And The Darkest Hour...
"Love can never be exactly like we want it to be..."
He sat alone in the dank, shrouded bowels of the bar. A bottle of whiskey and an empty shot glass awaited his command. Reno, donned in his Turk uniform, hunched at the bar. Even with his thin physic, the bar stool was struggling to support the Turk who felt the weight of solitude and depression on him. He did not blame what ever higher being controlled fate for his present state of mind. The countless, nameless people who had met that higher being by his hand was the indirect cause of this depression. All because it was his job.
Reno grabbed the bottle of booze and twisted off the cap. Pouring the contents into the glass until it was full, then placing the bottle back on the bar top. He lifted his glass of whiskey, staring at the bronze liquid inside with quivering need.
"To the victims..." He said to the glass. He lifted the glass to his pale lips, draining the whiskey in one toss.
As the alcohol left a familiar, comforting burn down his throat, he allowed a sad smile to grace his features. Unconsciously, he gazed up to see his own reflection in the bar's mirrored wall. Though his disheveled hair and carefree sported uniform were normal for Reno, his ghostly complexion and dark rings under his blue-green eyes were tell-tale signs of his mental state. Rude would laugh if he saw me like this!
The thought of his ex-partner and friend brought yet another wave of sadness to his heart. He hadn't heard or seen much of his stoic friend since the fall of Shinra. He missed the tall, quiet man. Rude's silence always spoke volumes for Reno. Especially concerning the pretty blond Turk. He hadn't seen Elena either since that time. And Reno found himself missing the young girls annoying ways. But the one he missed most of all was their strong leader. Reno knew that he would probably see Rude or Elena again, perhaps just running into them while traveling. But Tseng...he would never see him again. Never see the scolding glares when he and Rude staggered into the Turk's office after a night of drinking. Never hear the reprimands about his tardiness or his appearance. Never hear him laugh when Reno would describe his females conquests.
Reno filled the shot glass again. "To Tseng, wherever Turks go when they die." He swallowed down the whiskey, savoring it as he never had before. Then refilled it quickly. "To Rude and Elena, wherever they are." The third shot gulped down swiftly. Tseng was like a father he never had. And Rude, the brother. And Elena, the annoying little sister.
Fearing the nostalgia was too much for him to bear publicly, Reno threw some gil on the table, taking the bottle of whiskey with him as he left the bar. The people walking the streets at this time of night had learned to pay no heed to the Turk as he walked sluggishly down the street. He walked with his eyes forward, but unseeing, to the inn where he was staying. He was in the city of Upper Junon, in the dead of winter.
"Each night before you go to bed, my baby..."
Reno walked into the lobby of the inn, where the owner greeted him with a painted smile. She was a forty-something year old woman, who's face and body had gone haggard early with age. She let Reno stay at the inn for free, as long as he did her some 'services' in return. She gave him a lustful look, knowing that he performed his 'services' much easier when he was drunk.
Reno gazed back, taking another swig from the bottle, and followed her into the back room. He knew exactly what she wanted, and how she wanted it. She liked it rough, to be dominated by the younger male. The only problem Reno had was who's face would he picture tonight? What visage would he conjure to replace the hag?
His minds eye looked into the past, flashing pretty young faces of some of the females he remember sleeping with, and even some of those he hadn't. Choosing from the latter category, he found a familiar face. One he'd used to replace the innkeeper more than a few times. His former enemy, with her long, rich chestnut hair and ruby tinted brown eyes. No!, his mind screamed, finding clarity even in his increasing drunken haze. I'm not going to defile Tifa by doing this anymore!
Seeming to sense Reno's apprehension. "What's the matter, Red? You ain't in the mood tonight?"
"No," he replied somberly, then for the first time in a long while, his trademark lecherous smirk formed on his lips, "I'm just sick of fuckin' you, old hag!"
"Whisper a little prayer for me, my baby..."
Within a matter of moments, Reno and his few possessions were flung out onto the street. Reno picked up his bag, and his weapon from the pavement.
The innkeeper glared at him at the inn's door. "I don't ever wanna see your fuckin' face ever again!" She screamed, returning inside and slamming the door behind her.
Reno merely shrugged and began walking down the street again, with no destination in mind. Stopping only to spend some of his quickly diminishing funds for another bottle of whiskey. Drinking it, relishing it, he found himself walking along the platform that once held the giant cannon before Shinra had moved it to Midgar. Leaning against the railing, he looked down at the dark ocean below. He watched, mesmerized, as the waves crashed upon the rocky cliff. I would die if I fell here... He confirmed his thought, as he peered at the jagged rocks below him. No one would miss me. He finished off his whiskey, tossing it over the side. He watched, delighted, as he heard the bottle explode into millions of pieces on the rocks below. Reno set down his bag and weapon, bending over the side more. A cold, dark grave...I deserve it.
Reno looked up at the night's sky. Seeing the twinkling bright stars, the brilliant glow of the moon, he frowned. Tonight was a beautiful night. I don't deserve my last night to be beautiful... Reno looked down at his hands, which were clutching the railing to keep from shaking. He laughed and cried aloud despite himself. So weak...Elena would love to see this! Reno gazed back up at the heavens, blinking as more tears over took him.
"I pray..." He started saying in a whisper, which in his drunkenness grew to a scream. "I pray that Elena and Rude are better off than I am! I pray they've made something out of their lives! And I pray that Tifa..." He stopped short, pain in his chest grew at his own mention of her name.
"And tell all the stars above..."
Reno closed his eyes. "I pray that you are happy, Tifa. Whoever you're with, I hope you're happy."
He remembered a happier time, when to him, she had been the barmaid he doted on in hope she'd notice his affections. And to her, he was a loyal customer. Before she knew he was a Turk, and before he knew she was in AVALANCHE. How he longed for those times. To see her roll her eyes and blush at his advances. To see so much care and kindness in her eyes as she helped him off the floor when he was too drunk. To see her smile at him.
Her smile for him had died at the sector seven pillar. Before the mission to bring down the pillar, he'd even gone to his favorite bar, Seventh Heaven, to warn the lovely Tifa to leave sector seven immediately. But, she had not been there. Up to the time he'd reached the pillar, he'd prayed that she was in another sector. He'd been enraged to see her with Wallace and the other guy, who he later found out to be Cloud Strife. Enraged to see her in AVALANCE, the people who destroyed the reactor where he had a few friends. Their deaths were in her hands. She was equally enraged by his affiliation with Shinra. Yet still, he only fought hard against Wallace and the other man, letting Tifa pound away at him with no retaliation. Even after the battle, he warned her. It's time...He'd been relieved to see that she survived. And every battle after that, he'd held back if Tifa was present. But when he had brought down the sector seven pillar, their deaths had been in his hands.
It's better this way., his thoughts returned to the present, and the ocean's inviting depths beneath him. Too much sin...not enough remorse.
"This is dedicated to the one I love..."
Reno lifted himself over the railing, standing unsteadily on the ledge over the ocean. Looking skyward again, he called out into the night.
"This is for Tifa!"
Reno let go of the railing.
"While I'm far away from you, my baby..."
She walked along the almost empty streets, making her way to the inn. Tifa came to Junon to visit Pricilla, the little girl who's life had been saved by Cloud. Pricilla had been happy to see her, but disappointed that she had not brought Cloud with her. Tifa had apologized to her for him, saying he was too busy to visit but she assured her that he would in the future.
What future!?, she thought, and laughed aloud. While she was traveling the world over, again, Cloud was 'busy' with brooding over the loss of Aeris. It wasn't that he was in love with the Ancient. But he felt close to her because she wasn't a part of his confusing, mixed-up past, unlike Tifa. She was someone new, and different, unlike Tifa. Aeris had been part of the mystery and excitement of the present at that time. Tifa had been part of the misery and chaos of the past. Tifa had woken up to the realization one morning that the Cloud she was in love with was no more. All that was left of him was the familiarity of his face. The wreckage of him that she had pulled from the depths of his mind in the Lifestream had only been temporary. It stayed with him long enough to find and defeat Sephiroth. It soon after faded away, along with Tifa.
She'd left their hometown of Nibelhiem in search of a new life. She had come to Junon to catch a boat to Casa del Sol, where the villa that AVALANCE had bought was. Tifa didn't know if she would find a purpose there, but it was as good a place to start as any.
Tifa walked inside the inn, seeing the owner, a woman, coming down the steps carrying a box. When she slammed the box on the floor, Tifa jumped.
"Have I come at a bad time?" Tifa asked quietly.
This caused the innkeeper to jump as well. "OH! You startled me!" She said, laughing, "No, it's not really a bad time." She answered. "Just cleaning out the garbage..." She said, finally peering at Tifa. "Well, what a coincidence!"
Tifa's brow furrowed. "What?"
"If you've come here looking for him, he's not here anymore!" The innkeeper said loudly.
The innkeeper kicked the box across the room near Tifa. "That drunken bastard, Reno! Here's the rest of his stuff!"
"Reno?" She asked, remembering the red head Turk. "How do you know I know him?"
"Look in the box."
Tifa did so, moving empty bottles of whiskey, That's his favorite kind..., to find a picture frame at the bottom. She picked it up and saw herself. Tifa remembered the night this picture had been taken, probably more than he did. It had been her twenty-second birthday. Tifa hadn't expected to see Reno, and even Rude, show up with a birthday cake and presents right before she closed up her bar. She remembered being so happy that someone remembered her birthday. Rude had gotten her a new pair of fighting gloves, a nice gift from one martial artist to another. Reno, however, had given her a pair of pearl earrings, a beautiful gift to a woman from a man. Tifa looked down at the picture and smiled. The picture showed herself, with her new gloves and earrings on, and Reno, with his arm wrapped around her shoulder. Both were smiling happily into the camera, which Rude had brought along for the occasion. Tifa brought a hand up to her ears, feeling the presence of Reno's gift. She alw ays wore them. Even during the entire adventure, when they had become enemies, she wore those pearl earrings.
Tifa laid the picture carefully in the box, and picked it up. "When did he leave?" She asked the innkeeper, who'd been watching her with a jealous look in her eyes.
"Only ten or fifteen minutes ago." She replied, then sighing. "He was heading toward the old cannon platform last I saw."
Tifa smiled in thanks and left the inn. She had to find him. When she'd seen him at the pillar, finding out he was a Turk had made her furious. After that, when she'd had a moment to collect herself, she realized he was doing his job. Once more, she realized that she was no better than her Turk friend. Reno had destroyed the support of the plate because it was his job. Tifa had blow up the reactor for revenge. She had spent a lot of time contemplating on which was worse. By saving the planet from Sephiroth and Shinra, she felt she had atoned for her sins. She felt she'd made up for the loss of life at the reactor, by saving everyone else. Now all she wanted to do was forget. To put all the good and the bad behind her. To make a new life for herself.
"Whisper a little prayer for me, my baby..."
Tifa found herself on the cannon's platform. She could see no one else out there yet. Walking along the platform, she searched for Reno, or anyone else that might have seen him. A few feet ahead of her, against the railing, she found a black bag and something else she couldn't make out. She approached quickly, placing Reno's box and her own bag on the ground. Next to the abandoned bag, there was a stick or a rod of some sort. Picking it up for closer inspection, she realized it to be the Electro rod that was Reno's weapon. She looked around for him again, calling out his name. Why would he leave his things here?, her mind questioned. He's probably drunk...but I don't think he'd be this careless. The loud crash of the ocean waves against the cliff brought her a clue. Her eyes widened with sudden realization as she jumped up and peered over the edge of the cliff. Below, all she could see was the rocky sides of the cliff.
"Reno!" Tifa shouted, though she knew it was useless. If he did infact throw himself off this platform, he was surely dead. "RENO!!!" She screamed out.
"Help!" She heard someone cry.
Tifa searched with her eyes in the night to find the source. She heard the cry again, and knew it was who she was looking for. Reno's cry became more desperate. Tifa climbed over the railing. She crouched down, locking her elbow on the lowest bar of the railing, and peered her head out and down. Tifa saw Reno clutching with both hands to a protruding rock on the cliffs side. He wasn't very far down, she knew she could reach him. She watched him struggling to hold on, but he was having a hard time. "Reno! Hold on!" She cried. Tifa reached out with her hand. "Take my hand!" She told him.
He looked up at her, disbelieving his eyes. "Tifa!?"
"Come on, Reno!" She cried back to him.
He used all of his might, reaching up to grab her hand. The hands connected and locked. Tifa began to pull him up. When he reached her on the side of the railing, she helped him get over it. Once safely on the other side, he turned and helped her back over.
"Because it's hard for me, my baby..."
Tifa and Reno stood on the platform once again, both panting from exertion. Their eyes met, both looking unbelievingly wordless at each other. Tifa was the first to break their silence.
"What the hell happened?" She asked him, then pointed at the railing. "Did you fall on accident?" She asked, knowing the answer was 'no'.
Reno said nothing for a moment, just gazed at her as if she wasn't real. He believed for a moment that he was dead, or dreaming. "Tifa? Is it...really you?"
Tifa blinked. "Yes, of course it is."
"Am...am I dead?" He asked her, still not believing this was happening.
"No...and you can thank me later!" Tifa answered him, smiling. Then her smile faded as she bit her lip. "Unless...you wanted to be dead."
Reno looked back down at the ocean. His little leap had sobered him up quick. He remembered why he'd been out here in the first place, for she was standing before him. "Yeah, I did."
Tifa gazed at him with a pained sadness. "Why?" She asked, shaking her head a little.
A glimmer in the moonlight from her head had caught his eyes. He moved closer to her, bringing a hand to her ear. "...I bought you those...for your birthday. You're wearing them?"
"Ever since you gave them to me. I wear them everyday." Tifa told him, smiling. She took his hand in hers, squeezing it lightly. "...You don't have to tell me why you wanted to die. It's in the past."
"It just happened!" He argued, laughing at himself.
"No...I mean the reasons." She said, which made him stop laughing. She seemed to understand why he'd tried to take his life already. "We've both done things we aren't proud of, Reno. I'm just passing though here on the way to Casa del Sol. I'm going there to forget the past and start over." She said, picking up her bags and the box. "Why don't you come with me?"
Tifa's invitation touched Reno. He smiled a genuine smile at her, picking up his own bags and weapon. "I'd like that."
The pair strolled along the platform toward their new start. Reno hoped that perhaps, it would be together. Always.
"And the darkest hour is just before dawn..."
Notes: There you have it. This is meant to be a stand alone piece, but I can write more if you guys want me too. I could be a TifaxReno, if ya want. Let me know what you think! Review!