Disclaimers:  I do not own Final Fantasy VII or any of its characters.

Notes:  Reno is sick.  Cloud takes care of him.  Once again, forgive me if anyone seems a bit out of character.  This is my first
real FF7 fic.

Risks and Wagers

Part Two

Reno groaned miserably as he was dragged to the waking world.  He felt like his whole body was on fire, a fire stoked by the
billows in his head.  He yawned, only to break into a fit of coughing.  The hacking coughs tore at his throat and made his ribs
burn, so he was totally drained by the time he was finished.  He lay there on the bed, forcing his teary and tired eyes to open as
he heard the padding footsteps approaching the door.

Cloud entered the room with a frown on his face.  From the faint flush on his face, it was apparent that he had heard the
coughing and had run to see the source.

Reno wanted to say something witty or snappy, but could only manage what he knew to be a weak and sickly grin.  "I don't
suppose you have any more Potions, do you?" he asked, wincing at the hoarse sound of his own voice.  He clenched his sore
fingers in the light blanket that was covering him, taking in a difficult breath through his mouth since his nose was already
heavily clogged.

The blonde shook his head.  "No.  And the shop is closed."

Reno blinked as a sudden dread filled him.  He'd actually have to suffer through being sick?  "What?  Why?"

Cloud shrugged.  "Owner went on vacation.  I'll be back in a few minutes."  With that, he turned and left.

Reno groaned as every single injury he had - and a few he hadn't been aware of - decided to start reminding him of his poor
condition.  If he'd had the energy, he would have started ranting about how ridiculous the whole situation was.  When Cloud
returned with some juice and an ice pack, Reno gave him a sheepish smile.  "Do you mind if I call Tseng on your phone?  He's
my superior and deserves to know where I am . . . and why I won't be in for work."

Cloud set the glass of juice on the table by the bed and settled the icepack on Reno's head.  It felt damn good and he sighed in
relief as the ache in his head dulled somewhat.  He didn't even notice that Cloud had left the room again until the other man came
back with the phone.  He accepted it with a faint smile, which turned quickly into a frown as he saw the way his own hands
were shaking.  He felt weak and he hated it.  Trying to ignore the tremors, he punched in Tseng's number.

The other end only rang once.  "Tseng here."

Reno didn't even bother tying to sound sick.  There was no point, since he actually was sick.  "Heya, Tseng.  Has Rude been in
touch with you yet?"

There was a pause.  "No.  But he did requisition several more pairs of sunglasses first thing this morning."  His voice broke off
into a soft mutter which caused Reno to smirk.  "The president should buy that company with how many Rude goes through."  
There was another pause.  "Why?"  To his credit, he was silent the entire time as Reno gave his explanation.  When Reno was
done, Tseng spoke up.  "I'm on my way to verify that you are safe and that you are, indeed, sick and not just calling in hung
over again."

Reno sighed, knowing his track record for call outs very well.  Hell, just last week he had gone on a major bender and hadn't
been able to make it in to work for two days straight.  It had pissed Tseng off in a major way.  It would be better not to let the
man get that pissed again.  Tseng had one hell of a violent temper when he got riled.  "Yeah, that's cool by me, yo.  See you in a

He disconnected the call and handed the phone back to Cloud before picking up the glass of juice Cloud had brought for him
earlier.  After drinking half of his juice, he sighed again.  His eyes were drooping and he didn't know if he had the strength to stay
awake much longer.  Damn, he hated being sick.

The glass was gently pulled from his slack grip.  "You should rest more."  Cloud had a worried frown on his face.  "If you have
to stay, that's fine."

Reno managed another weak smile.  "Won't Tifa mind?"

Cloud shook his head.  "They'll be gone another week or more."  Then his frown deepened, as if he had said something he really
shouldn't have.  He closed his eyes, letting out a soft breath.  "I'll see if I can contact the others . . . ask them if they have any
spare potions."

It was Reno's turn to frown.  From the way Cloud sounded, the blonde doubted he'd get in touch with anyone.  "They leave you
alone a lot?"  At the shrug he received in answer, Reno felt himself get a little angry.  "That's just wrong, yo!  Ignore you for
who knows how long and then - when the world needs saving - you're the most popular guy in town."

Cloud scowled and gave Reno a glare.  "It isn't like that."  He shook his head.  "It's none of your business."  Turning and walking
away, he didn't even bother to spare a glance back before leaving.  "Sleep," was all he said, and then the door was closed behind
him and Reno was left with his own thoughts.

With the way he was feeling, Reno didn't argue with the command.  Although he felt like he should apologize for opening his big
mouth, he really didn't have the strength at the moment.


Cloud scowled as he washed the glass out and went about making sure Seventh Heaven was tidied.  He couldn't help but be
upset about Reno's comment.  It wasn't like his friends ignored him unless there was trouble.  Everyone just had busy lives.  
They called him, tried to get him involved in get-togethers, or to take a day off to relax.  They didn't ignore him.  Cloud simply
preferred to be alone most of the time.  People were too much hassle.  It was easier to be alone, than to deal with things.  Alone.  
It was just less painful.

This whole situation with Reno was a prime example.  When he had first spotted Reno, it had been just after seeing someone
lying unconscious in an alley and a nearby car with a broken window.  He could hear groaning, so assumed the man to be alive
and had left him be and went on his way.  It had taken Cloud a moment for him to recognize the troublemaker, since Reno's hair
had been covered in a layer of mud and his clothes had been practically falling off of him.  If anyone cared to ask, Cloud would
verify that Reno looked as if he had been attacked and was merely defending himself.  Reno was a pain in the ass, but he didn't
go about attacking innocent bystanders.  Well, as far as Cloud knew anyway.  As soon as they had gotten to the Seventh Heaven,
Cloud had called the police to inform them of the incident in the alley, before he returned and handed the phone over to Reno so
he could make his calls.

Cloud got himself dressed in his usual attire.  He found it comfortable, so that was all that mattered to him.  Then he walked to
the bathroom and picked up Reno's tattered clothing.  He hadn't had a chance the previous night, since he had been tired as well.  
With a shake of his head, he threw them in the rubbish bin after checking to make sure there was nothing in any of the pockets.  
The only thing he found was Reno's goggles.  He frowned at the sight of them, running the pads of his fingers along the cracks
in one lens.  At least the frames had remained undamaged.

He tucked the goggles into his pocket, and then went in to check on Reno.  He set the hair tie - which he had found among
Reno's clothing - on the table by the bed, letting a small smile tug at his lips as he observed that Reno actually looked very
innocent and young when he was asleep.  No one who didn't know Reno would ever believe that the young man was a ball of
energy and trouble if they saw him right now.

And he was also a flirt, if the previous night was any indication.  Reno had made a point.  No one had ever called Cloud's eyes
beautiful before.  Cloud shook his head, thinking himself ridiculous.  'No . . . better not dwell on what is impossible.'  He left the
room and continued with his few chores, then sat down to read when he was done.  He'd taken time off from his own business
to watch over Seventh Heaven.  It wasn't open right now, being far too early.  In a few hours, some kid Tifa had hired would be
by to handle dealing with the customers.  Cloud was strictly in a managerial position, and quite thankful that he wouldn’t have to
do everything himself.  It looked like he’d have his hands full with Reno as it was.

He would have preferred staying at the church.  Or on the cliff.  Places where he felt warm and not so alone.  It was odd that
places of such solitude made him feel that way, but he didn't feel like contemplating his eccentricities right now.

He looked up from his magazine as the sound of coughing breached his thoughts.  Then he got up and decided to make some
soup.  He had already tried to call everyone he knew, but everyone seemed to either be out of range or busy so there was no way
to contact anyone.  A part of him felt sorrow for Reno's predicament.  The redhead had been through quite a lot the previous
night, adding illness on top of that had to be rough.

But there was a part of Cloud that felt a burst of warmth at the knowledge that Reno was here.  He didn't know why, but having
Reno around was - he didn't really know how he was feeling at the moment.  But it was a good sort of feeling, even if he
couldn't identify just what it was.  

It didn't take long to heat the soup up, so he dished up a bowl for Reno and headed toward the bedroom he was in.  He felt a
faint smile tug at his lips, remembering the previous night when he had taken the soup up to Reno.  He briefly wondered if there
would be a repeat performance today.


'Being sick is hell!'  Reno rubbed his head as he tried to sit up.  His body was hearing none of that nonsense, so he collapsed
back on the bed.  'I hope Tseng has a Potion.  He hates having his people sick . . . takes too much time for them to recover
when they could be out in the field doing something productive.'  Truth be told, Reno hadn't been ill since he had joined the
Turks.  He considered that a great benefit, far better than what it had been like when he had just been some slum rat.

He shuddered at the memories that sprang to mind, and did all he could to force them back down to the back of his mind.  The
past was in the past.  It couldn't hurt him anymore.  So there was no point in dwelling on things he couldn't change.  But he
would die before he ever had to go back to that old life again.

Cloud entered while Reno was distracted and held out a bowl.  "Here."

Reno perked up a little.  He blinked, his eyes focusing on the steam pouring over the bowl's edge.  "Is that more of that soup
from last night?"  He had enjoyed it, despite his exhaustion.

Cloud nodded.  "Tifa and the kids made a big pot of it before they left."  There was an unspoken statement that said the soup had
been made for Cloud to eat.

Reno accepted the bowl with a new appreciation.  "Thanks, yo.  Really."

The blonde shrugged a little.  "I can fend for myself.  You can't right now."

Reno sighed as his good mood was dampened slightly, but he still ate the soup with relish.  True, his sense of taste was hindered,
but the flavors weren't completely muted out.  It was a very good soup.  After finishing it, he reached to set the empty bowl on
the table, then flushed a little in embarrassment as a familiar feeling made itself known.  "Ummm, I don't want to put you into any
uncomfortable situations, but I'm about as strong as an infant right about now and would probably collapse if I got up."

Cloud frowned at that.  "Why bring it up?"

Reno cleared his throat, his cheeks feeling warmer than earlier.  "I have to . . . well . . . go to the bathroom." It was what had
woken him up in the first place.  He was embarrassed because he knew that Cloud would at least have to help him to the facilities.

Cloud, to his credit, merely nodded and helped as much as he could without infringing on Reno’s privacy.  He half-carried the
redhead out of the bedroom and across the hall.  But he waited outside as Reno stumbled and staggered his way inside on his
own.  It didn't take all that long and Reno was back in bed with a fresh ice pack on his head before he knew it.  Cloud sat on the
edge of the bed, running a wonderfully cool wet cloth over his forehead and cheeks, swiping away the sweat that had beaded
forth from his recent exercise.

Reno was just about to fall back to sleep under the gentle ministrations of Cloud's hands, when someone knocked on the front
door rather loudly.  Reno groaned.  He’d recognize that knock anywhere.  "That would be Tseng.  Don't keep the man waiting
too long or he'll get pissed off."

As soon as Cloud left, Reno steeled himself for the verbal lashing he was sure he'd get.  He pulled the ice pack from his head and
ran his fingers through his hair, though he knew it was a wasted effort to try and fix the mess without a brush, or even a comb
to work with.

Cloud returned a moment later with Tseng following a step behind.  Tseng took one look at Reno and said in a flat voice, "You
look like shit."

Reno shrugged, fiddling with the icepack.  "I feel like shit."  He gave Tseng a hopeful look.  "I don't suppose you have a Potion
on you?  A High Potion or X-Potion would be better, but I'd settle for anything right now."

Tseng - the bastard - smirked.  "No . . . No, I think it's best to heal under your own power.  It'll teach you to be more careful
with that damn EMR of yours.  You've very nearly killed all of us at one point or another with that thing."

"Rude snitched, eh?" Reno wasn't surprised.  Tseng had probably gone to question the bald man as soon as Reno had hung up.  
"It's not like I mean to do it, yo," he said softly, still fiddling with the pack.

Tseng nodded.  "That's why I'm leaving you here and not making you come back to headquarters where you'll be looked after by
Rude.  I doubt he'd be as considerate of your injuries as Cloud has been.  I've already discussed it with Mr. Strife and he has
agreed to the arrangement."  He crossed his arms over his chest and glared down at Reno with a look that left no room for
argument.  "Now, I want a full report of the events of last night.  There is no way a couple of bouncers could do this amount of
damage to you."

Reno sighed wearily and unconsciously ran his hand back through his hair.  He began to retell the events that had led to Cloud
picking him up on the side of the road, leaving nothing out.  He didn't want to relate these things with Cloud in the room, but
seeing as the blonde wouldn't leave, he didn't have much choice in the matter.

Tseng listened impassively, nodding in the appropriate places.  "So after you were molested by this man, you beat him up and left
him in an alley?"

Reno felt a surge of fury.  "I am NOT a whore!"  Then he muttered beneath his breath, missing the look he got from Cloud as
the blonde leaned closer to pick up the empty soup bowl at the same time the words left his lips.  Had Cloud heard?  Tseng
obviously hadn't, since he was too far away at the moment.  Instead, Tseng was just looking down at him, shaking his head.

"That explains why the police found your EMR beside the body of an apparent assault victim.  It was turned in to me this
morning, shortly after your phone call.  You can retrieve it when you return to work."

Reno blinked.  He hadn't even known he had lost the blasted thing.  "How'd the cops get it?  Who called them?"

"I did," Cloud responded, his fingers delicately wrapped around the bowl.  "After we got here . . . when I went to get the phone."

The black-haired leader of the Turks nodded and reached into his suit.  "Here, don't hesitate to use it if you are in need of
something."  He pulled out a new cell phone and handed it over to Reno with a small grin.  "Lucky for me you don't go through
these the way Rude goes through those damn sunglasses of his."  He shook his head.  "The matter with your assault will be taken
care of within the hour."

Reno wasn't sure if Tseng was referring to the assault against Reno, or the one Reno had committed, but in the end it really
didn't matter.  Tseng would do what he had to do to protect a member of his team.  Reno had no doubt he'd never hear about
this matter from Tseng again.  "'Kay," Reno murmured, pressing his back further into the bedding beneath him.  All that talking
had left him feeling tired again.  He just wanted to sleep.  He didn't even notice as Tseng left the room.

He blinked his eyes open as he felt the ice pack being tugged from his slack fingers.  There was an unreadable look on Cloud's
face.  Reno frowned in concern.  "What?"

Cloud sighed, closing his eyes briefly.  "What did you mean . . .'anymore'?"

Reno groaned, biting his lip as his fingers twitched nervously.  He didn't answer though, not sure how to answer.  Cloud would
probably think of him as the most disgusting filth in the world if he knew.  The man was so clean cut, such a goody-goody.  
There was no way he could look at Reno as anything but scum now.

Cloud persisted though.  "You said, 'I am not a whore . . . anymore.'  What did you mean by that?"

Reno groaned, his hands twitching.  He had hoped that Cloud hadn't heard that little statement.  Reno remained silent for a
moment, hoping that Cloud would just leave.  No such luck.  The blonde just stood there as if he could wait forever for an
answer.  Finally, Reno sighed in resignation.  "Life in the slums was no piece of cake when you didn't have anyone watching
your back.  You only had a few choices open to you down there.  You could have tried begging for scraps, hoping to find some
job in a shop or bar where you'd just be working your ass off for room and board, maybe getting a couple Gil tossed to you on
rare occasions.  Or . . . you could sell the only thing of value a street rat ever really owns."  He shuddered a little, not liking the
memories.  The past was in the past.  It should stay dead and buried where it belonged.

"For a while I did all right with the begging bit, getting a good amount of food.  When I turned twelve, though, I started having a
really tough time of it.  I thought I was a goner until this guy offered me a meal and a place to crash for the night . . . for a
price."  He tried to shrug it off, but he remembered, and it wasn't something he liked remembering either.  He found he couldn't
lift his eyes at all, worried about how Cloud would see him now.  He really was just a piece of shit trash from the street.

"You were a whore," Cloud spoke in a completely monotone voice.

Reno narrowed his eyes, snapping them up to look defiantly into those perfectly blue orbs.  "I never spread my legs for anyone!"
he snapped, clenching his shaking fingers in the blankets.  "That guy . . . well, he became my pimp for a while.  But he never let
anyone do me.  Sick fuck got a kick outta having a virgin cocksucker on his payroll."  Reno shrugged.  "Then he got himself
gutted and I was on my own for a while before the Turks found me."  He grimaced, looking away again.  "It's in the past
anyway.  When I became a Turk, I put all that behind me."

Cloud nodded.  "Thank you for being honest."  He turned and walked out of the room.

Once Cloud was gone, Reno groaned and sank into the pillows.  At least Cloud hadn't had any disgust or pity in those beautiful
blue eyes of his.  That just would have sucked.  He ran the back of his hand over his eyes, mildly surprised when he found them
wet with tears.


Cloud frowned in thought as he left the room, only to stop short when he saw Tseng leaning against the wall across from him.  
"You heard all of that?" he asked quietly, after he had closed the door.

Tseng nodded impassively.  "I knew what he was all along.  I was the one who recruited him in the first place."

Cloud tilted his head, curious.  Though he didn't really know why he was curious to know all these details about Reno's life.  
"How so?"

Tseng shrugged.  "I was on an unrelated assignment at the time and happened to spot him as he was subduing an overzealous
client.  It's not every day that I see an elite SOLDIER get his ass thoroughly kicked by an eighty-pound slum rat."  He smiled,
pausing only briefly before he continued.  "I followed him for a few blocks before he stopped and told me to quit following him
or he'd have to kick my ass as well.  Do you know how hard it is to detect a Turk when they're trying to be quiet?  We specialize
in sneak attacks."

Cloud nodded.  "I know.  Although Reno sucks at the sneaking part."

The black-haired man actually managed a chuckle, before continuing with his story.  "I spent one hundred Gil just to get him to
come with me to the hotel room I was staying in, then another fifty to convince him I had no interest in his body or mouth.  
While he was there, he used up all of the suite's hot water and ate just about everything in the fridge.  He also ordered a sizable
amount of food from Room Service.  After he got comfortable and stopped trying to 'earn his keep', I offered him training as a
Turk.  The possibility of never having to whore himself out anymore appealed to him, so he made his decision quickly."  He
glanced to the closed door and sighed.  "How is he really?"

Cloud shrugged.  "He'll live.  Although he will be miserable for a while."

Tseng nodded and then sighed.  "I hate seeing any of my people in pain, but he does have to learn not to be so reckless."  He
pulled something from one of his pockets and handed it to Cloud.  "Use this if he gets worse or if an emergency comes up."

The blonde looked down at his hand and blinked at the X-Potion he was now holding.  "I could give this to him now."

Tseng smirked.  "But you won't.  If you never have to use it for Reno, hang onto it or sell it."  He glanced at his watch.  "If
there's nothing else . . ."

Cloud held up a hand.  "One more thing."  He dug into his pocket and pulled out the broken goggles he had retrieved from Reno's
belongings earlier.  "I believe he would appreciate having these fixed."

A nod was all the answer he received.  As the man turned to leave, Cloud found he had another question to ask.

"Why did you tell me?"

The dark-haired man paused, but didn't turn around.  "Hm?" was his soft reply.

Cloud leveled his gaze at the man's back.  "About Reno.  Why did you tell me about how you found him?"

Tseng shrugged.  "You asked."  He turned his head, just enough so that Cloud could see half of his face.  "I trust you'll keep this
information confidential."  He didn't wait for a response.  "I know you're not the type to gossip.  Such a bad habit, always leads
to unfortunate results."

Then he was gone and Cloud was left standing in his hallway, his fingers wrapped around the X-Potion Tseng had given him.

To Be Continued . . .