Chapter Twenty-Six

Please note: All dialogue written in this colour is quoted directly or paraphrased 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.

However, be aware there are major, major spoilers for the Before Crisis endgame storyline in this chapter.


Simple needs, Reno thought. Shower. Food. Sleep.


Reno could feel those hands again, and the owner of the hands spoke, and his voice was comfort. "Sorry I took so long," he said.

Not Raith.



The sun was up by the time Reno and Raith had showered and eaten, and Reno was well and truly ready to drop. Reno'd been more tired than this before, of course, but it'd been a long time since he'd felt free to give in to his need to just... sleep.

Raith must've noticed, because he insisted Reno sit while he made breakfast. "You worked harder'n me yesterday."

"Okay, I'll wash up then," Reno mumbled, determined to stay awake, but Raith still had to wake him so he could eat.

"Do you need to check in with Tseng?" Raith asked after they'd crawled back into bed.

"If they need me, they'll call," Reno said, then yawned, rolling onto his side, facing Raith. "I'm selfishly taking time for yourself, for once."

"Get no argument from me."

"If I haven't heard by tonight, I'll give him a call or something."

"Mm-hm." Raith rested his forehead against Reno's and stroked Reno's face until Reno fell asleep.

The worst part about being asleep was that it made time go too fast, even if ten hours curled up with Raith was not ten hours wasted. It's just that when you were asleep you weren't conscious of the closeness, and it could feel like time you missed.

Especially when you woke up and he wasn't there, and the bed next to you was cold, and you wondered if the time that'd gone past, what'd happened in the previous twenty-four hours, was only a dream.

"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 steadied his stomach. "Raith?"

"Kitchen. Stay there."

"Okay, then. What're you up to?"

Raith appeared at the door, a mug in either hand. He was dressed, but not in uniform. "Try this. You're gonna love it." He handed Reno one of the mugs. "Kytt turned me on to it when we were up in Icicle last time. I figured, since it was starting to get cold out..."

Reno looked into the mug. The liquid inside was white, like warm milk. "This isn't coffee."

"No," Raith said as he sat on the edge of the bed. He looked at Reno expectantly, like a small kid giving his first A+ report card to a doting parent. "It's really good. At least, I hope it is."

Reno took an experimental mouthful, and it went down warm, comforting and spicy. Kinda like Raith, he thought with an inward grin. "It's great. What's in it?"

"Milk, cream, spices, a bit of extra sweet, for you." Raith drank his own then, looking satisfied with himself.

"Where'd you get the spices?" Reno wasn't sure what was making him more warm, the drink or watching Raith's face.

"Snuck out to pick some up before the local market closed."

"It's really good. Thanks." Reno finished his, then climbed out of bed and looked out the window for a while. The sun was setting. "We slept all day, by the looks of it." He turned back to face Raith. "Or I did. How long've you been up?"

"Up? About... thirty seconds. Awake, a couple of hours."

Reno grinned as he pulled on his uniform pants. "What time is it?"

"Seven-ish." Raith leaned back on his hands and watched as Reno put on a shirt. "Man, that's as sexy as watching you take stuff off. Wait, why are you getting dressed?"

"I need to check on Dallas. I'd phone but she'll just ignore me. Might also check in on Tseng."

Raith nodded, his face neutral. "Hungry?"

Reno ran a hand through his hair then redid the thong holding his ponytail, before he straddled Raith's lap. "You have a little of your drink left on your... here," he said, licking a drop of cream off the corner of Raith's mouth and kissing him. "I'll make dinner," he said. "And you hold that other thought, 'kay?"

"I'd rather hold onto you," Raith murmured, doing just that.

"Or I could use the phone, after all," Reno said.

Raith squeezed Reno's butt. "I'm sure I can manage for, oh, I dunno, five minutes. I'm not that hungry."

"You don't want my dinner?"

Raith raised an eyebrow cheekily. "You didn't think it was your cooking I was after, did you?" he said, slipping his hands into Reno's waistband.

"Ah, so I'm just a piece of tail to you am I?"


Reno grinned. "Too mean."

Raith grinned right back. "I can kiss it better if you like."

"Now you're talking." Reno dropped his head and met Raith's mouth with his own.

Some minutes passed before Raith drew back and spoke again. "Go see to your sister."

"Mm." Reno nibbled along Raith's jaw. "How long do you think it'll be for us to stop bein' so handsy?"

"Never, I hope."

"Need to get some work done eventually." Reno's mouth reached Raith's again. "But... not just yet." He ran his fingers into Raith's hair. "Oh. Wait. Yes, just yet. Hold thought." He resisted the urge to kiss Raith again--he'd never leave the room if he did--and wandered out to the front room, where he'd left his phone the night before. Call Rude, then visit Dallas.

"Yeah." Rude's voice was kinda... irritable.

"Did you sleep any?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Some. What's going on?"

"Tseng's been working on the system all day, no luck. We think someone's trying to keep him out separately; it's not just the security system."

"Well, that's weird."


"You still staying over there?"

There was a pause. "I think so. I'm on break now, but I'd say when Tseng's done with Braden he'll have something for me to do, again."

Reno felt guilty, then. It wasn't fair that he was sleeping and... yeah... while others were working. "You come and take some proper rest, Rude. I'll relieve you."

"Nope. This is the first real time off you've had in over six years. Tseng already ordered that you and Dallas be left alone until tomorrow, excepting an actual emergency."

"Put him on. That ain't fair on everyone else. I'm sure I can manage a two-minute walk down the hall, for gods' sakes."

"No. It is. Cos unlike you and Dallas, everyone else's been taking leave when it was due, myself included. We're not doin' much, anyway. It's a waiting game, at the moment."


"Don't even start, Reno. I'm having enough trouble getting Dallas to leave. I will see you tomorrow."

"She's there? Put her on, would you?"

There was a muffled shuffle noise, then Dallas' voice came on the line. "Reno."

"How are you, Dal?"

"Fine. Told you I would be."



"I'm making dinner. Why don't you come over for a bit?"

"Normally I'd say 'okay', but someone else actually beat you to it."


"I'm sure. You can handle a night on your own, right?"

Reno paused, then decided not to mention Raith, just yet. "Of course I can."

"Uh-huh. I'll be over in the morning with a new uniform shirt for you. Somehow I ended up with the box of spares in my unit."

"That'd be good. My last one's a bit grungy." Although why Tseng insisted they stayed in uniform, he'd never understand. It was too conspicuous, like hanging a sign around their necks saying, "here we are, Shin-Ra! Come get us!" Sometimes, Reno just didn't get Tseng's mentality.

"Hm. Oh, and Reno?"


"Close your window." She sounded amused, now. "It's getting cold out." The call ended, then.

Reno blinked. That was kinda abrupt. What was with everyone? Not that he minded an extra full night alone with Raith, but... Raith came out of the bedroom, then, with the sheets off Reno's bed. No, he didn't mind that, at all. Except... wait. "What are you doing?"

Raith blinked. "You still here?"

"Apparently. I've been ordered to stay here until tomorrow." Reno raised an eyebrow. "Are you actually cleaning my room? I've only lived in it for thirty hours or so, most of it with you. It's not that bad."

"Figured it could use a little fix-up." Raith smiled. "Probably due to the mess you made of me." He went into the bathroom and came out again, without the sheets.

Reno wandered over to him and looped a finger into Raith's waistband, pulling him near. "So... where were we?"

"You were making dinner."

"Oh yeah. I was, wasn't I?"

"Yup," Raith said with a cheeky grin.

"No, wait. You said you weren't hungry."

Raith ran his fingertips along Reno's fingers. "I got plans for you, Pony Boy. We'll need our strength."

"Well, okay then," Reno said with mock reluctance. "I'll feed you, if you think we'll need it."

Raith didn't say anything. Instead, he caught Reno's eye and cocked an eyebrow.

Reno swallowed, hard. "Right. I'll get on that, then." He wandered to the kitchen. Lessee... something real quick, maybe a stir-fry, he thought, opening the fridge. Yep. Raith'd filled it, including with some of Rude's favourite beer.

Reno swallowed again, but for a different reason. Anger. He'd neglected to be specific with Raith, the night before, about the fact that one reason he'd not been able to take that first drunken night between them all those years ago was because he'd felt like he'd been cheating on Rude, even though, in hindsight, he knew that'd been stupid. His conscience was clear, though, because that'd been covered under "screwed up shitty behaviour", or whatever, but now... Reno was just angry at Rude. Yeah. Rude had some explaining to do, and he would do so, but not now. Not yet. For now, Reno was just going to enjoy the night, with Raith. Together.


As promised, Dallas knocked on the door early the next morning. Reno had woken earlier than Raith, and he was sleeping so soundly Reno didn't want to disturb him, so he showered, then spent an hour or so cleaning up after their dinner, and picking up the books and items that'd gone crashing to the floor two nights before.

Raith had just jumped into the shower, himself, when Dallas arrived, bag in hand. "Shirts," she explained.

"Hey Squirt."

"Morning, Stretch."

He gave her a tight hug. "I should tear strips off your hide for not letting me in the other night."

"I was fine."


"I was. Really. Reno. Air."

"Sorry." He let go. "C'mon into the kitchen. Haven't eaten yet."

She followed him into the kitchen, putting the bag on the counter.

"I have coffee. Want some?"

"No, thanks." She sat at the table and regarded him, her eyes at once amused and narrowed. "Reno, maybe you should break with type and wear a tie today," she said seriously.

"Why would I do that," he said as he sat opposite her.

She pointed at his neck. "Alternatively, I have some great foundation that will cover up all those hickeys. Or, y'know, got a potion?"

His face grew hot.

"Oh, don't tell me I actually managed to make you blush, for once. Hey, one for me. Finally." She grinned. "I'm really happy for you."

"What, exactly, do you think for?"

"That's Raith singing in the shower, right?" She raised an eyebrow. "Definitely isn't Rude. I've heard him try to sing. He's even worse than you are, but that could just be the whiskey. Raith, now..." She cocked her head to one side for a moment, listening. "Wow. He's actually pretty good. Did you know this about him?"

Reno listened for a second. Actually he hadn't known; he couldn't remember Raith ever singing before. He was pretty good, at that. Huh. He opened his mouth to reply, but she cut him off.

"Don't even bother. Braden and I heard your wee fight night before last. Not in detail, but the gist. And pretty much everything that came after, too."

So much for soundproofed walls. "What? How? And hang on, Braden and you? Are you two back together?" His eyes narrowed. "And is it permanent this time?"

"Oh, put your squeaky voice away, and don't change the subject. And yes. And, I think so. He came by just after you did. I was ready to throw him out, too, but then, well." She looked embarrassed. "Turns out maybe I did need company after all." She shook her head, like she was gathering her emotions and putting them elsewhere. "I was airing my unit, so our--um, my--window was open. As was, apparently, yours. And you were yelling."

"So the whole building knows, then."

"Probably not. We have the only two units on this side of the hall. I daresay the building next door got an earful, though." She chuckled then.

"What," Reno said dryly.

"I had quite a job there for a bit."

Reno shook his head, not understanding.

"Poor Braden. He was bound and determined to kick the door down to stop the pair of you killing each other." She rolled her eyes. "I never broke that promise I made to you, you know, so for the longest time he never really 'got' the tension between you and Raith. He was always telling me that he knew you liked Raith well enough once, cos you wouldn't flip on him when you were being questioned way back when, and he was convinced that if you two would just work out your differences and forget all about Corneo, you'd be great friends. Wasn't until the coma that Braden realised the sitch."

"I always pegged him as smarter than that. He used to see us at Corneo's when we were still together."

"Yeah, but whenever he was there with the President, I'd bet you were all professional-like, as he would've been."

Reno, frowned, thinking. "Yeah, probably."

"And you know that it takes a brick upside the head and down again for him to get anything when it comes to relationship stuff. He's bloody clueless."

Reno nodded. "True enough."

"And Raith never yells in anger, so he thought things had gotten out of hand."

"Also true enough. So what did you do to stop him?"

"Well, it was easy until the giant crash. Then he was all gung-ho about coming over here."

Reno almost spat out his coffee. "Shit me dead. That would've been... awkward."

She snorted. "Awkward. Really. You guys always use breaking things as foreplay?"

"Actually, never have. It was an accident."

"Oh. So, well, then I did have to kinda break my promise a bit."

"Kinda a bit?"

"Yeah. I ended up grabbing him by the front of his pj bottoms. I looked him in the eye, and said, 'Braden. Sweetie. If you go over there now, you will be messing up what sounds like some really, really, really good make-up sex. And if you dare interfere, I will nut you'."


"Ah, indeed." She grinned. "Lots of 'ahs', actually."

Reno covered his face with one hand and groaned. "Sorry."

"Oh, no, don't be. Really. Cos, well, Braden, pretended to be all clued in-like, gave me that wee smile of his, suggested we do the same, um, again, and I swear to the five Wutai gods that was the best sex I've had in a year. Oh, and later? Holy crap, Stretch, that low moany voice of Raith's? You should bottle it and market it as a lubricant. You'd make a fortune. What do you do to get him to sound like that? Shiiiiiva."

"You're enjoying this way too much." Reno said that like he was joking, but fact was, it was true. Way too much, considering... Zack.

"Well, it's been a mostly shitty week, and I'm happy to have a reason to be in a good-ish mood, even if the disturbing image of my brother screwing is burned so deeply into my head I'm going to need to triple-wash my brain. I mean, I'd pay good money to see Raith in the buff, but you? Ew."

"Hey!" Reno protested.

"Oh, I know. You're gorgeous and all. Just... ew."

Reno watched her steadily. Yep, way too cheerful, even taking what she was saying into account. It was more the "trying very hard to be upbeat" cheerful. It worried him.

She leaned her elbow on the table and rested her chin in her hand. "Although... for the sake of accuracy, where am I supposed to put Raith? Top or--"

"We take turns. Mostly, neither," Reno said absently. Then he blinked. "Wait. Stop that."

There was a sound near the door then, and Dallas grinned. "Hello Raith. I know you're there."

He came into the kitchen, a sheepish look on his face, dressed in his uniform pants and belt only. "Hello Dallas."

She indicated the bag she'd left on the counter. "I took the liberty of grabbing two spare uniform shirts instead of just yours, Reno. Just in case," she dead-panned. Then she ran an eye down Raith's chest and stomach and raised an eyebrow at Reno. "Seriously. Bottle it. I'll design the label," she said, then pointed at Raith's stomach. "We'll use that sweet wee happy trail thing. Holy gods but that's pretty, Raith."

"What?" Raith said, his face startled.

"Just say thankyou for the shirt and don't ever ask again," Reno said.

Raith looked amused, then. "Thankyou for the shirt," he said as he put one on, leaving it undone, before pouring himself a cup of coffee. Reno, now aware, could see how careful Raith was when it came to hiding his back from other Turks. He wondered, briefly, if either Katelyn or Kytt had seen it. "And I'm sure I don't want to know."

Fuck, but he's beautiful, Reno thought. He really wanted to kick Dallas out and run his mouth over Raith's stomach... again.

Dallas gave them both a self-satisfied nod. "You're very welcome."

"You didn't make your sister a drink?" Raith chided as he sat at the table next to Reno, moving along the booth-style seat so their hips were touching.

"I asked, she didn't want," Reno said, dropping his hand onto Raith's thigh. "Oh, stop that grinning," he said to Dallas. "You're all mushy-face."

"I can't help it. I'm way too thrilled that you both finally saw some fracking sense. Oh! Which brings me to why I'm really here."

"It wasn't to tweak my nose a bit?"

"Not entirely, no." Her face grew more serious. She glanced at Raith briefly, then seemed to make a decision. "You two are the first to know this, besides me. And the medico down the road, but they don't count."

Medico? Reno thought, alarmed. "What's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing's wrong, so much. I'm pregnant."

"Yeah?" Reno grinned, then his smile faded as he watched Dallas. "So... do I congratulate or commiserate? From your face, it's hard to tell."

"Congratulate," Dallas said.

"Well, then that's great news!" Reno said, and he meant it.

Dallas nodded. "You're going to be an uncle. Uncles," she amended.

"How?" Raith said.

"The usual way, probably," Reno quipped. "And do not let her get into that. We'll be here all day."

"That's not what he meant, silly," Dallas said. "I guess the implant malfunctioned. Whatever. Once I realised what was going on, I had the clinic remove it. Who knows what it could do to the baby?"

"Wait. You said we were the first to know," Reno said. "You haven't told Braden yet?"

She shook her head.

"What's wrong?" Reno said.

"It's just... the subject of children never came up. We're Turks. I'm supposed to be medically, permanently sterile until Shin-Ra decided otherwise. I don't know how he'll take it. I don't know if he even wants children." She bit her lip. "It's kinda moot, though either way, though, cos there's that other... thing." Her face crumpled, somewhat, then.

Reno frowned. "Dallas?"

"You know what my mission was, up until a couple of days ago, right."

Reno glanced at Raith, whose face was studiously neutral. "I do," Reno said carefully.

Dallas pressed her lips together briefly. "It was Zack, Raith. It has been since before you came on board. And... well, my directive was to keep an eye on him, then later, Tseng wasn't too happy with the amount of time Zack was spending with that Aerith girl, so my new directive was to, whenever possible, distract him from her." She shrugged. "I didn't bother to tell Tseng that his 'suggestion' was redundant," she said with a small smile. "After Braden broke up with me, I was tailing Zack at Costa del Sol, and well... surf, sand, Zack's fine wee arse in a swimsuit... things happen."

"None of my business," Raith said.

"You're family," she said simply.

"Which means you'll get to know more than you'll ever want to," Reno said dryly. "Sit back. I already know as much about Braden's body as I do about my own, and I ain't ever seen him even half naked. And I hear Zack's arse is even better than yours, if you can believe that."

"I don't recall Dallas ever having seen my arse," Raith said mildly.

"I'd hope not, but I have enough detail to make the comparison myself, see."

"Ah," Raith said, an amused glint in his eye. "And you think his was better?"

"Facts are facts, Raith. Ain't my fault."

Raith grinned at him, one of those wolfish grins Raith used to use, back when they worked at Corneo's and Raith was letting Reno know he'd "pay for that later." Reno always looked forward to the paying part.

Dallas threw Reno a withering look. "Zack knew I was tailing him, anyway. Excuse the pun. We had a deal. He used to do knee-bends when he had too much energy. I knew a greeeat way to burn off all that excess. He was very energetic," she added sadly. "So, we agreed, every time he saw me when he wasn't supposed to, he'd knee-bend, we'd get busy. I found myself letting him see me oh, three, four times a--"

"I'm not getting the connection, Dal," Reno said.

"Well... when I helped Zack and his friend escape--" she smiled at Raith, whose eyebrows'd shot up--"well, you guys weren't the only ones. I think we all understood Tseng's intentions... anyway, I went to Gongaga a bit later, to see Zack's folks. He was there."

"That wasn't very smart of him," Reno commented.

"That's what I said," Dallas said, "but he was worried about his mother. On top of that, Zack was still dragging that poor infantryman around. Cloud?"

"Yeah," Reno said.

"The mako poisoning was severe. Zack just wouldn't let him go." Her brows knitted. "He didn't have a lot of time, and there were Shin-Ra grunts everywhere, so he holed up overnight. He was so sad..."

"We don't need the details," Reno said, suddenly understanding. "You're saying you think the baby is Zack's, aren't you?"

She nodded. "I'm sure of it, actually, and Shin-Ra can never know, which is why I can't tell Braden. It's not that I want to lie to him. It's just that if Braden knows, Tseng will know. Tseng knows, you can bet your left arm... Rufus. Rufus, and Hojo'll find out. And after everything that happened to his 'samples', he's going to want a piece of me. He's going to want a piece of my baby."

Raith gave Reno a long look, before placing a hand on Dallas' arm. "Well, don't worry, he won't hear it from us," he said.

"But... I'll have to say something soon. I'm about three months along, and we only just got back together. What if he goes all Shin-Ra on me and wants me to terminate? Or worse, hand the baby over to Hojo?"

Reno reached out and took her other hand. "We won't let that happen."

"No. Not a chance in all thirteen levels of the Blue Hells. I wouldn't if this was Braden's baby, and I won't knowing it's Zack's. I want children. I want a family. With Braden, if possible. I don't want to do this any more. And since it was my fault, Reno, that you and Rude didn't get to Zack in time to stop those Shin-Ra grunt bastards, I..." She stared at the tabletop. "I never even got to tell him my real name..." she added, as if to herself.

"Anything we can do for you, you only have to ask," Raith said, his eyes sad. "First thing, though. Let's protect this baby of yours. You can't go on any more missions. We will have to come up with a way to keep you out of Shin-Ra's reach, okay? Somehow, get you out of town, to somewhere you can hide."

Reno squeezed Raith's thigh, grateful.

"I want to take Braden with me," Dallas said, "I just... don't know how. I can't expect him to just smile at me and say, 'sure, Dallas. Zack's kid? No problem. Let's be fugitives, just like the baby's father, who isn't, in fact, me'."

Raith scratched his eyebrow. "Dallas, I know it's difficult, but I'd just out and tell him. I can't see him being angry about this, and I don't think that either you or the baby are in any danger from him."


"No. You know, he's good at what he does, but it seems to me that the Turks have never really been a good fit for him. I reckon he'll be more open to it than you think, Zack or no Zack. Just tell him what you told us."

Reno was watching Raith as he said this, and saw how carefully he was choosing his words. He knew more than he was saying to Dallas, like, maybe, he knew very well that Braden would be open to it.

He decided to trust that Raith knew what he was talking about. Raith and Braden had always gotten on well, even back in their Corneo days. "I agree," he said. "It's not like you were cheating on him, and Braden isn't unreasonable."

"I can't." Tears ran down her face, now.

Reno hated that. The last time he'd seen her really cry was when Braden broke up with her the first time. He switched to the other side of the table so he could hug his sister. "It'll be okay," he murmured.

"He'll hate me," she said.

"No," Raith said firmly. "He won't. Not if you talk now. Trust me, Dallas, I know from experience that the biggest mistake you will ever make in your life is to make presumptions about what another person is thinking without talkin' to them first." His eyes locked with Reno's as he said that. "You waste half your time worrying about what they're thinking and the other half trying to defend yourself from things that may not even exist. Talk now, worry later about things that really do exist, instead of running from phantoms and what ifs."

"He's right," Reno said. "You know he is."

Dallas nodded.

Raith glanced at his watch. "There's not a lot of time. Do you want us to be with you when you speak to him? Not listening of course, but just here."

She swallowed. "It probably won't be necessary, but... yes?"

"Done, then," Raith said.

Dallas excused herself, then, to go to the bathroom, and Reno stood to let her out.

"We should probably have some sort of plan in place before we speak to him," Raith said in a low voice. "One way or another, we have to move quickly. We're already looking at execution, but now we need to hide Dal from Shin-Ra and Tseng." He paused. "Do you think Tseng would try to use Dallas to get us back in good with Shin-Ra?"

Reno hesitated, and didn't like that he didn't know well enough not to have to think about it first. But when all was said and done... "I don't think so, not really, but who's to say what a man won't do? Dallas for all of the rest of us? Tseng might see that as a fair payoff." He sighed. "Then again, he has Rufus on his side, for all the fucking good that does any of us."

"Even if Tseng doesn't want to hand her over, if he says anything to Rufus, he may very well be over-ruled."

Reno nodded. "There is that. But, hells, Tseng might even tell Rufus thinking that her being pregnant will stop her from bein' executed like the rest of us." He frowned as something else occurred to him. "Something else worries me."

Raith looked at him questioningly.

"I'll have to explain some of this later, but..." Reno paused. "Couple of things I learned while you were in your coma, that bother me, for the baby's health. For Dallas'. Dallas had that implant, but more, SOLDIER. They don't have families. The mako... supposedly they can't. And she may've been tampered with, before Turks, growing up in Veld's care."

Raith nodded. He didn't look surprised.

"You know."

"I have some inkling."

"Could be," Reno said, "that it is more don't, than can't, with SOLDIERs, given that during the Wutai war they kept havin' short lifespans, and Kandy addicts still make babies, but still. She needs to get away, but she might need care that a regular doc can't give. That only Shin-Ra--Hojo's people--can give. And the thought..." he shook his head.

"Yeah. Not a good one."

"You had better be right about Braden." Reno looked Raith in the eye. "I won't lose my sister. And her baby is my family, too, so I don't give a fuck who the daddy is. I will not let anyone hurt either of them, not even him."

"I know." Raith bit a fingernail. "I do think he'll be good with it, though. Look, I have an idea, but it means trusting someone else. And we'll need Rude."

Reno looked at Raith sharply, but Raith's face was neutral, all Turk. "Rude loves Dallas as much as I do. He'll be on board with anything she needs. If she's okay with telling him."

"Of course I'm okay with telling Rude," Dallas said from the doorway. "Who's the other?"

"Doc Mir," Raith said. "Out of anyone who has any idea of how this could affect you, Dal, she's the one we can trust."

"She's Shin-Ra," Dallas said.

"Still," Raith said.

Dallas met Reno's eyes, and Reno nodded. "I agree. Should have thought of her myself. Raith wouldn't be here without her."

She nodded slowly, her face still doubtful. "If you both think..."

Raith did up his shirt. "I have a private number for her, but I might use the public phone down the street rather than a phone here, or mine. I'll arrange to meet her and feel out how safe she'll be." He looked at Dallas again. "If you agree...?"

"What if Braden doesn't..."

Raith met Reno's eyes. "If the worst happens, and Braden decided to act like an arse, then..."

"Raith and I will come with you instead," Reno finished, without looking away from Raith's face.

"That we will," Raith said quietly.

There was a knock at the door, then.

"I called Braden while I was in the bathroom, before I lost my nerve." Dallas' throat worked. "Guess I'll know soon."

"If that's what you want." Reno opened the door. "Hello Braden. Come on in."

"Hey Reno," Braden said, smiling broadly when he saw Raith. "Raith." Then his smile faded as his gaze swept the three of them, starting and ending with Dallas. "What's going on?"

Reno glanced at Dallas, who nodded, then he looked Braden in the eye. "We will be in the next room," he said, meaningfully.

Braden looked confused. "Right."

Raith put a hand on Braden's shoulder. "Choice time, buddy," he said quietly. "Try not to be clueless, eh?" He cocked his head at Reno, then, and wandered into the kitchen.

Reno followed him, then watched his back for a few minutes while Raith rinsed mugs, running his eyes from shoulder to butt, before they returned, almost involuntarily, back up to Raith's profile. He swallowed as his mind swamped with emotion. Need, want; he expected that. What he hadn't expected was the almost physical punch to the gut of tenderness that followed. He'd felt that only once before, when Rude'd arranged for Reno to meet Dallas at Nibelheim. This time, though, at least he knew what it was.

He wandered over and wrapped his arms around Raith's middle, his chest against Raith's back. "Hey," he said quietly, resting his cheek on Raith's.

Raith leaned into him. "Hey."

Reno tightened his embrace, dropping a kiss on Raith's neck. "How do you want to play this? Y'know, with the rest of the Turks."

"Well, I dunno," Raith said dryly. "Suppose I have to be careful. I am fucking my boss, after all. People might think I'm cheap."

"I'll remind them what your preferred brand of coffee is. Cheap, you ain't. Unlike me, who can be bought with a half bottle of bourbon, you might recall."

"I do." Raith chuckled and laced his fingers in with Reno's. "Don't reckon there needs to be anything done or said, but if you want to do the discreet thing I'll play along."

"It's no one else's business, but I don't care who knows. Take out a billboard if you like. Or not. I'm easy." Reno ran a hand under Raith's shirt near his belt, feeling downy hair under his fingertips.

He was rewarded with a quiet hum of appreciation. "So I'm cheap and you're easy," Raith said, turning his face towards Reno's and grinning.

"Yeah, saw that one coming."

"Well, if you hand me cheese for free like that I'm going to use it."

Reno sighed deeply, breathing in Raith's scent, warm and vaguely spicy. "Mm-hm." Man, he felt good, inside. Holding Raith again, knowing Raith was his again, was like... just... gods. "When all of this is done, whaddya think about heading down to Costa Del Sol and spending a couple of weeks naked?"

"Sounds like a plan," Raith said, turning so he was facing Reno and tucking his hands into the back of Reno's trousers. His lips met Reno's in lazy massage, then he pulled back so their eyes met, and smiled.

Reno smiled back and they stood there for the length of forever, just... kissing.

"I am so hot for you right now," Raith said in a low voice. "I should make that call, now, though, hey."




Raith's face grew serious. "Are you sure you're okay with Rude knowing?"

Reno nodded. "He knows how I feel about you."

"But does he know how you feel about him?"

Oh, fuck. Not that again. "I thought we'd covered that."

Raith ran his thumb along Reno's lower lip. "Oh, no, I didn't mean it that way. It's just... he kinda deserves you to say something to him privately before we're common knowledge."

"You know, I don't really want to think about Rude right now."

"Why not?"

"Well, six years of him not telling me what had happened to you, for one. I'm fucking pissed at him."

"Wasn't his to tell."

"Okay, I'll pay that. Still, a heads up that something was going on would've been nice."

Raith kissed Reno again. "Y'know, I'm the first to admit that I am--and will probably continue to be--kinda jealous of the time he gets to spend with you, not cos I don't trust you but because it's time I don't see. But he is your best friend, and I don't want you to be burning bridges on my account. Not over that."

"Why the hells not?"

"Because he doesn't deserve it."

Reno looked at Raith doubtfully.

"He doesn't. And more, you."

"Me, what?"

"You don't do well when you're at odds with someone you care about. I don't like seeing you hurt. Besides, he saved my life that day."

Yeah, where I'd failed to. Reno nodded as if he agreed, but he didn't feel it. Rude had some explaining to do, at the very least. And there would be a few people who would, now or later, pay the price for what had been done to Raith. Don Corneo would die, painfully and slowly, if Reno had anything to say about it. Orders or no orders. No matter what Raith said.

And if anyone else'd been involved in any way... well, Reno'd never believed in just letting these things slide. Meanwhile, though... "If Doc Mir tells anyone you've called her, or your call is intercepted and someone follows her, you’re screwed. I'll come along as backup."

Raith shook his head. "You're needed here. Besides, I'm quicker on my own."

"Screw that. I'm faster than you are, by a country mile."

"Yeah. And that hair of yours is six hundred times more recognisable than mine, too."


"Brand me Corneo's, not Shin-Ra's. And back at you anyway. Next?"

Reno grunted. "Fine. Do what you have to do. But be careful, wouldja?"

"I'm always careful."

"No, you're not. You've always been too reckless out there for my liking." Reno ran his thumb along Raith's eyebrow.

"I have an incentive to come home, now." Raith kissed Reno again, then let go of him. "Sooner gone, sooner back. Think Dallas is done? I don't hear any yelling."

Reno looked around the corner of the wall. Dallas and Braden weren't talking, but they were embracing. Good sign. "Think so."

"Where do you want Dallas taken?"

"Somewhere safe. And don't tell me. What I don't know, I can't be forced to tell."

Raith didn't answer that. He swallowed, hard, then nodded. He dropped a kiss on Reno's neck, grabbed an apple, and slipped out. Reno finished cleaning up in the kitchen, until Dallas called him. When he rounded the corner, she was curled up on the couch, tucked under Braden's arm. Better sign.

"So," he said carefully. "All good, then?"

Dallas smiled at him. She didn't say anything, but that's all Reno needed to see.

Reno started as the front door opened. Raith wouldn't be back so soon, surely.

It wasn't Raith, though. It was Rude. Reno slouched and avoided looking at him. Now was not the time to make accusations.

Rude, however, seemed to be ignoring him anyhow. "What's going on?" he asked Dallas.

Braden, after glancing at Dallas and receiving a nod, explained about the baby, and Zack, and the plans to get them away from Midgar and out of Shin-Ra's reach.

Reno watched Braden very closely as he did so, looking for any sign that he wasn't happy about the whole thing. He was tense around the edges when he mentioned Zack's name, but no more than you'd expect from someone who'd known that the woman he loved had been with someone else, even while trying to be reasonable about it. His looks at Dallas, though, were only caring, loving... Reno figured they'd be fine, long-term.

Rude's reaction was about as Reno expected. Mild surprise, concern and a quiet, "anything we can do, you only have to ask."

The statement so closely echoed Raith's that Reno needed to leave the room. "Juice?" he asked his sister. "Milk?"

"Juice'd be great," she said.

Reno wandered out into the kitchen, resisting the urge to throw something. Why was he so weirded out? He knew what he wanted. He knew who he wanted. He was just... angry at Rude. Yeah. That was what it was. Rude had lied to him for six years. That's what it was.

Reno came out of the kitchen to find that Raith had returned. He handed Dallas her juice, then dropped onto the other sofa next to Raith, sitting close and deliberately leaning into him. He ignored Raith's startled glance in Rude's direction. "How'd it go?"

"Doc Mir's on board with the concept," Raith said, "although I haven't told her exactly who or when, or where she's going. I'll have to make some more arrangements re that last."

"Are you sure she isn't playing you?" Braden said.

"Yeah, I'm sure. So, the only thing that remains for us to decide is, when. There is no way Dal can have anything to do with the mission to go after Veld. Too dangerous. So it has to be today."

"It would help to know what Tseng has in mind," Reno said.

Braden and Rude exchanged glances. "I know what Tseng has in mind," Braden said. "Tseng plans to pretend to kill Veld and his daughter, and get them into hiding. Meanwhile, the rest of us are supposed to concentrate on Fuhito and Avalanche and make sure he doesn't get a chance to summon Zirconaide, or failing that, kill it if he does."

"What do you think, Reno?" Dallas said.

"It's Raith's plan. I'm on board with whatever he suggests."

Raith smiled. "Okay, so timing's everything, then. Get you two as far away as possible while Tseng's busy. So... while we're on the way to Fuhito, while Tseng is dealing with Veld, I'll take you to Doc Mir and she'll smuggle you both out of Midgar."

"Where are we going?" Dallas said.

Raith shook his head. "You two will know when you get there. For now, at least, the only person who'll know where you are is me."

"First person they'll ask is Reno," Rude said quietly.

Reno nodded. "I know."

Dallas' brow knitted. "If it comes down to it, Reno, you will not try to protect me by--"

"Not just you, now," Reno said, indicating Dallas' stomach. "Don't worry, probably won't be a problem."

Braden shook his head. "Won't work," he said. "Dal and I are supposed to go with Tseng to get Veld tonight, if he finds him. We don't show, Tseng will notice."

"So... Reno and Rude will go with Tseng instead," Raith said.

Braden frowned. "Tseng's well aware there's no love lost between you and Veld, Reno."

"Yeah, I don't think much of the man, but I don't want to see him dead." Reno glanced at Rude, then. "Guess it'll have to be my tantrum, then, cos you're too fucking calm all the time."

Rude shrugged. "You are supposed to be the dumb one," he deadpanned.

"No, you're the dumb one, silent man. I'm the idiot."

Rude's mouth twitched.

"What on Planet are you talking about, Reno?" Braden said.

"I'm supposed to be Tseng's Two-I-C, and he's let you in on the plan and not me?" Reno affected a fake huffy sniff. "I'm supposed to be the one that goes with, dammit."

Dallas and Raith both laughed, but Braden looked unamused. "Tseng will know something's up."

"Course he will," Reno said. "He won't know what, though."

"I still don't feel good about this."

Reno frowned. "Braden, if you're having problems with the idea of deceiving Tseng, the door's over there."

Braden shook his head. "I regret the necessity, but as long as Rufus is in the picture, Tseng's a danger to Dallas. My priority's very, very clear. It's the rest of it; Veld and his daughter. Something doesn't feel right, but I'll be damned if I can put my finger on it."

"I feel like I'm abandoning you all," Dallas said quietly. "Letting you down."

Reno, Rude and Braden all shook their heads, but it was Raith who spoke. "We love you, Dal, but you ain't indispensible."

"Oh really," she said flatly. "Well, thanks for that." She stuck her tongue out at Raith, then.

Reno smiled inwardly. Raith's comment had done more for Dallas than any of the honeyed responses the rest of them would've tried on her. Another wave of affection washed through him, and he laced his fingers with Raith's. "Anything else left to do?" he said.

Raith shook his head. "You'n Rude need to go sit with Tseng, do your thing, whatever, to get Braden and Dal assigned with the rest of us, but apart from that the rest I'll get done today. Dal, you ain't gonna like me saying this, but I'm not babying you, promise. I want you to get some sleep. It's gonna be a real long night."

Dallas nodded.

Reno went into his room to put his boots on, and when he came out again, Dallas and Braden were ready to leave. Reno gave Dallas a long hug. "You look after yourself, Squirt. Okay?"

"Right back at you."

He pulled back and leaned down a little so his mouth was closer to her stomach. "You don't give your ma a hard time, hear? Or you'll have your Uncle Reno to answer to." He glanced at Braden, then. "I don't have to say it, do I?"

Braden shook his head.

"Good." Reno kissed Raith lightly. "You, keep safe."

"Yeah," Raith said.

Reno cocked his head at Rude. "C'mon then."


Convincing Tseng that Reno and Rude should be the ones to go with him to go after Veld was relatively easy. Tseng was distracted, clearly frustrated, and looking rushed. Reno didn't feel good about taking advantage of the man's irritation to get what they needed, but it had to be done.

The day carried on as it had been, before, according to what Rude told Reno, but Tseng was fairly stoic about it, until very late afternoon, as the day wore on into evening and time started to run out.

"Again," Tseng suddenly said. "I've been kicked out again."

Reno exchanged a glance with Rude. "How many times is that?"

Tseng shook his head. "That's not all. Someone's been trying to directly access this terminal."

Rude frowned. "A jamming signal?"

Reno wandered over to have a look. "Hey, the program's running itself, here."

Rude joined them. "Not a jammer, by the looks, then." He watched for a moment more. "It's a surveillance feed."

Tseng didn't say anything, but he didn't look surprised, either.

"So, who the hell's behind this, Tseng?" Reno said.

Tseng didn't answer Reno. He simply pressed his lips together, but Reno could see that he knew full well who it was. They watched for a while more, perhaps an hour, and then an image of Veld came onto the screen, before it faded again, and Rufus came into the room.

Tseng's mouth tightened. "I knew it," he said quietly.

Rufus sniffed, giving Tseng a smug smile. "Veld's execution is scheduled for noon tomorrow. Do you think you can save him?"

Tseng's eyes narrowed. "We'll do everything we can."

"I've pinpointed the exact location he's being held," Rufus said, sounding as smug as he looked.

Reno rolled his eyes as he realised where this was going. "Oh, seriously?" he muttered at Rude.

"That's the boss for you," Rude said under his breath.

Rufus leaned towards Tseng, then. "And I wouldn't mind telling you where he is, either," he said in a low, suggestive voice.

Oh, yeah. Reno could really see where this was going, now.

Rude Shook his head. "Sir..." he said to Tseng.

Tseng stared Rufus down, his mind clearly working.

"As you know, nothing comes without its price, however," Rufus said. "The same goes for this information."

Oh, don't be a blind blasted fool, Tseng, Reno thought.

Rude crossed his arms in front of his chest, his face grim.

Tseng looked resigned, however. And... determined. "What are your conditions?"

Rufus didn't break eye contact with him. "Reno, Rude, leave us."

Reno and Rude stood their ground, looking to Tseng.

Rufus did turn then, and his face was annoyed. "I'll only negotiate with Tseng on these terms." He turned back to Tseng. ""Well? How about it, Tseng, Commander-in Chief of the Turks?"

Tseng nodded slowly. "Fine. Reno. Rude."

Rude didn't look happy. "Are you sure, sir?"

Tseng nodded.

Rufus made a noise that sounded suspiciously like satisfaction to Reno. He resisted the urge to say anything, and just left the room, Rude close behind.

Reno started back towards their unit, but Rude didn't follow. Reno stopped, and turned. "You coming home? You'll need the sleep."

Rude's face was blank.


"Nothing. See you later." He started to head in the other direction.

"Where're you going?"

"Get some sleep, if you can," Rude said without turning around.

Whatever. Reno sighed. Was nothing ever simple? Yeah, it was. Go back to Raith, and curl up with him. Simple, see?

Raith was in bed when Reno gt to the unit, lying on his stomach, hugging his pillow, like he often did. Reno smiled, torn between waking him and watching him sleep for a while.

Raith made up his mind for him by opening one eye and asking, "what's taking you so long? Get in here."

Reno didn't need to be told twice. He stripped off and slid in next to Raith, curling in around him.

"Are you going to be okay?" Raith said.

"What about?"

"Your sister being out of contact for a while."

Reno grinned. "So long as you're kissing me, nothing will ever be wrong, remember?"

Raith did just that for a moment. "You're not fooling me, y'know."

"Yeah. I know."

Raith rolled slightly and grabbed the alarm clock. "So... what time?"

"Meeting about 0100."

"Okay, so... midnight." He fiddled with the clock then put it back. "Gives us, what... six-odd hours."

Reno yawned. "Good."

Raith's arms snaked around Reno's back and he drew Reno down to him, meeting Reno's mouth with his own and tonguing him lazily. "Too tired?"

"Never too tired for you, babe." Reno bent his head and kissed Raith's throat, then moved lower so he could tease a nipple with his teeth.

Raith ran a hand through Reno's hair. "Kinda glad about that, cos I've been hard since you walked through the door."

"And now... so am I." Reno slipped a hand under the covers without lifting his head, his fingers meeting hot flesh, just to test, mind. He smiled, then, kissing down to Raith's navel. "Hm. Very nice." He stopped then, resting his cheek on Raith's stomach, relaxing into its rise and fall. He needed to say something. "Thankyou."

"What for?" Raith's fingers still brushed through Reno's hair.

"What you're doing for Dallas."

"No thanks are necessary."

"Raith, you're putting yourself at risk for her."

"Come up here."

Reno moved up so he was looking down at Raith's face, settling his hips between Raith's legs.

Raith ran a hand down Reno's spine, looking like he wanted to say something, but then changed his mind. "Make love to me, Reno," he said, instead, his voice very quiet.

"Hm," Reno said, kissing Raith softly. "That's not a phrase I've ever heard you use before."

"Well, you've taken to calling me 'babe', so we're even there."

"I have?"


"I'll stop, if you want."

Raith drew his knees up to Reno's hips. "Don't you dare."

"It's easier to say stuff when you're sure, I guess," Reno murmured. He drew back from his studious tasting of Raith's throat. He had to ask, cos Buzz and... Buzz... "Are you sure?"

"Uh-huh. I want all of you."

Reno buried his face in Raith's neck, and sighed, a deep, shuddering sigh. "You already have me. And you always will."


It was almost time to go meet Tseng, and Reno stood near the door, waiting for Raith, with a feeling of dread. After that day, he had no idea how long it would be until he saw, or spoke to, Dallas again. He knew it would happen, one day, but he had no idea if it would ever be safe for her, for her baby. Would Reno ever see his niece or nephew? The thought that he might not was something he did not want to entertain. Family had always been important to their father.

"Family is important. It is everything. You must promise me, Reno, if anything happens to me, you'll look after your mother and sisters."

This was the best he could do, for now, but it... hurt.

Then again... hells, he may not even live to see the night out, himself. He needed to say smething, to make sure... "Raith."


"What you said to Dallas, earlier, about presumptions."

"What about it?"

Reno reached for Raith, drawing him close and running his hands over Raith's back, frowning at the feel of the scars through Raith's shirt. He was never going to get used to those, the reminder of Raith's suffering. "Just so you don't have to make any presumptions," he said dryly, "I guess I need to say something to ya, y'know, again, for the record."

"What's that?" Raith's voice was muffled, his face being buried in Reno's neck as it was.

Reno smiled at the sensation of Raith's breath. "I love you. No matter what."

"And I love you." Raith's arms tightened around Reno's shoulders. "Forever," he murmured.

The last few years felt like they were going to crash down on Reno's head; everything he'd done wrong, every time he'd hurt Raith. "I'll never understand why," he said quietly.

Raith pulled his face out of Reno's neck and looked at Reno, his eyes serious. "It's easy for me to understand." He kissed Reno softly. "It always has been. It's because of who you are. Because you're part of who I am, and the best of that." He kissed Reno again. "But, most of all, and I'm not sure how to explain this... it's because you are the only person who ever gave me choice. In anything."

Reno didn't understand that last one, and said so.

"Well... a few things, but... Cosmo. You let me say no; let me walk away when I wasn't ready yet for you to love me again. Wasn't the smartest move I ever made, but still, you let me choose that."

"'Let' you?" Reno ran his thumb across Raith's cheek. "It was a no-brainer, Raith. It's hardly 'special' not to try to force someone to be with you against their will."

Raith's look was direct. "It is in my world."

Reno still didn't want to think about what Raith'd been through, between his father and Stork and Buzz and Corneo, but he also knew that it was Raith who'd endured it, not himself. So, Reno figured he didn't have the right not to think of it, not if Raith needed him to. And Reno needed to know. Needed to, somehow, take some of that burden from him, if he could. If it was possible. "Yeah," he said softly. "I guess it is." He swallowed. "You have no idea how much I admire your strength."

Raith looked somewhere in the vicinity of Reno's chest. "It hardly takes any great courage just to survive."

"Yes," Reno said, "it does. A lesser man would've eaten his gun before now. I mean it. Look at me."

Raith's eyes met Reno's.

"Y'reckon I'm the best of you? Not a chance. What's best in you is all you. Truth be known, you're better'n me. Always have been. Cos I had people who made me, there, for a bit. But everythin' in you is you."

Raith affected his bullshit face. "You don't think that."

"I really do." Reno didn't break eye contact. "So you can quit with the wall you're about to bring down, cos it ain't necessary." He grinned and shook his head then. "You been thinkin' I'm better'n you, while I'm not understanding what you see in me. What a pair."

"Yeah." He paused. "Still a lot of things to sort out."

Reno nodded. Sherin, the tickets, the theft... how had Sherin known where Raith was? How had Rude known where Raith was? Why had no one told Reno that Raith'd been tortured in Corneo's fucking dungeon...

"C'mon," Raith said. "Must be midnight soon. Job to get done."

Reno, again, didn't want to let go of him. The thought of being away from Raith for longer than a few minutes again was causing him physical pain. Dumbarse notion, but... "Screw that," he said. "Stay. Forget it all. Let someone else take care of this crap, for once, and maybe between bouts of fucking till our legs fall off we can sort out what's left of our mess, try and work out what really happened." He knew, though, even as he said it, that he wouldn't be able to back it up with the required inaction.

Raith grinned. "Yeah, you know as well as I do that your boy hero instinct will kick in in about three... two... and there it is. We'll deal with Zirconaide, stop Veld's execution, save the world, blah blah, be home in time for breakfast. It's what Turks do."

Reno nodded. "Couldja tell Dallas something for me?" He couldn't complete the thought, though.

Raith smiled sadly. "Sure, Reno. I'll tell her. She'll be fine, don't worry." He sighed, then, and looked at his watch. "You're right. We do have a lot of things to sort out, now that we can. But not now." He kissed Reno again, feather-light, picked up his guns and holstered them, then hooked his earpiece over his ear, before shrugging his jacket on and heading for the door. "Go get your partner and meet Tseng. I'll meet you back here when we're done, and we'll see about that legless thing." Raith turned at the door and smiled, his violet-grey eyes twinkling as they met Reno's. "I'll pick up some cheese on the way home, 'kay, Pony Boy?"


Tseng's plan went as expected, up to a point. They didn't need to spring Veld, as it turned out, because Fuhito did, and he had Elfe with him. He took the materia from Elfe and started to change... then ran... and the other Turks caught up with him at a building not far out of Midgar.

Tseng, with Reno and Rude's help, shot Veld and Elfe, and "killed" them.

In that confusion, Reno got the cryptic message from Raith that told Reno that Dallas and Braden had been seen to Doc Mir safely and that he was back with the other Turks.

Tseng told Reno and Rude that he would be taking Veld and Elfe's bodies to Shin-Ra.

"No need to lie, boss," Reno said quietly. "We'll go with you."

"You'll need a hand," Rude said.

Tseng nodded. "Guess I can't hide anything from you two."

They'd been in the truck for about five minutes when a message came through from the others.

"Fuhito is dead," Maxx said. "But he'd already summoned the monster. We're all going after it now."

"Right. Good job. Report back when you're done."

"Will do. Out."

"No..." Elfe--Felicia, Reno corrected--was trying to say something.

Tseng leaned down next to her, his ear close to her mouth. "What?" he said gently.

"Materia," she rasped.

"I don't understand," Tseng said gently.

"Not... complete... will explode... if killed."

Tseng hit his comm. "Report," he said into the mouthpiece.

There was silence.

"Katelyn, come in." Nothing. "Braden. Jask." He looked at Reno. "Maybe mine's malfunctioning."

Reno tried, as well. "I got nothing."

Rude and Reno glanced at each other. "Boss..." Rude said.

"Go," Tseng said. "I can take care of this."

Reno didn't waste time acknowleging Tseng, he just jumped out of the truck, and ran, Rude on his heels.

It wasn't that far. They could make it. It wasn't that far. Behind him, Reno could hear Rude still trying to raise the other Turks on his comm, but when he did, all Reno could hear was interference.

It wasn't that far. Just over the ridge. Not far, at all. There it was, the building. They were in there.

Suddenly, Reno's comm erupted in a cacophony of noise, loud enough that he had to pull it out of his ear.

"Fuck," Rude muttered as he did the same.

"Zirconaide's interfering with the transmission," Reno said.


"There it is." They were going to make it. He put the comm back in his ear. It was now silent. He hit the comm. "Report!"

"We're all mostly fine, sir," Katelyn said. "Maxx is a bit beat up, but Kytt and Raith're giving him first aid."

Fuck. "Is Zirconaide dead?"

"Jask and Sherin just finished him off. No sign of Braden and Dallas, sir. We'll look for them once--"

"No. Get out of there! All of you! Now!" Reno could see the walls of the building crumbling, now.

"No can do. Maxx is caught under a wall."

"How fast can you get him out of there?"

"Not sure, sir. At least fifteen minutes, presuming the rest of the wall doesn't fall."

Too long. Gods, he thought as they kept running towards the building. He had to make a choice, and fast. No way of knowing how long they had before the whole place went up. But to order the rest out would sacrifice one to certain death...

"Will he survive being--" Reno cut off as a wave of heat washed over them, driven by the force of the explosion that had preceded it. Katelyn had probably never received his transmission.

"Fuck me dead," Rude said from beside him.

No. Reno started to run forward, but Rude caught his arm firmly, stopping Reno in his tracks.

"Let go!" Reno pulled forward into intense heat, before the sound wave drove him backwards, almost pushing him over.

"No! Look at it," Rude shouted over the noise, his hold now so firm it was hurting Reno's arm. "There's nothing--there's no-one--" He didn't finish. "They're gone."

"We have to look! Someone might be--" Raith.

Rude dragged Reno backwards, one arm across Reno's chest, away from the heat that was now drawing the moisture out of Reno's face. "No," he said into Reno's ear. "You'd just die too."

Too. Even at this distance, the heat was too furious for Reno to look directly into the fireball, even as it collapsed into nothing... but he could see that Rude was right. There was nothing left, nothing but massive amounts of ash, ash that was now brushing Reno's face like falling snow and blowing into Midgar on the rising wind. There was no way any of the Turks inside that perimeter could have survived.

They were all dead.

All dead.



Comment on this Chapter.
Back to Contents

Previous Chapter
Next Chapter

References Home
Story Home