"Oh." For once, Tifa was the one to speak first when Reno came in. "Oh my."
"Don't..." Even saying the sounds seemed to be painful to Reno. "Don't say another word."
"But... your hair..." She could only look at it in amazement. "It..."
It was flat, though that word was a loose description at best. A more accurate description would probably that it looked like Reno had dead blades of grass growing out of his hair. His crimson, usually vibrant and distinct, only served to make the look appear more bizarre.
"I had a fight with the comb," Reno said flatly. "I lost."
"That's quite... apparent," Tifa said tactfully. "Why the new look?"
He grinned and under the mop of his hair, she could almost see the resemblance. "It's Phase Two of my plan. Now, it's not just the tie, it'll be my whole appearance. Hair. Clothes. Everything."
"Well, I can assure you that just the hair alone will be more than enough to freak anyone out," Tifa supplied helpfully. He gave her a baleful glare.
"Haha. Funny," he said deadpan. "But seriously, help? I mean, look at you, your hair is real nice. Surely you've got some tricks to deal with keeping hair under control?"
Tifa ignored her heart's short speed burst when he complimented her hair and gave his locks another look-over. "Well... yes. I can try... but is that...gel?"
"I was desperate!" Reno whined.
"Well. Go upstairs and take a shower. We need to start over."
Twenty minutes later, just as she was about to knock on the door and ask what was taking so long, she was greeted with the sight of a half-naked Reno, towel around his waist. Surprisingly, his spikes had returned; it seemed his hair was just as resilient against gravity as Cloud's was, retaining their bounce even with the water droplets clinging to his strands. She stared resolutely at his face, not daring to look down further than his chin.
"Yo. Where are my clothes?" he asked and held up a bundle. "I know these aren't mine."
"I switched them while you were showering," she answered. His face changed into a devious expression, but before he could make one of his usual lewd comments, she quickly interrupted him. "I thought you said you wanted to look nice?"
Reno conceded. "Yeah. Sure. But seriously, where are you getting all these men's clothes? You sure they ain't Strife's? Not giving off his nice clothes in some lover's spat?"
Tifa let out a chuckle at that. "You think I'd be that spiteful?"
"I know you can be vicious when you want to be," Reno said seriously. Tifa felt oddly complimented by the remark.
"Well, don't worry," Tifa answered. "These are all mine. And besides, you know that Cloud isn't my lover."
He gave her an odd look but just shrugged. "Sure. Whatever, these clothes are nice, I'm not complaining."
Minutes later, he came out wearing the clothes and for a moment, Tifa felt herself oddly breathless. Years of just looking at her father's leftover clothes and now seeing them on a real person. Only until now was she was she able to appreciate how nice and fancy they were, especially if they were making Reno out of all people look classy.
"Here, and this watch," Tifa said, holding up the object.
"Thanks," Reno said and put it on, admiring it at a distance. "That was some sale you went to, huh?"
Tifa decided not to comment on it. Instead, she picked her comb, clean of all her hair, and gestured for him to come over. "Now. Let's do your hair." As he came over, though, she held out a hand. "Wait. Do you trust me?"
He gave her a suspicious look. "Why."
"Because we're going to go through some very intense hair care." His suspicious look didn't lessen. "Believe me, it will all be worth it in the end."
In the end, it had been quite the battle with Reno's hair. Tifa had to deep condition his hair and use various hair products that she only used for special occasions until the hair finally softened enough to comb through comfortably. Then, she had to go through several different styles, finally deciding that a side-part would look best. All the while, Reno had fidgeted restlessly, looking uncomfortable and obviously out of his element.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you," he said balefully.
"Of course. All girls love a make-over," Tifa said cheerfully. "Especially when they're making-over a guy."
Reno scoffed. "Still, what is this, Beauty and the Beast? Is all this really necessary?"
"When I'm done with you, you'll be beautiful," Tifa promised gleefully. "Think about it; Elena not only will be perplexed beyond anything, and not only that, she'll be unable to look away from you. You'll look that great. She might even fall a little bit in love with you."
Reno seemed mollified at that, having no idea that this argument was the same one she had used on Denzel when he was a little hesitant to let Tifa fix his hair. Tifa held back her giggle; sometimes it was too easy to play to Reno's ego.
Just as she started to braid his hair, just for kicks, he suddenly asked, "So when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
She paused. "... That's a random question to ask."
"I'm bored. It's called small talk."
She resumed her work. "Well, I guess... I'm not sure really. I don't think there was anything that I knew straight out I wanted to be, not like Cloud was."
Reno scoffed. "Liar. You're not that wishy-washy."
"Wishy-washy? Really?" She tugged his hair perhaps a bit more tightly than she should have. "Do tell what your childhood dream was."
"Duh. Get out of the slums. Rebel against society. Stick it to the man." He said the phrase with a particular gusto. "I even majored in philosophy out of all things in college."
Tifa stopped at that statement. "You're kidding."
"Nope," he said cheerfully. "My tuition was reimbursed by Shinra, and at that age, I just wanted to get the most absurd and useless degree I could. But the thing is, now I sound all pretentious when I really want to. Or romantic. Depends if I'm hitting on the person I'm talking to."
"I know, isn't it? Here, you can try me. Pretend we've just met at party, say something."
She said the first thing that came to her mind. "... Aren't the stars pretty tonight?"
"I suppose they are." He paused for effect. "Actually, did you know, the philosopher Plato once said, more or less, that stars are merely the moving image of eternity?"
"Really? What does that mean?"
He was silent for a moment. "Okay... honestly, I forgot." When she started to giggle, he quickly added, "but hey, I was pretty good up till that point, right? I mean, come on, how many people can pull that out at a moment's notice?"
"And you say you hit on girls with lines like that?"
"Mm-hmm." She took his braid apart, and decided to fish-tail it. "You know, I remember what I wanted to be, now."
"Well, this was more of before I joined AVALANCHE, but if I had gone to college as planned, I wanted to major in... art."
"You can draw?" He sounded mildly impressed.
She laughed. "No. Not at all. Oh Planet, it's embarrassing now that I remember the reason, too..."
"Hey, I told you about my philosophy degree, you've gotta tell me about this."
Tifa finally answered, her voice a little tentative. "Well, I thought... art would make me more lady-like." Reno let out a wicked chortle. "And... I might of had this daydream that if I became good enough, some affluent man who appreciates art would notice my work and maybe um. Marry me. Okay, you can stop laughing now."
"Oh, that's rich." Reno said all too delightedly. "Tifa Lockhart. Gold-digger. Tell me Strife knows? Tell me he does, oh let me tell him, please."
"Okay, this conversation is over." As if to emphasize her point, she quickly finished his braid. "There. Done."
"Really?" Reno asked.
"Yes yes..." She stepped back to take a look, resting her chin on her fist. "Wait. Take off the blazer." He dutifully took it off, a confused look crossing his face. "There. Much better. Go look at yourself in the mirror."
He still had that cautious look on his face, but when he finally looked in the mirror, even his face changed into one of admiration and disbelief.
"Whoa." Reno held up an arm slowly, almost as if challenging to see if the reflection was really his. "Whoa."
Tifa didn't hold back her satisfied grin, though inside even herself was surprised by how...good he looked, almost unable to look away. But the effect of all the changes, the combed and styled hair, the dress pants, the striped shirt that somehow fit him just perfectly... She was, reluctantly, breathless. But damn it all, the man looked real good. "I know. It pays off to clean up every once in a while, am I right?"
"Don't get me wrong, that process way too long to be worth shit, but whoa." He didn't take his eyes off the mirror, a look of half-amazement and half-horror on his face. "They'd could start sending me to those mad upscale parties to infiltrate on executives and crap like that. I could totally mooch on all the wine."
"Yes. Of course. That's anyone's first thought they think when they put on a nice suit. How soon they can get free alcohol."
Reno finally turned around, and crossed his arms stubbornly. "Yo! Don't underestimate the draw of free booze, man. Anyway..." His eyes started to wander around the room. "... where's the tie?"
"Right here," Tifa said, picking it up from the table next to her and moved towards him to put it on. "Your hand's looking better, by the way."
He held up his left hand and flexed experimentally, wincing though the movements were relatively smooth. "Yeah. Probably just a few more days." He gave me a cheeky grin that she resolutely ignored, focusing on tying the silk. "You going to miss me?"
"I think I should be asking you that," she said lightly. "I'm afraid you won't be able to dress yourself anymore, you know, now that you've see there's an infinite world of possibilities if you just wear a nice suit and tie."
"I might have to drop by for your help every once in a while, I suppose. And for your coffee."
"Hmm, maybe. Though after this point, I might have to start charging you."
By now, Tifa had finished tying the tie, yet found herself unable to move away. The conversation lulled her closer, and she found herself drawn to his warmth, drawn to his bright eyes, unwilling to be the first one to move away. But Reno didn't move either.
He gave his characteristic sideways grin. Her heart leapt just a bit. "Yeah? And what do you want?"
She opened her mouth, about to respond (though Planet knows what her answer was going to be), when she noticed a stray hair out of place. The perfectionist in her immediately rose up to correct it-this was her masterpiece-and stopped just as she did so, realizing that her hand was all but cupping his face as she had done so.
A long second passed, several thoughts somehow flashing through her head. The cynical part of her brain was really appreciating how she just happened to find a stray hair and the irony of how ridiculously cliche the move was. The rational part was asking if she really knew what she was doing, if she knew she wasn't going to get hurt by her actions.
And then there was the brash, fifteen-year old in her head telling her to just fuck the world.
Before she could contemplate whether it was a good idea, Tifa found her hand tangled through Reno's hair, bringing his face down as she put her lips to his.
"So when Elena freaked out at my new look-and believe me, she freaked. Had a gun in my face and all, asking where the real Reno was, and Rude had to restrain her, it was fucking fantastic--Anyway. I told her I had moved in with a cougar who was giving me all her late husband's clothing."
"Moved in. With... a cougar?"
"Oh yeah. With two kids. Hey, for my next mission, you mind if I call Marlene and Denzel in front of Elena?"
"Oh, I'm sure they'd love to help. But you don't think you're taking this charade a little too far...?"
"Fuck no. Even Tseng asked about my new look. I told him I was preparing to become his successor."
"Let's hope he didn't take that seriously."
"Hey, I would be a great leader to the Turks."
"Reno, say that sentence again. And listen to yourself this time."
"Haha, funny. But okay, so this really isn't Strife's suit? What, you just happen to crossdress every once in a while?"
"Yes, my alter-ego's name is Hot Chocolate. ... Joke."
"You have to stop teasing me like that."
"You make it too easy. Anyway, this is for you."
"... It's a ribbon. A pink ribbon. Can I just say now, I am not that comfortable with my sexuality to wear pink."
"Well, deal. Marlene informed me that no braid is complete without a ribbon. Though, to be honest, I think that's just her way of showing approval."
"Oh. Joy. I'm part of your rag-tag gang now."
"I know, it's great, right? Now the question is... who gets to tell Cloud?"
Author's Note: ... And it's done! And yes, I did totally write this story just to find some reason to make Reno a philosophy major in college, not going to lie. I'll admit, I know there are tons of loose ends (like it's a little creepy and weird that Tifa's suddenly giving away her dad's clothing) but I'm still happy with this baby.
Still, I'd love to know if you guys thought it somewhat worked, despite how short the story was. Especially since it's my first FFVII fanfic.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this and thank you for reading!