Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII and all associated materials are property of Squaresoft. The song "Hear Me" belongs to Kelly Clarkson.

Hear Me
By: Nanaki BH

"Everything is wrong," I decided. "There's nothing I can do to please him and there seems to be nothing I can't do to make him angry at me." I sighed, looking out from my balcony as far as I could see; searching for a place on the dim evening horizon that I could call my own. Either my eyes aren't that good or there's just no such place because I've never been able to find it.

Was there truly nothing left for me but this; these cold walls of corrupted power? Would I never get to lay with him once without shame? No. Not until my father breathes his last breath would I be able to live without the fear and shame; without worrying about achieving the acceptance I so longed for. "I wish he would fucking die."

A tear slid silently down my cheek. I did not whimper or make any such sound, for I thought it to be weakness. He tells me so often that it's alright if I cry but he wasn't there. I would live by my own rules. But perhaps he was right. What if he was? It might just be the influence my father has had on me all these years. I was never allowed to whine in public or even cry when I scraped my knees because… Well, he called it weakness, but what he really must have meant was that it was an embarrassment.

I brought my knees up to my chest, and though I hated the sound, allowed a pained gasp to escape my lips. "He's right," I whispered to the wind. "There's no way through this pain unless I let it go. I can't keep… can't keep it in." I bit my lip and sniffled, letting my tears stain my white suit.

My thoughts were muddled; thoughts of Reno and the bittersweet happiness we had and then thoughts of my father… I shivered and buried my face in my knees simply by reflex. There was no reason for me to be hiding now. Maybe I was hiding because I didn't when he struck me. I wouldn't allow myself to give an inch that night when he took me by the hair and slapped me. I didn't allow myself to even flinch when he kicked me in the stomach; no, because I didn't want him to think he was winning.

But I had wanted nothing more than to lose that night. I wanted him to know and understand that I'm not the fortress he thought I was. I knew it was wrong; he was my father, after all. There was no escape from him though. I slept in the battlefield. Even if I managed to run as far as my legs could take me, I would never be allowed to go beyond the walls of Midgar.

I turned my wrist over, looking at the bruises he gave me where he grabbed me in a kind of fascinated horror. I didn't want to take off my jacket. I didn't want to know what else he'd done. There was pain all over; everywhere the common person couldn't see. My father purposely avoided hitting my face, just leaving one stinging slap. He didn't want to leave any outward appearance of abuse. I amused myself for a moment with the prospect of wearing a sleeveless shirt the next day to flaunt what he'd done to spite him.

There was nothing anybody else could do though besides get fired for reprimanding him. I would have to face him on my own. I was alone in it and I feared I wasn't strong enough in any way to take him down. It would never stop.

I gasped softly when I tried to sit back up, finding the pain in my middle barely tolerable. I pushed myself up using the nearby wall and managed to stand weakly. With one arm wrapped around my stomach, I staggered back inside and collapsed on my bed. I lied there for a while taking shuddering breaths, trying my hardest to calm myself down. My legs shook and my stomach gave me the constant reminder that I was not alright.

In a moment of temporary foolishness, I tried to roll over to grab my telephone. The expected consequences followed; a sharp shooting pain through my back and stomach that lasting far longer than I would have liked. I gritted my teeth, finding that bracing against the pain succeeded in only making things worse.

After taking a few deep (yet still shaky) breaths, I tried again for my telephone; this time simply groping to my right along my nightstand, searching blindly for it. After a few tries, I caught hold of it and held it out in front of myself to dial Reno's room number.

He didn't pick up and I worried that he was out with Rude and that I'd be left in my room, wallowing in my own fear and pity without any sort of escape.

"Pick up," I wished quietly. "Please, Reno. Please pick up." The second and third times failed, at which point genius struck me. I dialed his cellphone, which thankfully, was answered.

"Sorry. No caller I.D. on my room phone," he answered informally. "Really need me, eh shachou?"

I half-sobbed half-laughed, so grateful that he'd finally answered. "Reno," I said, shuddering. "Help." I was so weak and tired that I didn't even notice when I passed out. The phone fell from my lip hand, thudding lightly on the floor. I couldn't hear his startled concerns on the other end.

I did hear my door being opened though. I'm still not quite sure how long it was between it being opened and Reno actually coming to sit beside me on my bed. I was so relieved to feel his warm hands on my face though, cupping my cheeks, telling me I was going to be okay. I almost cried… I did, in fact, 'just so damn hard for me to admit it to myself still. I wanted to be brave for him, but all I could do was fall apart. I clutched at his wrists and sobbed openly, knowing that he understood.

He leaned down and gently kissed my cheeks, brushing away my tears with his thumbs. He hushed me and even lied down next to me, putting a reassuring hand on my stomach. "Deep breath," he ordered.

I did as he instructed; a few times, actually. I closed my eyes and folded my hands, trying to calm down as much as possible. He was quiet, probably in reverence for my suffering. Inside, he knew what had happened but he didn't want to say it for some reason. He didn't want to go jumping to conclusions, maybe. Eventually, he sat up and looked me over, rubbing the back of his hand against my cheek.

"Him, right?" I nodded silently. I went without saying like I suspected. With nothing further to say, I opened my eyes tiredly. Something was troubling him. I expected him to want to go kick my father's ass, instead he looked worried. "Where?" It amused me how abrupt he was being.

"All over," I whispered, fearing the tears that I knew would come.

Reno buried his face in the crock of my neck, kissing me tenderly. Wordlessly, he eased off my suit jacket and started to slowly unbutton my shirt. I was embarrassed in a way, given that I was the man whom people claimed "no one had ever seen bleed or cry". There I was, falling under both circumstances; open like a book for anyone to read. Reno wasn't just someone though. He'd known me for far longer than my father; long enough to know even the simplest things my father could never – would never know.

He gazed down at me, concern painted across his features. I blushed hard, feeling suddenly very exposed and nervous. He bent his head to kiss one of the purpling bruises on my stomach then affectionately nuzzled my middle, surprising me enough to gasp. He wasn't reprimanding me. The fault was with my father; he knew. Reno touched the scratches and bruises on my arm, tracing them absentmindedly.

He sighed, twirling a lock of my blonde hair around his finger. "What do you want me to do?" he asked after a while, still staring at me vacantly. "Do you want me to risk getting fired in an attempt to stop this or what? The worst that could happen is that I get a restraining order slapped on my ass. The best thing, also probably the most impossible you realize, is that he would change his mind and decide that you're a good son."

That was probably the most articulate he'd been that night and the most articulate he would get; not that I was asking for him to be a poet or anything. I pulled him against me, ignoring the pain it brought. "I don't care," I muttered against his neck. "He knows… You might be fired already."

Reno tugged himself away from my embrace. "Then I guess I've got to go speak with him." Immediately, I tried grabbing him to stop him but he was already headed back to the door. He stopped, turned, and stopped just short of my bed to bend down.

"…a remote?" I asked, bemused.

"Take it easy," he said smirking and tossed me the remote. "I'll be back in a few."

Like he actually expected me to watch TV… I fell back asleep almost right after he left. That time, I dreamt of him and no longer felt the pain. Perhaps that was a bad thing; that maybe I had gone numb, but I could not tell through my deep slumber. My eyes felt too heavy to blink even once. I dreamt of his arms encircling me, holding me and keeping me safe; of how he plays with my hair; of how he'll take my face in his palms and push his thumb over my lips that gentle way he does.

For a while there I felt like things were good. I had the feeling that he would come back safely and tell me the good new – that my father had really accepted it for what it was. Not once, even in the back of my mind, did a premonition sneak in to ruin my dreams.

I awoke in the same disoriented way as the previous time. Would he never just allow sleep? I cracked an eye open and looked up at him. I couldn't refuse a grin. He was red in the face and had a stinging crimson handprint practically painted on his cheek. What had happened I wasn't certain of but it was undoubtedly something humorous. He was grinning like the cat that caught the canary; the victor. He didn't even have to open his mouth and speak the words – I knew.

"I'm fired," he said, his grin still impossibly strong on his face.

I wasn't sure what to do and I'm sure I must have gone through a couple different expressions before I decided that I should wear one of shock. I sputtered momentarily, reaching up for his face with quivering hands. "He fired you?" I asked incredulously.

"Fired my ass on the spot!" he said. "But you know your father. Well, I know how he is, at least. He didn't say it like he meant it."

I had to push myself up a little so I could sit to be comfortably eye-to-eye with him. I ghosted my fingertips over the angular scars on his cheeks, still not fully understanding his words.

Reno sat back on my bed, supporting himself with his palms. He sighed and closed his eyes, tilting his head back a little. His smile remained. "I explained; wholeheartedly, I guess you could say. Your father has a weakness for well-planned speeches." I knew, though I never stopped to dispute it then, that Reno never had anything planned.

For a moment, I looked down at my palms, wondering silently if Reno did what was right. He had a way of thinking that was so different from the way I ever thought of things. Sometimes it was hard to get my head around what he had in mind. In this instance though, I believed I knew what he was getting at. He wanted to push his luck; something I was personally very bad at. I've always been too conservative, trying to find the right way before attempting something potentially risky. Reno always somehow knew how to push his luck just as far as he wanted it to go.


He laughed at my confusion and I felt a little hurt, even knowing it wasn't his intention. "By tomorrow everybody will know!"

I slammed my fists on my bed and my eyes flew open wide. "No! He wouldn't!"

"I'm just saying, Rufus," he said, crawling back up to me on all fours. "He might go crazy with it. He might not. It's all up to him at this point, but I know you aren't in risk of anything." Reno leaned forward and ever-so-gently placed a kiss on my lips.

I looked away, frowning slightly. "Maybe so, but I'm probably not going to get any future favors from him, am I?"

"If I were you, I'm not so sure I would even want a favor from a guy that did this," he said, gesturing at the damage my father had left. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders but not without some pain. Likewise, his arms were wrapped around my waist, his head resting on my shoulder. It was one of those pleasant moments that I loved to relish. I lay there, nuzzling my cheek against his. "And I take it this means no sex tonight?" I smacked the back of his head.

"No," I said simply. "You want to give me a hernia or something? I could have a stroke even!" I was joking, of course, though I knew there would definitely be some serious medical risks if we attempted anything. If we did try something, I would undoubtedly wake up with more than just a sore ass.

"Bastard," I growled. I pulled away from him and buried my face in my pillow, suddenly back to feeling forlorn.

Reno sat up and straddled me, his arms on either side of my shoulders. "You mean me?" he asked.

I shook my head; I didn't mean him. It was my father I was talking about. No, I thought. He's not my father. He's President Shinra. I had to hold my tears back at the sudden realization that I no longer had a father. I didn't know if he'd disowned me or what the deal was… to be honest, I didn't even know what Reno had said to him, but I knew from then on that he was not my father to me any longer. He was a man whose face I would never care to see again even if I was given the choice. As far as I was concerned, he was dead to me.

I sighed, my way to let him know that it wasn't him I was angry with. I turned off my bedside lamp and rolled over to wrap my arms around him. It wasn't long before I felt my consciousness begin to slip again. I could feel his finger tips rubbing lazy circles at the back of my neck like he was purposely trying to put me to sleep again. I was grateful, actually.

"Thank you… Reno."

Author's Notes: That took me forever to write. I'm not sure why because it's fairly short. I guess it's because of my new One Piece craze. I've started watching it and now I have a thing for Zoro and Sanji…but don't worry! Nobody can replace Reno and Rufus in my heart! This was #8 for 30kisses; I'll be back with more.