Reno grumbled under his breath as he exited the elevator and made his way down the hall to Cera’s suite. He still had a hard time believing what Rufus had told him about her, but his employer had supplied more than enough evidence to support the idea that she really was his sister. He’d only gotten a chance to read a couple of the letters in the stack Rufus had tossed at him before they were taken away from him, but Reno had read enough to know that she was part of some sort of experiment involving genetic manipulation.
Rufus had brought up a diagram of Cera’s DNA on the computer screen for him to look at, but it hadn’t been like any sort of DNA Reno had ever seen before. The young president explained in a rather bored manner that her genes had been mutated somehow, probably as the result of whatever they had been doing to her in that facility. He also informed Reno that there were actually two distinctive types of mutations, and while the ShinRa scientists were still trying to put their fingers on one of them, they had identified the other as having been caused by Jenova cells.
Reno had quietly freaked out in the back of his mind at that news, all the while keeping his outward appearance calm and composed. A Jenova mutation in Cera’s blood was a bad omen. The company had spent a lot of time and money destroying every last remnant of that damn thing, and now here she was with more of it inside her. He feared for her life, and it must have shown in his eyes because Rufus assured him that no one would lay a hand on Cera so long as he was in charge of the company.
Then he had asked Reno to attempt to succeed where others had failed before him by getting her to remember and talk about what happened in her past. Reno couldn’t help but laugh at the request, because he knew damn well that Tseng and Elena had both tried their hand at extracting that very same information from her. He suggested having Rude give it a shot, instead, but Rufus just shook his pretty blonde head and insisted it had to be Reno.
“Why me, yo?” the redhead had asked, whining slightly.
“She trusts you, Reno,” Rufus told him.
Of course, he ended up agreeing to do it, but only because when Rufus Shinra tells you to do something, you do it. He still wasn’t comfortable with it, though, and that in itself bothered him more than the abuse of her trust. He was a fucking Turk. They lied and manipulated people all the time. This was no different. He just had to treat it like it was any other assignment Rufus had sent him on and ignore the unpleasant feelings in the pit of his stomach until he was off for the evening and could go get drunk enough that he wouldn’t be able to feel guilty for betraying her.
He decided against taking a direct approach. After all, Tseng and Elena had both tried that without any results to show for it. Besides, Rufus had told him to not be obvious, that he should just act natural. He almost laughed at that. For him, natural would mean hitting on her, taking her home, fucking her senseless, and then promptly forgetting to call her back the next day. Somehow, though, he sincerely doubted that was what Rufus wanted him doing to his kid sister. He just wanted answers.
With a deep sigh, Reno knocked on the door to Cera’s suite and took a step back, placing his hands in his pockets as he waited for her to answer the door. He steeled himself for their meeting, knowing it was bound to be awkward after the way he had left her before, and knowing that Rufus had a point when he said they couldn’t be together especially now no matter what his body might be telling him to the contrary.
The door opened before him and he looked up to find her standing between it and the door frame, looking at him with her head tilted to one side in curiosity. He normally didn’t come back to see her after leaving for the day, a small fact he hadn’t considered when he marched himself right back down to her suite after his meeting with Rufus.
“I figured I owed you an explanation,” he told her, thinking quickly.
“About what?” she asked, resting her head against the door. Reno felt his stomach starting to turn itself into knots as he looked at her, remembering how close they had come to kissing.
“About why I hate my last name,” he said, his voice coming out in the seductive tone he used when he was trying to convince some girl at the bar to go home with him. It was an odd phrase to be saying like that, but if it had the desired effect, he wouldn’t worry about it.
“I see,” she said, averting her eyes and blushing slightly. “Come in.”
She stepped back from the doorway and held the door open for him, closing it once he entered and walking around to stand in front of him. They stood there for a minute in silence, staring at one another as they both recalled the last time they’d been standing so close in that very place.
“Would you care for some tea?” she asked him, finally breaking the silence. He smiled at her playing the good little hostess, but politely declined with a shake of his head.
Cera nodded and tucked a strand of her dark hair behind her ear, blushing again and turning away from him to go sit at the table where they usually played cards. She felt like a fool, being around him and not knowing what to say, but what did one say to the man they nearly kissed? She wondered if she had just imagined the tone of voice he had used when telling her what he wanted to discuss, if it had merely been a trick her hormones had decided to play on her imagination.
“So why is it you hate your last name?” she asked without looking at him, hoping that if they got the conversation over and done with quickly he would leave so she would be able to bury her feelings for him once more. “I thought you said you thought it was stupid and that’s why you didn’t like it.”
“Well, that’s one reason I don’t like it, yo,” Reno clarified as he pulled out the chair across from hers, turning it around backwards and setting it close to her own seat before straddling it. He’d noticed she was trying to avoid making eye contact, which was a bad thing when he was trying to get her to open up to him, and figured that perhaps physical closeness might help her open up some more.
“I see,” Cera said quietly, her eyes darting to him briefly as he moved to sit nearer to her. Her heart started beating faster from the proximity of his body to hers, close enough that she could smell his cologne. She’d been too wrapped up in his eyes and his lips to notice it before, but now that she wasn’t looking at him, she was captivated by its woody, musky scent.
“I hate my last name because it’s my father’s last name,” he admitted to her, and she could hear it in the tone of his voice that this was a rather touchy subject for him. Her eyes immediately went to his face and she chanced a look into his clear blue eyes to find them full of suppressed anger and grief.
“You don’t have to tell me any more, Reno,” she informed him.
Reno shook his head, sighing. “I want to. I’ve kept it bottled up so long, I need to tell someone about it, ya know?”
“But why me?” she asked, her brow furrowing slightly. “Surely you could tell one of your comrades about it.”
Reno laughed at her suggestion. “My comrades?”
“Yes,” Cera replied, blushing again. “You know, one of the other Turks.”
“We ain’t exactly that close, yo,” he told her, which was a lie. He and Rude were practically like brothers.
She nodded wordlessly, and they fell into a silence once again. Reno found himself staring at her and smiling. She was a good-looking girl, fair-skinned with dark hair and soft brown eyes more or less the opposite of Rufus with his blonde-haired, blue-eyed looks. He desperately searched for some sort of family resemblance, but nothing seemed to fit. The shape of her face, the size of her nose… it was all wrong. He supposed that it was probably normal, though, since they obviously weren’t identical twins.
He snapped back to reality, his eyes focusing on hers as a guilty smile spread across his lips.
“Sorry,” he apologized, leaning forward and placing his arm on the table, bending it at the elbow and propping his head in his hand. “Anyway, like I was saying…”
“Your last name is the same as your father’s,” Cera filled in the rest for him. “And I’m guessing the two of you don’t exactly get along.”
“I haven’t seen him since I was three years old,” Reno stated matter-of-factly, is voice devoid of emotion. One look in his eyes showed her it was an act, though. The raw hatred she saw in them was enough to send a slight chill down her spine. In that moment, she realized Reno was not someone whose bad side you wanted to get on.
“What happened?” she asked before she could stop herself.
Reno shrugged. “One day my parents were happy, the next they were screaming at each other. Then my dad walked out on me and my mom, and that’s the last I heard of him.”
“And your mother?”
Reno sighed, closing his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again, Cera noticed the drastic shift in his mood from anger to depression.
“She died when I was twelve.”
“I’m so sorry, Reno,” she told him. She started to reach for him, wanting to place a comforting hand on his shoulder, but stopped herself, thinking it would probably just put them in another awkward situation like before.
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for,” he assured her. “It wasn’t your fault, yo.”
Cera laughed quietly, and Reno turned his head to look at her, his eyes narrowing as he glared humorously at her.
“What’s so funny?”
“You,” she said, smiling. “The way you keep saying ‘yo’ all the time.”
“Are you making fun of my manner of speech?” he asked, putting on a stuffy accent for her and making her laugh again.
“No, I think it’s adorable,” she told him, honestly.
“Ohhh… So you think I’m adorable, huh?” he asked, turning on his natural charm. “So does that mean I still get that dinner even though I lost the bet?”
Cera looked at him, wondering if he was being serious or just joking around. He seemed like the type to mess with people, but something about the way he said it made her think he might actually be asking her out on a date. She weighed her options, chewing on her bottom lip in thought. Saying yes would only lead to her ending up getting in deeper over her head when it came to him, but saying no might very well break his heart and she didn’t want that, either.
“Seriously?” she asked him quietly, needing to hear him actually confirm that he was asking her on a date.
“Yeah,” Reno replied, just as quietly, all of the humor suddenly gone from his voice. “Have dinner with me.”
Cera stared at him for a moment before nodding slowly.
“Alright. I will.”