Disclaimer - It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that I do not own Final Fantasy VII or any of it's characters. It, and it's characters, are copywrited by Squaresoft of SquareEnix, whichever applies to FF VII.
Chapter 01 – Back in Blue
"75, 76, 77, 78, 78'n a half, 79," Elena sighed. "We've got a total of 79 Gil. Where'd it all go?," she shook her head in exasperation. "Reno, do you realize just how much of our money you spend?" The young blonde woman looked over the edge of a stack of books at her companion, and frowning, cleared her throat to get his attention.
"Huh, what?" He looked up from lighting a cigarette, and glanced around him, his red hair swaying. Obviously, he had no idea that his comrade had posed a question to him.
Elena frowned at Reno Sinclair across the living room. He was seated in his beat up recliner, a lamp lit beside him. His blue-green eyes gazed questioningly at her. "The money, Reno. The money situation. We. Need. Money." She frowned to the point of glaring. "And your spending does not help."
The skinny man stuck his hands in the air and attempted an innocent look. "What? It was only a few drinks." His expression changed to a pouty look, and Elena shook her head again.
"Where at?" She almost didn't want to know, but it was necessary.
"Reno's expression dropped, and he fiddled with his lighter, diverting his eyes from Elena's. "Uh…ya know that place over on 5th street?"
Elena's jaw dropped open. "B-but that's one of the most expensive places in Junon! Why the Hell did you have to go over there?" She stood from her wooden desk chair and threw her arms in the air defeatedly. She didn't advance on him, but Reno shrank back into his chair reflexively. "How much did you spend?"
Reno coughed and glanced around, anywhere but at her fiery brown eyes. Finally, he looked at her, and shrugged. "Oh…80 or 90 Gil. Give or take a couple'a tens." Seeing the rage in Elena's eyes, he glanced back down at the lighter in his hands.
Elena's mouth worked for several seconds and she advanced on Reno slowly, coming to a stop in the middle of the room. Eventually, she closed her mouth and slumped onto the couch. Grimacing, Reno moved to sit beside her, and wrapped his right arm around her shoulders, holding her closer. Her body shook slightly with repressed sobs. Attempting to sooth her, Reno commented, "We'll make do somehow. We always do." This elicited no response, and at a loss for what to do next, finally lit his cigarette. He puffed on it a few time, then smashed it into the ashtray on the coffee table in disgust. "God those taste terrible!" He clawed at his tongue dramatically. "Damn, what brand are these?" He pulled the small box from his pants pocket and examined them critically. "Shardyn? What the hell kinda cheap brand is that?" With a snort, he turned and threw the nearly full box into the trashcan behind the couch.
Elena looked up at him wearily, then at the trashcan, then back at Reno. "How much were those cigarettes?"
"7'n a half Gil." Reno waved his hand dismissively as he stood and stretched his lean frame. He began to head off towards the kitchenette, but Elena reached out and gripped his wrist.
"Reno, Reno come back here." She pulled him gently onto the cushion beside her and locked eyes with him. His eyes held a curious look, although the twin scars on his cheeks made it more of an annoyed look somehow. "We need money. In the last two days, that I know of, you've spent better than 100 Gil, and you haven't had a job in the past month. You don't even do your own laundry, for God's sake. We're tired of it." Tears began to well in her eyes again.
He found himself amazed, that she cared so much, but Reno's expression hardened, as well as his voice. "Who's 'we?'"
"Me'n Rude." She sniffled and looked away from Reno. "We…," she halted, holding back a strong surge of emotion. "We've decided that if you don't have a job by the end of the week, you're on you own." She finished in a rush before her emotions could betray her voice.
Reno's eyes grew wide, and he slumped a bit in his seat. This was certainly an unexpected turn of events. No, he was surprised it'd lasted this long. They didn't owe him anything, yet they allowed him to slack off, and do as he wished. Elena cooked for them and did laundry, as well as worked at the nearby grocery. Rude worked for a sales firm, handling phone calls and the occasional house call. Reno's only job had been at the Junon docks hauling fish off of boats, and he'd quit that a bit more than a month ago. He was surprised they didn't eventually drift apart after Meteor fell.
"I'm sorry, Reno," she stated simply, tears rolling down the sides of her face. She buried her face in Reno's shoulder and began to cry softly.
Reno stared down at her. 'How did she ever manage to become a Turk?' She had little control over her emotions, and talked way too much. Much as she may have been un-Turk-like, Reno couldn't imagine their group without the bubbly blonde. Reno hugged her tighter and sighed. This was not a position he was very good at. He'd been with a lot of women in his post-slum days, but never for more than a night at a time. He'd never been very close to anyone in his life except his mother and sister. He was always gone the next morning. When it came to this, Reno was rather lost.
As he waited for Elena's usual calm exterior to reassert itself, he turned his attentions to the pressing matter of employment. If he wasn't fast, he'd be sittin' on the street freezin' his ass off by Saturday. He hadn't so much as glanced as the damn want ads lately. 'Shit!' With his free hand, he massaged his temples roughly. 'Damn, I'm in trouble.' Mentally berating himself, he glanced down at Elena, surprised to see her simply sitting, leaning against his shoulder. Frowning, Reno shook her lightly. "Hey, you okay now?"
Instantly she glanced up at his blue-green eyes, noting a touch of concern, and blushed slightly. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little stressed." She sat up and smoothed her skirt out over her legs. Finding her voice again, she tried a more positive approach. "Today's Tuesday, that's only three more days, but me'n Rude'll help out as much as we can. He was gonna ask his boss today if there were any openings at the office." Narrowing her eyes a bit, she leveled an accusing finger at him. "And no job is beneath you, got that?" Reno shrugged in acceptance, deciding that desperate time call for desperate measures. Seeing his admission, she smiled and glanced about the apartment.
The "living room," if one could term it that, was cluttered mismatched furniture and a few framed photos on the walls. On the only outside wall was a 1'x1' window with a view to brick wall. Near the ceiling, the wallpaper was starting to peel. It certainly wasn't large, but it was immaculately clean thanks to Elena. If it was up to Reno, no doubt the entire room would like the area around his chair: discarded pieces of laundry, empty bottles and cans, magazines, and anything else he was too lazy to move to its rightful place.
The tiny kitchenette's white tile flooring practically gleamed through Elena's hard work, and the small table was cleaned off except for three place-settings for supper. The refrigerator was bare except for a menu of what Elena was making that week, along with a magnetic calendar from Rude's office.
A grin appeared on Reno's face as he surveyed his home, and with a quiet chuckle, rose from the couch and started off for the kitchenette again. This time Elena made no move to stop him. He opened the fridge door and browsed the second shelf for anything interesting to drink, finally settling on a beer. Whistling to himself, he sat the beer at his placemat and closed the door, then pulled his chair from under the table and sat heavily, pulling the newspaper over to him.
With a grimace, he unrolled it and scanned the headlines. "Turks Massacre 53 People at Junon National Bank! Authorities Estimate 700,000 Gil stolen," also, "37 People Killed in Junon Subway Train Collision."
"Damn!" Reno slammed his can onto the table, beer spilling out over his hand and the upper portion of the paper. Elena looked up into the kitchen, startled.
"What? No jobs?" she asked fearfully.
Reno shook his head. "No. Well, I dunno, I haven't checked." He glanced over at her. "The "Turks" have taken a good name and ran it into a pile of shit!" He gestured towards the picture below the article concerning the "Turks."
With a troubled frown, Elena stood and strode quickly into the kitchenette. She'd heard of the new group of terrorists calling themselves the Turks. Everyone had, really. No one had any idea of what they were attempting to accomplish though. Ever since right after Meteor had eliminated Midgar, these Turks had sprung up. At first it had been small stuff, petty theft, vandalism, but it had slowly grown into assault, bombings, big-time theft, and the like. Taking the paper from Reno, she leaned against the table and examined it. After several seconds of silence, she threw the paper down in disgust. "Why the hell are they doing this? They've stolen over what…7 Million, 8 Million Gil, but what are they doing with it? Holding it for spite?
Reno tuned Elena's ramblings out so he could he think. He'd tried it before, but these new Turks brought the idea back to life. There was a possibility that, with a bit of funding, the TRUE Turks could be reborn. Immediately, his thoughts went to money. 'Shit, Elena said we've only got about 80 Gil. That's not enough. How to get some…how to get some…' He leaned back in his chair and chewed on his lower lip thoughtfully. His only option was theft.
He scowled to himself, despising the idea. 'But hey, it's for the greater good, isn't it? I'll just take…a bit. From someone who's obviously well off. They'll never miss it.' Even with these excuses, Reno could feel a long period of self-loathing coming up. But it really was practically necessary. 'Damn!' He didn't want to do it, but it was necessary. It was the only way for fast money.
His decision final, he glanced up at Elena, who was still rambling on, and stated in a drawling sort of tone, "Hey, Lena-babe, aren't you gonna be late if you keep on talkin'?"
Elena's eyes widened, and her head snapped around to stare at the clock on the stove's display. "Ah! Crap!" She spun around and dashed into her room, and sped out a moment later with her jacket halfway on. "Bye, Reno." She waved quickly, then yanked the door open, and was gone.
Reno chuckled to himself as he stood and stretched, then walked out of the kitchenette to the small desk Elena had been counting money at. He scooped the bills into his hand and stuffed them into his worn wallet, then dumped the 1 Gil in change into his pants' pocket. On his way to the door, he flipped off the lights, and pulling his coat on, stepped out the door, locking it behind him.
It was a normal, gray, November day. Just cold enough to require a jacket, yet warm enough to be enjoyable. A piercing wind blew down the wide streets, sending small bits of newspaper and assorted other bits of trash on short trips down the road. Reno stood in the partial shelter offered by the inset front door of the apartment and lit a cigarette from a dependable pack. He took a few experimental puffs, then grinned in contentment. Shoving his hands in pockets to keep them warm and to keep the edges of his coat from flapping about, he stepped onto the sidewalk and began walking at a leisurely pace for the largest bank in the general area. The wind picked up, and with a shiver he pulled the jacket tighter around his lean frame. Because of the cold winds blowing in off the harbor, Junon was never hot, but it could get downright cold at almost no notice. This was one of those times. As he trudged along the dimly lit streets, a thin snow began to fall.
Grinning, Reno looked to sky and removed his cigarette. He knew it was childish, but he just had to. Sticking his tongue out, he caught several of the flakes. In Midgar, even as a child, he had been unable to do so for the pollution. After thinking about it for several seconds, he decided that Junon was getting close to that level of pollution. He walked on, enjoying the snow, until he came to the large glass doors of Junon Capitol Savings & Loan. "Here we are…" Grinning, he extinguished his cigarette in a potted plant to the left of the door. He pushed open the double doors and quickly slipped into the warmer atmosphere. He kicked the snow from his shoes and entered the bank-proper.
He gazed cursorily about the cavernous room, trying to find the richest, but least alert civilian there. After passing up a thin young man and four old ladies (they appeared to have guns in their purses) he decided on a suited older man. Glancing at the security guards, he stepped up behind the man and brazenly tapped him on the shoulder.
"Good morning, sir." Reno chirped brightly, cocking his head, causing his fire-red hair to shift wildly.
Turning with surprising swiftness to Reno, the old man smiled at him jovially. "Good morning, young man." He tapped a gold topped cane against the ground and fixed Reno with a questioning gaze. "What can I do for you?"
Thinking quickly, Reno replied without missing a beat, "I was wondering if you'd heard of the latest trouble with the Turks. You know, the bank incident?" He smiled innocently at the old guy.
The older man closed his eyes sorrowfully and shook his head. "Indeed I have. That dishonorable group of worthless louts has run the good name of "Turks" into the ground." Reno flinched inwardly. That was nearly exactly what he had said earlier.
Sliding his fingertips imperceptively into the man's back left pocket, he continued the conversation, "Did you know the Turks, sir?"
He smiled proudly, his eyes lighting up, "Yes indeed. Tseng, leader of the Turks was a good friend of mine. Great man, that he was." His eyes held the far off look of remembrance.
Reno pulled several 50 Gil bills from the man's leather wallet and slid it back, easily, into it's pocket. Daringly, Reno decided to reveal a bit more, "Damn right he was." Reno nodded ferverently.
The old fellow trained a curious eye on him. "You knew him, did you?"
Reno rocked on the balls of his feet, beaming with pride. "Know 'em?" He snorted, "I am one." He extended his hand in a friendly manner to the man. "Reno Sinclair of the Turks, sir. Might I ask your name?"
He didn't respond, but rather muttered Reno's name, as if trying to remember something long forgotten. "Ah yes! I remember now! Dropped the Sector 7 Plate, didn't you?"
Reno's smile dropped. "Yeah. Such were the orders from President Shinra." He paused, "Hey, wait, how did you know about tha…?"
The elderly gentleman smiled that kind smile of his again, "I worked under Reeve in Urban Development. I know you were ordered to do it." He slapped Reno on the back good-naturedly.
"Next!" A coarse voice pierced their reminiscing rather painfully.
The elder man tapped his cane on the floor again. "Excuse me, Mr. Sinclair, it was a pleasure to talk to a true Turk again." As if on sudden inspiration, he tucked his can under one arm and began rummaging through his pockets. He produced a rectangular bit of paper bearing his name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. He pressed the business card into Reno's hand. "There. That's my number and address. If you need anything, just come to me. It's nice to be able to talk to a co-worker again." The teller called out again, her grating voice echoed around the tall room, adding to its irritation factor. Shaking his head, he glanced over his shoulder, then back at Reno. "Got to be going now, good day."
With success firm in pocketed hand, Reno backtracked out the glass door to find that the flurry had not ceased, but rather, the flakes had gotten larger. Eyeing a man across the street, Reno scooped a handful of snow into a tightly packed sphere and hurled it with impeccable aim at the back of the man's neck. His accuracy was unfailing, and the resulting explosion of snow caused the poor target to dance about wildly, trying to prevent the snow from falling into his shirt. Reno waved cheekily at the man and slipped his hands into his coat pockets. He began to stroll further on the street, and his grin widened when the sound of trashcans falling to the ground reached his ears.
He estimated he had about 400 Gil now, and his planned purchases shouldn't amount to more than 350 Gil. He saw no reason not to treat himself to a good lunch before going shopping. He'd heard of a nice little café on 7th, and that seemed to pretty much fit the bill. A Christmas song found its way to his lips, and he marched down the street, in much higher spirits than previously.
Within 20 minutes, he was seated comfortably in a plush leather booth, a cold mug of beer in front of him, a menu propped up beside it. "I'll have a 32oz. New York Strip Steak, well done, fries, and…cottage cheese." He looked up at the young waitress and smiled. "I'd like some ketchup and steak sauce too, please."
"Yes, sir." She removed the vinyl booklet of a menu and made her way back to the kitchens, Reno's eyes on her the whole way.
He noticed an older man watching him out of the corner of his eye, and turned to him. "Hey. Ya think I can order HER?" He bobbed his eyebrows suggestively, causing the old man to choke slightly and return to his salad, shooting occasional glares at the red-head.
Chuckling, he sat back and sighed, stuffing his hands into his pockets. 'Okay, I've got the basics covered, but I've gotta find a way to get some backing if I'm gonna do this.' He closed his eyes in thought, and suddenly grasped the paper in his pocket. "Yes!" The old man choked on a bit of lettuce, and glared harder at Reno, who paid him no mind. Reno tore the slip of paper from his pocket and examined it closely. 'Alexander Maxwell, eh? Seems pretty rich, likes the Turks…hmmm…' A smile spread across his face, and all troubles seemed to lift from him. 'Today'll be a good day,' he decided.
An hour and a half later, Reno trudged through the 3-inch thick layer of snow, keeping an eye out for a respectable boutique. Someplace not too expensive, but high quality. So far he'd passed up three different stores. Stopping in front of several glass doors, Reno decided his search was going to come to an end. He strode quickly into the foyer, and noting brass pegs lining the wall, he hung up his now wet coat. It was a Wutai-style store, and he debated on removing his shoes, finally opting to change into the comfortable, supplied slippers. He stepped up onto the slightly raised floor, gaining some satisfaction in the way the floor-mats sunk slightly under his weight.
Despite holding a lot of Wutai-nese articles, it held many different varieties of clothes. He noted with satisfaction that a corner in the far left was populated solely by suits. Walking slowly, he stood before the distinctly UN-Wutai-nese checkout desk. Surveying the racks upon racks of clothes, and seeing no-one who appeared to be an employee, Reno took to assaulting the small silver bell on the glossy countertop. Almost immediately, a balding head shot up from between two rows of leather coats. Small black eyes glanced about before settling on Reno's scraggly form. Frowning ever-so-slightly, he began to weave his way through the rack of clothes to the front desk. Reno leaned forwards, a look of impatience settling itself onto his face.
"I'm sorry, sir." The employee bowed low, then stood and looked him in the eye appraisingly. "What can I do for you?" It was obvious by his tone and look that he'd come to the conclusion that Reno was hardly worth his time.
"I'd like three dark blue suits, three white dress shirts, three pairs of brown boots, and two black ties." He didn't break eye contact, and a short staring match ensued. Reno won out, and the employee, bowing to the stipulations of his job, motioned for Reno to follow him. With a triumphant grin, Reno rounded the edge of the electronics cluttered desk, following the employee closely. When the duo reached the suits, the balding young man turned to await Reno, and yelped when Reno was right beside him. Reno smiled caustically, "Problem, sir?"
Running a hand over his shiny skull, the man shook his head. "No…no problem." Taking a second to regain his composure, the clerk coughed into his hand. "Now, sir, what sizes would you like?" The title was obviously forced.
"Eh…I'll just try some on. Kay?" Frowning, the clerk motioned to the dressing rooms.
"The men's dressing rooms are over there. Please call me when you've made a decision." He bowed, no as low as before, and hurried off, as if desperate to escape Reno's presence.
With a chuckle, Reno began to peruse the rows of suits, looking for one that looked like it would fit. After several moments and suits, he decided on one, and promptly found matching slacks in drawers beneath the suit rack. Grabbing a randomly sized shirt from a shelf on the wall, he marched into one of the many small cubicles. Minutes later, he stood before a mirror, modeling the suit, and decided it fit right. As was characteristic of him, the top few buttons of the shirt were undone, the jacket not buttoned, and the shirt partially untucked. Satisfied with his appearance, he grinned at his reflection. "That'll work just fine…" He turned around and grabbed up his other clothes into a pile and left the small room, calling in the most annoying voice he could muster for the clerk. Across the store, the balding young man winced, and with a sigh, began to trace the yells.
Coming upon Reno sitting on the floor tying on a pair of brown boots, he clapped one hand over his mouth and sucked in a deep breath. "…Sir! What are you doing!?"
Reno looked up and grunted, as if only now noticing his arrival. "I think I'm gonna go ahead and wear 'em. Izzat okay?"
The man opened and closed his mouth wordlessly, much like a fish. 'Not only is he wearing hose clothes like a…a…ragamuffin, but he hasn't even bought the clothes yet! It's horrible!' "Eh, yes. Yes, as long as you intend to buy them." The faster he was through with this man, the better. "How will you be paying for this?"
"Cash." It was a simple statement, yet coming from this man, a seemingly penniless man, it seemed profound.
"Cash…alright. Now, if you'll tell me what sizes those suits are, I'll find two more pairs, and you can be on your wa…"
Reno held up his hand to stop the man. "The other two ain't for me." As if that was enough, Reno returned to tying his boots.
Heaving a great sigh, the clerk decided he might as well forget about his lunch break. It was a late one anyway. "What sizes, sir?"
"I dunno." He finished tying his boots, and stood. "One of 'em's about this much taller than me and broad shouldered. The other one's about this tall, and a woman." His hands described them in the air for the clerk, although they didn't help at all.
"Oh dear…" The clerk shook his head and silently asked what he'd done to deserve this.
After an hour and a half of such generalizations, Reno ended up picking two suits from the racks that seemed about the right sizes. Ties were no problem, but the boots were also guesswork. The duo returned to the counter where the Wutaian clerk began to ring up the purchases, ringing one up twice for the one Reno was wearing. Reno went about taking items from his other pants pocket into his slacks.
Grinning somewhat sadistically, the clerk's finger hovered over the "Clear" button, ready to pounce. "That comes to a total of 337 Gil."
With a grunt, Reno pulled his remaining bills from his wallet and laid them on the counter. The clerk's smile fell, and he counted out the change, handing the smaller sum to Reno.
With a brief word of thanks, Reno grabbed up the assorted boxes and marched to the door, grabbing his coat from the wall and stuffing it into one of the larger boxes, he returned to the cold street.
'I wonder how it went…' a tall bald man mused as the bus came to a stop before a somewhat rundown apartment building. He stepped off the bus and hopped up onto the curb. He walked briskly to the door to the building and opened it quickly. He wasn't too partial to the cold. He strode silently down the long hallway 'till he came to the door he was looking for. He withdrew his key and stuck it in the door, only to find it wasn't locked.. He stepped inside and sat his briefcase against the wall, then glanced about. His gaze came to rest on one Reno Sinclair, and disappointment weighed heavily on his heart. 'I thought he'd try to change.'
Reno stood up to greet his friend. "Hey, Rude. How'd it go at the office?"
Rude decided Reno was too cheerful for a man told to leave within the week. He began to doubt whether or not Elena had warned the red-head. "Just another day. Did you have any luck finding a job?"
Reno nodded in the positive, and Rude allowed his ever-present sunglasses to slide to the end of his nose, and peered over their top at Reno. "Really? That's good. Where?"
Reno wagged a finger in front of Rude's face. "Uhuh. That's a surprise. You'll have to wait for 'Lena."
Rude raised an eyebrow and pushed his sunglasses back up. "Okay." With that, he turned and retreated to his room, closing his door behind him. 'Where could Reno have gotten a job at? He's too happy for it to be anything difficult, so it's probably not high paying. And what were those boxes on the couch?' Deciding he'd learn nothing until Elena returned, he put his Turk skills to good use and shoved the entire situation from his mind. He had work to do.
Reno sat down and grinned to himself. He glanced at the TV, and picked up the remote from the coffee table. He flipped it on, and tuned quickly to the local weather.
"We'll be expecting more snow as this cold front continues across the sea. Expect to see totals in excess of 6 inches throughout central Junon, and as much as 12 inches on the outskirts. By Saturday, this warm front will begin to clear out the snow. So if you have kids, let 'em have fun while they can."
"Hey, Rude!" Reno called through the stoic man's door. "We're supposed to have between six inches and a foot of snow!" Reno laughed as he heard the incessant clicking of a laptop keyboard cease. "Sorry." Reno just couldn't understand why the man hated snow.
Still grinning, Reno flipped over to the Chocobo Racing Network, and snuggled down into the couch.
Several hours later, the sound of the door opening awoke Reno with a start. He was awake instantly, a reaction from his past as a Turk. "Good evening, Reno." Elena greeted as she closed the door. "It's really starting to snow out there." She slipped her jacket off and hung it on a peg near the door. She sat her purse on the couch and continued into the kitchenette. Rude came out of his room and greeted Elena, then strode to Reno.
"Well. Elena's back now, Reno."
Reno looked up at Rude, a bit confused. "So?" After a few seconds of being grimly stared at, Reno remembered. "Oh, yes." He cleared his throat. "Hey, 'Lena! C'mere, please."
Elena promptly came back to the living room area and fixed Reno with a curious gaze. "What is it, Reno?"
"I found me a job." He straightened the collar of his sweatshirt in a proud manner.
Elena clapped her hand over her mouth. "You did? That's wonderful, Reno! Where at?"
Reno smiled and spread his arms out for effect. "Anywhere you want!"
Elena's face fell, and Rude's stare hardened. "What do you mean, Reno?"
Without answering, Reno started handing out boxes. Elena opened one of hers and peered inside. Her eyes brightened and she looked back at Reno. "You're going to be a tailor? That's…good, I guess."
Reno shook his head violently. "No, 'Lena. I'm not gonna be a tailor. You can be so blind sometimes." Elena glared at him. "WE'RE gonna be the Turks." He smiled proudly and glanced from Elena to Rude.
Rude, without a word, sat his boxes on the couch, and started to return to his room. "Hey, wait a minute, buddy. Why not?"
Rude stopped and looked over his shoulder at his friend. "We tried that before Reno. No one will hire us. Not after the Shinra. After AVALANCHE came, our record was nothing but a list of losses. No one would fund us to start a security agency either. It just WON'T work. And now there's the negative publicity of the Turk gang."
Apparently having made his point, Rude started back to his room.
Reno glared at his retreating friend, and turned to Elena. "After I show you this, maybe YOU'll be able to convince him." He stuck one hand in his pocket, obviously searching for something.
Elena frowned. "I dunno, Reno. I don't believe we can do it anymore that Rude does. You'd better have something damned powerful up your sleeve."
"Oh, I do, 'Lena, I do." He produced a slightly wrinkled business card from his pocket and handed to Elena. "Read this."
Elena's eyes quickly scanned the page, and she smiled. "Mr. Maxwell! He was my Economics teacher in high school! Didn't he join up with Shinra eventually?"
Reno nodded. "Yup. He was Reeve's lackey. He, I think, will give us everything we need."
Elena's smile fell. "You think?"
"Well, I'm pretty sure he will. He was delighted to talk to me. I'm sure he's got the money to start us off. Can't we see? Please?" He put on his best puppy dog face and clasped his hands. He even went so far as to get down on his knees.
Elena shook her head. "Oh all right. A job's a job, right?" Reno nodded hurriedly. 'I didn't think he'd want to be a Turk again so bad. By the way he acted, it didn't seem to be anything special to him. Who'd've thought.' Brandishing the card, she turned towards Rude's room. "Rude? I think it's worth trying."
"Mr. Maxwell, someone wishes to speak with you." A taught voice broke the elder man's conversation dryly. A young girl within the same room jumped slightly at the interruption.
The aged businessman looked down at the small machine on his expansive desk. "Oh? Who is it?"
There was a pause holding but static. "Reno Sinclair, sir. Claims to be a member of the former Turks." From the background, a voice called "That's not just a claim!"
The old man grinned, and the two people seated before his mahogany desk gasped quietly in surprise. "The Turks? I thought they disbanded, didn't you, Vinnie?"
Maxwell shushed the eighteen year-old with a finger to his smiling lips. "Good, good." He rose and pulled a wooden cane to his grasp. "Escort them to the library immediately." He began towards the door, the shadowed duo close behind him.
"Sir, what shall I do with the others?"
Maxwell stopped abruptly, his brow furrowed in confusion, then lifted in understanding. 'So he's not just here for a nice conversation. Just as I though.' "Them too, Marcus."
"Yes sir." The two figures behind Maxwell looked at each other. The taller shrugged, eliciting a sigh from the girl.
"Here you are, sir." The butler motioned Reno, Rude, and Elena into a high ceilinged room. "Master Maxwell will be with you shortly. Meanwhile, is there anything you would like?" He glanced between the trio, seeming to look over his nose, as if they were hardly worth his time.
Elena shook her head, and Rude remained silent as ever. Only Reno offered a response. "You could get me a beer. In a frosted mug, if one's handy."
Nodding, the tuxedoes man turned and left the room silently. Reno plopped heavily into a padded armchair and rested his feet on the low table in front. "Nice place." The arched ceiling towered overhead at 50-60 feet, giving the room a cavernous feel. The golden candelabras placed strategically along the walls gave the feeling of a vast temple. A wrought iron stairway ran around the room, and up to it's top, giving easy access to any book one wanted. Obviously, this man had money. 'Just what I was hoping,' Reno nodded to himself in a self-congratulatory manner as he surveyed the expansive library.
Elena stood in the middle of the room, feeling a bit uncomfortable once again in uniform. Her eyes roved the enormous room, and she turned on a heel to marvel at the sheer size. "Ya know, Reno, you may be on to something with Mr. Maxwell." She had fond memories of the man. He had taught high school for many years before moving on to Shinra. There he quickly rose through the ranks. He and Elena had kept in contact for a while, but as their respective jobs became more involved, they fell out of regular communication.
She glanced at the doors impatiently and brushed a lock of golden hair from her face. A single bead of water rolled down her cheek from where the delicate strands of hair had lain. She had showered just before they had left, and now regretted it, especially after discovering that the temperature had dropped further. 28° Fahrenheit was not good for either hair nor health.
Rude stood silently near the entrance. He appeared comfortable in his suit, not that he would let on if he was uncomfortable. Despite knowing him for years, neither of his closest friends could ever guess what he was thinking. Reno pulled a few books from the shelves behind him, glanced at the titles, then sat them on the glass-top table. With a slightly bored expression, he repeated the process until finding something more to his liking. Setting the dislodged books unceremoniously back onto the shelves, he opened a leather-bound copy of "Watership Down."
Elena cocked her head in puzzlement. Reno was rarely so quiet. 'He must be more worried about this than he'd like us to believe.' With a small shrug, she sat down in a nearby, overstuffed, wing-backed chair. Elena sunk deeply into the warm fabric, enjoying the simple smell of old paper that emanated from its surface. Several minutes passed in silence except for the turning of pages and the crackling of several hundred candles. Elena felt herself drifting into blissful sleep when the heavy wooden doors eased open slowly, creaking somewhat on their hinges. An elderly man with a cane emerged from the relative brightness of the hall. He was slightly stooped with a age, although he appeared spry enough. His grey, mid-back-length hair hung in a ponytail down his back. He wore a well loved green sweater and black slacks. The butler followed soon after, bearing a silver tray laden with several goblets and a single mug.
"Good evening." The elder gentleman greeted the trio, examining them each individually. He grinned at Elena. "I'd heard you'd made Turk, but I almost didn't believe it of talkative little 'Laney." He laughed to himself and walked to stand in the middle of the room. Elena blushed slightly, but grinned as well. "Please serve our guests, Marcus."
With a bow, Marcus crossed the room and sat the tall mug capped with a thick froth on Reno's table. He handed the goblets of wine to both Elena and Rude, ignoring Elena's quiet protests. Finally he handed one to his employer, and went to stand at the door.
Reno sat his book on the arm of his chair and clasped his mug in both hands. With a gulp, he took several inches off the foam and grinned widely.
With an appreciative nod, Mr. Maxwell lowered himself to a chair. Rude crossed the room silently to stand beside his nominal leader. "Shall we start?" Mr. Maxwell inquired. The three ex-Turks nodded silently, Reno simply signaling from behind his mug. "I can say quite surely that I can fund Turk operations for a minimum of three years."
Rude and Elena both raised an eyebrow in surprise. Elena sipped at her wine thoughtfully, noting that whatever it was, it was an excellent year. "Why would you?" She cleared her throat uncomfortably.
"Good question. For one, I have several…assignments you could start with." He placed suspicious emphasis on "assignments." "I believe that with a proper backer, the Turks could again become a valuable asset to anyone, despite the activity by the so-called "Turks."" His low voice rose slightly in excitement.
Rude listened attentively to the man's choice of words, and paid close attention to his posture. There was no note of falsity to his words, and he seemed open and genuine. 'He was awfully fast to state how long he could fund us. How strange.' He seemed to be skirting around a larger issue, but Rude attributed to simple cautiousness on the older man's part.
"Before you make a decision, however, I must inform you that I have already restarted the Turks, although it is merely a two person operation thus far." Rude's eyebrows furrowed in surprise and curiosity at who the two cold be. "If you do join, you will be working very closely with these tow, but I urge you to give them a chance."
Reno's curiosity was piqued. "Who are they?"
Maxwell tapped his cane against the floor, the soft thump resonating throughout the room. From the nearly closed door came two people in matching blue suits. Well, mostly. The taller of the two had long black hair, held roughly in place by a red bandana. He looked oddly natural in the blue suit. His crimson eyes roved critically over the gathered company, automatically compiling all he knew about them. Beneath the left sleeve of his jacket, a golden claw glinted, it's wicked looking fingers straightened his pant's leg.
The other, a girl of about eighteen, stood somewhat behind the forbidding looking man. Her brown hair rested simply, a bit longer than the Turks had last seen it, nearly reaching her shoulders. Her gray eyes were filled with emotion, a window into her soul. She had forsaken the blue suit-jacket, and wore only the white dress shirt. She shifted back and forth on the carpet, glancing from the back of the taller man's head to the three others in blue. Her form had filled out more, and without the huge shuriken resting in a leather holster, Reno might not have recognized her.
"AVALANCHE." Reno growled distrustfully. He settled further into the chair. Rude shifted in surprise, and Elena gasped softly.
"We're gonna be working with them?" Yuffie Kisaragi and Elena asked in unison. The two glared at each other.
Maxwell chuckled. "If you agree to become Turks again, then yes, you'll be working with them."
Reno glanced at the old man, then back at their former enemies. "What possessed you to hire them, and why are they going under the title "Turks?""
Maxwell opened his mouth to reply, but Vincent Valentine cut in. "Everyone needs to make a living." His low, course voice focused all attention on him. His seemingly heartless eyes locked with each of the Turks' in turn. "In my youth, Mr. Maxwell and myself were good friends. I came to him for advice, and he offered me the position of Turk. Yuffie tagged along with me after we met up in Kalm."
Yuffie stared, open-mouthed, at the normally reticent gunman. "Wow, Vinnie! I think that's the most you've ever volunteered to say at one time!" She clapped him on the back amicably. "Good job!"
"If you join, Mr. Sinclair and Turk Valentine will be co-leaders as you are both experienced at the job. You will need to work together to effectively accomplish your missions. I will assign them and leave the two of you," he glanced from Reno to Vincent pointedly, "to work out the details."
"We have to work with them?" Elena said again, although quieter.
Reno grunted. 'Must be in shock.' He glanced between Vincent and Yuffie, then at Rude, who stared back at him hard, then shrugged.
Elena nodded blankly. "Why not?" She glanced back at the AVALANCHE duo and forced a mile. "That okay with you guys?"
Vincent nodded, while Yuffie held back slightly. "I guess. Just keep Reno away." She glared at Reno who shrugged, a grin spreading across his face.
"What?" He winked suggestively at Yuffie, who promptly made retching noises, then turned back to Alexander Maxwell. With a glance between his fellow Turks, he nodded to the elder man. "We're in."