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

Notes: Reno chides Rufus.



Risks and Wagers



Part Eight



Reno was getting Rufus tucked into bed.  He fluffed up the pillows behind his head and fiddled with the blankets, making sure
they were straight and he was snug and warm.  “I can't believe you've come nosing in here and interrupting my time with
Cloud.  At least my illness was accidental!”

Rufus was glaring at him.  “And you're saying my illness isn't?”

Reno paused and snorted.  “You know that you haven't fully recovered and that any sort of action will cause a minor relapse.  
So, yes.  I do believe you did this on purpose.  You were jealous of me having Cloud all to myself.”  He folded his arms across
his chest.  “Not that I could enjoy it at all.”

Rufus grinned in that superior way of his.  “So you haven't done anything yet?”

Reno felt a wave of irritation on Cloud's behalf.  “No.  And just so you don't get any ideas, Cloud wouldn't dream of doing
anything with you while you're weak.  He'd think he was taking advantage of you.”  He had been hoping to resume his flirting
with the blonde now that he was better, but he knew it would seem inappropriate while his boss was ill.  “Damn ... and I was so
close.”  He shook his head and tried to chase away the vision of Cloud's electric blue eyes giving him a gentle look.  He didn't
know if it were a dream or a memory, but he doubted he'd get the chance to verify it.  With Rufus here, Cloud would
undoubtedly revert to his cold and stiff demeanor.

A weak smirk curled Rufus' mouth.  “Maybe I'll pick up where you left off.  Despite his apparent aggravation over the situation,
it seems to me that our blonde associate enjoys helping others.”

“Don't make me laugh, Boss.  You can barely keep your eyes open as it is.  As soon as Tseng gets here - probably with at least
one of your doctors - you'll be under a slew of medications.  I doubt you'll be able to stay awake for more than five minutes, let
alone be aware that Cloud, or anyone else, is even in the room with you.”

Rufus rolled his head on the pillows.  It didn't seem like he had anything to say on the subject.

Reno dropped his hand to his employer's hand.  The skin was cold and clammy.  It made the redhead frown to feel the slight
tremors than ran just under the skin.  Rufus was sick, sicker than Reno had seen in a long time, not counting the Geostigma.

“You're sick, yo.  The docs are going to put you on so many meds you won't be able to think straight.  You shouldn't go
skipping doses.”

A soft grunt was all the reply he received.  Rufus closed his eyes, rapidly slipping unconscious.

The Turk reached out, grasping his boss' chin and turning his face toward him.  He lightly slapped a far-too-pale cheek.  “Yo,
Boss?  C'mon, wake up.”  He didn't like the way Rufus had so easily fallen asleep.  It wasn't natural.

Cloud entered the room then.  “Tseng will be here soon.”  He stopped by the bed, eyeing the situation carefully.  “What's
happened?”

“He passed out.  I can't wake him.”

The reticent blonde moved closer to the bed.  He leaned forward, pressing his fingers to the unconscious executive's throat.  “His
pulse is thready.”  He slid his hand away, laying it flat against the man's abdomen.  “His breathing is shallow.  He seems stable
though.  Tell me what's wrong with him.”

“No way of telling until his doc gets here.  He gets sick all the time.  Could be a cold or pneumonia setting in.  Could be an
infection or some virus he picked up somewhere.  His immune system is shot.  Has been since he was a kid.”  He brushed a
hand through Rufus' hair, sweeping the fair bangs back away from his face.  “I haven't seen him this bad in a while though.”

“You're worried?”

“Damn straight!”  He continued softly stroking Rufus' hair.  “Fuck, I shouldn't have taken him drinking the other night.  It's not
the first time he skipped his meds because of a hangover.  I should have known better.”

“There's no point in blaming yourself.  It won't help matters any.”  Cloud sat on the other side of the bed, across from Reno.  “If
he's been sick for as long as you say, then he should know better than to risk his own health.  He should know his own
limitations.”

Reno chuckled.  “I've been telling him that.”

“Are you hungry?” Cloud asked after a short, awkward silence.

Reno shook his head, unable to take his eyes off of Rufus.  “Nah.  Not real hungry right now, yo.”

Cloud frowned silently for a moment before standing and walking to the door.  He paused and looked back at Reno.  “I'm sure
he'd be touched by your concern, but you can't neglect your own health.”

Cloud was right.  He shouldn't skip meals when he'd just got back on his feet.  The redhead gave Cloud a smile as he followed
his host.  Just the previous night, he had also been gravely ill.  He was still sore in some places, but the majority of his injuries
and illness were gone.  He didn't want to take a slide back into that sickness.  

“You're right.  Not like there's anything more I can do for him."  He felt bad for leaving Rufus, but knew that Tseng would get
there soon.  "Maybe something light?  I'm really not all that hungry, but I know Tseng is gonna have my hide as it is when he
gets here, might as well not add to the mess."

Blinking, Cloud gave him a puzzled look.  “Why?  It isn't your fault Rufus is ill."

It wasn't the first time Tseng was pissed off at him and it wouldn't be the last.  Reno seemed to have a talent for causing trouble,
even when he didn't intend to.

He shrugged.  “I got drunk which led to a whole lot of hassle for him and the boss.  Add the fact that I smacked Rude with my
EMR.  Not to mention the whole nuisance I probably made my myself here."  He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.  "Just
adds up, ya know?  Tseng has gotta be pissed.  Especially since I was the one Rufus was out drinking with before he got sick."  
He looked over to the bed where Rufus was still unconscious.  "Maybe I should just stay here and keep an eye on him."

He turned to give Cloud a sly smile, but the expression was struck from his face by a single action.  Cloud kissed him.  It was
swift, but sweet, a quick press of lips against his own before the blonde moved away again.  Reno barely had the time to blink
when he found himself alone in the room with Rufus.  It took him longer to regain his senses after the chaste peck than the kiss
itself lasted.

“Wait, what was that?” he called out, jogging after the quiet man.  “Did you just kiss me?"

There was a hint of a blush coloring Cloud's fair cheeks.  He cleared his throat, his pace unwavering as he walked.  “It was a
distraction technique and nothing more.  You shouldn't dwell on the bad."

Reno grabbed Cloud by the shoulder and spun him around.  Smiling all the while, he pressed the blonde against the wall and held
him there by his arms.  He wasn't forcing him or anything.  He was damned sure that Cloud could break away if he wanted to.  
But it was nice having the savior of the world right where he wanted him.

“You wanna distract me some more?  I'm more than willing.”

Without waiting for a response, he leaned forward, pressing his own body against Cloud's.  His lips were quick to seek out the
other man's mouth.  Cloud made a soft sound of protest that died away into a feeble moan.  He welcomed Reno's tongue into the
heated cavern of his mouth, his fingers gripping near-painfully at the redhead's arms.  Reno was in heaven, or at least as close to
it as he could get.

“If you two are done with your libidinous display, could you please inform me as to the whereabouts of my employer?”  Tseng's
clear voice called out from the vicinity of the staircase.

Cloud shoved Reno away and turned to face down the hall in the opposite direction of Tseng.  From the brief glimpse he'd
gotten, Reno could tell that the man's face was almost as bright a shade of red as Reno's hair.

“Damn, Tseng, your timing sucks,” Reno chided.  Once of Rufus' doctors was lingering behind the Wutaian.

“I think my timing was quite appropriate.  Where is Mr. Shinra?”

Reno jerked his head toward the door.  “Sleeping his ass off.  He passed out a couple minutes ago."

“And you left him alone?”

“Hey now, Cloud offered up some grub and I was taking him up on the offer.”

A brief grin alighted on Tseng's serious face, then disappeared.  “Yes, you did seem ravenous."  He stepped past Reno and went
to the door he had gestured toward.  The doctor followed closely.  "Go and eat.  It's good to see you well, but you still look too
pale.  I'm glad to see the X-Potion came in useful, Mr. Strife."

Before Reno could vocalize any sort of response, Tseng and the doctor were in the bedroom with the door shut behind them.  
Reno turned his attention to Cloud, who had yet to move.

“You okay?”  He reached out, brushing his fingers lightly across one pink-tinted cheek.

Cloud cleared his throat and pushed Reno's hand away.  “Come on."  He stormed off, leaving Reno in a wake of confusion.

Damn, but that blonde could switch between hot and cold faster than flicking a light switch on and off.  One minute he has his
arms and lips occupied with a hot lusty vixen and the next he might as well be tramping about the Northern Crater for the
amount of ice in those hypnotic blue eyes.  It wasn't enough to dim his determination though.  One way or another he would get
Cloud to let down those defenses.



To Be Continued ...