Rude has a bad day; Reno helps him pick up the pieces as best he can. Inspired by this picture: http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/47145046 Dedicated to VergilSparda666, who shares my love...
With a snort, he went into a free-fall swoop that would've had Rude telling him to stop dicking around, and then pulled up sharply, laughing out loud at the way his stomach couldn't quite make up its mind if it was still going down or had stopped.
His cell phone rang.
Frowning (he was positive he'd called Tseng before he left Junon and told him he was on his way back), he picked it up and flicked it open. "Reno."
"Reno, we have a situation."
Tseng's voice was clipped and precise; the kind of tone that made him automatically reach for his EMR. "Situation, sir?"
"Do not return to Shinra. I need you to come directly to the following coordinates." He read them off
Reno punched them into the helicopter's flight system, then pulled up the city map. Haupten Warehouse, Second Level, 1138 Harbour Avenue. "Precisely what is the nature of the situation, sir?"
"You can land on the street a couple of blocks away. The area immediately around the warehouse is closed off for emergency personnel."
Something cold began to worm its way into his stomach. Hadn't he and Rude had a raid scheduled on a warehouse later this afternoon? "Sir, what is the situation?"
"Get your ass back here, Reno."
He had his mouth open to demand what the hell that meant, but all he got in return was a dial tone.
By the time he hit the Midgar city limits, his stomach was tied in knots. While navigating between the upper plates was tricky, it wasn't impossible, and he'd gotten good at it over the years.
What he saw below, hovering over Harbour Avenue, was sheer chaos. From the looks of it, every damn ambulance and coroners wagon in Midgar was there. A good-sized crowd was being held back by a line of SOLDIERS that stretched the better part of the block; even from this height, he could see they were having trouble keeping them behind the barricades.
He picked out Tseng's black cruiser parked next to several police cars, but it was impossible to locate the man himself in the teeming throng below.
He ended up bringing her down two blocks away and jumped out, EMR already in his hand. The first barricade presented itself a block away; he simply flashed his Shinra ID at the two SOLDIERS standing there, never breaking stride.
He came around the corner of Tseng's car and halted, surveying the scene. Several SOLDIERS and half-a-dozen cops were directing the first of the ambulances off the street and onto the main road to the upper plate. Four of them went by him in quick succession; he caught a glimpse of the grim faces of the drivers, the Emergency Techs sitting mutely in the back, before he realized hat was bothering him.
None of them were running their sirens.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed his way around the barricade, flashing his ID to the cops, pointedly ignoring the screaming mass of humanity gathered behind him. He was searching for Tseng now, weaving his way in and out between the remaining ambulances. Passing one with the doors standing open, he glanced into the back. Instead of people on stretchers, he saw several body bags piled on top of each other.
He finally spotted Tseng, talking to a policeman. He never ceased to be amazed by the man; the way he could stand in the middle of what was obviously some sort of colossal fuck-up on someone's part with not a hair out of place or a wrinkle in his blue suit, looking for all the world like he'd just been out for a stroll and happened across this mess.
Tseng dismissed the cop with a nod. When he looked at Reno, only someone who knew him well would've noticed the barely perceptible frown lines on his forehead. "Good, you're here."
Reno gestured with the EMR. "So what the fuck is this situation? And isn't this the place Rude and I were supposed to raid this afternoon?"
"Rufus decided it couldn't wait till you got back from Junon."
"But everyone else's busy..." Oh shit! "Tseng. Tell me you didn't send Rude in there by himself."
When they wanted, no one could be as stubborn as Xian Tseng, and his loyalty to Rufus was absolute. Reno knew that; there were times he even admired it. This wasn't one of them. "You sent Rude on a raid by himself?"
"I had no choice." Tseng's voice was clipped. "Rufus wanted it done now. We had intelligence that Haupten had gotten wind of what we were going to do and was getting ready to run. We couldn't afford to let him get away, you know that."
"And you couldn't have gone in with him? Or called someone in from the field?"
"That wasn't an option. You know as well as I that all the others are engaged in necessary operations."
Yeah, right. I'm sure babysitting the Under Ambassador from Wutai is taking all of Elana's concentration. "Ya know, back when I first became part of this outfit, I seem to remember a certain long-haired Wut with a stick up his ass telling me repeatedly that there was a reason Turks worked in pairs. Or did I hallucinate that?" Tseng just stared at him, and Reno sighed. "Okay. So what's this 'situation'?"
"Our intelligence as to the number of people Haupten was holding was faulty." Reno restrained the urge to start hitting things, standing very still. "We were told the number was in the 20s. In truth, he had closer to 50. Including," Tseng was silent a moment, "a large number of women and children."
Women and kids? Reno's insides felt like they'd been drenched in ice water. "Any survivors?"
Tseng looked at the street a moment, as if it were going to magically provide him with an answer, then back at Reno. "Only one."
Reno clearly remembered the first time he'd ever encountered the aftermath of a mass killing. Damn, and he'd thought he was so cool. Born and raised in Sector Seven, badass as they came...wasn't anything surprised Reno Dakota.
He'd managed to stand the stench for, at the most, half a minute before he'd reeled outside and vomited. He could still remember standing there, lungs burning in the cold night air, with Chyris rubbing his back murmuring nonsense. "You never really get used to it," she'd told him later. "You just learn how to block it out. Self-preservation."
"The one survivor," Tseng continued calmly, as if he hadn't just announced that 50+ people had been slaughtered like so many Chocobos, "is Rude." He held up a hand as Reno opened his mouth to say something. "I need you to talk him out. No one else can get close to him." He smiled thinly. "I tried, and he attempted to blow my head off."
Reno kept his opinion that maybe he should've succeeded to himself. "So where is he?"
According to Tseng, Rude had at least two guns. More worrisome to Reno, however, was that Tseng thought he also had a bomb. As near as he could recall, blowing up the warehouse hadn't been part of the original plan.
"I have no idea how he smuggled the bomb in." The professional facade was beginning to wear thin now, and Tseng looked as worn out as he no doubt felt.
"Ya know, Rude didn't kill the woman and kids." Reno said it with the conviction of a religious devotee reciting a mantra. "I'd lay good gil Haupten and his men killed the hostages. You know Rude, Tseng; the man's all about minimizing the damage as much as he can."
He wasn't sure who he was trying to convince-Tseng or himself. He'd been in firefights before. He knew it wasn't always possible to tell the innocent from the guilty. It's not like they came with handy little tags attached. He'd shot people who didn't deserve to die. People who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Whether any of them had been innocent women and children was something that remained between him and the Gods. Rude knew, of course. Because he and Rude had agreed early on that there'd be no secrets in their relationship, no hidden skeletons in the closet, no not-quite-dead bodies waiting to jump out of an alley somewhere.
Life as a Turk was hazardous enough without having to spend all your time looking over your shoulder and spooking at shadows.
He'd borrowed Tseng's handkerchief to tie over his mouth and nose-but even folded over twice, it couldn't keep out the coppery stench of blood. In some places, the floor was literally awash in it. Once whitewashed walls were splashed with crimson (and less savory things). All he could do was thank Shiva they'd gotten all the bodies out before Tseng sent him in.
Well, almost all. According to Tseng, Haupten, his second-in-command Decker, and his two bodyguards hadn't been among the dead. Reno tried not to think about what that might possibly mean.
Gingerly, he mounted the stairs to the third story. Tseng said that Rude had been partway up the stairway to the second floor when he'd shot at him, and Reno knew his partner well enough to know that he wasn't going to hang around once he realized he'd damn near blown the boss's head off. He'd go for higher ground.
In the wake of the slaughter, sound seemed strangely muffled, and he was only dimly aware of the uproar from outside. How many of those people had actually lost friends and family, and how many were just there for the spectacle?
It reminded him of a remark Rude had made shortly after they'd been partnered about Old Man Shinra's fondness for throwing parties. "Bread and circuses,' he'd muttered one evening, as they were standing guard duty. "Keep'em fat and happy, and they'll never notice Midgar's burning down around their ears."
It'd taken Reno the better part of two weeks skulking around Midgar Central Library before he found out what he'd been referring to. That was when he'd first begun to realize that there was more hiding behind the lenses of those mirrored shades than the mindless thug way too many people took Rude for at first sight.
A noise, faint and unspecified, intruded on his consciousness, and he stopped where he was, head cocked to one side. "Rude?"
No answer, and the sound (whatever it had been) didn't occur again.
Dammit, he told himself, he was never going to get anywhere just skulking around. Rude almost certainly knew someone else was inside now, and he'd just as soon his partner realized who it was before he tried to take his head off to. "Rude, it's Reno, yo. Where you holed up, man?"
"Right behind you."
Reno resisted the urge to jump, and forced himself to turn around slowly.
Rude was crouched in the open doorway of an office, and the realization that he'd somehow just walked past his partner and not even noticed him did nothing to ease Reno's state of mind.
Not that it would've been that hard to not notice him in the dim light. For starters, he was dressed entirely in black. Tight black jeans, black muscle shirt, black leather gloves...and sweet Jenovah, that's why he'd missed the blood. Splattered all over the floor near where Rude crouched... splattered all over the man himself. On his arms, and hands, and Reno felt a slight flutter of panic, because this blood was fresh.
Rude's gun was held loosely in his right hand, silencer pointed towards the floor. His left arm was propped on his knee, his hand half-covering his face. All Reno could see was the occasional glint of feeble light off highly polished sunglass lenses.
He told himself to get a grip on it, and stepped a little closer. "Looks like it's been a bad day, partner."
Rude's voice was so low he had to lean closer to hear his answer. "I've had better."
"You okay?" Is any of that blood yours?
"Define okay." Rude gave what might have been a sigh, and looked up.
Reno didn't have to see his eyes; the agony of what he'd been through was written all over his face. Something Reno knew no one but he would ever be allowed to see. "Any of those bastards manage to actually hit the mark?"
Rude moved slightly, and Reno saw him wince. "Think Decker got me in the shoulder. Nothing major, but it's bleeding like a sonofabitch."
And just like that, Reno was on his knees next to him. "Lemme check." His switchblade flicked out and cut away the sleeve. "More'n a graze, yo. Looks like the bullet's still in there." He wadded up the material from the sleeve and pressed it over the wound-it was a sign of how bad off Rude was that he actually flinched. "Tseng thought you had a bomb."
"Didn't mean to shoot at him. Just couldn't let Haupten and his goons get away, ya know?"
Reno nodded, jerking his chin at the office. "Take care of the problem?"
"Gave'em what they deserved." Reno used the switchblade to cut a strip off his shirt and tied the make-shift bandage over the wound. "Gods, Ren, the bastard's killed all of'em! They weren't even supposed to be there!" His shoulders were shaking, and if it'd been anyone else, Reno would've said they were crying. But this was Rude, and everyone knew Turks didn't cry. It wasn't like they were actual human beings; the sort of people that might be bothered by watching innocent women and children get their heads blown off.
"Rude, look at me." Rude did, and Reno had to resist the urge to wipe the blood off his face. "You just stay here, okay? I'm gonna call Tseng and have him send the medics up."
"Don't need any medics. I can walk just fine."
"Right. And I'm gonna sprout wings and fly. Need to check and make sure the problem's taken care of. You good with that?" Rude nodded.
What was inside the office made what he'd seen downstairs look like a kiddy matinee. Staring at the mangled remains of Haupten and his men, Reno figured they were definitely going to be closed-casket funerals.
He took out his cell phone and hit speed dial.
"Found'im. He's got a bullet in his left shoulder; probably gonna need surgery to get it out. We're on the third floor-just tell'em to follow their noses."
"Did he get Haupten and his men?"
Reno looked at the carnage his partner had wrought and smirked. "Oh yeah; he definitely got them." He didn't bother to tell Tseng that he'd been right about who'd killed the hostages. They were just as dead either way.
"What about the bomb?"
"He never had one in the first place. Look, just send the medics up before he fuckin' bleeds to death, okay?"
"I'm in no fucking danger of bleeding to death, Reno." Rude's muffled voice announced from the hallway.
"They're on their way."
Reno thumbed off the phone and slipped it into his pocket, then wandered back out into the hall and slid down to sit next to Rude. "You gonna be okay?"
Rude just shrugged, but the shrug was all Reno needed anyway to know there were going to be some sleepless nights ahead. He reached over and slid an arm around the broad shoulders. "You did the best you could, yo. You made sure Haupten and his goons paid for what they did. Weren't you the guy who told me once you can't save everyone?"
"Easier to give advice than take it." The words were slightly slurred, and Reno wondered where the hell the medics were.
"Yeah, it is. And nobody's ever been any better at beating you up but yourself. Just remember that you don't got to pretend around me, okay?"
Rude's head had settled against his shoulder. "Like you'd let me forget it?"
"Damn straight. I thought that was why you hung around me. Well, that and my boyish good looks."
Rude snorted, but he didn't say anything else, and Reno could hear the medics now, trying to maneuver the gurney up the stairs.
He fished a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it up. Rumor said that no one had ever seen Rufus Shinra bleed or cry. Yet over the years, Reno'd seen him do both.
Which just went to show what the general public knew.
And if a Turk cried in front of another Turk? Well, that was just part of the job, wasn't it? Because no matter what everyone else wanted to believe, Turks were just human too. Maybe moreso, because they'd seen the worst it was possible to see. Most of those people out there behind the barricades would never kill another person. They'd never watch someone they'd known and worked with for years bleed to death in a stinking back alley. They'd never look at themselves in the mirror every morning and wonder, if only for a moment, whether it wouldn't just be easier to shoot themselves in the head now before someone else did it for them.
Turks were the survivors. They took what they were given, did what had to be done, and if, at the end of the day they were worse for the wear, they could at least know that they'd tried.
He glanced over at Rude, and smiled. And if you had someone who knew what the hell you went through day in and day out was like, someone to watch your back and make sure you were never alone, someone to hold you at night and keep the demons at bay through sheer strength of will...hell, that was more than most people ever got in their lives, wasn't it?