Reno paced the hall outside Cera’s suite, trying desperately to pull himself together. He wasn’t nervous about their date, if he could really call it that since they were just having dinner there instead of actually going out. What was really bothering him was the last-minute instructions Rufus had given him.
No sex, which was pretty much a given with Rufus watching their every move. Not that he had anything against being watched in that situation, but he didn’t want his boss doing the watching. He also wasn’t to try to kiss her or touch her in some overtly romantic way. Reno had raised an eyebrow at that order, wondering why Rufus was so keen on playing the over-protective brother so much with her. She was twenty-four years old, after all, and fully capable of making her own decisions about things like kissing and holding hands. Reno didn’t press the issue, though, merely nodded in agreement.
Then Rufus had given his final instruction, and Reno had started to panic. The young president wanted his fast-talking Turk to get her to remember something, anything about what went on in that research facility. That was his mission, and he was not to come back to see his employer until it was finished. Reno worried about what the consequences might be if he couldn’t get Cera to remember something during the course of their dinner. Of course, the punishment couldn’t really be anything too drastic. After all, Rufus needed him. He was the only person she trusted enough to talk to.
Cera watched him through the peephole in her door as he walked back and forth in front of her door, running a hand back through his untamed red hair every now and then. It was actually a bit comforting to see him in such a state, knowing that he was just as nervous as she was about having an almost-date with each other. She had asked Rufus earlier in the day what to expect from Reno, and he had frowned slightly and warned her not to expect much of anything from him. Reno treated women like condoms use them once, then throw them away. It was a rather crude analogy, which she had pointed out to him, and he merely shrugged and told her he felt it was rather fitting for Reno.
Her lips parted slightly as she looked him over thoroughly, thinking that if Reno really did want her the way Rufus implied, she probably wouldn’t put up much of a fight. He was slightly taller than her and moved with a graceful swagger across the floor. The navy blue Turk uniform was cut for someone with a more muscular build and hung off his lithe form, hiding what lay beneath for the most part, but his shirt was unbuttoned far enough to show the lean muscles of his chest. She felt desire welling in her, urging her to open the door and touch him, and she shut her eyes quickly to block those feeling out.
A sharp knocking a moment later startled her eyes open again with a small gasp, and she paused briefly before opening the door and meeting Reno’s casually flirtatious gaze with one of her own.
“Hey, babe,” he said in that drawling tone of voice that made her want to melt. “Sorry I kept you waiting, yo. The boss man wanted to see me about a mission.”
“It’s okay,” she assured him, smiling knowingly. So he didn’t want to admit he’d been pacing nervously outside her door? Then she didn’t have to admit she had been checking him out while he was doing it.
She stepped aside and let him come in, closing the door behind him, and they once again found themselves standing awkwardly in the same position they’d been in a week before when he had come back to tell her why he hated his name.
“We really gotta stop doing this,” Reno said with a small chuckle.
“Standing here awkwardly, thinking about how we almost kissed each other.”
“Oh,” she said, a blush rising on her cheeks. She walked past him and over to the table that had been set up for their dinner. Rufus had spared no expense, and had his private chefs make them the most delectable dishes he could think of.
“What the hell is this?” Reno asked, pointing to a bowl full of what appeared to be little, black beads.
“I think it’s caviar, but I’m not touching it to find out,” she replied with a laugh. “Honestly, I would have been happy with just some Wutaian takeout.”
Reno smiled at her. It was good to know she didn’t share her brother’s more stuck-up tastes. Moreover, it was good to know she seemed to have the same tastes he did.
“You like Wutaian food?” he asked her, his hand slipping into the pocket of his jacket to retrieve his cell phone.
Cera nodded. “Although I can’t say I remember ever actually eating it before, I know that I do like it.”
Reno grinned and hit the speed dial button for his favorite takeout place, then placed an order with the girl who answered and stepped over to Cera, bending down to kiss her cheek.
“I gotta go meet them downstairs, yo. Company policy states they can’t come up here. I’ll be back soon, okay?”
Cera couldn’t answer him. She simply stood there mutely and watched him leave, her hand rising to caress her cheek, which she swore was tingling where he had kissed it.
The two of them spent the evening sitting on the floor next to the spread Rufus had provided, talking and laughing as they ate out of the paper takeout containers. Reno had let her try some of his food, feeding it to her with his fingers, and she had blushed at the erotic undertones of the gesture before returning the favor for him. He had actually sucked on her fingers briefly before remembering Rufus’ warning, and immediately apologized to her for his forwardness.
“It’s okay,” she told him, her voice a bit breathless. Reno wanted to lean forward and kiss her then and there, but the threat of Rufus punishing him with three months’ worth of desk duty kept him from closing the distance between them.
“You know, I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
Cera cocked her head to one side, curious at his sudden change in demeanor. “What do you mean?”
“Not having any memory of your past,” he clarified. “It must me frustrating as hell, yo.”
She shrugged slightly, taking a sip of the wine Rufus had provided for them to drink.
“The thing is… I’m not sure I want to know.”
“Really?” Reno asked her, unconsciously moving closer to where she was sitting.
“If my memory is gone, maybe it’s for a good reason,” she told him. “Maybe something happened to me, something bad, and the people responsible for erasing my memory did it because they didn’t want me to remember what happened.”
“Maybe,” Reno agreed. “But doesn’t it just suck, not being able to remember your parents or any of your other family, or friends?”
“I… don’t think I had any parents, Reno,” she whispered, her eyes downcast.
“No,” she replied, shaking her head and looking back up at him. “It’s strange, but I have this gut feeling that I never knew my parents, even before.”
“Then how’d you grow up into such a fine young woman?” he asked her with a wink.
“Well, someone obviously raised me. I just don’t know who.”
“You can’t remember anything about them at all?”
“No, not a thing.”
“You’re just full of questions tonight, aren’t you?”
The question was asked with a spark of humor in his voice, but Reno started to grow nervous, just the same. The minute she realized he was fishing for information, his entire relationship with her would go down the drain.
“I’m just curious,” he told her, shrugging innocently.
“Why do you say ‘yo’ all the time?” she asked him, turning the tables to take the attention off herself.
“I grew up on the streets of the Midgar slums Sector Seven, to be exact. Living down there, you pick up all sorts of slang. I guess I just never really grew out of it, yo.”
Cera laughed as he ended his explanation with the very word she had asked about, and he laughed with her when he realized what he’d said, as well.
“See? It’s like second nature or something. Just comes out at random.”
Cera yawned loudly, bringing a hand up quickly to cover her mouth, and Reno grinned at her as he stood from his seat on the floor.
“It’s pretty late, and you’re obviously tired, so I should probably get going,” he told her as she stood with him.
“Oh,” she said, unable to conceal her disappointment at her departure. Reno cursed the damn camera behind the mirror, knowing full well if it wasn’t there he would be putting the moves on her right now in an attempt to bed her.
“I had a really nice time,” she added, then stood there a bit awkwardly with her hands clasped in front of her.
“Me, too,” he replied sincerely. Honestly, he couldn’t remember when the last real date he’d been on with a woman was, but of the ones he had been on, this one had ranked at the top of his list so far. “Maybe we could do it again sometime.”
“I’d like that.”
Reno smiled at her, all the while mentally kicking himself. He knew better than to try to have any real relationship with the girl, but he couldn’t help himself. Rufus be damned, he enjoyed spending time with her. If they ever found out what those scientists were doing to her, maybe she would be allowed to have an actual life, and then he could seriously think about dating her.
He moved over to her and pulled her into his arms, her eyes gazing into his expectantly as they stood there for a long moment before he leaned down and touched his forehead to hers. Her eyes fell closed, her lips parting invitingly, and Reno groaned inwardly, wanting so much to kiss her thoroughly.
“Good night, Cera,” he whispered before barely brushing his lips against hers in the barest ghost of a kiss as he pulled himself away from her.
Cera opened her eyes to look up at his retreating form, his long, red ponytail swaying behind him as he went to the door, and wondered what she’d done wrong. She hadn’t thought she imagined the connection between them, and she knew he wanted to kiss her before, so what had changed? With a heavy sigh, she began picking up the remains of their dinner before getting ready for bed.
Reno was dreading facing Rufus the next morning. He’d pretty much disobeyed the “hands-off” ordinance given to him the day before, and was already expecting to find an insane amount of boring paperwork in his future. Or worse, perhaps Rufus would forbid him from seeing Cera altogether. It was odd that he would rather do the paperwork than not see her again, especially since they hadn’t even kissed yet. Then again, maybe the thrill of the chase was the only real reason he was attracted to her in the first place she was off-limits, something he couldn’t have, a challenge.
“He’s not in there at the moment, but said you can wait for him inside,” Rufus’ chipper secretary greeted him as he approached the double doors of the presidential office. Reno nodded and let himself in, going straight to the chair he had been sitting in when Rufus had divulged the information about Cera being his long-lost twin, and sat down, putting his feet up on the desk. Without the man in charge around, he was free to deface whatever piece of furniture he pleased and figured he’d better do it before Rufus had him executed for putting the moves on Cera the previous night.
He looked around the room, desperate for something to do that would keep his attention, but Rufus wasn’t the sort of person to keep a television or a stereo in his office. He was all about work, and those things only created distractions. Reno was about to give up and take a nap when his eyes fell on the folder sitting on Rufus’ desk. His curiosity getting the better, of him, he picked it up and began flipping through its contents.
The first few pages contained in the file were the birth certificates and the death certificate Rufus had shown him previously, and he became more interested in the contents as it dawned on him that the file was full of information on Cera. He glanced over his shoulder as if to make sure his employer wasn’t standing right behind him, then started skimming the pages of the file in earnest. Most of them were written in a hasty, barely legible scrawl not Rufus’ proper, readable script. A good amount of it was scientific mumbo-jumbo he didn’t under stand in the least, but from what he could gather she was part of an experiment known as Project V.
He skimmed over pages of hand-written calculations, unable to decipher any of it so that it would make sense, and cursed himself for not being a science whiz. Shaking his head, he flipped past several more pages until he came across one that read DNA Profiling Results across the top. Thanking the gods for a page that was actually printed on a computer, he looked it over more thoroughly and found that it was a comparison of Rufus’ DNA to Cera’s. He didn’t really understand any of the different things listed in the report, but he fully understood the statement printed in bold type across the bottom of the page:
DNA Relation Match Probability: 0%
“Mother-fucking son of a bitch,” Reno muttered as he stared at the test results in his hand, gradually becoming aware of the game Rufus Shinra was playing.