One month later

"Reno!"

The pilot raised one hand to his ear while steering violently to hear his com over the roar of gun fire and his chopper.

"Elena?"

"They're targeting you, get out!"

"You have got to be kidding me." But looking to his left he saw the rocket launcher propped on the shoulder of one of the attackers atop the building next to him and knew this wasn't good. A second later, he spotted the billow of grey smoke against the black night skyline that could only mean the rocket had been deployed.

"Shit!"

He abandoned his seat at once and stood at the open door. Air ripped through his hair as he tried to pick a building he might be able to land on.

Out of time.

The rocket struck the front end of the chopper, he would have been obliterated had he still been in his seat. But as it was, he felt a brief wave of heat and then he was flying through open space.

Windows whizzed past. He tried to grab a ledge but he was falling too fast to maintain a hold. The ground was coming up rapidly to meet him then–

"GHA!" he screamed in both pain and relief as something caught his flailing arm, probably dislocating it, but saving his life. He looked up and saw that serious face.

"Yo, partner. Thanks." He grinned past the pain.

"Be more careful next time." Rude grunted, ignoring the crash of the chopper into a neighbouring building and pulling Reno through the window.

"I'll try." The red head moaned and held his left arm steady with his right as he followed Rude out of the building onto the street.

"Who are these punks anyway?" He asked.

"Just another rival, but besides a few big weapons, they shouldn't be much of a threat."

"Tell that to my chopper."

"Reno!" He turned at the female voice. "You made it."

"Course I did, Elena! I'm not a Turk for nothing." He smiled back at her.

"And you lost another helicopter." Their director said sternly and Reno laughed a little sheepishly.

"How many of the enemy are left?" Rude asked.

"Only four." Tseng answered and tilted his head to one side. They understood and followed him in that direction.

They entered an abandoned building. They were just on the outskirts of Midgar centre. If they didn't stop this now, the violence threatened to spill into Edge. Reno pulled his EMR from the inside of his jacket and gripped it tightly in anticipation. The air was still, his eyes scanned the dark for the enemy.

It was already too late when they heard the metal canister hit and roll across the floor. Maybe this is why Rude always wears sunglasses, Reno thought absentmindedly when the white light of a flash grenade filled the room and his senses fried and he face planted.

A few moments later the Turks came around to find themselves restrained, hands cuffed behind their backs and laying on the gritty floor. Reno rolled off his stomach and sat up but someone smacked him back and he fell hard to one side. Rude was facing him now and he saw his eyes slightly panicked, it took him a second to realize why.

"It's ten o'clock." Someone said, rolling Reno over onto his back and patting him down. When he didn't find what he was looking for he did the same to Rude and smiled when he withdrew a long syringe from inside his coat.

"I heard one of you dies at twelve if he doesn't get his dose." his eyes shifted back meaningfully to Reno.

"So you did your homework, who cares?" Reno shot back casually.

"For your sake, I hope your friends do."

"Oh come on, what's the point? Shinra's already got power flowing. By next month it'll be all over Edge, you already lost!"

"Not necessarily. I heard you're supplying power for free. All we want is a change in figureheads. Get rid of Rufus Shinra and put our man in. All we need is some key information from you four and we can start profiting from this."

"All you bastards sound like a broken tape. When will you ever learn? Long as the Turks are backing Shinra, you don't have a chance."

Reno coughed and doubled over on himself at the harsh punch he received to his gut. A hand closed around his collar and stared him down. "We'll see in a couple hours, huh?"

He backed off Reno and moved to Elena. "Ooo, she is a pretty little thing isn't she?"

"Back off you sicko." she kicked out and caught the man in his shin. He staggered and returned a kick to her ribs.

"Bastard." Tseng shouted and absorbed a kick as well. Reno caught Rude's eye briefly then let out a small cry. He began to shake his head back and forth and the man was drawn away from Elena and stood over Reno.

"Oh, its started. Now we'll see how strong of a Turk you are. "

The symptoms ramped up quickly. Reno choked for breath but wheezed out a few words.

"What was that? I couldn't quite hear." The man leaned in and pulled Reno up by his shirt, his back arching painfully.

"I said..." Reno panted, "you're dead, motherfucker."

Before the man could even process his words, Reno head-butted him and he staggered back. Reno fell back too, but didn't waste a second before pulling his legs up and through his bound wrists, the task made easy by his already dislocated shoulder.

He knocked away the leader's gun, dodged a shot from another and rolled into a third, knocking him flat and taking what he'd spotted in his coat pocket– his EMR. Now, Reno had all he needed to take these four down.

The man he'd grabbed his weapon from was already out. He ducked more gunfire and clubbed another. Now there were two. One accidentally backed up too close to Elena and his legs were kicked out from under him. Reno put him out with a blow to the side of his head on his way to tackled the leader.

A shot flew by his ear, he slid along the floor, foot connecting with foot and toppled the leader, gripping his shirt as he fell into him. As soon as they hit the floor Reno rolled the man on his back and straddled him. The leader's face was already covered in blood from his broken nose but Reno used his EMR to snap the man's wrist as well to disarm him completely.

"What do you want to do with him, Tseng?" Reno asked, breathing heavily and looking up to his director who'd gotten to his feet.

"Subdue him for now, we'll question him back home."

"Understood." He stood up and once cleared from the injured man, sent a high voltage shock through him that put him out.

Reno then turned smiling to Rude and helped him right himself.

"Wait til the ol' doc hears about this one." He laughed to his partner but Rude's face was still creased with anxiety.

"Reno, your dose." Rude's eyes fell to the smashed syringe on the floor. "We need to get you back right away."

"Oh that." Reno's smile broadened. "Well I've been meaning to tell you. Those Shinra lab techs pulled through– as of tonight, I no longer need it. I'm free!"

Rude stared shocked as Reno picked up the cuff key and began freeing them all. Tseng took it from him but hesitated before unlocking him in turn.

"Hey, what's the deal Tseng?"

"You should have told us." He scolded.

"Come on, I wanted to surprise ya. Come on, director." he shook his still cuffed hands.

"I don't know, you've proven yourself to be quite the lethal weapon." he teased and Reno glared. "Seriously, Reno, you should have told us."

"Okay, okay, sorry." Tseng nodded and freed him. Rude clapped a hand on his shoulder and Reno flinched in pain.

"Hey watch it Rude, I'm pretty sure it's out of the socket."

Rude ignored his complaints. "Pretty impressive partner. Glad to have you back in action." They surveyed the room, Elena beamed at him and even Tseng tried to repress a smile.

"Yeah. Reno sighed, feeling a loose tooth and new bruises. "Feels great."

"Come on, let's get you fixed up."

"Yeah...just...I want to go someplace since I'm already out here. Catch you back at base, okay?"

They all eyed him. This had been his first serious mission in the field and he'd done excellent, but they were ever nervous that he might have a relapse.

"It's okay, seriously." Reno said smiling, but his voice a little less than convincing.

"Okay, but don't be too long." Tseng said finally and watching him carefully.

"No worries."

Reno walked out, leaving Tseng to call for the cleaners to come and gather up the dead and unconscious, not to mention to begin clearing up the remnants of his helicopter.

The streets were dark, though the warning glow of blue mako lit some areas. He shuffled along at no eager pace until he came to the place he wanted. So much had happened here, he had been a different person entirely the first time he'd laid eyes on the building.

The broken church was borderline eerie in the dark, but the flowers, though closed, still gave off a warm fragrance in the otherwise fume filled air of Midgar. He stood between the last pews and stared up at the gap in the ceiling that revealed a starry night sky. Midnight was approaching, and for the first time in a long time, without pain or fear. Reno sighed.

"I know Shinra's got your body in the morgue, but I couldn't stand to go talk to some hole in the wall. About that last conversation we had. I wish I had asked you what you really did feel for me. I could never quite tell. But I believe you did come back just for me. And because of it, you died. That night though...you were right, I wasn't lost anymore. I know I said it was your fault, that you made me into what I had become. I wasn't wrong, but I never got to tell you that if you hadn't come back for me, I probably still would be that person. I guess...the last thing I need to do to let him go, is to let you go. And to do that, I just needed to explain. So I guess I just wanted to say thanks, and goodbye, Eve."

He lowered his eyes and his head, and stood like that for a few moments longer. Then he spun, winced as pain lanced through his shoulder and walked straight into the figure he hadn't seen in the dark.

"Rude, I didn't want anyone to hear..." he pulled back angrily when he realized who it was. Rude just stared at him for a moment, they didn't really need to speak to communicate, they knew each other so well. Reno tried to stay angry but gave in and let his head drop forward onto Rude's chest. Rude's arms closed around him briefly, but Reno remained dry eyed and after a moment of listening to Rude's steady heart and finding calm in his own, he pulled back.

"Okay, now I really do want to go back and get this fixed." He said indicating his shoulder and Rude nodded.

"Alright, but we have to walk."

"What?"

"Well you crashed our ride."

"Oh right...I guess I don't mind." Reno sighed, clumping along in his boots. They made their way slowly back toward Edge. The city loomed before them, some parts already lit by blue-white shimmering trees networked across roads and between buildings, spreading a new and clean power to homes and shops. It would never be enough to make up for those years before, but it was enough for hope, and that was worth everything these days– especially for one who had so recently given up on the concept altogether.

"You know Rude, it feels good."

Rude looked down on his partner in confusion, his face bruised and clearly creased in pain from his shoulder but smiling all the same.

"What do you mean?"

Reno shrugged one shoulder. "This." he stated simply. "Walking. Living. Life feels good, even when it hurts."

Rude's lip twitched and a smile spread over his face. "Yeah, partner, it does."

The two wound up the roads to their home, past the 7th Heaven, past the growing buildings and homesteads, through the city centre past the memorial to Midgar. Even though it was late, the city was still alive, was still busy, was still full of life. And as long as Reno of the Turks lived, he would make sure it always stayed that way– stayed not just alive, but living.

...

END

...


It's over and I, personally, am both sad and relieved. Endings are so hard, and I wanted to write this last scene even with the good old corny "one month later" ending, because I think Reno and you readers deserve to see him back together, and because I wanted to have a propper goodbye to Eve. Thank you all for reading and reviewing, I would really appreciate your closing thoughts and perhaps I we will meet again if I publish a second FFVII fanfic.

Ciao,

Riza Winters.