"So, what did you think?"
Reno just smirked as he stared at the Wutaian over the bandages the older man was putting on his cut and bleeding cheeks. That, of course, made the older man glare at him, but Reno didn't mind. Tseng was always doing stuff like that anyway, trying to make himself as intimidating in his silences as their boss, Veld, but Reno wasn't falling for it. Reno had been Tseng's partner for almost two years now, and Reno had known him far longer than that. There had been that half of a year where the end of Tseng's and the beginning of Reno's training had overlapped, and the three years after that before Reno was assigned to Tseng, after completing his training of course. After all this time there was nothing about the Wutaian Turk that scared Reno anymore, especially not the forced aloofness. Then again maybe it was the fact that Reno had saved Tseng's life at last twice that made him indifferent to Tseng's attempts. There is only so much about a man that can scare you after you pull him back up over the edge of the cliff he had all but walked over.
"How Veld gets anything out of you is beyond me," Tseng said at last, obviously annoyed.
"He controls the paychecks, and thus the booze," Reno poitned out, grinning as his parter applied a second bandage. "Remind me again why we can't just use Cure on these?"
"You wanted a cool scar, and we want you to be more approachable to him. Reyez seems pointedly to avoid anyone with more than a whiff of money. Doesn't want his habits getting back to his family.
"Then why the snowboarding story?" Reno asked with a sigh. Few people had the money for casual trips to Icicle these days, though Reno's trip had been for work, not fun.
"He'll think you're bluffing," Tseng said. "I've heard the way you tell it. I hardly believe it when you tell the story, and I saw the whole thing myself."
"Crowning moment of glory for me and all I get is grief," Reno complained, shaking his head as he leaned back in his seat. "Did you have to arrange for such an eager attack?"
"He would hardly believe less, and you can't fake feeling threatened in a fight, Reno. We needed for it to be a real enough test. Now what did you think?"
Reno thought on this for a while, thinking back to the recent fight. Personally, he had hated to fight with his attention divided between Tseng's arranged attackers and the fighting style of the man known at the Bottom's Up as 'Rude.' The youth—five years Reno's junior, though the mako injections Reno had received years ago hid the difference well—had fought well enough. He wasn't polished, he wasn't masterful, he was barely beyond competent. He wasn't as quick as Reno or flexible as Tseng, but he had been strong, and he had fought with Reno beautifully for someone who had only ever spared at dojos before. While Reno wasn't sure how Julio Reyez, presumed heir and future CEO of the Reyez Resorts, had come to the attention, he did know one thing.
"He's a natural."
"What are you basing that on?"
Tseng wouldn't accept anything like 'it's a gut feeling' or 'believe me on this.' So instead Reno just shot the Wutain a look, the one that he reserved for those times when Tseng wasn't going to like the answer. And, almost like magic, Tseng dropped the question.
"Do you think he'll be willing?"
Again Reno smirked, which earned him another glare from his partner. "Give me two weeks and I'll have the guy begging to run away to Shin-Ra."
"Somehow I doubt that."
"Hundred gil says I'm right."
For a moment Tseng seemed to ponder this, but Reno already knew the answer. Tseng didn't back down from any challenges.
Rude, Reno decided as he stared at the glass of whiskey before him, was an apt moniker. A week already Reno had come to the Bottom's Up without fail, not that it had done much good. Already he had told every single one of his good stories to the regulars, and earned more than enough laughter, he'd even caused more than one attempt to show up his story telling skills, and had instigated at fight out of sheer boredom. Not once in that time had the target shown, despite the intel assuring him and Tseng both that this and no other place was Rude's regular spot. At this rate Reno was not only bound to lose his gil, but earn Veld's ire over wasting so much time for nothing. Worst of it wasn't either of those, though, but the potential that he was not only going to fail his mission, but that the feeling he'd had during that fight alongside Reyez was going to slip through his fingers forever.
The fight was still in his mind, even now. They had worked together so well, almost perfectly, and Reno had never experienced anything like that before. Sure, he worked well enough with Tseng, but what happened with Reyez was different. There had been a part of Reno that had been sure that he could trust the youth to be where he needed to be in the fight, to not get in Reno's way even when his eyes said it was bound to happen. With Tseng in the fight, Reno wouldn't have been sure that any punch he threw wouldn't hit the man, but Reyez...
"Damn him," Reno mumbled into his beer.
Part of Reno just wanted to slam his head into the bar. No sooner had he given up hope than the damn rich brat showed up. Of course. Story of his life and all that bullshit. Tseng had told Reno about something like this once. How the worst possible thing that could happen would, especially when it wasn't particularly needed. Now Reno was going to have to think of a believable lie, and something told him it wouldn't be very easy to convince Reyez, no best to think of him as Rude at this point, that what he was saying was true.
"Friend of mine," Reno said at last, spinning on his stool to face the bald youth. "We've got this bet going on, and it looks like he's going to win. No concern of yours, though."
Rude raised an eyebrow as if curious, but his eyes gave away the fact that he was more incredulous than anything. Poorly expressive eyes, those, but Reno didn't mind. Made it easier to read Rude, which was something Reno needed right now. Hell, if he wasn't able to see Rude's eyes, the youth would be all but impossible to read. Something to keep note of if Reno did manage to convince Rude to come to Shin-Ra. They could get him some sunglasses or something...
"Don't make bets you can't win," Rude said before moving to sit at Reno's side. Without a word the bartender moved towards them, already with a glass of Rude's usual drink in hand.
"See, thing is that when I made the bet, it seemed like a sure thing."
"Nothing is ever sure."
Reno shrugged and turned back to the bar, frowning again at his beer. Back when he'd made the bet he'd thought he'd have almost two full weeks to convince the target. Now, though, Reno couldn't even be sure he'd see Rude beyond tonight, and working fast on things like this wasn't Reno's specialty. But he was the one looking for a new partner as Tseng was being promoted to solo work so that he might better train as Veld's protege. So it was Reno's job to bring the guy in, or to find someone else. Not that Reno wanted anyone else at this point.
"Nope," Reno agreed with a sigh. "That doesn't mean I shouldn't try, though."
"What was the bet about?"
All Reno could do was smile and shake his head. Telling would make it impossible to achieve, after all.
"So, about those guys the other day," Reno said, his hand coming up to brush over the bandages at his cheeks. "What did you do to piss them off?"
"Me? What makes you think they didn't attack because of you?"
"Because they slipped out of the bar when you left. I had to run to catch up with you," Reno lied, this one far smoother, far easier since he had practiced it with Tseng.
"You shouldn't have bothered. I could have handled them."
"Bullshit," Reno said cheerfully. "You would have had a knife in your back. Granted, you didn't do that bad... for a rich kid."
Reno all but felt Rude tense beside him, but he just sipped at his beer as if what he said wasn't all that important. Stupid illusion, but the only way Reno knew he could try all of this in what little time he might have with Rude. Chances were that Rude would flee, but Reno had to take that risk, had to hope Reyez would want to buy his silence, or figure out how Reno had figured it out.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Rude said, though he now refused to meet Reno's eyes.
"Hey, don't act like I'm stupid or something. If you do, I'll stand up and shout your name out to the whole bar. Which, trust me, is not something I want to do. I'm not here to cause you trouble, or blackmail you or anything."
"Could have fooled me," Reyez grumbled, teeth grit.
"Listen, all I have for you is a question," Reno said, pushing his beer away and turning to face the one known as Rude.
That seemed to get the youth's interest, and he stayed silent. Reno took a deep breath, leaned in close, and smiled.
"Don't you think being CEO for a company that all but runs itself is going to be dull?"
Reyez flinched back from the question, though Reno could see it in his eyes. There was no need for an answer.
"Hardly," Rude lied, poorly at that.
There was hope then, and Reno smiled before gesturing for the bartender to bring them second drinks.
"Have you ever considered looking for a... different career?"
That brought Rude's attention back to Reno, and another smirk to Reno's lips. Maybe there was still a chance to win that hundred gil. And, better yet... a new partner.