Reno: And then... nothing. That's where the memories ended. I found my leather pants balled up. It seemed I'd used them as a pillow last night. I picked them up. They unfurled quickly and there were two accompanying thunks when things fell to the floor. I found my cell phone, I thought wryly. But there beside it laid the small bottle of vodka –half empty– and the neon pink bendy straw. I reached for my phone and dialed Elena's number. It rang twice before she picked it up. With no preamble, I demanded, "Tell me how I ended up in a movie theater alone with a bottle of Smirnoff and a bendy straw!" "Reno?" she asked, sleepy and stunned. "Yeah." "I don't know, hon. What do you remember?" I told her the chunks I recalled quickly. "So now my ass hurts and I… I just don't know who…" Her voice was tender. "I know. But we still have to go to work today." "I'm supposed to be in today?" I was never scheduled on Fridays. "The boss called me this morning when he couldn't get a hold of you. Rude can't be in today, so you're on shift with me." She at least had the grace to sound apologetic about it. "Yeah. I didn't make it up to my apartment last night, I guess. So when do I need to be in?" Elena tapped her fingers lightly as the wheels in her brain turned. "You have to be in at 10:00, so you have two hours." "Why is it that I wake up with enough time when I'm drunk but I always run late when I'm sober?" I asked. She laughed lightly. "It's a built-in warning. If you get in on time, the boss is less likely to go off on you and add to the headache. I'll see you in two hours." "See ya." We hung up at the same time, like we always do. I shimmied my sore body back into the tight leather pants. I was usually pretty fast at it, but with a hangover and several sore spots, it took twice as long. With long strides, I made my way to the red-velvet curtain that had seen better days. I live above a retired movie theater, so I guess everything here had seen better days from the thread-bare carpets to the dusty heavy curtains to the holey chairs. I ducked behind the curtain and groped for the doorknob with the heavy material against my back. The door swung inward and I stumbled into the stairwell. No elevators in the building, unfortunately, so even if I'm falling-down drunk, I have to stumble up the stairs. I counted the stairs as I hurried up them; unfortunately, despite my headache, I couldn't resist the compulsion. I live 132 stairs up –on the third floor. I've actually got the floor to myself, since people seem to think they need an elevator. I paid less a month than most people do for a one-bedroom apartment in the city and I got four rooms, a living room, and a kitchenette, plus my own bathroom. Hey, I know I got the better bargain; others just don't think I did. It could get a little lonely at times, but hell, it was safer for me and for others. I often pissed off the wrong people; if I'm the only one here, they can only take it out on me. So what if one of my unachievable fantasies is to wake up to the sunlight streaming through the window in my bedroom in my own bed with a lover who knows what I am and doesn't care? I have given up a lot of things to keep people safe; that dream was just another one. I showered quickly and dressed for work in the usual black suit and white dress shirt. I'm supposed to also wear a black tie, but I usually just leave the top two buttons of the dress shirt undone and call it ready. But not today. Today, I buttoned up all the buttons and put on the tie. I pulled all of my hair back into a neat ponytail –it usually was a very messy one. I was disgustingly meticulous in my dress and styling, mostly because I could control it. Right then, it felt like the Fates were conspiring against me for some wrong I'd committed –and there were a lot to choose from. My cell phone rang as I sat down in my kitchen with a cup of coffee.
I read the caller ID: 'Take Cover!'.
Tentatively, I answered the phone. "Sinclair."
"Oh, Reno! I'm glad I caught you!"
Not only did the mannerism not match the caller ID, but neither did the voice. "Reeve. Why are you calling from Mr. Shinra's phone?" I asked evenly.
"Oops," he returned, giggling. "I'm sorry I gave you a heart attack, Reno. He must have grabbed mine this morning."
I felt a smile tug at my lips despite my earlier apprehension. Reeve was my favorite of the tech geeks –apparently, Rufus's favorite as well, considering the fact Reeve had been gracing his bed for about three months. "Since you obviously didn't call me to scare a few years off my life, why did you call?"
"Rufus left a file here that I'm very sure he needs today. I have to run errands today, so I was wondering if you could run it to him for me?"
I shook my head. "Reeve, you always did have good timing. I don't usually have to go in on Fridays, but today I do. I'll be by in a couple minutes."
He breathed out a sigh of relief. "Thank you. It doesn't matter if I'm his lover; he'd still fire me if I knew it was here and didn't get it to him."
I laughed. "Can you believe some folks sleep with their boss for job security?"
He chuckled. "You're chipper for being hung-over."
"Always. I've gotta go."
"See you soon, then."
We hung up without saying goodbye. I knew better than to do that, being in the business I'm in, but it was like a blatant refusal to not see people again. Let's just hope Death is hung up on etiquette.
I finished my coffee in a burning swallow and cracked a window before lighting up.
Even when I was saving a friend's ass, my addictions had a way of demanding to be fed first. Caffeine –see morning cup of coffee. Chocolate –see creamer in morning cup of coffee. Hair of the dog –see whiskey in morning cup of coffee. Nicotine –well, I was getting to that.
I was actually surprised I was that pleasant without my first cigarette of the morning, but, hell, it was a weird day.
Reno: "Thank you, Reno." "You've mentioned that twenty times now, Reeve. I get it." He was so intelligent at points and so clueless at others. He handed me the file. "You look surprisingly spiffy this morning. You're even wearing your tie. What are you intending to do, storm into Tseng's office, tie him up, and have your wicked way with him?" I laughed and prayed the heat I felt in my cheeks wasn't visible to the man before me. "Yeah, right. Actually, he yells less when I'm dressed correctly. It's a survival mechanism." "That lovely blush you're sporting says otherwise, Reno." Damn him. I felt the blush darken. "You want Tseng…! Why in hell didn't you tell me?" Reeve cocked his head. "Uh, because I have a feeling it won't go as well as your office romance?" My mind's eye flashed back to the feel of Tseng's lips on mine, the taste of his mouth, the feel of him pressed against me. It could be fine… if we each got a personality transplant. "Judging by the look on your face, something tells me you know otherwise." "I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here for that file. Remember?" "Evasion tactics at their finest," he returned wryly before handing me the file. "Call me later, or so help me, I will let Rufus help me plot!" I shuddered and pulled the file out of his hand. "I'll call you when I get home." He smirked. "I'll be waiting."
Reno: "You look nice this morning." God, unless the next person who told me that was Tseng, they were going to get smacked. "Thank you," I ground out, looking at the man who sat behind a dark oak desk. "Reeve asked me to drop this off for you," I told him nonchalantly as I handed him the manila file folder. He stiffened and took the folder from me. His shoulders visibly relaxed as he realized what the file was. "I was wondering why I couldn't find this," he mumbled into his chest. I smirked. "You also have his phone today." He turned bright red. "How-?" "Did I know that? Call your phone and ask Reeve." I stood there silently for a moment before asking, "May I leave?" He nodded and looked down to his desktop. "Close the door behind you, please."
Tseng: I flagged Elena over to my desk covertly. "What is up with Reno?" I asked, my eyes catching on his neat hair and impeccable conformity to the uniform. "There's a reason he doesn't drink if he has to be in the next day, boss. He has alcohol-induced amnesia right now." I had to wonder how much of last night he had forgotten, but I never got the chance to ask.
Reno: I couldn't focus, my head hurt like crazy, and my stomach was incredibly upset. I usually didn't get a hangover, so this was odd. "Reno," Tseng called from across the room. I winced. His usually even tone sounded like a sonic boom to my ears. The noise hurt my head, but I shakily rose to my feet. What the fuck? Was my balance going all to hell now? The room spun but the world seemed to slow down around me. I sat back down so I didn't fall down. "I… I think I have a problem," I quietly admitted to the room. I didn't imagine the concern in Tseng's eyes as he eased me up and led me out to his car.