Rating: T (PG-13)
Theme + Number: 39) Dark, 52) Never, 55) Logic, 58) Fighting & 79) Small (mako_reactor)
Characters Included: Rude, Tifa, Reno, Elena, Tseng, Yuffie
Warnings: None really.
Summary: Rude had never had the courage ...
I'm not in love, so don't forget it
It's just a silly phase I'm going through
And just because I call you up
Don't get me wrong, don't think you've got it made
I'm not in love, no-no
I like to see you, but then again
That doesn't mean you mean that much to me
So if I call you, don't make a fuss
Don't tell your friends about the two of us
I'm not in love, no-no
- I'm Not In Love, 10cc
Rude had never had the courage to stay after the bar closed before, but the night had been busy for Tifa and he felt it was only fair to offer her some help. After all, his drunken friends had been the cause of much of the mess they had to clean up.
He watched her patiently, quietly as she closed up the bar for the night and then proceeded to wipe down the tables, turning the chairs over and placing them on top. He watched her determination, then turned to clean the glasses, as he had volunteered to do, slipping off his dark gloves and placing them neatly on the counter.
He kept his gaze on the sink in front of him, focusing completely on that small task rather than letting his mind wander to the beautiful dark-haired girl moving around the bar. He knew if he thought too much about her he would only distract himself and think of things he knew he shouldn’t.
He felt more than heard her approach him as he turned the water off and dried his hands on the towel she handed to him, before sliding his gloves back on.
“You really didn’t have to stay and help me,” she told him quietly.
He shrugged slightly, pushing the gloves neatly back into place. “It seemed like you could use some help.”
“Yes, well, thank you.” She smiled at him slightly. “Do you want something to drink before you go?”
The edge of his mouth curled slightly. “I just finished washing the glasses.”
He could swear that even in the dark there was a slightly rosy tint coloring her cheeks. “Yes, well…I could always clean any glass that was used.”
He merely shook his head though. “That’s quite alright. I should be leaving.”
”Yes, well…thank you for helping me. It was kind of you.”
“It was no problem.”
”Yes, well, I’ll see you again soon, right?”
She smiled at him, and he felt a familiar pull in his stomach, so he nodded slightly at her and turned, heading out the door, turning only when he was getting ready to round the corner to watch her relocking the door and turning off the lights.
Rude watched Elena and Reno intently as the Turks sat around the table in the break room the next morning. Both were sporting a serious hangover and were nursing their cups of coffee like lifelines, having taken the aspirin he had offered them as quickly as they could. They both refused to look at each other, and though that was a welcome change from their constant fighting, it wasn’t normal for them.
Rude and Tseng exchanged glances from over the table, before Tseng reached out and placed a hand on top of Elena’s.
The young girl looked up, startled, her cheeks darkening slightly. “Sir?”
“Is everything alright, Elena?”
She nodded slightly, then turned her attention back to her coffee. “I’m fine, sir.”
“You are acting off.”
“I suppose I am just tired.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am sure, sir.”
Rude watched Reno intently as he sat in their office, feet on his desk, looking even more unwilling to work today than he normally was.
“Is there something you wish to tell me?”
Reno turned a lazy smile to his partner. “Now, why would you say that?”
“You are more distracted than usual.”
“I’m always distracted, yo.”
“Never this much.” He waited, but found no response from his loudmouthed friend. “Why were you and Elena avoiding looking at each other?”
Reno chuckled, scratching the back of his neck. “You noticed that, huh?”
“It was rather difficult not to.”
The younger man shrugged, sliding his feet off the desk. “Not such a big deal.”
Reno shrugged again. “I crashed on Laney’s couch last night.”
Rude arched an eyebrow, glancing at him from over his glasses. “And…?”
“I saw her naked.”
The dark-skinned man blinked at him, then let out a small laugh. “Please tell me you are joking, Reno.”
The redhead shook his head, slumping down in his chair. “Didn’t mean to, yo. Just kinda forgot where I was and opened the bathroom door when she was coming out of the shower.”
Rude shook his head, pushing his glasses back up on his nose as he turned his attention back to his paperwork. “Somehow, Reno, you never cease to amaze me.”
“What about you, yo?”
“What about me?”
“Ya stayed after at Tifa’s bar.”
Rude shrugged, his eyes never leaving the papers in front of him. “I thought she could use some help.”
The edges of Reno’s mouth twitched. “Whatever you say, Rude.”
Rude ignored his friend however. He knew what Reno was trying to get at, and Rude wouldn’t give in.
He would never admit the way the younger barmaid made his head spin or his knees weak when she smiled at him. What was the point? It wasn’t like he loved her or anything. It was just a harmless little crush.
Tifa sighed for the hundredth time that day, sitting down across from her friend. In the past few years she had become rather close to the young ninja, but there were still times when the hyperactive girl knew exactly how to drain her, emotionally. “Yuffie, enough.”
“Gawd, I’m just saying!”
The barmaid propped her arm up on the table, cupping her chin with her palm. “What is the point of this, Yuffie?”
”I was just saying it was nice of Rude to help you is all.”
”And I agreed with you. So, why do you keep bringing it up?”
“Oh, come on, Teef! Admit it.”
The fighter arched an eyebrow. “Admit what?”
“You like Rude.”
The fighter gave her younger friend a sympathetic smile. “Yuffie, we have established I think Rude is a nice person. So, he’s a Turk, and he may not be…..the best person in the world, but he’s never been unkind to me. Or rude like Reno can be.”
“That isn’t what I mean, and you know it!”
“I mean you like Rude.”
Tifa blinked, dropping her arm to the table. “Yuffie, did you take one too many hits to the head while stealing materia?”
“Gawd! I’m serious!”
“I can see that, hence the question.”
“You just said he was a nice guy!”
“Yeah, so is Cloud. Does that mean I like him?”
“Well, you never-”
“Do not finish that sentence, Yuffie. I love Cloud; he is the brother I never had. He is family.”
“But Rude isn’t.”
Tifa almost smiled at how proud Yuffie looked, as if she had found a major flaw in the barmaid’s logic.
“No, he isn’t, but that still doesn’t mean I like him.”
“Ain’t it possible?”
Tifa shrugged. “It’s illogical.”
“He may be a nice person, Yuffie, but he is still a Turk, and I don’t-”
“Oh, gawd, Teef. Ya gonna hold their professions over them forever?”
“I thought you hated ShinRa, Yuffie.”
The ninja shrugged, slumping back against her seat. “Yeah, well, things are different now, ya know? We’re kinda, like, allies with them.”
Tifa shrugged. “True, but what does that change?”
“Well, ya got to know them better haven’t ya?”
“Yes, I have.”
“And you said yourself that they aren’t too bad, didn’t ya?”
“So, then why couldn’t you like Rude?”
Tifa stood as she started her way back to the counter to prepare for her bar to open. “Never said I couldn’t, but telling you that you shouldn’t assume I do.”
Yuffie watched her friend for a moment in silence, marveling at how stubborn the girl could be. Well, she decided, there was only one thing to do about this: she was going to have to work with Rude’s best friend to get Rude and Tifa together.
Now, how was she to go about getting Reno to agree?