The Dance of the Macabre

By: kremesch

Savour the Moment

Content: Runo: RufusXReno, and some others along the way, but only because they go with the story. Language, Sex, Alcohol, Violence, Torture, and Cruelty. Should be rated MA

Summary: Two years after the events of Advent Children have passed and the future of the Shinra Company still looks uncertain. In an attempt to rebuild and re-establish themselves with a better and more trustworthy name, obstacles begin to appear in the most unlikely places, namely between two particular members of the very organization who can't seem to overcome their personal conflicts with or without each other. Misconceptions, secrets, and personal deception begin on a slow spiral that escalates as the surrounding environment starts to turn on them and pit them in a race against time and themselves. But what are the consequences, and who is playing who for what reason and what purpose?

Rated MA for later content that may be considered disturbing to sensitive individuals.

Warning: I don't view the Turks as people that come from good homes, or people that play with puppy dogs and kittens (they're assassins and kidnappers. Play the game for the first time, or again if you don't believe me). Regardless of how adorable Reno is to some, he simply isn't the type of person who is a good person or comes from a good place, even though he does have a soft side. I feel this to be a fair warning to people that expect to see him as a playful good guy. He works for Rufus Shinra for Pete's Sake (once again, I'll refer to the game)! AND he enjoys it! What else would you expect of him? Read on at your own risk.

Dirge of Cerberus: Does not exist, and will not exist in this story or any others that may spur from this one. This is PURE FFVII and AC driven and influenced; anything outside of that is strictly imagination.

Macabre: muh-kah-bruh, -kahb, -kah-ber: suggestive of the allegorical dance of death.

Disclaimer: All FFVII characters, places, references, etc belong to Square.

This story is my own take on where the characters go after Advent Children. Therefore, the imagination is mine. :)

There I was, standing on the outside deck of the Healin lodge with my cigarette lit, admiring the view, and asking myself, 'What defines a man'?

Now, I know that these are two things that seem out of character for me. For one, the only thing I generally admired was the ladies. I didn't usually have the time to be standing on a deck, looking up at sunsets, and if I did have the time, I wouldn't normally be looking up at a sunset. For two, that wasn't a very manly question for me to be asking myself. At least, it wasn't the type of question that I would have normally given the time of day to.

The events that played themselves in my head over the last few days were probably what led to this midlife crisis, for lack of a better word.

You see, I always took pride in my work. I always did my job well. I had never failed a mission in my entire Turk life. That was, until everything got turned upside down.

For me, I think it all started back at Sector 7. I was just doing my job like I always did, and Avalanche had to show up and take everything that I ever took pride in away. I can't say that I blamed them. It's not like what I was doing was Noble. In fact, it was downright dirty. A lot of people died because of me. But that was the way it was for me. It was my job, and that was what I always told myself.

Maybe they did something to me at the hospital after that fight with those freaks. I wish I knew, but for some reason, after that, I just couldn't seem to do anything right.

The President didn't really seem to care at that point either. He was one of those rare imbeciles that appeared to pride himself in being surrounded by incompetent scumbags.

Funny… I always knew I was one, but the revelation still hits me hard.

Things started to turn so bad that I found myself drinking on the job, a lot, and side-dipping in the cathouses along the way. I figured I couldn't possibly mess things up more, so I might as well have a little fun.

Rude must have felt the same way too, since, instead of being his normal, chastising self, he actually joined me in my slump.

The only two 'diehards' were Tseng and Elena, but then we lost Tseng, or at least we thought we did. We all took it a little hard and dealt with it in our own way – me, becoming more of a 'slum-drunk' by the hour, and Rude became more quiet, if that was even possible. He disappeared a lot too. I always wondered where he wandered off to.

Between you and me, I half-suspected he was out following that Tifa girl around, spying on her, and not because it was his job, but because he wanted to.

Poor guy, if only he wasn't such a head-case and just asked her out, he could've probably made better progress.

Then there was Elena, despite the fact that she was an airhead, or at the very least, acted like one, she had a lot of spunk. It didn't hurt that she was easy on the eyes too. I admit I was a little upset when they first brought her in. My pride was already bruised from taking a beating in a three-on-one fight, which shouldn't have been a problem for me.

Moreover though, I viewed her as this replacement. That was how I saw it, and that was how I felt about it. However, it wasn't so much her as it was the fact that she was there.

On the recap, we lost the President, whose life we were supposed to be protecting, to a crazed maniac that wanted to end the world. We lost Tseng, who was our friend and 'Comrade in Arms', to the same crazed maniac that killed our President, and we nearly lost the President's son, Rufus, who was another person we were supposed to be protecting. The world nearly ended, only to have it all look like it was going to start ending again nearly two years later.

I don't know, maybe I was just ready to retire, because I became even more of a reject the second time around. I think Rude lost his edge as well. It didn't matter what we did or how we did it. Everything just wound up wrong. I hate to admit it, but if it weren't for Cloud, who knows?

So, there I was, standing on a deck, admiring the sunset, and questioning my manhood. Rufus, who'd become our new President, was inside, reading his books and probably wondering how he was going to get me whacked off for being such a loser.

Tseng finally woke up and realized there was more to life than Aeris and work that he finally asked Elena out on a date. I couldn't help but hope that things would work out between them, and Rude, I half-suspected, was out stalking Tifa again.

I was in such a daze that I didn't even notice Rufus had stopped reading his book and came out to stand beside me. I was a little startled at first, and then I noticed he had two glasses, one in each hand.

The contents of one were a golden liquid, and the contents of the other were clear. He must have noticed the puzzled look on my face, not that I was ever very good at hiding anything I was thinking, because he actually started talking to me, which was something he never did before.

"I hear you're a Scotch man," he said, as he held the glass with the golden contents toward me. Nodding, and somewhat hesitant, I accepted the glass. After all, I could've used a good drink at that point, even if it was poison – which was what I half-suspected.

"Vodka man, myself." It was strange hearing him talk like that, especially with me. It was like we were just two ordinary people.

I've never actually interacted with the man before. I'd taken his orders, been debriefed, and relieved of duty by him, but I'd never really talked to him. He just seemed like one of those untouchable deities, or at the very least, one hell of a snob.

Looking at him, he reminded me of a man made of porcelain, one touch and he'd fall apart. Knowing about him though, he could reach into your very chest and rip out your soul to possess it as his own, while playing the piano with the other hand.

Wow, now that was a weird vision.

He was a powerful man, more powerful than his father ever was, and stronger than one could ever suspect. He was like one of those exotic animals, deceptively beautiful and delicate, but one touch would tell you otherwise when you were on the ground, two winks away from death after touching it.

Maybe that was why he was out there talking to me; maybe he finally decided that it was time to cut the rope.

"You know, Reno… I never took you for a man that would stand out here for so long, contemplating the meaning of life."

How does he know what I'm thinkin?

"I always took you for the type of a man that lived on a whim – drink, women, gambling…"

I think my silence was only encouraging him to talk more. But it wasn't my place to stop him and I kind of liked having the company, despite the fact that it wasn't really the type of company that I would have chosen if I were given the choice.

"You've always had a certain lack of control that I have come to admire," he said, and looked down at his glass, almost like he was lost in thought.

As he swirled his drink around and focused on it, he spoke distantly, like he wasn't really talking to me, but thinking out loud. "We're not so different… you and I."

Finding myself hissing out a snort, that I know suggested my disbelief in what he was saying, I found myself shrugging uncomfortably.

Taking note of my reaction, he rested his back against the railing so he could see my face better as he continued. "You may find it hard to believe," he said, as he was searching my face, "but I've been doing a lot of questioning myself."

"I find that hard to believe," I said, turning to my side so that I could get a better view of the man beside me.

Smiling a bit of a crooked smile at my candidness – it was a little sad, but a smile nonetheless, I found myself trying to recollect if I'd ever seen him smile before, and I couldn't.

"Think about it, Reno," he continued, and relaxed his posture a little more. "The world was nearly destroyed because of my name, and because of me." With his brow cocked, he set his eyes to the ground and took a drink from his glass before he added, "As much as I'd like to deny it, I too am a man of many failures."

Feeling a little uneasy about how I was supposed to react or comment, I wound up standing there silently and doing nothing but stare at the man with a blank and solemn expression. In all honesty, I never expected to have that kind of a conversation with the man I always viewed as a pillar of hardened stone.

"But that doesn't mean that we have to stop trying to make things better… does it?" Seemingly being forthright with me, he turned his shadowy-blue eyes toward me in search of my reaction.

To this day, I honestly believe that he was genuinely asking me that question, and not just stating it. It didn't stop me from being a little nervous about saying anything to the man though, for fear of saying the wrong thing. But I found myself wanting to talk to him. Then I shrugged my shoulders in a half-assed response and said, "Guess I never really thought about it like that."

Smiling faintly again, he looked back down at his drink and confided. "You tend to do a lot of thinking when you're on restricted bed rest."

Because I still didn't really know how to respond verbally, I wound up simply nodding as a response. To be honest, I felt a little guilty about him being on bed-rest in the first place. But truth be told, he was a hard man to look after. He was always doing what he shouldn't have been doing.

He never listened to anyone, and did what he wanted to do against the better advice of others. He was difficult to look after because he was always putting himself in danger, like he liked it or something.

That's when it suddenly hit me about what he was saying.

We really weren't that different after all.

"You know you do perform well on your job… don't you, Reno?" he asked, and leaned over, slightly closer to me while swirling his drink again as he focused on it, "Despite that I know what you're thinking right now."

Can he read minds?

"Wh… what makes ya say that?"

"I know it was you that saved my life." Looking back at me again, a strange glint sparked in those normally piercing-cold eyes. "I came to, briefly, when you were passed out over me, from the smoke."

Thrown completely off guard, I stepped away from the railing and threw my gaze to the ground in an unexplainable sense of guilt.

I carried him out of that forsaken inferno after Weapon's attack, never knowing that he knew, and I suddenly felt myself withdraw like a child who'd been caught stealing.

He moved forward, as if to follow me as I stepped back, and placed his free hand on my shoulder. With his knees bent slightly, he dipped down to catch my gaze, so his face was below mine, steeling my gaze from the ground.

Then he slowly stood straight again, pulling my eyes upward with his eyes, until we were face to face while it felt like he slightly stroked my jaw with his thumb, very subtly. Even though I denied it, I was still sure I felt it.

"I never had the chance to officially thank you, Reno," he said, with that crooked smile again. "So…" brushing my lower lip just as subtly as he did with my jaw, he said "Thank you," in what sounded like a provocative, velvet tone, and leaned a little forward.

I must have swallowed hard enough to make him realize that I was a little more than uncomfortable with the sudden and unexpected interaction. Actually, I don't really know what the hell I was feeling in regards to it.

Something inside of me kind of liked the way he touched me, but I still jerked back a notch. Uncertain as to whether it was just my wild imagination, I found myself trying to rationalize that I was simply jumping to an unproven conclusion.

"Let's go top up our drinks… Shall we?" he suggested, like it was nothing, and for a moment, he kept his eyes on mine, searching. But he made no further advances. He simply said it like any friend would have said it to any friend they'd be having a drink with.

Then he put his arm around my shoulder, like we were old-time chums, and guided me back inside to the sitting room.

Dumbfounded and unsure, I made no attempt to break free of whatever it was I thought I should be breaking free of. I honestly didn't know if he was hitting on me, or doing the Rufus thing that I'd heard about him doing to throw people off their guard before he kills them, or if it was just an innocent, plain and simple thank you.

Who was I kidding?

What the hell would he want to befriend me for?

I just knew that it was going to be the last drink I was ever going to have. So, I figured I might as well savour it.

Revision 2: October 9, 2008 for punctuation.