The Devil You Know,
Disclaimer: Anyone wanna give me Final Fantasy VII? And all the rights to Advent Children while they're at it, just so I can plot more evil Reffieness and not get sued? No? Sulks … One day maybe, lmfao, but definitely not now… … … I do own a car though. So nyah!
Warnings: Potential language, like usual. Kiwi spelling, just 'cause. And maybe even some very blonde spelling moments…
Summary: Third story, whole new deal. Direct continuation of SaSM. … What if not everyone was happy with the way things were working out? What if there was a small group, much like Avalanche itself, that wanted to give what remained of Shinra a taste of its own medicine? What if they were feeding off a desperation, a desperation born of a hatred no longer relevant? What happens when you mix all these together with Yuffie, Reno, driving lessons and other such mayhem? Well, we're about to find out…
Chapter One: One hell of a day…
Procrastination was something one Yuffie Kisaragi was very good at. It was, as far as she was concerned, a very valid family trait that had run along her father's line for generations. Generally speaking, their bunch was of the attitude that if you had to do something, then you would damn-well do it when you felt like it, (or, in her case, when you had precious few hours remaining to get yourself ready). After all, if there weren't 'lazy' people, then there couldn't possibly be 'hasty' people, and that was just absurd – just look at Staniv - and a very dumb point. Either way though, when all was said and done, it was in her genes. And that was exactly why she found herself in the situation she was currently in now.
"What the hell do you mean my tops aren't dry? I put them in hours ago!"
Of course, it was also in her genes to be an impatient, overreacting Wutaian with a materia complex and a thing for threatening everything with her oversized shuriken. But then, nobody was perfect, and she was personally of the mind that if she could annoy someone with her faults, then at least she wouldn't be forgotten. Right away, at least.
"Since when does the term 'hours' qualify as a matter of minutes?"
Yuffie paused for a moment in her antics, some indefinable textile object hanging from a half-raised arm as she shot a glare at her aide before resuming the process of throwing things haphazardly into her bag, no longer caring whether the relatively un-select objects ended up crammed and rumpled. "Since I realised that I was leaving for Midgar tomorrow!"
"And," Staniv began, lifting both a finger and an ebony eyebrow, "since when have you decided that?"
"Since I realised that there is nothing to do here and I want to go visit Tifa and Cloud early, since for some very bizarre reason I ended up missing her whole party, since you're being such a busybody." That wasn't the reason, not really, but it would suffice for the moment. As an excuse, anyway.
"Bizarre is hardly the word for it."
Yuffie shrugged, not bothering to look up. "What about 'inconvenient', 'annoying', or 'just plain frustrating'?"
"What about, 'how about someone tells me what's going on before I start docking pay and travelling privileges'?" a new voice spoke up from the doorway.
Yuffie froze. Turned very slowly on her heel. Gaped her mouth like a carp in order to try and get words to come out. "Father," she said after a long minute, stepping quickly in front of her oversized backpack in order to try and conceal it with her slim frame. "I was just-"
"Packing?" Godo finished for her, the corner of his mouth twitching as he settled his bulk against the doorframe. "For where, pray tell?"
"Uh. Well, I meant to tell you…"
"Tell me what?"
"That I'm going to Midgar for a few days?" She framed the words like more of a question, quirking an anxious smile at her father in an attempt to win him over. "You know, I never visited Tifa for her birthday in the end, and although I did send her her present, I didn't really get to do it in person, ya know?"
"And you want to leave – again – just for that?" Godo's expression was dubious. "You called her on the PHS."
"Well, it's not just that."
Yuffie hid a scowl. She had always hated the way her father did that, made an otherwise innocent interjection sound like nothing but amused tolerance for a quirky daughter. Which she was. But damnit, that was besides the point! "Yes, oh," she retorted, resisting the urge to poke out her tongue. She settled for pulling a small slip out of her pocket instead. "I was thinking about doing this."
Godo stepped into the room and took the sheet of paper from her, unfolding it and skimming over it carefully. Yuffie watched him with a guarded gaze, cocking her head to the side as he finished reading, looking up at her with a vaguely mystified expression. There was a brief, unnerving silence where she thought her father was going to ask another question, one she wasn't quite equipped to explain as of yet, but he only handed the object back to her before fixing her with a wry expression.
"After all this time?" he asked. "Now you want to learn?"
"I never said I didn't want to earlier, you know," she quipped.
"What happened to, 'if I ever have to even think about driving one of those box-on-wheels death traps after witnessing Barrett's freaky driving and having him crash us into a tree, twice, shoot me'?" Godo mimicked in a shrill mockery of a feminine voice.
Yuffie winced. "I got over it?"
"Just like that, huh?"
"Just like that."
Her father fixed her with a pointed stare, then swung his gaze to Staniv, who was just now leaving the room. Yuffie watched with growing trepidation as her father finally moved across to lean against the small table beside her bed, officially settling himself inside the room rather than on its outskirts. Involving himself in the situation, she realised.
"Why do I get the impression that there's more to this than meets the eye?"
Yuffie, for lack of a better reaction, rolled her eyes. "Because our family has this lovely way of getting into trouble wherever we go, and you're going to let me go anyway, so you're going to quit asking before you read too much into it?" She said all the words in one breath, leaning forward to tweak her father's nose in order to emphasise her last, rather hasty point.
For the second time this confrontation the corner of Godo's mouth twitched. He leaned forward, took the slip of paper from her hand again and scanned it a second time, as if trying to decipher some unknown riddle. "I suppose it would be handy," he murmured." And if you had your own vehicle you wouldn't get that bloody motion sickness, since you'd be driving yourself..."
"Someone did tell me that it helped," she offered.
"Someone?" Godo lifted a chubby hand and wiggled ring-clad fingers. "Several someones have told you that over several years, my girl, and you never listened then."
"Perhaps I didn't believe them?"
"Perhaps not. But that doesn't answer why you believe this person."
"Perhaps I was given incentive?"
Godo raised a thick eyebrow. "Incentive, huh? Care to tell me who?"
Shit. Shit, damn, shit, shit. "Tifa," she lied smoothly, even while she regretted the fib. But at the moment it was a damn-sight better than admitting who had given it to her; that would just bring up too many questions, and nobody questioned Tifa's motives. "She gave me that," she said, snatching the driver's token back off her father and pocketing it before he could return the favour. "And I think it's a good idea now. Besides, it'd be a shame to waste her money."
"And it wasn't a good idea to tell me before you left?"
Yuffie lifted her hands in a surrendering gesture, waving her hands around a couple of times for good measure. "I was going to tell you, but I'd pretty much forgotten about it and, well, you know..." He did, she was sure. That dreaded gene was his, after all, even if she was just using it as an excuse to hide her reluctance to explain things to not only her father, but her friends...
"I do," Godo returned after a moment, "but I'd rather you tell me these things before I find out about them in ways like this, that actually make me question whether I should let you go at all..."
"You're kidding," she said, stopping dead. A strange kind of disappointment filled her. Couldn't go? Ridiculous! Her father had never questioned her choices before, or her freedom, and he'd pretty much said it was a good idea to learn to drive herself around instead of relying on the overly unreliable public transport system, no matter how quickly it was recovering from Meteor. Hell, he'd let her traipse all manner of places across the world for the better part of a year with Cloud and his crazy gang in order to save the world from a madman - or several - but wasn't willing to let her go a few hours east to brave the roads of Midgar?
Her thoughts were interrupted by a deep rumble of a laugh, one filled with amusement. "Actually, I am."
"So I can go?" Why was it that she couldn't keep the faint inkling of hope out of her voice?
"Of course you can," was the incredulous response, and Yuffie suddenly found herself enveloped in a warm hug. "But this time, you bring a PHS, you tell me where you're going to be and how long you're going to be away, and if you even think about interfering with someone's missions just because you're curious, you remember that I'll not let you go anywhere else again if you do!" The otherwise fierce words were laced with a gentle amusement and something else, concern perhaps, and Yuffie nuzzled her face in the shoulder of her father's soft silken robes.
"Promise," she said, then ducked out of the embrace and picked up another handful of clothes. "Now let me pack, old man!"
But Godo just fixed her with a grin. "Not quite yet," he said, and lifted a piece of paper from his own pocket. "There's just one more thing I've got to ask."
Yuffie blinked. "And... what is that?"
"My letting you go to Midgar isn't entirely without motive."
Dread. That was the first thing that filled her as she was fixed with a cunning glance. Her father's 'motives', ever since he'd seemed to tire of the whole materia fascination after the end of the old Shinra and Meteor, had generally involved her attending a number of conferences and functions where nothing but a State presence was required. Which more often than not meant hours on end of boredom, mind-numbing old men speaking with monotones and fixing her with curious, speculative - often even lecherous - glances. She hated it, and just four months ago had told her father that she wasn't going to any such thing again. Still, she wasn't necessarily surprised when she read over the invitation she'd just been handed, so much as she was confused.
"What? Reeve is holding a party?"
"Ugh," Godo said, flicking his arm in a gesture of disgust as he stood and made his way to the edge of the room again. "It's a function to celebrate the anniversary of the third year of neoShinra."
Yuffie blinked. Again. "So, why don't you want to go?"
"I have other meetings to see to. And since you're invited as well, you can officially attend for me."
Yuffie raised an eyebrow at that familiar tone. "Right. More like... you don't. Want. To go."
Godo glanced at her over his shoulder and winked. "Saw right through me. Reeve, despite how good he is at running his place, is someone that has no idea how to throw a party. The first anniversary was more depressing than a funeral, and the second one was only a little better - at least there was alcohol that year. I'm not going until he learns. Besides," he added, "Tifa and company will be there, and since I assume you're going to be staying there, it won't be a problem for you. It will give you plenty of chances to catch up with the others, as well as a chance to make up for the fact you didn't quite manage to make it to her birthday in the end. Now, Yuff, if you'll excuse me I've got some work to do. Make sure you come and see me before you leave."
Not only did that make perfect sense, it actually sounded halfway appealing... Until she reached the large letters midway down the invite. She looked over at Staniv, who was re-entering the room, her eyes wide and her expression that of someone who was any minute now expecting a slow, agonising death. "Crap," she squeaked. "Crap, crap."
"Double crap?" her aide offered, stepping back through the doorway and fixing her with a mildly questioning glance.
"Triple. Crap," she hissed, thrusting her arm out with a jerky motion and practically shoving the neatly decorated invitation-of-hell into the man's arms with disgust. "Read it!"
A short way down Staniv's dark eyes stopped, and a faint glimmer of mirth entered his eyes. "Ah," he said, slowly, drawing it out for an obvious effect. "Not only a function, but a formal function. Official. Nice."
"He didn't say that! He said it was a party!" she fumed. "Party is distinctly different to function!" She darted out to the corridor, peering down the long hallway first one way and then the next in order to stop the 'culprit'. But he was long gone.
"Correction," Staniv said, halting her tirade and coming up beside her. "He said Reeve doesn't know how to throw a party. He never said he was attempting one. Something about a function, I do believe."
"But it's formal!" she snapped, remembering the last formal thing she'd been forced to attend. "As in, I have to wear one of those annoying dresses and shoes and - and... ugh! Damn it." She ran a hand through her hair and for good measure jammed more clothes into her bag, unconsciously noting that it could fit at least several more items that size with the force she was putting into it. "I'm going to kill that wily old man," she muttered.
But Staniv didn't miss a beat. "I guess this means you'll need more money, then? Perhaps a new dress? New shoes? Purse?-"
"-I will not stoop so low as to take a purse-!"
"-And maybe even some nice new clips for your hair?"
Yuffie switched her target, aiming the next set of clothes at Staniv's head as she mentally drew up a red bullseye. "And maybe you'd like my Conformer someplace nice? Like between your ribs?" she growled as she stalked out of the room toward the laundries in fury. She'd been expecting it to be a pretty cruisy couple of weeks in Midgar - short of the hurtling four-wheeled vehicles of doom, of course - but with this coming up the trip was already looking to begin on a downer. A formal function? Her? Someone was going to pay. Dearly. And with lots and lots of colourful bruises...
That person, it turned out, was her, despite the injustice of it all. Yuffie cradled her sore fist in her other arm and scowled at the door. It was fairly safe to say that this hadn't been in her plans. (And no, she didn't have a plan, it just sounded better that way.) When it became plainly apparent that merely scowling at the offending entryway wouldn't work, she considered kicking it. Considered being the operative word. She'd already hurt her fist by banging so damned hard and quite frankly she didn't think she needed to add another injury to the insult.
…The insult being that the door was still remaining stubbornly closed, of course…
"Damn it," she huffed, spinning around and settling herself down on the front step, dumping her baggage beside her. "Where the hell are they?"
She'd arrived from the skycab station via taxi about a half hour ago, paid the cabbie, and trudged up the ridiculously cliché concrete tile-paved pathway that halved the white-picket-fence-framed yard - complete with tulips – that made up Tifa and Cloud's Midgar home. Yuffie barely suppressed a snort of disgust. She doubted this place could look any more simple but for the concealed dojo under the house and the all-too up to date security system that broke the muted silence of domestication. But when she'd taken it up with Tifa, all she'd said in reply was a cryptic, 'I don't think I've ever had anything normal,' to which a nearby Cloud had somberly agreed.
… To which Cid had commented rather creatively that nothing that clean was normal. To whom Barret had hypocritically sworn equally creatively at for having used his potty mouth in front of Marlene. To whom Marlene maturely told to stop swearing or she'd wash his mouth out with soap.To which Nanaki had agreed. To which Vincent had very uncharacteristically broken the tension by saying that it was a very 'placid' house. To which she had, very typically, proclaimed boring on pain of death, commented that someone who'd lived in a coffin for a few decades couldn't possibly comment on appropriate living décor, and sought to buy the couple the strangest housewarming present she'd been able to find…
And so now, here she was. Stuck in Midgar with a sore fist, a heavy bag, and a bad mood. And little-to-nowhere to stay if what she thought was the case, indeed was. She picked frustratedly at a patch of grass at the junction of a patch of dreary grey concrete, tearing a large clump - roots-and-all - out by accident when she tugged just a little too hard. "Shit," she muttered, looking up to make sure no one had seen her destruction, before discreetly dropping it back down and stomping it into the ground with her foot so it was less noticeable.
She sat there for another few minutes with the appropriately innocent expression of one who has done 'nothing' wrong, before deciding that it just wouldn't do. Yuffie got to her feet and walked up to the door again. Then she walked around to the side of the house, tried the side gate and found it locked. So she did what she normally did under the circumstances; she picked it. Another minute and she was in the back yard, another and she was at the back door. Which was just as locked. Which was weird. And the lights were off in the rooms she could see; which had been the same around the front when she'd checked when she'd first arrived.
Naturally, this only made her conclusion that the couple were out more concrete.
Yuffie swore again, using one of Barrett's choice phrases that he favoured in situations such as these – an unintelligible muttering that cursed not only various people's mothers, but their pet's sexual orientations, and just what they could do with them. That done, she headed back around to the front, re-locked the gate, hid all signs of tampering, and sat back down on the front step. And sighed.
It was only after her phone began to ring that it occurred to her that she had her PHS on her and could have easily called Tifa or Cloud to see where they were. After checking the number on the tiny display screen and confirming it as Cid, she clicked it open and held it to her ear.
"Kisaragi Airship Graveyard. You crash 'em we trash 'em! How can I help you?"
"Very funny, brat," the gravely voice crackled over the line. "Care to tell me what the fuck's going on?"
Yuffie blinked. "I don't know. What is going on?"
There came a heavy sigh followed by several choice words. "I mean, why am I getting a call from Spike's neighbours saying that there's a young Wutaian woman stalking around their property, picking the locks and making a fuckin' helluva racket banging on the doors?"
She paled. Remembered the patch of grass she'd torn up and felt more guilty about that than the noise she'd been making. "Because there is?" she offered.
Another sigh. A muttered, "Well, at least I leapt to the right fuckin' conclusion," and then more swearing. "Why the hell're you doing that?" eventually followed.
"Because I'min Midgar and I was dropping by?"
"And you felt the need to knock so loud that the neighbours thought you were trying to bust down the door?"
"Even when they're obviously not home?"
"Didn't you know that they're on holiday?"
"Damn it, Yuff! Stop that, it's annoying!"
She grinned and cackled theatrically. "Yessir!"
"Damn straight," was the grudgingly amused reply. "But seriously, stop snooping around their property. I don't want the neighbours on the other side calling me up again. I told Cloud I'd let their neighbours have my number in case something came up, but so far they've called about the postman, a kid on a bike, and now you. Next thing you know they'll be ringing up telling me that a stray dog is fuckin' pissing on a mailbox at the wrong trajectory! This whole 'good Samaritan' thing has it's limits... I was sleeping, ya know."
Yuffie assumed a thoroughly unconvinced expression. "Sleeping. At this time of the day." She glanced at her watch. "It's past one-thirty. In the afternoon."
"I'm well aware of that."
"And you were sleeping."
"That's none of your damn business," was Cid's hurried reply. "And it's going to stay that way. So stop changing the subject. Cloud bought Tifa and himself plane tickets to Costa del Sol to celebrate her birthday privately. That's why they're not home."
"What? Why didn't they just take the Highwind? Or use the free subscription to the skycab? Or take one of Reeve's helicopters? Why a plane?"
"You've got me there. No fuckin' idea. But this is Spike we're talking about. I've never been able to figure out that kid. Probably thought it was romantic or some pussy thing like that."
"Go figure," she said, shaking her head. "So… "
"They left last night, and aren't back for a few days."
Murphy's law. Oh, how it loved her. "The day of Reeve's function," she guessed, dismay washing through her. "I suppose that's when they get back, isn't it?"
"Yeah. How'd you gather that?"
"Because it's typical," she groaned. "I gotta go, Cid. I'll talk to you later."
"Sure thing, kid. Just don't destroy anything else. And leave their grass alone, it's never done anything to you."
She'd already hung up by the time that last line had registered.
With a mournful sigh Yuffie dropped the phone down beside her and flopped back, laying down against the tiny space in the concrete stepping in front of the door. What was she supposed to do now? She'd pretty much counted on the fact that Tifa and Cloud were going to be home so she could stay here while she was in Midgar. Hell, she'd even gone as far to think out the explanation as to why she hadn't been able to make it to Tifa's birthday, not to mention the time in between just to make things a little easier. But now she found herself left hanging, with nothing to do and nowhere to stay. Perhaps she should have planned things out a little better…?
What was she supposed to do? She didn't know anyone else in Midgar well enough to stay with – well, except perhaps for them, and that wasn't really an option. Not at all. And Reeve wouldn't have time to put her up at his house. So that left one choice. A hotel. Well, that would give her something to do, for the moment at least.
Yuffie picked up her PHS, dialed the number for the Directory, and waited as patiently through the annoying Hold music as she could. When a distinctly high-pitched, feminine voice came across the line she tried her best to tolerate that too. What was with all female phone operators sounding like they were speaking through their ass?
"Hello, Midgar PHS Directory. Deleise speaking. How may I serve you?"
Serve me? She snickered. Give me all of your materia and pull the peg off your nose, that's how, Yuffie thought bluntly, but kept that to herself. "I need a hotel."
"A hotel, ma'am?"
"Uh, okay." There was a slight pause. "Do you have any preferences as to which one?"
Yuffie blinked. Did she know any of the names of hotels in Midgar? She thought hard for a second, then shrugged when she realised she no longer cared. "Any," she said eventually. "Just get me any hotel."
It was half an hour, several phone calls and two taxis later that Yuffie found herself standing in front of quite possibly one of the trashiest hotels she'd seen in a long time. Quite possibly since the slums were wiped out, actually. And even then that was pushing it… And then something else become apparent; the large neon sign outside the building said nothing about a hotel. Oh no. All she could see was 'Midgar Motels'.
Yuffie twitched. A motel? She'd asked for a hotel, any hotel, granted, but a hotel nonetheless. She growled in frustration. She had half a mind to ring up and bitch, but that wouldn't get her anywhere. And besides, she needed somewhere to stash her gear for the meantime, even if she didn't end up staying there in the end. It would have to do for now; what she would do for meals and the like would come later.
Yuffie trudged up the filthy steps and stepped through the revolving door, slinging her bag higher on her back as she eyed the rusted chrome railing and streaky, warped glass that made her look about twenty times wider than she really was. But it wasn't until she stepped up to the counter, eyed the horribly scratched and stained balsawood surface and the hardly definable blob settled behind it that she realised this place could easily compete with that horror-themed hotel in the Golden Saucer. Just her luck.
"Ya wen' aroon?"
Yuffie dropped her bag at her feet and watched as the blob-come-man resettled himself and fixed her with a tired gaze, an open-mouthed sneer showing too many discoloured teeth - or was that too little? - and large, slack lips. When she didn't answer, a thick eyebrow was raised and the slurred rumble permeated the air a second time.
"Did'ya hir me, gal? You wen' aroon?"
Recovering from an initial fright that shouldn't have even phased her, she kicked her bag along the floor a few paces until she was right before the front desk. Dragging her eyes off the sweat and Leviathan-only-knew-what-else ridden top, she nodded. "A room would be nice, thanks!"
The man mumbled something which sounded suspiciously like, "if you could call the rooms that," and yanked open a draw to the bureau in front of him. "Jes' the one key?" he asked, louder this time.
"Just the one," she confirmed, and moments later she was handed a swipe card. And here she had been half-expecting it to have been one of those old-fashioned, manual things. Well, at least the security was modern. But should she have felt the need to be worried about the fact that the place was practically falling down around her ears, the clerk looked like a sleazy serial killer, and yet they obviously felt the need to have hi-tech, lockable doors? She suppressed a shiver and decided to think about that later. Or not at all. One thing was for certain; she was going to be sleeping with her Conformer and a good dose of material under her pillow tonight.
As she headed toward the unlabeled hallway which she assumed was where the rooms were located, bag recovered and hugged close to her, Yuffie offered her most confident grin. "Thanks, man!" she threw over her shoulder, trying to lighten not only the oppressive mood hanging in the air, but her own.
A loud burp resonated down the corridor behind her.
She groaned. If the past few hours was a sign of things to come, this was going to be one hell of a trip… In every sense of the word.
It was always the same. Every single night he had off there was nothing good on his tv. No, wait – even nothing was an understatement. Infomercials were worse than nothing. They were like the scum of the universe and it was like torture worse than anything he'd ever known to watch them. Yeah, that was the one.
Reno flicked the television off and laid back on his bed, closing his eyes and letting the remote control drop carelessly down beside him to be found another day in the massive tangle of sheets and blankets. He let out a long breath, tried to get his body to relax after the tedious day he'd spent guarding Reeve, but soon found his eyes wouldn't stop moving restlessly around under his eyelids, refusing to stay closed. Just fucking great. Overtired.
He didn't bother to try and buffer his body's attempts to get him up, but instead gave up early and slipped out from beneath the sheets, knowing from previous experience that nothing short of heavy alcohol or mind-altering drugs were going to put him out. Putting his feet to the floor Reno stood, and…
Fuck. Just what was he supposed to do now? It was well past eleven-o-clock, and as such there were very few things to do.
Coffee first, his mind informed him frankly. Coffee and cigarette(s).
Well, the first one he certainly wasn't going to deny, especially if it was going to get rid of this lethargic feeling that came with knowing he really should be sleeping… Should. He snickered and headed out of his room. He never had been fond of doing things he was supposed to. But then, everyone knew that…
Ten minutes later saw him with a boiled jug and one very absent bag of coffee beans. Where the hell had he put it? Reno rummaged through the various cupboards and draws in the kitchenette with all the fervency, frustration, and gravity that could have mistakenly been taken for a life and death situation to anyone who didn't know what he was looking for. When the cabinets had been emptied and everything that had previously had an inside had been relocated to the outside – and still nothing had turned up – Reno kicked the cupboard.
Not shit, coffee, a voice in his head helpfully reprimanded him. And if no coffee, then cigarette(s).
That sounded perfectly logical. And just one cigarette wouldn't matter…
Or cigarette… (s)…
Reno retrieved the near-full packet of smokes from a draw in his room and then proceeded outside, past the house in front of him to a spot just before the roadside pavement that had become his resident smoking spot. Seating himself down on the concrete and leaning himself back against the fence he lit up his cigarette and cast his eyes to the skyline. This was one of the main reasons he'd chosen a place here – and why Rude and Elena had soon followed. After living so many years under the plates, where even the insane amount of artificial lighting hadn't managed to pierce the darkness that was part of the life there, the ever-changing skyline and occasional obstructive webbing of construction was a small price to pay for the sight of a clear sky… something he'd only ever really seen when on a job while peering through the scope of a sniper rifle.
It was strange really, to think of this place as the one and the same Midgar. He honestly didn't know why Reeve and his coworkers had decided to keep something that sounded so depressing and only brought back memories of things that shouldn't have ever had to be. But then again, maybe that was why…
Reno took a particularly long drag on his cigarette, inhaling deeply then blowing it out through barely parted lips. He watched as the light breeze caught the filmy smoke and raked it through the air until it ribboned upward, then finally faded out altogether. The next puff signaled the end of the cigarette. With an offhand flick of his wrist Reno cast the butt out into the gutter, where it was quickly swept away by the sluggish flow of the drainage. Instead of heading inside like he usually did, however, he hung back for a while, feeling the light wind tousle his already wild hair.
It was almost relaxing watching the uneven flicker of lights as more and more of the population surrendered to sleep. For someone who had instinctually had his guard up for most of his life, and even more-so in later years, there was nothing that calmed him more than the security of being able to sit in the open and watch the world move by as it should do… With the placid silence broken only by the occasional traffic and the faint rustling of autumn leaves, rather than the rapport of a gun or a terrorised scream.
Reno curled his lip in disgust. Gods, he was getting poetic. He really was out of it.
He got to his feet with a grunt that represented more than his protesting muscles and cast one final look out over the buildings and the glitter of the new Midgar, ready to head inside. That was when he saw it.
Or should he have said her… ?
Reno stopped mid-pace and turned slowly on his heel with a raised eyebrow. Surely he couldn't be seeing things? Here he was, out in the open late at night, and someone in the second floor of one of the accommodation places nearby was giving him a free peep show? In front of a large, balcony window? He smirked. Well, not intentionally of course, but a peep show nonetheless. Hell, not like he was even close enough to see anything, or even remotely distinguish features, or even know whether the hell he was merely looking at someone wearing a nearly flesh-coloured top or what, but he'd only come out for a smoke… This was just an added bonus…
His amusement was only heightened when said entertainment, (from what he could tell,) seemed to stumble slightly across the room, tripping on something. He laughed as the otherwise vertical figure became distinctly flat. A second eyebrow raised, joining the other one as the corner of his mouth twitched when the distinctly feminine body got back to its feet and proceeded to throw, for lack of a better word, a patty.
With an idle shake of his head, Reno settled himself back against the fence and lit up another smoke. Who needed television where there were idiots like this in the world… ?
She knew she shouldn't have put that top in the dryer. She knew it before she even put it in the dryer. She knew it the moment she pulled it out of her bag and looked at it dubiously, thinking 'it could happen'. She knew it even more, however, when she tried to pull it over her head and suddenly found herself stumbling across her room and into several pieces of furniture when it got stuck over her head, sending much of the room's trashy ornamentation crashing loudly to the ground.
Yuffie struggled futily with the offending item of clothing, catching her balance for a moment before accidentally catching her foot on the uneven carpeting. Her brief second of triumph faded into a yelp of fright as, unable to see anything, she let go of the fabric and cast her arms out in front of her to help break her fall…
Or break another vase. Either, either.
"Oww," she moaned when she finally rolled to a stop, feeling something uncomfortable and sharp jabbing into her ribs. Blinking open her eyes she affected a sigh of relief at making it in one piece, then a corresponding sigh of frustration as she realized she'd done nothing but break things since she'd entered the place. She scowled. But it wasn't like it was her fault that the floor was wonky, and the crazily-patterned (and horribly old-fashioned) carpet created an illusion of smoothness. So much so that she'd already grazed her knees several times, stubbed her toe, not to mention the palms of her hands...
And now she'd ruined more things. Though judging by the age of some of the décor now lying in pieces, she wasn't sure that it would be counted as a crime…
Yuffie sat up, pulled at the top that was still embarrassingly stuck to her head, then gave up. With a growl of frustration that would have made any feral Behemoth proud she ripped the fabric down the middle, all the way through until it slipped off her head. Rubbing the back of her neck she got to her feet, blinked around at the extra mess she'd just made, then threw the felonious tee at the window in revulsion, before—
Why on earth had she not pulled the curtains?
She reacted instinctually after that, darting to the side towards her bag and out of the immediate range of anyone that might have happened upon her blunder. Yanking a top out of her pack – and making sure it would fit this time – she tugged it over her head and on second thought pulled her jacket on over that. After hanging around this place all afternoon and then sleeping away most of the evening by accident, she needed some fresh air. And some food; she hadn't eaten since breakfast, and her stomach was threatening to leap out of her throat and abandon her in punishment.
Ignoring the thoughts she'd had earlier about the security of the area she was in, Yuffie stepped outside her room and locked her door - but not before tucking her Conformer and a couple more of her throwing stars into her jacket for good measure. Taking the steps two at a time and zipping out the door just as fast to avoid the creepy counter-blob, she was outside in an instant and walking down the street. She was sure she'd seen a take-out shop when she'd been in the taxi earlier, and any food right now was sounding appealing. Even something that looked like it belonged in Hojo's lab more than her mouth…
She'd just reached the corner of that same block when the hairs began to prickle on the back of her neck. Yuffie's pace slowed and she instinctually made her footfalls stealthier in order to try and pick up what had alerted her. After a couple of quick glances around she spotted a tall silhouette leaning casually against a fence just outside reach of the lamplight a few metres away, the ruby glow of a cigarette the only distinction in the hazy figure. With dread she felt her earlier thoughts come back. Her concealed arm snaked into her jacket and she felt the reassuring cold steel of her Conformer settled for easy access in her waistband. Feeling now that she was ready for anything, she tightened her grip on the shuriken and hastened her steps.
… But all of that preparation became distinctly unnecessary when one very familiar figure stepped out into the eerie white of the street lighting with a deep chuckle, icy cerulean eyes glinting sharply and one eyebrow raised as one equally familiar, confident smirk tugged at a dual-scarred face.
"You know, brat, we have got to stop meeting like this."
Yuffie jumped quite possibly the highest she'd ever done so in her life. One hell of a trip? Man, more like one hell of a day…
Notes: Well, here I am. I said it would probably happen, and (gasp!) it did – another story, and a whole chapter, too. I hadn't actually intended of putting this out until I'd at least furthered my ideas for the rest of the story, but when I checked back on and saw all your wonderful reviews and just how long it had been since I'd even posted anything, I thought, 'meh, what the hell!' So here we go…
Also, before I comment on anything else, I'd like to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who has reviewed my fics; whether it be Word of Mouth, Smoke and Shattered Mirrors, or whatever. I write with feedback in mind as much as any ideas, and I'm so stoaked to see that the last chapters were received so well! I was honestly blown away with the amount of reviews for the last chapter, especially! So, again, THANK YOU EVERYONE.
This fic has unfortunately taken quite a while to kick into motion. The ideas I'd had since the end of Smoke and Shattered Mirrors are the same ones I've still got, but the plot is coming to me a little slow. The majority of it is pretty sussed out, but it's the details I'm still trying to beat into shape. So, like always, please bear with me. I'm not sure how long it will be until next chapter – though, I think at least that is organized – but it will come out, if not a little later than usual. (SORRY!) So until then, think of this as a 'teaser chapter' of sorts, just to show you that I am still alive and writing, after all!
And, like always, don't forget the feedback! Me being a greedy author I can honestly say that more reviews might make me get my ass into gear a little faster, ne? J/k! ;)
Until next time!
REVIEW FEEDBACK FROM SMOKE AND SHATTERED MIRRORS:
Angel Yuffie: Thank you so much! And just like you asked, the sequel. For some reason at the time I didn't find 3 chapters in 3 days so daunting… I think I just really wanted to get it out and finished instead of making everyone wait so long, like I sometimes tend to do. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you like this fic just as much!
The Inimitable DA: Waves back Sighs in relief that she didn't get rocks hurled at her And typical? Reno and Yuffie? Wouldn't dream of it, and I try and steer free of things that are too cliché. It is Reno and Yuffie after all, wouldn't want to make them too predictable, ne?
The Burning Misery: Write. Another. Sequel? Points Am. Writing. Another. Sequel. ;)
Eternal Wanderer: You're right, I do find minor characters annoying. It's sometimes hard to make them fill out the (often mediocre) roles they're required to, while still giving them enough character so they have their own… well, character. It's the same with Yuffie and Reno's 'weaknesses'. Since FFVII was a game with a very involving plot that left room only for major characters, and very little for the minor – or in this case optional – ones, I'd like to think that it isn't necessarily that Reno and Yuffie are 'weaker' than in the game, more than it's the fact that, though it is only fandomized, we know 'more' about them. I'm not saying that my characters aren't weaker, they very likely are since I'm trying to humanize them, I'm just hoping that I haven't gone overboard and made them too pansy for their own good, ya get me?
Alixen: Once again, thank you. Here you go.
Riyue: Good news? How about great news to me, seeing as I thought I was going to end up being too lazy to write it? ;)
Tijuana Pirate: Holy #$, girl! I never quite know what to say to your reviews! I read them and half the time I just sit there with this goofy grin on my face. Well, at least I know this – I'm SO happy you weren't disappointed in the ending. For some reason I picked up a little anticipation from a bunch of reviewers over-enthusiasm winkwinknudgenudge to get the couple together by the end of this fic. Naturally, the fact that I had already not only sorted out this ending, but dealt with that months ago, made me anxious as to how the already-concrete finale was going to be taken. But, you know, you may have been "positively GLOWING" from the ending, but I am "POSITIVELY GLOWING" from reading your review upon realizing that the disappointment wasn't there after all. Your thorough reviews and insane amount of feedback always makes my day, so I hope you're still hanging out for this next one! Much glompage Again, thank you soooo much!
Kawaiikitsuen42: Well, here's the sequel! Enjoy!
Solaria735: Okay, first of all --- replace the 'hopeful' with the word 'definite' and you've got it right. ;) There will be a relationship between Reno and Yuffie. However, I never said when, and like a reviewer commented, it isn't going to be easy or orthodox. Well, at least, I'm not planning on making it that way anyway. And you're right… I left it open-ended deliberately. I was quite pleased with how it came out, and I wrote it that way in case I ever decided to not write a sequel… because at least that way it hinted at at least something remotely plausible. And once again, thank you oh-so-muchly for your comments regarding my dialogue, character relationships, and especially characterization. I slug away at Reno and Yuffie for ages sometimes just trying to slam some scenes into shape, so at least the effort pays off! I've tried, like you said, to make Yuffie not too naïve, and a little more mature than we see her in the game. I've also tried to make there a little more to Reno than meets the eye. I'm glad that I've succeeded in someone's POV. Arigatou!
Miss Kitty: Make your week? blush wow…
DracoTelitha: A total turn around from Word of Mouth indeed. And as you can see, trilogy definitely. Series? Well, let's just see where this one takes us, first, ne?
Xtreme Nuisance: squee SEQUAL right here ;)
Fyria: You stayed up until 2? As in 2 am? Jeez…And stunning? Shit… And you say your comments "don't mean much"? Man, it's things like that that just make me want to get the next chapter out so much faster than my fingers are able to type! Reno and Yuffie, Elena and Rude spot-on, as well? You flatter my characterization way too much. But I thank you anyway! I just hope you like this chapter, even though there aren't any action scenes. cough … as of yet…! ;)
Aim2: Well, I'm glad you find them amusing. Sometimes when writing them I do too. Thanks for your review, and, voila, here is the sequel!
Prelude of Darkness: grin Thank you! I hope you like this one just as much! And "develop the non-stop bickering relationship of those 'kids'"? Heh, we'll see…
Akai Kuu: That is a. Long. Review. When I emailed you back I forgot how long it took me to reply to it. I think I just remembered. ;) But yeah, there's very little point in me replying here since I'll see you on MSN, AAAAND since you've already read this chapter. But, just for that, I think I should say a.) thaaaaaaaank you so much for your review… and b.) review this chapter anyway because… well… just because. ;) And, again, OF COURSE there is charm in insanity! You wouldn't talk to me otherwise! deadpan ;)