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

Notes: Reno talks to Rufus.  Cloud overhears something he shouldn't.



Risks and Wagers



Part Ten


Reno trudged into Rufus' room and promptly flopped backwards onto the bed and sighed as he put his hands behind his head.  
He'd been sitting downstairs for a good twenty minutes, just thinking.  Tseng had left with the doctor, to bring back supplies.  
Rufus wasn't dying, but he was in serious enough condition that he couldn't be moved just yet.

The jostling of the bed woke the executive.  He was quiet for a moment before speaking, his eyes blinking slowly.  "What's got
you in such a funk?" he asked wearily.  "Are you still worried about losing the bet?"

Reno glanced over at his boss before turning his attention back to the ceiling.  "Nah.  I won already."  His voice actually sounded
how he felt.  He felt horrible about the whole thing now that it was done.  Not that he had used Cloud.  Just that everything had
been based on a bet.  Made it all feel sordid, tainted.  Cloud deserved better.

Rufus snorted weakly.  "Really?  You don't sound too enthused about that fact.  I figured you'd be happier about it.  How do I
know you're telling the truth?"

Reno flushed on Cloud's behalf and shrugged carelessly to try and cover it.  "Tseng walked in on us, yo.  Embarrassed the hell
out of Cloud."  He shook his head.  "I'm tempted to say screw the bet.  We weren't thinking when we made it."  He shook his
head.  "But a weekend away might be a great idea.  I think I need to get my head wrapped around things away from here."

A small smile graced Rufus' pale face.  "Who would have thought devil-may-care Reno would ever lose his heart.  Must be
serious."

Reno felt a slight sting.  "I never thought I was seen as being fickle."  He sighed and closed his eyes.  "What am I gonna do,
yo?"  He pulled his hands from behind his head and ground the heels of his palms into his eyes.  He grimaced, growling in
frustration.  "I've fucked everything up.  He'll skewer me when he finds out about the bet."

"What bet?"

Reno slammed his hands to the bed and pushed himself up.  Cloud was standing there, framed in the open doorway.  His
expression was cold, confusion and anger warring with a touch of hurt.

Reno tried to swallow, but there seemed to be a lump of stone stuck in his throat.  The only thing going through his mind was a
litany of swear words and self-recriminations, along with the sinking feeling that everything he'd worked so hard to build
between him and Cloud was about to be destroyed and he had no one but himself to blame.

Cloud frowned and it was obvious he was piecing the scenario together in his own mind.  He wasn't an unintelligent man.  And it
didn't take a lot of thought to work out what the bet was about.  Still, he tilted his head and regarded Reno coldly.  "I'm waiting."

The redhead took a deep breath and looked down.  He couldn't meet Cloud's eyes.  He felt ashamed of himself.  "I was gonna tell
you," he said, sheepishly.  "I don't know how, but I was gonna sit down with you and tell you.  It was just a stupid bet made
when I was drunk."

Cloud was silent for a long moment.  "I see."  Footsteps indicated the blonde was walking away.  "I hope the prize was worth it.  
I'm going out.  Don't be here when I get back."

Reno found he couldn't look up until several minutes after the front door had slammed shut.  He glanced over at Rufus, fully
expecting to see his boss smirking.  He was shocked when the man had a look of sympathy on his pale face.  That look gave
way to a cold indifference, though his words still carried his concerns.

"If you don't go after him, you're fired."

Reno grinned.  Thoughtlessly, he leaned forward and slapped a quick kiss on Rufus' dried lips.  He was off the bed in a shot
seconds later and running down the stairs only moments after that.  He never saw the widening of Rufus' eyes, or the way the ill
man raised trembling fingers to his mouth.



*****



Cloud was sitting astride his bike when Reno emerged from the bar.  He was sitting there, just sitting there.  He didn't know
where he could go.  There was always the cliffs, but he had just come from there.

There was a clenching in his chest and he didn't understand it.  He and Reno weren't in any sort of relationship.  He shouldn't feel
as hurt as he did.  They'd had sex, yes, but there was nothing more to it than that.  He'd already known Reno was only in it for
his own physical gratification.  Why was he surprised then, to learn of that bet?  And why did it hurt so much?

A lone tear dripped from his eye and he quickly dashed it away with an angry swipe of his gloved hand.  There was no cause for
him to be hurt by this.  Reno had only been out for a casual fling, Cloud had known that from the start.  He should be over this
already, happy that his first thoughts had been proven right.  And hadn't he enjoyed it too?

"Cloud?" Reno's voice called, footsteps pounding closer.

Cloud turned away, a frail color dusting his cheeks.  He shouldn't have allowed himself to get close to the redhead.  It had been a
mistake.  Attaching any sort of feelings to a purely physical relationship had been a foolish error.

"Cloud?" Reno said again, softly.  Fingers brushed his arm.

He jerked away from the touch.  He chided himself for the way the tender contact had made his heart flip.  How could he still
want anything from Reno?

"We need to talk, yo."  The redhead touched his arm again, fingers sliding around to grip the appendage.  "Don't go away
thinking I meant to hurt you."

"No, it was just natural for you.  I knew your intentions when we started, that this was nothing but a casual ... affair."  He
couldn't look at Reno.  His fingers were searing where they touched him.  It was all he could do to keep from trembling.

"It wasn't like that," Reno protested.  "Believe me.  Okay, at first it was, I'll admit that.  But then ... shit, I ... I do care about you,
Cloud.  It wasn't just a fuck to me.  I want more than that.  I want you."

Cloud pulled his arm away, then placed his own hand across the place the other man had been touching him.  He couldn't cling to
Reno's words.  The hurt was still too new, too raw.

"Not now, Reno," he spoke softly, trying to keep the waver from his voice.  "It hurts.  I don't know if I can trust you."  He took
a quick glance and saw the crestfallen look on the Turk's face.  It almost made him reconsider.  But he resolved himself.  He
needed time to work through his own feelings.

"Right."  Reno nodded.  He took a step back.  "If you need space and time, I'll give it to you.  But I'm telling the truth, Cloud.  I
do want you, however much you're willing to give."

Cloud gave a jerking nod.  He couldn't form any words.  He'd already said everything he'd needed to.  With no reason to linger,
he started the engine and revved it, then took off at a shot.  He still had no idea of where to go, only that he needed to be alone to
think.



*****



Reno watched him go with a heavy weight pressing upon his heart.  He had fucked up royally.  He only hoped he could find a
way to fix things between them.

At least that stay at the Shinra beach house wouldn't be wasted.  He could go there, get away from Edge.  If anything, it would
ensure Cloud got the time he needed to think without accidentally running into Reno anywhere.

Turning on his heel, he went back into the Seventh Heaven to talk to Rufus.  Maybe he could arrange to have his stay lengthened
to longer than a week.  He didn't know how much time Cloud needed.  Maybe Rufus would have some advice.

He sighed, climbing the stairs lethargically.  He couldn't believe he had fucked up so badly.  Running a hand through his hair, he
cursed his own name.  This entire mess was his own fault and he knew it.  But he didn't regret anything that had transpired
between Cloud and himself.  Every touch, every taste, it would all linger in Reno's memory until the day he died, whether Cloud
decided to give him another chance or not.




To Be Continued ...