RenoxTifa, to a point. Post-game. Second person POV. Character death.
Oh, and I don't own any of the Final Fantasy VII characters or anything.
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One, three, six, seven, ten. There are twelve songs on the CD, but you only really like those five. So you listen to them over and over again. Sometimes you program number six every other song, because it's so good. One, six, three, six, seven, six, ten, six.
It's a love song, though not your typical love song. It's rough, and real, just a guitar and a gravelly voice telling you what you already know. It's sort of a depressing song, really. A bittersweet tale, narrated by another jilted, jaded soul with too many words and nowhere to keep them.
Sometimes, you muse, being left behind is a relief. You allow yourself a chuckle, a wistful, pained little laugh, and stuff the CD player into the oversized pocket of your cargos. No, they're his. He took everything you are, without even trying, yet he couldn't remember to take his damn stupid pants. So you wear them when you're cleaning, or just feeling sloppy. Today, it's a little bit of both.
You were just too tired to bother last night, so you left the peanut shells, napkins and cigarette butts on the floors and tables - didn't even pick up the chairs.
You knew you were opening the next day anyway, and you really wanted to get home. You don't really know why. No big plans, no company to entertain, no one waiting for your return.
There had been a couple of messages on the machine, but you ignored them - even laughed at your friends for trying.
You miss the days where you didn't have to make an effort to be near others. They were just there, for better or worse. It was usually worse. The world was this close to ending, after all. You did everything with a sort of carelessness, because there was no room in your head or anyone else's to do it any other way. What was there to worry about if you were on the brink of extinction?
If you lost, that was it. If you won, nothing that came after that could possibly be worse than what you'd already faced, you told yourself. You were wrong.
Hands wound around the splintery broom handle, you close your eyes and inhale. Number six just came on, and you're feeling particularly receptive to its message. Before a single line is sung, a loud rattling makes you jump.
Removing the headphones, you pull the CD player from your pocket and hit pause, gently putting it down on the counter. You turn to see just who thinks they need into your bar so early in the day, anyway, even though you already know the answer.
It comes as no surprise to you when you see him standing outside, leaning on his shoulder against the window, cigarette in hand, sunglasses perched on top of his head, almost hidden amongst the perpetually messy red nest.
It's the third time this week Reno's shown up like this. Grudgingly, you let him in, locking the door behind him, as he makes his way to the bar. He leans over the counter, snatching a bottle and a glass, pours himself a drink and finishes up his cigarette, content to use his palm as an ashtray.
You make small talk, finishing up sweeping as he downs a few shots. You say you hope the weather warms up; he talks about finally being able to see his family. His mother, father, both grandfathers and one grandmother - he hasn't seen her since he was eight. Odd he hasn't seen her in so many years, you think to yourself, but don't say anything. Hell, you're still trying to grasp that Reno even has family.
Mundane as the conversation may be, it's an improvement, as you completely ignored each other the first day, and said little more than hi and bye the day after that: yesterday.
"I'm almost surprised your eyebrows aren't red, too," you murmur, trying to break the silence.
"Something for which I am eternally grateful," Reno sort of mutters, sounding very little like himself. Not that you really know him, you remind yourself. A moment later, he adds, "Not all my hair is red, you know?"
You nod, and look down, feeling ashamed. You were just trying to make conversation. You didn't have to. He's the one who keeps stumbling into your bar well before opening, seeming to want only to annoy you and get a free buzz.
"I can prove it," he says, and his eyes twinkle. He shifts a bit on his barstool; he seems to be reaching for his belt.
"Don't you dare expose yourself to me, Reno," you tell him, firmly, refusing, for the moment, anyway, to let on that he amuses you.
He laughs a little and pours himself another drink. You gave him the bottle this time, sure he'd just take it anyway if you didn't hand it over.
"How come you never come in here when I'm open?" you ask, suddenly.
He shrugs. "And be like everyone else? Screw that. I'm a different breed and you know it, Lockheart."
You shake your head and smirk at him. He hasn't earned a smile from you just yet.
"You forgive me or what?" Reno asks, casually.
"Forgive you for what?" you ask, cocking your head to the side. You can think of a few things he still needs to atone for, but that doesn't mean you have the faintest idea of what he's getting at.
"For Sector 7, you dumb shit," he says, completely and utterly tactlessly. Completely and utterly... Reno.
"No," you say, firmly.
He frowns a little, and looks down at his drink.
"But... I think I want to," you add, quietly, and sort of after the fact.
"Well, I guess that's something. You know what this means, don't you?" he asks.
You don't know, so you shake your head.
"It means," Reno pauses for dramatic effect, "that I'm gonna have to come here every damn day and get in your face until you do."
"Oh, joy," you mutter, rolling your eyes.
He laughs at you. It's a hearty, carefree laugh that almost makes it seem like he was innocent once.
"I just want to move on," you whisper.
Just when you decide he hadn't heard you, he agrees, "Don't we all?" Neither of you says anything more until he downs the rest of his drink, and stands up to leave. "See you around."
"Did anyone show up before open this morning?" you ask, slipping behind the bar. It's the first time you've closed in a while. You've been opening on purpose since Reno started dropping by. You don't trust him with anyone else, nor anyone else with him.
A firm head shake tells you he didn't come around.
"Hmm," you murmur, thoughtfully, wondering if he just chose not to make his presence known, or if he hadn't stopped by at all.
"Expecting someone?" you're asked, a moment later.
"Just had a feeling I might have a visitor."
You don't smile, though you sort of want to. "Just a friend," you reply. It isn't exactly the most accurate assessment of your relationship with Reno, but it works well enough.
You go on with your work and the night flies by. You go to bed wondering why Reno didn't come, and if he'll be there in the morning. You won't admit it, but you missed him.
"You didn't come yesterday," you say, almost cutely.
"You weren't here," Reno replies, simply.
"And I thought you just came for the free booze," you tease, forcing the crumpled stack of bills you just counted back into your cash drawer.
He laughs a little, and raises his now empty glass. "Speaking of..."
You snatch it from him, smirking as you fill it. You didn't give him the bottle this time, seeing as how he left a whole two drops in the last one you surrendered to him.
"Pour yourself one, too," he suggests, patting the barstool to his right.
"I have to open soon," you protest, though you're tempted to join him for a drink just this once.
"Ah, who cares? Most of the bartenders I've met are half in the bag before they start," Reno states, very matter-of-factly. "To help others you must first help yourself," he adds, pretending to be a genius or something. Maybe he's trying to make you laugh, you decide, when it's too late to do so.
"I'm not like most of the bartenders you've met," you insist, sort of huffy, though you make your way around the bar and take a seat next to him anyway.
"I know." Reno reaches for your CD player. You left it on the bar when you went to open the door for him. "So, what kind of shit is this?" he asks, popping the lid open.
You try to snap it shut, but he slides it out of reach with his left hand, using his right to block you. "Reno," you say, your tone dangerous.
He's hunched over just a little, trying to make out the words on the CD. After a long pause, he asks, "Any good? Never heard of the guy."
You seize the opportunity and snatch back the CD player. "You probably wouldn't like it," you mumble, snippy. But it's all a front. The snotty attitude is just how you've always concealed your embarrassment. You suddenly wonder when you came to care what Reno thought of your taste in music, and why.
"Lemme listen?" he asks, tilting his head to the side.
You shake your head. The CD, the song... It's all part of your routine. It's... sacred, almost. It's not something to be messed with; tainted. And not by the likes of Reno.
"Come on," he whines. "Must be good stuff. If you listen to it every day."
How he did know you listen to the same CD every morning?
You're angry now. More at yourself than him, but you're good at not letting on. You're angry that he's getting to you. Trying to get inside your head, your heart and anywhere else he hasn't already infiltrated, as if it wasn't bad enough that for the last two weeks he'd managed to weasel his way into your business, too. And during non-business hours.
Reno sighs, a little too loudly, and though you know you shouldn't, you indulge him with a glance. He reaches for your lap, and you're wary of his actions. This is Reno, after all. But for once, he's not trying to cop a feel. He's going for the music machine resting on your thighs. You thought it was safe from him there, but it looks like he's not going to give up on this.
"Fine, Reno. If it means that damn much to you. Listen and make fun. Knock yourself out," you grumble, your usually well-hidden bitterness surfacing. You untangle the headphones and roughly shove them into his hand.
He gently grabs at both earpieces, putting one to his ear, and holding the other out for you. He's standing up as you take it from him, your hands touching for a second.
"What are you...?" you begin, your voice trailing off, as you find you're standing up with him and he hasn't even asked.
"This better not be some back-country, fiddle n' chocobo shit, Lockheart," he says, disgustedly, but you laugh because you know he's joking.
Still giggling to yourself, you hit the play button. You look down, and hit skip a few times, as much as inviting Reno to mock your favorite song, the lyrics of your life. He's looking down too, watching you, but keeping his big mouth shut for some reason. You look up as the song starts to play, forcing eye contact with Reno, almost daring him to take his best shot. You're in a funny mood today, and it seems he is as well.
"Dance with me," he says, in a whisper.
Before you can tell him this isn't the kind of song you dance to (because anyone who can relate to it so obviously doesn't have anyone to dance with) he's pulled you in close to him and wrapped his skinny arms around you. He feels cold, and you can't figure out what the hell he's thinking, but you don't force him away. You tuck your arms in, trying not to hit any buttons on the CD player, as it's pressed tightly against your bust. Your damn huge bust. His scent is a combination of smoke, danger, death, and tropical fruit. The fruit is probably shampoo, you decide, somehow not bothered by the fact that Reno does indeed smell like death. Well, he doesn't so much smell like it, but you feel it, being in this close to him. You wonder if you smell like death to him, too.
"So, what's this song about?" he asks, in a hushed tone - proof that he can be considerate. You wonder if you've just lost a long-forgotten bet to someone about whether or not Reno has an "inside voice". When you don't answer, he asks again, "Well? What's it about?"
You sigh. "Someone who died with regrets." You pause for a moment. It's such a good song, one you always swore you could talk about for hours, if only you had someone to discuss it with. But now you can't find the words. "Telling the person they loved everything they never said in life."
You're both quiet for a moment, until Reno pipes up and asks, "Forgive me yet?"
"Why do you care?"
"Maybe if you'd cared this much before you dropped the plate-"
He cuts you off, "Don't do this."
"You brought it up."
"It's a yes or no question. I know what I did."
You don't answer. Like you said when he asked you before: you don't forgive Reno, but you think you want to. Because where do you go from there? Where do you go once you've forgiven the man who killed your comrades? No, comrades wasn't right. It was too formal. Sure, you fought together, but they were more than that to you. They were your friends. If you forgive him, you tell yourself, you're letting him go. And maybe you don't want to let him go. You feel bad. Why can't you just forgive him? Holding something against someone won't bring the dead back to life.
The song is almost over when he backs away, and squeezes both your shoulders. He's not going to push it; that's not like him at all.
"Reno," you mumble, eyes darting back and forth, trying to read his expression. "I want to."
You want to, but you don't. You tell yourself to face it: you're a vindictive, unforgiving bitch.
He turns his head slightly and leans forward, pressing his lips against yours.
You inhale sharply, and feeling like you've taken part of him into you, you kiss him back.
You don't know what this means, or if it changes anything, and if Reno does, he doesn't say. He just turns for the door, saying, like he always does, that he'll see you around.
You want to go after him, but it's the dead of winter and your coat's in the back, and you're already five minutes late opening.
"You looked like you were a million miles away," one of your waitresses tells you, straightening her apron and tightening her ponytail. "Saw you dancing through the window."
"You saw?" you ask, feeling yourself blush.
She nods, running both hands down the front of her sweater. "I decided to give you a few minutes. Didn't want to interrupt."
You tell her that's sweet and send her off to do some stupid chore before it gets too busy. You can still hear the song in your head, and feel yourself in Reno's arms. And for the first time you realize something: it's as liberating to forgive someone as it is to be forgiven.
You'll tell him tomorrow. He won't let on, but he'll be happy to know you've pardoned him.
A knock on the glass interrupts your song again; this is becoming habit. Without looking back, you smile. You smile and feel stupid. You're falling for an old enemy, and a Grade-A jerk-off at that. At least he knows exactly who he is, you think, turning around to face him.
But it's not him. You almost drop the CD player in shock. It's not Reno. It's Rude, and he doesn't look happy. You make your way to the door, carelessly tossing the CD player on one of the tables on the way. Unlocking the deadbolt, you swing the door open and offer a slightly confused, "Good morning...?"
Rude steps inside and nods, and you both know that's as close to a friendly hello as you're going to get out of him.
You offer him a seat and a drink, but he turns you down. After a moment you ask what's going on. Why is he here?
And he tells you, looking down the whole time, so you can't see his features - those which he doesn't already shield you from.
You can't focus, can't think. You revert back to just a short while ago, when you were programming your favorite CD and wondering what you and Reno would talk about when he showed up. All you can hear is 'one, three, six, seven, ten.' You think of Rude's words. One: Reno. Three: Shot. Six: Bad. Seven: Bled. Ten: Died.
"Reno was shot. It was bad. Bled too much. Died," was the bald man's statement, served stoicially as ever, almost as if he were reading it from a telegram.
"When?" you finally ask. Your throat's dry, your eyes are wet. Why does everything in your life have to be backwards?
"About three weeks ago," Rude says, shaking his head.
There's a lump in your throat and you're confused. You want to shout at Rude and demand to know just what the hell is wrong with him. What the hell is he talking about Reno died three weeks ago? He was in your face just yesterday. You laughed and kissed and danced and he held you. He felt so cold, but made you feel so warm.
"We've been trying to find you and tell you. Not sure why. Just thought you should know. Knew Reno'd want you to know."
"Why?" you finally ask.
"He was so damn determined to get on your good side. Don't know why."
You wonder why, too. You wonder this as you escort Rude to the door, wiping your eyes and saying you've got to pull yourself together before it's time to open. He doesn't seem surprised you're upset, nor does he try to comfort you. In fact, he hardly whispers a goodbye before he steps out into the cold and you close and lock the door once again.
Rude comes into the bar just before closing around the beginning of spring. Has one drink and overtips. He pulls you aside, somewhat roughly grabbing your arm. You don't take it personally; gentle just isn't in his repertoire. Deciding you can spare a minute, you step outside with him.
He apologizes for being so tight-lipped last time, and asks if you want to know how it happened.
The words don't really matter, except for that brief moment when you're on the same page, and you share a knowing chuckle over some of Reno's antics.
Rude cocks his head to the side, and without trying to hide his curiosity, asks you, "You know this about Reno how?"
You want to cry. You don't want the moment to end. You were almost happy for a minute. You finally had someone you could talk to about Reno. And you were almost talking about him without breaking down. But now it was over.
"He came to see me here a couple of times," you finally admit. You neglect to mention that these visits may or may not have been posthumous.
Rude nods. "Finally got up the nerve, I guess. He never told me he'd seen you," he says, thoughtfully. "He swore he was gonna make you forgive him, or die trying. And if he did, he said he'd haunt you until you forgave him. If anybody could do that, it'd be Reno."
That's the most you've ever heard Rude speak. You wonder just what brought it on. All you say, though, is "Yeah. Sure would be."
You don't open anymore, and you don't listen to that song anymore. You don't wonder why Reno came anymore, and you don't wonder why he stopped coming. You said it yourself: to forgive is as liberating as to be forgiven.
A/N: Wow, look at me trying to be all Sixth Sense or some crap like that. XD When I started this fic, well, for one it was first-person, from Tifa's POV, and I so wasn't going to kill anybody in it. I kind of just wanted to prove I could write a serious fic. The second person thing was a test, because I've never really tried to write like that before. I saw a really great fic here, written that way, and went, 'Hmm ...wonder if I can write something in second person ...' Review this or I will kill you like I did Reno. Have a nice day. :D