|Undefined Command Error
Author: Guede Mazaka
Rufus is sitting on the edge of the table, trousers on, and buttoning up his shirt after another session with the doctors where they poke and prod and take samples and then babble about till he verbally skewers the truth out of them. He can understand why they might be scared but if they had any real brains, they’d realize that trying to duck his questions just prolongs their agony. Even the doctor that Smecker recommended does this, though he is considerably more competent and less obsessed with testing reflexes than his predecessor was.
“Anything new?” Reno asks, ambling through the door. He leaves it open; he’ll already have hounded the doctors out of the floor.
“No. My nerves are like they were last week, and the week before that, and the week before that.” All the technology science can come up with, all the amoral chances money can buy, and they still can’t make his nerves repair themselves. The best they can do is talk about artificial implantation, as if that hadn’t been what had caused the goddamn damage in the first place.
“Take it you mean just physiologically.” Spot-on imitation of the head doctor’s tight squeak for the polysyllabic word. “You seemed okay earlier.”
Reno’s already used to Rufus’ complaining, which leaves a constant warning light on in the back of Rufus’ head. He would and would not like to ask about whether this came up before or after—before or after Valentine, who against Rufus’ will has turned into the great milestone of his life. It’s more than a little ironic: Rufus was always expecting that to be his father’s death, or if there had to be a long-shot, something concerning Tseng, and it ends up being a man who hasn’t been Shinra for decades. Who he doesn’t even remotely like.
“Earlier?” Rufus asks.
For this answer, Reno turns away. Casual as you like, but his hand rises to rub at the back of his neck. It’s a common enough nervous gesture for him, but this time it moves his collar—he always wears that loose—enough for Rufus to see the thin red scratches angling over his skin. “You know, with Vampire Suck-face.”
Most of the time Rufus does let himself smile at Reno’s nicknames. Once in a while he wonders what his is. Right now he mainly misses the comment. “What is that?”
He reaches out, having to support his arm with his other hand in order to keep it steady, and flicks one of the scratches. The other man flinches a little. “Ah, just work.”
“Work?” The vicious curl in Rufus’ voice is disgustingly offended. He drops his arm and tells himself to get under control, but the anger just keeps bursting through, like he isn’t used to this by now. “Am I not giving you enough to do now that you’ve got to make your own errands? Really, Reno, I’d be happy to fix that.”
This is stupid, Rufus thinks to himself. Stupid and revealing and he needs to stop, he needs to walk away, he needs to not care. But his body is a jury-rigged mess and he can’t trust his feet to get him to the door, and Valentine’s request had jarred his mind out of its accustomed grooves earlier and he still hasn’t gotten it back to normal. Though not for lack of trying—and the last thing he needs right now is Reno just fucking around—up on him.
Reno turns around, blinking, and he’s yanked at his shirt some more so Rufus can see how far down the scratches go, and suddenly it occurs to Rufus that they’re too thin to be from nails. Too fresh-looking as well—
--last night, Rufus reasoning that with all these recent attacks, it’s sensible to let Reno doze in bed with him. Over him and tangled up with him, just in case, and the warmth is just a bonus. And he thinks as he looks down at Reno’s body, skin pale and creamy except for the silvery mods, that once upon a time he’d looked like that: perfect--
--the only time Reno’s been out of Rufus’ sight today was just now, for a moment while he got the doctors out, and then a few minutes while he was seeing Valentine out. For a moment, Rufus nearly chokes on his mistake.
Then he’s angry, but it’s a cold anger that will keep. Right now, Reno’s looking quizzically at him, hands in pockets and one eyebrow drifting ceilingward. “Sorry, sir. Didn’t mean to complain.”
“Did you try to provoke Valentine again?” Rufus asks.
Reno does a bad job of trying not to smile proudly to himself; his shoulders give him away as they push up and back in a preen. “Nah, I just told him that the point of the Turks is to protect the Head, not to create dangerous situations.”
“And how is that not provoking?” The heat’s gone from Rufus’ voice.
The other man catches onto that right away, which should be a matter of concern, and swaggers up to Rufus to drop his hands on Rufus’ hips. He lets them linger for a moment before helping Rufus off the table. “It’s truthful. This fucking idea he has about talking to Aeris—I don’t like it. Look, boss, I’m sorry but I’m not gonna answer to him when he’s thinking like that.”
“Well, you’re not in his chain of command now,” Rufus mutters. He gingerly shifts his feet around, waiting for the wince to tell him how much he’ll need his cane today. His hands are on Reno’s shoulders and the cuts on Reno’s chest that Valentine left mock him from inches away.
Reno will heal. Invisibly in person, but not in Rufus’ memory.
“I’m still a Turk,” Reno says. He makes it sound more intelligent and meaningful than it should. “Besides, what about Elena and Rude?”
“They don’t raise nearly as many questions about Valentine as you, thankfully.” Rufus takes his cane—Reno hands it to him, of course—and lets go of the other man. He looks off to the side and lowers his voice, mostly thinking to himself. “The man’s necessary right now, Reno. He’s the only thing stabilizing Sephiroth, and I don’t know how he’s doing that yet.”
“Yet.” There’s something obscene about the way Reno savors the word, something that makes Rufus lean hard into the man even though he has his cane. He slides his hand from Reno’s shoulderblade to his buttock, then pulls Reno hard against him so that obscenity is for him.
It’s not selfishness. Rufus heads the House, and everything in it is his, and does not belong to some red-eyed obsessive psychopath who should have his hands cut off. That claw of Valentine’s is a flaw, and it’ll never heal over. It’ll always be imperfect, and at the end of the day, there’s no room for that in Shinra. As Rufus will see to in time, he promises, letting Reno move closer so the scratches blur out of view.