[fic] The Things You Never Knew About People: Epilogue - Noodles

Title: The Things You Never Knew About People - Epilogue: Noodles
Status: 13/14
Fandom: FF7
Rating: PG
Word count: 2450
Summary: And as odd as it was to hear Reno speaking Wutai, it didn't quite match the brain-bending of seeing Reno cooking.
A/N: OMFG, we're almost done--there's only one more part after this, the last "Wutai" epilogue. That's still got some work to do, but still. OMFG like whoa.

Epilogue - Noodles

"Thanks again, man," Reno said when he opened the door, giving Rude one of his huge smiles, this smile one of relief.

"Don't mention it. I don't mind," he said, shrugging as he came in.

"And I need my pay undocked, yo," Reno said, one corner of his mouth shooting up in a snarky little smile. "Have a seat," he said, gesturing at the couch. The coffee table in front was covered in Reno's books on Wutai characters, along with several beer cans and what looked like a porno mag. "Hey, gotta keep my brain from exploding somehow," he said with a disarming and playful smile on his face, tongue poking between his lips, almost challenging Rude to say something when he noticed Rude raising an eyebrow at the porno.

Rude just rolled his eyes and sat down at the table, mildly thankful that there were no crumpled tissues anywhere, all things considered--it was his first time being to Reno's apartment, and he had quite honestly had no real idea what to expect, other than "bachelor apartment" and the stereotypical images of mess, booze bottles and pizza boxes.

And porn. The others had been a bit off, but the porn being there somehow surprised him not at all.

"How many characters did Tseng say were going to be on this test?"

Reno groaned, mood switching instantly. "Close to a thousand. I think I know most of 'em thanks to all that translatin' shit I had to do, but still. I still can't believe he's still testin' me on this shit. And dockin' my pay if I don't know 'em all. What the shit, man, even Turk trainin' wasn't this much of a bitch, yo."

Rude refrained from smiling, but was thinking that he could very well see why Tseng would insist on testing--it was very likely that, sooner than Reno would expect, a lot of technical things related to materia and its usage would start showing up, and it was far better to give Reno a strong base in everything now before that came at him. Reno had to be pushed to use his brain, and even then, it required the right incentive. Continuing to have money for his booze and porn seemed to be the right inducement, in Reno's case.


Rude had no high hopes for Reno's idea of "cooking;" he found himself extremely surprised when the smells coming out of the kitchen were so good he had to swallow a few times. Reno had offered Rude dinner for giving up his evening to help Reno study and Rude had figured "dinner" would be delivery of some sort; instead Reno had jumped up after an hour or two and said his brain hurt so it was food time.

"So where are we ordering from?" Rude had said, trying to think which places near Reno's were good.

"Nowhere, not with Tseng threatenin' my pay," Reno'd said, scowling as he thought about his endangered paycheck. "I'm gonna cook something. So just wait here, an' I'll have it done in, like, twenty minutes. Watch a movie or TV or somethin', 'cause you know I ain't got none of them books you like so much here," Reno said with a grin, and headed off to the kitchen.

Rude frowned slightly, but dutifully sat down and started flipping through channels on the TV, finally settling on a news broadcast--another terrorist attack. He already knew about it, plus all the details that didn't make the highly-censored news reports, so his focus was constantly broken by the sounds of crashing and banging in the kitchen. Rude had just started wondering if he perhaps should have offered to pay for dinner out when absolutely amazing smells that he would never expected to come out of Reno's kitchen started wafting over, and Rude found himself in the kitchen without even realizing when he had started towards the door.

"Oh, hey. Gimme, like, ten minutes," Reno said, looking over his shoulder in surprise then waving Rude over to the table. "I just gotta finish heating shit up, y'know?"

"Take your time," Rude said, sitting down at the small table and watching Reno, boggling slightly at the sheer amount of things Reno's kitchen had--Rude had expected little more than a refrigerator and a sink full of dirty dishes; instead it was mildly cluttered in the way that spoke clearly of actual usage.

And as odd as it was to hear Reno speaking Wutai, it didn't quite match the brain-bending of seeing Reno cooking Wutai, wielding a pair of cooking chopsticks, easily twice as long and thick as normal ones, without a thought, totally looking at home doing so.

"You're really lucky, you know that, partner?" Reno said, looking over his shoulder again and grinning. "I normally don't never cook for nobody. Shit, I don't even cook for me half the time; take-out's, y'know, one phone call and bam, don't even gotta do dishes after."

"Well, I'm honored," Rude said, giving Reno a small, amused smile.

"Aww, don't get your hopes up," Reno said, grinning one of his cheeky little smiles, teasing and self-depreciating all at once. "This ain't, like, four star cuisine or nothin'."

"I wouldn't have thought of you as being good at cooking," Rude said, feeling the urge to be honest. "Myself, I'm quite the terrible cook."

Reno grinned. "No kiddin'? For real?"

Rude nodded, smiling a little himself. "It's not an exaggeration to say I burn water."

"Ya don't say," Reno said, looking amused. "I'd've guessed you'd be good at it, cookin' up gourmet shit all the time. Me, I'm always happy to have food around, y'know? When I was a kid, once I was around a steady supply of food, I got real interested in how to put it together."

"Makes sense," Rude said, nodding. Now that he thought about it, Reno did always know where the best places to eat were, no matter where they were in Midgar or Junon, and his desk always had something stashed away in it, be it a candy bar or a small bag of chips.

...well, he'd used to keep candy bars. After the third or fourth time Rude found them, Reno'd given up on threatening to beat Rude with his baton and just switched to caching small bags of nuts or chips.

"Here ya go, partner," Reno said, sliding a large bowl of noodles in front of Rude. "Dragon noodles, Auntie Qian's own recipe."

Rude picked up a pair of chopsticks and took a taste. "This's really good!" he said in surprise. It had to be some of the best Wutai noodles he'd ever had, and with a tang of something about the flavor he could only describe as "authentic."

Reno smiled, the rarest smile in his whole repertoire of them--this one was a real smile, shy and nervous, like a kid. "Came out OK then, yeah? I ain't made 'em in years, and mine ain't as good, but, hey, learned from the master." His eyes turned a little faraway, and his smile changed to one like he was remembering something, quirking up slightly at some remembered word or scene. "Like I said, Jie's mom always did make the best bailong mian. Didn't spend all them years pestering her to make it for me not to have picked up how, yo."

Reno smiled a little at his bowl, and Rude watched him through his mirrored sunglasses, waiting for the words he was sure were going to come.

"...man, I oughta tell you 'bout the time Jie's mom threatened to chase me out with a broom if I didn't shut up about the bailong mian. I think she taught me how to make them just hopin' to shut me up, like that could ever work, man, you'd think as long as she knew me she'd have figured it out, that I don't never shut up, but guess hope springs eternal, yeah?" Reno's smile wavered, but he held onto it.

Rude smiled, just a little. "That it does," he said, and ate his noodles, listening as Reno talked and watching his smile and animated gestures, and ignoring the way Reno's voice would sometimes catch and his eyes were glittering in a way different from how they always had before.

"...I miss 'em, man," Reno said quietly, staring at his bowl after he finally fell silent. "Auntie Qian an' Jie, man, I miss 'em real bad. That they ain't around, it's always somethin' kinda empty, y'know? I thought I left all that behind, but all this shit really brought it back." His breath hitched suddenly, and he shook his head, blinking quickly. "Aww, what'm I doin', gettin' all sentimental an' shit? Past is past, yo. Jie's gone an' his ma said she don't never wanna see me no more, so there you go. Don't even know if she's still alive or nothin'." Something in his face went hard, cold and shuttered, then he shook his head again. "An' right now, I gotta worry about the boss takin' a big, hefty chunk outta my paycheck if I don't got all them wuzi down cold. I swear, it's like dockin' pay is his hobby or somethin'," he said, voice changing to a whine, face looking relieved to have switched subjects.

"All the more reason for us to get back to work, then," Rude said, giving Reno his out. "No reason to make Tseng enjoy his work more."

Reno grinned, some of the tension in his shoulders visibly relaxing. But Reno was still keyed up, tension making him seem sharp and vibrating like something about to explode. "Damned right, partner. And every wuzi I get down is another beer I can drink after that damned test. C'mon, let's get crackin'," he said, jumping up and giving his head another quick shake and his eyes looking suspiciously bright.

Rude stood up. "You go study; I'll wash the dishes for you,"

Reno stared at Rude for a long time, his look sharper than usual, the kind of look Reno usually had when he suspected something and was trying to put all the pieces together in his head. "...Thanks, man," he said, nodding finally. "Yeah, uh, I'll go read over everything again, an' you can test me or somethin' when you're done."

Rude smiled faintly. "For every one you miss, I'm taking a beer."

Reno groaned. "Aww, man, you're as bad as Tseng! And I'm goin', I'm goin'!" he said to Rude's shooing gesture. He started to the door, then stopped in the doorway. He stood there for a moment, then looked back at Rude. "...thanks, man," he said softly, looking at his feet. "Just...you ain't gotta...you don't gotta do none of this."

Rude smiled. "This is what partners are for, partner."

Reno looked up and smiled, his big, brilliant, happy smile, another one he didn't do all that often. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah," he repeated, scratching the back of his head embarrassedly, then headed off into the other room. Rude turned and washed the dishes, taking his time about it to give Reno some time, his thoughts far away.

True to his word, Reno had, in fact, gone after the Wu clan, and with the kind of dedication that was almost frightening in its intensity. Rufus, Rude thought, might have liked to think that Reno had taken his "break the back of the Wu clan" to heart, but it was something far, far deeper than that. Unlike what Tseng and Rufus, even Rude himself at first, had thought, it had had nothing to do with revenge, and everything to do with the only shreds of guilt and pain Reno seemed to carry with him. He was not doing this for ShinRa, or even just for revenge--it was to protect the one person who, besides himself, had been hurt the most in all of this.

So it hadn't been pretty, it hadn't been nice, and in the end, the trade routes had been broken up, there had been a lot of blood and body parts, and once the army had gone in, there were precious few survivors on the Wu or the Li side--and Rude had the feeling that the only reason any had survived at all was to serve as warning to the rest of the Wu clan--if you leave Wutai again, if you are lucky you will die, and if you are not, you will be like this.

It was his only way, Rude suspected, of making sure that, if by some chance Jie's mother was alive and still in Midgar, she would be safe--all that could be done he had.

And now things were quiet. Rude suspected that the Wu clan itself might be done for--it had taken a massive hit before, and another like this left it weak. The other clans in Wutai very well might do ShinRa's work for them; there was blood in the water, the strong always ate the weak, and the Yamatan Yamamoto-gumi and Don Corneo were already stepping in to fill the gap in Midgar.

But the Yang, and Beizhou, were quiet, and he suspected Tseng's other 'hidden dragon,' whatever it was, had something to do with that.

They would see, though. Done with the Wu clan or not, he thought, many more dealings with Wutai--especially the Yang clan--would be far, far too much for Reno, not with the baggage he was carrying around and seemed to have no inclination to do anything about. Even Tseng seemed to realize that; their newest assignment was taking over for Tseng watching a girl in Midgar, and Rude suspected that Tseng, for all he was still prepping Reno for further work by not letting the Wutai character learning slide, was now watching the Wutai clans instead. Things were fine--for now.

But something had to happen; something--or someone, he thought suddenly, would have to give. Someone would have to do something one day.

There had to be a reason why Tseng, knowing as much as he did, even though he didn't know everything, would continue pressing Reno to learn to read Wutai, he realized. It would be very much like Tseng, to continue trying to groom a 'hidden dragon.'

And if things went on as they were, what would happen to the 'dragon,' Rude thought with a frown, when the time came to use him?

Something had to happen; something had to give.

Rude continued to slowly wash the dishes, mulling things over and lost in thought, and wondering if his thoughts just might get him killed one day.