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Sink or Swim

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Reno can’t believe his crappy luck. He’s been a Turk too long, survived too much unbelievable shit to have to deal with this, but apparently Veld doesn’t share his view. His boss must be bat shit crazy, because who in their right mind would give him, of all people, a rookie partner?

“Sir, I’ve finished the reports. What can I do for you now?”

Bend over, Reno thinks to himself, smirking at his young protégé who calmly awaits his reply. It’s oddly endearing, in a twisted way that makes Reno want to break him, and he enjoys the possibilities that come to mind as he continues to leer without answering the young rookie’s question.

It’s a good ten minutes before he gets bored enough to actually respond.

“Get me a coffee,” he finally mutters, rolling his eyes when the youth bows a little and walks off to comply. Tapping his pen on the desk, Reno figures he should find something useful for the boy to do, although… well, he can’t think of much off the top of his head. The kids already done all of his paperwork, which usually Reno would take all day to do, and it’s only 10am. He’s too damn efficient for Reno to stick to his usual routine.

“Fucking kids these days,” Reno huffs, finally picking up the file on the youth that Veld had given him the day before. Flipping it open, he reads over it while sucking on his pen, trying to hold back on the urge to walk off for a smoke.

Can’t even do that in the office anymore with all the new age anti-smoking crap the world’s so obsessed with… like second hand smoke would get enough time to kill any Turks anyway.

There’s too many faces that pop up in his head with that thought, and as he glances around at all the youngsters filling the office these days, his eyes pause on where Rude stands, talking to one of the others.

Well, maybe a few of us manage to beat the odds….

Shaking off the melancholy trying to take hold, Reno glances through the file before him, taking note of anything interesting about his new trainee. On paper, the youth is impressive, all the right marks in all the right places. Flipping to the last page, Reno reads Veld’s personal notes with more care, grinning as he finally understands why he’s been giving this one to polish. It cheers him up substantially.


Glancing up, Reno looks over his rookie, holding the coffee out and waiting patiently. He takes it from him wordlessly, tasting it and raising an eyebrow. It’s surprisingly good.

“Where’d ya get this from?” he asks, knowing that the office coffee was always shit, and this definitely wasn’t shit.

“The same place I always get it from, Sir,” the youth replies, face expressionless.

Reno smirks, the avoidance of a clear answer a little cheeky, and surprising coming from Veld’s notes on the kid. It raises Reno’s interest a little more.

“What’s ya name again, kid?” he asks, peering over the rim of his cup thoughtfully.

“Tseng, Sir,” the youth replies.

Despite taking note of the kid’s name yesterday when he was first notified of his new partner, Reno’s asked his name at least four times in the last three hours. He’d expected at least a little annoyance, or some show of wounded pride, but so far nothing. Reno always did love a challenge though.

“So… Ung, ever been on a real mission?” Reno asks, the mispronunciation still getting no reaction.

“No, Sir.”

“Hmm… well, suppose I should take ya out then,” Reno mutters, finishing his coffee and finding a space on his desk to put the empty cup. “Ya armed?”

“Yes, Sir.”

With a sigh Reno stands and stretches, ignoring the sound of his back creaking in protest. He’s feeling a little too old for anything too extreme, but orders are orders, and he supposes he can make this fun somehow… well, for himself at least.

“Come on, kid,” he mutters, grabbing his mag rod and nodding to Rude on the way out. His old partner raises an eyebrow at him, glancing to the youth following silently behind, and Reno can hear every word hidden in that one look.

With a smirk, the redhead just keeps walking, whistling a random tune as he taps his mag rod against his thigh in time to the beat.


Tseng isn’t sure why he’s been given this man as his partner. Inside, his mind can’t stop scrolling through possibilities, a whirlwind that too often revolves around his own shortcomings and how any of them can be improved by the Turk before him.

But maybe this isn’t about improvement at all. Maybe, it’s some kind of punishment… or worse still, another one of those abstract ‘tests’ Veld is rumored to hand out randomly to his new Turks. Watching the older man before him slinking down the hall, shoulders sagging and attitude of indifference worn like a badge of honor, it’s hard to imagine it as anything but a test.

Tseng’s jaw twitches in annoyance as the redhead starts whistling louder, going out of tune as even the beats of his mag rod against his thigh lose time with the song. Tseng knows he shouldn’t be letting the man get to him already, and the fact he is leads Tseng right back to the why question once more as they pause in front of the elevator.

Reno may give off an air of irresponsibility and incompetence, but can either really be true personality traits? The redhead is far too old to have survived so long as a Turk without skills, or intelligence, so Tseng’s aware that this might be some kind of mask Reno wears as part of his job. Most probably to make others underestimate him or something similar, he guesses… but if that’s true, why doesn’t he drop the act while in the office?

“Ya gonna stand there all day, pretty boy?”

The sudden question startles Tseng into looking up, only to find the older man smirking at him from inside the elevator. He’s mortified that he didn’t hear the noise of its arrival, or even notice the redhead move from beside him, and Tseng quickly moves into the metal box to stand beside the other man, turning his face away. He can feel his face heat, and letting Reno see it is the last thing he needs when the older man seems so set on throwing him off balance.

“Veld told me ya think too much. Gonna get your ass killed if ya don’t concentrate, rookie.”

The chastisement makes Tseng’s pride bristle, but thankfully it at least diverts his embarrassment into annoyance. Pulling himself up to stand a little straighter, Tseng lifts his chin and watches the numbers light up above the door, using the time to calm himself and focus only on his immediate surroundings.

“Ya a quiet one,” Reno mutters as the lift finally stops in one of the basement carparks and he steps out. Tseng follows, eyes flitting around a little and taking note of the layout as he’s never been to this level before. The walk to Reno’s car is short, and the redhead is already smoking by the time they get there. Tseng has to resist the temptation to wrinkle his nose at the smell. “Kinda remind me a Rude a little… though he never blushes like ya just did.”

Tseng’s head whips towards the redhead just in time to see him disappear into the car, and he stands still for a moment, trying to control the embarrassment that’s come right back to haunt him.

“Oi, get in or I’ll drive off without ya, kid. Ain’t got time for tantrums.”

Tseng does so, sliding into the seat gracefully despite how fast his heart is beating. Reno’s only been his partner for a few hours and he already dislikes the man, and can see hate not far behind. Maybe this is the point of the test Veld’s set him. How to work with somebody infuriating that you’d rather shoot yourself. The Director of the Turks does have a wicked sense of humor, after all, something Tseng knows from personal experience.

“I was not having a tantrum. You simply startled me with your false claim,” Tseng responds flatly, watching out of the corner of his eye as Reno scoffs while reversing out of the parking space.

“What part was false? That you’re as quiet as Rude?” Reno retorts, shifting gears and slowly driving towards the exit.

Tseng doesn’t deem those questions worthy of a reply, and as the redhead snickers and drives out onto the road, Tseng turns away and tries to pull himself back to the calm and in control agent he’s supposed to be. Veld’s trusted him to be good enough, even though he’s still only 17, and he’s determined not to let his mentor down when he’s taken a risk in letting Tseng start a year earlier than he should.

Thankfully, the redhead is quiet after that, and Tseng’s back to his focused self as he takes note that they’re headed under the plate. It’s a little exciting, if he’s completely honest with himself, as while Veld has taken him out before for a little off the books training, he doubts wherever Reno is headed is the same.

“So, hear ya known Veld for a while. How’d ya meet?” Reno finally asks as they make their way down the private road Shinra uses to access the lower level. It’s little more than a two lane tunnel, but closed to the public, so there’s little other traffic around as Tseng turns to watch his new partner’s reaction to his reply.

“He was a regular at my father’s store,” Tseng replies, watching the redhead nod.

He doesn’t volunteer any more, and thankfully the redhead doesn’t ask. Tseng really doesn’t want to talk about his family right now, not when he’s got to keep his mind on the present. The hum of the engine is strangely soothing as they both settle into silence.


Reno lights up another smoke at the traffic lights, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel in time with a tune in his mind. He’s a little surprised the kid admitted so easily that it was his dad that knew Veld, although he is relieved the answer he gave was only short and to the point. Still, he takes a mental note to teach the kid to be less forthcoming in the future, with everyone around him. Veld’s notes had mentioned Tseng had the tendency to be too honest, too trusting and a little too empathetic. It seemed Reno’s job was to teach him to harden up, build up a thicker skin and more cynical outer layer, something Veld seemed to be either unable, or unwilling to do.

Glancing at the kid, Reno frowns, realizing it wasn’t going to be an easy job. While Tseng could act the part, his control seemed to slip too soon, especially when Reno poked him enough. Hell, he hadn’t even poked that hard, and the kid’s embarrassment had shown… although considering his age, it wasn’t such a surprise. Reno himself had been pretty fiery at the same age, and in comparison, Tseng was putting up a better front.

Still, Reno’s temper was part of his act, and worked well within the confines of the job, but this kid? The vulnerability he kept showing was going to get him eaten alive down under the plate.

“Almost there. Do ya checks,” Reno mutters, eyes searching for a park that would most likely ensure their car was still there when it was time to leave. All the Turk vehicles had trackers, so if anyone was stupid enough to steal it, they’d be toast, but still… none of that stopped Veld from popping a vein every time one went missing. Reno would prefer to avoid the headache if possible.

“Parameters?” Tseng asks, gun out as he follows his orders and checks his equipment.

Reno’s pleased by his obedience, and the speed that he has in doing so. It’s obviously automatic and it takes a little off the edge of Reno’s annoyance, as at least he’s weapon proficient. Hopefully, the kids not shy in taking down a live target, or things will probably go sour fast. The possibility of chaos makes the redhead smirk a little, despite his more sensible preferences these days.

“Don’t get your pretty ass shot,” Reno retorts, chuckling at the look the youth gives him. The kid’s too cute when he glares… and that’s so going to be a pain in the ass where they’re going. Reno buries thoughts of what Veld’s going to do to him later if the kid gets damaged and instead concentrates on how much fun this is going to be. “Look, just follow my lead and do what I say, right? We’re here to observe, get ya used to under plate dives, nothing else.”

Tseng nods and Reno turns his attention back to the road, finally spying a parking space that’s in a fairly busy area. He pulls in and parks, deciding to leave his mag rod under the seat as he quickly pulls out his side arm and checks it over, glancing up to see the youth beside him peering out at the passerbys curiously.

Still fucking way too cute, Reno thinks to himself, chuckling as he gets out of the car and waits for Tseng to do the same.


Tseng keeps his eyes straight ahead on Reno’s back, cursing the other man’s tallness as he tries his hardest to ignore the stares. It isn’t like he hasn’t been stared at before… being from Wutai pretty much assures a large percentage of the Midgar population take note of him. No, it’s the way they’re staring that’s getting to him.

Veld might have brought him under plate a couple of times, but it was only once to somewhere populated, and then it’d only been Wall Market. It had been brightly lit, a collection of retail outlets with a few scattered people who took one look at Veld and carefully looked away.

This place is different though... dark, noisy and too full of people who didn’t seem to care one bit that they were Turks. The gun under his arm brings little comfort, as even if he emptied an entire clip into this crowd, he doubted it’d be enough to take out even a quarter of the number here. Considering most of these people were probably armed too, pulling out a gun would be suicide anyway.

What the hell is Reno thinking?

The redhead pauses and Tseng almost walks into his back before glancing up to see his partner call out to one of the bar staff and hold up two fingers. Looking over, Tseng sees the man nod back at Reno… and then has the unlucky experience of meeting the eyes of one of the men sitting at the bar. He’s big, as big as Rude, and he smiles at Tseng in a way that is anything but friendly. Tseng doesn’t even realize he’s just standing there staring back like a stunned idiot until Reno blocks his view.

“Wake the fuck up,” the redhead hisses at him, grabbing him by the arm and turning to walk off, practically dragging Tseng behind him. The laughs from behind are so loud he can hear them over the too loud music, and all Tseng can do is stare down at the hand gripping his forearm too tightly, his face too hot with the shame of failure… and it’s only been a few minutes since they left the car.


Reno is pissed off, and he’s having a hard time hiding the fact as he sits glaring at the youth across from him, who still hasn’t lifted his head. Tseng is the picture of regret and remorse, sitting ramrod straight with his head bowed and hands in his lap… and the total submissive air of him is the only thing that’s stopping Reno from beating some god damned sense into him.

Glancing away, Reno checks their surroundings, noting most of those around them have already lost interest and gone back to their own business. The crowd way down here at the back of the bar is usually like this, more intent on keeping to themselves… thankfully for them. The assholes at the bar are still staring though, and the more they talk and drink, the more likely it is that they’ll start something eventually.

Not really what Reno had in mind for today’s outing, but right now he’s hungry for it, the anticipation of being able to take out his aggravation on some meat heads making him feel a little better.

The bartender turns up with their drinks, and Reno slips him a generous tip along with a hand signal that Reno’s only ever had to use a couple of times before. The man nods, and Reno sits back in his chair, relaxing a little more now there’s more than his own eyes on the trouble makers at the bar. It won’t be much of a warning if they make a move, but a couple of seconds is all Reno needs against idiots like that.

He takes the chance to study his new partner a little closer, looking at the shiny, immaculate hair tied back so tightly, not a single strand out of place. It’s only after looking for a few minutes that he notices the slight movement of the kids jaw… and realizes the kids grinding his teeth.

Reno almost rolls his eyes, because even when angry the kid’s fucking adorable.

“Oi, rookie. Ya drink’s here,” Reno offers up, frowning at his own kindness. It’s not like him… not in the slightest, and that kind of pisses him off again. “Or would ya rather your boyfriend at the bar buy one for ya?”

Tseng’s head jerks up, and for a moment, those dark eyes are so wide… scared and vulnerable… and then suddenly the kid’s face falls flat, expression devoid of anything but bored disinterest as he reaches forward and looks at his drink.

“What is it?” Tseng murmurs, glancing up at Reno who’s already half way through his own and trying to push down the urge to get that expression back. It is the opposite of what’s he’s supposed to be doing here, after all.

“Nothin’ alcoholic. Don’t drink on the clock, rookie,” Reno retorts, snorting when the kid still smells it first. At least he’s smart enough not to trust me blindly.

Reno just continues to watch him, waiting for curiosity to win out. He’s surprised the kid lasts so long, as it’s a good ten minutes later before Tseng glances towards the bar. Unluckily, the asshole is watching them when he does, and Reno can see the moment their eyes meet.


Tseng looks away quickly, his own widened eyes flicking back to Reno automatically. The redhead is staring at him again, and there’s surprisingly no ridicule there, as he’d expected. Reno just looks a little intense, and far more aware then Tseng had thought he was… but he still can’t work out why the redhead isn’t even keeping an eye on the men at the bar who seem to be planning on working themselves up into making something of Tseng’s mistake.

“I think…,” Reno begins, pausing to finish his drink as Tseng waits impatiently for him to continue. “… maybe it’s time for lesson number one.”

“Lesson number one?” Tseng parrots back, as he’s suddenly feeling even worse just from the redhead’s tone of voice.

“Yeah,” Reno drawls, drawing out the vowels. “Let’s call it, sink or swim.”

Somehow Tseng manages to flatten out his expression, but his heart is now trying to beat its way out of his chest. He wants to ask just what the hell the redhead means, but his throat is so tight he doubts he can manage it without his anxiety being obvious.

“Ya simply go to the bathroom, alone,” Reno continues, lighting up a cigarette and blowing the smoke into the air above. “They’ll follow, and ya deal with ‘em, away from any collateral damage.”

“What level of force am I allowed to use?” Tseng manages to ask, trying to ignore how squeaky his voice comes out. It’s humiliating, but he needs to know details right now more than he needs to keep his pride intact.

“Hmm… equal force to threat, I’d say,” Reno replies, one side of his lips quirking up, but the smirk doesn’t reach his eyes in the slightest. “Think you can handle it, rookie?”

“Done,” Tseng states, standing up suddenly. He doesn’t want any time to think about it, as he already knows this is stupid and risky, but he’s not going to let his fears create another failure to taint his first day as an active Turk.


Reno’s eyes widen as the youth walks away briskly, and it takes all his self-control not to just get up and follow him on plain reflex. He never expected the kid to jump to the task this quickly, and thought they’d at least be more questions.

Fucking kids these days, Reno thinks to himself, only to realize that’s the second time he’s thought that today. Fuck, I'm starting to sound like some pathetic old fart, he chastises himself, trying to calm himself enough to just wait for the right moment.

He hears the bunch at the bar get up a few seconds later, and his hand twitches as he waits for them all to disappear after his partner. When the last one is out of sight, he stands, his eyes meeting with the bar tender’s for a moment as he makes another hand signal and then he’s after them.

Walking into the back hall, he pauses for a moment, noticing the sign directing the way to the bathroom has been turned the wrong way. He might know the right way anyway, but Tseng damn well wouldn’t.

“Fuck,” Reno mutters under his breath, turning quickly to go after his rookie. He knows this way leads outside to the back alley, and if the pricks at the bar planned this, there could be more of them out there. Reno had been too busy studying the kid to watch whether any of them went near the sign earlier.

Getting to the door, he grabs the handle and yanks it… only to find it won’t open. Face curling into a sneer, Reno immediately pulls out the gun holstered under his arm and cocks it at the lock.


Tseng is standing in the alley, perfectly still. He can hear the others behind him, but he doesn’t turn around, as it’s obvious they’re only here to make sure he doesn’t try to run. The ones of most concern are the men who’d followed him out here, and they’re busy sizing him up right now… spreading out a little and pulling out weapons. Tseng takes note of what they have, eyes flitting back and forth between them as he sizes up the threat he finds in their eyes as well, the confidence or lack of it, in their stances. Whether they hang back, or inch forward.

It’s like a game of sorts, but deadly and in high speed, and his pulse may be beating like a jackhammer right now, but his mind is all calm focus. This is what he’s trained for, what he knows and is good at. This is his chance to finally shine… even if the odds are against him. He may go down, but he’s going down taking as many as these bastards as he can with him.

And hopefully, Reno won’t sit on his ass doing nothing for too long. It’d be nice to survive my first day, after all.

“Fucking Wut Cunt,” one mutters, and the others laugh as the speaker steps to the front. It’s the big guy from the bar who he’d made the mistake of eye contact with, and Tseng hardens himself a little more at the sight of him.

No time like the present to make up for past mistakes….


Reno shoots the lock twice, but no matter how many times he kicks the door, it’s not budging an inch. Swearing as he hears the sound of gunshots outside, he glances down the hall and runs to check the next room. It’s the office of the club, and he only has to knock out one guard as the two other women in there hit the floor, one setting off a blaring alarm as Reno just runs right past them and out the back door. Luckily, it comes out just around the side of the building, and in moments he’s rounding the corner, gun up and firing.

He takes down four before he even sights Tseng. The kid is still up, fighting like a hellhound in the midst of a group of five others, but as Reno turns his gun on them, the kid disappears.

Two of the men fall straight after him, and Reno takes out the other three in moments. Once they’re down he can see the kid sitting on one of the guys chests and slicing his throat open. It’s such a precise movement, even in the midst of such chaos, and Reno finds himself surprisingly impressed.

Then Tseng looks up at him, hair everywhere, clothes torn and bloody… and Reno grins.

“Glad ta see ya decided to swim, rookie.”


Tseng is so riled up, he doesn’t even think before launching himself up and at his so called partner. Reno deflects the first punch, and dodges the knife too, but it all only makes Tseng try harder. He spins and kicks, connecting with the older man’s side and making him stumble into the nearby wall, but when Tseng tries to follow up with another slice of the knife, he finds his arm caught fast in an iron like grip.

“Feisty little fuck,” Reno growls, spinning him around and slamming him face first into the wall. Luckily, Tseng manages to get his other arm up before impact, cushioning the force, but leaving him trapped all the more efficiently in the end with his arm between his chest and the wall. He’s left with nothing but curses to expel the pent up rage, his mouth spewing venom in both Midgarian and his native tongue as Reno twists his other arm up high behind his back, making him drop the knife.

Tseng hisses at the pain, but then his arm is lowered back level with his waist, lessening the burn but Reno’s grip stays just as strong as he pushes his whole body up against Tseng’s.

“Rule number two,” the redhead mutters, voice a little breathless and so rough around the edges that Tseng can’t help the shiver that goes up his spine when it’s hissed in his ear. “When it comes to ya fellow Turks, fighting is a no, fucking is a go.”

Reno’s hips push forward, and Tseng’s eyes widen as he feels the sudden hardness pressing into him. He’s surprised that when his own hips push into the wall before him, he’s hard as well.

“I… I d-don’t…,” Tseng starts to stutter, body starting to shake now that the adrenaline’s ebbing a little, even if his heart is still beating as fast as ever.

“Shhh,” Reno whispers, nuzzling just under his ear and starting a slow rhythm of hip movements that Tseng’s mortified to admit, feel amazing. “Not gonna force nothing, just say the word and I’ll stop. Otherwise, ya just close your eyes and I’ll settle ya down, kay?”

Tseng takes in a shaky breath, as if thinking it over, but it’s really no choice at all.

“Let me get an arm loose… for myself,” he mumbles, biting his lip in embarrassment. Reno’s teeth on his ear aren’t helping to calm him in the slightest as he tries to wriggle the one trapped between himself and the wall free.

“I’ll handle it, kid,” Reno replies, a hand slipping around Tseng’s hip slowly and tracing the waistline of his pants. It slips down to cup him from the outside, and Tseng can’t help but push into it, his breath catching in his throat at the contact.

“Good boy,” Reno murmurs, squeezing as Tseng gasps, wriggling for more from both sides.

Reno chuckles in his ear, and somehow, it only makes Tseng hotter despite how mortifying his lack of self-control is. Then his zipper is being pulled down, a hand slipping inside and pushing down his underwear to wrap around his cock tightly, and Tseng can think of nothing else but how much he needs more.

“Hmm, so hard and ready for it. Gonna make ya feel so good,” Reno whispers, his hips starting to push harder into Tseng’s ass as his hand starts a fast stroke over the youth’s cock.

Tseng can’t hold back the moans, both his arms still trapped as the helplessness only adds to the high. Then suddenly he feels Reno start to lick his neck, and he knows he’s covered in blood… and just the thought of how wrong it is has his coming in an instant, moaning his partner’s name out too loud, the sound echoing off the walls of the alley.

By the time he calms down enough for his brain to work again, Reno is just following him over into orgasm, the redhead’s gasps making his spent cock twitch where it lays, still loosely held by Reno’s hand. Tseng’s face is burning, and with every second that passes, it’s more from embarrassment than exertion… because what exactly does this all mean now?

“Mmm, well done, Tseng,” Reno murmurs, tucking the youth back into his pants and zipping him up. Reno lets him go for a moment, and he almost stumbles, but then the redhead has an arm around his waist, pulling him away from the wall as the sound of sirens in the distance finally filter into the chaos inside Tseng’s mind. Looking up and around, Tseng stiffens up completely when his eyes land on Rude standing out in the middle of the alley, arms crossed and back towards them.

“Lena already picked up your car. Mine’s around the corner,” the big man states, walking off as Reno chuckles.

Then the redhead starts to drag him after Rude, ruffling his hair as Tseng tries to find his feet. The youth tries to duck away from the hand, but the grip around his waist is firm, holding him steady as he glares through the mess of his hair up at his new partner.

“Damn, ya know, ya gotta stop it with the cute looks or it’ll be like this every time we go out,” Reno comments as they reach the car, opening the back door and leaving him leaning beside it. “Although… this was fucking fun.”

Tseng’s left staring at the redhead, who just smirks and winks before disappearing into the front passenger seat of the car. With a few more mumbled curses, Tseng sinks into the back seat, and shuts the door, staring out the window so he doesn’t accidentally meet Rude’s eyes in the rearview mirror.

It’s not until they drive past the security vehicles going to answer the bar's alarm, that Tseng realizes the redhead finally remembered his name.