Reno tapped his fingers impatiently against the control panel of the helicopter, "Yo, Rude! Hurry it up, man! I wanna get home in time for my date!" He chuckled as he heard the barely perceptible grumbles behind him as Rude loaded the last of the heavy equipment.
Checking the time, the redhead went through a mental checklist. It would take him about three hours to get the bird home, maybe thirty minutes for he and Rude to supervise the off-load, another twenty to fill out the paperwork Tseng always made them do, fifteen to get to the market for whipped cream and chocolate syrup. That would put him home in time to have thirty minutes to set everything up just right to surprise Cloud with a steamy, private, six-month celebration. He was pretty sure the scatter-brained blond didn't realize it was today but that would make things all the more fun.
'Speaking of suprises...' He thought as he looked over at Rude buckling himself into the passenger seat. Reno spoke over the engines as they took off, "So, how're are things going with Valentine?"
Though his attention was on the chopper, Reno knew his partner's dark skin turned darker and the stoic man was fighting a grin, "Dunno how you guys have any fun at all. He makes you look like a real chatterbox, Rudey!"
The larger Turk gave the redhead a pointed look over his sunglasses, "I appreciate a little quiet after work."
Reno grinned, understanding the not-so subtle jab at his own talkative nature. Just as he was about to retort, a jingle came from his coat pocket. Curious over the unfamiliar tone, he set the helicopter to autopilot and pulled out his PHS. The alert seemed to be a picture message from an unknown sender. Frowning, he shrugged and chose to view it later. It was probably a misdial from some granny who couldn't figure out how to text her kids. Tseng had been forced to change his cell number after repeat calls from a senile bat that thought he was someone named Chucky.
'Though the look on Tseng's face did get funnier and funnier with each call from that woman.' Reno was brought out of his musings as the phone jingled again. Sighing as he chose to download the message this time, he braced himself for the sight of over-pampered pooches or messy babies or some such weirdness that regular families sent each other.
But he wasn't prepared for the image of his Cloud on one knee, obviously proposing to none other than Tifa Lockheart. His brain stopped before he quickly scrolled down, hoping this was some idiot's idea of a sick joke.
*This picture was taken last night in the slum church while you were on your mission. She doesn't know about his relationship with you or the promises he made you. Neither of you deserve this.
A Concerned Individual*
Reno didn't realize he was shaking until he felt the familiar pressure of Rude's hand on his shoulder, "You ok, Reno?"
The redhead quickly got his emotions under control. Rude's concern doubled at the flat look he got from his partner's normally expressive eyes as well as a shadow of the normal smirk, "Never better, buddy. Let's get this job over with. I've got something to take care of when we're done."
Rude reluctantly nodded, knowing he would not get anything more from Reno for now.
In record time, they made it to Edge and had the equipment unloaded with the proper forms signed. Reno worked efficiently enough to raise questions from Tseng but Rude quickly signaled him down. He knew whatever was going on, Reno needed to handle it himself before he would talk to anyone.
A half dozen traffic violations and several flights of stair later, Reno was packing every memento of his relationship with Cloud into one large cardboard box. After setting it on the table, he called Tseng. The ever-efficient man picked up after a single ring, "Yes, Reno?"
Thin lips finally gave a semblance of their normal smirk at hearing the underlying concern in Tseng's voice. Only those who'd worked long enough with the Wutaian would have heard it, "Hey, boss, any chance I can take those two weeks vacation I got saved up?"
Papers rustled briefly as Tseng checked schedules, "You get one week. And I expect an explanation on your behavior when you get back."
Reno nodded, "Sure thing." The full week was honestly more than he figured he would be allowed on such short notice. After ending the call, he dialed another.
A groggy voice came through after the fourth ring, "This better be good, Reno. Do you know what time it is over-"
"Yeah, yeah. Look, I got a favor to call in. You do it and the rest of your debt is clean, you got that 'K'?"
He could almost feel how quickly the other man snapped awake, "Shit. What do you need?"
Reno gave a chilling smirk, "Hope your info gathering skills haven't gotten rusty since you left SOLDIER."
Tifa sighed as a knock came five minutes after Cloud left for a delivery. Though she had posted a sign explaining the bar was closed for repairs, she still had been forced to tell at least five people that they couldn't come in for a drink. Readying herself to deal with another half-drunk regular, garnet eyes widened in surprise as she found Reno with a serious expression and plain cardboard box, "Reno? Um, if you're looking for Cloud, he's already gone to Kalm for an overnight delivery. He'll have to take care of yours tomorrow night."
Long fingers tightened perceptibly around the box, "Actually, this is for you, Ms. Lockheart." Tifa frowned at the unusual formality but the redhead continued before she could speak, "And no, Cloud isn't on an overnight delivery."
Tifa couldn't speak at first as she went through the pictures and various knick knacks. Her emotions ran wild before landing, understandably, on enraged denial, "This...this can't be true! Our wedding is in September! How dare you accuse-"
Her words were cut off as Reno's cell phone went off and he showed her the ID with Cloud's name and number. Seeing she would remain quiet for now, he quickly set it to speakerphone as he answered with his usual greeting for the blond, "Hey there, sweet cheeks!"
"Renoooo!" Cloud's embarrassed voice could be heard clearly, "I'm running a little late tonight. I had to get some lube since we used the last of it before you left on your mission last week."
The tattooed male quickly covered Tifa's mouth to keep her gasp from being heard, "Actually, I was just about to call you. Tseng's keeping me on overtime tonight. Looks like we'll have to reschedule."
There was a reluctant sigh on the other end, "Bastard has horrible timing. Fine, but I'm going to wear your ass out next chance I get. Love you Red!"
"Mhmm," He replied noncommittally, though his heart clenched at the familiar words, "See ya, Blondie."
Reno hung up, pulling a now tear-stained hand away from Tifa. The bar phone rang shrilly in the tense silence. At first she rose to answer it but stopped when Reno placed a cool hand on her arm, "Its him. Wait."
As the answering machine activated, Cloud's voice could be heard clearly, "Tifa? You there? Your cell phone is off. Well, when you get this, I just want to let you know that the guy in Kalm cancelled on that pick up. I'll be home in about half an hour or so. Love you."
The tenderness in those words was the same he had used on Reno only moments before and served as the final blow, sending Tifa into sobs, "H-how could he just....how..."
Reno shook his head, "I had no clue. He told me that you were involved with Barret. If I had known...." He let it hang at that, hoping she understood. People might see him as a bad guy but he didn't betray friends. Waiting until she calmed, he pulled a manila folder out from his jacket, "I had a friend pull up info for me. These are all the deliveries that have been signed for and verified in the bank systems. I know you keep the books for him so you'll see inconsistencies in the dates and numbers." He gave a humorless laugh, "Who knows, you might find there are others besides me."
Tifa looked up at him in shock but just nodded as she took the folder. A tear escaped the Turk but he quickly forced his emotions back. He was good at that, or so he told himself, "Look, I'm sure you don't want me here after hearing all this...so I guess I'll just go."
Walking away from the sniffling woman that he considered a friend was difficult and took all of Reno's will as a Turk to do. Just as he reached for the door, it swung open to reveal none other than Cloud Strife.
Cloud sighed as he parked his bike, looking at the bag in his hand. He had been planning tonight for over a week but that prick Tseng had to screw it all up. He knew he'd have to explain why he had a bottle of expensive vodka. It was Reno's favorite brand. Maybe he'd be able to say the redhead had suggested it to serve in the bar? At least he could get away easily enough with the lube. Depending on her mood, it might make for a pleasant night after all! That thought in mind, he hurried to the door. Cerulean eyes widened in disbelief as he came face to face with the last person he expected to see.
"Reno?! What are you..." His mind worked in overtime as he took in the Turk's cold gaze and Tifa's heart-broken expression.
Reno knew he should have expected it but the feelings he held for the blond slowed his reactions. Surprise and another betrayal stabbed through his heart as his jaw shattered under the force of the blond's fist, "You little cocksucker!"
Somewhere in the background, the redhead heard Tifa scream his name in shock but his eyes were locked with Cloud's. The swordsman ignored her as well, "You figured it all out and decided go to all noble? Why?! I figure an easy slut like you would be fine with staying on the side."
Reno glared up hatefully at the man, trying to retaliate despite the pain in his jaw but Tifa stepped between them, her voice chilling, "Cloud Strife, you will leave immediately or there won't be enough of you left for even Hojo to resurrect."
Cloud flinched, seeming to finally remember her presence, "Teef, I-"
"Get out NOW!!"
Later the memory of Cloud fleeing in terror would make Reno laugh, but for now he just wanted to find a nice hold to hide and be miserable in. His vision swam as Tifa turned and bent close. Hoping he wasn't about to become her punching bag too, he blinked in surprise as she used a cure materia on him, "That should feel better but you'll still be sore and swollen. Come on, you can use one of the guest rooms tonight."
Reno managed to mumble a thanks, accepting her assistance up the stairs. Hopefully she'd allow him a drink or twelve in the morning. He was certainly going to need it.