Reno, Rude and AVALANCHE celebrate Reno's survival of a horrific ordeal at Seventh Heaven.
Reno, of course, found the whole thing funny.
"You're shittin' me, right?" He'd turned from the closet, where he was trying to decide what shirt to wear. "Rude that was three fucking years ago. It was a fuckin' rotten night, yo. You honestly expect me to remember who beat me up?"
Actually, Rude had. It occurred to him now that maybe that wasn't normal. The damage from that incident was small change compared to what Olivet and his gang had done. Ren had told him once that he could nurse a grudge like no one he'd ever seen.
Rude swiveled his bar stool to take a look at the table in the corner. At the moment, Reno was entertaining a table full of ex-AVALANCHE members with some story or other; probably outrageously exaggerated and designed to show him in the best possible light. Barrett and Cid, who'd obviously started drinking long before the party began, were laughing so hard they were leaning on each other to keep from falling out of their chairs. Yuffie was staring at him with the sort of rapt fascination she usually reserved for large amounts of Materia. It was a look Rude recognized all too well, and he chuckled softly. Yet another woman fallen victim to Reno's inexhaustible charisma. Used to bother him when they first got together; until he realized that Reno could no more turn it off than he could change the color of his hair.
Nanaki, was stretched out on a bench next to the table, watching the humans with a sort of fond amusement. It'd surprised Rude to see Cait Sith perched on his head; he'd though Reeve had taken the A.I. offline after the whole business with the clones.
The only ones missing were Cloud and Vincent. He supposed Cloud was making a delivery. As for Valentine, Rude suspected he didn't like parties. Rude wasn't that crazy about them himself, but the pain of what Reno had gone through was still raw enough to make him nervous about letting the kid out of his sight for too long. Reno swore the only reason Rufus had let him come back to work three days a week was because Rude insisted on calling him every hour on the hour to make sure he was okay.
Rude snorted. As if Rufus left Tseng's bedside these days to do anything more than take a piss. Technically, Reno was currently running Shinra, with input from Rufus. The realization that if something happened to Rufus, Reno would become President, had crept up on him unawares, and he still wasn't 100% sure he liked the idea. The notion of working alone didn't appeal to him anymore, though he'd been only too happy to do so back before he'd met Reno.
He shook his head, and finished the rest of his drink.
"Do you want a refill?" Tifa'd just gotten back from delivering more drinks to the table. She smiled at him, and not for the first time, Rude wondered what exactly was wrong with Cloud Strife, that he'd leave a woman like this hanging in limbo.
She refilled his glass. "They seem to be having a good time." She gestured towards the table.
Rude allowed himself a smile. "Reno's the best entertainment in Midgar. If I had any sense, I'd become his manager and put him stage."
Tifa laughed, then sobered. "He seems to have recovered remarkably well, considering what he went through."
Rude glanced at him. "Yeah, he has. He still has bad days, though. Fewer and fewer as time goes by, but I honestly don't think he'll ever recover completely. I don't think you ever recover 100% from something like that."
She nodded. "It's too bad Cloud couldn't be here. He really wanted to see him, but he had to deliver some papers to Junon."
"Where are the kids?"
"Upstairs asleep. Marlene wanted to stay up for the party; it took a fair amount of talking from Barrett to convince her otherwise. She finally gave in when I told her Denzel couldn't stay up for it either."
"Yo, parner!" Reno was leaning against the counter next to him. "Are we havin' fun or what?"
"Well it surely looks like you're having fun."
"I am. Makes me wonder why we ever fought these guys, ya know?"
"That may've had something to do with our being Turks, Reno."
"Oh yeah." His smile dimmed. "But we're Turks now, and we're not fightin' 'em anymore."
"That's cause things have changed."
He brightened. "Yeah. Rufus says we don' gotta fight 'em anymore." He managed to focus his eyes on Tifa. "You got anything to eat you can heat up quick-like? Cid says if he don' get somethin' in his stomach, he's gonna puke."
Tifa laughed. "Tell him I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks." Reno winked at her, and staggered back to the table with the lopsided dignity only the truly inebriated could manage.
Tifa looked at Rude. "You'll have to carry him out of here, you know."
Reno nodded. "That's okay. Not the first time I had to carry him home. Likely won't be the last."
"Do you have any green tea?"
Vincent Valentine had suddenly appeared next to him, in that way that Valentine was wont to do. Rude was surprised to see him wearing jeans and a black, button-front shirt; he'd long ago decided the guy only owned one pair of clothes and that damn cloak. He still wore the headband, but the cloak was nowhere in sight.
"One bottle left, and I saved it just for you." She went over to a cooler, opened it, and held up a pale green bottle. You want me to warm it up, or do you just wanna drink it straight?"
"As is, thank you." He took the bottle from her, and twisted the cap off, taking a long swallow. "Ah. Much better." He looked over at Rude. "Good evening."
"Didn't figure you came."
Valentine gave what sounded suspiciously like a snort. "As if Cid would allow me to stay at home in peace." He straightened up, and did a passable imitations of Cid's voice. "Vince, you spend too much damn time hidin' from people! You need to quit bein' so fuckin' spooky. It's not like they're gonna hurt ya, ya know."
You could've knocked Rude off his stool with a feather. Reno had told him Valentine had thawed out a bit since he and Cid got together, but he'd though the kid was joking.
Tifa applauded. "You've almost got it, Vincent; but you need to swear more."
"I know." He took another drink. "You'd think I would've picked it up by now." He glanced over at the table. "Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. However, Cid and I will have to find a room for the night, as there's no way I'm going to let him fly the Sierra given the shape he's in."
"Don't you know how to fly it?" The question slipped out before Rude could stop it.
"I'm learning. Though learning from Cid is a process fraught with danger. You'd think, the way he carries on, that it was his only beloved child, and I was threatening to sacrifice it to Shiva." He smiled.
Rude didn't realize he'd been staring until Vincent frowned at him. "Is something wrong?"
"You should smile more often. Looks good on you."
"That's what Cid says. So I attempt to do it more often, though it still feels a bit strange." He looked at Rude. "You and Reno are partners in all things, I believe?" Rude nodded. "Then you know that love is inexplicable and strange. Attempting to analyze it only gives you a headache."
"Hey, Vinny!" Cid had apparently just noticed him. "Get you're skinny ass over here! And bring a bottle of something strong, okay?"
Vincent finished his tea, exchanging that bottle for the bottle of Scotch Tifa handed him. "I rest my case. I'd say it was a pleasure seeing you again, Rude, but I believe that, unlike the rest, you and I still harbor some animosity over what happened. However, Reno seems to have recovered quit well, and I assume much of that is due to your love and concern. I also know you realize that things such as what he went through leave permanent marks. They will never go away, but time and tide smoothes out the scars. It is possible to move on. I owe Cid gratitude for finally convincing me of that."
Tifa was cooking fries. Rude drained his drink, than looked over at the table again. Cid had pulled Vincent down into his lap and probably would've started mauling him, if Vincent hadn't sidetracked him with the bottle of Scotch. He was watching Cid drink, a slight smile on his lips.
Inexplicable and strange, Rude thought, and grinned. Best damn explanation he'd heard of what loving Reno was like in all the years they'd been together. Inexplicable, strange, and, most of all, never, ever boring.