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Things Normal

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Seven, Reno finishes, and I look up from the half-dismantled laptop on the table.

What?

He looks annoyed; he always does, when he knows I've been drowning out his voice, and the disdainful glare he gives the mess on the desk makes it clear that I've apparently picked a wrong moment to do that.

Give it a fuckin' break, man. We're off work.

I think about telling him how broken things irritate me, how leaving things half-done makes me twitch, or how I can't stand leaving things strewn around randomly like this, but I don't, because he already knows that. Which means that this is probably important. Which means that I'm listening.

How long has he been standing there in the doorway talking at me?

I want, Reno says, making it obvious that he's repeating himself against his will, to go to Sector Seven.

Why?

To get drunk.

That's the only explanation he gives, and the tone he gives it in tells me that the explanation had better be good enough.

So go.

Immediately: Come with.

Casual, but I can't miss the plea.

Why?

To carry me back when I fuckin' get blitzed beyond batshit, he laughs, and everything's normal again.

I could say no, and I'm almost sure that he wouldn't go by himself, but I like things normal.

So I don't refuse.

The mess I leave behind on my desk is nothing compared to the sprawling ruins of Sector Seven, and while I'm following Reno through it, I'm torn between wanting to fix the place up and wanting to destroy the whole thing and make it neat. It makes me think of cockroaches: the buildings are already popping up all over the fallen Plate, covered in salvaged lights and signs, and it's these that we're wading through, knee-deep in human misery that smells not like shit but like aging mako and rust. He knows where we're going, so I try not to pay attention; if we get lost, we'll get lost, and we'll find our way back.

Here, Reno says suddenly, and we stop, facing one of the bigger buildings constructed against what looks to be the remains of the old pillar. This is a new one; we haven't been to this place before. It must have been recently built, although it's already falling apart. In here, Reno says again, and heads inside. Hurry your ass up.

I follow him in, knowing what will happen next. It goes the same way, night after night. His familiar well, helloooo boys! echoes around the sudden silence of the bar, and we both head straight for the counter and pay enough for our drinks so that the bartender can't refuse to serve us. And I have to sit there, nursing a drink or two, and listen to Reno laugh and swear and drink away half his paycheck in a night.

So, how's your dead wife and kids?

So sorry my little bomb destroyed your store. You might have been able to afford a weapon to kill me with.

You hate me? You do? Oh really? Your impotent hatred is just so cute.

So whose dead bodies do you think we're sittin' on?

Ohhh, I'm so fuckin' DRUNK.

He drinks it in like wine, the angry silence and the hate-filled stares, and I can tell that he's almost convinced himself that he's enjoying it. The mako in his eyes glows brighter with every drink, and his grin grows wider and more inhuman. He looks almost happy, leaning back against the counter and regaling the crowd with his "entertainment," and the more he talks, the faster he talks, low and calm, but nearly hysterical all the same.

Me, I've faded into the background, just as always, and he's the star of the show. The show is called the Turks Are Fucking Crazy: channel Reno, Sector Seven, whenever the hell he feels like it, Midgar Standard Time. And I sit there, silent, drowning him out like I've learned to do and trying not to drown myself in the air that's suddenly become so thick with loaded malice that it's hard to even breathe.

Well, folks, I'm glad to have met you all. Think about it, if I'd never killed everyone you love, or should I say loved, ha, we wouldn't have the joy of this meetin' right now, would we?

No, we wouldn't. And hey, think of it as a crashing, skull-crushing wake-up-call, yeah? Live life! Love life! Who knows when another giant evil Plate is gonna come get the rest of you? Ha ha, ha--

Suddenly, Reno breaks off mid-sentence and turns to me, and when he does, he looks sick and the hand that reaches for my shoulder is almost visibly trembling. It's as if he's been absorbing all the negativity in the room, gathering it up into his core. It's as if he's absorbing it, hoping that maybe if he got enough of it, he might just explode and die.

It never happens, though. He never gets enough.

I'm-done-let's-go.

He pays for his, I pay for mine, and I unholster a gun before I get up, just in case. Reno leans heavily on my arm for support: he's had far more drinks than is healthy for even him, and his staggering is making it hard to walk. But walk we do, back to the elevator, back into the ShinRa HQ, back into the living quarters, and back into his room.

I put him down on the couch, and he sits there for a while, just staring into space, maybe meditating or something. I go back to my room, shrug off my jacket, and resume work on the laptop that I left behind. An hour passes; maybe two hours pass. The door opens then, but I don't look up until his arms are around my neck and his face pressed against my cheek.

It's all routine.

Pretend to care, he says in a whisper, half-drunk still, but half-sane. He twists my chair around and slides into a seat on my lap, hands already tearing at my shirt. Pretend to care. Pretend to care. I don't care, pretend I don't care...

And this is when the anger rises, burning through my chest until I think I might hurt Reno with the heat. His hands on me, his lips on mine, his familiar weight, his voice, his breathing: this is his way of letting all that stored hatred out, through pain, through pleasure, through mindless sex, through me. I want to tell him that maybe I don't have to pretend, that maybe I can offer him a way out of this cycle, but at the same time I want to kill him and end all this once and for all, to help him reach that explosive suicide of hate that he seems to long for so much.

Maybe I want to kill us both. Him for wanting to die like this. Me, for not wanting to stop him. I'm not sure who's going to break first, but whoever does isn't going to leave much behind.

The sun's almost up when Reno quits and reaches for a cigarette. I don't say anything; he doesn't thank me; we watch the sun rise through the slits in the far window, blinking in the light. If we're lucky, we might get two or three hours of sleep before we're officially due in to report. If we're unlucky, we'll be called in within the hour, armed and ready to make some more hate.

I'm still watching the view out the window, not really thinking about anything at all, when Reno stops at the door, already fully dressed and seeming completely sober. We stare at each other silently for a few seconds, trying not to twitch in the painful awkwardness, and then he relaxes, pulling out his sunglasses from his jacket pocket and setting them on his forehead.

Tomorrow? he asks, leaning against the door, and of course, I make my usual query.

Why?

To get drunk.

So go.

Come with.

Why?

To carry me back when I fuckin' get blitzed beyond batshit, he laughs, and for a moment, everything's normal again. Forget the bar, forget the hate, forget the hours of hate-filled fucking. There's only the hum of the AC in the vents and me and a laptop, still broken as it has been for the past several months. Normal things. Ordinary things.

Tomorrow? Reno asks again, making it obvious that he's repeating himself against his will.

I could say no, and I'm almost sure that he wouldn't go by himself, but I'm supposed to like things normal, so I don't refuse.

Good, he says, see you at 3, then grins and closes the door behind him. I listen to his footsteps fade down the hallway outside, then turn back to the window and watch the sun finish rising in his wake.

By the time my cell phone rings to summon me to work, I've almost convinced myself that he's happy.