Life is an unrelenting comedy... therein lies the tragedy of it.
Junon was best at night.
The pressing darkness was kept at length by the artificial lights; by neon signs and street lamps that dimmed out the stars, though one could be certain that tonight the sky was clear. The air was humid and very palpable, and sometimes the nearby sea would bring a cooler breeze.
To some people, this would not go unappreciated... or at least unnoticed. It most certainly wasn't by this familiar figure sauntering down the street: his hands deep in his pockets, his posture so easy he was nearly bent forward, dragging his heels on the pavement -- his manner, it was almost too laid-back. But he felt the city night had always been in his veins, sinking within him so that he felt he couldn't depart from it; all discolored twilight and artificial luminescence, breathing smoke and favoring the shadows.
Momentarily he looked up ahead of him as headlights from a passing car briefly illuminated his profile. Pupils contracting, his aquamarine irises took on a slight unnatural glow as they absorbed the light.
He'd been staring ahead at a certain business on the corner; it looked like pretty much any other building in Junon, aside from the door that had been painted garishly bright, the flyers advertising amateur nights in the window, and the neon sign reading the Jukebox, glowing backwards from the inside.
Burning cigarettes; low, dim lights; late-night wonderment. Distractive release.
It all flat-lined the conscience and diluted the memories, that they might not come so fast in the upshot. That was perhaps his reason for coming here, his ulterior motive -- and maybe other peoples', too.
He came in during intermission, and some people greeted him, calling out his name, trying to be heard over the din. In response he might nod his head in lazy regard, or if it was a girl, he would put on a sly and disarming smile, and wink at her.
Around here he had become well-known for his crooked grin and facetious wit. He was the guy who looked like he had his mouth on wrong, always quick to laugh, to put out that he hadn't one care or contention in the world, and inward was a fragile flame. He never let it show through to betray his smile, because there was no room for retrospection. His eyes were too full, the night was too promising to just look back and remember.
These people didn't know his past. They didn't have to know.
And he was better for it, all the quicker to forget -- if not for this night, then for the moment. Here, he was just Reno... far removed from the title "Turk."
Pivoting on one foot, he turned to see who had just called out for him. He was still getting used to having people he'd never met before know his name.
It was a kid, maybe a few years younger than him, trying to sound casually inquisitive. "When's your set?"
Reno's mouth turned up at the corner and his eyes simpered a little, half in amusement that this guy actually cared, the other half in apology. "I'm not doin' one tonight." This was his day off, but he still hung around here when there was nothing better to do.
"...oh," the kid said, crestfallen, and Reno was almost sorry.
In mock solemnity he reached out and rumpled his hair to cheer him up, offhandedly asking, "Cy is the MC tonight, isn't he?"
The kid, who now had slightly matted hair, nodded.
"Thought so," Reno murmured to himself as he walked past. He stuffed his hands back into the pockets of his expensive leather jacket(the collar of which needed to be adjusted) and brushed his bangs out of his eyes with a toss of his head. Since Meteor, he hadn't bothered to even trim his hair. It was still pulled back in the usual loose ponytail that now barely came down past his shoulder blades; it was still the same deep, rich scarlet color, dappled copper in this light. He was very proud of it, but an almost offensive number of people liked to ask if he dyed his hair.
He couldn't help it if he stood out in a crowd. Being a scar-faced, fair-skinned redhead who didn't freckle and spoke with a dissolved Midgarian slum accent, it was easy to be noticed. He was also tall and very lanky -- almost curiously so. And he had bad posture.
It might sound bad when you put it all together like that, but that didn't mean he couldn't carry himself with confidence. He'd learned to live with the physical scars, especially the ones that marred his face, right across his defined cheekbones; and when it came down to it, he didn't care what people thought of him.
That was probably why he didn't get stage fright.
He couldn't quite explain how or why, but he felt calm up there; even if the spotlight was on him, he couldn't feel any more at ease. There would be times when he would just look at himself and wonder what he was doing here, if any job he took could ever top the elite Turk profession. But he didn't know what else he was good for -- if not this, then what would he do? He'd been to the bottom. He never wanted to sink that low again.
Ironic, that he'd gone from a nightstick to a microphone. Reno wasn't so sure if that was better or worse. This would be the point at which he'd wonder what Tseng would think... rather he would, if Tseng's memory wasn't so upsetting. So he let it go.
Tonight he was going to hang around the bar, get a drink, amuse himself, maybe talk to some other people who had a gig here. When intermission was over, he might go in and see the show, or he would stay where he was and listen to the music and the punch lines and the rolling laughter from the bar. Either way, his contentions would fade into the blurring lines, dulled and farcical, and he'd be mighty fine.
Weaving between people, he couldn't help but catch odd little snatches of excited conversation. He also noticed the difference in the atmosphere... how it seemed electric, a little more restless. Paying no mind to it, he plopped down into a bar stool and immediately noticed something very significant:
There was nobody behind the bar.
Reno took a deep breath, told himself there was no reason to panic. Where was the person to serve drinks? They were supposed to be standing right there. Hopeful and anxious, he looked all over and up and down the area for the bartender while staying in his seat. Surely they were only hiding under the counter...? No. No, they weren't.
He sat upright again on the stool, let his hair fall back into place, and threw a furious glance behind himself. Who was working the bar tonight? And why weren't they right here? He wasn't even working today, and he couldn't be bothered to get up and get himself a drink just because somebody wasn't doing their job.
A moment later, Reno was still looking over his left shoulder when he could sense displaced air in front of where he sat. Someone had finally come up behind the bar.
Slamming his open palms down on the counter top, he whirled his head around too fast for his ponytail to catch up. "THERE you are!" he'd already begun to rebuke. "Wh--"
The words died in his throat when he saw that he was not talking to an incompetent co-worker at all, but a woman... a woman that he could recognize. He had observed the long, dark hair, the shape of the face, but most striking were her eyes: such a deep shade of brown, wide and soulful, with almost red undertones... he knew those eyes. It was....
It was HER -- !
As soon as that registered Reno jerked back a little too far, out of impulse and plain shock, and no sooner had that happened than he felt himself lose balance. His chair wobbled dangerously as he tried to right it but to no avail -- and with a muttered curse, a brief exclamation tucked sideways into the air; he toppled backwards, right out of his bar stool.
Post-chapter Notes: Hey, y'all! Remember me?
*silence.... crickets chirp ......someone coughs*
Er, well -- that's alright! Man, it's good to be back. I've been on this site for more than a year and I'm only starting on my second project! ^_^ I finally got over a creative drought and wrote this in the span of a couple of days, so it's fairly short and I was just setting the atmosphere and such. It's not as lighthearted as I meant it to be, but that's just how it came out (I'm getting back into the groove of things, you see). The humor will undoubtedly pick up. And what it's about.... well, the central theme is never what I initially plan it to be. I know I didn't come out and say what exactly Reno's occupation is (although I'm pretty sure you can guess), but it'll say in the next chapter.
Well, think I should cut it right here. But before you go, press that pretty little button and write a review! Whether you've read my other stuff or this is the first you've seen, I'd love to hear from you. =D Thanks!