I do not own FF7 or the characters.
When Reno approached the bar he had to admit that it was quieter at least than when he'd left it a few minutes ago… perhaps Tifa and Cloud had made up? Possible…
But he wasn't sure though, he'd seen how pissed off she'd been. No, if it was quiet then they'd probably taken it elsewhere for the sake of those kids they looked after, after all it wasn't good to hear the grown ups arguing when you were young. It did bad things for the household.
Reno sucked in air through his teeth and breathed out slowly, if he was quick then he'd be in and out before anyone noticed him, he was good at it after all. So gingerly put his hand on the door and pushed it softly.
It defied him and he frowned at it and again… then tried harder… it was locked from the inside.
He could pick it, but it was broad daylight and besides – what would he say if someone saw and called the security?
Hmm…'Oh sorry officer - my bad! But you see, my wallets in there and I only realised I left it when I was asked to leave so I'm just going to pop back in there, get my stuff and I might even say sorry to the owner for trashing up her bar?'
Yeah, that made him sound like the innocent party didn't it?
He groaned and walked around the side and looked for any windows on the ground level... nope. But Fenrir was absent he noted with interest, but as he thought about why that might be he tutted in disapproval – Cloud, running off on your motorbike instead of biting the bullet and talking it out? Shame on you!
It occurred to the red head that he could be accused of doing the same but he shamelessly shrugged that fact away and reminded himself that he didn't live here and he wasn't dating the owner. Besides, she'd told him to 'get out' and he'd only been complying!
She was probably more likely to hit him anyway, so he had the right to run!
He groaned and looked up… then he had a brain wave. At the higher level of the apartment there were windows, he looked around for anyone who might be watching. The street was deserted and he took the opportunity to try getting in a different way.
Jumping up and scrambling up the side of the building he made his way quickly up to the ledge with a grin creeping on his face… god but he loved being a Turk! This was what he did best, this was what he was trained to do – sneak in no matter what, get what he needed and get out without anyone being the wiser! He was so glad he had the opportunity to practice his skills; it had been too long since he'd had to sneak into an occupied building!
He almost had a heart attack when he was met by two large brown eyes beneath a dark fringe, but he gave Marlene a shock too – the girl gasped and jumped away from the window as she and the red head found themselves separated only by a pane of glass.
Cloud stopped Fenrir on the outskirts of Edge at Aeris' church and got off his beefed up black motorcycle.
He lived with Tifa and the kids now, and his bedroom in their apartment now saw more frequent use than it had over the last few years but he occasionally came out in the church when he was doing his last service for Aeris. He'd been taking the opportunity to fix the damages that her building had sustained over the last few years but it was slow going getting the materials he needed mostly because he was doing it all himself around his delivery work which was a pretty full time job when you were feeding a family of four.
He walked through the old building and sat on the edge of the flower beds which bloomed here still, his thoughts drifted back to the conversation he and Tifa had shared after Reno had vacated the building.
"Tifa…" he'd started, but the dark haired woman was hearing none of it.
"I can't leave you two alone can I? Every time you two meet something always happens! Why can't you two get along – honestly I swear Marlene and Denzel aren't the biggest kids in this household, its you and Reno whenever you and him see each other!"
Cloud stayed quiet… if he waited then she could calm down. He'd known her for years and her temper was hot but it was only a flash in the pan when it came and it ended quickly.
"Cloud, what was all that about?" Tifa asked him with her hands on her hips when she'd taken a moment to calm herself down.
"It doesn't matter. He just got under my skin Tifa. I'm sorry about the mess I made." He apologised.
Tifa's eyebrows rose sceptically as she picked the chairs and table up off the floor and set them back in their place. She eyed the broken ones wearily before she turned to face him.
"He said he only came here to deliver a message Cloud, and I left you both alone for only a few minutes. What did he say to you that upset you that badly that you two had a fight over it?"
Cloud shrugged "He was just being the way he usually is." He replied.
Tifa half smiled at that answer, it was true that Reno knew how to be a royal asshole without needed to try hard. "I know what you mean, but you didn't react like I'd expect you to if it were just Reno being Reno. Come on, tell me the rest of it Cloud."
"…" Cloud looked around and felt awkward under her patient gaze.
Finally he admitted "I asked him not to come here again, and he said he wouldn't do that. Then he tried to goad me into a fight and I didn't react. So he attacked me."
Tifa blinked at that "Okay…" she said softly "You had a fight because he goaded you… is that why you don't want him coming around here Cloud? He doesn't cause trouble most the time and it's not like he comes often anyway. You know he actually behaved himself pretty well before you came in." She criticised her childhood friend gently but she felt she owed Reno some credit since he wasn't around to defend his actions here.
The blonde haired man wasn't sure why he'd wanted it that way himself, there were lots of good reasons to not want Reno around; their past, his association with Rufus Shinra, his attitude to others and himself.
But those hadn't been any of the reasons for him warning the red head off coming back… he really didn't want Reno around here and he didn't know why. But it had something to do with the people he lived with. This was his space and these were his friends, they all mattered to him and somehow he'd suddenly felt threatened by Reno's presence here disrupting his slowly rebuilding happiness.
But Tifa was still looking at him so he answered as honestly as he could "I just don't care for his attitude Tifa. He still behaves like Shinra is still in charge and I don't like that. I just worry about you and Marlene and Denzel. Reno can't drop the past and I'm worried he might try something because of what you and I did to him before."
Tifa sighed "I think he's over that by now, Cloud. But you don't exactly help the situation either by holding a grudge. I suppose if you feel that way I can't change your mind, you're still the same old Cloud and he's the same old Reno."
She paced for a few seconds before she turned to look back into his eyes "So what am I to do with you pair, separate you or make you shake hands and get along?"
Cloud grimaced as though she'd said something he found distasteful.
She laughed at his face "Oh Cloud…" she gave him a soft sympathetic smile "You and Reno are a real pair, you know that? You're as bad as each other sometimes!"
Cloud didn't like that comment… if only because he found he couldn't say it wasn't a complete lie. He suddenly wanted to ride his bike and patted his pockets to check he had his keys, which he did.
"Tifa… I've left something back at the church, will you all be okay alone for a little while?"
She was puzzled at that "Cloud, is everything okay?" she asked him in a concerned way.
He smiled at her reassuringly "Yes. I won't be long, I promise."
Cloud looked at the flowers and wished he knew himself why he and Reno were the way they were sometimes.
Maybe it was because they were two totally different people, or maybe Tifa was right and they did have too much in common.
He frowned as he tried to imagine Reno behaving the way he did, making the effort to get along with Tifa and other people and behaving like a person and not a Turk.
Somehow he just couldn't see Reno acting any other way than he always had. He was selfish, he was stubborn and he cared only for what he wanted or what served Shinra's interests.
He nodded to himself. Tifa was probably right about the two of them. There was no need to warn Reno off because there was nothing really to worry about. It was unlikely they'd see him anytime soon anyhow.
Feeling better he got on his motorcycle and headed back for Seventh Heaven.
Reno stared in shock at the kid on the other side of the window. He raised a finger up to his lips in a shushing manner to calm her down.
The girl went to call for someone and Reno shook his head desperately and mouthed No! No! No! No!
Please don't call Tifa, he thought, I don't need another telling off considering I have to go back to tell Tseng I pissed off the guy I was meant to be thanking for him…!
The girl's eyes narrowed suspiciously and she went over to the window and opened it just a crack.
"What are you doing outside my window?" she asked him.
Reno breathed a sigh of relief "Kid, my wallets in Tifa's bar and she's locked the door – run down and get it for me would ya? I'll be at the front door."
Marlene frowned and closed the window before she went out of the room and headed down the stairs.
Reno breathed a sigh of relief and slid down the wall to the ground level. He waited outside the front door and it was only for a few moments before the small frame of Marlene appeared before him holding out his wallet in the doorway.
"I checked your cards to see if it was yours. I saw your picture next to the Shinra logo… you work for Shinra don't you?" the girl asked him.
Reno saw no need to lie to the kid "Yeah." He told her.
"Daddy's told me about people like you." She informed him softly. There was a hint of worry in her eyes but there was also something to her voice, a kind note that said she was only saying what the other grown ups had told her so it must be true…
Reno was about to say something sarcastic about that, but his curiosity stopped him "Oh really? What did he say about me then kiddo?"
"He said you were bad men." Marlene replied in a matter of fact voice.
Reno's face cracked at the simplicity of that statement. He actually laughed at it, this kid was the adopted daughter of someone who had blown up Mako Reactors, killing dozens of soldiers in the process and bringing untold misery and fear to those denizens who'd lived happily under SHINRA's rule… and yet here he was being classed as the 'bad man' for doing equally despicable things to the opposite side for reasons as justifiable as her father had?
Honestly, there was no justice sometimes…
This kid had no idea what she was talking about, but it was complicated to explain to someone who was barely ten, and more to the point it was in the past.
"Why are you laughing?" the dark haired girl asked him curiously.
"Nothing kid." Reno replied "Its… a private joke. You wouldn't understand."
"Well, here's your wallet." The girl held out the small item for him and he took it gratefully.
Reno liked the girl despite what she'd just said… she was kind of like Tifa in a way, strong willed but also caring. Living here was probably having a good influence on her.
"Thanks kid. Oh, by the way…"
"Marlene." the girl interrupted "My name is Marlene."
Reno paused and cleared his throat as he lowered himself down to her level "Okay, Marlene. Um, I don't know how to say this to a kid but is something wrong with Tifa? She seemed kind of mad back there?"
The girl blinked in confusion.
Reno sighed "Is her business in trouble?"
Marlene avoided his gaze "I shouldn't really talk about that with a stranger." She replied apologetically.
Reno sighed and thought quickly "Good advice kid. Okay then just tell me this, does she see a lot of people coming in here lately?"
Marlene frowned at that "No…" she replied thoughtfully "But Tifa says not to worry. It's a dead period, she say's it'll pick up again."
"Huh, is that right?" Reno mumbled as his brain began to work overtime "Okay kid, well I need you to do me one last favour. I broke something in there and Tifa wouldn't accept any payment from me if I tried to give it to her, so will ya put this beside her cash register for me? It's not charity I promise." he fished out a few notes and handed them over to the girl.
He wouldn't have it said that he didn't pay his debts. No way.
"Okay Reno." Marlene said.
"How the hell'd ya know my name?" Reno asked her in surprise.
"Tifa said it back there, silly. And I looked in your wallet just now. Don't worry Reno, I won't tell her."
It was then that both of them heard a familiar voice call "Marlene? Who's at the door?"
Reno looked up and decided he'd bite the bullet even if Cloud wouldn't. He looked down at Marlene and shrugged "Suppose I should tell her I'm sorry about the mess?" he asked the girl.
The small child smiled sweetly "I think she'd like that."
"Marlene?" the attractive figure of Tifa came out into the bar area to find her missing adoptee talking to Reno at the door.
"Oh!" she said softly "Reno, back again so soon! Can I help you?" she asked him.
Reno looked sheepish and asked "Can I come inside yet or is it still closed?"
Tifa sighed and smiled tiredly at him "You can come in Reno." She told him.
The man let Marlene go inside first and shut the door behind him. He headed over to her bar and offered the waitress his most nonchalant shrug "I wanted to get my wallet back. Had to ask the ki- I mean I had to ask Marlene there to get it for me." He corrected himself hastily with a grateful nod to the small girl.
Tifa nodded amiably and began to polish a few of the hanging pint glasses so she had something to do "I understand Reno, and now you've got your wallet is there something else you needed?"
Reno looked at her eyes and found an unexpected heat developing in the pit of his belly. Those eyes really were quite something to look at… so big and dark and…
He mentally slapped himself replied "Well… I wanted to say sorry."
That caught her attention. She stopped and she looked directly up into his eyes.
"Sorry?" she echoed.
That feeling was getting worse now… he hoped he hadn't drunk that pint too quickly or something…
"Who are you apologising to Reno, me or Cloud?" Tifa asked him softly.
Reno's mouth had gone dry now… oh no. he realised Oh no, no no! I'm attracted to her! This is bad, this is VERY bad!
"You… I wanted to say sorry to you." he managed to say it quite easily despite his internal panic at his changing feelings towards this woman. She looked sad at that comment so Reno decided to do the decent thing "and… I guess I should say sorry to Cloud too for my part."
And with that Tifa suddenly changed. She seemed positively aglow "Really?" she asked him eagerly.
He nodded a quick affirmative.
"Thank you Reno! That'll g down well if you really mean it." she said gratefully with a genuine smile.
Reno felt sick. "Yeah… who'd have thought I could be the bigger man, huh?"
Tifa suddenly remembered something and she shook her head with a frustrated sigh "But… oh! I forgot, Cloud's gone out for a while Reno."
Reno felt better for that, now he had an excuse to come back later and maybe she might be free… no! No - he mustn't think like that, this was an excuse to leave and forget these strange feelings!
But before he could stop himself he suddenly found his mouth opening and blurting out "You know, you really need a break from work Tifa."
His hostess looked puzzled "Um… well… maybe you're right, but what makes you say that?"
Reno leaned on the bar and smirked "Well for one thing you and Cloud don't get all that much alone time I'm sure?"
Tifa blushed and mumbled something that Reno didn't quite hear. But he was pleased to note that she wasn't disagreeing with him.
"Beg pardon?" he pressed.
"You've got it all wrong Reno." she said softly "Me and Cloud… we aren't like that. We're just friends, he told me that himself."
Reno looked into her face and his heart clenched But ya want it be more than that, don't ya? He thought sadly You've wanted that for a long time…
Reno suddenly slid a hand over hers softly and the woman looked at him. Her eyes were large and he could see the wrestling emotions behind them.
"If ya need a hand, Tifa." He said with a half smile "Ya know I'm free a lot of the time these days."
she smiled "Thanks for the offer Reno, but I don't need a hand here. I'm not very busy lately so…"
"Good!" Reno cut in playfully "So then, does that mean you're free tonight?"
"Well, maybe I might be later on." she admitted.
Reno grinned at her "Great, so if I meet you around seven you could have a night off?"
"What? No, Reno I never said-!"
"Aww c'mon Teef." he implored "Don't ya ever take time off?"
"But Reno, there's no one to cover the bar!"
"Cloud can do it!" Reno protested.
Tifa laughed at that "No Reno, that wouldn't be fair. Besides, he'd have to look after Marlene and Denzel too and he's working all the time."
"So are you!" Reno protested, but he understood what she meant. He frowned and thought about it for a moment "Okay… well what if you could find someone else who'd cover the bar for the night?"
Tifa looked up at the ceiling and thought about it, part of her relished the thought of a night off and some company besides the usual faces but the other part of her warned that this was Renopressing her for a night off here...
"Well… well, let me think about it okay? Call me later and I'll tell you then." She promised.
"Okay, it's a date!" he grinned and with that he sauntered off.
Tifa didn't quite know what to say. She watched him go and it was only then she saw Marlene looking puzzled at her and at the door Reno had just left by.
"Tifa? Does this mean you're going out with Reno tonight?" Barrets adopted daughter asked her.
The dark haired woman shook her head and frowned "I…I don't know sweetie."
Marlene looked confused "Will Cloud be mad that you're going to spend time with Reno?"
Tifa sighed and looked down "I don't know. He'll probably ask me why I want to though…" she admitted.
"Will you tell him why?" Marlene asked her curiously.
Tifa wondered if Barrets daughter knew more than she let on at times, but she smiled and patted her head affectionately as she told her things were complicated between her and Cloud.
She wondered if that was the reason she felt so tempted to take Reno up on his enticing offer...
Tseng looked at Reno expectantly as the red head positively bounced his way into the office.
"Reno… are you drunk?" The Director asked suspiciously.
"Huh, me? No boss man, no!" Reno grinned. He then winked "Well actually I may have had one…"
Tseng sighed "I thought so."
"Hey!" the second in command protested "I'll have you know I was very responsible! I said I only had one and I mean it!"
"Reno, responsible would have been a drink of water instead of beer." Tseng countered tiredly.
Reno shrugged "Ah well. Too late now."
There was a pause as both men looked at each other. Tseng was the first to break the silence "Well, how did it go?"
Reno's face fell slightly "Well… it depends on how you look at it boss." He admitted.
Tseng didn't like where this was going…
"Okay, and in your opinion?" he asked the other Turk.
Reno smiled nervously "As well as you'd expect from me."
Tsengs eyes widened in horror "What did you do this time!" he demanded.
"Hey come on! All I did was hit the guy a couple times!" Reno snapped defensively. It was then he realised what he'd said and he hastily corrected himself "It was self defence boss!"
The Director groaned "Oh, I knew I should have sent Elena!" he bemoaned himself as he covered his eyes in exasperation "Howon earth did you manage to turn a thank you into a fist fight Reno?"
"Aw don't be down boss man. It's not all doom and gloom!" he said in a lighter tone.
The Director looked at him expectantly but from his gaze it was clear he didn't expect much from Reno given the news he'd so far delivered about his mission…
"I amgoing to apologise to him. I did try to earlier, but he was out and I did pass on your message before we traded a couple blows. Look, I'll smooth things over with chocobo head when I next see him, okay? That should be sometime soon… it may be tonight."
Tseng's eyes narrowed "May be tonight?" he echoed "what does that mean?"
"It means I'm going to be in the vicinity of his home and if I see him I'll be the bigger man and do you proud Boss." Reno replied smoothly.
"You mean you're going to the Seventh Heaven to get drunk." Tseng corrected his junior ranking Turk.
"No. It means I'm spending some time with the people who know Cloud and I'm going to see if you can make good on that promise of doing them a little extra to show our appreciation for what they did for us." Reno corrected him.
It was then that the Wutain man seemed to relax "That's… very ingenious of you Reno." He complimented.
"Why, thank you." Reno answered a little sarcastically "Would it kill you to admit I might know what I'm doing at times?"
"I will admit it when I see evidence you aren't making it up as you go along." Tseng replied as a half smile passed his lips "But if you do this well, I will reward you for it. We won't mention this to Rufus in the mean while."
Reno breathed a sigh of relief "Thanks boss. Hey, is Rude free tonight?"
Tseng frowned "What he does in his own time isn't my business."
"So that means he doesn't have an assignment?" Reno pressed.
"No… why?" Tseng asked.
"Well I might need a favour from him tonight. Anyway, gotta run boss!" Reno answered evasively as he excused himself from the room.
Reno found the bald headed Turk sitting at his desk. The red haired man pushed a coffee in front of his friend and tried to look as innocent as possible as he thought about how to ask the delicate question of the big man.
Rude smiled at the offering "Thanks Reno. How did you know I wanted one?" he asked in a mildly surprised tone.
"Ah, you know me."
Rude grunted "That I do." and took a sip off the steaming contents of his mug, smacking his lips together the bald mans' eyebrows knotted over his sunglasses in suddenly suspicion.
He put the mug down and faced Reno.
"Cinnamon and a special blend," Rude stated softly "neither of which is easy to come by but I know you possess at your place, and we didn't have these in the office this morning which means you stopped back at your place to get them..."
Reno smirked. Rude was only talkative when he felt the need to vent frustration or give comfort. Rude was verbally deducing Reno's action because he already knew why Reno had done this and he was talking out loud to see if Reno might give anything away before he had to ask why he'd done it for himself.
The big guy took another sip of the rather excellent coffee and made a thoughtful grunt "Okay… I give up. We got paid recently, you don't need to stay at my place and you don't have any paperwork… so why did you go back to your house to get a hold of my favourite coffee and seasoning?"
Reno smiled playfully "Can't a guy be nice once in a while?"
Rude raised an eyebrow "Yes, but for you 'being nice' is letting me work. This I can only deduce is a bribe because you're going to ask me something I won't want to help you with."
The red head placed hand on his chest in mock hurt "I'm wounded, yo!" he stated.
"What do you want Reno?" Rude asked plainly.
"Okay, you got me! I need a favour with a… a mission."
"A mission?" Rude asked curiously "I didn't hear about a mission."
Reno needed to be careful here "Well, more a personal favour for Tseng, but it's the same difference!"
Rude nodded "Okay, what 'favour' needs you to reward me like this to even get me to think about helping you?"
"One that might be hurt your feelings if you get the wrong impression." Reno carefully said. He explained about the task Tseng had given him and the little extra he wanted to give to Cloud and the others, whilst he said it Rude took it in silently.
Then Reno explained how it had gone when he'd delivered the message and Rude snorted amusement at new of the fight but otherwise he still stayed quiet.
Encouraged by this positive reaction, Reno got to the part where he'd asked Tifa to take some time off and spend a night out with him.
"But the condition was that someone be able to cover her shift… and well, you're the only guy I know who can work a bar and sort people out so… help a buddy out?"
He'd tried so hard to alter it to sound less like he liked her and more like he was just being professional and doing it because he had to find some way to make it back up to Tseng for messing up… but he knew he failed when Rude frowned and rose from his seat, his jaw set as he glared at his friend from behind his sunglasses.
Reno knew he'd just royally messed up badly with his friend.
Oh Fan-friggin'-tastic he thought unhappily as his friend stood up and walked out the room, pushing the half full cup of coffee back into Reno's hands as he walked past him without a word.
This is that next chapter I was on about a couple days ago. Not sure if I'm completely happy with it but since I've re written it several times now I thought I'd just submit this one since it's the best I can do right now and see how it was recieved by the readers.
I'd like to hear any opinions about this one; yes I know I'm involving more characters than just the trio I mentioned in the summary but I refuse to cut out the important factors of the kids and Rude because they're too important as close ties for the main characters and I think it improves the story to have them involved.
When I get some feedback I'll work on either re writing this chap to correct anything I agree with that ought to be changed for the sake of keeping things in character, or I'll just continue assuming no one has any major issues with what I've written so far.