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Story Notes:
I don't own Final Fantasy VII or any of its characters.
Author's Chapter Notes:
I saw the new trailer for the remake. I need to stay away from trailers. They do things to me. Like make breathing difficult.

This was started as a present for my lovely Elsa for her birthday but my brain and forgetfulness meant it never got finished. I'm a terrible friend. Hopefully my love is enough.

Reno has his playful side but I like darker Reno. Always have, always will. This will be a short thing.
Seated at the bar inside Seventh Heaven any casual observer might think you're pondering the mysteries of Gaia's creation the way you're staring into the empty void of your glass, eyebrows drawn together and the corners of your mouth weighted by a frown.

You're not thinking of anything quite so mentally stimulating. No, the thoughts that happen to be crossing your mind concern your birthday, which is today, and all birthdays past. They've been alright for the most part, sometimes hindered by work or just life in general but never ruined.

Not like today.

Your now ex-boyfriend had decided a few days ago that being in a relationship was suddenly too much strain on his day to day life. You had discovered this bit of knowledge by coming home to a half empty apartment and a note lying on the kitchen counter. As though that insult hadn't been enough he'd gone to the trouble of buying you a gift and a box of your favorite candy for your impending birthday, both of which had been promptly dumped into the trash. Just like your love life.

Oh, the pain and betrayal had been terrible at first, sometimes still is, and staying in the public eye keeps you from crying and making a fool of yourself.

Though if Tifa keeps sliding you free drinks across the bar you're going to do that and much worse.

Your fourth empty glass of the night catches the sigh that causes your shoulders to slump as the stool beside you creaks as only old wood can.

Your glance is more annoyance than curiosity, wanting the space to yourself to keep from being bothered but karma doesn't care about your need for personal space. This fact is made evident when the man's elbow jabs into your arm in his attempt to get situated.

The action is quickly followed by a turn of his head, a look of apology on his pale face before he even speaks. "Ah, sorry about that." And what a pitiful mess you must be because no sooner does he look away than he's turning back, all swaying red hair and blue eyes too intent. "You okay?"

The dark skinned man sitting to his right suddenly clears his throat, the sound enough to get his friend's attention and you're grateful, your mind too busy trying to decide whether or not to be rude.

"What? I was just asking a question," the redhead states, obviously on the defensive against an unvoiced accusation.

In swoops Tifa with her gift of bad timing and a tray of dirty glasses. Her empty hand pats the man's shoulder in passing, though from the corner of your eye it seems heavier than a simple friendly gesture. The slight cringe from him confirms this and you find yourself becoming curious despite your melancholy mood.

"Be nice, Reno. It's her birthday and none of us are in the mood for you."

"I wasn't even...you know what, that's what I get for trying to be a gentleman for once."

"For once," the dark skinned man emphasizes in a low voice.

"I don't think I like your tone, Rude. The lady looks sad on her special day and I was just concerned."

"Uh huh," Tifa chimes in as she deposits the tray behind the counter.

You don't bother to protest when she snatches your glass for another refill.

"Both of you can kiss my-."

"It's okay," you interrupt, no doubt saving him from a fist to the face delivered by the brunette owner of this fine establishment. "Thanks for asking but I'm fine."

And like before those blue eyes are far too intent to actually believe it and you're grateful when Tifa returns your drink, the liquid giving you an excuse to ignore how his eyes linger a few seconds longer than they should.

* * * *

That should have been your clue to exit stage left but the thought of returning to your apartment alone on your special day halts any notions of heading for the front door. Instead you migrate to one of the back tables, away from prying eyes save those ballsy enough to turn or throw a glance over a friend's shoulder, and there are a few of those. There are always a few of those when liquid courage is handy.

You'll never admit that your move to the other side of the room is to distance yourself from Reno and the fire blaze that is his hair. You've never been skittish. You can't be living in a town like Edge with its gritty streets, colorless buildings and the danger that still crops up from time to time when the outside world tries to sneak in. You're certainly not skittish around the opposite sex for much the same reasons but this isn't about construction crew cat-calls or drunken flirts. This is about a man who saw through your lie within seconds and had no problem letting you know it.

As such you shouldn't be surprised when you lower your glass to find him squeezing through the packed tables, steps hesitating only long enough for a rough pat on the back to a man who offers a drunken sway and a hearty bellow of his name in return.

Cold alcohol sloshes out into your hand when you place your drink back onto the table with more force than necessary, once again pondering the thought of just getting up and exiting the building. Unsettled. That's what you feel and the cause places a hand on the chair opposite you. Lean, pale fingers that are hyphenated by scars. Some long, others faint under the cozy light of the bar but it's the ones over his knuckles that hold your attention the longest. Those kind of scars aren't caused by accidents and you know without looking that his left hand likely bears the same ones. Old, faded by time but there all the same and a chill breaks out along your arms at the thought of how he earned them.


From the scarred mess of his hands to the blue of his eyes as he pulls the chair out, swiveling it on its rear legs until it faces the other way. It's a well practiced move judging by the lazy hold of the beer bottle in his other hand. He doesn't bother to ask if you're expecting company or if he even has permission, instead straddling the chair as though you're expecting him. More pale skin that disappears under the unbuttoned collar of his wrinkled shirt and red slash tattoos accenting the corner of his eyes. You watch, waiting, as he takes a drink, his eyes in turn watching you.

"Shitty weather we're having," he says, setting his bottle down though his fingers never leave it. "Be nice if it would rain."

You forget about the alcohol now drying on your hand, the first signs of anger bubbling just under the surface. "What do you want?"

An equally lazy shrug of one shoulder tries to imply that he's half bored and just doing you a favor but his eyes tell a very different story. "Just trying to make conversation. No one should be alone on their birthday."

"So you give them company they don't want?"

His head tilts, long ponytail swaying over his shoulder where it touches the table. "It might start that way but usually ends with a...mutual understanding."

"I'm sure we'll understand each other just fine on opposite sides of the room," you reply, a little surprised by the coldness in your tone.

There's no denying the warning bells going off in your head, especially given the fact that your tone doesn't seem to be affecting him in the least. Meaning he's either very dense or very desperate. You don't know which one is worse.

It's those same warning bells that have you rising to your feet, drink abandoned, willing to risk the loneliness of your apartment just to avoid dragging this on even farther.

"Not interested, buddy. Don't know how to say it any clearer," you state before brushing past him.

"Even if I can tell you why your old man left in such a hurry?"

That has your stride coming up short, your glance back as quick as it is angry, but Reno isn't looking your way. He's ticking his bottle of beer, holding nothing more than the opening, and seems to be waiting.

Wait he will because through your cloud of anger you can see the eyes of the other patrons, their own alcohol forgotten in favor of the potential drama unfolding for all to see. There are a great many questions now begging to be asked, all of them teetering on the edge of your tongue, but you aren't about to give any of them the satisfaction. Least of all him. Instead you resume your march for the door, your birthday now in the trash along with your discarded box of breakup candy.
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