The Things You Never Knew About People
Chapter One: Flawless
The things you never knew about people.
You'd never guess, to look at him, that Rude had a sweet tooth. And not just a sweet tooth, but a major, mega, if you want that candy bar you better be faster than him or not afraid to lose that hand kind of sweet tooth.
You'd never guess, to look at her, that Elena had an intense love of B-grade horror movies, and had seen almost every bad horror flick in the last five years in the theatres, and had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of who had been in or directed what.
And you'd never guess, to look at him, that Reno would be the one sitting lazily with one arm flung back over the chair, arguing with the waitress over the food in flawless Wutai.
Flawless for a street punk, that is. Flawless gutter, street Wutai.
Tseng had just stared at Reno when Reno opened his mouth and"/What the shit is this/?!" came out. "I've scraped better dragon noodles off my shoes than this, sweetie," he'd snapped, stabbing at the bowl emphatically and glaring at the waitress. "I ordered dragon noodles, not dragon shit. Don't try and pawn crap off on me thinking I won't know any better just 'cause I'm a natural redhead."
"/Like that color is natural/," Tseng said under his breath in Wutai without thinking.
Reno smiled one of his more dangerous smiles, dangerous not because of threat or malice but dangerous because it usually inspired threat or malice in other people. "Want to find out for sure, boss?"
Tseng only raised an eyebrow, knowing he had brought it on himself--but he hadn't been able to help it, really; switching languages had been like switching brains. "Others are trying to eat. It would be ashame to ruin everyone's appetite," he said, pointedly not using Wutai.
Reno's grin changed, became a little more leering and speculative. "I see you didn't say 'no', though, there." His attention immediately went back to the waitress. "Yeah, I didn't forget. Take this slop back and bring me some real noodles." Reno leaned back then, almost lazily, but the waitress' eyes widened as she saw the handle of his baton.
Reno smiled again, this time more of a smirk as he saw the girl go a little pale and hurriedly take the offending dish away.
After a while, when Reno's second bowl came and he declared that one edible, Tseng finally said something; basically said what everyone was thinking and if wasn't asked by him, would be asked by someone else, most like the trainee with them, Elena, judging by the look on her face. "You speak North Wutai?"
Reno shrugged, slurping his noodles. "Yeah," he said off-handedly, seeming far more interested in his food, and like this was the most natural thing in the world, that he would speak an obscure Wutai dialect like a native, without even the faintest hint of an accent. "Picked up the northern dialect when I was a kid. Didn't know you spoke Northern, though. 'Tseng' is Xizhou/district name, ain't it, so I figured if you knew anything, it'd be /Xizhouhua/, which no offense, sounds like the drunken retarded little brother of /Beizhouhua and I couldn't never wrap my brain around that shit, what the hell, what language needs seven different tones, Iask you? None. Fucked up shit, yo, Xizhouhua/. And I thought everyone learned that Eastern /Dahehua--/whatsis, Yamatan?--nowadays, what with that Kiseragi dude bein' emperor, and don't even get me started on how fucked up Dahehuais, ain't got no tones, sure, but fuck, all the damn politeness levels and shit, it and /Chaohua don't sound shitall like what's on the rest of Wutai so how the fuck is it one language? Anyway, Beizhouhua fell out, dinn't it? ...what?" he said, blinking at everyone staring at him, freezing with his mouth open, about to shovel in a mouthful of noodles and eyes flicking from one of the Turks to another.
Elena finally spoke first, getting her brain around the shock of Reno's fluent ease around words she couldn't even begin to pronounce. "I had no idea you had an interest in anything that wasn't a bomb or had boobs."
"Well, the Wutai did invent gunpowder," Rude said from off to the side.
Reno dropped his chopsticks and then burst out laughing. "Damn right about that one!" His grin turned into one of the man's more perverted ones. "And nothing gets you Wutai tail faster than telling someone how hot they are in Wutai, and letting them know you're a natural redhead, which is something I can say in Northern, Eastern, AND Yamatan Wutai." The grin got a little more lewd. "No one believes it, so everyone wants to check my hair color for themselves, ain't that right, boss?" he finished, grin a little more daring.
Tseng chose to not dignify that with a response of any kind. "Can you read Wutai?" he said instead, eyebrows raising slightly.
Reno snorted and picked up his chopsticks again. "Yeah, right. I can read a /menu/and that's about it."
For some reason, that made Tseng smile, and Reno went alittle bit pale, "Uh-oh" flashing for a minute clear as a signpost on his face. "...shit."
It was Elena, Rude realized later, who had put Reno in a bad mood. Reno had been in high spirits before, after their mission when they had stopped to eat. But then, blowing things up usually tended to put Reno into high spirits, but it also meant that when the rush was gone, he crashed all the more. Most of the time, he didn't show it until he was off-duty--for all he was a mouthy little bastard, he was a professional--but Rude knew Reno well enough to know what it meant when the unnatural sparkle of an adrenalin rush in Reno's eyes faded.
This, though, was different. Reno might normally be alittle more of a sarcastic son of a bitch when he was coming down, but it was nothing like this.
Moods like this, this was when if you were lucky, you sent Reno out to kill something, and if you smart, you got out his way, and if you were neither, you offered to spar with him.
Which is how Rude found himself down another pair of sunglasses and quite certain he needed to stay awake for the next several hours or get himself a nice, large potion. Maybe two. And maybe both.
Elena had been clearly unable to really believe what her ears had been telling her, and she had pounced on Tseng verbally, asking him if Reno really was speaking Wutai, and how good it was. Tseng ignored her babble for the first part, before finally saying that yes, Reno was speaking Wutai, albeit an uncommon dialect, and not only that, he spoke that dialect better than Tseng did, without a trace of an accent.
"No way," Elena had said, clearly disbelieving. "There's no way that he speaks Wutai that well."
"And no way I'm HERE and UNDERSTAND what you're SAYING," Reno shot back, eyes narrowing. "Why's it so fuckin' hard to believe I can speak another language, huh?"
"Well, because you're...you...I mean...good lord, Reno, I just never would have imagined you, of all people, being able to speakWutai!" she finally said.
"I see," Reno had said, his voice completely cold, so much that Rude had turned slightly to stare at him in surprise for all his face didn't change. Elena, for her part, seemed to realize that she had perhaps said one thing too many, again, and tried to dig herself out of the pit she just dug herself into, then gave up and finally just mumbled, "It's just surprising, is all," and shrunk slightly, focusing on the rest of her food.
Reno's good mood hadn't recovered, and he had been almost preternaturally silent the rest of the way back, almost crackling with tension. Which had led to Rude's offer to spar, figuring the man needed to hit something and be hit before he ended up doing something dumb, like killing someone or crashing at a high speed into a non-moving object.
One thing about Reno, Rude thought as he tried to block another of the man's uncannily-aimed kicks for a weak spot, was that the man moved with a kind of grace you usually only found in someone drunk off their ass--a loose-limbed grace that Rude found himself envying from time to time; akind of grace indicated extreme comfort in one's own skin, something Rude had never quite known. Reno moved his body like he never, ever had to think about it, it just moved like the way it flowed was how it was supposed to. And for someone with no mako enhancements--that was one aspect of the Turks that people never expected, that they were completely /ordinary/, no mako (and this, Rude thought, was probably agood thing, given that the things they did would probably drive a sane man to madness, and adding mako to the mix was never a good idea), Reno was frighteningly fast.
After Reno had gotten that first edge off--and given Rude akidney shot and some kind of flying kick to the head--Rude concentrated on blocking what would come next, and waiting for the inevitable floor of words, prompting it finally with a slightly out of breath, "Elena get to you that bad, partner?"
"Just kinda irked me, is all," Reno said, not looking Rude in the eyes as they sparred, still moving restlessly and erratically. "I'm a thug, yeah, but I ain't a dumb thug. Actin' like I don't know nothing but how to blow shit up," he said, kicking viciously. If Rude hadn't moved, he'd have probably gotten a concussion from that, and Rude thought to himself that he really needed to work on blocking things aiming for his head.
"Yeah, I can speak some Wutai. Fuck, man, my best friend when I was a kid was from Wutai. We were the scrawny little fucks everyone else beat up 'til the two of us runts started figure out how to defend ourselves--me and Jie used to plan out how we were gonna jack up which asshole gunning for us, and we'd do it right in front of the fucks 'cause they didn't understand us. And Jie's mom didn't speak English for the longest time, yo. She still treated me better than my damn mom ever did, even had a nicknamefor me, used to call me "Xiao Hong"--little red, 'cause of my hair--and fuck, man, she made the best bailong mian that there ever was/. I ate at their place every /night almost, up until--"
Reno's words cut off abruptly and he went still, something in his eyes shuttering in a way Rude had never seen outside of when the other man went into professional-mode, and even then, this was...different. A smile flicked out on Reno's face, lazy and drawling, only his eyes showing that he wasn't normal. "Aww, hell, what time is it now? It's gotta be almost eleven o'clock, easy. Fuck, no wonder I'm beat, partner. We had a long day, and then came out here trying to beat the shit outta each other. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to call it a day. You up for a beer?"
Rude nodded, letting a faint smile of his own twitch his lips upwards. "Always, partner," he said, glad that his own eyes were safely hidden by the spare sunglasses he had pulled out of his jacket pocket when Reno had gone still, and figuring any bar worth its salt would have at least one potion on hand.
Reno grinned again. "Well, what're we waitin'for?" he drawled, and Rude watched him slink towards door, confident of being followed, and let a faint frown touch his lips before it was gone, and before he followed Reno out to whatever bar Reno know of that would have whatever oblivion Rude was certain the man was going to seek that night.
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