They'd kill you if they knew, Tifa mused, picking the last of the flowers and settling them on her arm. Setting back towards the city, she slipped back into thought.
At the least, everyone would wonder at my sanity – Shiva knows I still do, some days. You swear too much, and you wouldn't know tact if it battered you over the head and left its calling card. You're not what I need, and we both know it; we're too similar, and we'll burn each other out before long. But… I want you.
She chuckled – who'd have ever thought she'd think that - and muffled a curse as she pricked her finger. Switching the flowers to her other arm, she pressed the abused fingertip against her shirt to wipe away the small drop of blood.
Funny, isn't it? But it's true, and I'm hoping it's enough to convince you to stay…
They'd fought five nights ago – roaring words, and she'd shattered one of his favourite beer steins. Her throw had missed his head, but the wall provided an equally solid resistance.
Today was her birthday, and she hadn't heard from him yet… And for the first time, she worried.
I can't say I love you. I've grown to hate those words. I've said them without meaning them, and had my heart broken; I've said them with my heart broken, and meant every last syllable.
She'd wanted to tell her friends about them; it had been six months, and she knew that Yuffie at least would catch her if she tried to lie Even so, he hadn't liked the idea at all; their history considered, she couldn't blame him, really. And neither had ever been very good at compromising, so their words had heated as the evening progressed.
She'd never told him that she loved him – she still wasn't sure. There was something between them that even she couldn't deny anymore, but it wasn't as blind or as romantic as the love that she'd dreamed about as a child. But last night, she had hated him for half a heartbeat, and told him so…
And he had just… stopped… at her words. His face wasn't angry anymore, or cold; it froze in neutrality, she remembered, and he'd grabbed his jacket and left without looking back. It had been in that moment that she knew that she didn't want him to leave, but Tifa found also that she couldn't whisper the three little words that might have been able to stop him.
It's not that it's likely they would have, she cursed silently. Besides, "I love you" belongs on some hokey holiday card; he destroyed my home, I've broken his nose at least twice… he's saved my life, twice, and he says I've saved his soul. I think we're past the point of over-hyped words, and it's not like he's the romantic type, anyways.
Tifa chuckled dryly. She really had to stop thinking this much; at this rate, she'd be writing said greeting cards soon. Looking down at the blooms nestled into the crook of her right arm, their cream blossoms tipped with peach and crimson, the martial artist's eyes softened. Romantic or not – and she was fairly certain he wasn't – she was sure that these would make him smile.
But one could never be too certain where he was concerned… I never thought you were level-headed, Reno, she mused. But on the day we met the second time around, you were… Mind you, I'd never tried to drink a guy who was twice my size under a table before, either.
So maybe that's why I'm carrying an armful of peace roses for you as I head towards your apartment. You might just throw them back at me – and I can't say I can blame you if you do – but I can't just walk away from you, damn it.
I'll admit how insanely lucky I was that you happened to be in the same place at the same time on that day six months ago… call it fate, call it coincidence, what you will. It had been in the early hours of the morning, and your sea-green eyes flashed angrily at me as you pulled me away from the man I'd been dancing with…
"We're getting out of here, Lockheart," Reno hissed.
And even though her mind was pleasantly numbed, and her body nestled further into her anonymous companion's willing arms, Tifa found she couldn't ignore him. Her 'date' also tried to dissuade him, however ineffectively.
But at the moment, it didn't matter, because he was Reno of the Turks; a man who reminded her of a past – and friends – who she had run from and failed. Her failure was his success; he had been a murderer for a company that tried to take the world down with it when it fell.
He had since lost his impossibly wrinkled blue suit, and she had to admit through her liquored haze that his jeans and button-down suited him better. Even so, a few of the buttons were mismatched, and she knew that he hadn't changed; not completely. Perhaps not even enough.
But now she was not an innocent, either.
She'd lost the last of that when she'd started dancing amidst the lights, the colour, and the music that blurred to rhythmic noise, which worked better to blur life than anything else that she had tried.
Tifa stopped dancing as Reno twisted the other man's arm, pulled her away, and looped her arms around his shoulders effortlessly, like she was a life-sized rag doll. "Now," Reno hissed. "We're going."
Looking back, Tifa wondered if she struggled, and doubted it. Being thoroughly smashed does wonders for one's coordination, and she had wanted to escape that particular partner for at least the last song...
She would, however, remember with terrible clarity the feeling of waking up in an impeccably styled apartment what seemed like hours later. She was fully clothed, much to her relief, and nestled onto a black cloth sofa, a bright blue blanket draped over her with a thoughtfulness Tifa didn't know Reno had in his blood.
Crimson eyes widened with surprise as they took in the redhead, hunched over his bar and brewing what had to be the ugliest concoction known to man with a gleeful grin on his face.
Tifa smiled despite herself at the sheer energyin that memory. I think you felt my eyes on you, and yours met mine… she thought, recalling how Reno's smile had only widened as he realized that she had awakened. …And oh, your smirk just oozed mischief. Life. Perhaps I was lost then…
Tifa's smile slipped to a suspicious expression as Reno sauntered over proudly, holding the abomination in one hand. "Glad to see you're alive," he said, placing it on the table in front of her. "Drink."
She only blinked. "You have got to be kidding."
That grin again, she noticed. He was handsome, if a little scraggly… and with a perpetual inability to button his shirts correctly… In contrast, his apartment – if it was his – was impeccably clean, and if she had to ignore the handful of girlie pictures tacked to a bulletin board beside the fridge, well, that wasn't much. From him, she'd definitely expected… well, she wasn't sure what, Tifa considered. Sure, the extensive electronic system and plethora of video games stacked beside the obscenely large television was a given. But the rich wood furniture and the sleek, silver accents was unexpected. The beautiful hibiscus plant blossoming on the windowsill was definitely incongruous with how she perceived him. "Is this your place?" Tifa asked groggily, intent on distracting him from his creation. "It's gorgeous."
"I know," he replied nonchalantly; he'd been following her eyes as they darted around the main room. "Isn't it?"
Even though he'd just confirmed it, she started a little. "But –" she stuttered, flustered. "It's – it's clean!"
"Unpredictability, babe," he laughed. "Keep 'em guessing." As Tifa continued to ignore his proven hangover remedy, however, Reno's temper sparked. "Fine, have it your way," he snapped. "Don't say I didn't try to help you, Lockheart."
She responded in kind, tired eyes flashing crimson. "I didn't ask you to."
"If you knew who you were dancin' with last night, you would have." With a look at his watch and a curse that he took no effort to soften, the redhead grabbed his suit jacket and stalked towards the door. Hand on the doorknob, he turned, and fixed Tifa's gaze with his own. "Key's behind the wall clock. Lock the door on your way out, will you?"
She only gawked. "Key…"
"Yes, dear. Key," he drawled. And paused, green eyes glinting. "…Blue knickers, Lockheart?"
Perhaps if she'd been more awake, the remote control she hurled would have clocked him. As it was, he snickered as it hit the doorframe, closed the door, and she was left gibbering madly. The pervert… he hadn't changed, after all. Much.
A wayward thought struck her as the remote thudded uselessly to the ground. Checking to make sure it was honestly and truly closed, Tifa rolled back the hem of her skirt, only to shake her head and curse quietly, mostly at herself. She'd thought she'd put on black ones. Damn that redhead, anyways…
And, somewhere along the line, they'd become not-quite neighbours. An apartment three floors down from his had an opening, and he suggested she move when they ran into each other at the small coffee shop and she complained about how much her rent was.
She'd thought on it, and eventually agreed; the house she had rented was built for two, and there was only so long even Tifa Lockheart could live before acknowledging an obvious fact; Cloud Strife had survived his journey, but he wasn't coming home to her at the end of it.
To her surprise, Reno showed up the day she intended to move in, his truck turning into her driveway as she slammed the trunk of her hatchback closed.
"Killer timing, Reno," she grumbled as he jumped out of the cab.
He only grinned merrily. "Ain't it, babe?" Slinging an arm around her waist, Reno pointed at the blue sofa that stood alone on her small front step. "You castin' Tiny on that to get it into your car, or what?"
"First off, I'm not your 'babe,' Fraser," Tifa retorted. "Second, the movers should have been here a minute ago … three hundred and sixty-seven minutes ago, to be exact." She didn't try to shrug his arm off this time. It was pretty much all that was keeping her standing at this point.
Reno frowned. "Well, I have the whole back of my truck… that is, if you ask nicely…"
"How nicely?" she asked, suspicious. His lady-killer grin emerged, and she winced. Very nicely. "It's all right," Tifa added. "Celeste from work brought hers; she's driving over my bed and dressers and stuff right now. She'll be back."
Reno made sure to widen his eyes, and just his lower lip out just…so. There. "You don't want me to help?" He hid a grin as Tifa ground her forehead into the palm of her hand. She was his, she just didn't know it yet… "I brought you iced coffee and everything, Lockheart, but I can just go now and drink yours too…"
"How'd you know –" She cut herself off. "I mean, thanks. Stay." Smiling at him to show that she meant it, she chuckled as he only regarded her sceptically.
"Oh, I see. You just want me for my coffee," he whined dramatically.
Punching his side lightly, she replied. "And you're surprised?"
Dropping the arm that had circled her waist, Reno staggered to the car. "You wound me to the quick, Teef; really, you do."
She was about to retort until she noticed that he was pulling two large coffees out of his truck, and turned the corners of her lips into a smile instead. No point letting good coffee go to waste, after all…
The redhead walked back to her, and paused expectantly. "Finish your question."
Her smile turned real despite her best attempts. "Fine. How'd you know I only drank iced coffee, Reno?"
Handing her one, he chuckled. "Great minds think alike."
Taking it, and sipping it thankfully, she leaned against the front of the house. After the first third had disappeared, she eyed him over the top of her cup. "You know, people also say that fools seldom differ… which are we, I wonder?"
Green eyes scoffing, he set his cup by his feet. "You're the last woman on the planet who needs to fish for compliments, Lockheart. Great minds, of course."
"Shh," he replied, deadpan. "Your coffee's getting cold."
She glared at him playfully, wondering as she did just when he had got far enough under her skin for her to do anything playful around him. But Tifa finished her coffee quietly, and setting it down beside his, she straightened. "Let's get the sofa in, then."
So they did, despite his stubbed toe and her bumped shin, and shared a triumphant grin once the rebellious piece of furniture had been corralled. Stumbling into their respective cars, she cranked down her window and yelled, "what's the fastest route?"
He laughed, and she was surprised by the lightness in it. "Follow me, babe." With that, Reno shifted into reverse and gunned it out of her driveway before she could finish shouting him out.
Sighing in resignation and amusement, Tifa started her own car and followed the impossibly green truck down the road, casting one look in her rear-view back at the little house with its 'for rent' sign posted in the one of the lonely windows. Resolutely, she turned her full attention to the road… and to Reno's truck, which was idling almost in a taunting fashion not too far away. Bygones be bygones, she thought to herself. I've a Reno to catch.
So she gunned it, zooming by him in a whirl of laughter and a trail of smoke.
Tifa smiled softly as she remembered that not-quite-legal race. In an unexpected move, he'd let her win, something that she pounded him for once they had lugged everything up into her room with the help of Celeste, who had been heading out the door as they'd arrived. Of course, even with the dojang master helping them, she'd been too tired to land much of a hit. He'd caught her, deposited her on her sofa, and turned her small TV onto some action movie. Without asking, Reno lifted her feet and sat down beside her, replacing them over his lap and leaning into the couch all in one movement.
She must have fallen asleep at some point; she woke the next morning with a vicious crick in her neck, and noticed that he'd gone, but had dragged the quilt off of her bed and placed it over her before leaving.
. o .
Of all the people to catch me, she mused, whoever would have thought it would be Reno?
But save her he had; maybe not conventionally; angels knew how to button their shirts, and moreover from what she'd seen of angels in her years on the Planet, Tifa was hardly sold on those anyways. Even white knights had their drawbacks…
Reno was none of those things; he was human. A terrible ass sometimes; her closest friend, at others; she couldn't tie him down or simplify him with an archetype. Reaching her car and getting in, Tifa turned towards the city, its electric lights duelling with the fuchsia glow of the sunset.
The drive was far too short; reaching her apartment, she quickly put the roses into a 'vase' she'd commissioned on rush from an artisan friend. Making sure that there was enough water for them, the brunette straightened her hair, took a deep breath, and took the elevator up three flights. She knocked, hoping with a terribly schoolgirl-like fervour that he would answer.
He did, opening the door only part of the way. "Slumming, Tifa?"
She braced herself – she'd given out far worse three days ago – and if her smile was a little forced, her eyes were bright. "Always," she replied. "Can I come in? I come bearing gifts, Ren..."
His eyes flitted to the roses – and the almost-familiar beer stein that the blooms were presently held in – and his lips quirked, amused. "Went all out, I see… no-one's ever brought me flowers before…"
Now this was familiar territory, and Tifa relaxed slightly. "Well, someone once told me that being unpredictable was a good thing… Besides," she added, "I had to. I kinda missed you, and your ugly mug."
Reno's smile grew. "Funny, Tifa, real funny… but leave real humor to the pros, will ya?" With a grand flourish, Reno swept back the door to reveal the rest of his body; specifically, his left hand, which was holding a terribly large bouquet of ivory roses edged in pink.
Peace roses, identical to the ones Tifa had just gathered.
Looking in unmitigated surprise from Reno to the flowers in his hand and back again, Tifa laughed, Reno's baritone joining in as he took the vase and gestured for her to follow him in, which she did.
"Great minds," he murmured, looking at the roses in both his hands and the beautiful woman who had since taken up residence on his couch. "I'm not complaining…" With a grin, Reno closed the door.
. o .
. o .
Disclaimer: The characters and locations of Final Fantasy VII belong to the-company-formerly-known-as-Squaresoft. And, on the off-chance she's reading this, yes, Leni, I yoinked your line about "great minds" – kind of.
Sabe's Scribbles: (coughs) Written as a Christmas (yes, Christmas) gift-fic for WrexSoul… several months in the making, but Reno/Tifa was a completely different twist for me; I've written them apart, but writing them together while maintaining their voices was a heck of a journey. Hopefully it worked…