Baby, you know I’m guilty
Cops, judge, and jury, they all agree
If love’s the crime, I’m doing time,
And it don’t look like I’ll ever get free
Yeah, baby, you know I’m guilty
Guilty, L.A. Noire OST
The shrill ring of the alarm continues to echo down the hall. Though Axel’s heart pounds in his chest as if it were about to rupture, and his thighs feel as if they were on fire, he doesn’t stop running. The weight of the duffel bag slung around his shoulder almost makes him lose his footing, but he isn’t worried—he knows his partner running right beside him wouldn’t leave him behind.
“On the roof, on the roof,” Reno commands, slamming closed the heavy door leading into the stairwell. Axel sucks in long, laborious breaths as he hauls himself and the weight of the bag and suitcase up the flight of stairs. Rude should be there as soon as they open the door. He has to be.
Axel shoves the door open with the force of his shoulders, listening carefully to the sound of Reno’s steps just behind him. He swears he just heard the door behind them open—someone was close.
“I got this,” Reno says without a hitch, motioning Axel off to another area as he lingers behind, staying close to the emergency exit.
As Axel continues to run, he hears the scuffle break out behind him. There had to be at least two or three guys, and as relentless as he knows Reno to be, Reno wouldn’t be able to hold them all off for long. In the midst of the shouting and dull sounds of fists against flesh, Axel hears the faint thrum of a helicopter closing in. Rude must be getting close, but he just wasn’t going to be fast enough.
He throws down the bags and spins around to rush back to his partner, just at the moment he watches Reno force one of the security buffoons into submission, twisting his arm to point his gun into his thigh before pulling the trigger. The triumphant look on Reno’s face disappears when he looks up to see Axel back by his side and successfully warding off the guard attempting to attack him from behind.
“The hell are you doing back here?!” Reno shouts, shaking his long bangs out of his face as he disarms the wounded guard of his gun and sending a couple bullets into a second guard’s shoulder at point blank. At the same time, Axel sends the third guard flying back and colliding with the hard floor with a steely right hook. “Where did you put the—“
“This isn’t a good time for nagging, Reno!” Axel wrestles the handgun from him, unloading three shots into the door frame near the door pull. Without hesitation he reaches to yank the truncheon out of Reno’s hand and shove it in the pull, jamming the narrow end deep into the fracture left by the bullets.
“That’s only going to buy us seconds, let’s go.”
By the time Axel returns to the abandoned duffel and suitcase, the rhythmic noise of a helicopter was as loud as ever can be. It was floating just above, and Axel could see Elena tossing down the rope ladder. They are so close, Axel thinks, and he begins to count down to their freedom. Three…Two…
A sudden bang distracts Axel from his goal. He hears the muffled voices of men coming from the emergency exit on the other end of the roof. He sees the door, held closed by Reno’s weapon shuddering from the weight of a security guard thrusting up against it. He turns back around, and the world seems to slow as he watches Reno grab onto a rung. The door has been broken down, he hears, and Axel almost doesn’t hear Reno screaming his name to grab on.
Axel reaches out and latches onto the first rung he touches. He swears he hears the faint whistle of a bullet zip by the back of his head as he feels his body being lifted off the concrete surface.
He isn’t sure if it’s the helicopter blades continuing their monotonous tune, or the blood pumping through his muscles at a frightening pace, but for the briefest second, Axel thinks he’s going to fall. He almost doesn’t feel the cool steel against his palm, and the hand holding the briefcase in his other hand feels like it’s about to slip right from his fingers.
When a strong arm wraps itself around Axel’s back, his world seems to come back alive, moving back at its regular pace. He feels Reno’s warm hand gripping him under his arm, relieved that some of his weight was being supported. But, he realizes, there was still the nuisance case in his hand—Reno wouldn’t be able to support him for long, and they would need to climb up into the cabin so they don’t remain as sitting ducks. They were off the building, sure, but those bothersome guards still had an arsenal of guns on them. There can’t be hesitation—he’d have to start climbing, pulling himself up by a mere finger if he has to.
As soon as the thought hits him, he feels his right arm being propelled forward, jerking the length of the rope in a hazardous wave in the air, making both men shout in surprise. The hand around his ribs tightened, making Axel wince. Looking down, Axel realizes a bullet had caught the body of the briefcase, a fresh hole now brandishing the edge, and one half of the body cocked awkwardly off center, as if the hinges were forced out of line.
Rufus isn’t going to be happy , but Axel knows he doesn’t have a choice. With two fingers, he pulls up the lock of the suitcase and lets the flap fall. The air around him suddenly fills with fluttering bills. The money is sent into flying by the wind, obscuring the two of them in confetti of stolen loot.
Axel laughs uninhibited, delighted from the sight and flabbergasted looks of the guards propped on the roof.
“Here’s a souvenir, hotshots!” And with that, Axel hurls the suitcase in the direction of the building, and lets out another howl of amusement when the briefcase manages to nail one of the suited men on the head with a burst of the remaining bills still stuck inside. Above him, Reno lets out a whoop, and Axel feels his lungs swell in bliss.
Now with both hands free, Axel pulls himself up the length of the rope ladder and into the cabin. Random shots fly, none of them coming close to hitting, and the helicopter sails off in the direction of the ocean.
Inside, Reno gives a primal shout, beating his chest as he throws his bag on the floor, stomping around and making a show of their success. Axel laughs along, and sighs when Elena helps the heavy duffel bag off his shoulders.
“Yes!” He booms, moving to coax a chest-bump from Elena, who backs away from him with an irritated look on her face. Undeterred by her lack of enthusiasm, he turns his attention to his partner, pulling him by the lapels of his suit and taking him into a hard kiss. Axel returns the sentiment, nipping at Reno’s bottom lip teasingly. “You better find a way to replace that mag-rod you lost me,” Reno murmurs huskily, moving his mouth to the skin of his partner’s neck.
Axel smirks, raising an eyebrow, “And saving your ass isn’t payment enough?”
In the back, the blond throws up her arms, moving away from the intimate scene to where Rude is operating the craft. “Rude! They’re doing it again!”
Reno grins, “not quite yet, honey. Give us a few more minutes of foreplay, and then you can say that.”
A coy smile works its way onto Axel’s face. He knows he and Reno should have been in a heap of trouble a long time ago after experimenting more and more with their intimacy after missions. There is a rule that people keep their private lives completely out of the picture in the organization, because one person’s weakness is the downfall of the entire group. They couldn’t help it—after befriending Reno and discovering a certainly sense of loyalty he had, Axel sought security with him, and soon there was a level of attraction and possessiveness that grew between the two of them. Couple that with the arousal of adrenaline after missions, and Axel knew he was hooked. He also admits that Rude’s immunity to Reno’s antics and Elena’s distress made it entertaining.
“I wouldn’t celebrate so soon,” comes the low voice from the cockpit, a calm contrast to the commotion happening behind him. “Rufus isn’t going to be happy with that mass of money blowing in the wind. Reno, that means he’s going to be on your case when you report back.”
Reno stops laughing. “You have to remind me so soon, pal?” Reno says, shooting Axel a look. “I think we’re in trouble, yo.”
Axel sputters, his delight being replaced by shock. He points a finger in Rude’s direction, and shouts, “if Rude would have been on time, we would have both made it up in the cabin before the guards broke down the door with the intent of making us into Swiss cheese!”
“Can’t argue with that, Rude, m’man.” He makes his way over to the cockpit, and claps Rude on the shoulder, “this is why you leave the flying to the guy fly enough to handle it.”
Axel doesn’t hold back a snort. Rude takes a moment before saying, “Reno, what did I tell you about trying to sound cool? Besides, you’re the one who wanted to be partnered up with Axel for this job. That leaves me to handle the flying, and that makes you act off schedule and reach the roof too early.”
“What happened to the shiny, flashy bombs you promised us, huh?” Axel asks, walking to the back of the cabin to rest on the benches. “Starting a few fires might help, you know.”
“That is for dire situations,” Elena interjects, obviously not pleased with the idea of putting both Axel and Reno together with explosives. “Besides, Axel, you made a big mistake. I saw you leave the money and materia unattended.”
“I did it so Reno wouldn’t get a bullet between the eyes! There were about a dozen guys after us!” Axel retaliates, clenching his jaw to keep his frustration down. Elena is in a higher rank than he is, but she is also younger—and Axel doesn’t take kindly to younger people ordering him around.
“And that wouldn’t have been a problem if you and Reno stuck to what we practiced and discussed about! And this is why you and Reno should never go on missions together, again,” Elena says, securing the bags up against the wall of the cabin. “The two of you combined make a volatile pairing that’s going to have one of us killed.”
Axel grits his teeth. He wouldn’t want to be paired with someone else other than Reno, who had been his saving grace during those brutal two years of training and rookie missions, even if what Elena said about them being an explosive partnership is true. It is natural to be frugal with his trust when being part of a thieving organization, and he certainly doesn’t trust the others as much as he did Reno. Even if Reno would most likely be okay going back to work with his longtime friend, Rude, Axel feels his blood boil at the very thought. If he had to work with someone as by-the-books as Elena or Tseng, he knows he would throw himself off the top floor of a skyscraper after a week.
“Not going to say anything, Reno?” He hisses. He knows it’s childish and immature to turn to Reno at this point, but Axel is in complete disbelief at how fast the situation turned around on him to care. “I guess that’s what you want—to go back to being partners with Rude?”
“Whoa, hold on, Ax, I never said that! You provide a whole new level of excitement that Rude doesn’t always provide—no offense, man.”
“None taken,” Rude responds, “from what I know about your definition of excitement, I’d much rather leave that to you and Axel.”
Reno lowers his voice, murmuring into Axel’s ear, “besides, Elena’s just frustrated because Tseng’s off doing another mission.”
“I can hear you!” Elena shrieks, a small blush growing on her cheeks.
Reno just grins slyly, leering, “Oh, you can hear us? Then you better find a way not to, because there’s still two hours before we get back to the base.”