For LoStNoBoDy's contest.

Whoo. I think Akufa is crack, right? Well, at any rate, my first attempt at Axel x Tifa. Actually, it's more Axel x Tifa x Reno, if you wanna be technical. But yeah.

Well, I hope I met the requirements and that it's not awful!

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, FFVII ('cause, y'know, Reno...and Tifa, I guess...), or the idea that Reno was Axel's somebody (so whoever thought of that, I commend you and give you credit).

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It was the flash of red hair that had her running.

She felt ridiculous, leaving her post to dash into the rain, breathing quick as her black hair became slowly matted to her face. Her cheeks were so flushed and her heart was beating so quickly, but she didn't know why, because, really, she didn't feel that way about the idiot anymore. He'd left her and she'd moved on, dealing with her problems that came in the form of yellow-eyed monsters that preyed on helpless hearts.

Her thoughts had had no time for him.

But as she leapt over the wall, cascading through the air to skid across the damp cobblestones, and as she launched to her feet and her frantic footsteps carried her closer and closer to a memory she'd never forgotten, flashes of smiles and his stupid laugh seized her mind so that tears were burning at her eyes as she glared at his form clothed in a cloak, and she had to choke back sobs.

Was it him? She knew she was strong, and she knew she shouldn't be reacting like this, but how she hoped it was.

The slap of her sneakers had him pausing just ahead, and at that action she stopped as well, nearly tripping over her footing as she panted to catch her breath, black hair matted to her face and neck and chest heaving. She felt the tremble in her hands that wasn't from the cold, felt her heart flutter at the vibrant color she'd never forgotten, and even against the wind her cheeks flared, because she was daring to hope the man she loved was back.

"Reno!" she shouted, voice demanding and disguising the desperation she was presently feeling.

Silently she begged for that cocky tilt of his head, that closed-eyes smile, that knowing tone of voice as he repeated, "Tifa, Tifa, Tifa," because he always knew she loved the sound of her name on his lips. She wanted that arrogance in his eyes as he regarded her, so confident in the knowledge that he was the only man she'd given so much control over her life to. Every flaw about the stupid Turk had her heart loving him so much more, and if he'd only look upon her with his gentle smile before that attitude of his took over she knew she'd willingly run straight into her arms.

And the redhead did turn around, eyebrow arched, stance basically the same confident and arrogant poise she remembered, and a smile was growing on her face slowly until all of a sudden it slipped away, practically nonexistent. The green eyes, the wild hair, the pale skin…no. No, it was all wrong!

And when had he gotten those tattoos?

"Reno, what…?"

Sighing, he closed his eyes and let his head fall a little, waving her hand away as if the very trivial motion drained away his strength, and she bristled in anger. Reno, always with that cocky attitude, no matter how he altered his appearance. And who did he think he was, regarding her as if she was no one to him? "You've got the wrong guy," he said airily, and she crossed her arms over her chest, expression sarcastic. No, she didn't.

But he sighed at her again and shook his head, dropping his hand. "It's Axel. A-X-E-L." She stiffened. What the hell kind of trick was he trying to pull? First he left her, then he started strolling around the goddamn city in different attire, and now he was pretending not to know her? "Got it memorized?"

"Funny, Reno," she bit, strolling forward, and he rolled his eyes at her. "C'mon, enough with the games. I'm already sick of your childish antics."

He snorted and crossed his arms over his chest, staring her down and daring her to accuse him of such a thing again. And as she moved closer, eyes narrowed in careful scrutiny, her breath hitched, and she couldn't understand it.

Why had he changed so much on her?

"Anyway," he continued, the wary look he'd been regarding her with disappearing in place of a smirk, "as transfixed as you may be by me," and he said he wasn't Reno, "I really think you've got the wrong guy." He pulled out his arms that were crossed over his chest and spread them wide, looking from side to side and then back to her with that grin still on his face. That painfully familiar grin… "See? No, er, Reno here."

Hand clenching into a fist at her side, she suddenly felt a rage brew in her chest. How dare he? He'd come back after such a long disappearance, had gotten her hopes up, and now treated her like she was a lost little girl who was nothing to him at all. And he dared now to bring her close to tears because he couldn't soften that arrogant expression and give in to the memories they'd shared together, the memories he'd once said he'd valued more than anything.

She choked back a sob, but couldn't stop it from escaping her lips, and his eyes widened as she quickly bowed her head, bangs falling into her eyes as her clenched fist tightened. Stupid Turk. Stupid Reno. Stupid Axel. She'd show him. She wasn't someone to be kicked aside and have her heartbroken.

Kicking off the cobblestones, she rushed at him and slammed her fist into his stomach, jumping away as he slid and stumbled back, stare incredulous and lip curled slightly to betray the pain her blow had caused. He coughed once, shaking his head, and she rushed at him again, furious eyes full of tears as she tried to block her ears from the laugh she still remembered. He'd always infuriate her to the point where she'd launch at him, just like now, and it would be nothing more than a dance between them, he ducking away every time with his hands clasped behind his back as she wore herself out. Clumsy as he was, he'd grown to know her, had grown to soften her, and he outmatched her just by ducking away, never moving to harm her.

And when she'd be so enraged that she would throw her arms to her sides and try to kick him across the room, he'd catch her off balance and gently nudge her into a wall, victory playing in his eyes as he bowed his head and captured her lips.

Crying out, she threw a punch to his cheek, lips shaking as she remembered all the times she'd just give in, willingly kissing him back. But Reno, or Axel, or whoever he claimed to be, was yet again becoming used to her wild temper and when she aimed another throw of her fist he shot his arm out, stepping back and grasping her wrist tightly. She yelped and her knees slightly buckled, and all of a sudden she tripped and fell into his chest, shivering against the cold, the rain, the tears, and the anger.

Her brows furrowed, and she closed her eyes in silent pain as his heart didn't even skip a beat, like it used to when she fell into his arms. Was he so over her that he presence did nothing to affect him anymore?

He sighed. "Look…"

"Reno…" Her free hand fisted his cloak, and she tilted her head back, glaring at him despite the tears in her eyes. He merely arched a brow at her, sarcastic look on his face as he was no doubt perturbed that she refused to say the alias he now went by.

But she didn't care. He was Reno, had always been Reno, and the stupid Turk would have to live with it.

He opened his hand, freeing her arm, and then stared at her expectantly as she still clung to his soaked form. And she pursed her lips, eyes flashing, furious that he would so quickly wash his hands with her and have her walk away.

Moved by anger, she let her hand loosen and then grabbed the collar of his cloak, and she pulled him down to her level, leaning forward to press her lips against his. And as he responded by remaining stiff and in shock, she as well felt her body go rigid, the memories flooding back.

His smile. His laugh. His warm touch and playful nature. He would always sneak up on her when she was working, wrapping his arms around her waist as she would have to catch herself and try not drop the tray of liquor onto her customers. He would hop over the bar counter, red ponytail swishing and eyes bright as he would press her hand to his lips, and then catch her against him and whisper into her ear when she would try to walk away in frustration. Every little thing came rushing back, of the little mannerisms she'd forgotten, of the way he'd lean against the wall, seemingly at peace, and then lurch forward, stumbling over his feet with wide eyes when some news spoken surprised him.

Pulling back, she clapped her hand over her mouth, staring widely at the man with green eyes and the flare of red hair who gazed back in just as much surprise.

She remembered it all, and so she remembered that this man, this Axel, as he called himself, could not be Reno.

Tifa choked, tears trailing down her cheeks at the one memory she had never allowed herself to make truth, the memory that was crushing her heart and killing her on the inside now as it refused to go away again.

Reno had died two years ago, bleeding from a chest wound as he smiled in her arms. He was gone. He wasn't there anymore. He was just…gone.

"Who…?" she gasped, hand shaking at the vivid memory of the man she'd given her heart to and thus lost her heart to. His mimicry of red hair and pale skin, of twinkling green eyes and thin frame, had her fighting for air, because he was the ghost of a love that was now dead, come back to haunt her eyes and remind her of the greatest pain she'd ever felt in her existence.

He was false memories, whoever this person was. He was the reminder that Reno, her Reno, could never laugh again, no matter that when he did laugh it was mostly at her expense. And he was the copy of a beautiful smile and arrogant smirk, at that very moment crossing his arms calmly in perfect Reno fashion as he inclined his head, assured that she finally understood.

"Sorry," he said, eyes closed, and then he turned around, leaving her just like Reno had.

And she panicked. She was sorry to say it, but she was so afraid of him leaving her, too.

"Wait!" she shouted, and she caught his cloaked arm in her grip, stubbornly trying to hold him back.

"I'm not who you're looking for," he said so simply, like he just didn't care. Was he really so heartless? "Sorry," he repeated again, and he pulled from her grasp and walked away.

Just like that, Reno was gone from her life yet another time, and to add to her tears the rain that had been falling steadily suddenly poured down in sheets, pounding the reality again and again into her weakened body. Her legs trembled, and the tears trailed all the way to her chin, but she couldn't let thoughts of him go.

Reno was dead. But she could fool herself into thinking the other man was him, and that was enough for her. In Axel, Reno lived on, and so she couldn't let herself forget him.

And she couldn't stop herself from loving him.

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Hmm...I dunno. Honestly, I can't say I like it. But, then again, I don't know if I despise it.

Please review and tell me what you think!