“Okay.” He nodded as she quickly went into the kitchen. He heard her going through some cupboards and then she returned with a small container. “What’s that?”

“Something I made...” she replied, setting it on the armrest of the couch. He watched as she took hold of his chin and again turned his face to inspect the bruise. He winced when her fingers ghosted lightly over it.

“Ow.”

“Sorry...” She murmured, “This is nasty...”

“I know.”

“Mmm...”She let him go and picked up the container, undoing the lid and dipping her fingers inside. “This should work...” she said, lifting her fingers out with what looked to him like green goo on them. “It’s a healing salve.” She told him, catching his look.

Reno closed his eyes as she gently smeared the salve across his cheek. A cool tingling sensation began where the salve rested on his skin and he smiled.

“That feels better...” he said softly. She smiled at him, putting the lid back on the container and then taking it back into the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later with a wet cloth. “If you write down the ingredients you need, I may be able to get some of them for you...” he told her, raising a hand to her hip when she came to stand over him again.

“Thanks.” She nodded, her cool fingers moving back up under his chin to tilt his face up once more. He closed his eyes again as she carefully began to wipe the salve off his cheek with the cloth.

“It doesn’t even hurt...” he said, surprised.

“Good.” She murmured. He opened his eyes when he felt one of her fingers trace lightly over the tattoo beneath his eye. “You’re all better.” She then said, stepping away.

“Really?” He raised a hand to his cheek, and upon feeling no trace of pain, he got up. Walking over to a mirror by the door, he looked at himself and blinked in surprise. The bruise was gone. “Aura...” he turned to look at her. “You made that stuff?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s in it?”

“A bit of this and that, really...”

“Wow...” He grinned, looking at her. He was impressed. He’d never seen anything that could get rid of a bruise like that. If she could make something like this, who knew what else she could create? “Do you sell it, too?”

“Not yet. It was just an experiment. I only have a small amount.”

“You’re so clever.” He smiled, putting an arm around her shoulders. He sank back onto the couch, taking her with him. “So,” he began, “I actually came this morning to warn you.”

“Warn me?”

“Yeah.” He looked at her, his arm still around her shoulders. “From what we found out the other night, there’s gonna be some trouble around the marketplace areas...”

“Yeah?”

“Mmm.” He nodded, his hand running lightly up and down her arm, “Look, Aur... I don’t want you to get caught up in anything that happens... So, I want you to stay away from that area for a while...”

She looked at him and he met her green eyes straight on. “Really?” She asked.

“Yes.” He blinked, “You understand?”

“I get what you’re sayin’, yo.”

“You’ll stay away?”

“If I can.”

“Okay.” He kissed her cheek lightly and got to his feet. “I’d better get to work.”

“Yeah.”

He watched her as he put his jacket on. “Write that list. I’ll be back for it in a few days.”

“Sure.” She nodded, pulling a shawl around her shoulders. He blinked, unsure of what had just happened. Reno could usually read most people fairly easily, but he sometimes had trouble with Aura. He could always tell when she was happy, and sometimes it was pretty obvious when she was upset, although more often than not he had no idea why. When they were younger, for the first few years they were together, he would simply ask and she would tell him. As the years passed, sometimes she began to not answer. She would simply shake her head or change the subject. He began trying to work it out himself, and sometimes he even succeeded. Other times, however, he had no idea. Those times became more frequent after he’d begun to work for ShinRa and wasn’t with her every day. He had no way of knowing what was going on with her unless she told him. He couldn’t just see what was happening and go and take care of it. That bothered him.

He frowned as he moved toward the door. If he managed to find some of the ingredients she needed, that would surely cheer her up. He watched her as she got to her feet and followed him to the door, pushing it closed when he tried to pull it open. He blinked, confused for a second before she threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. His own arms went quickly around her waist holding her firmly to himself.

“Aura?” he breathed, “What is it?”

“You make me promise to stay away from somewhere because it’ll be dangerous... but I know you’re just going to walking right on in...” She replied softly, her voice half muffled by his shoulder. “That’s not fair.”

“I know...” He replied gently. “But... I’m trained.”

“You’re also the target!” She looked up at him. “Every day when I turn on the news there are more... and I keep thinking I’m going to see you...” She gestured at the TV, “Dead.”

“You won’t.” He said firmly. “I’m not about to sacrifice myself for my job. Trust me.”

“You promise?”

He closed his fingers gently around her wrist and bent to press his forehead against hers. It was their own version of an unbreakable promise that they used to use whenever they had truly meant something. Reno didn’t know why he’d suddenly remembered it as they’d not used it in years, but it worked. He saw the moment she believed him and she smiled.
“I promise.”

 

*

 

Elena punched Rude in the face. The big man barely blinked before he’d lifted her off her feet and tossed her onto her back on the mat. She was on her feet again in an instant, trying to force her lungs to draw breath around the pain in her chest. Unlike when she was sparring with Reno, honing her speed and agility, fighting Rude was more about building strength and being able to take a hit.

He knocked her off her feet again and she blinked up at him, on her back on the mat once more.

“Elena...” he said evenly, “Maybe that is enough for one day.”

“No.” She said, forcing herself to her feet, “I’m good.” She drew a painful, shaky, breath, and attacked him once more.

She’d woken up angry this morning. Time and time again she kept screwing things up and reinforcing how inexperienced she was. Just a rookie. She was through with that. She was sure Tseng was pissed at her. He’d not said a word to her yesterday, relaying orders to her through other people, and last night at 7th Heaven, he’d not even looked at her. Of course, he had been on his date with Zena. But, he’d spoken to Reno and Rude, so why not her? The only reason that made sense was that he was pissed at her for the other night.

She coughed when her back hit the mat again. She forced herself to her feet, coughing roughly as her lungs tried to refuse air. Rude regarded her silently. “C’mon.” She coughed, motioning for him to attack her again.

“I don’t think...”

“C’MON!”

He sighed and moved forward again.

“Elena!” Reno’s voice startled both of them and they turned to see the redhead enter the room. “What are you doing?”

“Training.”

“That’s not what it looks like.”

“I don’t care how it looks.” She muttered.

“Go and get checked out in the infirmary.”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

Elena blinked, hearing his voice change and she realised that she was now talking to her superior. She looked at him again.

“I don’t need to be checked out.” She said softly, “... sir.”

“Don’t misunderstand, Elena.” He replied, “I’m not telling you to go up there for fun. You’ll do it because I need you functional.”

“Yes, sir.” She muttered. Straightening her shirt, she turned and headed for the door. Halfway there, Reno spoke again and she turned to look at him.

“Zena isn’t working this morning.”

“Great.” She growled, turning back to the door and striding out.

 

*

Reno turned to look at Rude. “Laney needs to get her some.”

“She’s very angry.” Rude agreed, nodding simply.

“I can’t tell what pissed her off more.” Reno told him, stretching himself slowly. “Getting drugged the other night, or Tseng on a date with that woman.”

“I’d say one hurt more than the other.”

“Yeah, but the thing is... what’re we gonna do about it?”

Rude shrugged silently, looking at him.

“Yeah...” Reno straightened up, “Nothin’ much we can do.” He paused to think for a moment. “Maybe if she’s given the chance to prove herself again...”

“That could take some of the edge off.”

“We have to go check out the marketplace tomorrow.” He told his partner with a smile, “I’m sure there’ll be an opportunity or two for Laney to show off some of her fine abilities...”

“One can hope.”

“But right now... Not too tired, are you, Partner?” Reno asked, moving into a ready stance facing Rude on the mat.

“Never.”

 

*

 

Aura was just sitting down on her couch, about to turn on the television to check the news, wondering how many ShinRa employees had been killed during the day, when a loud pounding on her door made her jump. Getting to her feet, she hurried to the window to check who was on her doorstep, the way Reno had insisted she do. Seeing a man standing there, holding a child in his arms, she moved to open the door. It had become more frequent of late, people bringing those in need of healing directly to her house. She wasn’t sure how it had started, but she wouldn’t turn those in need away when she could help them.

“Please...” The man breathed, carrying his child inside the moment the door was open. “Please... my son.”

“What happened...?” Aura asked, clearing space on a low table for the man to set the boy down so she could look at him.

“He’s sick.” The man replied, standing back up when he’d put his son on the table. Aura bent to look at him. “It’s the sickness.” The man continued, “The one that has been spreading...”

Aura moved quickly to a nearby cupboard and got out a pair of thin gloves. The last pair, she’d have to go into town to get some more in the morning. Moving back to look at the boy, she held her breath. Sure enough, when she pulled back the old blanket he’d been wrapped in she saw that familiar black substance that marked the disease that was becoming more and more common. Quickly putting the blanket back, she stood up and turned to face the boy’s father.

“There is no cure for this...” She said gently, “At least, not that I’m aware of.”

“You can’t fix it?”

“No...” She looked at him, “They’re calling it Geostigma. It’s been on the news lately. Nobody has a cure...”

“How can that be?”

“I don’t know. I’m sure the ShinRa scientists are working on something... They’ll be able to help before long...”

“ShinRa!” The man spat, turning sharply toward her, “As if this isn’t their fault!” Aura blinked, moving slowly back. She knew her neighbourhood was filled with those who hated ShinRa, and clearly this man was one of them. “Every one of those bastards has something to answer for!” he continued, “If given half the chance I’d cut every one of their throats!”

Aura tried not to picture that. Red.

Blinking, she turned back to her cupboard and took out a small container.

“You’d best not put your hopes on ShinRa, girl.” The man continued, looking at her, “Unless you work for ‘em?”

“I look like I work for ShinRa, yo?” She snapped, pushing the container into his hands. “Here. This should be applied to the infected area twice a day. It will help with the pain.”

She watched him look from the container to his son.

“The pain.” He murmured.

“That’s all that can be done... I’m sorry.” She said softly.

“Yeah, thanks...” He replied. “How much?”

She closed her eyes. It didn’t feel quite right to her, charging desperate people. Especially when she couldn’t cure them. But she was running a business, and it cost her money to make the ointments they needed. She opened her eyes and looked at the boy. “Ten Gil.” She said quietly. It would cost her nearly that much to buy what she’d need to make more of the ointment she was giving them, and she would need new gloves. It still hadn’t been proven if touching those infected with Geostigma would result in infection, but she wasn’t taking any chances.

The man handed her the money and picked up his son. She opened the door to let him out and watched as he headed down her path back onto the street. She then closed the door and went to the kitchen, getting some disinfectant. Then, heading back into her livingroom, she began to clean the table the boy had been laying on. Then, after a moment of consideration, she opened the door and cleaned that, too. When she was done, she took her gloves off and tossed them into the fire. She really needed to sort out a treatment room of some sort. Get a sterile environment happening, like some sort of lab. She almost laughed. The idea of her having a lab was ludicrous. A girl didn’t go from the slums to having her own lab. Even with the way the world was changing lately. The best she could do was clear a space out to use for treating people who needed her help. Then she wouldn’t have kids with Geostigma lying on the table she ate dinner off.

Sitting back on her couch, she took a sip of wine from her glass and wondered just how close ShinRa was getting with a treatment for Geostigma. If anyone was going to find a cure, it was going to be them. Maybe she could ask Reno about it. She bit her lip. She’d always avoided asking him anything too specific about ShinRa. She didn’t want to pull at his divided loyalty more than she already did.

Making a face, she realised that she would fail in her promise to him to attempt to avoid the marketplace. She needed to go and get more gloves. If somebody brought another patient with Geostigma to her, she needed gloves to look at them. There was no avoiding that. It was unlikely anyway that he would even find out, so there was no need for him to worry. If he had any sense anyway, he’d avoid it himself. She shook her head. That wasn’t the kind of sense Reno had. He’d always seem to run right toward wherever trouble was about to happen and it had always scared the shit out of her.

With all these attacks on ShinRa employees recently, Aura just hoped that Reno was being kept busy and off the streets. Surely all of ShinRa’s employees were being kept off the streets as much as possible. Yet, still, everyday more were being attacked. Where were they finding them all?

She didn’t want to know. She didn’t want to think about it. It would just result in her lying awake at night worrying. If she asked him not to go back, would he stay? She closed her eyes and finished the rest of her wine. She wouldn’t think about that either. She’d never do it.

Getting to her feet, she headed for her bedroom. The sooner she got some rest, the sooner she could get into town before all the morning crowds hit. In and out before anything could happen.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

Tseng closed the file he’d been reading. Looking out the window of his office, he watched Reno, Rude and Elena leave the building and head toward Edge. He wished he was able to go with them. His three subordinates were being sent to make sure the situation at the Marketplace square was safe enough for Rufus to go in to make a speech to the residents of Edge. He would then accompany him in later. He hoped the day would go according to plan.

He mentally ticked off what they had to go through. Make sure the town was safe enough. Secure the area. Escort Rufus in and maintain his safety. (A task which was becoming more and more difficult lately.) And finally, if the opportunity presented itself (And when did a Turk fail to find an opportunity?) assassinate Hugo Barron, head of some jumped-up company that thought it could be the next ShinRa.

Hugo Barron had been using the public’s feelings about ShinRa to further badmouth them, only resulting in further violence as he tried to make ShinRa look worse and paint his own company as the world’s saviours. He was also supposed to be speaking today. If all went to plan, he’d never get to say another bad word about ShinRa.

*

Elena surveyed the crowd carefully. A lot of the people rushing around the square were just here for the markets. She supposed that when Rufus got up onto the makeshift podium that had been erected at one end of the square, they would stick around to listen, though. Even if it were just to jeer and throw things. She eyed a nearby fruit stall, wondering how much of the produce would end up splattered all over the podium.

She wondered if Rufus would still wear white.

Spotting Rude heading for her through the crowd, she walked toward him.

“All good?” She asked. He nodded silently. “There’s more people here than I thought there’d be.”

“Yeah.”

“You guys done already?” Reno appeared beside them, grinning.

“Yeah, looks okay.” Rude commented.

“Mmm. Any one of them could still be packin’, though.” The redhead replied. Elena looked at him. While he was still grinning, she noted that his strange aqua eyes were still very much searching the crowd, and that he was still very much alert and aware of what was going on around them.

“Okay to let the boss come?” she asked.

“Yeah” he nodded, “We’ll keep an eye on them while the boss does his thing.”

She nodded while Reno pulled out his phone and called Tseng to report. As she looked around again, she realised that people were starting to notice them and shoot them displeased looks. They were being recognised as ShinRa employees.

“Ugh...” She began as Reno slipped his phone back into his pocket.

“Yeah,” he said, taking her elbow and pulling her along. “Time to move.”

Reno led them to the other end of the square and they tried to look as inconspicuous as they could until Tseng and Rufus arrived. Elena was then sent into one of the small tents that had been erected for those who were to speak to get ready in. Giving Rufus’ tent a quick onceover, she decided that it was safe enough for him and went back to report. She and Rude then followed him in while Tseng pulled Reno off somewhere else. Watching her two superiors disappear off into the crowd, she knew there was something else going on and wondered what it was. Reminding herself that if she needed to know, she would be told, she returned her focus to her actual job. She would protect Rufus at all costs.

*

“It’s on?” Reno asked, looking to Tseng who nodded.

“The President wants Barron taken care of.”

“’Kay.” Reno nodded, squeezing between to middle aged women carrying large baskets. Tseng followed him.

“You’ll do it.”

“Thought as much.”

“It can’t look like we had anything to do with it.” Tseng continued and Reno looked at him again. “It can’t look professional.”

“Got it.”

Reno left Tseng and wandered the marketplace for a while, just waiting and looking around until he felt it was time. He’d use a knife he’d decided. If the killing couldn’t look professional, then his EMR wasn’t an option. Not every random person off the street could get their hands on one and it would definitely point their way. A knife, however. Everybody had access to knives. He could certainly make it look as if anybody had wandered into Barron’s tent and killed him. He could make it look like random violence, or he could make it look gang related. He could make it look like whatever he wanted it to look like.

Pressing his hand to his hip, he felt his blade beneath his suit. This was going to be messy.

Before long, he found himself near Hugo Barron’s tent. The man had a single guard outside the entrance and Reno gave a feral smile. The man had no idea what he was getting himself into, saying all the shit he had been about ShinRa. Only an idiot would try that and post a single guard to protect himself.

“And that’s why you’re a dead man.” He murmured, moving around the side of the tent. Slipping a kid a few Gil, Reno bought himself a quick diversion nearby and when the guard wandered off like a moron to sort it out, Reno slipped inside.

Inside, there was a short passage up the centre of the tent with a large room on either side. A quick glance into the first one revealed a dressing room complete with wardrobe and vanity with a large ornate mirror. It was empty. Reno turned and moved to the second room.

The second room was much the same, but this one contained a large table in the centre, laden with plates of fruit. Sitting with his back to Reno was a large, round, man. Even from behind, Reno recognised him immediately as Hugo Barron. He moved silently forward. Barron’s thinning silver hair was plastered down across his head in an obvious attempt at making it look like he had more hair than he did. Reno was sure he’d die if his hair ever looked like that.

Blinking, he forced his attention away from the man’s hair. Slipping his knife out from beneath his suit he came to stand behind Barron, who was still fully focused upon his food and completely unaware that he was no longer alone. Reno had always been swift and silent; skills that had proven invaluable to him time and time again, both in service of ShinRa and before that, in the slums. People never knew he was there until he wanted them to. It made him extremely effective at missions of this sort.

With quick, deft, movements, Reno yanked Hugo Barron’s head back with his right hand and slit the man’s throat easily with the knife in his left hand. He watched as Barron’s eyes widened in shock and fat hands came up to clamp at the wound in order to try and stem the flow of blood. Stepping back, Reno watched as Barron stumbled to his feet and turned to him. He had to give it to the guy, most people were on the ground by now, bleeding out helplessly. He knew the wound he’d given the man was fatal and there was nothing that the old guy could do to save himself, so he watched calmly, as he stumbled about the place. Eventually he came at Reno, grabbing a handful of Reno’s suit before collapsing to his knees at his feet. Reno stepped back, watching as he fell onto his face and was still.

Casting a quick look around the tent, Reno decided that the messy trail of blood worked in his favour as it made the kill look even more amateur. Striding to the table he knocked a few pieces of fruit onto the floor for good measure and then moved quickly to the side of the tent, running his hand gently over the rough canvas before slicing roughly down it with the knife until there was a slit big enough for him to step through. Without looking back, he stepped easily back out into the marketplace and disappeared back into the crowd.

*

Aura swore softly to herself when someone jostled her roughly as she moved through the market, trying to find the small shop that sold the gloves she needed. There were so many people. She’d woken up later than she had planned to and so hadn’t gotten into town as early as she had hoped. As a result, the place was packed. Even on the busiest market days, there were never this many people. She supposed a heap of them had come to listen to the speeches that were due to start soon. She had hoped to be home by then. With the attacks against ShinRa employees she didn’t fancy being around when Rufus Shinra was talking, especially as that other guy was meant to be here, too. The round one. The one who had been blaming ShinRa for everything shit to happen to the planet in the last forty years. It was like the guy was asking to start a riot. She wanted to be long gone when that went down.

“Ow! Watch where you’re goin’, yo!” She growled when some guy around her age nearly knocked her over, hurrying past. The guy didn’t stop to so much glance in her direction and she scowled, trying to force her way over to the edge of the market square to seek some shelter from the crushing weight of the growing crowd. Finding a small space between the doors to two stores, Aura leaned against the brickwork and looked around the square. People were hurrying around, moving in all directions. She’d just begun to wonder what could have gotten them that excited when she heard a snippet of a nearby conversation.

“Dead! Killed. Hugo Barron, that’s right. Had his throat cut not twenty minutes ago! Right here!”

Aura turned to try and see whose conversation she was listening to, but that only resulted in getting herself swept back into the crowd and a moment later she was being moved along helplessly. She tried to get out of the crowd, but she was too short and slight to have any effect over which way the crowd was surging. She did not want to be here. If someone had killed Barron, here, today... with Rufus ShinRa around, then it was only a matter of time before a whole lot of shit went down. The last place she wanted to be when that happened was in the middle of a crowd with no way of escape. She’d be trampled to death at best.

A few moments later, Aura realised that she’d been swept along nearly to the makeshift podium that had been erected for the speeches. It was here the crowd seemed to stop surging, as if they had gone still, waiting for something. Going up on her toes, she saw a man in a white suit climbing the steps to the podium and a moment later realised that it was Rufus Shinra himself.

A flash of red nearby caught her attention and she spotted Reno standing near Rufus Shinra up on the podium next to a shorter woman with blonde hair. On the other side of the ShinRa President was a large, solidly built, bald man and a slim, exotic looking, man with long black hair. Her eyes wandered over them for only a moment before going back to Reno.

She took in the straight way he was holding himself, and her eyes moved over the suit he was wearing. She watched him attempt to close his suit jacket over some sort of stain on the white undershirt, and then she knew instantly and without doubt just who had killed Hugo Barron. A single word forced its way into her mind. Turk.

That couldn’t be right. She shook her head slightly. Turks were ruthless and cold. They were ShinRa’s assassins. They did whatever they were told without question and they had no morals.

That coudn’t be what ShinRa had hired Reno for.

She’d known they’d recruited him because he was resourceful and clever... She blinked again, that was exactly what a Turk needed to be. Resourceful and clever.

But her Reno was no killer. ...was he?

*

Reno watched Rufus wave to the crowd a bit while they waited for the hour to close. At eleven sharp, the President would begin his speech. He wondered vaguely what the blond man would say to convince the world that ShinRa had nothing to do with Hugo Barron’s death. Looking back to the crowd, he tried to read the faces of those looking at Rufus.

After a moment however, he froze when he noticed one of the faces wasn’t looking at Rufus, but at him. His heart hit his stomach when he realised it was Aura.

He lost sight of her when Elena shouldered past him and threw herself at someone rushing up the stairs. Turning, he caught a glimpse of silver as she knocked a blade from the person’s hands as she wrestled them to the ground. Rude was suddenly there, and had pulled the guy to his feet and dragged him back down the stairs while Elena got slowly to her own feet, picking up the knife as she went.

“Damn, Laney.” He said, smiling. “Well done...”

“Thanks.” She replied, and he noticed the faint blush spread across her cheeks as she tucked the knife into her waistband.

“Yes...” Rufus said, drawing the attention of them both as he stepped toward them. “Thank you, Elena.”

“Not a problem, Sir.” She said softly, and Reno watched her look to Tseng who inclined his head ever so slightly in her direction. Looking back to the stairs again, Reno was almost disgusted with himself. How had he not noticed some maniac with a knife rushing up toward them? If Elena hadn’t spotted him... He didn’t want to think about what could have happened. At least she’d gotten to prove herself, though. In front of the President, no less.

He wouldn’t let himself get distracted like that again. Why was Aura here, though? He searched for her again in the crowd, finding her within seconds. She was still staring at him.

He realised that she’d never seen him in uniform before and he suddenly felt slightly self conscious.

Why was she even here? She’d promised that she wouldn’t come! He frowned.

*
Aura watched Reno frown as he looked at her. She just stared back. What the hell had she just seen? That blonde woman had moved so quickly, jumping on a man that Aura hadn’t even seen until he was being tackled to the ground. The guy had had a knife. Had he seriously just been trying to attack Rufus Shinra? In front of half of Edge?

That was just stupidity.

She blinked, looking at Reno who was suddenly glancing around as if uneasy.

The explosion knocked half the town off their feet. Aura’s eyes went wide and she watched as debris rained down on the podium. The man with long dark hair threw himself over Rufus Shinra and she watched Reno pull the blonde woman to the ground, shielding her as chunks of concrete and steel fell around them.

The second explosion sent pieces flying into the crowd. Something struck Aura across the face and she found herself on her knees, her ears ringing. Pressing a hand to her cheek, she frowned when it came away bloody. Blinking back the tears of pain that welled in her eyes, she forced herself to her feet before she got trampled, and looked around. She could already see the bodies of those who were dead, and as people began to get to their feet, panic began to set in among the general populace.

Screams went up and people began to run. Deciding her best course of action was to get out of there, Aura headed for the side of the market square. She was knocked off her feet three times before she got there, but she made it without further injury. Well, without further serious injury. She’d lost some skin off her hands and knees, but she would deal with that later.

Coughing as the fire from the explosions took hold and smoke began to fill the square, Aura turned to look desperately up at the podium. She couldn’t see anything. Hurrying closer, she stopped, watching, as the dark haired man helped President Shinra to his feet. She held her breath then as she waited for Reno to get up.

*

Reno groaned and swore. He pushed himself to his knees and off Elena who looked slightly dazed.

“Okay, Rookie?” he murmured.

“Mm.” She replied, rubbing her head as she sat up. Reno got to his feet, blinking as smoke stung his eyes. Moving toward the edge of the podium, he looked out over the chaos. People were screaming and running, bodies strewn everywhere. There had to be at least a hundred of them.

His breath caught in his throat as he looked for Aura. She wasn’t where she’d been before. Nearly stumbling off the edge of the podium, he looked around almost frantically.

Eventually he found her, over by the shops on the right, standing amidst the smoke, looking back at him. Reno had been about to jump down off the podium in order to get over to her when Elena seized his arm and yanked him backward.

“What are you doing? We have to go!” She said, dragging him back.

“No...” he muttered, pulling free.

“Reno! The President!” She said sharply. Reno stopped. His job was Rufus. Aura was alive and even standing on her own two feet. She would be fine. He would get Rufus back to Healin and then he’d go and make her tell him exactly why she had done what she’d promised him she wouldn’t.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven

 

“It wasn’t meant to kill us.” Reno said, looking at Rufus when they were back at Healin Lodge and sitting in the President’s office.

“What?” Elena asked, “They tried to blow us up.”

“No.” Tseng agreed with Reno, “They didn’t.”

“What...?”

Reno watched Elena frown in confusion.

“They could have actually blown us up.” He told her. “Instead, the first explosion came from three floors up in the building behind us. It was made to look good. Sure, it threw shit all over us, but it did no real damage. Not to us. The second one... that was meant to kill, but not us.” He looked at her, “That was meant to kill some of the crowd, just as it did...”

“But...” Elena frowned, “Why?” she looked to Tseng.

Tseng shook his head and it was Rufus who answered.

“It doesn’t matter why.” He said, “We can use it to our own advantage. We can blame them for Barron’s death and the bombing. We can unite with the public against them, and make everyone see once more just how much they need ShinRa.”

Reno watched Rufus fiddle with the sleeves of his suit, pulling the cuffs down over his hands. Though Rufus had said nothing about it to them, they all knew his Geostigma was getting worse. He was going out in public less and less and there was nothing they could do to help him. Yet. He knew they’d find something. They had to.

 

When Rufus had released them from their debriefing, Reno headed straight back to Edge and to Aura’s house. He stalked up the road and to her door, not even bothering to have changed out of his uniform. Knocking sharply on her door, he waited impatiently. The door opened slowly and he pushed in. Aura stepped back hastily, out of his way. He swung the door shut behind himself and turned to look at her. She watched him silently, warily. His frustration vanished the moment he saw the cut across her cheek and he moved forward, backing her into the wall as he checked her over.

“Aur... You’re bleeding. Are you okay?” his hands moved from her shoulders to her chin, tilting her face up gently so he could better see the cut. It wasn’t too deep, but would probably leave a light scar. “What were you doing? Why were you there? You promised me that you wouldn’t go!”

She slapped his hands away from her and she moved away from him. He watched her eyes look him over slowly. After a moment, she spoke.

“You’re a Turk, aren’t you?”

Reno swallowed thickly. “... Yes.”

“An assassin.”

“Sometimes.”

“You killed Hugo Barron.”

He nodded silently.

She moved around slowly, not taking her eyes off him. He watched, scared of what she might do next. He’d often wondered what she would do if she learned what he was. Would she accept it, or would she tell him to leave and never come back? If she did, would he be able to? He didn’t know.

“... Are you hurt?” she asked softly.

“No.” He shook his head and she moved closer. He held his breath, watching her.

“Are you... good at it?”

He nodded again.

“Of course you are.” She murmured, running a hand through her hair, “You’re resourceful and clever...”

“Aur...” he began, but fell silent when she shook her head.

“No, Reno...” she said gently, “Don’t explain...”

“But-“

“No.” She repeated, moving closer. “You don’t have to.”

Reno blinked, staring at her. “Why?”

“Haven’t we always done whatever we had to to survive?” She asked before she let out a soft breath, “This is no different.”

He was silent until she went up on her toes and threw her arms around his neck. Wrapping his own arms around her waist, he closed his eyes in relief. “I thought you’d hate me...”

“I could never hate you. No matter what you did.”

Reno bit his lip to silence any confessions that might slip out. He wasn’t too sure about that.

“Besides,” Aura murmured, “Now I can worry less about any random idiot jumping you on the street and managing to stab you. Turks are properly trained...”

“Yes. We are.” He agreed.

“Of course, you can still be blown up...” She replied.

Placing his hands firmly on her hips, Reno moved her back from him gently. “Speaking of... Why were you in the Marketplace today when you told me you would stay away?”

“I needed gloves.” She replied evenly.

“You could have been killed.”

“So could you...” she retorted, remembering the way debris had fallen onto the podium, and the way he’d pulled that blonde woman down. “Who’s the blonde chick?”

“What?”

“She was standing with you on the podium. I saw you pull her down.”

“Oh, Elena.” He said, sitting on the armrest of her couch. “She’s our Rookie... Well, not really a Rookie anymore... but I still like to call her that... It annoys her.”

He watched Aura blink. “I see.”

“Yeah...”

“Was your President hurt?”

“No.” He stretched lightly. “None of us were...”

“Most of the crowd weren’t that lucky.” She murmured, sinking down onto the couch herself.

“I can see that...” he took hold of her chin again to have another look at the cut across her cheek. She eyed him ruefully. “Do you have a Potion or something for this?”

“No...” She said softly, “Maati has said he’ll bring some stuff back for me from Junon... But things are getting hard to come by, like I told you before...”

“Have you at least cleaned it?”

“Not yet... I just got home before you started pounding on the door...”

“What took you so long?”

“... I was helping people.”

“Oh.” He went through the pockets of his suit. Turks usually carried a small medical kit for emergencies. He rarely used it, but he hoped there would be something of use in it. Opening it up, he looked at the various items. It wasn’t quite the same as the kits the other Turks carried as when Reno had first joined ShinRa he’d discovered that he had some pretty nasty reactions to some of the common medicines that were used above the plate. The ShinRa doctors had put that down to him coming from under the plate. Apparently, most of the people born in the slums had been affected in some way by their close and constant contact with mako waste. As most of the drugs in the slums were cut with mako, and Reno’s own mother was a junkie, he guessed he’d been messed up by her. Though he’d never touched the stuff himself, his blood was still different to people from above the plate. The first time he’d been given something to help with pain relief back when he’d still been in training, he’d ended up having seizures. It had taken several similar incidents before the doctors had even worked out what was happening.

Looking at Aura, he wondered if she would be the same. Then, remembering the night he’d first met her, he figured she probably would be.

*

It was early evening when seventeen year old Reno had wandered down a fairly empty street, absently looking for something to entertain himself with. Feeling a slight chill, he pulled the collar of the awesome new jacket he’d won in a bet up to protect his neck and looked over his shoulder when a nearby light flickered out. It had been an alright day, he had to admit. At least tonight he would have something to eat and drink. That couldn’t be said for every day.

He’d just decided to give up and go home, well, back to the room in some dilapidated shack that he called home, when he heard a scuffle down a nearby side alley. At first, assuming it was a prostitute earning herself some money, he’d dismissed it and was already walking past when he heard the cry for help.

Pleas for help weren’t uncommon in the slums, and if one expected to last more than a few days, one did not go racing off to answer those cries. But, the sound of deep voices followed by a young female shriek had him frowning and then, against his better judgement, he headed down the alley to see what was going on.

When he’d gotten far enough into the alley, Reno stopped, taking in the scene before him. Two men who looked to be middle aged were holding a struggling girl against the alley wall.

“What’s up, yo?” he asked when one of the men had turned to look at him.

The girl chose that moment of distraction to kick the guy in the shin, forcing him to let her go. She’d taken two steps away when the other man had swung her back around and into the wall again. Reno looked at her when she snarled. She looked only a few years younger than him. Fifteen, maybe. She had thick dark hair that resembled a birds nest, messed wildly about her pale face and wide green eyes. He could see that even in the dark of the alley, and that’s what really caught his attention.

“What do you want?” the larger of the men snapped at Reno.

“Just... heard the commotion.”

“That’s a big word for a slum rat.”

Reno blinked.

“Ro, maybe he likes to watch...” The second man snickered.

“Ah...” Reno nodded, “So you fellas come down here to find women...” he looked at the girl, “Or, girls...”

“Younger ones make more money.” The first grunted, looking back to his mate who pulled a syringe out of his pocket and started preparing it. It was then that Reno understood. They’d come down here to find some young thing to inject with whatever shit was in that needle, and turn her into a mako whore. They’d get her hooked on the stuff and have her whore herself out to make them money in return for her fix. Involuntary images of his mother whoring herself for her own fix flashed through his mind and he clenched his teeth.

The girl whimpered and tried kicking at the man holding her when the one with the needle advanced on her. “No!” She cried, “You can’t!”

“Hold her, Ro!”

“What’s it look like I’m doin’, Jace?” Ro snapped back.

“For Shiva’s sake!” Jace muttered, grabbing the girl and driving his knee up hard into her stomach. The girl choked and collapsed down on her hands and knees.

Reno didn’t remember making the decision to act, but he’d grabbed a random piece of something from the piles of garbage in the alley and struck Ro across the head with it. The big man let go of the girl and turned to face him, snarling. Reno was ready. He knew how to fight. He’d left his mother when he was twelve and he’d been on his own since. He wouldn’t have been alive if he didn’t know how to fight. He’d always been fast and that had always served him well against big guys like Ro. That didn’t stop Ro from knocking him sideways into the wall, though.

Stumbling, Reno looked past the big man to see Jace on top of the girl, his knees pinning her shoulders to the ground as he held one hand above her head. Reno heard her screaming in outrage and he heard as the scream turned panicked when the syringe was pushed into her arm. Turning again, Reno threw himself at Ro and after a series of well practiced quick movements, the big man lay unconscious on the ground.

He hated these bastards. As if the people living down here didn’t have a hard enough life without being turned into addicts for someone else’s profit. These men were the worst kind of scum. They used a person up until they were too broken to even lay on their backs to earn them money, and then they tossed them back into the gutter with no way to support themselves or even feed their addiction. These men and women usually died within days.

Striding forward, Reno picked something else up from the piles of garbage and then swung it as hard as he could at Jace’s head. With a sickening crack, the man slumped sideways off of the girl. Reno kicked him further away. Then, clenching and unclenching his hands, he looked down at the girl.

She lay on her back, her breathing panicked and rapid. “You okay?” he asked.

She didn’t reply, her head moving from side to side as if she were looking for something as her breathing became more erratic.

“Hey...” he knelt down to her. “Are you-“ he broke off when he caught sight of her face. He eyes were glazed. “Shit...” he muttered, laying a hand on her arm. He frowned when he realised that she was ice cold. “Hey...” He said loudly, taking her chin in one hand and making her look at him. Her skin was already clammy and as he felt a shudder run through her he knew what the problem was. Dirty mako.

“Cheap bastards.” He muttered.

Aside from getting addicted to the mako in the drugs in the slums, users ran the risk of getting something cut with dirty mako. The offcuts that ShinRa deemed unclean or not good enough to use and had discarded were often used to cut various drugs under the plate. If an addict didn’t end up dying from on overdose, they usually died from a bad reaction to dirty mako. He’d seen it time and time again. Apparently Ro and Jace had gone for the cheap option in finding a new investment and had injected this girl with something cut with dirty mako.

“Shit.” he muttered again.

“Don’t...” She whimpered.

“No, you’re okay.” He told her, unsure if she could even hear him. She convulsed and he looked around, not knowing what to do. There was nobody to go and find who could help. Probably nobody who even would help. He was on his own. Like usual. “What’s your name?” he asked, again not sure she could hear him.

The girl blinked, shuddering visibly as the dirty mako made its way through her system. He watched her try to focus on him. “A-Aura.” She forced out with clear effort.

“Okay, Aura...” he looked around again, “I’m not going to hurt you, okay? I’m going to take you somewhere. Somewhere safer.”

He doubted that she was even aware of him as he picked her up and carried her home. Then, laying her on the thin mattress that he slept on on the floor, he bit his lip. She was now shaking nearly continuously. The only thing he knew was that people who had taken dirty mako needed to be kept warm. That made sense as she was freezing cold to the touch. Taking his jacket off, he draped it over her. Then, looking around he found the two thin blankets that he had and also put them over her. He then sat down beside the mattress to watch her.

After an hour or so, she looked at him, and he realised that she was actually seeing him. “What... what’s your name...?” she asked between chattering teeth.

“Reno.”

She simply nodded, or, Reno thought it was a nod, though it was hard to tell with the way she was shaking, and then her eyes closed again. He watched as convulsions shook her.

Then, knowing what he needed to do, Reno shuffled closer and slipped under the blankets. Carefully, he wrapped himself around the girl he didn’t know and held her tightly as the convulsions continued to rip thorough her and she shivered continuously until morning.

*

 

Yeah, Reno was fairly certain that Aura would have similar reactions to common medicine from above the plate. Luckily, his kit had been made for him and would likely work just as well for her.

“Drink this.” He handed her a small vial and decided not to mention what he’d just been remembering. He guessed she’d been reminded of it only too recently when they’d seen that junkie not long ago.

“What is it?”

“An antibiotic.”

“Oh.” She unstoppered the vial and swallowed it obediently. “Ugh. Nasty.”

“But it’ll stop you getting an infection.”

“Mhmm.” She handed him the empty vial back and he returned it to his kit. “... What will happen with the situation at the marketplace? The ... bodies... and mess...?”

“It’ll be taken care of.”

“By ShinRa?”

“Yeah.”

He looked at her as she stayed silent. After a moment he got up, “Come on.” He said, “We’ll clean that cut up and then I should get back...”

“I can do it.”

“Yes, but you’re going to let me do it.” He answered, pulling her toward the bathroom. He ignored her slight huff and pulled what he needed from the bathroom cabinet. “Sit.” He ordered, pointing at the edge of the bathtub.

“I’m not your damn rookie.” She muttered, nevertheless doing as he instructed. Reno just grinned.

“I can see that.”

He carefully cleaned the cut and patched it up before announcing himself “Done.” He then put everything away and headed back down the hallway to the front door. Aura followed him silently.

“I’ll come and see you in a few days.” He told her softly. She nodded. “Take care of that cut.”

“Okay.”

He hugged her gently and then opened the door, stepping quickly out into the cooling evening air. That had gone better than expected. She didn’t seem too phased about him being a Turk, though he suspected she might give it more thought if she knew all the things he’d done. There were things he couldn’t forgive himself for. He huffed and walked faster, trying to keep his mind from thinking about Sector 7.

What was done was done. Nothing would change it.

Scratching at the dried blood on his shirt, he made a face. He really should get changed out of his uniform. Switching directions, he headed for home instead.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

Elena sighed as she reached for the next form she had to fill out. She never used to mind the paperwork, but now? Now, when there were hardly any of them left, and all four Turks had been present in the Marketplace as well as the President she was hard-pressed to see the point in a detailed report from each of them. Okay, so that was the way it had always been, and okay, Rufus was trying to get them up and running again, and yes, okay, she saw the point, but maybe her point was that she had saved Rufus right in front of Tseng and he’d still not said ten words to her!

Yeah, he’d given her an acknowledging nod and he’d sort of spoken to her when he’d agreed with Reno in the debriefing, but he’d still not come to her and said “Good work, Elena!”

Was that what she expected? She didn’t always seek praise for everything she did. That wasn’t the way she operated, but Tseng always acknowledged when they did something well. And she’d saved the president for cryin’ out loud! Could he still be pissed about her getting drugged? She’d thought that if she proved she could do things right, that she would be forgiven. Wasn’t saving Rufus enough? What more could she do?

Maybe she should talk to him? No... He clearly didn’t want to speak to her.

She could make an official report? On what? The man she had feelings for wasn’t giving her enough attention? She was probably already a joke to them.

Reno was just below Tseng in rank... could she bring it up with him? If she had a problem she was meant to take it to her superior. This fell under that, didn’t it? She thought it did.

When Reno returned that afternoon, Elena asked to speak with him. He raised an eyebrow but nodded without a word. Twisting her hands, she looked at him. He remained silent and waited for her to speak. Looking around, Elena hoped that nobody could overhear.

“Elena.” Reno eventually said, and once again she knew that she was speaking to her superior. Good. That was what she wanted.

“I...” she sighed.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

“Tseng...” she said, flailing her hands around, “Is... there a reason that he’s still pissed at me? Have I done something wrong? He’s barely looked at me in days! He relays orders through other people ... and if he has a problem with me, then he should just tell me so!”

Reno looked at her. “You’ve done nothing wrong, Elena.” He finally said.

“Then why is he...?”

“I don’t know.”

She watched as his expression changed and then he smiled, “Don’t worry, Laney.” He ruffled her hair. “I’ll sort it out.”

She just nodded silently and Reno headed off toward his desk. Unable to sit still any longer, Elena headed down to the training room.

 

*

Reno sat at his desk, thinking. Tseng had been acting strangely toward Elena. He’d noticed it himself. He could understand why Elena had thought he was pissed at her, but he had no reason to be. Not only had Elena done nothing wrong, she’d been doing rather well lately. She’d probably saved Rufus from being attacked in the Marketplace. She should be feeling great about herself, not second guessing everything.

It must have taken Elena a bit to even come to him and say anything. He knew she hated to show any kind of weakness like that. He had to do something.

Not one to beat around the bush, Reno got to his feet. He’d just go and ask Tseng.

He knocked once on Tseng’s office door before striding inside.

“Reno...” Tseng said without looking up. Reno moved forward, grinning at the fact that Tseng hadn’t bit his head off for just walking in. Throwing himself casually into one of the chairs facing Tseng’s desk he just looked silently at the dark haired man. “...Yes?” Tseng asked, looking up at him after a moment.

“So... Elena...” Reno began

“Oh, so you know?” Tseng sighed.

“Know what? That you’ve been acting like a jerk?”

“Excuse me?” One of Tseng’s dark eyebrows raised slowly.

“You know you have.”

“I may have been slightly distant...”

“Why?” Reno blinked when Tseng looked at him, “I’m only askin’ cause there’s a problem, yo.”

“A problem.”

“Yep. It’s clear. Been obvious to me... and then Elena came to me, askin’ what was goin’ on.”

Tseng sighed again.

“So...?” Reno leaned back in his chair, “What’s your deal?” He watched as Tseng ran his hands over his face, sighing yet again. “Has she done something?”

“No.” Tseng replied flatly.

“Didn’t think so...”

“I just... I’ve been busy...”

“Mhmm...” Reno replied in a tone that told Tseng clearly that he wasn’t buying that.

“She’s not a rookie anymore...”

“I know that.”

“She can take care of herself.”

“We’re a team.”

“I know.”

“Okay...”

Tseng nodded slowly. “Alright. I’ll fix it.”

“Excellent.” Reno got to his feet, stretching. He grinned at Tseng and then strode for the door. He knew that Tseng had been making excuses but as long as the problem would now be fixed he figured it was all good. Elena would be happier and things would go back to normal. Throwing himself into the chair at his desk, he then grinned at Rude.

“Feeling good about yourself?” The big man asked him.

“Ultimate Peacekeeper.” Reno replied, jabbing himself in the chest with his thumb. “That’s right.”

Rude smiled. “Whatever you think.”

“It’s proven.”

“Okay.”

“Where’s Laney?”

“Dunno.”

Making a face, Reno picked up his pen, eyeing the pile of paper on his desk. Not actually having anything else to do, and without Elena around for him to annoy, he might actually get bored enough to willingly do his paperwork. Casting one last hopeful look around the office, he sighed when nothing too interesting caught his attention, and then pulled the top piece of paper toward himself. There would be no more procrastination, at least for the moment.

 

*

 

Elena smiled as she patrolled one of the quieter streets in Edge. Reno had said he’d take care of the problem with Tseng and apparently he had. Tseng had come to her this morning himself to inform her of her new patrol route. With the frequent attacks on ShinRa employees, they’d given up their patrols in the centre of town and moved them to less busy areas to at least maintain some sort of presence. Feeling good, because Tseng was speaking to her again and because she got to spend the morning in the fresh air, she lengthened her stride to cross the street.

Before long, Elena found herself in a fairly narrow but well used laneway. Stuffed into every available space down the sides of the laneway were makeshift stalls selling everything from handmade jewellery to food. Liking the look of some of the fruit at a nearby stall, Elena stopped to look. A few minutes later she had selected a juicy looking piece and handed her money over. The old woman running the stall took it with a smile , looking her over.

“I’d be careful around here, love.” She said. Elena tilted her head.

“What’s going on?” She asked.

“Nothing out of the ordinary. But, in that suit, it’s all too clear who and what you are...”

“Ah...” Elena nodded, looking around. It was then she noticed the looks people were sending her way. Looking back to the old woman, she nodded at her and continued slowly down the alley.

 

*

Aura put the bundle of herbs into her basket and moved along to the next stall. She’d been right in thinking she might be able to find some ingredients up this end of town that she hadn’t been able to get in the main marketplace. She doubted she’d find them all, but some was better than none. She supposed for the rest she would have to wait and see if Maati managed to bring some back with him from his trip. Reno, too, she reminded herself. He’d said he would see what he could get for her.

She smiled at the woman who passed her her change and placed the next small bundle of herbs in her basket before moving further out of the alley into the main street. There were more people here than usual, perhaps as things were becoming more difficult to find in the centre of town. There was also the fact that more people were becoming afraid of another attack. As dodgy as this part of town was, even she felt more comfortable here than in the central marketplace lately.

Getting jostled by a passing group of young men, Aura backed into a nearby side alley and set her basket down. These tiny alleys were not meant for so many people. Taking advantage of her now cleared personal space, she leaned against the cool bricks and thought about what else she needed to buy as she tried to work up the motivation to head back out into the crowd. Looking around the corner back into the crowd she noticed the loud murmur that seemed to be spreading among them. Trying to work out what was happening, she scanned the crowd more quickly. After a few moments she spotted the blonde woman in the dark suit. Immediately recognising her as the woman she’d seen Reno with the other day she let out a small, “Ah.”

It was then she heard the loud cry of “SHINRA BITCH!” followed by a gunshot.

 

*

 

It took a moment before Elena felt the pain. When it hit her, it nearly made her knees give out from beneath her. Looking down, she saw the blood begin to spread across her shirt and she just stared at it as if frozen. Around her, people were screaming and running as panic broke out. She was hit twice before a hand seized her arm and dragged her back out of the alley and into a smaller, narrower one. When her back hit the cold brick wall, she looked at the dark haired woman before her. Wide green eyes were running over her before looking up to meet her gaze.

“How bad are you hurt?”

“Uh...” Elena tried to get her brain working around the pain. Looking down again she pressed a hand to her shoulder. “Just my shoulder I think...” She forced out. She watched as the woman pulled out a knife and turned to face the entrance of their little alley. Not a moment later a broad shouldered man with blond hair came toward them.

“Here’s the little ShinRa bitch...” he grinned. Elena tried to keep her face neutral as she looked at him. The dark haired woman put herself between them, knife held loosely in her hand in a way that had Elena taking another look at her.

“Just keep moving, yo.” The woman murmured, following him back and forth with her knife. The blond man laughed, looking down at the woman before taking another step forward. He took a hasty step back when she had dashed forward and given him a deep cut across his chest. Swearing, he disappeared back into the crowd hurrying past their alley.

Remaining silent, Elena watched the dark haired woman turn back to her. “I’m Elena...” she said after a moment.

“Aura.” She replied, wiping her knife on her dress.

Nodding, Elena looked her up and down again. “You’re pretty alright with that knife.”

“Thanks.”

“You’ve been taught....”

“A bit.”

“You know Reno...?” She watched as green eyes looked sharply at her.

“What?”

“Reno.”

“... who?”

Elena gave a pained laugh. “Don’t bother.” She said, pressing her hand into her shoulder again. “The way you hold that blade is just like he does. It’s weird.” She looked at her, “Also, the way you talk...”

“... I talk like lots of people.” Aura protested. “From a big place...”

“... And the way you looked at me when I said his name.” She looked hard at her. “I’m trained to pick up on these things.”

Aura swore. Elena laughed again, leaning back heavily against the wall.

“Wait here...” Aura murmured, before ducking out into the crowd. Elena closed her eyes for what felt like only a few seconds before she was being gently shaken. “Here...”Aura held a dress out to her. “You should ditch the suit.”

“Mmm...” She nodded, trying to undo the buttons. She sighed when she realised that her hands were shaking too badly to manage alone. Without saying anything Aura moved forward and undid them for her. Bundling her shirt into a soft pad she pressed it against Elena’s shoulder to stem the bleeding as she helped her into the dress. “What now?” she murmured, feeling rather light headed.

“My house is not too far...” Aura told her, slipping an arm around her waist. “Let’s go...”

“Okay...”Elena nodded, trying her best to move with her as she dipped to pick up her basket in the other arm and they headed out into the now slightly less busy crowd.

 

*

 

Aura helped Elena sink down on to her couch. Watching the woman wince and bite her lower lip in pain she frowned. “I’ll grab something for that...”

“Mm.” Elena nodded, her eyes closed. Hurrying into her kitchen, Aura knelt by one of her cupboards and pulled out a few tubs of ointments. She was running low on supplies, but she still had some stuff that would help. Carrying a few tubs back into the other room, she knelt down by the couch and set them out where she could easily reach them.

“You got some towels or something?” Elena asked, “I don’t want to get blood on your furniture...”

Aura nearly snorted in amusement. Her furniture was nothing special. Nevertheless, she got to her feet again and went to get some old towels. It wouldn’t hurt to make Elena feel better. Returning a few moments later, she lay them out and helped the blonde woman settle over them. She then helped her pull the dress she was wearing off her wounded shoulder.

“Ugh.” Elena grunted eyeing it ruefully. “It’ll need work.”

“Yeah... I...” Aura shook her head. “I can clean it and bandage it up...”

“Sure, thanks.”

Opening one of her containers, she dipped her fingers into the cool ointment before gingerly applying it to the wound. Elena hissed, giving a sharp intake of breath.

“Sorry...”

“No... It’s fine. Good.” Elena nodded, closing her eyes. Aura worked silently cleaning the wound and then wrapping it in clean white bandage. When she was done, she got to her feet.

“Would you like something to drink?”

“Thanks.” The tightness in Elena’s voice made Aura frown in concern for a moment before heading back into her kitchen to get her something. Deciding that water was probably a better option than wine, she came back after a few moments and gave her a glass.

The blonde woman took it with a slightly trembling hand and took a sip. They both jumped when there was a loud knock on the door.

“Expecting someone?” Elena asked, looking toward the door. Aura shook her head and hurried over to open it, not bothering to check who it was. She blinked in surprise when Reno stood before her.

“Now, I know you didn’t check like I told you...” he said, stepping inside. Aura was about to answer when he stopped suddenly “Elena? What the hell?”

“Uh...” She tried to think of something to say as she watched him notice the blood everywhere and quickly look Elena over.

“What happened?” he asked

“Someone shot me.”

“How’s the shoulder?”

“Could be worse.”

“Why are you here?”

“-I helped her.” Aura cut in, moving forward. “I saw it... and I brought her here...”

“You were there?”

“Yeah...people recognised her... Those damn suits you wear...” she looked him up and down, taking in the expensive material, “And someone shot her... and people went into a panic... so I brought her here...”

“And she fought off some guy with a knife...” Elena put in.

“You...what?” Reno looked from Elena back to Aura and she had barely blinked before he was right in front of her, moving her around to check her over. She slapped his hands away.

“Quit it!”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, yo!”

 

*

 

“You’re not hurt?” Reno’s eyes looked her over again, and Aura shook her head. It was then his gaze snapped to Elena who stiffened at the sudden hostility in his eyes. He turned and moved around the end of the ocuch until he was standing before her. She couldn’t suppress a shudder. He was looking at her the way she’d only ever seen him look at their targets. Like she was prey.

“Elena...”he said silkily. She felt her blood chill at the ice in his voice. “Whose idea was it to bring you here?”

She looked at Aura.

“Relax” she said through gritted teeth, “I won’t tell.”

“Swear.” There was no silky ice in Reno’s voice now, nor anger or even his usual cockiness. His voice was flat and humourless.

She nodded, “I swear.”

Reno changed immediately. His face seemed less harsh and the hostility was gone from his eyes within moments.

“Laney... you’ve taken a hell of a shot by the looks of it.” He looked at her shoulder, “Can I see?”

“Yeah...” she nodded and he moved closer, kneeling on the couch with on knee to balance himself as he bent over. She clenched her teeth in pain as he carefully peeled away the bandaging to look at the wound.

“Yeah, you’ll definitely have to see Zena.”

“I know.” She groaned.

“That’ll teach you to try and pick fights on your own.”

She looked at him and he smiled, replacing her bandage gently. She watched him look back to Aura and smile again. “Thanks for takin’ care of my rookie, Aur.”

“Sure.”

She watched them continue to just look at one another and it was clear they were communicating non-verbally. She didn’t have any idea what they were saying. She had seen Reno communicate like that with Rude on occasion, but she’d never been able to get in on those conversations either.

Now, tired and in pain, it irritated her.

“When you two are finished staring at each other, you think maybe I could put a coat on or something?”

Reno blinked at her and shrugged out of his suit jacket before helping her get it around her shoulders.

Aura mumbled something and headed back into the kitchen. Elena blinked, watching the doorway. She could have sworn she’d seen the girl blush.

“Ah...” she breathed, looking back to Reno. “She’s your girlfriend...”

She’d never before seen the look that crossed his face then.

“No.” He replied.

“Then who is she?”

“My friend – family.” He said quietly, “The only one of either I had.”

“Oh.” She tilted her head “So you hid her...”

“So I hid her.”

“Why?”

The look he gave her then made her feel as if she’d just dribbled down her own shirt.

“Because, Laney.” He replied after a moment. “I was ordered to cut all ties with my life before ShinRa.”

She nodded. She understood that. The recruits they took from the streets had to be carefully assessed and profiled. It wouldn’t do to bring someone in, give them all the inside information on the company and then find out they would sell it to the highest bidder. ShinRa employees had to be trustworthy, and to make sure of that, ShinRa had to be the most important thing in their lives, if not the only thing.

The fact that Reno had hidden a secret like this was huge. She knew that he was loyal to ShinRa. He loved the company. Anybody with half a neuron knew that, but hiding Aura? What did that mean?

“But still?” she asked, “I mean, I get why you did it back then... things were different before... but now? I don’t think it’d matter now...”

“I won’t risk that.” He stood straight, looking down at her.

“Rufus woudn’t-“

“Elena!” he snapped, “No!”

“Kay...” she blinked, then watched as he strode into the kitchen.

 

*

 

Aura was washing an empty container when Reno came into the kitchen looking stressed. “What is it?” she asked, “Is Elena okay?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, “She’s fine. Thanks.”

She nodded back, just watching him as he ran a hand through his messy hair. “Reno...”

“mm?”

“Are you annoyed that I brought her here?” she asked, “I mean, I know you went through so much to make sure they never knew about me... all the precautions and rules... and ....” she broke off and just looked at him.

“No.” He replied, moving toward her. “I can’t tell you how glad I am. She could have died.” He wrapped his arms around her and Aura hugged him. “It turned out okay.” He was silent for a moment before adding “I have something for you.”

Aura stepped back when he released her and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small pouch and handed it to her. Money. She looked at him. Knowing what he did now to earn the money he gave her, Aura shook her head. “I... I don’t need this.” She told him. He frowned. She bit her lip. She didn’t want it. It was blood money.

Reno ran a hand through his hair again as he looked at her, and Aura could tell that he knew exactly what she was thinking. She tried to hand the pouch back, but he closed her hand around it. “Please.” He breathed, stepping closer to her, but she still had to strain to hear him. “Please. I need to know that some good comes of it.”

Her eyes lifted back to his face and upon taking in the tight expression he wore she nodded. “Okay.” She replied softly, “I could always use more glass vials...”

“Thank you” he murmured, pressing a quick kiss to her forehead. “I should get Elena looked at.” He said, stepping back from her a moment later.

“Yeah.” She agreed. He nodded and headed back into the living room. Aura followed, watching as he lifted the blonde woman off the couch into his arms.

“I can walk...” she heard Elena say.

“And this will be faster.” Reno replied, heading for the front door. “Or would you prefer we spend another hour stumbling around?”

Moving forward, Aura opened the front door for them.

“See you, Aur.” He said, smiling at her as he carried Elena out.

“Thank you.” Elena turned her head as they passed and met Aura’s gaze.

“Sure.” She nodded. She watched silently then as Reno carried her down the path and back onto the street. Then turning, she headed back inside and over to her couch. Bending, she pulled up one of the loose floorboards and dropped the pouch Reno had given her into the space beneath it. She may have taken his blood money, but she wouldn’t use it. Reno had needed her to take it, and so she had. She didn’t have to rely on it however. She made enough on her own now to get by without it if she was careful.

It was clear to her that it was important to him to feel as if she needed the money he brought. At first she had. She wouldn’t take that from him. It was clearly something he clung to. She wondered what else he used to deal with the things he did for ShinRa. Involuntarily, Elena’s face flashed through her mind and Aura got quickly to her feet. She supposed that was feasible. People working alongside one another in those kinds of situations would have all kinds of ways they dealt with things together. Huffing, and trying to get those mental images out of her head, she stepped on the loose floorboard to get it back in place and then wandered back into the kitchen to clean up some more. She refused to think about such things anymore. Though, maybe she could find out more about it next time she saw Reno... perhaps.

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine

“SO!” Zena practically crowed, causing Elena to flinch. “Reno carried you back here!”

“Yes.” She replied, watching the blonde woman setting up the equipment she would need to tend to Elena’s wound.

“Ah!” Zena turned to face her once more. “I’ll bet that was just sexy!”
“Not so much... I was bleeding and in pain.”

“Yeah, but then he just swooped in and carried you off. How heroic.”

Elena just eyed her. On the way home, Reno had made it more than clear that she was to keep Aura out of her reports. She was not to mention the woman at all. It had to seem as if Reno had found her after she’d been shot and had taken her straight back to Healin Lodge. Now, Elena didn’t like the idea of writing false reports or lying to Tseng, but she owed Aura. The woman had pretty much saved her life getting her out of the street like she had, so she had agreed. That meant, however, that she had to put up with Zena’s gushing over how heroic Reno was.

“Ugh. Don’t we have some materia or something?” She grunted when Zena touched her shoulder.

“No. All out. Have to do things the good old way.”

“Yeah, well... we should do something about that.” She muttered.

“Mhm... Well we have to make do.” Zena replied, “Reno clean this?”

“Uh-... yeah.”

“More than just a pretty face.”

“Apparently.”

“Are you guys going out again tonight?”

“Why?” Elena asked, wincing as Zena cleaned her wound again.

“Thought I might join you... It was such fun last time.”

“I dunno...” Elena breathed “What with me being shot and all...” The last thing she wanted was to go and spend time watching the taller woman trying to get her hands all over Tseng or Reno. She had no doubt she’d feel ill if Reno responded to the other woman’s advances. She didn’t even want to think about watching her all over Tseng. She’d had enough of that on their date the other night. She wouldn’t watch it again.

“Oh, I’ll patch you up good as new.” Zena replied. “You could even wear a dress tonight and you won’t see a thing.”

“I don’t know...”

“Oh, come on!” The taller woman grinned, “I don’t want to be the only woman there...”

Elena blinked, knowing full well that Zena would love to be the only woman out.

“I’ll think about it.” She replied softly.

 

*

Tseng ran a hand through his hair with a sigh. He never should have sent Elena to that part of town alone. The areas that were becoming rougher for Shinra employees were swiftly growing. If they were to patrol those areas at all it probably shouldn’t be alone. Looking at the map on his desk he shook his head. He wouldn’t be sending Elena back there anyway. If they were to keep the area on their patrols then it would have to be Reno or Rude. Possibly together.

Closing his eyes, he massaged his forehead. He really ought to go and see how she was doing. Reno had told him briefly that it was a clean wound and that she would be fine, but he wanted to see anyway. He got up and threw his pen onto the desk. He would have to make a report anyway. He always kept files on his Turks’ health current and up to date.

Smoothing a crease from his shirt, he strode past his desk and out the door. It wasn’t long before he reached the infirmary and walked in. Elena was sitting on a bed, swinging her feet while Zena closed a cupboard on the other side of the room.

“Hey Tseng!” The tall woman said, turning from the cupboard to face him. “I was just talking about you.”

“She really was.” Elena muttered. He strode toward the young Turk, looking closely at her shoulder when he reached her. “It’s not too bad...” She said, looking up at him. He raised a hand, watching her stiffen as he lightly touched her shoulder. He didn’t think he would have said it wasn’t ‘too bad’. It could have been worse, that was true enough. Elena would be out of commission for a while with it, however. Perhaps a month.

“I’m trying to persuade Elena to go out tonight. It would be fun.” Zena said, coming toward them. Tseng watched Elena look up at him, clearly displeased.

“I think Elena should rest a while.” He replied, noting the clear relief on his rookie’s face. “I’ll order her if I have to.” He added, looking to Zena. He watched the tall woman pout, looking back at him.

“Well, that is a shame. I suppose I will have to go out myself...”

 

Elena just nodded, watching her. She had no doubt that if the woman went out alone that she would have a great time. She’d probably end up taking home more men than if she’d gone out with someone else.

“Perhaps you shall.”

“Maybe.” Zena grinned and winked at her.

 

*

Elena smoothed her hair as she knocked on the door. She had somehow managed to escape going out with Zena that evening. Thinking that she would enjoy a quiet evening at home, she’d been a bit surprised to find herself rather restless when home alone. After about an hour of not knowing what to do, and being unable to sit still, she’d grabbed her coat and left the apartment. While she still didn’t feel like going to a bar with Zena, she felt the need for company all the same. Not really wanting to sit and be questioned by her colleagues, she instead found herself at Aura’s door.

Knocking again, she blinked when the door was slowly opened. The cautious smile she received had her speaking almost instantly.

“Nobody has seen me...”

“Okay...” Aura looked quickly up the street before stepping aside to let her in. Stepping inside, Elena then moved toward the couch. The dark haired girl looked at her for a moment before taking a few steps toward the kitchen. “I… will get you something to drink…”

“Thanks…” Elena smoothed her pants softly while she waited for Aura to return. Taking the glass she was then offered, Elena looked again at Aura.

“… So…”

“Yeah…” Elena nodded, not really knowing what to say now.

“How is your shoulder?” Aura asked her.

“Pretty good…” She answered, “I mean, our doctor is … interesting… but she’s still good at what she does.”

“That’s good…”

Elena nodded, smoothing her shirt out slowly. She remained silent when Aura sat on the other end and she could feel the woman looking at her. After a few moments, the girl cleared her throat and then spoke. “Was there something that you … particularly… wanted…?”

“I know it’s none of my business…” Elena said, raising her eyes to meet Aura’s strange green ones. Mako eyes. Rather like Reno’s really. “I’m curious…”

“About me?”

Elena inclined her head. “I’ve known Reno for years…” She said, “And... well, he rarely shuts up. He just talks, all the time. I thought I knew him… The idea that he could keep a secret like this…”

Aura gave her a wry smile. “Isn’t keeping secrets kinda what Turks do, yo…?”

Elena smiled back. “I guess so… just, not from each other.”

 

*

Aura eyed the blonde woman on her couch. She seemed ill at ease, as if not sure of herself. Wondering if that was because she wasn’t meant to be here, or the fact that she was trying not to pry, Aura got slowly to her feet. Elena looked up at her.

“I’ll just get some wine, yo.” She headed for the kitchen, “I have the feeling we may want it.”

Returning a few minutes later with a bottle and two glasses, Aura poured Elena a drink and handed it to her before sitting down once again. Leaning back in her seat with her own glass, she returned to looking at Elena.

“Look,” She said after a moment, pausing as Elena’s brown eyes flicked to her. “I’m not practiced at at all this subtle intrigue and interrogation without revealing yourself… though it’s obvious you want to know things. So, I’ll tell you what you want to know, just ask the damn question, yo.”

Elena flashed a quick smirk and took a sip of wine. Aura watched her swallow delicately and then lick her lips before she cleared her throat. “Reno said that you are his family…”

“We’re not related.” Aura told her simply, “But yes. We’re family.”

“How long have you known him?”

“Since I was fifteen” Aura replied. Elena’s brown eyes were intent upon her and Aura let out a short breath before continuing. “I … Wasn’t from the same part of the slum as Reno. At least not originally. I lived with my parents kind of on the outskirts… It was still a slum I guess… but when I was with them it didn’t seem so bad. Or, maybe I was just young and they’d protected me… When I was thirteen my mother was … killed.” Aura took a sip of wine. “My father tried… There was lots of Mako dumping going on… Offcuts that ShinRa had no use for, I guess.” Elena looked away from her for a second before returning her gaze. “He got sick. It was pretty fast. When I was fifteen he died. … I guess people knew. Don’t know if they were after me or what was in our house… I ran.” She shook her head as she remembered. “I lasted three days before these two men caught me. They wanted to turn me into a Mako Whore. Reno saved me.” She crossed her legs slowly. “He took me home. I would be dead a thousand times over if he hadn’t.” She looked at Elena silently for a few moments. “He looked after me for years… We became family… That’s why he couldn’t just abandon me when ShinRa told him to cut all ties with his past.”

“Reno is quite protective…” Elena said gently. Aura nodded.

“The things he did for me…” She shook her head.

*
Aura had just arranged the two pieces of fruit she had managed to get a hold of that day on the small table in the kitchen. When Reno returned he would be most surprised. She couldn’t wait to see his face. Fresh fruit was something they never got to have. It was rare enough in the slum, and when it was available it was far too expensive for them. She was probably even more excited to see Reno’s reaction than she was to eat the fruit itself.

Hearing the door scrape behind her, she straightened up. “You won’t believe what I found today…” She said, smiling as she turned to face him. The fist that collided with her cheek sent her to the floor. Aura barely had time to register what had happened when two pairs of hands seized her and dragged her to her feet.

“I don’t believe what we just found.” One of the men sneered, “Who knew what that little rat was hiding in here…”

“What… what do you want…?” Aura asked, trying her best not to panic.

“Well, we came to pay Reno a little visit…” The second man said, pulling her closer, “But I think you’ll do…”

Aura shook her head. “No…”

“Aw, come on. You can be more hospitable than that…” He replied, his hand moving down her body. She tried to move away but he held tightly. The first man moved in front of her as she was lifted from the ground and he forced her legs apart. Aura shrieked.

“HEY!”

Aura’s eyes found Reno quickly where he stood by the door.

“Look who’s come to play.” The man in front of Aura snickered as she was put back on the ground. Reno moved forward slowly.

“Let her go.” He said, his voice low.

“Why would we do that…?” The one who still had a hold of Aura asked. “We were gonna have us a little fun…”

Reno looked at Aura, and she saw the moment that he made the decision. “Let her go… and I’ll go with you.” He said evenly, “Right now. I’ll go and I won’t fight you…”

Aura held Reno’s gaze as the man holding her released her. Reno then looked away and she watched as he turned and led the two men into the other room. She shook as the door was shut behind them with a dull thud.

She tried not to listen as the sounds from the next room echoed around her. Closing her eyes she sank to the floor, wrapping her arms around herself.

It was about a half hour later when the door creaked open and the two men left without a word. A few minutes later Reno emerged slowly. He ran his hand through his hair as he pulled the door to the other room closed. Aura watched as he visibly took a deep, steadying breath before he turned toward her. He stopped when he saw her on the floor.

“Aur…” He hurried over to her, kneeling before her. “Aur, are you okay?” She just looked at him silently. He raised a hand and tilted her cheek to get a better look at her and she remembered being struck across the face earlier. “Shouldn’t bruise too badly…” He said gently.

“Reno…” She murmured, still looking at him. He met her eyes silently. “I’m sorry…” She breathed.

He shook his head and she threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. It wasn’t the first time he’d whored himself for her and it wouldn’t be the last.

*

Aura realised she hadn’t spoken for a few minutes when Elena cleared her throat gently. “The things he did…” She said softly, “I can’t ever make up for that…”

“I don’t think you need to.” Elena told her gently.

“I know that he doesn’t expect me to pay him back, yo.” She murmured, “But I still can never make us even.”

Elena nodded, finishing her wine. “He’s saved my life more than a few times.” She told her. “I’d go insane if I tried to keep track to make us even. Sometimes, it’s not about being even.”

“Yeah.” Aura murmured, swirling the wine around in her glass.

“It looks to me,” Elena continued, “as if Reno would do just about anything to keep you safe. Look at what he’s gone through to keep you somewhere safe and hidden from ShinRa… completely off the radar. I’d say that having you safe is enough for him.”

Letting out a soft sigh, Aura finished her wine. “But is it enough for me?” She murmured. Then, looking back up to the blonde woman, she forced a smile. The Turk eyed her thoughtfully for a moment.

“Do you go out often?”

“Not really…”

Elena blinked and looked her over. “Do you have any friends?”

Aura looked away. “Apart from Reno?”

“Mmm.”

“Well, it’s always been better for people to not really know me…”

“None?”

“Well, my neighbour visits sometimes…” She looked at Elena, “He’s fifty eight…”

“Right.” Elena sat up straight. “You’re coming out with me.”

“You got shot…”

“I’m fine. Besides, it’s not like we’re going to get into a bar fight.”

“Oh?”

The woman grinned at her. “Not all Turks are like Reno.” Aura returned the grin. She hadn’t expected they would be. Nobody was like Reno.

“So, where are we going?”

“Get dressed and I’ll show you.” Elena replied, getting to her feet.

“You want to borrow something?”Aura asked, looking the woman over and noticing that she wasn’t exactly dressed to go out.

“Sure.”

Aura smiled softly as she led the other woman into her bedroom to show her the wardrobe. It had been quite a long time since she had gone out to have fun. It just wasn’t that appealing to her to go alone. It was also nice to have somebody to just talk to. Not that she couldn’t talk to Reno. She could. She always had. But, he wasn’t a woman. There was a difference. Waving her hand at the wardrobe, she cast a glance at Elena. “Take your pick…”

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten

Elena led Aura through the doors to 7th Heaven. “You’ll like this place,” She said over her shoulder to the dark haired woman. She was given a smile in return. Elena let her eyes sweep the place. Good. No sign of her workmates. She had figured it would be fairly unlikely they would come out tonight after Zena had been on everyone all day to come with her. With a sudden thought, Elena cast her eyes around again for the Doctor. When she couldn’t see her anywhere, she gave a relieved sigh and turned to take Aura toward a booth by the wall.

Before long both women were nearly finished their third drinks and were surveying the bar with interest. Elena was wondering if she could get Tifa’s attention without having to get up and actually go over to the bar. She was feeling a bit warm and fuzzy and was more than comfortable sitting where she was.

“You do it.” She said to Aura who whined and shook her head.

“I don’t wanna, yo.”

“Neither do I.”

“Well, then we have a problem.”

“You just do it.” Elena whined.

“Nu-uh.”

 

Elena looked around, hoping to find someone else she could make fetch her a drink when she spotted Tseng. Blinking, she noticed that he, Reno, and Rude were now standing before their booth. The fury in Reno’s eyes as he looked from Aura to Elena sobered her right up and chilled her to the bone.

“Elena…” Tseng said, and Elena forced herself to tear her eyes from Reno to focus on the dark haired man speaking to her. “I didn’t think you would be feeling up to this…”

“I…I… feel okay…” She managed. She glanced at Aura who looked slightly panicked. Looking back to Reno, Elena swallowed thickly, hoping that he wouldn’t kill her right here.
“Guys… this is … my friend, Aura…” She said, gesturing toward the other woman. “Aura… this is my boss, Tseng.” She said, “And this is Rude… and Reno…” She swallowed again and looked toward Aura.

“Hello…” Aura said gently, looking from one to the next. “Nice to meet you…” Elena watched the girl’s green eyes catch on Reno and she knew they were doing that weird silent communication thing again. Elena silently hoped that Reno would go with her story of Aura being her friend. If he did, there was no reason for Tseng to find out that she was actually his friend that he had hidden all these years. It could totally work.

“I… I was just going to get us some drinks…” Elena got to her feet and fled toward the bar. She braced her hands against the wooden top and let out a slow breath. It was then she felt him step up beside her.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Reno’s voice was low and dangerous. Elena did not want to turn around and meet the terrifying look she knew would be in his eyes.

“I didn’t know you’d be here…” She said, trying to keep her voice calm. “I figured everyone would be at home.”

“Well, we’re not.”

“I had no way of knowing that!”

“Why here?” he demanded, “Come on, Laney.”

“… I knew it was safe here.” She said, “Tifa never lets fights get out of hand… I thought it was a better option than some random bar I don’t know.” She turned then to look at him.
He looked frustrated. And scared. “… They think she’s my friend.” She told him, “They’ll never know.”

“ELENA!” A high-pitched scream startled her.

“… Zena.” She replied evenly when the blonde woman came running toward her. “You came after all.”

“Yeah.” Elena collected the drinks she’d ordered and headed back to the table, Zena following behind. Resisting a sigh as Zena slipped into the booth beside her, she moved closer to Aura who looked questioningly at her. “This is Zena. We work with her.” She told the girl.

“Oh. Hello.” Aura smiled at Zena who looked her over and smiled widely.

 

Elena watched as Reno took up a seat on the other side of the table. She bit her lip, wondering how angry he was with her. She wasn’t really able to tell as he appeared to be avoiding her gaze. She watched him play with the condensation on the outside of his glass as he glanced toward Aura and then surreptitiously at Tseng. Shaking her head, Elena resisted a sigh and nodded when Zena nudged her. She hadn’t heard what the woman had said to her, but agreeing seemed to be the best tactic.

“Right, then.” The other woman grinned, “Come on?”

“What?”

“We’re going to dance!” Zena exclaimed, “You just agreed. Bring Alice.”

Elena blinked. Who in the name of Shiva was Alice? It was then she realised that she meant Aura. Casting an apologetic look toward the dark haired woman, she got to her feet.
Aura followed her. Zena led them across the bar to the corner where people were gathering to dance to the loud music. The instant they were among everyone, Zena began shaking her hips and flicking her curly hair about the place. Casting a look over her shoulder, Elena wrinkled her nose. She saw Aura give a light laugh and knew that the shorter woman understood what she had meant. Perhaps claiming that Aura was her friend hadn’t been a complete lie, she thought. She could definitely see herself being friends with the woman.

 

*

 

Aura grinned, seeing Elena’s reaction to the other blonde woman. She wondered vaguely what Zena did for ShinRa. She would bet just about anything she had that the woman wasn’t a Turk. Elena lasted for only a few minutes of dancing before she excused herself for the bathroom. Turning back to Zena, she smiled politely as the woman danced closer to her. “So how long have you known Elena?”

“Uh… a little while…” Aura replied, waving her hand slightly.

“You know what she does?”

“Yeah.”

“You know the other guys?”

“Never met them before, yo.” She answered, glancing back to the table they had been sitting at. Finding Reno looking straight at her, she bit her lip. He was clearly uncomfortable with her being here. She had to admit that she had liked Elena’s cover, saying that she was her friend. She thought that it worked well. She wasn’t a Turk, however. They were used to lies. Maybe Reno’s people would see right through it.

“Pretty good looking aren’t they?” Zena asked, swaying her lips to the music as she also looked toward the booth.

“Mm, sure…” Aura nodded.

“I totally need a piece of that Tseng.” Zena continued. “He’s so pent up, I’m sure he’d be wild when you really get him going…”

“Oh…” Aura looked from Zena to Tseng. He did look very… official.

“Yeah… Or Reno.” Zena continued. “You can just tell he’s wild.” The woman bit her lip, her eyes locked on Reno across the room. “Mmmm I’m sure he’d be something you’d never forget, if you know what I mean…”

“Oh… I…” Aura blinked, taking a breath to try and keep herself steady, “I…”

“Ah!” Zena laughed, “Did he strike your fancy?”

“I…”

“Hm.” The blonde’s eyes looked her up and down, “No offence, sweetheart.” She grinned, “You’re not really his type. You’re a little too… cute. He needs a real woman.”

 

Aura just looked at her. A real woman? What in the name of Shiva did this bitch think she was? “I think I’m done dancing, yo.” She said flatly, before turning and walking away from Zena and back to the booth, sliding easily into her seat and picking up her drink from where she’d left it. Reno’s slightly narrowed eyes told her he knew she was annoyed.

“Where’s Laney?” Reno asked her.

“She went to the bathroom.” She answered, taking a sip of her drink.

“Do you and Elena come here often?” Tseng asked her.

Aura looked up. “This is my first time.” She answered. It was the truth.

“Have you met Zena before?”

“Don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so?”

“Pretty sure I’d remember her, yo.” She muttered. She would have sworn then that she had seen amusement flicker across Tseng’s face for a moment.

“Here you are.” Elena said to Aura, sitting beside her again.

“I got tired of… dancing.”

“You got tired of Zena.” Elena replied, “It’s fine.” Aura looked at her.

“We all go through that from time to time.” Reno put in.

“I… I thought…” She looked from one of them to the next. “She’s one of you…”

“She is.” Rude nodded.

“Zena is good at her job.” Tseng replied.

“But that doesn’t mean she’s not annoying, yo.” Reno picked up his drink. “And here she comes…”

“Oh! Reno, you should come and dance with me…” The blonde woman said, stopping by him.

“I’m not drunk enough for that, yo.” He replied simply.

“No fun.” She pouted, sitting down.

 

Aura watched as Zena pouted again and met her eyes, before smiling in a way that Aura assumed meant the woman thought the two of them were sharing a secret. Looking away, Aura tried to keep her face neutral. She had only met this woman not even a half hour ago and she already didn’t like her.

“Aura…” It was Tseng who was speaking to her and she looked up at him quickly. “What is it that you do?”

“I… I’m a sort of Apothecary.” She said, “I make potions and salves… and … things… It… It’s not very impressive… I haven’t been doing it all that long and … what I can do is probably very limited, really… It’s silly.”

“It’s important.” Reno said, and Aura’s eyes flicked to him. “People need that sort of thing.” He continued, meeting her gaze. “Especially now.”

“Very true.” Tseng agreed, “Would I be correct in assuming that you have seen a lot of people recently with Geostigma coming to you…?”

“Yes.” Aura nodded, “I can’t help them…”

Tseng was nodding slowly. “Is that how you met Elena?”

“Uh… Yeah…”

“It was.” Elena cut in. “I was looking for something new for… Uhm.. I had…”

“Headahces, wasn’t it?” Aura glanced at Elena.

“Yeah.”

“I have this sort of… cream…” Aura said, “You just put a bit on… and it alleviates pain. It works both for headaches and some other pain…”

“Sounds useful.” Rude commented. “Maybe we should think about getting some…”

“You do know I have painkillers…” Zena said, raising an eyebrow. “Perfectly effective medicine…”

“There is more than one way to do something.” Rude replied easily.

“My way is perfectly effective.”

“Relax Zena.” Tseng put in, “Nobody is disputing that.”

“Well, fine.” Zena smirked, looking across the table at Tseng. “After all, you do know the extent of my talents…” Aura watched as the woman smirked again and Tseng raised an eyebrow at her comments.

“You know, I’m pretty tired…” Elena put in with a slight yawn. “Think I may call it a night…”

Aura glanced at her to see the woman push her hair behind her ear. “I agree…” she told her lightly.

“Yeah, alright. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” Elena said, getting to her feet and pushing out past Zena. Aura followed her quickly.

“Nice to meet you all.” She added, turning to face them before following Elena toward the door.

 

Outside, Aura drew a deep breath in the cool night air. Hurrying to catch up to Elena who had continued up the street, she reached a hand out to touch the woman’s arm.

“Sorry.” The blonde said, slowing her pace slightly.

“No… are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”

“Elena…” she said gently, “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

The younger woman turned her head to look at her. “Well, I’d like to think so…”

Aura smiled at her, “Then you can talk to me.”

With a sigh, Elena nodded. “Okay… It’s just… Zena…”

“I figured as much...”

“It’s silly.”

“Bet it’s not, yo.”

“Zena has her eye on Tseng…” Elena whined, “I didn’t think she’d really be his type… He’s so professional and efficient… and I really thought that no matter how much she tried to get at him, she wouldn’t stand a chance, but… the other night they actually went on a date… and … and…” She flailed her hands and made a hopeless noise.

“You like Tseng?” Aura asked softly. Elena looked at her, hopelessness in her eyes.

“Pathetic, I know.”

“Why is that pathetic?”

“He’s… my boss… and he’s so much older than me…”

“Well, isn’t President Shinra really your boss…”

“Yes, but then Tseng… He’s my superior… and he’s just… way out of my reach…”

Aura bit her lip, walking silently beside Elena. “Does he know?”

“I have no idea.” Elena murmured. “Probably thinks I’m some kid… and then Zena struts in all sexy and … ugh…”

“Well, maybe she won’t really go for him…” Aura told her, “She also apparently wants a go at Reno.”

“Yeah, I know… She was telling me the other day.” Elena replied, rolling her eyes as she looked over at Aura. Aura made a face.

“So, they’ve never… then…?”

“Not as far as I know.” Elena said. “Think Reno finds her annoying.”

“He’s not the only one, yo.”

“What did she say to you earlier?”

Aura made a dismissive noise. “That I was too ‘cute’ and not a ‘real woman’.”

“What does that even mean?”

“Beats me.” Aura shrugged, turning up the street her house was on.

 

When she had unlocked her door, Elena said her goodbyes. The younger woman had then hugged her and told her that she was glad that they had met and that they could be friends. Aura had agreed. It was interesting to her. Now she knew the faces and names of people that Reno had worked with. And they would know her. She didn’t know how much this would change things, or what it really meant. She didn’t know what Reno thought of the situation. She was sure, though, that she would find out.

Sure enough, not long after she had showered and gotten into her pyjamas, there was a knock on her door. When she answered it, Reno walked in and headed straight for her couch. Aura locked the door and followed him. Sitting gently on the end, she looked expectantly at him. Reno was looking at his knees, his fingers tapping them rhythmically, as he drew one deep breath after another. She shifted closer. “… Reno?”

Reno looked up at her quickly and Aura moved closer again, her hand reaching out for him. He took her hand in his and just held it tightly.

“Aur…”

“I’m sorry.” She murmured, “You’ve worked so hard to make sure they didn’t know about me.”

“It wasn’t your fault.” He replied.

Aura squeezed his hand. “But now it was all for nothing… What will happen?”

Reno looked at her, his eyes flicking back and forth across her face. “Things are different now…” He told her softly, “ShinRa is… well… there are less of us… The dynamic is different… I’m not sure…”

“I’m sorry…” She watched him, not knowing what else to say. Reno pulled her closer and wrapped an arm around her.

“Honestly, Aur…” He said gently, “I’m thinking now that the danger isn’t what it used to be.” He stroked her hair softly, “If Tseng and the others think you’re Elena’s friend… then that will work for us… But, really, with things in Edge as they are, and with people turning on ShinRa… You don’t really want to be seen with a bunch of Turks all that often.” He ran his fingers through her hair, “7th Heaven is generally pretty alright. We go there a lot and nobody gives us trouble… but if people see you with us… You could get hurt.” Aura leaned against him and he continued to comb her hair with his fingers. “Did you have fun, though?”

“I like Elena.” She replied quietly.

“Yeah, Laney is pretty good.”

“I can be friends with her, can’t I?”

“…Mmm.” He murmured, “As long as she makes sure never to come here in uniform and is careful not to be noticed…”

“You know Zena wants you…?”

“Who wouldn’t, yo?” She heard the smile in his voice and glanced up at him.

“She’s… gross…” she frowned.

“She’s annoying… and kind of a tramp…” He agreed, “But she’s a good doctor.”

“Are you … into her…?”

Reno snorted. “No, yo.”

 

Aura nodded, a little placated by that. She didn’t like that she had been rather irritated since Zena had told her she had an interest in Reno, but knowing that he wasn’t interested in her made Aura feel better. Not that she thought he hadn’t had women like that before. She was sure he got lots of attention from all kinds of women. Smart, attractive, successful women; there had to be loads of them at ShinRa. Undoubtedly there had been a few of those he’d been with. She had considered it from time to time. He had never talked about it, at least, not to her. She wasn’t stupid, though. Reno had always gotten attention like that. Mostly, she tried not to think about it. It was what it was. Zena was different, though. Aura didn’t like her.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven


Reno had just seated himself on the couch in the relaxation room when Tseng came before him. “Reno,” he said, and Reno sat up instantly. “President Shinra wishes to speak to you.”

“Now, yo?”

“Are you busy?” Tseng asked drily.

“No…”

“Then yes, now.”

“Sure thing.” He jumped to his feet. Tseng inclined his head and walked away. Running a hand through his hair, Reno headed for the hallway that led to the room Rufus spent most of his time in these days. He gave a brief knock before striding right on in without waiting on an invitation.

Letting out a sigh, Rufus turned in his chair to look at him.

“What’s up, boss?” Reno threw himself in a chair opposite the desk and looked at the man now eyeing him with clear practiced patience.

“I have a job for you.”

“Name it, yo.” Reno ran a hand through his hair, looking at Rufus. His boss leaned forward on his desk, leaning on his elbows.

“We are increasing our efforts to find a cure for Geostigma.”

“Right…” Reno nodded, watching as Rufus tugged his sleeves down slightly. “Are you alright, sir?”

“Yes.”

Reno nodded again, looking Rufus over. Sometimes when his boss was acting a little weirdly, he would suddenly find himself talking to Rufus, who could oftentimes just be his friend. It was clear, however, that right now, he was speaking to his superior. “Okay…”

Rufus let out a deep breath. “Tseng tells me that Elena knows an apothecary woman with some skill… I want you to look into her.”

Reno felt his blood run cold. So, Aura was on ShinRa’s radar. The very thing he had tried to avoid had, after all, been for nothing. “You… Uh… What do you wanna know, yo?”

“If we could trust her.” Rufus said, leaning back in his chair, “If we recruit her to work on the cure, would she give us any problems… Some background… The usual…”

“You wanna recruit?”

“Not like we used to.” Rufus answered, “We don’t have the need we used to have. But, for this… This cure must be our top priority…”

“And despite having the facilities we have… and professional medical officers… you want an apothecary?”

 

Rufus looked amused for a moment. “I would have thought you of all people saw value in the work people like that do…”

“Oh, I do, yo.” Reno nodded, “I just didn’t realise you did.”

“You should know, Reno.” His boss replied, “That I value talent wherever I may find it.” Reno didn’t reply. That was true enough, and he did know that Rufus did indeed value all kinds of talent from wherever it came. That was one of the things that he liked best about the man. It was one reason that he truly respected Rufus. He supposed that he was just a little shaken by the fact that Aura was now a focus of his attention.

“Right… So… The apothecary. The usual background… all that stuff.”

“All that stuff.” Rufus agreed. Reno knew that he was dismissed, yet he remained in his chair, not quite ready to leave. Rufus just looked at him, waiting for him to speak. When he did not, the blond raised an eyebrow and leaned forward on his desk. “Do you have a question, Reno?”

“If she passes… I mean, if I don’t find anything wrong with her… What do you want to do…?”

“You’re to bring her here, and I’ll speak with her.”

“Yes, sir.” Reno nodded, his mind racing. If Aura was made a ShinRa employee, then he wouldn’t have to hide his connection to her. He would openly be able to spend time with her. He could see her more often. She would be able to afford a decent life. Getting to his feet, he walked absently for the door and headed outside.

There was a danger to the possibility, however. Now was not really the best time to be a ShinRa employee. Aura could defend herself a little, he had made sure of that. But, she couldn’t fight like he could. She wasn’t properly trained. If someone attacked her, she could be killed. Standing outside, Reno looked up at the sky. Did he want Aura working for Rufus? She had seen a lot of horrible things in the slums. He knew that. But since working for ShinRa, Reno had seen and, in fact, done a whole lot more of these things. Now, while Aura would likely not be expected to do a lot of the things he did, she would also lose a lot of her choices about what she did do.

He couldn’t make that decision for her, he realised. So, setting off for the town, Reno resolved to talk to Aura and ask her what she wanted to do.

 

*

 

Elena walked into the training room and knelt down to tighten her shoelaces. It had been a while since she had had a proper workout. Despite not being as busy as they used to be, she still found that things always got in the way. Not wanting to lose her skills, she had promised herself that she would practice at least once every two days. Even if just to maintain her fitness.

“Elena…”

Looking up, Elena’s voice caught in her throat, preventing her reply.

“Come and spar with me.” Tseng said, heading for the mat by the far wall. Getting to her feet, Elena trailed behind him, watching as he pulled his long dark hair back and tied it. When he reached the centre, he turned to face her and Elena couldn’t help looking him over. Gone was the usual immaculate suit, and in its place more relaxed casual wear. Through the loose shirt she could definitely make out the toned body he usually kept hidden. Looking away quickly, Elena prayed that her thoughts hadn’t been visible on her face. That was the last thing she needed. “Are you ready?” he asked her.

Taking her jacket off, Elena straightened her shirt and turned to face him more properly. “I’m ready.” Tseng moved into a defensive stance and looked at her. Knowing he wanted her to attack him, she balanced herself before she quickly did so. He moved like lightening. She had forgotten just how fast he was, and before long she had become so distracted being in awe of how fantastic he was, and then she was on her back on the mat looking up at him.

“Focus, Elena.” He told her.

“Yes, sir.” She answered, getting to her feet and turning to face him once more. He resumed his defensive position and Elena attacked again. He blocked her every attempt and before she knew it she was defending as he advanced upon her. Being unprepared for the sudden shift, Elena was trying hard enough to keep her balance as she fought to keep up with him. A moment later she was on her back again.

“Are you out of practice, Elena?”

“No, sir.” She ground out between her clenched teeth as she got to her feet once again. She would not let herself look like an untrained rookie. She was damn good at hand to hand, and he knew it.

“Good, then show me.”

She leaped at him, trying to catch him unprepared, but Tseng was never unprepared. He met her every move, back and forth. Once again he forced Elena into the defensive and she shifted her weight as she attempted to block him. He kept coming at her and Elena was forced back further across the mat. Ducking as his fist came at her head, Elena let out a slight cry as she was lifted off her feet and then somehow was once again on her back with Tseng pressing her into the mat. She didn’t know how it had happened. He was too fast.

Blinking at him in surprise, she tried to ignore her breath catching in her throat. A piece of his hair had come free of the tie and now fell about his face as he looked silently at her, and Elena wanted to take it between her fingers. Feeling the heat in her cheeks, Elena also tried to ignore how pleasant it felt to have Tseng’s body pressing down on her the way it was. It was just the exercise. Definitely had nothing to do his firm body against hers. Definitely.

Tseng suddenly made a soft noise in his throat and quickly got off her. “… Good job, Elena.” He murmured.

“You swept the floor with me three times…” She replied, getting to her feet indignantly. He flashed her a rare smile.

“You still lasted longer than most.”

Rolling her shoulder, Elena nodded slightly. “I guess I’ll take that…”

“Good.” Tseng answered, “I’ll expect you changed and back to work within the hour.”

“Yes, sir.” She murmured, heading for the showers.

 

*

 

Aura frowned when Reno said nothing. He had walked into her house the instant she had opened the door, seated himself upon her couch, and said nothing.

“…Is this about being at the bar?”

He just shook his head, still not saying anything. Aura began to get scared. As if sensing that, Reno looked up at her. “I have… to talk to you about something…”

“So talk…” she breathed.

“So, my boss knows about you…”

“Rufus Shinra…”

“Yes. After Elena introduced you to Tseng and Rude… Word got back to Rufus that Elena knows an Apothecary. Now Rufus wants me to look into the possibility of you working for him to create a cure for Geostigma.”

Aura just stared at him, waiting for her brain to catch up to what Reno was saying. Work for ShinRa? It was ShinRa’s fault that her father had died. Half the horror she had seen under the Plate had been because of ShinRa. But, she reasoned, ShinRa was the reason that she and Reno were alive today. She doubted very much that they would have survived long without Reno getting work with them.

“It’s up to you.” Reno told her.

“I don’t know.” She replied softly. “I… I just don’t …” She ran her hands through her hair. “Reno… How do I even think about that…?”

“Just… Weigh everything…” He told her gently. “If you agree with Rufus… You will be a part of ShinRa. Everything that has been going on lately will include you. People won’t be as friendly. It will be dangerous.” He looked at her, “But… You will have access to a lab. Ingredients. You will be able to make your potions and anything else you want. You will work on a cure for Geostigma. You may even develop it.” He smiled gently, “And I would get to see you every day.”

Aura smiled back.

“You…” He frowned for a second, “You will want to negotiate with him. Rufus respects that. “ He looked at her, “No matter what his offer is, counter it. Make your own demands.”

“He doesn’t seem like the type to enjoy being told he can’t have what he wants.”

“Oh, he doesn’t.” Reno agreed, “But he respects strength.”

“I think I will.” Aura said, “I’ll work for him.” She watched as a strange look passed across Reno’s face for a second before it was gone. A moment later he got to his feet.

“Okay. I have to head back.”

Aura got to her feet and followed him to the door. “… When…?”

“I’ll probably be back tomorrow or the day after.” He replied, “I’ll have to take you to Rufus then.”

“Okay. Be careful.” She breathed, reaching out to touch his arm. Reno turned before the door and wrapped his arms around her. Aura’s eyes closed immediately as he held her tightly to himself. “You’re not comfortable with me working for ShinRa, are you?”

“I just want you to be safe.” He answered, his hand moving slowly through her hair. “I tried to keep you away from them for that reason, and now it seems that it’s even more dangerous to work for them than to stay away from them…”

Aura leaned into him, wrapping her own arms around his waist. “If I’m working in a lab, then it’s not as if I’ll be wandering the streets in some obvious uniform, yo.”

“I know.” His hand stroked her hair softly, “It just worries me.”

Aura looked up at him. “Good thing you’ll be able to check on me every day, then.”

He smiled then. “It is.” Releasing her, he stepped back and opened the door. “I’ll see you soon.”

“I’ll be here…” She said as he hurried out the door and onto the street. Closing the door, she locked it carefully and then peered out the curtains to watch as Reno disappeared around the end of the street. Working for ShinRa; not something that she had ever thought she would be doing. The prospect of getting to work in a lab and create things to help people was just too great. She would be able to make so many useful concoctions. ShinRa were sure to have ingredients she had never even been able to get her hands on. It would definitely be worth it, not to mention if she did manage to come up with a cure for Geostigma. Yes, ShinRa was absolutely a risk that she needed to take.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

“Rufus what?” Elena gasped, looking at Reno, her eyes wide. He nodded slowly.

“Yeah… Wants me to bring her in.” He repeated, watching as Elena frowned then.

“Are you going to?”

“I have to.”

“Is this because I took her to 7th Heaven?” she asked, her eyes growing even wider. Reno considered telling her it was but instead shook his head.

“I doubt we could have kept it up forever anyway.” He replied, “Rufus was bound to find out.”

Elena ran a hand through her hair as she looked at him. “So, does she know?”

“Yeah.” Reno sighed, “She’s agreed to work for him, yo.”

“Well,” Elena tilted her head in that way she did when thinking about something, “I suppose getting to see her everyday will be good…”

“That’s what I figured.”

“We need some more people working for ShinRa these days, anyway.”

“Yup.”

 

When Elena had returned to her paperwork, Reno grabbed his leather jacket and headed out the door. As he headed for Aura’s house, his mind raced. He considered every aspect of every situation he could come up with. He had gone through all of them before, but he could not help going through them again. He may have missed something. Having come to no different conclusion by the time he reached her street, Reno pulled his jacket on. It wasn’t a complete disguise, but it definitely made his uniform less conspicuous.

He shuffled nervously while he waited for her to answer her door. When she did, he stepped through immediately and wrapped his arms around her as he kicked the door shut behind himself. Aura stumbled slightly before he pulled her tightly to his chest.

“What’s wrong?” She murmured, her hand patting him tentatively on the back.

“I just… want you to be sure…” he breathed.

“Reno, it’s fine.” She replied softly, “It’s not like I’m going somewhere you won’t be able to see me. I’ll be working for the same man you are. You’ll be right there.”

“At work will be fine.” He said, his hand moving down her back, “But it’s when you’re not at work. When I can’t protect you.”

Aura titled her head back to look up at him. “You taught me to fight.”

“I know.”

“Besides, once we’re workmates, you will be able to visit me all the time. Every day, even.”

 

Reno watched the small smile turn the corners of her lips, before it spread right across her face. He grinned in turn and then released her. Looking her over, he realised that she had put effort into her outfit. She had clearly tried to look professional. They had not had much exposure to that kind of aesthetic under the plate, and he remembered it had taken him a while to grasp the look when he had first started working for ShinRa. So, yes, Aura had tried. Her look was somewhat off, however.

“What do you think?” She asked, clearly having noticed him looking her over. Reno bit his lip and Aura’s smile faded. “That bad, yo?”

“Nah, come on.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her up the hallway to her bedroom. “Just…” he flicked through her wardrobe and pulled out a small jacket. Handing it to her, he watched her slip it on over the top she wore. “And…” he cast his eye around the room. “Just a little…” Spotting some ribbons on her night stand, he strode over and picked up one that complimented the jacket Aura now wore. Walking back over to her, he slipped it around behind her neck, and carefully lifted her hair up over it before tying a loose bow around her collar. “There.”

Taking her gently by the shoulders, Reno turned her toward the mirror.

“Ah…” She nodded.

“Now you’re ready.”

“Alright.” She turned back to face him, “Take me to ShinRa.”

Nodding, Reno turned for the door and led her back down the hallway. When he reached her front door, he turned to see Aura standing, twisting her hands together. “Ready?”

“Do I need to take anything?” She asked him.

“No.”

“Then, yes. I’m ready.”

 

*

 

Aura forced herself to breathe evenly as Reno walked her up a long corridor. The door at the end seemed to grow more and more intimidating. She turned to look up at her friend when he came to a stop beside her. His hand rested momentarily on the handle. “I can’t go in with you.” He told her.

“Why?” She asked.

“I don’t know you, remember?” He breathed. She nodded slowly.

“Right.” She murmured. Reno tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Thanks.”

“Just remember,” he told her, “The President has asked for you. You don’t have to seek his approval, Aur. He already wants you.”

Nodding silently, Aura kept looking up at him. She watched Reno’s aqua eyes move quickly over her. He was clearly as nervous about this as she was. His eyes closed for a second and he moved closer, his hand coming up to her cheek. An instant later he froze, and his eyes flickered open and he glanced quickly down the hall. “I… I’ll be waiting right here, yo.” He gave her a smile, his hand dropping to her shoulder.

“Okay.”

Reno opened the door for her, and Aura stepped through. Holding her breath, she walked slowly into the large room, her eyes moving quickly around, taking everything in. There were several windows along one wall, as well as a few chairs here and there. There was a potted fern over by one corner. Other than that the room was empty. Except, of course, for the large wooden desk sitting in front of the far wall. President Shinra sat behind it.

“Aura, please, come and have a seat.” The man gestured to one of the chairs in front of his desk. Aura moved closer, looking at the man. She had only ever seen him from a distance when he had made public appearances. Up close, he looked even more immaculate. His blonde hair was just as perfect as she had imagined it would be, and his white suit jacket over a black shirt was wrinkle-free. She vaguely wondered if he had to try for that effect or if it were just natural. If anyone were to be naturally perfect, she would bet it would be Rufus Shinra.

Sitting lightly in the chair he had indicated, she looked silently at him. “Has Reno told you why I wanted to speak with you?” He asked her simply.

“You have work for me.” She answered softly.

“I do.” Rufus pressed his hands together, his blue eyes focused intently upon her. “I am told that you have some skill in mixing cures for various ailments.” He said, “That you have been working with the Geostigma…”

“I have no cure for that…”

“Not yet.” He agreed, “I would like for you to come and work in my labs. You would have access to ingredients I am sure you would have been unable to procure elsewhere… sophisticated equipment…” Rufus gave her a thin smile, “You would be paid a considerable sum… I am sure you will find my generosity more than adequate…”

“The time.” Aura said, crossing her legs slowly, “There are people that need my help… What I do is important for a lot of people… I’m not okay with just giving that up.”

“You will, of course, be able to continue to see people at your house…” Rufus raised a hand, “You could do half days here… or every second day… whatever you prefer…”

“I would be free to come and go as I please?”

“…Yes.”

Aura tilted her head, looking at The President. “Do I have to wear a uniform?”

She watched as Rufus’ lip twitched as he clearly tried to work over his answer. “Do you not want to?”

“Wouldn’t go down too well in my neighbourhood, yo.”

Rufus nodded slowly, his blue eyes looking her over. “Then you can change when you arrive and leave. Is that acceptable to you?”

“Sure.”

“Then we have an agreement?” The man leaned back in his chair.

Aura nodded, “Looks like it.”

Rufus touched the phone on his desk. “Reno, get in here.” He said, before looking back to Aura. “Reno will show you the labs while I have your contract drawn up. You can sign it this afternoon.”

Aura looked over her shoulder when the door opened and Reno strode in. If she hadn’t known him so well she might not have noticed the stiff way he was holding himself as his eyes flicked quickly between her and his boss before coming to rest on The President.

“Sir?” Reno asked, moving toward the desk and coming to stand beside Aura’s chair.

“I want you to show Aura the labs. Show her where she will be working. She will sign her contract this afternoon. Bring her back in an hour.”

“Yes, Sir.” Reno lightly touched Aura’s shoulder and she got to her feet.

“Thank you… Sir.” Aura said softly.

 

Rufus inclined his head and Reno steered Aura out of the room, closing the door behind them. Out in the corridor, he slipped an arm around her shoulders. “So, how did it go?”

“Yeah, alright.” Aura replied, smiling up at him.

“What did you agree to?”

“I get to come and go as I please, and I’m still allowed to see people at home.” She tilted her head, “And I only have to wear a uniform while actually working here. I get to change when I leave.”

Reno flashed her a wide smile. “Good.”

“He said I would find his generosity more than adequate…” Aura said as Reno led her up the corridor. “Just how generous is he…?”

Reno glanced down at her as they walked. “Sounds like he’s going to give you quite a bit.”

“Should I not have asked for a specific number?”

Reno gave a slight shrug. “He knows anything he gives you will be more than you’re used to. The amount will be in the contract later, anyway.”

Aura tried to pay attention to the hallways and where things were as Reno pointed them out to her. The Lodge wasn’t all that big, but it didn’t seem to be planned out in any logical way that made sense to Aura.

“So, the labs are up here…” Reno took her up a short flight of stairs and pushed open a large double door. Aura followed him in and looked around.

“OH HI!” A high pitched squeal went up and Aura flinched. She resisted a sigh when Zena came hurrying toward them. “Well, what have we here?” The blonde asked, coming to a stop before them. “I remember you.”

Aura nodded, looking back at the woman. “I remember you, too.”

“Aura now works for ShinRa.” Reno said, “The President has hired her to work here on a cure.”

Aura watched as Zena looked her over again, “I figured as much.” She said, her tone ever so slightly dismissive. “Very well.”

Aura followed Zena around as the woman gave her a slight tour of the lab. Aura was silent, watching Zena as she tried to figure the woman out. She was having difficulty trying to piece together the apparent two sides of the blonde. The woman she had met at the bar the other night who appareared to be a bit of a floozy seemed incompatible with the professional medical officer, doctor, and researcher that this Zena appeared to be. She had been told the other night that Zena was good at her job, but she supposed that she had needed to see it in person to completely understand.

“So… you’re the Doctor?” Aura asked.

“I am.”

“How much time do you get working up in here then? Working on other things?”

Zena flipped her curly hair over her shoulder. “More than you’d think.” She said, “Depends on these ones.” She indicated Reno, “And how damaged they go and get themselves…”

“We do what we can, yo.” Reno murmured, flashing the women a smile.

“So… who else works up here?” Aura asked lightly.

“There are a few people who come and go for various things.” Zena told her, “But they don’t stay long. Mostly it’s just me when I’m here.”

“Oh…”Aura nodded, wondering how well she would be able to deal working that closely with Zena all the time.

“So,” Zena said, running her hands absently down her white coat, “Once the President has given me his orders for you, I’ll have set you up a station and everything you need. It should all be organised by the time you start.”

“Thank you…” Aura smiled at her.

“If you want,” Zena offered, “I can show you the infirmary too… You’ll probably need to know your way around there, too.”

“Yeah. Sound good, yo.” Aura followed her to the door, Reno trailing behind.

Zena led the way down the stairs, and Aura looked back over her shoulder at Reno who smiled at her. “This is probably where I spend most of my time.” Zena told her as they reached the doors to the infirmary.

“Alright.” Aura nodded, following her in. She then stood in the centre of the room while Zena flitted about the place, telling her all the important things that went on in there. After about fifteen minutes of this, Aura looked up at Reno expressionlessly.

“Right, okay, yeah.” Reno cut in, stopping Zena, “I need to be getting’ Aura back to the Boss.” He put an arm around Aura’s shoulders and turned her around, steering her back toward the door. “Thanks, Zena.”

“I’ll see you later, then.” Zena’s voice rang out behind them as the infirmary doors swung shut.

“Wow.” Aura breathed, causing Reno to let out a low chuckle.

“Yeah.” He tightened his arm around her shoulders as he led her back up the hallways. Aura was glad he was guiding her, because she was already lost. It would take her a while to get used to the place and figure out her way around. “I’m figuring that The Prez has probably gotten your contract ready by now…”

“Should I be worried about secret clauses in there…?”

Reno looked down at her. “Maybe at one time, but I wouldn’t think so now, yo.” He paused for a moment, “Read it anyway.”

They waited at Reno’s desk until Aura was summoned. Returning to Rufus’ office, she took up her seat across from him at his desk.

“This is a simple contract.” Rufus told her, pushing a piece of paper across the polished surface of the desk. Aura took it and looked at it. “It entails the terms we discussed earlier. You may read it before you sign it.”

“Okay.”

“If you don’t understand anything, feel free to ask.”

Aura’s eyes flicked up to meet his. “I’m not an idiot, yo.”

“No, of course not. Forgive me.”

Aura looked back to the paper in her hand.

“There is one thing…” Rufus said softly, “I want you to be clear on this. Your loyalty is now to ShinRa. That means that your responsibilities reach further than the lab.”

“…Right…” Aura looked at him uncertainly. “It means that if you happen to be out around Edge, or anywhere else, and you learn something or have the chance to learn something that would be important to ShinRa, you have the responsibility to take that information and report back on it. Anything at all, I want to hear about it.”

Aura blinked. She had expected as much. “Yes, Sir.”

“Very well.” Rufus gestured for her to continue reading. Aura read through the entire contract. It was just as Rufus had said. Her terms from earlier and her responsibilities to the company. Once she was satisfied, she looked back at him.

“May I have a pen?”

Rufus took one from his drawer and passed it to her silently. Aura signed it and pushed it all back across his desk.

“Thank you.” Aura watched Rufus’ blue eyes scan the document and then nod when everything was to his liking. “Alright, that was all I needed.” He looked at her, “You can start as soon as you like. Zena will have everything you need.”

Nodding, Aura got to her feet, pushing her hair back behind her ears. “Okay, great. Thank you.” He waved his hand, signalling that she was free to go. Turning, Aura walked silently from the room. Reno was waiting for her at his desk. “So… do you officially work for ShinRa now?”

“You know it, yo.”

“So, are you going back upstairs or going home?” Reno leaned back in his chair, putting his feet up on his desk.

“I think home for today.” She replied, adjusting her jacket. “Better give Zena enough time to get all my stuff ready.” She grinned.

“Want me to take you home?”

“I think I’ll be okay.”

Reno nodded, “I’ll see you later then. We’ll celebrate.”

“Sound great.” She agreed.

Aura bumped into Elena on her way out, earning herself an excited squeak from the younger woman. Unable to help a slight laugh when Elena began bouncing on the balls of her feet when she learned that Aura had signed her contract, she was then promised a proper celebration when they were done for the day. Telling her friend that she was looking forward to it, Aura set off home. She didn’t think that it had properly sunk in yet. She worked for ShinRa now. How bizarre.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen

Aura took the access key that Zena thrust into her hands. Slipping it into her pocket, she nodded, listening as the woman rattled off codes and protocols.

“But I’ve written it all down so you can go over it later.” The blonde finished.

“Thanks.”

“I’ve set up a locker over here for you.” She led Aura to the other side of the room. “This is where you can keep your clothes when you change. Or, any of your personal belongings, I suppose.”

“Right…”

“Now, I know you are allowed to choose your own hours and days and whatnot… but if you could let me know what you’re planning from time to time, that will allow for me to best plan for the lab.”

“Sure, yo.” Aura nodded. Zena looked her over and Aura had the sudden urge to smooth her hair down or fix her collar.

“You’re from under the plate…”

“Yes…”

“Right, well, that reminds me.” Zena told her, “There is the medical exam.”

“The what…?” Aura took a step back.

“Every ShinRa employee has a medical file. It’s protocol.”

 

Aura jumped when the doors flew open. Turning, she watched as Reno strode in. “Mornin’ ladies.” He greeted, “Came to see what’s goin’ on.”

“Just explaining to Aura the protocol of the medical exam.”

“That’s what I figured.” Reno nodded, his eyes flicking toward Aura who shook her head. “Why don’t you get your stuff ready?” He said to Zena. Aura watched as Zena turned away and went to start collecting things. “Aur…”

“No.” Aura breathed, turning on Reno quickly. “No… No, she’s not…”

“It’s okay…”

“No.”

“Yes…”

“No!” she hissed, backing further away, “I’m not going to let her!”

“Aura, come here…”

Aura knew he was trying to use his soothing voice, but she backed further away from him all the same. “I’m not letting her touch me with anything.”

Before she had the chance to even process what was happening, Reno had moved at lightning speed and wrapped his hands around her wrists, pulling her to himself and holding tightly while he whispered in her ear. “I am not going to let her hurt you.” He breathed, “She’s not going to inject you with anything. She just needs to take a sample of your blood. It needs to go on file. It’s to help you.” Aura couldn’t resist a whine. One of Reno’s hands stroked gently down her back. “I will be here the whole time. You’re perfectly safe.” He told her. “This is important.”

 

He let her go as Zena returned, and Aura forced herself to draw one breath after another. “Okay, come and have a seat over here.” Zena said, patting one of the gurneys, “We’ll see if you have the same type of blood as Reno.”

“What?” She murmured as she moved toward Zena.

“Well, coming from under the plate, Reno here has unique blood. Well, compared with the rest of us from above… There’s some stuff in his blood that causes him to have some pretty nasty reactions to the regular medications we use… He’s got to have stuff specially made for him.” Zena paused as she waited for Aura to sit, “So, when we check your blood out, we will see if you’re the same.”

Aura tried to breathe normally as she sat herself in front of Zena. After what had been done to her when she was fifteen, she was pretty sure her blood was messed up. She didn’t need a fancy test to tell her that. She tried not to panic when Zena started to prepare a large needle. Reno stepped up beside her, his hand taking one of hers. Aura squeezed it, her eyes not leaving the needle.

Zena paused, looking between them when she turned back to Aura. “Bit of a fear of needles, it seems.” Reno explained.

“Really?” Zena asked, “I bet that’s unusual, coming from under the plate…”

“I’d say not.” Reno replied drily.

“Okay, well just relax…” Zena told Aura.

“You fuckin’ relax, yo!” Aura practically yelped. Zena sniffed and stepped closer.

 

Aura turned her head away, unwilling to watch the woman push the needle into her arm. She leaned into Reno, pressing her face into his shoulder. She tried to swallow the panic as she felt Zena take hold of her arm. “It’s okay…” Reno whispered, his breath warm against her ear. Aura shook her head silently, her eyes closed tightly.

“There you go.”Zena said briskly. “Didn’t feel a thing, did you?”

Aura opened her eyes, and turned to look at the woman. “No, I didn’t.”

“There you are, then.” The blonde smiled, “Nothing to be afraid of.”

Aura just nodded, not feeling like trying to explain to her that she wasn’t afraid of the pain. “Is that all?”

“No.” Zena replied, fiddling with a small plastic bag in her hands. “That’s the only needle, though. I still have to look you over. Check your health. Then I’ll check your blood for diseases and that sort of thing.”

“Diseases…I don’t have any diseases…”

“It’s protocol.” Zena said, waving her hand, “Just checking for STDs and things like that…”

Aura felt colour flush her cheeks. “I don’t…have…”

Reno’s hand rubbed her back gently, and Aura just watched Zena silently as the woman moved around, setting up her blood test.

“Okay… so I think you’ll be fine, now…” Reno said softly. Aura glanced up at him.

“You came in here knowing what was going to happen…” She replied.

“’course” He answered.

“Thanks.”

 

Reno just winked at her and moved away. “I’ll catch you later, ladies.” He said, giving a wave, “Places to go, people to see…”

“Bye, Reno…” Zena grinned, “Maybe we can go out later…”

 

Reno just gave another wave before walking out the door, letting it swing shut behind him. Aura let out a slow breath and Zena headed back toward her. “Alright, lose the shirt.” The woman said, “I’m going to listen to your breathing.”

Aura unbuttoned her shirt and let it fall from her shoulders.

“You know,” Zena said, “Breathe in…” Aura did so. “And out…” Aura let her breath out slowly. “You’ve really got that whole innocent damsel thing down…”

“What?” Aura asked.

“Breathe in. I saw the way you had Reno holding your hand and being all supportive… Breathe out…” Aura just watched Zena as the woman continued. “You played that well.”

“I wasn’t playing anything.”

“Yeah, sure.” Zena looked at her, “You can put the shirt back on.”

Aura did the buttons up while Zena filled in some form. “I wasn’t…”

“Oh, be proud.” Zena replied, “It was effective. Sweet Shiva, I had underestimated you.” The woman smiled at her and Aura just stared back. “You may be a sweet, cute little thing, but you know how to use it, I’ll give you that.”

Aura just stared. Did this woman seriously think that she had been playing Reno to somehow get at him? “…Is that what you do?” She asked the Doctor.

“Oh…” Zena smiled, “Not like that. The whole innocence thing doesn’t really work for me. It’s not my style.”

“Does it usually work?”

“Always.” Zena grinned, “And that is why I will get Reno.” She flicked her curls over her shoulder. “Sorry, honey. I told you the other night. I don’t think you’re quite his type. I’m more his style. I’ve been working him for a while now. He’s really not going to have a choice in the matter.”

Aura scowled at those words. “Everyone should have the choice.” She murmured, “Always.”

 

*
Aura coughed as she staggered up the street, looking for Reno. It had been eight months since he had first taken her home when she had been drugged. They had lasted well enough during those months, but now it was getting colder. The little shack of a house they lived in was freezing. During the night it was downright icy. They were unable to afford anything to heat the house, and so they spent the nights huddled together under the thin blankets they did have. Over the last few weeks, however, that had become ineffective and it hadn’t been long before they had become ill.

Her coughing had gotten worse last night. She had had fit after fit, and she had hardly slept at all. Reno had become distressed around midnight. They both knew that an infection in the chest in their neighbourhood usually didn’t end with recovery. So, he had held her and pat her on the back as she struggled for breath until she managed to slip into a light sleep somewhere about dawn. When she had awoken it was to see Reno pulling his jacket on.

“Hey Aur…” He knelt beside her, brushing her sleep-matted hair back from her face. Aura coughed lightly, wincing as her ribs ached. “Don’t get up…” He told her, stroking her hair. “This isn’t going to happen.” Aura’s eyes met his when she heard his voice change. It was suddenly lower, more serious. “I’m not going to let it. I will get you some medicine. I swear.” Aura wanted to ask him how, but all that she managed was another coughing fit. The fit ended in tears as she lay, unable to move, while her ribs protested the constant pressure.

“Ow…” She breathed, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Don’t move.” Reno told her, stroking her hair down. “Stay here. I’ll take care of it.”

With that, Reno got to his feet and left. Aura lay where she was for a few minutes. Her mind struggled to make sense of what Reno had said. He had said he would get her medicine, but they could barely afford food. Oftentimes they couldn’t even afford that. How was he going to get her medicine? It was even more expensive. They had nothing of worth to sell or trade. It didn’t make sense. She began to worry. What was he going to do? He was going to get himself in trouble.

Forcing herself to her knees, Aura struggled through another coughing fit before staggering to her feet. She had to find him and stop him doing something stupid.

As she staggered up the street, leaning against the wall for support, Aura tried to work out where he would have gone. Looking around, she fought against the wave of dizziness that washed over her. She wouldn’t last too long on her feet.

She staggered further up the street, unaware of where she was going, just knowing that she had to keep moving. She didn’t know how long she looked before she spotted his vibrant red hair. She only vaguely registered that he was talking to someone, and when she finally reached him they were entering an alley.

“Aura…!” Reno caught her as she fell against him. “What are you doing? Go home!” She looked up at him.

“No…” she choked.

“Aura!”

“You’re going to do something stupid…” She leaned into him as another coughing fit shook her. Reno’s arms tightened around her, holding her upright.

“I’m going to do what I have to.”

“So, this is what you need the money for is it?” The man behind Reno spoke up.

“None of your business what I need it for, yo.” Reno replied, still holding Aura tightly. Aura coughed again and Reno looked down at her. Her eyes closed for a second as her head swam. “For Shiva’s sake, Aur…”

“So are we doin’ this or what, Red?” the man behind Reno drawled. Aura watched Reno roll his eyes and look around at the guy.

“I have to get her home… I can meet you back here…”

“Nuh.” The guy replied, “It’s now or we forget it…”

“Fuck.” Reno breathed, looking around.

“Come on, then.”

“Aur…” Reno sighed, picking her up. “You’re gonna sit here just a minute…” He carried her over to a small crate by the wall. Sitting her gently on it, he slipped his jacket off and draped it over her shoulders.

“What are you doing?” She breathed, looking up at him.

“Don’t worry about it.” He replied, stepping back from her. “Just sit here. Don’t move.”

Aura watched, her head spinning once more, as Reno followed the man into the alley nearby. After a moment, she pulled herself to her feet by the wall and staggered toward the alley. If Reno was thinking of whoring himself, he could think again. They didn’t do that. They always found another way.

Not far into the alley, they came into view. The man was leaning back against the alley wall, with Reno on his knees before him. Aura’s breath caught in her throat as she watched the man’s head tilt back to rest against the wall as his hands moved through Reno’s hair. Taking another step, she stumbled, catching herself against the wall. Reno must have heard her as he tried to pull away, but the hands in his hair tightened, and he was held firmly in place as the man standing over him took control of the situation. Horrified, Aura forced herself forward. She had barely gotten within reach of them when the man lifted a hand from her friend’s hair and given her a hard shove. Already off balance, Aura fell back against the other wall and found herself sprawled among old boxes and crates on the damp ground. A coughing fit seized her immediately and she was prevented even sitting up for what seemed like forever.

 

When she was finally able to draw an entire breath, she pushed herself up into a sitting position and Reno was released, scrambling across the alley to her.

“Aur…? Aura?” His hands pushed her hair back from her face as he looked her over. “Aur, can you breathe?”

She nodded, tears stinging her eyes as she looked at him. Behind him, the man watching them did his pants up. “Such a talented, pretty mouth…” He said to Reno.

“Reno…” She breathed, tears trailing her cheeks, “Why?”

“You know why.”He replied softly.

 

She shook her head, prevented from answering by another coughing fit. Her vision went black for a moment, and when it cleared Reno was doing his jacket up around her. She coughed again, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth, and she watched the colour drain from Reno’s face when she lowered her hand to find it splattered with blood.

“It’s gonna be pricey, gettin’ somethin’ to fix that up.” The man behind Reno said. Reno closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them he nodded. “I got an idea… I’m interested in seein’ just how talented you are…”

Reno looked over his shoulder at him. “That’ll be pricey.”

“No…” Aura wheezed. Reno’s fingers stroked her cheek softly.

“Don’t look.” He told her, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Close your eyes.” He whispered as he got to his feet and turned back to face the man now watching him with a wide smirk. Aura wanted to scream. “So, what were you thinkin’, yo?” Reno asked him.

Aura turned her face away as Reno walked back over to him. She couldn’t watch as the man looked him over, his hands being allowed to wander. She tried not to listen to what they were saying, tried not to listen to what Reno was agreeing to. A silent coughing fit shook her, and Aura tried to smother it with her hands. Wiping her hands on her skirt when it had passed, she leaned back against the wall, aching all over.

“…I think further…” Reno said.

“Here’s fine.” The man replied.

Aura turned her eyes back on them in time to see the man grab Reno by the wrist and turn him. She watched as her friend was pushed against a dumpster and then forced down over it.

“No, I really think we could move further away…” Reno said, his eyes flicking up to meet Aura’s. “Tor, c’mon…”

 

Tor laughed, also looking over at Aura. “I said here’s fine.” He repeated, grinning as he tugged Reno’s pants down. Aura’s eyes filled with tears again. She quickly looked away, choking back the tears, and trying to keep her breathing even as she felt her chest constrict. Glancing back at them, Aura watched Tor kick Reno’s feet further apart as he adjusted his position. Unable to hold her sobs in, Aura then clamped her hands over her ears trying to block out the grunts of pain from Reno that were now echoing up the alley.

She looked up when three men walked into the alley. “Hey yo,” One called, “What’ve you found, Tor?”

Aura looked around. Tor grinned at the men, his hands still on Reno’s hips, maintaining the rhythm of his thrusts. “It’s pretty good, boys.” He answered, “Uh. You should try it.”

“You feel like sharing?”

“Yea, come have a go.” Tor snickered.

“What?” Reno looked around at Tor.

“Relax.” Tor replied, thrusting again. “You’ll be paid for it.”

 

Aura shook her head and scrambled to her feet. “You can’t…” She shrieked when two of the men grabbed her.

“Oh, you’ve found two…” The taller of the men said.

“No!” Protested Reno, trying to push away from the dumpster, “No, not her…”

Aura began coughing, sagging in the grip of the two men who held her. “But she’s so cute…” The one who had spoken before said.

“No.” Reno said again, “Me… Just me…”

“Right.” Tor smirked, stepping back, “Who wants the next go?”

“Just…let her go…” Reno said, standing straighter. “Let her go home…”

“No…” Tor replied, “She can watch…”

Aura watched horror spread across Reno’s face. “Why?”

“She can watch.” Tor repeated, “Or she can participate.”

Aura kept coughing. “She’s sick.” Reno said, “At least put her down. Let her sit…”

 

The two men holding Aura lowered her back to the ground where she had been sitting before. She then watched as the three of them went over to stand with Tor, surrounding Reno. “No…” She whispered, looking away. “No… No…” Clamping her hands over her ears, Aura squeezed her eyes shut as tightly as she could. Then, bringing her knees up to her chest, she pressed her face into them, coughing harshly. She didn’t want to know what was happening. She didn’t want to see and she didn’t want to hear. If she had have had the strength, she would have crawled from the alley, just to get away from it all. But, she knew that she wouldn’t have been able to leave Reno alone with it.

Keeping her face pressed into her knees, Aura tried to block out the muffled sounds she could hear even though her hands remained firmly clasped over her ears. She tried not to listen, she tried to think about anything else, but even so, Aura knew exactly when each one of the men had finished with Reno.

She didn’t move, even when the sounds had stopped. Rocking herself slightly, she remained exactly where she was. A hand on her back caused Aura to jump in shock, and look up. “Aur…”

The second Aura met Reno’s eyes she burst into tears. “Don’t… Shh…”

“I…I…” She shook her head, coughing and closing her eyes as her head spun. Reno wiped the blood from her lip with his thumb.

“We’ll talk about this at home.” He told her gently. “Can you walk?”

“Can you?” she breathed.

“I can do what I have to.”

Aura allowed Reno to pull her to her feet. Then, as he wrapped an arm around her waist to support her, together, they staggered back to their house. Reno put Aura on the mattress and turned immediately, walking out the door. She watched him go silently.

He returned not ten minutes later, a small vial in his hand. Kneeling beside her, Reno helped Aura sit up. “You need to take this.” He told her, removing the stopper. She sputtered softly, looking at him.

“What is it?”

“What do you think it is, Aur?”

She looked at him and his expression softened. “Just take it.” Aura took the vial with a trembling hand and raised it to her lips. “All of it.” He told her. Nodding, Aura swallowed the entire contents of the vial.

Reno got to his feet. “Good. I’m gonna shower. Do not get off this mattress.”

Silently, Aura watched him leave the room. She did not move until he returned. When he did so, he sat down in front of her, not saying a word. She began to cry again. Any stoicism Reno had crumbled instantly and he wrapped his arms around her, laying back on the mattress and taking her with him. She cried into his shoulder, unable to speak. Gently, Reno rubbed her back.

“I’m sorry you had to see that.” He murmured.

“Y-you didn’t have to do it.”

“You think so?” He asked.

Aura nodded. “You didn’t.”

“And then tomorrow I would have woken up and you would have been dead.”

Aura sobbed harder, “Then I should have done it.”

“Don’t say that. You’re never to do that. You hear me? Don’t even say it. I don’t want to think about that.” He told her.

“It was my fault.”

“No.” he told her, his hand moving in slow, comforting circles on her back. “It was just a necessary thing. Now it’s over.”

“Never do it again.” She breathed. Reno’s other hand moved through her hair.

“Not if I have the choice.”

“There’s always a choice.” Aura murmured.

“No, Aur.” He replied gently, “There’s not.”

 

*

 

Aura remained silent while Zena prattled on about her skills in getting just about whatever she wanted. Once the woman had run all her tests and informed Aura that she was disease free, and that she did indeed have the same aversion to medicine from above the plate that Reno did, Aura was allowed to spend the rest of the day getting acquainted with the labs.

When she had decided that she had had enough for one day, she left. Deciding that she wasn’t yet ready to go home, Aura went in search of Elena.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen

Reno leaned against the wall, watching the street, silently. Rude frowned beside him.

'‘Somethin’ the matter, partner?” Reno asked, resisting a yawn.

“I was going to ask you the same thing.” Rude answered. Reno pushed his hair from his face dismissively.

“Nothin’ yo.”

“You’ve been quiet for over fifteen minutes.”

“So?”

“So I had to check that you weren’t dead.”

“I thought I was meant to be the dramatic one.” Reno said, slanting a glance at his partner. Rude made a displeased sound, and Reno decided to change the subject. “When’s the last time you saw Tifa?”

“The other night.”

“You didn’t even speak to her.”

“I ordered a drink.”

“Uh, you’re so sad.” Reno grinned.

“Really?” Rude replied flatly, “What would be less sad? Screwing some random woman for the sake of it?”

Reno shrugged and looked back to the street. “You could at least make a move.”

“No…”

“Rude… if you like the woman, you gotta tell her, yo.” He looked at his partner, “She’s not a mindreader. Besides, I think Tifa would be into a man who takes a bit of control.”

“But not a Turk.” Rude muttered. Reno looked at his partner again.

“You think she won’t go for you because you work for ShinRa?”

“That’s exactly what I think.” Rude replied simply. “You know what happened to her father.”

“Yeah.” He’d read the file on her. “But things have changed. She knows you now. You’re not just some guy in a fancy ShinRa suit. She’s… friendly… with us now. I think you’d be surprised.”

Rude didn’t reply, and Reno knew to drop the subject. The big man would do whatever he wanted to do. That didn’t mean that Reno couldn’t find out how Tifa might feel about his friend, though.

*

Aura stumbled to her front door, her hair a mess and her eyes barely open. It was far too early for anybody to be bashing on her front door. Checking the way Reno had taught her, she frowned when she saw a young boy standing on her front step. She jumped when he thumped the door again.

“Hello?” She asked, opening the door as she pulled her robe tightly around herself. The boy looked up at her, tears streaking his face.

“You’re a healer?” he asked, eyes wide.

“Of sorts…” Aura answered, “Are you hurt?”

“Not me.” He replied, “My mum…” he rubbed his face, “She was cooking and she burned herself. She needs help. You have to come!”

“Oh-okay…” Aura nodded, “Let me get some things… and put clothes on…” The boy moved into her living room while Aura rushed back to her bedroom. She quickly yanked a dress from her wardrobe and pulled it on before pulling her brush quickly through her hair. She then hurried back out to the livingroom, grabbing her basket from the table, she ran into the kitchen, throwing open her cupboards. Hurriedly pulling out anything she had that might be useful for burns, Aura called out to the boy. “How long ago was she burned?”

“I don’t know…” He answered, “I ran here… Maybe ten minutes…”

“Okay.”

Running back into the living room, Aura grabbed her keys. The boy hurried out the door and Aura followed him, pulling her door closed behind herself, running up the street as quickly as she could. The boy was fast and Aura had a hard time keeping up with him. She had been just about to call out to him and ask him how much further it was when he darted into a building. Aura hesitated to follow. It was the pub she and Reno had gone into not long ago. The one where meetings were held to discuss ShinRa. After a moment the boy reappeared in the doorway.

“Here!” he called, “She’s in here!”

Aura swallowed and followed him inside. The boy darted across the room and behind the bar, heading back to where she supposed the kitchen was. Aura followed quickly.

“I brought her!” He called, as Aura rounded a corner and found herself in a small room.

“Good boy, Nik.” A tall man with brown hair said, ushering Aura forward. He moved aside as she drew closer and Aura was able to see the woman behind him. She looked to be about forty, and was slumped back against a chair, her eyes closed in pain.

Moving forward quickly, Aura knelt by the woman and looked her over. She had what looked to be some kind of oil burn across her hands and up one arm. Glancing up, she saw that the woman was now looking at her. “Hi, I’m Aura…” She told her gently, “I’m gonna get you all fixed up real quick. Don’t you worry.”

The woman just nodded, her eyes closing again.

“So… So, she’s gonna be alright?” Nik asked from behind Aura.

“She will be just fine.” Aura told him, glancing over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, yo.” She smiled reassuringly at him.

“You see, Nik.” The man by the door said, running a hand over the boy’s hair. “Your mum’ll be fine.”

Aura turned back to the woman before her, and rolled the sleeve on her burned arm up a little further. “We’ll just get that out of the way a bit… and then I’ve got a salve that will help with the pain.”

Unscrewing the lid on one of her jars, Aura began smearing the mixture on the woman’s arm. After a few moments the woman let out a slow breath and sat a little straighter. “… so what’s your name?” Aura asked her.

“Kera.”

“How’d you burn yourself?”

“Got a bit careless with breakfast.”

“Ouch.”

“…Mum?” Nik moved past Aura and climbed onto Kera’s lap.

“Careful, Nikki.” The man by the door warned.

“Yes, Uncle Cadan.” The boy murmured.

Aura sat back on her heels. “We will have to leave that salve on for a few minutes. Then when the pain is gone enough, I’ll take it off. After that I’ve got something that will help with the healing of the burn.”

“Cadan…” Kera said softly.

“Right.” Cadan moved toward Aura, “Would you like some tea, or something to drink…?”

“Sure, thanks.” She nodded, “Tea would be nice.” He smiled at her.

“Great. I’ll be right back.”

She smiled and looked back to Kera. “How is your arm? Is it numb?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, I’ll just wipe it all off.” She pulled a cloth from her basket and began cleaning the salve off carefully. “And then we will use this one… Smells a bit nicer, too.” She smiled again and took out a second jar.

“What’s it made of?” Nik asked as she unscrewed the lid.

“Lots of things.” Aura told him, scooping some out.

When she had covered Kera’s burn in the ointment, she wrapped it in a clean bandage and secured it gently. Nik then climbed off his mother’s lap and the woman got to her feet. “Thank you so much.”

“Not a problem.” Aura replied, putting her jars back in her basket.

“Uhm… I should get changed… Cadan will see you’re paid…” She stepped toward the door, “Nikki, you need to get dressed, too.”

The boy ran out the door and Kera followed with a smile. Aura picked up her basket and moved slowly to the door. The kitchen was right there, so she went inside. Walking toward Cadan, who had his back to her, she let out a soft breath as she cast her eyes around, remembering just where she was.

“Have a seat, Aura.” He said, glancing at her over his shoulder.

“Thanks.” She put her basket by her feet and took up a stool by the bench he was standing at. Picking up the mug Cadan pushed toward her, she inhaled deeply. “This smells delicious.”

He smiled at her. “It is. It’s a special blend Kera makes.”

“She’s your…”

“Sister.”

“Ah.”

“Have you been here before?” he asked, his hand gesturing back toward the bar.

“Once.” She nodded, “I came in with a friend after shopping in the market.”

“How’d you find it?” He asked, his honey-brown eyes looking hopefully at her. Aura couldn’t resist a small smile.

“We didn’t stay long.” She replied, “… But it seemed a friendly enough place.”

Cadan smiled back. “Perhaps you’ll come back.” He said, “We do dinners of an evening.”

“Oh, really?” Aura took a sip of her tea.

“From seven until nine.” He told her, “Sort of opened us up to families and gives the place a more family friendly feeling.”

“Nice idea, yo.”

“Yeah.” Cadan put a small purse of coins on the bench in front of her, “This is for you.” He smiled at her again, “And if you are interested, you’re welcome to come and join Kera, Nik, and I for dinner.”

Aura smiled back at him. “That would be nice.” She replied. Perhaps she would be able to learn something more about what went on here in relation to those meetings about ShinRa. She was having difficulty working out how it would be. Cadan seemed nice. Was he a part of the group who organised attacks on ShinRa? Was Kera? Did they know what their pub was used for? Remembering what Rufus had told her about having to take these opportunities to find out anything that would help him, she supposed that she would have to do it anyway.

When she had finished her tea, Cadan picked her basket up. “Let me walk you home?” He asked. She looked at him uncertainly and he gave a small smile, “Rumour has it that things could get pretty nasty out there today.”

“Nasty for who, yo?”

“The scum that is ShinRa.”

“I see.” She replied. So, likely he did know what went on in his pub. “Any particular reason today is special?”

He walked her to the door before he answered, “Shinra has his scum patrolling the city. People have had enough.”

“ShinRa are the reason we have a city…”

Cadan’s honey eyes turned on her and he replied very carefully, “Does that mean we are to be owned? Controlled? After what they did, we need to take control back before it all happens again.” He led her out onto the street. “You’re clearly from under the plate. Do you ever think about how lucky you are to not have lived under Seven?”

“Of course.” She replied softly. “But that wasn’t…”

“Of course it was ShinRa.” He waved his hand, “His Turks do all kinds of things like that. They can make it look however they want.”

Aura was silent, wondering if Reno knew who had dropped the plate on Sector Seven. She looked up when Cadan’s hand touched her back gently. “Sorry.” He said, “It’s all a bit heavy for this early in the morning. Especially as you don’t even know me.”

“That’s fine.” Aura said lightly, “You’re clearly quite passionate.”

“You could say that.” He nodded.

*

 

“I’m out of practice.” Elena muttered, playing with the condensation on her cup, her eyes focused upon her drink and not moving.

“Cheer up, Rookie.” Reno said, “Tseng can sweep the floor with all of us.”

“I used to be better. He used to have to work for it.”

“So practice more.” Reno watched her sigh. It was understandable. They could probably all use a bit of practice. It had been a while since they’d really needed to fight. Perhaps they needed to allocate more time to training once again. “I’ll work with you tomorrow.” He added. Elena’s eyes flicked up to him.

“Thanks, Reno.”

“Do I get to learn?” Aura asked, looking from one Turk to the next.

“I don’t see why not…” Elena replied, “You probably should.”

“You should ask Tseng for a training schedule.” Rude put in. Reno nodded, wondering who Tseng would assign to teach Aura. He supposed that if he asked, it could be him. He had taught her a little back in their days under the plate, but that was before even he had had training. There were so many more things he could teach her now. Moves which would suit her size and strengths. With things as they were now, and with Aura working for ShinRa, she definitely needed to learn.

Reno finished his drink and closed his eyes, listening to the music. Tapping his hand on the table, he figured another drink couldn’t hurt. Opening his eyes, he got to his feet, and headed over to the bar to try and get Tifa’s attention. Once at the bar, he winked at Tifa and watched her smile in acknowledgement while still serving a group up the other end of the bar. She’d get to him in a bit. Turning around, Reno looked back toward the table, meeting Rude’s eye. His friend hadn’t so much as approached the bar this evening. Reno wondered just how long Rude was going to try and avoid Tifa. “Worst strategy ever.” He murmured, turning back to the bar as Tifa approached him.

“Another two?” The woman asked.

“You know it, gorgeous.” He grinned.

“…This is the last I’m giving you.” She warned, opening two bottles. “You’ve had more than enough.”

“What if I send Rude to get the next ones?” He asked, leaning on the bar. “Would that soften you up?” He watched as Tifa’s eyes flickered toward the table his partner was sitting at and she frowned lightly.

“That would mean he’d have to come and speak to me.” She replied, “I don’t think he wants to.”

Reno tilted his head, “But if I got him to…” He smirked at her “Would you give me another then?”

“We’ll see.” Tifa replied lightly, taking the money he passed her “… if you’re even still able to stand on your feet.”

“Challenge accepted.” Reno nodded, before turning once more and carrying the two bottles back to the table, unable to help dancing to the music as he walked. Putting a bottle in front of Rude, he smirked at his friend. “You’re getting the next lot, yo.” Rude just picked up the bottle and took a sip wordlessly.

“Well, you two play that game.” Elena said, getting to her own feet, “Aura and I are going to dance.” Reno watched as the blonde woman pulled his friend onto the dance floor.

“If you want to go dance,” Rude said, “You should go and do that instead of tormenting me.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?” Reno asked, taking a long drink.

“And people say you’re not clever.”

“No they don’t.” He chuckled. Rude glanced at him and Reno smiled winningly back at him.

Five minutes later Reno had finished his drink and Rude had done nothing but stare across the room at Tifa. Bored, the redhead got to his feet.

“Fine.” He said, pushing his empty bottle away from himself. “You sit here and puss out of actually going over there… I have to dance.”

“Sounds good to me.” Rude replied flatly. Turning quickly, Reno strode onto the dance floor and over to Elena and Aura.

The beat was fast and energetic and Reno moved effortlessly. It had been a while since he had actually danced. Lately he had been happy to just sit and drink, but he had missed this. He had used to love dancing. In their time under the plate, he and Aura had done it a lot. Generally the clubs they had gone to were warmer than their house, and so they had spent a lot of time avoiding being at home. Watching the way Aura moved now, he knew that she hadn’t forgotten. Moving toward her, he smiled when she turned to him and reached a hand out. Taking it, Reno pulled her closer and into one of their old routines. Her light laugh reached him, even over the music, and he smiled more widely.

Reno felt his blood begin to race as they danced. He grew warmer as the music surrounded them until he no longer noticed anybody else on the dance floor. There was only Aura and the music. His hands moved down to her waist, pulling her closer as he moved with her and her hands moved around and up his back. Reno bit his lip. When Aura looked up and Reno met her green eyes with his own he backed her off the dance floor, toward the edge, his hands tightening on her waist.

“What are you doing?” She breathed as Reno pressed her back against a wall. One of his hands moved up to her cheek, keeping her in position as he pressed himself firmly against her. “Reno?”

Reno’s eyes moved quickly back and forth across her face as his fingers stroked her cheek. What was he doing? Stepping back from Aura, Reno lowered his hands. “I… I’m sorry.” He muttered, “Aur, I’m sorry.”

“…What?”

“Sorry.” Turning, Reno hurried for the door. Pushing it open roughly, he took off up the street. What the fuck had he just done? He had gotten so caught up in the music, and maybe he should have listened to Tifa. He had had too much to drink. For Shiva’s sake! Aura wasn’t some woman he could pick up and take home when he felt like it. How could he have acted that way with her? As if she would ever want him in that way, anyway. She knew what he was now. She knew what he did.

“Reno.”

He swung around wildly at his name. Rude.

“What?” he asked, turning back around and continuing up the street.

“You know her, don’t you?”

“What?”

“Don’t play stupid with me.” Rude retorted, and Reno could hear some strange emotion in his friend’s voice. “You know her. You’ve known her longer than you say. Before Elena introduced us.” Reno glanced back at the big man. It was hurt in Rude’s voice. “You lied to me.”

“I’m sorry, Partner.” He replied, “I had to.”

“Who is she?”

“She was my life.” He said, “… Before.”

“I see.” Rude replied, “You protected her.”

“Yeah.” Reno ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “What I just did… I’ve never done before. What the fuck is wrong with me?”

“You want her.”

“I do not!” He exclaimed, “We’ve never had that kind of relationship.”

“Things change.”

“No. I’m just drunk.” He muttered, “I’ll apologise again in the morning. I… I’ll see you tomorrow, yo.” Reno turned to head up a nearby street. He needed to get home and get some rest. Having taken two steps, he turned back to Rude.

“I won’t say anything.” His partner told him, obviously knowing what he was about to ask.

“Thanks, Rude.” He murmured, turning back to the street. He would have a lot to fix tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen

Aura straightened her uniform before heading over to open a window. There was a pleasant breeze this morning and she felt like the lab could use a bit of fresh air. Systematically, she began sorting out her ingredients. That was what she had been doing all morning so far. Sticking to routine and systems, she had been able to try and keep her mind off the night before. What had happened with Reno? She hadn’t noticed that anything was out of the ordinary until he had taken hold of her hips and pushed her up against that wall. Even thinking about the way he had pressed himself against her made her breath catch in her throat. She began alphabetising her bottles.
What had happened, though? She frowned, remembering the way that he had suddenly let her go. He had actually run away. Reno had run away. She didn’t understand.

“Aura…”

Her hand freezing on the bottle she had just picked up, Aura tried to arrange her face into a neutral expression before she turned to face him.

“Good morning, Reno.” She said, taking in the uncertain look in his eyes.

 

*

Reno hesitated when Aura turned to face him. She looked perfectly normal, and not at all angry with him. Still, he needed to apologise.

“How’s your morning?” He asked, taking a few steps toward her.

“Fine.” She replied, “I have to finish off this paste I have been working on. President Shinra wants to see it this afternoon.”

“I’m sure it’ll be great…” He said, watching as she bit her lip. “Listen, Aur…” He ran a hand through his hair. “Last night…”

“Yes?”

“I’m really sorry.” He told her, “I don’t know what happened. I’d had a lot to drink and I got caught up in the music. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“It’s okay, Reno.” Aura replied softly, “It’s fine.”

“You’re not angry at me?”

“Of course not.”

“Thanks.” He smiled, “I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean …”

“I know.”

 

Reno smiled again. “Good. I mean, you know I would never…” he gestured at her. Reno watched Aura’s eyes turn hard.

“Yeah.” She muttered, “I have work to do, Reno.” She turned back to her bench. “Did you need anything else?”

“No…”

“Kay.”

Reno took a slow step backward. When Aura didn’t look at him, he glanced behind himself at the door. “Alright…I’ll see you later…”

“Mm.”

Confused, he turned and walked out the door. He wasn’t used to Aura just shutting down like that on him. She never used to do that. Maybe it was a female thing. He would ask Elena.

Reno found Elena just arriving at her desk and the look she gave him as he approached her reminded him that Elena had been right there last night. She had seen everything.

“You’ve talked to Aura?” She asked as he stopped in front of her desk.

“Yes. I went to apologise for last night.”

“Ah.” Elena nodded, sitting in her chair. “And what did she say?”

“She said she wasn’t angry at me… but… something is wrong…” He failed to resist a pout. “Go talk to her for me?” He nearly cringed to hear the whine in his voice. Elena apparently heard it too, as she raised an eyebrow at him.

“Wow, Reno. Really?”

“Dooooit.”

“Why do you need me to talk to her for you? Are you asking me to spy?”

“No. Just find out what is wrong and how I can fix it.”

“Fine.” She sighed and got to her feet. “Tell Tseng that I’m here, then. I don’t want to be reprimanded for being late.”

Reno nodded, stepping back from Elena’s desk to let her out. “Thanks. I’ll train with you later.”

“Damn right you will.” She replied, striding past him. Reno huffed and shuffled off to his own desk.

 

*

 

Crossing her arms, Aura waited for Elena to respond. She had just spent the last few minutes recounting to the woman her earlier conversation with Reno, and now the blonde was just looking at her silently.

“What a jerk.”

That wasn’t quite the response she had expected from the woman, but Aura nodded anyway.

“I told you.” Zena piped up from the other side of the lab. Aura glanced over at her. “You’re not his type. He just told you plain as day.”

“Shut up, Zena.” Elena muttered.

“I’m just saying.” Zena replied, “I had warned her. Someone like Reno needs a real woman. He’s not into cuteness and innocence.”

Aura bit her lip as Elena turned her back on Zena, lowering her voice so the Doctor would not hear them. “Did you want him to…?” the woman breathed.

Aura met her eyes for a long moment. “I don’t know.” She replied quietly. “I just know that it hurt when he said that he would never touch me.” Elena’s dark eyes moved quickly back and forth across her face.

“I’m sure that’s not what he meant. He’s just … male… you know how they can never properly say what they mean.”

Aura sighed, fiddling with one of her bottles. “Maybe.” She breathed.

“He seemed pretty distressed.” Elena told her, “Which is weird for Reno.” Aura bit her lip again.

“Distressed?” She asked, “…is he okay?”

“He will be fine once he knows you’re not pissed at him.”

“Tell him that I’m not.” She murmured.

“You don’t want to tell him?”

“No.” Aura said, “Don’t think I would be able to speak to him properly for a bit.” She looked back to her bench. “I need to finish this.”

“Alright.” Elena nodded, “Maybe we can have lunch later.”

“Sure.”Aura replied, her eyes still on her work. She hoped that Elena would keep her ideas to herself when she went back to speak to Reno. She didn’t turn back around until Elena had left. Zena was on the other side of the lab, stocking up one of the supply cabinets. The older woman cast her a glance here and there, but Aura didn’t speak.

 

*

 

Reno threw his pen down on his desk, fed up with trying to do his paperwork. Elena had been gone for a good half hour since he had asked her to go and speak to Aura for him. Surely that was enough time to figure out what was wrong with his friend. He still couldn’t believe he had been that dumb. She had to know he would never hurt her, though. That he would never take advantage of her. She had to. After everything they had been through, he owed her more than that.

Reno went hurriedly from one room to the next. She wasn’t here. She was meant to be here. “AURA?” he called, turning and making the sweep of their small house again. “AUR?” Reaching the kitchen, Reno stopped and just stood there. Would she have gone out? What for? They had restocked on food yesterday. Normally Aura going out wouldn’t bother him, but they were always back by nightfall. Glancing at the window, Reno frowned at the darkness. Something was wrong. Grabbing his leather jacket from where he had tossed it at the table earlier, he pulled it on as he strode for the door.

The door opened just as Reno reached for the handle, and a short figure in a dark hood walked in.

“Hey, sorry I’m late.” Aura’s voice said from beneath the hood.

“Where were you?”

“Nowhere.” She replied, moving the bag she was hiding behind her back.

“Aur…” He reached for the hood, but she moved away, out of his reach, remaining hidden beneath it.

“Just… go shower or something…” she said, stepping further away. “I’ve got a surprise for you…”

Reno blinked, confused. “Are you okay?”

“Yes…go shower.” She pointed toward the bathroom. “Go on.”

Reluctantly, Reno headed for the bathroom.

Ten minutes later, he had showered and dressed. As he hung his damp towel up, he resolved to sort out what was going on. Something was up and he wasn’t sure he trusted it. Striding out of the bathroom, he walked straight into the kitchen. Aura was sitting at the table, her hair tied back from her face, no sign of the hood she had been wearing.

“What’s going on?” He asked. Aura looked up and smiled.

“Do you want some tea? I was just boiling the kettle…”

“Sure.” He answered, moving toward the table. He had never known anybody else who drank tea. He wasn’t even sure he liked it all that much, but he drank it because it pleased Aura to make it. Sitting in the empty chair at the table, he watched as she poured boiling water into his cup. She then set the kettle aside and put the cup in front of him. As she turned away, Reno caught her wrist. The apprehensive look she gave him told Reno that she had been waiting for this reaction.

Getting to his feet, he stared at her. Had she thought he wouldn’t notice?

“What have you done?” He asked, “What happened?”

“Nothing happened…” She replied. Reno reached around and pulled the tie from her hair. He stared. Her hair, that had until that morning reached halfway down her back, now did not even reach her shoulders. He touched it.

“I sold it.” She said simply.

“You what? Why?” He asked. She looked at him uncertainly now.

“Because…” She turned and put the bag she had been holding before on the table. Reaching in, she pulled out several books, some paper, and a handful of pens. Reno frowned. “You always say you want to learn.” Aura said softly. “I… I’m going to teach you.”

Reno didn’t speak. He couldn’t.

Aura continued explaining. “I know that I haven’t had the best schooling…” She said, “But my Dad was really clever, and he taught me a lot… I know I can teach you.”

Reno felt tears sting his eyes. He touched her short hair again. The fact that anybody would make a sacrifice like that for him was difficult to even comprehend. “Aur… I…”

“It’s okay.” She said gently. He ran his fingers through her hair. The blunt edges felt strange against his fingertips. She smiled at him and he wrapped his arms tightly around her. Having left his mother as young as he had, Reno had had next to no actual education. The fact that he couldn’t read or write much more than his own name had always been a sore spot for him. He felt stupid in that regard, and he hated that.

“Thank you.” He breathed. Aura’s arms just tightened around his waist in response.

Reno picked his pen up and looked back to the report he was meant to be working on. He wondered if Aura knew how much he owed her. If she didn’t, then he would need to make sure she found out. He looked up eagerly as Elena returned.

“Is she okay?”

“She’s just fine.” Elena replied, “She’s working.”

“That ain’t what I meant, yo.” He said, “I mean, is she angry at me?”

“No.” Elena said, moving for her desk. “Probably didn’t help that you told her she was completely undesirable.”

“I didn’t say that!”

“You told her that you would never touch her.” Elena replied, “That means you don’t think she’s appealing enough to…”

“No.” He said, frowning, “I just meant-”

“But that’s not what you said.” Elena cut him off, “You kind of offended her.”

“Fuck.” He muttered, before letting out a heavy sigh, “I’ll talk to her this afternoon.”

“You do that.” Elena replied, taking up her seat behind her desk.

Reno made a face. How could he apologise for saying something like that? And since when did he and Aura have communication failures like that? They had always understood one another.

Cursing his own stupidity, he looked back to the report once again. He would sort it out.

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen

Elena changed out of her suit and into more comfortable clothing. She then headed back out into the training area, giving a wave as Reno arrived. After lunch the redhead had gone to talk to Aura and clear up any misunderstanding that had happened. Apparently he had been successful, as he had returned happier than he had been for most of the day.

“You ready, yo?” he asked.

“More than ready.” She replied, heading toward him on the mat in the centre of the room.

“Right. Let’s see what you’ve still got, Rookie.”

 

Elena faced him, waiting. She watched as Reno took on a defensive position and then grinned at her. She flung herself at him. He was faster than she anticipated, which was stupid because he had always been fast and she knew that. Before she had had time to even regain her balance to try again, Reno had given her a hard kick in the ribs and she was flung away from him. “Ow.” She grunted, rubbing her ribs as she glared at him.

“Gotta be faster than that.” He told her.

“Clearly.”

 

She stalked back to the centre of the mat where he was now waiting for her again. “What else you got?” He asked.

Elena darted forward, this time using her fists. Reno ducked and wove and avoided all of her blows, blocking her with his forearm before she could land one powerful one to the side of his head. She growled in frustration, sure that she would have gotten that one in. “Who taught you that move, Rookie?” he asked. She growled again, and he just laughed.
“Come on…” he taunted, “Didn’t Tseng give you anything the other day?”

“Besides a beating?” She asked, moving back only to dart forward again.

“Well, I know that’s probably not what you wanted him to give you…”

 

She let out a shriek of outrage and leaped at him. Astonishingly, she managed to take Reno by surprise and wrap her limbs tightly around him, taking them both to the floor. His shocked grunt was enough to fire Elena further and she set about trying to pin him to the mat.

“Is this how you treat Tseng?” He asked, flipping her off himself. Elena lay on her back on the mat, knowing that she was flushed scarlet. She just hoped that Reno thought that was due to her exertions. In an instant, Reno was on his feet and looking down at her. “Come on.” He extended a hand and she took it, allowing him to pull her to her feet. “We’re gonna work on your reactions.”

Elena wondered what he had in mind as she was directed to stand in front of one of the empty walls. When Reno held up a small metallic disc, she frowned. Those things stuck to whatever they were thrown at and gave a small electric shock. Of course, Reno loved them.

Without warning, Reno threw one at her. Elena tried to dodge, but took it in the shoulder. Giving a small yelp, she slapped it away and turned to give Reno the nastiest look she could muster. “We’re really going to play this game?” She asked.

“Sure are, yo.” He grinned, before flinging another disc at her. Elena managed to dodge this one, and was just about to actually give him a reply when three more discs came her way. Without thinking she leaped into the air, twisting away. When she landed, she gave a laugh and looked back to Reno.

“Did you see that?” She asked, “That was awesome.”

Reno just gave a slight inclination of his head and began throwing the discs at her more quickly. Elena was silenced, trying to avoid all of them. She ended up crouched on her hands and knees, short of breath.

“Well, you still have some speed, Laney.” Reno told her, coming forward. “Reckon you just need to keep up your training.”

“Yeah…” She murmured, trying to get her breath back. “Or just have some Sadist throw electricity at me every day.”

“Well, all you have to do is ask.” He smirked. “Next time I may even get creative.”

“I don’t think I’d enjoy that.”

“Probably not.” He moved away, “Though you might if Tseng did it.”

Elena turned away before he could see any reaction she might give. “I am going to shower.”

“Sure thing, Laney.

*

 

Tseng found Reno striding up a hallway, looking rather self-satisfied. “Reno…”

“Yeah, Boss?” The redhead came to a halt before him, still grinning. It was distracting. “I… what are you so pleased about?”

“Just had a training session with Elena.” Reno said. Tseng immediately thought back to his last training session with Elena, and was thankful for his darker complexion as he felt his skin grow warm.

“How was it?” He asked, “How is Elena doing?”

“Well, I bet she found it electrifying.” Reno smirked and Tseng raised an eyebrow.

“You didn’t use your EMR…”

“Nah, not that.”

Tseng watched as Reno rolled a small metallic disc between his fingers. “I see.”

“Maybe you should take the next session with her.” Reno continued, “She’s probably had enough of me for the next few days at least.”

“It’s good to see that Elena is trying to maintain her skills.” He said simply. Reno just nodded, those strange Mako Eyes seeing everything as they watched him. Tseng tried to remember what he had been looking for Reno for. “I have a job for you.”

“Fire away, Sir.”

*

Reno stepped back into the shadows as the group moved past him. They didn't see him, and he knew that they wouldn't. Tseng had instructed him to tail various people who were thought to be involved in the pathetic little group responsible for the attacks on ShinRa. He had gone to that little pub where Elena had been drugged, and had followed a few of them when they had left in a small group. From what he could tell, they didn't seem very organised, which irritated him as it went to show just how far ShinRa had fallen. Back before everything had happened, they would have crushed this little irritation like a bug. They would have been all too easy to step on. Now, ShinRa just didn't have the manpower or anything like the resources they had had before.

As the group Reno was following went into a large warehouse-like building, he settled back against a shadowy wall to wait. The temperature had been dropping steadily since nightfall and he could just about smell rain on the air. Hoping fervently that it would hold off until he was able to get indoors, he rubbed his hands together, trying to regain at least some warmth. He had intended to take some dinner over to Aura's house this evening in an attempt to make up for what he had said earlier. Honestly, how could she have thought he would ever think she wasn't gorgeous?

Shifting slightly, Reno tried to get his mind back to his job. It just wouldn't do to have his targets slip away unnoticed.

About fifteen minuted later, they came back out. Reno counted quickly. There were two more of them, now. Sticking to the shadows, Reno followed them back to the pub. Looking up at the sign that hung above the door, Reno made a face. The Wandering Weapons. That conjured an image he wasn’t all that impressed by. He waited a few moments after the group had gone inside before he followed them.

Tilting his head, Reno reassessed the place. It wasn’t the same as the last time he had been here. There were now several long tables up the outside of the large room, and there appeared to be several families seated at them having dinner. Trying to look as if he wasn’t surprised, Reno cast a nonchalant glance about the place and then headed for the empty seats at the actual bar. Sliding onto a stool he turned to face the man behind the bar. He looked about Reno’s own age, had honey coloured eyes and brown hair.

“What’s up, yo?”

“Nothing much. What can I get for you?”

“I’ll have a beer, thanks.” Reno half turned on his stool to look the place over again, “I didn’t know you guys did dinners here…”

“Sure do.” The guy replied, putting a bottle in front of Reno. “You need anything else?”

“I’m good, yo.”

He watched the man smile, then head out from behind the bar to take a seat at one of the long tables. Reno stared, unable to breathe. The guy had seated himself next to Aura. She did a double take when she spotted him, but had then turned to smile as the barkeep sat beside her. What was she doing here? Had she been given some sort of assignment like he had? But she wasn’t a trained Turk. She couldn’t have been. So, then what she doing here?

Reno found it difficult to stay on his stool, and even harder to pretend he wasn’t watching the table intently. He tried to turn his attention to conversations that were happening nearby in an attempt to learn anything of use, but his efforts proved fruitless. His focus continued to return to Aura at the table.

He watched, surreptitiously, as they ate dinner. Frowning, Reno watched as the guy next to Aura slipped an arm around the back of her chair. Did she know this joker? Turning quickly back to the bar, Reno arranged his face into a neutral expression.

Reno kept himself facing the bar for the next ten or so minutes. “What are you doing here?” Aura asked, suddenly beside him. He turned his head to look at her.

“I was gonna ask you the same question.” He growled. Aura just looked at him.

“This is my neighbourhood, yo.”

"You know what I mean.”

“You should say what you mean.”

Reno ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “You know I didn’t mean what I said earlier. Not the way you took it.”

“You told me that you’d never touch me.” She whispered, clearly trying not to be overheard, “What other way is there to take that?”

“That I wouldn’t take advantage of you.” He said through clenched teeth, “Not that you aren’t appealing.” She just looked him up and down. “What are you doing here, Aur?”

“Having dinner.” She said simply, “With… friends…” He raised an eyebrow at her.

 

“You done with that drink?” The barkeep guy was now behind the bar again and was looking questioningly at Reno.

“Yeah, thanks.” He nodded as the guy offered a second.

“This is Cadan.” Aura said, waving a hand across the bar.

“Yeah, hi…?” Cadan looked at him expectantly.

“Reno.”

“Reno… you look familiar…”

“I been around, yo.” Reno said, smiling widely.

“Mmm…” Cadan’s eyes flickered back and forth between Reno and Aura. “You two know each other?”

“Yeah. We go way back.” Reno replied, grinning when Aura cast a glance at him.

“I see.”

“Say,” Reno said brightly, “How do you two know each other?” He pretended he didn’t notice the look Aura gave him.

“Aura helped us when my sister hurt herself.” Cadan said, smiling at Aura. Reno wanted to punch him in the face.

“Ain’t that great?” Reno turned to look at Aura. He had no problem reading the look in her eyes, and he just smiled more widely.

“It was great.” Cadan continued, “You meet great people when you least expect it.” Reno resisted rolling his eyes.

“So, Aur,” He said, “You need me to walk you home?”

“I’m not done, Reno.” She replied, and Reno clenched his teeth again.

“I’ll walk her when she’s ready.” Cadan put in.

“There, you see.” Aura said, “I’ll be perfectly fine.” Reno looked at her, not knowing what to do. He knew that he wasn’t going to learn anything useful here tonight, and that he should leave, but he also knew that he didn’t want to leave Aura here with Cadan. It seemed he didn’t have a choice, however.

“Fine…” He said softly. “Fine. I’ll see you later…” He got to his feet.

“See you later.” She said, watching him.

“Nice to meet you.” Cadan told him. Reno gave a slight wave as he headed for the door.

 

Tseng was going to be annoyed at him. He hadn’t discovered very much for an evening’s work. At least now he had the name of the owner of The Wandering Weapons. Though, any fool could have found that out from nearly anybody. It didn’t have to be while discovering Aura on a date with the guy. Was that what it had been? It had better not have been. Did she know the guy was involved in terrorist actions? She had to. She’d been the one to tell him that meetings were rumoured to be held there. What did she think she was doing?

It was about an hour later, as Reno stood in the shadows of Aura’s garden, that she appeared on the street. He scowled when he saw Cadan walking beside her. Remaining still, Reno watched as they walked up the garden path to the front door. His lip curled as Cadan’s hand moved up Aura’s arm. He watched as the guy moved closer to Aura, leaning toward her and dipping his head. Aura turned her face away and Reno watched as Cadan pressed a kiss to her cheek. Reno resisted a laugh at that, and watched as Cadan turned and headed back up the street. Aura fiddled for her keys for a few moments before unlocking her door.

“Reno.” She then said flatly. He moved toward her, out of the shadows.

“How’d you know I was there?” he asked.

“I know you.” She said simply, heading inside. Reno followed her.

“You do know who that guy is?” He asked, sitting on her couch.

“I’m not stupid, Reno.”

“I know that…” He replied, “So what in the name of Shiva?”

Aura stood in front of him. “What were you doing there?” She asked.

“I had a job! I was sent there to find something ShinRa could use.”

“And did you?”

“Not really. All I got was your boyfriend’s name.” The hurt look that she gave him cut at him, and Reno let out a sigh. “Come here…” he pat the couch beside himself and Aura sat down. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, Reno pulled her closer. “I’m sorry.” He murmured, “For everything I’ve said to you today.” He felt Aura relax against him, resting her head on his shoulder.

“I miss you.” She said softly. “I see you all the time now, but it’s different.”

“I know.”He replied, holding her gently, “We’ll have to work on that.”

 

Reno rubbed Aura’s arm softly. He had more questions for her, and more to tell her about how she should be careful with Cadan, but he didn’t want to fight with her anymore. He just wanted this. To be able to sit and hold her, and know she was safe. So, for once in his life, Reno held his tongue.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

Reno followed Elena and Rude down the street. Junon was quieter than Edge, as always. They had been sent to check out the rumours of a cure coming out of the town. Now, he followed his colleagues toward the town market, whinging as annoyingly as he could.
“I’m just sayin, yo.” He complained, “We didn’t have to all come out here for this. I think we’re wastin’ time when we could be findin’ out stuff about those punks at The Wandering Weapons.”
“They’re not going anywhere.” Rude replied simply.
“But they are plannin’ shit, yo!”
“The Boss thinks this is worth our time.” Elena said, “So, it must be.”
“Not necessarily true.” Reno muttered.

“You’re just worried about Aura and that guy.” Rude told him. Reno eyed his partner. He had had several conversations recently with Rude about Aura and their life before ShinRa. His friend hadn’t been angry with him for keeping the secret for years. He had said he understood. Reno hadn’t thought it would be possible for his affections for the bigger man to grow, but they had. He supposed he would never cease to be surprised by how wonderful his partner was. Sometimes, though, he wished Rude saw less than he did.
“Cadan.” He growled.
“Yeah.”
“She’s going to find out info for ShinRa.” Elena put in.
“She’s not trained.” Reno replied, “That’s not her job.”
“As a ShinRa employee, it is.” Rude added.

Reno huffed. He didn’t like it. “But if that guy tells her stuff…” Elena began. Reno sighed.
“That’s not his interest in her.”
“If you would admit your interest in her...” Rude muttered.
“Will you stop sayin’ that, yo!” Reno exclaimed, “That’s not the kind of friendship we’ve ever had. I’ve never wanted her in that way.”
“You may not have before.” Rude replied, “But you do now.”
“I do not.” He snapped, “And she’d never look at me like that either.” Elena just looked at him, but he cut her off before she could speak, “Can we just do the job?”
“Right.” Rude agreed with a sigh, “Find the cure.”

 

Reno turned his eyes on the streets. It was on jobs like this that his past proved useful. He was always the first to be able to find shady deals like backstreet salesmen selling dodgy concoctions. “Yeah, what do you think?” he asked, “Meet back here in fifteen?”

“Sounds like a plan.” His partner nodded, adjusting his sunglasses.

“Great.” With that, Reno strode away from them and into the quickly thickening crowd. The sooner they found what they were after, the sooner they’d be able to get back to Edge.

 

It took him barely five minutes to find the joint. He stood, leaning against a high wall, as he eyed the place. It was a small door, cut into the side of a larger building, connected to several on the street. Out of the way. Most people would have missed it if they hadn’t been looking for it. Most people weren’t Reno. He watched as a tall woman came out, adjusting something in her basket. A moment later a pair of teenagers pushed the door open and went inside. Popping the collar on his jacket up, Reno strode across the street and followed them in.

 

The room was dim, and he cast a casual glance around at the various objects on display in low glass cases. One of the teenagers he had followed in was being ushered back behind a curtain while the other waited beside the main counter, tapping his fingers idly upon the glass. Reno pretended to be interested in whatever he was standing in front of as the woman behind the counter returned. Only a minute or so had passed when the teenager returned to his friend and they both left the shop.

“May I help you?”

 

Reno turned and smiled widely. “Hey, yo.” He said, raising a hand to his hair and running his fingers through it. “I uh… I heard you have something that can help me…”

“What’s the problem?” she asked. He blinked.

“’stigma…”

She gave a single nod and gestured toward the curtain. Reno flicked a glance at it before looking back to her. “Go on…” she told him. Slowly, he headed behind the counter and pushed the curtain aside.

 

*

 

“Really.” Elena said, leaning into her seat, “She said that her brother had it and then he was better.”

“That’s what they’re all saying.” Rude replied, “I didn’t actually see anyone with the Stigma.”

“Neither did I…” she mused, “So, doesn’t that mean the cure works?”

“It means you didn’t see anyone with it.” Reno replied from his seat piloting their chopper. “The cure will have to be tested. Don’t get excited yet.”

“But if it does…”

“Chill, Laney.” He said.

 

Elena huffed and folded her arms across her chest. If they had found a cure that worked, then things would be so different. They would be able to help everyone who was sick in Edge. ShinRa would look good again and regain the favour of the public. The entire dynamic of the city would change. She wouldn’t be shot at in the streets…

“You only got one bottle?” Rude asked, and Elena watched as Reno nodded.

“Yeah, yo.” He replied, glancing at the bigger man, “I dunno what it was. They were sellin’ it out the back of some weird shop. Literally behind the curtain. To teenagers and stuff. I played the rumour for the sick card. Woulda looked weird if I wanted more than one.”

“If it works though, Zena and Aura should be able to reverse engineer it, right?” Elena asked.

“That’s the idea.” Reno replied. She nodded silently and settled back into her seat once again. It would be a while before they were back.

“I dunno…” Rude added after several moments of silence. “Was weird there weren’t any sick…”

“Why?” She asked, “Doesn’t that mean the cure works and they’ve had it…?”

“Not everyone can afford medicine.” Reno muttered, but offered no further comment, so Elena let the conversation drop. Maybe the people making it had given it freely to people unable to give money. Even in her own mind that sounded stupid. Pushing it aside, she decided that she didn’t care. All that she cared about was whether or not the cure was effective.

 

*

 

Aura leaned against the bar, smiling at Cadan. “Nik really did that?” she asked. Cadan nodded.

“He’s a sweet kid, really.” He replied, “Really strong family morals.”

“That’s really nice.” She said, taking up a seat on one of the stools. “Why aren’t you open for dinners tonight?” She asked, “Normally you’re filling up with families by now…” She cast a glance around the empty room.

“We’re reserved.” He answered, wiping the counter down. “There’s a meeting and the whole room is sort of needed.”

“Oh…” she said, her blood suddenly pounding in her ears. “… Should I go?”

Cadan’s honey coloured eyes turned on her and he raised an eyebrow. “Do you want to stay?”

Aura chewed her lip. “I…” This was it. She could play the card she knew would keep her here and enable her to possibly overhear something ShinRa could use, or she could go. She could be manipulative and learn something that could protect Reno, or she could back out and go home. “I… was kinda hoping we could have dinner together…” She watched those honey eyes grow warmer.

“I’m sure I can accommodate that desire.”

Aura forced a smile. “This meeting… it’s to do with the anti-ShinRa stuff…?”

“Yeah.” He replied, “Needs a bit of privacy.”

“… and you lose a night’s business for that?” she asked, “That doesn’t seem fair.” She watched him give a light shrug.

“We won’t be closed for the whole night. Just the dinner period, really. I’ll open the doors again around nine.”

“I see.” She smiled at him again, “So what are you feeding me for dinner?”

“What would you like?”

“That depends on what’s on offer.” He cast a glance over his shoulder, “I should actually ask Kera what she wants… Excuse me for a sec…”

Aura nodded and watched him turn and head off to find his sister. She then let out a sigh, a little disgusted with herself. She had no interest in Cadan. Not the way that she was leading him to believe she did. Sure, he seemed like a nice enough guy, but she was manipulating him in order to get information out of him. It was wrong. She wasn’t a Turk. Why was she trying to act like one? She wasn’t, she determined. She was simply after information that could help protect her friends. If she found out something about another planned attack on ShinRa employees she could possibly save lives. Possibly even those of people she cared about. Was that worth leading Cadan on? Well, she and Reno had done worse to survive in the past. At least, Reno had. She wondered vaguely what else he had done as a Turk. Wrinkling her nose, she decided that she probably didn’t want to know. She knew he’d killed people. She figured she could be friendlier with this guy than she wanted to be. Nothing had to come of it, other than information. When he came back, Aura determined to ask him if she could help behind the bar after dinner. That way she could be privy to any discussions held during this meeting.

 

*

Aura stood before Rufus Shinra, the small bottle she had been handed by Reno in her hands.

“Are you clear on what I want from you, Aura?” Rufus asked. She nodded.

“You want me to work out what is in it…”

“And if you can make more.” He replied, “If it proves effective, I want to be able to mass produce.”

“Are… has it been tested?” she asked, glancing at the four Turks standing nearby.

“It is being tested as we speak.” Rufus said simply, “That’s why this task falls to you. Zena is taking charge of the… experiments.”

Aura blinked. Human testing, she realised. Had they been volunteers? “Okay.” She hesitated.

“Was there anything else?” He asked her, “I had a message this morning that you had information for me?”

“Yes.”

“Is this in regard to The Wandering Weapons?”

She nodded again, glancing at Reno before looking back to the President. “I was there last night when a meeting was held.”

“What did you learn?” Rufus asked, gesturing at Tseng who had moved to take notes before Rufus had thought to give the order.

“There’s talk of increased ShinRa brutality in other towns… Junon was mentioned.” She watched as confusion crossed Rufus’ face for a moment, but she continued, “They feel the need to … increase…their resistance.” She said, “They know the areas patrolled by ShinRa employees. They’re doing more than just random attacks on people. They’re forming gangs. Well, I suppose they are already gangs… Units” she looked at the blonde man nodding in understanding before her. “They’re forming units to attack. These units are going to have patrols of their own. They’re going to specifically hunt down ShinRa employees. They’re not just looking to hurt.” She looked around at Elena, “It’s not going to be a one-off bullet into a crowd in hopes of hitting a suit.” She slipped the bottle carefully into her coat pocket, “They mean to kill.”

“This was to be expected.” Tseng put in, and Rufus nodded at the dark haired man.

“Anything else, Aura?”

Aura shook her head silently.

“Are you friendly enough with these people to continue to get information from them?” Tseng asked, Aura looked at him for a moment before nodding again.

“Hold on, yo.” Reno put in, stepping forward. “We just made a point of ‘they mean to kill’. What do you think they’ll do to her if they find out she works for ShinRa?”

“I’m sure Aura is clever enough to keep that information to herself.” Rufus said drily.

“She’s not a Turk.” Reno replied sharply enough to earn a frown from the President. Aura watched Rufus push his irritation aside as Reno continued, “She hasn’t been trained for this, it’s not fair to send her in there. We’ve had training for this kind of thing for a reason. She’s not equipped… Sir.”

“Aura doesn’t wear a uniform out of this Lodge.” Rufus said flatly, “There’s no reason at all for them to tie her to ShinRa.”

“They’re obviously not dumb.” Reno ground out, and Aura knew he was struggling to maintain his cool, “If something happens… If she slips… They’ll kill her.”

“Tseng will give her a rundown on how to conduct herself.” Rufus waved his hand.

“That’s not enough…” Reno protested.

Aura knew when Rufus had had enough when his eyes went icy. “Reno, might I remind you that I am the President? You follow my orders. I do not have to run what I want past you. I give the orders and you follow them. Without question.”

Reno closed his mouth and Aura watched him fight to swallow the retort that had been about to come out. She hadn’t ever really seen such self control in him before. The tight way he held himself told her that he was about to explode, however. Rufus apparently also saw this as he waved his hand once more. “Get out.” Reno turned and walked stiffly toward the door. “The rest of you, too.” The President added, “Tseng, stay.”

Aura turned and walked quickly to the door. Reno was already gone when she got out into the hallway. She sighed. Elena gave a low whistle once the door was closed behind them.

“I’ve seen Reno express his opinion on ideas he thought were stupid before.” The blonde woman said, “But not like that.”

“Really?” Aura asked.

“Looked like he wanted to punch the Boss.” She replied, her eyes wide. “Where do you suppose he’s gone?”

“To cool off.” Rude said, starting off down the hall. “I suggest we get to work.”

Aura pulled the tiny bottle out of her pocket and looked at it. She hadn’t ever really tried to reverse engineer something like this before. She supposed the challenge would prove a great distraction, however. With one last look at President Shinra’s door, she turned and headed up to the lab.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

Reno couldn’t calm down. He’d known that this would happen. Having Aura working for ShinRa and perfectly safe had obviously been too good to be true. It was utterly ridiculous what Rufus wanted her to do. She only had to be spotted heading to the Lodge one morning to be found out. They would know she worked for ShinRa and then she’d be killed. Uniform or not. Snarling as he paced up and down the path in the sunshine, he tried to work out what to do.

He could tell Aura to not do it. Disobeying Rufus would have consequences though, likely for both of them, but Aura would be safer. At least from the scum in the Wandering Weapons. She wouldn’t be safe from Rufus. He could go back in there right now and demand his boss come up with a different plan. He could do that, but it would likely result in a bullet between his eyes. He knew that Rufus often tolerated his outbursts because he still got the job done reliably. He also knew that he had pushed the man earlier. He wouldn’t be tolerated again on this subject. Tseng. He could go to Tseng. What would the older man do? Tell him that orders were orders and that they were to be followed? Rubbing his hands through his hair in frustration, Reno headed back inside. He would talk to the others, surely someone would come up with something.

By the end of the day, however, he had nothing. Nothing, besides talking to Aura about it to make sure she understood exactly what was at stake here.

“You’re underestimating her.” Rude told him as they both headed for the doors, ready to go home. “She’s quite clever.”

“I know she’s clever.” Reno retorted, “She’s the one who taught me how to read.”

“Consider the possibility that she can do it.”

“I have.” He replied, “But the more pressing issue is the possibility and consequences of her not.”

Rude nodded and pulled his jacket on in the cool evening air. “Just talk to her.”

“I plan to.” Reno muttered, looking behind them to see who had just come out the door. He came to a stop when he saw that it was Elena. He would have to wait for Aura.

“She’s coming.” Elena told him on her way past before catching up with Rude and heading up the street with him, leaving Reno behind. He watched them go, rubbing his hands over his jacket as he tried to resist fidgeting.

He saw her falter when she came out the door and saw him waiting for her. “I wondered where you had gotten to earlier.” She said, moving to meet him.

“Just needed to think,” He replied as they began up the street together.

“You really pissed Rufus off…”

“He’ll get over it.” He replied, “He always does.”

“Ah.”

They walked in silence for a while, and Reno knew that Aura was waiting for him to voice what he wanted to say. “You know I’m concerned…”

“Yes.”

“Right, well… I think that you should stay away from that Cadan guy.”

“I have to find out what I can.”

“That’s the thing,” Reno sighed, “Rufus wants you to do that because you have an in. Because you’re buddies with the guy. You spend time there. If you didn’t, he’d have nothing to expect from you.”

“You think I can’t handle this.”

“Aur, this has nothing to do with what I think you can handle.” He ran a hand through his hair. It had more to do with what he could handle, and he definitely couldn’t handle her being killed.

“It’s really not that hard, Reno.” She replied, “It’s not like I’m pretending to be someone I’m not and suddenly my secret identity is gonna slip out.”

“You work for ShinRa.”

“That’s one aspect. Cadan knows I’m an Apothecary. He knows I lived under the plate before… It’s not like I turn up for meeting trying to sus stuff out, yo. I just happen to be there and they’re comfortable talking in front of me. I literally don’t have to do anything.”

“You’re being dismissive…”

She sighed and he cast a glance at her from the corner of his eye. “You think?”

“Aur, I’m not tryin to fight with you.” He really wasn’t. They never used to fight, and he didn’t like that they were fighting a lot lately. “Just… is it a big deal for you to not spend time with him?”

“Yes.” She replied and he frowned, “Because I feel useful.”

“You are useful, you always have been.”

“This could make a difference.” She said, then cut him off before he could interject and tell her that she made a difference with what she was already doing, “Look, Reno.” She told him, “If you were me, what would you do?”

“Not hang out with creepy bar-guy.”

“You would.” She said, shoving him lightly, “Because you would have to try and help protect people you care about.” He looked down at her and she raised her eyebrows at him, “You know I’m right, yo.”

She was. He knew that. He knew that there was no way he wouldn’t be doing everything he could to get information that could protect people he cared about. He wasn’t Aura, though, and she certainly didn’t need to be spending time with that Cadan prick. “I just want you to be careful…” he said gently.

 

*

 

Aura gave Cadan a glass of wine. She sat down, eyeing him warily. She had thought a lot about her discussion with Reno the previous evening as they had walked home. She knew that he was worried about her, but she was so close to being trusted by Cadan. He would tell her something she could take to Rufus, she knew it.

“I’m glad you invited me over.” Cadan told her, smiling. She nodded. She had been thinking all day about it. Perhaps he would feel more free to talk to her here than at his pub. It would also definitely help him feel like he knew her better.

“Me too.” She smiled, sipping from her own glass. “It’s quieter here.”

“Is this where you make your stuff?” He asked, looking around.

“Well, not in the living room.” She replied, “But yeah.

“Do you sell at markets?”

“Not a lot.” She told him, “Mainly people come to me when they have a need…”

“So what do you do in your free time?”

“Experiment.” She gave a light shrug, “Try and work out new things…”

“You hear about the cure coming out of Junon?” He asked, draining half his glass.

“I heard talk,” She replied, “You think it’s real?”

“People have been going missing in Junon.” He said slowly, “Reckon this ‘cure’ is just something that ShinRa have released to get rid of the people with the Stigma.”

“Why would they do that?” Aura asked, resisting a frown. She knew outright that he was wrong.

“The Stigma appears to vanish, they’ll look better, won’t they?”

“Only if they fixed it…” She said, leaning back in her chair, “So, lemme get this straight, yo… People are saying that ShinRa released this fake cure for Geostigma, that actually kills the people it’s given to… to make it look like the disease is vanishing…?”

“That’s a theory.” Cadan replied.

“Why not in Edge?”

“Who knows.” He said, “Maybe it’s coming.”

Aura sipped slowly at her wine, wondering if Cadan actually realised how ridiculous that sounded. As if Rufus ShinRa would put that much into an elaborate scheme like that; that literally resulted in him getting nothing. It was actually pointless. “That’s… intricate.”

“People have had enough.” He told her, “We’ve got to do something before it gets further out of hand. It’s only a matter of time before the people of Edge start vanishing. I mean, Shinra is living here…”

Aura just about jumped when there was a loud pounding on her door. She jumped up and went to answer it. Reno stood on her doorstep in the swiftly fading light. He staggered forward, one shoulder hunched and she knew he’d been fighting. The way he was holding himself told her that he was hurt. “What happened?” she breathed, but he didn’t reply. He’d frozen the second he’d seen Cadan sitting on her couch.

“Seriously?” he turned to look at her, but she’d pulled his jacket aside, looking for indication of wounds. “Aur…” He caught her hands, holding her still.

“Are you okay?” She asked, looking up at him. She couldn’t see any blood, but his face told her something was wrong. “I’ll get something to clean you up with…” She hurried into the kitchen.

“You have a bit of trouble?” She heard Cadan ask.

“Just had a bit of an accident.” Reno replied, barely a heartbeat later.

“Ah, Aura will have you patched up in no time.”

“-I know.” Reno’s voice was hard now, and Aura quickly grabbed a few wipes and hurried back out to him.

 

*

 

Reno sat on the edge of a couch as Aura came back to stand before him. He just looked up at her silently as she applied a damp cloth to his cheek, wiping gingerly. Why was that prick here? He couldn’t even tell her what had happened and he was lucky that he’d tossed away his wrecked suit jacket before coming. She asked him again what had happened, but he couldn’t exactly tell her that one of Cadan’s fancy new mobs had jumped him in the street, and that he’d had to fight off about six of them before he’d been able to get away.

“Was just a bit careless.” He murmured, his gaze flicking in Cadan’s direction. Aura understood then. He watched realisation flood her eyes and she nodded, folding the cloth and starting again with a clean bit.

“Well,” She said softly, “From what I can see, your face is the only thing bleeding…”

“Yeah, that’s the worst of it.” He told her. He hadn’t been stabbed or shot, thank Shiva. He would bruise pretty nicely, though. He’d just bet his face was going to look all kind of excellent in a few days. “I’ll just be pretty colourful…”

“I actually have something that can minimise bruising… I’ll see if I can find it…” She turned and hurried off into her kitchen again and Reno turned his eyes on Cadan.

“So…” The man said, slinging an arm over the back of the couch.

“Having dinner?” Reno asked blandly.

“Just a bit…” Cadan smirked, “Bit of wine…” He gestured at Aura’s half empty glass on the table, “Perhaps a bit more.”

Reno tilted his head, his eyes going from the glass to Cadan and back again. What was this moron saying? That he was going to get Aura drunk?

“Probably gonna take more than that, yo.”

“I don’t think so.” Cadan smirked again and Reno bit back a snarl, “Been laying this groundwork for a while. First time she’s invited me back here. I’ve got a feeling that you should clear out as soon as she’s given you whatever it is she’s gone to find…”

“You fuckin what?” Reno had gotten to his feet just as Aura came back with a tub in hand.

“Here.” She said, pressing it into his hands. “Put this on after you shower. Leave it on overnight. You’ll have barely any bruising.” Reno still hadn’t taken his eyes off of Cadan who was still smirking at him. “Reno…” He looked down at her.

“We have to talk.” He said.

“We’ll talk tomorrow.” She replied, glancing over her shoulder.

“It’s kind of important…” He pressed.

“So is what I’m doing.” She said, frowning at him. He frowned back, flicking a glance at Cadan.

“You can’t be serious…” He growled.

“Reno, you don’t know what…” She folded her arms and he moved away.

“I do.” He said, “I know you’re making a stupid decision…”

She huffed and he turned away. “I’m not doing this right now. Can you just go?”

“Yeah.” He snapped, moving for the door.

“I’ll see you later.”

“Maybe.” He slammed the door behind himself and stalked down the street. She had actually just chosen that guy over him. He had gone to her for help after nearly being killed, okay so he totally took the lot of them and came away with only bruises and a single scratch, and she had chosen that creep over him. Yes, she had checked him over and given him what he needed, but then she had literally told him to go. So she could be alone with that piece of shit. She had never told him to leave before. Not once. Ever.

Reno clenched his fists as he headed for his flat. She didn’t want him. Did she really prefer Cadan? What did that guy have? A bar? So what? Sure, he probably didn’t have blood on his hands. Not yet, anyway. But what did they have in common? Nothing. The thought of that creep touching Aura just about set his blood on fire. How could she have sent him away? She didn’t want him? Fine. He would find someone who did.

After a quick shower to wash the day and the dirt away, Reno headed for 7th Heaven. He sat at first with Elena and Rude, nursing the hardest drink he’d been able to get, waiting for the anger to leave him. But it didn’t. He couldn’t calm down.

Hadn’t he always protected her? He had done everything he could to keep her from harm all these years. Nobody had hurt her since that night they’d met. He hadn’t allowed it. He had kept her safe. He had found her a place to live. He’d kept her fed. He had done everything. Still, she had told him to leave. He couldn’t believe it. Every time he heard those words over in his mind he felt like he’d been stabbed in the chest. She had sent him away. To be with Cadan. Reno couldn’t help the snarl that escaped him at that thought.

Two could play at that game. He turned in his seat, his eyes scanning the room. Getting to his feet, he stalked toward Zena. Closing his fingers tightly around her wrist, he pulled her off the dancefloor. Ignoring Tifa’s protests from behind the bar, he dragged the blonde woman out the back, hanging his leather jacket on the handle and halfheartedly kicking the door closed behind himself. “You’re in a fun mood tonight…” Zena laughed.

“Shut up.” He replied, pushing her back up against a wall and pulling her shirt open. She gave a startled laugh and removed the last button. Reno had already moved on, his hands dragging her skirt up her thighs as he pushed his knee between her legs. She widened them instantly and he quickly undid his pants before bending to lift her to himself. She wrapped her legs around his waist without hesitation.

“You’re in a hu-” Reno clamped a hand over her mouth, silencing her as he quickly thrust into her. She gave a surprised cry, but it was also muffled by the hand which he kept clamped tightly across her mouth. He didn’t want to hear her. With one hand keeping her quiet, and the other holding her weight, Reno lost himself in his rhythm; thrusting repeatedly into her with steadily growing force. When one of Zena’s hands raked down his back he pressed her back against the wall painfully, his fingers digging into her flesh as he thrust roughly, the sounds he was making the only thing reaching his ears as they echoed around the room. They sounded animalistic even to him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Aura waited until Cadan had disappeared around the end of her street. Closing the curtain, she turned and hurried to get her coat. She had been right. He had talked. Tomorrow, she would have to take what she had learned to Rufus Shinra. Right now, she had to go and check on Reno. She felt awful that she had sent him away, even more so while he was injured. The look on his face when she’d told him to go cut at her. She would go over to his place now, and make sure that he was taking care of himself. She could even tell him what she had learned, and maybe discuss what they might do about it.

Buttoning her coat against the chilly night air, Aura headed into the dark. She hadn’t been to Reno’s apartment before, although she had walked past out of curiosity. Walking through the gate, she headed up the stair that led to his door. Knocking, she twisted her hands as she waited. It was all dark, and she wondered vaguely if he’d gone to bed already. She knocked again and waited. After a few minutes, she sighed. Either he wasn’t answering the door, or he wasn’t home. Biting her lip, Aura backed away from the door. Turning, she headed back down the stairs and out on the street once more.

What if he’d been more injured than she had realised? What if he’d had to go looking for help somewhere else? She shouldn’t have sent him away. She was halfway home when she had a thought. 7th Heaven. Turning down the next street, she headed for the bar. She would find him, and check that he was alright. She would also apologise for telling him to leave the way she had.

When she arrived at 7th Heaven, it was to find the place crowded and noisy. Squeezing her way through the dancing bodies, she headed toward the table that the Turks usually claimed. She found Rude and Elena there.

“Hi…” Elena looked up and Aura read the initial surprise on her face.

“Hey,” She replied, “Is Reno here?” she glanced around, looking for that red hair, “He wasn’t at home…”

“Uh… Yeah…” Elena nodded, her eyes looking past Aura toward the dancing crowd. “Last I saw he headed out there…”

“Was he okay?” she asked, “He was hurt…”

“He was… angry…” Elena replied, glancing at Rude for a second. The big man nodded. Aura bit her lip.

“Oh.”

“I’m sure it’s not that bad…” The blonde woman told her. Aura shrugged.

“I’ll find him…” she murmured, turning away.

Aura had circled the room three times without luck. Finally, she stood by the bar, exasperated, and wondering if he’d gone home and she’d somehow missed him. She was just about to give up when she spotted his jacket hanging on a door. Tilting her head, she headed for it.

“Aura, don’t!” Just as she pushed the door further open, she heard Tifa call out to her, but she’d already stepped inside.

Aura froze, the blood draining from her face. She couldn’t move. She watched, unable to breathe, as Reno fucked Zena against the wall. The woman’s legs were wrapped tightly around his waist as she cried out with each thrust, though her cries were muffled by the hand he held over her mouth. Reno’s own sounds echoed around the room, and Aura shook.

 

*

 

Elena frowned when Tifa started gesturing wildly at her from across the pub. After a moment she got the hint and hurried toward where the woman was gesturing. She stepped into the room just as Aura spun to face her, her face practically green. Looking over Aura’s shoulder, Elena felt her jaw drop as she spotted Reno and Zena. Before she could even move or speak, Aura had pushed past her and taken off through the crowd. Spinning, Elena hurried after her. She hit the door maybe three seconds after Aura did, but when she got out onto the street, there was no sign of her friend.

“Damn.” Elena muttered. The girl was fast. The only other person she had ever really seen that fast was Reno, or Tseng. Running to the end of the street, she looked around and let out a sigh of relief when she spotted Aura not too far away.

“Aura?”

Aura jerked to her feet from where she’d been leaning against a wall, and spun to face her. “Elena.” She said, sniffing and wiping her face quickly. “Hey.”

Elena shook her head, moving closer. “Aur…”

“No, I’m fine.” The girl muttered, raising her hands and backing away. “Really.”

Elena just looked at her. Aura’s stoic expression lasted about five seconds before a tear rolled down her cheek and she crumbled. Elena took her arm and rubbed her back gently. Aura just cried and Elena continued to rub her back. “Everything’s going to be okay…”

“I…don’t even know why I’m crying.” Aura choked, wiping her face again. “I don’t know why.”

Elena shook her head again. She thought it was pretty damn obvious. “I’m sorry…”

“No…” Aura stood straighter and wiped her sleeves over her face again, “I shouldn’t… I… I should have just… I just need to go home.”

“That’s probably a good idea.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Aura stumbled back away from her and Elena let her go.

“You will.” She nodded.

Aura sniffed once more, pushing her dark hair back from her face. “Thanks…” She said softly and Elena offered a small wave before the girl turned and hurried off down the street alone.

“Sweet Shiva.” She muttered, turning around and heading back to 7th Heaven. Reno was an idiot, and she was damn well going to let him know.

Elena returned to the table she had been sharing with Rude to find the big man still watching Tifa from across the room. Sliding back into her seat, Elena picked up her drink from where she’d left it and downed it in one.

“Aura got out of here fast.” He said flatly.

“Mmm. Don’t really blame her.” She replied, turning to glance at the door that lead out the back. At that moment, Reno came out, pulling his jacket back on. Zena followed a moment later, looking rather shaky and unfocused.

“And now it makes sense.” Rude commented, Elena just sighed.

Reno strode for their table and pushed his way in beside Elena before reaching across the table and picking up his partner’s drink. Elena watched as he drank half of it, and then returned it to Rude who said nothing.

“Thirsty?” Elena asked drily.

“Yeah, a bit.”

“You’re an idiot.” She said, her tone low. Reno looked at her, raising an eyebrow.

“You think so?” he asked, “I mean, you should probably be thankful that I was keeping Zena busy and away from Tseng, so if you think about it…”

Elena cut him off. “Aura saw you.”

 

*

Reno froze. “…what?” He asked. Elena just nodded at him. “What do you mean?”

“She came looking for you. She wanted to talk to you.” She waved a hand in the direction of the back room, “… She found you.”

“No…” He said, shaking his head.

“Yes.” Elena frowned at him, “How could you?” She asked, “I mean, first of all, Zena… but… here? It’s like you make one bad decision after another and string them together for fun…”

Reno was shaking his head as he got to his feet. “Always have.” He snapped, “Why stop fucking up now?”

Before he’d even made the decision, Reno was throwing the door open and hurrying out into the night. Then he was running. Only minutes later he was standing on Aura’s doorstep, pounding on the door. At first he thought that she wasn’t going to answer it, but then he heard the click and she pulled it partially open.

“Aura…” he began, but she just looked at him silently. He glanced around, trying to determine if anybody was nearby. “Can I come in?” he asked, when she made no move to let him enter. He watched her as, reluctantly, she stepped aside. He walked in and she closed the door softly behind him. Reno then turned to face her, but Aura turned away and went to sit on the couch, not looking at him. He watched her sit still, her eyes fixed on the table before her, not moving. “Aura…”

She shifted, but still didn’t look at him.

“Elena told me you were at 7th Heaven…” He moved toward her, but just as he was about to reach her, she moved away, picking up a cushion and placing it on her lap between them. “Why were you there?” She still didn’t speak. He resisted a sigh as he sat down. “… Where’s Cadan?”

“I sent him home.”

He looked at her. Her eyes were still on the table. “Oh?”

“I found out what I was after.” She continued, her voice emotionless, “Then I sent him away.”

“I thought…”

 

She looked at him then, her eyes a startling green. “You thought I prioritised him over you.” He didn’t know what to say. “I didn’t.” She said, “I… made the mistake of prioritising finding out information… I was close… I’m sorry.”

“Then you sent him away…?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t imagine he liked that too much…”

She looked at him again, and Reno wondered just what had happened. “He left.” She told him.

There was silence for a few moments before he spoke again. “What were you doing at 7Th Heaven?”

“You weren’t at home.” She replied, “I went to check on you.” Reno’s stomach twisted. “Figured you’d be at 7th Heaven.”

He let out a deep breath. “I’m sorry that you saw that…”

Aura gave an indifferent shrug and fiddled with the corner of the cushion on her lap. “Not my business.”

“Aura…”

“It’s not.” She said, “You can screw whoever you want.”

“I don’t.” He muttered, running a hand over his face, “want her.”

Aura gave another shrug , not looking at him. He watched her fiddle with the cushion for several minutes before she looked up reluctantly, “Do you really not want her?” she asked, her voice barely audible.

“Really.” He replied, “You asked me that when you first met her.”

“I remember.”

“I told you then I wasn’t interested.”

“Things change.”

“Not this.”

“Guess I was a little confused.” She muttered, “What with the fact that I walked in on you fucking her in a bar…”

Reno sighed, “That didn’t mean anything.”

“Not to you.”

Reno frowned, looking at her avoid his gaze. Was she talking about herself or Zena? “I just needed to… vent…”

“So you chose her?”

He gave a shrug of his own this time. “She was there.”

“So literally anyone would do…?”

Reno closed his eyes, not knowing how to explain it. “Look, Aur… I was hurt and I was angry… I wasn’t exactly making rational decisions… and I’m sorry.” He was. He didn’t know what for. He supposed he was sorry that he’d actually touched Zena when she did annoy him so much. He was sorry that he would have to deal with her on a new level now. He was sorry that he’d made such a rash decision without having the real facts. He was sorry that Aura had seen that, especially with the way that he’d been. He was mostly sorry that she seemed to be so upset by it, though he didn’t know why. “Aur… are you going to think differently of me…?” He asked uncertainly, “I’m not usually that… rough…” He wasn’t. Especially when he had any kind of emotional connection.

Aura’s green eyes flicked back to him and she blinked several times, regarding him silently. He waited for an answer, his eyes locked on hers. “I didn’t think you would be.” She said softly. He wanted to touch her, but twisted his hands in his lap, resisting the urge. He had been excessively harsh with Zena, and he hadn’t realised until now, but that had been what had worried him since Elena had said that Aura had seen him. He had been afraid that she had seen that violent side of him and that it would colour her opinion of him. She had seen him covered in blood and she knew that he’d killed people, but to see him that way during sex; that was something different. Once he had been able to tell her that he had no interest in Zena, that had been his main concern. “It won’t change my opinion of you, Reno.” She said gently, “I know you wouldn’t hurt me.”

“Of course I wouldn’t.” he replied, trying desperately to not make comparisons between his behaviour with Zena and how he might be with Aura. Rude wasn’t right, damn it. He wasn’t. He would hold that stance even through the distinct differences he could see in his mind. The finger shaped bruises Zena would no doubt be sporting tomorrow and the careful touches that would belong to Aura. He swallowed thickly, his eyes moving back to hers which were now watching him thoughtfully. Fuck.

“You know that I have no interest in Cadan, right?”

Reno swallowed, “Okay…” Aura’s eyes narrowed.

“You really thought I did?”

“Wasn’t that what you were trying to make it look like?”

“Not to you!”

“Okay.” He murmured, running a hand through his hair.

“I was trying to get information.” She said, before adding softly “I would never prefer his company to yours…”

Reno felt stupid for his unfounded jealousy now, and now he realised that that was exactly what it had been. “I’m so dumb.” He breathed.

“Only sometimes, yo.”

He gave a wry smile, feeling his exhaustion catch up with him. “Are we okay?” he asked tiredly.

“Always.”

He nodded, stretching a little and wincing when his tight muscles pulled. “I should go home.”

“You should go and have a cold bath.” She told him, “And put that cream I gave you on.”

Reno got stiffly to his feet. He was beginning to ache all over. “Surely will.” He headed for the door and she followed him.

“Reno?”

“Yeah?” he turned back to look at her. She was twisting her hands in what looked like a painful way.

“You don’t like Zena… but, do you like women like her?”

Women like her? Reno was confused for a moment. He pictured Zena, flicking her curly blonde hair everywhere, the tight provocative clothing she had been wearing tonight that had been all too easy to get off. Then, he looked at Aura standing before him in her knee-length dress and knitted cardigan. “No, Aur.” He said softly, “I don’t like woman like Zena.”

She nodded, glancing up at him. He wanted to hug her, but at the same time did not exactly like the idea of touching her with Zena still all over him. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He told her, pulling the door open.

“Goodnight.”

Reno stepped into the night, cursing himself in his head. Rude was right. He wanted her. What the fuck? When had that happened? What was wrong with him? It was a betrayal. That’s what it was. They were practically siblings. It was wrong. That wasn’t the kind of relationship they’d ever had. Okay, so they weren’t anything like siblings, but they had still never had a relationship anything like where his mind was going right now. “Fuck.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

Aura rolled her eyes, clenching her teeth tightly. Zena giggled. Aura resisted a sigh, her back to the woman as she fiddled with bottles of ingredients. “Honestly,” The woman said, “Didn’t I tell you that I’d have my way, really? I did.”

“Mm.” Aura murmured, not wanting to turn and face the woman. Zena had been going on and on about Reno for the past twenty minutes and Aura had had just about enough.

“Now, that man knows how to keep a rhythm.”

“Ugh!” She groaned, “Oversharing!”

“Well, you know…” Zena giggled and Aura turned to face her, “Well,” The woman looked her up and down, “Maybe you don’t…”

“Sweet Shiva.” Aura rolled her eyes again, and turned, picking up the mug on her bench. “I’ll be back. I’ve got things to do, yo.” She then swept from the room, going quickly down the stairs.

Leaving the mug she was carrying on Reno’s desk, she headed up the hallway for Rufus Shinra’s office. After a quick knock and being told to enter, she headed inside.

*

 

Reno groaned as he sat down at his desk, his head in his hands and trying to move his shoulders as little as he could. He hurt. Everywhere. He’d given his debrief to Tseng when he’d first arrived. These little units operating around Edge with intent to attack ShinRa employees were more capable than they had been credited. He suspected that they really needed to rethink their idea that this group was just an amateur bunch of drunks who had an idea one night at the pub. They were rather more organised than that. Some of them could fight. Properly.

Reno’s eye caught on the mug on his desk. Steaming hot liquid that smelled delicious. Knowing that it had come from Aura, he picked it up and took a sip. Warmth spread throughout him, and he drank again. The relief that washed through his body was almost instant. Closing his eyes, Reno let out a soft groan. He could breathe without his chest aching. Sweet relief.

“Have you been properly checked out?” Rude’s rough voice made him look up at the desk across from his own.

“You mean by Zena? No, thanks.”

“You made your choice.” Rude said, “Man up and deal with it.”

“Tch.” Reno looked away. He didn’t want to go upstairs to see Zena. He’d rather deal with the pain.

“He being a baby?” Elena came past and sat at her own desk.

“Yeah.” Rude nodded and Reno rolled his eyes dramatically.

“You’re going to have to see her sooner or later.” Elena put in.

“I’m aware.”

“So just go get it over with.”

“I’ll do it eventually.”

“Do it now.”

Reno sought for a good excuse. “I want to know what Aura found out.” He said, leaning back in his seat. “I think she’s telling The Prez right now…”

He watched as Elena sat up a little straighter. “We shouldn’t go too far, then. Likely Tseng will want us when they’re done.”

“Exactly my thinkin’, yo.” Reno sipped from the mug, wondering how long the effects of it would last. Maybe Aura would make him more so that he didn’t have to go and be subjected to Zena. He suspected that she would.

“So, you told Tseng about what happened?” Rude asked after a moment. Reno blinked.

“I doubt he’s interested in what we do on our time off…”

“No… while you were on patrol.” His partner huffed and Reno grinned.

“Right.” He nodded, “Yeah, I told him. He reckons that Rufus is gonna want to make some sort of public address. Talk about how unnecessary these groups are. Try to get the populace back on our side, yo…”

“Makes sense.” Elena nodded, “Appeal to the public… maybe someone will talk…”

“Doubt anybody that knows anything will come to talk to us.” Reno told her.

“They hold meetings in a public bar.” Rude put in, “Someone may have overheard…” Reno shook his head. He doubted very much that they would talk to anyone who wasn’t one of their own. That’s just how these people operated. Half their strength was in their sense of community and their mistrust of anyone who wasn’t one of them.

Tseng suddenly appeared, gesturing for them to follow him. “The President wishes to see us.” Reno got to his feet and reluctantly put the mug down. Tseng turned and headed up the hallway, and Reno glanced at the others as they too got to their feet before following the dark haired man. Just as they reached the doors to the office Aura came out. She looked around at them before heading away down the hallway. Reno watched her go before he followed Elena inside. The sort of detached expression on Rufus’ face caught Reno’s attention practically as soon as he’d taken a seat opposite his boss at the desk. Rufus only ever really looked like that when something was seriously wrong. What had Aura learned from Cadan?

“First thing,” Rufus began, his voice low. “When out in the city, Reno, you’re not to be in uniform.”

“What?” Reno asked, frowning. “I… is this because I don’t wear the tie, yo? I mean…”

“No…” Rufus turned his icy eyes on him. “It’s because you’re distinctive. The people that Aura knows; you’ve become familiar to them. If they see you in uniform…”

Reno got it then. Cadan knew who he was now. If he was made as a Turk, then that would link Aura to ShinRa. He had been stupid. “Oh…” he looked at the President then as something else occurred to him. “But, Sir… when you go out to make appearances… How am I meant to protect…”

“You don’t need to be right beside me to do that, do you?”

Reno shook his head. No, he did not. He could be effective from a distance. Rufus nodded at him, and then looked toward Tseng.

“Right. So, I have learned something concerning.” He began, “It seems that in order to turn the city against us, these annoying little worms plan to blame us for something they intend to do themselves.”

“They’re going to frame us?” Elena asked, “For what?”

“A false cure.” Rufus said, “Like Junon.” Reno watched Rufus lean back in his chair, his fingers steepled. “They’re going to release a fake cure that actually kills the recipient. The people with Geostigma.”

“…Why?” Rude grunted.

“Because,” Tseng said gently, “They’re going to make it look like ShinRa wants to dispose of a public problem. Apparently we will be luring the sick in with the promise of a cure, only to get rid of them permanently.”

“So the cure from Junon doesn’t work…?” Reno asked, “We proved that?”

“It’s still being tested.” Rufus said simply.

“…That’s an extermination.” Elena murmured, “That’s… sick…” She looked up and around at Tseng standing behind her, “Surely people wouldn’t believe that ShinRa would really do that…”

“Of course they would.” Reno said flatly. “We just about obliterated the planet.”

Elena frowned and turned back to Rufus. “What are we going to do, Sir?” she asked. Reno’s eyes flicked back to Rufus.

“We’re in a position to catch some of these people.” He said slowly, “As they attempt to set up these cure stations around the city… We know what they’re up to…”

“So when you make your public address, you can warn people not to go get the cure…”Elena said, nodding.

“No.” Rufus replied, “If we do that we will miss the opportunity to catch them.” Reno watched Elena swallow whatever reply she had to that, and Rufus continued, “We also need to squash their little gangs moving around the city. They killed two of my employees yesterday.” Reno frowned, remembering some of the men he’d fought yesterday gloating about such things. He thought it had just been talk.

“Are you gonna want Aura to keep… pressing for info, yo?”

“I think so.” Rufus replied, those cold eyes meeting his own once again, as if daring him to argue. Reno held his tongue.

 

*

Aura was sitting outside in the sunshine when Reno found her during lunch. He sat beside her wordlessly and she just glanced at him by way of acknowledgement.

“Thanks for the mug.”

“No problem.”

She closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of the sun on her skin while they sat in silence. Eventually Reno spoke again. “So, Cadan told you about the cure thing?”

“If that’s what you wanna call it.”

“Shit’s hardcore, right?” He sighed. She nodded, still not opening her eyes. “But, y’know… we’ll sort it.”

Aura opened her eyes and turned to look at him. “I have to keep seeing Cadan?” She asked. She watched as he rolled his eyes and nodded.

“Yeah, apparently.”

Biting her lip, she thought about that. “Maybe I can convince him to not do it…”

“Maybe.” Reno agreed. Aura watched him struggle with keeping his expression neutral. He never had been good at hiding his emotions. “Could you do it without inviting him home?” Biting back a sharp retort, Aura just looked at him. “Do you think?” he pressed.

“Do you think you can keep your hands of Zena?”

“Are we going to do this again?” he asked.

Aura got to her feet. “No.” She said, “I’ll just go back inside now and hear the story in detail from her for the rest of the day.” She watched Reno clench his jaw.

“Aur… I thought we were okay…”

She frowned, “Yeah. Doesn’t erase the images burned into my retinas, yo.” She took a step away and Reno sighed dramatically.

“What do I have to do, Aur…?”

“Nothing.” She said simply, “I just…” She took several steps backwards, “Time… I can’t… Every time I look at you I don’t want to see…” Aura looked away as unbidden images of Reno thrusting roughly into Zena flashed before her. She shook her head. Suddenly his hands closed around her upper arms and she hadn’t even seen him move.

“Aura…”

“Don’t.” She tried to pull away, but he tightened his hold on her, “Reno… Let me go.”

“I told you that I don’t want her.”

“I know that.” She replied, not looking at him, “I know… Look, I’m sorry. I said we were okay, and we are.” She tried pulling away again, “I still love you, Reno. I just need to process…” She gave up trying to get away; he was too strong, “It was only last night. I still see it.” It still hurt, but she wouldn’t tell him that.

Slowly, Reno released her and moved back slightly. “I’m sorry.” He said, his voice soft. Aura looked up at him, then. The dejected look in his eyes had her reaching a gentle hand out to him, coming to rest over his heart. She didn’t want to hurt him. “I want to make it better.” He told her.

“Then just let me have the time.” She replied. He nodded and took another step back. Aura’s hand dropped to her side and she gave him a small smile before turning and heading back inside and up to the lab.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

Elena’s back hit the mat hard and she gasped as the breath was knocked from her lungs. “Wow…” she choked, looking up at Tseng who was gracefully getting to his feet. “Every time…”

“One would hope you would learn from your mistakes, Elena.” He replied evenly. “Time and time again, you expose the same weakness. I thought you were working on this with Reno.”

“I am.” She said, getting to her own feet, “Twice a week.”

Tseng fixed her with a steely look, “I would recommend more.”

“Maybe you could train with me more often?” She asked hopefully. He gave a single nod, pulling his sleek hair back and tying it in his usual immaculate way.

“Very well.” Adjusting the sleeves on his shirt, Tseng moved to the edge of the mat, “Shall this be our regular afternoon?”

“Yeah.” She smiled, watching him. Even just pulling his jacket on, the man was graceful.

“You are improving, Elena.” He told her, turning to face her once more. “You just need some fine tuning.”

She smiled, trying to choke down her reply that he could fine tune her anytime. That was something Reno would say, and she definitely did not need to be telling her superior anything of the sort. No matter how true it was. “Thank you, sir.”

Tseng nodded again and checked his watch. “You should have finished half an hour ago.” He told her.

“Time to go home.” She agreed, “… are… you going to go?”

“I’ll check on the President first.” He replied absently, doing up his jacket, “See if he needs anything…”

“And tonight?” She asked, trying to sound casual, “7th Heaven, maybe?”

“Maybe.” He agreed, leading her toward the door. Elena watched him from the corner of her eye, wishing he would just commit.

“Maybe I’ll see you there.” She said, trying not to sigh. She knew that Reno wasn’t going, and Rude had said something about needing a quiet night at home. If Tseng went, it would just be the two of them. When they reached the offices again, Tseng hurried off to find the President, and Elena grabbed her jacket and bag. It looked as if Reno and Rude had already left, so she headed for the doors alone.

 

Several hours later, Elena sat at the usual table in 7th Heaven, nursing her second drink and idly watching grinding bodies on the dance floor. As Rude had said, he hadn’t shown up, nor had Reno. The redhead had been a little downcast the last few days and Elena had supposed it had much to do with the fact that Aura seemed to be avoiding him. She couldn’t blame the girl, though, after what she had seen. She didn’t think either of them had actually been back here since that incident, in fact. Zena certainly had.

Elena’s eyes found the blonde woman now on the dance floor, wrapped around some guy. That blonde curly hair was flicking in every which direction and Elena had to look away after only a few seconds. Gross.

Suddenly Tseng sat down opposite her with several drinks in hand and pushed one across the table toward Elena.

“Sir…”

“Good Evening, Elena.” The man replied, downing one of the drinks he had sat in front of himself. Elena eyed him, shocked.

“Are you okay, Sir?” She had never seen him drink like that before.

“Just fine.” He replied, “The President ordered me to go and ‘relax’.”

Elena nodded, no idea what was going on. He wasn’t acting like his usual self at all. “Why?”

She watched as Tseng drew a deep breath and exhaled. “He intends to have Aura’s reverse engineered cure tested on himself.”

“Oh.” She nodded, “Surely he should have it tested on others, first…”

“I suggested as such.” He replied, now leaning back in his seat, “I have advised Rufus Shinra for most of his life.” He told her, “But he told me that my opinion was not required in this matter.”

Elena understood now. “I see.” She nodded, “So, he told you to go and relax. Well, that is why we come here.”

“We?” he asked, his eyes flicking to the dance floor. “I think Zena and I come here for very different reasons…” Reluctantly, Elena looked around for Zena. As if she had heard her name, the blonde woman looked back at them and grinned, before heading in their direction. She slid onto the seat beside Tseng, and began twirling a strand of her hair as she looked at them.

“Hey guys.” She simpered, “Is Reno coming tonight?”

“I don’t think so.” Elena said simply.

“No?” Zena pouted, “Why not?”

“I think he’s tired.” Elena replied, “He’s been doing a lot of patrols lately.”

“Well,” Zena giggled, nudging Tseng with her elbow, “Wouldn’t want to tire him out further, would I…”

“I doubt you could.” Tseng said, downing another of his drinks, “Reno has inexhaustible energy.”

“Oh, I would vouch for that.” Zena laughed, winking at Elena, “But I think you underestimate me…” Tseng frown and glanced in Zena’s direction before meeting Elena’s eyes. Elena saw the moment he cottoned on to what the blonde was saying. Zena just kept talking, “I mean he was injured the other night, but you wouldn’t have guessed with the power that man wields. So strong, it was like he’d never stop.”

“Sweet Shiva.” Elena picked up the drink Tseng had given her and took a sip as her boss downed his next and then looked hopefully toward the bar. A moment later, Tseng got to his feet and pushed past Zena as he headed off to get more drinks. Zena just kept talking.

“I mean, have you ever gone there?” She asked, looking at Elena, “Reno, I mean. I guess, you could have but I don’t think you have. Anyway, I was a bit surprised when he just grabbed me, but like I was going to turn that down. I had always known he would be something to remember, and I was so right. He was rough, you know, and I kinda like that. All virile and in charge.”

Elena wished she could drive a knife into her own ear canals. She didn’t need to be hearing this. She had seen enough the other night, following Aura into that back room. “I… don’t think I want to be picturing this…”

“I don’t think you could, anyway.” Zena grinned. “Do you think Tseng would be the same?” Elena’s jaw dropped. Tseng? Virile and in charge? She had pictured that on more than one occasion.

“I…” she bit her lower lip.

“I think he would be.” Zena smirked at Elena knowingly. “He’s so… controlled… It’d be intense.”

Letting out a shaky breath, Elena watched Tseng head back toward them, drink in hand. Her boss sat down, and Elena tried not to watch him too closely. He looked less controlled than usual, and several strands of that long dark hair had come loose and were hanging in his face. “You still talking about Reno?” He asked, looking at Zena.

“There’s a lot to say.” The blonde replied, twisting a strand of her hair around her finger.

“I’m sure there is.” Tseng muttered, “I spend a lot of my time talking about Reno.” He took a sip of his drink, “Specifically his disobedience.”

“Mmm, but that’s so fun.” Zena replied, smirking widely. “I like them wild.”

“I’m sure you do.” Tseng finished his drink and then waved his hand toward the dance floor, “Maybe you should go find a new toy.” Elena watched as he continued to gesture for Zena to leave. The blonde woman just looked him up and down before getting to her feet. She then flounced off across the room and into the mass of grinding bodies. “I cannot stand that woman.” Tseng muttered, turning to look at Elena. “If she wasn’t so good at her job…”

Elena blinked. She had never seen him be so… open and honest before. He was drunk, she realised. Tseng was actually drunk. “I’m tired of this noise.” She could have sworn she heard a whining tone in his voice then.

“Maybe it’s time to go home.” She told him, almost disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to see him get properly smashed. Tseng gave a noncommittal shrug.

“Maybe.” He got unsteadily to his feet and then looked at her. “I want to talk to you.”

Elena tilted her head and got to her own feet. “Of course, Sir.” She said. Perhaps she should make sure he got home as he talked to her. She wasn’t sure how well her boss could handle his alcohol. She hadn’t even known it was possible for him to even get drunk. She wondered if Reno knew. “I’ll walk with you.” She told him.

Tseng nodded in acceptance and began to stagger off toward the door. Elena hurried after him.

By the time they got to Tseng’s apartment, Elena was impressed that the man was even still walking. The whole way home he had complained about Reno arguing with Rufus, and how he had to always talk the President out of punishing him. He had then whinged about how Rufus really ought to listen to his advice more closely, and that he was marginally offended that he had been dismissed the way he had earlier.

As they entered her boss’ apartment, the man had moved on to how annoyed he was when his orders were not properly adhered to. “I swear.” He muttered, throwing himself down on the end of a long couch. Elena sat gingerly beside him. “Reno does it on purpose.” He poured two drinks from the table beside him and handed one to Elena before downing the other quickly. “He gets the job done, but he always does it in a way he knows will piss me off.” Elena put her glass, still full, on the table before her.

“He has a unique way of doing things, yes.” She agreed.

“Selective hearing, is how I’d put it.”

“Maybe that’s why he is so effective.”

“No.” Tseng shook his head, his hair now hanging free. Elena tried not to notice how soft it looked. “He needs to learn to follow orders properly. I am tired of people not doing as they’re told!”

Elena bit her lip. “I… I’m sorry, Sir.”

Tseng’s dark eyes flicked directly to her. “You do, don’t you…?” He placed his glass on the table. “You always try, don’t you, Elena?”

She nodded, “Yes, Sir. I do. I want to be the best.” She jumped when his hand suddenly shot out and took hold of her left wrist.

“You’re so very good at following orders.” He pulled her closer by her wrist, “I always know that you’ll do whatever I say. That you’ll do everything exactly the way you’re told…”

“Yes, Sir…” Elena’s breath caught in her throat when his other hand moved to her cheek.

“I so very enjoy it.” Tseng breathed, his thumb tracing her lower lip, “Knowing you’ll do exactly what I want…”

“Whatever you want.” She watched as understanding flooded his eyes then and he looked her quickly up and down.

“Whatever I want?” he murmured. She gave a slight nod and Tseng pushed her back on the couch, moving over her as he did so, pressing a knee between her hers, his hands sliding her skirt up. Elena gasped when one of his hands was suddenly between her legs. Lifting her own hands to his hair, she allowed her fingers to move through it, marvelling at just how silky it actually was.

Tseng had ripped her underwear off and Elena watched his face as she felt him fiddling with his own pants. She wrapped her legs around his waist and in an instant he had pushed into her and her hands left his hair to find his hips as she let out a gasp. Tseng allowed no time for Elena to adjust to the feel of him inside her. He immediately braced himself with one hand on the cushion by her head, and then he was thrusting quickly, desperately, into her. Almost distracted by his hot breath in her ear and the unchecked moaning coming from her boss, Elena couldn’t help but wonder. She had next to no doubt that, if Tseng had been sober, his movements would have been strong, fluid, and rhythmic. Right now, she could smell the alcohol on his breath and his movements were erratic as he fucked her. This was what it was, Elena knew that. It wasn’t the romantic scenario she had imagined where Tseng would lay her down gently and make love to her. She was lying, still clothed, on his couch with her skirt bunched up around her hips as he drunkenly fucked her. Elena’s hands clutched now at Tseng’s shoulders and she watched the ceiling while listening to the sounds of his urgent thrusting.

It didn’t last long. Only a few minutes later he came with a hard grunt as a shudder ran through him and he pulled out of her, quickly doing his pants up. She watched as he silently tied his hair back once more, appearing to compose himself. Tugging her skirt back down, Elena sat up slowly. Pushing her hair behind her ear, she bit her lower lip. What now?

She eyed him silently, but he didn’t say anything. Tseng slowly smoothed his shirt down, fiddling with the cuff of one of his sleeves. “I… need to …sleep…”

“Probably a good idea.” Elena said softly. Were they really going to pretend like that had not just happened? Tseng got unsteadily to his feet. Elena followed suit, standing there for a moment, unsure. After a few seconds, Tseng cast a glance at her.

“You can stay or go…” he said.

“I’ll go home…”

He nodded once. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yes, Sir.” She smoothed her hair down as she headed for the door.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

Reno watched the way Elena slunk toward her desk, barely minutes before she would have been late. He hadn’t seen her less than twenty minutes early ever. He tilted his head and watched her with interest. Was she hungover? He knew she had gone out the previous night, but not being there himself, he had no idea what she had gotten up to or how much she had had to drink.

“Rough night, Laney?” He blinked at the look she gave him then. “Uh…” Reno threw a questioning glance at Rude who gave him a shrug. “You okay, Laney?”

“I’m fine.” She muttered, pointedly picking up her pen and flipping open a file. He watched her for a few moments more, knowing that something was up with her.

“I’m here if you wanna talk, yo.”

“Yeah.” Her dark eyes flicked toward him for a second before going back to her file. Reno tilted his head. She seemed sad. He didn’t have further time to process or work it out because at that moment Tseng came to a stop before his desk.

“The President has given orders to go and prepare the marketplace for his address this morning.”

Reno took his jacket off. “Do I go with you?” he asked, “I mean the Prez said I wasn’t to be in uniform when in the city, so I’m guessing I shouldn’t be with you either.”

“Go on your own.” Tseng replied with a simple nod, “You can secure the perimeter.”

“Bit late for all of this, isn’t it?” Rude asked, “If he wanted to do it this morning, we should have been clearing the area at least by yesterday.”

“He only wishes to speak for a few minutes.” Tseng told them, “I am sure we can manage.”

“We’ve done it before.” Reno said, getting to his feet. “Let’s go, yo.” He grabbed what he would need and headed for the hall, he would have to get changed before leaving. No doubt if Rufus were to be speaking publicly, Cadan and his little friends would be somewhere about the place.

It wasn’t until Reno was leaving the lodge that he wondered where Aura would be, as she wasn’t due to head to the lab until that afternoon. Would she be at home, or would she be in the city? He pulled out his phone and called her, but received no answer. Making a face, he hoped that she wasn’t with Cadan. He wondered what the situation was between the two of them since she had told the guy to leave the other night. He knew that the prick wouldn’t have been happy, especially considering how the guy had obviously thought the evening was going to go. Was he even still going to see Aura? Reno rather hoped not. That would make things so much simpler for him. He wouldn’t have to worry about the guy trying things on with Aura again, and if Cadan wasn’t around, Aura would be safer in regard to secretly working for ShinRa.

He really needed to sort things out with her, but to do that, Reno would need to sort his own head out first. After he was done in the city with Rufus and he was allowed to go home for the evening, he would figure everything out.

 

*

Elena hurried for the doors, knowing that she was the last to leave, but somehow unable to make herself focus as she normally would. She bit her lip when she found Tseng waiting, and she braced herself to be reprimanded. A turk was never late.

She had just opened her mouth to apologise for being slack and to promise to pull herself together before they got to the city, but Tseng had stepped in front of her, preventing her from exiting through the doors. “Elena,” he began, his tone low. She blinked at him, swallowing thickly as she remembered the way he had groaned into her ear the night before.

“Yes, sir?”

“I…” his eyes met hers for a moment before he looked away. “I… wasn’t myself last night.” He murmured, “If I hurt you in any way, I am sorry.” She shook her head.

“You didn’t…”

His eyes moved over her, as if trying to determine if what she had said were true and then he nodded once. “Good.” He stepped away and Elena tried to even out her suddenly difficult breathing. “Good… Alright, then.” She watched as he pushed open the door behind him with one hand, “Come on, then. Rude is waiting.”

She followed him out to Rude and they escorted Rufus into Edge. By the time they got to the main market square, Elena was already wishing they hadn’t come. The crowds were making her nervous, and she couldn’t help thinking about being shot in that alley not all that long ago. Looking up and around at various rooftops, she scanned for Reno. Elena would have put money on him being up there, and a moment later she smirked to herself when she spotted a flash of red hair moving quickly around the square. Reno always did like the heights. When she had been a new rookie, he had shown her how to move quickly from building to building, and he had taught her how to choose the best vantage points for whatever she was after. She was not surprised that he was up there now to keep an eye on the President.

 

*

 

The moment the crowds shifted, Reno knew something was wrong. From above he was always excellent at judging the nature of things like that (not that he wasn’t also excellent at judging it from the ground too), and immediately he could tell that something was about to happen. He had momentarily been looking for Aura, wondering if she was somewhere below, when things had changed. He got to his feet, his eyes scanning the square. Rufus had vanished from his sight for a moment, and an instant later Reno had leaped from the roof and was sliding his way off pipes and railings as he all but fell down the side of the building before landing expertly on his feet on the ground. An instant later he was running across the square. He could see Rude, head and shoulders above everyone else and headed for his partner as swiftly as he could.

By the time he got across the square, Tseng was lifting a limp Elena off of Rufus, and Reno paused for a heartbeat before bending to his boss on the ground and hauling him to his feet. “Boss?” He asked, trying to look the man over and assess any damage. There was blood on his white shirt and Reno tried to swallow the sudden panic that flooded him. “Boss, are you okay?”

Rufus looked a little stunned and Reno just about shook him. “Boss?”

“I… I’m fine…” Rufus blinked and looked at Reno for a moment. “Elena…”

Reno cast a glance at Elena in Tseng’s arms. She was still limp and Tseng looked paler than Reno could remember seeing him. “We have to go.”

Rude pushed toward them, and Reno turned to him. “Get us out.” Rude nodded and began clearing a path. “What happened, yo?”

“Think it was one of their gangs.” Rude muttered, looking over his shoulder. Reno pulled Rufus along behind him. “Elena saw it first… jumped in front…” Reno looked back around at Tseng following behind them, carrying Elena. That sounded just like his little Rookie. He glanced uneasily at the crowd. What in the name of Shiva had happened? He hadn’t seen a thing. He never missed stuff like this. Tightening his hand on Rufus’ arm, Reno pulled the man closer. They could have lost him.

“Elena…” Rufus murmured, and Reno glanced at him. “Is she…”

“Just move.” Reno pulled him along more quickly, “We’ll deal with Elena when you’re out of here.” As quickly as he was moving, Reno couldn’t help looking around them, still wondering if Aura was in the now panicked crowd. She often didn’t go in to work until the afternoon, but he hoped that wasn’t the case today.

“Who are you looking for?” Rufus asked him.

“Nobody.” He replied, pulling his boss down a narrow street after Rude.

 

*

 

The door flew open with a bang and Aura jumped at her work table. “I need help!” Zena cried, flying in, grabbing some stuff and flying out again. “Come help me!” Following quickly, Aura gasped when she entered the infirmary and spotted Tseng laying an unconscious Elena on a bed.

“What happened?” Aura asked, pausing halfway across the room. She blinked in surprise when Reno strode toward her, taking hold of her shoulders and looking her over. “….what are you…?” she looked up at him, wincing at his painful hold on her. She saw his eyes widen at his realisation and his hold on her loosened.

“Were you here or in town?” he asked her, eyes flicking back and forth across her face as she met his gaze. She could read the concern in his own expression, but she was also aware of other eyes upon them.

“I’ve been here.” She murmured, stepping back from him and catching sight of Rufus Shinra behind him, watching them. “Reno…” He appeared to catch himself and he allowed her to move back, his gaze dropping momentarily to the floor.

“Good…” he replied, straightening slightly. “Zena needs help with Elena.”

Blinking quickly to steady herself, Aura turned toward the bed Elena lay on and hurried across the room. “What do you need?” she asked Zena. The blonde woman didn’t so much as glance Aura’s way, she was so focused on Elena. Aura listened to the instructions she was given and set about completing the tasks as quickly as she was able. All the while, she felt Reno’s eyes on her, and when Zena told her that she no longer required assistance, Aura turned and moved toward her friend. She stopped before him, but looked at the President sitting beside him. “Were you hurt, Sir?”

“No…” Rufus’ pale eyes met hers and he shook his head.

“And you?” Aura allowed her eyes to look Reno over, her hand moving toward him at the sight of blood on his shirt.

“I’m alright.” Reno told her, his hand coming up to meet hers “… it’s not mine.” He added, seeing what she was looking at. Aura frowned and she looked back to the President and the blood soaking his own clothing.

“Are you sure you are not injured, Sir?”

“The blood is Elena’s.” Rufus replied, his eyes going from her hand in Reno’s back to Elena across the room. Aura slowly pulled away from Reno. They still had to be careful.

“Are you sure, yo?” Reno’s voice started Aura, and she watched as he moved toward his boss. “Adrenaline sometimes does that… you don’t know you’re hurt until later. Maybe you should check yourself out.”

“Why would I do that when I have you or Aura to do it for me?” Rufus’ dry reply came with barely a glance their way. Aura flicked a glance at Reno who narrowed his eyes at the President.

“As you command.”

“I got it, yo.” Aura told her friend, moving toward Rufus, her hands careful as she undid his shirt and lifted it from him. Ignoring the traces of Geostigma that were evident, she moved around, her eyes scanning his chest and torso for any sign of a wound. When she found none, Aura stepped back. “Would you like me to bandage that up for you?” She gestured at the stigma and Rufus shook his head.

“I have to shower.”

Aura stepped aside as the man got to his feet and then, with one last glance across the room, he strode out the door. Reno’s hand found Aura’s shoulder a moment later and she moved to sit beside him. They watched as Zena finished with Elena and Tseng hovered by the bed, paler than Aura had ever seen him. “Tseng really cares, yo.” She murmured low enough that only Reno would be able to hear her.

“I know.” He nodded. Aura turned to look at Reno once again.

“None of the rest of you were hurt? Really?”

“Really.” He replied, “Just Elena.”

Hey both looked back to where Zena was settling a sheet over Elena before ushering Tseng away from the bed, telling the man that they all needed to leave so that Elena could have some uninterrupted rest. Aura got to her own feet and Zena began ushering the lot of them toward the door. “Let the girl get some rest. She will be fine.”

“Aur…” Reno followed her out the door and down the hallway.

“Yeah?” she turned to face him.

“Can… I come to visit you tonight? … I’ll bring dinner.”

She watched the apprehension fill his features before she nodded slowly. “Yeah, of course.”

He smiled at her then, and Aura couldn’t help the smile back. “Great. I’ll see you later.” She watched as he strode off down the hallway, a spring evident in his step. Perhaps things between them would be back to normal sooner than she had thought they could be.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

Reno strode up Aura’s street, dinner in his hands and a bottle of wine under his arm. He had been extraordinarily pleased when she had agreed to let him come, as he had begun to fear that she would keep avoiding him for a time to come. The mistake he had made with Zena had become more and more regrettable each time it was remembered, and Reno was pretty certain that he would do just about anything to be able to take it back. Knocking quickly on her door, he glanced up and down the street as he always had while waiting for her to open to him.

“Reno…”

He smiled at her when she let him inside. “Did you dress up?” he asked, looking her over. Aura’s hand moved down the pale blue dress she wore and he watched her blush lightly.

“Uhh… No…” She turned away, closing the door.

“My mistake.” Reno murmured through his smile.

“Should I have?” She turned toward him once more and he paused when her green eyes met his own.

“I…” Reno swallowed, “I would not have you any way other than as you are…” She smiled at him and moved toward the couch and Reno rolled his eyes at himself. What the hell was he even saying? He didn’t know how to do this. Eyeing the kitchen, he sought refuge. “You sit… I’ll sort this…” Out of the corner of his eye, Reno saw her sit on the couch as he headed for the doorway. He set about collecting some wine glasses and then some plates for the food he had brought.

He wanted her. It was as plain to him now as anything he saw around himself. He did not know when or how it had happened, he could not place the moment when the way he looked at her had changed, but it had. There was no use in denying it anymore. It had happened and he needed to deal with it. Setting about dishing the dinner out onto plates, Reno bit his lip. He did not know how to broach the subject with her. He had no expectation, and yet he could not ignore it. Perhaps he would just see how they were together now. He could not deny there was a new dynamic between them. They both needed to navigate this new relationship, and then he would see where things fell.

 

*

 

“Smells good, yo.” Aura smiled when Reno carried two laden plates into her living room and set them upon her table. “Where did you get it?”

“What makes you think I didn’t cook it?” He asked her, mock hurt on his face. Aura just raised an eyebrow at him. It wasn’t that Reno couldn’t cook, she knew that he could. But she also knew that he hadn’t cooked this. “There’s a new place not far from my apartment.”

She nodded, leaning forward to better see what was on the plates he had set down. Reno went back into the kitchen and returned with two glasses and a bottle of wine. “Excellent.” She watched him pour the burgundy liquid into the glasses and then pass one to her. Lifting it to her lips, Aura took a long drink before setting the glass back on the table. Reno’s surprised gaze met hers although he said nothing. She gave him a small smile, not knowing what to tell him. She had never been anxious in Reno’s presence, not in the years they had known one another. Yet, here she was, unable to calm her nerves.

“Aur…” Reno said softly, handing her a plate. “Maybe you should get some food in your stomach before you drink like that.”

“Since when are you the voice of reason?” she asked, taking the plate he offered and picking up a fork.

“Since you downed two thirds of that glass in one go.” He looked carefully at her and then shrugged, “Hey, no judgement, yo. It was a shit of a day.”

Aura inclined her head in agreement. “I am glad that you were not hurt.” She told him. “Seeing Elena like that… it might have been you.” She watched him pick at his plate, nodding his head gently.

“It has been.” He murmured, “But… that’s the job.”

“We… haven’t really discussed it properly.” She said, moving things around on her plate, “What you do. Now that I work for ShinRa too… maybe…”

“You don’t need to know, Aur…” He replied, not meeting her gaze. She frowned.

“I’m not stupid…”

“I know that…”

“I know that you… kill… You’re an assassin. I know what a Turk is…”

“Yes…”

Aura blinked, but pressed on. “The primary purpose… is to protect the President, right?”

“Yes… Aur… I don’t…” Reno shook his head, setting his plate aside. Aura did the same, feeling the wine’s heat begin to spread in her stomach.

“Tell me.”

“I… couldn’t handle it…” he told her softly, “the change in the way you would look at me… once you learned what I have done.”

Aura moved closer to him on the couch. “Not this again.” She breathed, reaching out to him. “I told you the day you killed Hugo Barron. I could never hate you, no matter what you did.”

“But Aur, you don’t know what I’ve done.”

“You have done whatever you have had to.”

 

*

 

Reno’s fingers closed around Aura’s wrist and her strange mako eyes met his own as she watched him. Reno went over what she had said in his mind, wanting to believe her.

“I dropped the plate on Sector Seven.” The words were out of his mouth before he had made the decision to utter them. Aura’s eyes widened and she sat a little straighter, staring at him.

“What…?”

He recoiled, trying to move away, but this time she had taken hold of his wrist and did not let him. “I…”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I… dropped… the…” he glanced quickly at her and then away. “It was me… I did it…”

“No…”

“Yes…”He steeled himself, ready for the disgust he would see in her face. When he lifted his eyes to look at her once more he saw nothing but shock however.

“Reno…” she breathed. He lowered his eyes. “All of those people…” She leaned toward the table, picked up her wineglass and drained it.

“I know.” He closed his eyes, “I know…”

When she said nothing else, he knew what was coming. He did not expect her soft fingers to move up his arm to his elbow, pulling him to turn more fully toward her. “You have held this for so long…?”

“I thought…”

“You thought I’d hate you.”

He just nodded. Aura shook her head. “Don’t you?”

“Don’t be stupid.” She murmured, “I’ve told you I could never. You know that.”

“You said that before you knew.”

“Hasn’t changed, yo.”

Reno stared at her. “How?” he didn’t understand how nothing could have changed. Aura had always been the most soft-hearted person he had known. How could this new knowledge of the scale of blood on his hands not have any impact on her view of him? She tilted her head, looking back at him. “Aur, how?”

“Because I know you, you stupid moron.” She sighed and Reno’s breath caught in his throat as she crawled across the space between them and into his lap. He stared into her eyes as she sat atop him, adjusting herself until she was comfortable. “You,” she said softly, “are still the person who saved me in a dark street when you had no reason to get involved. You are still the one who made sure I was safe and fed and, for the most part, warm when we could manage it. You protected me, and made sure I had a home… even when ShinRa pulled you out of the gutter and you had no reason to look back…”

“I did have reason.” He replied, but Aura pressed a finger to his lips, silencing him.

“The sacrifices you have made for me never went unnoticed, Reno.” Her hand was gentle against his cheek now, and Reno didn’t know what to do. “I would do anything for you.” She told him.

Sweet Shiva. He tried to keep his hands off her, but he couldn’t. Before he could stop himself, Reno had wrapped his arms around Aura’s waist, drawing her closer to himself. The small sound she made went straight to his cock and he bit back a small groan. He tried not to think about the fact that he could have her right here and now on her couch, and instead focused his eyes on her empty wineglass. The way she had downed its contents had no doubt had an impact upon her, and he would do nothing while she was so affected.

“Aur…” he murmured, meeting her eyes again. “I should go…”

“Should you?”

“Yes…”

She sighed and moved back, getting to her feet. “Kay… See you later, yo.” Reno reluctantly got to his own feet and turned for the door. She followed him and had just reached for the handle when Reno’s hand caught her wrist.

“Thank you.” He breathed, looking down at her when she threw him a questioning glance. “For not hating me.”

One of her gentle hands came to rest on his arm and she looked as if she were about to say something to him in reply, but Reno had raised one of his own hands to her cheek as he bent and pressed his lips to hers. Aura melted against him and before he had even realised what he was doing, her arms were around his neck. Somehow, he managed to gain control of himself and he placed both hands on her waist, moving her back. “I… I… really… should go.” He managed, struggling to even his breathing out. “Aura… I… have to go.”
She just watched him silently as he opened the door and turned to look at her again. He noted the flush in her cheeks and the way her eyes followed him as she stood as still as any statue. “I’ll see you… tomorrow…” Reno then turned and forced himself to walk out the door and into the cool night air. Fuck.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

WHAT THE FUCK WAS HE DOING? Reno drew deep breath after deep breath as he walked home. What the fuck? What was he thinking? He had kissed her. Aura. His oldest friend. How could he have kissed her? What right did he have to do that?

“Stupid.” Reno growled out in frustration. This seemed to be becoming a habit for him. He was unable to keep his hands off of Aura, he would cross a line, attempt to apologise to her, and end up offending her. He did not want to do that again, he was tired of fighting with her. He hated it. They had only just been on their way to repairing what he had broken before, so why had he ruined it yet again?

Aura had given him no word that his kiss would have been welcome, so why had he dared to do such a thing? He was ashamed of himself, and yet… The memory of her soft lips on his filled him with a sweet warmth. She had not hesitated for even a moment before throwing her arms around his neck and pulling him closer. Perhaps it had been the wine. He could not believe that Aura could truly want him, especially after he had told her about Sector Seven. It had definitely been the wine. He was right to have left when he had, before he had done something that she would have regretted.

By the time he had arrived home, Reno was hot under the collar and in need of a cool shower. He stripped his shirt off on his way up the hallway and kicked his pants into a corner of the bathroom before stepping into his shower and turning the cold tap on as forcefully as he could. His hand moved down his chest, across his stomach and took hold of his cock. Unable to resist a small sigh at his own touch, Reno braced his other hand against the cool tiles and leaned into the wall. He pressed his forehead into the tile, allowing the cold water to cascade down over the back of his neck and shoulders as he set about taking care of himself, unrestrained moans falling from his lips. If this was all he could have, then this is what he would do. Reno’s eyes closed as he allowed himself to picture Aura in his lap once more, her dark hair falling over her shoulders as she leaned into him. He could hear her voice telling him that she would do anything for him. The meaning that he wanted to take from those words had surely not been her intention, but as he bit his lower lip tightly between his teeth now, Reno could dream. His blood quickened in his veins and he could all but hear his own heartbeat. His hand moved with determined purpose, and he could not hold back the whispered name. “Aura…”

He collapsed against the tiles and the rushing water washed away any trace of what had just happened. It was several minutes before Reno was able to stand straight and turn off the water, and by the time he could manage that he was resolved to send himself to bed. He dried himself off with his towel as he headed up the hallway to his bedroom. Tossing the towel onto the floor, Reno climbed naked under his sheets and stretched out comfortably. Yet again he would have to find Aura and apologise for his behaviour. This time he would not insult her by making her think she was undesirable. Even though that had not been his intention or his meaning last time, he would be careful to avoid that this time. How could she possibly believe he would think that anyway? Surely she would understand this time. He would make it clear that he recognised his own mistake in his actions and that he would be more respectful from now on. Unbidden flashes of what he had done in the shower with her name on his lips came back to him. Respectful indeed. Reno actually felt his cheeks flush with heat. She would be relieved that a killer like him would keep his distance. Shame filled him, realising that he had actually told her about Sector Seven. She knew. Pressing his face into his pillow, Reno turned onto his stomach. By tomorrow she would hate him. Once she had had time to think about it, and realised what it truly meant, there was no way she couldn’t hate him. He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut. He would deal with it in the morning.

 

*

 

Aura stared at her reflection. Pulling a brush through her hair, she thought back to when the plate had come down on Sector Seven. She had been worried about Reno because she hadn’t seen him for ages afterwards, and she had feared that he might even have been dead, one of the many crushed beneath all that rubble. So many had never even been found. She had never dreamed that he had been the one to drop the plate. Even when she had learned that he was a Turk, she’d never thought that he had been the one responsible for all of those deaths. There had to have been a reason. She would ask him, she decided.

Turning away from the mirror, Aura set her brush aside and moved toward her bed. She knew that it wouldn’t make a difference. Whatever he told her his reasoning had been, she knew it wouldn’t make a difference to the way she saw him. What she had told him earlier had been true. He was still the person who had taken care of her and was the reason she was alive and she loved him. Settling back against her pillows, she lifted a finger to her lips. Not once, since she had been fifteen years old and he had saved her in that dark alley, had Reno ever kissed her before. They had curled up together like starving frozen puppies in countless shacks and houses over the years and even out of comfort and familiarity. Personal space had never really been existent between them, but he had never done that. He’d never crossed that line. Smiling, Aura traced her finger across her lips thoughtfully, the memory of that kiss making her toes tingle. Her instinctive reaction had been to respond to that kiss and pull him closer, and Aura was sure that her actions could have sent one message to Reno and one message only. She wanted him to do it again.

Would he, though? He had run away pretty quickly. Aura hadn’t missed his reaction when she had climbed into his lap. His hands and been on her in an instant, drawing her closer to himself. But Reno’s own reaction had been what had caused him to leave. Maybe the reaction had purely been physical and so to avoid that further, he had left. But then why kiss her at the door? His kiss had been light and sweet, but the moment she had responded to him he had pulled away again. She knew that, at least physically, he wanted her. That much had been clear. Perhaps he just needed to process that fact. She hoped that when he did he would decide that he did indeed want her. She would have to face it herself. It was becoming more and more difficult to deny how she felt. The hurt she had felt over his bumbling attempt to apologise for what had happened between them at 7th Heaven and she had thought that he had meant he could never want someone like her, and the devastation that she had experienced seeing Reno with Zena. There was no more pretending, she would make it clear to him, if it wasn’t already. She wanted him. She was in love with him.

 

*

 

With one last glance at Elena in her hospital bed, Tseng turned to leave the infirmary. She still had not awoken, although Zena assured him that she would. The doctor had told him that it was a good thing that Elena was still asleep, as her body was taking the rest it needed to focus on repairing her injuries. She had told him that it was what was best for Elena. Tseng supposed that it made sense, he just hoped that it didn’t last for too much longer. It was painful to see Elena this way, and he desperately just wanted to be able to speak with her.
Sighing, Tseng closed the door behind himself and headed back downstairs to his desk. With Elena out of operation, he would need to rearrange his patrols. He would split Elena’s routes between Reno and Rude. Not having quite made it back, Tseng was surprised to find Rufus heading for him past his Turks’ empty desks. “Tseng, there you are.”

“Yes, sorry, sir.” Tseng replied, straightening his posture. “I was just checking on Elena.” He watched Rufus pause for a second before nodding.

“Zena tells me she is doing well.”

“So it seems.” Tseng agreed.

“Good, I wish to speak with you before you go home.”

“As you wish, sir.” Tseng straightened his jacket and followed the president into his office. He watched Rufus move slowly around his desk and sink heavily into his chair. For a moment Tseng considered asking his boss how his Geostigma was going, but thought better of it and bit his tongue. He would be told if it was of any importance. Rufus fiddled around for a few moments and Tseng tilted his head, waiting for the man to speak his mind.

“I have heard,” Rufus began, “that there is movement happening in Junon in the coming weeks…”

“Movement?”

Rufus nodded. “The connection between the fake cure in Junon and the one that is being distributed here… They are one and the same, apparently. Shipments will be packed and ready to be moved. We need to send someone to Junon to check it out.”

“I could…”

“I would prefer you remained here.”

“Right…” Tseng scratched at his head. “I have to redo my patrols with Elena… as she is… I’ll have to look at how that falls before making a decision.”

“Very well.” Rufus shifted in his chair. “It is not urgent. We have some time.” Tseng nodded and then got to his feet as Rufus gestured that he was dismissed. “Good evening, Tseng.”

“And you, sir.”

“I trust you are going home, and not back upstairs to the infirmary?”

Tseng blinked. “Yes, sir.”

“And tomorrow,” Rufus pressed, “More time at your desk and less by Elena’s bedside.” Tseng stared at him, not sure what to say. “I pay Zena for a reason.”

“Yes, sir…” Tseng lowered his gaze, feeling heat rise in his face. He hoped Rufus would not notice. After a moment in which Rufus said nothing further, Tseng turned and strode for the door. He would have a quick look at his patrols in order to be able to present it to Reno and Rude tomorrow, and then he would go home and attempt to get some sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

Aura arrived early at Healen lodge the next morning with the intention of seeking out Reno. She wanted to speak with him about Sector Seven and she wanted to find out how he felt about the previous night. She wanted to tell him how she felt. She had barely walked in the door when she found out that Reno had been sent to cover one of Elena’s patrols and wouldn’t be back for at least an hour. With a sigh, Aura decided to head upstairs and finish off an ointment that she knew President Shinra was hoping to see that morning. During the morning Aura made herself busy. The ointment was done within half an hour and she learned from Zena that Elena was expected to wake up before that evening. With that in mind, Aura went on an early morning break outside to collect some flowers to sit beside Elena’s bed. That way she would have something nice to look at when she awoke.

She pottered around her work table for a little while, restocking this and that before she received word that President Shinra had summoned her. Aura picked up the tub of ointment and several fresh bandages and headed downstairs. Red hair flashed in the corner of her vision and Aura smiled when she saw Reno take his jacket off and fling it onto his desk as he sat in his chair. His eyes met hers as she approached and she was pleased to see a smile form on his lips. “Morning, Aur.” He said, leaning forward onto his desk. She smiled back.

“I was looking for you.” She told him, “I wanna talk to you, yo.”

“I’ll be right here waiting.” He replied as she passed his desk on her way toward Shinra’s office.

“I won’t be long.” Aura couldn’t help smiling more widely before she knocked on the door. She had a good feeling about the conversation she would have with Reno. He didn’t look as if he wanted to run away as he had last night, and she could feel that it would be positive. She tried not to skip too obviously when Rufus Shinra’s voice called for her to enter the room.
He was seated at his desk, as he usually was, and his blue eyes followed Aura as she approached. “Good morning, sir.” She said brightly. He pushed his chair back from his desk and gestured for her to come around to him, as she usually did.

“You appear cheerful this morning.” He remarked, loosening his shirt for her. Aura set her things on his desk and turned to him, opening the shirt far enough that she could remove the soiled bandages.

“I suppose I am.” She told him. Quickly setting about her work, Aura removed the bandages and set them aside before opening the jar of new ointment and gently applying it to the President’s shoulder and arm. The Geostigma appeared to be spreading further down his arm, but she said nothing about this. She simply applied the ointment and then began wrapping the area in the clean bandages she had brought with her. All the while, his pale eyes watched her.

“This is the new ointment?” he asked as she finished fastening the bandages.

“Yes.”

“What is in it?”

“Same as the last one, yo.” She said, “I just messed with the ratios a bit…” His eyes studied her, but he said nothing. Aura blinked and turned to begin clearing her stuff up.

“You sound like him…”

Aura’s hands froze for a moment, and she glanced at the man quickly. “Sorry?”

“I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed before…” Rufus shifted his chair closer to her, his eyes on hers. “You sound like Reno.”

She swallowed. “Well… from the same place, yo.” She forced a smile, “We all sound like this.”

“That’s not it.” He moved closer again until he rested a hand on his desk either side of Aura, effectively trapping her there. “It’s not just how you speak. It’s what you say and how you move…” his eyes looked her up and down. “And it’s the way you interact with one another. It was quite obvious the other day in the infirmary.” He gave her a dry smile, “You’ve known one another for years.”

“Ah…” Aura could barely breathe. She leaned as far back against the desk as she could, but she couldn’t get past him. “No…”

“Yes.” There was no smile on Rufus’ face now. “Which means that Reno has been lying to me… He should have left you behind…” Aura struggled to draw a breath deep enough to get some actual air as she stared at Rufus Shinra. He tilted his head meeting her gaze. “But… it seems he sees you as worth betraying me for.” Aura watched as the man’s blue eyes looked her over. “It would be a woman… I suppose if I had have conceived of the fact that Reno could ever lie to me… It would have had to have been over a woman…” He looked at her again. “Are you worth it?” he asked, his hand on her leg. Aura couldn’t help but flinch. She tried to hide it, but Rufus noticed. “You didn’t like that?” he asked, “Is that because you belong to him?”

“I don’t belong to anybody.” She replied, trying to keep her voice steady.

“I don’t know…” he said softly. “You signed a contract… you belong to whoever I say you belong to…” His hand moved up her thigh and she froze, not knowing what to do still trapped against the desk. He gave a soft laugh at her reaction, and pushed her back until she was almost sitting on his desk. “Anyone would think you’re not used to being touched.” She just looked at him and he tilted his head. “No…” he breathed incredulously. “There’s no way Reno kept you all these years and hasn’t…”

“He’s not like that.” Aura said a little defensively. Rufus smirked at her.

“I doubt he’d keep you like a little pet and be okay with you fucking someone else…” Aura refused to meet his gaze and he laughed again. “But I’m not just anybody…” She looked at him quickly.

“What?” Her voice was barely audible and both his hands were suddenly on her knees as he moved closer, those hands sliding higher. She stiffened.

“Reno betrayed me.” He said calmly. “Should I call him in here right now and shoot him in the face?” he opened the top drawer of his desk and took out an expensive looking gun. Aura stared at it.

“No…”

“Are you sure?” he asked, pressing the call button on his phone. Aura drew a shaky breath, but it was Tseng’s voice that answered.

“Sir?”

“… I don’t wish to be disturbed.” Rufus said, his eyes on Aura.

“Yes, Sir.”

Rufus pressed the button again, cutting the line off, and Aura suddenly felt isolated. She watched as he opened the drawer again and placed the gun back inside. “You must understand, Aura.” He told her. “Reno needs to be punished. Even a year ago, betraying me would result in death. There was no negotiation… I appreciate that things are different now, and I just don’t have that many Turks anymore. But… Betrayal still needs to be punished.” His hands moved up the outside of her thighs, under her dress. “I don’t need to kill him… but considering the lengths he has gone to to keep you a secret… you are clearly of value to him…”

“I…” Aura shook her head.

“He needs to know that anything he thinks is his belongs to me…”

Aura jumped as his thumbs brushed the inside of her thighs. “No… I don’t…”

“I’m not looking to hurt you.” He told her, “But… I will do this… or I will shoot him…” Aura choked back panicked tears. Rufus’ hands were suddenly on her waist and he lifted her to sit on his desk properly, those same hands pulling her dress up to her hips.

“Please…” she breathed, “I… haven’t…”

“Oh…” he smiled, “A virgin from under the plate. That is unusual. Now it makes sense. He thought he would keep you for himself.” His blues eyes met her gaze. “Good.”

“Please…”

“You don’t have to beg me, Aura.” He said, undoing his belt. “I’m not going to rape you.”

She stared at him.

He removed the belt and sat it on his chair. “You’re going to say ‘Yes’ to me.”

“…What?”

“You’re going to say Yes to me, I’m going to fuck you… or… I find some other way to punish Reno for his betrayal. Tseng does so hate cleaning up the mess when I shoot people on the carpet.”

Aura’s blood went cold in her veins. A hot tear escaped one of her eyes and trailed its way to her chin. She looked away from him, her gaze instead focusing on her hands in her lap. This was Reno’s life. So many times in their past he had done awful things to protect her, to get her medicine, to save her life. She could do the same for him. She looked up when Rufus opened the drawer containing the gun again.

“Well?” he asked, “What’s your choice?”

Aura reached out and closed the drawer. “Don’t…”

“Then say ‘Yes’.”

Staring at him for several moments, Aura swallowed thickly. She focused on drawing one calming breath after another. He waited, his blue eyes trained on her face. “Yes.”

His hands went immediately to her dress, undoing the laces there and then pulling them loose enough to slip the dress from her shoulders, exposing her chest. Those hands merely ghosted over her for a moment before he pushed her back down on his desk, and lifted the skirts of her dress once more, reaching up tug her underwear down her legs before discarding them on the floor nearby. His hands returned to her hips and he pulled her to the edge of his desk, lifting her knees and pulling them wider. Aura squeezed her eyes shut, choking down panic. She bit her lip to hold in a whimper when she heard him undoing his own pants, and then his hands were on her again. He pulled her into a position he found more suitable and Aura felt tears slide from the corners of her eyes into her hair. Her breath caught when she felt him hesitate.

“Say it again.” His voice was low and rough, but Aura knew what he wanted.

“Yes.” She whispered, repressed sobs choking her now. She felt him position himself against her, and then his hands were tight on her hips once more, holding her in place. Aura barely had a moment to brace herself before, with one swift movement, he was inside her. She bit her lip again, hard enough to taste blood and Rufus groaned, his fingers digging into her hips.

“It’s been a while…” he wheezed, and Aura’s hands clutched at the smooth surface of the desk trying to wriggle away as he withdrew before thrusting into her again, his iron grip on her hips pulling her to meet his movement. Aura gasped. She felt him adjust his angle and his hold on her before he repeated his action and she shrieked. One of his hands left her hip and settled over her mouth, silencing her as he thrust again and again. Aura cried, her hands scratching at the desk as she struggled to get away. “Stop it.” He eventually said, “You chose this.” He thrust again before continuing. “There is always the other option.” Taking his hand from her mouth, he reached into his draw and withdrew the gun, setting it down on the desk out of Aura’s reach. She stopped moving, her eyes on the gun.

Reno. This was for Reno. She glanced toward the door. He was right out there, sitting at his desk and waiting for her. If she screamed, would he hear her? Would he come? That would probably result in Rufus killing him. Aura turned her head away, focusing on the potted plant by the window. She would endure this. She closed her eyes again, remaining as still as she could, her hands by her sides. Her breathing hitched at every movement Rufus made, but other than that Aura tried to remove herself from the situation.

Reno. She would think about Reno. How often had she imagined Reno being the one to… No… She wouldn’t think about that. Something else. Distraction. Reno was always so good at distracting her. He had developed quite the knack for it in their early years together. One of her favourite memories was from when she was about seventeen and they were living in a tiny little house together. There had been rioting in their neighbourhood and one night the brawling had made it into their street. She had been convinced that someone was going to come through their door and murder them. Reno had pulled all of their tatty curtains closed, turned off their rather uncommon electricity, lit the two candles that they happened to own and then in the flickering golden light he had pulled her to her feet and danced with her. His hilariously out of tune singing had drowned out the sounds from outside and she had forgotten her fear. He had sheltered her from everything. She would protect him now.

Eventually, Rufus finished and released her, stepping back from the desk. Aura sat up as he raised one of his hands to smooth back his immaculate hair. “You… can go home for the rest of the day.” He told her, picking up his gun and putting it back in the top drawer. Aura slid off the desk and picked up her underwear. She had intended to go home whether he gave her permission or not. She bent and pulled her underwear on under her dress and then stood straighter to look at him. “I expect you back here tomorrow to change these bandages and apply more ointment.”

Aura couldn’t speak. She just blinked, and then watched as Rufus bent to his phone on the desk and pressed a button.

“Reno, get in here.”

No. Aura shook, her hands going to the laces at the front of her dress and hurriedly trying to pull them closed before he would be able to see what had happeed. She fiddled with the dress, trying to look as if she hadn’t just been half naked, and then jumped when the door opened and Reno walked in. He took about three steps before he stopped, his eyes widening. Aura watched as Reno’s gaze sharpened and flicked from Rufus who was brazenly doing up his pants, to her as she struggled to tug her dress into position. She watched as Reno’s posture changed and a barely controlled rage filled his eyes as his fists clenched at his sides. She looked away, unable to watch him any longer.

 

*

 

White hot anger filled Reno and he couldn’t do a thing about it. It took every ounce of self-control he had to remain standing by the door. He was about one thousand percent certain that Rufus Shinra had just fucked his Aura, and he didn’t know how to process it. As his boss fastened his pants, Reno’s eyes went to Aura. She was tugging at her dress, her eyes on the floor and she looked absolutely mortified. Reno realised that his fists were clenched but he couldn’t seem to release them. What the fuck had just happened in here? Why had Rufus called him in to see this? Was it to rub it in his face? Rufus had called him into his office over the years many times, not just a few when he was nowhere near finished with whatever friend he had on his desk. Reno had gotten used to it, but this was different he knew it, and even if he hadn’t Rufus’ smug expression would have let him know. This was all for Reno’s benefit, and Rufus wanted him to know it.

Reno was stuck. He was torn between being frightened by whatever it was that Rufus was trying to convey with this display, and utter devastation at what Aura had just done. He hadn’t thought that Rufus Shinra would be at all her type, but then the ladies had always been charmed by Rufus. He’d been able to get them to do whatever he had wanted. But, looking at her face now, Reno wasn’t certain that Aura had been a willing participant in whatever had just taken place here. He looked back to Rufus disbelievingly. “… what did you do?” he asked his boss, rage simmering very near the surface. Rufus gave him a serpentine smile.

“Aura, darling…” the blond said smoothly, “You can go.”

Reno watched as Aura seized a small tub on the desk and then fled the room, not looking at him even once. When she was gone, Reno turned his eyes on Rufus once more, the rage burning hot within himself. His hands had begun to shake, and he didn’t know how much longer he would be able to keep it leashed.

Rufus just met his eyes, buttoning his shirt calmly. “If you ever lie to me again,” the man said easily, “I’ll have her killed.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

Reno burst into Aura’s workroom only to find she was not there. He swore viciously and headed for the infirmary, hoping to find her there. The doors flew open with a loud bang and a displeased Zena turned his way.

“Where’s Aura?” he asked, ignoring her frown.

“I don’t know. She’s not in here.”

Without waiting for further comment, Reno turned on his heel. She must have gone straight home. He strode as quickly as he could down the hallway until he was outside the lodge, and then he broke into a run. He didn’t stop until he reached Aura’s house.

Reno knocked twice, but he didn’t really expect an answer. When he didn’t get one, he opened the door, unsurprised that it was unlocked, and let himself in. He listened as he pulled the door closed behind himself, trying to figure out where he would find Aura. His heart sank when he heard the shower. He knew what she was doing.

“Aur…” he called her gently as he cautiously entered her bathroom, stepping over her dress crumpled on the floor. “Aura…” Again, he received no response and he crept closer to the shower. He could see through the glass that Aura was not standing under the water and, instinctively, he pulled the door open. “Aura…” Seeing her curled on the floor under the steaming water, Reno dropped to his knees, reaching a hand out to her. The moment he touched her shoulder, Aura looked up at him and he could see that she had been crying for some time.

“Reno…” he barely heard her sob over the water cascading down around her. Without hesitating to think about what he was doing, Reno leaned into the shower and turned the water off with one hand while wrapping his other arm around Aura and pulling her to himself. She clung to him as he lifted her into his lap on the bathroom floor, pressing her face into his shoulder as she cried.

“Aur…” he whispered, rubbing soothing circles into her back, “You’re okay… You’re okay now…” His fingers caught in her wet hair and he pushed it aside. It was then that he realised that she was naked. Reno’s hands froze on Aura’s wet skin and his breath stuck in his throat. What was he thinking? After what had just happened? Looking around, he spotted a green towel on a rack nearby and he tugged it off the rail before draping it around Aura’s shoulders. “Aur, sweetheart…” he touched her cheek, “Let’s get you dressed before you get sick.” He got to his feet, lifting her with him and then setting her on her feet. “Come on…”

He took her into her bedroom and pulled one of her dresses from her wardrobe. “You put this on…” he told her gently, “I’ll… I’ll wait in the living room.” He backed away from her, watching as she took the dress in one hand, her other clutching the towel to herself. Reno turned and went to sit on Aura’s couch to wait for her to get dressed.

As he waited, Reno tried to work out what he was going to say to her. She was evidently upset, and he needed to know exactly what had happened to work out what to say to help her. What had Rufus done? Why was she upset? Had he forced her? Had he hurt her? Was she upset because Reno had been called in and now he knew? Did she simply regret what she had done? Taking a deep breath, Reno tried to calm down. It wouldn’t be helpful to get angry or upset again until he knew what had happened.

He looked up when Aura shuffled into the room, her wet hair hanging in her face and small towel in her hand. Hurt washed through Reno before he had the chance to control it as the image of Aura tugging her dress into place while Rufus did his pants up flashed through his mind. She kept her eyes on the floor as she moved toward the couch and sat beside him, and he struggled to keep his hands to himself. He watched as she squeezed the ends of her hair in the towel, trying to dry it.

“Aur… Talk to me…” he murmured, turning slightly to face her better on the couch. Her eyes didn’t leave the floor.

“What’s there to talk about?”

Hurt stabbed at him again. “You… and Rufus.”

Her hands stopped squeezing and Reno watched as she lowered the towel to sit in her lap. “It… It’s nothing.” She murmured.

“It’s not nothing.” He replied tightly, “I… I thought…” He swallowed. Had she done it because she knew he’d dropped the plate on Sector Seven? Was she done with him? “Aur…why?”

“Why do you care?” she muttered, “What difference does it make?”

“I… I’ve always protected you…”

“So, what?” she looked up, “You think you own me, yo?”

Reno just looked at her and she lowered her gaze once more. They both knew she was talking shit now. “Of course not. You can do whatever you want… I just… didn’t think you wanted Rufus.”

Aura bowed her head a little more, and Reno didn’t realised she was crying again until a tear dripped from the end of her nose into her lap. “I don’t…” she sobbed, “I didn’t…”

“Then why did you?” Reno struggled to control his voice. She looked up at him, mortification written across her face.

“I…” she shook her head.

“You don’t want him?”

“Why would I want him?” she cried.

“Because he’s Rufus Shinra…” he said, and Aura shook her head again, “and I… dropped the plate on Sector Seven…”

“Reno, No…”

“Then, why?” he asked, desperation creeping into his tone. “Why?” Aura started to crumble again and he frowned, “Did he… force you?”

The look on her face set Reno’s blood alight, but then she shook her head once. “No…” she breathed, her eyes sliding away. He knew there was more to it, and he reached out. His fingers closed around her wrist and he turned her to face himself. “He…” Reno held on to her wrist, not releasing her, needing to know what she was trying to say. “He… He knows what you did.” She told him softly, “He knows that you didn’t leave me… that you kept me… and he knows that you lied…” Her green eyes met his and she held his gaze. Reno had suspected as much after Rufus’ comment back in his office, “He said that he was going to punish you.” She continued, her eyes locked on his. “He said that if I didn’t agree… if I didn’t let him… he would kill you.” She let out a shaky breath, “He would shoot you… right there in his office. I saw the gun…”

Reno’s blood went from hot to cold. He didn’t know what to think; what to process first. His greatest secret was out, what he had feared the most since beginning to work for ShinRa had happened. Rufus was prepared to kill him for it. But Aura… she had suffered for it. For him. He slid his hand from her wrist up her arm to her elbow, his eyes still on hers. “He… would have.” He told her softly, “I’ve seen him do it.” Aura’s eyes were wide as they filled with tears again. “I’m sorry…” he breathed, “It’s my fault…”

“It wasn’t your fault.” She replied, “It was a choice I made.”

“For me.”

“That doesn’t make it your fault.”

“I delivered you to him.” Reno pulled her closer, “All I ever wanted was to keep you safe… to keep you from having to do what I had to do. I wanted you to have that choice.”

“I did…”

“No…” He lifted a hand to her cheek, “I wanted you to get to choose who you were to be with…” She stared at him. “Every time…” he paused, “Especially the first…” She dropped her gaze, but Reno kept watching her face. “Did he hurt you…?” Aura’s eyes closed but she shook her head, one of her hands going to her hip. He touched her hand. “What’s that…?”

“Probably just a bruise.” She murmured, looking back up at him, “Reno, I’m sorry…”

“For what, Aur…?”

“Your face…” she murmured, “When you walked into his office…”

Reno took one of her hands, lacing his fingers through hers. “My concern was for you.” He told her gently.

“You… thought that I had screwed Rufus because you told me about Sector Seven?”

“I didn’t know what had happened…” he replied, “You looked upset… and I … had no idea.”

“You looked betrayed.”

“Aur…”

“I would never betray you.”

The moment the words were out of her mouth, Reno realised that he had always known that. He wasn’t at all surprised by the sacrifice she had made for him. Lifting her hand to his lips, he pressed a soft kiss to her skin. “I know, Aura.”

“I…” Aura let out a sigh, tightening her grip on Reno’s hand and he tilted his head, waiting for her to sort out what she wanted to say. “I don’t know how to feel…” she told him. “I don’t regret what I did… because it kept you alive…” she looked imploringly at him, as tears welled in her eyes once more, “I would make that choice again. I told you that I would do anything for you…” He just nodded and she continued, “But… it hurts…” she drew a shuddering breath as those tears trailed her cheeks and Reno lifted a hand to brush them away. “I… I… wish that it had been you.” She dropped her gaze to her lap and Reno realised that he had been holding his breath. “I wanted you to be the one… to…”

He took both of her hands in his. “I’m sorry, Aur…”

“You kissed me last night…” She was looking at him intently and Reno could barely swallow. “What did that mean?”

“I…” he blinked, “That meant… that… I…” he tried not to panic. She had just admitted that she had wanted him to have been her first. She had wanted him to be the one to take her virginity. He thought about the way she had responded to his kiss last night, and he looked at her watching him, waiting for his answer. “I would give anything for today not to have happened.” He told her, lifting a hand to her cheek once more, “I… would have been honoured to be the one you chose… I… I’m jealous… of Rufus…” Reno couldn’t believe the words were coming out of his mouth, but they were true. He looked down at the hand that still held one of hers. “I wish it had been me…” he kept staring at their hands. “Not crude and on a desk, but properly and right…” He paused and dared to meet her gaze once more. “I wish that I had been able to make it everything it should have been…”

“Reno…” he could barely hear her soft voice over his own heart thundering in his ears. She moved closer to him on the couch and he brushed some of her still damp hair back over her shoulder. “How would it have been…?”

Reno’s breath caught in his throat and he met her eyes, surprised by the question. “I… I don’t know, Aur…” he murmured, feeling heat flush his cheeks as various scenarios flashed through his mind. “I… I suppose… in your bed… after an evening spent together… probably after dinner…” He didn’t know what to say, knowing his response had been lame, but she smiled at him.

“That sounds perfect.” Her gaze fell, and the expression that crossed her features told him exactly where her thoughts had returned to.

“Aura?” he asked softly, lifting both hands to gently turn her face up to him. “Did he kiss you?” She frowned for a moment, clearly thinking about his question before she responded.

“No…”

“Good.” He smiled at her before carefully bringing his lips down to meet hers. This was something he could give her, an experience that would never be tainted by comparison or haunting memories of Rufus. Something just for them. The response he received from Aura was just as willing as it had been last night, but far more ardent. He couldn’t supress a shiver when she lifted her own gentle hands to his face, pulling him closer as one slid around into his hair.

When they broke apart Aura met his gaze almost shyly. He smiled at her, trying to keep his hands to himself. “I was hoping that you would do that again after last night.” She told him, sending actual tingles of pleasure through him. He smiled more widely.

“I’m happy to do that as many times as you like, yo.” He watched her carefully, not wanting to press his luck or cross some line. He was acutely aware of what had happened earlier and he didn’t want to touch her in some way that she wasn’t ready for or that would remind her of what she had endured with Rufus. He ached to pull her into his lap and kiss her until they were both dizzy with breathlessness, but he wouldn’t. The expression crossing her face told him that she was likely having a similar train of thought.

“Can you… can you just… hold me… for a bit…?” She leaned into his side and Reno wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her a little closer.

“For as long as you want, Aur.” He murmured, resting his cheek against her hair. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me to.”

He sat with his arm around her, still and silent, as he felt her start to shake and he realised that she had begun to cry again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

It was nearing ten when Reno returned to Healen Lodge. He had stayed with Aura all afternoon while she cried, and then until she had gone to bed and fallen asleep. Once he had been satisfied that she was settled for the night, he had headed back to the lodge. As he headed for Rufus’ office, Reno stopped by his desk. A quick glance around the place told him what he had already suspected; the others had gone home for the night. He knew that Rufus would still be in his office though, the man rarely left anymore. Reno took his gun from his desk and strode swiftly up the hallway. He didn’t so much as knock as he opened the door and stalked inside, raising the gun as he went until it was levelled at his boss.

“And just what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Rufus’ voice was flat as he looked up from the file sitting before him. Reno moved forward, his gun aimed at Rufus’ head. “You’re going to shoot me, are you?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” Reno asked, rage and loathing roiling within him.

“Because you’re meant to protect me, not kill me.”

Reno didn’t have a response for that, he just stared at the man looking at him.

“I thought you were loyal, Reno.”

“I was!” Reno snarled, his hands now shaking in anger.

“Not to me, apparently.”

“I never once betrayed ShinRa!” he snapped, “Or you! I loved you. I would have died for you, yo!”

“You lied to me.” Rufus snarled his own reply. “You were meant to give ShinRa your entire loyalty. You cannot do that when you lie and keep secrets.” Rufus slapped his hand down on his desk. “While you have interest elsewhere, you’re compromised.”

“No.” Reno retorted. “I was loyal. All I did was use what I had to pay for somewhere for Aura to live. To give her money for food so she could survive. That never once impacted upon my ability to do my job!”

“You handle highly sensitive information, Reno! For all I know she could have been feeding everything she learned to the very people who are now trying to kill us.”

“She never had anything to do with any of it!” Reno cried, “She never even knew what I did! She didn’t know I was a Turk until Hugo Barron… and that was because she was there!” He took several steps closer. “I never even went to her house in uniform! I kept everything separate! All I did was keep her alive and safe!” He couldn’t stop his voice from getting louder. “It was always just to keep her safe!” he tried to calm down. “The two worlds never crossed, Rufus.”

“I saw you the other day.” His boss replied, “When Elena was hurt, and you were trying to get me out of the crowd. You were looking for her. You weren’t focused.” Reno stared at him. “Split loyalty is not good enough!” Rufus said, anger clear across his face.

“That…” Reno tried to choke the words out, “does not give you the right to do what you did.” Rufus just looked back at him. “Your issue was with me.”

“I think I made my point.” Rufus replied, flipping the file on his desk closed. “You think you can keep secrets from me? Keep things hidden? You can’t. You belong to me. Everything you have belongs to me.”

“Not. Her.” Reno lifted the gun a little higher, making sure his aim was still on target. Rufus narrowed his eyes.

“Did I spoil your little toy?”

“That is not what she is.” Reno growled, “She has never been that.”

“Then what is she?” Rufus asked, leaning back in his chair nonchalantly. Reno let out a slow breath and Rufus tilted his head. “Are you in love with her?”

“Yes…” The answer fell from his lips before Reno had made the decision to even respond. He saw Rufus sit a little bit straighter, his eyes narrow as he evidently tried to revaluate the situation. “How…” Reno breathed, staring at the man before him, “could you do that, knowing what we went through…?”

“Reno,” Rufus began, hesitation in his voice. “You can’t hide something like this from me for years and then, when I piece bits together, expect me to know details.”

“So that’s what you did then?” Reno spat, “You knew you didn’t have all the information, and you still raped her?” He watched Rufus flinch.

“I didn’t.”

“You did.” Reno was at the desk now, the gun only a few feet from Rufus’ face.

“I gave her the choice.” His voice was calm, but Reno could see the concern in his boss’ eyes. “She chose. Agreed.”

Reno snarled. “That’s not a choice and you know it.” After a moment Rufus nodded.

“I was unaware.” He said softly, “Of the extent of your relationship with the girl. Of your past. I had assumed that she was merely a connection that you had refused to sever… for whatever reason…”

Reno narrowed his own eyes, looking at Rufus who met his gaze, “I… sought to… remind you who you answer to.”

“It was a power play. I know that.” Reno growled. “But you didn’t have to do that. Everything is different now. She works for you. There’s no reason… she’s not your enemy….”

“I didn’t do it to hurt her.” Rufus replied, “In fact I was careful not to. I did it to hurt you.”

“I’m aware.”

Rufus inclined his head. “I won’t touch her again.”

“What makes you think I’m not just going to shoot you in the face, yo?”

“Because…” Rufus leaned back in his chair once more, steepling his fingers. “You like working for me. Especially now. Things are different, and I think that you like it. You want to make amends for what we did, and finding this cure… helping the people in this city, you want to keep doing it and the best place for you to do that is here. It’s the same reason I’m betting that will make Aura walk back through those doors tomorrow.”

Reno lowered the gun, forcing himself to release his breath slowly. Rufus was right, he did like it. He liked his job, he liked those he worked with, and he liked the difference they were able to make, especially recently.

“The girl was a virgin…”

Reno stared at his boss. “Yes.”

“I’m curious,” Rufus pressed on, “Why had you never fucked her?”

Reno’s hand twitched around the gun, and for a moment he considered shooting Rufus in the face. “Because,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper, “Where we’re from, it’s a rare thing, getting to choose if, when, and where you want to fuck someone… or not…”he couldn’t keep the sneer off of his face, “All these years I’ve done whatever I could to ensure that she had that choice, that she got to choose who she would be with… Until you…”

“Did you hope she would choose you?”

Reno was spared having to answer that as the phone on Rufus’ desk suddenly went off. The president hit the speaker button. “What?”

“Sir, Elena is awake.” Zena’s voice rang out, and Reno felt relief wash through him.

Rufus got to his feet, and then looked expectantly at Reno. “So, are you going to shoot me, or can we go and see Elena?”

 

Reno walked with Rufus up to the infirmary. They entered the room to see Elena sitting up in her bed, while Zena moved around checking on this or that.

“Hi…” Elena smiled when they approached the bed.

“Elena, how do you feel?” Rufus asked, and Reno flicked a glance at the man, trying to discern if the concern he heard was genuine. He supposed it was.

“I feel okay…” Elena replied, then looking at Reno, “I would have thought everyone would be at home…”

“Just had some stuff to work out, Laney.” Reno told her with a smile., “Good timing too, or you would have had no visitors, yo.”

“Is…” Elena’s gaze flicked around the room before returning to Reno. “Is Tseng still here?”

Reno shook his head. “Think he’s gone for the night, Laney.” He told her gently, and then upon seeing her face, he continued, “He was here a lot though… spent most of yesterday in here and everything.”

“I did have to tell him to spend more time at his own desk.” Rufus put in, and Reno looked at him in surprise. “I have no doubt you’ll see him first thing in the morning, Elena. He will want to see you healthy and ready to go back on patrol as soon as possible.”

“When… will that be?” Elena’s attention turned to Zena who had come to stand by Reno, a little too close for his liking.

“At least a week…” Zena replied, shaking her head. “I want that wound healed properly before you go ripping it open…”

“A week…” Elena practically moaned, “Surely we…”

“We have no materia.” Zena sighed, “You’ll just have to deal with it.”

Elena huffed and Reno smiled. Out of all of them, Elena was probably the worst patient. “Those are pretty…” He watched her gesture at a vase of flowers by the bed. “Who brought them in?”

“I don’t…” Reno shook his head, but Zena answered.

“Aura put them there for you this morning.” The doctor told Elena, “For “something nice to look at” when you woke up.”

“That’s sweet…” Elena’s eyes met Reno’s gaze and she smiled at him

“Well, Elena…” Rufus put in, stepping back from the bed. “I suppose we should let you get some more rest. I shall check in on you again come morning.”

“Yes, sir.” Elena murmured, leaning back against her pillows.

“Night, Laney.” Reno reached out and lightly touched her shoulder before turning and following Rufus out the door. “Does Zena stay overnight when she has a patient?” Reno asked his boss as they headed back downstairs.

“Every time.” Rufus replied, and Reno nodded. He hadn’t really noticed before.

They had just reached the hallway to Rufus’ office, and Reno was about to stop by his desk to pick up his jacket when Rufus had grabbed him by the throat and slammed him into the nearby wall. Reno stared at him, eyes wide. He knew that he could have Rufus off of him in a heartbeat, but he figured that might have been a bad move. His boss snarled at him now, his face only inches from Reno’s own.

“Don’t you fucking dare point a gun at me ever again…”

Reno met Rufus’ cold gaze, and the fury there actually made him shiver. “Yes, sir.” He murmured. Rufus squeezed, and Reno struggled not to choke.

“Don’t you forget who I am.”

“No, sir.” He fought to get the words out, already going slightly light headed.

Rufus dropped his hand from around Reno’s throat and took a step back, straightening his own jacket and smoothing himself out. “I’ll not touch her again.” He told him, and Reno nodded slowly. “If you’re good.” He clarified. “Do you understand, Reno?”

“I do.” Reno massaged his throat.

“I meant what I said.” Rufus added, “If you lie to me, I’ll have her killed.” He met Reno’s eyes with his steely gaze, “After I fuck her again.” Reno forced himself to draw a slow breath, and Rufus began to turn away. “Go home. I expect to see you on time in the morning.”

Reno watched as Rufus walked away, closing the door to his office once he had passed through. Then, with a sigh, Reno pushed himself off the wall, picked up his jacket and headed home himself. He couldn’t remember a longer or more fucked up day in years.

Chapter Text

Chapter 28


Reno turned onto his side when the bed dipped and shifted. “Mmn?” he murmured, before his eyes flew open as he realised that he wasn’t alone. His hand found his EMR under his pillow as he rolled to see who was now in his bedroom. “Aur…” he left the EMR where it was as he sat up to look at her.

“I let myself in.” she said, leaning toward him.

“Are… you okay?” Reno asked, adjusting the light sheet around his hips as he remembered that he slept nude and certainly hadn’t been expecting guests letting themselves into his bedroom in the middle of the night.

“I’m fine.” She bent and removed her shoes, dropping them to the floor before pulling her feet up onto the bed.

“What time is it?” Reno asked, glancing at the window. Judging by the faint glow outside he figured it must not be long before dawn.

“Nearly five.”

He looked at her. “Are… What…” he ran a hand through his messy hair, trying to make his brain wake up enough to make sense of what was happening.

“Reno…”

“Hm?” He looked up as she moved closer to him on the bed, and he noticed that she was only wearing a thin slip of a nightdress. He had barely had time to wonder if she had walked all the way from her house in just that when she had closed the gap between them and climbed onto his lap. “Aur, what are you doing?” he asked a moment before she kissed him. Reno’s self-control lasted about three seconds before his arms wound around her waist and he pulled her to himself more tightly as he responded to her kiss.

“What I think we both want…” Aura breathed her reply when she’d pulled back just enough to meet his eyes. Reno lifted a hand to her cheek, his fingers trailing down her soft skin as he drew and then released a shuddering breath. “It’s true, isn’t it?” she asked, one of her own hands sliding up his chest to rest on his shoulder. “You do want me?”

“I do…” His hand left her cheek and brushed her hair back over her shoulder. “I do…”

“I want you.” She told him and her words went straight to his cock.

“Aur…” he groaned.

“I want you.” She repeated, her lips trailing along his jaw, “Now…”

Reno couldn’t resist another soft groan at that. “Now?” he breathed, his eyes closing as her lips moved down his throat. He didn’t think he would be able to control himself much longer if she kept that up. “Are you sure?” he asked, struggling to form the correct words. Reno knew he was hard now, and he knew that he wasn’t going to need much convincing.

Aura kissed his shoulder. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t…” she whispered, “Please…” she breathed in his ear and Reno lost any hesitation he may have felt. He wrapped an arm around her waist again and lifted her enough to pull the sheet out from between them while Aura hiked her nightdress up to her hips. When the sheet was out of their way, Reno’s hand went between her legs, eliciting a soft gasp from Aura as she slid an arm around his neck. Discovering that she was already wet and felt ready for him, Reno met her gaze for a moment, silently asking the question. “Now…” she breathed, kissing him once more.

Both Reno’s hands moved to Aura’s hips and he lifted her gently, not breaking her kiss. He shifted himself on the bed and then settled more comfortably in the centre, pulling her to himself. Aura moved carefully, wrapping herself around him, her arms around his neck as she took her weight onto her knees. He deepened the kiss, drawing her in, one arm around her waist as his other hand moved down to take hold of himself, adjusting his position. Then, when he had everything where he wanted it, Reno carefully lowered Aura to meet him.

He paused when she let out a low moan, her hands clutching at his shoulders. Both of his hands were on her hips again, holding her in place. “Reno…” she breathed, resting her forehead against his, “Reno…” he felt her trying to move, and he nodded, guiding her hips with his hands. He watched as her head tipped back and she bit her lower lip, trying to hold back any other sounds she might make. He continued to guide her until they were rocking together, skin slick and flushed. Reno’s hands moved up Aura’s back, and one of her own lifted to his face, bringing his gaze up to meet hers.

It wasn’t long before she had pushed him back down against his pillows, moving over him, her hands now braced against his chest as she guided herself. One of Reno’s hands had found its way back to her hip while the other moved up to her breast. He watched as her eyes closed, her lips parted as she panted with her effort, and as her dark hair cascaded down over her shoulders he bit his own lip trying not to lose himself.

*

Reno awoke with a start. He slapped at his alarm, cursing the blasted thing, and then rolled to his feet off the side of his bed. “Sweet Shiva,” he muttered, running a hand through his messy hair as he stumbled toward the bathroom. He turned his shower on and then stepped right under the water without waiting for it to heat up. The cold could only do him some good. He wasn’t really surprised by the content of his dream after the conversation he and Aura had had yesterday, but he was a bit disappointed in his own subconscious considering what had happened to her with Rufus.

Once he had gotten out of the shower and wrapped himself in a towel, Reno leaned against the sink, staring at himself in the mirror. “You’re an arsehole.” He told his reflection. He was glad that Aura had no way of reading his mind. What would she think if she knew what his dream had been about? What would she think about the way his subconscious had shaped her? The Aura in his dream had been rather more confident and sexually aggressive than he suspected his Aura might be in reality. He caught himself at the thought. Was she really his?

She had told him yesterday that she wished he had been the one to take her virginity, but could that have been simple regret that it had been Rufus? He was somebody that she knew and trusted, and somebody like that was a far better choice than anybody else. Who else was there for her to choose? Telling him that she wished it had been him did not equate to telling him that she wanted him. It did not equate to telling him that she was his.

 

But the way she had kissed him…

 

Pulling a comb through his hair, Reno gave a grim smile. It had been an unfinished conversation between himself and Aura. That was understandable considering what else she was trying to process, and he hadn’t wanted to push her. Was today still too soon? He didn’t know. Figuring that his best option was to see how she was doing before deciding what he would and wouldn’t try to discuss with her, Reno strode for his wardrobe and pulled out his clothing for work. He also had to remember to get some training in today. Perhaps Tseng would spar with him. He would bet that the man had some pent up energy he would need to get out after spending so much time sitting by Elena’s bedside.

Stopping to pull the sheets up on his bed before leaving, Reno felt himself actually blush at the memory of Aura wrapped around him in his dream. The way she had clung to his shoulders while looking into his eyes as she had moved on him…

Reno sank onto the edge of his bed. He needed to get a hold of himself before he got to the lodge and came face to face with her. What if she didn’t show up? He got to his feet. He suspected that Rufus was right about that. Aura had taken the job because of the opportunity she would have in trying to do her part in developing a cure for the Geostigma, and the opportunity to better help people. He did not think that she would give that up. Still, he wanted to be there when she arrived. He headed out his door, pulling it closed behind himself a good half hour before he usually would.

 

*

Aura walked stiffly up the hallway toward her workroom. The entire way to Healen Lodge she had been trying to convince herself that this was the correct choice. She knew that she had a better chance of doing something good, something useful, if she could keep her access to ShinRa’s resources. To do that, she needed to keep coming back to this place. But, what if Rufus Shinra had it in his mind to repeat what he had done yesterday? What if it was now expected of her, to let him do what he wished when he wished it? The thought of his hands tight on her hips again made her chest ache, and her breathing quickened as she fought down a wave of panic. What if he called her to his office this very morning?

Red hair was the first thing Aura saw when she pushed open the door to her workroom. “Reno…” All thought of Rufus was pushed from her mind when Reno turned to face her, a wide smile spreading across his face. She couldn’t help but smile in response.

“Good morning, Sweetness.” He said, moving toward her. A thrill of excitement flooded Aura and she stretched up to wrap her arms around Reno. Her eyes closed momentarily when she felt his own arms come around her waist and he held her firmly. She instantly felt better than she had all morning, and she dreaded the moment that he would let her go. “I knew you’d come.” He told her.

“Yes, well…” She didn’t know what to say. “I…” she pressed her face into his shoulder, “I…”

“It’s okay.” He murmured, his breath hot against her ear. “He won’t touch you again.”

“How do you know?”

“He told me so.”

“And you believe him?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I do.”

Aura looked up at him, her eyes closing again when one of his hands came to her cheek. She couldn’t help but lean into his touch and she wished that he would kiss her. His fingers traced her jaw before his thumb ghosted over her lips, and Aura opened her eyes to meet his, green and beautiful. His fingers moved down her throat and a soft shiver passed through her before she gently ran her hands up his shirt to rest against his shoulders. A strange expression passed across Reno’s face and, if Aura didn’t know him better, she would have sworn that it was followed by a light blush. “What is it?” she asked.

“Nothing…” he murmured, shaking his head, “Just… you’re…beautiful.” She watched his eyes move across her face and then down over the rest of her. “I wish that I didn’t have to go and fill out a million tonnes of paperwork.” Aura smiled at him.

“Well, you know where I am when you get tired of that, yo.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” He pressed his lips to her forehead before releasing her, and Aura was unable to do anything other than simply watch as he headed out the door, leaving her alone with her work.

Chapter Text

Chapter 29

Elena sat upright in her hospital bed when she heard Tseng’s voice outside the doors. Hurriedly, she tried to smooth down her hair and make herself as presentable as she could. She couldn’t quite make out what he and Zena were talking about, but the tone in his voice suggested that it had already been a busy morning and he was feeling a little under the pump. Looking around herself, Elena tried to find something else to fix, and settled for trying to flatten her sheets down before the door opened and Tseng came in, Zena following closely behind him.

“Sir…”

“I’m pleased to see you awake, Elena.”

She watched as he sat in the chair by her bed. “Thanks… I… Woke up last night.”

Tseng nodded, “Zena tells me that you’ll be just fine. A week in bed, though.”

“Not a week in bed!” Elena flicked her attention to Zena. “You told the boss that it was a week before I would be able to be back to work. You can’t make me stay in bed for a week!”

Zena huffed. “If you’re up and moving about, I’ll just have to stitch you back together all the sooner.”

“… what if I’m careful?” Elena asked meekly. Zena flipped her curly hair in response.

“As if that’s something you’re capable of.”

“I am.”

“You,” Zena frowned, “are in here more often than anyone else…”

Elena frowned, the words pricking her pride. What if Tseng thought she was incompetent? “Surely,” Tseng put in, “nobody is in here more often than Reno.”

Elena gave a small smile. “Yeah.”

Zena shrugged, turning away. “Perhaps he just wishes to see me.” Elena raised an eyebrow at Tseng who looked as disbelieving as she was. “Fine, Elena. You can leave tomorrow, but you will not be doing anything other than paperwork for a week. Do you understand?”

“Yes!” She smiled happily and settled back against her pillow, looking at Tseng again.

“You’re rather excited to do paperwork…” The man remarked.

“I like my job.” She replied, he smiled softly and nodded, looking at his hands with a sigh. “So, what’s going on?” she asked, “What have I missed? Why do you look stressed?”

“Ah…” Tseng’s dark eyes flicked quickly up to her, and for a moment she thought that he wasn’t going to tell her. “I suppose the main piece of information is that shipments of that fake cure are being organised in Junon.” He shrugged elegantly, “The President wishes for one of us to go and destroy them.”

Elena nodded, “And will it be you?”

“No, he wants me to stay here.”

“So… Reno.” It wasn’t a question, and Tseng nodded in confirmation.

“Yes, I’ll send Reno.”

“When?” she asked, and he ran his fingers through his long hair before replying.

“Probably about a week perhaps longer. They’re just amassing it all now. When it’s all together it’ll be easier to destroy.”

Elena frowned. That was an incredibly dangerous mission. If everybody making those false cures were together to start shipping them out there was no way that Reno could just walk in there and do what he needed to do. The shipments would be highly protected. She doubted it would be a one person job. She said as much to Tseng who nodded again.

“Yes. I would have preferred to go myself.” He said gently. “Reno will get the job done, though.” Elena agreed. He always did.

“Have you had him covering my patrols?” she asked, and when he nodded once, she continued, “So when he’s gone…”

“I don’t know.” Tseng replied, “We’ll manage…” Elena studied his face for several moments, knowing that the soft creases between his eyebrows only appeared when he was feeling particularly stressed.

“So…” she murmured, “What else is new? Any goss?”

“I don’t… goss…” he replied, blinking rapidly and then fixing her with a stern look.

“Come on…” she smiled, “Don’t make me ask Rude.” Tseng just raised an eyebrow at her and she sighed, “Well… why were Reno and the boss here last night? I woke up at like eleven or something and they both came to see me.” The slight tilt to Tseng’s head told her that he had no idea what she was talking about. Perhaps she would have to ask Rude for any gossip that she had missed. “Well…” she made a face.

“I should get back to my desk.” He said, getting to his feet. “Here, I brought you this.” He handed her a small packet. Elena smiled at him and then looked inside to see a small sweet pastry.

“Did you get this from that Bakery in the main square?” she asked softly.

“I thought it might be nicer than whatever it is Zena was going to give you for breakfast.” He said, before turning on his heel and striding for the door. The pastry didn’t last five minutes before Elena had eaten it in its entirety.

 

*

 

Aura felt hot. She knew it was panic, but she couldn’t quite get herself to calm down as she headed for the President’s office. He had summoned her. Fanning her face with her free hand as she turned the corner and his door came into view, she stopped to lean against the nearby wall. Get a grip, she told herself. Get a grip, get a grip, get a grip. Reno had said that Rufus wouldn’t touch her again, and she had to trust that. But, she just couldn’t make it stop.

“Aura…” Rude’s voice asked her, “are you alright?” She looked up to see the big man watching her from his desk nearby.

“I’m fine, yo.” She replied, trying to sound bright, “Perfectly fine…”

Reno was suddenly striding toward her, and she reached a hand out to him. “Did he call you?” he asked, his voice low. Aura nodded, trying to smile. “It’s okay.” He told her, rubbing her arm gently. She looked at him, seeing that he did believe that. She made herself walk with him up the hall to the doors of Rufus Shinra’s office. Clutching at the small tub of ointment in her hand, she hesitated before reaching for the handle. Reno knocked lightly on the door for her, and she caught his gaze with a quick glance.

“Reno…” Tseng’s voice called him and he gave her an encouraging smile before backing away from her. Aura steeled herself before pushing the door open and walking into the office.

“Good morning, Aura.” Rufus Shinra’s voice was steady, and Aura made herself look at him. He was sitting behind his desk just as he had been yesterday, and she swallowed thickly.

“Good morning…”

“You can leave the door open, if you would prefer…”

She nodded and left the door ajar as she moved toward his desk, her eyes catching on the smooth wood. She remembered her hands moving over that glossy surface searching for something to hold on to as Rufus had thrust repeatedly into her. Forcing herself to look away from the desk, she looked instead at the blond man whose eyes were intent upon her. “You called me…” she began and he nodded, rolling his sleeves up.

“Yes, and I see you brought the ointment. Good.” He gestured for her to move closer. “Aura, I would like to tell you that I regret any distress I may have caused you.” She raised an eyebrow at him, and he continued. “My intention had not been to hurt you, but rather to punish Reno, and I did not, admittedly, consider the impact that would have on you.”

“I see.” She murmured.

“You do not need to fear me.” He told her, “I will not lay a hand on you again.”

“Reno told me that.” She said, setting the ointment on the desk.

“It is true.” He replied, then smiled, “Unless you ask me to, I won’t touch you.”

“Don’t go holdin’ your breath for that, yo.”

Rufus laughed softly, and then pressed a button on his phone. “Tseng, get in here.” He looked at her, “If you don’t mind, I need to talk to Tseng while you change this bandage…”

“I don’t mind.” She said, actually rather thankful that someone else would be in the room while she had to work on him. She wondered if Rufus had been aware of that and done it on purpose. Rufus unbuttoned his shirt and Aura looked away as he did so, busying herself with organising the new bandages so that she wouldn’t have to watch him undress.

Tseng arrived a moment later and seated himself in front of the desk. Aura set about her business applying the new ointment to Rufus’ infection and then bandaging it up while the two men talked about patrols and Junon. The news of the shipments of false cure was worrying and she wondered if Cadan knew anything useful about it. She would have to see if she could find out. She didn’t particularly relish the idea of spending more time with him, however.

Before long, Aura had finished what she had been called to do and she packed her supplies quickly. Once Rufus had told her she could go, she decided to head back upstairs and then go and pay a visit to Elena. She would bet that the blond woman was going insane trapped up there with nothing to do and nobody but Zena to talk to.

Reno was waiting for her right outside Rufus’ office and his arm slid around her shoulders the second she was out the door. “All good, yo?” he asked, smiling at her.

“Yeah, it was fine.” She replied, “He told me he wouldn’t touch me unless I asked him, and then Tseng was there.”

“He can’t think you’d ever ask him…”

“You thought I would want him.” She muttered and he gave a shrug.

“Sometimes I’m an idiot…”

“Who told you that?” she smirked.

“You.”

“Sometimes you’re not.” She told him, and he pressed a kiss to her temple. “I’m going to go and see Elena.”

“Good idea.” He replied, “She’ll be bored out of her mind.” He released her and she looked up at him for a moment. She wanted to ask him what he would be doing after he went home for the day, but did not want to be presumptuous. He probably already had ideas of how he would be spending his evening without her trying to monopolise his time.

“Okay… I’ll see you later.” She said gently before turning and heading upstairs to find her friend.

Chapter Text

Chapter 30

It was several days later, when Elena was finally out of the hospital, that they all found themselves at 7th Heaven. Reno watched as, within ten minutes of being in the joint, Rude settled into his usual routine of watching Tifa from across the room with longing in his eyes.

“Just go talk to her, yo.”

Rude simply grunted in reply, taking a sip of his drink. Reno shook his head, his gaze moving to Elena who made a face at him.

“Leave him alone,” Aura put in lightly. “He knows what he’s doing…”

“So do the rest of us,” Reno replied, clapping Rude on the shoulder. “Nothing.” He looked at Aura who gave him a disapproving look and he smiled widely, “He knows we’re just teasin’,” he told her, “If he suddenly decided he wanted to get up and go pull Tifa into that back room with him, he knows we’d guard the door for him too…” Reno regretted the words at the look on Aura’s face, and he realised that she was probably remembering walking in on him with Zena.

“Well that sounded rapey…” Elena muttered.

“I should probably shut up.” Reno said draining the last of his drink.

“Not something you hear every day…” The dryness in Tseng’s voice nearly made Reno choke and he looked to his boss incredulously.

“The sass…” He remarked. Tseng just raised a dark eyebrow at him.

 

Reno looked up when Zena flounced over to their table, her hand on her hip. “Are you guys just going to sit here and talk or are you going to dance?”

“I don’t know…”Elena replied, and Reno could see the resisted smile, “Am I allowed to dance or is that too… strenuous for me?” Zena’s eyes turned serious, and Reno recognised the analytical gaze of the doctor as she looked Elena over for a moment.

“Maybe you should sit this one out…”

“Guess I’m not dancing then.” Elena said slowly. Zena’s eyes shifted to Tseng hopefully and Reno watched her face fall when his boss spoke up.

“Someone has to stay with Elena…”

“Rude can stay with Elena…” Zena protested.

“Rude is busy watching Miss Tifa…”

“Ugh…” Zena huffed and turned her eyes on Reno. He saw Aura sit straighter in her chair, but his friend remained silent.

“Hmm…” Reno kept his eyes on Aura, “I don’t know…” Those Mako Green eyes flicked up to meet his and he watched her hesitate, obviously warring over something within herself. He smiled a moment later when she held a hand out to him.

“Dance with me?”

“You know I will, Aur.” Reno leaped to his feet and seized Aura’s hand, pulling her past Zena and onto the dancefloor.

 

He let the pounding beat of the music wash over him and when he reached a free space among the pulsing bodies, and turned, pulling Aura to himself, he was ready to move. Reno grinned at her when she wrapped her arms around his neck, looking up at him with a grin of her own.

“Glad you asked me to dance, Aur…”

“I wasn’t going to let Zena get her hands on you again.” She replied sweetly. Reno gave a low chuckle, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

“That’s not going to happen.” He told her. “Not ever.” He let his hand move gently down her back, enjoying the feel of Aura’s dress against his skin. She nodded, meeting his eyes.

“Okay.” One of her hands slid up the back of his neck and into his hair. Reno resisted the urge to kiss her and instead tightened his hold on her waist, pulling her closer and beginning to move them to the music. He enjoyed her delighted laugh as he lead her around, their movements exaggerated and spontaneous. He rather liked not having to try and hide how much he wanted to touch her, he liked the freedom he now had to hold her any way he wanted without Tseng looking the wrong way at him. He could have stayed that way all night, but after a while he noticed how flushed Aura’s face was and supposed he really should allow her to get a drink.

“Come on…” he led her towards the bar and asked Tifa for some water. Watching as Aura leaned against the bar, her attention on the dancefloor they had just left Reno was reminded of when they used to go dancing in order to keep warm under the plate. Back then he never would have thought they would ever be where they were now. He allowed his hand to rest on her lower back, the simple act familiar and yet far more meaningful than it had been in the past. She looked up at him and smiled, her own hand landing on his arm. “Did you want to get some food?” he asked her.

“I have some at home I was going to make for dinner…”

He glanced at his watch and then back to her. “It’s getting a little late, did you want to go?” He watched her eyes flick to his watch and then she met his eyes once more.

“Maybe…” she bit her lip, “Come with me?”

He nodded and she smiled, taking a sip of water before setting the glass back on the bar. “Okay, let’s just tell the others that we’re leaving.” He said, craning to see over the crowd to their table. He made to head back that way, but Aura caught his hand and pulled him back.

“Or, we can just go…” she told him, nodding toward the door. “They won’t notice anyway, yo.”

“Yeah…” he let her pull him toward the door. Rude would work it out pretty quick anyway. He supposed Elena would as well.

 

*

 

Aura pushed open her front door, kicked off her shoes, and headed for the kitchen. “I just have to chuck some vegetables in the oven… it shouldn’t take long.” She said over her shoulder to Reno who followed her.

“Can I help?” he asked and she smiled, tossing a potato to him.

“You can cut.” She replied.

Aura passed Reno what he needed and then set about selecting the herbs she would use before they tossed it all together and put the tray in the oven. When she had turned back to her friend it was to see him carry a bottle of wine into the living room with a pair of glasses. “Come sit with me.” He called.

Following Reno into the living room, Aura dropped down beside him on the couch and turned the television on. Reno passed her a glass of wine and lifted one of her feet into his lap. Settling back against her cushion she watched as he carefully massaged her foot in his large hands. “Thank you…” she murmured, smiling when his gorgeous eyes flicked up to her face. He smiled back at her and Aura shifted her attention to the television, comfortable and happy to let Reno continue what he was doing while they waited for their dinner to cook.

When they had their plates before them, and Aura considered a piece of roast potato on the end of her fork she glanced at Reno to see him frowning lightly. “What is it?” she asked, “Is it the food?”

“No… no…” he murmured, looking at her, “The food is great, yo.”

“Then what’s on your mind…?” She watched him push some vegetables around his plate for a moment, twisting his fork in his long fingers.

“I never…” he paused, “You never… actually… told me what you thought…” he looked at her, his eyes wary “…knowing what I did. Sector Seven.”

“Beyond you thinking that I would screw Rufus because you thought I wouldn’t want you? For that?” she watched him blink in response, but he didn’t say anything. “Reno… I understand doing things that you don’t want to do because you have to.” She looked back down at her plate. “I always have. Especially more recently.” She shuddered as the unbidden image of Rufus Shinra thrusting into her body forced its way to the front of her mind. She put her half full plate aside, looking away, no longer hungry. Reno’s hand was suddenly on her knee, drawing her attention back to him.

“I know…” he said softly, gently squeezing her knee “I just need to know… if it… changed…”

“No.” she cut him off. “I said so the night you told me, and I’ll tell you again. It changes nothing…” Suddenly Aura knew what he actually needed to hear, and the words came out more softly. “I still feel safe with you, Reno...”She watched relief wash through Reno and he let out a long sigh, his gaze falling to his hand on her knee. “I… I could ask you the same question.” She breathed, and he frowned lightly, tilting his head as he looked back up at her.

“Did you murder thousands of people too?” he asked mildly.

“No… I mean… Rufus…” her gaze fluttered down to the cushion sitting between them.

“Aur…”

“You kissed me.” She said quietly, her eyes still on the cushion and she found herself unable to look at him, her chest tightening. “The night before it happened. I think you may have been… may have felt something … new… for me… and then you looked so betrayed when he called you into his office and you saw…” she shook her head, raising her eyes to his face once again. “Did it change how you see me?”

“No.” he said simply, his eyes earnest. “It changed nothing. You are exactly the same person you have always been, Aura.”

“…that’s not what I asked.”

Reno nodded and set his own plate down on the coffee table before looking steadily at her. She just watched him, waiting to see what he was going to say. He shifted closer on the couch, moving the cushion out of his way, holding her gaze, and Aura’s chest tightened again. “Aura…” he began, his voice a whisper, and she leaned toward him, not wanting to miss a word. Reno’s eyes moved back and forth across her face as he evidently tried to read her, and then he lifted his hand from her knee to her cheek as he closed the remaining space between them, kissing her gently.

“Reno…” she murmured when he had released her.

There was an intense flare in Reno’s eyes when she met his gaze. “I want you.” He told her, his voice rough. She stared at him. “I… don’t know for how long now, but I do.” His hand found one of hers, “I want you, and I’m sorry for what Rufus did… but it hasn’t changed that…”

Aura could barely swallow. She just stared at Reno, suddenly hot all over. “You…” she didn’t know what to say. Her heart was thundering in her chest.

“Is… that okay?” the hesitation in his voice made her tighten her hold on his hand.

“Yes.”

“Are you sure…?”

“Yes…” a small laugh escaped her and Reno’s eyes widened in surprise, “Yes… I’ve wanted to hear you say that…” she watched the wonder fill his eyes at that and Aura moved toward him, lifting herself into his lap. His hands moved to her waist as she settled over him, her eyes never leaving his face. “Tell me again…” She smiled widely at him.
His hands moved down her thighs as he gazed up at her. “I… want you.” Aura bent, bringing her lips to his as her hands slid across his shoulders and up the back of his neck.

“You can have me.” She told him, a little breathlessly when she had eventually broken the kiss. Unable to help a smile when Reno groaned at that, she threaded her fingers through his hair as she felt him harden beneath her. The look of awe on his face made her press a soft kiss to the tip of his nose. “Come…” she carefully got to her feet, taking one of hands in hers again. Reno got to his feet, his eyes never leaving her as Aura backed toward the hallway and her bedroom, drawing him with her.

She didn’t think she had ever known Reno to be so quiet. She watched him for a moment, his eyes focused on her bed as they stood before the mattress. When he still didn’t say anything Aura stepped in front of him, looking up at him. She lifted his hand, still in hers, and set it to her breast. That seemed to wake him up, and Aura watched as he blinked and his focus seemed to sharpen as he looked at her.

“Aur…”

“Have me.” She was only half surprised at the brazen words she heard coming out of her own mouth, but this was Reno and she had never trusted anyone more.

“Aur…” his other hand moved to her waist and Aura stepped closer. She went up on her toes to kiss him, pleased when his arms came around her after only a few seconds. Leaning into him, she tugged at his belt until he moved to unfasten it before dropping it to the floor. A moment later his hands were on her dress and Aura helped him loosen it. Her breath quickened when Reno’s quick fingers had dragged it from her shoulders before allowing it to slide down her body to pool at her feet. She stepped out of the dress and then Reno had lifted her to himself, his hands on her thighs, as he carried her toward the bed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 31

Bending over the bed, Reno placed Aura carefully on the covers before straightening to swiftly pull his shirt up and over his head. He tossed it aside as he bent to kiss her again, unable to help a wide grin as he did so. Within moments he had slid her underwear down her legs and sent it to join his shirt before kicking his own pants away as he crawled onto Aura’s bed, wrapping an arm around her waist and lifting her higher up the mattress. He hovered over her as he lay her down again, his gaze catching on hers as she watched him silently.

“Are you alright?” he murmured. Aura nodded, holding his gaze, though he noticed how quickly her breath was coming. Lightly he brushed his fingertips across her collarbone, feeling her chest rise and fall quickly. Reno’s eyes trailed down Aura’s throat, followed his fingers along her collarbone and then continued lower down her chest, past her ribs to the plains of her smooth stomach. He heard Aura’s breathing hitch when his gaze moved lower and he looked back up to meet her eyes once more with a grin. He leaned forward, pressing his lips to hers again, his hand brushing her hair back from her face. “Try not to hold your breath…” he whispered, his lips now trailing across her cheek to her ear, “Breathe through it…”

“Breathe through what…?” she asked, her voice shaky. He let out a soft sigh against her ear, his fingers now tracing from her shoulders and down her arms as he moved down between her thighs.

“Something I don’t often do…”

Aura went up on her elbows to look at him, and he winked at her. Sliding his hands under her legs, he lifted them into a more suitable position and then wrapped his arms around her thighs to hold her in place as he dipped his head between them. Aura’s startled cry was instantaneous and then, when he knew she’d felt his tongue, her hands were in his hair.

“Oh, Sweet Shiva!”

Reno kept his eyes on her for a moment, watching as her back arched and she fell back against her pillow. He tightened his hold on her, closing his eyes to focus on his actions and trying his best to keep her in place as she shifted, seemingly unable to remain still as he continued what he was doing. When her hands tightened in his hair and she let out a loud squeal, Reno couldn’t resist a chuckle and he released her thighs before pressing a kiss to her soft skin and moving up over her again, his left hand moving to replace his mouth between her legs.

“Oh my gosh, Reno.” She breathed when his eyes met hers once more, “You’re really good at that…”

He gave a low laugh, his lips moving to her ear, “… Just you wait.” He whispered and then lifted his head enough to watch her face as he shifted his hand, using his fingers in a way that he was certain would draw a reaction from her. He smiled when she screwed her eyes shut and her mouth fell open in a silent gasp, her head tilting back and exposing her pale throat to him. Reno pressed a light kiss to her neck, his free hand moving slowly up her body.

“Ah-Reno…”

Hearing his name fall from her lips while his hand was between her legs and that look was on her face sent a wave of fire through Reno’s veins. He knew that he was hard, he had been since they had entered the room, but as she gasped his name again, he knew that he was getting harder by the second. “Is that good…?” he asked, his eyes locked on her face, memorising every detail of her expression as he increased the pace of what he was doing with his fingers.

“Reno! Yes…. Ah!” One of her hands clutched at his shoulder while the nails of her other hand dragged across the bedspread, and Reno’s heartbeat was thundering in his ears. He needed her. “Reno… Reno…”

He was unable to help his free hand moving down to take hold of himself, biting back a groan at his own touch. Pressing his face into Aura’s hair, he tried to distract himself from his desperate need. He had to hold off, but he wanted her so badly.

“Reno…” her hand sliding from his shoulder up the back of his neck made him look back up to meet her green eyes, “Kiss me…” she whispered. He grinned at her for a second before doing exactly as she wished, as her other hand shifted to his lower back and she adjusted herself beneath him, her back arching again.

Instinct had him moving to lift one of her legs higher and she hooked it around his waist of her own accord. He tried to resist moving against her just yet, but he could feel the need becoming an ache within himself. Instead, knowing that he could get better sounds from her, Reno focused his attention once more on what his hand was doing between Aura’s legs. He kept his eyes firmly on her face, watching intently as she gasped, her head titling back as her already slightly flushed face increased in colour. He had never seen anything so utterly captivating.

She had never looked like this before. Reno watched, fascinated as she writhed, gasping his name yet again. He traced the dark blush creeping its way up her throat with his fingers, his eyes still on her face. Gone was the usual control, the careful guarding that had been present over the last few months, and here she was now completely open to him. Her newfound confidence was impressive, and he hoped that she liked how much she had grown of late. Then Aura’s eyes met his and she was the girl who had cut her hair off to buy him reading materials, who had sat with him every night for months teaching him how to sound words out and to use punctuation. She was the girl who had curled up with him when they had no heating and who had helped him find food so they could survive. “Reno.” She murmured, her hand coming up to his cheek, every bit as tender as she had always been.

He hadn’t noticed when he’d taken his hand from between her legs to adjust her beneath himself, but finding himself now in the right position and ready, Reno didn’t hesitate. He let out a groan of relief as he sank into her, pressing his face into the hollow of her neck and shoulder. Faintly he heard Aura’s sharp intake of breath and he used every last drop of willpower he had to remain still as he tried to breathe and to wait for her to be ready. When he felt her hips shift slightly he let out a shaky breath and trailed a hand down her side to her waist. He let it rest there gently as he pushed into her again. She didn’t make a sound this time and Reno lifted his head to look at her. Aura’s lower lip was caught between her teeth, and her eyes were closed. Reno watched her face intently as he rolled his hips before withdrawing slightly only to thrust into her again.

“Ah…” Aura gasped and her eyes opened. Her fingers traced lightly down his cheek and then across his tattoo, and shivers slid quickly down Reno’s back. When she smiled at him, Reno swallowed. This was the girl who had traded her treasured possessions, her only reminders of her life with her father, to make sure that Reno had a gift on his birthday when she learned that he’d never had one before. Everything she had ever done for him over the years flicked through his mind and Reno couldn’t help the tighter hold her took of her, one hand clutching her hip and the other coming to her cheek, keeping her face still so he could watch her as he began thrusting into her more quickly, his own breath coming out in short panting gasps within moments. He drank in every sound Aura made, every expression that crossed her features, and it just made him want more.

Both his hands made their way to Aura’s hips, and he lifted her slightly for a better angle. The small noise she made only encouraged Reno and his hands moved under her, sliding up her back to clutch at her shoulders, pulling her to meet his thrusts. Aura’s own hands clutched at Reno’s back and he felt her nails digging into his skin before she let out a loud cry, throwing her head back as she wrapped both of her legs more tightly around his waist, locking her ankles behind his back. Reno gave a low growl, driving himself into her in swift purposeful strokes now. It still wasn’t enough. He needed more.

His left hand came up to clench a handful of the bedspread by Aura’s head and he tried to brace his weight as he shifted the angle of his thrusts. The small shriek he drew from Aura told him that the new angle was effective and he increased the force of his thrusting in the same way, his eyes never leaving her face. He hadn’t noticed the snarling noise he had been making until Aura’s green eyes met his and she brought a gentle hand to his cheek. “It’s okay…” she gasped, her breath hitching with each of his thrusts. “Reno… it’s okay…” Her hand slid from his cheek around the back of his neck and into his hair, stroking him comfortingly as he continued to thrust into her, both of his own hands now tight on her hips. His movements slowed somewhat when Aura lifted her head, brushing her lips gently against his cheek. Her other hand moved soothingly up and down his slick back and he was able to refocus himself. His eyes remained on her face as he shifted his angle again, his movements smooth and decisive as he set about drawing as many reactions from Aura as he was able.
Reno’s thrusts became less desperate as he watched Aura begin to lose focus. Her hands still moved soothingly over him as she murmured his name over and over like a mantra, but her eyes seemed to cloud and she whimpered as he slid a hand up her body to clutch at her breast. He ran his other hand down her thigh to her knee, still hooked around his waist, as he brought his lips to hers once again. He smiled into the kiss as Aura opened to him, and he rather enjoyed being inside of her as he slipped his tongue into her mouth as well. He enjoyed the low moan she made into the kiss as he began to roll his hips luxuriously and her back arched in response. As Aura’s nails dragged down his back, Reno’s own thoughts began to splinter. She was moaning beneath him now with every thrust he made into her body and he felt like he had wanted to be able to make her make those sounds his whole life. As his hand moved into her hair, tugging gently, she shook, breathing his name into his mouth as he hovered millimetres over her wanting to drink in every detail of her release. The sight of her was enough for Reno to lose himself a moment later with a strangled cry and he stilled within her, not yet ready to withdraw. Carefully he lowered his weight onto her, pressing his face into her damp hair and breathing deeply. Perhaps he had always been in love with her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32

Drawing shaky breath after shaky breath, Aura ran her hand up and down Reno’s back. His skin was slick with sweat and as she continued to stroke him, he turned his head to press a gentle kiss to her cheek. “Are you okay?” he breathed, his hot breath against her ear. She nodded.

“Yes. Are you?” She didn’t move as his eyes flicked up to meet hers.

“I’m fine, Aur…” concern filled those pretty eyes, “… if I hurt you…?”

“You didn’t.” she told him, her hand moving up and down his back again. She could still feel him inside of her, and as her other hand moved gently through his hair she wondered if he intentionally hadn’t pulled out of her yet. “You really didn’t.” She pushed some of his hair back from his damp forehead when he lifted his head higher to look at her. “I… I think that I have wanted that… you… for a long time…”

“I was just thinking the same thing…” Reno murmured, his eyes moving across her face. “I…” he traced his fingers along her jaw, “kinda lost control a little…”

“You watched me the whole time…”

“I wanted to see…” his fingers moved across her cheek, “… you.” He gave her a wry smile, “I wanted to see you enjoy it… I wanted to see ecstasy in those gorgeous eyes… bliss flushed in your cheeks… and I wanted to know that I had done it.”

Aura drew another shaky breath, “Oh…” she felt herself blush again, “Reno…” she paused for a moment. “Is… that what it’s usually like?”

“… not exactly.” His reply was hesitant and she looked at him. “I wasn’t expecting that… It was more than…” he blinked for a moment, trying to work out what he was trying to say. Aura just waited, “I’ve been with lots of people.” He said, his voice low, “but… it’s always been… fucking…” his eyes met hers warily, “but… that’s not the word I would use for what we just did.”

“No,” Aura agreed gently, “That was more than fucking.”

He sighed and looked a little regretful as he slowly withdrew himself and then rolled to the side, lying beside her. Aura curled into him, an arm across his chest as she tucked her head against his shoulder. “You…” she told him softly, “are far too clever with your fingers by half.” She smiled as he choked back a laugh.

“Well,” he murmured, and Aura felt his fingers move into her hair. “that is a service I am only too willing to provide any time you ask, yo.”

“Well, that is good to know.” She breathed, her eyes closing as his fingers combed soothingly through her hair. “Because I liked it…”

“Did you?” she could hear his smirk in his voice, “What did you like the best?”

Aura wasn’t sure if it was what they had just done, or the fact that her eyes were closed that made her bold enough to say the words that next came out of her mouth. “I liked looking into your eyes as you moved inside of me.” After several moments, when he hadn’t answered her, Aura opened her eyes to look up at him. “Reno…?” He was looking at her, his own eyes wide and a bizarre look on his face.

“That…” his voice was thick as he dipped his head to press a gentle kiss to her lips, “was what I liked best too.” Aura tipped her head back, her lips parting for him to deepen the kiss, and she hummed lightly when his arm snaked around her waist, pulling her more tightly to himself.

“Reno…” she breathed when he eventually broke the kiss. “We should rest…”

“Yes…” he murmured, his hand smoothing down her back. “Yes, we should…” he kissed her again and Aura felt herself melt. “We wouldn’t want to be tired tomorrow…”

“That wouldn’t do.” She whispered, “Tseng would be annoyed with you…”

“Probably.” His lips brushed her cheek, “But it would be worth it.” Aura’s eyes closed and she smiled. It would be worth it, but she was so tired…

 

*

 

Reno tossed his jacket onto his chair before sitting at his desk. He pointedly ignored Rude’s raised eyebrows and he just grinned at the big man.

“’mornin’ all.” He said, leaning back and lifting his feet to the desk.

“Good morning…” Elena leaned forward onto her own desk, looking across at him. “So…” the girl said, “Where did you disappear off to last night?” she grinned at him. “… with Aura…”

“Yes, we went to Aura’s place.” He said easily. Rude raised his eyebrows again, and Reno continued to ignore the question.

“Her place, not yours…” Elena nodded, “Niice…”

Reno just looked innocently at her. “She had dinner planned.”

“Yes… and then did you…”

“Did I what?” he asked, his face carefully neutral.

“You know!” She sighed, “Did you two…?”

“A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.” He said simply.

“You always kiss and tell!” Elena exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air.

“Not this time.” He took his feet off his desk and pulled the closest file toward himself. “Let’s get some work done.”

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll go and ask Aura.” Elena said loudly.

“Try it, Laney.” He replied, not looking up from his file.

“Fine, I will!”

 

Reno didn’t look up as Elena flounced from the room. “… what is it, Partner?” he asked when he felt Rude’s eyes still on him.

“I mean, if you don’t wanna talk about it…” Rude shrugged.

Reno gave a half smile, looking at his friend. “Just wanna keep it to myself for a little bit, yo.” He winked at Rude, “Not ready to share.”

“Fair enough.” Rude nodded once and flipped a file of his own open. Reno looked back down to his own file, unable to wipe the grin off of his face. He wondered for a moment what Aura would tell Elena. They hadn’t discussed what they would tell people, and really, he didn’t mind what she told people. It wasn’t that he was opposed to the others knowing, he just didn’t feel like combing through all the details with Elena. He didn’t want to share what had happened last night with anyone but Aura.

Reno had worked his way through three files before Rufus called him into his office. Elena still had not returned, and Reno winked at Rude as he passed the big man on his way up the hallway toward Rufus’ office. He knocked once before letting himself in. “Yo, boss?”

Rufus sat behind his desk, as usual, his suit and hair immaculate as he surveyed Reno with a patient expression.

“Reno, take a seat.”

“Sure, boss.” Reno sat in a chair opposite the blonde man.

“Has Tseng spoken to you about Junon?”

“…the shipment?”

“Yes. Has he told you that you will be the one to go?”

“Yeah.”

“And how do you feel about that?”

Reno shrugged, leaning back in the chair and resisting putting his feet up on Rufus’ desk. “I’ll do what needs to be done, yo. I always do.”

“Yes, that is why Tseng has chosen you.”

Reno shrugged again. “Fine.”

“You’re to get in and out without detection.” Rufus told him, and Reno nodded. Obviously. “If it’s made known that ShinRa destroyed a shipment of a supposed cure, we’ll lose the public.”

“Makes sense.”

“You have access to whatever you want to take.” Rufus told him, rolling his sleeves up. Reno eyed the bandage on his boss’ arm. “Try not to overdo it, however.”

“Sure thing, boss.” He watched as Rufus leaned toward the phone on his desk and pressed several buttons.

“Aura, I’m ready.” The man’s pale blue eyes landed on Reno then. “…it’s time for my treatment.”

Reno didn’t move. He knew that Rufus was finished with him, but he didn’t get up. “I see.”

Rufus smiled at him. “You can stay if you like.”

“Maybe I will.” Reno replied evenly.

Rufus watched him silently for a few moments before tilting his head. “So, have you fucked her yet?”

Reno kept his face very carefully blank. “That ain’t your business, yo.”

Rufus’ smile turned savage. “I think it is.”

“No…” Reno shook his head, “You promised me that you wouldn’t touch her. If I was good. And I have been. I’ve done everything right.”

“So you have, Reno.” Rufus nodded, “But I never said we wouldn’t talk about her.”

“I don’t want to.”

“I do.”

Reno clenched his teeth, trying to control his face. He saw when Rufus realised that he had won and the man leaned onto his elbows on his desk. “Right,” his boss said, “So… have you fucked her?”

Reno ground his answer out through his teeth. “Yes.”

“Excellent!” Rufus exclaimed, “How was it?”

Reno looked away, twisting his hands in his lap. He had no idea why Rufus was doing this. He had done everything he had been asked of late. There was no reason for his boss to punish him. “Fucking exceptional.” He growled.

“Wonderful.” Rufus grinned more widely and then looked toward the door when it opened. Reno turned to see Aura come in, her eyes lighting when she spotted him.

“Good morning…” she said, looking between them.

“Aura… come here.” Rufus said, and Reno flicked a quick glance at the man.

“What are you doing?” he asked warily.

Rufus just looked at him, before his pale eyes returned to Aura. Reno turned to watch Aura move across the office, a large jar of ointment in her hand. “Oh,” Rufus said, “Silly me… you two…” he waved a hand at them, “Aura has to give me my treatment, while Reno needs to go on patrol. He has work to do… Go on and kiss goodbye.”

“What?” the surprise in Aura’s voice pretty much mirrored Reno’s own reaction. He looked to the President who was watching them obviously highly pleased with himself.

“Go on.” Rufus said, looking steadily at Reno. “Kiss her.”

Reno got to his feet when Aura reached him. He took the tub of ointment from her hand and set it on his boss’ desk. She looked up at him, clearly as confused as he was. “It’s okay…” he murmured, his hand coming to rest on her shoulder. Trust was clear in her eyes as she nodded, leaning into him. Reno cast one glance at Rufus before he bent and pressed his lips to Aura’s, his hand moving down her arm as she leaned further into him.

“There, wasn’t that nice?” Rufus said, smirking again when Reno had straightened and turned to face his boss once more. “Fucking exceptional. Wouldn’t you say so, Reno?”

“Yes.” Reno’s tone was flat. He still had no idea what this was about.

“Perhaps we’ll expand on this later.” Rufus said, “Now you have patrol. Go.”

Reno glanced at Aura who was opening her ointment. “You said I could stay.”

“Now I’m saying ‘ Go’.” Rufus replied.

Clearing his face of any of his thoughts, Reno gave one last look to Aura before turning on his heel and stalking out the door.

Chapter Text

Chapter 33

“Are you pissed off at him?” Aura eyed Rufus Shinra the moment the office door closed after Reno. The man’s pale blue eyes met hers.

“What gives you that impression?” he asked mildly.

Aura raised an eyebrow and just gestured at the door.

“Just reminding him who is in charge.”

“I think he knows that, yo.” She set the open tub of ointment on Rufus’ desk and looked at him. He began unbuttoning his shirt and Aura glanced back at the door, realising that she was alone with him in here now.

“You don’t need to fear me. I told you that.” He took the shirt off and lay it across the back of his chair. “Unless you ask me to, I’ll not touch you.”

“And I told you that wont happen.” She retorted, unwrapping the soiled bandage from around his arm. The crooked grin he gave her didn’t escape her notice.

“I wouldn’t think so.” He said softly, “now you’ve got your hands full of Reno…”

Aura couldn’t help staring at him. “…what?” she muttered, continuing to unwrap the bandage.

“I am curious…” He leaned his head back against his chair as he looked up at her working on him. “as to who the better fuck is…”

“You can’t be serious.” She put the bandage in the bin beside his desk.

“I know Reno is a good fuck.” He smirked at her again, “But, I know that I am as well.”

Aura shook her head, her eyes focused on her work. “And just how do you know that Reno is a good fuck?” she asked, and when he didn’t answer her she looked at him to see that smirk still firmly in place. “Really?” she asked, a little surprised.

“He is so very pretty.” Rufus said mildly. Aura just went back to her task, cleaning his arm and shoulder before applying the ointment. She didn’t know why she was surprised that Reno would have gone there, but she supposed that she probably hadn’t really considered it. “So?” the man asked, “Who is better?”

“Isn’t there someone else you can ask?”

“I’m asking you.”

“You wont like my answer.”

“Why’s that?”

“I didn’t want you.” She said sharply, glancing up to glare at him. He looked away after only a moment.

“Ah…” He watched her smear ointment over him. “Well, I suppose you would be biased anyway.”

She narrowed her eyes at him.

“Maybe I could give him a few pointers…” Rufus said mildly, “Maybe we could compare notes… I wonder if he noticed that little hitch in your breathing…” Aura snarled and Rufus blinked at her. “Wasn’t he good enough to cause that?”

“That ain’t your business.” She said, picking up a clean bandage to go over the ointment. She started at his wrist, and began winding the bandage around his arm.

“I was better, wasn’t I?” he smirked, “Even though it didn’t go for long and you didn’t do anything…” Rufus’s hand came to rest on her hip and Aura froze.

“You said you wouldn’t touch me.”

“Did you think the words were literal?” he asked, amusement clear in his voice. “I meant I wouldn’t fuck you. Not that I would avoid all physical contact. You’re touching me right now.”

“This is my job.” She said, tying off the bandage.

“And I’m your boss.” He replied, his hand now closing around one of Aura’s wrists to prevent her pulling away from him. “Tell me I was better.”

“No.” she said, yanking her wrist from his grip. “You weren’t.”

All amusement and good humour died in Rufus Shinra’s eyes as he looked at Aura. Slowly, he got to his feet and she shrunk away from him, back against the desk. As he had done before, Rufus leaned toward her, a hand coming down onto the smooth surface of the desk either side of Aura, effectively trapping her there. “Do I need to refresh your memory?” his voice was low and scary and Aura began to panic.

“No… You said you wouldn’t…”

He tilted his head, considering. “That would really piss Reno off, wouldn’t it… I bet it just eats at him inside, knowing that I got there first.”

“I doubt he thinks about it at all.” Aura replied, desperate to make this whole situation stop. Rufus just laughed.

“He would.” He said, his eyes looking her over. “He can fuck you all he wants…” he purred, “As hard, as thoroughly, as creatively as he wants in whatever way he wants… but I will have always been your first.” One of his hands came up to roughly take hold of her chin, making her look at him. “He can’t fuck that out of you.”

Aura stared at him, trying to keep her face neutral as tears stung her eyes. “You’re a prick.” She choked out after a moment.

“I know.” He released her and stood straighter. Aura’s eyes fell immediately to her own hands, twisting in her lap.

“You push him too far and you’ll lose him.” She said softly.

“If I can push him too far,” Rufus replied, “then I don’t have him.”

“I don’t understand what you’re trying to do.”

Rufus smirked and sank back into his chair as he looked at Aura. “I will maintain control.” He told her, an odd gleam to his eyes. “Of what I have left… I will maintain control.”

“Sad little king of a sad little hill…” Aura couldn’t keep the mocking tone out of her voice and Rufus was on his feet again in an instant, one of his hands again seizing her face and holding her still as he brought his own face within inches of hers.

“Nobody talks to me like you do.” He snarled. Aura pushed at him.

“Get off me.”

He grabbed her by the throat instead and she kicked at him. He dragged her off his desk by her throat and pulled her around pushing her down into his chair.

“You wouldn’t understand.” He snapped. “You’ve never had the responsibility I have. You have no idea how hard it is to always think of everything and be responsible for everybody. All the time.”

“That is not an excuse.” Aura said, massaging her throat when he’d released her.

“I need people I can trust.”

“Then don’t hurt them.”

Rufus laughed softly, sitting himself on his desk as he looked down at her. “You may win love and loyalty by being a sweet little innocent virgin, Aura… but that isn’t how it works for me.”

“Have you tried it?” she asked drily.

“I require unquestioning obedience.”

“Why does that necessitate cruelty?”

“It doesn’t always.” He replied, “But it does require control.”

“You want them to feel like your property…”

“They more or less are.” He said simply. “Loyal to me and to each other.”

“And you hate that Reno kept me a secret…”

“Yes, I do.” He breathed, his pale eyes locked on every movement she made. “You… make him think that he’s free. You make him think there’s more than ShinRa and his obligations to me. You make him think he can have something else.” He tilted his head, “He can only have what I allow him to have.” Rufus leaned toward her, his hands on the armrests of the chair. “That is why I fucked you, Aura.” He told her, “To remind him that he can only have the leftovers I allow him to have.”

“And you didn’t give a shit about me…”

“No…” he agreed, “I’m sorry for any anguish you suffered, and I did try not to hurt you… but you were a means to an end and keeping Reno in line was worth it.”

“And how are you keeping him in line now?” she asked, “It’s not as if you can deflower his virgin again…”

“He loves you.” Rufus said with a shrug, “That makes him vulnerable to anyone who knows it.”

“Does it?” her voice was flat and unimpressed.

“I told him very simply.” He said gently, “You are safe as long as he behaves…” Rufus raised an eyebrow at her. “If he doesn’t, he knows what will happen… to you.”

“You’ll what?” she asked, “Fuck me again? Kill me?”

“First one, then the other…” he agreed.

Aura swallowed, unable to look at him. She kept her eyes on the polished wood of the desk. “So when you say that you wont touch me unless I ask you to… that’s bullshit?”

“Not if Reno behaves.”

“Well, he’s always been so good at that.” Aura replied sarcastically.

Rufus lifted her face to look at him with two cool fingers beneath her chin. “Perhaps you should do whatever you can to keep him placated. Wouldn’t want him hearing things that may set him off…”

“What…?”

“Think about what he might do if he thought I had broken my word to not touch you…” he said, his fingers moving across her cheek and down her throat to her shoulder. Aura shuddered. He was right. Reno would lose it. “It’s probably best…” the man continued, pushing her hair back over her shoulder, “if he’s unaware of certain facts… for his own good and yours.”

“I thought you didn’t like secrets.” She said, trying to keep her voice steady.

“Oh, I don’t like secrets being kept from me…” Rufus replied, letting her go and sitting back up straight, “But keeping them? That’s half my business.”

Aura was silent for several minutes while Rufus just looked at her. Eventually, she spoke. “So, what you’re saying is even if you do break your promise to Reno… if you do… touch me… I shouldn’t tell him?”

“He would… misbehave.” Rufus said, sounding entirely unconcerned.

“So… you’re saying I have absolutely no protection from you.”

The crooked grin he’d worn earlier returned. “You don’t need it.” He told her, “I’m a great fuck.”

“And what if I just don’t come back.” She asked, “What if I never come back? I doubt Reno would be opposed to me telling him I didn’t want to work for you anymore.”

“Then I would lose my hold over him.” Rufus said, smiling, “Which means I could no longer trust him… and I would have to take care of that.”

Aura knew what that meant. She sought frantically for any way out of this trap Rufus had her in. “I… I…”

“You…” he said, getting to his feet and moving around to pick up his shirt from the back of his chair and put it on, “will show up tomorrow as usual. You will continue to do your job as usual. You will come when I call you and complete any services I require. You will do everything I ask of you, and you won’t tell Reno anything I do not wish for him to know.”

Aura sat, stunned. “What… services…?”

“Whatever I require.”

“I’m not a whore.” She said sharply.

“Oh, I know that.” He replied, “I know exactly what it felt like being the first person inside of you.”

“I’ll not be a whore.” She ground out between clenched teeth.

“I wasn’t going to call you one.” He finished buttoning his shirt, “Relax, Aura.” He said, “I’m not going to call you in here every day to fuck you.”

“Good.”

He gestured at the tub of ointment on his desk. “Keep doing your job.”

Aura got to her feet. “Can I go…?”

“Yes.”

She picked her things up and strode for the door. “Remember,” he said as she reached for the handle, “Not a word to Reno unless you want him to do something that will get himself killed.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 34

The sun had set about an hour before Reno had left his apartment. The Patrol he’d been on had been rougher than usual. He suspected in a week they would have to give the area up. He wasn’t even in his uniform as per Rufus’ command, and he’d still had a hard time. Thank Shiva Elena hadn’t been sent out that way. He didn’t want to see her back in hospital again anytime soon.

By the time he had gotten back to Healen Lodge and made his report, everyone else had gone home. He hadn’t seen Aura since he had left her in Rufus’ office earlier, and he wanted to check on her. He knew that his boss was using her to jerk his chain and he needed to figure out how to get a step ahead of him again. He had called her before leaving his apartment, but she had not answered, so he decided to just walk over. There was no reason she shouldn’t be at home. If Rufus had sent her to try and spy on Cadan again, Reno would damn well just go and get her. He hoped that wasn’t the case.

Her door was unlocked when he arrived, and upon receiving no answer when he knocked, Reno let himself in. He would have to talk to her about locking her door. Again.

“Aur…?” he called, walking through the living room and into the kitchen. He heard the shower a moment later. Unable to help it, Reno thought back to the last time he had found her in the shower. It had been right after Rufus had…

He walked quickly up the hallway. Surely this wasn’t the same situation.

“Aura?” he asked, knocking on the bathroom door and watching as it swung open. Didn’t she ever lock doors? “Aur…?” he stuck his head in. Seeing her through the shower glass, Reno watched as turned to face him and her eyes widened.

“Reno…”

“Hi… Sorry…” he began to turn to leave, but she called him back.

“Wait…”

He stopped and looked back to her. “Yeah?”

“… come and join me.” She smiled when his jaw dropped.

“Uh…” Reno didn’t need to be asked twice. “Okay.” He pulled his shirt up and over his head, dropping it on the floor as he moved toward her shower door. He’d only just gotten out of the shower at home, but he didn’t need to mention that. Hastily, he undid his belt and then his pants, kicking them across the bathroom in his attempt to get them off.

Aura had opened the shower door by the time he was free of his clothing and he stepped in with her, straight under the spray of hot water. “Hi.” She said with a smile, and he lasted about two seconds before he’d reached out and touched her.

“Hi.” He replied, one hand moving down her slick arm and the other sliding around the back of her neck to bring her closer. He bent to press a kiss to her lips. “How was the rest of your day?”

“Alright.” She replied, her arms coming around his waist as she looked up at him. “Was your patrol interesting?”

“More interesting than I’d like…”

“Are you okay?” she asked, her bright green eyes quickly moving over him as if looking for hidden injuries.

“I’m fine, sweetheart.” His hands moved down her back as she leaned into him. “What’s wrong?” he asked, seeing the way she looked up at him, her arms tight around his waist.

“I missed you all day.” She replied after a moment, “I just… kiss me…”

 

He bent to kiss her again and groaned as her arms wound around his neck as she responded to the kiss, her lips parting and allowing him entry to her mouth. Reno deepened the kiss, hot water cascading over them as his hands slid further down her back to her arse, pulling her more tightly against himself. He knew that she was aware of how ready he was from her appreciative groan into their kiss as she rubbed herself against him as much as she was able in his tight grip.

“Aur…” he breathed, releasing her and moving to adjust their position.

“No…” She gasped, putting a hand to Reno’s shoulder and instead pushing him back into the corner of the shower until his back was against the tiles. Slowly, she sank to her knees before him, dragging her nails down his chest and stomach as she went. Her eyes never left his.

Reno’s knees just about gave out and he was glad to be leaning against the wall. “What are you doing?” he asked, his voice barely audible above the shower.

“I don’t really know…” she replied, still looking up at him, “You might have to help me…” He nodded, his hand coming to her cheek and brushing her wet hair back as the water streamed down over her.

“Okay…” He bit his lip as she uncertainly took hold of him and he carefully stroked her cheek as he watched her. Aura’s other hand moved to his thigh as she adjusted her position before him, sitting higher on her knees. One of Reno’s hands moved through her hair, while the other cupped her cheek, tilting her face a little higher as she moved closer, licking her lips. That sight alone just about made Reno lose it. He swallowed thickly, trying to even out his breathing.

 

He used the hand on her cheek to guide her as she carefully took him into her mouth. His hand slid around to the back of her head as he let out an unashamed moan, leaning completely back into the corner of the shower for support as his eyes closed. “Ohh, fuck!”

Reno was unable to keep his eyes closed for long. He wanted to watch her, and so he forced them open and looked down at her. “Fuck…” he breathed again, meeting her emerald gaze. The look on her face was uncertain, so he smiled at her. “That’s right…” he said, using his hand at the back of her head to guide her movements gently. Aura kept her eyes on him as she took more of him into her mouth, moving as he instructed. Reno was completely reliant on the wall now. “That’s good…” he groaned, “Uh… you can use your tongue if you want…” He felt the difference a moment later and threaded the fingers of both his hands through her hair. It took all of his self-control to allow her to stay in control of her movements and not to simply hold her head still and fuck her. “Aura…”

 

He knew he was going to have to change things up unless he wanted it all to end and so he gently guided Aura back and pulled her to her feet. “What’s the matter?” she asked, “Was that wrong?”

“No…” he breathed, “Oh, no…” he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “That was perfect… I just wanted my turn…” He bent enough to lift Aura by her thighs, turning to press her back into the tiles. He adjusted his hold on her until her knees dangled over his elbows and he held her wide open as he pushed into her. Aura let out a loud cry, her nails cutting into his shoulders as she clutched at him.

 

“Ah! Reno!” she squirmed in his arms, scratching at his back as he thrust into her. She gasped as he fucked her against the tiles, and Reno fought to keep her still enough for some leverage as her skin slid over the wet tiles with every thrust into her body.

Eventually, he had pushed her into the corner where he could brace them enough to get some power behind his movements. Aura was crying out with every thrust he made until she sank her teeth into his shoulder and her cries became muffled grunts as her nails continued to scratch at his back and shoulders. He shifted his hold on her, her knees still draped over his elbows as he practically folded her in half, seeking a new angle. He knew he’d found the right one when Aura’s head tipped back and her hands slid along the tiles, searching for something else to hold on to. Reno continued to thrust in the same way, not allowing her time to even gasp between thrusts and soon her hands were back on him, one clutching at his shoulder and the other pulling roughly at his hair.

 

The sounds she began to make were Reno’s undoing and the moment he felt her shudder around him he lost himself. He was glad again for the corner as his knees went weak and he slid slowly to the floor, still holding Aura in his arms.

Chapter Text

Chapter 35

Reno braced a hand against the wall behind Aura as he breathed slowly and deeply, attempting to catch his breath and waiting for his heart to stop pounding in his ears. Aura’s legs moved around his waist as she adjusted herself in his lap and he looked at her when both of her hands gently came up to either side of his face. “Reno…” she whispered softly and he couldn’t so much as blink as she looked into his eyes. “Reno…” He didn’t move when Aura leaned closer, bringing her lips to his. Her tongue traced his lower lip and Reno opened his mouth, allowing her to deepen the kiss. Her hesitation didn’t last long. He allowed her to hold him still, her hands still on either side of his face, as she carefully slipped her tongue past his lips. “I love you.” She breathed a moment later, pulling back to look into his eyes once more. Reno was pretty sure his heart stopped beating altogether. His hands moved to her back, holding her tightly. “I love you.” She whispered again, her lips brushing gently across his as she kissed him softly.

Reno reached up and turned the water off, before pushing Aura’s wet hair back from her face with one hand and noting the faint flush still filling her cheeks. Her wide green eyes met his and she just looked at him silently, making no move to get up. Reno didn’t know what to say. He traced his thumb carefully along her cheekbone, holding her gaze. “I… don’t have words for the intensity of what I feel every time I so much as touch you.” He told her, his voice low. “Words don’t cut it.”

“They’re not the only method of communication.” Aura told him gently, one of her arms snaking around his neck, “I see it in your eyes.” He felt her other hand slide up into his hair and he held her gaze, willing everything he wanted to say to be reflected there. She smiled at him, “Maybe we should get out of the shower.”

“You’re right.” Reno tightened his arm around Aura’s waist and lifted her to himself. He willed his legs to work as he tried to get to his feet, his other hand braced against the wall in case his muscles decided to betray him. “Let’s get out of here…” he murmured when he was standing straight, Aura wrapped around him. He pulled a towel from a rack when he stepped out of the shower, and carefully wrapped it around Aura’s shoulders with one hand. He used a corner of the towel to wipe several water droplets from her cheek and then he carried her out the bathroom door and into the hallway toward her bedroom. He didn’t know what he intended to do when he got there, but when he pushed the door open, Aura loosened her legs from around his waist and he set her carefully on her feet. She pulled the towel from around her shoulders and Reno stood still as she lifted it and began to gently dry his face. He watched her as she moved the towel slowly over him, down his chest and arms before moving around behind him and doing the same to his back. He felt her gather his hair in the towel and squeeze the excess water from it before she came back around to look up at him.

“I… I may have scratched your back… rather significantly.” She murmured, biting her lower lip. Reno raised an eyebrow and tried to look over his shoulder at his back. He couldn’t see anything so he walked over to her mirror and turned to try and get a look. There were indeed quite a few red scratch marks across his pale skin, and more than a few places where she had drawn blood. Reno turned the other way to have another look and his eyes spotted what was clearly her bitemark on his shoulder. He lifted a hand to touch it and then noticed Aura looking stricken behind him. “I… I’m sorry, Reno…”

“Nah, it’s fine, yo.” He smiled at her in the reflection, but she just looked at him, her eyes moving over his back and then back up to meet his eye and she didn’t return his smile. “Aur…” he turned around and walked over to her. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not.” She murmured, “I didn’t mean to hurt you…” She looked up at him, “Why didn’t you say something?”

“I didn’t really notice, Aur…” He smiled, “I was kinda focused on other things…”

She pushed him toward the bed and made him sit down. “I’m going to clean those up…” He watched her hurry from the room, smiling at the fact that she still hadn’t bothered to put anything on. She returned just a few moments later with several pieces of gauze in her hands and Reno watched her silently as she set about tending to the worst of the scratches. “How did you not notice this…?” she breathed, “Reno… I made you bleed…”

“I told you… I was focused on other things…”He grinned and trailed a finger up her arm. “Like those sounds you were making…”

“I…” Aura flushed scarlet, and she kept her eyes on what she was doing.

“It’s good in a way…” he continued, watching the blush spread further across her skin, “It tells me I was doing things right, yo.” He kept his eyes on her face. “Unless… these were defensive…?” He gestured at the scratch she was in the process of dealing with.

“No…” she said softly, “They weren’t defensive…”

“Then…” he lifted a hand, placing a single finger beneath her chin to raise her eyes to his, “Apparently I was doing my job well.” Aura flushed even darker. “And you liked it.”

“I did.” She agreed, focusing on packing up the gauze and then carrying it over to her dresser by the wall. When she turned back to face him, Reno grinned again and gently stroked a finger over the bitemark on his shoulder.

“This was especially interesting.” He remarked and Aura glanced at him before quickly looking away.

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not.” He replied, gesturing for her to come closer. “I like that I’ll have a reminder of it…” He lifted a hand to her cheek when she was within reach. “That was the hottest thing I’ve ever experienced.” Aura raised an eyebrow at him and he pressed a kiss between her eyes. “It was.” He told her, “I almost lost it just looking at you on your knees…”

Aura tucked her head up under Reno’s chin and he wound an arm around her. “Really? She asked and he could hear the smile in her voice, “Maybe I’ll have to do that again.”

“I sure hope so.” He replied, rubbing a hand up and down her back, “I rather liked the next bit too…”

She nodded against him. “Maybe the whole thing needs to happen again.”

“Sounds like a plan, yo.” He yawned, “Just maybe not tonight.”

She looked up at him, “Are you tired?”

“It’s been a long day.” He replied, pressing a kiss to her forehead again. “I feel dead on my feet.” Aura took his hand and he allowed her to pull him toward the bed again.

“Lay down.” She instructed and he did so, resisting a sigh of contentment when his head found the pillow. He heard her moving around the room for a few moments before she climbed onto the bed with him. “Do you feel better?” she asked, and Reno nodded when she moved over him, straddling his hips. He looked up at her as she pulled her hair to fall over one shoulder. It was already curling at the ends as it dried and she combed her fingers through it for a moment before looking down to meet his eyes. Reno felt himself growing hard. He swallowed thickly. She was going to kill him.

“Aur…” he groaned, but she leaned forward and pressed a finger to his lips.

“It’s okay.” She told him softly. “You don’t have to do anything. I’m just going to help you relax.” Her hands moved over his chest as she massaged him gently, and Reno watched her wondering if he was actually living in some fantasy world. This couldn’t be reality. Her hands moved lower over his stomach and Reno bit back another groan, knowing that he was completely hard.

“Aura…”

“It’s alright.” She adjusted herself over him, and he stopped breathing as she reached down to take hold of him before carefully lowering herself over him. Reno draw a gasping breath as he was completely sheathed within her and he watched as Aura’s eyes fluttered closed and her mouth opened in a silent gasp. His hands went immediately to her hips and he held her there. “Ohh…” she released a shuddering breath. “It’s hard not to move…” she leaned forward, bracing her hands on his chest, her hair tumbling over her shoulder to tickle his skin as she drew one deep breath after another.

“You tryin’ to kill me?” he asked, his hands tightening on her hips in an attempt to get her to move.

“Nah.” She smiled at him, moving just a little and he couldn’t resist a groan. “Just trying to get you nice and relaxed.” She stretched to press a kiss to his lips, and Reno slid one hand from her hip, up her side to the back of her neck, pulling her in to deepen the kiss. “Don’t you feel good?” she asked, lifting her head just enough to meet his eyes. He nodded.

“Yes.” He murmured, feeling himself relax as she settled against him. Aura leaned forward again, now pressed to his chest, her weight resting against him. He moved a hand up and down her back as she tucked her head up under his chin again. He shuddered as one of her own hands trailed up his arm while the other came to rest over his heart. She was still for several minutes as Reno traced his fingers gently over her back, marvelling over how anyone could be so soft. “Aur…” When he didn’t get an answer, Reno realised that she had fallen asleep. He wondered if that had been her plan, to fall asleep with him inside of her. The thought made him smile, and he was extremely comfortable, so he continued to stroke her back slowly as he closed his own eyes and waited to welcome sleep himself.

Chapter Text

Chapter 36

Elena surveyed the crowd, a little wary. She wished that Rude or someone had come with them. Tseng. Tseng should have come with them. But then maybe she was only thinking that because she wanted to be able to look at him. Maybe it was good that he hadn’t come because she just would have looked at him the whole time and not done her job. But if he had have come then her job would have been easier because Tseng was so very good at his job and that would have made hers easier. Realising then that the two women she was with had moved on, Elena sighed and turned to trail them up the street.

Zena and Aura were standing in front of a little stall that appeared to be selling glass vials. The crowd surged around them in the narrow street as Elena moved to get closer. She had been assigned to accompany them into the town while they attempted to get some supplies. Scowling at the way Rufus had given her the instruction directly, Elena tried to ignore her suspicion that she had been chosen because she was female. She supposed that disguising their little errand run as a girls shopping trip was probably effective, but she couldn’t help feeling like a silly rookie all the same. Did Rufus still think she was an inexperienced joke? She hadn’t thought he did. She had stayed with Reno, Rude and Tseng when none of the others had. She had saved Rufus’ own life several times. Hadn’t she proven herself already?

“You alright, yo?”

“Hm?” Elena blinked and looked around to find Aura standing by her side. “Oh, just fine.”

“You annoyed at playing bodyguard?”

“Well…” Elena looked at her friend, realising that Aura was perhaps just as perceptive as Reno, if not more so, and there was no point in lying. “I thought maybe they had begun to see me as more than a rookie… But I guess they haven’t.”

“Well, speaking as one of the people you are currently protecting…” Aura smiled at her, “I feel very safe.”

“Thanks.” Elena grinned at her. “I’m surprised that Reno didn’t talk the boss into letting him take my place, though.”

“I doubt he would have succeeded.” Aura said, shifting her basket to her other arm. “Rufus seems pretty pissed at him.”

“Oh… they always fight like that.” Elena replied, “They always make up.” She saw the questioning look Aura threw her and she shrugged. “Rufus likes to push.”

“Does he… push… you?”

Elena hesitated, knowing full well that Aura was asking her if she’d ever slept with their boss. “No…” she said after a moment, “Again… just the rookie.”

“Do you wish that he looked at you in that way?”

“Not really.” Elena shrugged, “I mean, I know he and Reno were … y’know… for years… and even Tseng… I don’t think Rude ever actually… I mean, he could have… but… I don’t really think he’s the boss’ type…”

“Then who is his type?”

“Honestly?” Elena asked, “Anyone he gets satisfaction out of exerting control over.” She watched Aura frown for a second before continuing. “I think he likes having control over Reno being so… wild.” She gave a smirk to her friend, “And I think he likes playing with Tseng’s need to control everything around him. I suppose he wouldn’t really get much out of trying to control Rude in that way. Or me, for that matter.”

“He’s a bit broken, isn’t he?” Aura muttered, “Rufus, I mean.”

“Some would say so.” Elena said, watching Zena’s blonde curls flounce around nearby. “So I’m not really surprised he’s supremely pissed off at Reno for keeping you a secret.”

“Do you think he would actually kill Reno for it…?”

 

Elena heard the honest concern in Aura’s voice and she turned to face her friend. “Has he threatened that?” Aura just nodded and Elena bit her lip. “Well… Rufus has been more loyal to us than his father ever was… I mean, not that I was a Turk when his father… but, that’s not the point. Rufus has valued us… treated us far better than I ever expected… but… he expects that loyalty back and I do think he would feel betrayed by Reno… so… he might…”

“Do you think there’s anything I can do to fix it…?”

“I don’t know, Aura.” Elena murmured, “It’s all about control with him. He probably feels like he’s had that control taken from him. He’d want it back.” She wondered at the thoughtful expression on Aura’s face, but then noticed that Zena had wandered away “Damn it!” She cursed and pulled Aura along, chasing the blonde doctor down the street. “Can’t she stay still for five seconds?”

“It seems unlikely.” Aura replied.

Elena and Aura caught up to the other woman soon enough and Zena called Aura over to ask her opinion on something or other while Elena returned her attentions to the crowd around them and on making sure that she was focused on her job. Soon enough she’d relaxed anyway and had begun to think about how she might finally prove herself to Tseng and Rufus. She was vaguely aware of Zena and Aura chatting away and moving on to the next stall when a swarm of children rushing past them cut Elena off from her friends. At first she laughed, stepping back as the kids rushed past her, but then the crowd was different. She sensed the panic before she heard anything and as she tried to get to Aura and Zena, she heard Aura’s shriek.

“Aur?” Elena called, shoving people indiscriminately aside now. By the time she got to where she had last seen the two women, she found them gone. Blonde curls caught her eye and she followed them to an alley where she found Zena standing, blocking her path further in, as the woman was clearly trying to protect Aura behind her. “Are you both okay?” Elena asked, her gun now in her hand.

“What in the name of Shiva is going on?” Zena demanded and Elena had just turned to work out an answer to that question when everything went black.

Elena vaguely recalled a man with brown hair moving across her vision and Aura’s voice telling someone to back off. She heard Zena throwing threats around and then Tseng was leaning over her and Elena realised that she was back at Healen Lodge.

 

*

Aura tugged at the rope around her wrists. “What the fuck, yo?” she demanded, yanking again and glaring at Cadan who sat nearby, his honey brown eyes following her every move. He said nothing, but continued to watch her. “The fuck is your problem?”

“My problem?” he asked, not even getting to his feet. “My problem? You’re the one who is working for that twisted piece of shit, Rufus Shinra.”

Aura didn’t have a reply for that so she said nothing. She glared at the man, loathing every moment she had spent in his company. She yanked fruitlessly at the ropes around her wrists, trying to get any kind of give in them.

“Do you two know one another?” Zena asked, and Aura threw a quick glance to the woman who was sitting nearby, her wrists also bound.

“Sure thing” she said, “This is the psycho hosting the armature groups attacking ShinRa employees in the streets.” She saw Zena’s sneer as the woman looked Cadan over, but then he’d spoken up. She had known what he had been involved in, but she had hoped that he would never have done something like this. She also knew that she was doing what Reno had always told her to do when she was cornered and in danger. Bite back.

“Hosting?” he asked, amusement in his voice, “You think I just host meetings…? ”

“Not only.” She replied, “But I doubt you’re very important.”

“Oh, you think so?” he got to his feet and moved toward her. “You think you get to pass judgement on me? You? A worthless little slum rat whore?” He yanked her to her feet, looking into her eyes.

“Cadan…” she said softly, “We were friends… You’re a good person…”

“Friends?” he laughed, “You lied to me… You led me on… and then you played the fucking cocktease to chase after that redheaded fucking murderer…” He must have seen the shocked look on her face because he nodded, “Yeah, we know who he is.” One of his hands seized hold of her chin, “Your boyfriend’s a fucking Turk.”

“When did you work that one out?” she asked, her voice flat.

“Not long after he lost his shit thinking that you were gonna give it up to me…” Cadan’s other hand went between her legs and Aura couldn’t hold in a shriek, pulling away from him.

“In your fuckin dreams, yo!” She pressed her back to the wall but Cadan moved closer.

“You don’t want to know what I do to you in my dreams…” he said softly, pressing her into the wall, his breath hot on her neck. “But for your information… you love every second of it.”

Aura shuddered, unable to move away from him; her skin crawling. “Not likely.”

“Oh, it is…” One of his hands tightened around her throat, while the other forced its way between her legs again. “Do you think he’d still want you…?” he asked, “Once I was done with you?” Aura struggled to get away but couldn’t move anywhere, her hands were still tied as she twisted them madly trying to get free. Instead she headbutted him, nearly blacking out with the effort. She was unprepared for his fist colliding with her face a second later. Aura collapsed, her knees hitting the floor before Cadan kicked her over onto her back. She barely had time to register that she was on the ground before he was on her, both of his hands around her throat as he choked her.

“Let’s see if that Turk prick still wants you after this…”

Aura choked, kicking at Cadan as he ripped her dress open before dragging it up her legs.

“N-no…” she gasped, and he brought one hand back to her throat, holding her in place as she fought him with her bound hands. “Please don’t…”

“Never thought I’d fuck a ShinRa bitch…” His hand tightened around her throat, cutting all air off, “Fucking keep still!” Aura continued to fight him, despite her vision going blurry as she grew more lightheaded, unable to draw a breath.

“Stop…” she choked, “Cadan…”

“You owe me!” he snarled, “I put so much time into you.” She kicked again as his hand moved roughly between her legs. “You betrayed me. I told you things… but it was just ShinRa fucking me again.” He pushed her dress higher, yanking it out of his way, “But now, I’m going to fuck ShinRa.”

Aura couldn’t even choke out a protest now, but she continued to claw at him.

“Stop it!” Zena’s voice rang out clear and commanding, and Aura drew a grateful breath when Cadan paused in what he was doing and turned to look at the blonde woman. “Let her go.” Zena said, “I… I’ll go with you… I won’t fight you.”

It took Aura several moments to understand what the other woman had said, but as Cadan released her and got to his feet, she was able to grasp the full meaning. She could barely move, and just watched as Cadan pulled Zena across the room and just out of the flickering torchlight. She couldn’t see anything, but heard several moments of rustling and scuffling noises followed by a moment of silence. Aura curled into a ball, trying to imagine she was anywhere else, when the silence was replaced by rhythmic grunting.

Chapter Text

Chapter 37

Elena tried not to cry. She stared at the men standing by the foot of her hospital bed all watching her.

“Go over it again, Laney.” Reno said, his voice carefully neutral. Elena looked at him, her eyes wide.

“I’m sorry, Reno…”

“Just…” he shook his head, “go over it again.”

“I… I don’t remember… Something changed in the crowd and I tried to get to them… Zena and Aura hid in this little lane. I’d just found them when something must have hit me…” her hand went to her head, “I kind of remember some guy with brown hair…”

“It’s that Cadan prick.” Reno muttered, turning to look at Tseng.

“You don’t know that.” Tseng replied softly, “Brown hair? That’s about as generic a description as is possible to make.”

“It’s him. I know it.” Reno turned instead to Rufus. “It’s him. Let me go get them back.”

Elena looked to Tseng who was frowning at the end of her bed. This was not what she had intended to prove to him that she wasn’t a Rookie anymore. “Sir…” she murmured, and his dark eyes met hers quickly.

“Elena?”

“I’m sorry…”

“It’s done, Elena.” He replied, “The only thing to do is to decide on a course of action.”

“The only course of action is to go and beat the fuck out of these arseholes and get Aura and Zena back.” Reno’s voice had taken on an odd note that Elena hadn’t heard before, and he was holding himself in a way that suggested he was struggling to maintain his cool.

“Before they kill them.” Rude put in and Elena’s eyes closed in horror. She had allowed them to be taken by the people who had enjoyed killing ShinRa employees in the streets these last few months.

“Let me go with you.” She said.

“No.” Reno replied, his eyes still on Rufus. “It has to be now, Boss.” She watched Reno stare at Rufus until the man nodded. Reno turned immediately, clapping Rude on the shoulder before the two of them strode out the door and disappeared from sight. Elena looked down at her hands in her lap. Tears burned her eyes and she fought to contain them. She wasn’t about to cry in front of Rufus Shinra.

“Feel better, Elena.” Rufus’ voice was calm and then she heard him walk out the door. Elena kept her eyes on her hands for several moments before daring to look up at Tseng.

“What if they’re dead by the time Reno finds them?” she asked, her voice shaky.

“Whoever took them had better hope that’s not the case.” Tseng replied, sitting in the chair by her bed. Elena swallowed.

“Reno would lose his shit.” She muttered and Tseng nodded in agreement. “And he’d never forgive me.”

“Elena,” Tseng said gently.

“Will you train with me?” she asked, “I… I need to be better.”

“Elena.” He repeated her name, his hand coming to rest on the blanket draped over her. “It doesn’t matter how good you are. There’s not a lot you can do if you don’t even see what’s coming at you.”

“I should have seen.” She replied sharply, “They shouldn’t have been able to get that close to me.”

“That’s difficult in a busy street…”

“Will you train with me?” she pressed and he nodded after a moment.

“Of course.”

“This afternoon?” she asked.

Tseng’s eyes looked her over critically. “Are you well enough?”

“It’s just a headache.” She replied, “It’ll be gone in a few hours…”

“Very well.”

 

*

 

“Why would you do that?” Aura crawled toward Zena on the floor, struggling with her wrists still bound. The blonde woman had been returned not long ago, and then Cadan had walked out of whatever dark room it was that they were being contained to. “Why would you offer yourself for me?”

Zena sat up, leaning back against the wall as she looked at Aura in the dim light. The woman shrugged. “It means less to me than it does to you.”

Aura’s eyes stung with tears. “Did he hurt you?”

Zena looked away. “He’s not as tough as he thinks he is.” She muttered.

“Zena, I’m sorry…”

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” The woman replied, “If that creep comes back, you fight him.” Aura nodded, knowing that she would.

“…. Where do you think we are?” she asked, running a hand over the wall. “Do you think we’re in his pub?”

“Could be.” Zena said, “Big room… high ceiling…”

“Reno will find us here.” She gave a small gasp at the thought. “Do you think that’s the point?” she asked, “They want to lure ShinRa in… we’re bait?”

“I don’t know.” Zena said softly, “That Cadan guy… he’s not… stable.”

“He’s not? He always seemed normal…”

“I suppose he would have… now he’s under stress…” Zena let out a soft sigh. “If he’s the one calling the shots… I don’t know how logical anything he does might be.”

“But if we are bait and Reno comes…” Aura tried not to panic. “Sweet Shiva…”

“He’s hard to kill, that one.” Zena muttered.

“I… I know…” Aura hooked her arms around her knees, shivering. “Do you think Elena is alright?”

“Yes.”

“He hit her pretty hard…”

“Not hard enough.” Zena said simply. “Trust me.”

“How are you so calm?”

“I’ve worked for Rufus Shinra for a long time.” The other woman said, “He’s put me through a lot of shit.”

“Did you work for his father?”

“No.” Zena said, “I’ve always belonged to Rufus.”

Aura looked at her, trying to fit that piece of information into her picture of Zena. “… Were you and he… lovers…?”

Zena snorted. “We used to fuck.” Aura raised an eyebrow. “When we were young. Not in years.” Aura just nodded slowly. “He’s a good lay, Rufus.” Zena stretched a little and leaned back against the wall again. Aura didn’t know what to say, and so said nothing.

After a moment she eyed Zena sidelong, unable to stop thinking about Rufus’ question in his office. She couldn’t help herself. “Who’s better? Reno or Rufus?”

Zena turned her head to look at her. “What a strange question from a little mouse like you.”

Aura let out a huff. “Mouse. Slum Rat. Whatever.”

“Hmm…” Zena shrugged and was clearly mulling over her answer. “Oh, I don’t know… Both are intense… Reno fucks hard… Although I’ve had more experience of Rufus. I’d have to pick him.”

Aura realised that Rufus was the answer she had been hoping for. If the blonde woman had have chosen Reno she would have been annoyed. And probably jealous. “I think we need to find our own way out of here.” She said. “We need to get out before anyone gets killed trying to rescue us.”

“You have a plan then?”

“…No.” Aura murmured her response, squinting into the darkness. “No… I don’t.”

 

*

 

Elena growled out her frustration. Tseng had been outmanoeuvring her for over half an hour, and she hated looking useless in his eyes. “Ahh!” she hissed when he had somehow gotten behind her and swept her legs out from under her again. Her back hit the matt and she bit back the curse she wanted to spit at him.

“Elena…” he said evenly. “You need rest.”

“I’m fine.”

“You are not.” He replied, rolling his shoulder, “You are slower than usual and you’re frustrated so you’re reading my movements wrong.”

“I need to be better.”

“You need to heal.” He said flatly. “You cannot train effectively if you’re not in top condition. You’ll just injure yourself further.”

“Aura and Zena have been taken by our enemy and it’s my fault.” She breathed, sitting up and pushing her hair from her face. “I can’t just sit and wait.” She looked up in surprise when his hand took one of hers and she let him pull her to her feet.

“You need to forgive yourself.”

“When they’re safe.” She replied, “I… if they’re hurt…” She broke off and watched as Tseng looked her over, his dark eyes thoughtful.

“This wasn’t your fault, Elena.”

“Then whose fault was it?” she asked.

“Mine, if anyone’s.” He replied, “For sending you alone into that part of the city. We knew that it was volatile.”

“I should have been able to handle it.” She insisted, “I’m not a rookie anymore.”

“No…” he told her, “Any one of us would have fared the same…”

“Reno would never have gone down like that.” She said bitterly, “Nor would you… Nobody can sneak up on you.”

“That isn’t so.” His voice was low, and Elena watched wordlessly as his fingers ghosted across her wrist and up her arm to her elbow. “…It’s been a long day.” He said, stepping away, his eyes moving to the window and the orange sunset streaming through the glass. “We both need to go home.”

“Oh…?”

“Get changed and I’ll walk you home.” He looked at her again. “I want to make sure you get there.”

“Yes, sir.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 38

Sighing as she sank onto her couch, Elena eyed Tseng who was sitting on the other end, a small glass in his hand. She watched him swirl the golden brown liquid in the glass as his eyes remained unfocused. “Tseng…”

Those dark eyes flicked up to meet hers almost instantly. “Elena?”

“Do you think the President is angry with me?”

“Not at all.”

Elena chewed her lip, trying to work up the courage to ask the real question she wanted to know the answer to. This was the reason she had invited him inside and offered him a drink. She really didn’t want to chicken out now. “Do… do you think I’m a shit Turk?”

Tseng frowned at her. “Absolutely not, Elena.” She looked down at her own drink in hand, relief washing through her as the anxiety began to fade.

“Okay, good…”

“I need you to forgive me.”

“What?” Surprise made Elena look up at him, her jaw agape. “What do you mean?”

Tseng set his glass on the table before them, empty. “I sent you into an inappropriate zone without backup.” He told her. “I should not have.”

“It’s fine.” She replied dismissively.

“It’s not.” He said softly. “I need you to forgive me. For that and… What happened… between us…”

“Do you wish it hadn’t?” she murmured, unable to look at him for fear of what he might see on her face.

“I… regret… the manner in which it happened.”

She looked at him then and found him already watching her. “Oh?”

“It was… messy… and I was … very drunk.”

“You were.” She agreed.

“I apologise.” He said, studying his own hands now, frowning deeply. “That is not usually how… I… do things.”

“Isn’t it?” she asked.

“Of course not.” His response was indignant and so full of pride that Elena couldn’t resist a chuckle. She smiled when he looked up at her, his frown still in place.

“And how do you normally do things?”

His eyes moved over her so quickly that Elena was certain had she not been a Turk and trained to notice the most minute detail, she probably would have missed it. “Far more thoroughly.” His voice was soft and Elena knew that she was instantly wet. She swallowed thickly.

“R-really…” She cursed herself for the waver in her voice.

“You don’t believe me?”

“I…” She kept her eyes averted, not knowing what to tell him. She did believe him. She had daydreamed about it and imagined it nearly daily for the last few years, but she wouldn’t tell him that. Tseng apparently misunderstood her reaction as he had gotten to his feet.

She watched him walk toward her, and she simply looked up at him, trying to read his expressionless face. “I think…” he began and one of his hands slid into the hair at the nape of her neck, clenching a handful before he yanked her head back, forcing her to look up at him more fully as he hovered over her, “that you should take me at my word, Elena.”

“I… I believe you.” She hissed, clenching her teeth against the pain. Tseng’s dark eyes moved across her face and Elena found herself holding her breath. “But…” she ventured, “I… think you should show me.” His hold on her hair lessened and he looked at her again. She reached a hand up and took hold of his tie, preventing him from straightening. “Show me.” She breathed, pulling him down. She gasped in surprise when Tseng gave in to her pulling and bent to her, pressing his lips firmly to hers. Elena opened to him immediately, allowing him to sweep her mouth with his tongue. She groaned into the kiss, both her hands coming down to clench at the cushions beneath her as both of Tseng’s own hands were now in her hair.

“Elena…” he said after several moments, when he had released her. “Where is your bedroom?”

“Up… the hall…” she gasped, trying to draw a breath deep enough to allow her to think.

“Is this what you want?” he asked her, and she nodded, her eyes on his. “Very well.” He pulled her to her feet and toward the hallway. Elena pushed open the door to her bedroom and then he had propelled her through it. She caught herself on her bedframe and turned to look as Tseng closed the door after himself. She wasn’t sure what to do next, but as she watched him unbutton his shirt, she supposed that she should do the same thing.

“Tseng…” she asked uncertainly when she had tossed her clothing onto a chair by the window. “…what do you want me to do?”

She watched him fold his pants and set them carefully on her dresser atop his folded shirt. Her eyes moved across his broad back before he turned to look at her. “Get on the bed.” The command sent heat straight between Elena’s legs and she did as she was told.

“Yes, sir.” She murmured.

“No.” he replied, coming to stand by the bed, “You can’t be here because you think I’m ordering you to be.”

“I… I’m not.” She told him, meeting his gaze for a moment before he nodded.

Her breath caught in her throat as Tseng crawled onto the bed toward her, and she couldn’t help spreading her legs a little wider as he came to rest between them, hovering over her, his weight braced in his arms on either side of her. She looked up at him, her breath still not coming easily. After a moment, she lifted a hand to pull the tie gently from his hair, allowing the silky tresses to slip free. Her fingers moved through his hair and she smiled. Tseng’s hair had always been the envy of both men and women alike.

“Elena…” his voice was gentle and she shifted her gaze back to his face. She felt his hands on her hips and one slid down her leg to catch behind her knee, lifting it slightly and adjusting her beneath himself. When he was pleased, Elena felt him pause for only a second before he pushed himself into her with a single swift thrust. Her back arched and she couldn’t bite back the high pitched cry that escaped her as her hands clutched at Tseng’s back and shoulders.

The movements that followed were smooth and even, and Elena tried to match her breathing to Tseng’s. Everything he did was measured, and his long powerful strokes sent tingles throughout her body within a matter of minutes. Elena bit her lower lip as her hands moved down Tseng’s back to clutch at his arse as his own hands held her hips pinned exactly where he wanted her beneath him. Every movement he made ripped the breath from Elena’s lungs and she heard her rasping breathing become ragged. Tseng was panting his own breath hot against her neck and Elena’s eyes closed, allowing herself to take whatever he gave her.

“Does that feel better than last time?” his voice was gravelly in her ear and Elena could do nothing but nod in response. A few moments later, she felt him withdraw and Elena had just opened her eyes to see what he was doing when Tseng’s hands tightened on her hips before he flipped her over onto her stomach. She gave a startled gasp, groaning as one of Tseng’s powerful hands slid up her back, pressing her into her pillow, while his other arm snaked around her waist, lifting her hips up to meet him as he thrust straight back into her. Elena moaned at the new angle, half muffled by the pillow. She couldn’t move as Tseng’s hand remained firmly between her shoulder blades, holding her down as his smooth thrusting increased in pace, as he clearly enjoyed the deeper penetration he was able to achieve like this. Elena’s hands slid across the bedsheets as she searched for something to hold on to, her nails scratching when she found nothing but the edge of the mattress.

“Ah!” She tried to lift herself onto her elbows, trying to get some air. She heard Tseng’s soft grunts as both of his hands slid to her waist as he now pulled her up and back to meet each one of his thrusts and she could feel his fingers digging into her skin as his movements became sharper. “Tseng…” she groaned, “Tseng… stop…”

He did, almost instantly. Without the distraction of him moving inside of her, Elena noticed just how heavily he was breathing. “What is it?” he asked, “What’s wrong?” He pulled out of her and Elena pushed herself up before turning around.

“I want to see you.” She told him, wrapping herself around his waist. Tseng sat back on his heels as she locked her ankles behind his back, one of her hands sliding across his shoulder and up the back of his neck. He nodded, one of his own hands moving up her back while the other went around her waist. He lifted her slightly and she reached down to guide him as he lowered her onto himself once more. Unable to resist a smile at his soft groan, Elena allowed him to lift her again, gasping as he regained his smooth rhythm, thrusting up into her with surprising vigour. “Ah…” Her head tilted back as she tightened her legs around him, trying to move to meet him.

A few moments later, Elena let out a surprised squeak as her back hit the mattress again, Tseng’s weight pressing her into the bedspread as he pinned her with his hips. He reached up with one hand, taking hold of the bedframe above her head and Elena moaned shamelessly at the new power behind his thrusts. Her hand moved into his silky hair when she felt his hot breath on her neck again, and then he had lifted his head to meet her eyes as he moved. Elena’s breath caught in her throat at the possessive look she found there. She gasped in surprise and then she was begging him for more, trying to move her hips to meet him from where he had her pinned. This was what she had wanted. For years now, this was what she had daydreamed about. Tseng’s hand was holding her chin carefully as his dark eyes watched her face, his other hand still firmly clutching the bedframe. This was exactly as she had imagined it to be, this was what she had fantasised about. As she met Tseng’s dark gaze, took in the expression on his perfect face, she realised that he wasn’t just fucking her now. He wanted her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 39

Aura’s hands ran along the wall in the dark. Nothing. She could find nothing. She had been searching for a door, a window, or literally anything that would give her some indication as to where she and Zena were being kept. She reached the end of the rope tethering her to an old metal pipe and she gave a frustrated tug, hissing in pain as the rope ripped at her tender skin.

“What’s wrong?” Zena’s voice came out of the dark.

“Nothing.” She replied, feeling defeated. “I found nothing. There’s nothing down here. What the fuck.”

“Just… come back over here.” The other woman said softly, “Before you hurt yourself.”

“No.” Aura pulled her rope tight and used it to walk as far as she could across the room, moving in a semicircle slowly as she tried to feel around. “We need to know what we’ve got in here…”

“There’s nothing.” Zena said flatly. “We saw before… when he was in here.”

“That was just a little.” Aura replied, “There was still darkness beyond… We need to know… what if there’s something that we could use to get free…” She reached the end of her rope before she reached another wall and gave a fruitless tug again. “Ugh.”

“Aura, come back before he finds you doing that…”

“Why aren’t you trying?” Aura demanded, “We have to get out of here, yo!” She blinked when light appeared on the other side of the room behind the far door.

Quickly, she hurried back to where Zena was sitting, and sank down beside her. She felt the other woman lean gently against her and they huddled there as the door opened and a shadowy figure appeared in the doorway. They watched then as Cadan approached, walking toward them slowly. Aura blinked when he stopped before them and bent down, putting a tray on the floor.

“Eat up, ladies.” He said.

“No thanks.” Aura replied, “We don’t know what you’ve put in that…” she eyed the food on the tray with suspicion.

“Why would I need to drug you?” he asked moving toward the fireplace on the opposite wall, out of their reach and bending to light the fire.

“So you can do Shiva knows what to us…”

He laughed then, and the sound was hollow. “I don’t need to drug you for that, Aura. Look around.”

Aura swallowed thickly, her eyes moving around the room. He was right. They were already under his control. She twisted her hands, trying to get free of the rope again. She wasn’t going to sit and do nothing. “You must need us for something…” she began, “Why else would you feed us and keep us down here…?”

“Never you mind.” He told her, glancing over his shoulder with a grin. Aura stared at him. How had she not seen him for what he was? She had always thought she was an excellent judge of character. She had had to be, back on the streets. She watched as he got to his feet, the fire springing to life behind him. “Aren’t you hungry?” he asked, coming toward them again. Aura got to her feet, ready to stare him down.

“No.” she said firmly. Standing as tall as she could, meeting his eyes as he came to stand before her. He smirked.

“No?” he asked, reaching out to her. Aura slapped his hand away with her bound hands.

“Tell me what you want from us.” She growled. Cadan reached out once more, snatching her wrists out of the air when she went to push him away again. Aura jumped in surprise as he yanked her toward himself, his other hand coming up to grab her by the throat. She choked, trying to step back, but unable to do so.

“Don’t you dare give me orders, ShinRa Bitch.” He breathed.

Aura twisted her hands, trying desperately to free them, but the rope had absolutely no give in it. She choked again, pushing at Cadan when he forced her back, slamming her into the wall. He suddenly lifted her, his hand tightening around her throat. Her vision blurred as her toes left the ground and she kicked blindly at him. “This is your own fault.” Aura could barely hear his words over her own heartbeat thundering in her ears. She heard his sharp grunt of pain however when one of her kicks found him and he dropped her. Aura was pleased that she somehow managed to stay on her feet, stumbling only a little when her feet hit the ground once more. She coughed, trying to clear her throat as she leaned heavily against the wall. She looked back up at him just as he struck her across the face. Aura fell sideways, landing on the concrete floor. She groaned and pushed herself up on her hands before Cadan seized a handful of her hair and yanked her to her knees. “Get up.” He snapped. She struggled to move quickly enough to lessen the pull on her hair, tears blurring her vision as she tried to get high enough. He released her hair and Aura couldn’t contain a small sob of relief. A second later Cadan kicked her in the back and she fell forward again, barely having time to break her fall with her bound hands.

“Stop it…” Zena’s voice rang out, echoing in the darkness. Cadan ignored her and grabbed the back of Aura’s dress, dragging her away from the other woman before kicking her over onto her back.

“I bet you thought it was funny…” he snarled, “I bet you thought it was hilarious… getting me to trust you, to tell you things… and then running and telling Shinra about it. Your turk boyfriend… I bet you sat and laughed about how dumb I was that I didn’t realise you were fucking with me…” He brought his foot down hard on her stomach.

“No…” Aura sobbed, shaking her head. “No, I didn’t… that didn’t happen…”

“Stop lying to me.” He snarled, bending over her. “You made a fool of me! You took what you wanted and then discarded me like I was nothing.”

“No…” Aura was cut off when he slapped her across the face.

“Stop fucking lying.” He kicked her again when she curled in on herself. Aura cried, trying to crawl away, but Cadan had grabbed her hair again and yanked her up. When his other hand closed around her throat Aura suddenly heard Reno. She didn’t even know how many times he had gone over situations like this with her. In their years on the streets time and time again he had told her to never stop fighting. He had taught her how to break free of someone’s hold on her; how to use a knife. She had never been particularly good at any of it, but she knew that she wasn’t going to just allow this to happen.

When Cadan brought his face close to hers the next time, Aura abruptly headbutted him. Pain erupted around her skull but she grinned in satisfaction at his pained cry as he staggered back from her. She didn’t allow him the chance to recover and swiftly kicked him in the back of the knees, watching as he went down with a surprised yelp. Knowing she wouldn’t get another chance, Aura jumped on him.

She had about three and a half seconds of thinking that she might be able to win the scuffle that followed, but then Cadan had flipped her hard onto her back on the concrete, pinning her with his body as he wrapped the rope attached to her wrists several times around her throat and began pulling. Aura stopped struggling against him. She gasped, her fingers scraping and scratching at the rope cutting off her air.

“Are you going to behave?” he asked softly, still pinning her in place with her weight. She nodded, choking. He leaned closer, his face only inches from hers again. “Do you see how I’m in control?” he asked, “How you belong to me…?” She nodded again, her vision growing darker, “Do you see how I could do whatever I like to you…?” He tugged on the rope until she nodded, feeling her limbs growing heavier. She heard Zena’s voice yelling at him and then he had pulled the rope from around her throat, but she could still do nothing more than blink slowly as she tried to breathe deeply enough to make her head stop spinning. She felt his hands slip inside her torn dress but she couldn’t move to do a thing about it. She flinched when he squeezed her breast hard enough to hurt and she watched his face as he looked her over, only glancing up when someone thumped loudly on the far door. He sighed and then leaned down over her. “I could have you here and now…” he breathed, his breath hot against her ear, “and there’s not a thing anyone could do about it…not even that red-headed turk…” Aura shuddered. “But…” he continued, getting to his feet and leaving her lying on the concrete, “I have other things to do.”

Aura still couldn’t move, even as Cadan closed the door behind himself and they heard the lock click into place. Zena was suddenly beside her, kneeling over her, pulling her dress closed, and fingers probing carefully at her throat. Aura just looked up at her, feeling dazed.

“Are you okay?” The blonde woman asked. Aura didn’t know. She swallowed carefully, drawing a shuddering breath. “You’ll be okay in a few minutes… just breathe…” Aura nodded her understanding, slowly flexing her fingers. “I can’t believe you jumped him like that…” Zena went on. “I thought he was going to kill you.”

Tears flooded Aura’s eyes and she nodded, having thought the same thing. She wriggled her toes, relieved that her limbs appeared to still work. A few minutes later Zena helped her sit up.

“You’re right.” Zena murmured, her hand rubbing up and down Aura’s back. “We have to get out of here. Now.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 40

Reno kicked the door to the Wandering Weapons open. It was late, and there was nobody in the bar. “Oi, shitface!” he called, striding across the room, kicking a chair out of his way. Cadan appeared behind the bar, emerging from the door beyond. Reno just looked at him.

Before he’d left Healen Lodge, Reno had donned his Turk uniform. It was purely for effect. It wasn’t that he didn’t think the prick knew who and what he was, it seemed likely that the guy had figured that out, but rather more he wanted the intimidation and dread that usually accompanied the suit. He wanted Cadan to be reminded that he was messing with ShinRa, and that it wouldn’t be taken lightly.

He stood now, his EMR in his left hand, staring at the man on the other side of the bar. “Fuckface.”

“Where’s the rest of your scum army?” Cadan asked, his eyes flicking around the room before coming to rest on Reno. No surprise on his face. He must have worked it out.

“Seemed unnecessary.” Reno drawled, “I don’t need backup, yo.” Rude was outside, scoping the rest of the place out, looking for other entrances or exits and checking that they wouldn’t sneak Aura and Zena out another way.

“So you came alone?”

“Isn’t that what I just said, Shitstain?” He watched Cadan’s eyes narrow before the man came around the end of the bar.

“What is it that you want?”

“Don’t play dumb.” Reno replied, resting his EMR against his shoulder. “We already think you’re pretty stupid, there’s no need to make it worse.”

“Is that so?”

“Ain’t doin’ yourself any favours, yo.” Reno shifted his weight. “Where are they?”

“Ah… and so we’re to the point.” Cadan grinned. “Come to get the ShinRa Whores back…?”

“Aura and Zena, thank you. Where are they?” Reno kept his face neutral. He wouldn’t let this prick get under his skin. Not now.

“What makes you think I’m just going to hand them back?” Cadan asked, “They’re quite valuable…” Reno swallowed a retort and just stared at the man before him. “We’re all rather fond of them…” Cadan continued. “Especially of Aura… She’s grown into quite the ShinRa whore, hasn’t she?” he looked Reno up and down in his uniform, “We’ve all had a go on her…” He met Reno’s eyes and grinned, “Isn’t that what Slum Rats are for…?”

“You had better be lying through your teeth…” Reno snarled, “Or I am going to turn you inside out.”

“Oh, sorry…” Cadan’s voice was mocking, “Was she just for you? I remember how pissed off you got when you thought I was going to hit it a while back… Have you ever fucked her while she’s crying…?” Reno took a step toward him, but Cadan raised his hands in surrender and backed up a few feet. “You can have them back.”

Reno raised an eyebrow at him, trying to swallow his growing rage. “What do you want?”

“Well we wanted information.” The man said, “But they don’t know shit… so… keep your patrols out of our market square and you can have them back.”

“Fine.” Reno didn’t even think. He had no doubt Tseng would have agreed anyway. “Where are they?”

“Down here.” Cadan turned and went back behind the bar. Reno hesitated for only a second before he followed the man. He knew that it was stupid, and that he could be walking into any kind of ambush, but he needed to get to Aura. Rude was just outside anyway.

Cadan led him down a hallway and then through a narrow door at the end. He followed the man down several steps and then down another corridor, this one cold and damp. Cadan unlocked a door and gestured at it. “There.”

Reno pointed his EMR at the man. “You first.” Cadan rolled his eyes but went through the door, and Reno trailed after him.

The room was dimly lit by a flickering fire, but Reno saw Aura and Zena sitting against the far wall, huddled together, and relief washed through him that they were both alive. The second they saw him, they got to their feet.

“Reno…” Aura’s voice cracked and Reno was instantly moving toward her. His arms went around her waist the second he reached her and she hooked her bound wrists over his head as he lifted her to himself.

He allowed himself a few seconds before he put her down and turned back to Cadan. “Cut them free…” He watched as the man did as he was told, and then headed back for the door to lead them out. Reno handed his EMR to Zena when Aura stumbled and the doctor kept her eyes on Cadan while Reno wrapped an arm around Aura’s waist and pretty much lifted her up the stairs. He itched to look her over and figure out what had been done to her, but they had to get out of the building first.

He wondered why he hadn’t seen anybody else in the building, especially as it was actually meant to be a functioning business when it wasn’t hosting secret meetings, but he didn’t have time to dwell on that just now. Cadan opened the door and gestured for them to get out, and Reno was only too happy to oblige. Zena walked out first, before Reno helped Aura out a moment later. Cadan slammed the door shut behind them and Reno began up the street, Zena trailing after him. “What the heck was that?” the doctor asked, “He just let us go?”

“Seems that way.” Reno replied, his eyes scanning the darkness around them for his partner.

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“It isn’t right.”

“He said he wanted information.” Reno said, sitting Aura down on a crate by a wall.

“From us?” Zena asked, “That’s not what he wanted.”

Reno looked at her. “We’ll talk about this later.” He watched as Zena’s eyes flickered from shadow to shadow, and he saw when she came to the realisation that someone may be listening.

“Okay.”

Rude appeared out of the darkness and Reno lifted Aura into his arms. “You take Zena.” Reno told his partner, “We’ll see you later.”

Rude just nodded and Reno turned, holding Aura close as he took off as quickly as he was able.

 

*

 

Aura leaned into Reno as he carried her through the streets. Her eyes closed and she sagged with relief, knowing that she was going to be fine now. One of her hands rested against his chest, and the satisfying steady thud of his heart was comforting enough that she began to slip in and out of wakefulness. Eventually, however she noticed that they were still moving and that they should have been back at Healen Lodge well before now.

“Reno…” she murmured, looking around, “Where are we?”

“Nowhere in particular…”

“What are we doing?”

“Just…” she watched his eyes flick toward a nearby shadow before moving further up the street.

“You think they would have followed us?”

“Pretty sure.”

Aura glanced up and down the street they were in. “We’re not going to Healen?”

“Well, I’ve wandered around enough now that anyone following would know that I was leading them nowhere…” He let out a sigh. “We’ll go to my place just to be sure.”

Aura nodded. “I… I can walk now…” She felt Reno’s hesitation before he set her carefully on her feet. She took his hand and then they were slipping through the shadows again, heading for Reno’s apartment.

The moment they were through Reno’s door, he had turned and locked it. Aura watched as he clicked more than a few locks into place before his attention was once again on her. “Re-” she hadn’t even gotten his name out before his hands were on her, his fingers moving through her hair as he kissed her, pulling her to himself. She groaned, her hands clutching at his suit jacket. He kissed her until she was lightheaded and then he had pulled away.

“Let me see…” he breathed, moving her toward the lamp by the wall. “Are you alright?”

Aura didn’t say anything. She just stood there while Reno’s eyes moved over her, his hands trailing lightly as if double checking what he was seeing. She looked up to meet his eyes when his hands paused on her ripped dress. “Aura…”

She shook her head. “No…”

Reno tilted his head, “He said that they’d all…” she watched him swallow the words, and she shook her head again.

“Didn’t happen.” She said softly, and relief flooded Reno’s eyes before his fingers lifted to lightly trace along her throat. He frowned then. “Can I shower…?”

“Of course.” He said gently. He lifted his hands from her and turned to take her up the hallway.

Aura followed him and then just stared at herself in the bathroom mirror under the harsh lights. She looked horrific. Her eyes were dark ad smudged, her hair was a birds nest, her skin looked practically transparent, and she could already see dark bruises forming across just about everywhere. Her face was red and puffy, and she could hardly imagine what she would look like tomorrow. “Aur…” Reno said softly, and she lifted her eyes to meet his where he stood behind her in the mirror. “… I’ll get you a towel.” She nodded and he turned to leave the bathroom.

Under the hot water, Aura closed her eyes. She didn’t know what happened now. Could she go home? Cadan knew where she lived. Would he come for her again? Would she be safe? What would ShinRa do? Would they be able to stop the attacks? What about the fake cure?

Opening her eyes, she looked up to stare at the roof. What would have happened if she had been there any longer? Cadan would have come back for her. She was pretty sure of that. She just had to be thankful that Reno had come when he had. She was okay now. She was safe. Slowly, she turned the water off and reached up to pull down the fluffy green towel Reno had hung over the shower for her. She wrapped the towel around herself and stepped out of the shower. She had only just realised that she didn’t have any pyjamas, and in fact the only clothing she did have was her ruined dress, when she spotted the large shirt sitting folded by the sink. “Thanks, Reno.” She murmured, hanging the towel back up and then reaching for the shirt. She pulled it over her head and then stared at herself in the mirror again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 41

Reno sat on his bed waiting. He’d stripped his suit off once he’d put a towel in the bathroom for Aura and sat now in his pyjama shorts. He listened to the shower, and sat straighter when he heard the water shut off. Watching the door to the bathroom, he tried to be patient. He had her back. She was in his home, and she was safe, and she was right through that door. She claimed that Cadan hadn’t done what he’d said he had. The piece of shit had told him that they’d all had a turn on her, but she said that wasn’t so. He believed her, but that didn’t mean he didn’t see the other marks. Even in the half-light, Reno had been able to make out the fingerprint shaped bruises around her throat, and the raw skin that told of something else being wrapped around her neck. He knew, from the condition her face was in, that she had been beaten, and he knew that Cadan was going to pay for it.

The bathroom door opened and Reno leaped to his feet as Aura walked out, pulling her long hair up into a messy bun atop her head. “Aur… do you feel better?” he asked. His shirt hit her about mid-thigh as she walked toward him, and Reno tried not to look.

“Yes.” She murmured, wrapping her arms around him when she was close enough. Reno slid his own arms around her waist, loosening his hold when he heard her slight gasp of pain.

“Aur…?”

“It’s fine.” She replied, leaning into him. Reno held her silently for a few moments, trying not to move as he didn’t want to hurt her.

“…Do you need a doctor?” he asked eventually. He’d only looked her over on areas he could see. He had no idea what else had been done to her. “I… I can call someone…”

“No.” she whispered. “Nobody but you.”

“I’m not a doctor.”

“I don’t need a doctor, yo.” She said, “I’m just sore.”

“I’m sorry…” he breathed, pressing his lips to her forehead, “I’m so sorry, Aur. I never should have gotten you involved in anything to do with ShinRa. I tried for years to keep you away from it all. I shouldn’t have allowed it to slip…”

“It’s not your fault.” She said, and he closed his eyes when her hand moved up his back slowly. He felt her other hand move down over his chest “Reno…” he looked down to meet her eyes and both of her arms came around his neck again as she pulled herself to him. Reno’s own hands went to her thighs, his fingers skimming the hem of the tshirt before he lifted her to himself, allowing her to wrap her legs around his waist.

“Let’s get some rest.” He murmured and she nodded.

Reno carried her to his bed as she threaded her fingers into his hair and he could feel her looking intensely at him. “I didn’t thank you.” She said softly. He knew that she meant for getting her away from Cadan, so he shook his head.

“You don’t need to.” He crawled onto the mattress, still holding her. “I’ll always come for you.” Her fingers moved through his hair gently as he settled her down and pressed a soft kiss to her nose. “You know that.”

“Yes.” She breathed, “I do… I did… know…”

“Good.” He stroked her hair. “Lay down… Let’s rest.” He lay beside her, a hand lightly touching her arm, afraid to touch her anywhere else. Shuddering as one of her hands moved down his side, Reno watched Aura try to shift closer. “Aur…” he breathed and she looked up at him.

“Reno…” She moved his hand slowly from her arm to her thigh, her green eyes still on his.

“Aura… You need to rest…” he whispered.

“I… need…” She slid a leg over him, “…you.”

“Mmm…” Reno bit his lip, his blood heating in his veins. “You… You’re hurt, Aur…”

“Yes…”

“I can’t…hurt you more.” He willed himself to take control. It took all of his willpower to keep himself from rolling her beneath him.

“You wouldn’t.” Her hand slid up his chest.

“I would.” He couldn’t help sliding his hand up her thigh. “I’ve hurt you just by touching you a dozen times already.”

“It’s okay.” She breathed, and he shook his head.

“It’s not.” His hand stilled, “First thing we’re doin’ in the morning, yo…” he smiled wryly at her. “Taking you to get checked out.”

“Reno…” she pressed her lips to his chest and he groaned. “That’s tomorrow…”

“Aur… I…”

“You’re not going to hurt me.” She said, and Reno’s protests died in his throat when she slid her leg further over him and lifted herself atop him. He draw a long breath, letting it out slowly when she pulled the shirt she wore up and over her head.

“Aura…” his fingers moved to the dark purple bruise across her stomach, stopping just before he touched her. He shook his head. “This is…”

She looked down at her own stomach and Reno saw her frown. “He did that to hurt me.” She said, her voice low. “He thought we laughed about tricking him…”

“He’ll never touch you again.” He promised, his hands moving from her hips around to her back and he froze when he saw her wince. She tried to hide it, by smiling at him a moment later, but he didn’t move again. Aura sighed and leaned forward, both her hands sliding up his chest, until her face was mere inches from his own. Reno lifted a hand to her bruised cheek. “You could have internal bleeding, Aura…” She lowered her eyes for a moment before meeting his gaze again.

“I’m not asking you for the most energetic record breaking performance you’ve got…” she breathed, her fingers sliding back into his hair, “I just… I need to… feel you…” She let out another sigh and lay against him, pressing her forehead to his shoulder. “You’re safe, Reno. You feel safe. You smell like home… The feel of you… I just… I need that.”

“I see.” He whispered, moving his own hands carefully back to her waist. It wasn’t about sex, it was about feeling secure. He could give her that. “Come here.” He lifted his head slightly to meet her in a kiss, groaning as her fingers tugged gently at his hair. Lifting her carefully, Reno turned, tucking her in beside himself again. “You want to feel me?” he murmured.

“Yes.”

“Alright…” He turned her and pulled her closer until the smooth skin of her back was flush against his chest and his arms were secure around her. “How’s this?” he breathed. Aura nodded and he felt her relax back into him. Reno held her firmly, listening to her breathing and then matching his to hers. He pressed his lips to the back of her neck, smiling at the soft shudder he felt pass through her. “Feel better?” he whispered.

“Getting there.” Her reply was so soft that Reno nearly missed it. “Reno…” He felt her hand come back around behind her, rubbing him gently through his pants. He groaned softly, closing his eyes and pressing his face into her hair.

“Mmm…” One of his own hands moved down between her thighs as he pressed his lips now to the side of her throat and then her shoulder. He was careful with his fingers, paying close attention to her reactions, ready to stop at any sign of pain. When Aura let out a soft gasp, Reno paused, trying to gauge if it had been a good gasp or a bad one. When she tilted her head back and pushed herself harder against him, he dragged his teeth gently across the soft skin of her shoulder, drawing another shudder from her.

“Reno…”She groaned his name and Reno licked the place on her shoulder he had just lightly bitten. “Reno…” He held her firmly against himself with one hand pressed against her ribs, the other still between her legs. Perhaps if he was slow and careful he wouldn’t hurt her. He knew what she wanted and he wanted it too, he had since the moment he had gotten her through his door.

“Aura,” he breathed, tugging the elastic of his pyjamas down enough to pull himself out. He then lifted her leg slightly to make it easier for himself to adjust before he carefully slid into her. “tell me if it hurts.”

“Uh-huh…” she groaned, turning her head to kiss him. Reno met her in the kiss, holding her softly in place as he pushed carefully into her in slow deliberate strokes. He enjoyed the small whimpering moans she made into the kiss as he moved inside her, and he made sure to keep her still. Reno kept one hand pressed to her ribs, holding her firmly against himself as he held her leg with the other. The only movement he allowed was his hips as he pushed into her again and again.

“Is that alright?” he panted, breathless in her ear. She just nodded, and he pressed his lips to the back of her neck once more. Reno struggled to maintain his careful rhythm when Aura reached back over her shoulder to slide her hand into his hair, tightening her grip as she gasped again. He tried not to think about how close he had come to losing her, how easy it would have been for Cadan to kill her, to do anything to her, and Reno wouldn’t have been able to do a thing about it. He had her back, and she was safe. He could hold her for as long as he wanted to, and until it sunk in that she was alright. Lifting her leg slightly higher, Reno pushed a little deeper, noting the hitch in Aura’s breathing as he did so.
“I love you.” He whispered, his lips brushing her ear. Her hand tightened in his hair once more and she nodded.

“I know, Reno.” She breathed, her breath hitching again. “But I love you more.”

“Doubtful,” he replied, clenching his teeth with the effort to keep himself from rolling and pinning her beneath himself and fucking her until she screamed his name. Instead, her kept her where she was, every movement he made slow and careful as he took in every reaction she had to him. Still, the only movement he allowed between them was his hips as he shifted with each gentle push, and he kept himself in check. Closing his eyes, Reno drank in every sound Aura made as he continued what he had been doing until he realised that she had drifted to sleep.

Slowly then he pulled out of her, wrapped both of his arms carefully around her and held her against himself as he waited for morning and when he would be able to get her seen to by someone who would know exactly how to help her, and check for the proper extent of her injuries. Tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Chapter 42

As the sunlight filtered through Reno’s blinds and across the bottom of his bed, Reno let his eyes move over Aura lying beside him. He let his gaze trail down her neck and across her back and shoulders. In the morning light he could see the darkening bruises showing up across her pale skin, and he could easily make out every place that Cadan had kicked her. The light sheet he had pulled over them during the night sat now around Aura’s hips and he couldn’t help himself as he lay there, eyes moving over the graceful curve of her neck. Softly, Reno shifted to press a gentle kiss to her shoulder, and she pressed back against him in response. Carefully, he wrapped his arm around her, drawing her back more firmly against himself and he brought his lips to her throat.

“Sleep well?” he murmured against her skin.

“Yes…”

“Good.” He breathed, allowing his fingers to lightly trail her skin, tracing her ribs and the planes of her stomach, keeping his touch featherlight to avoid hurting her. He felt her settle more comfortably against him, making no move to shift away or get up for the day, and Reno couldn’t help but marvel at how different this was. “I’ve never had you in my bed before…” he said softly.

“Course you have, yo.” She replied, her voice barely more than a whisper. “The night we met.”

Reno thought about it. They’d shared a bed countless times over the years. He’d stayed with her a lot recently, and back on the street sometimes they’d only had the one bed, but it had belonged to the both of them. It had never just been his, and when he had had his own, he’d never had Aura in it. Except that first night.

“That was a little different…” he said, and it had been.

 

*

 

Reno had barely slept all night. He’d kept his arms around Aura, waiting for her to stop shuddering as the dirty mako worked its way through her system. Slowly she had warmed up and he had been able to push aside the jacket and one of the blankets he had draped over her. He hadn’t let her go, however. He had gone to release her at one point, but as he’d moved away, her hands had tightened on his arms and he had stopped moving. If she had somehow managed to get some proper rest, then he had not really wanted to disturb her.

The morning light had feebly filtered into the shack, pale and grey and Reno had watched the faint shadows appear on the wall while he waited for her to awaken. He had not wanted to startle her, and so he had lain where he had been all night, and just waited. In the pale light, Reno had looked her over. What he had been able to see anyway. Her thick dark hair was more than a little tangled, and her skin was practically transparent. He could tell she had been living on the street, but something about her suggested that maybe that had not always been the case. He could tell, with his arm around her waist, that she was incredibly thin and probably eating less frequently than he was, and he wondered how much longer she would be able to last if nobody grabbed her again.

Eventually she shifted and Reno let her go. Instead of sitting up, she rolled to face him and Reno froze when those wide green eyes looked at him.

“You saved me…”

“I… guess I kinda did, yo.”

“Reno…”

He blinked, “You remember…” He watched her frown lightly and then give a small shrug.

“Not all of it… but I remember you.” She continued to look at him. “I know that you carried me here and that you took care of me.” He didn’t know what to say and so just nodded. “Why did you help me?” she asked, “Nobody helps anyone down here…”

“I…” Reno shook his head, “It was just wrong… what those two bastards were doing.”

“They tried to turn me into a Mako Whore.”

“Yes…”

“And they injected me with…”

“Dirty Mako.” He finished for her when she looked confused.

“Oh…” Reno watched panic build behind her eyes before tears welled and fell. “Am I going to be addicted to it? I can’t… I don’t want…” sobs choked her and she just cried.

“No… No… Aura…” When he couldn’t get her to stop crying, Reno bit his lip, not knowing what to do. Eventually he just wrapped his arms around her again and rubbed her back until she had cried herself out. “You’re okay.” He told her, “You’re going to be fine.”

“No, I’m not.” She breathed, eventually looking at him again and wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

“You’re not from here, are you?” he asked softly. She shook her head. “How long?”

“Long enough.” She murmured, “Since my dad died…” she looked away. “I knew that people would come, knowing he was gone… so I left first.”

He understood that. Looters never waited for the body to even be cold around here before they moved in. If she’d been alone in the house with her father when he’d died, and she hadn’t left, chances were she would have been a Mako Whore long before those two shits had found her last night. “So you’re on your own?”

“Yes.”

Reno watched as her eyes widened and she wondered if she should have told him that. She shouldn’t have. It was clear she knew next to nothing about surviving in a place like this. He didn’t remember making the decision, and he had no idea why he said it, but the words were out before they’d even registered in his mind. “You can stay with me if you want, yo.”

“…really?” Her eyes moved around the little shack that he was calling home for the time being and then she was looking at him. Reno didn’t think that anybody had looked at him that intently in his entire life, but it appeared as if Aura were looking right through him. After a few moments she nodded. “Alright…”

 

*

 

Reno ran his hand down Aura’s side as he let the memory wash over him. They had spent the rest of that first day looking for things they would need to make the place habitable for two people, and had been lucky enough to score a flimsy little mattress they’d been able to lay beside Reno’s own. He was pretty certain however, that until last night, they had never again shared a bed that had only been his.

He pressed a kiss to her shoulder. “Do you remember that first morning together?” he asked, “When you woke up after the Mako?”

“Yes…” Aura turned in his arms to look at him.

“You remembered my name.”

She smiled wryly at him. “I thought you were hot.” She said, “At first with the Mako… but even then after… so I remembered your name.”

“I mean, I was a pretty fine lookin guy…” He grinned at her.

“Mm… Shame you got all old and decrepit…”

“Hey…” He tightened his arms around her waist to pull her closer but then she’d hissed in pain and he’d released her instantly. “Aur… I’m sorry…” he brought a gentle hand to her cheek. “Aur…”

“It’s okay.” She breathed, her hand sliding up to his shoulder. “It’s just a bruise.”

“Yeah, well, I’d like to get that confirmed…” He pressed a kiss to her forehead, “We should go to Healen.”

“As long as we can come back later…”

“That is definitely a deal.” His traced his fingers down her cheek to her throat. In the brighter light he could clearly make out the fingerprint bruises around her throat and what appeared to be rope burn. “What’s this?” he asked, his voice low. Aura raised a hand, indicating the same red raw skin around her wrist. “He wrapped… rope… around your neck…”

Aura’s eyes slid from his and she moved to sit up. “I tried to jump him.” She said, actually looking pleased with herself.. “But… he won…” her watched her fingers ghost lightly across the red skin. “Wrapped that tether he had attached to me around my neck…”

Reno shook his head, feeling his blood heat. “I’m going to kill him.” Aura fixed him with her green eyes, and he wondered if she would have a problem with that. She didn’t say anything however, and after a moment he sat up with her. “We should get you checked by a doctor.”

“If you insist.” She replied and he nodded simply.

“I do, yo.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 43

The walk up the stairs to the infirmary at Healen Lodge made Aura ache. Reno’s grip on her elbow had tightened as she had leaned more and more heavily on him. She stood up straighter however, when she got through the doors and spotted Zena standing by the far wall. The blonde woman turned to them and her brow creased with a frown.

“Zena…” Aura gasped, “What are you doing?”

“My job?” the woman replied, coming closer before her eyes turned on Reno sharply. “Where have you been?” she demanded, “You should have brought her straight here!”

“No…” Reno frowned, “We went home…”

“She’s injured…”

“I…I know…” Reno stammered, glancing at Aura, “I…”

“We’re here now.” Aura cut in. “But Zena… why are you working? You should have taken some time…”

“I’m fine.” The woman replied, then apparently she read Aura’s face because she shrugged. “Ran some tests this morning.”

Aura watched her for a moment, but then nodded. “Okay.”

“Zena…” Reno’s voice was gentle, “Nobody would mind if you took a few days…”

“Nonsense.” Zena turned away and pulled a curtain around one of the beds. “I have things to do.”

Aura moved toward the bed, wincing as she lifted herself to sit on it. Reno followed her. “Okay, well… I’m ready.” She told the other woman.

“Damn right.” Zena murmured, “You should have been here last night. What if you have some internal injury? You could have gone into shock… You could have a ruptured organ…” She flicked a glare at Reno. “You should know better.” She told him.

“I…” Reno shook his head, clearly not knowing what to say to the blonde woman.

“You what?” Zena snapped, “You thought you’d heal her with your magic penis?”

Aura’s eyes widened and she looked at Reno who actually looked ashamed. “I thought she’d feel better … somewhere safe…” he said weakly.

“I’m fine.” Aura put in, “I’m just here because it’s better to be sure.”

“Did Rude bring you straight back?” Reno asked, and Zena nodded.

“Well, after we wandered around for a million years because he thought we might have been followed.”

Aura glanced again at Reno who was nodding. “Right… Okay…”

“Okay, well… I’m sure you have an actual job to do.” Zena said dismissively to Reno. “Let me do mine. Goodbye.”

Reno frowned and moved closer to Aura. “I think…”

“Didn’t ask you to.” Zena replied, “I need to do my job. Aura needs me to do my job. For that to happen, you need to leave us alone.”

Aura watched Reno take in the woman’s words. She could see his indecisive glance flicking back and forth from Zena to her, his frown deepening. “Reno…” she said gently. “It’s okay…”

“You sure?” he asked softly, and she nodded.

“Yeah… I’ll see you a bit later.” She was pleased with how steadily her voice came out. Aura would have liked for him to be able to stay, but evidently Zena wasn’t down for that. It was the blonde woman’s space, so she just nodded again, meeting Reno’s gaze. She watched as he hesitated before nodding his agreement and backing away. He cast a glance at Zena for a second, before looking back to Aura and smiling.

“Okay…” With that he turned and was gone. Aura watched the doors swing shut behind him, and fought the sudden illogical rush of panic that flowed through her. She looked back to Zena, her eyes wide.

“You’re fine.” The woman told her softly. “Shirt off first…”

Aura began unbuttoning the shirt she wore. It was Reno’s. When she’d gotten up this morning, she’d found that she had nothing to wear. The dress she had been in the night before was filthy and torn where Cadan had ripped it open, and she couldn’t wear it. She had nothing of her own at Reno’s apartment, and so he had gone through his stuff to find her something to wear until she could get to something of her own. Biting her lip as she watched Zena take in her clothing, Aura decided not to say anything.

“He really take you home to fuck you?” The doctor asked, in what Aura was coming to recognise as her own particular brand of straightforwardness.

“That wasn’t the purpose…” Aura murmured in response.

“But he did?”

“I mean, it’s not the way I’d put it, yo…” She shrugged, “But…”

“Did he hurt you?” Zena asked, her eyes moving over Aura as the shirt was put aside.

“Course not…” Aura replied firmly, frowning a little.

“Did it make you feel better?”

“…Yes.” Aura watched Zena tilt her head in acknowledgement. “Have you… told anyone … what happened… to you?”

“Like who?” Zena asked flatly.

“…Rufus?”

Zena’s eyes narrowed. “What’s the point?”

“So… that people… can take care of you.”

“I don’t need them to.” Zena replied, her eyes on Aura.

“No, I know… I just… is it cause you don’t want people to know?”

“I don’t really care if they know.” Zena said, “I just don’t want people trying to coddle me.”

“Okay…”

“Okay.” Zena nodded, and then gestured at the bed. “I need you to lay down so I can check out what’s going on with you.”

Aura did as she was instructed, gasping a little when Zena’s fingers moved over her abdomen. She closed her eyes and just let the other woman do what she needed to, hoping that she really had been left with nothing more than just bruises. They would take a while to heal anyway, she didn’t need it to be anything more.

 

*

 

Reno sat in his chair at his desk, his head in his hands as he leaned onto the file in front of him. He tugged roughly on his hair. How could he have been so selfish? What if Aura was actually seriously hurt? What if she had really needed to be brought in last night? What had convinced him to stay the night at his place? He could have caused her precious hours. And the sex!

He had been completely irresponsible. He could have seriously hurt her. Reno closed his eyes and sighed out loud. “Arsehole.” He murmured.

Twenty minutes later he was in that same position when Elena arrived, slinking quietly to her own desk and dropping into her chair. “Elena…” Reno said, and her eyes flicked directly to him.

“… Still mad at me?” She asked.

“Mad at you?”

“Yeah. You were mad at me, for what I let happen to Zena and Aura.”

“No, I wasn’t…” he frowned, “That wasn’t your fault.” She just looked at him and he gave her a wry smile. “I’m sorry if I was a bit harsh… I… just… I was worried.”

“Tseng said you got them back…” She smiled back at him.

“Yeah… is he here?” Reno looked around, “I didn’t see him come in…”

“Uh… I don’t think so.”

Reno looked back at her. “… then when did he tell you?”

“Oh…” Elena’s gaze slid to her desk, and Reno smirked when her cheeks filled with colour.

“Did my little Rookie get her some?” he asked, his smirk widening.

“Shhh….” Elena looked around again. “Someone will hear you.”

“You did.” He laughed, “How did you get Tseng to loosen up? Or, did he not? Did he do some weird robotic sexytimes?” He watched her narrow her eyes at him, “Okay, I’m sorry… but seriously, what was that like?”

“I don’t ask you for details about your sex life, Reno.”

“You literally did the other day and then you threw a tantrum when I wouldn’t tell you.”

“I did not throw a tantrum.” She exclaimed, “I just… went to ask someone else.”

“Same thing, yo.” He waved a hand, “But also I have been invested in you getting some Tseng action for years now, so you don’t get to hold back on the spillage. Talk.”

“No…” she whined, “No… I’ll only… it was good.”

“Good?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Was he drunk again?” Reno asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No, he was not.”

“Then you really need to work on your adjectives…” he suggested. “That or Tseng needs to up his game…”

“No, he doesn’t.” she muttered and Reno stared at her.

“Are you just going to drop little hints but refuse to outright spill?”

“Maybe.”

“You little tease.”

“Really?” Elena asked, her voice rising in pitch. “Are you going to tell me about your sexual exploits with Aura?”

Reno blinked and looked away. “Uh…”

“I didn’t think so.” Elena leaned back in her chair. “… is she okay?”

“Zena is looking now…” he twisted his hands in his lap. “She’s pretty… bruised.” He said softly. “That bastard … did some damage.” He looked up, meeting Elena’s wide brown eyes. “He’s going to pay.”

“I’m here for it.” She replied, not looking away from his gaze. “Whatever you need.” Reno nodded and picked his pen up again.

“Thanks, Laney.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 44

Elena came through the doors to the infirmary just as Aura was getting dressed. She had pulled a spare dress from her things in her locker, and so was pleased to be able to put something that fit her back on.

“I’m so sorry…” Elena said, looking at her and then at Zena. “It’s my fault. I should have protected you better. Everything is my fault. I didn’t even see it happen. There were so many people… I’m so sorry.”

“No, Elena…” Aura shook her head. “We saw you defend us. You did your best.”

“I should have been better.” Elena moved toward her, and Aura watched the girl look her over, taking in all the visible bruises. “Sweet Shiva… What did they do to you?”

“Uh…” Aura looked down, hiding her face in her long hair. “Not a heap…” She heard Elena walk over to Zena.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Elena.” The woman replied simply. “As you can see, no bruises.”

“Zena…” Aura put in and the woman sighed.

“What?” Elena asked, “What is it?”

Aura looked to Zena who sighed again. “Fine.” The doctor said. “Aura is concerned…” She began and Elena tilted her head, listening. “That I need help or attention or care or whatever…”

“Why?” Elena asked warily.

“Because…” Zena turned away. “That Cadan prick…” she broke off and Aura got off the bed she was sitting on.

“He was going to … assault… me.” Aura told Elena who turned her attention her way, “But… Zena offered him herself instead.” Aura watched Elena’s expression change to one of utmost surprise, and the girl’s dark eyes returned to Zena.

“Wow, Zena…” Elena’s voice was soft. “That’s really impressive…”

“Yes well…” Zena turned back to look at them. “It doesn’t mean I cant be doing my job. So, let’s move on, shall we?”

“Zena, you have to tell the President,” Elena moved toward the doctor. “When he calls you both for a debrief… you’ll tell him, right?”

Zena let out a heavy sigh. “Guess I’ll have to. Rufus could always tell when I was lying.”

Aura finished fastening her dress as she watched the two women look at one another. After a few moments Elena turned back to Aura and came to stand in front of her. “We never should have asked you to spy on that guy,”

“You didn’t.” Aura replied softly and Elena suddenly wrapped her arms around her, squeezing. Aura bit back a gasp of pain, and instead wrapped her own arms loosely around Elena’s waist.

“I’m so glad Reno and Rude got you back.” Elena murmured into her hair, and Aura nodded. “I wanted to go with them but they wouldn’t let me…”

“It’s okay, Elena.” She tod her, “It all turned out okay.” Her eyes met Zena’s and the doctor turned away, moving to the other side of the room.

“I’m sure you both have other things to do this morning.” Zena’s voice rang out, “I’ve got some tests and stuff to finish…”

“Zena… if you want to talk about what happened…”

“We have people for that.” Zena replied.

Aura looked at Elena who shrugged lightly. “Okay…” Elena said, linking one of her arms through Aura’s. “We’ll let you get to work.”

Aura allowed the younger girl to lead her out into the hallway and down to her own workspace. Reno’s red hair was the first thing they saw when they came through the doors, and he jumped quickly down from where he’d been sitting on one of her work benches. “Ladies…” he greeted, his eyes sliding over Elena to Aura. “Aur…” he stopped before he reached her and Aura smiled at him. “What did Zena say?”

“Nothing’s broken.” Aura replied, her smiled widening. “She doesn’t think anything’s wrong internally… though she’s going to look at some of her scans closer later…” she gave a light shrug. “Bruising. Like I said.” Relief crossed Reno’s features and he nodded, running a hand through his hair.

“Oh, good.”

“Now you can stop freakin’ out that you’ve hurt me.” She said, going up on her toes to lightly brush a kiss to his cheek before moving past him to her work bench. She bent to go through her cupboards, looking for the ointment she’d made for bruises. “I can have these gone in a couple of days. No dramas.” She murmured, pushing containers aside as she searched.

“That stuff you gave me before?” Reno asked, sitting himself in a nearby chair. Aura just nodded and had been about to reply when Rufus Shinra’s voice filled the room, coming from the speaker by the door.

“Aura, I’m ready for my treatment.”

Glancing at the clock, Aura sighed. She hadn’t realised it was so late in the morning already. “Guess I’d better go.” She said, getting to her feet. She picked up the small basket containing the new mixture she’d created for the president and some fresh bandages. “I’ll find you both later.”

By the time Aura had gotten down to Rufus Shinra’s office, she was aching again and growing more nervous by the second. She didn’t think she had it in her to deal with him today. She knocked slowly and upon hearing him call for her to enter, she opened the door and walked inside to see the windows wide open and the morning sunlight spilling into the office brightly.
“Aura…” he greeted, motioning for her to move closer, his eyes still on what he was doing before him.

“Good morning, sir.” She replied, striding across the room and setting her basket upon the desk.

“How are you?” he asked, finally looking up at her. He blinked and Aura watched his pale eyes move over her quickly as he took in her appearance. She just nodded, not replying. “Has Zena looked at you?” he asked after a moment.

“Yeah, did that this morning, yo.” She took her ointment from the basket and just looked at him.

“Is everything okay?”

She nodded again, “Yeah. Just bruising she thinks.”

“That’s good.” Rufus leaned back in his chair and began undoing his shirt. “Why did you wait until this morning?”

“I…”

“Where did Reno take you last night?”

“His place.” Aura said simply as she moved slowly around the desk to him as he pulled the shirt off and set it aside. She opened the container of ointment and set it aside before beginning to remove the old bandages from his arm.

“Not your place?”

“No. Is that important?” She narrowed her eyes at him.

“It’s just interesting.” He said, his voice taking on the silky quality it sometimes did. “Interesting that while you were injured, and I can only imagine how much worse you looked last night, he took you to his place… and not here.”

Aura shrugged, “Retreat to somewhere that feels safe.” She said, “Think that’s pretty standard.”

“Hmm.” He looked up at her. “He wanted to take you somewhere alone… even away from people that he trusts.”

“Perhaps.”

“Why?”

“So that we were safe.”

“I think that Reno is a little possessive…” Rufus purred, and Aura raised an eyebrow. “Seeing you all bruised and beaten would have lit a fire in him…” She could feel his eyes on her again, “He took you somewhere all for himself.”

“If you say so.”

“How long was it before he got you into his bed?”

Aura stood straight and stared down at him. “That ain’t your business, yo.”

“We both know that it is.”

“No.” Aura was surprised at how sharply her voice came out. “It isn’t. You don’t get to be a part of what he and I have. We were together long before you even met him and will be after you’re gone. Our relationship has nothing to do with you, so you can try and play your little mind games and have temper tantrums all you like, but you wont ever get to be a part of it.”

Rufus just smirked at her and leaned further back in his seat and Aura returned to what she had been doing.

“I’m am sorry…” he said after a moment, and Aura merely glanced at his face before returning her gaze to her hands, “for how it ended up.”

“Oh?”

“I didn’t think that you would end up the target of these people…” he tilted his head, “I thought they’d come directly for me… and that I’d have Tseng take care of it.”

“Guess that didn’t happen.”

“I’m sorry, Aura.” She glanced at him again, and then tossed the used bandage in the bin by the desk. “I am… You should have had more training… It shouldn’t have happened.”

“Yeah, well it did.” She said, “No point complainin’ yo.”

Rufus fell silent as Aura began applying the ointment to his skin and then wrapping a clean bandage over him. She jumped when his hand came to rest on her leg as she stood over him. “Don’t.” she muttered, shaking him off and trying to fasten the bandage. His hand went straight back to her leg and he held tighter.

“Aura…”

“Get off me.”

He let her go and released a sigh. “I just wanted to tell you that if you need some time for yourself, you can take what you need… go home… get some rest.”

“I am kind of sore.” She admitted and he nodded.

“Okay.” He met her eye, “After the meeting this afternoon… sorry, we need to hear it before the memory fades.”

“Makes sense.” Aura turned and packed her stuff back into her basket. She then picked up Rufus’ shirt and flicked it at him. “Put that back on.” She picked the basket up as he shrugged back into his shirt and began fastening the buttons. “When do you want this meeting?”

“Probably about Two. Tseng is in the city. When he returns I’ll call everyone.”

“Yep, see you then.” Without waiting to be dismissed, Aura turned and walked out of his office, pulling the door closed behind her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 45

Elena jumped when the locker room door flew open with a bang, and she clutched her shirt to herself as she spun to see who had walked in.

“Sir…” she murmured, seeing Tseng walking across the room. She was surprised that he had made such an entrance, when usually he would slip in and out of rooms without so much as making a sound.

“Are you ready for your training?” he asked, loosening his tie and lifting it over his head. Elena pulled her shirt on.

“You bet.” She watched him take his suit jacket off and fold it carefully. After a few moments he must have noticed her watching because his dark eyes shifted her way.

“You can wait for me out on the mat, Elena.”

“Okay.”

She hurried out of the locker room and went to stand in the centre of the training mat. Looking around, she figured that she should probably warm up. Silently, Elena began her usual routine. She was actually nervous. She had trained with Tseng loads of times over the years, but this felt different. She had asked him because she felt deficient. Hand to hand combat had always been something that Elena had considered a strength. She had excelled at the academy, and Reno had taught her a lot since being on the job. It was never an area that Elene felt like she had to make up for. Until recently.

She had just finished her routine when Tseng emerged from the locker room and moved toward her. “Are you ready?” he asked, and she nodded, taking up a defensive stance in the centre of the room.

“Do you want to use anything?” she asked, jerking her head toward the stash of weapons by the far wall.

“No.” he replied, circling her slowly. “This is better.”

Elena shifted, moving around again and again to keep her eyes on him. She had just begun to wonder what he was doing and if he intended to make a move at all when he struck. She ducked, rolling out of the way and coming up on her feet again, her hands raised once more defensively.

“That was good…” Tseng’s voice was low, and Elena allowed herself a half smirk. Her reflexes weren’t completely shit then. She barely had time to wipe the smirk from her face when Tseng had grabbed her and flipped her over onto her back on the mat. She gasped and struggled to get up, but Tseng held her down. Grunting with the effort, Elena managed to shift his weight enough to push him to the side and lift herself a little. Breaking free, she sprung to her feet, in a crouched position and waited for his next movement.

Tseng lunched for her, but Elena dodged him, giving a hard shove to his back as he passed her, sending him sprawling onto this stomach on the mat.

“Ha!” she crowed, pleased with herself. “Take that!”

The heat in Tseng’s eyes as he pushed up and looked at her had Elena guessing if it was irritation or pride she saw there. “You want me to take it?” he asked mildly.

“Yes.” She grinned at him, “You heard me.”

Tseng got to his feet and Elena followed suit, taking up her defensive position once again. “Bring it.” She grinned and he raised an eyebrow at her.

“Elena, I’m going to have you at my mercy in about seven seconds.”

“Oh really?” she tried to sound confident, but something told her that she was about to get walloped. Thinking that she’d surprise him by taking the offensive instead of waiting for him to swing at her, she leaped forward to try and tackle him. Tseng was ready, however, and once again flipped her. He took her to the floor and pinned her on her stomach, her hands behind her back. “Ah!” she struggled, but couldn’t push herself up as she had no leverage. Kicking her legs wildly, Elena tried to unbalance Tseng, but couldn’t shift him.

“You want me to take it?” he asked, leaning over her, his breath hot against her ear. Elena tried to get up again, but he held her down. “You’re at my mercy…” she felt him move behind her, his hands now on her hips. “Only… I never did have any.” Tseng’s hands suddenly yanked Elena’s pants down, exposing her to the cool air of the training room, and she couldn’t hold back a surprised gasp.

“What are you doing?”

“Whatever I like, since it appears you’re unable to stop me…” Tseng shifted until he was kneeling between her legs, as he kept her flat against the mat. Elena tried looking over her shoulder at him, her mouth going dry as she heard him fiddle with his own pants.

“Tseng…?”

“How many people did you tell that we had sex?” he asked, as if he were asking her what she would like to order in a café.

“None… I mean… Reno kind of guessed…” She tried not to panic. Was he pissed off? They hadn’t discussed who they would or would not tell. Had he not wanted anyone to know? She looked over her shoulder again as his hands slid under her hips and he lifted her slightly as his knees forced hers open wider. “What…?”

She gasped when Tseng thrust into her and she found her hands free to come around and brace herself against the training mat. He didn’t so much as pause before he’d begun a hard rhythm and Elena’s hands slid over the mat looking for purchase.

“He… just… guessed…?” each of his words was punctuated by a hard thrust and Elena struggled to draw a complete breath, pushing herself up on her hands as Tseng leaned over her, one of his own hands bracing himself with a hand on the mat by her head. She groaned and nodded.

“Yeah…”

His other arm snaked completely under her, pulling her to him as he continued to thrust into her, his own breath gasping against the back of Elena’s neck. “… How… could you … get out of this situation…Elena…?” he asked, shifting his angle and sending shivers throughout her body.

“… Not sure I want to.” She groaned, arching back into him.

“Rufus… can’t… know…” he panted, and she felt his lips ghost over her shoulder. She just nodded, not sure she would be able to form words to respond. “He’s… unpredictable…” Tseng continued.

Elena just nodded, her mind quickly being emptied of any sensible thought. “Uh…. Yeah…” her eyes closed and she began to move to meet Tseng’s smooth strokes, pushing herself back as much as she was able. “Yeah… Mmm…” Elena stopped trying to think at all and just let her body take over as Tseng continued to just about fuck her into the training mat.

 

*

 

Aura was in her front garden when Reno got to her house that evening. She had gone home after the debriefing with Rufus, and after Tseng had been through her place, checking to see if it was safe for her to return. Reno was going to ensure that there were new, larger, locks put on her doors in the very near future. Cadan knew where she lived, and Reno didn’t at all like the idea that she was somewhere the prick had access to. Maybe he should find her somewhere else to live. Maybe she should come and live with him…

He looked at her now, standing in her yard, surrounded by gardening equipment, and he wondered what she might think of the idea.

“Hey.” He said, and she turned to face him. Caught by the bizarre look on her face, Reno tilted his head. “What’s up?”

She just pointed and Reno turned to look as the smell hit him. Burning. The acrid smell of smoke drifted down the street and his eyes scanned the sky. Nearby, a large column of grey smoke was twisting into the sky. “That…” Aura broke off and they looked at one another at the same time. “You don’t think that’s…”

“I really do.” He replied a moment before they were both running up the street in the direction of the fire.

He came to a halt in the street, among the crowd who were standing and watching Cadan’s Pub burn. “Sweet Shiva…” Aura gasped, standing beside him. Reno just nodded, unable to help a grin as he watched the flames leap higher, devouring the building with orange and yellow. “Do you think anyone’s in there?” She asked.

“I don’t know, Aur…” he shook his head and then grabbed her when she darted forward. “What in the…?”

“The kid!” she exclaimed, “There was a boy… he lived in there…” Reno didn’t let go of her.

“Aura.” He said, pulling her back. “You’re not going in there.”

“But the boy!”

“Anyone still in there is dead!” he said loudly, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her back against himself, holding firmly. She stopped trying to get away a moment later and just leaned back into him, her hand coming up to cover her mouth as she watched the fire continue to grow.

“Who would do this?” The words left Aura’s lips the moment Reno wondered the same thing and his eyes slid from the flames to the people on the street watching. Those who enjoyed lighting fires always stuck around to watch them burn. He would have put money on the arsonist still being here watching with the rest of them. Reno’s gaze slid across the many faces of the watching public. Frightened faces, disinterested faces, fascinated faces. But then curly blonde hair caught his attention and he watched through the busy street as Zena pushed her way past several bystanders. His eyes followed her as she looked over her shoulder, and for a second she met his eyes before she slipped into a nearby side street and was gone.

Reno didn’t move. He stayed where he was, his arms around Aura as they watched the fire swallow the rest of the building, the heat burning their faces as the smoke stung their eyes. “It was Zena.” He whispered in Aura’s ear. He felt her straighten in his arms, but then she nodded a second later, remaining silent.

Thinking back on Zena’s face that afternoon as she had given Rufus her version of what had happened when she and Aura had been held by Cadan, Reno supposed he should have seen something like this coming. He’d been particularly impressed hearing about how the blonde woman had protected Aura from Cadan by offering him herself and he figured that, under different circumstances, Zena may have made a pretty good Turk. He’d thought about finding her afterwards to ask her if there was anything he could do for her. He supposed she’d figured out something she could do for herself.

“Come on, Aur…” He loosened his hold on her, and instead linked his fingers through hers.

“Yeah…” she replied, turning to move through the crowd with him, heading back the way that they had come. “Will she get in trouble?”

“Not likely.” He said, “Bastard had it comin’.”

“Ain’t that the truth.” She glanced back toward the fire and frowned. “… if that kid was in there though…”

“Nah.” He said, “She didn’t go lookin’ to kill. She’s a doctor. She just wanted to do some damage, and as soon as that fire was lit the kid and the rest of them would have run.”

“Guess so.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 46

Things seemed to become routine. Cadan and his people hadn’t been seen since Zena had burned down the pub, and the attacks on ShinRa employees had appeared to cease overnight. Aura continued to go to Healen Lodge every day and work on trying to do something about the Geostigma. She had lunch every day with Reno and Elena and Rude. Sometimes Tseng joined them, and sometimes Zena did. Each evening she would go home and work in her garden until the sun had begun to set, and then she would head inside. Reno would arrive not long after that and they would prepare dinner and sit on the couch as they watched something on the television as they ate together. When they were tired, she would take him to bed and they would wrap around one another, familiar and content with the warm comfort they found there.

As Aura stepped out of her house, having gotten changed into some comfortable loose-fitting clothing to garden in, she spotted her neighbour Maati waving her over from the other side of the fence.

“Hi!” she called, heading his way. She smiled when she reached him. “How have you been?”

“Just fine, darlin’” he replied, reaching into his pocket. Aura watched him pull out a small packet. “I brought these back with me.” He held the packet out to her. “They’re seeds for your garden.”

“Oh!” Aura took the packet with a smile. “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome.” He said, his eyes moving to her garden behind her. “You’ve done some work out here in the last few weeks.”

“Yeah.” Aura turned to survey her work. “Yeah… It’s comin’ along, yo.”

“It’ll look good when it’s all in bloom.” Maati smiled at her and Aura nodded. “Have you been okay?” he asked her, “Before I left, you seemed to be getting pretty busy in and out of the place…”

“I suppose so…”

“Hope you didn’t get yourself into any trouble… you know how things can get around here…”

Aura tilted her head, looking the man over. Did he know that she worked for ShinRa now? How would he have felt about that? “I… I’m okay.” She said and he smiled again.

“Alright…” he said gruffly, and waved a hand at her garden, “Well, if you need some help, let me know.”

“That’s kind of you.” She replied, nodding. “I will.” Maati smiled one last time at her and then turned to head inside, and Aura walked across to where she would be working for the afternoon. A glance at the sky told her she had about an hour of good sunlight left, and she figured she could get the new garden bed she was digging done well before then. She might even have time to start planting. Eying the end of the garden bed, Aura considered the packet of seeds Maati had given her. Perhaps she could extend the bed a little further… that would require more digging, however.

Crouching down, Aura set to work.

 

*

 

Elena pulled her collar up against the swiftly cooling evening air as she walked down the street. Things had been pretty calm and peaceful the last little while, but Elena couldn’t help feeling that Cadan and his people were just biding their time. Their pub may have burned down, but there had been no sign of any of them around there afterwards. They had picked up and left. Elena was sure they’d found somewhere else to congregate. She would find them.

If she managed to be the one to locate their enemies, Elena was sure that the President would see how far she had come. He would see that she wasn’t just some rookie anymore. She had to prove herself after how she had messed up with Aura and Zena. She had to prove her worth.

The wind shifted and the light faded, and Elena shrank into the lengthening shadows. She had noticed the increasing number of frowns and second looks she had been receiving for at least the last twenty minutes. She did not want to be taken by surprise again, and she definitely did not want to be killed. Her eyes scanned the street, looking for any signs of anybody she recognised. She was pretty sure that she remembered a few faces from that time she had been drugged when they’d tried to go undercover. Would they recognise her? She didn’t know, but she knew that the uniform was a giveaway.

She had nothing specific to be looking for, but she had noticed the definite difference in the way that people reacted to her uniform, and she had tried to follow that. Eventually, she had come to a large warehouse and, fading into the shadows, Elena tried to watch and see if anything would be of use. A warehouse would make sense. Would this be where they intended to store the shipment from Junon? The fake cure?

She pulled out her phone to take a few pictures and decided she should head back to Healen to see what Tseng thought. Glancing at her watch, Elena wondered if the man would still be at his desk. She would be rather surprised if he was not. Tseng always knew what to do. Perhaps the two of them could return and scope the place out a little more. She would definitely like that.

The smirk that worked its way on to Elena’s face was followed by irritation at herself. She was meant to be professional. How was she meant to prove that she wasn’t an incompetent child when she couldn’t even keep her mind on what she was doing?

By the time she had gotten back to Healen, nearly everyone had left and there was merely the faint glow of the sun hovering over the horizon. True to form, Tseng was at his desk and Elena dropped down into a chair facing him. His sleek hair shone in the bright light coming from overhead and she watched him write something on the form he was reading. “Sir…”

“I did notice you, Elena.” He said, not looking up.

“Sorry…”

Tseng put his pen down and looked at her calmly. “You have something to tell me?”

Elena handed her phone to him, and watched as he took it, raising a questioning eyebrow at her as he did so. “I might have found them.” She said.

 

*

 

By the time Reno got to Aura’s house it was dark. He was, then, rather surprised to find her still in the garden on her hands and knees as she dug at a garden bed. “Aura, sweetheart, what are you doing?” he asked mildly, crossing his arms over his chest as he looked down at her.

“Gardening.”

“In the dark?”

She looked up and around, as if she hadn’t noticed. “I… wanted to get it finished, so I can plant tomorrow.”

Reno squinted at what she was doing. “Okay… you go inside and shower, I’ll finish this.”

“Really?”

“Sure thing, yo.” He gestured at the house and Aura got to her feet. She moved closer and then pulled him down so she could press a kiss to his cheek before bounding away and into the house. Reno turned on the garden and picked up a nearby hoe.

Twenty minutes later, Reno had finished and headed inside to find Aura in the kitchen. Her hair was still damp from her shower and she stood over the stove, stirring something in a pan. Reno allowed his eyes to move over her as he approached, and he couldn’t help a small smile work its way onto his lips. “That smells amazing.” He told her. She turned to look at him with a wide smile.

“Doesn’t it, yo?”

“Mhmm…” He slid an arm around her waist from behind and was pleased when she leaned back into him as she continued to steadily stir the vegetables in the pan. Reno dipped his head to press his lips to the side of her throat and felt a soft laugh shake her.

“Reno…”

“What?” he asked innocently.

“Don’t distract me…” she said, “I’m cooking…”

“That is true…”

“Why don’t you go and have a quick shower?” she suggested, “You’ve just been digging in dirt… and by the time you get out this will be ready…”

“As you wish.” He let her go and headed for the hallway. He really did need a shower.

 

By the time Reno had gotten out of the shower, Aura had left clean clothing for him by the door. He was grateful that he had begun leaving some of his things at her place recently, as he hadn’t been looking forward to putting his dirty stuff on again. Heading back into the living room, he reflected on how much everything had changed since she had learned what it was that he did for ShinRa, and since Rufus had learned that she existed. He didn’t suppose he could have let them know about her before the world had nearly been obliterated, the rules had definitely changed since then, but he did wish that things could have been this way sooner.

He found her sitting on the couch, two plates before her on the small table, and she smiled at him as he approached. “Still smells really good.” He said, sitting beside her.

“Thanks for finishing out in the garden.” She replied and Reno just winked at her and her smile widened. “Eat that before it gets cold.” She jerked her chin at his plate and he picked it up.
He raised his fork to his lips, and his eyes returned to Aura as he chewed. He wondered what she thought of their playing House the last little while. She seemed content, and he hoped that she was. A home like this, with comfort and a garden was something that he knew she had always wanted, and the fact that she was working as hard as she had been out in that garden recently spoke volumes.

He did not think that she would be happy to leave. If Cadan knowing where she was made this place unsafe, then Reno would have to rectify that situation. He would make sure that this place, her home, was entirely safe and that nobody would threaten that. He would do whatever it took to ensure that she was never threatened again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 47

Glancing over her shoulder as she snuck into the infirmary, Aura tiptoed to the bench by the windowsill and carefully set the bunch of flowers she was carrying in the vase there. She had done the same thing every day since she and Zena had been freed from Cadan, and she was pretty certain that the woman didn’t know who had been leaving them for her. Aura knew that the other woman hadn’t wanted anybody making a fuss over her, but Aura had wanted to do something to ensure that she knew that she was appreciated.

Rearranging the flowers in the vase, and turning it for the best angle, Aura listened carefully to the hallway outside and then turned and hurried back out the door as quickly as she could before anybody came and found her. Aura was barely halfway up the hallway, heading for her own workroom when Elena came around the corner looking flustered but excitable. “Hey Aura!”

“Hi.” Aura replied, coming to a halt and looking the girl over. “What’s up?”

“Tseng is talking to the Boss about something…” Elena replied, practically bouncing on the balls of her feet. “And if he agrees, then it means that I’ve done something right and I…” she paused, “I made up for messing up for…” Guilt passed across Elena’s face and Aura shook her head.

“You don’t still feel bad for what happened with Zena and I… that wasn’t your fault.”

Elena shrugged, “Well, the Boss would still see it as a failure…” Aura made a face but Elena carried on, “That’s why this is important. He’ll see I’m capable. That I’m an effective Turk.”

“I’m sure he knows that already.” Aura told her gently, “The others do. I know Reno thinks really highly of you, and it’s clear Tseng does as well.” She watched Elena’s cheeks flush and the girl nodded, her eyes falling to the floor between them.

“Yeah, I know…” Elena met her eyes again, “But… y’know… I’m the youngest… and now I’m the only girl… and I just constantly feel like I need to defend my position, and prove I can be just as good as they can…”

Aura gave her a small smile. “I’m sure you’ve proven that a hundred times over, yo.”

Elena shrugged again. “We’ll see.”

“Hey, will you train with me some time?” Aura asked the other woman, “I’d really like to learn some stuff from you. You’re not much taller than me, and I reckon you’d know some stuff I could use.” She smiled again when Elena nodded.

“Yeah, no worries.”

 

 

*

 

Reno peered around the corner of the little street he had ducked down. With a scowl, he rubbed at his cheek, bringing away a little blood on his hand. He hadn’t so much as seen the first rock coming. Since there had been no further reason for him not to be recognised, Rufus had him back in his uniform whenever he was on the clock, and so now everybody who saw him knew once again what he was. He had expected this patrol to have been as uneventful as every other one in the last little while. Nothing had been happening around Edge and he’d grown rather complacent.

The rock had hit him in the face hard enough to cause his eyes to water and he’d staggered, looking around just as the second one came at him and hit him with enough force that he’d fallen, cracking his head on the road. Sitting up, he’d squinted, raising his hand as blood ran down into his eye. Reno had been unable to place the people throwing them, but judging from the sounds he’d heard, he figured they were teens. Getting to his feet, he’d been hit again and again before he’d just turned tail and disappeared down a nearby street. He’d ducked and woven for several minutes before coming to a rest in a side street and leaning against the wall to gather himself once more.

His head hurt, and he hoped that when he got back to Healen that Zena would give him something powerful enough to stop the aching throb that was currently making his vision swim and something to stop the incessant bleeding. He hated head wounds, they were so dramatic. Keeping one hand on the wall, Reno began slowly down the street, hoping that he didn’t come across anyone else.

It took him a while but, when he finally got back to Healen, Reno found Zena in the infirmary. She was standing by the window, fiddling with a bunch of flowers in a vase.

“Zena…”

“Yes?” she turned to face him, her head tilted questioningly.

“Might need some painkillers…” He leaned against a bench and she hurried toward him. Reno let her put him on one of the beds and then he closed his eyes while she moved around the room. He opened them only when she brought him some water.

“Drink this.” She told him and he did so. “Now, breathe in through this.” Reno put the small tube she held out between his lips and breathed in. “Two more times…”

He shifted back on the bed more comfortably when Zena took the tube and headed back across the room. “Thanks…” he let out a relieved breath when his head stopped pounding and his vision became sharper. She returned with something soft that she pressed to his forehead and he was able to lower his hand while she quickly wiped at his blood, frowning at him as she did so.

“What happened?”

“Had a bit of a run in with some kids with rocks…”

“This will need stitching…”

Reno sighed, having guessed as much. He really missed the days when they’d had materia. “Fine…” he murmured, closing his eyes again. “Do your thing.”
He sat, with his eyes closed, while Zena cleaned him up and prepared to stitch the wound. He tried to imagine he was elsewhere and to focus on literally anything other than the weird sensation that he had never become accustomed to as she pulled her thread through his skin. His eyes did not open again until she told him that she was done.

“So… rocks…?” she asked, and Reno nodded.

“Yep… not a fan, yo.”

“Yeah, I’m going to look you over real quick…”

“Yeah…” he just sat there when she returned with several pieces of equipment and began scanning him. Looking around the room, Reno tried to keep still. “Nice flowers.”

Zena looked at him and then returned to what she had been doing. “Mhm.”

“What? Who brought them?”

“Aura.” Zena replied, “She does it every day. I think she thinks I don’t know it’s her.”

“Oh?” Reno smiled, “That sounds like her.” He watched the woman try to hide a small smile. “It really means a lot.” He told her, “What you did.”

Zena’s eyes remained on her equipment. “I know.” She replied, “That’s why I did it.”

“Well… flowers… whatever you want, yo…” He said, “I owe you.”

Zena looked at him then. “Were you and Aura together… that night we fucked at 7th Heaven?” She raised an eyebrow at him and Reno looked away.

“No. Not…” he broke off, “We hadn’t… sorted that out…”

“Ah.” She said, “Explains why she tried to avoid me for days afterward…”

“I… I hurt her. I shouldn’t have done that…”

“So no chance of a repeat performance, then?” she asked, pressing several buttons on the thing in her hands.

“Ah… No…” He watched her for any reaction. Zena sighed and gave a shrug.

“Too bad.” She looked at him again. “That was the best fuck I’d had in a while.”

Reno didn’t think he was breathing. “I… I… well…” he swallowed, “I…” he had absolutely no idea what to say to her. He didn’t want to insult her, especially after what she’d done for Aura, but he also didn’t want to give her the wrong idea and hence hope that it may happen again. He just about sighed with relief when the doors opened and Tseng walked in.

Zena pressed more buttons and said no more.

“Reno…” Tseng’s dark eyes looked him over and Reno just nodded in greeting. “I’ve come for your report.”

“I’m a bit out of it, yo…” Reno swallowed a groan at the thought of paperwork.

“I’ll take it down for you.” Tseng replied, “I just want you to tell me what happened.”

“Is that all?” Zena asked, setting her equipment aside.

“Assuming he’s capable…” Tseng’s voice was flat.

“To talk? He is.” The woman replied, “But I’ll be keeping him here for a few hours.”

“Why?” Reno asked.

“I want to keep you under observation.” She replied, “Just to rule out an intracranial haemorrhage…”

“But… I can go home at the end of the day?”

“Assuming you’re fine, yes.”

Reno settled back against his pillow and looked at Tseng. “You got a pen, yo?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 48

Aura ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time. How long had Reno been in the infirmary and nobody had told her? Her steps echoed up the hallway as she hurried up the corridor and then pushed the doors to the infirmary open. She spotted Reno across the room in one of the beds and she lurched toward him.

“Are you okay?” Aura came to a halt a few steps from the bed, her gaze catching on Reno’s face. “… what happened?” She stared at the cut across his forehead, dark stitches holding it together, she looked then at the thinner cut across his cheekbone, surrounded by a welt that was beginning to turn black and purple at the edges as it crept up around his eye. “Reno…” She took the last few steps toward the bed and reached for his hand. “Sweet Shiva…”

“It’s fine.” He told her, wrapping his fingers around her hand and giving her a grin. “Some kids just got a couple lucky shots in.”

“Shots…?”

“Little pricks were throwin’ rocks.”

“Rocks?” she sat on the edge of the bed, reaching a hand out to him and tilting his chin up so that she could have a better look at his face. There was another bruise forming along his jaw. “Where else did they get you?”

“Here and there.” He smiled at her once more. Aura tried to smile back but couldn’t help looking him over again.

“What else is wrong?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“If you were fine you wouldn’t be here…”

“Oh, nah…” he gave her a grin, “Zena is just checking some scans and stuff… you know how she gets about her job…” Aura glanced across the room at Zena and then back to Reno. “She told me I can go home later when everything checks out.”

Aura began to feel sick to her stomach. “Is it starting again?” She asked, “The attacks…” She watched him shrug lightly.

“I dunno, yo.” He squeezed her hand, “But if kids throwin rocks is the best they got…”

“It’s not, though.” Her voice was expressionless. “It’s not.”

“Aur…” he breathed, pulling her closer, “Don’t worry about it…”

She shook her head, wondering how he expected her to do that. If it had been children, that meant the resentment was running deep. It wasn’t just organised groups, it had become part of the psyche of the place. That was more dangerous than they’d been given credit for. There was no controlling it. Aura allowed Reno to pull her down against himself and she felt him wrap an arm around her. Looking up at him, she allowed her gaze to move across the swiftly darkening bruises marring his pale skin. “Reno…” she trailed a hand up his arm letting her fingers move over the soft fabric of his shirt.

“If you two are fine, I’m going to get some lunch…” Zena’s bright voice called across to them as she strode for the doors. “I’ll be back in about an hour.”

Aura nodded, looking around again at the woman before the doors swung closed behind her. Reno drew her attention back to himself a moment later with his hand moving down to Aura’s waist. “You tryin’ to get fresh with me?” she murmured.

“Of course.” Aura could hear the laugh in his voice.

“Don’t know what you intend to do, a feeble invalid like yourself…” She cast a simple glance at him, trying to hide her own smirk.

“Guess I’ll have to show you, yo.” He tugged her down until she was lying completely beside him and then he tightened an arm around her, holding her firmly. Aura lifted a hand, trailing it gently up his arm, across his shoulder and then lightly to his cheek, her fingertips ghosting over the bruise across his cheekbone.

“That hurt?” she asked quietly.

“Not anymore.” Her replied, his hand moving up her back. “It’s fine…”

Aura nodded, trying to accept the relief that washed through her. When Elena had told her that Reno had returned from Patrol injured and that he was in the infirmary, she hadn’t known what to expect. Images of him beaten and bloody, torn apart and unconscious had flashed through her mind as she’d raced up here. Seeing him now with a few cuts and bruises was a bit of a relief, and she couldn’t stop touching him. “You might’ve lost an eye…” she said, looking carefully at him.

“But I didn’t.” He pressed a kiss to the tip of her nose. “Their aim wasn’t that good.”

“Reno…” she frowned.

“Aur, I’ve had worse.” He said gently, “Way worse.”

“I… I suppose you would have.”

“I wouldn’t have even come up here except I wanted painkillers for my killer headache.” He gestured at his face. “This is nothin.”

“You have stitches…”

“I’m alright.” His tone was smooth and gentle, and Aura believed him.

“Okay…” Aura smiled as Reno’s fingers moved up the back of her neck and into her hair. She hummed appreciatively when he kissed her a moment later.

“See…” he breathed, pulling back just enough to meet her eyes and Aura nodded. “Just fine.”

“If you say so.”

“You need more proof?”

“No…” she whispered, “I guess not… I’m glad you weren’t killed…”

“Me too.” He smiled at her, “It’ll be even better if I don’t have an intracranial haemorrhage.”

“That’s not funny.” She said, her hand sliding across his shoulder. “Is that really why Zena is keeping you?”

“Mhm.” He nodded and Aura felt his hand move carefully down her side once more, gliding down her leg. “She wants to keep me under observation, just to be sure.” His hand began pulling the skirts of her dress up past her thigh. She looked up at him.

“If you’re bleeding internally…” Aura bit her lip, “Inside your skull… You should rest…” she said, her breath catching when his hand slid beneath the dress. Her breathing quickened, and she glanced toward the door again, hoping that nobody would walk into the room. “Reno…” her voice was uncertain.

“I am resting…” he told her, and she jumped slightly when his hand moved between her legs.

“Reno!”

“This is me resting…” the mischief in his voice brought Aura’s gaze back to his face.

She gasped when he suddenly pulled her over on top of himself so that she was straddling his hips in the bed and his hand slid into her underwear and went instantly back to what he had been doing moments before. Aura let out a shaky breath, her own hands clenching handfuls of Reno’s shirt as she leaned into him. “This is not resting…” she panted, “And anyone could walk in…” she looked over her shoulder.

“Zena is gone for an hour…” he replied, his tone low and soothing, “and nobody else will come looking…”

“But I don’t want to hurt you…” she forced the words out, wanting to give in to him. “You’re in here for a reason…”

“Trust me…” he practically purred, “I’m able to do this…”

Aura’s eyes closed and she couldn’t help moving against him, unable to keep her hips still. Reno continued what he was doing with his fingers, while his other hand moved up and down her thigh carefully, massaging and rubbing. Aura gasped again, leaning forward over Reno until she could press her forehead into his shoulder. A knee either side of him in the bed had given him plenty of access to be able to do as he wished and Aura could hear the soft whining noise she was making now as she begged him for more, a soft litany falling from her lips. She didn’t know what she expected him to do as anything too strenuous for him could have had a terrible outcome if he really was bleeding onto his brain.

Squeezing her eyes shut again, Aura groaned as she felt Reno hard beneath the blankets. They definitely shouldn’t do this. Not until they knew that he really was okay. She couldn’t stop moving against him however.

“How’s this?” she heard him breathe, and then he’d pushed several fingers inside of her and Aura had let out a loud cry, her hips now moving of their own accord.

“Reno…” she breathed, “Someone could see… this is…” she gasped, shaking her head. “This is…”

“Nobody will see.” He replied softly, his lips brushing her ear, “It’s just us… Just you and me…”

“Ah…” Her fingers slid up the back of his neck and into his hair, tightening and holding fast. She groaned as Reno’s other hand went to her lower back, pulling her in tighter as his fingers pushed more deeply into her, curling in a way that drew a shriek from her. Aura’s head tilted back and she tried to draw a deep breath, her fingers tugging on his hair.

“Oh, like that, then?”

Aura barely heard him over the thundering of her heart. She stopped thinking about the fact that they were in the infirmary, and that anybody could come through the doors at any moment. She stopped thinking about the fact that what they were doing was highly inappropriate and that they should be somewhere more private. She stopped thinking about anything other than Reno, and the fact that he was hurt and could have been even more so. She needed to have him, feel him, know that he was alright. His fingers moved inside her, and Aura’s back arched. “Reno…”

“Yeahyeah…” his lips were on her ear, whispering to her, “It’s okay… don’t think…” She could feel the heat of him beneath her and she began to twitch, her eyes closing and her breath catching in her throat. Aura let out a breathy cry, clutching at Reno’s shoulders as he continued to use his fingers through her shuddering.

By the time Zena returned after her lunch, Aura was sitting beside Reno on his bed, her dress back in place and arranged neatly around herself. Reno had draped an arm around her shoulders, keeping her comfortably against himself, and it was as if nothing had ever happened. Aura watched as Zena went to check on her equipment.

“I need to scan you again.” The doctor said, coming back to Reno’s bed, “Check if anything’s changed in the last hour…”

“Yeah, okay.” Reno straightened slightly and Aura got up to get out of the way. Her eyes flicked back and forth between Reno and the thing in Zena’s hands. She didn’t notice that she was holding her breath for a few moments, but when Zena eventually lowered her hands and stepped back from Reno’s bed, announcing that he was fine and that there was nothing wrong with him apart from the obvious cuts and bruises, Aura let out a relieved sigh.

“So he can go home…?”

“Yes…” Zena’s eyes met Aura’s. “He can go home. He’s fine.” That blue gaze moved back to Reno. “Stitches will come out in a week… and you’ll want some more painkillers for when the meds I gave you wear off.”

“Kay, Doc.” Reno nodded and swing his legs around and off the bed. Aura moved closer, reaching out to take his arm. “I’m alright.” He murmured, smiling down at her. Aura nodded, wrapping an arm around his waist. She felt him lean into her for a moment, testing himself before he took his own weight and stood straight again.

“Come on,” she told him. “We’re going home.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 49

Lifting his feet up onto the coffee table, Reno watched Aura come back into her living room. “You feelin better, yo?” She sat lightly beside him and her hand came to rest on his knee. He smiled, trying not to move as his skull had begun to pound every time he so much as turned his head. “Do you need the extra meds Zena gave you?”

“Yeah, maybe.” He murmured. Aura got straight back to her feet and went back into the kitchen. Closing his eyes, he waited. She had brought him home when they’d left the infirmary, and he had been surprised when she had insisted she bring him to her house. He had figured she would drop him at his own apartment, but Aura had said she wanted to make sure he would be okay, and that it would make more sense to take him home with her.

“Reno…” her gentle voice roused him, and Reno struggled to open his eyes. “Here…” she sat beside him again, a glass of water in one hand and pills in the other. He took the glass she passed him and quickly swallowed the painkillers. He was thankful that it was quality stuff, and that mere minutes later the throbbing had faded. “Is that better…?” she asked, and Reno nodded.

“Yeah.” He turned to look at her, frowning when he saw her eyes moving across his forehead, an odd look on her face. “… is it bad?”

“Uh…. I mean… fresh stitches always look… sore…”

“I need to see…” he pushed himself up, Aura following him.

“Are you sure…?”

“Oh… It’s worse than bad, is it?”

“No…”

He headed for the bathroom, with Aura still following behind him. “Ah.” Reno stopped in front of the mirror, staring at himself.

“You see… not that bad, yo…” Aura met his eyes in the mirror from where she was standing just behind him.

“This a magic mirror, where you see something different to what I see?” He asked, his eyes going back to the mess that was his face. He looked at the ugly black stitches across his forehead, supposing that they would probably look better in a few days when he wasn’t so swollen and sore.

“I still see you.”

Reno turned and sank to sit on the edge of the bathtub. “That’s because you’re wonderful.” He said gently. Aura moved toward him and he looked up at her as she bent over him, one of her hands coming to rest on his shoulder.

“If you want… I have something that will soothe… all of this…” she gestured at his face in general and he gave a soft laugh.

“Yeah, love.” He smiled, “Hit me with it.”

“That’s the word choice you’re going with?” she asked and Reno smiled again. “Alright, wait here…” She turned and left the bathroom, coming back a few minutes later, a small container in her hand. He sat still as she opened the container and then gently began applying the ointment to his face. “If I just put a bit here… the swelling will go down and it should feel better sooner…”

“Zena know you were gonna do this, yo?”

Aura made a face at him. “I think she’s offended by the very idea of what I do.”

“I won’t tell her, then.”

“Yeah, well… you’ll be lucky if I let you leave this house before those stitches have to come out…”

“What you gonna do? Lock me up?” He grinned at her and she put the lid back on her ointment.

“Hey, if I gotta tie you down, I will, yo.”

Reno’s grin widened. “You promise?” he watched colour fill Aura’s cheeks and she gave a small laugh.

“Oh… Well…”

“You can’t go sayin’ these things without meaning them…” his hand closed around a handful of her skirt as she went to step back, and he pulled her toward himself on the edge of the tub. “You gotta follow through.” He looked up at her when her hands came to rest lightly on his shoulders. “I’m sorry…” he said softly, “For earlier… In the infirmary… if I pushed too hard…” He watched Aura tilt her head, looking down at him. “I’m sorry… I… I just… a lot was happening, and I didn’t know if I was going to be told there was damage… I might have made poor choices…” she frowned and he shook his head, “No, I … I just mean, if I pushed too hard and made you do something you didn’t want to do… I… I’m sorry if I didn’t listen…”
He fell silent when Aura bent, pressing her lips to his. “No…” she replied, “I may have been hesitant at first…” she told him, her hands moving up the back of his neck into his hair, “but… it was hot.” She smiled shyly, “Knowing that somebody might have walked in… kind of exciting…”

Reno gave a relieved smile, grinning up at her again. “You think so?”

The rich throaty laugh the bubbled from Aura then had his hands moving around the back of her legs, pulling her even closer to himself on the edge of the tub. “I’m not sayin’ that I want to start having sex in public, yo…”

“Not even once?” he asked, unable to help himself.

“You…” she pressed a kiss to the top of his head as her arms moved around him and she leaned into him gently, “need to practice a little self-control…”

“I practice self-control every day.” He told her, trying to keep his voice serious, “Can you imagine what I would be doing if I didn’t?”

“Very easily.”

“You love it, I know.” He said, tightening his arms around her waist. She made a small squeak when he suddenly got to his feet, lifting her as he went. “Let’s go sit back down somewhere comfy.” He threw her over his shoulder, steadying her with a hand on her backside.

“Is there a reason I can’t walk?” she asked, and he could hear the laughter in her voice.

“My legs are longer and I don’t want you to get left behind.” He replied, giving her a bit of a squeeze. The high pitched indignant sound she made had Reno chuckling as he carried her back into the living room. He set her gently back on her feet and grinned at her, unprepared for when she gave him a shove, sending him back into the couch. Aura bent and tossed a cushion onto his lap, looking down at him.

“You stay there, I’m going to put dinner in the oven for later.”

Reno gave her the best mock bow he could manage from his position seated on the couch and watched her as she headed into the kitchen. Reaching for the remote control, he flicked the television on and settled back to watch what appeared to be an in-depth exploration of the present economy in Wutai. Maybe he would be able to learn something that he could use to annoy Tseng.

It was several minutes before Aura returned. “Get your fingers off of that.” Her voice made him jump, and Reno realised that he’d reached up and was running his fingers lightly over his stitches.

“Not something I usually hear…” he replied, dropping his hand back into his lap. Aura dropped down onto the couch beside him, giving a light shrug.

“Not something I’ve said to you in a while…”

“When have you ever said that to me?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I lived with you for years. I’m sure you’ve been touching something you weren’t meant to before.”

Reno nodded, he supposed that she was right. Grinning, he slipped an arm around Aura’s shoulders, sliding his hand down her arm, lightly tracing his fingertips across her skin. “Not this though, right…?” He felt Aura lean into him and she rested her head back against his shoulder.

“Definitely.” She murmured.

“Yeah?” he asked, “Are these fingers welcome?” Reno kept his eyes on the television, but he felt Aura’s eyes on him. He tried hard not to smile but after a few moments, he failed. He looked down at her, raising an eyebrow, waiting for her answer. Aura rolled her eyes and let out a small huff.

“They’re welcome.” She told him and Reno gave her a dirty smirk, earning an elbow in the ribs. “Don’t be gross.”

“Aw.” He pressed his lips to her temple, “You love it, I know.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No…” he felt her squirm, so he tightened his hold on her, pulling her closer as she wiggled again.

“You do. You love it.”

“No…”

“Yes.” He kissed her cheek and felt her hands come up to push at him as she laughed. He tightened his arms around her, continuing to kiss her cheek repeatedly, and she let out a shriek, broken by another laugh as she tried to twist away. “You love it.”

“No…”

Reno tried to kiss her again, but one of her hands came up to block him and he flinched when she touched one of the fresh bruises across his face. His sharp intake of breath must have caught Aura’s attention as she froze and just looked up at him, wide eyed.

“I’m sorry…”

He drew a slow breath, waiting for the pain to pass and he nodded. “No worries…” Reno tightened his arm around her, drawing her closer again, and Aura shifted herself, turning and hooking a leg over him and lifting herself into his lap. He tilted his head, meeting her green gaze as she settled over him. Both of her hands came up to cup his face carefully as she looked at him.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Aur.”

“They’ll be gone by morning…” she said gently, her eyes moving back and forth across his face. Reno nodded, remembering the ointment she’d given him in the past to deal with bruises. The stuff was effective. It wouldn’t do much for the stitches, however. He smiled lazily when she leaned closer, one of her thumbs tracing his jaw slowly. Reno took hold of her hips, squeezing gently as Aura brought her lips to within a hair’s breadth of his. He could feel the heat of her, so close, and his breath caught as he waited for her to close the distance as he struggled to remain still and not do it himself. “… Why are you watching a program on the economy of Wutai?”

Reno blinked and Aura sat back, raising an eyebrow at him. He glanced at the television to see a panning shot of mountainous forests and he gave a half shrug. “Educational…” Looking back to Aura he watched her smirk at him.

“Imagine you,” she said, shifting to the side, lifting herself off him and falling beside him on the couch. “if you’d been raised and educated above the plate…”

“Nah.” Reno wrapped an arm around her shoulders again, tucking her into his side. “I’d be some stuffy twat who sits in an office all day and never does anything fun.”

“Not you.” She murmured, making herself comfortable against him. “That would never be you.” Reno gave a small smile, running his hand slowly up and down Aura’s arm as they both turned their attention to the television. He had no idea just how he would have ended up if things had been different, but he knew that if he was given the option to change things, he wouldn’t take it. He liked everything just the way it was.

Chapter Text

Chapter 50

“Have you had any trouble in the town?”

Aura shook her head, focusing on fastening the fresh bandage she had just wrapped around Rufus Shinra’s arm. “No…” she told him softly. “Nothing has happened to me…” she thought of Reno’s face and the slowly healing wounds he had suffered. “There’s been nothing…”

“Why do you suppose that is?” the man asked mildly, and Aura gave a light shrug.

“Honestly? No clue.” She sat back on his desk, doing up the lid on her jar of ointment. “I mean, they know who I am… Maybe they think I don’t know anything or that I’m not worth the effort.”

“Or maybe they just haven’t seen you.”

“Could be, yo.”

“But you don’t think so?”

“Not really.” She looked at him. “Think they’re waitin’ for something.”

“Like what?”

“I dunno.” She set the jar aside, “I’m not paid for workin that stuff out.”

Rufus gave her a sharp smile. “Do you want to be?”

“No.” Aura looked flatly at him. “That’s what you have Reno and the others for.”

“They haven’t worked it out yet.”

“I’m sure they will.” Aura frowned when Rufus dragged his chair closer to the desk, preventing her from getting off it.

“Maybe…” his voice was cold silk and Aura clenched her teeth when his hand was suddenly on her leg, sliding upwards.

“Get your hand off of me.” Aura said steadily. Rufus tilted his head thoughtfully, his hand continuing what it was doing. Aura went to shift her knee away but his hand suddenly tightened, holding her in a surprising grip. “…Sir…” When he looked up at her, Aura froze. Rufus Shinra’s eyes were chips of ice, and she was suddenly afraid to so much as breathe.

“Have you reconsidered?” he purred.

“Reconsidered what?” she forced the words out. Both of his hands were on her now and Aura sat straight, her spine rigid as she looked at him. She watched him get to his feet, his hands moving up her thighs. “Who’s better…”

Aura shook her head “Don’t…” she murmured, “Don’t do this to me again…”

“This is the deal you made…”

“No.”

“Yes.

Aura tried to shift away but Rufus’ grip became vice-like. “Don’t…”

“It doesn’t sit well with me…” he told her, his voice silky again, “That you would think Reno is more skilled than I…”

“Get over it, yo.” She jumped when one of his hands took hold of her face as he stared at her.

“Reno’s smart mouth gets him into trouble all the time…” he growled, “I suggest you watch yours.”

She slapped his hand away from her face. “No. I don’t care who you think you are. You can’t just…” she broke off when his hand came back and wrapped around her throat. He squeezed.

“I think you’ve forgotten who I actually am.” He leaned closer. “I don’t just think it.”

Aura took hold of his wrist, trying to pry his hand from her throat, but she couldn’t shift him. He loosened his hold a few seconds later, but didn’t let go. “I don’t understand.” She breathed, “Every day I come in here, trying to help you…”

“Yes, you’re quite good at your job.”

“Then why…”

“It seems you need reminding of who I am.”

“I really don’t.”

His eyes hardened and Aura’s breath caught in her throat in a way that had nothing to do with his hand. “I’m not going to hurt you…” he told her, his tone saccharine. “I’m just going to prove a few things…” the hand that had been on her thigh shifted and began lifting the hem of her skirt. Aura shook her head.

“No…” she tried to pull away. “You can’t.”

“I can and I will.” He leaned into her, his face barely an inch from hers. “And you’re going to sit there and let me…”

“Not likely.”

“It is.” He replied, “If you want Reno to come back from patrol.”

Aura stared at him and he smiled at her. “What?”

“You heard me.” His hand moved under her skirt and Aura flinched. “Don’t worry…” he told her, “You’ll enjoy it.”

“No…” she gasped when his hand went between her legs and she felt his fingers curl as he rubbed her. She gasped again when his hand tightened around her throat and he held her in place, his face still only inches from hers, watching her as his fingers continued what they were doing through her underwear. Aura felt heat flood her, and knew that her face was beginning to flush scarlet, both from the shame of what was being done to her and the fact that her body was responding.

Aura blinked back tears, not knowing what to do. She wanted to punch him in the face, that was what every instinct she had was screaming at her to do. This was Rufus Shinra, however. She wouldn’t walk out of the room alive if she hurt him in any way. She knew that. His threat about Reno also rang in her ears. Aura had no doubt that if Rufus decided on it, Reno would be dead by the end of the day. “You swore you wouldn’t…” her voice was barely more than a whisper now.

“I changed my mind.”

“You can’t…”

“You keep saying that.” His voice was hard, “This only proves to me that you don’t understand who I am.”

“Maybe you’ve not noticed.” Aura snapped, “The world has changed.” She shoved him hard in the shoulder, enough to push him back a step away from her and she straightened her skirt. “You changed it. You nearly destroyed it.” She glared at him, “So maybe you don’t understand who you are anymore.”

“I… am trying to make amends for that…” Rufus’ voice was more gentle now and Aura got off the desk, pushing him back further to his chair.

“Maybe start by not raping people.”

“I wasn’t going to…”

“Get a dictionary.” Aura crossed her arms. “What you just tried to do to me was rape. What you did to me last time… was rape.”

“You agreed.”

“You made me!” Aura could feel the heat of anger beginning to burn inside her. “That’s rape!” she shoved him again, “You knew I didn’t want you and you forced me into that situation! You knew exactly what you were doing and you knew that I had no experience with that.” She pushed him back into his chair, “You decided that my first experience was going to be rape!”

“I had not intended to hurt you.” He replied, his tone low. Aura snarled.

“You didn’t consider me at all.” She pointed a finger at him. “Just like right now. You think of only yourself. Your ego. The fact that you would force somebody into that because you don’t like being told that you’re not the best? That is psychopathic!”

Rufus tilted his head, “Yes…”

“Not news to you, then?”

He shrugged, “That thought has crossed my mind before.”

“Think it’s pretty spot on, yo.”

“You would have liked it.”

“No.” She replied. “And that is so far from relevant.”

“Is it?”

“What in the name of Shiva.” Aura muttered, turning away and then looking back at him. “Let me make this abundantly clear.” She took several steps toward him until she could look down at him in his chair. “You are never allowed to touch me.” She said each word slowly and clearly, “I will never want you.”

“What makes you think you could stop me?” his voice was measured and Aura blinked and looked at him. “I could throw you down and have you right now and you wouldn’t be able to do a thing to stop me.”

Aura’s mouth went dry, knowing that he was probably right. “You could fucken try, yo.”

“I…” Rufus looked away from her and shook his head.

Aura moved away and picked up her things. “If you try that again, I’ll quit.”

“Won’t that be an interesting day?”

“Sure.” She replied, moving for the door, having decided that she was being dismissed and was free to go and have some lunch. “That’ll be when Reno comes to kill you.”

“We’ll see…” Rufus mused, and then when Aura had turned the handle on the door, she heard his voice again. “He really can’t be that good a fuck.”

“He is.” She said, opening the door before striding out.

Chapter Text

Chapter 51

Reno groaned, pressing his face into Aura’s neck, his teeth scraping gently over her skin. He felt her shudder beneath him as he moved over her, inside her. Aura’s hands slid up across his back, his name on her lips as she sighed into his ear. He thrust again, his movements slow and careful, deliberate in everything he did, and the reward was a delightful moan from Aura. She loved this, everything slow and deep and unhurried. Reno trailed his lips across her cheek to kiss her properly, wanting to drink in any more of those sounds she made as one of his hands slid down her thigh to her knee, lifting her leg slightly to allow him to thrust more deeply. Carefully, he pushed into her, deliberately rolling his hips slowly, the way he knew she liked. Aura gasped into his kiss and she arched beneath him. “Yes, Reno…”

“Yeah?” he asked, biting back another groan.

“Mhmm.”

Reno rolled his hips again, keeping everything he did careful and leisurely. He watched her face as he moved, the way her lips parted again in a small gasp, her eyes closed and her cheeks flushed. He could get more little moans out of her this way, and he knew that she enjoyed it more like this and it had been something that he had enjoyed learning. Trailing one of his hands up to her jaw, he tilted her face up so that he could once again have access to her throat. Reno knew exactly the spot he needed to make Aura moan again, and as he closed his lips over exactly that spot, he was pleased to hear precisely what he had been after.

He had been surprised by how much he enjoyed this. Slow, careful movements, each action deliberate and unhurried. It was in such contrast to the hard, fast fucking he had always been used to. But this; this was nothing like that. As he watched Aura, he wanted to take his time. He wanted to be careful about everything he did and he wanted to hear every sound she made, see every expression that crossed her face. He had enjoyed learning what reactions he could draw from her through different actions or through giving attention to certain places on her body. Pressing a gentle kiss to that spot on her throat again, Reno smirked to himself when a shudder passed through Aura beneath him.

Pushing himself up slightly on one arm, Reno braced himself with a hand by Aura’s head, so he could watch her face clearly as he continued his slow and careful thrusts, pushing into her with measured strokes. He allowed his other hand to trail down her body, his eyes following the progress until he let it come to rest at her hip, and then he looked back to her face, not breaking his slow, even rhythm for a moment. This was a measure of patience and self-restraint, but Reno loved it. Aura’s breath was beginning to hitch at each of his thrusts and he looked back down between them, watching himself push into her again and again, listening to her soft gasping as he did so.

One of Aura’s hands moved up the back of Reno’s neck, her fingers curling into his hair and he brought his eyes back up to meet hers, holding her gaze as he moved carefully inside of her. He felt her other hand clutching at his back and her legs tightened around him. “You feelin’ me?” he breathed, his eyes never leaving hers.

“Uh-huh…” Aura gave a barely perceivable nod, “Mmm…”

“Yeah?” He lowered himself again until he could press his lips lightly to hers, slipping his hand from her hip across and between her legs. Aura let out a small cry and Reno grinned, “It feel good, yo?”

“Mhmm…”

Reno knew exactly what to do with his fingers to compliment the smooth rhythm he was able to maintain in order to draw another high pitched cry from Aura within moments, and then, as she moved to meet him, he was kissing her again. He felt her hand move up his back and then her arm slid across his shoulders, holding him close as she turned her head and her lips brushed against his ear. “Reno…”

Bringing both hands up to cup her face, Reno held her still as he kissed her again, coaxing her mouth open so that he could slip his tongue inside. Holding her in place, he swept her mouth with his tongue, kissing her deeply and thoroughly and not pausing until they were both panting. Gently resting his forehead against hers, Reno continued to move slowly inside Aura, enjoying the way he could feel every one of her movements in response to his own. When he felt her fingernails digging into his back Reno was unable to hold back a low groan. He traced his thumb across her cheek, keeping her face in his hands as he kept his eyes on hers and used every ounce of self-control he possessed to maintain his deliberate and careful rhythm. Aura smiled at him, one of her hands tracing her nails down his back while her other hand slid up the back of his neck, her fingers sliding into his hair.

As her fingers curled into his hair, Reno bit his lip. She tugged gently and he grunted. Resting his forehead against hers once again, Reno continued his slow, careful thrusts. Aura was making soft, breathy sounds at every move he made and he could feel her begin to tauten beneath himself. He pushed harder and won a louder cry from her as her nails once again dug into his back. The next sound Aura made was close to a squeal and Reno knew what that meant. He made certain to keep her face in his hands so that he could watch it happen, see every moment of it, and he released a shuddering breath of his own, trying to make himself last. Aura’s legs tightened around him a moment before her eyes closed and Reno watched intently as she bit her lip with a whimper before letting out another cry as she arched beneath him, her fingernails scratching at his hip. Reno didn’t stop what he was doing, glancing down at himself pushing into her before quickly looking back up to her face to watch as she shuddered and he tried to make it last for as long as he could. He watched the dark blush spread, creeping up her throat and across her face and when she called his name he lost himself, pressing his face into her neck as he fell with a cry of his own.

Chapter Text

Chapter 52

Running her hand gently up and down Reno’s slick back, Aura listened to his ragged breathing. She could still feel his hot breath on her neck, still feel him between her thighs as his weight still pressed her into the mattress of her bed. She trailed her fingernails lightly down his spine and he shifted slightly. “Reno… how do you feel?” she murmured, smiling when she felt his lips on her throat.

“Mmm… fucking incredible.” He whispered, lifting himself just enough to look at her. Aura smiled at him, lifting a hand to his cheek as his eyes moved back and forth across her face.
“How about you?”

“I feel…” she paused, letting out a soft breath and trying to put words to the emotions flooding her. She was content, warm, happy and safe. She felt satisfied and exhausted. She felt fluttery every time Reno met her eyes, and she wanted to pull him closer still. “I feel like everything is perfect.” She told him, and that familiar lazy arrogant smile spread across his face.

As Reno pushed himself higher, Aura bit her lip as he pulled out of her and then he was settling himself beside her, an arm around her waist to draw her to his side. She leaned against him, still enjoying his heat and not ready to move away yet.

“How was your day?” he asked, fingers trailing up her arm. Aura entangled her legs with his as she slid a hand up his chest, looking up to meet his eyes.

 

“Long.” She murmured.

“Yeah?” he asked, “You seemed more than eager to jump me nearly the moment I walked through the door.”

“Yes, well… I…” she didn’t know what she wanted to say and just shook her head.

“Hey, I’m not complainin’ yo…”

“I should hope not.” Aura rubbed her hand up and down Reno’s chest, smiling slightly when he tightened his arm around her waist.

“What is it, Aur?”

“Nothing, really…” she replied, wondering if she should just tell him about Rufus. What would he do? She didn’t want him to get himself hurt or killed, but she had never kept anything from him and she loathed the idea of it. Especially now when everything really was pretty perfect.

“Aur?” warm fingers lifted Aura’s chin and she met Reno’s mako eyes once more. “What is it?”

Letting out a huff, Aura nodded. “President Shinra…” she blinked, “… tried… he… got a little handsy with me again…”

“He what?” Reno growled, going upon an elbow to look at her better. “What do you mean?”

“He…”

“Aura, what do you mean?” he asked again, his voice serious.

She bit her lip, not knowing a better way to explain it other than just telling him what had happened. “After I finished changing his bandages he got me on his desk and tried touching me.” She tilted her head, her fingers moving across Reno’s skin, “I told him to stop… he wouldn’t.”

Reno snarled, and Aura slid a soothing hand up his chest and around the back of his neck. “Aura…”

“I shoved him.” She told him softly, “I shoved him back into his chair and kinda yelled at him, yo.” Aura wondered vaguely how she had walked out of that office unharmed, “I kinda gave him a piece of my mind… and told him that if he ever touched me again I would quit.” Reno’s fingers played with her hair as he looked at her, brushing a lock back from her face, “And I told him that you would kill him…”

“Well…that’s true.”

“Why would he try that again after last time?” she murmured and Reno pressed his lips to her forehead.

“Power.” He replied, “And he’s never been told ‘No’. Not in his life, yo.”

“Well he better get damn used to it.”

“Be careful.” He whispered, pulling her closer and then kissing her carefully. She nodded, threading her fingers through his hair. “Come on…” Reno sat up, taking Aura with him, “Let’s get cleaned up before we have to make dinner.”

Aura let Reno lead her down the hallway to her bathroom. She opened the shower door and leaned in, getting the water started, and then when steam began to fill the room, she stepped into the shower, closing her eyes as the hot water slid over her body. The door opened again, and without turning, Aura felt Reno step into the shower with her. She washed her face, scrubbing her hands over herself when Reno’s arm snaked around her waist and she leaned back in to him, allowing his hands to explore her wet skin.

“Maybe I should talk to Rufus…” his voice was low and held an edge that made Aura frown as she shook her head.

“Don’t, Reno…” She shook her head again, “I dealt with it.” She did not want Rufus to snap and do something awful. It was still surprising to Aura that she had walked out of his office unharmed after what she had done.

“Okay…” his arms tightened around her waist, pulling her harder back against himself. “Did he hurt you?” he asked, bending to kiss her neck. Aura’s eyes closed and she shook her head slightly.

“I didn’t let him.”

“Good.” She barely heard him above the rushing water as his hands moved down across her abdomen, smoothing and caressing her as she leaned into him. His firm body felt reassuring and strong at her back and she sighed with relief that he wasn’t about to run off and get himself shot by Rufus. He respected her enough to trust that she had handled it on her own and Aura looked back over her shoulder up at him, pleased when he bent to kiss her, one of his hands coming up to her throat to hold her there. “I love that you’re strong enough to knock him on his arse.” He told her, lifting his head enough to meet her gaze. Aura gave a small smile.

“I think he was just surprised.” She replied softly.

“I’ll bet.” His hand remained lightly at her throat while the other moved down her stomach, “I’m not surprised, though…” his lips returned to hers and Aura gave a soft hum of approval. As his hand drifted lower she felt his hold on her tighten and shifted her stance a little, knowing where this was heading. She could feel Reno hard behind her now and as he adjusted his stance, Aura took a steadying breath. She allowed Reno to deepen the kiss, lifting a hand to reach up and around to the back of his neck, threading her fingers into his damp hair. Reno bent a little further, his hand moving down the outside of her left leg until it tightened behind her knee, lifting gently. When he had lifted and shifted her into a position that better suited his purpose, Aura reached forward, bracing herself against the tiles with her free hand.

She had barely enough time to draw and release two full breaths before Reno had positioned himself and pushed quickly into her. Aura groaned into the kiss, going up onto her toes on the one foot she still had on the ground. Reno’s hand slid from her throat down to her waist and then he’d taken a firm hold of her hip, using that grip to lift and pull Aura into a better position for his next thrust. She groaned again and Reno broke the kiss, moving her closer to the wall and allowing Aura to get better leverage in bracing herself with her hands.

This was faster than before and before long Aura had dipped her head, allowing the warm water to cascade down on the back of her neck as she bent, her wet hair hanging in her face as Reno moved behind her, one arm tight around her waist, pulling her back to meet each of his thrusts and the other hand still lifting and holding her knee. Releasing her leg, Reno trailed his hand up and down her spine, soothing as he continued to thrust with a steady pace. His hand came to rest at the base of her neck and he used that hold on her to bend her further over. Aura groaned again, trying to keep her own hands from sliding across the slick tiles at every movement Reno made.

Chapter Text

Chapter 53

One eye on the crowd outside, Elena half listened to Reno and Rude as they speculated about the benefits of the recruitment office. It was something that Rufus had decided would be a good idea. The man was under the impression that it would attract two kinds of people. Those who wanted work, which would be of benefit to ShinRa, as it would increase the employee numbers, which continued to fall. It would also apparently attract those who wished to do ShinRa harm, and so identify their enemies. Reno and Rude were of the opinion that the entire idea was moronic, and Elena couldn’t help but share the thought. She hushed them when Tseng approached. He wouldn’t take kindly to outright, loud, disagreements with the President.

“Reno and Elena,” Tseng said, “You have patrol.”

Elena’s eyes flicked to the man and watched him as he gestured at the door, his own dark eyes on Reno who was leaning on a nearby counter.

 

“Got it, yo.” Reno pushed himself up straight and headed for the door, his EMR in his hand. “Come on, Rookie.”

“I’m not a damn Rookie!” Elena complained, following after him. He just flashed her a grin and held the door open for her. Elena cast one last glance at Tseng over her shoulder before following Reno out into the street.

Watching the people passing them, Elena tried to judge the looks she and Reno received. “Do you really think the recruitment office is a bad idea?”

“I don’t know about an outright ‘bad idea’.” He replied, slowing his pace to match hers, “Don’t think it’s gonna work the way the Prez wants it to…”

“Why?”

“Because his employees are still getting attacked in the streets. Who is gonna want to sign up for that, yo?”

 

“Yeah…”

“There’s a reason Tseng is sending us out together for this.”

“I know…” She frowned, “But he’s also hoping to draw out Cadan and those guys…”

“So he wants more of his people to get hurt… great plan.”

Elena eyed Reno from the corner of her eye. The bitterness in his tone was evident and she wondered at the cause of it. Reno had always been insubordinate in his own way, but she’d never known him to be so openly hostile when disagreeing with an order. “What’s up?”

“Nothing.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“… any word on the Junon shipment?” She asked after a moment, figuring she may as well change the subject if he wasn’t going to tell her anything.

“Not as yet.” He replied. “Maybe his intel is faulty.”

“It’s been pretty reliable…” He just shrugged and Elena watched him. “What’s with the crankypants?” She raised an eyebrow at him when he cast her a questioning look.

“What?”

“The attitude.” She watched him roll his shoulders for a second before letting out a sigh.

“The Prez is being a dick.”

“…How so?” Elena asked evenly.

“Been doing shit to Aura.” His tone was dark and Elena tilted her head, wondering what that meant.

“Is she okay?”

“Yeah.” He turned a corner, “She’s tough, yo.”

“…what’s he been doing?”

“Don’t worry about it, Laney.” He cast her a wide smirk. “Tell me about Tseng.”

“…what about him?” she asked hesitantly.

“He still doin the weird robot sex or has he loosened up?”

“The… the weird… what?” Elena asked weakly, and Reno smirked at her again. “That’s not… he… doesn’t do that…”

“Oh, really?”

“Just… we’re… not talking about Tseng…”

“Why not?” Reno asked, “You’re not ashamed are you?”

“No…”

“Cause you shouldn’t be.” He held a hand out to stop her from walking into the street, “It’s perfectly natural to enjoy-“

“Reno!”

“I’m just sayin’”

“Well don’t just say.” She muttered, “I don’t need to discuss my sex life…”

“Don’t be a prude.” He chuckled.

“I don’t see you sharing copious details of yours.”

“What do you want to know?” he grinned, “My sex life is currently quite exciting.”

“I don’t… exciting?”

“Oh yeah.” He winked at her and Elena walked more quickly to keep up. She battled between wanting to ask what he meant by that and trying to seem indifferent. It wasn’t something she had really discussed with Reno before, and Aura was her friend and it didn’t really seem right to pry.

“Exciting, how?” she asked, curiosity getting the better of her. Reno laughed softly.

“Oh, you know.” He looked at her, “I’m gettin’ down just about every day, often several times a day.” He winked at her. “Had some great shower action just last night.”

“Okay, gross. I regret asking.”

“Nah, you don’t.”

“Honestly didn’t think you’d talk about Aura like that…” She looked at him and he tilted his head, glancing back at her.

“I ain’t bein’ derogatory, yo.”

“No?”

“Just sharin’ the fact that I’m getting’ some serious action.”

“… do you think Aura would want that known?”

“I’m not tellin all of Edge.” He replied, “Just you.” Elena watched him wave a hand at her, “And she’s not exactly shy about it. I barely got in the door last night before she jumped me.”

Elena made a face. “Okay, stop telling me.”

“Maybe you should do the same with Tseng.”

“I doubt he’d appreciate that.”

“You never know. He is a man. I think.”

Elena remained silent, wondering about that. Would Tseng like her being so forward? Where would she even do that? At his place? What if she went to his place and waited for him to come home? Would he be into it, or would he send her packing? “I… do you think so?”

“Yeah. I think he’d enjoy it.”

“…shouldn’t you be telling me not to be inappropriate with my superior?”

“Maybe at one time.” He replied, “But things are different now.”

“You think it’s okay?”

“Yeah, just don’t go tellin’ Rufus, yo.” Reno’s voice darkened and Elena eyed him. “He learns about that and he’ll enjoy fucking with you.” She watched him stride ahead, his shoulders stiff, and she wondered just what the President had done to him and to Aura. Was Rufus ShinRa threatened by any loyalty that wasn’t to him? It was more than plausible.

 

*

 

Reno groaned, the familiar metallic taste of blood on his tongue. Forcing his eyes open he tried to make himself sit up from where he was facedown on the ground. He pushed himself up on his hands, squinting through the haze surrounding him. “… Rude?” Unable to see the big man, Reno pushed himself higher. He and Elena had returned from their patrol mid-afternoon, right as an apparent brawl was breaking out. Tseng and Rude were already on the defensive, so Reno and Elena had attempted to even the playing field.

“…Reno?” Elena’s soft voice turned him and he crawled to his feet to move toward her. The woman was crumpled by the far wall, blood smeared across her forehead.

“Laney, you right?” he asked, sliding a hand under her elbow to pull her up.

“I think so.” She wiped at her forehead, “My head hurts.”

“Yeah, looks like it might.” He turned to look for Rude again, frowning when he didn’t see any movement. “Rude?” He was met with silence and he pulled his EMR out. “Laney, lock the doors.” He barely noted Elena staggering toward the doors which were open as he moved toward the back of the room, behind the counters, looking for Rude and Tseng. Elena pushed the doors closed, rolling the prone body of a young man in uniform out of the way as she did so.

Reno’s blood pounded in his ears, as his heart thumped wildly when he saw long black hair splayed across the dirty cream carpet. “Boss?” he dropped to his knees beside Tseng, his fingers automatically feeling for a pulse as his eyes took in blood, grazes, cuts all marring what looked like deep bruising across every inch of skin he could see. “Tseng?” Resisting a sigh of relief when he felt the older man’s heartbeat, Reno got to his feet once more. “Laney, here.”

“Gotcha.”

Reno stepped back as Elena came to take care of Tseng as he moved to continue looking for Rude. He stepped over the crumpled body of an obviously dead ShinRa clerk, hoping that Rude would be in better condition. “Rude, buddy?” Reno fought the slight panic rising in him. He passed an upended desk, stepping on lots of fallen stationery supplies and then dropped to his knees again when he found his partner in a pool of his own blood. “Rude…?” He pressed his fingers to the man’s throat, his eyes moving quickly over him, trying to determine where the blood was coming from. “Fuck… fuck…” Reno pulled Rude’s jacket open, pausing at the blood soaked shirt. “What the fuck.” He frowned when he noticed Rude’s scalp was also bleeding rather profusely. “Rude… wake the fuck up.” Looking up and around, Reno’s eyes locked on Elena. “Call for Zena.”

“Got it.” Elena flicked her phone open and Reno looked back to Rude, trying to pad the wound in his abdomen.

“Wake the fuck up.” He breathed, looking to Rude’s face. “C’mon, Partner.”

“They’ll be here in a few!” Elena called and Reno nodded, reluctantly getting back to his feet. He had to make sure the rest of the building was clear, and that they hadn’t locked themselves inside with anything that remained a threat.