CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Saving the world really worked up Reno's appetite –for a good drink amongst other things, and where else better to celebrate his victory than in Seventh Heaven, surrounded by his adoring fans. Well, perhaps the people there fit neither category, but they'd give him a drink, and surely a little praise for having saved the day, again. He didn't care what they said –Cloud could never have defeated Sephiroth all by himself. They should count themselves lucky that the Turks were their allies these days.

As they neared the drab sign that hung outside the bar, Reno glanced at the silver-haired man walking ahead of him. The guy really was a freak, but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. He sure didn't feel like turning him over to the boss any time soon, but neither did he want to send Yazoo far away into hiding. He couldn't help it; he was drawn to the guy.

His pleasant musings were cut short by a sharp slap round the face. Reno reeled backwards slightly from shock, grabbing his wounded cheek before glaring at the pint-sized perpetrator. Surprise, surprise, it was the Wutainian brat, Yuffie.

"Oww!" he protested, gesturing at his reddening cheek. It genuinely hurt, not that he was above milking events like these for all they were worth. "What the hell was that for?"

Yuffie scowled at him, but for all her attempt at menace, she just looked like she was sucking lemons. "For telling people I'm good in bed!"

Without even waiting to hear his indignant response, the young woman, who was so much like a kid that it made Reno feel disturbed that he even considered a relationship with her, stormed off. Following her dramatic stomping into the bar was, of course, her lackey.*

Reno decided to yell at her retreating back, even if for nothing more than saving face. "What, you wanted me to tell people you're bad in bed? Women! They're like a whole other species."

For all Yazoo's weirdness, his 'mommy issues', his freakish alter-ego, he still made a hell of a lot more sense than half the women Reno knew. They were a collective enigma. It was like someone made them crazy, just to drive men equally crazy while they tried to figure them out. He'd rather take a recently rehabilitated remnant of Sephiroth any day. Or so he thought, as he gave a rueful glance to the other man, who was smirking.

"Hate to tell you this, man, but you're gonna have to head back to the hut," the Turk reminded him, deciding he'd really rather not hear some smart-arsed comment from the silver-haired man after his pride –and his face –had been wounded. Sure was a great way to make Yazoo take him seriously. Maybe he was wondering if Reno would discuss him like that with others. Obviously not, seeing as he wasn't supposed to know where the fugitive was, but still, he might end up telling Rude eventually. That didn't count though –talking to Rude was like talking to himself, his partner just thought he was rambling half the time and took no notice. The rest of the time he seemed to have guessed it before Reno had even opened his mouth. "I know you can't wait to get back, but I think we can stop by the bar for a couple of hours, to celebrate. I'll even buy your drink."

"Aren't you a gentleman. I don't mind going back to that little hole, I guess, but it might get lonely. What do you think Rufus Shinra will do to you, if he finds out?"

Reno corrected him: "When he finds out. Nothing gets past that guy. But he ain't so bad, so maybe just a slap on the wrists."

That was a naïve comment, but he wanted to reassure Yazoo. After all the guy had been through, he figured a few white lies wouldn't hurt. Either Yazoo didn't buy the excuse, or he thought he knew Shinra better than the Turk did, but either way, he momentarily grabbed Reno by the collar of his shirt and pressed his lips into the redhead, before letting go seconds later.

For a few startled moments, Reno just stood there, staring into nothing. Right there, in broad daylight, in the middle of the street, the silver-haired man had just kissed him. True enough, they'd gone a little further than that before, but that was between them. Anyone could've been watching the bar, hell, Tseng and Elena might be sat on top of some building, watching the whole thing through binoculars with expressions like a couple of old women. For some reason though, Reno really didn't give a damn.

Yazoo glanced over his shoulder as he made his way towards the entrance to the bar, grinning mischievously. "You know, I've kind of enjoyed you playing nurse."

"Yeah, well you can do it next time," he replied, catching up with the other man as they reached Seventh Heaven. "Think I can get an outfit from somewhere, no questions asked?"

...

Bouncing along to a beat she'd heard earlier and was repeating in her head, therefore looking slightly crazed, Yuffie skipped into Seventh Heaven, beaming at the brunette behind the bar. The place was rather empty, but she supposed it was a little early in the day for people to be getting themselves alcohol, except hard drinkers, but they were probably still recovering from the previous night.

Yuffie leapt onto a barstool, while the brunette raised her eyebrows, wondering as she sometimes did, how the exuberant Wutainian didn't do herself an injury, jumping about as she often did.

"Hey Tifa, what you doing?" asked Yuffie, peering over the bar to see nothing more exciting than her friend cleaning glasses.

Tifa shrugged her response. "Nothing much, just cleaning up. It's been a pretty slow day. So, you drop by for anything in particular?"

"Just to fetch my side-kick." She was, of course, referring to the large silver-haired remnant who had been tagging along with her every time she stopped by the bar. Yuffie appreciated that he didn't come and find her though; she preferred to drop in by surprise, and receive a warm welcome for it. She would have asked her friends to join her sometimes, but they could be real killjoys: 'don't steal things, Yuffie', 'don't play pranks, Yuffie', in other words –don't have any fun at all. But Loz was such a big kid, that he'd do anything she wanted.

Tifa interrupted her indulgent thoughts. "Oh yeah? Where are you guys going?"

"Just cleaning up the streets, saving the world: the usual," she said with a vague smile. She wasn't going to have the big mother hen on at her about being a little badass. "It's a secret mission though, so I can't tell you."

No sooner had the words left her mouth, than the guy she'd come for bounded down the stairs, followed by the much slower Denzel, and a slightly puffed out Marlene trailing them. Both the children's faces were a pink colour, which was not really surprising, when they were playing tag with a beefy man, who'd spent most of his life being revved up with mako.

She was actually pleased to note that he'd finally found himself a decent set of clothes that fit him. After all, what kind of world-saving badass went around with a sidekick whose trousers finished at his knees? Loz didn't scrub up so badly. She felt her cheeks turn pink with embarrassment at the thought. Yuffie quickly overcame it by making her presence known with a cry and waving her arms.

"Yuffie! Wanna play?" Loz gasped, obviously a little tired from running around all day with a pair of hyperactive kids. Clearly, after being cooped up on the Shera for an eternity, their energy stores had reached bursting point and they were burning it all off during their stay with Tifa. It had taken long enough for Barrett to allow them back, but seeing as Cid didn't want kids on his ship, and the big guy was busy, there was no alternative for them to return to Tifa, remnants or no remnants. As they had seen though, the remnants weren't an issue, because Loz was a big kid himself, and Yazoo was 'going to live in the countryside', as a hermit, or something.

Marlene jabbed the big remnant in the back as he came to a halt, while Denzel danced about behind a table. "You're it!"

The big guy pulled a face at the small girl, before wandering over to the women and taking a seat beside Yuffie. The children seemed put-out for a moment, before whizzing round the room and continuing their game.

Yuffie turned to the new arrival, a mischievous smile on her round face. "I'm off to settle some old scores, if you wanna come along."

"Oh... sure! Can I pick a game after that? I never get to pick," he pouted, a look that really didn't suit him. Yuffie decided not to comment on that, and instead breezed past his request, which was the same one he made every time he came.

"Yeah yeah, but first we need to beat up some bad guys."

She wasn't sure if Loz knew she was referring to the gang whose materia they had tried to steal before –he didn't catch on quickly. However, that was irrelevant. She was really enjoying having him following her around, admiring of her escapades and surprisingly gentle, when he wasn't bashing thugs' heads together. Yuffie felt lacking in attention most of the time, and the others ignored her suggestions usually, or gave her that patronising look, as if to say 'oh, look what Yuffie's saying this time'. Plus, it was always good to have friends outside the AVALANCHE group.

Denzel moved over to them, accompanied by Marlene. Yuffie wondered if they might be a young Cloud and Tifa in the making, seeing as they spent so much time with the pair. Hopefully if they were, there would be less sorrow in their future. She had no idea why Tifa was so set on having a relationship with a guy who just caused her to angst. In Yuffie's opinion, if she were to have a relationship, she'd want it to be with a guy who loved being around her, and who she had fun with. Cloud wasn't really that type of man. She didn't think she'd seen him crack a smile... ever, let alone playing pranks and such.

"You guys are always running off fighting bad guys," Denzel commented, in admiration. "Are you like superheroes?"

Since the whole AVALANCHE crew dropped in to fight the Bahamut and save the city again, Denzel had always been somewhat in awe of them due to their fighting prowess, but perhaps even more so because they were Cloud's friends, and he hero-worshipped the guy.

"That's right." Yuffie hopped to her feet, her companion copying her. She headed for the door, pulling it open and setting off down the street with that usual bounce to her step. Their destination was a bit of a trek across town, but she felt like taking a stroll while the sun was out, seeing as it was such a rare event. After several moments of pondering Denzel's comment in the bar, she turned to Loz, who was striding along next to her, squinting as he often did when it was especially bright. "I really should think up a superhero name for myself."

He grinned eagerly at the thought. "If we're superheroes does that mean we get costumes?"

Yuffie pulled a face at him, as though to suggest it was a crazy idea, but she didn't completely rule the idea from her mind. And she'd always thought that green was a good colour for her...

...

Pulling a truck into the patch of blandly-coloured grass in front of the hut that he hadn't visited for weeks now, Reno smiled. He had steered clear of the place while the heat was still on their escaped remnant and eyes had been on him –Rude's, anyway. The other Turk had noticed Reno displaying his softer side during Yazoo's time of need and probably expected that he had something to do with the breakout. Rufus Shinra had even had a little chat with him about it, after becoming interested regarding Reno's hesitation to commit the remnant.

He strolled casually into the house, tossing his jacket onto the sofa. *Reno wanders into the little hut, where Yazoo has been staying for a while, seeing as Rufus had his people out looking for a while, until he called Reno to see him, to ask about the remnant he had been watching.*

"Honey, I'm home!" he yelled unnecessarily into the tiny building.

Within a moment, the silver-haired man in question emerged from the bathroom, his soft hair draped over his shoulders in wet tangles and a towel wrapped about his waist. A cloud of steam was visible in the air behind him, and the whole scenario seemed to the Turk like something out of the dreams he sometimes had, only instead of the young women emerging, it was Yazoo.

"So, what did he say?" he asked in his soft voice, dropping onto the couch and pulling Reno down beside him.

Reno shrugged in an attempt to seem nonchalant. "I'm still a Turk, so that's a plus. Turns out my 'hard work' over the years is enough to stop me being fired."

"What hard work?" Yazoo smirked.

"Hey, I worked my ass off, sweetheart! I don't spend all my time babysitting remnants." Reno settled down, mildly annoyed with himself for rising to the bait. The other man sniggered at his hot-tempered lover.

It was odd, because Reno had pretty much escaped capture on the breakout issue. It was true that the boss had had a little talk with him about it, but had pretty much given the impression that he wasn't concerned about the matter. It didn't make sense, because Reno had been sure that Shinra knew he was involved, and certainly that Yuffie and Loz had –though he couldn't do much about the Wutainian –but yet he was going to let the Turk get away with it?

His 'punishment' was fairly light in comparison to what it could have been, and apparently was for having lost Yazoo several times over and not reporting his disturbing behaviour immediately.

He had to wonder... was Rufus Shinra getting soft? Never! Unless some source had explained what had happened, somehow given convincing enough proof that Yazoo was no threat, but he was certain no one could have. It wasn't like anyone other than him, Yuffie, Loz and Yazoo himself knew the details.

"So, what's your punishment?" Yazoo asked, almost excited by the prospect, he was a weird guy, but Reno kind of liked it.

"I've been put on dumpster-duty for two whole months. Rude laughed his ass off. I bet he was the one who suggested that to the boss. Huh. Before that though, I've kinda been suspended, while Tseng and Elena 'investigate' what happened to you. Not that they're trying very hard."

Elena was a bit of a bimbo though, sometimes. Couldn't organise her way out of a paper bag, so it'd be months before she even figured out what facility Yazoo had escaped from, never mind where he'd gone. Maybe that was a little harsh, but he didn't hold it against her, everyone had their 'blonde moments'.

"Maybe they know they're chasing dead ends."

Reno gazed at the remnant suspiciously, wondering if he had anything to do with this. How could that be possible when he couldn't get within five metres of Shinra, without being taken back into the hospital again? That said, he knew himself that Yazoo had strange ways of getting himself about.

"Did you –?"

"So how long have you been suspended for?"

"A month," he shrugged and sighed. "I'm going to be bored as hell."

Yazoo got to his feet slowly, and meandered towards the bathroom and flicked the shower on, ditching his towel outside the door. "You really can't think of anything to do for a whole month?" He poked his head round the door, an inviting smile on his pale face. "Do I feel bad for you."

Just shy of a second, Reno caught on that Yazoo wasn't heading back to the shower simply because he was still dirty. He headed for the bathroom, flipping his phone off and chucking his things onto the floor. He had a feeling he wouldn't be needing them for some time.

...

Author's notes: I hope you enjoyed it, even after the long, long wait! That's all, people –show over. So, au revoir, adios, sayonara, ciao, ta-ta for now! Thank you so, so much for all the support and kind words for the previous chapters –it helped me to finally finish this, even though I was certain that I'd lost my imagination for it!! ;D