Rude is drinking and in an uncharacteristic pose, slouched in his office chair with a beer in one hand and his chin resting in the other as he leans against the desk, bits and pieces of work spread out around him.
Reno is lying lengthwise on the ratty couch in their shared office (Rude has been trying to get rid of it for years). It's upholstered in yellow and green striped satin; a leftover from when Scarlet re-did the color scheme of her office. Reno loves it, and refuses to get rid of it.
Reno drains the last of his beer. The empty bottle dangles from his fingers as his arm flops lazily to hang over the side of the couch. He heaves a sigh of boredom and then looks over at Rude.
"So are we going to this fucking thing or not?" he finally asks. "You know the booze will be better down there."
Rude never goes to the holiday office parties. Rude does not like holidays, nor does he like parties.
"I've got work to do," is all he replies, taking another conservative sip of his beer.
Reno just stares at him for a minute; something in his eyes shifts, and then he returns his gaze to ceiling.
"You're going to take all night to finish that," he says finally, and rolls his eyes.
"Probably," Rude agrees, seizing the opening in Reno's logic. "So go, because otherwise you're going to miss the party."
"Fucking Shinra Yule office party," Reno snorts. "What a joke. Remember that time we had to off someone at the party? Sure put a damper on that year."
This actually does earn an mild snort out of Rude, even though Reno can't read his eyes since he's still wearing his sunglasses.
"Yeah," Rude says after a moment. "I almost missed."
"You did not almost miss," Reno argues immediately. "You were just...distracted."
"By tits," Rude says bluntly. Reno laughs.
"Like I said," he continues, pulling out his pack of cigarettes and plucking one out. "Better booze and there are tits."
Rude's face goes neutral again. "So go."
Reno frowns minutely. "Finish your stupid beer and come with me."
"It's going to be time for coffee by the time I finish this beer," Rude says, the beginnings of irritation creeping into his voice, "and I'm going home before then."
Reno doesn't respond, but he makes no move to get up and leave. Instead, he lights his cigarette and blows a cloud of smoke into the air, watching it rise.
Reno understands Rude better than anyone else ever has, which is why Rude is getting pissed off.
"Stop," Rude finally says, straightening from his lax posture.
"It's fucking Yule," is all Reno says, frowning, and takes another deep drag off his cigarette.
"So it's fucking Yule."
"So fucking come with me," Reno finally blurts out, and now he's scowling. "I don't want to deal with fucking tits and boot lickers by myself."
Rude waits, and then after a few beats, replies, "I thought you liked boot lickers."
"You're fucking sick, partner," Reno says, but he's laughing, "you know that?"
"Yeah, I do."
"So fucking come with me," Reno repeats for what seems like the millionth time.
Rude doesn't respond. Instead, he swivels slowly in the chair away from Reno to look out the window of their office; it's high up, and he can see almost everything spread out beneath them. The green lights of reactors glow through the light snow that's begun to fall.
"No. I fucking hate parties," Rude finally answers, his back to Reno. He takes another sip of his beer; he's starting to wish it were something stronger.
"No shit," Reno mumbles, but he doesn't push it.
Reno is Rude's polar opposite with the way he approaches the world, and normally, it works to Rude's advantage. However, socializing at office parties is one place where it definitely does not. Everyone is generally too drunk to be afraid of the Turks; therefore, it's the one time during the year that people try to make small talk with Rude.
If there's one thing Rude hates more than the holidays, it's small talk.
And Reno is too distracted to stay by Rude's side like he does on the job, inevitably becoming the center of attention, leaving Rude to fend for himself. And although Rude is more than capable of handling himself in almost any other setting, there's something about office parties that makes him feel like an awkward 18-year-old again.
So he just stands off to the side, waiting for it to end.
The year before, a woman he'd never met had approached him unexpectedly. She had just stood there next to him for a few minutes unspeaking. Finally, when he looked over, she had smiled a little and said, "Hi, my name is--"
Chelsea was the only thing he heard. The strategy of being detached and frightening had never failed Rude, but at that moment, he suddenly hadn't wanted to scare her.
So he had looked over with a slight turn of his head and replied, "I'm Rude. I work for the Department of Administrative Research."
He hadn't intended to scare her, but he did, and she had just paled. But to her credit, she didn't walk away; before she could answer however, they were both distracted by a commotion of slamming glasses and laughter at the bar.
Someone was doing shot after shot with a very attractive woman--obviously someone's date that had drunkenly wandered astray--and a man that Rude recognized as a desk clerk that worked on the 30th floor, who was almost prettier than the woman.
And there was Reno, right in the center, laughing the loudest and drinking the most, still laughing as they all left together. That year, Reno spent the night of Yule fucking and being fucked by his beautiful new friends in various positions that Rude heard described in great, unnecessary detail the next day.
So fuck it, after all of that, Rude had told himself months in advance: "Not this year."
"I mean, I hate our co-workers too," Reno interrupts Rude's thoughts, grinning. His cigarette is done and he's stubbing it into the ashtray. "Most of 'em anyway, but..."
"There's better booze," Reno finishes for him.
"Yeah," Reno says enthusiastically.
"Better get down there before it's gone then," Rude says flatly.
"I don't want to go without you," is Reno's surprising response.
"You serious?" Rude's voice is skeptical, if it's anything at all, but Reno doesn't relent.
"Yeah," he says, "I'm fuckin' serious. I may be a bastard, but I ain't leaving you by yourself on fucking Yule. Not if we're not on business."
Rude ponders that one for all of two seconds.
"You just want a wingman," he says.
"Maybe," Reno says cryptically. Then, as if seeing his chance, he grins and latches on, "Yeah, partner. I need a wingman. C'mon, don't disappoint me."
The beer he's been drinking is going flat, and Rude has always been terrible at keeping promises to himself.
"Watch out. The hors d'oeuvre are disgusting," Reeve says where they're both hovering next to the refreshments table. His voice is nervous; Rude knows that Reeve is easier to scare than a squirrel, regardless of his high-ranking position in the company.
What Reeve doesn't know is that Rude actually likes him. But Rude doesn't feel like talking, so he just grunts. Reeve immediately busies himself plucking up the food he just declared repulsive.
It's just too easy sometimes.
"They are rather grotesque, aren't they?" Rufus says smoothly, walking up behind them. He smiles faintly with a glacial look in his blue eyes. "I wonder who made them," Rufus says, tapping a finger against his chin in mock consternation. "Rude," he adds, turning, "perhaps you wouldn't mind killing them for me?"
"At your word, sir," Rude replies easily.
Reeve's shudder is so poorly restrained that even Rude almost has the urge to roll his eyes.
"Yes," Rufus continues, "disgusting, though I admit, creative in their design."
Rufus enjoys scaring people more than anyone Rude has ever met.
He walks past both of them without sparing another glance, but stops at the edge of the dance floor.
President Shinra is dancing with a girl from the Honeybee Inn dressed for the occasion; Rufus is watching them with a small smile on his face. Rude wonders whether Tseng will say yes when the VP orders the kill on the poor girl.
Currently however, he doesn't particularly care, since he's pissed that Reno is nowhere to be found. He takes another sip of his bourbon (Reno was right about one thing though--the booze is better), and then another, more quickly.
"So where's your better half, Turk?" comes Scarlet's smooth, manipulative voice. "Lover's spat?"
Scarlet is probably the only person, apart from Rufus, who isn't afraid of them. Unlike Rufus however, she doesn't try to scare people; she'd simply rather play with them like a cat with an injured mouse.
Rude doesn't respond; she's using him as a replacement since it's usually Reno she banters with. Although Rude despises parties and socialization, he does know how to deal with Scarlet.
"No," he says, "here on business."
After the party two years before where an unwitting employee had been taken out at their hands, Rude's terror trump card has been set for quite some time. And although Scarlet isn't afraid of them, she knows how company politics work, and much like a cat, when to be cautious.
"Who?" she hisses.
"Classified. Orders from above," is all Rude says, and flexes his fists so the leather gloves creak just enough.
Scarlet spends the rest of the night at the open bar and goes home by herself; this is enough to tell Rude he has successfully terrified her.
Before leaving, he pockets a mini-bottle of whiskey for his no-good absentee partner--I'll fucking drink it later, Rude tells himself, if I don't see him--even though he knows he doesn't mean it.
There's holly falling off the doorway, mistletoe scattered across the floor, lights that have been dimmed, and the pervasive stench of alcohol and sweat.
Rude just wants to go home. He's tired, a little drunk, and fucking miserable. He's pissed at Reno for dragging him down here and then ditching him, after all the bullshit.
He takes the stairs instead of the elevator, not wanting to deal with Rufus's cold looks, Reeve's nervous smile, the President's whores--all the fucked up, every day bullshit. Not tonight.
He gets up the thirty flights of stairs, even more tired than before, and just wants to collapse into bed.
The apartment is dark and quiet, only the faint sound of snow swirling past the floor-to-ceiling window, falling a little harder now, but still not enough to stick. It melts as soon as it hits the warmth of the upper plate.
He walks into the bathroom and brushes his teeth, stares at his reflection.
Rude tells himself he looks tired; there are shadows under his eyes, he's got a five o'clock shadow, there are lines around his mouth, and his eyes look--
He turns away. No use thinking about it.
It's cold in the apartment, and the spartan surroundings make it seem even more so: a generously sized bed in the corner, the couch and a few chairs facing the large window, the rarely used kitchen on the far side stocked with several kinds of expensive liquor and not much else.
Out the window, the snow looks green from the light shining behind it, but it's getting harder to see past the storm. Rude walks up to the window, presses his forehead against the freezing surface, and closes his eyes.
This is around the same time of year that he first came to Midgar, the first Yule he spent crouched near a barrel fire, trying to keep warm. Even though he's always been big, he'd never been in a city like Midgar before.
Before becoming a Turk, Rude has spent most holidays alone. Usually small towns stick together, and parentless children are taken care of; but when you're a little too quiet, and you hate parties and have no friends, it might lead people to believe you're actually slow, maybe even mute and--
A sleepy voice interrupts his thoughts: "Rude?"
It's pure instinct when Rude takes two quick steps toward the bed and raises his fist, poised to strike, until a hand, too quick for even him to detect, is holding his wrist in place.
"Fuck man," Reno hisses, sitting up, "it's fucking me."
"What are you doing here?" Rude growls and snatches his hand back. His voice is angry and a little liquored up.
"It was closer," is Reno's response, and Rude can see him grin through the dark; but it's a faint and nervous expression.
Reno's apartment is two floors down.
"You left me there," Rude says, his voice controlled again. He rights himself and stands back up, staring at Reno. He's not wearing his sunglasses now.
Reno tenses, and then he looks down at the sheets. "Sorry," he mumbles, "I didn't mean to ditch you, man." He shrugs sheepishly, "But you were talkin' to that girl--"
"That was last year, Reno," Rude says.
Reno just bites his lip and says, "Got really drunk tonight." He gives a slight self-deprecating smile, "It all kinda blends--"
"She reminded me of Chelsea," Rude interjects before he can stop himself. Reno's eyes dart up to his partner's face in surprise, and then he just stares.
"Yeah?" he finally asks carefully, but Rude doesn't answer.
Rude is angry; at Reno for abandoning him (however irrational the thought may be); at himself for abandoning Chelsea all those years ago, even though it was his choice and the right thing to do; at everyone, for leaving him alone.
This is why Rude doesn't go to holiday parties; he hated the holidays before he ever came to Midgar, and being in the city has just been made him despise them even more.
Reno isn't looking at him now, just staring out the massive window at the snow.
"Blizzard?" he finally asks, his voice quiet.
"Not yet," Rude says, staying where he is.
Reno just stares for a while longer, and then so does Rude; they both watch the flakes swirl.
Rude finally sighs and walks away, goes to sit on the couch. His apartment is small, as per his request when the choice was offered to him; it's really just a giant box of a penthouse that no one can see into since it's too high up.
Reno, on the other hand, likes things flashy; his entire place looks like the Honeybee Inn decided to re-decorate--huge, garish, cold.
But Reno invariably ends up drinking in Rude's apartment, since his own place has become a revolving door of one-night stands, prostitutes, and dirty sheets. If Shinra employees didn't send their laundry out, Rude would probably be afraid to even step foot into Reno's apartment. All of its shine and tacky decor veils exactly what a whorehouse does: sex and loneliness. Reno has enough bodies to his name to be a one-man Department of Administrative Research, both living and dead.
Sometimes, he even crashes in Rude's bed; sometimes, Rude sleeps there with him.
The sheets rustle as Reno gets out of bed and his feet hit the carpeted floor with a soft sound. The only light comes from the reactors behind the swirling storm; but Rude can hear Reno come up behind him and settle his hands on the back of the couch.
"I hate this time of year," Reno finally says, and lets out a heavy breath. Surprisingly, he doesn't reek of booze as Rude had expected.
"No happy tidings for your dick this year?" Rude says, a friendly jab in his voice, the anger that was there before completely vanished now.
"Naw," Reno replies, laughing a little and lifting a hand to run it through his hair. "Didn't feel like it."
"So you ditched me for my apartment?" Rude says.
"Yeah," he admits, and his hand comes back down to rest against the couch. His fingers brush against Rude's shoulder. "It's cold in my place. Think the heat's broken."
"You even been down there since this morning?"
Reno hesitates, then admits, "No."
When Rude raises his own hand to put it on top of Reno's, there's a sharp breath. Reno's eyebrows are raised when Rude turns around to look at him.
"Hand is cold," is all he says, and lets go. "C'mon."
Reno rounds the couch without question and sits down next to Rude; he doesn't even pretend he doesn't want to get close, and settles in so that their legs are pressed up against each other. Reno isn't wearing a shirt; Rude shrugs his jacket off his arms and hands it over to Reno.
"Here," he says simply.
Reno laughs a little. "How gentlemanly of you," he snorts, but he takes it anyway and wraps it around his shoulders. It's warm from Rude's body heat and smells like his partner; he closes his eyes and listens to the distant sound of the wind.
The heat is on in Rude's apartment, but it's cold enough outside that the chill still seeps through any crack possible. The building is made of metal and glass, after all.
"Happy fucking Yule," Reno says quietly, but there's no humor in his voice.
"Same to you," Rude retorts, and reaches into his pocket to retrieve the mini-bottle of whiskey. He holds it up and Reno just stares at it for a minute, his eyes darting back and forth from the bottle to Rude's face, and then back to the bottle.
"Thanks," he says, his voice soft as he accepts it from Rude. He holds it gingerly in the palm of his hand, eyes cast downward.
Rude gives him a curious look. "What?" he asks, watching as Reno stares hard at the label. "Not good enough for your refined palette?"
Reno doesn't laugh, and the stillness unnerves Rude; it's as if he's been put on pause.
"Yeah," Reno says after a minute, and then exhales and relaxes a little. His fingers close around the bottle and he looks up to meet Rude's eyes.
"You ever get anything really good for Yule?" he asks suddenly.
"I'm not really a 'gift' person," Rude deadpans, "in case you couldn't tell."
Reno snorts and some of the tension eases in his face. He busies himself unscrewing the cap and mumbles, "Never really got anything before."
Rude just looks at him. "You've never gotten anything for Yule?"
"Not really," Reno says as the cap finally comes off. His voice is light and inconsequential, but now it starts to make sense why Reno had stared at Rude's hand as if it were made of snakes. "Not unless you count a fuck."
"Fucks count," Rude says. The tone of his voice is colored subtly by humor; but to Reno, it sounds as warm as the jacket wrapped around his shoulders, the first sip of whiskey burning down his throat.
"And no," Rude adds, "never got anything really good. Never got much of anything at all."
Reno doesn't respond; he's staring out of the window at the snow again, the bottle clutched in his hand, sitting in his lap.
"Long ways down," he comments idly. "Still can't believe snow can fly."
Rude knows that Reno's choosing his words based on his understanding of snow: piled up where it would fall through cracks in the upper plate, frost collecting on pipes in the cold, heavy casements of ice on stainless steel beams that wouldn't melt until summer. Rude remembers what winter in the slums is like.
"My first night in Midgar," he begins suddenly, and Reno looks over at him in surprise, "was around this time. Figured there'd be more work around the holidays, you know, like lifting fucking...Yule trees or something." He shrugs a little, but Reno can see the tension in his face and shoulders. Rude rarely talks about his past or where he's from.
"Yeah," Reno snorts despite himself, "good luck with that." He hesitates, takes a sip of liquid courage, and asks after a few moments, "So what happened?"
"Spent that first night near a barrel fire. People didn't take too kindly to a stranger trying to edge in."
"So what'd you do?" Reno asks, spurred on now by the story. He can picture Rude in his mind: big, all business and no bullshit, pushing his way to the front to get warm and scaring everybody in his way.
"Hid like a fucking pussy behind some dumpsters nearby and tried to stay warm," Rude replies, and there's a low rumble behind his voice that sounds suspiciously like laughter. "I was just some 18-year-old shit from the middle of nowhere."
Reno's eyebrows shoot up and he sputters, choking on the whiskey he's still drinking, "You hid?"
Rude nods, and now he's outright laughing. "I fucking hid and spent the night with garbage."
"Holy shit," Reno says immediately, and the dumbfounded look on his face just makes Rude laugh harder.
After a moment, Reno looks thoughtful and adds, "If you were 18, that woulda made me 17..." he counts on his fingers and does some quick calculations. "Oh yeah, I remember that year." A wry smile comes over his face. "That was the year I spent Yule in lock up for getting into a fight over a bar tab."
Now they're laughing together, both shaking their heads. When it finally dies down, Rude says, "And look at us now. Who would've thought?" His voice is suddenly contemplative and he looks around the room.
"Yeah," Reno snorts, "Me? A Turk? You told anybody I knew back then, they would've just laughed and then mugged you."
Rude offers up a soft sound crossed between acknowledgement and amusement.
"Fucking Yule," Reno says softly. "Oh," he says, turning to his partner, "and thanks." He holds up the whiskey and wiggles it between his fingers.
"Sure," Rude says, shrugging a little. "The booze was better down there."
"Told ya," Reno says, a smug tone in his voice. "And uh..." he says awkwardly, killing the bottle with one last gulp. "Sorry for--"
"Why did you leave?" Rude asks, but his voice is curious, not angry.
Reno just shrugs. "It was cold."
"Cold?" Rude repeats, looking at Reno strangely.
"Yeah," Reno says defensively. "It was fucking cold. And it's fucking cold in my apartment." He points his finger at the window, "And it's really cold out there."
"But it's not cold in here," Rude says, neither a question nor a statement. Reno just nods slowly without looking at him. He leans forward and places the small, empty bottle on the coffee table in front of them.
Rude looks at it and then shifts his gaze over to Reno who's staring out the window again.
It's suddenly too quiet in the room, only the sound of the wind screaming past, the storm now turning into a legitimate blizzard, the exhausted bottle--Reno's first actual Yule gift--sitting there empty.
Reno finally sighs and moves; but he doesn't get up, just pulls his legs up onto the couch and lies down, all six feet and one inch of him scrunched up, his head in Rude's lap like a cat.
Rude knows that Reno's closed his eyes after a few minutes, the way his breath evens out and his body relaxes. Rude rests a hand against Reno's head; his hair has always been soft, but right now, it almost feels hot under Rude's touch. He strokes his fingers through it a few times, solely because he knows Reno likes it. Sure enough, Reno sighs in his sleep and lets out a contented sound, adjusting his body and curling into himself further.
It keeps snowing, and Rude watches until even the vague green light is no longer visible. He closes his own eyes and listens to Reno breathe, a warm sound that's louder than the wind, and lets himself drift into a world of flying snow.