Updated 16th May, 2006: Minor edits, primarily changing the paragraphing in places and abit of rephrasing or adding a line here and there.
Updated 30th November, 2005: Right, there seems to be some conflicting information that had been provided regarding the chapter, so after some much appreciated help and some thought, i'm keeping the chapter as it is (at least with respects to the points raised in the reviews). i would really consider this fic kind of AU anyway, since while i am trying to keep it realistic, i don't for a minute think that something like this would actually happen.
At this point in time, Rufus isn't going to be playing a part in the story anyhow. Have't decided if he will come in later... time shall tell
Author's Notes: My very first FF fanfic (and first fanfic in ages, period Oo; ), partially inspired by FF:AC. As such, it does contain some spoilers when events or characters that occurred/appeared in it are touched on.
The idea behind this fic was to see how someone like Reno, to whom (at least in my mind) the image he projects to others and his physicality are very important, deals with someone who has little control over either, and perhaps comes to question who he is under his carefully crafted public facade and Turk job. It wouldn't be the same as his interacting with Rufus in AC i think, because the latter is still his boss - implying that he has to help the wheelchair man whatever his own feelings about disabilities - and he is probably still rich and powerful enough to easily compensate for his apparent physical limitations with wealth and networks. While there is an OC involved, i've tried - and hopefully succeeded XD; - in keeping her from Mary Suehood.
... I really should not be writing 2 nights before my next exam >> ;; Darn plot bunnies! -shakes first-
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of Square Enix, with the exception of the unnamed woman who appears in the chapter.
Chapter 1: Bad Days & Broken Elevators
A string of swear words left his mouth as his hand collided with the elevator doors, or more accurately, with the little sign that had been taped to them, the words "Out of order" printed neatly on it.
He was tired, out of cigarettes, and sober, and now he'd have to climb up to his apartment on the tenth bloody floor to remedy all three conditions. This did not a happy Reno make. He cursed again, this time at the property agent for convincing him to take the apartment on such a high floor. Who needed a great view anyway, when he was hardly around the place long enough to enjoy it? At least he'd gotten a date with her out of it.
He punched the "Up" button a few more times, vainly hoping that the sign was just someone's idea of a joke and that the lift really was working, or that it had just started working again. But it refused to light up and the lift refused to chime. His legs were sore, as were his ribs, and he had a nasty cut down the length of his left forearm, under the suit sleeve. All in a day's work, for a Turk; but work was finally over for the day, and now all he wanted to do was get home. He thought of the nice, cold beer sitting in his fridge and the warm, unmade bed, all lonely without him. The lift button received a few more desperate hits.
Reno let his body tumble to the floor, too tired to stand and swear at the same time. And he swore even louder when his careless action jarred his aching body. Then he glared up at the silent metal doors. It reminded him a bit of having a staring contest with Rude.
An idea suddenly sprang to Reno's mind. One hand reached into his crumpled jacket and fumbled around until it closed on his PHS, drew it out, flipped it open, and hit the speed dial for his long suffering friend and coworker's phone. It connected on the second ring, as it always did unless the other Turk was fighting or asleep. "Rude?"
"What do you want Reno?" A honk sounded in the background, and Rude mumbled a curse. He hadn't had a great day either and the jam he was stuck in wasn't improving his mood. Neither, for that matter, was the phone call. He liked Reno well enough, he was a good friend despite his often obnoxious behaviour, but the too chirpy tone hinted darkly at something, and Rude was sure that whatever this something was, he wouldn't like it.
"Why do you always assume I want something when I call you?" the other man sniffed in mock hurt as he idly picked a piece of lint off the carpet, "Can't a guy just call his best friend to find out how his day went?"
"..." Reno snickered as he imagined his partner banging his forehead on the steering wheel. "Reno..."
"We-ll, since you asked... I was wondering if you could come over and carry me up the stairs to my floor, 'cause the elevator's out -"
Reno sniffed loudly and put the PHS back into his pocket. "Guess you were named well; can't you at least say 'Bye, Reno' or 'Fuck you' before hanging up? Sheesh, people these days." He tsked at the empty air, then resumed staring glumly at the still out-of-order elevator. He'd call Elena, but she'd just try to run him over again tomorrow, and Tseng was no fun because he wouldn't react at all. A minute passed. One foot reached forward to kick half-heartedly at the metal door. "Come on, open, yo! ... Open sesame? ... If you open, I promise not to press the buttons to every floor for the next week... And I won't stick gum on your doors either ... Oh, for fuck's sake, OPEN, DAMN YOU."
The elevator wisely chose to remain silent.
Since the lift was obviously not responding to verbal entreaties or insults, Reno decided to try sign language. It didn't respond to the universal gesture for "up yours" either. With another growl of frustration, the miffed red head fell silent and closed the eyes that had been squinting evilly at the unreactive elevator. Maybe he would just lay here for a while. The floor wasn't too uncomfortable; the carpet was fairly new, the apartment block being in part of rebuilt Midgar, and still springy and kept pretty clean. Cleaner than the floor... or any other area in his own apartment, at any rate. Yeah, he'd lie here for a while.
Sprawled artlessly across the passageway with eyes closed, the tired Turkthought he heard a slight squeaking sound approaching, butdidn't move. Hopefully the person would just head for the stairs or walk around him; he really wasn't inclined to move right now.
"Excuse me, sorry to bother you but could you let me pass?"
Reno sighed and sluggishly waved a hand down the hallway without bothering to look at the woman, probably in her twenties from the sound of her voice, who had spoken - a mark of exactly how tired he was, Elena might have quipped had she been there. "Just step over me, I won't look up your skirt." A hint of a smirk curved his lips. Or perhaps not.
When he detected no movement even after a few moments, no slight current of air to indicate that the woman had moved past him, the red head opened his eyes in mild irritation. He didn't want to exert his already sore body any more than he had to, and certainly not just because of some stupid girl's bashfulness. "Look -"
The rest of the sentence petered off abruptly as a frame of metal, plasticand rubber greeted his eyes.
He blinked once, then wordlessly sat up and shuffled to the side to let the wheelchair pass.
"Thank you." The words were so soft that he probably wouldn't have heard her, if he hadn't been seated on the ground.
Reno shrugged, feeling just the slightest bit guilty for his earlier reaction. "No prob." A soft thump behind her indicated that he had gracelessly flopped back onto the carpet.
"Had a bad day?"
The Turk opened one eye beneath the hand that had been melodramatically strewn across his forehead.
The woman in the wheelchair had paused a few steps... revolutions... away from his resting place, and was looking back at him curiously over the handle of her chair. She was kind of pretty, he decided, even in the somewhat dim light of the hallway. Or maybe it was because of the somewhat dim light that he thought so. His gaze flicked momentarily back from the pale face to the shining metal contraption she sat on. Not that it mattered anyway.
He closed his eyes again and sighed, vivid memories of the day's events flashing through his mind as if someone in there was thumbing through a picture book. One of the doctors who'd examined him during the God-awful physical he'd been subjected to before being admitted to Shin-Ra had told him he had a photographic memory. Sometimes, during that hazy stretch between night and morning, when he hadn't drunk enough to knock himself out completely till glaring daylight and a splitting hangover forced him awake, he remembered fire and choking grey smoke and screams - God, those were the worst, the screams - as the plate descended on Sector 7 like a stone-faced, avenging angel, and he wished he didn't.
He forced his mind back to the day's events.
Hm, let's see... After his usual lecture from Tseng about crawling into the office late, he'd been sent out to chase down a group of suspects with Elena. So chase they had, for several hours, and when the group had split up, he'd gone after his half on foot, following them across at least two sectors while the overcast sky opened its bowels on Midgar. Then, when he had almost caught up with them while crossing a street, Elena had damn near run him over. They'd eventually nabbed their prey and hauled the lot back to headquarters, only to receive another dressing down for recklessness after they had reported to their leader. Reno had then been sent off on another wild goose chase which took up the rest of the day. After he had finally left the rebuilt Shin-Ra building, he had dragged his tired ass over to his favourite bar in search of liquid comfort. Only to discover a notice saying it would be closed for the next couple of weeks, and no explanation given - not that he really cared for one anyway: he just wanted his damn beer. And just in case he hadn't caught on yet that the Planet hated him, he found his tires slashed when he'd returned to his car. So he had walked all the way back to his apartment, just wanting to collapse into bed and bury himself under the blankets before anything else could go wrong... only to find the lifts out of order and a 10-storey climb in his near future. Bad day? He chuckled lightly, the sound switching to a groan when the action jolted the ribs he was sure had been fractured when he'd bounced off the front of Elena's car, despite what the medic had said. Damn doc probably just wanted to get him out of the place. Not that he totally blamed the man, after the chaos he'd deliberately caused during his last stay in the hospital. Reno smirked slightly at that memory, and winced again as he accidentally brushed against the bruised rib. "Yeah, you could say that."
The woman in the wheelchair nodded sympathetically in respose. "There's always tomorrow, at least."
He raised an eyebrow as he glanced back at her. "That supposed to make me feel better or worse?"
"That's up to you, isn't it?" She smiled. "Life is what you make of it."
A frown settled on his sharp features. Who the hell did she think she was, spouting that philosophical crap at him? Didn't she realise he was a Turk, what he had to do? What people did to him? Sure, it wasn't quite the same anymore now that Reeve had taken over, but still... she had no idea what she was talking about. Just because she sat in a fucking wheelchair, it didn't make her queen of the world, able to pass judgement on people she didn't even know. Heck, Rufus Shinra had been in one for quite a while, before his mysterious disappearance a few months ago, and he hadn't... wait, he had. Well, he was a Shinra, they almost seemed to have a Planet-given right to act that way, whether they deserved it or not. She wasn't one, so too bad for her. "Yeah, well unfortunately I can't make this lift work no matter how many positive thoughts I send it," he drawled.
If she picked up on his sudden annoyance, she didn't respond to it, merely tilting her head slightly. "I'm sure the guards won't mind if you use the service lift."
"... Service lift?" His face brightened at the magic words. He had totally forgotten about it; all his previous irritation vanished instantly.
The dark haired lady nodded again, a slight smile playing on her lips. "Through the door beside the guard counter. I saw one of them going in when I passed, so it should be working." He thought he could kiss her for that. Metaphorically anyway, he corrected, as steel glinted under the glow of the passageway's lights.
"Service lift, right, I knew that." Reno dragged his lanky form to his feet, the thought of not having to trudge up nine flights of stairs dulling the pain in his ribs. Beer and bed, here I come.
"Well... good night."
His head snapped back to look at the speaker, having momentarily forgotten that she was there. " 'Night," he replied.
Now that he was standing, she suddenly seemed so small and fragile. Almost childlike. He watched as she began wheeling herself down the passageway with a steadiness born of practice until she had reached a door at the end, before digging a key out from the large duffle bag on her lap and unlocking the door. It was only when she looked back and flashed a small, awkward smile that he realised he'd been staring. The tall man pulled one hand out from his pocket and raised it in a lazy wave, then turned and sauntered off in the other direction, towards the hallowed service elevator.
So ends the first chapter. Love it, hate it? Let me know! Constructive criticism welcomed, flames will be used to warm my cold toes : )