Title: Blades for Hire
Fandom: FFVII
Pairing/characters: Cloud, Reno with an appearance by Denzel
Count: 2384
Prompt/challenge you're answering: Cloud & Reno are members of a secret society
Notes: This is not what I was expecting but I'm okay with that. Probably not what you're expecting either given the title.

Blades for Hire

Of all the things Reno expected to find in Tifa's bar, the small blade with materia chips in the hilt was not one of them.

It was an accidental discovery, if finding things when snooping around in Cloud's office could be classed as such, confirmation that he'd not been simply seeing things the last time they'd been in the upstairs part of Seventh Heaven. He left Rude at the bar chatting up Tifa to visit the little boys room and gotten distracted by the memory, finding the blade exactly where he'd seen it the last time they'd been there when dumping the unconscious Tifa and Cloud on the single beds in the kids room.

At first he'd thought...hoped...it to be a letter opener, something made of wood and broken bits of glass by one of the kids. Originally it had been the sun streaming through the skylight reflecting off those flecks of colour that had caught his attention. Now with the room awash in cool moonlight he could see they glowed softly with a power of their own. Materia chips of all colours carefully embedded in cold metal. None of them were linked though and for that Reno found himself grateful.

Last thing he wanted to do was find one of the Brothers of Yojimbo. Paid killers, master assassins. A blade with linked slots belonged to a Master. No one on the outside knew what they looked like, only knew that for the right price they would do as asked, no questions, no trail. They were also known for removing entire families from existence if betrayed.

For a brief moment Reno wondered if Sephiroth had been one and that was why all of Nibelheim had burned.

Reno sighed softly. With luck one of the kids had simply found the blade and given it to Cloud, thinking it pretty or something. It had probably been tossed here from Midgar during the Meteor crisis. Gaia knew so many things were still being discovered under the rubble strewn about from the once great city. There was a whole market for pre-Meteor trinkets. Even incomplete as the blade was, it'd fetch a pretty gil to a collector who recognized its worth. That is if they had the guts to. Possessing such a blade when not part of the order was not too many steps down from betrayal in their books.

Something niggled at his mind though, something about Cloud being recently sighted in the ruins of Midgar, in the vicinity of the old SOLDIER training grounds. Rufus liked to keep tabs on the ruins, make sure nothing dangerous was lurking about that could come and terrorize the residents of Edge. He'd not been with Tseng and Elena that day but heard about it later over dinner, Rufus wondering what faded memory Cloud could have been chasing, if the memory had even been his in the first place.

One of these days Reno would get Cloud drunk enough to ask how much of his mind still thought it was Zack.

Deciding it was time to return down stairs, Reno turned and near jumped out of his skin at the glowing blue eyes watching in the dimly lit room.

"Dammit, Cloud. Scare a man, why doncha."

He hadn't heard him arrive at all.

"What are you doing, Reno?" Cloud asked evenly as he approached slowly and Reno cursed internally as his path out of the room was blocked. "Upstairs is off limits to customers."

"I'm more than just some regular customer, ain't I?" Reno wheedled, grinning cheekily before sighing. "Bathroom, Cloud. Was full downstairs and I couldn't wait."

Cloud passed through enough moonlight for Reno to see one brow raised in obvious disbelief. Best offense was a good defense and Reno elected to go for truth to bluff his way out.

"Pretty letter opener you have here," he said, grabbing the blade and holding it up. "One of the kids find it?"

"Something like that," Cloud said as he stopped close enough that Reno could feel the heat from his body. Reno let him take the blade and watched as it was slipped into the outside of Cloud's left boot.

Small blade in the boot. Especially that particular blade. That meant something, right?

Reno could feel the adrenaline spiking through his system and worked to keep his breathing even, his body loose. Cloud was being as nonthreatening as possible and yet Reno felt caught, small time prey in the midst of a big time predator that didn't show up on any scanner.

He was so fucked.

Maybe it was the eyes. He knew mako enhanced the vision. Cloud's must've been phenomenal with the levels he packed.

Maybe it was the fact that Reno had been caught where he really wasn't supposed to be. Everyone valued their privacy, most of all Cloud after everything he'd been through. Only place worse would have been if he'd been going through the stuff Cloud kept at the old church.

No, it was definitely the outside of the left boot and that was significant because Reno's gut bottomed out as Cloud pulled a matching blade from the inside of his left boot.

Near matching. It lit up the moment Cloud's palm closed around it, linked shards pulsing softly until as if by command they switched off.

To see the assassins blade meant you were going to die. Hell, usually you didn't see it at all before it was lights out.


"Heh you keep your letter opener in your boot? Like to be able to open your mail the moment you get it while out on the bike?"


"I guess I better get back to Rude before he embarrasses himself with Tifa."

It made him want to twitch, having to show Cloud his back as he turned away to head for the door. He had to prove he wasn't worried. Cloud was a friend, sort of, he hoped. A friend in that we survived a hell of a lot of shit, world ending and all that even though we tried at times to kill each other kind of thing.

A hand curled tightly about his arm and Reno was pulled back against Cloud's solid chest.

So much for that idea.

"I can't let you do that."

"Sure ya can," Reno grinned his friendliest smile, not that Cloud would necessarily see it but he'd hear it, opened his hands and stretched his arms out wide. Harmless. Think it. Breathe it. Be it. "I'll even promise not to come up here again."

"I'd ask how you know so much but I know it is the Turks jobs to know everything."

"I'll agree with ya that knowledge can be a dangerous thing but it's not what you think."

There was a soft snort and Reno felt the tip of the blade pressed to the back of his neck. With a flick of his wrist his spinal cord would be severed. Quick. Clean. Quiet.

"Any last requests?"

"Well if you could help Rude get a date with Tifa that'd be great. And send my body to Rufus, I'd appreciate that too. Tell Elena that she has a great ass but her rack is too..."


"Right boot, Cloud."

"Right boot?"

"Yeah. Right boot."

Reno was ever thankful for his excellent balance and flexibility as Cloud let him lift his right leg up, and it was permitted because he was still breathing. He was under no illusions of who would win a fight where Cloud already had the upper hand. Damn SOLDIER enhancements.

Resisting the urge to move as the blade at his neck bit into his skin with a slight sting, Reno ignored the fingers reaching into his boot to pull free the blade he kept there. It was held up to the light for inspection, the half empty slots not something Reno wanted to look at.

"Tell me."

As if he was in a position to refuse.

"I never got the chance to complete my training. Master was killed by a stray bullet shot by a rookie MP when killing monsters in the slums. I killed the rookie...and worked my way through the rest of his squad. Managed to keep one step ahead of Shinra until the old bastard sent Turks after me. I was a streetwise kid with no qualms about killing, prime material for Turks and Tseng offered me a place after he bailed me out of prison. I had no where to go and only a fool would say no when the other option was death."

"Death is the only option," Cloud growled softly and Reno remained limp as he was shaken roughly. A light warning that he'd failed by letting himself wallow in revenge.

"Tseng would have done what he could to prevent your death once he had his hands on you," Cloud added somewhat cryptically.

"I don't know what you're implying beyond them wanting me to work for them. Tseng doesn't know. I made up some bullshit story about being a runner for one of the gangs under the plate in exchange for training."

The chuckle was soft and Reno staggered a little as he was released and pushed away.

"I should kill you. How long were you in training?" Cloud asked him as Reno turned around, catching the blade thrown at his heart.

Some reactions remain ingrained. Reno couldn't remember the amount of times his master had thrown blades at him. It was deflect, dodge or die until he'd become proficient enough to catch. Cloud being enhanced as he was just made the blade go that bit faster although Reno was positive he'd held back. He remained on his guard though. That relaxed leaning back against the desk that Cloud was now doing didn't fool Reno for a minute.

"Couple years."

"And avoiding Shinra?"

"Few more years," Reno answered, frowning. What was Cloud trying to figure out?

"Likely were never told then," Cloud said softly, bending to replace his blade in his boot.

"Told what?"

"How to recognize others."

Reno eyed Cloud carefully as he stood and rolled his shoulders, shifting in small movements that were familiar. The posture, the slight smile on his barely discernible face. It was like talking to Tseng when he was amused by your slow brained stupidity and had all the patience in the world for you.

Fucking Tseng.

"Bastard," he cussed quietly but with feeling. He'd been duped for years. "Probably knew the moment he saw me."

Cloud nodded, spikes barely moving in the darkened room. "Likely had suspicions, like me. I'm surprised he didn't complete your training. Although I'm thinking he did, within what would not be detected by others, even your fellow Turks."

"But without the ties to the Brotherhood seeing as I lied about my past."

"Yet you are loyal to him."

"Yeah guess so," Reno shrugged, sliding his hands into his pockets. Cloud wasn't about to off him so he figured it was time to relax some. "What about you? I've only ever seen you use big ass swords."

"A SOLDIER is taught many weapons."

Reno couldn't help the snort of amusement at Cloud trying to sound wise. "You never were SOLDIER."

"Don't." The word was softly growled at him and he suppressed a shiver.

"Do you remember your Master?" Reno couldn't help but ask when the thought came to him. He remembered that one answered to those how came before them. If Cloud's Master was around then Cloud still answered to him, just as whoever Cloud's apprentice was would answer to the both of them.

"You don't ask that question unless you want me to kill you."

Could Sephiroth have been his Master, or perhaps even Zack? Impossible. Cloud would have been too old by then. Someone in Nibelheim then. But who?

"Really? Is it one of those introduction things where you say who you are before offing someone?"

Yeah that was no threat at all. Cloud wouldn't dare kill him without just cause or he'd have Tseng and the rest of Turks after him. Now that was a fight he wouldn't mind seeing - Cloud versus Tseng. It wouldn't be an easy bet.

"Reno." Okay that was a sigh of being annoying.

"Was that what you were doing over at the old training grounds? Say, what about who does that blade belong to? Even outsiders who know of the order know what an incomplete blade in the hands of a Master means. Or well they have a better idea than they should."

"Reno." And that was a growl of keep out. Hmm.

"What? I just want to make sure I don't kill your brat apprentice by mistake."

"I'd like to see you try." Now that's just creepy.

"That's creepy, yo."

Deciding he didn't like the soft laugh coming from Cloud, Reno turned to leave. Only to once again find his path blocked, this time by Denzel.

"Cloud, is everything all right?" the kid asked. "Tifa asked me to find you. She needs a few new kegs brought in but can't do that and serve."

Reno took the hint when Cloud pushed him lightly between the shoulders, moving to the doorway and then proceeding down the stairs. He watched Denzel out the corner of his eye as he spoke with Cloud about what needed to be brought in for Tifa. It gave him a moments pause that the boy watched him even as he and Cloud conversed and it was all Reno could do to look away and continue on, eventually presenting them with his back. It made the area between his shoulder blades itch fiercely.

Joining Rude at the bar, Reno waved Tifa down for a fresh drink. Sipping it, he watched Cloud and Denzel do Tifa's bidding, brain ticking over. His skin crawled a little watching the kid, more so when Denzel looked up and watched him back until Cloud put a hand to his shoulder, saying something to the boy that Reno couldn't hear over the din of conversation in the bar, nor read Cloud's lips thanks to the angles being wrong.

He shook his head and shrugged. It was always the quiet ones.

He near dropped his drink when he realized that he hadn't actually heard Denzel arrive in the office.

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