[Fic] The Things You Never Knew About People [4/12] - Hua pao

Title: Hua pao [things that go boom]
Author: joudama
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Rating: PG-13 for language
Notes: So, Reno is in the process of learning Wutai at this point. Being in the process, he doesn't understand everything. To show this, along with all the language switching, all dialogue in Wutai will be in italics. When Reno doesn't understand, since this is Reno-POV, the words he doesn't understand will be in unitalicized "Wutai". Ie: "I xihuan blow shit up." So the italics, Reno understands, the non-italicized, he doesn't. OK? (And please to be excusing any language goofs I made) ...and yes, I am a language geek. Heh. ^^;; Inversely? Jie is learning Standard (English). Sometimes he can't manage it. When he gives up and says something in Wutai it the middle of a sentence, it'll be italicized. If Reno knows the word, it'll be translated into English; if no, it'll be in Wutai.

With one exception, where I'm leaving something in Wutai that Reno understands in Wutai. Basically, the joke doesn't translate otherwise. All you need to remember is ben means "stupid." >XD

Reno's name in the Chinese version of FF7 is "Lei Nuo," and Jie's mom, unable to really get a good grasp on his name due to extreme lack of Standard ability at this point, calls him by that. And speaking of, the English "translations" of the Chinese chapter names are by no means exact. I'm just playing around with them because I can. XD

...Also, OMFG, 22 pages. WTFBBQ.

Status: 4/12 (plus epilogue in two parts)
Summary: Reno really likes things that go boom.

ㄉㄧˋㄙˋㄏㄨㄚˋ : ㄏㄨㄚㄆㄠˋ
Dì sì huà - Huā pào
[Things That Go Boom]

Winter, Reno found himself thinking not for the first time, really sucked.

It wasn't just that it was cold, though the cold really, really sucked pretty bad. It was that in winter, you always felt hungry. Or felt it more, at any rate. And it was always pointless to look around his place for food; if there was anything more than some moldy bread, a miracle of some sort happened--if his mom had money for food, she usually spent it getting high instead. Reno was used to no food and being hungry, as much as it sucked, but hated winter because in winter, it was worse, and it was also a hell of a lot harder to *get* food. Stores didn't have food outside, and it was a whole lot harder to steal food that was *inside* than it was food that was *outside*. And a lot easier to get *caught*. Winter, he had to work twice as hard to get less food, and that sucked. He glared at the empty cabinets, hating that he was gonna have to go out in the cold and try to find food, and the chances of actually getting something that would be more than a couple mouthfuls were pretty slim.

But there was, he thought, face brightening, another option. One way to get food in winter that worked was to have one person as a distraction while the other got the food--or whatever it is you wanted, like some mittens or a coat, or even shoes. Reno'd never asked Jie to help him get food, but he figured that since he and Jie stole pretty much everything else, he'd probably help out.

Or, if Reno was really lucky, Jie's mom would just feed him. Unlike everyone else Reno knew, they always had food. And lots of it. Reno had never seen food in someone's kitchen like he had in Jie's place--every cabinet was crammed full and the fridge was always full to bursting.

Reno had been in shock the first time he saw all the food in their kitchen. "Why y'all got so much food? Umm...why too much...food?" he said, switching to Wutai at Jie's blank look.

"'Too much'? We don't have too much! Wait, you mean why do we have *so much* food?" Jie asked, frowning slightly.

"Yeah! That! Why do we--no, duh, stupid--*y'all* have so much food?"

"Mom works at a fanguanr," Jie had said with a shrug. "She always brings home chisheng stuff."

Reno stared at him blankly. "Fanguanr? Chi...chisheng?"

"Fanguanr is uh...res...rest...people eat food place," Jie said, making a face.

"People eat food place? Wait...a 'restaurant'?"

Jie nodded. "Yeah! Restaurant. 'Chisheng' is people not ate all food."

Reno stared at him, making a face as he tried to work it out. "People not ate all food? HA! Food people didn't all eat! Leftovers!"

Suddenly, why there was food made sense, and why whenever Reno went over, Jie's mom always gave him food. It still shocked him, even after all these months, that she would just give him food, and some part of him was waiting for when his good luck would run out. He didn't push it too bad--like, he wouldn't steal food from their kitchen as strong as the temptations was--but he would try to milk it for all it was worth. It was hella easier, Reno thought, to just make really big eyes at the food before he left, 'cause it meant Jie's mom always got that AWWW look on her face and wrapped up baozi or something for him to take with him. AND if he gave her a big smile after she gave it to him, she would make the AWWW face again, call him cute and maybe pat his head and play with his hair, and sometimes give him MORE food, so it was a win-win all around, even though he DID have to put up with Jie making faces at him while his mom's back was turned. Reno usually horded some of the food in his room, but he never knew when his mom would find it and eat it herself. So far, she hadn't found his new hiding place, but he knew that wouldn't last long.

For now, though, he'd eaten through his stash yesterday, which was why he was hungry now; he'd had a few baozi which had stayed good a couple days because it was so cold in his room that they kept, but Mom hadn't been back in about three or four days, and he'd finally run out of the little food in the house *and* his stash.

Which meant time for another trip to Jie's, because if Jie's mom didn't feed him, maybe he could at least convince Jie to help him steal food from somewhere. Jie owed him, he figured; he'd been the "distraction" for Jie getting his new mittens.


Reno could smell Jie's place before he even got there. "Oh, man!" he moaned as his stomach went nuts growling. It smelled like Jie's mom had gone nuts cooking, and it would just be cruel if she didn't give him something. By the time he actually got to their front door, the "I'm hungry, feed me!" face he had been practicing on the way over had changed from an act to completely genuine. He banged on the door and there was a long pause before the door finally opened and Jie's mom, looking thoroughly frazzled, opened it.

Reno got as far as opening his mouth before she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him in, chiding him to hurry it up.

"Whuh?" he managed as she all but dragged him back into kitchen. He glanced around bewilderedly. He hadn't been over in a couple days, but in the interim, it looked like the place had been scrubbed clean from top to bottom, and there were fancy paper decorations put up with things in Wutai written on them.

"Wash your hands and pack things like Jie!" she snapped, blowing hair out of her face. "And hurry! Hurry!"

She whirled on her heel and went back to stuffing things into baozi.

"Just do it," Jie said. "Ma's crazy now," he finished, shooting a quick glance at his mother.

"Uh...OK," Reno said, wide-eyed. There was food all over the place, and he was really, really hungry, but he had the feeling if he tried to eat anything Jie's mom would smack him with the big wooden spoon that was next to her. He washed his hands really fast and went back over to Jie, and started wrapping things up like Jie was.

"What's all this?" he finally asked.

"Uh...Nong li New Year food. New Year."

Reno blinked. "New Year?! But it's *February*!"

"In Wutai, it's the new year," Jie said, switching back to Wutai. "And the restaurant Ma works at is making food for some big party. It's above Plate!"

Reno stopped suddenly. "Oh, wow! You goin'?"

Jie grinned. "Yeah! Ma said I could go look at stuff while she was working."

"Lucky!" Reno said, suddenly almost eaten with jealousy. He'd never been above the Plate before. His mom had said he wasn't allowed to go there by himself, and she'd never taken him.

"Finish working!" Jie's mom snapped, and they both jerked with surprise and went back to work. And Reno's stomach started growling again, but Reno was too scared of Jie's mom in scary-mode to risk asking her for something.

About twenty or thirty minutes later, everything seemed like it was ready to go. Jie's mom frazzledly pushed her hair out of her face and stared at them. "Both of you need to xizao! Aa, first eat, then xizao!" she snapped, and hurriedly cleared a space at the table and put together two plates for them. "Bian I'm xizao, bian you eat!" she snapped, and hurried off.

Jie and Reno just blinked, and finally Reno looked at Jie and said, "Your mom's crazy."


Still, Reno was not going to turn down food, not after he'd worked so hard and was so hungry. He had no idea what "xizao" meant, but it'd probably become clear sooner rather than later, and meanwhile the food was here and in front of him just begging to be eaten--he had his priorities.

He'd only barely finished when Jie's mom rushed out, hair still wet and a towel wrapped around her, dripping wet. "You two! Go! The water is ready! Go xizao!" she snapped, and suddenly, it made sense.

"What?!" Reno yelped. "Take a *bath* in *winter* when it's *cold*?! No way!" She had to be crazy. Had to be.

While Jie's mom still didn't understand Visgradian Standard very well yet, she did, Reno discovered once again, understand lip, and Reno found himself smacked soundly upside the head and shoved after Jie, ordered once again to take a bath, and ominous words that they had better be completely clean in fifteen minutes following after them.

"Jie, your mom's nuts," Reno said as they headed to the bathroom.

"...Yeah," Jie said, nervously looking over his shoulder as they walked to make sure she wasn't listening.

"And wash your hair!" they heard Jie's mom yell down the hall after they went into the bathroom. The unsaid threat of "or I thump both your heads" was clear to both of them, so they just grabbed some towels and stripped quickly and got into the tub.

"Jie, your mom is *really* crazy," Reno said, and started washing quickly, still doubting highly the sanity of being wet in winter.

Jie nodded. "And we need hurry."


They scrubbed clean quickly, helping each other rinse out their hair and checking for dirt anywhere that Jie's mom might find and yell at them for before rinsing off, getting out, and drying off.

They came out of the bathroom and Jie's mom yelled at them from behind her bedroom door to go in Jie's room and put on the clothes on the bed.

"How your mom do that?"

"Mom has ear xiang bat ear," Jie whispered nervously, looking like she was afraid she'd hear him.

"Jie Guang, give Lei Nuo your old red one! He's smaller so it should be OK. You wear the new red one!" Jie's mother yelled. She yelled something else that was too muffled for Reno to understand at all, but Jie nodded by reflex and yelled back that he would. Then they went in Jie's room and Reno suddenly understood.

"What the...?" he started, staring at the sets of clothes on Jie's bed.

Jie stared, too, then his face broke into a huge grin. "I think you come with us!"

"I can come with you? Above the Plate? YES!" Reno yelled, cheering. The two of them grinned and started jumping up and down, babbling excitedly.

"ARE YOU DRESSED?!" Jie's mom yelled, and they stopped jumping and got dressed as fast as they could, with similar "Oh, shit!" expressions on their faces.

They came out a few minutes later, Reno fussing with the unfamiliar clothes and tugging antsily at the high collar. He had just decided he didn't like these clothes at all when Jie's mom came out of her room and his jaw fell open. Jie's mom looked like a totally different woman, tall and confident-looking, hair swept up perfectly in some elaborate style and make-up applied deftly, dressed in a fancy traditional Wutai red dress. Reno found himself just staring at Jie's mom, and happily so, she was so pretty.

"Oh, man, when I grow up, I'm totally hooking up with your mom!" Reno said.

"Hunh?" Jie said. "I don't understand what you said."

"...Uh, nothing," Reno said, waving his hand, still staring at Jie's mom.

She noticed them then and smiled, and Reno was convinced she was the prettiest woman ever. "You two are so cute! Jie, so handsome! Such a handsome little man! And aiya, Lei Nuo! You're so cute, so white xiang a flower! You're so piaoliang! ...Well, almost. Jie, get me a fa shuazi!" she ended, raising an eyebrow.

Well, he figured out one word. "Xiang" seemed to mean "like," and all in all, this was sounding like Jie's mom was saying he was pretty like a girl or something. And while normally, Reno would get spitting mad at this, it was hard to get mad at someone so *pretty*, like Jie's mom was, especially with her smiling at him like that. All he could do was smile back at her stupidly.

...Well, smile stupidly until Jie showed up with a hairbrush, and then Jie's mom wasn't quite as pretty. Well, OK, she was, but his head was hurting a lot more. Jie had been laughing really hard at him trying to squirm away and failing miserably because Jie's mom had a *grip* and it really, really, really hurt when she was going at his hair so fast, then it was Reno's turn to laugh when she turned the evil brush on Jie.

"Get everything and let's go!" Jie's mom yelled. Reno and Jie looked at each other, then went to the kitchen table and picked up everything. They were about to head out the door when Jie's mom stopped short. "Aiya! Lei Nuo, I didn't ask your family! Maybe you can't go! I was too busy and you two are always together! What was I thinking? You were here and...aiya!"

Reno felt his heart sinking. "It's ok! Promise! I go, it's OK. OK!"

"No, no, you better ask your mother! Lei Nuo, da telephone your mother! Ruguo she says OK, you can come."

Reno swallowed thickly and picked up the phone, figuring "da" must be "call." He dialed the number, and got what he expected.

"This number is no longer in service. Please--"

"Yeah, mom, it's me! Yeah. I'm at Jie's place."

"---hang u--"

"Uh-hunh. Yeah. I did. Uh-hunh. OK, Mom? Yeah, hey, Mom? Listen!"

"--check the number and--"

"Yeah, Jie and his mom, they're going above the Plate for a Wutai New Year thing and said I can go, so can I go? Please? Can I go? Pleeeeease?"

"This number is no longer in service. Please hang up, check the number, and try a--"

"Pleeeeeeeeeease? YES! THANK YOU! Bye, Mom!"


He hung up the phone quickly and grinned. "Mom says OK!"

"Whew! OK, boys, let's go!" Jie's mom said and smiled.


As soon as they got to where the party was, following Jie's mom into the back, both kids laden down with boxes and bags, Reno and Jie found themselves mobbed.

"Lei Nuo, Jie Guang, put those over--" Jie's mom began, when:

"AAAAAA, they're so *cute*!"

And then it was pretty much over for work being accomplished in the kitchen for about ten minutes. Everything ground to a halt, and Reno and Jie found themselves surrounded by about fifteen Wutai women of all different ages, squealing at them in all different dialects of Wutai.

"Ningyou mitai kawaii!"

"Keoi dei han ho oi!"

And since they were both still laden down with bags and boxes, they had no way of defending themselves against all the hands coming out to touch them, patting their hair and cheeks.

Jie looked ready to start spitting fire any second, which thoroughly baffled Reno. As far as Reno was concerned, this was the greatest thing ever. He grinned up at the women, and they started squealing even more about how piaoliang--whatever the hell that was; had to be good, he figured--he was.

"We gotta put these down!" Jie finally said in irritation. And almost immediately, the boxes and bags were whisked away, but without Jie or Reno moving, so they were still surrounded by woman all trying to touch them.

"He looks so much like Xiao Zhen!" one woman cooing over Jie said while stroking his hair, and Jie flushed red.

"Well, she *is* my mom!" he snapped, batting ineffectually at hands.

Reno, meanwhile, was being bombarded for entirely different reasons.

"Maji de jige na no?!" one woman asked, and Reno blinked at her in utter confusion.

"What? What?"

"Is this really tiansheng de red head fa?" another said, stroking his raggedly cut hair.

"Yeah, it is!" Reno said, figuring out mostly what they wanted to know, and also figuring that had to be the stupidest question ever, what, he was nine, no way could he dye his hair yet.

Then the question didn't seem so stupid, when all of the squealed and started playing with his hair more with their soft hands and all of them trying to hug him, and man, he liked that lots, and anything that got him that reaction was a good thing.

And now it was time to milk it.

"So...'my hair's red' is 'hong tou fa' right?" he said, trying to put it all together. "'Tiansheng de hong tou fa', that's right, yeah?"

He remembered Jie's mom thinking him trying to speak Wutai had been the cutest thing ever when he started, and it was nice to see yeah, Wutai women still thought it was cute and reacted with that "AWWW SO CUTE!" face that usually got him food from Jie's mom but was now totally getting him petted and hugged, and yeah, boobs felt really nice and he could get used to this.

"Ma, make them let me go!" Jie yelped, and Reno decided "nuts" must run in the Qian family.

Luckily, the women thought that was cute.

"How much ya sui qian did you get?" one woman asked Jie, stroking his head like one would a pet.

Jie pouted a little. "It's just me and my mom, so I only got ya sui qian from her. And only twenty gil."

Reno blinked. "What's 'ya...yasu...ya sui qian'?" he asked in Wutai.

"New year money!" Jie said, grinning.

Reno blinked. "New year money? What's that?"

Now Jie stared at him. "You don't get new year money?!" he said, looking shocked, his mouth hanging open.

Reno shook his head. "No, don't get. You're lucky," he said, completely jealous.

"Aww, you don't have any new year money?" one of the women said. She looked ready to say something else, when someone hissed, "The boss is coming!" Suddenly and distressingly, the women freaked and scattered.

"Thank Odin," Jie muttered under his breath, looking slightly frazzled. He tried to smooth down his hair, looking irritated.

"Freak," Reno muttered.

"Am not."

"Are so."

"Am NOT!"

"Are SO!"

"Yeah, well, you're...you're motorcycle!"

"...Bwuh ha?" Reno said, giving Jie a "your momma dropped you on the head when you were a baby" look.

Jie looked smug. "What does motorcycle say?"

"Uh, 'vroom'?" Reno said, still looking at Jie like he was nuts.

"No. It says 'ben ben ben ben ben'," Jie said, and stuck out his tongue. Reno blinked, then burst out laughing.

"Motorcycles say ben ben ben ben ben! HAHAHAHA!" he said, getting the joke. "Good o--!"

"...Who are these children and why are they here?" a voice boomed. Reno and Jie turned to see some old fart glaring at them.

Before either of them could say anything, Jie's mom rushed up, and started bowing apologetically. "I'm sorry. This is my son Jie Guang and his friend Lei Nuo. They helped me bring things. They won't get in the way," she said, sounding nervous and talking faster, and Reno didn't understand any more. The older guy looked down at the two of them, and Reno decided he really didn't like him.

"They had better not. But you know..." he began, looking thoughtful, a weird little smile on his face. "Well, too bad the little yang guizi doesn't speak Wutai."

Reno's eyes narrowed. "I do so!" he said, not all that sure what "yang guizi" was but not liking the way the guy was looking at him when he said it.

The weird little smile got bigger, and he turned to Jie's mom. He started talking really fast, a little too fast for Reno to catch all of it, but he understood enough--he understood the "get them out or make them work" bit, and something about him being cute, which put Reno on instant edge. He didn't know what all it was exactly that the guy wanted them to do, but when an old fart was saying you were cute and wanted you to do something or get out, well, that never boded well, and every instinct was telling him to cut and run now. The only thing keeping him from kicking the old fart in the balls and taking off was that Jie's mom's hand had dropped on his and Jie's shoulder, and damn if Reno could figure out how someone with such thin arms could have such a really strong grip.

Plus, he didn't think Jie's mom would sell him out. After all, Reno's own mom was a junkie and would do pretty much anything for cash, and she'd still kicked out the guy who offered her money for Reno once.

And she'd lifted his wallet as she did so, which Reno still thought was the coolest thing ever.

Jie's mom was still doing that bowing thing, and next thing Reno knew, her deathgrip had gone from his shoulder to his head and she was pushing him down in a bow, hissing "Thank him!" at the two of them under her breath in that "Do as I say NOW" voice.

"Thank you!" both Jie and Reno piped in with, and kept bowed until Jie's mom let up on their heads.

Once the old fart was gone, she turned on them. "You two! Don't act up or...!" she said, not even bothering to finish the threat or needing to. "Do exactly as I say!"

They nodded, and soon found themselves standing at the entrance to the hall at the doorway, saying the same canned "Happy New Year!" and something Reno didn’t quite understand but it sure *seemed* canned so he said "Gong xi fai cai!" with a smile to everyone who came in and offering to take coats.

It was boring at first, but Reno had to admit--this was pretty sweet, because everyone reacted the same way to his Wutai, and yeah, he was loving it. And after a little while, even Jie got into it, although his smile was way more like his mom's the way she looked in her make-up, all cool and untouchable and pretty in a way that made you have to look at it. Reno was a little impressed at how Jie gave off "I'm better than all of you so don't even think about touching me" haughtiness. Impressed and thinking Jie was crazy, 'cause all this touching and cooing? Best. Thing. Ever. And the bigger a smile Reno gave and bigger he made his eyes, the more people, men and women, just went nuts. And everyone liked his hair. He'd never really thought about it before, but man, if he could get this reaction, yeah, his hair needed more attention. Maybe he'd start brushing it some or something.

He kinda figured, though, that they were being used 'cause they were cute, same way as Jie's mom had been put out in the lobby as well. It wasn't her job, but she was pretty, she was real pretty, and Reno knew people liked to look at pretty. He sure did.

Eventually it seemed like everyone who was supposed to be there was, and he and Jie escaped back into the kitchen.

"The wu shi is in an hour and a half," Jie's mom said when they got in. "Ruguo you promise to be good, you can go."

"We will, we will, we totally will!" Jie said, grinning excited. Reno started at them, not sure what a "wu shi" was, but hey, he'd find out eventually. Although really, he was happy being here, in the kitchens. It was warm, everything smelled really good, and people were *still* patting his head, real quick, playing with his hair, as they went by.

Jie's mother smiled at them, then immediately loaded them both down with a tray. "You two are popular. Everyone wants to see you two." She looked proud of the two of them, and Reno and Jie grinned back at her.

Then she gave them both a shove to the door out of the kitchen.


Jie's mom had been right; it seemed like everyone at the damned dinner-party-thing wanted to fawn over the two of them. Jie kept throwing Reno pitying looks, since once people found out he could say more that "Happy New Year!" in Wutai, everyone wanted to hear him talking. Reno was still convinced Jie was out of his mind, to think all this attention was some kind of bad thing.

Although he was beginning to suspect that "piaoliang" meant "pretty," and if it did, next person who called him that was getting kicked in the crotch. Well, if he thought he could get away with it and not have Jie's mom kill him. Which she would, so no. Still, everyone kept calling him "piaoliang" but Jie "hao kan"--"good looking", and this was getting on his nerves.

"What's piaoliang?" he finally hissed at Jie in irritation after he got it but Jie got "good looking."

Jie started snickering and looked smug. "It means you look like a girl. Piaoliang is for girls."

"Not 'cute'?"

Jie shook his head. "Boys and girls can be cute. But only giiiiiirls are piaoliang," Jie said, face lighting up in an evil, teasing grin.

"Drop dead," Reno, making a rude gesture.

"You qu si ba!" Jie said, sticking out his tongue.

"No, you qu si ba," Reno said.

"No, you."

"You first."

"You're stupid."

"You're a motorcycle."

Jie started snickering and Reno joined in a second later. Then Reno's eyes got big. "Hey, hey! The...the thing! That your mom said was in an hour and a half! It's almost time!" he said, pointing at a clock.

Jie stared at him. "Hunh? Slower!" he snapped, sticking out his tongue. "You talk too fast!"

"The *thing*!" Reno said, irritated. "That your mom said we could go see! The wu something!"

"Aahh!! The wu shi!" Jie said, mouth falling open. "C'mon, c'mon, we gotta hurry! Tell Ma, then go see!"

Reno nodded. "Yeah!" They rushed back to the kitchens and searched around for Jie's mom before finding her snapping angrily at one of the other cooks.

"Ma! Ma!"

"What?!" she snapped, turning to them.

Jie ignored his mother's bad mood, being used to it. "Ma! It's almost time for the wu shi! Can we go? Hunh? Can we, can we, can we?"

"Ah! The wu shi! That starts soon!" She looked at them carefully. "You promise no getting into trouble?"

"We promise!" both of them piped in with.

"Jie Guang, get my purse. I have a di tu of where it is. Ruguo you get lost, come back here."

"OK!" Jie said, and ran off to get his mom's purse.

While he was gone, Jie's mom smiled down at Reno, and the girl she had been yelling at slipped off. "Having fun?"

Reno grinned. "Yeah! One guy gave me candy and a gil!" he said, bouncing. "I really want to see the wu shi! Jie says it's really cool!"

"I think you'll like it. But no getting into trouble!" she said, suddenly stern. "And no fights!"

"Yes, Auntie Qian," he said, rolling his eyes. Before she could get mad, though, he gave her a big, cheeky grin. She swatted at him halfheartedly, smiling faintly.

Jie came back then with her purse, and she dug around for a bit until she pulled out a slick, shiny sheet of paper. "Here, here's the di tu," she said, spreading out the small map. She pointed to one of the main streets, and Jie and Reno both started at it. Reno had no idea what all he was looking at, since he had never been above the Plate and everything was written in Wutai characters. He looked at it more closely, and saw the street names also had Standard, but basically everything else was in Wutai. "We're here," she said, circling the place in read. "And the wu shi is here," she said, and circled it. She drew them a path also in red, then handed the map to Jie. She looked at them carefully. "Will you be OK?"

They nodded.

"OK, then--" she began, when one of the people working came up.

"Are they going now?" the woman asked. Jie's mom looked slightly confused, and nodded.

"Yes, to see the wu shi," she said, blinking.

"Can you wait just a minute?" she said, smiling down at Jie and Reno.

"Uh...sure, OK," Jie said, looking just as confused as his mom.

The woman scurried off, and few minutes later, they were surrounded again. One woman pulled out two red envelopes, and Jie's face lit up.

"You two have a happy new year, OK?" the woman said, smiling at them. "It's not much, but we all hope you enjoy it," she finished, and handed each of them an envelope.

Jie grinned. "Thank you!" he yelled, jumping up and down excitedly. Reno stared at him.


"Open it, dummy!" Jie said, sticking out his tongue. Reno looked at the pretty red envelope with two Wutai characters on it written in gold.

"What's this say?" he said, looking at Jie's mom.

She smiled. "It says 'Lei Nuo'. Your name."

"Oh, wow, cool!" he said, grinning at his name in characters. That was a lot cooler looking that "Reno" was, that was for sure. "Jie! Jie! Lemme see your name in Wutai!" he said, holding out his hand. Jie held up the envelope.

"...My name's cooler," Reno said, sticking his tongue out.

"...yeah, well, you suck." Jie said, rolling his eyes. "And open it!"

Reno blinked and remembered yeah, he hadn't looked in yet. He opened it, and his eyes got big as he saw all the money in it. "Oh, wow. This is for me? Really? I mean, really. For me?" he said, too shocked to use Wutai at first. "This mine? You giving me? Really?"

The women nodded. "It's new year's!"

Reno couldn't keep a big, wobbly grin off his face. "Thank you! Thank you! Oh, wow, thanks!" he said, and started bouncing. He'd never had so much money in his hands in his life, this was so great, he was gonna be able to get stuff, this ROCKED.

"Xing li! Jie's mom hissed at them, and out of nowhere her hands came up, one on each their heads, and pushed down so they bowed and bowed low enough. "And say thank you properly!" she snapped.

"Thank you very much!" both boys said, bent over and not able to move.

"Better," Jie's mom said, letting them up.

The women, all smiles and giggles, headed back to their jobs, and Reno just kept staring at the money. There had to be about forty gil. Easy. He could barely even believe it and was terrified that at any second, the women would come back and take it from him, saying it was a mistake or a joke.

"Well, what are you going to mai?" Jie's mom said, breaking into Reno's awed contemplation of all that money.

"Hunh?" he said, shaking his head a little.

"What are you going to mai?"

He just stared at her, still overwhelmed plus not understanding what exactly she was asking him. He felt a little lost, truth be told, and finally managed to move his mouth some, but not actually produce more and a choked, "I--!"

Jie saved him, suddenly getting a big grin on his face.

"Ma! Ma! Can we mai baozhu?"

Jie's mom got the scary look. "Jue dui NOT mai," she said.

"But Maaaaaaa, it's *new years*!" Jie whined.

"And baozhu are dangerous!"

"But we'll be careful! We will! I promise!" Jie needled, sticking out his lip. "It's new years! And...and..." His eyes landed on Reno and he grinned as if he knew he had a trump card. "And Reno lian one gen baozhu dou cong lai not fang guo, yo! C'mon Mama, pleeeeeeeeeeease?!" Jie pleaded, eyes all big. Reno had no idea what it was Jie wanted, but he figured Jie had never led him wrong, so he added his "Pleeeeeeease!" in with Jie, making his eyes as big as he could.

"They're dangerous and you two will jue dui baozha something!"

"But...but...ma, I'll be careful! I won't baozha anything, I *promise*! Ma, Reno hasn't fang guo baozhu!"

"Yeah! I haven't fang guo baozhu!" Reno said, starting to get over his shock and joining in with whatever Jie was trying to convince his mom to let them do. He wasn't completely sure what he was saying, but figured it couldn't hurt, and he made his lip stick out a little and his eyes real big and pleading, so he looked even more pathetic.

"Pleeeeeeeeeease?!" they both said at the same time.

"...ARGH!" Jie's mom said in exasperation, and both Jie and Reno fought a grin. They knew that look, and a few minutes later were running off to see the "wu shi" thing AND to get the mysterious "baozhu" that Jie had been talking about. Jie was grinning and bouncing and yelling, "Baozhu! Baozhu!" and Reno just piped in along with him, not knowing what a "baozhu" was, but figuring it had to be pretty good to be getting that reaction, and he'd probably like it.


They, amazingly enough, didn't get lost at all. All they had to do was follow the crowd. They got to the main street and managed to squeeze through to near the front by virtue of still being small.

"It's starting!" Jie said, grinning and coming down from his tip-toes. Reno could hear the faint sounds of drums and music, and he poked his head over to look where Jie was pointing.

And then, the dancers showed up, and Reno spent the next thirty minutes with his jaw hanging open, watching them jumping and dancing and moving the head of whatever the heck animal it was supposed to be, heck if Reno knew, attacked bunches of greens with red envelopes hanging from them in front of businesses, acting like they were chewing up the greens but leaving the money.

Reno was disappointed when they were no longer in sight, and was about to ask if they could go after them, when he started hearing POP! POP! POP! noises, and Jie's face lit up.

"Baozhu!" Jie said, looking around. "OK, I hear them. There's *gotta* be a mou ren selling them!" he said.

Reno nodded, still feeling clueless and not knowing what "baozhu" or "mou ren" were and kind of wanting to go after the dancers. "Yeah, OK," thinking that the baozhu had better be better than the dancers or he was gonna punch Jie. Jie grabbed his hand and tugged Reno after him, following where the popping sounds had been coming from. He stopped from time to time to ask people about them, and eventually, they found what they were looking for.

"Gil!" Jie said, holding out his hand.

Reno scowled at him. "What for?"

Jie rolled his eyes. "You can't mai baozhu without money, dummy!" he said.

Reno stuck out his tongue. "Can't we just--" he began, and cut it off at the glare he got from Jie. "Fine," he grumbled, and pulled out his envelope and handed over a gil, looking pained.

And minute or so later, Jie had grabbed him by the arm and was tugging Reno after him, and bag in his hands.

"This is baozhu!" Jie said with a grin, opening the bag when they got to a relatively clear place and proudly holding up a string of firecrackers.

"What are those? What do they do?" Reno said, waiting to be impressed.

"Watch!" Jie said with a grin.

A minute or so later, Reno was suitably impressed. "Oh man that is SO COOL!" he said, grinning his head off and eyes shining. "My turn, my turn! My turn!" he said, holding out his hand for the lighter and a string of firecrackers. Jie handed them over and Reno lit them gleefully, grinning at the loud string of "POP! POP! POP!" that came out.


Reno had thought nothing could have beaten the money or the firecrackers, but it turns out that the best part came near the end of the evening. Jie had grabbed his arm and said, "The yanhuo start soon! Come on, we have to get up high for this!" and Reno had followed. They scrambled up to the roof of a nearby building, and Reno almost fell OFF, at the first explosion in the sky.

"Sweet Shiva!" he cussed, wide-eyed. "Jie! Jie! Hoshit, you see that?" he said, grabbing Jie's arm and pointing at the fading colors, eyes still huge and jaw hanging open. Never in his whole life had he seen anything like that.

"What, the yanhuo?"

"That's yanhuo?" Reno said, pointing at the next one that went off, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. "Oh, *wow*!"

"Yeah. Yanhuo. What, you cong lai don't see guo yanhuo?" Jie said, trying to act cool.

This time the words in that kind of sentence all made sense, after all the stuff about firecrackers, and Reno stuck out his tongue. "I never left under the Plate, stupid! Of *course* I've never seen fireworks!"

Just then, there was another explosion in the sky, and Reno stared up at it, eyes wide and shining and mouth hanging open. They stayed on the roof until the last of the fireworks faded, Reno staring transfixed both at the fireworks and the sky he never saw.

Finally, Jie poked him. "C'mon, Ma get worried," he said, and Reno nodded slowly.

"Yeah, OK. Man, that was *so awesome*," he said, not able to put into words how it had looked and how exciting the booms had been or how pretty the explosions in the sky and the streaks of color flying through the air.

"Yeah. Ones in Wutai is better," Jie said. "Bigger. But this awesome, yeah!"

Reno nodded. He closed his eyes for a minute, and could still see the colors in the sky in his mind. "Yeah, let's go," he said, and carefully, they climbed of the roof, firecrackers firmly in hand and visions of fireworks still in their heads.


Reno didn't realize how sleepy he was until they got on the train back to below-Plate. Jie fell asleep first, leaning on his mom's arm, and Reno was feeling drowsy himself. He was still holding onto his firecrackers and the envelope with his new year's money tightly, as if they would vanish. He blinked sleepily, shaking his head a little to stay awake.

Jie's mom smiled at him. "Did you fang one gen firecracker?" she asked, an amused smile on her face.

"Yeah!" Reno said as it all clicked. "I did! I lit a firecracker!" he said, perking up. "It was so cool! And the Lion Dance, when they jumped and ate the greens but not the red...uh...you know, thing the money is in, and fireworks! They were so...so..." he stopped, struggling for the right word. They weren't "cute" and they weren't "good-looking," but for the life of him, he couldn't think of what it might... "piaoliang," he finished, looking at her to see if she started laughing because the word was wrong.

"They are, aren't they?" she said instead. "Yuan lai I was a girl, I loved fireworks. I thought that were very piaoliang."

"Yeah, they--" Reno started, and then a huge yawn interrupted his words. He raised one hand to sleepily rub his eyes. "They are really piaoliang." He yawned again, then blinked at Jie's mom sleepily.

"I'm glad you had fun," she said, then lapsed into silence again. Reno stared down at the fireworks and envelope in his hands, and smiled faintly.

The next thing he knew, Jie's mom was shaking him awake. He blinked a few times owlishly, and saw her waking Jie up as well. She was saying something, but he was too sleepy to catch it all. Still, it looked like it was about time for them to be getting off the train, so he roused himself up, and when the train stopped, he and Jie sleepily followed Jie's mom off the train.

When they got to Jie's place, he was so sleepy he couldn't keep his eyes open.

"Call your mother and tell her you're staying over," Jie's mom said gently. Halfway back, Jie had gotten sluggish enough that she had picked him up to carry him, and Reno had felt unaccountably jealous of that.

...Then she'd put Jie down, saying he was waaaay too heavy for her to carry when she had all the other stuff, and he had perfectly good legs. Jie had made a face, but gamely started walking again.

"Nnngh," Reno said to that, rubbing his eyes. Jie's mom put all the bags she had down, then Jie held up his arms and gave her a pathetic look.

"Yes, yes," she said, and picked Jie up. He rested his head on her shoulder. "Lei Nuo, bian I take Jie to bed, bian call your mom."

"'Kay," he mumbled sleepily, sniffling slightly. He headed to the telephone as Jie's mom headed off with Jie. He picked up the phone and dialed, knowing what he would get. He didn't even feel like bothering, but knew Jie's mom had ears like a bat.

"Hi, mom," he said, ignoring the disconnected message. "Uh-hunh. Yeah. Mmm. I had fun. Is it OK if I stay at Jie's tonight? OK. OK. See you tomorrow," he said, giving pauses long enough to imagine what his mom would have said if, you know, the phone hadn't been disconnected and she been not jonesing or strung out, and finally hung up. Jie's mom hadn't come back yet, so he sat down on a chair and waited.

He didn't realize he had fallen asleep until he opened his eyes and realized his head was against something warm and nice-smelling. "Hunh?" he let out sleepily, then realized why he felt so warm. Jie's mom had picked him up and was carrying him.

Jie's mom said something, he didn't know what, and his eyes slid shut, relaxing against her, head against her neck. She carried him to Jie's room and then started unbuttoning his clothes, moving his arms as she pulled the clothes off him then pulled a T-shirt over his head, changing him for bed. She patted his head and tucked him into the bed next to Jie, who hadn't woken up through the whole thing.

"Night," Reno mumbled sleepily, curling up on his side under the covers. If Jie's mom said anything or not, he missed it, asleep as soon as the word was out of his mouth.


Reno woke up not quite knowing where he was, but figuring it out quick when he rubbed his eyes and saw Jie asleep next to him, one of Jie's arms slung over Reno's chest. Reno wanted to go back to sleep--it was so warm, with all the covers and Jie--but the smells coming out of the kitchen were really, really good.

"Wake up!" he said, shoving at Jie. "Wake up!"

"Don't wanna," Jie mumbled, waving one hand in the air.

"Get up, Jie!" Reno said, pushing at him. "Food!"

Jie made a rude gesture and went back to sleep. Reno rolled his eyes and stumbled out of bed towards the kitchen.

Reno couldn't help but giggle when he saw Jie's mom. Jie's anti-morning reaction seemed to completely come from his mother; her hair was impressively morning-head and she was shuffling along like she wasn't quite awake yet.

"Morning!" Reno said cheerfully; Jie's mom looked at him like she wanted to smack him upside the head just for being so happy so early.

"Mregrhegh," she mumbled at him, scratching at the back of her calf with the toe of the other foot, and Reno didn't even try to hide his snicker.

He was rewarded with a smack on the head. But then came a plate of food, so all in all, it was worth it.

"Jie Guang!" she finally yelled back towards Jie's bedroom. "Lei Nuo is going to eat all the food!"

There was a loud thump, and then Jie came stumbling out. He managed to get to the kitchen and sit down and begin eating, but he didn't look completely awake. Neither did Jie's mom. She sat down and kind of shoveled the food into her mouth with the chopsticks, opening her eyes just enough to see. By the time she had finished, she looked more awake.

Once Reno ate until his stomach felt ready to burst, he realized he should probably go home. He didn't really want to, but he also didn't want to push his luck. So after he ate, he changed into his clothes from yesterday and headed back into the kitchen.

"I should go home," he said, shrugging some. "Thanks for yesterday, it was so much fun," he said, scratching the back of his neck and feeling shy as he gave Jie's mom a smile.

"Thank you for your help," she said, nodding faintly. "Ah! Your firecrackers and new year money!" she said, getting up. She left and came back a moment later with a bag. "It's in here. Be careful, OK?" she said, raising an eyebrow at him. She handed him the bag and a box she took from the refrigerator. "And I packed some baozi for you and your mother."

"Thanks. And I'll be careful," he said.

"Gong xi fa cai, Lei Nuo," she said, giving him a sleepy smile.

He grinned again. "Gong xi fa cai. And thank you! And Jie, see you later, OK?"

"OK!" Jie said, yawning. "Gong xi," he yawned again, "fa cai."

"Yeah yeah, you, too," he said, and waved good-bye.

Reno was slightly nervous all the way home, but figured it was way too early for the thieves and perverts to be out, so he should be OK. As it was, though, he didn't completely relax until he got home. When he got home, it was empty as he expected. And frickin' cold. He put his bag on the table and opened the box of baozi. There were six buns in there, so he took out half of them and wrapped them up for his mom, figuring as cold as it was, they'd keep even if he left them out. The rest he left in the box, and took them and the bag to his room and to his hiding place.

Reno sat down in front of the hiding place and put in the box carefully, the opened the bag and took out his firecrackers. He grinned and put them in just as carefully, then took out the envelope of new year's money. He traced one of his fingers along the golden characters that were his name in Wutai. Lei. Nuo. Maybe one day, he'd ask how to write it or something.

Carefully, Reno put it in with his firecrackers and his New Year money, and closed them up with a smile.

Yesterday had been the best day ever.


Reno knew it was never a good sign when his mom was singing. If mom was singing, she was in a good mood, and if she was in a good mood, it meant she was high.

Although if his choice was "mom high" and "mom jonesing," "mom high" tended to win out, because mom was all fucked up when she was jonesing, and it used to scare the crap out of Reno when he was younger, and it still made him want to hole up in his room under his covers and try not to cry. He also hated when she was jonesing because he had to really take care of her, steal extra food and make her eat, and sometimes clean up after she would throw up whatever he made her eat. When mom was high, she just did crazy things, but when she was jonesing, she got that scary, desperate look in her eyes, the look that made Reno glad the guy that tried to buy him off her didn't ask when she hadn't had her fix.

"I'm home..." Reno said tentatively, closing the door behind him as he went into their apartment, waiting to see how fucked up things were gonna be. She hadn't been home that morning, hadn't been home for days, and he hadn't expected her to be home when he got there.

Well, hadn't expected her to be home and be high as a kite. Still, this beat her being home and jonesing. Kinda. This way, at least, there was less puking and sweating and shaking.

"Reno!" his mom said, high as a kite and happy as can be. She stumbled over to him and threw her arms around him, which made Reno go tense, wondering what was going on. "Reno, you're a good boy, you know that?" she said, hugging him tighter and kissing his cheek. "And mommy loves you so, so much. You're such a good boy!"

Reno hugged his mom back, a wavering little smile on his face. Mom was being weird, she normally didn't pay this much attention to him when she was high, but...but it was nice, it was really nice, it was great, to have her acting like she cared.

She hugged him again then let him go and went back to the couch and plopped down, singing again and lolling her head back. Reno stared at her, with that same unsure smile on his face.

"M-mom?" he started. "Are you hungry? 'Cause I got some food. In the kitchen. You hungry?" he said.

His mom smiled and waved a hand in the air. "Mommy's alllll OK, sweetie! You're a good boy, Reno." She went back to singing.

"Well, if you want it, it's in the kitchen, OK?" he said, then headed to his room before something ruined it.

He got to his room and saw instantly that something was very, very wrong. He scrambled to where his stash was and skidded to his knees, then just stared at the space where his baozi and new year's money had been. His firecrackers were still there, but everything else...

Before he could stop himself, his breath hitched, and then he was crying for all he was worth, as he suddenly realized why he was "a good boy" and why "Mommy" loved him.

In the background, he could still hear his mother singing.

He crept out of his room and into his mother's, and swiped the first small thing he could find that was hers. Then he headed back to his room, grabbed his firecrackers and snuck out the window.

Jie may have promised not to blow anything up with them, but he sure hadn't.


Chapter 5: Orders | TTYKNAP master list


*whistles* All of this makes such dreadful sense of Reno and explosives.
hee hee, doesn't it just? There's a reason why that boy likes things that go boom.

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