To Catch a Rainbow
This was all her fault.
All he wanted to do was go for a walk. All he was doing was taking a break in Wutai.
But no, that was too much to ask for. Walking was the newest crime, apparently.
Anyway. There he was. Strolling in the sunlight with his jacket slung over his shoulder and his nightstick dangling loosely from his hand. He had a couple Turtle Twists in him, and he felt good. Cheerful. Relaxed. He was even whistling this catchy little tune which he had an uncomfortable feeling came from a shampoo commercial. Perhaps he had a little too many Turtle Twists. His senses were as dull as a butter knife. He didn't even notice Yuffie until she had jumped on his back and knocked him flat on his face.
"That," he mumbled around a mouthful of grass, "hurt."
But Yuffie ignored his admittance in favor of settling herself comfortably on his back and spouting off some nonsense about how he was some evil, no good bad guy (her exact words, there) and totally was not allowed on her turf even if he was bringing a considerable amount of gil to their economy via the bars.
"Listen," he said sometime in the middle of her spiel, propping his head up onto his hand, "if you're gonna continue spoutin' off on your soapbox, can you at least hand me a cigarette? They're in my front right pocket."
She'd agreed, leaning down to grope underneath him. Of course, he had to take advantage of the situation by groaning inappropriately, despite her not being anywhere near anything pleasurable. She had leapt back as if stung, then started screaming about how he was a like, a total pervert and that she hated him and blah blah blah.
Reno had stood up, brushing the dirt from his front, and then turned around to face the small ninja.
He towered over her.
Funny how that was the first thing that came to mind.
"Look, ninja-freak, I was just going for a walk." He'd pulled the cigarette out himself, since she had done such an awful job getting him one earlier.
"A likely story."
Reno rolled his eyes, then offered the pack towards her. "Smoke?"
Reno had raised an eyebrow, surprised, and Yuffie offered him a cheeky grin. "Kidding, man. I don't touch those things."
"I didn't believe you for a second. Anyway, where were we?" He'd leveled his nightstick to her eyes, and she smirked and fell into a comfortable fighting position, that monster sized shuriken in her hand in a second.
"That's more like it."
She was the one to strike first, and within minutes they were engaged in a twisted sort of dance, exchanging blows, dodging others, twisting and turning and trying to oust the other with their own sneaky tricks. Yuffie seemed to have an unending supply of them, using several throwing knives to distract him into a powerful slice from her major shuriken. He had a couple of his own, however, using a weak fire attack to mask a powerful ice blast.
But at one point she had charged at him full speed, while he was running to her. She had ducked low, to perhaps slice off his legs under his knees (that tricky bitch) and he had been crouching down to try and kick her legs out from under her.
What resulted was the two of them crashing into each other, cracking skulls together.
When he woke up he vowed to never speak of this experience again. Turks did not lose fights by head on collisions. He stood up and pretended like he hadn't been knocked out for those couple of seconds and nudged her with his nightstick, a bit harder than necessary.
"Leave me alone, you..." Even Reno had to raise his eyebrows at the flow of profanities that came from her mouth. It was amazing how something so small could be so brash—but then again, in the world they lived in where eleven-year-old prostitutes were hardly something to bat an eye at, perhaps Yuffie's sailor mouth really wasn't that surprising.
"Tut, tut. What'd you do, fail etiquette school?"
"Three times." The young woman pushed herself into a seated position with a grunt, looking up at him with malevolent eyes.
"I mean, what kind of greeting was that? I'm a good guy, remember?" He crouched beside her, trying his best plaintive look. "I even saved your life from that...guy. Don something."
A look of horrified realization crept across her features. She had forgotten.
"I didn't even get a thank you from that, you know? You just...ran away," he illustrated this by walking his fore- and middle finger in the air, "with your little friends."
"Oh, come off it. How long ago was that again?"
"Two years ago, at least." He tried for a wounded look. "But every day I think of how we saved you, and how you couldn't even spare a simple 'thanks'. I must have lost like, what, a minute of sleep because of that?"
Yuffie knocked him over. He landed on his rear.
"Youth today. You're all so ungrateful."
"What are you doing here?"
Well, so much for small talk.
"I'm on vacation, damnit! Though I would have gone somewhere else if I knew I was going to be tackled for it."
She crossed her legs (and what fucking legs they were, long and lean and toned beyond belief—that was one area she certainly wasn't lacking in) and relaxed back on her hands, getting comfortable. Who'd thought. Two enemies sitting in a grassy field near some trees which were close to some brook chatting away after nearly killing each other with two poorly aimed head-butts that most likely were not planned on by either. Reno sighed and resigned himself to the weird by getting comfortable, stretching out on his stomach and looking up at her curiously.
"What'd you expect? You knew this was my home."
"You never attacked me before...everything."
"Before 'everything', you were nothing but an ugly fixture in our bars. Now you're a really dangerous ugly fixture in our bars."
"I was always dangerous, you know."
"But you couldn't do anything before, could you?"
Yuffie shrugged and plucked at some of the grass. "Things are different now."
"Finally living up to your title, you mean?"
Yuffie threw the bits of grass in Reno's face, and Reno sneezed. But she seemed drained from her anger—perhaps she was able to get all that out during their fight. He wasn't angry either. Something about Turtle Twists kept him calm and something about the spring and an interesting scent of lilacs that wasn't there before he met up with the ninja acted like the ultimate downer. He couldn't bear to move from his warm spot on the grass, not even to ash his cigarette.
"How long are you going to be here for?" she asked, making a little hill out of shredded grass. He shrugged and rolled over, sprawling his long lanky lithe form out like a fallen bird. Or totem pole.
"I don't know. A week. Things are quiet right now." He didn't elaborate what 'things' were.
"What kind of things?"
"You talk too damn much."
She grinned at him and admitted defeat. "How're the blonde chick and the bald dude?"
"Rude's knocked up Elena and they got hitched." He was not bitter. Yuffie raised her eyebrows at him and he snorted. The alcohol was making him talk too much, but he couldn't seem to stop. "Don't know. I always thought it would be the three of us, not 'them and me'."
"How dramatic. Did you like her or something?"
"That's so childish. No, I did not like-like her."
He made an awful face at her. "No."
"No, Yuffie. I don't dig the rooster."
"I mean, liking guys is totally cool by me. I think I saw Cid making eyes at Vincent once."
"Drop it, Yuffie."
"Dropped." She hopped on her feet and bounced on her heels, brushing stray pieces of grass off her clothing so that they rained down on his face. "As invigorating as this conversation is, I should go. Paint my nails, or something. Later, toots."
She was gone before he could give her an earful for calling him toots.
.doing nothing together.
Yuffie jumped slightly as he settled on the pillow across from her, and then she gave him a nasty look and snapped her gaze out the window. The weather was as gloomy as her face. She still had tear tracks on her cheeks.
He raised his eyebrows. "What's cookin', good lookin'?"
There were two empty mugs in front of her and a pile of shredded napkins. In her pain she looked her age. "Nothing."
He imagined killing whoever stood her up.
"Well, since you're doing nothing, and I'm doing nothing in a really fancy restaurant, why don't we order something and then catch a show?"
Her smile quivered. "I've seen all the shows."
"Humor the tourist, will you?"
She laughed and wiped her cheeks, and when the waitress appeared she ordered the most expensive item on the menu. He settled with something much more reasonable since he knew she'd stick him with the bill, and he didn't want to run out of gil before his trip ended.
"You don't have to do this, you know." The waitress had taken away her cups and her napkin, and she didn't seem to know what to do with her hands. She was playing with her chopsticks as if she didn't know whether to use them as a weapon or for eating. Reno held his with much less grace, used to uncomplicated forks and spoons from Midgar.
"I know. But I'm bored. Besides, you look like you could use some company."
There was a flash of pain on her face, but she smothered it with a too-wide grin. "A ninja is always alone."
"Ninjas are also supposed to be quiet and graceful. I wouldn't call you a traditional ninja, Yuffie."
"I could still kick your ass, toots."
"As you illustrated so colorfully yesterday. Stop calling me toots."
"How did you find me?"
"You were making sad faces out the window. I decided to check what was up."
She made a sad face at him and he crossed his eyes until she smiled again.
The waitress set their miso soup in front of them and bowed away. Reno tried unsuccessfully to fish out a piece of tofu.
"You're holding them wrong." She was watching him curiously. "It's like this." She held up her own chopsticks in demonstration. He examined her hand and tried to mimic her, but one of the chopsticks slipped and fell into his soup. He frowned.
"Maybe I should get a fork."
"I don't think they have forks here."
"That's not very user friendly."
"We're at a traditional restaurant, Reno. 'User friendly' is not in their vocabulary." She picked up her bowl and sipped from the edge. "Just copy me."
"I would have been happier with a hot dog stand." He felt kind of weird eating directly from the dish, but the soup was worth it.
"I don't think we have hot dog stands in Wutai."
When the main dishes came, he dropped a piece of nigiri in his soy sauce, and the waitress took pity on him and scrounged up a fork while Yuffie laughed and forgot about the man she was supposed to be on a date with.
The gloom had lifted by sunset and Yuffie dragged Reno to some corner of Wutai that seemed set aside for celebrations. Lanterns were strung across the trees and hung between poles, and people were talking in loud voices over each other. Entry tickets were forty gil a piece and in a surprising show of generosity Yuffie covered for them. When Reno asked why she didn't use her stature to get them in for free, she shrugged and said eventually all her money was going to go to Wutai, anyway.
Sometimes Yuffie surprised Reno.
"This is one of my favorite shows." Yuffie's lips were pressed close to Reno's ear. She pulled him closer to the stage, skillfully weaving through bodies taller and broader than hers. Reno had a harder time. People were much less willing to make way for him, but she didn't let go of his hand.
"I can't understand them," he admitted, his own lips just a kiss away from her earlobe. The dancers were clad in traditional garb, twirling and stepping in synchrony around a tall, pale woman (Yuffie later told him she was wearing eight inch heels underneath her flowing robes) singing sorrowfully in Wutain. In the moonlight she looked more like a haunted spirit than a normal human.
"She's supposed to be Yuki Onna, the snow lady who freezes people. It's...sad."
"Definitely sounds like a tearjerker. At least she's a looker."
She hadn't let go of Reno's hand. He didn't really mind. Reno kept his head ducked so she could excitedly whisper the story into his ear.
"She's supposed to be evil and everything, but in this story she saves a young boy because she thinks he's beautiful."
"Isn't that pedophilia?"
He winced when she elbowed him in the ribs.
"She makes him promise to not tell anyone, but later down the road he spills the beans to his wife, who turns out to be Yuki Onna."
"So does she kill him?"
"No." Yuffie grinned ruefully. "She's a sucker for love, I think. In the story she just does it for her children, though."
"And after that?"
"She goes back to freezing people."
Reno watched as the Yuki Onna drifted across the stage. "Brutal and tragic. So why do you like this show again?"
"Because she was happy once."
Reno squeezed her hand and they watched the rest of the show in silence.
.roadblocks and wishes.
"Vincent saw you."
Yuffie frowned over the edge of her shaved ice at Tifa. "When?" She tried to think of the last time she'd seen Vincent, and remembered it was on the Highwind. He and Cid had been talking in low voices but they didn't bother to mask their conversation in front of her. They probably thought she was too sick to remember their conversation, which was mostly true.
"Here. With Reno."
Yuffie snuck a glance at her older friend, who was staring resolutely at the river. There was a frown between her eyebrows.
"Is that so?"
"He said the two of you were holding hands."
Yuffie looked away from Tifa, focusing on her treat.
"We don't want to see you get hurt, Yuffie."
For a moment she said nothing, just worked her way around the edges of the snowcone. "I was stood up yesterday."
Tifa blinked. "You had a date?"
Yuffie decided she was big enough to forgive Tifa for her disbelief, especially when the brunette blushed a bit in shame. Besides, it was nice to have Tifa visit her once in awhile, even if it was to chastise her. "Godo had arranged a meeting for the two of us. I think he hoped we would fall in love and get married and do political stuff together. He was charming. I liked him."
Tifa frowned at her own snowcone.
"He asked me out. I said yes. He never showed up."
"I thought so too. I drank a lot of tea and sat around and felt sorry for myself, and then Reno showed up and dropped his chopsticks in some miso soup." She grinned a little bit. "I had fun."
Yuffie shrugged a bit. "I'll be careful."
Tifa nodded because she knew she couldn't possibly ask for anything else. "Does Godo know?"
"Yes, but he also knows I cried for half an hour. He won't be saying anything for now. Besides, he thinks I'm going through a phase."
"How do you feel?"
"Like a walrus with a thyroid problem. On rollerskates."
Reno grinned and ashed his cigarette. "I'm sure you look three times as beautiful."
"Flattery won't get you anywhere. How's your vacation?"
There was a frown in Elena's tone. "Oh? You're not getting into trouble, are you? I don't want to have to cover your ass when I can pop out this brat at any moment."
"It's nothing bad. I've just...run into some old acquaintances."
There was silence on the other end of the line. "You haven't been running around with Yuffie, have you?"
For all her naïve appearances, Elena sometimes was the most perceptive one out of the lot. "Turks don't 'run around'."
"Painting the town red?"
"Well, you could have done worse, I guess."
Reno frowned in surprise. "No death threats? No admonishments for associating with an Avalanche member? Pregnancy has made you softer."
"I don't know. She's less an Avalanche member than she is an individual, if that makes any sense. When Don Corneo kidnapped us, we talked a bit."
"About how much Don Corneo sucked, about how stupid Cloud was, about how most men were generally clueless."
Reno couldn't help but to smile. "Sounds like you two got along pretty well."
"She was nice enough. I think we could have been friends."
"Maybe I'll take her to visit."
The silence on the other end vocalized Elena's surprise. "Thinking long term?"
"Not as a lover."
"Right. Don't do anything stupid, Reno. She may have been nice, but she's still an Avalanche member and a princess."
"Thank you for the warning. Say hi to Rude for me, will you?"
That night he found her on the roof at the inn he was staying at. He would have walked right past if her sneaker hadn't landed on his head.
"Lost something?" He dropped the shoe on her stomach, sprawling out beside her on the slippery tiles. It was drizzling a bit, and there were droplets clinging to her eyelashes and misting her hair.
"Should have tied my shoelaces tighter."
"You could have just called my name."
"I didn't want to wake anybody up."
Reno lit a cigarette and unsuccessfully tried to keep it dry. "Isn't it easier to look at the stars when there's no cloud covering?"
Yuffie shrugged a bit. "I like lying on roofs at night. The tiles are still warm from the sun."
He had to admit she had a point, though the dampness sort of cancelled out the heat.
"Besides, looking at stars is overrated. They don't do anything."
"They fall sometimes."
"Having to stop a 'star' from falling and crushing the world has given me more than enough experience with falling stars."
"Not one to make wishes?"
Yuffie stretched and some of her joints popped. "I don't see the point. Everyone wishes for things they can never have. I don't like getting my hopes up."
"Smart girl. If you weren't so jaded, what would you wish for?"
Reno said nothing.
"What would you wish for?" she asked after a moment of squirming in the silence. She didn't like the topic of dead parents as much as he didn't.
She let out a surprised laugh. "Oh yeah?"
He grinned at her. "Yeah."
Sometime during the night the clouds dispersed and they fell asleep under the stars.
Reno threw an apple in the air, and when it landed there were four shurikens jutting out of the sides. He whistled and picked it up. "Looks like a trick-or-treater's worst nightmare."
Yuffie twirled one of her throwing knives, sprawled across a large rock. "I could have gotten one more in if you threw it higher."
"Do all ninjas learn how to shish-kabob birds?"
"Considering the monsters around here? Yes."
He carefully plucked the stars from the fruit before throwing it over his shoulder. "You owe me a new apple."
"Your fault for throwing it in the first place."
He grinned and shoved her a bit, draping himself over the rock beside her. "You live an exciting life."
"Why do you think I run around the mainlands? It's boring here."
"So you run around with only your shuriken to protect you. Exciting, I guess, but stupid."
He shoved her off the rock. Yuffie yelped in surprise and scrambled back up, punching him on the side. He allowed it with an 'oof'. Huffily, she settled back down beside him and they soaked up the sun for a few more moments before Yuffie spoke again.
"Are you my friend, Reno?"
It was a valid question. They had been on opposite sides of the war, once, and though they played now, situations could be reversed quickly.
"Turks don't have friends. It's too dangerous."
"What are Rude and Elena?" There was disappointment in her voice.
"Comrades and partners to the end." He gave her a rueful smile. "Under contract."
"Then how come Rude and Elena got married, if that's the only basis to their relationship?"
"They elaborated on the contract."
"I bet you believe love is a weakness too, huh?"
"Is this a confession?" He dodged the question at a risk of sounding too scripted. It was her turn to shove him off the rock. He settled on the grass, smugly.
"You wish, toots."
"Where did you get that nickname, anyway?"
"Would you believe me if I told you that Red XIII has a thing for black and white movies? I think he secretly wants to be a gangster."
"So what are we then, Reno?"
He pretended to think about it for a moment, letting her stew. She shuffled around a bit on the rock, impatiently.
"I think I've made an exception."
Yuffie ducked her head in her arms, but he could still see that the tips of her ears were red.
Reno had made sure the stool next to him was empty for the majority of the night, hoping that Yuffie would appear randomly and sit beside him. But it was Cloud who clanked into the bar, boots and metal and weapons audible over the clamor of bar hoppers. He took Yuffie's seat without invitation and quietly ordered a whiskey. Reno watched him out of the corner of his eye, sipping his own beer. Overhead, thunder rolled.
"In the neighborhood?" Reno said when Cloud made no move to initiate a conversation.
"I heard you were around."
Talking to Cloud was like reading a screenplay to some crappy action flick. They'd banter a bit, dodging around the important subject (or, Yuffie) and then end up in a messy and loud bar fight that would involve throwing tables.
"Turks take vacations, too."
The bartender was making eyes at Cloud, and Reno was amused. Cloud seemed to have a thing for picking up beautiful barkeeps. As usual, Cloud was oblivious. He took his drink without even acknowledging her.
"I don't think you should lead Yuffie on like this."
Reno frowned. "What, no table throwing?"
Cloud ignored him because he didn't understand. "She's young."
"Some like them tender."
That earned a cold glare. "Impressionable."
"I doubt she'd be much worse off if my wit made a lasting impact." He frowned. "Not that she needs any help with that mouth of hers."
"You're a killer. She's a princess."
"Sounds like a storybook romance. You're not going to find anyone for her with crystal clean hands."
"She can do better than you."
"I hadn't realized our meetings were a marriage contract." He was getting frustrated. Cloud was doing everything but telling Reno to stay away from Yuffie. Though he figured that would be his closing act.
"You should stay away from her."
Never mind. Cloud was getting ahead of himself, first with the lack of table throwing, now with bumping his closing act up a couple of scenes. The blond drained the rest of his whiskey and pushed the empty glass across the counter, swiveling to face Reno. Shining blue eyes reflected his own green ones. He always thought he should feel some comradeship with Cloud, having gone through the same injections and poisons, but the differences in their personalities more than supplied them with a suitable distance. Cloud could have been like Rude, maybe, what with their stoic dispositions, but Rude thankfully lacked that 'do-good, save the world, save everybody from themselves when you can't even save yourself' attitude. Which was probably why Reno could stand Rude, while wanting to blow Cloud's fucking brains out.
Because you're a jackass. Because you'll leave her, anyway. Because you'll probably break her heart without even trying, since it's in your nature.
"It would be better that way."
"Newsflash: Things aren't always good."
Cloud shrugged, having apparently used up his limited cache of words and tossed some gil onto the table. He shot Reno a look that didn't need to be verbalized: Hurt Yuffie, and I'll come after you.
Yuffie didn't need older brothers to protect her when she had an entire pack of rabid dogs poised to leap at the slightest provocation. Cloud exited with his usual flourish, a casual flair that he probably wasn't aware of.
Then again, their concerns weren't very far off from his own. He finished his beer and left the bar.
.weather or not.
Yuffie rescued him from the storm ("like picking up stray cats!") by dragging him into her apartment. Reno stood around and felt like a totem pole again and silently dripped while she gathered up towels for them both. Her place was...small. Nice, rustic in an all wood floor kind of way, and very clean. It was a lot less gaudy than he expected from her.
"Here." She tossed a fluffy blue towel at him, catching him on the face.
He gave her an ungrateful look, scrubbing his hair. "Why do you live here, anyway? Doesn't your dad have like, a mansion?"
"There's only so much of Godo I can take. We have our...differences."
"So you gave up a humongous home for a dingy little hole in the wall."
"It's a nice hole in the wall. Besides, I like to think of it as expressing my individuality."
"That's very deep of you."
She grinned cheekily. "Want something to drink?" Her kitchen really wasn't anything but an extension of her living room, divided only by a counter. She grabbed two beers and handed him one, settling on her springy old couch, and he followed her suit, a bit uncomfortably. Cloud's warnings were stuck on a loop in his brain. She's young. She's impressionable. She probably has the wrong idea about everything. Then again he wasn't even sure what his ideas were.
He twisted off the cap of his beer, then snorted at her. "Cheap."
"If you need a bottle opener to open your drinks, then you're paying too much. Besides, all beer tastes the same."
"I beg to differ. You just haven't been drinking the right kind of beer." He took a sip, then made a face. "Obviously."
"I'm not classy enough for imports."
He set the beer down on the coaster and grinned at her. "Obviously."
She stuck her tongue out at him. "Caveman."
He blinked, having expected something like, 'prick' or 'jerk' or 'idiot'. "Caveman?"
"Sure. You go around hitting people with sticks and speaking in monosyllabic sentences."
He clobbered her a good one with a throw pillow, but she caught it and didn't let go. She clicked on the television but kept the volume off, snuggling deeper into the cushions. For a moment he was sorely tempted to wrap an arm around her, because it just seemed like the right thing to do, but he chased it away with a swig from his beer.
"So this is your last night here."
He hummed in response, staring at the screen. She'd put it on some random cartoon, and he found they were much interesting to watch when he was left to his own devices.
"What are you going to do after this?"
"Go back to work."
These innocent encounters would most likely stay that way—developing into nothing more than good memories. Reno would resume hitting people with his stick, and Yuffie would go back to doing what princesses never did, like stealing and sticking apples with throwing knives.
She scuffed her heels on the hard wood floor. "Do you think you're going to come and visit?"
"Probably not." It was harder to say than he thought. Yuffie had grown on him, and though he had entertained the idea of taking her to the mainlands, inviting her into his life, like she had done hers, he knew everyone else was right. Even being his friend was asking her to complicate her life even further.
She made a hurt little sound and got up, disappearing into one of the rooms. He shifted in his seat, considering following her. But he was interrupted by a little tortoise shell kitten leaping onto the coffee table, rubbing up against his beer bottle and nearly knocking it over. Surprised, he caught the beer and the kitten, lifting it up.
It tried to lick his nose and fit perfectly in the palm of his hand.
When Yuffie reappeared, it was in a pair of flannel pajamas that slung low on her hips and a white tank top that showed a strip of her stomach. She looked more appealing than any of the women he'd seen before, even the ones in lingerie, even though she was giving him a betrayed look.
"I see you found Turtle."
"Is that his name?" He lifted the kitten up at eye level again, and again it tried to lick his nose. Something inside him clicked in place.
He looked at her again and set Turtle down, and everything just kind of settled inside of him and thrummed adrenaline in his veins. The fight. The dinner, the show. The apple. The wishes. The guard dogs. The flannel pajamas, the kitten, the hardwood floors that she probably slid around on in her socks. He exhaled and his hands trembled.
"I don't think you should leave me," she said casually, but her hands were clasped together so tightly that her knuckles were white.
"I don't think I could if I tried," he said, then made a strangled sound and kissed her deeply.