Swirl and Sours
part of the "Warming Up" FFVII series

'Warming Up' is meant to be a series of couple-centric pieces from FFVII. Warmup applies to both (1) people warming to each other and (2) seventhe warming back into another fandom before FFVIII swallows her whole.

Warning: the entire purpose of this is to attempt to twist the characters a little past their stereotypes. Don't go screaming 'OOC OMFG' cause I won't listen, also cause you'll look like a moron.

FF-net's QuickEdit is a pain in my ASS and is bad enough to make Jesus cry and Moses swear. Are you listening?

Also: somebody said once, "brevity is the soul of wit," but they sure as hell weren't talking to me...

It figured that he'd get lost in this stupid forest-jungle on this stupid island.

It figured that he'd get lost with her, too.

And it figured that she'd kiss him first, not the other way around.


He'd been sent to Wutai on an errand for Reeve to dig up one of the long-buried casualties of the Wutai-ShinRa war: some kind of generator on wheels that turned sun into electricity. Reeve was certain that Wutai would be friendly and generous and helpful. And Reno was equally sure that whatever antiquated piece of crap he was looking for was long gone, and that he should stop looking for optimism in a guy whose dream was to run around in a cat suit.

But Wutai had a decent bar, and the pay was good, and missions were kind of lousy anyway figuring that Shinra was gone and the economy had fallen to shit and that everybody was frantically scrabbling to find some kind of energy source before they either went back to burning the Mako-souls of their grammas or faded away into Cetra-like oblivion.

Reno voted for the former, and ordered another round. His Gramma had been a stingy old bitch, from what he remembered. Her soul probably wouldn't put off all that much heat anyway. The thought tickled Reno, making him chuckle as he slammed another Wutai Sunrise.

So where did the heat some from? What happened if there was one generation whose souls were thin, empty-cynical, wisps of fog with no faith in Ancients or Holy anything? Did the next generation freeze its ass to death because the shoddy, barren souls of their forefathers couldn't produce enough damn heat in the Mako-furnace?

And for that matter: why had Midgar been so damn Mako-rich if no one in the city even had a soul?

Reno giggled. He wished Rude was there, just so he could say his theory out loud. There was something about talking out loud that he appreciated; it made his words real. Reno liked to say very silly things because saying them made them real. He liked saying them to Rude, because it was better than talking to himself.

Plus if he could make Rude laugh he scored a point. He had collected thirty-seven points in the past three months. Three of the points were Before Crisis, and the remaining thirty-three had come After Meteor. Er, thirty-four. Reno ordered another Sunrise. He couldn't do math properly unless he was drunk. And properly doing math meant ignoring it.

He should've seen it coming.

"Oh, Holy Bloody Asura, it's you."

Long lanky legs and big feet and surprisingly graceful hands threw themselves into the chair next to him and suddenly he was looking at Yuffie Kisarawhatever. That girl who had hooked up with AVALANCHE. She was from Wutai: he'd known that. It was in her file.

She was glaring at him. Reno was used to glares. In fact, he knew them very well. He received most of them from Rude. He'd actually put together a catalog of glares and their secret inner meanings. When Elena had been promoted to Turk he'd tried the catalog out on her and it had worked, every time.

Yuffie was delivering Glare Number Twelve, which was the I don't really want to be happy to see you here so I'm going to be mad about it but really I'm not sure what the fuck to do with you glare.

"I should've known it was you when they said they were out of Sunrise Sours," she said, almost grunting. She was twirling a half-empty glass between skilled fingers.

Reno smugly looked into his full glass. "Are you old enough to drink, Squirt?"

Glare Number Twelve morphed into Glare Number Twenty-Four, which was the Wow that makes me mad but I'm going to act a certain way just to prove you wrong glare. Elena had patented that one: Reno had been forced to add it to the list once Elena had made Turk. He had called her Squirt, too.

Yuffie rolled her eyes. "Do you even know the Wutain drinking age?"

She continued to expertly spin the glass on the table. Yuffie was all about balance, and she probably could have made that glass write her name in Wutain characters with a flick of her wrist. Though Reno wouldn't have known Yuffie Kisablahblah from Chocobo Butt in Wutain if his life depended on it.

The scenario flashed through his head: Wutain Ninja wearing bandanna like old Kalm bandits, surrounding him and holding pistols to his head. Two sheets of paper covered in those strange characters. Alright, Turk, the leader said, in a really deep voice; and Reno laughed out loud.

Yuffie looked up at him, shook her head, and drained her drink before he could see what Glare Twenty-Four was morphing into.

Then he had a brilliant idea. If Rude wasn't around, maybe the ninjette would be his sound-board. He wanted to ask her a question. "Hey, Squirt, listen to this. You know how our souls go turn into Mako, right? So what happens when people run out of soul? Like, my gramma, I mean I'd be happy to burn her soul and all, but I'm sure she didn't even have enough to light a candle. Whattaya think?"

Yuffie looked up at him, and Glare Twenty-Four faded completely into confusion, which then faded into amusement. A giggle escaped, once, then twice, then the laughter kicked in as if she had started up a humourengine. Reno wondered, briefly, if a humourengine had a snowman's chance in Hell of surviving in Midgar. Then again, Midgar was kind of like a big joke anyway.

Yuffie finished laughing, reached over, and took his Wutai Sunrise. "Are you cracked?" she asked, still chuckling, and downed the drink in one gulp.

Reno felt his face settling into Glare Number One. This was the most important and most useful glare, and the only one that Reno ever made use of. Glare Number One was called Hey You Stole My Drink.

"Hey, you stole my drink."

Yuffie shook her head and rolled her eyes, still giggling, looking into the bottom of the glass. "That's okay, I get them for free. What do you want?"

"No more sours?"


"Damn. Whatever, then."

Reno watched as Yuffie headed up to the bartender, turned in both glasses, made a horrible grimace in his direction, and ordered what looked to be the entire third shelf of the cabinet. Drinking age indeed. The bartender was probably her long-lost cousin or something. Besides the entire planet basically owed AVALANCHE their lives. Who would begrudge the ninjette a little drink?

In Reno's opinion, any debt could be paid with enough alcohol.

So he stared at the table and tried to think of a situation in which Yuffie would owe him her life and have to pay him back with unlimited booze. The best he could come up with was that the Turks hadn't killed any of them when they'd had the chance. Whether that was intentional or not was, fortunately, not part of the equation.

He glanced up at Yuffie, who was apparently doing science experiments with the bartender to discover at what percent alcohol content the glass would actually dissolve. Reno thought about this. If the drink dissolved the glass, it would probably eat through the wood too, and go on eating forever and ever until it got diluted or something. And a drink that ate through wood would probably eat through his stomach, too. He wondered what the inside of his stomach looked like.

"What's the inside of a stomach look like?" he asked Yuffie as she returned, plopping a non-melted glass in front of him.

"Grossness," Yuffie stated matter-of-factly.

"What does grossness look like?" He took a sip. It was alcohol, so it would do.

"Just grossness," she replied. "Look, Turk, I'm trying to be nice. See, I'm plying you with alcohol. What are you doing here?"

"Look, Ninjette, I'm trying to be nice, too. Please note the lack of guns, EMRs, and Rude." He took another sip. "I'm just here."

Yuffie was looking at him, wide-eyed. "What did you just call me?"

Reno smirked at her. "Don't like it? You prefer Squirt?"

"I have a name, you know," she grumbled into her own drink.

"Yeah, well, don't we all," Reno said, with a tone to his voice as if this were the most obvious and emphatic statement ever made in the history of the world and there was no room for argument. "Oh, hey, and you owe me unlimited drinks forever and ever."

"I'll think on that if you answer my question," Yuffie replied calmly. "What are you doing in Wutai?"

"Drinking," Reno said.

Yuffie's eyes narrowed, and Reno saw a faint shade of Glare Number Seven: Holy Planet, you drive me up the wall, and sometimes I think that a good ass-kicking would be the best thing for you. Number Seven was one of Rude's favourites.

"Okey-dokey, then, Reno. Why are you in Wutai in the first place? I'm starting to get worried - you're not being a total major dickrod, so something's up. Why Wutai?" It sounded like an advertisement: Why Wutai? He liked the rhyme.

"Can't say," Reno said thoughtfully. "Maybe because you owe me unlimited alcohol forever and ever?"

Yuffie shook her head. She had really, really dark hair, Reno noted. Super-dark. "I'm not going to answer that. Please tell me what you're looking for here before I have to hurt you, or worse, stalk you."

"You have really dark hair," Reno said.

"Oh gawd," Yuffie said, startled into broken laughter. "Are you even listening to me?"

"Of course I am," Reno said. "But there aren't any rules that say I have to talk back. Besides, you do have really dark hair."

"I know I do, I'm fucking Wutain," was Yuffie's graceful reply. "You have really ugly red hair. Red like Materia."

"I know I do, I'm fucking Gongagan," Reno replied.

"You are?" The hostility and suspicion on Yuffie's face morphed momentarily into interest. Reno remembered: Yuffie was a greedy little thief, and this went not only with materia, but with information as well.

"I don't know," he admitted with a shrug, and took a large sip.

"You're such an idiot." The irritation bloomed right back on her face like a sunrise. "So what does Wutai have to offer the ex-Turks?"

Reno took another sip, watching her fidget out of the corner of his eye. She also had very large feet. If he were to draw a cartoon of her, one of those hugely exaggerated caricatures, her feet would be what he focused on: slim little haircut with slim graceful ninja hands and boots the size of Midgar. The images turned over in his head now, a collection of cartoons. Rude's bald head, a gigantic egg, and Elena's bland blondness, poor girl. Then he started to tick through AVALANCHE: Cloud's hair would be three thousand miles high, Highwind would just be a giant walking cigarette, and Lockheart - well, Tifa didn't need any exaggeration.

"Reno, listen to me for once," Yuffie said, and she was starting to get mad. Not Fake Mad, but Real Mad.

So Reno gave her an answer. "Reconnaissance," he replied. "Why do you think I'm here on my own? Just looking around. Just watching."

"And I'm watching you now, Turk. You've got Great Ninja Yuffie on your ass. Whatever you want with Wutai, you're gonna have to go through me."

"Ninjette," Reno corrected her. His glass was empty. Then again, so was hers.

"Ninjette?" Yuffie repeated, amused. "It - that doesn't even make sense." She stood up, picking up the empty glasses. "You can buy your own drinks, Reno. I'm not buying any more until you tell me what's up."

"Good night, Ninjette," Reno said.

Yuffie headed to the bar and sat down, proceeding to regale the bartender with some story about Reno as a Turk, probably horribly embellished with seven different colors, spells that didn't even exist, and some gorgeous witch-creature named Hypella Nightshade Crystallina Moonshine. Reno tapped his empty glass thoughtfully. Yuffie had been kinder than he had expected from anyone in AVALANCHE; or maybe she was just bored. Either way, she hadn't kicked him out of the bar. In fact, she had given him a drink for free.

In Reno's book, anyone could be bought with enough alcohol.


Later that night, mildly worried about the presence of potentially-annoying ninjettes, he snuck out of the hotel he was in, heading for the spot on the map which Reeve had circled in bright green pen. The idiot had added a Here! and some arrows in case Reno didn't know what a fucking circle meant. The arrows all had exclamation points too.

The next morning he had awoken in a jungle glen with Yuffie Kisablahblah standing over him, triumphant.

"I don't think you were drunk enough to just wander here on your own," she said, bitterly, "so how about you tell me what you're looking for?"

"The lovely scenery," Reno muttered, "which you are blocking with your presence."

"Tough shit," the girl said. Reno could almost feel the angry urgency in her voice.

She was holding his map. "What's 'here'?"

"A really big fucking green circle," he replied, working his way into a sitting position. Gods but he hated sleeping in the wilderness. You learned to deal with these things as a Turk, but dealing with and absolutely loving were two completely different categories.

"I see that," Yuffie replied, a little curious amusement creeping into her voice. "What, a normal X wouldn't do?"

"You traveled with Reeve," Reno realized. "Didn't he do shit like this with you guys?"

"He was a giant walking robotic doll. Isn't that bad enough?" Yuffie replied, laughing; and then flipping a switch into sudden suspicion. "What's Reeve looking for?"

Reno shrugged. "Something bright and green. And sparkly."

"I'm going with you," Yuffie demanded.


He tried to lose her three times. She tracked him down all three times, although the third one took her pretty much an entire day.

She took his map and ripped it into shreds and ate some of them and threw the rest into a river. Then she left him sleeping and headed back towards Wutai.

Reno tracked her for a day and a half. Apparently Wutain Ninja were trained to be really goddam good at navigating forests and jungles and reading stars and knowing where they were in their bones and crap like that. Yuffie appeared to be a master.

So Reno, for revenge, slapped her with a Sleep spell and lugged her unconscious body for hours down the river. Yuffie, when she woke up, tried to work off of her memory and knowledge of the grand old forest and the orientation in her bones.

Impressively, it took her only eleven minutes to realize her current location and her most recent memory were not the same place. More impressively, Yuffie spat out every curse word she knew in under one minute. This was a broad and colorful sampling of Common, Wutain, and the influence of Cid Highwind, most of whose favourite epithets were made-up but equally if not more offensive as the traditional curses.

It took her only seven additional minutes to locate Reno. They ended up battling for almost twenty-three minutes and then realizing the futility of the battle and ignoring each other for the next four hours.

They are now both lost in the jungle. They've at least acknowledged each other's presence.


"Dammit, Turk, we're lost out here, and it's all your fault!"

Yuffie is very, very angry. Her face is getting very red, as if its color is a representation of her mood. On a scale from one to scarlet, where ten is the highest, I'm pretty fucking mad, her face yells. Then Reno thinks of Scarlet, and tries not to shudder.

"You took my map," he states, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

"So? You're trespassing on my fucking continent," Yuffie shrieks. "You deserve to be lost here in the woods, and eaten by some massive - cave troll or something! With lots of drool! Then you can see what the inside of a stomach looks like," she adds nastily.

"I don't think they heard you in Midgar," Reno says. Behind her is a tree with gigantic yellow blossoms, and his eyes are drawn to it.

"Oh, sweet Asura," Yuffie says, exasperated beyond belief and hope and anything. "I'm stuck out here with Mr My Attention Span Is The Size Of My Extremely Small Dick."

Reno's eyes narrow slightly at this bold accusation. "You took my map," he repeats. "I watched you eat it. You started this."

"I - I know this forest like the back of my hand," says Yuffie, indignant with the pride only a young and cocky ninja would have.

"Then go the fuck home," Reno says, sitting down and leaning up against a nearby tree.

"I -" Yuffie stops, and then abruptly sits down, leaning up against a tree across from him.


Yuffie talks in her sleep, Reno discovers the first night they spend together.

They're just little mumbles, not even coherent words, and Reno is fascinated. They are coming out of her mouth in little syllable-bites, tiny little pieces spit out violently by her unconscious. None of it sounds like anything like any sort of language Reno has ever heard.

Reno doesn't need much sleep. When he first got the Mako infusion he didn't sleep at all. As he gets older he can feel it fading bit by bit, so he catches little pieces of sleep, hours here and there. It's kind of interesting to him. Last year he could get by sleeping one hour for every forty. Now he is up to three.

He finds he can't sleep while Yuffie is spitting consonants and vowels. His brain is overwhelmed and he lies on his back, staring at the stars and wondering what is in those tiny little sound-bites.


Yuffie is scratching some things in the ground. She has a little piece of stick which has been almost-sharpened to a point. She's making some big swirly lines and some little ones and Reno smiles at her and says, "Whatcha writing?"

Yuffie is put off by the smile, but then she says, "My name," as if a young crazy Wutain with Materia Dreams would be writing anything else.

Reno looks closer, and Yuffie smooths out the sand to begin again. She writes reverently, as if the souls of her gramma reside in each letter and each curve. She speaks aloud as she writes, nonchalantly, assuming; she is not even thinking of the words, she is concentrating on the sand: and Reno watches as each character ties together. Yu Fei Kis Ah Ra Gi.

"Yu Fei?" he asks, and is surprised as a small smile touches her lips.

"You can pronounce it," she proclaims, as if the world is ending.

"You forget Tseng," Reno said, smirking, but that strange little smile is still there. "Tseng could speak every language in the goddam world. It rubbed off."

She grins at that. "Here, we'll do yours." She smooths out some more sand, begins writing. "Rei Noh," she intones. "There's one in Ancient Wutain that's closer tothe actual sound, but I don't remember it." She adjusts one of the long swirling branches of the letter. "Hey, Reno, what's your last name?"


"Blow me. What is it really?"


A horrible row ensues. Yuffie is insulted by his privacy, his stubbornness, and deep down she's a little bothered by her own desire to know his full goddam name. It doesn't matter, does it? But for some reason it does and so she keeps yelling. She also hates losing, and above all hates losing to this cocky bastard.

Reno doesn't understand why he should have to give out this name, this random piece of somebody he isn't, this piece that doesn't mean anything to him but is still worth holding on to. He read a story once about the power in names and it has always creeped him out a little bit. It was a story about vampires. Vampires creep the hell out of Reno but they're fascinating. He would love to see a vampire. Hell, he would love to be a vampire, if he could be one for only a day.

The vampire thoughts have distracted him and Yuffie can tell this.

"Goddam Turk, can't you ever keep your mind on anything? How did you keep from getting shot?"

He smiles at her, all malice forgotten. He wants to ask her a question. "Yuffie, what do you think of vampires? You believe in 'em? Would you ever want to be a vampire?"

Yuffie is angry enough that she doesn't immediately burst out laughing, but it stops her for a little bit. "I thought Vinnie was a vampire for a while," she says gruffly, pensive. Then she comes back to earth. "Dammit, Reno. What's your goddam last name?"


She flops down on the ground next to him in exhaustion. "What's your first name?"


Her mouth flies open. Reno looks inside it. This is actually quite funny - it's the first time her mouth has been open without any words coming out. He scrabbles around in the ground for something to put in her mouth before her jaw closes. An image of him, piling little twigs into Yuffie's mouth like a bird's-nest, flies through his head, and he giggles.

Yuffie closes her mouth and smacks him, good and proper, upside the head.

Later he is struck by the poignant beauty of the curves that form their names, lying there in the dust. They're so swirly. He can't get over the way they interact and so he asks Yuffie to write chocobo butt in Wutain just to be sure. To do so she wipes their names out of the dust, and that strange feeling leaves Reno, replaced with something equally poignant that tastes slightly of loss.

Yuffie is laughing at him, but Reno is secretly relieved that chocobo butt looks nothing like YuFei Kisaragi; and that, were his life to depend on it, he probably could tell which was which.


Reno wakes up to mumbling again for the bazillionth time in a row, but this is different. It's hushed and reverent, not spurtive and violent and choppy. He rolls over and the murmur stops itself momentarily and Reno realizes that Yuffie is either talking to herself, or praying.

He had never thought of the ninjette as religious before, but so what? According to Tseng, Wutai had approximately a bazillion gods; out of that selection, even Reno could find one suitable to his purposes. Reno starts thinking of Yuffie all dressed up in a convent robe and a hood and carrying a goddam staff with her huge shuriken strapped on her back. This is funny, but he has to try and feign sleep.

The hushed little voice picks up. Reno stills his whole body, trying to listen in. He thinks she's on her back, looking up at the sky.

and I'd give anything for a freaking hamburger, you know? I know I'm supposed to go vegan for the year of training but the year hasn't started yet, right? I'll eat lots of hamburgers before then.

She's praying for a hamburger. This, at least, is a prayer Reno can understand.


Yuffie is yelling at him again but Reno is distracted by butterflies and he misses the last three minutes of her tirade. Strangely, this makes her even more angry: less fury, but much more focused.

"Reno, for fuck's sake, how did you ever focus in battle? I mean, we fought you, you weren't off chasing the goddam clouds all the time." Yuffie's light eyes are fixed on him. "I thought you were Mr Dark And Angsty Sarcasm-Bearing SuperTurk, right?"

Reno shakes his head. "There's more than one way to be a Turk."

"But -" Yuffie splutters, indignant. "You can't even focus on your shoelaces." She's right; one has been untied for three days. "How do you focus in battle?"

"I don't," Reno says simply. "Rude does."

"Oh," and now her tone is scathing, "so he does all the work and you just sit there?"

"There are things you miss if you're focused," Reno says blandly. He's now following the butterfly through the woods and Yuffie, so focused on her tirade, is blindly following him. "Rude focuses on the battle. Because I don't focus, I see everything else. It's nice. Why we work together."

"Well," Yuffie admits, "that -" But then she realizes they have been following a bright orange butterfly into the forest. Her face flushes with some embarrassment which quickly converts itself to anger.

"Dammit, Reno, can't you ever be serious about anything?" Yuffie's heavy stomps into the mud betray her annoyance. "Do you ever think about anything?"

"I think a lot," Reno says, grinning. "I think about deep and serious things dozens of times a day."

"Sure doesn't seem like it," Yuffie grumbles. "Why don't you ever say what you're thinking then?"

"I say it all the time," Reno says, pausing a little to look back at her. "And you laugh."

Yuffie's eyebrow raises itself as she realizes that he's serious.


That night Yuffie's violent mumbles wake Reno up again and he wonders if these tiny bite-size wordportions are Wutain syllables of some kind, little word-pieces of a grander language. He wonders if she spits them out in a random order or if they form words. Syllables on a string, tiny curved interlocking puzzle pieces. He wants to take them and rearrange them, rotate the parts until they fit together like the curves of his own name.

Eventually Yuffie's mumbles wake her up and everything falls silent as she rearranges herself and tries to pretend she did not just word-spit herself awake. Reno remains motionless, his breath even.

"Turk," she says bluntly, "you're awake, I know. Your eyes glow like fucking Materia. Don't try to fake it with me."

"It's a nightlight," Reno says lightly. The Mako in his eyes improves his vision slightly, and gives him very light night-vision, but he is no Vincent Valentine. The best he gets is a faint iridescent glow on the objects around him. It's enough to read a piece of paper, but only barely.

"Gawd, no wonder I can't sleep," Yuffie groans, and rolls over. "Turn it off, wouldya?"

"Hey, Yuffie, do you know where we are yet?"

"Bite me," she mumbles, but she is already half-asleep. Reno lies awake, waiting for the sleep-language to begin again and wishing he had a manual, a book to translate it with.


That morning while Yuffie is washing her face, Reno finds himself scratching in the dust with his own little stick. She catches him at it, and her face is inordinately pleased.

"Whatcha doing?"

"Trying to write our names."

She looks, and the pleasant smile turns into shock. "You know Wutain?"

"Nope," he says. He has them. They look crude and elementary compared to Yuffie's, but he's pretty sure this is the way they fit. His writing is choppy and clumsy, a schoolchild's rough untrained hand. But the shapes are right.

"Then how did you - you got a photographic memory or something?"

"Yeah," he says with a grin. "Not perfect, but they train you for it."

Yuffie nods with respect. "Close," she says, and reaches out to correct a swirl here, straighten a line there. "This should be higher."

Reno nods, and continues to study.

"Those two look similar," he says, more to himself than to the ninjette, and starts to write them next to each other. Each is like a block, with two corners and a curve, although the curves are in different places. He thinks of the ancient Cetran runes he used to translate, that hieroglyphic language, and wonders where the Wutains got all their extra curves and flourishes. There is so much water in these people, the wet blood of Leviathan coursing through them.

Yuffie watches, and then snorts in ungraceful laughter.

"You - you've switched it up," she says, and Reno smiles at her.

"What's this say now, ninjette?"

She squints at it. "Rei Fei," she says, and her voice is suddenly thick with accent and mystique and Wutai and Reno can feel the years of tradition in the words. Then she breaks out in a sunny smile to beat all and shakes her head. "Reffie."

Reno snorts himself, and smirks. "Reffie. What a stupid word."

"You made it," she retorts, still laughing. "Reffie. You and me. Ha."

It is not an awkward moment but it is close, and Yuffie remembers just in time that she hates Reno and he her, and so she says, quickly, "Who else can we make?"

Reno grins. This sounds like a fun game.

"Hrm," she says, plopping down and picking up her own stick, "Cloud and Tifa. CloFa? CloTi?" She starts scribbling in the dust; without her concentration everything that comes out looks like chocobo butt to Reno. "Your turn," she says, pointing the stick at him imperiously. "Do the Turks."

Reno rolls the words around in his mouth for a while and then comes out with "Rulena." It falls off his tongue and he is already laughing.

Yuffie shrieks with a giggle. "Rulena," she repeats, already laughing. "Me and Elena, we'd be Yulena. You'd be Renolena."

Rude is laughing too. He's also convinced that Yuffie is only scratching at the dirt distractedly and not really writing chocobo butt. "Um," he says, enjoying this game, gleeful. "Your turn."

"Oh hells," Yuffie says, "who else? Oh, Vincent, Vincent and, uh, uh," she is trying really hard to think of another person.

So Reno starts to fire off names.


"Okay." This is easy, only a few seconds of deliberation. "Ticent. Much better than VinFa." Her voice is full of laughter and she proclaims it to all the world: "This is fun."

Reno decides on a challenge. "Cloud."

"What?" She's laughing too hard. "Vincent and Cloud? Oh, gods. CloCent. Clocent -" she thinks of something else and chokes on her laughter, a gibbly little dribbling sound. "Clocent Strifentine," she manages to get out before she falls over, her shoulder landing in the pile of dust, her face buried in her hands. Reno watches, amazed, at the energy in her laughter. He realizes that there is something perfect about this intensity, something so close to perfect that he wants to take it and swallow it so that it can't escape.

"Yuffie," he begins, but Yuffie is giggling wildly now, and she launches back:

"Yuffentine, oh gods," and promptly curls up into a ball.


They have found a lake. It's a graceful little thing, nestled up in rocks with a cute little shore running nearly a quarter before rocks and trees take over. They have been following the river, hoping that (1) Yuffie will recognize something along the way and regain her uber directional sense or (2) the river will take them somewhere, preferably inhabited, ideally Wutai.

The lake is really pretty nice-looking; the water is glimmering with a cleanliness that suggests trace amounts of Mako, on the parts-per-million scale. Reno can see that both he and the ninjette have noticed this. Her eyes are bright with the anticipation of Materia whereas his eyes are more like Oh No not again.

But for now they are probably going to swim in the lake.

Parts-per-million is safe enough. And it's not like neither of them have never touched Mako before.

It's a sunny day and decently warm and Yuffie is already in the goddam lake with all her clothes on. She has left her pack beside her clothes as if she trusts Reno. He knows that the pack is full of supplies, both medicinal and purely nutritional. He also knows that he would have been in trouble without her supplies since he didn't bring any for himself.

He imagines himself opening it up and stuffing all of her super-nutrition granola bars in his mouth at once and then running around growling. And probably drooling. His mouth is pretty big. He can fit an entire shot glass in there and then close his mouth so it just looks like he's partially deformed. The first time he did it Elena laughed so hard she had to excuse herself before she wet her pants.

"Hey, Turk, let's get Mako poisoning, come on in," Yuffie calls, floating on her back. She has tried calling him Jordan, but Reno barely acknowledges the name anymore. It's not even to piss her off; he really hasn't gone by anything but Reno for his entire life. The name is just a label that's on some piece of paper in what used to be Tseng's office.

Reno shrugs off his jacket and his dress shirt. He can muck around in the pants just fine. Nearby is a big stack of rocks and he climbs up to the top and looks around.

"Ninjette, you should come up here and see if your dumb ass can recognize anything."

"Jordan, you should shut the hell up, since it's your fault that we're lost."

Reno crouches, and then takes off running, taking a flying leap off of the pile of rocks and hitting the water in perfect cannonball formation. Yuffie laughs and it sounds like the water falling down all around him in tiny little droplets.

She does it next, her soaking wet clothes all wrinkly and clinging, and she hits the water with a surprisingly large splash for someone her size. It must be the feet. Even without the boots they're still big and flat.

They cliff jump for a while. The jumps turn into flips, then into dives, then back into splash contests. Then they just kind of sit in the water. Reno is floating on his back and Yuffie is struggling with a piece of wood, trying to balance so that she is standing on it like a surfboard.

The entire trek has been like this: if they aren't talking, they get along fantastically, two pieces which fit surprisingly well.

He hears her go under again with a muffled curse word, but when she comes up, she yells, "Hey, look!"

"What, a city with a hamburger?"

"No, a cave!" Yuffie sounds euphoric.


The cave is old, high, and layered. One wall is covered with cracks and bumps and rivulets and texture; the other is glassy-smooth. The water inside the cave is to their armpits in the middle but comes to mid-thigh at the sides.

Yuffie ducks beneath the water momentarily, and then comes up holding a riverstone in her hand. She shakes the water out of her eyes and her hair out of her face. Her hair is soaked, its short choppy layers all holding tiny water-droplets at the end of each strand. It is even darker than before, if such a thing is possible. Reno wants to reach out and touch it and figure out whether it's real or if the darkness will smudge off on his hand like charcoal.

She looks at the smooth, glistening cave wall with anticipation, biting her lip, and clambers up on a small outcropping of rock - and begins to write. She is balanced strangely with both feet and the spare arm flailed at angles that make yoga look comfortable but for Yuffie it seems natural.

The stone in her hand is making little white lines on the smooth wall, like retarded chalk, and after she has scratched and scratched Reno can finally pick out: YUFFIE WAS HERE!-!-! She has managed to use more exclamation points than Reeve.

She's looking at that wall and grinning to beat all hell, and she turns to look at him with a smile so beautiful it could call Sephiroth back from the dead. Reno can't help it, she's too gorgeous up there with her pride and her confidence and her little ninja hands and big clunky feet, and he smiles back at her: a real smile, the realest smile he has ever given.

Reno catalogues glares. Truth be known, Rude is the one who catalogues smiles. Rude has extensive training in being a walking lie-detector and this involves knowing deeply about smiles, the muscles behind them, and how to read thoughts in eyes. Rude has his own scoresheet for how many times Reno has truly smiled, engaging all the muscles in his face. The smile is different from laughing - which Reno does quite freely and often - there are a couple muscles in the throat that twitch just a bit differently. Rude's Reno-score is much, much lower than Reno's Rude-score.

And it's a shame that Rude is not a spy in the little Mako-cave, because his tally would be skyrocketing.

Yuffie's smile becomes something a little more; it's much less broad, but a little more intense, as if someone had taken a bright green and toned it down a couple notches. Reno can't stop smiling at her, can't take this revealing look off of his face, so he decides to do something - anything.

He ducks under the water, scrabbling around for a loose piece of rock himself, and when he finds one he approaches the wall himself. He is a little taller than Yuffie, so he is able to reach a nice smooth surface with just a little stretching. He is standing on a ledge below her. With his rough hands he reaches up and starts scratching. Even with this crudest of pencils Yuffie's work is much more graceful than his, but his hand is firm and straight and strong, basic in a way her complicated grace will never be. After a while the two characters become recognizable and he steps away, proud beyond belief.

Rei Fei, the wall reads. "Reffie," Yuffie reads, and in her voice is amusement and laughter and pride and hope all in one.

Reno opens his mouth to say something in reply, but he can't get it out, because Yuffie Kisaragi's lips are in the way.

She's kissing him, for gods' sakes, and they're both wet and dripping in each other's face so both of them have their eyes closed. Reno kisses her back. The Mako-clear water tastes slightly sweet on her lips. Yuffie tastes like shining water and strangely like dreams, big fat dreams, Ninja dreams with Materia and big airplanes and explosions and happily after and enough fire to feed a small army.

Reno knows that he tastes like nightmares, and disappointment, and suddenly he wonders why Yuffie is kissing him at all, and he wants to ask her, suddenly, but he can't say a word with her pressed up against him like that -

She has him pinned to the wall of the cave, oh, gods, and now her arms are around his neck, one of her hands finding the base of his ponytail, burrowing into it, drawing his head back towards hers.

It just figured that she'd kiss him first.

Reno puts his own hands on her face, his thumbs running across her cheeks, long fingers curving around and tilting her head to his best advantage. Her skin is soft and wet and she shivers against him, her entire body warm and damp. Their legs are still underwater up to their thighs and both of them are soaking wet against each other and his back is up against the stupid cave wall and suddenly it is the sexiest thing Reno has ever known.

Yuffie groans against his lips, and the sound is incredible, the vibration against his own mouth as he darts his tongue out. He wants to swallow that sound, too, make it part of his body and blood, which are both currently on fire and all tingly like rain. His hands dive to her waist, running themselves up her bare back, under that silly tank top that is now dark with soaking. Her skin is also soaking wet, but smooth, smooth beyond belief, and there are miles and miles of it under Reno's hands. Yuffie moans again, a light little one, and Reno pulls her closer.

Eventually they have to come up for air, and they break apart as violently and suddenly as it all happened. Yuffie's eyes are huge as she looks at him; not just her eyes, but the black in her eyes has expanded until only a light-colored corona remains. They are both breathing heavily, as if they swam the length of the cave.

Yuffie bites her lip and takes a breath. "I know where we are now," she says quietly. Her voice is different.

Reno still has his hands on her back, under her shirt; her hands are still around her neck. "Good," he replies, and his voice is a little deep, and husky.

"There's only one set of caves on Wutai," she whispers. "We can follow this back to town."

Town, flashes through Reno's head. Town. Warmth. Bed. Hamburgers. Bourbon.

"We can't," he whispers back, moving a tiny bit closer. "I have to find something for Reeve."

Yuffie bites her lip and looks up at him. "But I ate your map," she says, and although she sounds perfectly apologetic there is still a twinkle in her eye.

"Photographic memory," Reno murmurs. "If you can draw me another map, I'll show you where we need to go."

"What is it?" Their closeness does not seem to be affecting their conversational skills, but they are talking in tiny little-voices, murmurs and whispers and gods it sounds like they've been making love for years, not just shared one small and dripping wet (although amazing) kiss in a cave.

"I'm not telling, ninjette," Reno says.

"You suck," Yuffie retorts, in her normal voice. "Jordan, you suck, lots. Even for a Turk."

She is giving him Glare Ten: That's so annoying, but I like you anyway. Rude has used this one, albeit not frequently.

Reno chuckles. He wonders if he can keep a Yuffie-score as well, and what it would be for.

He bends down to kiss her again, and she responds eagerly; and his brain, before it fogs out, thinks, that makes two points.


Apparently I am incapable of writing short things.

This was fun. You don't often see silly!Reno, but I thought he should come out and play a little.

Planned is a Vincent-Tifa, Cid-Shera, Cloud-Aeris, and then a Vincent-Yuffie. All of which will have a twist. And hopefully none of which will be this long.