A/N: Written for 16 candles LiveJournal community challenge, using the prompt #13 – Candlelit Loss. Not much of losing in this one, albeit it sounds like it could turn into multiple chapter fic. A rare occasion for me, lately.

Warnings: Mostly worksafe, nothing too explicit.

Disclaimer: Square Enix owns all.


Through the Storm

It was one of those evenings when a heavy storm raged in Midgar. The electricity had disappeared several hours ago and the city of Edge was drowned in darkness save for a few isles of weak candlelight.

Seventh Heaven was crowded. Many people had sought refuge in the bar, not wanting to face the raging forces of nature, and Tifa was busy mixing drinks while Yuffie danced throughout the room delivering them to the waiting customers. Even though the ninja did her best to lighten her friend's mood, a stiff smile was all she received for her efforts, but it did not put her down and did not stop from trying.

Even if things had seemed to be going good for a while and no one had threatened the Planet's existence for a good few years, lately that had started to change.

Cloud was still outside in the storm, possibly running a late delivery, but he was not the one Tifa was so concerned about. She knew that Cloud could handle a good storm and then some. This time, it was Vincent who made her worry.

After the Deepground, it had looked like everything would work out and he would finally become more open and more involved with his friends, as opposed to coming to aid only when the things got too rough. And yet, as the time went by, the ex-Turk started disappearing again.

And lately, so did Shelke.

Tifa's eyes turned towards the door in hopes that it would open any minute now to reveal a soaked-throughout Shelke on the doorstep. But that moment never came. The only time door opened was when a group of men decided to brave the storm and head home before their wives raised hell. Yuffie's tries to distract her were slowly becoming irritating, but she bit her tongue and said nothing, aware that her friend meant it well and was only trying to help.


Reno was walking down the street, cursing the weather and unresponsive people who still refused to acknowledge the growing influence of ShinRa Company. Sure, there had been hard times when people lost all trust in it and the number of employees fell under the count of five, when they were shunned and hated, but all the efforts put into cleaning its reputation was finally showing. More and more of the new and smaller companies were forced to realise that ShinRa Electric Company was not out of the market yet and was not going to back down any time soon.

But climbing back to the top was agonisingly slow. It was taking time; more than they had expected.

Reno cursed again, getting his mouth full of rainwater. He pulled his collar up higher and quickened his pace. Streets were empty and pitch-black, a seldom car speeding by and kicking up waves of dirty water from the puddles on the streets. He had already experienced one such cold wave and now preferred to stay on the far side of the sidewalks as close to the buildings as possible. It was practically the only way to find the way in the darkness, the weak candlelight coming from some windows being more of a distraction than help.

Therefore a flash of bright orange light drew his attention immediately. Following it, Reno found himself in a narrow alley slightly sheltered from the driving rain and the cold wind that was picking up the volume. The light was still flashing and narrowing his eyes, the Turk could see two figures caught up in a fight. For a moment he considered turning around and going back from whence he had come, having no intention of getting caught up in the local gang wars in such a lousy weather (not that he would fancy doing it in fine weather to begin with), but he recognised the wielder of the light-emitting weapons. Reno had seen the girl several times in the past few years when he was paying a visit to Seventh Heaven.

Just then the girl got overpowered and thrown to the ground, her weapons getting knocked out of her hands and clattering onto the asphalt ground. All sounds, including her silent cry of surprise and pain, were drowned in the rain. Now Reno simply could not walk away. Either Tifa or Cloud would kick his ass if the word got out that he had been near and had not helped. Reno had had enough troubles with them already to add one more.

Carefully, he moved forth in the darkness even though there was no need for stealth – rain and wind masked all sounds. The girl's strange weapon was still glowing in the dark, guiding him, and the redhead could see how the man leaned over the girl. Five steps, four, three, and he was already at the assailant's side and swiftly brought his EMR down on the back of the other's neck. Electricity crackled, sparks flew and the man collapsed.

Reno checked the girl for life signs before reaching for her weapon. Careful to not touch any of the glowing parts, he fiddled around with it until he figured how to turn it off. He replaced it in the holders strapped on the girl and picked her up, considering where to head now. Deciding that getting out of the rain was the current top priority, he kept walking down the alley and turned left around the first corner in his path. He knew the owner of a rather small and ratty inn in the area and as much as he hated staying in low-class places, this was not the time to be picky.

Once under a roof and settled in a small narrow room, Reno drew the curtain and sat down on an old and creaking chair. He supposed it would be smart to discard the wet clothes, but there was nothing he could change into, and the same thing applied for the girl whom he had put down on the bed and cowered with a blanket.

Wind howled and rattled the window; pipes gurgled and creaked, emitting faint warmth, and the three candles in the candleholder kept on flickering. Wax was slowly dripping down and onto the table by which Reno sat. One elbow propped up on the table, chin resting in his palm, he watched the girl sleep and shivered when a harsher breeze forced a wave of cold air inside the room. His wet clothes clung to his body and drained all of his warmth away. He had no wish to catch a cold, but there was nothing he could do about it.

Just as he was about to get up and do something about the situation, the girl opened her eyes. When her gaze turned to him, all he could come up with was, "Yo."

She did not respond.

"What's your name?" was the next thing that came to his mind and immediately sprung onto his tongue.

She gave him a long emotionless glance, though a spark of recognition passed through it. She had seen him before in Seventh Heaven. "Shelke."

"Reno."

"I know," she almost said, but withheld it. Indeed. She had heard his name mentioned on more than one occasion, along with Rufus ShinRa's name. No one in Seventh Heaven had been all too happy about his visits and considered it best to not get involved with their kind. But sometimes it was just too inevitable; like right now.

Reno wondered about the lack of emotions on her face and the lack of questions, considering the rather strange situation. In the dimly lit room he could not see how her hand was gripping the handle of her sabre, ready to put it to use any moment. He stretched his legs and leaned back in the chair, running one hand through his slowly drying hair.

"Looks like we're stranded for the night, yo."

Harsh patter of rain against the windowpanes confirmed his words.

Shelke relaxed, if only a little. "Isn't it getting uncomfortable in those wet clothes?"

Reno shrugged. "Got nothing to change into."

After that silence befell the room for a good while. Eventually, Reno's head started nodding despite his best attempts to stay awake and the coldness creeping up his back. He could feel cough building up in his lungs and cursed mentally. His boss would not be pleased if he landed sick at this point; there were too many things he needed to do and secure, and illness would slow down not only him, but the rebuilding of ShinRa company as well.

"You are tired," Shelke stated matter-of-factly.

"Smartass, yo," Reno mumbled under his nose, being jerked out of his drowsy state by the sudden sound of her voice.

"There is enough place on the bed, if you need sleep," she pointed out as if it were the most obvious thing in the world (which it were, in a way).

Reno stared at her in wonder, but was too tired and too cold to dwell on it. Judging by her appearance, he considered Shelke a child, and thus thought of her words as of those of an innocent child. For a moment he seemed to have forgotten the fact that she was armed and had fought with a full-grown man earlier. He was cold, tired, and possibly already sick and could not care about anything else than warm bed.

Reno stood up and discarded his jacket and hung in on the pipes, hoping that it would dry sooner that way. He did, however, decide to keep his pants and shirt on, not feeling too comfortable in the presence of a child, as he saw it.

Shelke shuffled to one side of the bed shortly before Reno blew out the candles and moved to lie down with his back turned towards her. The redhead considered it to be his luck that there were two blankets and they did not have to share. He shivered a little until the bed and the blanket warmed up, and soon fell into deep slumber.

Shelke raised her head and studied the dark silhouette next to her for a while. No one could say what she was thinking at that moment. Soon she turned her back on him as well and adjusting the pillow on the way, pulled the blankets closer around herself to savour as much warmth as possible.

A good few hours might have passed before the storm outside started to die down a little. The patter of the rain grew softer, the wind quieted, and a faint light seemed to seep through the drawn curtain when Shelke finally drifted off to sleep. One her hand was still holding on to her weapon.

What the morning would bring them, no one could tell.