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A/N: I have decided I really am incapable of writing romance. I try, and I end up with things like this. ;P (Though do people expect romance from me? Probably not. Thankfully. Because I suck at it.) Well, anyway, I think this qualifies as my first real pairing fic. Where the pairing was, like, my main focus when writing it. There was that really subtle VincentxTifa, but that was more fluff to me than anything. Here's a pairing in my so-called "normal" style.
Obligatory (but ultimately pointless) CYA: I don't own it.
A woman's born to weep and fret,
To stay at home and tend her oven,
And drown her past regrets
In coffee and cigarettes…
Everyday, Tifa opens her bar at five and closes at two. She cleans and tidies up, and is often in bed by three. Though she sometimes sleeps in, she often wakes between nine and ten. She gets ready for the day, runs errands if need be, and prepares for the evening when she'll open at five. A couple people she hired for part-time help come periodically and go periodically, and Tifa opens her bar at five and closes at two, and the cycle repeats.
The people in town know her and like her, and Tifa lives a mostly content, if not entirely quiet, life. Her heart only skips when she hears the roar of a motorcycle, and only sinks when the roar fades down the street, belonging to someone else.
Tifa tells herself she should start using the futon in her living room as a couch instead of keeping it prepped for the rare instances it's used as a bed, but it never gets folded up and throw pillows never appear on it.
After he visits, she sometimes falls asleep on it in the afternoons and dreams, and when she wakes she misses him. Sometimes Tifa gets fed up and glares at the couch-turned-bed that so rarely gets used, and why doesn't he ever call, and why can't he ever stay for more than forty-eight hours, and why does he show up so randomly, and why can't she ever say anything, and why does she wait for him, and why does she let his little quirky half-smile melt her every time, and why?
He's so distant. Even when he's around, he almost isn't. They talk, but it's like talking over a phone. They interact, but it's like interacting through a window pane.
She can't remember the last time they touched, even briefly. She tells herself she's going to touch him the next time, just a little. Just a little shoulder against his arm in passing in the kitchen. Just a little brush of her fingers at some dust on the back of his shirt.
Next time, Tifa says to herself. She's been saying that after so many of his visits, she's lost count.
She can't remember the last time they touched, and with everyone else busy with their own lives, everywhere else in the world, she can't remember the last time she touched anyone.
Reno occasionally comes into her bar, always with Rude, and Tifa serves them, mainly because Rude is as close to a gentleman as Turks come—or if he isn't, he at least keeps his mouth shut when it isn't necessary to open it, so that it can't prove otherwise.
Tifa doesn't mind Rude, sometimes even thinks that she could be friends with him, sometimes even thinks that she could want to be more than friends with him, were both their circumstances a little different. If he wasn't still traveling, being bodyguard for Reeve, using espionage tactics for jobs that, if not honest, at least qualify as well-intended for the general public and the world at large. If she wasn't still waiting around for a blonde with a penchant for wanderlust, who keeps too much of himself private, and too much of her unknowingly in the palm of his hand.
Sometimes Tifa wishes Rude would come in by himself, so she could give him a little smile—the smile that always seems to flee from her lips and make her mouth a stiff, straight line whenever she sees Reno.
Reno doesn't try to get her to warm up to him, and Tifa's grateful for that, at least. He sits with Rude at a corner table and drinks his drink and tips her the amount deemed suitable by social conventions. Reno makes Tifa edgy and angry, so when they come in, Tifa keeps her eye on Reno. Sometimes she catches him smiling a little smirk at something—something he said or something Rude said—and it just makes Tifa all the angrier.
But she doesn't mind Rude, and so Tifa acts civilly, if not warmly, for Rude's sake. After all, Rude didn't drop part of Midgar's upper plate on part of the lower one.
If Reno knew what Tifa thought, he would tell her that the only reason Rude didn't drop the plate on Sector 7 is because Rude wasn't assigned to the job. Reno was.
But Reno doesn't mind Tifa. He knows she's not too fond of him, but she serves good drinks and her bar's a nice one, and those are about the only stipulations Reno has when it comes to supporting a drinking establishment, so he and Rude patronize it when they can.
Reno sometimes catches Tifa discreetly looking over at their table, and he wonders where Strife keeps himself these days, wonders if Rude still has a little sweet spot for Tifa, wonders if he's honestly thinking about his partner's love-life, and wonders if, even worse, he subconsciously wants to play matchmaker.
Reno sometimes finishes his drink vehemently.
Tifa wishes she was better at flirting, but she isn't. Her tongue trips over itself and never manages to get her mouth to open, and even if that didn't happen, her cheeks have a habit of lighting themselves on fire. Tifa wishes she didn't get embarrassed so easily, wishes she could be more confrontational when it comes to relationships and affection.
Tifa often feels that romance is a leg that didn't grow quite right, and worries she'll be limping with it the rest of her life.
As a girl, growing up, boys didn't interest her much, despite how she was apparently a schoolboy's dream. She didn't have the time for them. There were chores to do, and homework, and training to perfect, and a widowed father she looked after as much as he looked after her. And there was a chance that young male teenagers weren't even interested in her personality, anyway, and their affections were instead because of a certain pair of aspects that seemingly inflated out of nowhere with puberty.
But it mattered little to Tifa. Boys didn't interest her much, anyway.
Well…except for maybe one…
But Tifa was never good at flirting. That's what the other girls in town, girls with mothers to guide them into womanhood, were good at. That's what Aeris was good at. Tifa planned that when it was all over—Sephiroth, and Meteor, and Turks chasing after them, and everything else—she would finally have one of those girly nights she had always heard about. Aeris, Yuffie, and she would stay up late and eat cheese fondues and chocolate and ice cream and watch sappy romantic comedies. And they would gossip and share girly secrets and maybe then Tifa would finally have a better handle on this whole romance thing so that when another guy came along in her life she would actually do something.
But Aeris died, and though she and Yuffie had a couple girly times together, Yuffie didn't have any more experience in the romance department than she did.
Tifa trains little these days. She has little use for it, what with a bar to run and a finally normal life to live. Sometimes the urge is overwhelming, and she wants to punch something and get her frustration out physically, because it seems she can't do it any other way.
The next time fell earlier that week. He left yesterday, and Tifa still can't remember the last time she touched anyone.
It's mid-afternoon, and Tifa still has plenty of time before her bar will open at five and close at two, and so she pulls her hair back and clears a space on the floor. Her warm-up turns to shadow-boxing, and Tifa's eyes close with concentration. Her movements pick up speed and become sharper, and punches and kicks sail through the air and only serve to make things worse. Frustration and tension and loneliness, and she wants a solid form, not air.
"—Lockhart," a voice says, merely a few feet behind her, and Tifa's eyes jump open and she whirls around.
All Reno wants is a simple drink. He's not with Rude, and it's earlier than they ever drop on by, but he was in town and had some down time, and Tifa's bar was nearby. The signs weren't turned but the door was unlocked, and Reno doesn't mind Tifa, and though Tifa doesn't like Reno, she does know him, and he thought that maybe she wouldn't be opposed to him giving her a bit of business, despite it being before hours.
Reno suddenly thinks he thought wrong, and doubts that his plan to drop a mention or two of Rude's single status is going to smooth the situation over.
Seeing the redhead in his casually sloppy suit is quite likely one of the last things Tifa needs at this moment. She's not good at flirting and she's not good at romance and she's not confrontational and she can't make herself turn her futon back into a couch and she falls asleep waiting to hear the sound of a motorcycle every night and the occasional bout of shadow-boxing herself to exhaustion is the only way she can manage to get her frustration out and how dare Reno—of all people, Reno—take that away from her.
Approximately one second passes from the time Reno says her name to the time her foot lashes out at him.
Reno dodges, but just barely, backing into a table in surprise, and recovering just in time to avoid a punch, her fist whizzing past his ear, instead. With a deft vault over another table, he's away from her and near the bar.
"Hey, what the hell—!" he starts to indignantly demand, and all Tifa answers with is another kick that comes flying toward his head.
Near the bar, the space is open enough so that Reno can more easily dodge her attacks, and while her form's a little rusty compared to before, when they had fought as full-out enemies, as terrorist and Turk, she's still good. Good enough that it quickly becomes apparent to Reno that he can only keep dodging for so long before she'll have him backed up against the wall.
Reno doesn't know what the hell is going on, why Tifa's so pissed off, if not at him, then at something else, wishes he could get an answer in the form of something other than an offensive assault, and the situation is making him more than a little irritated.
He just wanted a drink. A shitty beer would have done.
The wall looms mere feet behind him, survival instinct says to hell with questions and answers, and when Tifa throws her next punch, Reno actively blocks it. And there it is:
Maybe it isn't the sort of contact Tifa wants, and it's definitely not from a person she wants it from, but beggars can't be choosers, and it's something. Her arm tingles along the part that touched him, and gods, that could be from someone else, from someone she actually likes, if she could only work up the nerve. A brush of a shoulder or a flicking of dust from blonde hair and next time she says, always next time, and why can't she ever make it this time? Another block, another touch, another line along her skin echoing of contact, a retaliation that she has to block, and why can't he ever initiate contact with her? Anger at herself, and Reno, and a blonde on a motorcycle, and everything else, and even if it's just the contact that comes from hand-to-hand combat, it's something, and she just can't let that go, fiercely searches for more of it, even if it's from a Turk she can't stand.
After a couple minutes, Reno is more than fed up with the situation, sporting a couple sore spots that will turn to ugly bruises from where a few of her attacks managed to get through. With a grind of teeth, Reno switches from defensive to offensive, and in not too long, a wall is once again looming, this time at her back. There isn't enough room, and defense isn't her main concern, and he finds an opening, and a quick jab to her stomach hinders her just enough so that he can grab her—one arm around her waist, pinning an arm down in the process, one hand gripping her other wrist, and an eye on her legs to make sure she doesn't try to trip him.
Tifa swallows and breathes raggedly and doesn't try to break free, and Reno, catching his own breath, lets her go after a short moment. He quickly backs up away from her a good step, and hopes that he can at least get that beer for free, now that all of this is over with.
But contact is too precious, the warmth of another person is too important, and Tifa can't just let it slip away again. Not yet. Anything to hold onto it. But Tifa isn't good at flirting, she isn't good at romance, she barely can even tolerate Reno, and her mind fumbles with flickers of past and present, wishes and reality, convoluted emotions and regrets, and the best translation her body can make of the garbled mess is this:
She desperately grabs his forearm with one hand, yanks it back toward her waist, bringing the rest of him with it, then pulls back her other arm and punches him in the jaw.
Reno recovers quickly enough, and the hand that grabbed his arm is pinned roughly against the wall as he manages to restrain her in case she feels like trying to knock his teeth out a second time.
In the depths of his mind, under the layers of angry confusion, Reno's subconscious quietly admits that he's masochistically turned on by a woman who can kick his ass, and laments about how there are so few in the world that are actually capable of doing so, and approximately one second later, he discovers his mouth is on hers.
It's not gentle, and it's not romantic. It's raw, and harsh, with a lip that very well might be split, and tendrils of hair curling with sweat, and skin flushed with anger and exertion. The hand not holding her wrist goes to the back of her neck, and the fingers of her right hand clench around one side of his open collar, and when the line of his body presses into hers, her grip tightens, warning him not to break away, threatening him with what will happen if he does.
But as the tension dissipates, once her anger cools, and her hands begin to relax, and the fingers around her wrist loosen, it's done. Whatever it was isn't needed anymore, and it's broken as suddenly as it started.
Her hands are at her waist, dealing with the physical pain there that she can finally register, and his arms are lax, his hands against the wall on either side of her shoulders, and they aren't touching at all. They're both tired and resigned, and Tifa finds herself looking up at Reno, and Reno finds himself looking down at Tifa, and the only noise in the bar is the sound of them trying to catch their respective breaths after attacking and defending and retaliating.
Reno tries to search her eyes for an answer, but all she's doing is the same thing, and just how exactly did it all come to this? The air is fragile and the bar is a china shop and she's fractured crystal, and is it he that's keeping her from shattering, or was it he that cracked her in the first place? Maybe the cracks were already there, and maybe he just made them bigger.
Bombs… It's like disarming a bomb. Not knowing how much time he has left, which wire to cut, if he can manage to make it out, how much shrapnel will fly, how many casualties there will be, how much damage will remain…
Reno thinks of the scars on his cheeks—the souvenirs of a disarming gone wrong as an unsure rookie, years beforehand—and how that disaster started the same way:
All he wanted was a simple drink.
A/N: I'll let you all figure out how wanting a drink can lead to a bomb situation. ;) (I've been wanting to do something with those marks on his cheeks for forever, and I'm so jazzed I was finally able to. It's not much, but it's enough for me.)
I'm really more of a CloudxTifa kind of girl, myself, so I'm not sure what's up with my RenoxTifa fascination. I mean, yeah, they're a hot couple, but pretty much anyone in the FFVII world would make a hot couple, so I don't think that's it (though I like the dark brown, red hair contrast). Maybe it's because I like Tifa strong and pissed off instead of mopey, and since I can't see her ever beating up Cloud (she probably can't see herself ever beating up Cloud, either), I have to make her beat up someone else. And since I like Reno, he becomes the default punching bag. Maybe I just like seeing Tifa punch Reno (hehe). Maybe I just like them as friends with benefits. Yeah, maybe that's it.
Lyrics below the title compliments of Ella Fitzgerald's "Black Coffee." Reviews are tasty, and I hope you enjoyed reading this.