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

Notes:  Tseng drops Nicky off at home.  Cloud continues to take care of Reno.



Risks and Wagers



Part Five


Tseng let out a breath as he pulled up in front of a small house on the outskirts of the city of Edge.  Rufus' companion - Nicky -
had informed him of the address shortly after they had departed the newly rebuilt Shinra Tower.  As he drove to his destination,
Tseng had been forced to pointedly ignore the sounds coming from the back seat to the best of his ability.  Though, a part of him
did enjoy hearing the shy little cries of pleasure coming from young Nicky.  Once he stopped the car, he steeled himself for what
he was certain he'd see in the backseat.  He got out of the car and walked around to open the door, only to sigh again as his
suspicions were confirmed.

Rufus was practically lying on top of Nicky, and the both of them were somewhat less than decent.  Neither of them was
conscious, having fallen asleep after finishing whatever it had been they were doing.  Working quickly, Tseng attended to Rufus
first.  After adjusting his boss' clothing, he gently lifted Rufus out of the back seat and placed him in the passenger seat in the
front.  Then, out of concern, he took off his own jacket to use as a makeshift blanket for the blonde.

He returned to the back and carefully adjusted Nicky's clothing.  He was filled with a sense of regret as he leaned over and shook
the young man's shoulder.  He'd much rather have let him sleep.

"Hm? Wha?  Where are we?"  Nicky blinked his eyes sleepily as he looked around, and then focused on the man leaning over him.

Tseng smiled a little, not wanting to frighten the youth.  "You're home.  Is anyone here, or will I need a key to get inside?"

Nicky fumbled before he managed to pull a key ring from his pocket.  He held it up to Tseng with a yawn.  "Ana's not due back
until later on tonight."  With that, he shivered a little and fell back to sleep.

Amused, Tseng smirked and shook his head.  He pulled Nicky out of the car, holding him within the cradle of his arms as he
kicked the car door shut.  He made sure to take great care while carrying him.  Nicky seemed even more innocent in sleep than
when Tseng had first observed him in Rufus' office.  Tseng almost found it hard to believe that this was the same person who
had cried out in such stimulating ways not fifteen minutes ago.

Cautiously adjusting the weight in his arms, Tseng unlocked the door to the house and stepped inside.  It wasn't large, but it was
comfortable inside.  There was a sense of neatness, that everything had a place.  It was quite homey.  

He looked around and quickly found a bedroom.  There were two beds, so he assumed both Nicky and Ana shared it.  He wasn't
sure which bed belonged to which sibling though.  It really didn't matter, he decided.  He picked a bed without much thought.  If
it were Ana's, then the young woman could simply rouse her brother and direct him into his own.

He sat Nicky down and knelt to remove the youth's shoes.  Normally, he would leave the rest of the clothing, but he'd already
seen Nicky's assets so he went with what he thought would be comfortable.  He made short work of Nicky's clothing and helped
him to lie back in bed.  With a small twitch of a smile, he brought the blankets up to cover the young man and tucked them in
around him.

Just as he turned to leave, the young man in bed began to stir.  He stretched, yawning widely.  "Hmm?  Oh, I'm home!"

Tseng had to chuckle at the surprise in Nicky's voice.  "Yes, I figured you would be more comfortable waking up in a familiar
environment."  He smiled gently as Nicky glanced under the covers before the youth turned beet red.  "I apologize if my actions
are inappropriate.  I was uncertain as to how I could ensure your comfort."

Nicky shook his head, the pink tinge still coloring his cheeks.  "It's not that.  It's just ... you must see me as some common
whore or something."

The Wutaian let out an outright laugh.  "Not at all.  Rufus Shinra is a very attractive and charismatic man when he wants to be.  
There aren't many men or women who can resist his charming nature when he puts his mind to seducing them."  He paused,
trying to gauge the young man's thoughts.  At the worried look on Nicky's face, he knew the shy youth was still worried about
how he was perceived.  Tseng decided he needed to alleviate that stress.  "I know for a fact that you didn't engage in anything
more intimate than a blowjob."

If possible, Nicky turned even redder as he snapped his head up to look at Tseng.  "How?"

Tseng shrugged.  "President Shinra, for all his show, is not as healthy as he appears.  He isn't really in the condition to have sex
and not regret it fully afterward.  And you don't seem the type to be on top, considering how red your face is at this moment.  
Besides, your backside would be more bruised than your lips."

Nicky fiddled with the blanket, raising one hand to touch his slightly swelled lips.  "Well ... I-I didn't want my first time to be
some casual fling, you know?"

Tseng nodded.  He pulled out his business card and held it out.  "I understand.  Here.  If you or your sister need anything, don't
hesitate to call."

Nicky shyly accepted the card and held it between his fingertips, a small smile on his face.

"Get some rest," Tseng advised.  He didn't wait around any longer, needing to get back to his duties to Rufus.  He turned and left
the room.  Before leaving the house, he made sure to leave the key ring on a small table and locked the door behind himself.

He approached the limo and opened the passenger side door.  Crouching, he pressed the back of his hand to Rufus' forehead,
then to his cheek.  Rufus blinked open his eyes, a drowsy groan slipping past chapped lips.

"You have a fever," Tseng remarked calmly, though inside he was quite worried.  Despite the way he carried himself in public,
Rufus Shinra was still quite unhealthy.  Before the Geostigma, before his injuries due to Weapon's attack, Rufus had dealt with
his health issues.  As a child he had been sickly, a strong illness when he had been an infant had drastically damaged his immune
system.  His frequent bouts of illness had been one of the many reasons that his father had seen him as a failure and quite
unworthy to succeed him.

His health was recovering now though.  Modern medicines and a strict regimen of Potions and Cure spells were strengthening
him.  His times of sickness were growing fewer and farther between.  At least they had been before the Geostigma had ravaged
him.  The Healing Rain may have taken the Geostigma, but it didn't erase the scars left behind by the countless other fevers and
infections he'd had to deal with as a result of the drastic weakening of his immune system as a child.  Because of those compiled
problems, Rufus' health was more fragile now than ever.  His doctors were hopeful though and certain that he'd make a full
recovery if only he'd rest and follow their directions.  But being bedridden again or confined to another wheelchair were the last
things Rufus would allow.

"I'm fine," Rufus sneered, lightly slapping Tseng's hand away.

"Forgive me for my insolence, sir.  But you are not."  He grabbed the Boss' wrist and checked his pulse.  "Your heart rate is too
fast and you're burning up.  You should go home and rest."

Rufus shook his head, letting his eyes close again.  "No.  We'll go to Seventh Heaven and I'll check in on Reno.  While I'm there,
you'll go back to the office and supervise the workers."

"I wouldn't advise this."

"Are you disobeying me?"  Rufus' eyes flashed open, the gems of blue seeming cold and beautiful all at once.

Tseng drew back and bowed.  "No, sir."

Rufus sighed.  "If it makes you feel better, I'll take tomorrow off and you can play nursemaid."

Tseng nodded.  He gently closed the car door and went around to the other side.  Starting the car, he drove off.  "I just don't like
the way you push yourself sometimes, sir," Tseng said after a moment's silence.  "You're not alone any longer.  You have me,
us, with you at all times.  We will help you if you allow it."

Rufus chuckled softly.  "I know, Tseng."  There was a long stretch of silence, so long that Tseng almost missed Rufus' words
when the blonde so suddenly spoke again.  "Thank you, Tseng."

Tseng flicked his eyes to Rufus, only to smirk in amusement as he found the Boss to be sleeping soundly again.  Without a word,
he softly brushed the wheat-colored bangs from Rufus' eyes.  No matter what, he would continue to look after the blonde man.  
He could only hope that Rufus would allow himself to trust others someday.  The pains of his past had cost him greatly, far too
much.


*****


Reno scowled as he flipped through the channels.  A change in the broadcasting regime had done nothing to improve the quality
of programming.  Everything was still crap.  Still, he wasn't about to push his luck and bother Cloud for something else.  He
could hear the blonde man speaking in low tones to someone just outside the door.  From the bits that Reno could hear, he
guessed that Cloud was speaking with Tifa's employee.  'Still sucks that the guy is stuck here playing babysitter.'

Reno shifted a little in the hope of getting more comfortable, but he knew it was not to be.  His injuries were too numerous to get
even a ghost of comfort.  Although disappointed, he doubted that he was actually up for the strip poker game he had suggested
to Cloud.  The sound of the doorknob turning caught his attention and he managed a weak grin.  'You think of the devil, and he
appears.' Out loud, he said something else.

"Don't tell me!  You changed your mind about the Strip Poker thing."

Cloud frowned for a moment before shaking his head.  "I brought you up some lunch."

Reno shrugged and looked at the set, flipping through a few more channels without really seeing what was on.  "Not really
hungry."  It was the truth.  In fact, the very thought of eating made him feel queasy.

Cloud was silent briefly as he set the bowl of soup on the table by the bed.  "You really should eat something.  But I won't force
you.  Is there anything you need?"

The redhead quirked a grin.  "A hand job would be nice.  A blow job would be better.  Sex ... now that would be perfect."

Cloud frowned and placed a hand on Reno's forehead.  Cloud's skin felt delightfully cool against his own and Reno couldn't help
but let out a sigh at the feel of his touch.  The blonde frowned.  "Even if you were serious, which I doubt you are, you'd only
make yourself worse with such an activity."  He tilted his head.  "Perhaps you should sleep for a while.  You'll probably feel more
up to eating when you wake up."

"Aww, man!  You're gonna leave me alone AGAIN?"  Reno had to admit that sleeping sounded really good at the moment.  He
just didn't want to be alone though.  He was too bored.  "C'mon, I know it's not your strong suit, but could you just TALK to me
for a while, yo?  I'm going outta my mind with boredom here."

Cloud frowned and glanced at the television.  "But ..."

"Nuthin' on there but boring news, boring weather, and boring vids that everyone has seen at least a hundred times." Reno
sighed.  "I don't suppose you have any recorded vids, yo?"

There was a thoughtful look on Cloud's face before he spoke.  "I'm not sure, but I'll check."  He shifted his weight to his other
leg, looking uncomfortable.  "But I can't stay and talk.  I have a few things to do around the place."

"Bummer."  He closed his eyes, but opened them to give Cloud a leer.  "Well, if I can't have sex, will you come and cuddle with
me?"  He sighed as Cloud simply snorted and left the room.  Who would have ever known that the man who was a fireball on the
battlefield could be such a wet blanket otherwise?


*****


Cloud quietly closed the door behind himself and went downstairs.  The bar was bustling with activity, cheers and laughter
ringing out all around him.  Kyle was standing behind the bar, serving drinks even as he had an ear bent to his shoulder so that he
could speak into the phone precariously perched there.  The young man saw Cloud and briskly waved him over, extending the
phone to him.  "It's Tifa," he called out over the din.

Cloud nodded and took the phone.  "Tifa," he said calmly.

"Well!  Kyle managed to get you to answer the phone!" Tifa's voice was full of amusement.  "What's been going on?"

Cloud turned and walked to the backroom where it was quieter.  "Not much."

"Uh-huh.  And what's really going on?"  She did have a knack for interpreting his words correctly, no matter how little he
managed to say.

"Reno's here."

There was silence for a moment before Tifa let out an audible breath.  "What is he doing there?  Is something going on that
Barret and I should know about?"

"No."  Cloud shook his head, even though he knew she wouldn't see it.  "He's sick and injured."

"What?  How did that happen?"

"Long story."

Tifa sighed.  "Oh.  Well, the kids and I will still be here for a while, so he's welcome to stay.  Did you use the Potion in the first
aid kit?"

"Yes," Cloud replied simply.

"Good.  Just keep an eye on him.  I'll see you in a few days.  I'll call before we leave.  If Reno's still sick, we can stay here until
he's better."

"Hmm," he nodded once.

"They miss you.  Cloud ... take care of yourself, okay?  Don't let yourself get sick."

"Okay.  See you."

"Bye."

Cloud disconnected the call.  He didn't like it when Tifa or anyone else worried about him.  He could take care of himself.

He set the phone down and went around doing the chores he hadn't yet done.  It was a good hour before he was able to return to
the bar.

"Do you need any help?" Cloud asked as he stepped over to Kyle.  The place was quieter now, but far from empty.  More
customers would come after dusk though.

Kyle shook his head.  "No, sir."

Cloud gave a brisk nod.  "If you need me for anything I'll be upstairs."  He walked up and took a chance to look through the vids
that Tifa had in her room, but didn't find much that seemed interesting to him.  Still, he gathered a few of them and went to the
room that Reno was borrowing.

He paused there, outside the door.  It was almost unnaturally quiet considering how loud Reno usually was.  He slowly turned the
knob and pushed the door open a crack.  He blinked as he looked in, genuinely surprised.

Reno was sound asleep.  The bed sheets were a little rumpled from the redhead's obvious struggle to gain some measure of
comfort.  One of Reno's arms was draped over his stomach and the other was thrown over his head as if the skin on his arm
would be cooler.

Cloud must have made some noise, because in an instant, Reno was awake and reaching for a weapon he didn't have.

"Relax," Cloud said plainly as he stepped fully into the room.  He closed the door behind himself and was next to Reno's bed
within seconds.

Reno took a few ragged breaths that ended with him coughing.  "Sorry, yo.  Turk training.  Gives you light sleep and quick
reflexes, for the most part."  He smiled a little.  "What's up?"

Cloud tilted his head and regarded Reno.  "Hopefully not your fever."  He held up the disks he had found and placed them on the
bed beside Reno.  Gently, he brushed Reno's bangs away and settled his hand against the skin.  He frowned at how hot that skin
was.  "Cool water will help."  He was warmer than before, and that realization made Cloud's frown deepen.

Reno sighed softly and a small smile graced his flushed features.  "Anything cool will be welcome, yo.  You could dump me on
the middle of a glacier and I wouldn't care in the least."

Cloud inclined his head, letting his hand drop away from the redhead.  "I'll be right back."  He went back downstairs and grabbed
a bowl from the kitchen.

Kyle was there so Cloud assumed the waitress Tifa had hired for the week had arrived and was left tending the bar.  Kyle was
just refilling the peanut bowls, nothing that would take him a good long while or leave the poor girl out there alone long.

The other man looked up as Cloud filled the bowl with some ice.  "Problem?"

Cloud shook his head.  "Nothing I can't handle."  

He grabbed a clean cloth from the rag bin and filled the bowl with water.  As a second thought, he got a glass of water for the
redheaded man as well.  Everything ready, he returned to the kids' room.

Reno was just where he had left him.  He was looking through the vids, but set them all aside as Cloud entered the room.

Cloud took a seat on the edge of the bed next to Reno.  "Here, this should help."  He placed the bowl of water on the bedside
table and wet the cloth.  After wringing out some of the excess moisture, he started dabbing Reno's fevered skin.

"Ahhhhh..." Reno squirmed a little.  "You can do that forever, yo."

Cloud snorted and wet the cloth again, then set it across Reno's forehead.  "Try and go back to sleep.  I'll close the door.  I'll
check in periodically.  Call the bar if you need anything."  With that, he left the room.

He didn't feel all that comfortable around the Turk.  Ever since last night, Cloud was always expecting some filthy remark, or a
request to get into the blonde's pants.  It was better not to remain in the same room with him for too long.  Because the longer he
stayed, the less he considered Reno's advances to be a bad thing.


*****


Reno watched Cloud leave with a sad sigh.  He'd hoped that Cloud would stay longer.  He found that he enjoyed the taciturn
blonde's temporary company, even if he didn't say all that much.  And hell, there was that bet to think about.  How was he to get
Cloud in the sack if the man wasn't ever in the same room as him for more than five minutes at a time?

'Call the bar ... yeah, right.  And what am I gonna say?  "I'm lonely"?  That will never work.'  He wasn't hungry.  Cloud had left
him some water, so he couldn't claim thirst.  After a moment of assessment, he determined that he didn't have to use the
facilities.  So there was no excuse that he could use.

Half-heartedly, he took the no-longer cool cloth from his head and dipped it in the bowl.  It was so tempting to just take it and
dump its contents on his head, but he knew that the refreshing feeling would be gone quickly.  All he could do was take Cloud's
advise and get a little sleep.

He closed his eyes and quickly fell into slumber.


*****


Cloud did his own odd jobs while Kyle tended the bar and the new waitress went around to the tables.  As he worked, his
thoughts constantly returned to Reno.  He found himself vexed as he was torn between wanting the flirty redhead out of the bar
and wanting to see just how much of Reno's talk was just talk and how much Reno actually meant by it.

Reno was just playing with him.  There was nothing beyond that.  It was no more than a game to the Turk, a way to annoy
Cloud or to make him feel like a fool for giving in to these aberrant thoughts and feelings.  He'd never wanted anything like this
from anyone else.  Well, at one time he had found himself looking at Sephiroth and Zack, but that had been a long time ago,
before the former had lost his sanity and before his friend had lost his life.

There was some excitement at the front of the bar, jarring him from his thoughts.  He put everything down and walked over to
see what the commotion was about, only to blink as Rufus Shinra walked in followed by Tseng - who looked torn between anger
and worry.

Cloud scowled.  "What are you doing here?"

Rufus leveled a steady look at Cloud.  "I am simply here to check on the welfare of my employee.  There's nothing wrong with
that, is there?"

Tseng sighed.  "Sir, you've been doing too much.  You really should be resting."

Rufus shot a glare Tseng's way.  "We've already discussed this matter and it will not be repeated here.  You have your
instructions."

Tseng bowed respectfully.  "Yes, sir.  I apologize for overstepping my boundaries."  Quietly, he turned and left the bar.

Cloud didn't wonder long where the Wutaian had gone.  He was more concerned over why Rufus was still standing there in the
middle of the bar.  The patrons around him were whispering amongst themselves, pointing toward the young executive.  Some
looked like they had less than innocent intentions.  Cloud thought it would be better to get Rufus out of their sights.

"Come on then.  He's upstairs."  He gestured for Rufus to follow, but didn't wait to see if he did as he turned to head up the
stairs.  He could hear the man's footsteps behind him.

On the stairs, far from curious ears, Rufus spoke.  "I'll be staying the night," he said plainly.  "Tseng will return to pick me up
tomorrow morning."

Cloud frowned and spun to face the man.  "I'm not running a hotel," he growled.

Rufus chuckled and the sound grated on Cloud's nerves.  "It is only one night, Cloud.  Even you can be hospitable for that long."

Sneering, Cloud turned away and started up the stairs again.  He wouldn't sink so low as to start an argument with the infuriating
man.  He wanted nothing to do with Shinra, not the man or the company that he controlled.  

"He's in here," Cloud snapped, though he forced himself to move gently as he opened the door.  He didn't want to disturb Reno's
sleep.  The redhead needed all the rest he could get if he were to recover from his illness.

Rufus walked ahead of him as they entered the room.  Cloud was grateful to see that the Turk was still asleep.  Perhaps his
instincts were damped by his sickness.  It was a reasonable assumption.

Rufus leaned down close and placed a hand delicately along the side of Reno's face.  "He's very warm," the man commented.

"He's getting worse," Cloud acknowledged.  "If his fever doesn't break soon, I'll use the X-Potion Tseng gave me."

Rufus nodded.  He let his hand linger on Reno's face a moment longer, and then rose to stand.  "Where shall I be staying?"

Cloud had to fight off the urge to growl at the man again.  "This way," he replied, turning and leaving without a further word.  
He would really prefer to get the man out of his home.


*****


Rufus followed after Cloud, his head aching and his body feeling lethargic.  All he wanted to do was collapse, to find a bed and
curl himself up in it.  He hadn't felt this tired in so long, not since the Geostigma had been ravaging his body.

He shook his head, trying to cast away those hated memories.  Illness wasn't a foreign thing to him.  He had spent most of his
life in a sickbed.  But he would be damned if he would be forced into a wheelchair again, to suffer the indignity of being waited
on by his loyal Turks, to force them to see to his needs just because his own body was too dreadfully weak to support him.  He
didn't want to depend on others anymore.  Not for something as simple as using his own strength to hold his eating utensils or
even going to the bathroom on his own.

"Tifa's room should be comfortable enough for you," Cloud stated with a snappish tone.  "But don't touch anything."

"Cloud, I am hardly in the habit of rifling through a woman's closet or trying on her undergarments."  Rufus replied with a soft
chuckle.

Cloud stopped walking suddenly and turned to face him.  Rufus had to smile as he was brought within inches of the man.  It
would be all too easy to reach up and caress one of those soft cheeks, but Rufus wouldn't do that.  He knew that his own body
was burning with a fever and despite his urges to touch that beautiful body in front of him he didn't want Cloud to know that he
was unwell.  It was no one's business but his own and he wouldn't take pity from someone who had been his enemy only a few
years ago.

"It's this room then, is it?" Rufus asked, his head beginning to feel fuzzy.  He gestured to the room they had stopped beside.

Cloud nodded, his eyes narrowing.  "Don't touch anything," he repeated, then pushed past Rufus and stormed off.  "If you want
something to eat, you can go to the bar.  I'm not waiting on you."

Rufus couldn't help the smile that came to his lips as he watched that fine ass move out of his line of sight.  It looked like he had
a long way to go to win that bet though.  Cloud wasn't even close to warming up to him yet.  There was too much pain in their
history, he supposed.  He'd have to work hard just to get the man to smile in front of him.

His own smile fell as the hallway began to blur.  He shook his head, clearing his senses, if only a little.  With a frown firmly fixed
on his face, he fumbled with opening the bedroom door and staggered inside.  Now that Cloud wasn't there to see, he didn't think
he could hold up his pretenses.  He had been feeling dizzy before, but had tried his hardest not to let it show.  He must have been
successful since Cloud had left him on his own.

He blearily closed the door behind himself and turned to face the room.  All he wanted to do was to find the bed and go to sleep.  
He couldn't make out much of the décor; the colors were spinning and blending together in front of his eyes.  He could not focus
on any one thing.

"Fuck," Rufus muttered to himself, his eyes finally alighting on the bed across the room.  The image faded away into the swirling
colors again, lost to his fading senses.  Everything was beginning to grow dim and he felt for certain that the room was
beginning to tip.

He took one step in the direction the bed had been, and then found himself swimming in an unyielding darkness.  He didn't even
feel it as his body collapsed to the floor in a heap.  His only hope was that Cloud wouldn't find him like this.  He didn't want pity.  
He wanted to take care of himself.  He didn't need anyone's help.



To Be Continued...