[Fic] The Things You Never Knew About People [8/14] - Gong zuo [Get A Job]

Title: Gong zuo [Get A Job]
Author: joudama
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Rating: R for language
Notes: I found a site that had some examples from a book in China called "100 Things Parents Should NOT to Say to Their Kids," and once I stopped cracking up, promptly stole the best lines for Jie's mom to say, because YES. >XD Part of why I was laughing so hard was because I could see her saying every single one of them, especially, "Don't worry. No one saw us."

...God, I love Jie's mom. I make no bones about this. Of all the OC's I've ever created for anything, she is, by far and hands down, my favorite. I love her in all her surly, sullen, short-tempered, bad-parent glory.

Also, "Tsai" is romanized in pinyin as "Cai," but all the people with that name I know go by "Tsai," and so "Cai" looks funny to me. So, yeah. But then, "Tseng" should be "Ceng," so hey. Precedent!

Status: 8/14 (including epilogue in two parts)
Summary: It was never a good sign, when she stopped hitting and started smiling.
Master link to all previous chapters

第八話 : 工作
ㄉㄧˋㄅㄚㄏㄨㄚˋ: ㄍㄨㄥㄗㄨㄛˋ
Dì bā huà - Gōng zuò
[Get A Job]


After Jie's mom had yelled for a good ten minutes, Reno just grinned lazily and said, "Aww, c'mon Auntie Qian! Just try and tell me it don't look good." He tilted his head back and brushed his hair back with his hand, giving her a clear view of his newly-pierced ear. At fifteen, you were old enough to get pierced without parental consent, and so the day before, Reno, with a grin on his face and a "Happy birthday to ME," went to the first place he could find open and had dropped the gil. "Just try and tell me it don't."

Jie's mom got that look on her face, and Reno's grin widened. "Yeah, I knew it. It looks good, yeah?"

She let out an annoyed sound, trying to bite back a smile. "It was still a stupid thing to do!"

"But it looks good?"

"...But it looks good."

Reno let out a laugh. "I love making your chew outs fall flat," he said cheekily, then leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek and ducked away before she could more than swat at him half-heartedly. The swat ended up turning into her toying with his hair, and Reno had to stop himself from all but leaning into her hand. He'd never admit it--or rather, he would, if that meant he got more--but sitting there with Auntie Qian playing with his hair while Jie tried his damnedest to ignore them both while he practiced the guzheng he was rapidly getting better at was easily the highlight of Reno's day whenever it happened.

"You should grow all your hair out, Xiao Hong. It would look so nice, all that pretty red hair!"

Reno could feel his eye twitching. "Yeah, so you can start braiding it and putting flowers or ribbons in it the second my back is turned? I can't keep your hands off it enough as it is now!" he said, complaining even as he fractionally leaned in more to her hand as if worried she might stop. "You keep tellin' me I look like a girl; I ain't making it easier for you. Shit no!" Reno said, shuddering.

"But you're so pretty. And so pale, like a flower! You have the prettiest skin!"

"Whaaaat? Aw, cut it out already!" he moaned. "Man, I oughta get a tattoo or something to make me less pretty and more cool or something..."

"A tattoo?! Don't you dare!" Jie's mom yelled. "Tattoos are only for criminals and outcasts!" she said, looking scandalized.

"Maybe in Wutai, Ma," Jie said from his playing, rolling his eyes.

"Tattoos are cool, yo," Reno said, nodding. "And that place had such cool face ones..."

"Lei Nuo, don't you think it!" Jie's mom said in her heavily accented Visgradian, looking absolutely horrified. "No face tattoo! Facial tattoos are for outcasts! And your face is so pretty..." she finished, reaching out to pat his cheek.

Reno groaned. "Aww, c'mon! Enough with the 'piaoliang' thing!" he said, batting at her hands. "Jie, are you DONE practicing yet? Your mom's feeling me up again!"

That got him a smack upside the head he knew he fully deserved, and he answered it with another cheeky grin. "See? She can't keep her hands off me!"

Jie's mom looked like she very much wanted to hit him again, but couldn't. "You used to be so sweet and cute. What happened?"

"Puberty!"

Jie's mom got that eyetwitchy look that made Reno grin more, and Jie made an irritated noise. "I give up," he said, slipping the plectra from the fingers of his right hand. "It's not like I can practice with all the noise you two are making."

"And you're not making noise?" Reno said, eyeing the guzheng. Jie had gotten it into his head about five years before after seeing someone playing that he wanted to learn. It had taken Jie a full three months of begging and cajoling before his mother had thrown up her hands and said if he could get the money to buy one, she'd find the money for lessons and he could do it.

She had figured that would shut him up because guzheng were by no stretch of the imagination cheap; she had not anticipated Jie being determined and Reno more than willing to go along for the ride for half of whatever they pulled in trolling for pedos. Reno hadn't been there, but Jie said when he pulled the money out for the guzheng six months later, she hadn't asked where it came from, just sighed; a week later, Reno didn't get to see Jie on Saturday afternoons anymore...which didn't stop him from going over to Jie's apartment Saturdays; the only days off Jie's mom took were Wednesdays, when she closed the restaurant and Saturdays because she'd always had to ferry Jie to classes that day when he was younger, and it became habit. So Saturdays, Reno usually showed up on her doorstep around lunchtime looking hungry, which got him fed and, with enough pestering, taught how to cook.

One of the plectrum came flying out at Reno, and bopped him on the temple and Reno stuck his tongue out at Jie. "Hey! Don't take it out on me, just because you're the one making noise on that girly-ass thing."

Jie gave Reno a look. "I wouldn't make fun of anyone for their 'girly-ass things' when you're the one getting called 'pretty' and who likes to cook."

"Hey, cooking gets me food and pretty gets me tail, so it ain't like it's a bad th--oh shit," Reno finished when he saw the scandalized look on Jie's mom's face. "I...um...that is...um...GEE, TIME TO GO HOME!" he yelled and bolted for the door.

He decided he was just gonna ignore Jie's snickering at him. Better that way.

--

Reno hadn't really intended to go home--he had intended to hang out at Jie's house until Jie was done practicing and they either went somewhere or it got late enough that he crashed over there. But he went home, deciding he'd grab his PHS and then call Jie and they could go out and do something. When he got back, though, he was surprised to see his mother there and banging around in the kitchen area, looking for something to eat. Reno cursed under his breath, then sighed.

"Hey, Ma."

His mother turned and blinked. "Oh. Reno. Morning."

"More like evening," Reno said dryly.

"Depends on your perspective," she said, just as dryly. She went back to looking for something to eat. "There has to be something here to eat that's not weird," she said, poking at the container of Wutai dried squid with an almost insanely cute drawing of Leviathan on it as a brand mascot.

Reno rolled his eyes. "There's some bread rolls in that cabinet over your head," he said. His mother tried to open the cabinet and get the bread, but the bag was just slightly out of her reach. Reno grinned a little to himself and went over and plucked it out for her without having to go on his toes and feeling pretty proud of being so much taller than her now.

"...You got your ear pierced!" Reno's mom said in surprise, staring at his ear since it was so close to her.

Reno was more than vaguely shocked that she had noticed. "Yeah. Got it done yesterday," he said, smiling a little warily as he handed her the bread. He didn't know how she was going to take it--not that it mattered to him how she did, he told himself, since it was done, but still.

His mother frowned. "But...you're not old enough to get one. You have to be fifteen!"

Something tightened in his stomach, made him feel like he'd been punched. "I am fifteen. Yesterday was my birthday, Ma."

Her eyes widened slightly, and he could see her blinking quickly as she tried to figure out the date. "Oh. Oh. Oh. It was. I'm sorry, Reno. I don't know how I could have..."

"Save it," he said, cutting her off sharply, not wanting to hear whatever bullshit excuses she had this time.

His mother stared at him, as if seeing him for the first time. Her eyes raked down him slowly, from the top of his head to his feet and then back up again, almost as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing. "When did you get so much taller than me?"

"I've been taller than you for a good two years," he said in irritation.

"How did I miss...when did you grow up?" Reno's mother said, something almost broken in her voice. "When did you grow up?"

Reno had no idea how to answer that, he just stared at his mother, feeling confused, dumbfounded, and...angry.

"It happens," he finally said, feeling his face contorting into something almost a snarl. "Maybe if you hadn't spent the last five years high or somethin', you'd've noticed I ain't ten no more."

His mother looked like he had slapped her, and a rush of guilt flooded him before he angrily pushed it back, feeling angry at even feeling guilt in the first place.

"Or maybe, you know, if you'd spent a little less time on your back, you'd've noticed," he added, narrowing his eyes and wanting to hurt her, wanting his words to make that look on his mother's face deepen, even as it warred with guilt and with something that stabbed at him and made hurt rise up in him.

That was when he mother slapped him, her face cold and brittle.

Reno reeled back not from the blow itself, but the shock of it. "The truth hurts, don't it," he said, snarling. And before his mother could say anything, he spat out, "I'm outta here," and rushed out the door, hoping, just hoping, that someone would get in his way tonight.

--

He called Jie and they made plans to meet in thirty minutes at Wall Market. Reno was very much of the urge to hit something; Jie obliged. They blew a couple of hours at the nearby arcade where Reno shot things with fake guns all the while wishing both the guns and his targets were real, then, when it got to be late enough, went trolling for pervs in sector six, something Reno was almost disturbingly good at--it's in the genes, yo, a sick part of him thought in disgust--and Jie held the guy down while Reno beat the shit out of him.

After that, they went out for burgers. The guy, after all, had had quite a bit of gil on him, and it was best to put that to good use. Reno was still in the mood for punching things, and Jie was doing his best to talk Reno down with trivialities until the urge passed, and was doing a good job of it.

Until the flying ketchup packet.

--

"Do you even know what time it is?! And aiya, what have you two done this time?!"

Reno and Jie both winced at the same time.

"How does your mom do that?" Reno hissed under his breath. It was two AM and they were only just now sneaking into Jie's apartment, hoping to get to the bathroom and the first aid kit and then into Jie's room without Jie's mom noticing them. But no, somehow, she knew and had stormed out before they had even finished closing the front door.

"Psychic, man, gotta be. She knows when we get in trouble," Jie hissed in Reno's ear, switching to Visgradian in the hope that, if she heard it, she wouldn't actually catch it. "I figured as late as it is, she'd be asleep!"

"You're not answering my question!" Jie's mom screamed, looking absolutely livid.

"Just some friendly words between us and some other boys," Reno said, giving her a wide grin to try to diffuse Jie's mom before she went on a tirade.

Unfortunately, it was too late for that. "'Friendly words'?!" she yelled. "The two of you look like you've been in a bar brawl!"

"It wasn't a bar! It was a fast food joint! And we won! And against five guys!" Reno said gesturing madly.

"Sweet Shiva, you idiot!" Jie moaned just as his mother went "...Five?" and briefly paused her tirade. She blinked once, slowly, then blinked again as it all processed.

And then.

"The two of you went up against...how can you both be so stupid? Do you have greens growing on your brains?!" Jie's mom yelled in disgust. "Aiya, it's like the older you two get the stupider you get!"

"They started it!" Jie yelled after his mother as she stomped off to get the first aid kit from the bathroom. And that was the truth; the other guys had started it. Reno and Jie had been minding their own business, eating their burgers at the twenty-four hour McMoogles and talking about what a fine, fine ass Alamyra Brentworth had, when someone from the group of dumbasses sitting next to them had thrown an open ketchup packet at them and told them to quit the chocobo jabber. And then started giving Jie shit for being Wutai, and, well, once "wonk" and "fag" had come out, between Jie's pride and Reno's urge to punch things until they bled, it had all gone downhill from there.

Jie's mom came back with the first-aid kit and all but slammed it on the living room table before she plopped herself down and opened it. It was a very well-stocked first-aid kit, full of bandages and antiseptic and pretty much everything you could think of. There was even a single potion in there, but both he and Jie knew better than to touch it--potions were expensive, and the one time they had split one after a fight when they were eleven and twelve respectively, Jie's mother had all but skinned them alive she had been so angry, screaming at them about how much potions costs, and they never touched a potion in there again.

"SIT!" Jie's mom ordered, and started cleaning them up, muttering in angry Wutai as she did about how stupid the two of them were, how they didn't think, and how they caused her nothing but gray hairs, and was Jie thinking at all about his hands, and how was he going to play like this, and if he was thinking about using that potion, he had better think again.

"That's why once we got things evened up I just held the last guy down and let Reno do the punching! It just took a while to get things even! " Jie yelled, and that turned into a yelp as his mother viciously rubbed antiseptic on a cut on his hand.

"Because it was two of you fools up against five! And you were only up against five guys and you got this beaten up?" She made a disgusted noise. "For this kind of mess, there ought to have at least been seven! And if you idiots had gone up against seven, you would have deserved to get beaten for being that stupid!"

She finally finished up with Jie and turned to Reno, still looking ready to start hitting one of them, if not both, upside the head as soon as tend to their injuries. "And you! Look at your poor face! You keep getting into fights and you're going to ruin that pretty face!" Jie's mom said almost mournfully as she started tending to Reno.

Reno made a face, and only partially because of how much the antiseptic stung--Jie's mom never went easy on them, and it was worse when she was angry. "So I'll ruin their pretty fac--OW!" Reno finished, raising his hands to try and defend his head from Jie's mom. "I got enough bruises already, yo!"

"And apparently you need more, since sense still hasn't been knocked into your head yet! Aiya, if I had known you were going to be this much trouble, I'd have told Jie to put you back in the garbage heap he found you in!" Jie's mom yelled in irritation as she batted away Reno's head and swatted him one, then went back to bandaging up the scrape on his face. "Stop squirming! I swear, the two of you don't do anything but..."

Suddenly, Jie's mom stopped moving and smiled. And both Jie and Reno went pale, looking at that smile.

"I think you two need something to keep you busy," she said, that same strange, not-boding-well smile on her face. "Running around with no responsibilities just leads to you two turning into delinquents. I think you two need to learn a little responsibility," she finished. She kept that strange little smile on her face, not saying a word and obviously thinking, and finished bandaging the boys up, then got up and walked to the kitchen with that same little smile on her face.

"We are so fucked, aren't we?" Reno said, wide-eyed. He'd never seen Jie's mom act like that, and he knew one thing: this was not going to end well.

"Oh, yeah," Jie said, groaning. "We're fucked, big time."

--

"...What do you mean, 'you have a job'?" Jie said, jaw dropping open.

Jie's mom smiled smugly. "Exactly what I just said. You two need something to do? And you won't try to study and learn so you can get out of the slums? Fine. You two now have jobs. I'm short of staff. We need waiters and dishwashers. Congratulations," Jie's mom said, smiling her "don't even think about arguing" smile. "You start tomorrow morning."

"But tomorrow's Sunday!" Reno whined, full of horror.

"Ma, c'mon! It's Sunday! The one day I don't have school!" Jie whined as well. Saturdays, as soon as she had found one, Jie was forced to go to a day school for Wutai children, and Reno constantly gave Jie crap for it, because that's what friends did. "I'm not doing it!"

Talking back, as they both knew and yet constantly forgot as the teenage years had set in, was never a good thing to do. Jie's mom's eyes damned near started glowing, and she swelled up again in her angry chocobo way, then opened her mouth and started yelling. "Like you have any right to tell your mother no! You're going to help out now, since with grades like yours, you're going to end up a street sweeper!

"And you!" she said, whirling her head to glare at Reno. "As much as you eat, you ought to contribute something, too! If you're going to be a little red kitchen shadow, you can be useful and do it at the restaurant!"

She glared at them more, and, yeah, Reno could swear her eyes were glowing and she was angry enough to summon Ifrit to fry their asses if they said no. He wouldn't put it past her, either.

He looked over at Jie, and could tell Jie was reading the warning signs as well as Reno was.

"Yes, ma'am," they said at the same time, and Jie's mom's lips curled up in a self-satisfied little smile.

"Six AM," she said, and the look on her face dared them to argue.

They knew better.

--

Six AM rolled around, and true to her word, there were loud, angry, and somehow groggy bangs at Jie's door, and Reno cracked open his eyes with a groan. He rubbed sleepily at his eyes, cursed several times, then dragged himself up out of his futon on the floor. Before, he and Jie had always just shared a bed, and that had lasted until the day they realized they were too big to fit on the bed anymore, a realization that had come when Jie had one of his occasional nightmares or something and had thrashed around enough in his sleep to knock Reno out of the bed. Reno ended up with a concussion, and for that Jie got a black eye, and a few days later, Jie's mother had shown up with a futon she got from one of her Yamatan friends, and told them to use that when Reno slept over.

"Jie, get up," Reno muttered, poking at Jie's shoulder a few times until Jie flailed an arm at him and covered his head pathetically. Reno ignored it and poked him again until Jie tried to hit him, then set to folding up the futon, knowing if he didn't properly fold it and put it away like he was supposed to, he would get yelled at. Once it was folded and put away, he stumbled over to Jie's bed and poked Jie again. "Get uuuuuuuup before your mom gets mad!"

"Five more minutes," Jie mumbled.

"Get UP, dumbass!"

"Fuck you," Jie said, and the hand that flailed out from under the covers was giving him a decidedly obscene gesture, and that was coherent enough proof Jie was actually awake. Reno wasn't a morning person by any stretch, but when he was awake, he was awake, even if he didn't want to be, and at six AM, he most decidedly did not want be. He heard crashing and banging in the direction of the kitchen, and figured the bathroom was free, so headed in before Jie actually dragged himself out of bed and into the bathroom, then headed for the kitchen.

Jie's mom blinked at Reno a few times when he came in, and gestured vaguely in the direction of the ricecooker with a mumble that he supposed was supposed to be speech, but kind of missed the mark. Still, he had been there long enough that he knew the drill even without her groggy instructions, and started scooping the rice porridge, xifan, that she had set the rice cooker to cook the night before into bowls for their breakfast, and Jie's mom ignored everything Reno was doing in favor for fumbling with the coffeemaker.

It amazed Reno, even after all these years, how the woman managed to prepare a meal without once opening her eyes. But her eyes never seemed to actually crack open until she had had something with lots of caffeine in it. Green tea had slowly given way to coffee the longer she and Jie were in Midgar, and Reno wondered how long before Jie's mom finally just started eating the coffee beans for breakfast instead of waiting for them to brew. He wouldn't be surprised one day to find she had put ground coffee beans on her xifan instead of her normal shredded vegetables or meat.

He knew better than to say that to her; the last thing he wanted to do was give her ideas.

Jie wasn't much better; when he finally dragged himself out of bed, he looked like he'd much prefer to hiss, scratch at something, and crawl back into bed than be upright. He managed to be marginally more coherent than his mother, but only because she had yet to let him drink coffee in the mornings, so he didn't have that addiction yet. When Jie finally got into the kitchen, he headed straight for a chair and sat there and waited for the food to appear before him, hunched over as much as he could be, holding onto the cup of green tea his mother gave him and looking very much like he wanted the entire world to die in a fiery ball of death. He glared balefully at Reno when Reno put the bowl of xifan in front of him, then managed a grunt of acknowledgement and went back to trying to fall back asleep sitting upright.

Reno sat down himself, then--Jie's mom had just started frying the you tiao, and while it was always fun watching her cook, it was not so fun when she was frying things without opening her eyes and hadn't had coffee yet. Reno was all for testing his luck, but there was testing your luck and there was stupid, and Reno was no fool.

--

They got to the restaurant, and it was still Freya's-ass-o'clock as far as Reno was concerned. He had no idea why a place that didn't even open until ten needed them there at seven-thirty in the morning, and both he and Jie were scowling the whole train ride up to Sector Three where the restaurant was.

They found out pretty quickly--deliveries started coming in by eight, and they then found themselves unpacking food and stocking the fridges.

Jie's mom eyed them and frowned slightly. "I need one of you to go out and sweep the floors out in the front and wipe down all the tables. And the lunch menus need to be set out. Plus, everything has to be prepped for lunch, before the cook gets here at nine." She eyed them both again. "Jie, if you even tried to prep the food it'd be inedible, so you get to clean. I want the tables so clean I can my reflection in them," she said, narrowing her eyes. "Reno, you're on prep. And actually," she said, looking thoughtful, "I'll just keep you two where you are, then. Jie, once you've got the place cleaned up, I've got a waiter's uniform you can change into. Reno, you're on dishes."

Jie and Reno groaned at the same time.

"Ma, you're gonna make me deal with people?!"

"Aww, c'mon, dishes?!"

Jie's mom's eyes narrowed and glinted dangerously. "Are you arguing with me?"

Jie cursed under his breath and headed to the supply closet, grabbing a mop and cursing his way to the main area, and Reno scowled as Jie's mom pushed a pile of white clothes at him.

"Changing room's over there," she said, pointing over her shoulder with her thumb, an evil little smile on her face. "No one ever said work was supposed to be fun."

--

"Oh, Ramuh blast it, someone get me out of this," Jie muttered when he got into the kitchen after a few hours, looking ready to start killing things. He slunk over to Reno and leaned against the countertop, doing the same eyetwitch thing his mom was so good at. "I'm gonna kill someone, I am."

Reno didn't even try to fight the urge to flick water at Jie. "Being out there has to beat being in here, yo. It's hot, everyone's running, and I'm stuck here washing dishes. I think my fingers are gonna shrivel up and fall off."

Jie snorted. "There go your weekend plans, then," he said with a grin, and Reno tried to kick him, but Jie danced out of the way.

"Seriously, I am bored stupid, yo," Reno said, making a disgusted face. Reno never did well, having to sit in one place and do the same thing over and over again, and this was driving him absolutely nuts. Yeah, he got to flirt with the people in the back, but they were too busy now that it was in the dinner rush, and the novelty of the job had worn off after less than an hour.

"You're already stupid, so you should be used to it," Jie said, giving Reno a wicked grin.

"Fuck you, too."

"Serious, though. I'm about ready to kill something. Like the table of high-pitched, squealing girls that keep pinching my ass."

Reno stopped washing dishes and stared at Jie, dumbfounded. "Wait. You got girls pinching your ass, and this is a bad thing?"

"It is when they won't stop! I'm not gonna be able to sit for a week at this rate!" Jie said, making a face. "I've had to smile so much I think my face is gonna break. I would much rather be back here," Jie said, lip curling up in disgust at the thought of going back out there.

"...Trade?" Reno said hopefully. "'Cause, for serious, if I gotta wash one more dish, I'm gonna, like, snap and start breakin' 'em. And then your ma's gonna kill me, and, man, I'm too pretty to die," Reno ended, fluttering his eyelashes dramatically at Jie.

Jie was nodding, ignoring Reno's last sentence and unbuttoning the frog collar button at his throat as he headed towards to changing room. "What the fuck are you waiting for? Carbuncle to come down and give you his blessing?!" he said over his shoulder. "Come ON before Ma comes out and notices!"

Reno blinked, pulled his hands out of the dirty water, and dried them on his shirt, and then followed Jie, because, yeah, this dishwashing thing blew, and not in the good way.

--

As they hurriedly switched clothes--and Reno thought it really sucked that Jie was still bigger than him--Jie filled him in on which tables were his and who had ordered what, thrusting his notepad and pencil at him.

"What the fuck, man," Reno said, making a face. "You had to write in wuzi, didn't you."

Jie grinned apologetically. "Yeah, well, you ought to learn how to read one of these days, you illiterate ghost."

"And proud of it," Reno said, sticking out his tongue. He had wanted to learn until he saw how much work it was, and that had killed that--he could talk, so what'd he need to read for, he figured. Jie took the notepad and quickly scribbled the bopomofo over the characters.

"There, that'll help," he said. "Now, we need to book before Ma comes out of her office and kills us."

"Better forgiveness than permission, yo," Reno said with a grin, and then ran out.

--

Oh, yeah, Reno thought to himself. Out here was waaaaaay better than in the back in the kitchen. As much as Reno liked food, he liked attention a whole lot more.

Jie, he decided, as he gave the table full of girls a grin and got giggles and appreciative looks back, really was out of his mind.

--

Jie's mom did get mad, but she had to admit, as much as she didn't want to, Reno made a much better waiter than a dishwasher, and if Jie had been forced to be out there for much longer he very well might had dumped a plate of food on someone by "accident." So she didn't scream too badly, just rubbed her temples and said she'd find a uniform that fit Reno a little better.

And so things were settled, and, for better or worse Jie and Reno found themselves gainfully employed several days a week. Reno kind of liked getting that steady paycheck, but not nearly as much as he liked flirting and being flirted with and the sheer number of phone numbers--from men and women--he was scoring. And another perk of being a waiter, aside from the phone numbers and flirting, was the fact that Reno got to interact with a lot of people, and he was vaguely surprised to learn that people just talked to him--it didn't take much at all to get people all but babbling their life stories to him, seemed like.

Although to be honest, most of the times it was a big, screaming, pain in his ass--especially the "no hitting the customers" thing, but there were downsides to any job. He got a bank account and started depositing the money from the restaurant job straight into that, figuring it'd be good to have some saved, because as soon as he hit sixteen, he was moving out and never putting up with his mother again. Lately, she had been getting worse, somehow, and some days, just being around her made him want to be sick.

To get away and forget she had ever existed, he needed some money put away, and while he didn't make much, he felt good, making steps towards getting out. He had a good year to go, and that was plenty of time.

So the job was good in that it was steady, but it didn't pay much. And so he and Jie's main source of income was still beating the crap out of people who started shit with them and taking their wallets. It was a hell of a lot easier, after all.

--

The war was going badly.

It didn't really take a genius to know that; it was obvious. Even though the news didn't report just how badly things were going, the fact that it had dragged on so many years so far with no end in sight with so many being conscripted and never coming back, every one knew.

And with the war going badly, with more and more people coming back in body bags, the feeling of "us vs. them," one that had long been there against Wutai, stretching back to the first Wutai invasion centuries ago, intensified. There was a lot of anger and blame. And when all of that was there, the urge to scapegoat.

That was something Reno and Jie knew well, even if they never really thought about the psychology behind. They knew it with every hissed "Fuckin' wonk!" that was hurled at Jie and every asshole who tried to fight the Wutai war at home by jumping Jie.

Just as the soldiers in Wutai found the fighting tough going, so did anyone dumb enough to go after Jie. In fact, anyone who went after Jie usually found their asses handed to them, and whatever money had been in their wallet no longer there.

Pretty much, though, people left Jie alone at school, jackasses like Sanith and his crew who just never learned aside. And when he and Reno were out, only people bruising for a fight really started shit. Reno had to admit, he was mighty impressed with how Jie had his mother's glare down pretty good and wielded it like a pro. And, if he thought about it, he would have admitted there was something else behind that glare, something a lot more dangerous and barely-contained than Jie's mom ever could have managed, and anyone who wasn't a dumbass looking for a fight tended to back down from that.

The two of them, Jie and Reno, never really much thought about if Jie's mother ever had any problems. After all, to them, she seemed invincible, and who would want to tangle with her? So it never even occurred to them that she would be having problems as well.

Never, that is, until the day she came home far later than usual, hair wild, nose swollen and bleeding, one eye blackened and lip split, clothes dirty with street filth and footprints, clutching her ribs tightly and shaking.

Jie's mom's eyes had gone wide when she saw both Jie and Reno in the living room playing video games with a half-eaten box of pizza between them when she opened the door, and she flinched at the sight of them. And before she could even say anything, they had dropped the controllers, and Jie was on his feet.

"Ma!" Jie yelled, face drained almost completely of blood the first instant he saw his mother's face. "Oh, shit, are you OK?! What happened?!" he yelled, running over to her and trying to help her. She winced when he touched her side and Jie blanched even more.

Reno had seen this kind of thing, more often than he would ever liked, but he still felt glued to the spot until his sense kicked in. Potion, she needed that potion--now was the emergency, after all, and he sprinted to the bathroom for the first aid kit. As badly beaten as she looked, the potion might not cut it--she might need a high or even a mega, so he brought the whole kit, figuring the potion would take care of the worst of it--knit her ribs and broken nose, if nothing else, and the bandages would do the rest.

By the time he got back, Jie had his mom sitting, and Reno skidded to his knees at the sofa, opening the first aid kit and pulling out the potion, and trying to make his hands stop shaking.

He'd seen this too many times, way too many times, and if it was like those times, she...

"Here, drink this. It'll help," he said stupidly, and she took it with hands that were shaking far more than Reno's, her hands shaking so much Jie took it from her and opened it, almost as if afraid she would drop it, and held her hands steady as she drank, and there was so much wrong with the whole scene that Reno couldn't even begin to wrap his brain around it.

Only when she had finished and with a faint flash of green did the worst heal and she could draw a deep breath did the horrified look on Jie's face fade, replaced, as his mother leaned against him tiredly, with an ugly look Reno had only seen once before and hoped not to ever see again.

"Who did this?" Jie said, his voice a deathly calm that made the little hairs on the back of Reno's neck stand up.

Jie's mom shrugged, still shaking as she clutched the empty potion bottle tightly between her hands. "I don't know who they were. There were three of them. They started yelling at me when I was leaving the station, but I ignored them. Then they were following me." She closed her eyes and tried for what was supposed to be a deep, steadying breath, but ended up shaking and coming out hitched. "But they only hit and kicked me. I was lucky," she said, and her voice sounded so scared. "I was lucky," she repeated, voice a little steadier. "And I'm all right now," she said, shaking her head and biting her lip, and never had Reno thought of Jie's mom as little or breakable before, but he did now, and he didn't like it. He didn't like it, he didn't like how much it scared him or how much it reminded him in bad ways of the times his own mom had come home broken like that only worse because people didn't just hit the junkie whore and he couldn't never do nothing, and this wasn't fair and it wasn't right, and by all the gods, somebody was gonna bleed for this, and bleed a lot.

--

It hadn't been easy to go to sleep, but somehow he'd managed it. But it didn't feel like he'd been asleep for long before Reno woke up to the sounds of Jie mumbling something entirely too young-sounding and panicked, writhing and thrashing in his sleep. Reno groaned to himself, dragging himself unwillingly completely out of sleep and to his feet and then over to Jie.

"Jie. Jie! Wake up!" Reno hissed, shaking Jie hard to try and wake him up. Jie was having a nightmare, that much was obvious. Jie used to have them more when he was younger, but they had faded as he'd gotten older. Or seemed to; it was as if when they came back to him now they were stronger in some ways, maybe because Jie himself was physically bigger and stronger--the same thrashing a ten-year-old did became a lot more noticeable and dangerous when it was done by someone just shy of their sixteenth birthday.

Reno to this day had no idea what Jie's nightmares were about; Jie never told him and he never asked. Jie was always so shaken by them that Reno left it alone. Whatever it was, he figured it was something pretty bad; Jie always yelled out the same things:

Stop.
Please, don't.
Mama.
I'll kill you.
Daddy.


Whatever it was, Reno figured if it was something Jie wanted to talk to him about, he'd tell him. Reno knew well enough about not wanting to tell people things; he had things of his own he didn't want to talk about to no-one, neither, so he never pressed.

Jie jerked awake, eyes wide and breathing hard. He blinked a few times, as if trying to orient himself, and sat up shaking his head. "Another nightmare, hunh?" he said finally, shutting his eyes as he wrapped his arms around his knees.

"Looked like," Reno said with a lopsided grin. "You all right?"

"No," Jie said flatly in Standard. "I'm not. If I was all right, I wouldn't be sitting here fucking shaking at Freya's-ass o'clock. I'd still be asleep."

"Yeah, well, point," Reno said wryly, sitting down on the bed next to Jie. "So what gives. You hadn't had a nightmare like that in months, yo. "

Reno was pretty damned sure the whole mess with Jie's mom had set this nightmare off. After all, in the normal litany of Jie's nightmarespeak, there had been a new verse this time:

Don't hurt my Mama.

Jie's face suddenly grew pained, an expression that seemed very young coming across his face. "I'm supposed to protect her," he said. "I'm the only one she has to watch out for her and protect her. What kind of son am I?"

Reno stared at him, feeling like Jie had said something incomprehensible. "What do you mean, what kind of son are you? It's not like you have some magic psychic ability and knew some assholes were going to attack her!"

Jie's jaw tightened. "I knew things were dangerous. I shouldn't have let Ma come home that late at night by herself. I should have known better."

Reno still felt like Jie was making no sense at all. "You're insane. There wasn't nothing you could have done."

Jie made a dismissive noise, and his jaw tensed. "Whatever. It's not happening again," he finally said.

"So what are we gonna do?" Reno said, and the look Jie gave him was of a surprised kind of relief.

"We?"

"I dunno about you, but I plan to seriously jack up whoever did this," Reno said, feeling a slightly manic grin cross his face.

Jie's answer was a grin as cold as Reno's was manic. "By the time we're done? 'Jack up' won't even begin to cover it," he said, and Reno was very, very glad that they were both on the same page.

--

And after that, Reno and Jie found themselves with a second job--namely, making sure Jie's mom made it to work and home in one piece. The war was going badly, and times like that, people starting taking it out on the closest scapegoat they could find, and a pretty woman from Wutai barely in her thirties made an easy target. She'd tried to argue, briefly, and then gave up, and it made both Reno and Jie sick to see the relief in her eyes that she tried to hide.

Which lead to a third job on top of that--finding out who exactly had thought attacking Auntie Qian had been a good idea.

Reno was vaguely surprised to learn how easy it was to find out. People really did just open right on up and tell him things.

Especially when he had a broken pipe in his hands and no disinclination to use it.

It was amazing how much information a few good hits could produce, really, and once he had a few names and was able to match them up with faces, Reno reported to Jie exactly what he had learned, and then it was time to teach a couple assholes a very, very valuable life lesson.

"Those the punks?" Jie said, a snarl on his face at the way Reno went tense and used his cue stick to point out three guys who had just come into the pool hall then gave Jie a sharp nod. Reno had heard that the three guys--Xarith Jameson, Tiames Battle, and Orin Firewind--came here pretty regularly on Friday nights, and lo and behold. The third Friday of waiting had panned out at last.

"Yup," Reno said, getting a dark smile on his face. "The ones what thought it'd be a good idea to mess with Auntie."

Jie smiled.

--

Reno really liked having a broken pool cue. He found it fit into his hand very well, and it was easy, with a simple flick of the wrist, to seriously jack someone up. It also gave him a reach advantage--with a broken pool cue, you didn't have to get as close in hand to hand, because it tended to change things from "hand-to-hand" to "stick-to-face," and damned if there wasn't something satisfying in the sound of bones breaking. Still, he had to admit, he much preferred a good length of pipe--those didn't break as easily as wood did.

Still, it did the job pretty well. Between him, Jie, the broken pool cues, and the really neat "pool balls in sock" thing Jie had improvised, he and Jie had made sure that the lesson they had just taught the three bleeding and various stages of "not conscious" assholes at their feet stuck.

Reno kicked one of the guys in the ribs for good measure, just to make sure. And man, if it wasn't satisfying to feel something give, in that "something just broke" kind of way.

--

Auntie Qian, oddly enough, was not as proud of them as they had expected her to be.

"DIDN'T I TELL YOU NOT TO GET INTO ANY MORE FIGHTS?!" Jie's mom yelled, looking livid.

"Damn it, Ma, quit smacking my head like I'm a kid already! I'm almost sixteen!" Jie said, his voice in a whine that almost undermined what he was saying. Jie's mom stopped mid-smack, looking slightly surprised, and she blinked once. Then blinked again, then slowly lowered her hand.

And that was when Jie's mom smiled.

"...Oh, shit," Reno said under his breath, feeling his face going pale.

It really was never a good sign when she started smiling like that.

"You're right. You are getting too big for me to keep hitting you like this."

She kept that weird little smile, and got up and left the room.

"Ohhh, shit, we are fucked," Jie said, eyes huge. "Oh, shit, we are so, so fucked," he said, his voice full of terror and dread.

"No, you're fucked. I'm going home," Reno said, deciding now was the time to make a break for it and jumping up.

"Oh, fuck that! We're in this together, asshole! If I can't run away, neither can you!" Jie yelled, tackling Reno before he could go. They were still scruffling when Jie's mom walked back in, and only stopped when she hit them both.

Hard.

They broke apart, rubbing their heads, and Jie's mom sat kneeling at the low living room table and began calmly laying things out on it.

"...You can't be serious," Jie said, staring open-mouthed at his mother pulling supplies of some sort--paper, brushes, some kind of black block, and other things Reno couldn't identify, out of a box.

"I think learning to sit still and not run around like fools is exactly what you need," she said, still smiling. She carefully smoothed out one of the Wutai-only menus from the restaurant, laying it on the table in front of them. "You little hotheads need to learn how to be calm. And you need to do me some good, since right now you contribute nothing but more gray hairs for me. You are going to copy these menus. By hand. One mistake, and you have to start over," she said, narrowing her eyes. "Jie Guang, get started making the ink. As for you, you illiterate little hooligan," she said, turning to glare at Reno, "I am going to teach you how to write. Once you have the basics down, menus for you, too."

--

It was quickly turning into the worst day of Reno's life. It seemed like every few seconds, he was getting smacked and scolded in harsh, angry, irritated Wutai by Jie's mom:

"BACK STRAIGHT!"

"No slouching! And hold the brush right! If it slips, you do it all over again!"

"That's not the right stroke order! There are rules; you can't just swipe the brush whichever way you want! Write that one out five times until you get it right and remember!"

"Aiya, what IS that?! Your wuzi look like a Levrikon's foot! Your strokes are still wrong and what on earth is that supposed to be there, because it's certainly not any wuzi I've ever seen! Do it again! And stop slouching!"

Three hours later, legs all but screaming from having had to have sat kneeling the whole time and his writing arm and shoulder all but ready to fall off, Jie's mom declared they had done enough, and Reno had never in his life been so glad to be able to leave and go home.

His mom might have been a strung-out potent junkie, but at least she wasn't insane.

--

The next day when Reno and Jie showed up at the restaurant to work, Jie's mom took one look at them under the florescent lights--Reno had a black eye and Jie's lip was split--got the eye-twitch look, and hurried them into the back.

"Here. Both of you, drink one," she said, looking pained as she handed them potions from the ones she had in the restaurant's kitchen.

"Aw, gee, thanks!" Reno said with a grin, taking his and swallowing it gratefully, feeling the cuts and bruises from the fight before healing instantly.

"Why you thank me?" Jie's mom said, eyes narrowed. "You look like that, you scare customers!

"And it come out your pay," she finished, raising an eyebrow and daring him to say something.

"I love you, too, Auntie Qian," Reno said with a grin, and Jie snickered as the corners of his mom's lips quirked up, even though it was obvious she was fighting it.

--

It always gave Reno a little chuckle, when someone from Wutai realized he could speak without any problems. Usually, if anyone Wutai came in, they took one look at his face and hair and assumed he wouldn't speak a word. It usually came out, though, as soon as he repeated orders back, since there was no mistaking someone who actually knew how it was all supposed to be pronounced, and sometimes saying the names in Wutai caused him to switch languages without realizing it and the next few words would be in Wutai. The only time he really came out and spoke was if someone obviously was stymied by Visgradian or if they were talking about him in front of him.

That was the best, he had to admit. It was great, that moment of "Oh shit, he understood me!" recognition. It tended to make any bad day better.

Reno had the feeling he was about to have one of those moments.

"How many in your party?" he said, plastering a smile on his face even as one of the two men in business suits, both about fifteen or twenty years older than him by the looks of things, gave Reno a once-over that just screamed "distaste."

"Looks like we're stuck with the ghost," the other one said, giving the other a long-suffering look. "Everyone else is Wutai, though. Just our luck, eh?"

"I'm not sure about ghosts," Reno said, the fake smile melting into one of satisfaction as the man blanched, "since last I checked I was still breathing. How many in your party?"

The other man laughed. "He's got you there, Tsai."

The idiot guy, Tsai, ignored him. "You speak Wutai?"

"Last I checked," Reno said, enjoying the man's poleaxed expression. The other man started to turn red, but Reno just laughed it off--he was used to this, after all, and the look on the man's face had pretty much made up for it.

Well, almost. Reno was still going to spit in his food. That was a given.

"Just us two," the other man said, and followed Reno, still chuckling at Tsai, as they went.

Reno lead them over to a free table, and gave them a grin as he asked if they wanted Visgradian or Wutai menus. The other man, not-Tsai, laughed a little and said Wutai, and things seemed to go pretty smoothly. He left them to their menus, noting to himself that it was one Jie had had to copy out last time they'd gotten into a fight, and went about checking on his other customers, coming back after he'd dropped off one table's order, winked at a table of people, and taken a dessert order.

"Ready to order?" he asked, and when they nodded, pulled out his note pad. They ordered, and he wryly noted to himself that he knew how to actually write half their order in wuzi after the last three times they'd been forced to copy menus, and he was taking their menus with the other guy, not-Tsai, sucked in a sudden, surprised breath.

Reno looked over to whatever not-Tsai was looking, a little worried, then chuckled. "Yeah, she's pretty, isn't she?" Reno said, grinning cheekily at not-Tsai's doing a double take when he saw Jie's mom, coming out briefly from the back to handle some kind of problem--it looked like someone had made a complaint of some sort, and Jie's mom was having to make apologies. Reno winced to himself, thinking poor Ayaka, the Yamatan waitress standing next to her and clutching her tray nervously, was probably going to get royally chewed out at the end of the day. Reno had once seen Jie's mom reduce a waitress to tears, and then chew the person out for crying.

He really was surprised that there wasn't a higher turnover rate.

"What? Ah...yes. Yes, she is. Who is she?" the man said, still staring. He was staring so much Tsai was looking at him like he was crazy.

"The big boss. She owns this place."

"What's her name?"

"Qian. Qian Xiao Zhen. But I gotta warn you," Reno said, biting back a grin, "that she's got a pretty overprotective guy in her life."

"Oh?" not-Tsai said, looking briefly at Reno, raising an eyebrow.

Reno gestured over his shoulder with his thumb at Jie, who had been roped into waiting tables because two people were out sick with something nasty that had half the city almost puking its guts out. Reno grinned slightly, recognizing even from there Jie's "I will not kill this person because it would be beneath me" expression.

"Who's that?" the man said, looking slightly shocked.

"Her son, Jie" Reno said, grinning as he waited for the guy to double take. Jie's mom didn't look old enough to have a teenaged son, not to anyone who lived above Plate. In the slums, though, a woman her age having a teenage son, or even being a grandmother, wasn't really that surprising down there. In fact, becoming a grandmother seemed to be her biggest fear; she'd made it perfectly clear to Jie, as soon as he turned fifteen--the age she was when she'd been married off--that if he showed up with any little "oops", she would have his hide. And that went for Reno as well.

The man properly did a double take, but there was something odd about the way he stared at Jie that made Reno frown slightly, not knowing what was up with the man's slightly startled, "Jie?" and then suddenly looking like about fifty bajillion wheels in his head had started spinning madly. He didn't really have much time to think about it, because before he could start to really wonder, the man's phone rang.

"Yes? This is Shi," the man said, and Reno bowed a polite exit and headed off to take their orders to the kitchen and see about other customers, and a few minutes later, in the dinnertime rush, promptly forgot all about the man and his slightly odd reaction, and after they left, he more or less completely forgot about the two customers themselves, who did nothing more interesting than talk about shipments and geography, something so boring Reno completely tuned them out, and then didn't give them another thought.

--

Aside from the thing at lunch, it had been a rather uneventful day at school for the two of them. Since it was Wednesday, the restaurant was closed, and both Reno and Jie were looking forward to a day off, since Jie's mom had been working them stupid, saying she was hoping they'd be too tired to cause problems.

That hadn't worked, really, as lunch today had proven, but hey. She tried. She did. But it was hardly their fault Sanith was an assmunch.

Reno and Jie gotten into Jie's apartment just in time to hear Jie's mom hanging up the phone. And then, thundering from the kitchen:

"JIE GUANG! LEI NUO!"

They looked at each other and they both knew what was coming: three hours, or more, of writing calligraphy. Reno was still stuck doing menus and was told he would be until they no longer looked like a chocobo had scribbled them out, but Jie's mom had switched Jie over to classical poetry.

"...Window?" Reno said desperately.

"Window," Jie said, agreeing without even a second thought, and the two of them dove for the window and jumped out.

It was a four-story jump, but the two of them had long since learned how to use the assorted ledges and windows down to actually make it to the bottom in one piece, and at this point, the "one piece" thing really wasn't even that important. As soon as they reached the bottom, they took off running.

They finally stopped about five blocks away. "How long you think before she cools off?" Reno said, panting as he leaned against a wall.

"Not a clue. Maybe an hour?" Jie said, panting almost as hard as Reno.

"Let's shoot for two," Reno said, glancing back where they had run, some part of him terrified Jie's mom had followed them.

"Works for me," Jie said. He grinned, looking stupidly proud of himself for having escaped, and Reno had to admit, he felt pretty proud of himself, too. "Arcade?"

"Arcade," Reno said, and grinned back, and they headed out to the arcade, not even noticing that they were being watched.

--

They went to the arcade and ended up spending three hours there before heading back, figuring by then Jie's mom had probably cooled off and it was safe. Reno tried to sneak off and go home, because hey, that way was safe for him, but Jie had given him that look, the "I didn't know you wanted me to rip out your spine and beat you with it" look, and Reno decided he liked having his spine where it was. They headed back to Jie's apartment for food, and Jie grabbed the front door and turned the knob.

Nothing happened. He made a confused face, and tried to turn the knob again. And again, banging his shoulder against the door when it didn't budge.

"...the door's locked!" Jie said, sounding like he was in shock. "She...Ma locked us out."

"Yes, door locked!" Jie's mom yelled, opening the door but not unhooking the chain on it. "You crazy fools go out window, you come back in window!" she fumed, and slammed the door shut, turning the lock firmly.

"...She can't be serious," Reno said, jaw hanging open. "There's no way she could..."

Jie just stared at him, giving Reno a "think about who this is, dumbass" look.

"Your ma is completely insane. You know that, yeah?" Reno said, still looking dumbfounded.

"Insane and then some," Jie said, shaking his head. "C'mon, let's go figure out a way to climb up a wall."

--

Chapter 9: Roadtrip | TTYKNAP master list

Comments

*snicker* Yeah, Jie's mom is definitely a force of nature. ^^ Also, I enjoyed seeing Reno's inclination towards pipes and pool cues; definitely a sign of things to come!
lol, yup. Reno likes blunt objects already. When electricity gets added to the mix, oh, he's gonna be just thrilled.

*hearts Jie's mom* I shouldn't like a character this much, but I do. I so do. I was chatting with writerzilch about her once, and we joked that when Jie's mom got married off, her mom was like, "Don't open your mouth until AFTER the wedding!" and then was like, "She's your's now, dowry's paid, you can't give her back! *door slam*"

(And sorry I haven't said anything about the drabble you did for ShinraMart! I'll comment on it after I get home today; I have been insanely busy the last week, and then this story decided it was going to be written now, and there went my weekend. ^^;; )
*laughing* Reno is such an opportunist. *wry* And so fifteen, too, the poor guy. I'm just waiting for those facial tatoos, now.

And also to find out what happens! You are so cruel. *hearts*
hee heh--Reno is a shameless opportunist, and that is why he's great. *hearts Reno*

And the facial tattoos, those are coming in chapter 12. Hee hee. All will be revealed.

>XD
Oh, man, there aren't even WORDS for how much I love Jie's mom.
I know I shouldn't say things like this about my own characters, but Jie's mom is made of awesome. She's such a bad parent who isn't actually bad. Or a good parent who isn't very good. I'm not sure yet. >XD

hee--I'm just glad it's not just me that loves her.
I love Auntie Qian. She may not be the best parent in the world, but she's the best parent for a couple of young hooligans like Jie and Reno - definitely Reno.

Re-reading this, though, I start getting the feeling there's a connection between Reno's guests at the restaurant in this chapter, and the events of chapters seven and nine... a feeling the "missing heir" stuff in the road trip chapter just intensifies. I'm interested in seeing how this all pans out.
Auntie Qian is the best worst parent ever. Most people would need years of therapy with a parent like her, but not the little hooligans she had on her hands. >XD

And as for the "connection"--Mwahahaha, mine is an evil laugh. Chapter 10, when I finally get off my lazy bum and finish it, will explain everything and then some. Everything is pretty much leading up to that chapter.

So, heh, no pressure or nothin'. ^^;;
Actually, when you think of what Auntie Qian did for Reno, she's almost directly responsible for him being able to be a Turk. For a start, she got him going to school, so he had the basics of learning, even if he didn't pick much up. Secondly, she kept him fed, and interested enough in the world that he *didn't* get curious about the attraction of the drugs his mother was doing. Thirdly, she taught him about responsibility - the whole "if you're going to eat, you have to do something in return". Fourthly, she showed him he was able to do more to earn money than just sell his body. Fifthly, he learned the discipline of having regular employment (turning up for the job, turning up on time, wearing clothes he doesn't particularly *like* etc) and the rewards of getting a regular paycheck. Sixthly, he learns to take orders - and that's the absolutely crucial Turk skill she taught him. He takes orders, and he follows them, even if he doesn't like them or disagrees with them, and that is *all* down to Auntie Qian. I suspect if Tseng ever met the woman, they'd eye each other suspiciously for about ten minutes before the conversation got around to the topic of Reno, and then she'd have a whole 'nother admirer - possibly a worshipper. Finally, she taught him about the whole concept of cause and effect - if you do something, you have to be prepared for the consequences, and those consequences may not be ones you'll enjoy.

Plus there's all the other little skills (like escaping out windows, taking a four floor drop without breaking one's neck, getting into a place through a fourth floor window etc) he learned along the way. But I think the less tangible skills were her greatest gift to him, and they're what made him what he is today.
I didn't think about a lot of those, but yeah, you're very, very right.

Another thing she did for him, something in my head because my mom kept foster kids when I was in college, so I know firsthand how messed up children of addicts are, is that she showed him a normal life--you grow up with an addicted parent, and you think that shit is normal and so it's what you think life is. All of a sudden, Reno was seeing that that wasn't how life went--Auntie Qian worked her ass off to provide for her own kid, and climbed her way from working in a restaurant to having her own by sheer, determined hard work. So he saw working=things get better vs whoring+drugs=things staying the same and crappy. It also got him used to things like not having to steal for food and, heck, just the idea that food was supposed to be around. And even more so, since Reno pretty much lived over there, with as often as he stayed over, and it was never a problem. Other than when he had Angry Auntie Qian on his hands, and Jie wouldn't let Reno getting away with running if he couldn't go--so he learned early partnership meant you were in through the good and the bad. >XD

If it weren't for Auntie Qian, yeah, Reno would, well, not have ended well at all, and he definitely would not have ended up a Turk.

And oh, god. He definitely learned to take orders from Auntie Qian, because she is not a woman you want to disobey. Reno got enough lumps and hand cramps to learn that one. XD

A friend and I were talking about what would happen in Tseng ever met Auntie Qian, and oh, god. It would not be pretty. Auntie Qian would take one look at Tseng and immediately dismiss him, with Tseng standing there blinking and no idea why. And it would take about 30 seconds of seeing her and Reno interacting to know exactly who it was that made Reno into who he is. (I also think she'd have an instant hate-on for Rufus, and overcharge him all the time, with a "What? He can afford it.")

...yeah, she had an influence. >XD