[fic] The Things You Never Knew About People: 尾聲-會家 Wei Sheng: Hui Jia [Homecoming]

Title: The Things You Never Knew About People - Weisheng: Hui jia [Homecoming]
Status: 14/14: COMPLETE!
Fandom: FF7
Rating: PG
Word count: 5425
A/N: ...And with this, so ends TTYNKAP. I'd like to thank everyone for sticking around and being so patient with me, for all the years it took me to write this. Thank you all so, so much. I almost can't believe that I'm actually done. Just...my life went through a lot in the time I was writing this, and just...yeah. I'm not sure what else to say other than I hope all of y'all like this, and thank you so, so much for reading.

--



尾聲-會家
ㄨㄟˇ ㄕㄥˉ-ㄏㄨㄟˋㄐ一ㄚˉ
wěi shēng - huì jiā
[epilogue: homecoming]


"Reno," Rude said quietly, suddenly.

"Haaah?" Reno said, looking up in surprise from the book that was currently kicking his ass because Classical Wutai was fucking hard and he really had no idea why he kept up beating his head against a wall reading, other than they seemed to have loads of free time, what with Midgar being more or less gone and the big boss kinda not doing so hot what with the weird sickness some people had and the wheelchair after ShinRa Tower fuckin' fell on him, and oh, yeah, not much left of ShinRa anyway, so there wasn't much call for beating people with sticks or scouting for potential SOLDIERs and he had to do something and he musta been around Rude too long to be thinking books were the way to go, and Tseng tossing books at him didn't help things. "Yeah? What?" he said, shaking his head to drag it out of Wutai and away from the weirdass story about Yin Long that Tseng had somehow found intact in what was left of ShinRa Tower a couple weeks ago, and wondering what the hell was wrong with Rude--Rude was looking like an even bigger stick than normal was crammed up his ass, as stiff as he was sitting.

Rude frowned as if he was thinking, then seemed to reach a decision and reached into his jacket and pulled out a carefully folded piece of paper. He held onto it for a minute, then handed it to Reno.

"Whassis?" Reno said. Rude was weirding him out; there was something seriously not-right about the situation, but he couldn't figure out what.

"Open it and see," Rude said.

Reno frowned at the paper, then unfolded it. He glanced over it, then his face changed--he could feel the blood draining out of his face, feel the way he suddenly went cold. "What the...why'd you do this?" he finally said, the words a croak.

"I just thought you should know," Rude said softly.

The paper was shaking for some strange reason; Reno realized distantly that it was because his hands were shaking. "Fuck you, man, just...just fuck you."

"I just thought you might want to know."

"Yeah, well, fuck you," Reno said again, more emphatically, still shaking.

"The information is yours to do with as you wish," Rude said, his voice not changing.

"You didn't have no right," Reno said, voice strange to his own ears. "No right, man. I trusted you. I shouldn't've never told you nothing, I--" His words trailed off and he looked up at Rude, eyes blazing.

Rude said nothing, and Reno wanted very much to get up and punch him, kick him, something, anything.

"Get out," Reno finally said, voice choking. "Get the fuck out."

Reno'd say one thing for Rude. He knew when to stand his ground and when not to.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Rude said, voice in some way Reno couldn't put his finger on different, softer somehow, and he left before Reno could snap and start genuinely doing his best to beat him until he got how wrong what he'd done was.

When the door shut, Reno just stared at the paper, reading it over and over again.


Zhaoxi Yang, alias Xiaozhen Qian, alias Huimei Xu
Tel: 01-03-81952



Written underneath, in Rude's neat, precise handwriting, was an address. Sector three, old Midgar, in one of the few areas that had survived.

She'd survived.

Too many feelings were running through him, from his heart feeling like it was too light while his stomach felt too heavy and his solar plexus feeling like someone had just given him a good punch, and he couldn't deal with it. He shut his eyes and crumpled the paper into a ball and raised his fist to throw the paper in the garbage can--he was going to throw it in and then go out and get as drunk as humanly possible. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't quite seem to make his hand let go of the death grip it had on the paper; couldn't throw it away any more than he could stop the harsh, gasping breaths or the way his eyes felt strange and everything was blurry.

His shoulders slumped and he turned back to his desk, clutching the small sheet of paper in his hand, and started beating his clinched hand against the desktop, cursing in a choked voice, then burying his head in his arms, still clutching the paper.

--

He hadn't done anything with the paper. He hadn't been able look at it, but he also hadn't been able to bring himself to throw it away. So he'd shoved it in what had become his desk, and he tried to forget it about.

Only that wasn't possible. He knew it was there, and it had scratched at his brain whenever he even looked at his desk.

Not for the first time that week, Reno wished that Rude had kept his nose out of Reno's business. He'd thought it what seemed like every day--hell, every damn hour almost--since Rude had given him that stupid piece of paper.

Zhaoxi Yang, alias Xiaozhen Qian, alias Huimei Xu

It wasn't like he should go bother her or nothing. He knew that. It was enough that she was alive, and she'd made it real clear she didn't want to never see him again, screaming like she had. He'd tried to just forget it all; hadn't ever looked up to find out for certain what had happened to her. Oh, he'd thought about it, had from time to time wanted to look up and see if she was alive or something as he got more and more access to information as he rose in the Turks, especially what with him dropping the plate on sector seven and then with Midgar going boom, but...

"Why are you alive and my son dead?!"

He couldn't never forget that, no matter how much he tried, so every time he thought about putting her name in the little computers and seeing what popped up, he pulled his hands off the computer and went and drank something or blew shit up or fucked someone's brains out until he stopped thinking about it.

And...and there was the fact that if he didn't look for her, he'd know she was still alive, or could keep telling himself maybe she was. It was a small hope that never quite went away, and he'd preferred NOT knowing to finding out she was and he'd gotten both of them killed.

Without thinking about it, unaware he was doing it, his fingers traced over the tattoo on his cheek.

He'd killed his first person--hell, capped a whole slew of 'em--to make sure that the assholes that killed Jie and had been so determined to hurt Auntie Qian paid for it, and some part of him really wanted to believe that she at least had stayed alive.

And he didn't think he could see her again; didn't think seeing a door slam in his face was something he'd be able to take. He figured it was best to leave her in peace, and he couldn't be tempted to intrude on her life again if he didn't know where the fuck she was.

Rude had just had to go and stick his nose into things.

He pulled open the drawer in his desk and pulled out the stupid piece of paper that had started all this, ripped it to shreds, and dumped the pieces into trashcan, and slammed his way out without a single word to the fucking nosy bastard who had started the whole mess.

--

Rude frowned as Reno stomped out of the room and slammed the door behind him. He hadn't missed Reno yanking open the desk they used at the hospice-cum-headquarters at Healin and ripping up the paper with Yang Zhao Xi's name on it before he left, and he sighed. He'd suspected this wouldn't go smoothly. He'd hoped it would, but he'd also figured it wouldn't. Reno spoke about his childhood now, but there were things he stayed close-mouthed about, and he suspected part of that was why Reno had just had a meltdown.

Rude wondered if he should let it go. He could understand not wanting to return to your past, but...

He remembered how sad Reno had sounded, years ago, before the world had been turned upside down, when he said he missed Jie and his mother, how raw he had seemed in that moment, how he covered it with a subject change and a smile. That moment had stuck with him, and it was why he couldn't let it go. He sighed, opened his computer, and wrote her contact information down again, then folded it up and slipped it into his pocket.

As much as he knew he should drop this...he couldn't.

--

It was several days before Rude dared to broach the subject. "I think you should reconsider."

Reno didn't even ask what he was talking about. That was one thing he liked about Reno; why they worked so well together: Reno always knew, and it meant he never had to try and explain. "An' I think you wanna drop this."

"You said yourself that you missed her."

"Shut uuuuuuup," Reno shot back with, slumping at his desk and digging his hands into his hair.

"Reno," he said, and he himself didn't quite recognize what was in his own voice. Then: "I still have her contact information."

Reno suddenly went ramrod straight. His face twitched and his lip curled up before he leapt to his feet in a fit of enraged energy. He stood still but almost vibrating with tension. Then he let out a long string of Wutai, the words harsh and angry as the fire flashing in his quicksilver eyes. "So, wanna know what that means? It was 'Why're you alive an' my son dead'," he said, right after the spitfire Wutai, not even giving Rude a chance to answer. He balled his hands into fists. "Those were her last fucking words to me. That's what I just said. What she said to me. 'Why're you alive an' my son dead? Get out. I don't never wanna see you again. Get out, an' let me die here without seein' your face. Go.'" He repeated the Wutai again, what must have been the words she had actually said, that he had translated, and it was like the Firaga inside of him burned itself out, leading on a phantom of heat behind. His shoulders slumped and his voice caught as he looked down at the floor. "She said she didn't never wanna see me again." He fell silent, and Rude said nothing, waiting for Reno to find his words again. "She said she didn't wanna see me no more, and that's all I can do for her. So she ain't never gonna see me again."

Reno drew in several ragged breaths then dropped back into his chair. He wouldn't even look at Rude, and there was a long, heavy silence in the air.

When Rude finally broke it, it was in a small, quiet voice. "Reno," he said, taking a slow breath before he continued. He hadn't known how bad her words had been, what exactly she had said, and now... He hated to talk, hated it because he was bad at it and he knew it, but he knew he didn't have much choice--and that a single mistaken word would have consequences far beyond this day.

He hated words, hated trying to not be so damned inútil, but he had opened this trapped chest and released these monsters, and he had to battle the consequences.

He thought carefully about how to say what was running around in his mind, after having gotten Reno's attention, and it spoke to how well Reno knew him that he waited until Rude felt he could get his words out. "I only have your words, but...something doesn't fit," he said softly. "It strikes me as very, very odd that the same woman who taught you to cook and gave you a nickname and a job, and who seemed to care for you very, very much would snap like that, even under those circumstances."

Reno inhaled sharply and finally looked at him. "You better be going somewhere with this," he said, and something in his eyes and his voice told Rude he was walking on more dangerous ground than he ever had been in his life, and that a misstep very well might be fatal--if not physically then for the bonds beyond simply work that had sprung up between them, the very bond of friendship that had pushed Rude to quietly begin searching for Xiaozhen Qian.

Rude's words were slow, slower than normal, and careful and measured to make sure they didn't slip into the halting stutter from his childhood that always seemed to loom over them. "You say she was the daughter of a mafia family, and had been married off into another. And that when her son killed her husband she fled, she took him and fled to a country where she didn't speak the language and had no contacts or relations. She went from a life of wealth and society to one where she lived in the slums, and she did her best to not stand out at all or draw attention to herself and lived under an assumed name. Reno, what does that sound like to you?"

Reno looked at him blankly, a look of complete non-understanding, and Rude knew that Reno's confusion was a good sign, because, more than anything, it meant that Reno was listening.

"To me, those are the actions of someone who knows what a mafia family is and what they will do," Rude said, pushing up his sunglasses and fixing his gaze firmly on Reno. "And that is why I think she said what she did to you. I don't think she was blaming you, not completely. I think perhaps she was trying to protect you."

Reno's eyes went very, very wide and the blood drained from his face slowly, and he stared at Rude with those wide, wide eyes that reflected the colors of everything around them, and that now were showing his mind working furiously and frantically behind them--they were focused internally but they were flitting all over the place as he sifted through everything in his head. Rude could see the idea processing, everything showing on Reno's face, and he continued talking as soon as he could see what looked like what Reno had held close to him as true fighting back against something he had never thought, Reno's face going almost bloodlessly pale white.

"I think she figured that driving you away would keep you far, far away from the Wutai clans, because she knew that, if they thought she was alive, they would come after her, and she was trying to keep you out of it."

Rude stood up, knowing now was the time to leave Reno alone, to let the man figure all of this out for himself; to let the idea begin to take root. He walked to the door and paused, hand resting on the doorframe, and spoke softly, every word still slow and careful, because now was not the time to for his inútil tongue, which still even now he always feared would trip up his words and screw everything up. "Think about who she was, partner. Think about everything you know about how mafia families work, especially Wutai ones. Take every part of it and analyze it, and add to that the woman you called 'Auntie Qian,' and decide, with the weight of all the knowledge you have now that you didn't before, if she really was the type of person to hate you so completely when you were the person her son tried to save, and you weren't the one to pull the trigger that killed him."

He had nothing more to say, and he didn't look at Reno. He knew it was better not to look at him, and he left quietly, but not before he heard the sound of the harsh breath Reno took, and Rude wondered, not for the first and what he had no doubt would not be the last, if he was truly doing the right thing.

If he was wrong, he realized as the door shut completely after him, then there would never be anything he could do to undo the damage he would have caused. All he could do was simply hope that he hadn't been.

--

When Rude came back, the room was empty.

Reno's desk stayed empty for three days.

The first day Reno wasn't there, no one but Rude seemed to really pay it much mind - it was not uncommon for someone to not be there for a day or two, especially with how strapped they were - there were only a handful of Turks left, and while ShinRa had been smashed to pieces, it was still limping along, and they had had their fingers in too many pies for them to disappear completely. There were still secrets they had to protect and work they had to do.

The second day, however, when Rude was there but Reno was not, people started to notice.

On the third day, Thursday afternoon, the question Rude was dreading got asked. Tseng and Elena came into the room that Rude and Reno used as an office, and Tseng frowned.

"Elena and I are going to investigate a report I received about possible problems. Where is Reno?" Tseng asked, frowning at Reno's empty desk.

Rude considered lying, but knew it would be useless. He was good at not talking, not at lying, not to Tseng, at any rate, and the gods only knew how long Reno would be out doing whatever it was he was doing.

"He's not here. He hasn't been for three days now."

"And do you know why that is?" Tseng said, looking slightly perplexed. Rude could understand why; if Reno were out for that long with no contact made, it could indicate something very bad, and in that situation, Rude would have been the first to notice and sound the alarm. So it stood to reason Rude would know, but if he knew, Tseng would have expected to have been informed that Reno was not going to be there, even if the why wasn't given for whatever reason.

They were still Turks; they still carefully guarded their information when they needed to, even from each other.

But he had no idea where Reno was, or how long he would take. So he figured he owed them the truth.

"I'm afraid this is my fault. I gave him a lot to think about," Rude said, and Elena gave him a strange look. "Do you remember the family that taught Reno Wutai?"

Tseng nodded, once. "Yang Zhao Xi and her illegitimate son, yes."

"The woman is still alive."

Elena's eyes went wide. "She's alive? That Yang woman, she's still alive?"

Rude nodded.

"So Yang Zhao Xi is still alive," Tseng said softly, and Rude didn't trust the calculating look in his eyes.

He fingered the slip of paper with her name on it in his pocket - each day slipped carefully into new suit pants as he gathered the courage to touch upon the subject again, and he left it precisely where it was.

He may have owed them the truth, but that was all he owed.

--

After Reno left the office, he went straight for the closest town - because they were in the middle of fucking nowhere now - and got himself as blinding drunk as he could. He spent two days drinking until he couldn't feel his face, let alone the weird mix of emotions making his insides feel like they were warring with each other. On the third day, when he had dried out enough to not risk wrapping his wheels around a tree, he went home.

First thing he did after he got back was strip out of his stanktastic clothing full of two days of drunken funk and bar stink and jump into his shower. And he stood there, under the water, trying his damnedest not to think and failing miserably at it. He'd managed to keep thoughts away for two days by drinking until he couldn't, but he damn well knew it couldn't keep it up forever, and he wasn't about to risk ending up like his mother.

He drank when he needed to, but he also knew when to stop. Which was why he was naked in his shower, too damn sober for the first time in days, with his brain betraying him.

He ought to leave her alone. He knew she was alive. He knew she was safe, because if she hadn't been, Rude would have told him, and...and he knew she never wanted to see him again. He knew that.

...But he wanted to see her. It hit him hard, like a ton of bricks, once his brain got itself together and put it into words, now that he wasn't drowning it in alcohol to shut it up. He wanted to see her; wanted to see her with his own eyes so much that it hurt, like a vise around his heart.

He shouldn't. He couldn't. He owed her that much, he couldn't...

But he wanted.

And if she really had been trying to protect him...

He banged his head against the wall of the shower and cursed.

--

He couldn't even fucking believe he was doing this.

But by the gods, he was not doing this alone. Which was why the next morning, after he knew he was stone cold sober, he had gone to Healin Lodge, ignored everyone that tried to say anything to him, and walked right into their office.

Rude looked up but didn't say anything, which didn't surprise Reno at all. Rude had a tendency to go even more closed-mouthed when things were tense, and Reno knew things were pretty damn tense. So instead of trying to talk, Rude just frowned faintly.

"You know where she lives," Reno said, not even asking. Rude slowly nodded.

"Then you fucking drive," Reno said, turning and stalking out. He continued to ignore everyone trying to talk to him, including Tseng, because he knew if he stopped to think about it again, he'd back out.

He had to do this. Even if it meant he had a door slammed in his damn face...he had to see her. Had to at least have the chance to tell her he'd killed them all, that they would never bother her again, tell her he'd been the one to put a fucking bullet in Wu Shan Wen's brain, tell her...

Tell her that he missed her, tell her that he missed Jie, tell her he was sorry.

He got into the car they often used and slammed the door shut and waited. He figured Rude probably had had to say something or another to Tseng, but he frankly didn't give a chocobo's ass what he was doing. He started drumming his fingers on the side of the door, and was about to start banging on the horn with his fist when Rude came out. Rude slid into the car and started it, but Reno didn't say a single word to him, just leaned his elbow against the door and leaned his head against his hand, and stared at the window, still doing his damnedest not to fucking think.

But it didn't work. As they got closer to the old city, all the could think about was Auntie Qian's last words, echoing around in his head, and making it feel like someone had grabbed his heart and was trying to squeeze all the blood out of it.

"...You're gonna owe me, man," Reno finally grit out, as they exited off the highway into sector three. "I go, she kicks me out...you're gonna have to pay for a whole lotta booze, yo," he finished, his voice sounding choked. Reno looked out the window, blinking fast. He fucking hated everything about this, and he swore he wasn't never telling Rude fucking nothing ever again. "I fuckin' hate this," he muttered under his breath, just loud enough that he knew Rude must have heard it.

But Rude didn't say anything, just stared ahead and nodded once, and Reno was very, very glad for that.

--

Rude stopped the car in front of a small house, and took the keys from the ignition. "The house next to this one, behind us," he said, still looking forward. He didn't dare look at Reno. They sat in silence for a long time. Rude didn't glance at his watch, just waited as Reno gathered his courage.

Reno finally let out an angry, "Oh, fuck all of this," and Rude was certain Reno was about to tell him to start the car and get them the fuck out of there.

Reno did not ask him to start the car.

Reno instead opened the door with so much force Rude was vaguely impressed he hadn't hurt himself. He hazarded a glance over, and Reno shook his head. "I gotta do this myself. You'll know when it turns to shit soon enough. Auntie Qian ain't never been nothing like subtle. When she cusses me out and slams the door in my face, you'll know it even from here."

He wanted to say that she wouldn't, but he didn't dare. Reno was completely certain the woman would, and despite Rude's own reasoning for what had happened, the truth of the matter was he didn't know Yang Zhao Xi but Reno did. Rude couldn't be sure she wouldn't, as Reno had put it, curse him out then slam the door. He could only hope she wouldn't, for Reno's sake and his own. If it went badly, Reno would likely never forgive him for this.

Rude wondered if he shouldn't have gone to see her first, shouldn't have asked her if she wanted to see Reno again. But he hadn't. He had blundered in, not truly knowing how she and Reno had parted aside from the one time before this began that Reno had let it slip that she'd said she hadn't wanted to see him again. If he had known just how vicious her words had been, just how much of a wound it had left, he would have checked first, then deleted everything he'd discovered about her whereabouts if she reacted to the very idea as Reno expected her to now.

It was a rookie mistake, not to do all of his research, and he feared he would pay for this far more than Reno was threatening if it went pear shaped. Just buying alcohol wouldn't fix it, not something like this.

He had nothing he could say, so he just nodded before looking back forward at the street. He heard Reno slam the door behind him as he left, and Rude watched him go through the rearview mirror. Reno all but marched up to the house, ramrod straight and walking determinedly to the door. And it was only when he got to the front door that he faltered again. He stood at the doorway a good, long time, just staring at it, and Rude wondered, once again, if he had done the right thing.

Even from the distance, he could see when Reno took a large breath, then raised his hand and rang the doorbell.

Rude gripped the steering wheel, and waited.

--

The woman who answered it was older than he remembered--older and so small. Jie's mom had always seemed so large; so much bigger than them and so active it seemed like it went past her physical size. Reno knew he had grown, since the last time he'd seen her, but even so, this woman at the door, with gray streaks she hadn't had before her hair, seemed small, as if she could be broken by a touch, and the last time Reno had seen her like that she had been beaten and battered. But...but it was...she really was...

Jie's mom raised her hands to her face, covering her mouth, eyes getting large, as if she had seen a ghost, and part of Reno twisted bitterly at that thought.

Her hands were faintly scarred; burns. Long sleeves covered her arms, so he couldn't see how far the damage went, but he figured it had to be there. They had the look of burns healed by getting to a Potion not immediately, but soon enough to offset some of the major damage but not soon enough to negate it. She'd gotten out, but she hadn't gotten out unscathed.

Reno just stood in the doorway, the two of them staring at each other. He finally swallowed and said, "Yeah, so. I, uh... I'm.... I--uh, you miss me?" he started nervously, scratching at the back of his neck and trying to smile and feeling like it wasn't working, and that was as far as he got before Jie's mom let out "Lei Nuo!" in a high, wavering voice, her eyes filling with tears, and Reno found himself shaking more, for reasons totally different from his earlier nerves.

She hadn't slammed the door.

She wasn't slamming the door.

She wasn't--

She was just staring at him with wide eyes and tears spilling out and down her cheeks.

He'd only seen her cry twice before now, when she'd been beaten so badly she could barely move and when Jie had been killed. And now she was crying just seeing him, and he wanted to turn on his heel and leave now, because if just seeing him was upsetting her this much, bringing it all back this much--

"I'm sorry, I'll go, I--" he started, and was about to turn on his heel and just fucking run when she found her voice.

"No!" she yelled, and grabbed his arm. She held it tightly in her grasp, and that, somehow, hadn't changed. The strength of that grip hadn't changed, not in all the years, and he could remember how she would grab his arm and Jie's, when they would try to run when they had done something wrong.

The hand gripping his arm suddenly began to tremble. "You're really here. You're really still alive."

"You, too," Reno said, feeling like his lungs weren't working right anymore and everything was getting blurry.

"All these years...I never thought you'd--I shouldn't have--I was sure you were--all these years!"

Her words choked off.

"Sorry," Reno said. "I thought you didn't want to see me again. I didn't...I didn't want to bother you or..."

"I was so afraid you were dead, that they found you and killed you, so sure I would never see you again...and...and...you've gotten so big, so tall, and...and what did you do to your hair?! What did you do to your FACE" she said, her eyes locking on the tattoos under his eyes, a hand coming up to trace at the one under his left eye.

"Er..." Reno started, part of him shaking almost on instinct at that tone of voice. "I...uh...that is...right after all that happened, I was...outcasts, you always said," he finally said, knowing there was no point in lying about it. She always knew when he was lying, after all.

He wished he had, though, when her face crumpled again. "Your pretty, pretty face! You went and...your face!" she said, and she smacked him, like she had so long ago. Then her breath hitched again, and she hugged him so tightly her arms shook.

--

It wasn't until the two of them went inside and the door closed that Rude felt the breath he hadn't even known he was holding release, and his shoulders slumped. He put the keys in the ignition and started the car quickly, figuring Reno had his PHS number and would call him if he needed to.

But somehow, he suspected that wouldn't happen.

He looked back once into the rearview mirror as he drove off, back at the small house Reno had gone into. Welcome home, partner, he thought, and adjusted his sunglasses, then turned his attention back to the road before him.



-完-
-ㄨㄢˊ-
-wán-
-[The End]-

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