Chapter Twenty-Five

Please note: All dialogue written in this colour is quoted directly from Before Crisis and should not be interpreted as my own work.

Some of the Shin-Ra mission storyline has come from Before Crisis. However, this is an adaptation, and not all of the Shin-Ra political storyline in this story has come from the game, but is my original content, so you won't have seen it if you've played the game.

Be aware there are major, major spoilers for the Before Crisis endgame storyline in this chapter, as well as (albeit already well-known) spoilers for the original FFVII game.


When you're new to the world, you have all sorts of ideas about how things in your life will be. You are born, and you have plans, even if it is just to be a bird when you grew up. Or to eat more of that dessert your ma made for dinner the other night. You grow a bit, and make your schemes, and dream your dreams. You decide what you really want to do, and you work at that.

Then, life happens and everything goes awry. Sometimes, some really bad shit occurs, and you can't figure out why stuff like that would happen.

But... the worst moments of your life are often what lead to the best moments you'll ever have.

That day in October stood out as one of the worst days Reno could remember. But it led to one of the best.


It was done. The army had been confused; sent in the wrong direction and Cloud had been seen to Midgar; sick, alone... but hidden. He was on his own, now. Reno wasn't happy about it, but he had a larger concern: his sister.

He was about to head back to Corel when a call came though from Tseng. While Reno, Rude and Dallas had been mopping up after the Zack situation, Scarlet had brought a contingent of troops and attacked the Turk base. Tseng had a new place for them to go in Midgar, another secret location similar to the base at the mines in Corel, that he'd prepared just in case of such an event. They were to go there and wait.

Unfortunately, Katelyn and Veld had been taken prisoner by Scarlet, hence the move back to Midgar. The Turks were going to get them out.

"Yeah, that's likely," Rude commented.

"Sarcasm, Rude? So unlike you," Reno said.

Dallas was waiting for them at the hangar at the new base in Midgar. "Are you sure?" she said, with no preamble.

Reno nodded. "Yeah. Sorry Dal."

She nodded. "It's my fault," she said, her voice very quiet. "I got him killed."

"C'mon, Dal. You know better than that," Rude said.

"I deliberately gave you the co-ords that sent you in the opposite direction from where I knew they were headed."

"Why would you do that?" Reno said.

"Tseng wanted them alive. He told me to do whatever was necessary."

"I knew that," Reno said, puzzled. "He told me that, too."

"I know that now," Dallas said. Her mouth tightened. "Fact remains, if I hadn't, you would've made it back in time to stop the army."


"Reno, you were right there."

"We may not have been able to stop them, anyway," Reno said. "They're Heidegger's, and no matter what deals were set up with Tseng for our assistance, clearly, we no longer have any authority over them."

Dallas glanced at Rude. "I'm not talking about this now," she said to Reno. "I have a report to fill out." She left then, in more of a hurry than Reno liked. There was something else... as if Zack's death was not enough, there was something else about Dallas' manner Reno couldn't put his finger on. He would have to see her privately, soon.

Rude gave Reno a look that amounted to I don't know the full story, and thanks for that, but something's going on with her and I'm concerned.

"Yeah. Me too," Reno said.

They didn't get any further opportunity to talk about it, because two other choppers landed, then, bringing with them the rest of the Turks, Rufus, Rufus kitty pet and a cache of supplies and weapons. Reno was kept busy, for a while, moving items into his new unit, which was identical to the old one at Corel.

Never let it be said that Tseng was anything other than predictable.

About an hour after they'd arrived, as he was on his way to get soemthing to eat, Reno got a call from Tseng. "You need to finish overseeing the move. I have more urgent business."

"What's going on?"

"Braden just motorbiked in, and he has Katelyn with him. She managed to escape. He picked her up on his way through. She was very lucky."

"Is she all right?"

"She's fine. She also has information about what Shin-Ra plans to do with Veld. His execution has been scheduled for October five."

"So we have three days to get him back."



"Only if we start now. I have Rude working on a contingency, and Turks are to rest up as much as possible. Unfortunately, Katelyn had no idea where Veld is being held. I'm going to spend some time searching through the Shin-Ra database."

Yeah, Reno thought, good luck with that. "Okay. I'll get this finished, then report back."

"Good." The call ended.

Okay. Well, time to be in charge again. Reno sighed and squared his shoulders. So much for dinner.


Reno wandered into the control room much later, yawning widely. Rude was sitting on a couch next to Tseng, who was inputting data into a console, clearly still trying to break into Shin-Ra's system. "Any luck?" Reno said.

"No. I got bounced out again," Tseng said without turning around.

"That's Shin-Ra's security system for you," Rude said.

"Yeah," Reno said. "Scary when it's turned against you. At this rate it's gonna be ages before we figure out where Veld's being held."

Rude grunted in agreement. "And the execution date's getting closer..."

Tseng did turn around then, giving the pair of them an annoyed glance. "I know."

Yeah. Time to leave the man alone, Reno figured. He tapped Rude on the shoulder. "I'm going to check on Dallas," he said quietly.

Rude nodded.

"You coming home tonight?"

"No. Tseng's going to need some recon done. I'll sleep here until we've either found Veld or we've failed."

"Want me to stay and help out?"

"No. Go see to Dal. She's more important than this shit right now. Then go get some sleep. You're owed days off."

Reno grinned, but his heart wasn't in it. "You are aware I outrank you, right?"

Rude shrugged.

"What about you?"

"I slept already."

"Yeah, that half hour doesn't count."

Rude's face grew more serious. "I want you to go look after your sister. And let me know how she is."

"Will do."

"Failing that, don't come back until you've had at least six hours' straight sleep. You look like shit."

"Back at you, mother dear."

Rude threw Reno one of his looks. "Maxx will be in to relieve me soon, then I plan to go into that room and snore for at least that long. If I see you back here in the next twenty-four I'll throw you out on your arse."

"Fine. Don't keep everyone else up. Your snoring could wake the dead."

"Bite me," Rude said congenially.

"You first," Reno said as he left.

Dallas' unit was right next door to Reno and Rude's, and Reno pounded on the door for longer than he liked before Dallas answered. She opened the door only slightly. "Go away, Reno," she said. "I don't need cheering up."

Reno frowned. She looked paler than usual. He'd expected, maybe, reddened eyes or crying, but there was neither. She simply looked sick. "I'm not stupid enough to try that, Dal. I just want to see how you're doing."

"I'm fine." She went to close the door, but Reno, surprised, shoved his boot in the way.

"Dal, c'mon. I don't want to leave you alone. Not tonight."

She smiled wanly, but it didn't reach her eyes. "I appreciate it, really. But don't worry. I'll brood, I'll cry, and then I'll sleep, and by tomorrow I'll be all Turk again, ready to carry on like nothing's happened."

Reno swallowed the lump in his throat. "Dal."

"I really do want to be on my own for a bit. If I change my mind, I will come over. I promise."

Reno wanted to argue with her, but he knew better. "Do," he said. "Or I'll worry."

"Don't expect me, though. I'm really tired and I want to get to the sleeping part of that equation as soon as possible."

Reno nodded. "Okay, hint taken." He gave up and let himself into his unit. He didn't bother turning on the light: there was enough light from the mako reactors to see by and he planned to tke Rude's advice and go straight to bed anyhow.

He stripped off his shirt and boots slowly and fell into bed without bothering with anything else, lying on top of the covers.

Gods, Dallas. Don't try to do this on your own.

He must've dozed for a while, because he was woken by a knock on the door. Reno glanced at his clock: almost eleven. Yep, he'd been asleep for an hour or so. It had to be Dallas, at this hour. He jumped up, glad that his sister'd seen some sense and decided to welcome some company.

But it wasn't Dallas. It was Raith, and his face looked... Reno didn't know. Serious, like... "What's gone wrong?"

"Apart from the entire day? Nothing. I just... we just..." Raith stopped for a moment, his eyes grazing down to Reno's stomach, then back up again. He bit his lower lip briefly. "We need to talk."

Reno felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. "This is really not a good time," he said warily.

Raith glanced into the room. "Is Rude here?"


"When will he be back?"

"Won't be."

"Then it's a good time."

"You don't get to decide that."

Raith swallowed. "You're right. Look, I'll go if you want."

Reno was silent, unsure what the hells he wanted.

"Do you want me to go? Or can I come in?"

"Depends on why you're here," Reno said. "So, uh, exactly why are you here?" Wouldn't be to reject me again, would it? Cos I've had enough of being told exactly how 'bad' I am for you, thanks anyway. Yet, he moved so Raith could enter the room, backing away so he was near the opposite wall to the door.

Raith closed the door behind him and came a little further into the room, facing Reno. "This friends thing isn't working, is it."

You have that right. "I don't know what you mean, Raith."

He swallowed. "Seems to me that it isn't what you actually want."

"Really," Reno said flatly. "Why do you say that?"

Raith hesitated before he spoke further. "Truth be told, it's not what I want, either."

Holy fuck, make up your mind. If you don't want anything to do with me, just fucking say so. "'Either'. Don't pretend to be an expert on what I want, Raith. As for you, you told me that's what you wanted. A few times."

"Okay. Yeah. I know." Raith bit a fingernail. "Thing is, I've been thinking about what you said."

"I've said a lot of things," Reno said more casually than he felt. "Narrow it down."

"Cosmo Canyon. Water under the bridge."

Reno frowned. Gods. He was not in the mood for this crap. "Yeah. I didn't say that. You said you didn't want to discuss us, or our past or anything else again. Is that what you mean?"

The wall dropped in behind Raith's eyes. "Semantics," he said. He frowned, then, and opened his mouth to speak, before shutting it again.

Come here to make me feel like I'm shit to you again and then blank on me? "Look, Raith, say what you have to say or leave, wouldja? It's been a shitty day." Leave, would be good. Preferably before I 'misunderstand' you yet again.

"Why're you being so pissy?" Raith sounded confused.


"Are. Why?"

Reno ground his teeth together. "You got what you wanted, 'kay? You said not to talk about it again and I haven't. So, what's the complaint? Out with it then, I'm sure there's somethin'. Something wrong with me. Always is."

Now, Raith looked confused. "What the hells, Reno."

Reno ran a hand over his face. The events of the day were seriously catching up with him. His sister was devastated by Zack's death and wouldn't let him console her; there was one. And he'd liked Zack. And Cloud; Reno'd betrayed Shin-Ra to keep him from the same fate--not that it matters, Reno thought. What are they going to do, order me to die twice? Well, good fucking luck to them. Leaving the poor kid--man, now, Reno supposed--on his own, to fend for himself, when he was barely able to stand, was causing him no end of unrest, too. Cloud deserved better, considering.

And now, this--this Raith, who Reno'd spent he didn't know how many stupid hours since Cosmo--since before Cosmo--trying to work out of his system, who'd left him, and rejected him, and spent the intervening year making it real clear he wanted nothing to do with Reno any more that way, y'know, apart from the occasional moment when he was just fucking confusing, was here to--what? Gloat? "What the fuck do you want from me? Penance? Fine. I'm sorry, okay? Now will you just piss off?"

"Sorry?" Raith's eyes narrowed. "For what, exactly? Do you even know what you're apologising for?"

"Yeah, Raith. I get it, okay? Back at Corneo's, I rejected you for a year, played games at your expense, and you waited until you got me involved enough with ya and could get a chance for some payback. Well, paid back, plus some. Isn't it enough for you yet?"

"You really think that's what's been going on here?" Raith's voice was calm, his face very still, but Reno could hear his underlying irritation. "You think I waited around for you to lie to me about how you felt just so I could get back at you for some stupid kid stuff I thought we already sorted a long time before that? You really think so little of me that you believe I'd do that."

Lie? About how he felt? Huh? Reno ground his teeth together. "I did not lie to you."

Raith's eyes flashed. "I'll bet you one fine-arsed beefy bald Turk that ain't true."

"I did not lie to you about how I felt. Not once, then or since!" Reno couldn't be bothered with the effort it took not to raise his voice. Frankly, was glad to give the sentiment some air, finally, instead of the constant mollycoddling. "Although maybe I should've, huh. You certainly tired of me quick enough soon as I said anythin'. Maybe you needed to be kept in the dark."

"Kept in the dark?" Raith's face was tense. "You have no fucking idea what you're talking about. I already know what it is to be kept in the dark, you selfish--"

"Selfish? What? How is that selfish? I told you I loved you and soon as you got a chance, next fucking day, you left me."

"I didn't 'leave' you!"

"No? Well, you coulda fooled me. Then again, maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe you were around and I was just blind, deaf and stupid. Oh, look, I shoulda seen the dancing invisible Raith who didn't really take off just like every other fucking person in my life I ever cared a chocobo shit about!"

"What, I'm supposed to believe you gave a chocobo shit about where I was? You didn't even try to find me!"

"I did! We found your damned fake ID card, and your cold trails--"


"Dallas and me. Then I got your 'goodbye' message."

"'Goodbye' message? What the in the blue fucking hells are you talking about?"

"Don't even try it, Raith. Corneo, remember? Dallas and I went to fucking Mideel to look for you. And then you 'suddenly' turn up--the next time I do see you, you're lip locking with Sherin, who's from Mideel--and by the way, just happened to be the person who suggested you be hired. Gods of Wutai, what was I supposed to think?"

"Nothing! I wasn't ever in Mideel."

"I didn't know that!"

"I know you didn't know that. That's what I'm trying to say, if you'd fucking shut up for five fucking seconds!"


"Rude told me."

What? What did Rude have to do with this? "So where were you, then, bigshot?"

"Don Corneo had me."

Reno stopped short at that. "What?"

Raith continued on, though, like he hadn't heard Reno. "Besides, you're one to talk, you piece of fucking work. Soon as I was gone, soon as Rude was around again, you took about five seconds to completely forget about me in your rush to--"

All thought of Corneo went by the wayside. "Rude? Rude is my partner, no more." Well, that was mostly true.

"You 'coulda fooled me'. And then you even manage to cheat on him, this love of your life who was, y'know, dead."

Cheat? On his what of his who? "Seriously, what?"

"Katelyn? Costa Del Sol? Ring any bells?"

Reno rolled his eyes. "Sure does, but how is that relevant? I wasn't doing Rude, so how could I've been cheating on him? Or anyone, for that matter? You'd been done with me well before that, made that clear with your, y'know, not really leaving thing. So me equalled single, hello. So forgive me if I spent some time with the one fucking person on that boat who didn't make me feel like I was some sort of untouchable freak, and who, by the by, moved on me."

"Wasn't doing Rude," Raith said flatly.

"Not then, not now." Reno left out the night of Felice's death. That had been just another heart-wrenching stupid mistake. It didn't count. Rude'd made that abundantly clear, just as Raith'd made it clear he didn't want Reno, either. "And no one else after you until Katelyn, either, for the record, not that it's any of your damned business."

"You really expect me to believe that you, of all people, kept your dick in your pants for over a year with your old boyfriend in town."

"You can believe what you bloody well want. From you to Katey, no one. At all." Reno couldn't believe Raith's stupidity. How dare he accuse Reno of cheating on him when Raith'd been the one who'd been kissing Sherin? "And Rude is not, and never has been, my 'boyfriend'. What are you, still in kiddie school? Give me some fucking credit." Reno knew his mouth had truly followed his temper into absurdity, then, and he no longer cared. He was sick of pussyfooting around Raith just to make him feel better. It was too much, that accusation, especially considering the irony was that Reno had, in fact, been completely faithful, that year, right until Reno knew he'd been done with--and by all appearances Raith hadn't been. "I mean, why would I've been screwing Rude back then when I want--wanted you?"

"Oh, bullshit, Reno!"

"Forget you, you said. Forget you?" Fuck it, why couldn't Raith see? Why was he going to force Reno to admit it, when it was clear that Raith didn't even give a crap? "You want me to humiliate myself completely now? Fine, then. Here's the five-gods-fucking truth. I never forgot you, not at all. I spent every day that year you were gone missing you so bad I couldn't breathe most days. I'd go back to that fucking empty apartment just so I could remember what it was like to be closer to you! The day I heard that you were not actually dead was the best day I'd had all year, right up to the moment that I realised that meant you had left me after all. I loved you before, I loved you then, and I still love you now, Raith! I never stopped! I couldn't if I tried, and I have fucking tried! There! Happy now?"

"Is that right?" Raith shouted.


"You're not just messing with me?"


"Well, shit, Reno, I still love you too!"

"Then why the fuck are we fighting?" Reno yelled.

"I don't know!" Raith yelled back. "That wasn't what I came here for! I was going to say I've been too messed up without you, I made a fucking stupid mistake at Cosmo and I wanted to go back to bein' us!"



"Well, there's no need to be so--so damned cheesy about it!" Reno's words hung in the air for the space of a heartbeat as they looked at each other, eyes locked.

Raith's face was belligerent, probably a mirror of Reno's own, then it softened... and the wall dropped.

Reno cleared his throat. "Right," he said in his normal voice.

"Right," Raith repeated, also in his normal voice.

"I, um..."

"Yeah. Me too."

They continued looking at each other for a moment longer. Reno felt frozen to the spot, and he searched Raith's face, not sure what to do, or say, next. What the hells are you waiting for?

"You told me never to touch you again," Raith said, his voice barely above a whisper. "It's gotta be... your choice."

"I did, didn't I," Reno said. "So. Um. So, I, uh..." he tried, then swallowed. "Guess you'd better kiss me then."

"Gods, I thought you'd never ask," Raith said in a rush, closing the space between them with three strides, meeting Reno's mouth with his own.

His momentum carried them further and Reno's breath escaped his lungs as he hit the wall. His elbow knocked into a shelf and the contents spilled onto the floor with a crash, but he didn't care. He pulled Raith's head away from him with both hands so he could take a breath, then dove right back in there, drinking in Raith's mouth and teeth and tongue, the feel of him both comfortably familiar and at the same time strange, delicious and dangerous.

Holy... gods... Raith's mouth tasted like peppermints, just like he'd smelled like the first time he'd trapped Reno against the wall back at school... except, this time, Reno was all too happy to be right where he was, not trapped, just wanted.

"Sorry 'bout that," Raith said between kisses. "You okay?"

"Long as you're kissin' me, nothing will ever be wrong."

"Oh, Reno," Raith murmured, like a sigh, then he moved so he could look Reno in the eye. His eyes were hooded, but amused. "That's damned cheesy."

Reno smirked. "I said that out loud?"

"'Fraid so," Raith said, nibbling at Reno's throat.

"Good." Reno tipped his head back, clutching the back of Raith's neck with one hand. "Cos cheesy or not, it's true."

Raith took a deep, shuddering breath, then rested his forehead on Reno's shoulder, his hands on Reno's hips, a thumb hooked under Reno's belt. "I know it," he said in a low voice. He drew back and looked Reno in the eye. "Can I stay?" he said, quietly, as if he thought Reno would say no.

Gods yes, Reno thought, lost in the violet-grey of Raith's eyes. Who had eyes that colour? And how could he spend the rest of forever being able to look at them? He let go of Raith's neck, running his fingers down Raith's face, before leaning forward and kissing him again, unable to stop a small moan escaping his throat as Raith responded, teasing Reno's lips with his teeth, wrapping his arms around Reno's waist.

Shit, but he felt good; tasted good; smelled good... the years of being nothing, nobody, fell away and it was like no time had passed. It was the same. Raith's touch, fingertips stroking the bare skin of Reno's back, still made Reno go weak at the knees. It still terrified and comforted him, all at once. The man was still so damned hot he'd make the burning aura of Ifrit feel like icy Shiva in comparison. And Reno still had no defence against that.

"Reno," Raith mumbled between kisses.


"Is that a--gods--a yes?"

"Didn't I already say?"

"Mm... no."

Reno spent a few more moments exploring Raith's mouth with his own, running the flats of his palms up Raith's sides and turning them both so that Raith's back was to the wall before he answered. "Babe, that's a fuck, yes," he said, struggling with a button before giving up on it and just tearing open Raith's shirt. He blinked as a button hit him on the cheek, then grinned. "Think I've ruined your shirt?" he said into Raith's ear, kissing along Raith's jaw, his senses pretty close to hitting overload.

Raith's hands were busy at Reno's belt, his breathing fast and heavy. "Who cares? I just want... holy crap, Reno, when did you stop wearing underwear?"

Reno couldn't answer in that exact moment, because he was too busy trying to keep his mind off the fact he hadn't been with anyone since before Raith went into his coma. He just hadn't had the desire.

Now, he was nothing but desire itself, reaching for what he wanted, taking what he wanted, giving to what he wanted, to who he wanted... and being wanted. It filled him, and all he could do was give in to it, the the smell and sound of it... to Raith.

Did he drag Raith to his bedroom or was it the other way around? He couldn't tell. Maybe it was both. It didn't matter. All that mattered, as they clung to each other, hip pressed to hip, driving each other to climax, was he didn't leave me. He didn't... leave... me. Oh, gods, Raith...

Reno was lost, done for, and he knew it. And he didn't fucking care.


Raith rolled onto his stomach, hugging his pillow as he looked at Reno. "That was kinda intense. And went by way too quick."

"Ladies and gentlemen, meet tonight's Master of Understatement," Reno said, turning the corner of his mouth up. "Next time, we'll take it slower. Just give me fifteen minutes or so."

"Heh. I'll only need ten." Raith mirrored the smile right back at him. "Man, I've missed that."


"That 'please fuck me now' smirk you do."

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," Reno deadpanned, before he smiled again.

"Sure you don't," Raith teased. Then he yawned. "Gods, sorry. Don't know where that came from."

Reno shifted so he could tuck his feet in with Raith's. "Been a long day."

"Yeah." Raith looked at him soberly, stifling another yawn. "So much I wanna say to you right now I don't know where to start."

"Yeah. Same." Reno ran his fingers over Raith's face so Raith'd close his eyes, which he did, with a deep sigh. "You're tired. Don't reckon now's any time to be startin' any discussion that could be arguin' later."

"Don't reckon we'd need to argue now," Raith murmured, but he didn't open his eyes. "I feel all relaxed and stuff, for some reason. Maybe cos of the mess you just made of me."

"Probably more to do with the mess you just made of me." Reno moved his caress down Raith's face, over his shoulders and down his spine. He stopped short, then, and frowned. He'd expected to feel the smooth skin he'd been used to years earlier, but it wasn't smooth, not at all. Instead, Reno could feel slight hills and divets, bumps that'd not been there before.

He sat up and switched on the dim lamp next to the bed, then looked down at Raith's back. It was crisscrossed with long scars, mostly thin, like whip marks, some more like something Reno couldn't even identify, irregular, maybe knife cuts. "Five fucking Gods," he choked out, tracing the old scar tissue with his fingers. "Who did this to you?"

"Corneo, mostly," Raith said, eyes drooping as he edged sleep. "Him, or by his orders."

The impact of what had been meant by Raith when he'd said "Corneo had me" hit Reno, full force, then, with nauseating clarity. The dungeon. Raith had been in Corneo's dungeon? Holy bloody five shitty gods in the thirteen fucking Hells. Raith had been tortured. He'd been--

Raith had been tortured, and Reno'd thought Raith had just left, that he'd run off, ended up with Sherin... Buzz. Reno finally understood why Raith had killed Buzz in his first year as a Turk. He understood, now, what was behind some of Raith's shut-down. Reno knew what Buzz was like. Fucking sadistic animal. Corneo had always called him in whenever he wanted someone raped--Oh, gods. Like Stork hadn't been enough for one lifetime. But Stork'd just been domineering and inconsiderate. This... this was something else. Oh gods. "How long?"

"Long enough," Raith said, like it didn't matter. His eyes opened again.

"How did you get out?"

"Shin-Ra pulled me out. Rude, in fact." Reno put out a lazy hand, running the back of it down Reno's stomach. "C'mere."

What? Rude knew where Raith had been, and hadn't said anything, not once in six fucking years? What? And Corneo... No. No. No. "No." Cold anger settled into Reno's gut, forcing any other thought, any other feeling out of his head, but to act. He started to drag himself out of bed.

"Where are you going?" Raith said, now fully alert.

"Don Corneo is a dead man," Reno growled. "As of about the moment he let anyone touch you. He just doesn't know it yet. I figure to educate him."

Raith caught Reno's wrist just before Reno was out of his reach. "Don't."

"Don't? No fucking way. When I'm finished with him, he'll be sorry he--"

"Reno. Please." Raith's voice was very quiet. No pleading. Just calm, still. "Stay. Everything else can wait."

"But I have to do something, here. He can't just--"

"Seriously? It's not worth it. But even if it was, Corneo can be just as dead tomorrow as he can tonight." He pulled Reno back towards him, gently, but firmly.

Reno resisted, his mind a confused turmoil of emotion as the anger started to slip away. Raith, like that? Raith, going through that? It didn't bear thinking about. "But I have to."


"Because it's my fault." The words escaped Reno in a rush, and he couldn't think. Gods. His chest would sieze at this rate, it hurt so much. "I should've looked harder for you. I should've believed that you could never-- I should've--" His voice choked up.

Without letting go of Reno's wrist, Raith swung his legs around so he was sitting up, facing Reno. "No. Fuck, no. Things were as they were. Shit, I blamed myself for a long time. Why didn't I stay in bed with you that day? Why didn't I tell you what I was thinking? Then I blamed you: why didn't you find me, why didn't you come and get me?" He reached out and grasped the back of Reno's neck, his face intent. "Thing is, fact is, it was only by a twist of fate we weren't both in there. Different twist of fate, and Braden woulda picked up both of us instead." He stood, and drew Reno to him, and this time Reno didn't resist. "I tried revenge for a bit. Didn't help a whole lot. Do you know who's to blame for Don Corneo's actions? Don Corneo. He did it. I didn't. You didn't. That's all. I'm done, I'm over it, and I don't want to waste time on him. Cos we have a whole lot of our own wasted time to make up for, right?"

Reno nodded slowly, not really understanding some of what Raith was saying, like... stay in bed what day? "But--"

"It's my decision." There was that still voice again, Raith's breath on Reno's cheek, skittering down Reno's neck.

Reno swallowed. "I know. Just... the thought of-- what you had to-- someone has to pay for that. Someone has to answer for it. Corneo must answer for it. I need to do something, Raith."

"Can. Be here, with me." Raith wrapped his spare arm around Reno's shoulders, still holding onto Reno's wrist with the other, not painfully. He nuzzled Reno's neck then, gently at first, kissing, then biting firmly, like he was marking Reno for his own. "Cos I ain't gonna settle for anything less than forever this time, 'kay?"

"Forever sounds good," Reno said, closing his eyes and holding Raith as close as he practicably could, trying to focus away from his head; the thought of what Raith'd gone through... his own guilt. Trying to focus on Raith, on what Raith wanted.

But, Reno couldn't. He'd stood there, in Corneo's Mansion, while Raith was under his own feet, within arm's reach, almost, and he had believed Corneo and walked away. Just... walked away. It had been left to Rude, of all people, to pull Raith out of there almost a full fucking year later. An extra year, when if Reno had been more persistant, and insisted he search the Mansion, or something... and Reno had thought Raith'd run off and--hells. Hells. Hells. Fucking hells. Why didn't he tell me?he thought, a thought immediately followed up by the answer: Cos you didn't give him a chance to, shithead.

"Reno, what... you're shaking," Raith said, letting go of Reno's wrist and tightening his arms across Reno's shoulders.

Reno's hand, released, found its way into the hair at the back of Raith's neck, and buried itself there, tight, like it wasn't ever going to let go. "I'm sorry," he murmured, resting his temple against Raith's. How could he have been so selfish, so fucking blind? Selfish... Raith knew what it was to be kept in the dark. Oh, g-gods. "I'm sorry," he repeated, knowing his voice was breaking up and his cheeks were getting wet, and not caring, cos if you couldn't cry for the full-on suffering of someone you loved, what use was a heart anyway? "I'm so sorry, Raith."

Raith sighed again, his eyelashes brushing against Reno's cheek as he closed his eyes. "Say that again."

"I'm sorry."

"No... no. My name. Like that. Just like you love me."

"I do love you."

"See... that's all I need, right there. Better'n a thousand unnecessary apologies."

Reno turned his head so he could kiss along Raith's jaw, tasting the salt of his own tears. "I love you. I really do. And I am fucking sorry."

"Like I said, I'm over it. I don't want you hurtin' on my account, Reno. Please don't. Please don't."

"Can't help it," Reno said simply.

"I don't understand," Raith said.

Reno pulled back and looked Raith in the eye. "What don't you understand? You hurt, so do I."

"Actually, I do understand that, cos I feel the same way." Raith's eyes were soft as he wiped a thumb across Reno's cheekbone. "What I mean is, Braden said... uh, well. He told me you spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was down. How is this the first time you've seen my naked back?"

Oh. Okay. "I always left the room if anything needed to be done that involved removing any of your clothes."


Reno's face grew hot. "Cos hangin' around wasn't really the thing to do, y'know, things bein' how they were. I didn't have any right to be invading your privacy."

The corner of Raith's mouth turned up shyly. "I love you, Reno," he said in a low voice. "Come back to bed."

"Get some sleep, or something, huh."

Raith ran his thumb across Reno's other cheek. "Or something."

"Thought you were tired," Reno said, raising an eyebrow.

"Hm." Raith smiled again, drawing Reno back into bed with him. "Remember how we used to make out for hours and talk when we were so tired we couldn't sleep?"

Reno curled an arm around Raith's waist. "Part of what I loved best about bein' with you."

"And here I was thought you were with me for my good looks," Raith teased, brushing a knuckle down Reno's stomach, sending pleasurable jolts into Reno's legs.

"Oh, yeah, well, those too," Reno said lightly, mimicking Raith's movement until his fingertips tickled that happy trail he liked so much. "I mean, you're not as pretty as, say, Braden or, y'know, me, but you'll do."

Raith chuckled. "Someone's got a big head."

Reno moved his hand slightly lower. "Mm-hm. I'm not the only one," he said archly.

Raith dropped his head and nibbled along Reno's collarbone, rocking into Reno's palm. "You've always been good for my, uh, confidence," he murmured. He stopped kissing Reno then. "You really didn't forget me for Rude, huh," he said, his tone serious.

"I really didn't." Reno rolled Raith onto his back, running his hands along both of Raith's arms so that he was holding Raith's wrists, one in either hand, looking down into his eyes--eyes that looked... panicky. Reno frowned. Raith's breathing was too fast, and not from passion, either, and Raith didn't even seem aware of that. What? Why?

Then Reno realised... Buzz. Things weren't the same, and whether Raith could admit it or not; or even knew it or not, he wasn't "over it" at all, especially now the first flush of lust had passed and Raith had time to think as they went. Reno knew Buzz'd liked shackles. And violence.

Don't pin him down. Give Raith control. Without breaking eye contact, Reno moved his hands so Raith's were free and slid backwards, drawing Raith with him, lying on his side, Reno's head on Raith's arm, so Reno was looking up at him. Reno drew his nose along Raith's cheek, and kissed him softly until Raith's shoulders relaxed, not really sure what to do next. He had no idea, at all, how to make this better.

Raith'd mentioned Rude, earlier, as well, the love of your life who was, y'know, dead. Was still on his mind. Okay. Tell him the truth, for a start. "Raith," he murmured.

"What's wrong?" He looked puzzled.

Reno grazed his fingertips along Raith's face. "What I said, back then. About Rude being dead," he said, running his fingers down Raith's neck and over his collar bone. "I'd... like to explain why, if you're willing to hear it."

Raith swallowed, then allowed his hand to rest on Reno's hip. "Okay."

Gods. Where to start. "I said Rude was not ever my boyfriend, and he wasn't," Reno said, using the back of his hand to stroke Raith's arm. Mm. Goosebumps, he thought as Raith shivered. "He was, however, my best friend, or so I thought. I told you back then that he stopped Stork from killin' me?"

Raith nodded.

"Well, Felice took me in and that was that. I lived there for a fair while before Rude killed Krane."

"I saw the end result."

Reno's fingers continued to trace the line of Raith's arm. "Yeah, you told me. So you can guess how out of it he was--and no Kandy, neither. I figured he knew I had his back, but then he just--left. Never heard from him again until I joined Shin-Ra. Fact was, he couldn't contact us, but I didn't know that at the time. Real fact is, that didn't change that he just... left, and he could've contacted us before he was in a position not to be able to, but he chose not to, for whatever reason I still don't know." He swallowed, hard.

Raith's fingertips massaged Reno's hip lightly, methodically. "There's more to it, isn't there. I remember how you were."

"Yeah." Reno's hand worked its way back up Raith's arm and then down his back, until it was resting on Raith's hip, in imitation of Raith's hand on his own. How to say the next bit... "Complication was... I'd be lying if I said I didn't have feelings for Rude, and the night before Krane was killed, there was one... um... encounter. Just that one." He grimaced. "Rude likes to pretend it never happened. And started pretending it didn't happen just after it did."

"Ah." Raith leaned forward and kissed him lightly. "But you were more invested. You loved him?"

"Um. Yeah, I thought so, at the time. So..." Reno frowned. How could he put this without sounding like a whiny twit?

"He left you and you didn't know why, and it hurt you," Raith said quietly.

That would do it. "Pretty much." He dragged his forefinger down Raith's hip, towards his groin, watching as Raith's eyelids fluttered shut before those eyes met Reno's again. "Half of my crappy stuff with being an arsehole to you back then was runnin' from that, y'know? I didn't want to go to the whole feelings thing again. Kinda smarts when it goes pear-shaped."

Raith's wry grin of agreement summed up the irony of that statement for both of them.

"Yeah. When you asked about him, I'd was kinda... I was freaking myself out with what I was feeling with you, and I just..."

"Didn't want to talk about it, as you said. And I didn't listen; pushed you too hard, too quick."

Reno gave Raith an apologetic look to try and buffer the next word. "Yeah. And it just came out. It didn't even occur to me that it would be an issue, cos by then I'd started to think maybe he was dead. I mean, even when Ma was sick, dyin', he never showed, and it'd been more'n just a couple of weeks, y'know?" He moved the forefinger up Raith's side again, slowly, then back down towards Raith's groin, smiling to himself as Raith fisted Reno's hip in response. "Then that last day before--" he swallowed. "Before Turks. Remember I got my face belted at Seisin's?"

Raith nodded.

"That was, I later found out, some kinda test Tseng set up. And I thought I saw Rude--or someone who looked a lot like him, and I realised the next day that if he was actually alive, and around, then what had actually been an almost flippant brush-off when you'n me'd just started, one I'd almost forgotten about, was actually, given the new circumstances, a more serious lie. I tried to call you, Raith, I did, but my message went to voicemail, and I never got to tell you before--" he swallowed again, his gut churning.

Raith nodded slowly. "Really wish I'd stayed home that day." His mouth met Reno's again, more fervently this time. "So what about Felice?"

"The only thing I was really keeping from her about Rude was that her best son was definitely a murderer, and that I knew he was alive--at least, that he hadn't died with Krane. I didn't know, for sure, after that. But I couldn't tell her, y'know? Rude didn't trust either of us enough to tell us what'd happened, where he'd been--even when he was back in Midgar, a Turk, I had to convince him to go home. He'd been in the city months before that day. He just... I dunno. Maybe he just didn't care." Reno untangled his legs so he could press his erection against Raith's, kissing Raith from windpipe to jawline, the feel of him acting like a soothing balm on Reno's raw emotions.

Raith frowned. "I really doubt that's true, Reno."

"Maybe." That was a strange thing for Raith to say, though. "Why?"

Raith was quiet for a moment. "Reno, you're one of those people who... I dunno. You affect people around you just by being who you are. No trying. You were like that back in school, and it hasn't changed any, so far as I can tell." He kissed Reno again. "And once someone's decided they like you, well... call me biased, but there ain't no coming back from that."

Reno remembered Monik saying something similar when Raith was in his coma. Raith was just probably repeating. He didn't argue, though. He was too busy enjoying the feel of Raith against him, the knowing that he'd finally been able to say what he should've said years before... and that Raith wasn't leaving.

"So... 'new circumstances'," Raith murmured, trailing his hand over Reno's back. "What did you mean by that?"

"Yeah. Um. When I went from merely bein' crazy in love with you to actually realising I was."

"So... how long did that take, then?" Raith nuzzled Reno's neck playfully. "Gods, you smell good."

Reno smiled. "I'm still not really sure. I've always been dense that way. Definitely by that night I was drunk. Probably before." He pressed his hips closer to Raith's, savouring the sensation that crept into his stomach and legs and groin. "Truth be known, I kinda wonder what would've happened if Stevens hadn't interrupted that day."

"Heh. Taken much further I imagine I would've got my face smacked in again. Or, you would've tried, at least," Raith added with a grin.

"Dunno. Might be hindsight, or how I feel now clouding my judgement, but I reckon if you'd tried kissin' me, I woulda gone for that ride." But then... there would've been no Rude. He shut that thought down, quickly. "Or maybe if you'd gone with the neck... kinda like you are now... shit, that drives me nuts."

"Mm. Really?"

"Gets me right in the gut. Never fails."

"Hm, wish I had tried that now." Raith drew back and looked Reno in the eye, his eyebrow raised and a grin on his face. "Wouldn't that have been the talk of the school?"

Reno smirked at the thought. "Heh. Gods, yes. Interesting, though." He sighed contentedly, drawing the covers up over them both. Raith looked a lot more relaxed. "Anyway, that was why. Carelessness. I didn't mean to actually lie. But I hurt you with it, and I'm sorry."

Raith tucked his bottom arm against Reno's chest and used his other hand to stroke Reno's fingers. "Y'know? I think I hurt myself with it. I came to Turks that first day, saw Rude and mind fucked myself to the wrong conclusions, when what I should've done was ask you about it, and so I'm sorry. Cos I didn't. I just got shitty instead."

Reno shook his head. "Given what you really went through--" he had to swallow, again, to bring rising anger under control-- "given what information you had, given how I acted during Basic... no. I'm sorry."

"No. I'm-- okay, what can I do to stop you from apologising?"

"Only one way to stop my mouth, what with that short attention span of mine. Keep it busy with other things."

"Hm-mm," Raith agreed, his hips moving against Reno's. "Y'know, I like your mouth."


"Hm," Raith said, tracing Reno's palm with a forefinger. "No. I take it back. I love your mouth."

"I'm kinda fond of your eyebrows."


"Oh yeah. They make me want to..." Reno drew his finger along Raith's brow... "and that takes me..." further, down Raith's face to his throat... "to here..." tracing further, along Raith's collarbone and along his arm, then back up his arm again and down, across to Raith's chest, following the centre of Raith's body down his stomach... "to my favourite spot of all." His hand came to a stop below Raith's navel. "Y'know, I could do that all night."

Raith groaned lightly. "I could stand for you to do that all night."

Reno traced Raith's eyebrow again, but this time his hand ended up resting in the cleft of Raith's butt. "Different trail, this time."

"Yeah. Same result."

Reno repeated the motion, but this time Raith captured his hand. "Maybe I can't stand it," he said wryly, "speaking of being driven nuts..." He ran his tongue along Reno's jaw. "I need you so fucking much right now..."

"Couldn't be as much as I need you."


"Mm-hm. Face it, Raith. You're damned attractive."

"Uh-huh," Raith said, letting go of Reno's hand and wrapping that arm around him. "I know. Apparently I got it from my mother."

"And made it all yours."

Raith kissed Reno deeply. "All yours."


"Mm. I like cheese."

"I like you," Reno murmured, kissing along Raith's windpipe again, digging a hand into Raith's lower back. Closer.

"You're pretty damned talented youself, you know." Raith's voice was little more than an ardent groan.

Reno rolled onto his back, drawing Raith with him, hooking his lower leg over Raith's. "I've got a lot of inspiration."

Raith leaned on one hand so he could look down at Reno. "What's that?"

"You ask like you don't know," Reno said cheekily.

"Pretend I don't."

Reno looked up into Raith's face. His tone was light, but there was something... Reno didn't know what it was, but he wanted to make sure Raith knew. "I love you, babe. I really do."

Raith grinned crookedly. "I know." His smile faded, then, and he buried his face in Reno's neck. "I love you, too, Pony Boy."

Reno nibbled on Raith's ear. "Prove it."

"What did you have in mind?" Raith said, his voice muffled.

"Inspire me," Reno murmured.

Raith shifted slightly and ran the flat of his hand down Reno's stomach until he reached Reno's groin, and stroked it firmly. "You feel pretty damned inspired to me."

Reno looked at him again, then slowly, deliberately, turned the corner of his mouth up.

Raith's response was immediate and fierce. "Holy fucking gods, Reno..." he said, his voice husky, eyes intense. "You are just--I--fuck." He tucked both arms under Reno's and drew Reno up with him, dragging urgent fingers across tingling skin.

Reno wrapped his arms around Raith's shoulders and settled himself across Raith's lap, bending his head so he could whisper into Raith's ear. "I am yours, y'know," he said, returning Raith's kisses with equal ferocity, groaning as Raith tightened an arm around Reno's waist, an action that pressed their bodies as close as they could be. "You got that?"

"Message received, loud and clear," Raith said, his breath coming in thready gasps. "'Please fuck me now', right?"


Raith groaned again. "Got a spare potion or something then? Cos I ain't got the control to be too gentle right now and my jacket's in the other room."

Reno did, although moving away from Raith to reach for it was something he did reluctantly, because Reno wanted his touch and losing it, even for a few seconds... unacceptable. And Raith... Raith acted like he needed Reno, like... he was stroking Reno in earnest, now, his fingers curled under Renos balls; seeking, exploring, pressing Reno into depths of want he'd forgotten he could feel, heightened by Raith's primal groans, a sound which told Reno yes, he wants me... yes, he feels just like I do... "Raith."

Gods. How could he get closer? How could Raith be any closer than right inside? How could Reno breathe him in nearer? How could... how could... Raith, don't you leave me again.

"Reno. Reno."


Don't you leave me again... Reno woke with a start, his hand tightening on Raith's shoulder. On... Raith's shoulder. Raith moved in his sleep, rolling onto his side and snaking an arm around Reno's waist.

Reno relaxed, then. Still there. Not going anywhere. Okay, he thought. Back to sleep. He closed his eyes, but his stomach growled loudly, reminding Reno he hadn't eaten a whole lot all day. Carefully, trying not to wake Raith, he got out of bed, intending to go feed his face.

"Where're you going?" Raith murmured sleepily, opening an eye.

"Kitchen," Reno said. "Hungry."

"Mornin' arready?"

"Not even close," Reno said. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."

"Mm-ngh." Raith rolled onto his stomach, hugging his pillow, and within moments, looked asleep again.

Reno watched him. Gods, but he was... just... How is he mine? His eyes ran over Raith's face, focussing on where his hair curled around the back of his neck, then back up along his jaw. The thought of being away from him, even for the time it would take to grab a snack, suddenly felt unbearable.

Man, I am in deep fucking trouble, he thought. He knew it could be a mistake, getting in this deep, so quick, again, but he just... there was no going back, now. Reno's heart wasn't his any more; the man sleeping in his bed owned it. He climbed back in, sliding until he was lying on his side, curling against Raith, his hand on Raith's back.

Raith rolled backwards, out from under Reno's hand, but then moved back so his head rested against Reno's chest, his arm crooked around Reno's back in a wholly familiar way. He took a deep breath and let it out again. Reno wrapped his free arm around Raith, and smiled as Raith relaxed against him. Yep. Trouble, he thought, as he finally fell asleep.


Reno wasn't sure what woke him, this time. He thought it was a voice... someone was calling him? Raith? He opened his eyes. Faded light peeked through the window, must've been just before dawn, just as the lights of Midgar were waning but the sun hadn't reached above the horizon yet.

"Reno." Raith's voice was barely above a whisper; he was still asleep.

Lying close, Reno watched Raith's face, the tightening around his eyes, furrow in his brow, and kept his hands still, resisting the urge to wake him. You didn't remember nightmares if you could sleep through them.

Raith's eyes opened, however, gazing into Reno's, distantly, seeking him from somewhere between dream and reality. Then he blinked. "Reno?" he said quietly. "Are you real?"

Reno gave in to the urge to soothe, running his fingers over the side of Raith's face. "Yeah. I'm here. 'Sokay." He watched his thumb as he caressed Raith's lower lip, then rested his hand on Raith's chest. "Bad dream?"

Raith nodded. "Haven't had one of those in a while."

"Tell me." Reno met his eyes again.

Raith looked embarrassed. "No, it's fine, really."

Reno chewed his cheek for a moment, then lifted his hand to play with the hair at the nape of Raith's neck. "I wasn't there for you when I should've been, Raith," he said quietly. "Wish you'd let me be now."

"Might hurt you."

"Screw that. Tell me."

"It's one I used to have all the time, when--" he stopped. "After." He bit his lip. "Chasin' after you, and you're always just outta reach." He shrugged. "Just then, when I woke up, thought I was dreaming again." He grimaced. "Sorry, that sounds stupid."

Yeah. That left a nasty sensation in the pit of Reno's stomach, probably guilt, he reckoned. He lifted himself up on one elbow, resting his head in his hand, and ran his other hand down Raith's arm. "Ain't dreaming now."

Raith smiled crookedly. "Apparently not."

"Curious," Reno said, shifting so he could lean his forehead on Raith's. "What did you plan to do with me when you caught up with me?"

"Hm," Raith said lightly, tilting his chin so he could murmur against Reno's mouth. "I'm not really sure."

"Nothing comes to mind, at all?"

Raith tucked his arm under Reno's and rolled Reno onto his back. "I'm open to suggestions."

"Hm," Reno said, mimicking Raith. "I'm not really sure."

Raith's low-throated chuckle vibrated against Reno's chest. "Liar." His eyes grew serious. "Sorry. I shouldn't've said that. I--"

"No, I got the context. Didn't bother me." Reno smiled, then sighed slightly. "Don't want you to feel like you need to walk on glass 'round me, and I don't want to be doin' the same thing."

Raith nodded.

"I do get why you were so pissed at me. I just--"

"Don't start blaming yourself again. You do that too much, takin' on stuff that ain't yours to take. Always have."

Reno doubted that, but he wasn't going to debate the issue now. "I just wish..." he trailed off, chewing the inside of his cheek. How could he say that Raith "should have" told him about Corneo without sounding like he was telling Raith off? That wouldn't do. "I remember the day you came to Turks. For a moment I thought we could... I dunno. Pick up where we left off."

"Yeah, me too."

"I guess I... why didn't you tell me? Six years, and I had no idea. I thought--" he stopped. Not the thing to say. Don't bring up any of that now, Sherin and all. Later, maybe. "I thought you'd just left me. Finally got sick of me and gone. Selfish, see?"

"You did look."

"I did. But not good enough, right. I should've known Corneo was lyin'."


"His story made too much sense, lined up too much with what I knew. What I thought I knew. And, y'know, people always left me, eventually. If I'd just looked harder, then I--then you--I thought--" Reno couldn't look Raith in the eye. "I wish I'd known earlier. I was a shit to you."

Raith brushed some hair off Reno's forehead. "Yeah, stop it. I gave as good as I got there. So... question for you."


Raith shifted so he was lying on his side, facing Reno. "What's happenin' here? We doing this again, permanent-like?"

Five Gods, yes. "If that's what you want."

Raith's eyes narrowed. "Yeah. Stop droppin' yourself to second. What do you want? Truth."

"Truth? Okay." Reno swallowed and looked Raith in the eye. "Truth is, I want you so much it scares the shit outta me, cos we have a lot to sort and I reckon by the time it's done... the thought of you hating me again is not something I want to have to deal with." He frowned. "And I have to know. Everything. There's no part of you I don't want, even the part that was worst for you. And I know that's insensitive, and selfish, and I--"

The flow of words was halted, then, by Raith's mouth massaging his own. "Ain't feeding fear any more, Reno," he said in between kisses. "Yours or mine."

"Mm-hm," Reno agreed. "You, too, huh."

"Yeah. Scared like a little kid." He pulled back. "You can make fun for either real stupid or real cheesy, but..." He reddened. "Yeah, never mind."

"Uh-uh. Better tell me, or the curiosity will make my head explode."

Raith looked amused. "Can't have that. It's such a good head, y'know." He ran a hand down Reno's ponytail, then. "Speaking of, I like this."

"Was going to cut it off before it got too much longer."

"Don't. Keep it."

"If you wish it." Reno grinned. "But just cos you asked, mind."

"I wish it."

"Done, then. And don't change the subject."

"Do we have to work today?"

Reno shook his head. "I think what happened to Zack's done Tseng's head in a bit. We'll deal with the Veld situation tomorrow."

"Only a day before they want to execute him. Cutting it close."

"Yeah. Tseng knows what he wants to do, but he's keepin' it close to his chest, and it depends on whether we find the man, anyway. I, for one, don't mind having some time off. Even without the curious fact neither of us slept much last night, dunno about you, but the day off is a good idea here."

Raith nodded. "I liked Zack."

So did Dallas. "Worked with him a few times, didn't you?"


Reno was silent a moment. The whole situation sucked. "I'm more concerned about what Cloud will do next."

"You helped him, didn't you. You and Rude."

"We kept him free of Heifucker's shithead army, yeah." Reno sighed. "He's not well. Hopefully he can hide long enough to get better. Mako poisoning is--well, yeah. You know." He yawned. "Gods, I'm tired."

"We kept waking each other up."

"Yeah, sorry. Last thing you needed was my freak out--"

"No, not what I meant." Raith's smile was almost shy, this time. "You wanting to kill Don just lets me know you give a shit, is all. But no. What I meant was, every time you moved, I thought you were leaving, and it'd be like, 'don't go'."

"Heh. I was hyper vigilant as well. Thought the same, 'cept you, like, what if he realises he's made a mistake again and doesn't really want me no more." Reno bit his lip. He hadn't really meant to admit that.

Raith looked Reno in the eye. "Won't happen."

Reno nodded. "Here, neither." He grimaced. "I mean, shit, I'm about ready to pee myself and I still can't bring myself to leave even to go to the next room." Reno intertwined his feet with Raith's, again. "Also, sounds dumb, but I just want to keep, y'know, touching you. Really missed this. You're like home to me. It's comfort. Maybe I'm a bit afraid that if I let go, you'll disappear."

Raith laughed. "Okay, I don't feel so stupid now."

"Cos I'm stupider?"

"No, cos I'm in the same boat."

Reno grinned. "Okay, then. That can't be good. I did the same thing last night."

"Yeah, wondered why you never went to get food."

"At this rate, we'll starve to death."

"You're not wrong." Raith's hand rested on Reno's shoulder. "Right. Deal, until we get over this whole cheesy thing." Raith raised an eyebrow. "Cos, frankly, dunno how you can stand my breath right now, I am, in fact, starving and we both need to get some real sleep. So, we need to come to some understandin'."


"All joking aside."


"Reno, I ain't leaving you. If it's in my power, at all. Unless I've explicitly said so, and I don't see that ever being the case, if I ever walk out the door and don't come back you'd better believe it's cos I can't."

Reno nodded. "Me too."

Raith hesitated. "There is something I have to know, and I'm pretty sure you ain't gonna like the question."

"Ask it anyway."

"It's about Rude."

Reno did his best not to allow himself to be put on guard. Mostly successfully, he thought. "Ask it anyway."

"You weren't together when I came to Turks."


"But you did... um... once..." He took a breath. "How do you feel about him now?"

Reno didn't want to talk about this. He didn't know the answer. But he wasn't going to tell Raith that, either, and he wasn't going to hide anything, ever again. "He's my best friend."

"Kinda non specific. I'll try again. Do you still love him?"

Reno had to think about that one. There had been a lot of water under that bridge... but on balance? Turned out he knew the answer, after all. And it was one he didn't want to say, because he didn't know how Raith would take it... but he wasn't going to lie, either. "Yes," he said, meeting Raith's eyes, his stomach churning.

Raith smiled.

What? Smiled?

"See, now I know we're going to be okay," Raith said.

"I don't undertand."

"You didn't lie." He grimaced, then. "And now I need to know, for me, cos--oh, shit. I'm a dumbarse. Walked into this one."

"No walking on glass, right?"

"Right. Okay. If Rude, y'know, ever--"

"Not a chance."

"You don't know what I was going to say."

"Would I leave you for Rude?"

"Okay. Guess you do know."

"And the answer is 'not a chance'. You'll never have to worry about that, right?"

Raith watched Reno steadily.

"Yeah, okay. I know this caused you some stuff, you thought I've been doing some cheating, and it always bothered how much I've been around. Thing you may not get, when I did, I did so with integrity. One night stands before you were just that. And until you, I only did one nights I guess; I never messed with one person if I was with another. Hells, even the on-off with Katey that year I stuck to just Katey. You, with you, there was no one else, not ever, looking and then teasing you about it aside. If I was with Rude, now, then last night wouldn't've happened, no matter how I wanted it." Reno stopped before he got to the point where he'd be lying again. Fact was, while that was true, if he'd ever had to choose between them, from the point of not being with either of them, he wasn't sure he could. All Reno could do was thank those stupid Five Gods that Rude didn't want him, anyway, and that he really did want Raith with everything that was in him.

Reno didn't really understand how that was possible, but then, he didn't need to know. Raith was here. That was all he needed.

He decided not to mention Sherin yet. Hells, Raith'd misunderstood him, it was probable Reno'd misunderstood that, too. Right now, he just wanted to reassure Raith... and go to the bathroom. "You gotta know," he said, "all things considered. You bein' everything, y'know? You had to know that. I thought you knew that."


"Well, back then, I didn't commit to no one, ever. But you... hells, no matter how I let Rude's stuff screw up my head, I just had to keep coming back for more of you. Even when I didn't know that was what I was doin'. Never could get enough. Still can't."

Raith was wearing a crease between his eyes. "I've been too hard on you. I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Just remember what I said about wanting you, 'kay?"

"Sure." Raith still sounded doubtful, though.

Reno wasn't having that. "Raith. I meant it. I mean it. When I say I missed you, it was more. It was like..." Fuck, he couldn't find the words. He just couldn't. "Can we get past all the other bullshit and just go back to being us, like you said?"

Raith's eyes filled, and he swallowed, hard. "Oh, you betcha," he said, his voice husky.

Reno had to kiss Raith again, then. There was no help for it. It was necessary, like, air, that making out; until the call for the bathroom grew too strong to ignore. "Good," Reno said. "So, for now... shower, food, sleep? In that order?"

"Do we argue over who gets the shower first?"

Reno snorted. "Dumbarse. We'll share."

"Mm. I was really hoping you'd say that."


Raith raised an eyebrow. "Oh, yeah."

Reno grinned and rolled out of bed. "I will race you to the can, though."

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