Stripped Bare

Rufus/Reno, Clones. R. 600 words.
He feels naked without his Turks.

Rufus gestures at the sword held to his throat. “Do you think that this will make me any more willing to cooperate?”

“He came here,” Kadaj hisses. He draws his elbow back, the worn leather of his glove creaking as his grip tightens. The blade quivers with the rage twisting his face. “I saw him. You talked to him.”

Rufus glances away from the madness in Kadaj’s eyes and fights to keep the cold fear trickling down his spine from showing in his own. “Bring my men back inside.”

“Why?” Kadaj’s lip curls. “It won’t do any good having them here.”

“Because then I’ll tell you what you want to know,” Rufus says. He feels naked without his Turks, as if Kadaj has swept the blanket aside and taken his clothes with it. It’s a vulnerability he promised himself he would never suffer again. Not since the first time.

Kadaj’s eyes narrow for a split-second, then flash wide again. He stumbles back, the sword nearly falling from his hand. Snarling, he shakes it off. When he opens his mouth to snap, “The redhead,” his voice isn’t his own.

Rufus watches warily. Instead of stalking to the door like he expects, Kadaj picks a lazy path across the tiny room. He opens the door, exchanges a few words with the others, finally stepping back to let one of them — the taller one, Yazoo — drag Reno inside.

There’s a gash across Reno’s mouth, one cheek nothing but mottled bruises. He grins, doesn’t wince at the fresh rush of blood, and offers up a casual, “Yo, boss,” before Yazoo slams the butt of a gun into his stomach, knocking him to his knees.

“Fuck,” Reno wheezes. Rufus’s nails dig into the arm of his chair, his fingers ache. Yazoo kicks Reno this time, sends him crashing down and rolling in on himself and his pain.

“Are you threatening to beat him to death if I say nothing?” Rufus asks.

Kadaj smiles, gaze lingering on the blood smear left on the floor from Reno’s split lip. “Don’t play cold,” he says. “I’ve seen you–” He hesitates, because they both know he hasn’t, and goes on with, “No. We’ll kill him just because he’s yours.”

Reno laughs, a short bark of sound. “You think he gives a shit–”

“Shut up, shut up!” Kadaj screams again, wordlessly, viciously laying into him with kick after kick. Reno laughs, breaking into fits of coughing and clawing at the wood as blood speckles his lips.

“Kadaj, enough. Enough!” Rufus clenches a hand into a fist, shaking with the effort of not losing himself to a fit to match Reno’s. “As far as we know, Nibelheim is the key. The reactor. Copies of all original reports are at ShinRa Mansion, in the basement.”

Kadaj crouches beside Reno, fists a hand in his hair, as shocking red as the blood smeared across his face, and wrenches his head back. “See, Reno?” Kadaj says, running a fingertip along the tattoo on Reno’s bruised cheek. “We told you.”

Dropping him back to the floor, they leave without another word. Voices drift through the open door, abruptly cut off when it swings shut on its own. Rufus breathes slowly, his lungs aching.

Reno lays still, collecting himself before managing to roll over. Though he doesn’t seem to have the energy for it, he pushes up to his knees and crawls the few feet between them. He sits with back propped against Rufus’s legs, smears of red staining the white of Rufus’s slacks.

It’s a long time before Rude stumbles inside.


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